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CALL TO MISSION WORK.


JOANNA P. MOORE IN 1867

 

        I taught school the winter of 1852 near Reedsburg, boarded with John Corbett's family. At night they took me with them to a revival meeting at Greenville. Here I was convicted of sin and led to see Jesus as my Saviour, yet at the same time I remembered my childhood faith and it seemed as if I was a reclaimed backslider. No one asked me to unite with the Baptist church, but I saw the converts baptized and asked, Can this be the Bible way? After much study of the Bible, I told my parents that I wanted to be baptized. They objected, especially my father. I waited one year for their consent. As it was not given I obeyed what I thought was God's command, joined the Baptist church and it is the only church to which I have ever belonged. Father was greatly displeased, and said that I should never come home, but his love for me overcame his opposition and he sent for Joanna to come home.

        About a year or two after my baptism I heard Rev. Sewell Osgood, a returned missionary, preach a sermon on "Foreign Missions," which brought almost as great conviction of sin to my soul as the meeting in which I was converted. I wept like a child. My soul burned with indignation toward all Christians. How could they neglect this last great command of our Lord and Saviour, and yet say they loved Him. How did there come to be so many heathen that had never heard the name of Jesus. It was all new to me. If I ever heard it before my ears must have been like those described in Acts 28:27. I had a talk with Brother Osgood and said I felt that I must go and tell the good news. He said that I needed preparation; that those heathen people would ask me many questions that I could not answer. For example, "You say, God is good. If so why does He let our poor people starve? Why let the crops fail, why do those who love Him, suffer?" I remember this distinctly and could give no answer. But it did not discourage me. When I talked it over with the Lord and myself I found that very often persons in this country asked the very same questions, which no one here could answer. No matter, I said, I can tell them about Jesus and how He loves and comforts me. I will tell them how He died to save all mankind. They don't know that and I do. I cannot settle all these other questions, but I can carry the message that Jesus gave His disciples. After these meditations partly with myself and partly with the Lord I would jump to my feet and say, "I will go, I'll just start and walk and somehow I'll get there. I do not find in my Bible that Paul waited for an education, or outfit, or salary. God has 'all power,' that is what He told His disciples and He also said He would go with them as they carried the message." It seemed that the first thing for me to do was to start and God would see that I got there. And I suppose I really would have started, trusting the Lord, had it not been that there was trouble in my home that needed my care. But it gave me a new incentive to strive for education. I had been teaching both summer and winter; many a time when my school closed, I said "I'll go to school next term." But the money I earned was needed for other things, and so it seemed as if my school days had ended. However, in 1856, I did attend a school at New Bethlehem, Pa., for six months. Most teachers in those days only needed to know the three Rs, "Reading, Riting and Rithmetic." There was a little geography and history taught sometimes. I studied these at home, also algebra.

        I went west again in 1861 and taught in the summer. I had earned many dollars teaching school, but it was all gone. However this winter I decided to attend school in Belvidere, Ill. My brothers lived on farms, one six, the other ten miles from town. I was a stranger and had no money to pay my board, but I said, "I surely can find a home where I can work for my board." For two days I walked the streets of Belvidere, but no one needed a girl to work for her board. This was a new and trying experience for me. It hurt my pride as well as nearly discouraged me. It was about dark the second day, when I timidly knocked at the door of a farm-house in the suburbs of the town. The mother met me and said, "No, we do not need any one; but", said she, "wait until I see my husband"; and this is what she said to him: "There is a girl at the door that wants to work for her board and go to school this winter. It's very strange, but last night I saw this very girl in a dream. Now I wish you would keep her to-night. She looks tired and I believe God wants us to do something for her." At first he was unwilling, but finally concluded to let me stay all night. The family consisted of three children, two boys and a girl, Fanny, George and Charles. The father's name was Andrew Moss. The Lord gave me favor in their sight. I was told to come the next Monday and start for school. At first the position was a very trying one, but dear Fanny took me into her heart and ever after treated me as a sister beloved. In fact the whole family soon adopted me and have ever since been my best friends. It is true I was required to do hard work, but I knew how to work. Fanny was a better scholar than I and helped me with my studies. She delighted to have the care of some one and I needed such a friend, as everything was new to me. That was a very successful winter. The next summer I taught and in the fall entered Rockford Seminary. There I worked for part of my board. My clothes were not in style, but I had learned not to care much for such things. If ever any poor girl had a hard time getting an education, it was Joanna Moore; but I loved to teach school and I wanted to be a first-class teacher. I had lost some of my enthusiasm for foreign missions, because I seldom heard it mentioned. No one had encouraged me. The fact is, the churches were asleep on this great subject. The war that began in 1861 was then raging. Many of the girls in the seminary had laid aside their embroidery and were knitting socks and preparing bandages for the soldiers. I took no part in that. My spare moments were given to study or work. On New Year's of 1863 I attended what they called a jubilee meeting. They said the black man was free and some shouted for joy. But to my ears there came with the shout of victory an undertone of sadness, a piteous cry for help. The next day, as I tried to study my lessons, there passed before my imagination a panorama of bondmen, tied down with cords of ignorance, superstition, and oppression.

        Some time in February a man who had been on Island No. 10, which is located in the Mississippi River about thirty miles north of Memphis, visited the Seminary and told us of his visit to that island, where were about 1,100 women and children in great distress. A Baptist minister had moved there and was in command of a colored regiment, who guarded the island. The speaker drew a very sad picture of their bodily suffering and their extreme ignorance, asking, "What can a man do to help such a suffering mass of humanity? Nothing. A woman is needed, nothing else will do." I cannot recall all he said, only I know my school room and foreign missions, with all their sweet attraction, receded and kept receding, till they were in the background of my picture, and there in the front stood the black woman, with her child, both half naked, stretching out empty hands, crying for help. I had a great way of building air castles, and my castles were now filled with black people; but I threw them all down and marched off in another direction; but the first thing I knew there was a whole panorama of black people right before me. Finally I began talking to myself in real earnest, asking, "What can I, a poor child, do? What kind of people are they? Why did God let them be slaves and shut the door of knowledge to them for so many years? Will they listen to me? I have nothing to give them; I suppose God will show me how to love them. Every heart needs love. Yes, I expect I can love them, but they need something more substantial than love. There are many older and wiser than I. Let them go and do this work. But oh, it will take an army to supply the needs of these people. What shall I do?" and so on, I asked myself and asked God a thousand questions and only got one answer: "Go and see and God will go with you." My decision was made before school closed. I did go, I did see, God did go with me and He went before me and cleared the way, and behind me as a rear guard. Duty was made plain, results glorious, and to-day I stop to shout "Glory Hallelujah." I surely made a good bargain when I invested in the Negro race.

        I bought a little cottage in Belvidere for my mother and left her amid many of my friends who I knew would take good care of her. She would not live with either of my married brothers. Their children annoyed her. She was old and tired, had carried many burdens and wanted a quiet place to rest, but she did want Joanna to stay with her--said she could not be happy without me. Her cries and great sorrow when I left were the hardest things I had to bear, but I recognized God's claim as first (Luke 9:59-62). For this I was severely criticised, but to-day I feel sure that God was pleased with the sacrifice I made. Mother was willing, as she said, to give me up to a good husband, but not to go alone into dangerous places. Don't you see like many another father and mother she had more faith in man than in God?

        Do you remember how much money we spent and how many lives were lost in order to make this nation loyal to our country's flag? Was that more important than to make our nation loyal to King Jesus? Should we not love God more than we love our country? Yes, you say, our love to God is supreme. Then prove it by pouring out your treasures as you did in that war time. Send your Christian armies forth "with the Cross of Christ going on before." Parents, give to the cause your sons and your daughters; your dearest household treasures. Follow them to the gate, as we did in that old time with the tears streaming down our cheeks and our hearts breaking with sorrow and yet we said, "Go, your country needs you." In the same spirit of self-sacrifice let us say, "Go, the Master hath need of your service. No matter if you never return; we will meet up there when the 'General Roll is called.'"

        I decided to go. The condition of home was different than at the time when I wanted to be a foreign missionary. Then I surely was needed at home, and am glad I staid. But how was I to reach this Southern field? I could not tell. I had but little money, but I felt about the same as when I wanted to go to India. The Sabbath school of the first Baptist church in Belvidere to which I belonged wanted me to go, especially Mary Moss, the teacher of the infant class. They pledged to give me $4.00 per month and the government gave me transportation and soldiers' rations. The American Baptist Home Mission Society gave me, by way of endorsement, a commission, at the same time stating that they could not pay any salary.

 
 
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