George Grenfell was one of those who were drawn to the Dark Continent by the immortal story of Livingstone, and like his hero, besides being a great missionary, he attained to the front rank as an explorer. The mighty Congo, father of African rivers, and second only to the Amazon among the rivers of the world, drains the whole country from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic and from the Sudan to the Zambesi. Its tributaries would dwarf the rivers of other lands, and they join with the main stream to form a magnificent network of waterways in the very heart of the Continent. For a quarter of a century Grenfell moved along these waterways in his little steamer, the Peace, ever seeking to win an entrance for the Gospel into savage hearts, ever ambitious of bearing the good news to more distant tribes, and, ere he finished his course, he had the joy of being welcomed with Christian hymns in places where once he had been met with showers of poisoned arrows.
1. From Cornwall to the Cameroons
Grenfell was born on August 21, 1849, at the village of Sancreed in Cornwall, [England] and was the son of a country carpenter. Those who are disposed may find ample evidence in his career of the proverbial doggedness of the Cornishman. His family, however, removed to Birmingham when he was only three years old, and that city became his home till he reached manhood.
It is remarkable how trivial an event may determine the course of a human life. A curious instance of this is found in the spiritual history of Grenfell. His family belonged to the Church of England and he was sent to St. Matthew's Sunday School along with his younger brother. There happened, however, to be a boy at the school who bullied them, and to escape from him Grenfell and his brother left, and went to a Sunday School connected with Heneage Street Baptist Church. This Church was henceforward his spiritual home, and at the age of fifteen he was received into its fellowship by baptism.
Regarding the beginnings of his spiritual life he afterwards wrote, "My earliest religious impressions of a serious kind date back to the early sixties, when the great wave of awakening that followed the revival of '59 was passing over the country. My interest in Africa began even earlier, being aroused by the pictures in Livingstone's first book, and deepened when I was about ten years of age by the reading of the book itself. Among the earliest of my resolves as a Christian was that of devoting myself to work in Africa, and, though I cannot claim that it never wavered, it was certainly ever after my dominant desire."
On leaving school he entered a warehouse, where he showed considerable aptitude for business, and came in time to have very excellent prospects. But his interests were centered in church and mission work. He belonged to a band of strenuous young men, connected with Heneage Street Church, whose Sunday, beginning with a prayer meeting at seven o'clock in the morning, included about seven services, with tract distribution in the intervals, and who rose on Monday morning like giants refreshed to attend a class in elementary Greek at the minister's house at half past six! They formed a Theological Class, and invited the Roman Catholic bishop to appoint some competent person "to discuss with us in a calm and friendly spirit the points upon which we vary in belief." On the bishop failing to reply Grenfell was instructed to write a letter of expostulation. Their energies found a more profitable outlet in publishing a little quarterly magazine, called Mission Work, the object of which was to set before its readers "proofs from all quarters of the globe that the Gospel is, as of old, the power of God unto salvation."
In September, 1873, Grenfell gave up business and entered the Baptist College, Bristol, to study with a view to becoming a missionary. As was to be expected he did not find student life altogether to his taste, but his character and missionary enthusiasm made a lasting impression upon the men of the College. After his death a fellow-student wrote of him, "Grenfell and I were in the same year, though he was very considerably my senior. I looked up to him with a great deal of respect, and loved him right away. Everybody loved him. He was strong as a lion, gentle as a woman, intensely sympathetic and absolutely devoted. There were missionary students who changed their minds. Grenfell's mind was fixed. Africa was in his brain and upon his heart."
After a year's training Grenfell was accepted by the Baptist Missionary Society for service in Africa. The veteran missionary, Alfred Saker, was at home on furlough from the Cameroons, and it was arranged that Grenfell should accompany him on his return. They sailed from Liverpool the week before Christmas, 1874, and reached the Cameroons in the following January.
The Cameroons Mission, like the Presbyterian Mission in Calabar, had its birth in the West Indies. The plantation slaves who for generations had been swept away from the shores of the Gulf of Guinea longed to carry the Gospel back to their homeland. In 1840 two Baptist missionaries from Jamaica settled on the island of Fernando Po, which lies in the inmost recess of the Gulf of Guinea, about four degrees north of the Equator. In 1844 they were joined by Saker, who began work on the mainland and during thirty years of heroic service laid the foundations of a Christian community.
In the Cameroons, Grenfell served an apprenticeship of three years during which he was being prepared for his great work on the Congo. His station was at King Akwa's Town, on the south bank of the Cameroons River, about twenty miles from the sea-coast. Here he made acquaintance with that pitiful mixture of savagery and civilisation so characteristic of the West coast of Africa—kings dressed like dignified scarecrows, chiefs who would cringe for a bit of tobacco, men rejoicing in such names as Brass Pan, Pocket, and Liverpool Joss, women with a dozen brooches fastened in their hair for lack of a dress to pin them to. And combined with all this, as if to prevent the onlooker from regarding it lightly as mere pantomime, there was stark naked heathenism with its superstitions, its cruelties, its hopelessness.
Early in 1876 Grenfell was married, but in less than a year his wife died, and he tasted the first deep sorrow of his life. Fortunately he was joined about this time by Mr. Comber who became his dearest friend and fellow worker for the next ten years, till he also fell a victim to the deadly climate of the West Coast.
With the instincts of a pioneer Grenfell was assiduously plying his canoe along the various waterways, seeking to win the confidence of the people. He found many of their villages unpleasantly inaccessible. Some were buried in deep swamps, others were perched on rocky hills, these sites having been chosen for refuge in the old slave raiding days. Very soon he became convinced of the advantage of pushing on into the interior. For reasons both of health and of efficiency it was desirable to get away from the swampy coast land with all its corrupting influences. "In all my journeyings," he writes, "I have kept in view the object of finding the best route into the interior, for I believe that if the same amount of effort which is bestowed here were bestowed upon some inland station it would produce far greater results... It would be a grand thing to be able to push away right beyond the influences that operate so adversely, and it can be done... It is cheering to one who longs to get inland to know that the sympathy of the Society runs in that direction too." Ere he could give effect to these ideas in the Cameroons he was called away to service in a vastly bigger field.
2. The Giant Congo
Six hundred miles south of the Cameroons the Congo enters the Atlantic. Although the mouth of this giant river was discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century little or nothing was known of its course. A hundred miles from the sea, navigation was barred by a region of cataracts, beyond which the map was blank. In 1877 all this was changed. Stanley took up the problem of the African waterways where Livingstone left it. Setting out from the east coast he passed beyond Lake Tanganyika and struck the Lualaba at Nyangwe. From there he followed the course of the river northwards to Stanley Falls, and then westwards till he appeared at the Congo mouth. Among other important discoveries he showed that, beyond the region of cataracts, there was a thousand miles of magnificent waterway to the Stanley Falls, above which the river was again navigable southwards to Nyangwe. All along the course of the river great tributaries gave access to the country for hundreds of miles on either bank. The vast extent of this river system may be indicated by saying that if it were superimposed upon the map of Europe it would cover the whole area from, the Shetland Isles to Smyrna, and from Moscow to the Pyrenees. At last Equatorial Africa lay open from the west coast, and drew the eager eyes of explorers and traders, of missionary societies both Protestant and Romanist, and, alas, also of the devil in the shape of King Leopold of Belgium.
The Baptist Missionary Society had for some time been considering the feasibility of work on the Congo, and upon Stanley's discoveries becoming known a prominent supporter of the Society, Mr. Arthrington, immediately offered £1000 to start the mission, and expressed the hope "that soon we shall have a steamer on the Congo, if it be found requisite, and carry the Gospel eastwards, and north and south of the river, as the way may open, as far as Nyangwe." Thus encouraged the Society instructed Grenfell and Comber to proceed to the Congo and break new ground. The feelings with which Grenfell received these instructions may be given in his own words to the Committee. "The decision of the Committee to undertake this new effort we feel to be the right one, and pray most earnestly that it may prove to be so. God seems to hold out far more glorious prospects of success there than appear to be possible here. The difficulties there may, indeed, appear less because they are farther off than those by which we are surrounded here. However, if I stayed here I should never give up trying to open a way for the Gospel, and though the difficulties there may, on a closer acquaintance, prove even greater than those at Cameroons, I shall still try, for the victory is sure."
In July, 1878, the pioneer party landed at the Congo mouth, where they were cordially received by a Dutch trading house, and shortly after they proceeded up the river in their own boat. They were welcomed at San Salvador by the King of Kongo, but were unable to reach the upper river owing to the determined hostility of the natives who wounded Comber so that he narrowly escaped with his life. Next year, however, reinforcements arrived from England, and by following a route along the north bank of the river they succeeded in reaching Stanley Pool, immediately above the cataracts. The road to the upper river being now open, a steel boat was sent out for the use of the Mission, and Mr. Arthrington offered money to build a small steamer. "I believe the time is come," wrote that generous and farseeing man, "when we should make every necessary preparation to carry out the original purpose of the Congo Mission—to place a steamer on the Congo River, where we can sail north-eastward into the heart of Africa for many hundred miles uninterruptedly, and bring the glad tidings of the everlasting Gospel to thousands of human beings who now are ignorant of the way of life and immortality. I have therefore, now to offer to your Society one thousand pounds towards the purchase of a steamer of the best make and capacity, and its conveyance and launch on the river at Stanley Pool, and three thousand pounds for the perpetual maintenance of such steamer on the Congo and its affluents, until Christ and his salvation shall be known all along the Congo, from Stanley Pool to the equatorial cataracts."
3. Pioneering in the Peace
The result of this was the building of the mission steamer, the Peace, which will ever be associated with the name of Grenfell. "For months, which added up to years, she was the home of his wife and babes, who accompanied him in his eventful voyaging. Her plates and rivets were as dear to him as his own skin, and the throb of her engines was like the beating of his own heart. Her missionary honour was to him a thing beyond price, and when the State seized her for purposes alien to her holy work, his grief was passionate, as though the ship had a character to be blasted, and a soul to be stained."
The Peace was a little screw steamer, drawing twelve inches of water, and constructed in sections to enable her to be taken to pieces for transport over the cataracts. During 1882 Grenfell was at home superintending the construction of the steamer. By December the work was finished and he sailed from Liverpool with his precious freight, accompanied by a young missionary engineer. On coming home to England, Grenfell, who had remarried in 1879, left his wife on the Congo where she was now waiting his return with a baby whom he had never seen. He reached the mission station of Underhill at the foot of the cataracts only just in time to see his baby die. The young engineer also died not long after, and Grenfell was left with the whole responsibility of the steamer on his shoulders. The task of transporting it beyond the cataracts was no light one. Each load had to be carried through two hundred miles of difficult country, covered with long grass and cut up with ravines across which the packages had to be slung by ropes and pulleys. After months of labour and anxiety the loads were brought safely through to Stanley Pool.
These early days of the mission were heavy with many sorrows. The good seed was sown in tears, while man after man fell from the ranks. Grenfell was almost in despair. "Single-handed, as four of our stations are at this moment, who can be surprised at disasters? ... If more men don't soon come, the Congo Mission will collapse, and the work that has cost so much will be thrown away."
Cheered by the news that two engineers were on the way out, Grenfell resolved to leave the building of the Peace to their skilled hands, and meantime to explore the course of the river in the steel boat. Accordingly he voyaged for three weeks up the south bank, and then, crossing the river, returned along the north bank. He found the natives timid and suspicious but generally friendly. He was amused by the antics of a medicine man who, on the approach of a storm, forbade the rain to fall, and kept on forbidding it throughout the course of a two hours' downpour at the end of which he claimed the victory. But everywhere sad evidences were seen of the unhappy condition of the people.
Grenfell writes, "How much this part of Africa stands in need of help I cannot tell you, words seem utterly inadequate. I cannot write you a tithe of the woes that have come under my notice, and have made my heart bleed as I have voyaged along. Cruelty, sin, and slavery seem to be as millstones around the necks of the people, dragging them down into a sea of sorrows. Never have I felt more sympathy than now I feel for these poor brethren of ours, and never have I prayed more earnestly than now I pray that God will speedily make manifest to them that light which is the light of life, even Jesus Christ, our living Lord."
On his return from this trip Grenfell was met with sad news. Two of the mission staff were dead, both the engineers had died on the way out, and his father also was dead. "But we have not lost heart," he writes. "We cannot but believe that more help will be speedily forthcoming. Such trials do not kill the faith nor quench the ardour of Christians."
He now felt that he must himself undertake the building of the Peace. With such help as was available he successfully accomplished the work. "She lives, she lives," cried the natives when they saw the steamer move in the water. The missionaries were no less enthusiastic. "You will have heard," wrote Comber, "how good God has been to us, especially in the matter of the steamer—how dear old Grenfell has alone accomplished the gigantic task of reconstructing her. I can tell you we are proud of Grenfell, and thankful to God for him." Grenfell himself said he thought that the Peace had been "prayed together."
The maiden voyage of the Peace was a complete success. Grenfell and Comber steamed on her half way up to Stanley Falls, turning aside to explore several of the chief tributaries. In travelling thus among strange and savage tribes they found themselves time and again in positions of peril, and Grenfell complains of the physical effort required to keep on smiling when things might be on the brink of tragedy. It was heartbreaking to encounter ever fresh examples of an almost incredible ingenuity in wickedness. But over against that was the joy of "taking for the first time the light of life into those regions of darkness, cruelty, and death."
For the next year or two Grenfell led a wandering life, plying his little steamer to and fro along the Congo waterways, and surveying the country in the interests of missionary advance. Not without many thrilling experiences. "Thank God we are safely back," he writes, at the end of one of these voyages. "It might have been otherwise, for we have encountered perils not a few. But the winds, which sometimes were simply terrific, and the rocks, which knocked three holes in the steamer when we were running away from cannibals, have not wrecked us. We have been attacked by natives about twenty different times, we have been stoned and shot at with arrows, and have been the mark for spears more than we can count." "The people are wild and treacherous, for several times, after a period of apparently amicable intercourse, without any other cause than their own sheer 'cussedness,' as the Yankees would say, they let fly their poisoned arrows at us."
At one place he encountered a tribe of friendly cannibals who offered him a wife in exchange for a fat boatman on whom they had fixed their longing eyes. At the Stanley Falls he met the notorious Tippoo Tib, mentioned by Stanley, who dominated the whole region west of Tanganyika and was raiding along the banks of the upper Congo. "We counted," he says, "twenty burned villages and thousands of fugitive canoes."
The geographical importance of Grenfell's work was immense. He traced the course of the Kasai River southeast towards the Zambesi. He ascended the great tributary, the Mubangi, northwards till it brought him to the Sudan, and he showed that at the great bend of the Congo the Aruwimi flows in from the east and opens a waterway almost to Uganda. These discoveries raised the inspiring hope that the various missionary forces working in from the east and west coasts might soon join hands across the continent.
4. The Belgian Octopus
Forces of another sort, however, were at work. As early as 1883 Grenfell notes the high-handed policy of the Belgian Expedition. "They have been most unscrupulous, even in these days of small things—what will they be with the whole thing fully developed?" Alas, how little did the Christian world imagine whereunto this thing would grow! Two years later, on his return from an up-river voyage, Grenfell was staggered by a letter from the Administrator intimating that all his maps and observations belonged to the Government, and rebuking his presumption in sending them home to the Baptist Missionary Society. With restrained indignation he replies, "Your intimation that in the British Colonies subjects are not free to go where they will, and that the State has a 'right to possess itself of the fruit of a civilian's labours,' comes upon me as a great surprise."
But the Belgian octopus had fastened on the Congo, and Europe tamely suffered King Leopold to assert the monstrous doctrine that this vast region was his private property, and all its inhabitants his slaves. How charmed at first were the natives to discover that the juice of the rubber vine had a value in the white man's eyes, and could enable them to buy the glittering trinkets on which their hearts were set! How soon, with spirits crushed by forced labour, floggings, imprisonments, mutilations and murders, they pronounced their verdict of despair, "Rubber is death." These things were as yet hidden in the future.
The year 1887 was memorable in the annals of the Mission as "the Black Year," when six of the missionaries died in seven months. Grenfell was at home on furlough, but on hearing of the first four deaths he hastened his return to the field, although his health was precarious. On reaching the Congo he was met with the news of two more deaths. Friends of the Mission at home were stunned by these losses, and spoke of withdrawing from so deadly a field. But Grenfell was resolute. "We can't continue as we are," he wrote. "It is either advance or retreat. But if you retreat, you must not count on me. I will be no party to it, and you will have to do without me. I might plead with the Churches that for the sake of our great Head, for the sake of the terrible sin-stricken 'heart of Africa,' that out of love for and regard to the memory of our dear Comber, who died just a year ago, that for each and all of these reasons they should keep their pledges, but my heart is hot within me, and I feel I cannot plead. If love and duty and sacred promises are nothing, nothing that I can say will avail."
Faith triumphed, and in the next three years the blanks were filled and three new stations were established on the upper river. Grenfell settled at Bolobo, some distance above Stanley Pool, and it continued to be his home for sixteen years. He describes the place as "a sort of bottle neck" on the river, but at the said bottle neck the Congo is two miles wide, and can be called narrow only as compared with its width above and below, where it expands to six or seven miles.
In these days Grenfell was much alone, at his station or voyaging in the Peace. "Eh, Tom, lad," he exclaims in a letter to an old friend, "it is a shrivelling-up sort of work, so much alone, and surrounded by so much sorrow and sin." Yet he loves the solitude, for he finds that he has greater liberty in talking to the people when there are "no critical whites about." He has leisure for many long thoughts. "There is nothing like work in the Mission field," he writes, "for widening one's horizon. Where I am exactly, I don't know, any more than a good many celebrities seem to know where they are. I know John 3:16, and that's good enough holding-ground for my anchor. As you say, Christianity wants more of Christ's Spirit and less Theology. So say I, my dear Tom. Our Christianity is too much a matter of words, and far too little a matter of works. One might think that works were of the Devil, by the assiduity with which the great proportion of our Church members keep clear of them."
Wrestling with the difficulties of translation he can find no word in the language to express the idea of forgiveness. Unhappy Congo, where no one has ever known what it was to forgive or be forgiven! Yet the work is not without encouragement. In 1889 he records, "At Bolobo, on the first Sunday in March, I held the first Baptismal Service on the upper Congo, and on Sunday last I opened the first meeting house. Being Easter Day we had a talk about the Resurrection, and altogether a very enjoyable service. About seventy natives were present."
In 1890 the Belgian authorities, in spite of vigorous protests by the Mission, commandeered the Peace for their own use. Grenfell was profoundly moved. "They are taking my heart's blood in taking the Peace," he said. "The best thing that could happen to the poor Peace, would be for her to run on a rock, and sink. She will be no more the old Peace, when they have done with her. The soul has gone out of her!" Then, starting to his feet, he exclaimed, "I go to England to agitate." He went to England, and so effectually did he agitate that the Belgian authorities were fain to climb down with the best grace they could, and the Peace was restored to her owners. The King of the Belgians, perhaps by way of atonement, conferred on Grenfell at a personal interview the insignia of "Chevalier of the Order of Leopold." Grenfell humorously described himself as feeling "like a barn door with a brass knocker," but the day came when he publicly declared that he could no longer wear the insignia with honour.
5. Sorrows Public and Private
In 1891, with the consent of the Mission, Grenfell was appointed Commissioner to settle the southern boundary of the Congo Free State. This work, which involved six months of hard travel through difficult and unknown country, he completed to the satisfaction of the authorities, neither he nor the Mission being a penny the richer by it.
On returning to Bolobo in September, 1892, his first task was to build the new mission steamer, the Goodwill, which he had brought out from England a year before, and had expected would by this time have been afloat. Then the Peace was so badly worn that she had to be half rebuilt. Always the Mission was short-handed through illness and death of workers. Often Grenfell was alone in charge of the two steamers, and the big forward movement on which his heart was set was continually delayed. Yet the work made progress. A printing press was established at Bolobo, and the Church there steadily increased. Grenfell describes the happy time he had with his boys and girls at the Christmas of 1894, with "a leg of buffalo in the nick of time for roast beef," and a famous tug of war, ending in a broken rope and a sudden jumble of legs and arms. But he adds, "I've had anything but a Merry Christmas," and he goes on to speak of his many burdens, chiefly the conditions of the Bolobo people, their superstitions, lawlessness, witchcraft and quarrelling. "How it is these people have escaped the fate of the Kilkenny cats, I can't imagine. It can only be explained by the fact that they are always buying slaves, and that they have not always been so bloodthirsty as they are now. Poor Bolobo! I wish I could see more readiness to accept what they know and feel to be the Truth, which we try to explain to them. My heart is very, very sad at times, as I think of them heaping up judgment against themselves."
There are moments when he grows impatient at the sluggishness of the home Church. "I wish to goodness I could get our folk fervid enough to embark on some more or less 'madcap' scheme, such, for instance, as the redemption of the promises we made some eighteen or nineteen years ago, when we talked of Lake Albert and the Nile... Don't think I've dropped pioneering because I'm tired of it. I never think of it but my soul burns to be up and off again." In 1896 he had the joy of planting a new station at Yakusu, near the Stanley Falls, and the remarkable success of this new mission was a great comfort to him amid the trials and sorrows of his later years.
The Congo atrocities were now being brought more and more fully to light. Into that tragic story it is impossible here to enter. Grenfell was slow to believe the worst. He clung to the hope that the excesses committed by local agents would be checked and punished by the Government, but at last he was compelled to realise the bitter truth. King Leopold, that arch-hypocrite, had scattered his myrmidons over the Congo with orders to get rubber at whatever cost, and, while professing to spend thousands in philanthropic efforts to uplift Central Africa, he was drawing in millions saturated with African blood.
The missionaries saw the tribes enslaved, tortured, mutilated, delivered over to the tender mercies of native soldiers, many of whom were cannibals, and all to provide dividends of a thousand per cent to the royal rubber company. What could they do but voice in the ears of humanity the bitter cry of a perishing people? This, of course, was mightily inconvenient to the authorities. So a Commission for the Protection of the Natives was appointed, and Grenfell and other missionaries were asked to serve on it. But the whole thing proved to be a blind, and Grenfell indignantly resigned. "You can easily imagine," he writes, "the Protestant missionary is not a popular man just now on the Congo." Every obstacle was thrown in the way of the Mission. Grenfell was informed that certain children must be taken away from his school and handed over to Roman Catholic missions, because "being a Roman Catholic State it had no power to place orphans under any other than Roman Catholic tutelage!" "It is very significant," Grenfell remarks, "that the way should be opened up for English Roman Catholics, and closed against us. Evangelical Christianity does not breed the dumb cattle beloved of officialdom."
In 1899 Grenfell suffered an irreparable loss in the death of his oldest daughter, Pattie, who had come out from England while yet in her teens to join the Mission. After a few months work she was struck down with fever while voyaging with her father in the Peace, and only lived long enough to reach Bolobo and expire in her mother's arms. She was the fourth of their children to find a grave on the Congo. Next year Grenfell's own health gave way, and he had to come home to England. It seemed, indeed, as if his day was done, but he rallied, and November, , saw him again on the Congo.
6. The Joy of Harvest
His last term of service was deeply shadowed and saddened by the frightful sufferings of the natives under Belgian rule, and by the increasing hostility of the authorities who persistently refused to grant new sites to the Mission. Yet amid many sorrows he tasted of the sweet joys of harvest. In 1902 he writes, "You will be glad to know that here at Bolobo, shorthanded as we are, we are not without evidences of progress and blessing. People are more willing to hear, and give heed to the message they have so long slighted. In fact many are professing to have given their hearts to the Lord Jesus, and there are signs of good times coming." Again he writes, "Our services are crowded as they have never been before. Some are beginning to talk of building a bigger chapel... God's Spirit is manifestly working among the people. We are all compelled to allow it is not our doing, but God's."
In his voyages, also, up the river, he sees many signs of happy change. Thus he writes of one place, "A few weeks more than twenty years have elapsed since I first landed at the foot of the same cliff, and was driven off at the point of the native spears. The reception was very different this time. The teacher and a little crowd of school children stood on the beach to welcome us, and I spent a very pleasant time in the village on the plateau just beyond." And again, "I shall never forget one evening, a few weeks ago, as we were looking for a good camping place among the reed-covered sandbanks, about half way between this and Yakusu. There was a threatening sunset, and we sought a shelter from what promised to be the stormy quarter. Then suddenly we heard strike up, 'All Hail the Power,' from on board one of the big fishing canoes among the reeds. We had not observed the canoe, but the crew had recognised the Peace, and gave us what was to me a glorious welcome which will long remain a blessed memory. Whose heart would not be moved to hear 'Crown Him Lord of All' under such circumstances? It was just about this same place that, twenty-one years ago, we came first into view of the burning villages of the big Arab slave-raid of 1884. I little thought to live to see so blessed a change, and my heart went forth in praise. Yes, God's Kingdom is surely coming."
Grenfell still had the ardent spirit of the pioneer, and retained in a wonderful degree his physical vigour. He explored the Aruwimi eastward to within eighty miles of Uganda. On another voyage he ascended above the Stanley Falls and followed the Lualaba southward to forty miles beyond Nyangwe. His great desire was to advance along the line of the Aruwimi, and join hands with the C.M.S. Mission in Uganda, but the Belgian authorities interposed wearisome delays until he was in despair.
At last, in October, 1905, permission was given to settle at Yalemba near the mouth of the Aruwimi, and Grenfell made haste to occupy the place. The voyage up river occupied six weeks, and after discharging his stores at Yalemba, he turned the steamer south to Yakusu, where his heart was much refreshed by the work of God. It had been agreed that one of the missionaries at Yakusu should become Grenfell's colleague at Yalemba, but he confessed that he dared not take any of them away from so great a work. So he returned to Yalemba alone.
7. "The Death of Tata Finished"
But his strength was spent. After struggling on for several weeks against fever and increasing weakness he at last consented to seek help. His native boys gently carried him on board the Peace and steamed down the river to the nearest station at Bapoto. Here, in spite of every effort, he gradually sank. Near the end he looked up at the dark circle of sorrowing faces gathered round his bed, and said, "Help me, my children, I am dying. Pray for me." Then later he added, "Jesus is mine. God is mine."
He died on July 1st, 1906. One of his native boys, recording the simple story of his burial, concludes with exquisite beauty, "Then we sang another hymn. Last of all we closed the grave, replacing the earth. And so the death of Tata (Our father) finished." How fitly spoken! For Grenfell's place is among the living, not the dead. While strength endured he still advanced, leaving behind him the graves of his children, set like milestones along the Congo banks. His own is now the farthest. So he died. But the inspiration of his holy zeal, and of his love for Christ and Africa, remains a deathless thing.
From The Missionary Heroes of Africa by J. H. Morrison. New York: George H. Doran Co., ©1922.
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