Index Page   The Lord Took Me

 

I'm doing my Duty

High up on the mountain top we see the motionless figure of a man, his hand on the shoulder of a powerful black horse. He is dressed in riding breeches and well polished leggings and is looking down quietly into the valley. Below him and circled by clear washed azure mountains lies a billowing mass of soft cloud. His scrutiny is so intent that he seems to be trying to pierce through the mist to see the picture of his life below. Hidden beneath the cloud cover lies his mission station with its church building, its native huts and fields. Down there in the house beside the church the girl is gazing down fondly on a little daughter. This is now her home and her life. Here she rules serenely as wife and mother.

The wavering notes of the church bell rise faintly to the solitary watcher’s ear. The muffling of the mist can’t disguise the somewhat thin sound which the small bell sends out. From the far side of the valley an answering peal. It is only a plowshare suspended in a thorn tree and beaten with a long bolt, but in the ghostly mountain air its note is pure and melodious. And the grey bearded elder rings it as solemnly as any sexton of the good old days in Germany.

Further along the valley, where the thorn trees grow densely, silence reigns after a night of drumming, for there the Zionists gathered. All through the night the big drum of this white robed African sect resounded in the dark. Boom! Boom! Boom! Like the rapid beats of a restless heart. Now the light of day has driven away the night and the drum is silent; the drummers are asleep. It is no easy thing to beat out thudding notes all night, but the nocturnal drumbeat belongs to the obedience of ‘spirit-filled’ worship, for, say they, the Bible (which they profess to live by) enjoins man to ‘praise him with cymbals.’

The man on the summit turns round and looks down into the valley lying to the west. Here no trace of clouds obscures the view. The beehive shaped grass huts of the Zulus snuggle together on the mountain slopes. The small herd boys are already on the dewy veld minding their father’s cattle. Slightly older boys are there too, almost naked and singing in a yodel of their own while they throw their ‘knopkirres’ after fluttering birds. Higher up the slopes, beyond the boys and their cattle a chorus of reedy bird calls drifts to his ear. Hark! Those are guinea fowl. Zickheh, Zichheh…There they are near the edge of the virgin forest…This is Africa, not Africa with herds of antelope, yet nevertheless Africa.

Such is a glimpse of my life as a missionary in Zululand. But let me take you with a little more intimacy into that picture, for those days were to have a telling effect on my later thinking. My experiences were teaching me that one cannot make men live righteously by edicts of church committees any more than one can do so by acts of parliament.

Arax (the black horse), rubbed his nostrils on my sleeve. ‘Hey you!’ I admonished laughingly, ‘Just as well that I have my clerical robe with me. For how could I now stand before the congregation in this coat?’ It was good in any case that the clerical robe was strapped over the pommel: that would give me the necessary dignity before the people. It was good too, that, wrapped into it were the Chalice and the Wafers.