Reading this week:
- Dhow Chasing in Zanzibar Waters by Captain G.L. Sulivan, R.N.
- Across Africa by Commander V.L. Cameron, R.N., C.B., D.C.L.
- Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
Look guys I know it is absolutely astounding that I have posted sections from The Chronicle two weeks in a row. I can barely believe it myself and for the sake of my reader(s) I hope you like this content and are not pining after descriptions of me wandering around art museums or something. I like it and that’s all that matters on my blog. Anyways. A couple of factors at play here. First is that the downward trend in the length of these updates continue their downward trend, this one clocking in at juuuust shy of 33,000 words. More importantly however is that I was procrastinating some things and doing this was my excuse to avoid doing the other things. Please see previous updates in my plan to transcribe every article in The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society relating to their Central Africa Mission here: 1876-1880, 1881-1885, 1886-1890, 1891-1895.
I have mentioned several times now that the first reason I got interested in the London Missionary Society is because they launched the first steamship on Lake Tanganyika, the SS Good News. That era in LMS history has come and gone, however this era we are entering now is interesting because it much more closely overlaps my own experience in Zambia.
The Society by the end of this era is running three main Mission stations, having given up the Urambo Mission to Moravian missionaries in 1898 in order to consolidate their efforts at the southern end of Lake Tanganyika. There is a mission at Kambole, which I think was in the area now occupied by Nsumbu National Park, which I am sad that I never got to go to. Then there are missions at Niamkolo and Kawimbe. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer I lived about smack dab in the middle of those two stations, making the LMS’s old stomping grounds my old stomping grounds. I’ve used pictures from this era of the Chronicle to talk about some of these things, such as Niamkolo church.
I also got interested in Kawimbe because that is where large chunks of the story of Mama Meli took place. In that article I just linked one of the things that my friend Katie and I looked at was a cemetery where many of the missionaries were buried. As part of this project I have finally been able to connect the names on some of these gravestones with the stories of the people behind them. One of the things I want to do if I am ever in Zambia again is to go back to that cemetery and do a better job photographing the memorials and documenting the people buried there. But when I do manage to identify one, such as John May Jr. or, below, Dr. Charles B. Mather, it feels like an exciting accomplishment:
But besides people dying, what’s going on with the Central African Mission? Both a lot and not so much. In 1897 they sent out seven new missionaries to Central Africa (with the Hemans returning), significantly boosting that Mission, since the numbers had dwindled to three people. This significant increase should have led to a lot more activity in the missions, and I think it will and does eventually, but for a long stretch during this interval things are pretty quiet as I think the new missionaries get up to speed and more settled. As I keep saying during these summaries the missions are getting more and more settled and integrated (they proudly talk about at one point that the Central African missions had finally become self-sustaining as far as local expenditure is concerned) and that continues to be the case here. Colonialism continues to take hold as well (“British Central Africa” is referred to regularly), and there is even now a telegraph line to Mbala/Abercorn. The Mission also at this point has a small but regular number of converts coming in, the payoff for their now 25 years in Central Africa. As I read about the Missionaries training carpenters and blacksmiths and converting people to Christianity, I think about the different churches I saw during my time in Zambia or the carpenters and metalworkers that I met, and I wonder which and how many of those people are the direct cultural descendants of the people that these missionaries trained.
As always, if you are finding this useful (or maybe just finding this at all) I would be absolutely delighted to know. My current thinking is that I will keep this project going through about 1915, which will put us into World War I and I think the London Missionary Society might no longer necessarily be the best place to find out about the culture and people in the area. But that is pure conjecture; I’ve never read that far in the Chronicle (though honestly issues become harder to find online at that point). But I guess we’ll see when I get there.