WORK AT NASHVILLE.
The work was so well established in Little Rock by December, 1890, that I felt sure it would continue to prosper if left in charge of Mrs. Harrington and Miss Button, who were well prepared to carry on a training school. I was anxious to extend the work and therefore moved to Spelman Seminary, Atlanta, Ga. In doing so I had two objects in view. One was that my Mother's Training School might in some way be united with the work there, and the other that I might help develop among the large number of pupils there missionaries for the neglected masses in the great Southland. I knew that in all my work I had had the hearty co-operation of Miss Packard and Miss Giles. The plans for my "Mother's School" did not succeed and yet I am glad for the year that I spent with headquarters in that blessed seminary.
The school in Little Rock was continued only one year after I left, because Miss Button's health failed, and Mrs. Harrington was called home because of the failing health of her parents.
This work began in Nashville in January, 1895. From that time until January, 1898, we had a regular training school, but not as many in attendance as in Baton Rouge. These women of Nashville were very greatly blessed in their work. We had a Bible band in ten Baptist, one Christian and two A. M. E. churches, and fifteen Sunshine bands in private homes, taught by mothers or those with mother hearts. The leaders, with many of the workers, met every Monday morning to report work done, and receive instruction. They were very enthusiastic, but lately they have not been as faithful, because they became discouraged. Do not think our sisters were to blame for this; many of them have held on to their Bible study amid all discouragements.
The work of correspondence, preparing reports for Fireside Schools, and writing books and lessons for them, also visiting in other states, grew and grew until I had but little time left for personal work in Nashville. Though we did not have a regular school after 1898 in my home, yet every year we have had with us several women being trained for Christian work. Usually they attended school a part of each day, as their education was very limited. It has seemed to be my mission to help the neglected get a start.
After the first year I had no white helpers, except Miss Eva Button. Her health was too poor to allow her to remain on the field continuously. Several friends from the North came to visit me at different times, but I soon filled their hands and hearts with work, which, excepting their board, they did without money and without price. The society was willing to send me white helpers, but I was anxious to train the colored women for this work. Mrs. Mary Flowers was with me from the opening of the work in Nashville; then Lillie Watts and Mary Lou Walton came to me. All of these were very faithful, though not as efficient as trained workers. These were my secretaries. In September Sisters Flowers and Watts left me for a year at the training school in Chicago and Sister Walton to teach school. Then God sent Mary J. Gibson, a graduate of Tougaloo University, Miss., Henrietta K. Patrick, a graduate of Normal, Ala., and Virginia Broughton, a member of the first class that graduated from Fisk University in Nashville. These have proven wise, kind and efficient helpers. The salaries of these workers were provided by voluntary contributions from the friends of the work, in answer to prayer. Later our work in the office needed another secretary, therefore, in 1901, God sent us Joanna Greenlee, a graduate of a school in Thomasville, Ga. She is the right woman in the right place.
Since 1901 our society has employed Mary Flowers to do mission work, she assisting in the office at my headquarters when needed. This dear sister has stood bravely by this work during the last seven years.
Miss Button came to help me in the fall of 1897, was taken sick in January and was for two months confined to her bed. But while sick she sometimes taught her dear Sunshine Band. Later she was obliged to go to her home in the North. Everybody was very sorry when she left, for she was a great comfort to all, as well as a help in every line of work.
We call our headquarters "Sunshine Home." The little children led us into the "sunshine." I'll tell you how this happened. I called the children "little sunshines" because they so brighten our homes and the world; then they wrote asking if they could not call me "Mamma Sunshine." Of course I could not refuse, so I am "Mamma Sunshine" to the children, and the place where I live is "Sunshine Home." We call our children's meetings "Sunshine Bands," and so we try to live in the sunshine day by day. I often think that I have the happiest home in all of the world. Everybody is so kind to me and to each other.
I wish that you could come to see us at Sunshine Home, but I will tell you what you would be expected to do. Rise at 5 a. m., breakfast at 6, devotions from 6:25 to 7, domestic work to 7:30, the hour when work begins in the office; quiet hour from 10 to 10:30, dinner at 12, quiet hour from 2 to 2:30, supper at 6, twilight meeting from 6:30 to 7:15, retire at 10 p. m. "Quiet hour" means that when the bell is rung all in the household drop their work and retire to their rooms or some quiet place for prayer. This has been a great spiritual benefit to every inmate. I am very sorry to tell you that during the last year we have omitted the afternoon quiet hour, reason given being that we expect all of the secretaries to take two afternoons each week for work in the homes of the people. The hour they leave is 2 p. m. Then every Wednesday at 3 o'clock is our home prayer meeting. These seeming interruptions, however, were not sufficient for dropping our quiet hour. We should have given the time from 1 :30 to 2 for prayer, so that those who went to carry God's word to hearts and homes might have the power of the Holy Spirit with them. During the last two months, in which I have had more time for quiet thought than perhaps at any time for the last thirty years, the Spirit has impressed a lesson which He often brought to my mind before, namely, that I do not take enough time in waiting upon God, thinking upon His name, keeping still before Him till He reveals Himself to My heart through the Comforter. God grant that I may not forget this lesson again. I fear that every Christian worker is tempted, as I have been, to let even my work for souls get between me and God. 'Tis Satan's plan to push us on to work without God if he cannot stop us from the work. My reader now sees how I failed when I allowed the afternoon quiet hour to be disturbed. It is not the amount of work that tells, but work done through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our office work at headquarters includes answering letters, editing HOPE, writing books and leaflets, mailing these, entertaining callers, etc. We receive about 600 letters a month, from all ages and classes, which require much prayer and thought that we may answer them wisely and profitably. They cannot be treated like business letters, which have a certain form. Each one must be studied and prayed over.
In connection with the story of my work at Nashville I want to tell the reader of the disposition made of the $2,000 which had been given to me while in Baton Rouge to provide a home for my training school for wives and mothers. About $300 of it was used in furnishing the house and establishing the school in Little Rock, and $1,700 was placed in charge of our society to hold until the way opened for the purchase of a home. When it was decided after my year in Atlanta that my work should be carried on with Nashville as a center, the society inaugurated plans to raise a sum of money which, added to the $1,700 which I had deposited with it, would suffice to secure a suitable property. Difficulties arose which made it wiser to rent than to buy or build, and the effort to raise more money was relinquished. A house was therefore rented, and the furniture moved from the home in Little Rock to Nashville with the exception of enough to furnish the kitchen and one bedroom in a home for aged people just started in Little Rock.
The two-story hired house in Nashville was completely furnished, the society adding to what had been brought from Little Rock all that was needed to make it neat and comfortable. The society, also, supported, besides myself, a missionary to assist me, and agreed to pay the rent of the home.
But there were other expenses, such as the board of students in the training school, the salaries of colored secretaries, the publishing of HOPE, and the printing and distribution of leaflets, pamphlets, and reports connected with the Fireside School, which had always been provided by voluntary contributions from other sources, and from subscriptions for HOPE and money received from the sale of literature.
It has long been my desire to see all the work of Fireside Schools as carried on in and from my headquarters in Nashville, placed in the hands of the colored people; but, hitherto, none had been found prepared to care for it. In the course of time I was led to believe that the plan of training parents through our paper, our books, parents' conferences, and correspondence, was God's will for the present, rather than the purchase of a home for a locally established school, and that it would, therefore, be right for me to use the balance of my $1,700 in that way, after refunding what the society had already paid in rent and furnishing. To this the society agreed. $200 were used in paying one half of the expenses of two colored students in the training school in Chicago one year. $500 more was used in printing books. The money was exhausted a year ago, but our needs have been supplied and hitherto we have not been in debt. There is nothing now in our treasury, but we have the promises of God.
For the last ten years I have been praying that God would unite the colored Christians of all denominations in an effort to secure daily Bible study in every home, the introduction of other useful books, and in various ways seek to purify and elevate the home life. This is a matter of common interest and cannot be secured without neighborhood co-operation. Therefore all sects and classes should unite. I want you to help me praise the Lord that this prayer has been answered. In October, 1901, I selected a board of colored men and women in Nashville, from different evangelical sects, into whose hands I gave the care of my Fireside School work, retaining my place as editor of HOPE, with colored associates, pledging myself to continue in the work as one of their number, with the understanding that at my death, if not sooner, this work should belong entirely to the colored people. I feel sure that this board is trustworthy and wise.
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