Street Preaching and Other Labors
A good deal has already been said in these pages of the village and chapel work of earlier years. As time went on curiosity began to subside, and as a result the congregations grew smaller. Dr. Crawford then turned his attention to other methods for reaching the people. Observing that on summer evenings the men left their close, stuffy houses for the streets, where they would spend hours in smoking and discussing whatever subject came up, he often, accompanied by a native brother, would go forth to find hearers. Watching his opportunity as he passed along, he would embrace the first opening to enter into conversation with some individual or group, and by his skillful handling of the conversation would soon give it a religious turn. In cold weather the hour chosen for work was noon, when the people were going home for dinner, but in spring and autumn late in the afternoon was found to be the best hour. Practice gives facility, and hearers were generally secured. In process of time his very appearance on the streets would suggest the name of Jesus, and while some would shy off, others would request him to preach. On the more quiet streets the women would come out on the doorsteps to listen, and often during his wife's visits they would tell her what they had heard him say on such occasions. The boys, always on the alert as to what was going on, usually formed a large part of his audience, and probably remembered the import of his discourse better than any other class.
As the years rolled on his itinerating also assumed new phases. Vacant houses could occasionally be rented in the villages, where he and his wife could live and work together. Then it was found possible to rent rooms in private families, where she could remain for days at a time, but where no man would be received. Dr. Crawford then decided to try tent preaching, and had one constructed at a cost of fifteen dollars capable of holding about fifty persons, besides a little compartment at the rear for sleeping and cooking. Selecting a vacant spot on the outskirts of a village, he would pitch his tent and remain for some days, instructing all who came in. At
A picture of a heathen temple at the top of the page is not included. _______________
some places the village elders came out and showed their appreciation of the work, the villagers following their example; at other places the cold shoulder would be given. Experience proved it was best to pitch the tent facing the east when possible, and also against some wall to prevent the irrepressible boys from chasing each other around it and disturbing the work. Circuits of weeks at a time were thus made, and through this means multitudes heard the gospel. Once while in the process of moving from one town to another a heavy rain came on, and they both contracted a heavy cold and cough in consequence of the dampness, which lasted nearly all of that winter.
At a large market town the tent was once entered by thieves. The wind was blowing furiously, and Dr. Crawford at a late hour sought sleeping quarters in an inn, leaving the servant and a native Christian visitor in charge of the tent. The flapping of the tent prevented the occupants from hearing other sounds, while the thieves lifted the pegs on one side and crept quietly in and took a box that contained eatables, plates, a good umbrella, towels and cash. In the morning Dr. Crawford finding himself without food or money started for home. On the way he had his wrist badly sprained by a fall from a donkey, and was deprived of its use for months.
According to custom a list of the stolen articles was sent to the district magistrate, with a request that the thieves be brought to justice. The magistrate sent runners to the town and promptly arrested the principle offender. Following this precedent a number of
other persons brought in their claims against him for missing property. After several weeks' delay most of Dr. Crawford's things were recovered. They had been sold to respectable people who well knew their ownership.
In January, 1884, Miss Roberts joined the mission, proposing to go to Hwang Hien when that station should be opened. Up to this time all efforts to rent a house in that city had failed. The next summer Miss Roberts was married to Mr. Halcomb. In October, to the deep sorrow of all, Mrs. Pruitt was taken away by death. She was a most lovely woman and consecrated missionary. Her loss was keenly felt, especially by those who were expecting to open a new station.
In December of 1884, Messrs. Joiner and Davauit, with their wives, arrived in Teng Chow. In the meantime negotiations for the house at Hwang Hien seemed at a standstill. The owner had been imprisoned and his steward severely beaten by the officials for attempting to rent to foreigners, and there appeared no present hope for the enterprise.
Buh Go is twelve miles west of Teng Chow, and is the largest town except Teng Chow in the county. Immediately after the robber raid in 1867, Dr. and Mrs. Crawford adopted it as one of their stations. Irregular and short visits were made to it and the surrounding towns until the fall of 1883, when they decided to take up regular work there. Mrs. Crawford going out in October with a native Christian, had no difficulty in finding vacant rooms for a few days' lodging. Great crowds of women and children gathered around her. Mrs. Yang, a woman of wealth, sent for the missionary to come and see her, and on going the next day Mrs. Crawford found her to be a very interesting woman. She could read, and asked many intelligent questions. She said: "Do not send around in search of lodgings when you come again, but come directly to my house. You see I have plenty of room and will always be glad to have you. I could not take in your husband, nor any man, native or foreign."
She and Mrs. Crawford often sat together until a late hour of the night, reading the word and singing the songs of Zion. "But alas," said Mrs. Crawford, "her heart was not touched by the Spirit's power, and years after she died a heathen."
The following spring the missionaries secured rooms in the northern part of the town where they spent nearly two weeks. At first Dr. Crawford sat in the outer room and his wife in the inner one, but finding that many women were thus deterred from coming
ing he removed his work to an adjacent temple, leaving both their rooms for the women and girls. Wang Yuen Tswen, through whose kind offices they secured the rooms, had been for twenty years a Buddhist devotee, but had lately heard the gospel and was favorable to it. He recommended his neighbors and friends to come and hear the new doctrine, and his only daughter became very much interested. He had for years been managing the business of his aunt, Mrs. Wang, a widow of much wealth and of sterling character. In girlhood she had been given to an opium-smoking mandarin for an inferior wife. This man died the following year. At eighteen she was again taken as second wife by one of the wealthiest men of Buh Go. She was then most beautiful and attractive and possessed more than ordinary mental gifts. The superior wife, though nominally mistress of the family, was quite neglected by her husband, and consequently was treated with scant courtesy by the rest of the household. The inferior wife became the mother of a son and daughter. This son (as the superior wife had no children) was, of course, sole heir to the large estate, and all the hopes of the family were centered in him. While yet a child his father died, and the first wife soon followed him. The son at the age of fourteen married a pretty young woman of superior qualities. Later the old grandfather died exacting a promise from Wang Yuen Tswen, his most trustworthy relative, that he become an inmate of the family and take care of the grandson. But the youth himself died at the age of seventeen, and this blow well nigh proved the death of both his young wife and mother. Having no male descendent, the only recourse was for them to adopt a near relative's son, who would become heir to the estate. But enemies arose to take advantage of their helpless condition and tried to appropriate their property. Mrs. Wang fully realized the situation, and throwing herself upon her brick bed (she afterwards told me), for forty days she scarcely knew anything that occurred. Friends forced food into her mouth as she lay almost unconscious day after day. Wang Yuen Tswen and a few other friends looked carefully after her interests. As there were hopes of a yet unborn heir, the enemies tried by various schemes to drive the young widow to commit suicide, but this step she steadily refused to take. Efforts were made to get by force the ancestral tablets, this being an important step towards claiming the property. Some of them were taken, but the essential one lay concealed in the loose folds of a female relative's dress, while she sat on a brick platform (bed) calmly reasoning with the robbers. Wang Yuen Tswen was prosecuted
for sundry alleged crimes, but the suits in every case turned in his favor.
On the fortieth night after her son's death, as Mrs. Wang sat on the bed looking up through the lattice window she exclaimed, "O Heavenly Father! if Thou art truly a living, powerful God, and if Thou carest to preserve the lives of these two helpless widows, I beseech Thee to give me a grandson to inherit our name and estate, otherwise we shall surely perish." Wang Yuen Tswen may have told her something of the Christian religion, but in that region those who have not heard of Christianity have an indefinite notion of the sovereign power which they speak of and address as the "Heavenly Father." From that hour she took courage and went about her daily duties, and aided her friends in defeating the schemes of her opponents. Three months later it was announced that the daughter-in-law had given birth to twin sons, but it is believed by many that one of them was smuggled in, lest the newcomer should prove to be a daughter.
These boys were not yet a year old when Mrs. Crawford became acquainted with Mrs. Wang in 1883. Wang Yuen Tswen took Mrs. Crawford to call at Mrs. Wang's, but the latter was very timid, fearing that intercourse with foreigners might bring on fresh troubles. The next spring Wang could not induce her to give Dr. and Mrs. Crawford lodging for the same reason, but she came often to their stopping place and listened earnestly to the gospel. In a year or two her fears so subsided that she invited them to make her house their home whenever they were in the town. She also had been a Buddhist devotee, but on the death of her son angrily cast her idols and religion away. She now loved to hear the gospel, and wished to be taught the Scriptures and hymns.
One day fearing she might, according to the Buddhist idea, think there was virtue in chanting, Mrs. Crawford said to her, "It is not necessary to read in order to be a Christian. Worship God, trust in Jesus and you shall be saved."
"I understand that," she said, "I do not learn to read as possessing any virtue in itself, but I can thus be a more intelligent Christian and have a better foundation for my faith."
She fitted up neatly and tastefully, for the especial use of the missionaries, a suite of four rooms with a separate street entrance. These rooms, where they taught all who came, soon acquired the name "worship hall." Whenever Mrs. Wang had a spare moment from her numerous responsibilities, she was>at Mrs. Crawford's side listening and learning, or helping to teach others. "Slowly but
A picture of Mrs. Wang, adopted daughter of Mrs. Craewford with her newphew is not included. _______________
surely the light entered her soul," said the missionary.
Mrs. Wang, in her unprotected condition, had much to fear from her old enemies. The twins were never left alone, lest they should be stolen or put out of existence. Should she become a Christian these old schemers would probably take advantage of this fact to renew their demands for her estate, pleading that she had cast away the family ancestors. But eternal life and an ever present Lord in whom she might trust! were not these worth more than her fortune? When Wang Yuen Tswen was baptized they began to have daily family worship and all-day Sunday-school on Sundays. She was finally able to give herself wholly to the Saviour and accept all the consequences of following Him.
"But," she said, "I cannot hurry. There are great difficulties for me to overcome, and I wish to have every particle of idolatry swept out of my house before I take upon myself the outward pro-
fession of Christianity."
At one of the annual festivals, when the souls of the ancestors were to be invited to the old home and feasted, she went to the door and exclaimed, "Venerable ancestors! if you really are come, you will see I have made no preparations to entertain you. If you will punish me tonight with a severe headache or colic, I will know that you are here and feel neglected, and I will do so no more."
When she told Mrs. Crawford of this, she added, "I never in my life had a more restful night, without an ache or pain." This was all done, partly to satisfy other members of the family, and yet Mrs. Wang herself may have had some lingering fear of the consequences of such a bold revolution. There has since been no idolatry in her house or from its doors.
One such case as this is a great trophy for the religion of Jesus, and it is thought to be of sufficient interest to justify the space here given it.
Mrs. Wang aided Mrs. Crawford greatly in securing suitable lodgings in the surrounding villages, and, whenever she could, visited her at these places, helping by precept and example to lead her people to Christ. She often told her own experience, and sometimes added that if her life had been smooth and prosperous she would probably never have felt the need of a Saviour. She thanks God for the sorrows that led her to Him and to eternal life. She would take her book with her, and when no one was present to be taught or exhorted she and Mrs. Crawford would read the Scriptures together, the latter explaining to her what she did not understand. Many useful hints were received from her in regard to Chinese matters, and by this constant, confidential intercourse the hearts of the missionary and her intelligent convert were knit together. Knowing that her visiting often at a foreigner's house and following her about from village to village would provoke unfavorable criticism, she, at an early date, asked and obtained permission to call Mrs. Crawford "adopted mother." According to Chinese custom, such a relationship means a real and lasting intimacy which all respect. She took especial care to let this relationship be known, and then as a matter of course they could exchange visits whenever desired. Dr. Crawford, her adopted father, was ever welcome at her house, and was treated by all her neighbors with the greatest consideration. Even her young women relatives claimed the kinship, and treated him with the respectful freedom that might be expected in the home land. All Christians, native and foreign,
are welcome and honored guests at her hospitable home. She lets her light shine, and is ever ready to exhort her fellow countrymen to believe in Jesus.
Some years later, in the summer of 1893, when she heard that her adopted parents were intending to leave Teng Chow permanently, she hastened to the city to see them. As they met her she sobbed out, "Is it true?" "True," they replied. There was a weeping together until the pious native "exceeded," and needed to be comforted. After this her adopted father and mother paid her a last visit. All pleaded that they should not desert them, that if they must leave Teng Chow they should come and live at Buh Go, offering to give them house rent and to help support them. For days Mrs. Wang aided them in packing, preparatory to moving. Her tear-stained face was one of the last they looked upon as they took their final departure from their home of thirty years.
Go to Chapter 19
[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]
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Fifty Years in China - An Eventful Memoir of Tarleton Perry Crawford
By L. S. Foster