Letters - 1899.01.10 to Mr. Baring-Gould
Jan. 10, 1899
We have just been greatly cheered in our work here by a visit from Mr. Martin. We had a meeting in the church Saturday night and a very straight talk from Mr. Martin on the ability of Jesus Christ to save His people form their sins. Then on Sunday we had a full congregation in the morning and a very hallowed time it was when after the service we gathered round the Lord’s Table. In the afternoon and evening we again had very helpful time and God was in our midst. Yesterday in my visiting I found that the few points Mr. Martin had asked the people to go home and think about were well remembered. The object of this letter is to ask you to send us out an M.I.C.D. for Hok-chaing. We do so want a missionary resident here. The men come Sunday and get very little help. The natives need a pastor to teach them how to feed and how to shepherd the flock. I hope you will soon be able to send a man out to Hok-chiang to care for these poor neglected sheep. It is a sore need. The Archdeacon cannot have the needed influence amongst these people when his home is three days journey from them and his hands are full of other work, neither can he understand the difficulties peculiar to these Hok-chaing people. You will do your best to send us a missionary I am sure. We were all grieved to part with Mr. and Mrs. Howe. God’s ways are very mysterious. Dr. Poulter is a great acquisition to Hok-chiang. I have only seen a very little of her but I like her very much. Miss Mort, an Australian lady who is coming here to fill my place is a very earnest devoted Christian and when she gets the language will doubtless be much used amongst these people. I don’t know what God’s plan may be for me nor what you will think about my returning to Hok-chaing. At present I feel I should like to come back but it may be God has other work to give me. The Archdeacon has only once alluded to my removal to Ning Taik and that was one day when he and Mr. Bishop saw me at Miss Mead’s home in Hok-chiang City when he turned to me and said with a smile “So you are leaving us Miss Barber.” He has never consulted me about the change or asked me about the work in any way. Thank God I can rejoice in the fact that “All things work together for good.” The power of the devil is tremendous in this land and just now he seems to be doing his very utmost to thwart God’s purpose and blessing for Fukien.
I am dear Mr. Baring-Gould
Yours v. faithfully
M. E. Barber
Men and Women Missionaries
I do not know what an M.I.C.D. is but it seems clear that she is directly asking Mr. Baring-Gould to send a male missionary to be stationed in Hok-chaing. This tells us a few things about that mission station and how the Church Missionary Society may have operated.
Firstly, it seems plain that there were only women missionaries at this station. Whether that was two or a dozen, their work seems to have been limited in its ability to help men. Both English and Chinese culture at that time were sensitive to mingling among men and women too much. Though one wonders why the women to helped these men to be saved could not in some way teach them how to “shepherd the flock” and grow up in other aspects of their salvation.
Secondly, it seems that Archdeacon Wolfe, whom Barber mentions frequently, was familiar with the station. His limited influence is reasonable seeing that he did not live in the region. But what did she mean by saying, “neither can he understand the difficulties peculiar to these Hok-chiagn people?” Is this a comment on Mr. Wolfe or on the people? Is she saying that as a person of a higher class or rank he has difficulty engaging with common people? or is the culture in Hok-chiang specifically different from the region he is settled in?
She seems glad at the news that she may be relocated to Ning Taik. But there are little details of her being unhappy in Hok-chiang aside from the challenges with her residence. One wonders if there are not more letters from her to Mr. Baring-Gould that would fill in these blanks.