The Mission Field

SYRIA.
A DEEPLY interesting work for God was opened up in the Lebanon district after the awful slaughter there in 1860. As men's blood now runs cold at the tidings of the massacres in Armenia, so in that period did horror pervade Europe at the tidings of the cruelties in Syria. Turks, Druses, and Kurds slew thousands upon thousands, and Damascus, Tyre, and Sidon were filled with fugitives. "Stained with the gore of their husbands and sons, the sound of the murderer's sword still ringing in their ears, crowds of these helpless widows and children flew distractedly they knew not whither." The late Mrs. Bowen Thompson felt called of God to help those widows and orphans, and, arriving at Beyrout, she found “thousands of women and children plunged in helpless despair. "She at once commenced a Refuge for them, and literally in a few days found hundreds under her care. It is most affecting to hear of the intense interest of these poor afflicted women in the Word of God, for, though Christian by name, they knew sadly little of the Christ of God." Even the families of priests would say, "We are like the cows—we know nothing." And as the widows sat before their devoted teachers they would exclaim, "We never heard such words! Does it mean for us women?”
Such was the destitution among the twenty thousand refugees crowding the khans of the city, that women with families were glad to get work at twopence a day. It was from these materials that the mission conducted by Mrs. Thompson was formed.
After some years of labor one great triumph of Christianity was effected in the mission schools, children—Arabs, Mahomedans, Druses, Jewesses, and Christians—could be seen happily learning together to read and to work, and singing the praise of God.
Let us hear what the Scriptures of God wrought in the life of a Druse who was blind.
“Mr. Mott, a worker in Syria with Mr. Bowen Thompson, having completed the Gospel of St. John in the embossed type adopted by Mr. Moon, a school for the blind was opened.
“Among the first pupils was a young Druse called Ghandoor, who, like the others, was destitute of spiritual as well as physical sight. No sooner did his fingers touch the beautiful words of the Gospel, than his whole soul was filled with delight. He could not part with his beloved Gospel of John; it was his study by day and by night; it lay under his pillow. The words of light and truth penetrated his heart, and the work of the Spirit was soon manifested in his daily walk.
“On one occasion an English traveler asked him whether he did not feel the loss of sight. He replied, 'How can you ask me? It is miserable not to see. And once I was miserable, but now'—laying his hand on the Gospel, and his countenance brightening up-'now I am happy since I have learned to read the Bible, and know about Jesus. Of course, I should like to see the sun which makes me so warm, but this cannot be; but when I get to heaven, the first person I shall see will be Jesus, for He will open mine eyes.'
“In time Ghandoor printed and corrected for the press, and he also invented a method for communicating his favorite texts to his sightless brethren in the kindred school at Damascus.
“Another blind boy, of gentle mien, in the school examinations, replied in unconscious simplicity to the questions of the astonished Turkish officials: I am a little blind boy. Once I could see, but then I fell asleep—a long, long sleep. I thought I should never wake, and I slept till a kind gentleman called Mr. Mott opened my eyes. Not these eyes'—pointing to his sightless eyeballs—' but these '—lifting up his tiny fingers,—`these eyes.' And oh! they see such sweet words of Jesus, and how He loved the blind.'
“He had, as it were, acquired a new sense. He saw through his touch, and his energetic mind at once expander to grasp the large sphere thus unexpectedly brought within his power His zeal outstripped that of all the rest. His desire to lead others to the Savior was a further evidence of the renewed state of his soul. Not only did he become a regular attendant at the services on the Lord's Day, but he brought his brother, a Druse, as he once was, but now an inquirer.
“During the summer Mr. Mott sent for him, to the mountains, to teach a blind woman to read; and short as was his stay, he left a very decided impression that he, who was once a Druse, had become a true disciple of Christ.
“After this, Ghandoor might often be seen in a schoolroom hired for the purpose, reading the Scriptures to the poor, the maimed, and the halt. His sightless eyes continually look upward in faith to Him whom lie expected to see, eye to eye, at the welcome Ephphatha.”
“Every Druse village," says Major Heber-Percy,1 “has its menzûl, where all travelers can find shelter, food, and accommodation free of cost.
The” traveler is attended to and the menzûl is kept clean by the nahtour (a man appointed for the purpose), the cost being defrayed by a subscription from the villagers. Arrived in this room, we were invited to take our seats on the carpets spread on the center of the floor; and we sat on our feet, taking great care not to show the soles of our boots, which is considered most impolite. I asked the sheyk, through the dragoman, to sit down by us; but, in obedience to etiquette, he declined. I insisted, till, after a proper amount of reluctance, he gave way and sat on his heels beside me. In the meantime coffee-making had been in full swing.”
The report of the mission shows that the unquiet of this present time is filling hearts with anxiety. In 1896, the record for Beyrout states, " depression prevailed everywhere; the Druses and Christians were continually expecting a general outbreak and massacre, which more than once seemed to be on the eve of taking place, but God in His mercy averted it. Yes, those were gloomy times, but times in which the Bible woman's message got more attention, especially as she could point them to many warnings in the Bible; of God's call to repentance and punishment for the unrepentant, which all seemed to be repeated in the present history.”
Gradually, after Ramadan, the fears of the people subsided. The work of Bible distribution among soldiers in the Lebanon district is very cheering, showing how God can turn the very disquiet and the quartering of soldiers in disturbed districts to His glory and man's blessing.
“The soldiers," M. Ibrahim Nassif's report says, "consist of Maronites, Druses, Greeks, Roman Catholics, Moslems, and Metualis.... In spite of the opposition of the priests, and the reproach of others, I was, by the help of God, able to go among many of the new soldiers.
“At another station I was speaking of redemption. A Maronite, who could read a little, but had never heard of this before, fixed his eyes on me, and leaning on his hand he said, Teacher, are all these things written in the Bible? " Yes, of course,' I replied; and this is the Bible, the Word of God.' `And is Jesus alone the Savior?' he added. ‘No doubt of this.' I then read to him, ‘For there is one God, and one Mediator.' On finishing the text, he asked, Are not the saints and the Virgin Mary intercessors?' did my best to explain to him the meaning of redemption, and how Christ only is the Redeemer, Intercessor, and Savior, and not anyone else. The soldier was astonished, and asked, Can I be saved by faith in Jesus only?’ ‘Yes,' I answered; and added, Do not you, the Maronites, count Peter the head of the Church, and an Intercessor?" Yes, we do.' Well,' I said, listen to what he says: "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other Name under heaven given amongst men whereby we may be saved."' I told him how Jesus loves us, how He suffered, and died under the greatest suffering for our salvation, and to give us everlasting life. The eyes of the poor soldier burst with tears: How sweet! how sweet! I must read the Word of God.' He begged for a Bible, which on my second visit he was reading earnestly.
“At another meeting of soldiers, one of them narrated his experience. When on leave he took his Testament with him, and his wife was very excited when she knew it, and said to the neighbors, He has brought an enemy to the house!' Then she bade the son burn the book; No, my father will be angry and perhaps beat us,' the boy said. Well, bring it, and read it; let me hear what is in it.' So the boy opened the place and read the fifth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel. It is good! it is nothing bad! ‘cried the mother. It is the sayings of Jesus I Why do people say it is bad? They have made me so excited that I have made your father's sleep sorrowful. I must awake him and make him glad.' So she awoke him, saying, Get up! get up! You don't know what I thought of doing. Forgive me! I have sinned against you.'
“On hearing this story, a Moslem soldier was very much affected. He begged earnestly for a Bible, and came to my house to fetch it. Many others asked for Bibles—Druse, Maronite, and Greek.
“Seventeen men were present on another occasion. With the exception of one man, who was a butcher, all were soldiers; seven of them had had Bibles and Testaments. I asked them, `Do you read the Word of God?' One man said, Two days ago I was reading, when a priest passed by. He fixed his eyes on me and said, "Are you reading a nice story?" "Yes," I replied; "it is the best story in the world." "What is it, my son?" "It is the Bible, the Word of God." "The Bible!" he said, in astonishment. "And who gave it to you?" "A teacher came and brought it to me from the English." "From the English?" the priest said, showing much fear and trouble. "No, no, my son! it is better for you to carry fire in your hands; fire burns your body, but this will burn your soul." "No, no," I answered, "it is quite contrary. If we do not know the way of salvation, we shall burn in hell." The priest became very excited, and went away and accused me to my aga (officer), but he said, "He is at liberty to read any book he likes.”
One man, on hearing this, warmly defended the priest, and said, 'Every Protestant deserves the treatment of Assad Elshidezah ' (a martyr Protestant, who had died in the prison of the Maronite patriarch), and went away. The butcher was much affected, and said, 'Teacher, what you say is right. Jesus says, "Come unto Me"; the priests say, "Come unto us." I must read the Bible. If you will bring one, I will pay some money for it,' and he gave me one bishlik (about 6d.) for a copy.”