The Dawn - Miss Ballord's account of the Duck-herd


This article is transcribed as it appeared in the April 1927#37edition of The Dawn. “The Children’s Picture Book” column was edited by Helen Ramsey and often highlighted missionary stories. Miss Ballord’s writing is quoted extensively below but the article is Miss Ramesy’s. It is not clear how this anecdote of Miss Ballord’s was received. Was this incidentally included in a personal letter or solicited in some manner? This appears to be the only contribution Miss Ballord made to The Dawn.

Our Children’s Picture Book

Dear young friends,
From the distracted land of China, Miss Margaret Ballord, of Pagoda Anchorage, Fukien sends us a sweet record of the triumph of redeeming grace in the case of the old duck-herd of Long-ki.

“Surely this one will have a hard death when his time comes, as a recompense for his doings,’ said the heathen villagers of Long-ki, ‘for Heaven has eyes’; but the old man of whom they spoke disappointed their expectations, and, only a few weeks ago, quietly fell asleep in Jesus with neither suffering nor fear… Just now and again, the Lord works such a sudden transformation in the heathen life that those who so often sow in tears and only reap after long waiting are filled with deep and wondering joy, and the watching heathen with amazement, for they have no explanation to offer for a changed life.

“It was in his earlier years that he had herded ducks on Long-ki Island down by the sea. How often one has watched with amusement these big herds of ducks, waddling over the bare rice-fields in the winter weather—brown stubble, brown mud and brown ducks—hundreds and hundreds of ducks, all paddling along at the same pace, necks all craned forward at the same angle, and all apparently understanding the admonitions of the duck-herd and his small assistants who, with their long bamboo wands, gently prod their charges into the way they should go.

“Long ago the duck-herd had three sons to help him, but not one of them is left now; it was towards these boys that his extraordinary harshness was displayed. On one occasion the eldest, at that time about eight years old, disobeyed some command, and in a towering rage his father caught him up under his arm, and, with his hoe in the other hand, started for the hills. There he dug a grave, and would certainly have buried the child alive if neighbours had not intervened. The second boy was ill, and when he should have been warm in bed his father insisted on dipping him in the river, with the natural result that he died of chill. The third for frequent small disobediences would be strung up to a beam by his wrists, and then this cruel man would burn his feet with a taper. Finally one day, being rather more furious than usual, he poured kerosene over the boy’s feet and ankles, and then set fire to him. This last inexplicable cruelty was the means of bringing salvation to the poor suffering mother, for she took the child to a mission Hospital, and during the weeks spent there while the dreadful burns were being healed, she learnt to know the Saviour’s love and to find comfort in Him, Then for her began years of persecution, scoffing and reviling; her Bible was torn up, and evil words were her portion from morning to night until she could bear it no longer, and left home to earn a living for herself. Years slowly passed, and he grew into an old and lonely man, shunned by all. Could Sovereign choice fall on such an one as he? Did not justice demand that he should bear the punishments of his deeds? And was not his heart too hard to respond to the story of redeeming love? But the prayers of a much-tried wife were reaching the heart of God.”

And then we learn the happy sequel:—how evangelist David went down to work on Long-ki island, and how, evening after evening in the hot summer-time, the old duck-herd wandered into the meeting, attracted by the crowds and by the unaccustomed kindly welcome, until “as he listened to the message of Calvary, and of the Saviour Who died there for sin—his sin—the light slowly dawned in his dark heart; that wondrous change, the ‘new birth’ took place, and the old duck-herd became a ‘new man’ in Christ Jesus.”

A changed walk followed. He had only a few months of his life left in which to witness in the place where he had been so painfully notorious, but in that short space he was enabled to give up much for his new-found faith. “He just grasped this, that Jesus died for his sins, many and heavy as they were, and that His blood washed them all away, and his simple faith in this stupendous fact wrought the mysterious change. In his last days he loved to listen to the singing of hymns, and the evangelist often used to go and sit with him, sing to him, and tell him more of the love that gave Jesus to die. Just a little while of weakness, and he slipped away to Home above— ‘a sinner saved by grace’—’washed in the blood of the Lamb.’”

And now, let us who are Christ’s rejoice with the angels and with our brethren in Fukien. But let us not fail to take encouragement to ourselves. He who wrought mightily for the salvation of the poor Duck-herd of Long-ki is able and willing likewise to shew “the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. i. 19—23, R.V.).

Your affectionate friend,
Helen Ramsay

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