The following appears in Concordia Publishing House’s Magazin für ev.-luth. Homiletik und Pastoraltheologie [Magazine for Evangelical Lutheran Homiletics and Pastoral Theology], Volume 43 (1919) pages 91-96.

Mission Lectures.

Preliminary Remark. This year the “Magazine” will bring a series of mission lectures. These lectures will deal with missions in general and especially with the missions of our Synod. We expect the participation of one member from each of the mission authorities concerned. These lectures are intended not only for mission festivals, but also for a monthly or bimonthly mission service, which has been successfully introduced in some places, as well as for association meetings, where a lecture can be read. May these lectures serve to increase the missionary spirit in our congregations!


Mission lecture on Africa.

Ethiopia [Mohrenland][1] shall soon stretch out her hands unto God. Ps. 68:31.

        Moorland is the land where the Moors live. By the Moors we mean the black inhabitants of Africa, the Negroes. They will stretch out their hands to God, says David Ps. 68:31, that is, they will call upon the true God. This occurs through mission work. For “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” Rom. 10:14-15. Now we shall hear a lecture about the mission work in Africa.

        Africa is the second largest continent. It has an area of nearly 12 million square miles. Its greatest width is about 4500 miles and its greatest length is about 5000 miles. The black population is estimated at 140 million. This numerous people is divided into three large groups: the Negroes proper (Negritians[2]), the Bantu Negroes[3], who are considered to be mongrels of Negritians and other peoples, and the Hamites. These three great groups divide again into peoples and tribes, which are almost innumerable, and have just such differences as the various peoples of the Caucasian race. They have different political, social, and commercial institutions. The languages are also different. In the whole of Africa more than 800 different languages and dialects are spoken. But despite the many differences, fundamental similarities are found. For example, among all the Negro peoples of Africa, polygamy, slavery, sorcery, and the evils associated with them are found.

        Africa is usually called the dark continent. This continent was practically unknown to the Europeans. Only the northeastern part and the thin strips along the coasts were known to them. It was only in the last century that Livingstone, Stanley and other bold travelers explored the interior of the dark continent.

        Africa is also dark with regards to the culture of its dark inhabitants. The blacks are culture-poor savages who live in small huts, roam almost naked over the lonely steppe or through the dense jungle and can neither read nor write.

        Africa is also dark with regard to the morals of its black inhabitants. There are people who chatter about the paradisaical innocence and childlike bliss in which such uncultured, missionless peoples supposedly live. Such chatterers should simply travel to the savages in Africa and live among them for a while. There a gruesome nightmare would reveal itself to their eyes. Everywhere they would see, for example, cruelty. The Negroes are cruel by nature. Human sacrifice, murder of twins with their mother, and other inhuman abominations flourish among them. Twins and children afflicted with abnormalities are regarded as omens of misfortune. Among these are reckoned, for example, also the poor creatures in whom instead of the lower incisors the upper incisors appear first. Out of superstitious fear, these children are either killed immediately after birth, or they are abandoned in the bush and eaten there by hyenas or other animals. The Negro child never experiences motherly love as we know it. Missionary G. A. Schmidt, who works among the Negroes in the Black Belt of Alabama, recently wrote that the parents of our school children at Rosebud, Ala. were invited to visit the school on a certain day, and there, among other things, he said in his speech that the children should show their parents with words and deeds that they love and value them. On his way out of the school he heard one of the negro mothers say, “Dat chile better not come messin’ ‘round me!” That is, her child should not kiss and caress her. That is the Negro way. A Frenchman in Africa writes: “We lived among them for several years and never saw a mother embrace her child.”

        The Negro is by nature careless, sluggish, and lazy. And here, too, the saying applies, “Idleness is the beginning of all vice.” Fornication, thievery, lying are thus the chief vices of the black. His passions are strong and he lacks self-control. He is a descendant of Ham. Polygamy is the rule. It is well known that the Negroes in our country are extremely thieving and lying. This is an evil inheritance from African paganism. Paganism makes people thieves and liars. Again and again one hears the complaint of the missionaries about the unspeakable dishonesty of the Africans. They do not consider lying as something dishonorable, but treasure it as a skill. The consequence of this is mutual distrust of all towards each other.

        Africa is also dark with regard to the religion of the natives. Here the word of the prophet is quite true: “Behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people!” [Isaiah 60:2] The Negro is undeniably strongly disposed toward religion; but his religion is blind, crass, dark paganism. It is true that he still has an inkling and conception of a supreme being; but this is indefinite. He has no fear, love or trust in the supreme being. Instead of worship [Gottesdienst], the Africans serve spirits [Geisterdienst]. Animism is their religion. Animism means belief in spirits, worship of spirits. The Negroes believe in the survival of the soul after death. In their opinion, the spirits of the deceased are powerful, greedy, harsh and tyrannical. They demand homage and care from the living and take revenge for any neglect by bringing misfortune, illness and death. Therefore, one seeks to make them favorable through praise, invocation, and especially sacrifice. Thus, the belief in ghosts brings about fear and anxiety. The superstitious black also seeks, outside of sacrifices, other means of protection against the wrath of the spirits. He acquires these means from a shaman or witch doctor.

        Besides the ideas about the soul after death, their ideas about life forces play an important role. In the opinion of the Negro, life forces reside in the blood, but also in other parts of the body, in the hair, the nails, and the saliva of people. The heathen is now anxious not only to preserve his life forces for himself, but also to increase them by stealing them from others. This is actually the basis of cannibalism, the man-eating, which is still not extinct. Especially in earlier times, one would drink the blood of slain enemies and ate their flesh. This is not done for the sake of enjoyment, but it is a matter of the life forces of the slain, which one wants to appropriate; for he who eats another’s flesh makes his life forces his own. Also with the saliva, the cut hair and nails life forces go out of the body. Therefore, the black man is extremely careful with these things–he hides the cut nails and hairs, because if someone else were to find them and appropriate them, he would take from his life forces and gain control over him.

        This animism is the mother of fetishism. The word fetish comes from the Portuguese language and signifies a magical object. The fetish is used in approximately the following manner: The Negro looks for a means of defense against the misfortune which the bad ghosts or also bad people–witch masters–always want to do to him. Such means of protection are provided by the fetish priest, who is paid handsomely for it. The Negro believes that the magic doctor can banish spirits into any object–tree, stone, bone, feathers, rags–and that such magic objects or fetishes serve to make the buyer or owner invulnerable, to protect him from illness or to cure him of it. He puts his trust in these fetishes; from them he expects protection, help, and assistance against the evil spirits and evil people; they are his gods. What sinister superstition! What poor, blind heathens! They are in fear all their lives. They sink into the grave without ever having a ray of true joy and Christian hope illuminate their dark lives. Must you not sing and say:

The poor heathen have my sympathy;
How deep their woe and sin!
O God, behold their misery!
Their soul is dead within.

They worship idols deaf and blind,
They bow to wood and stone,
Not knowing in their darkened mind
That Thou art God alone.

Nor do they know the Lamb that bore
Our burden lest we die;
Their heart is wretched to the core,
Beneath a curse they lie.[4]

        The plight of the poor African pagans touched the hearts of Christians in Europe and America, and they sent missionaries to them. The first messengers of the Gospel arrived in 1736, but they were few in number. Around the year 1875 the real missionary period for the dark continent first began. Today, about 118 different missionary associations and church communities are carrying out the work of salvation among the blacks. Our dear synod, however, is not represented among them.

        Despite the mentioned number of missionary associations and church communities with missions in Africa, the number of workers is still much, much too small. In the Belgian Congo, there are 60 zones of 10,000 square miles each without a Christian missionary. In Sudan, there are 200 zones of 10,000 square miles each that do not yet have a missionary station. In all of Africa, there are 500 zones of 10,000 square miles that are still waiting for the messengers of the gospel of Christ. One can travel 300, 500, even 1000 miles in places without meeting a Christian missionary.

        The Lord has blessed and continues to bless the holy saving work of the mission in Africa. At present there are about 1,750,000 Negro Christians in Africa who have been brought to Christ their Savior by Protestant missionaries; of this number about 155,000 are Lutheran Negro Christians.

        Admittedly, the life of the Negro Christians in general still leaves much to be desired. It must be remembered that their people have been imprisoned by the powers of darkness for thousands of years. And yet, even here the gospel of Christ shows its sanctifying power. Here is an example. At a mission station in Namaland[5], the Holy Communion was to be celebrated. All those who wanted to participate had to register personally with the missionary. On the day of registration, a Nama youth entered the study room and declared that he would like to come to the table of the Lord, but that he did not have the right peace of mind. Asked to explain himself, he said: “A few weeks ago, my father refused me shooting supplies while he gave them to my brother; I did not quarrel with my father, but I angrily left him. Now I would gladly go to Holy Communion, but since my father lives fourteen hours from here, I cannot ask his forgiveness beforehand.” The father was still a pagan; for this very reason the missionary decided that the youth should not go now [to communion], but only the next time, after he had been completely reconciled with his father. Without a word to the contrary, the youth left the mission house. Not twice twenty-four hours had passed–the missionary was just about to ring the bell for the beginning of the Holy Communion–when the youth, still quite out of breath, came before him with his sister and reported, “I have been to see my father, have reconciled with him, and bring with me as a witness my sister, who also wants to partake of Holy Communion.” From Friday to Sunday, the Nama youth had made a way of twice fourteen hours in the desolate country–is not this obedience to Jesus’ word and desire for His table?

        And now an example that shows how Negro Christians patiently suffer and die blessedly. Martha Gotywa was the daughter of the pious helper Jakob Gotywa from Wartburg Station in Kaffir Land[6]. As she grew up, she developed with a chest ailment. She was to be confirmed. She had just attended confirmation classes for a few months when she lay down on the sick bed. Her sickbed lasted for twelve months, during which time she learned patience and faith in the midst of much pain. At first it was very difficult for her to penetrate to a joyful faith. She often told the visiting missionary Hoppe that she loved the Savior, but she was uncertain where her soul would go, whether to heaven or hell. Finally, on the morning of the day of her death, she asked along with the request to visit her to tell her pastor that the Lord had given her light. The missionary ordered his servant to bring him his horse; since the horse could not be found, he set out on foot. He found the sick woman still conscious. But she felt that her end was approaching, and after the conversation she asked the missionary to give her Holy Communion. Hoppe hurried home again to fetch the sacred implements. In the meantime the horse had been found, so that Hoppe could now quickly get back to the sick woman. In the meantime, many Christians had gathered for the holy celebration. Martha was now confirmed and received Holy Communion. The celebration had just ended, the missionary had taken leave of Martha and mounted the horse, when the little girl passed away with the words: “It is finished!” What a blessed death!

        Dear friends of the mission! Let us pray diligently to the Lord of the harvest to send more messengers of peace to the dark heathen land of Africa, so that more and more poor blacks may come to know our God and Savior, stretch out their hands to him in life and in death, and be blessed here temporally and there eternally. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be blessed.

C. F. Drewes.

[1] The German word Mohr ‘Moor’ was used more generally in German to refer to all Africans or Negroes, unlike in English where the term refers more specifically to the Mohammedan Africans of the Mediterranean region.

[2] Negroland

[3] Bantu

[4] Translation Source

[5] Namaland

[6] Kaffir

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