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A Helping Hand

( Originally Published 1905 )



WHILE the poor " liveyeres " and Newfoundland fishermen thus depended upon the mail-boat doctor and their own strange inventions for relief, Wilfred Grenfell, this well-born, Oxford-bred young Englishman, was walking the London hospitals. He was athletic, adventurous, dogged, unsentimental, merry, kind ; moreover—and most happily—he was used to the sea, and he loved it. It chanced one night that he strayed into the Tabernacle in East London, where D. L. Moody, the American evangelist, was preaching. When he came out he had resolved to make his religion " practical." There was nothing violent in this—no fevered, ill-judged determination to martyr himself at all costs. It was a quiet resolve to make the best ofhis life—which he would have done at any rate, I think, for he was a young English-man of good breeding and the finest impulses. At once he cast about for "some way in which he could satisfy the aspirations of a young medical man, and combine with this a desire for adventure and definite Christian work."

I had never before met a missionary of that frank type. " Why," I exclaimed to him, off the coast of Labrador, not long ago, " you seem to like this sort of life t "

We were aboard the mission steamer, bound north under full steam and all sail. He had been in feverish haste to reach the northern harbours, where, as he knew, the sick were watching for his coming. The fair wind, the rush of the little steamer on her way, pleased him.

" Oh," said he, somewhat impatiently, "I'm not a martyr."

So he found what he sought. After applying certain revolutionary ideas to Sunday-school work in the London slums, in which a horizontal bar and a set of boxing-gloves for a time held equal place with the Bible and the hymn-book, he joined the staff of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, and established the medical mission to the fishermen of the North Sea. When that work was organized—when the fight was gone out of it—he sought a harder task ; he is of that type, then extraordinary but now familiar, which finds no delight where there is no difficulty. In the spring of 1892 he set sail from Great Yarmouth Harbour for Labrador in a ninety-ton schooner. Since then, in the face of hardship, peril, and prejudice, he has, with a light heart and strong purpose, healed the sick, preached the Word, clothed the naked, fed the starving, given shelter to them that had no roof, championed the wronged—in all, devotedly fought evil, poverty, oppression, and disease ; for he is bitterly intolerant of those things. And ____

" It's been jolly good fun " says he.

The immediate inspiration of this work was the sermon preached in East London by D. L. Moody. Later in life-indeed, soon before the great evangelist's death—Dr. Grenfell thanked him for that sermon. "And what have you been doing since ? " was Mr. Moody's prompt and searching question. " What Active you been doing since ? " Dr. Grenfell might with propriety and effect have placed in Mr. Moody's hands such letters as those which I reprint, saying : " What have I been doing since? I have been kept busy, sir, responding to such calls as these." Such calls as these :

Docter plase I whant to see you. Doeher sir have you got a leg if you have Will you plase send him Down Praps he may fet and you would oblig.

Reverance dr. Grandfell. Dear sir we are expecting you hup and we would like for you to come so quick as you can for my dater is very sick with a very large sore under her left harm we emenangin that the old is two enchis deep and tow enches wide plase emu as quick as you can to save life I remains yours truely.

Docker,—Please wel you send me somting for the pain in my feet and what you promised to send my little boy. Docker I am almost cripple, it is up my hips, I can hardly walk. This is my housban is gaining you this note from

To Dr. Gransfield

Dear honrabel Sir,

I would wish to ask you Sir, if you would Be pleased to give me and my wife a littel poor close. I was going in the Bay to cut some wood. But I am all amost blind and cant Do much so if you would spear me some Sir I should Be very thankfull to you Sir.

I got Bad splotches all over my Body and i dont know what the cause of it is. Please Have you got anything for it. i Have'nt got any money to Pay you now for anything But i wont forget to Pay you when i gets the money.

doctor—i have a compleant i ham weak with wind on the chest, weaknes all all over me up in my harm.

Dear Dr. Grenfell.

I would like for you to Have time to come Down to my House Before you leaves to go to St. Anthony. My little Girl is very Bad. it seems all in Her neck. Cant Ply her Neck forward if do she nearly goes in the fits. i dont know what it is the matter with Her myself. But if you see Her you would know what the matter with Her. Please send a Word By the Bearer what gives you this note and let me know where you will have time to come down to my House. i lives down the Bay a Place called Berry Head.

" What have you been doing since ? " Dr. Grenfell has not been idle. There is now a mission hospital at St. Anthony, near the extreme northeast point of the Newfoundland coast. There is another, well-equipped and commodious, at Battle Harbour—a rocky island lying out from the Labrador coast near the Strait of Belle Isle —which is open the year round ; when the writer was last on the coast, it was in charge of Dr. Cluny McPherson, a courageous young physician, Newfoundland-born, who went six hundred miles up the coast by dog-team in the dead of winter, finding shelter where he might, curing whom he could —everywhere seeking out those who needed him, caring not a whit, it appears, for the peril and hardship of the long white road. There is a third at Indian Harbour, half-way up the coast, which is open through the fishing season. It is conducted with the care and precision of a London hospital —admirably kept, well-ordered, efficient. The physician in charge is Dr. George H. Simpson—a wiry, keen, brave little Englishman, who goes about in an open boat, what-e'er the distance, whatever the weather; he is a man of splendid courage and sympathy the fishing-folk love him for his kind heart and for the courage with which he responds to their every call. There is also the little hospital steamer Strathcona, in which Dr. Grenfell makes the round of all the coast, from the time of the break-up until the fall gales have driven the fishing-schooners home to harbour.



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