WORK IN NEW ORLEANS.
This work began in the fall of 1873. Rev. Gregory was president of Leland University, when I arrived there. He was a good man and much beloved by the pastors. He often invited them to his home to supper and showed them his books and pictures, treated them with the same respect he would the most distinguished white guests. I very much admired this plan of his. It was so Christ-like. I had the honor of helping to teach these ministers when I could spare the time.
There was a small one-roomed house near Leland, with a fireplace. I bought a bed, table, two chairs, and a few cooking utensils, and began housekeeping, as this was much cheaper than boarding. I rose early, made a cup of coffee, which with bread and sometimes an egg, was my breakfast. I prepared a little lunch and often started out at six a. m. and did not return until seven p. m. I stopped at some home to eat my luncheon. What did I do all day? Reading the Bible in the homes of the people was my principal work. Only a few had Bibles. Many could not read, but no matter how busy, they were willing to stop and listen, taking their hands out of the wash tub and wiping them on the coarse apron, down they sat and begged me to stay longer than I could. It seems to me they cared more for the Bible than they do now. I remember coming one day into a yard where four women were washing. When they saw my Bible and papers, they thought I looked like a fortune teller. One woman said, "Will you tell me my fortune?" I said, "Do you want me to tell what will happen to you in the future? if so, I can do that." "What must I pay?" she asked. "I do not charge, I tell your fortune out of this book." She stretched out her hand for me to look at it, as fortune tellers often do, but I said, "No, all sit down and be quiet and I will tell you." After all were seated I opened my Bible and read, "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16: 15-16). I read also an account of the judgment with the sheep on the right hand and the goats on the left, ending with this, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment and the righteous into life eternal." Then I preached a little sermon and prayed. They were very much impressed. One who was a Christian said, "I told them you were no fortune teller, these others are sinner women. I am glad you have told them the truth."
What else did I do? I sometimes wrote letters for the people who had been sold in the days of slavery, if they could only remember the name of their old master's post-office; I have written hundreds of such letters. From a few I have received glad response, but only from a few. It was very sorrowful, pitiful work. You need never tell me that the black man does not love his home and friends. I know better.
Well, what else did I do? I taught the little children how to sew and sometimes helped the mother cut out a garment, taught them hymns and verses from the Bible. I often carried a bag of needles and thread, and when I found the children alone, as I often did, I helped them mend the garment that they wore, washed the baby's face, helped the children with their play and tried to do a mother's part for poor, neglected little ones, whose mothers were toiling to get them bread. After two or three months spent in this way I began holding meetings after school for the children, in three of the churches in Carrollton, then a suburb of New Orleans. The names of the pastors of these churches were Thomas Peterson, Henry Davis and Guy Peck. They were good men and useful. We also organized Sunday schools to be held respectively at 9 a. m., 11 a. m., and 3 p. m. I must not forget to tell you of three ministerial students in Leland who went with me regularly to the morning Sunday schools and as often as possible to the afternoon. Their names were Alfred Owens, Taylor Fryerson and Charles Roberts. I think they are all alive to-day and are doing blessed work for the Master. Once a week they came to my room to study the Sabbath school lesson. Sabbath school work as I taught it was new to them. They all signed the temperance pledge and have kept it ever since. I remember the day Rev. Fryerson signed against tobacco. They were three remarkable boys. I am glad God let me help them in their young days. I prepared a constitution for Sabbath schools, as it was so difficult to make the people understand the difference between Sabbath school and day school. They taught spelling in nearly all the Sabbath schools and so few could read well they were often obliged to take sinners for officers and teachers. The next year I helped Rev. George W. Walker in his Sabbath school. He was one of the most honorable, straightforward, reliable preachers we had then in New Orleans. A teacher of his Sunday school, who was a Christian, had died about a year before and left him without a Christian in his school, except a deacon who would come in and open with prayer. He told me that he would often rise at midnight to ask God to send a teacher for his Sabbath school, "And now, Sister Moore," he said, "you are an answer to my prayer. Surely God did send you." Perhaps it was two years after this when an English evangelist came to New Orleans because he had heard of my work. He began a revival meeting in Rev. Walker's church. The seed had been sown and a glorious harvest was reaped, mostly young people. Two of Rev. Walker's children were brought into the Kingdom. I followed this meeting with a Bible reading for young converts at my home every Saturday night for one year. They nearly all attended, and were delighted with the lessons which I prepared and gave them to study during the week. Brother Walker said these converts stood the storm of temptation better than any he ever knew, only two or three among them became backsliders, and to-day I think most of them are standing firm. This was because they were taught God's word and daily prayer, and to walk by faith instead of feeling.
Dear pastors, the reason your converts backslide is because you starve them to death. What would you think of a parent who starved her child? Pastors often scold the members for doing wrong, but cross words do not feed. God's word must daily be eaten. You should prepare the word in small doses so that it can be taken in. The sincere milk of the word makes them grow strong, 1 Peter, 2:2. After the milk food, gradually give them stronger diet. You must plan some way to have them eat daily; one good meal on Sunday will not suffice. So I taught the pastors, and in my work at this time may be seen the working out of the conception that found its final expression in the Fireside School.
When the days were long I had a school at 5:30 p. m., to reach which I had to cross the Mississippi in a skiff. I never missed a meeting unless it was stormy. Once, when the wind was very high, the boatman said, "I would rather not go, especially with a woman, for they get scared." I promised to sit perfectly still and not say a word. Then he said, "I'll risk it." He was a colored man and a Christian. Oh, such a storm! I held on to the sides of the skiff and prayed. The water dashed in on every side. I never spoke but once, asking in a trembling voice, "Ferryman, will we be drowned?" "It is just as the Lord has it," was his quiet reply. His words calmed me in a minute. I wasn't at all afraid. I had given myself up to die, but we landed safely. The boatman sank on the bank of the river completely exhausted, saying, "I have been crossing this river for seven years and never before see'd such a storm." I taught my Sabbath school and returned. The storm was over. The skiff glided over a waveless sea in the light of the moon. Oh, it was so beautiful and restful after the long day of toil. I went to my home singing with melody in my heart.
"One more day's work for Jesus,
One less of life for me,
But Christ is dearer, and heaven nearer,
Than yesterday to me.
Lord if I may,
I'll work another day."
Soon we had a Sabbath school in each of the colored Baptist churches in New Orleans; before I came they had schools in only three; one of these was the First African Baptist Church, which had a very large membership; but the school was small. I wanted to help them, but they were not anxious to have me. I attended regularly for more than a month, sat in different classes, as they did not seem to need me for a teacher. But I learned a lesson which my readers may need to use some day. It is this. If you know how to teach, if it's really in you and you are humble and respectful, you will always teach and some one will listen. Matters little whether you are at the head or the foot; I am quite sure I taught those classes and gave no offense to the teachers, because I was careful to treat them with great respect. I mention this because many leave Sabbath schools, saying, "They would not give me a class." They do not know that pupils may be teachers. After some time the young people asked the superintendent to let me be their teacher. He consented. A few weeks after, a stranger came into my class one morning. He was very attentive and modest. His name was Rev. A. Fairfax, pastor of a church in Northern Louisiana, who had been driven away from his home because of some political strife between white and colored, and had come to the city to think and pray for guidance. I soon found that Rev. Fairfax was a better teacher than myself, and teacher and pupil quietly let him do most of the teaching while there. The grumblers who cannot find a place to work usually need to sit a little longer at Jesus' feet and learn from the Great Teacher "to be meek and lowly in heart." The superintendent of this school fell sick. The school asked him to let me serve as superintendent until he got well. Two months later he returned to the school, but I could not persuade him to take his place. He rose and said, "Teachers and scholars, I am tired, I have served my time. Sister Moore, you go ahead." And I did go ahead. We started an infant class, the first they had had in that city. We had a large room that suited the purpose. Often after Sabbath school, we invited those who wanted to find Jesus, to stop for a half-hour prayer meeting. A large number of the Sabbath school were converted, but when I took the children converts to meet the deacons, they asked questions which required visions and dreams to answer. Therefore most of them were sent back to seek for more. Some did see visions and were admitted, and some were received because I urged it; but here as elsewhere we saw the need of feeding and training after conversion.
About the same time I began a Sabbath school in Rev. White's church, Sunday afternoon, where we also had a sewing school. A great revival was the result of these meetings. The pastor's wife, Frances White, was very helpful. Ten of these children converts began, about six weeks before Christmas, to save or earn a present for Jesus on his birthday. This was my first effort to correct the un-Christian way of spending Christmas. We had a Christmas tree. About seventy teachers and children had presents on that tree, each costing about five cents. I spent much time hunting in the stores to get cheap, appropriate gifts. It would interest you had I time to tell how those children earned that money. Nine girls and one boy. I think we had only $1 .75, but it represented much labor and prayer. After the tree was set up in the church, but before the presents were there, these ten children and myself met in the church, and sat down around the tree. I read the letter which had this address on the envelope, "To the Lord Jesus in Heaven, by way of Africa." One child asked, "Will Jesus reach down and take the present off the tree?" I explained, perhaps for the twentieth time, that Jesus did not need our gifts, but He knew that we would want to give Him something to show our love, so He told his followers that when they gave to the poor, or to send the Bible to those who did not know His love, Jesus would put that down in His book, as if it were given to Himself. Then our boy climbed up on the ladder and hung the envelope on the top of the tree. We joined hands around the tree and prayed. I have often felt near to heaven, but there with those little children that Christmas eve, I was nearer heaven than I had ever been before. Oh, it was blessed. The children were much affected. There was a quiet awe as well as joy in all our hearts, as we walked out of the church. Surely we had been on the Mount of Transfiguration. Beloved readers, I tell you truly, offering gifts to the Lord for any part of His work is the most sacred and glorious service He has left on earth for His children. Alas, alas, how it has been polluted and dragged down and shared with the world, and this is one reason why we have a backslidden church. My gifts to God and the prayers that went with them have been the best part of my life; but remember, the gift must be given to the Lord's own blessed work, not to build a fashionable church because pride prompts us to be like the church over the way, or else because we think to put the church instead of Christ as the great attraction to secure a congregation.
About nine years after this I visited New Orleans. A young mother with her first born in her arms, met me saying, "You have forgotten me. I am one of the little girls that gave a present to Jesus on Christmas in Rev. White's church." I asked, "Has giving that present helped you since." "Oh, yes, it has made me a better Christian, and I am going to teach my baby to give to Jesus on Christmas." Dear teachers, let us not be discouraged. Some seed does grow and "gathered in time and eternity, sure will the harvest be."
I have not time to tell you about the other fifteen Sabbath schools in and around New Orleans. They were all as interesting as those I have mentioned. The pastors were kind and helpful, the Lord went before and opened doors and hearts according to his promise. An association met in New Orleans which was attended by many country pastors. After hearing me speak, they invited me to come to their churches. I was permitted during that same year to visit a few.
GOD'S ANSWER TO PRAYER.
While visiting in New Orleans I found many homes without Bibles. It is true that in most families only children could read, but even where parents could read, nothing of the Bible was found but a scrap. The agent of the American Bible Society, Mr. Ivy, gave me books on trust to sell, but not to donate, except in rare cases. When I began my country work he said I sold more Bibles than the agents, and he wanted me to become an agent. I said, "No, I am employed by another society, and cannot give all my time to this." "No matter," said he, "take a year if you want for one parish and visit every home. I will give you all the Bibles you wish to donate, letting you use your judgment; but, of course, you will sell all you can. I will also give you five cents for every family you visit." This was certainly a direct answer to prayer. I now could pay the expense of traveling, supply the poor with Bibles, and hire others to help me. We found it pretty hard carrying such loads of books, but would not hire any one to carry them. I cannot now tell how many Bibles were sold and how many donated. I think I began this work in 1876 and continued until 1881. I canvassed ten parishes and parts of three others. I was assisted, during vacation, by some of the students from Leland--Jonas Henderson, Solomon Clanton, and Frank Long, also Mary Walker, Virginia Johnson, and Cornelia Lewis. Each helped a little. I found Mrs. Ryder, a white woman from the North, whom I employed for two years. We not only sold Bibles, but managed every other phase of our missionary work, and yet it was real colportage work. The minutes of the Colored Baptist State Convention for 1886 records that I sold and donated about $500 worth of books that year, mostly Bibles. So you see we kept on at this kind of work because it was greatly needed, and the Lord supplied the means in answer to the prayer of faith. Hallelujah!
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