Beginning of the Monument Street Church
Soon after their removal to their new home on Monument Street, July, 1866, Mr. Crawford baptized Mrs. Leo, mentioned in the preceding chapter, in a clear pond outside of the west water gate of the city. To Mr. and Mrs. Crawford who had followed her struggles through repentance and faith in Christ, her conversion was a source of great joy. About the same time Wong Wha Yuen, a deacon of the Presbyterian Church, who for years had been troubled regarding the mode of baptism joined them. In December of 1866, the Monument Street Church was organized with eight members. These were Mr. and Mrs. Crawford, Mrs. Holmes, Mr. and Mrs. DeGrew who had removed from Shanghai to Chefoo, Mrs. Leo, Mr. Wong Wha Yuen and Mr. Chow. Mrs. Holmes and Mr. Chow bringing letters of dismission from the North Street Church. The next summer Sun Chang Lung, whose village and neighborhood they had often visited, and who had placed the temple at Ma Kia at Mr. Crawford's service, was also baptized.
They had long been looking wistfully over the villages that dotted the plains and valleys around Teng Chow, but the villagers were more afraid of them than the city people. Constant association with them had shown the city people that foreigners were not dangerous, but the rural population heard no contradiction of the evil reports sedulously circulated about them. (For mutual protection and convenience the country people all live in villages under their own local government.) Through acquaintance they gained access to a few neighborhoods, though they were shut out by prejudice and suspicion from many more, but later regular and systematic country work was thrown open in an unexpected way.
In the summer of 1867, the whole eastern part of the province was devastated by a horde of robbers from the southwest, who had been driven forth by famine in their own region to prey upon their more fortunate countrymen. When no resistance was offered to their seizing whatever came to hand they would help themselves
without bloodshed, but the people were not always ready to yield their means of subsistence without a struggle, and often collected in bands to oppose the robbers. This so infuriated the robbers that they spared neither age nor sex in such neighborhoods. The people generally fled for protection to the walled cities or mountain tops. Many women who had failed to get away from home in time, on the approach of the robbers threw their children into wells or ponds and jumped in after them. Others hanged themselves upon the timbers of their dwellings. The reader should bear in mind that suicide is frightfully common in China. Great numbers of refugees fled to the city of Teng Chow where most of them remained about two months. The sick and wounded came to the missionaries for medical help, and many others having nothing to do came about them to see the foreigners and hear them talk, and from dawn until dark their house was so thronged that they had to regulate the hours of admittance. At nine o'clock Mr. Crawford opened his front chapel door and talked to a full house until noon, and from three until six o'clock in the afternoons he labored in the same way. For the women Mrs. Crawford used two rooms opening into each other, and removing all the furniture she seated the visitors on the matted floor. Soon after opening their street door in the morning these rooms would be crowded with women and children, to whom she presented the gospel for half an hour. Then after administering some simple remedies to the ailing she requested them to give place to others who were waiting on the street. In a little while the room was filled by newcomers with whom she proceeded in like manner. Thus daily they labored during these two months, forming acquaintances with numbers of individuals. Mr. Crawford also in connection with his preaching, relieved as far as he could such men as had been wounded by the robbers. They learned during these disturbances the names of many persons, some of whom invited them to visit their homes and villages. The people found at this time that the foreigners were in reality their true friends and not the monsters they had supposed them to be.
After the restoration of peace Mr. and Mrs. Crawford began their circuits among the villages — cautiously at first, for they were not certain to what extent public opinion was in their favor. By degrees the work was extended. On reaching a village, often riding on donkeys, they usually sought one of the public wells where they dismounted and took seats on the well stone or sought a harvest floor. Curiosity or an errand for water soon brought some person to the well, and as the men were usually busy in the fields the
first to come was almost sure to be a woman. This attracted others and thus were their congregations often gathered. If men came Mr. Crawford would take them to a separate spot and preach to them. Mrs. Crawford did not accompany her husband on the longer tours, nor to the market towns where the women would not show themselves. He ofttimes with his teacher or some native brother spent weeks in going from place to place, making his headquarters at some central town where he could deposit his bedding in an inn and there spend the nights. After Mrs. Holmes returned from the United States in 1869, she and Mrs. Crawford frequently labored together, and later one or the other of them would join Miss Moon who arrived in 1874. They spent much of the pleasant weather of each spring and autumn in this way.
At the smaller villages in busy seasons half an hour's talk was often long enough. The people would then begin to feel they must return to their work, but in leisure seasons, when many were coming and going, hours might be profitably spent at one place. For years the people did not seem to understand their objects in these visits, but with frequent explanations they came to know that their only purpose was to proclaim the "heavenly doctrine." Now and then one would have the temerity to invite them into a house, and they found that accepting such invitations brought them into better relations with the people, though talking out under the trees was more pleasant.
Mrs. Crawford writes:"We can recall many instances of kind consideration extended to us on these tours. Once when Mrs. Holmes and I were almost exhausted from heat and labor, a man suddenly presented himself before us bearing a tray of smoking tea. 'I knew you must need something to drink,' he said. Sometimes a loving old woman would take us by the hand and say, 'come in and rest, this is hard work you are doing for us.' At one time a lady of wealth sent an invitation for us to come to her house for rest and refreshments which we accepted, and we found her unusually intelligent and interesting. 'I have great respect,' she said, 'for those who are spending their lives teaching others to be good. You are like our own sage, Confucius, who went in his cart from village to village exhorting the people to morality.' Sometimes malicious persons would excite public sentiment against us, and in such places we found it useless to attempt religious work. Again venerable old men with flowing white beard would approach and thank us warmly for teaching their people such good things. The Chinese are not all alike."
Their methods of presenting the gospel would vary according to circumstances, but they always told of salvation through Christ. The objects around them often afforded an introduction. Pointing to the sun they would say, "Do you know who holds the sun in the heavens and so guides it that it unfailingly rises and sets day after day throughout the ages?" Or "Look at the growing crops. Who sends rain to make them grow, and who gives food to yourselves and children? You know it is the Heavenly Father. Have you ever once in all your life rendered thanks to Him for all His kindness, or ever inquired into His word that you may obey Him?" Sometimes a mother would speak of her dead child. They would ask, "Do you know your child will live again?" Then the resurrection would be explained. If some one should be in distress, a Saviour who can take away all sorrow would be presented. But generally they told them in the beginning that they had a message of love and mercy and of offered salvation from the Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ His Son.
In visiting the villages near the city, they could return home after a day's work and have a comfortable night's rest, starting out fresh the next morning. But for distant places they were absent from home for days or weeks, lodging in Chinese inns. Sleeping on brick beds in close, damp, stuffy rooms was not conducive to health, and they often arose in the morning feeling only a little less weary than when they lay down at night. The villages on an average were about a mile apart, and the voice was rested in going from one to another. From four to seven villages made a good day's work, leaving strength for two or three hours' talk at night; but when their road took them by eight or ten villages (and they could not consent to pass any without a few gospel words), they were ready for bed at an early hour.
On the arrival of Mr. Crawford at Teng Chow in 1863, Mrs. Holmes was superintending a small day school for boys, the teacher of which was paid by the native church, Mr. and Mrs. Hartwell and Mrs. Holmes. Before long the arrangements became unsatisfactory and the church ceased to pay its part, whereupon Mrs. Holmes took upon herself its expenses from private funds. She thus continued it until her departure for the United States in 1867, when she left it in Mrs. Crawford's hands with fifty dollars for its support.
Before this time the Board had constituted Messrs. Hartwell and Crawford, at their united request, into separate missions, and Mrs. Holmes' house being near to Mr. Hartwell, it was changed after
her departure into a chapel for the North Street Church. The school was removed to a rented room near Mr. Crawford's house, and gradually developed into a boarding school.
Mr. Crawford's Monument Street house consisted of a number of small rooms arranged in four successive rows, each row being separated from the next by a court yard. The first row presented to the street a dead wall pierced only by the front entrance and the door into Mr. Crawford's study. There had been a beautiful apple tree in the front court, but not being mentioned in the title deed the retiring owner, according to Chinese custom, cut it down and sold the wood. Little Landrum Holmes, hearing the missionaries expressing much regret at the loss of the tree, said to his mother, "Never mind mother, we can stick it on again with Spaulding's Prepared Glue," strongly suggestive of the many times his accidents had been repaired by that famous preparation.
During his whole missionary life it was Mr. Crawford's aim to make himself accessible to the people of all classes, that he might present to them the "words of life," and "by all means save some." During his thirty years at Teng Chow he was able to make especially favorable arrangements for this purpose. The room where he sat to study, read and write had a door opening into the street, and the people soon learned that they were always welcome to come in and sit down and have a talk. It was in this room in the intervals between callers, that he wrote his Patriarchal Dynasties, part of his Reign of Man, his Churches, To the Front! his pamphlets, "What Caused the Sudden Death of Christ?" "How Long was Christ in the Tomb?" and a number of English hymns. It was also here with his native teacher that he wrote his Mandarin Grammar, General Catechism, an Ancient History, and composed, translated and compiled his hymn book in Mandarin, besides much other literary work in both languages which has not been preserved. It was in this room also that he received during the Chinese government examinations multitudes of the literati who came to ask questions regarding the "foreign country," Astronomy, Physics and other subjects of interest to them. Besides the information they sought they were always sure to hear the truths of salvation through Christ.
The houses in Teng Chow and generally in North China are of one story. The courts of Mr. Crawford's home were small and enclosed by walls and other houses reaching to the eaves. As some of their yards were paved with stone the summer heat was almost intolerable. At all seasons their vision was confined to these small courts and a little stretch of sky above them. Their isolated posiition,
the trials of the work in the midst of a hostile people, with other difficulties too numerous to mention in detail, tried their souls to the utmost.
Two years later they bought the adjoining house on the east and pulled down the intervening walls, thus enlarging the courts and securing rooms for the school and other prospective work. They planted a number of trees, and as these grew up, casting a refreshing shade around, the material comfort of the inmates was greatly increased. For many years of their later life there the contrast in summer on stepping from the scorched street into the shadow of the locust, mimosa and elm trees, with flowers of various kinds beneath them and Virginia creepers covering the walls, was greatly refreshing. Though in itself unpretending, the place became to them a dear and lovely home, where they expected to spend the remainder of their earthly days in the service of the Master. But for them God had other plans.
Go to Chapter 15
[From L. S. Foster, Fifty Years in China - An Eventful Memoir of Tarleton Perry Crawford, D. D., 1909; reformatted and reprinted in 2005. The document was provided by Jackie Battles, Winchester, VA. - jrd]
Return to Baptist China Missionary Index
Return to Baptist Biographies
Return to Baptist History Homepage