Christian Herald Gospel Hall
( Originally Published 1902 )
REV. G. N. THOMSSEN, an American missionary in India, sent from Bapatla a detailed report of a new building, in which Christian teaching is daily given to children, and a religious service is held every day of the week, which was named THE CHRISTIAN HERALD GOSPEL HALL, in recognition of the beneficence of its readers to India in her time of affliction.
It appears that when the recent famine first began to press on the people of that section of the country in which these Baptist brethren are laboring, there came to the mission daily, crowds of hungry men and women, begging pitifully for a mouthful of food. Happily, through the liberality of American contributors, the missionaries were not obliged to turn them away, with the sorrowful and truthful answer that they were too poor themselves to afford them any relief. The applicants were promptly and cheerfully fed; but they stayed on, having no means of providing for themselves in their villages. Long and painful experience had convinced the missionaries that the Asiatic easily adapts himself to a life of dependence on charity, and that if he is freely supplied with food he is liable to contract a liking for an easy life, in which his daily needs are met with-out any effort of his own. After consultation, it was decided, that for their own sakes, it would be wise to have all who were able to work, earn the food that they needed. There were, of course, the women and children, who were unable to work, and they were fed gratuitously, but some employment must be found for the able-bodied. At Bapatla it was difficult to find such employment, but finally, without any definite purpose, the starving men were set to making bricks. The news that any destitute person might find work there, speedily spread, and soon there were more applicants than the missionaries ever expected. All were taken on until more than half a million bricks were on hand as the result of their labors.
It was impossible to dispose of such an accumulation, for during that time of depression, the building trade, like all others, was stagnant. But the missionaries learned that among the vast crowd of men they were thus supporting, there were many capable of doing better work than this unskilled service. Masons, carpenters, sawyers, blacksmiths, etc., were toiling in the brickyards, glad of the opportunity to earn a pittance by an occupation which, in better days, they would have despised. A careful examination convinced the missionaries that there was a sufficient number of skilled artisans in the crowd to erect a building with the aid of their unskilled brethren. A hall for Christian worship and teaching was badly needed in Bapatla, and it was now possible to erect it, and at the same time support a large number of artisans. Plans were made and work begun at once. A plain but commodious edifice was the result of this wise benevolence. It contains accommodations for a children's school, for an institution for the training of teachers, both under the management of missionaries, and an auditorium for services of preaching and prayer. The influence of such a building in a town like Bapatla, will be most beneficent. It will be a centre of Christian work and teaching from which old and young will derive blessing. It is most gratifying that such a building should bear a name which makes it the monument and memorial of the generosity of Christian America.
The ceremony of dedication will long be remembered in the district. A large conference of Baptist missionaries was in session at Bapatla, and many of them attended the exercises. The native mind could not but be impressed by the cosmopolitan character of Christianity, as shown by the nationalities of the men who took part in the service. Besides the American, there were Germans, a Russian, a Hollander, a Canadian, a Welshman, a missionary who was born in Burma, and another born in Madras. Dr. J. E. Clough, the eminent Baptist missionary of Ongole presided. Speeches congratulating the missionaries of Bapatla on the new building, and expressing gratitude to the Christian people of America for their help in the time of famine, which had made it possible to erect it while relieving the starving people, were made by Rev. W. Elmore, Rev. E. Bullard, of Kavali, and Miss Day, of Madras, daughter of the noble founder of the Telugu Mission. Rev. J. Dussman, of Gurvalla, in the Kistna district, in speaking for Germany, referred to the interest Dr. Klopsch had shown in coming personally to India, that he might see for himself the suffering of the people and report it to his readers, as an eye-witness.
Rev. J. Curtis, of Kanigiri, who introduced himself as "an Eastern Yankee," called attention to the recent unprecedented benevolence of a foreign people to another people in time of national calamity, as a thing that made an American proud of his country. It showed that the people who had responded to the public appeals were a noble, sympathetic, generous race, which could feel compassion for sorrow and misery in so distant a land. It was an evidence of their greatness and of their pre-eminence in works of love and philanthropy. It also proved the power of the Christian spirit, which had never in all history been exhibited on a scale so conspicuous and so impressive. Rev. E. Chute, of Palmur, also spoke on the wonderful work of benevolence. He, as a Canadian, was sure that this fund must have received many contributions from his country-men. The country was joined to the United States by rivers and lakes, but more by that fellowship in Christ which would yet make all the world akin.
A remarkable speech was made by a high Hindu judge, Mr. V. Cooppoo swamy Iyer, M.A. He referred to the work done by the Christian missionaries in distributing the alms of the Christian people of other lands. " We all belong to one brotherhood," he said, "but what we of India have neglected to do in feeding the hungry around us, the Christian people of distant lands have done through the Christian missionaries. I confess this to our shame. I welcome the opening of this building as a memorial of that wonderful charity, and I rejoice that in it our children will receive a moral education."
Another surprise was an address from a Mohammedan gentleman who was present, Mr. Said ud Deen. He, too, spoke of the great work for India that had been wrought by Christian hearts and hands. This, he said, was not all that Christians had done for India. The poor women jealously shut up in the zenanas of India had reason to bless the day when the Christian missionaries came to India. The Christian ladies of the Lutheran Mission had penetrated those zenanas, and had carried with them not only enlightenment for the mind but healing for the body. " This new building," he said, "with all it signifies in its name and spirit, has for its foundation not so much the sands of Bapatla as the better, broader, more enduring foundation in the hearts of the people of India."
Thus, from the representatives of three religions and from the workers from many lands, THE CHRISTIAN HERALD GOSPEL HALL, of Bapatla received hearty congratulations and good wishes for its future usefulness.