OTHER MISSIONS IN BURMAWho They Are
By Henry C. Vedder, 1927
[Now known as Republic of the Union of Myanmar]
I. THE KARENS
The Karens are a Mongolian people, lighter in color than the Burmese, found in all parts of Burma, but especially in the hilly uplands of central and upper Burma. Their language is monosyllabic, and the meaning of words depends on "tone" or pitch. For example, the monosyllable meh means tooth, tail, eye, sand, mole, bridal gift, according to the "tone" given it. Many Karens have become Buddhists, but they had a religion of their own, which is described as "a jumble of superstitions, without system or consistency." It is rather a religion of serving Satan than worshiping God. They have old traditions of the creation and fall, strikingly like the accounts of Genesis. Their name for God, K'sah Y'wah, is like Jehovah or Yahweh. Among their traditions was one that some day a white man would come to them in a ship with a book telling them of God. Those who know them best describe them as a mild, peaceable folk, truthful and honest, affectionate and industrious. Their chief vice is drunkenness, and to indulge in this they make an alcoholic drink from rice. They are quite different in mental and moral characteristics from the Burmese. A missionary who has known both peoples well thus discriminates between them: "The Burmese keep their best goods in the show window; the Karens keep theirs mostly in the back of the shop."
Doctor Judson became acquainted with the Karens
through Ko-Thah-Byu. The latter had been a bandit and is said to have been responsible for the death of thirty persons. Doctor Judson procured his release from slavery for a debt and thus gained his undying gratitude, and finally he became a Christian. Originally a stupid man with "a diabolical temper," according to Doctor Judson, he became a zealous Christian and later a successful preacher to his own people.
Boardman's Pioneer Work
George Dana Boardman was the first missionary to the Karens. He was appointed to the Burman mission in 1825 and was first stationed at Moulmein, where 21 were baptized and organized into a church in the autumn of 1828. It was here that Judson completed his translation of the Bible. In 1833 the converts formed a missionary society and sent out two native workers. A few years later there were eight preaching-stations clustered about Moulmein. In the meantime, Boardman had gone to Tavoy, with the approval of Judson. Tavoy is the capital of a province of the same name and was at that time a town of about 6,000. The baptism of Ko-Thah-Byu attracted attention to the Karens, and two others were soon after converted and baptized. These baptisms were administered by Rev. Francis Mason, who had come to re-enforce the mission, Boardman looking on from his couch. Boardman lived to see 57 baptized in two months, dying February 11, 1831. Ko was ordained January 4, 1829, and became "the apostle to the Karens"; he not only traversed a large part of Burma, but went into Siam where many of his race had migrated.
These early days were very difficult. The Karens were despised by the Burmese and fiercely persecuted. To own a book was a capital crime. Missionaries were compelled to hold meetings and baptize converts at night. Not until
after the second war with the English was this persecution relaxed, and the Karens did not obtain complete immunity until the annexation of Burma to India.
Bible Work Among the Karens
The arrival of Rev. Jonathan Wade, in 1835, marked a great advance of the Karen mission. Doctor Wade proved to be a remarkable linguist. Early in their labors missionaries discovered that there are two principal tribes of the Karens, speaking different dialects. The Sgaw Karens, with whom they first came in contact, are more civilized and at first were more accessible to the gospel. The Pwo Karens are a wilder tribe, a mountain people with a much lower civilization than the Burmese and accordingly despised by them. Considerably later, a third tribe was discovered, called the Bwe or "Red" Karens. None of these tribes had a written language; so one of the first tasks of the missionaries was to reduce their language to writing and give them the Scriptures in their own tongue. Doctor Wade was the leading personage in this work. He devised a Karen alphabet and began translating the New Testament into Pwo. He also compiled a Karen grammar and a Thesaurus or lexicon in five volumes. One of his successors says that this work "is not surpassed to this day and deserves to rank as an encyclopedia." In 1837 he obtained fonts of type and set up a press, which was afterward removed to Ran- goon and merged in the publishing-house there. Another who rendered great service in this work was Dr. Francis Mason, who completed the Sgaw Bible in 1853, while Dr. D. L. Drayton finished the Pwo Bible in 1883. Doctor Mason, besides being an indefatigable missionary, touring the country and preaching the gospel in many regions untouched before, was a man of remarkable scientific attainments and made great additions to the knowledge
of the flora and fauna of Burma. Elisha Abbott is another name that stands out in the early annals of this mission, as one who was in advance of his contemporaries in the advocacy of self-support. The Karens were taught to support not only their own churches but their schools as well. Another notable missionary of this period was Justus H. Vinton, and his wife was hardly less efficient than he. They gave not only themselves to the work, but two generations of Vintons who have followed them.
Other Stations and Their Work
A new station was opened at Bassein, as far west of Rangoon as Moulmein is east, in a district of 8,000 square miles and a population of 275,000 84,000 of them Karens in the hills. Rev. C. H. Carpenter came to this station in 1868 and did a great work there, making Bassein the center of Karen missions. Special stress was laid on self-support and education. A normal and industrial institute was founded and a seminary for women. In 1876 a Karen Home Mission Society was formed, which soon was supporting 19 evangelists. Two volunteers were sent from these churches to the Kachins. In May, 1876, the Ko-Thah-Byu Memorial was dedicated to purposes of advanced education, the fiftieth anniversary of his baptism.
Another important station was opened at Toungoo, in 1853. Burma has three main rivers: the Irawadi, the largest, the Salwen well to the eastward, and the Sitang between the two. Toungoo is on the Sitang, a walled city with a large population, and a great trading center for all North Burma. Since 1866 it has been connected with Rangoon by steam navigation. Doctor Mason, at his own request, opened a station there in 1853, mainly for Karens. Satf Quala, a native convert, did much for this mission, with four native helpers. In the first year 741
were baptized and in less than two years 1,860 had been baptized and 28 churches organized. In 1856 a mission for Burmans was added. While here Doctor Mason translated the entire Bible into the Sgaw Karen dialect. There was, however, more dissension and trouble in this field than in any of the others, due to one missionary who is described by a colleague as "opinionated, incompetent, and wrong-headed." Unfortunately, an utterly unqualified person does occasionally secure appointment as a missionary, but errors of this sort are not numerous.
Rev. Norman Harris began a mission at Shwegyin in 1853, a town south of Toungoo on the Sitang. During the first year here, 577 were baptized and six churches were organized. These churches and their successors were immediately trained in self-support.
Henzada, a large town on the Irawadi, about 100 miles north of Rangoon, became a mission station in 1853. It is a field where both Burmans and Karens have been reached and won.
Another important station is Prome, on the Irawadi, 170 miles north of Rangoon, the center of a population of at least 150,000. Doctor Judson spent three months there in 1830, but the mission station was not established until 1854. Both Karens and Burmese were converted here in considerable numbers, so that within a year there were four churches in the region, two of each race. A Kachin convert was made here, the first of his race, but the time for their evangelization was not yet. By 1867, after thirteen years of labor, 401 had been baptized; 48 of these were English and the rest of various races. The schools established at Prome proved a great evangelizing agency. A Shan was here converted and baptized in 1854, who afterward became an ardent missionary to his own people.
Educational and Medical Work
In spite of the check given to educational work in this mission by the ill-advised action of the Deputation, it has gone on with accelerated development, especially in these later years. The primary schools are largely supervised and in part supported by the Government. There are about 700 of these in connection with mission stations, with an enrolment of 18,000. Of these, 150, with 4,000 pupils, are in the Bassein field. Sixteen station schools of secondary grade carry the ambitious and competent a stage further; these have 2,500 enrolled. Several of them are especially, noteworthy: the Ko-Thah-Byu Memorial High School at Bassein, with 800 students ; the Kemendine School for girls at Rangoon, with 500; and the Morton Lane School for girls at Moulmein, with a strong normal department. Graduates of these schools may pursue their education in the Rangoon Baptist College; and at Insein is now located the theological seminary for Karens especially, with a faculty of two American and four native teachers and 125 students for the ministry.
The Christians of Burma are beginning to carry on their educational work independently, as well as missionary propaganda. A new school building was erected and recently dedicated at Bassein, at a cost of $100,000, mainly borne by the Sgaw Karens. It contains 22 classrooms, a library, and an auditorium that will seat 1,500. In all there are now 26 buildings in the compound, including a gymnasium, steam laundry, steam cooking-plant, a sawmill and a rice-mill, which by their income practically endow the school; and $35,000 additional endowment is invested in America for the school. Among other things, these facts indicate the increased appreciation alike by missionaries and people of industrial education. Instruction in scientific agriculture will also do
great things for the Karens and other races of Burma in the years to come.
Medical work has not had as large proportionate attention in the Karen mission as in some others. One of the earliest women physicians to go to the Orient was Dr. Ellen Mitchell. She worked there thirty-six years, and most appropriately a new hospital building erected in 1916 at Moulmein is named in her honor. It is a fine stone building, on the top of a hill, and has an excellent equipment and staff. In connection with the hospital a training-school for nurses has been opened, in which thirteen women are preparing for this much-needed work.
Review and Forecast
On the whole, the Karen mission must be pronounced the most fruitful field of Baptists, next to the Telugus, yet not all expectations regarding it have been realized. There are as many self-supporting Karen churches proportionally as there are among American Baptists.
While the early work among the Karens was very fruitful, after a time there came a reaction. Many returned to heathenism; for though the Karens were a moral people, as compared with most " heathen," they resented the high ethical standards of Christianity. False prophets among them also led many astray. In later years, the work has taken on fresh energy and success. Most of the Karen churches are now independent and receive no aid from mission funds. The older churches are building their own houses of worship, substantial buildings of brick, for the most part. The Karen Home Mission Society, formed in 1870 at Henzada, now supports 13 men and 10 Bible-women, mostly in work among the Siamese. The work of the Carpenters at Bassein was epochal. They made this one of the model mission stations of the world. The region has 140 churches with
114,000 members. The entire plant of 25 buildings, with the exception of two residences, was erected without financial aid from America. It includes a boarding-school of 800 pupils, supported in part by endowment, but mainly by gifts from the field and the production labors of the students.
There has been great improvement in the economic and social condition of the Karens, not all of which of course can be credited to Christian missions. Sawmills and other American machinery have been introduced, the standard of living has been raised, the people are more industrious, live in better houses, built of timber instead of bamboo. Karens used to say, "If you wash your clothes, a tiger will eat you," but they are learning cleanliness. Chewing betel is practically universal, not specially harmful, but a filthy and disgusting habit. The Karens are an increasing people in the last decade having grown from two to twelve millions. The economic conditions are lately becoming harder for them, owing to the influx of Indians who have a lower standard of living. On the other hand, these have proved quite responsive to the gospel; in five years Rev. W. H. Duff has baptized 609 of these immigrants. A school has been opened for their children that has an attendance of 800. Perhaps there is no better summing up of the past, no more encouraging augury for the future, than these words of Dr. Henry C. Mabie, written in 1902: "There is in Burma today among the Karens alone, a community of at least 100,000 souls, pervaded by Christian sentiment. It is the best appreciated and most loyal element of native citizenship in British India." Whosoever wishes to cite an incontrovertible instance, to prove the value of Christian missions in the uplifting of an entire race, may point to the Karens without fear of confutation.
II. MISSIONS IN ASSAM
Assam is a province of British India, lying between Hindustan and Burma, north of the Bay of Bengal. Its area is about 56,000 miles, approximately the same as that of Illinois, and it is a little more densely populated than that State. Baptists are responsible for more than three-fifths of its 7,000,000 people. Assam consists of the fertile valley of the Brahmaputra in the south, and of hilly country to the northward. The climate is very hot and the rainfall heavy. The tea industry is now the largest source of revenue, and 400,000 acres are under cultivation as tea plantations. Cotton is also largely grown. The people are mostly illiterate and uncivilized, especially those of the hills. The religion is Hinduism of the most degraded type, but there are also many Mohammedans in the region. The Garos and Nagas in the hills, the fierce and bloodthirsty head-hunters, have responded to the gospel better than the more civilized peoples of the south. There is good stuff in them, and many of them served valiantly in the late war.
Bible Work in Assam
Assam is one of our oldest mission fields. The mission was begun at the invitation of the English Commissioner at Gauhati, who promised Rs. 1,000 if missionaries would settle there, and an additional Rs. 1,000 for a printing-press. Rev. and Mrs. Nathan Brown and O. B. Cutter the latter a practical printer undertook to establish a mission at Sadiya. Doctor Brown proved to possess a genius for languages comparable to that of Carey. He began learning the Shan language, but, after making considerable progress, saw that there were few Shans in the district and then turned to Assamese. In the
intervals of establishing a home in the wilderness by the labor of their own hands, he so far mastered Assamese that in little more than two years he was able to translate the Gospel of Matthew, and prepare eleven text-books for a girls' school that the, missionaries' wives had opened. Later he completed the New Testament in Assamese, and three editions of it were printed during his twenty years of service. His health was so impaired by the climate that he was then compelled to return to the United States; but after recuperation was appointed one of our first missionaries to Japan, where he made a version of the New Testament in Japanese. One of the monumental facts of the Assamese mission is the reduction to writing of six languages hitherto without an alphabet, the giving of a Christian literature to these six peoples, beginning with the Bible. This work is still going on. Dr. Ola Hanson has recently completed a version of the New Testament in Kachin, and has got as far as the prophets in the Old Testament. In addition to this he has trained 40 native pastors and evangelists now at work. Translations into several different dialects of the Nagas are well advanced, most of the New Testament being completed. Ten different races are said to be found in the province, and sixty-seven dialects are spoken. We measure the difficulties of missions in Assam by these facts, and also the actual achievements of our missionaries.
Not enough attention has been paid to the literary side of our mission work. In all the world, American missionaries have been doing a civilizing work of the first order, in reducing spoken dialects to written form, in translating the Scriptures and other valuable literature into these vernaculars, and preparing dictionaries, grammars, and text-books of all sorts that have been of the first rank and have been invaluable helps in all schools for the training of such people. The Government of India would have
been greatly handicapped in its educational system, had it not been for this assistance given by missionaries, among whom our own have been foremost, from Carey's day to our own.
The mission press, first at Sadiya, later at Jaipur, and afterward at Sibsagor, was the center of this great work of printing and circulating this Christian literature. The practical printers who have gone out from time to time to our various missions, and trained a band of native workmen, have been some of our most effective missionaries. Their quiet, faithful work should receive better recognition.
Difficulties and Discouragements
Assam proved a difficult field from the first. The climate is very trying for Europeans and Americans. The poverty and ignorance of the people constituted a barrier to the progress of the gospel. Mission stations were sometimes badly located and at others overwhelmed by misfortunes unforeseen and unpreventable. Sickness, wars, and a complication of troubles compelled the abandonment of the first station at Sadiya in favor of Jaipur. In 1906 Sadiya was reoccupied and is now an important center of work among many tribes. Located on one of the main roads into Tibet, it has a position of commanding influence for the future progress of missions. Jaipur proved an ill-chosen post, and the mission there was transferred to Sibsagor. Other stations since opened are at Jorhat and Tura. The work has grown, until there are now 13 centers, three theological schools with 61 students, a high school with enrolment of 124, nine other secondary schools with 1,094 pupils, and 249 primary schools with enrolment of 6,002. Six hospitals and dispensaries are maintained on this field. There are now reported 281 churches, with 24,416 members.
The BMS has a mission in Assam, with two main centers, 22 churches, and 2,192 members. It sustains a theological school, with 52 students, a high school, and 23 elementary schools.
This has been most fruitful, especially in the secondary schools. At Jorhat, besides a Bible Training-school, there is a high school for boys, at which representatives from fifteen tribes are in attendance a feature characteristic of all schools in Assam and Burma, owing to the extraordinary mixture of races found there. Graduates of this school can pursue their studies at Cotton College, in Gauhati, a Government institution. Dr. and Mrs. W. E. Witter are doing valuable work among the students here, who come from all Assam. A new hostel has been built as a Christian home for these boys. In the Jorhat high school there is an industrial department that is giving practical training to about 100 boys, and this part of the work has the special approval of the Government. A boarding-school for girls at Nowgong is reaching daughters of the upper classes among the Assamese. It did work so excellent, from 1911 onward, that the Government offered to erect a fine new school building, if a normal department were added. There are now over 200 girls in this department, which is sending out well-prepared teachers. In 1920 there was an enrolment of 270 day-pupils, of whom 87 were Hindus and 77 Mohammedans. A Hindu hostel was also given by the Government, in which girls of all castes live and work together. Industrial training is given, especially in weaving, an important womanly accomplishment in Assam. A great revival originated in this school in 1906, in which not only many girls were won, but the influence went out into a large surrounding region, with most remarkable and
permanent results on the communities. The Satrihari (garden of girls) school at Gauhati is one of the newer institutions, opened in 1915. It has a compound of 26 acres on the outskirts of the town, arranged as a model Indian village, with schoolhouse, four cottages and other buildings, including a weaving-shed. Many Hindu girls from town and some Mohammedans are day-pupils. In the Government examinations the girls from this school do well. A native evangelist conducts a Sunday preaching service, and a Sunday school is held in the compound. The value of industrial education in our missions has been abundantly demonstrated by these schools. It provides a way by which pupils can pay their way through school; it offers substitutes for employments of their former pagan life that are often unchristian in character; it helps those who become Christians to self-support and insures a better economic condition for their families; it raises the standard of living and of morals and elevates entire communities.
III. VARIOUS OTHER TRIBES
Work Among the Garos
In the Western part of the province, about 400 miles from Sadiya, is a people so wild and barbarous that the Government officials thought it necessary to warn the missionaries of their danger when they first went among them. They speak a Tibeto-Burman language that had never been reduced to writing. Their jungle-covered hills were impenetrable by British troops, the secret lair of a savage and defiant race, of whom the people of the plains were in terror. Their houses were little more than one-room huts, their clothing slight, hardly more than a waist-cloth. They were intemperate, drinking large quantities of rice-beer, which was given even to babies;
they were also consumers of opium. There were about 164,000 of these Garos, physically fit - short, but lithe and muscular - but spiritually backward, given to animism, fetishism, and a host of superstitions. Doctor and Mrs. Stoddard began a mission among them in 1867 at Goalpara; later Tura became the chief station. The real work among the Garos, however, dates from the assignment to that mission of Rev. M. C. Mason and Elnathan Phillips, in 1874.
Aside from their evangelism, the most important work of these two was the translation of the Bible into the Garo tongue, a work of unusual difficulty, not only because they had to devise a written language, but because the Garos had so primitive religious ideas that there were no available words to convey to them Christian thought. They had the efficient help of Miss E. C. Bond. From 1902 Garo literature has been printed in Roman characters; and the Garos have themselves established a press and conduct it. The Government has aided in the publication of dictionaries and other books, and the Bible Translation Society of London and the Victoria Memorial Fund have aided in Bible circulation, so that Scriptures can be sold for the mere cost of printing and binding. The Christian Literature Society of India has published for the Garos a grammar, arithmetic, and other text-books.
A Marvelous Change
In little more than a generation, the Garo country has been transformed from a dense jungle, largely inhabited by elephants, tigers, and wild hogs, into a civilized land, with fine churches, schools, and bungalows. Up to 1919 there had been 12,046 baptisms among the Garos, and the work is continuously fruitful. The Garo Association in 1923 took over their own mission and other fields in
Assam that the ABFMS had to abandon for lack of funds. They appointed a special evangelist to surpervise [sic] the work. The missionaries from the first established schools, and since 1878 the English Government has turned over to the Baptist missions all the school work among the hill-tribes, contributing liberally to its support. These schools have been an invaluable evangelizing and civilizing agency, and a large proportion of their pupils have been converted and baptized. Some 70 schools are now maintained, with an enrolment of 1,380 boys and 675 girls. In one of the best of them, a missionary lately reported that of 237 pupils only 14 left the school unconverted. A school at Tura from 1905 was classed by the Government as a Middle School, and in 1910 Government scholarships were awarded to qualified boys to take high-school education elsewhere. The Garos are now establishing a high school of their own at Tura and financing it themselves. Some progress has been made in industrial and agricultural training also. The missionaries have imported trees and seeds to diversify the products of the district, and while there have been some failures, there have been more successes. Boards have been unaccountably slow to perceive the importance of this feature of mission work. Some one has well said, "Building up a people in self-reliance is far better than coddling them, though sometimes even in mission work the latter method seems the more popular."
Medical work among the Garos has not been neglected. Dr. G. G. Crozier, who took his medical degree at the University of Michigan, went out in 1900; he has built a good hospital and made his work largely self-sustaining.
At the eastern end of Assam is another hill-people known as the Nagas, just about as wild and savage as the
Garos. Four tribes of them, speaking different dialects, do not make missionary work any easier, especially as their customs and traditions are as different as their speech. Kohima is the center of operations among them, 5,000 feet above sea-level and fifty miles from the railway. There are about 40,000 Angami Nagas surrounding this station. Another is located at Kari, also on the top of a hill, among the Ao Nagas. Some of these people come to church wrapped in blankets, with bare feet. Many of their houses are shingled with Standard Oil tins. They are gradually yielding to the civilizing influences of the gospel, their conditions of living are improving, their children are being instructed in schools. For forty years, Rev. S. W. Rivenburg, M. D., with such equipment as he could scrape together, did a great work as medical missionary among this people.
Mission to the Shans
The Shans are a wild, uncivilized hill-people, mostly in the northeast provinces of Burma, but extending into China on the one hand and into Assam on the other, through a district 900 miles long and 400 broad. They are believed to number some 7,000,000 people. The first missionary among them was Rev. Moses H. Bixby, appointed in 1861, after some experience as missionary among the Burmans. He opened a station at Toungoo, and for some years this was headquarters for the work among the Shans. The first baptism of a Shan convert occurred in September, 1862, and in the same month a church was formed of nine members. Three years later there were three churches, with 102 members, 10 chapels, and 10 native workers, besides a training-school for native workers. Rev. J. N. Gushing and wife joined the mission in 1867, and the following year ill health compelled Doctor Bixby to return to his native land. He
never recovered sufficiently to dare the Burman climate again, but his later years were usefully spent as pastor of an important church in Providence, R. I. In 1871 the Gospel of Matthew was printed in the Shan language, and the whole Bible in 1891. In the making of this version Doctor Gushing bore the larger part; and in addition made a Shan grammar and compiled a dictionary that was of great assistance to later missionaries in learning the language. It is worthy of note that Mrs. Gushing gave her later years to the Baptist Training School of Philadelphia (now the Baptist Institute) of which she was the first preceptress.
The early promise of the Shan field was not at once fulfilled, and there followed two or three decades in which little progress seemed at times to be made. The Shan stations at present are Bhamo, Kentung, and Taunggyi. The church and school at the latter place have but few Shans, but a conglomeration of races and tongues hardly to be matched elsewhere, even in India.
The Kachins are a virile, but wild and savage people, allied to the Chinese. From 65,000 to 100,000 of them are found in Burma, and as many more in China. They are a hill-people and are pressing the Shans southward. Shy and suspicious of strangers, they are not easily won. A new mission to these people was established at Bhamo in 1877, some 800 miles north of Rangoon, and other stations have since been opened. When the missionaries began their work, the Kachins were brigands, illiterate, lawless; the women were little more than beasts of burden. Now there is a church of over 1,000 members and Christian services are held in 41 villages. The language has been reduced to writing, the Bible translated, grammar, dictionary, and school-books printed, schools founded.
More than 1,500 Kachins are now literate. The missionaries and the schools have been the sole factor in the making of this great change. One obstacle to rapid progress is the inertia of the Kachins; they are pleased to have others converted, but regard that as the missionary's job, and it is hard to make them feel personal responsibility for the progress of the gospel.
Another wild tribe, called Chins, live in the mountainous regions between lower Bengal and Upper Burma a people of very primitive habits and ideas. Their origin is believed to be the same' as that of the Burmese, both being supposed to have come originally from Tibet. They number about 180,000, and the British have had great difficulty in subduing them. A Chin school was begun at Henzada and is doing much to evangelize and civilize this tribe. There are now five mission stations where work among the Chins is carried on.
The Lahus and Muhsos are other tribes that have been reached in recent years. Two stations are maintained for work among these people. One of these, Mong Lem, is across the border in China, and remarkable results have been reported during the last decade. Rev. William M. Young has been laboring among them for more than twenty years, more than 200 miles from the nearest mission station, more than 300 miles from a railway. In this isolated place, he and his wife have been patiently sowing the seed and from 1905 onward began to reap their harvest. In that year 1,800 converts were baptized. Since then mass movements have brought over 10,000 into the churches in a period of five years, and 100 villages in this field are now Christian. Re-enforcements have been sent, including a grandson of Adoniram Judson, Rev. A. C. Hanna, who began his work there in the year of the Judson Centennial. Still more remarkable results may be expected in this field in the near future.
An Abandoned Mission
For eighteen years, beginning with 1835, a mission was maintained in Arakan, a province on the east coast of the Bay of Bengal, the part of Burma earliest to be acquired by the British. It is separated from the rest of Burma by a chain of mountains, and its people are not strictly Burmans, though related to them and speaking what is regarded as a corrupted form of the Burmese language. A few churches were formed in this region and some schools were begun. A beginning was made of training native assistants. In 1841 there were 193 baptisms reported from a station at Sandoway, and in 1848 there are said to have been 5,500 baptisms in this field, and it was estimated that there were as many more converts not yet baptized. Later, the Sandoway work was consolidated with that at Bassein and work in Arakan was abandoned.
Some Obstacles in Indian Missions
While recent years have offered new and great opportunities for missionary advance in all the Orient, they have also given rise to new and serious difficulties. The great war changed everything. Many from the mission fields of India and Burma, including children of missionaries, served with credit. Mission work was for a time brought almost to a standstill; re-enforcements were impracticable; missionaries on furlough found great difficulty in returning to their fields. Only a small part of the advance contemplated in the Five Year World Movement after the war could be effected. There was a changed attitude on the part of the native people of the mission fields: many said frankly that a Christianity that had failed in Europe could not succeed in the Orient. Our missionaries may well say to the home churches, as a
great missionary once said to his age, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." Baptisms shrank in 1918 to 7,098, the lowest record in more than twenty years.
Another serious difficulty has grown out of the increasingly unfavorable rate of exchange. In 1913-14 the total income of the ABFMS was $1,122,265.12, and a favorable rate of exchange made its actual purchasing power on the foreign fields about $4,000 greater. In 1918-19, the income was apparently considerably larger, $1,575,312.62, but its purchasing power had declined to $770,233.40. In other words, an American dollar was worth less than fifty cents on the mission fields! At the same time the cost of living was rapidly advancing there, as it was at home. The salaries of missionaries, and all appropriations for mission work, were thus practically cut in half, and both had to be proportionately increased. These conditions continued during the war and for some time afterward; they have since been improved, but are yet far from normal, meaning by that the average pre-war status.
What will be the attitude of the New Burma, now in the making, to Christian missions? To all present appearances it will be a hostile attitude. Burma does not want the Christianity of the "Christian" nations. Can we wonder? The department of education has been turned over to Burmans, and the new Minister of Education is a Buddhist, though educated in a Christian school. What will be the official attitude toward our Christian schools? If hostile, it may become necessary to close them, and there could be no greater disaster to the missionary cause.
Nevertheless, there is much to encourage a hopeful outlook. Baptists have in their churches about one-half of the total Christian population of Burma. One person in
twenty-five of the entire population has been favorably affected by Christianity, about the proportion of Christians to population in the United States at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
[From Henry C. Vedder, A Short History of Baptist Missions, chapter V, Judson Press, 1927, pp. 111-131. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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