|CHAPTER XVII. -- SEA CLIFF CAMP MEETING, JULY, 1872--FIRST THOUGHTS OF AFRICA--MAZIE'S EDUCATION AND MARRIAGE--MY EXPERIENCE AT YARMOUTH.|
Persons often ask me how I came to think of going to Africa. While at this camp meeting I had my home at Mrs. Battershell's. Their beautiful cottage was the finest and largest there at that time. Mrs. Battershell was a cousin of Mrs. Inskip's. She had told me when I came to Sea Cliff she wanted the privilege of entertaining me at her new cottage, so I had a very pretty little room all to myself, and went in and out as I chose.
One day during the camp meeting-they had a mission day, and as there were different speakers, some from India, some from China, some from Japan, and some from South America, I think, I went to the meeting. I heard all the speakers, and was very much interested in the meeting.
Just as they were about to close the meeting there came up a little shower of rain, and as I had no umbrella, I hurried out and on to my cottage. The meeting had made an impression on my mind, and as I walked along I kept thinking of what I had heard, and all at once it came to me that I had not heard them say anything about Africa. Then I remembered when I was quite young I had heard my father and mother talk about Africa. I remembered, too, that I used to see a large paper, away back in the forties, called "The Brother Jonathan Almanac," something like the Frank Leslie. It had large pictures, and Africans in their costumes and huts, and Indians in their wigwams, great boa constrictors, bears, lions and panthers; and some of the pictures were horrid, as I remember them now.
Well, all the old farmers round about where we lived used to take those papers, and once in a while father would bring home one of them for us children to look at, and my good mother would
So as I was walking along now, thinking of this missionary meeting, I heard some one call out, "Amanda Smith," and I turned, and a lady overtook me and said as she came up to me;
"Well, Amanda Smith, how did you like the meeting?"
"It was a very nice, and I liked it. But I did not hear them say a word about Africa, and I have been wondering if all the people in Africa are converted. I remember hearing father and mother talk about them a long time ago, but I have not heard anything of them since, and I was wondering."
She smiled, and said, "Oh! I would to God they were. Have you never heard of Melville B. Cox, our first missionary of the M. E. Church to Africa?"
"No," I said, "what about him?"
Then she gave me the history as we went on together. As she told me the story, and then said what his last words were when he died at Monrovia, Africa,--"Though a thousand fall, let not Africa be given up,"--Oh! what a deep impression it made on my mind and heart.
When we got to the corner she turned and went to her cottage. I went into Mrs. Battershell's and went straight up to my own room, locked the door, and got on my knees. What a time of consecration, what a struggle I had! I said, "Lord, Africa's need is great, and I cannot go, though I would like to. But Thou knowest I have no education, and I do not understand the geography, so I would not know how to travel."
For I thought that the next great qualification for African work, next to a full consecration and sanctification, which I knew I had, was to understand the geography, so as to know how to travel in Africa. Of course I was ignorant and green, and the Lord knew that, and had patience with me. So I said, "Lord, I am too old to learn now, but if you will help me I will educate my daughter, Mazie, and she can go."
Then it came to me, would I be willing to have her go? Oh, what a struggle!
I seemed to see a great heathen town. There were the great boa-constrictors, and there the great lions and panthers, and there was my poor child. Oh! how I wept. But I said, "Lord, somebody must go to Africa, and I am too old to learn, so I cannot go. But I can, I will, I do, consecrate my child to Thee for Africa. My heart aches, but, Lord, help me. I give her to Thee. She is Thine, and Thou canst take care of her."
I suppose I was there for an hour or two, but I never left my knees till I felt I had given her fully to God for Africa.
"Now, Lord," I said, "open the way for me to get her educated, so that she will not have the difficulty that I have if you want her to go. Lord, I don't want her to read books and get worked up in that way, but help me to educate her, and then sanctify her wholly and send her whither Thou wilt."
When I arose from my knees, my heart was clam and restful. And now my thought was to get her educated. I prayed, and watched every indication.
Several days later I chanced to meet that good man, Dr. Ward, and during our conversation I began telling him my experience, and how I was looking to the Lord about my daughter's education, and asked him where would be a good school for her.
"Oh!" said he, "I wish I had known this yesterday. I have just given away a scholarship to some one (calling the name), and if I had known of your wish I would have been so glad to give it to you."
Well, it seemed that all was lost. But still I hoped. This was the first of my thinking of going to Africa.
I had worked so hard, and helped Mazie. She had been at Oberlin for a year, and at Xenia, and got on very nicely. But I could not keep up the expense. But at that time I was only thinking to fit her for a teacher, and selfishly had planned in my mind that if I could help it she should not have to slave and work hard day and night as I had done. So I thought when I got old she would be in a position to help herself and me, and I could keep the home and look after everything while she was away teaching, and we could be so happy together, so that my last days would be happy.
But, alas! how disappointed I have been, even in the shadow of such a hope. Every wish in that direction has been swept away, and I have had to surrender that cherished hope. I thought
She is married and settled in her own home, and I am where I was when I first started, so far as that is concerned. And now my prayer before the Lord is, that He will save her soul in His own way. While her name is on the church record, yet like so many dear souls, I fear she has but little spiritual life!
Time went on, and I saw no way to get my daughter educated for Africa.
One summer we were at Ocean Grove with Mrs. Sanders. She had bought some lots, and they had a fine cottage right on the lake. So she invited me and Mazie to come down and spend the summer for the camp meeting. They had put up a large tent, which Mazie and I occupied, on one of these vacant lots, beautifully situated, near the lake. They had a great deal of company, so Mazie and I used to go in, and wait on the table, and help with the work.
One morning I was busy helping in the kitchen before I went to the meeting; Mazie had been waiting on the table in the dining room; and Mrs. Sanders said to me:
"Amanda Smith, come into the parlor; I want to speak to you."
I did so, and she said, "I see that Mazie is just as smart as a steel trap; now, why don't you get her into school?"
Then I told her my story, how I had been praying, and how I had been watching and waiting for the Lord to open to some way. I told her I had done the best I could, and the expenses were so heavy I found I could not keep Mazie in school. I had done what I could for her for two years, so I thought she would have to do the next herself; I had given it up. But as she talked on I seemed to see this was the way the Lord was to answer my prayer.
It was just as the camp meeting was closing, so Mrs. Sanders said:
"Now, if you find a place for her to go to school, I will help you to get all her outfit, and send her, if you can do the other."
I thanked her, and told her I would do what I could. I had heard of a good school in Baltimore, and as my aunt lived there I wrote and asked her about it; she kindly replied, and spoke highly
The next week Mrs. Sanders went to New York and bought all her outfit, everything, and I went to work and got her ready, and I think it was about the third week in September we were off to Baltimore. She was at that school a year. Strange to say, just before the close of the year I got a letter from the matron, and she said Mazie was very smart; she was getting along nicely. If I could only just leave her for one year longer it would be the making of her. It was a pity to take her just now. And I wondered if I could stand it another year.
I went to the Lord and prayed, and asked Him to help me and strengthen me, and to open the way for me to get the means to keep her just another year.
About two or three weeks after I had decided to let her remain another year, the Lord seemed to open my way clearly to go to England. I only expected to stay three months, and I thought how nice it would be, while she was in school, and was not losing any time, and would be well cared for, and under good discipline and control, and then my aunt could look after her.
Everything seemed to be favorable. So in July, 1878, after I had gone to Baltimore and spent a week with her, I left her, and went to England. Instead of getting back in three months, as I had thought and planned, I was away for over twelve years.
After I had been in England about three months, the Lord made it very clear to me that I was to remain longer; so I thought three months longer; but when six months had passed, my way seemed to be shut up to come home, but open to remain. Now, people say, "But how was that?" That is just what I say; for I do not understand it yet, and could not explain it; but I am just as sure that God was in it, as I am of my own existence. It is one of God's inexplicable dealings. I wrote and sent money home to my daughter, and had made all arrangements for her for two years.
Then she wrote and told me she thought I had paid money enough for her, and that she wanted to come out of school, and had an opportunity for a situation as teacher; so I agreed to that. I knew she was clever enough, and quite able to do this, if she chose. A little while later on she wrote me that a young man had proposed marriage to her. I told her I had rather she would not
I saw that her teaching plan was pretty well upset when she got the marrying spirit; and she was like many other young people; they cannot hear reason or anything when they take a notion to get married. If I had been at home, I think I should have forbidden it; but being away, I thought if anything should happen I would always blame myself. But I urged her to come to England and wait a while; then she wrote me she had decided to do so. Many of my friends in England, who had been interested in her, were delighted. They had written to her, and she was all for coming to England. So I got the money all ready and was just about to send it for her to come. All the arrangements were made. But I thought to myself, "I will wait for a letter from Mazie before I send it." And when the letter came she wrote me very frankly that the young man had persuaded her to wait till after she was married, and then come to England.
"No," I said, "if you come to England married you won't belong to me; you will belong to some one else; and if you can risk losing the opportunity that not many colored girls have had, and that you will not have again, and think more of the man, and take him in preference after all I have said, I guess the safest plan is that you remain." And I think so yet. But she could not have got a kinder husband, or one that did a better part by her, if I had been living right there with her. It is wonderful how the Lord provided in that.
In answer to prayer, the Lord opened my way to attend Yarmouth Camp Meeting. There I heard for the first time of the landing of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. It seemed the Lord had appointed that grove especially for a camp meeting grove. There I first saw the famous Hutchinson family. Mr. Asa Hutchinson, his wife, two sons, and a daughter, Miss Abbie, how well I remember them; their noble, kind-heartedness. They had me sing with them several times. Although all have passed away, the precious memory of them still remains.
Through the kindness of Rev. B.F. Pomeroy, of the Troy Conference, I had my quarters during the camp meeting in one of his little tents. I shall never forget how kind he and his dear wife were to me. He used often to sit down and tell me wonderful
I had been asked by the pastor of the Methodist Church, at Martha's Vineyard, to go to Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting. He said he believed God would have me go, and that they had a society tent that they would put up on the camp ground, "and," said he, "you can stay with us and we will look after you."
This was on Wednesday. He said he must leave on Friday, but I could come with his wife and children. So I told Brother Pomeroy about it. He seemed to think it was not just the thing for me to go. He said that years ago that used to be the great place, the power of the Lord used to come on that camp ground in the old-fashioned way. "They have but very little of the Spirit now-a-days. They go more as a picnic, not the Holy Ghost times of the past."
Well, he was always so good in his counsel that I thought it was the thing, of course, not to go; still, I thought that if they were so orderly and lifeless the more need there was for me to go, I might help a little.
At the close of the morning service at the stand that day the Presiding Elder called out to all the tent holders within the circle to close the front of their tent, and there was to be no walking inside the circle from half-past twelve till two, when the afternoon service would commence.
During this interval I took my Bible and went into the woods about a half mile away, all alone, to ask God about going to Martha's Vineyard, and there, as I prayed and told the Lord how I had been asked to go, that Brother P. was a good man, and he said he thought I had better not go, and I wanted He should show me His will.
"Lord," I said, "if Thou dost want me to take any message I will do it for Thee."
So it was whispered to me to read, and I opened my Bible to see what the Lord would give me. Mal. 14, 1st verse: "And the Lord said go speak as I command you." I was afraid and said, "O, Lord, I am a stranger and a colored woman, and the people are proud and wicked, as has been told me," and I wept and trembled, but he said, "Go, do as I command you."
I arose from my knees and went back to the tent, but I did
I prayed for the Lord to give me means. I would take it as an indication that I was to go. The next morning I went into Father Snow's tent. We had a wonderful meeting. After the regular meeting was closed, several people asked me to sing, and a crowd gathered around. Some were standing on the benches. Some one dropped a two dollar note in my lap; that was my first token for the money, and I looked up and praised the Lord. Then there came a one dollar bill, then another, and so on till I had seven dollars. Just then a strange lady turned to me and said:
"Have you ever been to Martha's Vineyard?"
"I believe the Lord wants you there, and if you will go I will give you a good place to sleep."
This lady's name was Mrs. Jenkins. She said her daughter was on from Baltimore, and had taken a cottage for the summer; that she had such a nice colored woman who was nurse for her. Then she wrote her name and address on a card and said, "I leave to-day and want you to come to our cottage, if you come." I thanked her and said, "All right, madam." When the day came I started off with Mrs.--and the children and servant. The Lord seemed to have ordered everything.
Going up on the boat I went to pay my fare, and some one said, "Your fare has been paid."
"Praise the Lord," but I said I did not know the parties, so that I could thank them. So several of us sat down to dinner; when I went to pay they said, "Your bill is settled," and so there was another, "praise the Lord!" I could see so far very clearly the hand of the Lord in it.
When we reached the camp ground, Martha's Vineyard, it was found that the society tent that the pastor had told me about had been exchanged and another sent in its place, and after all we did not have any tent, so what should we do. I said to the pastor's wife, "What shall I do?"
"I don't know," she said, "what we shall do now, we will have to see about sending it back and getting our own."
"Well," I said, "I will go up to Mrs. Jenkins, who gave me her address," and, sure enough, it seemed to be just the place, so that "In some way or other the Lord does provide."
Now it came Sunday. O, how the Lord supplied my needs, one dollar, two dollars at a time. I kept watching for the time to deliver my message.
In the afternoon I went into a large tent where they were holding meetings before the approaching service. I sat down quietly, and they sang and prayed. I do not remember the minister's name who was leading the meeting. Just before the close he called upon me to sing. I arose to sing, but the Lord said, "Deliver the message first;" so I quoted the passage of Scripture, Mal. 4th chapter, 1st verse: "Behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, etc."
There was a great crowd around as well as inside the tent, and as I lifted my hand and pointed my finger towards the door, repeating the text that was given me, the people looked astounded. Then I sang, "All I want is a little more faith in Jesus." The Lord put His seal on this message, also on the song.
A lady from Providence, R. I., was in this tent meeting. She had come with a very definite object, to seek the blessing of a clean heart. She was called a swell lady; she was one of the ones rather up, and did not condescend to things of low estate! So as I began to sing, "All I want is a little more faith in Jesus," she walked out of the tent and said to herself, as she passed out, "I came here to seek the blessing of a clean heart, I did not come to hear a negro ditty," and the blessed Holy Spirit said to her, "Is not that your need, 'a little more faith in Jesus?'"
Then her eyes were opened, and she said, "O, Lord, I see." Then she went into her tent and there prayed, and the Lord sent the baptism and gave her the desire of her heart.
Some time after this, when Brothers Inskip and McDonald were holding their meeting at Providence, R.I., one morning I went into the meeting about one o'clock, (testimony meeting) I didn't know of this lady's struggle at the time, but just as I got into the door, I heard this lady say, "Amanda Smith." Her back was to me. I sat down quietly to listen to her testimony. She went on and gave it in the words above.
Now about the message. About four months after this camp meeting closed, I was holding meetings in one of the Methodist
"Yes," I said.
"Do you remember the Sunday in the tent when you got up and quoted that passage from Malachi and sang?"
"Well," said he, "the Lord sent that message to me."
Mr. C. was head clerk in one of the largest dry goods stores in Worcester, and at the same time was Superintendent of a large Sabbath School, and he worked very hard, and was very tired, and he had gone to this camp meeting for his vacation, and he and his young people all went out there for a vacation more than for the purpose of attending the meeting. They would go to preaching in the morning, but would not attend any of the social meetings. In the afternoon they would generally go off for a game of croquet, or on the lake, boating.
When they heard the singing in this tent a whole party of them were just on their way to the croquet ground. They stopped at the tent door to see the colored woman, and to hear what she had to say. He just got there as I repeated the text and he said it came to his heart like an arrow. He went back to his tent and began to pray, and he said the Lord showed him now near backsliding he was, how far away, so that he was really alarmed, and that text saved him through God's mercy.
I praised the Lord that he enabled me to obey him. It was not a little thing, it was a trial, but see the blessing that came out of it to this brother. I then praised the Lord that the message was heard by the one, and the song by the other. It pays to obey.