The shots of the American Civil War are heard around the world … on the mission field. Today C. Bennett, the Director of the Publications Department of the American Tract Society issues his annual report regarding books and tracts published on foreign mission fields:
BOOKS AND TRACTS ISSUED TO THE DIFFERENT STATIONS AS FOLLOWS: —
Maulmain 16,075 I Bassein 6,597
Shwaygyeen 136 Henthada 9,269
Toungoo 9,645 | Prome 23,671 |
Total Books and Tracts printed, 57,500 = 8,132,000 pages. Issued, 87,785 = 6,867,926 pages
Rangoon …… 14,548
The number of books and tracts printed the past year, is more than usual, as are also the issues from the depository; thus showing that the demand increases. The distribution of books and tracts in Burmah (Pegu) is much larger than ever before, and converts to Christianity from heathenism are reported as from the reading of tracts. These silent messengers can travel from village to village over the country, and are found in places where probably no foreign teacher will visit for years to come, if ever. The good a single tract may do can hardly be overestimated.
In consequence of the civil war in America, there is danger that the operations of the press in direct missionary work will for the present be very circumscribed, unless aid ” arise from some other quarter.” The Secretary of the Missionary Union writes to the missionaries : ” Do not on any account go one mill beyond appropriations,* which, Providence permitting, shall be forwarded in good time, and may not exceed your personal allowances. Cut off schools, cut off native preachers, cut off printing, defer building and repairs, do anything but go into debt, and we shall come out of the storm ready to start vigorously on our way; — it may not be long, God grant it may not. The first signs of its passing away we will give you,” &c.
1 There were no appropriations for printing.
The removal of the mission press to Rangoon, having been for some years in contemplation, is now taking place. The reasons for removal are obvious. Nearly nineteen-twentieths of all the books and tracts issued are sent to their destination via Rangoon, entailing much needless expense in freights and extra trouble. It is hoped and expected also that much more aid will be given the press there than has been received for some years past here. Ever grateful for all past assistance, we could hardly feel justified in not following the leadings of divine Providence in an onward and upward direction,’ fully persuaded that changes are often called for from the result of progress; while merely standing still is only another term for retrogression.
There is “much land yet to be possessed.” The press has a great work still to accomplish. There are now called for the coming year an edition of the Burmese New Testament, or a reprint of the ” Digest of Scripture/’ by Dr. Judson, which is nearly out of print, and which, with the Life of Christ (from the Gospels), has, for some years, taken the place of the New Testament, because we have had no funds to print the latter. The amount of Scripture matter, in Burmese, printed years ago, is* now getting very low, and, if no more are soon printed, in a short time there will be none on hand to give to inquirers. The Psalms are needed in Burmese, Sgau, and Bghai Karen. Bunyan is desired to tell his story of the Pilgrim’s Progress, in Burmese, and Sgau Karen. A large number of valuable tracts are ” out of print,” as well as several school-books urgently demanded.
There is now a great amount of copy lying in the superintendent’s hands ready for the press, as well as much more that would soon be, under other circumstances, and the cry comes up, “cut off schools, cut off native preachers, cut off printing” &c, ” do anything but go into debt,” and we are paralyzed. Ten thousand rupees might most profitably be expended in printing alone the coming year. We are willing to “dig,” and possibly may yet “beg,” and not be “ashamed.” Relying on the strong arm of God’s providence for the future, we move onward as we may, and leave events for his direction.
The mission fields of both Northern and Southern Baptists will suffer greatly before the war is over.
Source: Baptist Missionary Magazine, Vol. 42. Boston: American Baptist Missionary Union, 1862, pp. 230-232 (link)