VISIT TO AN ASSOCIATION IN
I felt led of the spirit to attend an association in Northern Louisiana near Ringgold, that met at a church twenty miles from the railroad. I went the evening before to the nearest station and secured a conveyance. We started early. It was summer and the road led us through a cotton-raising region. The cabins were not crowded together as in the sugar and rice plantations. The negroes and poor white people were near neighbors and as they came to the door of the cabins to see us pass, they appeared equally ignorant, dirty, and ragged. The association met in a church in the woods. The people had built an arbor. All around the church were tables owned by the white men who served the negroes to snuff boxes, tobacco, gingerbread, wines, and other refreshments. Now, do not sneer at the snuff boxes. A man with a cigar puffing the smoke into his neighbor's face is just as detestable as a woman with a snuff stick, and the tobacco saliva running down the sides of her mouth. God has their names written in the same class. Perhaps cigars and cigarettes are the most dangerous because the most popular. The other day while on the streets of Chicago, I counted eleven advertisements of different kinds of cigars presented in the most attractive manner, so as to deceive our dear young boys. They are so costly that one thousand times more of God's money is wasted in this way than for snuff; therefore it is more dangerous.
I noticed these white men were very pleasant and obliging; they wanted to get the negro's money. I went into the church and my driver returned to the station, as it was Saturday and I intended to stay over Sunday. I have already written of my usual work at these associations, so need not repeat that. I was gladly welcomed by the men, women and children, many of whose churches I had visited.
The moderator came to me about five o'clock in the afternoon, saying, "These white men out here are not pleased with your being with us. It will hardly be safe for you to stay in any of our houses all night. What shall we do?" "Find some white persons with whom I can stay," was my reply. "Well," he said, "we have tried, but can't." "Don't worry, the Lord sent me here and He will provide," was my quiet answer, and I went on with my work. I noticed that the white men came often and looked in at the door in a way that showed that they were displeased, yet they were taking the black man's money and giving him things he did not need, while I came to freely give them the gospel, and so I could see no just cause for criticism. The Lord kept me very restful and trustful.
By and by a nice looking white man came in and introduced himself, saying, "I live about five miles from here. I have heard of your work and I have no objections to it. I have come to see if I can give you any assistance?"
Then I explained the situation and said, "You are the answer to my prayer; find a white family with whom I can lodge." "I am on horseback," he replied, "and it is late or I would take you to my home." He went out and after consulting with the colored people returned, saving, "I fear we can find no place." I said, "Get one of those wagons that the colored people have and take me to the nearest white family." He did so. It was about a mile and a half. An old lady with a little boy about four years old came out of a poor cabin. She said her husband was away and she could not keep me. My God-sent friend had told me she was a Baptist. He urged her to take me. She said, "No," but I got out of the wagon and told him to drive off. Then I took the little boy by the hand, saying to the mother, "I am your sister Baptist and I am going to spend the night with you, for you see it is nearly dark." So I smiled myself into the house as if I really was her long absent sister come to see her. I asked about her children and the little boy who was her grandson, and we had a good social time till she rose, saying, "I must get my old man's supper, I had almost forgot it."
It was a simple supper for they were poor indeed. There were no books in their home, because none of them could read and they had not been to church for years. Yet they were Christians. The "old man" did not seem much troubled, though greatly surprised at my presence. I showed him a Bible that I was going to leave with him. Some one would come who could read it to them. After supper I read chapter after chapter to those dear old people, and they drank it in, oh, so eagerly! I felt guilty and said to myself, "Why did you not come years ago and teach these poor people to read the Bible?" And to-day I feel sure that if I were not with the colored people, I would be with those poor whites of the South. Thank God they are being helped by others. God sent me to the association, in part, to comfort and feed those two old, hungry hearts. We ended the evening with prayers and tears of joy.
Early the next morning the husband got his oxen and old wagon and I persuaded his wife and boy to accompany me; so we all got into the wagon and were soon at the place of meeting. I was to have a children's meeting in the church. My white sister did not want to come in, but I took her by the hand and said, "Yes, yes, you must stay with me, with me." And I led her into the church and gave her a seat beside me.
The children were there and also the men and women. The Lord gave us a great blessing. Some of the children were converted. One child about four years old came up in tears and said, "I want to love Jesus." I took her on my knees and prayed for her, and glancing at my white sister saw she was wiping the tears from her eyes. I said to myself, Glory to God. The day will come when we will all meet at the cross of Christ and join in the glad new song, "Worthy is the lamb that was slain and hast redeemed us with thy blood out of every kindred tongue and people."?Rev. 5:9.
These dear old people left after my meeting, and my other white friend came, according to promise, with his buggy and took me to his home for the night, and sent me on Monday to the railroad station. He came to the association in time to be present at a meeting I held about 4 o'clock with the women in the arbor. On the way home he said, "I never before saw such interested faces as those of the women to-day. They surely do want to learn." God bless the dear women of Louisiana, is still my daily prayer.
WHAT I DID AT ASSOCIATIONS.
You ask what I did at the associations that I was so anxious to attend? I answer, many little things. I would sit in the meetings and listen to all that was said. I was studying the people and praying that I might know where to catch on so as to help. I made suggestions or talks to the leaders as to plans of work and how to settle difficulties. I never got up in any business meeting to discuss a subject because I did not think it was womanly, but I read papers on subjects assigned me. Often when some troublesome question was being discussed, I wrote little notes with a word of advice and passed them on to the brothers that I thought could settle the matter, or sent a text of scripture to some brother that I thought needed reproof. Sometimes when they were angry and said unkind things to each other I have asked that I might pray and the request was always granted.
I served on committees in the early part of my work and wrote many resolutions and discussed them with the committee. It was surprising to me that they listened so kindly to my advice, but I tried to give it humbly and respectfully. The colored preachers did not seem to care whether I was black or white, male or female. I had come to help and they accepted my help and there we settled it, and it has remained settled ever since so far as the black people and myself are concerned. We never argued or fussed about race or sex; we understood each other and each tried to help the other. It is true that there was a quiet understanding that we all belonged to the same family.
I improved the recess by holding meetings with the women and children and early morning Bible readings with ministers and delegates who had enough love for the Bible to make them give up their morning nap, and even breakfast, in order to be present. You would have been surprised to see how many were willing to make that sacrifice. I always carried Bibles to these meetings.
I do not think I ever told the people that I was only a woman, or that I was a white woman. What was the use of telling them what they knew when I had come to tell them what they did not know. Time was too precious to be wasted. I have been with the black people in their homes as well as in meetings, and wherever I have met them they have treated me with the utmost respect.
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