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Title: A Star in the East
Author: Edward Norman Harris
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Title: A Star in the East
Author: Edward Norman Harris

A Star in the East
An Account of American Baptist Missions to the Karens of Burma
Missionary of The American Baptist Foreign Mission Society
to The Shwegyin and Paku Karen Missions.

* * *



* * *

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light."--Isa. 9:2.

* * *

New York Chicago
Fleming H. Revell Company
London and Edinburgh

* * *

_To the memory of his father, Rev. Norman Harris, who founded the
Shwegyin Karen Mission and built up there a rich spiritual heritage by
which the son has for twenty-five years gratefully profited, this book is
affectionately dedicated by the author._

* * *


Among the most successful missions in the world today are those to the
Karens of Burma, but unfortunately hitherto little material has been
available concerning them except in scattered reports and occasional
pamphlets, most of them long since out of print. The writer feels that
the Christian world needs to have its attention called again, as it was
at the beginning of the work, to the great things which God has done, and
is still doing, for this truly remarkable people. Tucked away in an
obscure corner of the earth, they were not only kept through many
generations measureably true to the inner light (Jno. I:9), but were also
prepared in a most marvellous manner for the reception of the gospel
whenever it should be brought to them. As inscriptions on rocks and on
brick tablets were in the providence of God hidden away for thousands of
years to be unearthed in these recent days as evidence of the reliability
of the Scriptures, so, it would seem these people were hidden away from
the observation of men to be brought forth, within comparatively recent
times as a blessed confirmation of the faith of those who believe in
God's exceeding graciousness towards men of all times and of all races
who do not wilfully blind themselves to his truth.

Not only so, but the continued workings of the Spirit in the hearts of
these people at the present time and the achievements of grace manifested
in the development of strong Christian character and quickened
intelligence and even in the unlooked for physical rehabilitation of the
Karen race as a whole, afford a fresh demonstration in an unexpected
quarter of the universal scope and range of the gospel's power. To the
devout student of the dealings of God with the children of men, there is
here subject matter which must ever be of absorbing interest.

Toungoo, Burma. E. N. H.

* * *



Burma, when Dr. Judson went there, an obscure, but richly endowed
country, cursed by its kings.--Cruelty and oppression universal.--The
Karens and their persecutions.--Dr. Judson learns of their
existence.--Karen tradition of the creation and fall.--Other
sayings.--Advantage given to missionary in preaching to Karens by reason
of their knowledge of God.--Character of the Karen people, their
morality, honesty and high idealism.--Their tradition about their
progenitors as being mighty because of righteousness.--Paul's teaching in
Rom. 1:18-23.


Their own account of the river of sand and of their early
migrations.--The story of the snails as showing possible racial
connection of the Karens with the Muhsoes, Kwes, Kaws and other mountain
tribes running up into Western China.--The Karen tradition regarding
their book.--Possible connection of Karens with Nestorian
Christians.--Objections.--Theory of their Hebrew origin, supported by
similarity of their word for God to Yahweh, use of Semitic sounds,
customs resembling passover.--Possible infiltration of Jewish blood in
early times indicated by features of a few.--Karens as a race Mongolian
in physiognomy and language.--No clear reference to flood, and
antediluvian theory of Karen origin.


The Karens know of God, but they do not worship him.--They follow Satan
instead.--This explained by reference to tradition of the first
sickness.--Preaching to the heathen.--Other explanations and ideas.--A
jumble of superstitions.--Benignity of God made an excuse for not
worshipping him.--Numberless fears.--Yet spirits regarded as being really
very stupid.--The wasps' nest over the door.--Dreams.--Other religious
conceptions sometimes crude, never vile.--The story of the dragon.--The
story of Taw Meh Pah.--Messianic hope.--Inference, better follow Satan
than have debased conception of God.


Although Karens forsook God, he did not forsake them.--Raised up
prophets among them, as among Israelites of old.--Their promise of
deliverance and defiance of their enemies.--Their prophecy of the
coming of the white brother with the long-lost book and description
of his appearance.--Resulting cordiality of the Karen towards his white
brother.--Stories current regarding him: Father God's funeral: The Karen
traveler and the white brother going to worship God.--Loyalty of Karens
to British government.--Warning against reception of the wrong book,
e.g., Buddhist Scriptures.


Koh Thah Byu.--His early career as a bandit.--His servitude.--Instruction
by Dr. Judson.--Baptism.--Early labors.--The venerated prayer
book.--Evangelistic efforts in Rangoon and Pegu Districts.--Final labors
in Arakan.--Summary of his achievements.--His manner of preaching.--Saw
Tah Ree.--His search for the truth.--His satisfaction in finding it.--Saw
Doo Moo.--Loss of wife and children.--Grief-stricken wanderings.--The
Balm in Gilead.--Return to Maulmein and preparation in school there.--His
subsequent labors.--Saw Quah Lah.


Early efforts to reach the Karens through the medium of the Burmese
language.--Reasons favoring the continuation of this policy.--Examples in
Toungoo.--Mr. Wade's tour to Tah Kreh and the demand to produce the Karen
book, or go back and fetch it.--Reducing the Karen language to
writing.--Reasons for adapting the Burmese instead of the Roman
alphabet.--Translation of the bible.--The hymn book.--Education.--The
second Burmese war.--Persecutions.--Extension of the work to Rangoon,
Bassein, Henzada, Shwegyin and Toungoo.


Ignorances of the first disciples.--They knew two things only, that their
book had been brought back, and that they need not fear evil spirits as
Jesus is stronger than the evil spirits.--Result: they were open to false
teachings with consequent defections.--A saving warning.--Hampering
customs and practices of the heathen.--Malicious stories: The Karen
disciple's supposed death-bed confession.--Essential antagonism of human
heart to demands of the gospel.--Heathen opinion regarding drinking,
card-playing, theater-going and dancing.--Perplexity regarding the many
faiths: the two roads.--Rise of false leaders among heathen.--Koh Sah
Yay.--But all these hindrances turn out rather for strengthening of God's
chosen people.


A period of reaction follows early ingatherings.--Gains have to be
consolidated, a slow process.--But how great the change may be seen in
contrast between new convert and trained disciple today.--New convert
ignorant of Christ and his work.--Apparently changed only in
determination to worship God.--Slow in casting off former
superstitions.--Explanation: Although they know little of Christ, yet
what actually draws them is Christ in God.--Heathen seldom led to profess
Christianity by selfish considerations.--Gospel self-guarding, like ark
of covenant.--The man with the apparition vs. the aged couple who became
discouraged but could not give up their faith.--Earnest, tender desire of
Christians for conversion of heathen, the Burmese included.--The
preacher's account of the sick man.--Karens seldom refer to
experiences.--But develop a spirit of resignation truly remarkable.--Too
Loo Koo's father.--God's gracious dealings with even most ignorant and
benighted; the young man blinded by a bear.--The fellowship of
saints.--Devotion of Karen pastors and their familiarity with the word.


Churches independent from the beginning, and from very early date
self-supporting.--The missionary's function simply advisory.--The number
of churches and communicants.--The pastors.--Church discipline not
lacking in effectiveness.--Associations of churches with their own
presiding officers, secretaries and treasurers.--What is meant by
self-supporting churches.--Pastors often self-supporting, or may even
practically support the church.--Schools.--The Theological
Seminary.--Liberality of Karen Christians.--Instances given.--Same laws
of church life which apply in America true also of Karen churches, e.g.,
reactionary effect of missions.--The jointed fishpole.--The church that
gave for missions and then cleared off its own debt.--Anti-mission
Baptist vs. mission Baptists.--Putting rice into other people's mouths to
increase one's own strength.--Missions and the Shwegyin
churches.--Shooting the elephant.--Sending the pastor who was needed at
home to the distant field.


Too much should not be expected.--Process of civilization slower than
that of evangelization.--Economy the real basis of western civilization,
e.g., chairs, cuffs and collars, typewriters, telephones,
stenographers.--Travel and cost of labor in civilized vs. uncivilized
lands.--Barbarism always wasteful, like uncultivated land.--Area required
to support a tiger.--Yet most people think civilization consists in
having many things rather than in knowing how to use wisely what one
has.--Merchants accomplishing much in direction of increasing wants of
people, thus making them more industrious.--Change within the memory of
the writer.--Adoption of western civilization out of hand undesirable,
not being suited to conditions of people.--What those conditions
are.--Story of Naw Thoo and Naw Wah.--Difficulty of making improvements
in houses, food, clothing, etc.--The chewing of the betel nut.--Its
effect.--Extracting a tooth for a Siamese prince.--Strength of the
habit.--Its explanation.--Christianity implanting the seeds of a genuine
culture.--Converted Karen desires first of all to get an education, then
to improve physical surroundings.--Established villages instead of
shifting abodes.--Christian villages cleaner than heathen
villages.--Christians discarding use of betel nut.--Christians attaining
to positions of distinction and honor.--Love of music.


Fears that Karens were losing ground.--Census figures showing the
contrary.--The part ascribed by the Superintendent of the census to the
acceptance of Christianity.--Case stronger than he puts it.--Racial
conditions in Burma.--Is Mr. Webb correct?--Yes, and no.--Just what is
meant, not increase, but differentiation.--Is this differentiation
desirable?--A vigorous race has the presumption in its favor, especially
a race of the high ideals of the Karens.--What have the missionaries
done to bring about the results?--Gathered and trained a Christian
community.--Nothing further possible.--Heathen population not accessible
to social service, e.g., medicine.--Even if accessible, missionaries
could not have done much, because methods of west not suited.--The
American reaper.--Oriental no more conservative than occidental.--American
plows.--Missionaries might now do real service by patient
experimentation.--Problems.--What the government is doing.--Special
qualification of missionaries for task.--Even if missionaries could
have done more, benefit to heathen community doubtful.--Christian
converts ready for helpful suggestions and really benefited.--Christians
rising to positions of distinction and honor, not so the
heathen.--Nevertheless the entire race being blessed.


Crossing the Salween.--A picture of conditions still existing on the
field.--The stress of life owing to physical surroundings.--Cholera,
small pox, measles, malaria; mad dogs, venomous serpents; the python, the
tiger; lesser pests.--These usually presented from point of view of
missionary, but have even more significance from point of view of native
Christians.--Economic conditions.--The Karen saying being
fulfilled.--Burma a land of plenty.--Famines, due to rats, infrequent and
of limited range.--The country being invaded from all sides and rapidly
filled up.--The situation becoming more and more difficult for a people
situated like the Karens.--Religious conditions.--Mild as yet, but
getting constantly more strenuous.--The preacher who was not Jesus Christ
or the white book or a diver.--The preacher's story of the lion and the
rabbit.--Conditions heading up for a mighty struggle later on.--Buddhism
becoming self-conscious.--Tom Paineism.--Deacons and dancing.--The
missionary's place and part with reference to physical, to economic and
to religious conditions.--Cheering the paralytic.--Is it worth while?


The missionary must have confidence of his people, and to win their
confidence must know them.--Physical characteristics of the
Karens.--Their costumes.--Their occupations.--Reason enough why the crow
should steal.--Courtship and family life.--Ideas of the
underworld.--Teaching the spirit of the dead to climb a tree.--Directions
reversed.--The Karen Atlas, and how to stop earthquakes.--Karens vs.
Burmans in intellectual attainments.--Karens not philosophically
inclined.--Evidenced by simplicity of language.--Does not prove mental
incapacity.--Case of the Australian aborigines.--Simplicity of language a
help to clarity of thought.--The use of Karen as a mental discipline.--No
lack of intelligent responsiveness.--Karens temperamentally not easy to
understand.--Due to long oppression.--A "going to be easy" race.--An
illustration of general human contrariness.--Humbling the pupils with
humility.--The granite element in Karen character.


The economic situation again.--Relation of Christianity to labor.--Need
of industrial training in schools.--Value of scientific agriculture for
Karens.--Tardy recognition of its importance even in western
lands.--Difficulty of attainment by Karens unaided.--Government
endeavors.--The missionary intermediary.--Problems of lowland
farming.--Soil deterioration.--Rotation of
crops.--Fertilizers.--Insufficiency of cattle.--Fodder and
ensilage.--Cattle breeding.--Seed selection.--Grafting.--Agricultural
implements.--Need of local experimentation.--Problems of upland
farming.--Wastage of present system.--Proposed
remedies.--Removal.--Terracing.--Substitution of other crops.--Possible
improvement in conditions.--Christian community already prepared.--The
shrub eradicator.--Need of initiative from without.--The requirements of
the situation.--Employment of an agricultural expert.--Vocational
training in the schools.--Experiment stations.--School of
agriculture.--Probable benefits.--Challenge.


The impending religious conflict.--America the land of light and
leading.--Necessity for increased emphasis on essential Christian
doctrines.--Relation to the missionary cause.--Necessity for deeper
consecration and self-sacrifice.--Not asceticism but devotion to a great
cause.--Influence of missionary self-sacrifice on character of
converts.--The writer's father's experience.--Is separation of families
right?--Expectation of Jesus.--Lord Roberts.--Children catching the
spirit of their parents.--Necessity for truer appreciation of
stupendousness and worthwhileness of task of missions.--"The best belongs
to the worst."--"Why throw away your talents?"--Missions and
humanitarianism.--The lesson of the book.

* * *



* * *


When Dr. Judson, the great missionary, first went to Burma in 1813, that
country was little known. Its entire area at the present time is only
equal to that of the New England States together with New York,
Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, certainly not a great extent of
territory as compared with the vast dominions of India and China which
border it, the one on the northwest and the other on the north. But in
Dr. Judson's day all that could have any possible interest to the average
citizen of the western world was a narrow strip of country extending
along the coast where a few European merchants had established themselves
and were eking out a rather precarious existence.

Then, as now, Burma was richly endowed with natural resources, but her
people little understood the value of their splendid heritage. To use the
figure of speech which they still frequently employ in referring to
themselves, they were like a frog sitting at the foot of a stalk of
sugar-cane and knowing nothing of its worth until a water buffalo or
carabao comes along and eats up the luscious growth. Rice grew profusely
on the rich alluvial plains. The magnificent forests waved with trees
supplying timber of great variety and value. Some of the most remarkable
oil fields in the world were to be found there, and they were seemingly
worked in a crude way long before the value of the oil was fully
understood in America or in Europe. Burma was the home of the
pigeon-blood ruby, one of the rarest and most precious of gems. Elephants
with their splendid tusks of ivory roamed the jungles, and the peacock
with its gorgeous plumage frequented the upland glens. But the country
was cursed by its kings. Ignorant, deceitful, vain, superstitious,
blood-thirsty, they lived surrounded by sycophants, knew nothing but
flattery, and, as might be expected, practiced the utmost cruelties even
upon their own people. When a new king ascended the throne, it was
customary for him to put all of his relatives to death, lest any of them
should contest his place. One king who failed to build himself a new
capital in accordance with the custom of the realm, sought to make amends
by having sixty persons buried alive under the walls of his palace. It is
said of a certain other king that when a subject of his had visited
England and returned, the king asked him what he had seen in that strange
land, and in particular how it compared with his own kingdom of Burma.
Was England so fair and rich a country? "No, your Majesty," came the
reply, "how could it be, for there the lordly teak does not grow." And
the king knew no better than to accept the estimate as true.

Needless to say, the cruelty and vindictiveness which surrounded the
throne spread through all the lower ranks of government officialdom and
indeed permeated the life of the entire people. Aside from the monks of
the Buddhist order--for Burma was, and still is, one of the chief
strongholds of Buddhism,--the life or property of no one was safe. If any
of the common people were suspected of acquiring more wealth than was
needed for bare sustenance, some charge would be trumped up against them,
and their property be confiscated. Cruelty and oppression were everywhere
known. Justice and mercy were not so much as dreamed of. And if this was
the attitude of the Burmese even towards those of their own race, one may
rightly infer that it would be still more relentless towards those of
other races living under their dominion.

Among the most persecuted of these subject peoples were the Karens
(accent on the last syllable). Naturally a timid and retiring race, they
were perhaps all the more heartily hated and despised by the Burmans on
that account. The writer has heard it related by some who remember those
early days, that the Karens were subjected to such terrible and heartless
oppression that they were obliged to live for the most part in the
farthest recesses of the tropical jungles or in the fastnesses of the
mountains. Even there they lived in such constant terror that oftentimes
they dared not build their wretched little huts, but dwelt in caves or
under overhanging rocks, and would not leave their abodes and return to
them by the same route lest a path should be formed and their whereabouts
should be discovered. They subsisted by cultivating the soil, which in
the mountain regions is so poor that two crops of rice cannot be grown
successively on the same piece of land and fresh forests must be cut down
every year, entailing a vast amount of labor. Long distances were always
placed by the Karens between their homes and their poor little fields,
and fortunately the season for cultivating the latter fell chiefly during
the rains when the swollen mountain torrents gave practical immunity from
the intrusions of their enemies. But oftentimes for six months on a
stretch they had no rice and were obliged to subsist on such roots and
herbs as they could find growing wild in the jungles. Their chief
protection was their abject poverty. Relying on this the men sometimes
visited the cities and towns of the Burmans, but the women never ventured
near them, knowing that to do so would be to subject themselves to
certain insult and abuse. The Karens are naturally lighter of skin than
the Burmans, and it is said that most of the latter who are of fairer
complexion than their fellows are descendants of Karen women who had been
captured in some raid and held as slaves.

Dr. Judson seems to have been in Burma about fourteen years before he so
much as learned of the existence of the Karen people. He then saw a group
of Karens come into the city of Rangoon and made inquiries concerning
them. He was told that they were an exceedingly uncouth, awkward,
backward race, but when he asked concerning their religion, he was
informed that they did not worship idols. On further investigation it
developed that they had a wonderful body of traditions and sayings which
kept alive among them the knowledge of the true God, creator of the
heavens and of the earth.

Following is a translation of the prose form of


"God created heaven and earth."

"Having created heaven and earth. He created the sun, He created the
moon, He created the stars."

"Having created the sun, the moon and the stars, He created man. And of
what did He create man? He created man from the earth."

"Having created man, He created woman. How did He create woman? He took a
rib out of the man, and created a woman."

"Having created woman, He created life. How did He create life? Father
God said, 'I love my son and daughter; I will give them my great life.'
He took a little portion of His own life, breathed into the nostrils of
the two persons, and they came to life, and were real human beings."

"Having created man. He created food and drink. He created rice, He
created water, He created fire, He created cows, He created elephants, He
created birds."

"Having created animals Father God said, 'My son and daughter, your
father will make and give you a garden. In the garden are seven different
kinds of trees, bearing seven different kinds of fruit. Among the seven
one tree is not good to eat. Do not eat of its fruit. If you eat it, you
will become old, you will die. Eat it not. All else that I have created I
give to you. Eat and drink to the full. Once in seven days I will visit
you. All that I have commanded you observe and do. Forget me not. Pray to
me every morning and night.'"

"Afterwards Satan came and said, 'Why are you here?' 'Our Father God put
us here,' they said. What do you eat here,' Satan inquired. 'Our Father
God created food and drink for us; food without end.' Satan said, 'Show
me your food.' And they went, with Satan following behind them, to show
him. On arriving at the garden, they showed him the fruits, saying, 'This
is sweet, this is sour, this is bitter, this is astringent, this is
savory, this is fiery; but here is a tree,--we know not whether it be
sour or sweet. Our Father God said to us, "Do not eat the fruit of this
tree; if you eat it, you will die." We do not eat it, and so do not know
whether it be sour or sweet.' 'Not so, my children,' Satan replied. 'The
heart of your Father God is not with you. This is the richest and
sweetest. It is richer than the others, sweeter than the others, and not
merely richer and sweeter, but if you eat it, you will possess miraculous
powers, you will be deified. You will be able to ascend into heaven, and
descend into the earth. You will be able to fly. The heart of your God is
not with you. This desirable thing he has not given you. My heart is not
like the heart of your God. He is not honest. He is envious. I am honest.
I am not envious. I love you and tell you the whole. Your Father God does
not love you. He did not tell you the whole. However if you do not
believe me, do not eat it. But if each one will taste a single fruit,
then you will know.' The man replied, 'Our Father God said to us, "Eat
not the fruit of this tree," and we will not eat it.' Thus saying, he
rose up and went away."

"But the woman listened to Satan, and being rather pleased with what he
said, remained. After Satan had continued coaxing her for a long time,
she wavered and asked him, 'If we eat, shall we indeed be able to fly?'
'My daughter,' Satan replied, 'I seek to persuade you because I love
you.' The woman took one of the fruits and ate. And Satan smilingly said,
'My daughter listens to me very well. Now go, give the fruit to your
husband, and say to him, "I have eaten the fruit. It is exceedingly
rich." If he does not eat, deceive him, that he may eat. Otherwise, you
see, if you die, you will die alone, or, if you become deified, you will
be deified alone.' The woman doing as Satan told her, went and coaxed her
husband, till she won him over to her own mind, and he took the fruit
from the hand of his wife and ate. When he had eaten, she went to Satan
and said, 'My husband has eaten the fruit.' On hearing that he laughed
exceedingly and said, 'Now you have listened to me very well indeed, my
son and daughter.'"

"On the morning of the day after they had eaten, God visited them. But
they did not follow Him singing praises, as they had been wont to do. He
reproached them and said, 'Why have you eaten the fruit of the tree I
commanded you not to eat?' They did not dare to reply. And God cursed
them. 'Now you have not observed what I commanded you,' He said; 'The
fruit that is not good to eat, I told you not to eat, but you have not
listened and have eaten. Therefore you shall become old, you shall get
sick, and you shall die.'"

The Karens reveled in rhyming couplets which were handed down from their
forefathers by the hundred and by the thousand. Many of these couplets
are so ancient that their meaning is now obscure, but those whose meaning
is still clear set forth conceptions of God quite in accord with the
tradition given above. The three following stanzas each with a question
and response are after a translation made by Mrs. H.M.N. Armstrong:

The earth at first a speck of froth;
Who created? Who remade it?
The earth at first a star of foam;
Who created? Who remade it?
The earth at first a speck of froth;
God created, He remade it.
The earth at first a star of foam;
God Himself formed, He re-formed it.

Heaven vast the Eternal placed,
Earth beneath the Eternal placed;
Heaven and earth He cleft apart.
Placed whom when He would depart?
The Eternal ordered Heaven vast,
Fixed the earth's foundation fast;
Heaven and earth asunder cleft,
Man and woman there were left.

Like a top the round earth spinning,
How lived folk on the beginning?
Like thread on reel it circles round,
What have the first folk on it found?
Round the earth spins like a top,
Turned as reel without a stop;
Here the first folk lived at leisure,
Here the first folk lived for pleasure.

Another stanza runs as follows the thought being that God can open out or
fold up the universe like a telescope, a unique and really sublime

The whole round earth God came to form,
He can make broad, He can make narrow;
The whole round earth God came to mend,
With ease He can make broad or narrow.

Instead of thinking of the earth as being God's footstool, the Karen
regards it as His couch, hence the following rather naive lines in which
the thought is of one asleep in the frail native bamboo house when those
about must tread softly lest they awaken him:--

Earth is the sleeping place of God,
Hence noiseless thou, with heel-prints light,
    Thy way must take;
Earth is His widely spreading couch,--
Soft-footed steal thou through the night,
    Lest He awake.

Another saying is, "The poor in spirit and the steadfast in heart are
God's delight." Finally, where is there to be found in any literature or
in any folklore a finer saying than this, which is taken from the maxims
of the ancient Karen elder,--"Children and grandchildren, it is because
men are not righteous that they do not see God."

None of these couplets or sayings is traceable to modern Christian
influences. They have all been collected with great care from the lips of
the heathen themselves. Some of the ideas presented here, such as that of
the earth being at first of the nature of froth or foam, and that of the
earth revolving like a top, are certainly surprising, but their
authenticity and genuineness as being of purely Karen origin are beyond

It will be seen at once what an advantage is given to the missionary in
preaching to the Karen people. He might go to any other of the races of
eastern Asia, and he would have much difficulty in finding words in their
language which would adequately convey to them the idea of God and even
greater difficulty in arousing in them a sense of the divine holiness.
But let him go to even the most backward Karens and use their word K'sah
Y'wah, and at once they would understand the very same God whom he
worships, the God who is the creator of the heavens and of the earth, the
God who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, the holy and righteous

The Karens as a people were, in general, mild and peaceable, truthful and
honest, affectionate and industrious. Their chief failing was, and is to
this day, drunkenness. Among the heathen every family, or at least every
village or little cluster of houses has its still, by means of which a
strong spirit is produced from rice, the chief product of the country,
and its use is almost universal. But, aside from that, the Karens were
far and away the most moral and the most virtuous people of the east. In
their primitive condition before they came much into contact with other
races, while the practice of polygamy was permitted, it was very unusual,
and fornication and adultery were of the rarest occurrence among them and
were severely punished. Harlotry was so utterly unknown that they had no
word for it. Every one built his granary out in the rice field, perhaps
miles away from his home, and yet no one ever thought of stealing the
grain. If any one found a tree with a swarm of bees in it the honey from
which was not yet ready to collect, all he needed to do to establish his
claim upon it and secure it against being taken by some one else, was to
twist up a wisp of grass and put it in some chink at the foot of the
tree. This interesting custom is witnessed to this day in the fact that
the Karen word for sign means "the 'our grass' thing or idea," the grass
having been a sign of ownership. But perhaps an even stronger evidence of
the moral idealism of the Karen people is to be found in their conception
of their ancestors, or rather of the contrast between themselves and
their ancestors. A rumor current among them runs about as
follows:--"Children and grandchildren, we are not the real Karen race.
The real Karen stock lives far to the north over many ranges of
mountains. They are mighty by reason of righteousness. We are but the
offscourings of our people and were cast out because we were not worthy
to remain among them." Many races claim that their progenitors were
mighty because of physical prowess. Is there another which claims that
its progenitors were mighty because of righteousness, and so humbly
reveres them?

The history of the human family is far from flattering. There is the
Light, even the true light that lighteneth every man that cometh into the
world, but men will not receive it. Well may we believe that Paul was
right when, in the first chapter of Romans, he wrote that all men know
God, but the heathen have held down or suppressed that knowledge in
unrighteousness. They blind their eyes against it, and turn to their
various systems of so-called religion which obscure to them the truth.
They prefer darkness to light. But here was a most remarkable and unusual
phenomenon. In the midst of races which for hundreds and thousands of
years had, like the Burmese, professed the atheistic tenets of Buddhism,
or, like the Chinese, had been given over to the senseless worship of
their ancestors, or like the natives of India, while professing to have
many gods, knew nothing of divine holiness, was a simple minded people
which still held to the primitive revelation which we may suppose to have
been given to the entire human race, maintained their virtue through many
generations and kept measureably clear the conception and knowledge of
the truth.


Whence the Karens came or how they got their traditions--unless, as has
been suggested, it may have been by primitive revelation--It is
impossible to say with any degree of certainty. It may be inferred from
their own accounts that they left the early cradle of the human race many
centuries or millenniums ago, and, following along the northern slopes of
the Himalaya Mountains, or crossing the plains of Thibet, reached their
present habitat by way of Western China. These traditions are very vague,
but they tell of passing over rivers of sand, which may refer to the
desert of Gobi. Certain it is that at the present time, or more
especially at the time when they were first brought to the knowledge of
the missionaries--since then, under the protection afforded by the
British government many of them have come down to the more congenial life
upon the plains--they occupied for the most part the lower ranges in
Burma and Siam of those spurs and off-shoots of the Himalayas which find
their ultimate termini in the partly submerged mountain-islands of the
Malayan Archipelago. There is a curious story to the effect that on the
early migrations from the northern country there were ninety-nine
families or tribes in all, but that they stopped to make their dinner of
snails which they found in great abundance. They knew nothing, however,
of sucking them out of their shells, and so cooked them as they were,
adding a few sprigs of an herb which gave out a blood-red juice.
Thirty-three families, including the Karens, boiled their snails for a
while, and, finding that they were not soft, and supposing that the red
juice was the blood of the snails still uncooked, left them as they were
and pushed on, while the sixty-six other families, waiting to cook their
snails soft, were left behind to this day. These were the Muhsoes, Kwes,
Kaws and other closely allied races which extend far up into the
mountainous regions of western China between whom and the Karens there
seems little doubt that there is a certain affinity. A comparative study
of their languages such as has been carried out in the case of the races
of western Europe, might perhaps unravel to some extent the history of
these interesting peoples, but nothing of the kind has yet been
adequately attempted.

Although the Karens had no literature when the missionaries came to
them--not so much as an alphabet--they nevertheless had a saying among
themselves that they had once had a book which taught them the way of
life, but that through their carelessness they lost it. How the book was
lost did not clearly appear. Some said, they left it under the eaves of
the house, and the fowls scratching about, dislodged it so that it fell
to the ground, and there the pigs, rooting around, tore it to pieces or
covered it up. Others said that the book was placed on the stump of a
tree where, being of leather, it became softened by the action of the
water during the rainy season, and the hungry dogs found it and ate it
up. But granting an element of truth in the essential parts of this
narrative, no one can say at the present time what the Karen book was, or
even whether it was the source of their traditions.

It is of course possible that the Karens derived their ideas from the
Nestorian Christians at the same time that the gospel was carried by them
into China. But a serious objection to this theory is that they have no
knowledge of Christ--which would hardly seem possible if they had come
into contact with that source of information. A favorite view entertained
by many of the early missionaries was that the Karens belonged to the
lost tribes of Israel. This opinion seems not to be so commonly held at
the present day, and yet there is much to favor it. The Karen name for
God, Y'wah, is very like Yahweh which scholars suppose to have been the
ancient Hebrew pronunciation of the sacred name Jehovah. The Karen
language has several sounds which were common to the Semitic languages,
but do not appear to be in use except in a limited degree among the other
races of eastern Asia. The Karens know nothing of circumcision, but they
have certain customs which remind one of some of the Mosaic institutions,
notably the passover. When any one is taken ill, all the members of the
family will come together in the house--and they often travel long
distances in order that the family circle may be complete--and eat a pig.
No bone of the pig must be broken, and no one must go down out of the
house until the ceremony is over. Of course this custom differs from that
of the passover in that the pig was an abomination to the Jew. But the
use of the pig instead of the lamb might be accounted for from the fact
that, the Karens having no sheep, the pig would be the most convenient
substitute. Some of the early missionaries even thought they could
discern a Jewish cast in the Karen physiognomy. The present writer has
himself seen a few Karens who had the aquiline nose characteristic of the
Israelitish race. Several of these are members of a family in his own
field which is descended from an old priestly line. If further
observation and inquiry should elicit other instances of the kind, the
fact might indicate that, whatever may have been the origin of the Karen
race as a whole, it received in very early times an infiltration of
Jewish people who became its instructors and religious leaders. More than
this cannot at the present time be said. In general, however, the Karens
are purely Mongolian in their features and characteristics. They are
shorter in stature and darker in color than the Chinese, but not so dark
as either the Burmese or the Siamese. Like all these races, they have
broad cheek-bones and wide-flat nostrils, but not the almond eyes of the
Chinese. Their language, of which there are several dialects, is
monosyllabic, and is characterized by the peculiar intonations with which
all students of the languages of southeastern Asia are familiar. Thus the
word "meh" pronounced in a high, sustained key means "tooth"; pronounced
with a heavy, falling accent it means "tail"; terminated abruptly on a
middle pitch it means "eye"; a short, quick accent on a rather high key
gives it the significance of "sand"; a gentle circumflex accent makes it
mean a "mole" or some such disfigurement of the person; and, most
difficult of all for the foreigner to acquire, a somewhat prolonged
accent with a peculiar resonant quality of tone gives the meaning "bridal

A very singular circumstance in connection with the Karen traditions is
that they seem to contain no distinct and clear references to the flood,
accounts of which are so common among most primitive races. On account of
this peculiarity of Karen tradition the theory has sometimes been
broached that the Karens may have forsaken the cradle of the human race
even before the flood. This position would perhaps be tenable if, as some
affirm, the Scriptures do not assert the absolute universality of the
flood but only that it was co-extensive with the then known world.


[ Illustration--HILL KAREN WOMEN. ]

But, whatever view may be entertained of the origin of the Karen
traditions of the creation and fall, they certainly seem to have been
derived originally from the same source as the account given in the
Scripture, if not from the Scripture itself, and they are no doubt of
great antiquity. Their preservation in so great purity by mere word of
mouth is certainly remarkable, but not incredible, especially since the
fact has a well-known parallel in the Homeric poems which were in like
manner passed on verbally from generation to generation. Moreover the
natural isolation of a hill people would keep such transmissions free
from extraneous ideas to which contact with other races might render them


Having these wonderful traditions of the creation and fall and these
sublime conceptions of God, it might be thought that the Karens would
need nothing more; they would of course worship God, and there would be
no occasion for sending them missionaries. But, although the Karens knew
of God, they did not worship him. In times of persecution, to be sure,
their priests would gather them together and offer prayers on their
behalf, one of which is still preserved in the following form:--

"Our Father in heaven, we are greatly oppressed; we get down from our
houses when the hens get down from their roost; we return home when the
hens go to roost again. If we get four annas, it is taken away; if we get
two annas, it is taken away. Our graves are dug seven cubits deep, and
they scrape in the sand above us; there is none to lift our heads, there
is none to carry our feet. Come to us, O Lord, come to us."

To read these words now is affecting. They show how near the Karens came
to a true conception of the God of grace and how easily they might have
worshipped him. But these prayers were only occasional. In general the
people did not profess to pray to God or worship him in any way. On the
other hand, it comes with something of a shock to hear them acknowledge
that their religion, such as it is, consists in serving Satan, the one
who deceived them in the beginning, and carrying out his instructions.

Various accounts are given as to how this strange apostacy arose. One is
to the effect that after the fall one of the children of the first pair
was taken ill, and the parents said to themselves, "What shall we do? God
has forsaken us. We must betake ourselves to Satan again." So they went
to Satan, and asked him what they should do. "Well," said he, "you must
get a pig." So they got a pig, and Satan taught them certain ceremonies
that they must go through with. And they went through with these
ceremonies, and surely enough the child recovered. But a few days after,
another child was taken ill, and so they went to Satan again, and asked
him what they should do. "Well," said he, "did you get a pig and go
through with the ceremonies I taught you?" "Oh, yes," they said, "we have
done all that, and still our child is not getting any better, but is
rather growing worse." "Well, then," said Satan, "you must catch a fowl."
So they caught a fowl, and Satan taught them how to divine the omens from
the bones of the fowl. Just what the process is, the writer has not
learned, but it seems from the accounts given him to be something like
breaking the "wishbone," as is sometimes done among the children of white
people. They did just as Satan told them to do, but instead of getting
better their child continued to grow worse and finally died. So they went
to Satan again, and said, "Here, what do you mean? Our child was taken
ill, and we got a pig, and went through with the ceremonies you taught
us, and when that did not suffice, we got a fowl, and did just as you
told us to do; but instead of getting any better our child continued to
grow worse. In fact it died." "Oh, well," said Satan, "whenever any one
of you is taken ill, you must get a pig and go through with the
ceremonies I taught you, and if that does not suffice, you must get a
fowl, and do just as I told you to do, and--" here Satan used a play upon
words which made it possible to understand his meaning in either one of
two ways; that if the omens proved favorable, the person would live, and
if unfavorable, the person would die, or, what was an absolutely true,
but also an utterly heartless thing to say, that "If he is to live, he
will live and if he is to die, he will die." And that is all the comfort
and consolation that those poor people have had from that day to this,
for whenever any one of them is taken ill, they get pigs and fowls and do
just as Satan taught them to do, and surely enough it happens just as
Satan said--he must be given credit for telling the truth for once in his
life--if the person is to live, he lives, and if he is to die, he dies.

The writer sometimes avails himself of this account in preaching to the
heathen. He meets an old man on the jungle path--for over much of the
territory which he traverses there is nothing which one could dignify by
the title of "roads"--and says to him, "Uncle," a title of respect which
it is customary to use in addressing a senior, "did you know that the
Karen tradition is grievously at error in one point?" "Why, no," he says,
"I had not thought of it." Then the missionary goes on to say that where
the Karen tradition narrates the creation of the heavens and the earth,
how God created the heavens and the earth, and the sun and the moon and
the stars, how he created the grasses of the field and the trees of the
forest, and how he created man and woman, and placed them in the garden,
and gave them the command that they might eat of the fruit of all the
trees of the garden save one, but should not eat of that lest they die,
and how they disregarded the command, that is all true, but where the
Karen tradition goes on to say that God forsook the Karen people, there
it is in error, and very grievously in error. For, if a child says, "I
left my mother," that is one thing, but if it says, "My mother left me,"
that is an entirely different thing. For, if it says, "I left my mother,"
it is placing blame on no one but itself, but, if it says, "My mother
left me," it seems to be blaming the mother, for the mother ought to care
for the child. "And now," says the missionary, "if you Karens would say,
'We have forsaken God,' that would be one thing, but when you say that
God has forsaken you, that is an entirely different thing. For, if you
would say that you had forsaken God, you would be taking the blame upon
yourselves where it belongs, but when you say that God has forsaken you,
you seem to be laying the blame of your separation upon God, and it is a
very grievous sin to lay upon God the faults that are our own." And the
missionary does not remember ever to have preached in this way but that
his listener, if not sincerely convinced in his heart, was at least
silenced--he had nothing more to say.

Another way which the Karens have of accounting for their customs is by
reference to the manner in which their book was lost. They say that, as
the fowls and the pigs scratched down the book and covered it over, the
wisdom of the book must have gone into them, and that is the reason for
examining such animals for omens.

For the rest, the religious beliefs of the Karens are a jumble of
superstitions without system or consistency. In fact their ideas are so
vague and unrelated that they are frequently twitted by the Burmans with
having no religion at all. Whatever they have is pure animism or
so-called spirit-worship, which means not so much veneration of the
spirits as endeavor to placate them or in some way escape their evil
influence. For, strange to say, the Karens make their very conception of
the benignity of God an excuse for not worshipping him. They say, "God is
good any way. There is no need to be afraid of him. But there are any
number of evil spirits about, and there is no telling how much harm they
may do." The consequence is that, having no wholesome fear of God, they
are given over to countless other fears. They live in constant suspense
lest they may inadvertently run counter to some malicious, unseen power.
A free translation of a favorite Christian Karen hymn runs as follows:--

The heathen have much cause for fear,
    Nor is their dread in vain,
But children of the heavenly king
    With joy from fears refrain.

And nothing can more fittingly describe the difference between the two
classes of people. A heathen Karen will never start out on a journey if
he hears the call of the barking deer or sees a snake cross his path. In
times of scarcity he may go many miles to get a basket of rice, and if,
on his return, bearing the heavy load on his back, he hears or sees some
unfavorable omen, although he may be but a few steps from the house, he
will pour out the rice on the ground and not touch it again. Under every
bush or tree there is a spirit which may take offense. There are spirits
of the earth, spirits of the air, spirits of the mountains, spirits of
the plains, spirits of the forests, spirits of the fields, spirits of the
rocks, spirits of the springs, spirits throughout the haunted creation,
all bent on mischief to the unwary Karen who may cross their path.

Yet, by a strange inconsistency which seems to be characteristic of the
human race as a whole, although the Karens greatly dread these evil
spirits and think of them as being possessed of supernatural powers, they
nevertheless regard them as being very simple minded and easily imposed
upon, just as some people think God may be easily bought off or
hoodwinked. Sometimes they will make an offering of a small pig, but say
that it is a great boar--and they think the spirit will believe them. On
entering the house of a heathen Karen one may often see a deserted wasps'
nest hanging over the door. On inquiry he will learn that it is placed
there for the purpose of keeping the evil spirits away. They will come at
nightfall intending to enter the house and do some mischief, but their
attention is attracted by the nest, and they begin to wonder how many
cells there are in it. But it seems that they are very poor at counting.
So they will begin--"One, two, three, four, six--oh, I have made a
mistake and must begin over again. One, three, four--oh, I have made a
mistake and must begin over again. One, two, three, four, five, nine--oh,
I have made a mistake and must begin over again." And so they go on and
on, making mistakes and having to begin over and over again, until
morning dawns and they have to betake themselves to their proper abode.

Aside from these superstitions are many ideas, observances and rites
having no special connection with them. Dreams are ascribed to the
wandering of the spirit or good genius in sleep. Consequently a person
must never be awakened from sleep suddenly, lest his spirit may not have
time to get back into the body, and he may be taken ill. Sometimes
petitions are offered to the spirit beseeching it to return to its home.
A mother will go to a fork of the path near the house with some tidbit
which her sick child was accustomed to relish in health and call
plaintively to the spirit:--

O Spirit, wherever thou hast wandered,
O Elfin, wherever thou hast strayed,
Return to thy home,
Come back to the place of thine abode.

Necklaces are worn not so much for ornament as to give the wandering
spirit something to take hold of when it returns to the body.

In keeping with all these practices and ceremonies are to be found some
religious and racial conceptions less exalted than those suggested by the
noble tradition of the creation and fall and the sayings quoted in
connection with it. One story is that after Father God had created men
upon the earth, he observed that they did not multiply and increase as
they should. Upon careful inspection he found that a great dragon
encircled the entire horizon, and as men multiplied it would open its
mouth from time to time and swallow a large part of them. So Father God
forged a great spear the head of which weighed seven viss or about
twenty-five pounds, and hurled it at the dragon. But the dragon merely

"What kind of an insect is that biting me?" Then Father God forged
another spear so vast that when he lifted it, the sun in the heaven was
obscured for seven days and seven nights. With this he slew the dragon,
and from that time on men multiplied on the earth.

Further illustrations of these crude conceptions of God will be given in
a later chapter, but in this connection may be mentioned, in contrast
with the tradition of the Karen progenitors as being mighty by reason of
righteousness, the story of Taw Meh Pah which is very popular among the
Karens and has been handed down in various forms. This Taw Meh Pah (the
name means Sire of the Boar's Tush), is said to have been the original
ancestor of the Karens, corresponding to Abraham for the Jews. One story
is to the effect that when he was an old man, his wife died and he went
to live with his sons and sons-in-law. He found that a wild boar used to
come and destroy their crops. Then he said to himself, "I haven't much
longer to live any way, and a day or two more or less does not amount to
much. I will have a go at the boar." So he took his spear and went out in
search of the marauder. After a time he succeeded in finding its lair and
a tremendous struggle ensued. Taw Meh Pah on his part would make a thrust
at the boar with his spear, and the boar would make a dash at him. At
length the old man was able to defeat the boar, but he was so thoroughly
exhausted by the struggle that he could not take the carcase home and
told his sons to go out and fetch it. They went out and looked around,
but found nothing, and returning scolded the old man, saying, "Here, old
man, you have lied to us. There is no boar there, and we have had all our
trouble for nothing." But Taw Meh Pah replied indignantly, "You worthless
fellows, when the boar was alive, you dared not even look at it, and now
that I have killed it, can't you so much as find the carcase? I will show
you where it is." So they went out together to find it. The reason the
sons had not been able to find it was that it was so large they had
mistaken it for a mountain. Finally with their best efforts they were
able to carry home one of the boar's tushes only. Others say that the
boar was a magical being, and Taw Meh Pah could not kill it, but he so
far overcame it that one of its tushes dropped out, and this they found
and took home. Taw Meh Pah sat in the house and made a comb out of the
tush. On combing his hair with it, he found to his astonishment that he
had become a young man again. Being a young man, he found himself another
wife, lived with her until she grew old and died, combed his hair again
and became a young man, found another wife and lived with her until she
grew old and died, then combed his hair again and so on. How long he kept
up the process no one knows, but it is said that whenever a wife died, he
pulled out one of her teeth to remember her by, and when last heard from,
he had three bushel basketfuls of the teeth.

This form of the story has probably had many embellishments. Another form
which seems to be more ancient, is to the effect that Taw Meh Pah's wife
was still living when he killed the boar, and that not only she but all
his descendants used the comb and so were no longer subject to sickness
and death. As a result of this they multiplied very rapidly, until the
land where they were living could no longer support them. Then Taw Meh
Pah started out in search of a better country, where the soil should be
so rich that, instead of the earth which is dug out of a hole not filling
the hole when it is put back in, as is the case in the present abode of
the Karen people, it should fill the hole seven times. In his wanderings
he came to a great river of flowing sand. On this side of the river the
earth would fill its hole four times, but when he reached the other side
of the river, he found that the earth would fill its hole the requisite
number of times, seven. Then he returned to take his people to that
favored land, but when they had gone a ways, they complained that they
were so hungry and tired they must stop a while to eat and rest. So they
waited to cook a dinner of snails, as has been mentioned in a previous
chapter of this book, and Taw Meh Pah, wearied with waiting, went on
ahead, promising to blaze a path for them. He cut down stalks of the
plantain or banana tree to mark the way. This grows up very quickly, and
so when the people, who were not then familiar with it, came on later,
they thought Taw Meh Pah must have gone so far ahead that they could
never catch up with him, and they became discouraged and stayed where
they are now.

The story thus far is only curious. It seems like a possible reminiscence
of the early migrations of the Karen race. Its crudeness is evident. But
the account goes onto say that Taw Meh Pah is still watching over his
people from that land of seven-fold richness, and when they have
sufficiently expiated their sin of disobedience, he will come for them
again, and take them to that better abode where they will live in
happiness, free from sickness, old age and death.

Here is an element in the story which is of interest in the present
connection as showing, even among their cruder conceptions, a strong
moral consciousness on the part of the Karen people and also a dim
Messianic hope. Some Christian Karens who have made a study of ancient
Karen traditions with a view to discovering in them anything which might
indicate an early Scriptural origin, go so far as to see in Taw Meh Pah a
likeness to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, for to the Karens the wild
boar instead of the lion would be the king of beasts, there being no
fiercer denizen of the forests. But, whatever one may think of this
interpretation, this much is clear, that there is nothing debasing either
in this story or in the various accounts of God which are given. In fact
vileness and immorality seem never to have gotten a strong hold upon the
thoughts and ideals of the Karen people, and it has to be said that,
notwithstanding their open and professed obedience to Satan, their
practices are not as degrading as might be expected. They do not compare
in vileness, for instance, with those of the Hindus. The inference is not
far to seek, that it is better, from the standpoint of morals and
religion, to follow Satan out and out than to hold a debased conception
of God. Even though Satan be obeyed, a sense of the presence and power of
a holy God may still remain in the background of the consciousness, but
if the thought of God himself be perverted, there is nothing left to
restrain the soul.


Although the Karen people forsook their God and betook themselves to the
service of Satan, it is satisfying to note that he did not forsake them,
but followed them with his mercy, even as he dealt with the Israelites of
old. For, as he sent prophets from time to time to the latter to recall
them to himself, so he raised up among the Karens those who, it would
seem, were truly inspired of him. For it should be borne in mind that
even in the Old Testament days there were those, like Melchizedek and
Jethro, who, although they did not belong to the chosen race of Abraham
and his descendants, were nevertheless truly God's spokesmen before the
world. And so it seems not unreasonable to suppose that these Karen
prophets were prophets indeed. In no other way is it easy to account for
their marvellous and uplifting messages to their people.

And as these prophets rose from time to time, they sought to encourage
their people in the midst of their oppressions and afflictions, and they
said, "Children and grandchildren, God will yet save the Karen nation. He
will bring deliverance ta the Karen people." Sometimes, as in ecstacy,
reminding one of the Hebrew prophets of old, they hurled defiance against
their ancient foes, exclaiming of Ava, the chief city of the Burmans:--

The city of Ava says she is great,--
    She is not equal to the heel of God's foot;
The city of Ava says she is exceedingly great,--
    She is not equal to the sole of God's foot.

Some went on to say how deliverance was to come. "Our younger brother,
the white foreigner, will come to us from beyond the setting sun, and
will bring back to us our lost book to teach us the way of life. Formerly
it was of leather. Now it will be of gold and silver." And some of them
went on to describe the appearance of the white foreigner, seeming to see
him in vision, and they said, "Our younger brother, the white foreigner,
when he comes to us, will be clothed in garments of shining black and
shining white." When it is remembered that the Karens seldom wear black
in their garments and, although they do wear white, it could never by any
stretch of the imagination be thought of as a "shining" white, but is
always a very dingy, not to say a dirty, white, the significance of the
language becomes evident. Some went on to say further that this younger
brother would come wearing a hat like a snail's shell. And to this day
the Karen will occasionally call the attention of the missionary to the
hats which are worn by white people in that country, made of pith and
cork, exceedingly light and affording an excellent protection against the
sun, but with their inverted-chopping-bowl appearance bearing indeed a
certain resemblance to a snail's shell.

Incredible as it may seem to some, the prophecies which have been cited
appear to have been universally known among the Karens and to have long
antedated the coming of the missionary. The writer has been assured of
this by members of his own mission who have told him that their own
ancestors were priests and uttered these prophecies from time to time
with solemn ceremony. Certain it is that among all Karens, heathen as
well as Christian, there is a most kindly attitude towards the white man,
as towards a younger brother. This can perhaps not be better illustrated
than by narrating one or two stories which are current among them.

One, which is evidently intended to account for the superiority of other
races over the Karens, relates that once on a time Father God was taken
with a mortal illness and sent for his three sons, the Karen Brother, the
Burmese brother, and the white brother. The white brother dropped his
work and went at once, and Father God was able to impart to him all his
wisdom, so that to this day the white brother is able to build ships and
do other wonderful things like unto God himself. The Burmese brother
delayed for a time, and Father God was able to impart to him less wisdom.
The Karen brother was busy in the field and did not get to Father God's
bedside until after Father God had died, in fact not until after the body
had been burned according to the custom of funerals in that country.
There remained only a fragment of the bamboo matting in which Father God
had been wrapped, and so to this day the poor Karen has no skill except
to weave bamboo mats. But the Karen is not without hope, for the account
goes on to say that the younger brother will come some day and impart his
wisdom to the Karen brother.

Another story is that one day a Karen took his basket on his back and
wandered away into a far country. After many days, he met a white brother
and asked him where he was going.

"I am going to worship Father God," said the white brother.

"I would like to go, too," said the Karen.

"Very well, come along," said the white brother, and the two went on
together. While they journeyed, the white brother told the Karen that
they might not find Father God awake.

"He sleeps seven years, and is awake seven years," said the white
brother, "and I really do not know whether it is day or night with him
now." After a time, they came to a great wall of rock, and the white
brother lifting his staff smote it, and a portal opened in the rock
through which the two went together. Arrived at Father God's abode they
found that, surely enough. Father God was asleep. But the white brother,
not to be deterred, seized an enormous rattan of the kind which is used
for rafting logs on the rivers, and ran it vigorously up and down in
Father God's nostrils for the purpose of waking him up. Finding his
efforts in vain, he mounted his horse and galloped up and down in Father
God's nostrils until Father God sneezed and woke up. Then Father God
turned to the white brother, and inquired why he had wakened him so

"Why," said the white brother, "the Karen brother has come and I thought
you would like to see him."

"Oh, is that so?" said Father God, "where is he?" Then the Karen came
forward and Father God held a long conversation with him, asking all
about his family and surroundings and living conditions. Finally Father
God asked:

"What is that you have on your back?"

"My basket," the Karen replied.

"Let me see it," said Father God, and Father God took the basket and
filled it with a vast amount of treasure, enough to enrich an entire

"Now," said Father God, putting on the lid tightly, "you must not take
off this lid until you get home," and so saying dismissed the Karen
brother with his blessing. On the way home the Karen brother was met by
the Burman brother and asked what he had in his basket.

"I do not know," said the Karen brother, "for Father God filled the
basket and told me I must not open it until I got home."

"But I want to see," said the Burman brother.

"I will not let you," replied the Karen brother.

"But I will," said the Burman brother, thereupon seizing the basket by
force and removing the lid. He took out the contents of the basket, but
was not able to put them back again, and so the Karen brother was obliged
to return to his home as poor as when he left. But the Karens say that
Father God has promised to give them another basket, and some are still
looking for it.

The Karens have always been loyal to the white man's government, and when
during the third Burmese war in 1886 to 1888, the British forces were
engaged in Upper or Northern Burma and some disaffected persons attempted
to start insurrections in Lower Burma and carried on a species of
guerilla warfare, it was the Karens, mostly Christen Karens, who pursued
them in little bands and enabled the British government to keep the
situation under control. And when at last the Burmese kingdom was brought
to an end by the annexation of its territories by the British and the
Burmese king was interned in one of the cities of India as a prisoner of
state, none rejoiced more than did they.

It may be of interest to add that, while the Karens were prepared, as
indicated above, in a most remarkable degree to receive the bible at the
hands of their younger brother, the white foreigner, they were at the
same time prevented from accepting any other book. The Burmese had an
extensive literature, but these prophecies contained a special warning
not to receive the Bedegat or sacred book of the Buddhists, scratched
with a pointed stylus on palm leaf.

"Not these the letters given before,
Those God will yet again restore,
These letters we must not receive,
The golden book alone believe."

And when at last the missionary came with the book, some of the Karens
were interested to note the gilt edges of some of the bibles and the
leaves white like silver, while more and more they understood that the
description given by their prophets applied to the preciousness of the
teachings contained, as of silver and of gold.

So it came about that when the missionary found these people, they were
fairly standing on the tiptoe of expectation looking eagerly for his


One can understand how in the circumstances the early triumphs of the
gospel among the Karen people were very marked indeed, especially when it
is added that, besides what he had already done for them, God inspired
some of the earliest disciples among them with truly apostolic fervor.
The very first convert, Koh Thah Byu (last syllable pronounced Bew to
rhyme with Jew), was such a man. At the outset, he was a most unpromising
person. Little is known of his early life. He was born about the year
1778 at a village called Ootwan some four days' journey or eighty miles
north of Bassein. He resided with his parents until he was about fifteen
years of age, then wandered forth to become a highway robber and bandit.
It is supposed from his own confession that he was responsible, either as
principal or accessory, for the death of no fewer than thirty persons.

Soon after the first Burmese war, 1822-1824, in which the Tenasserim
province was ceded to the British, he visited Rangoon. There he
contracted a trifling debt, some $5 or $6 in the currency of the day,
and, not being able to pay it, was seized by his creditor, in accordance
with Burmese law, and was made his slave. Shortly after, Maung Shway Bay,
one of Dr. Judson's Burmese converts, found the Karen man, paid his debt,
thus releasing him from slavery, and brought him to Dr. Judson. The
missionary at once began instructing him in the principles of the
Christian religion, but he was able to communicate with him through the
medium of the Burmese language only which the poor Karen understood
indifferently. In any case the latter seems at that time, to have been a
rather stupid fellow--at least he is so characterized in Dr. Judson's
journal. Very likely he was stupid enough, but, being a Karen, it is not
improbable that he appeared to be rather more stupid than he really was,
for it is characteristic of the race for a Karen not to appear at his
full value. Moreover he had a most terrible temper--"diabolical" is the
word by which Dr. Judson who was a very mild man and did not use stronger
language than was necessary, described it. So it seemed a long time
before the gospel made any impression on the man, but at length it got a
grip upon him and performed such a miracle of grace as is sometimes
witnessed in more favored lands, when the gospel gets a grip on a man and
changes him through and through. It changed Koh Thah Byu through and
through, took out of him his heart of stone and gave him a heart of
flesh; removed from him his terrible temper so that he became as meek as
a child, and endowed him with a deep insight into the things of God.

For a time the little Burman church that had been gathered was slow to
admit this member of a despised race into its fellowship, but at length,
seeing proofs of a change of heart which could not be gainsaid, it
consented, and appointed a day for the baptism. But before the time
arrived Koh Thah Byu decided to accompany Rev. George Dana Boardman to
Tavoy. At that place he was accordingly baptized, May 16, 1828, the first
convert from among his people.

Koh Thah Byu soon displayed great zeal in preaching the gospel to his own
race, and his work was attended with remarkable success. And as Paul
sought to preach the gospel from Jerusalem round about unto Illyricum
where the blessed Name had not so much as been mentioned, so this man
beginning at Tavoy and Mergui on the south went preaching the word
through Maulmein and Rangoon and Pegu and Bassein until he found his
grave on the extreme Arakanese coast. In all these fields he was the
pioneer. At first he confined his labors to the immediate neighborhood of
Tavoy, visiting Karen villages only one or two days' journey away. Then
he made a tour across the mountains on the east to Tshiekku, where he
found a company of Karens ignorantly venerating a book which some devout
Englishman had given to one of their number, and which afterward proved
to be a copy of the Book of Common Prayer, published at Oxford. At his
suggestion, this book, which the people, of course, could not read, but
nevertheless kept carefully wrapped in many coverings, was brought to
Tavoy to Mr. Boardman, and on its real character being explained to them,
they at once ceased to worship it, and accepted the gospel. Koh Thah Byu
afterwards visited their village several times and taught school there
one or two rainy seasons.

But ever as he labored this devoted follower of the Lord found his heart
enlarged within him. He was constantly devising plans for the extension
of the work. Once he made an important tour to Mergui. Later he undertook
a journey to Siam that he might preach the gospel to the Karens there,
but he was turned back by the Siamese officials on the border and not
permitted to proceed. During the brief but remarkable missionary career
of the consecrated Mr. Boardman he accompanied the latter on his tours,
and it is evidence of the esteem in which he was already held that, after
the pathetic, yet glorious death of that godly man as he was being borne
home in a litter after witnessing the baptism of thirty-four Karens, Koh
Thah Byu had resting on him for a time the entire care of the church and
the instruction of inquirers. Scarcely was he freed from this obligation,
however, when he went to Maulmein, and began with equal vigor the work of
the ministry there. In the spring of 1833, he extended his labors to
Rangoon and the Pegu district, achieving there, perhaps, his grandest
successes. He visited many villages, and won many converts to Christ. Nor
was this work prosecuted without meeting opposition. Rangoon was still
under the dominion of the Burmans. The latter determined to use their
power for the suppression of the new religion. The Karens were forbidden
to learn to read, and at a somewhat later period some actually suffered
martyrdom for the cause of Christ. But Koh Thah Byu was fearless in his
labors, and notwithstanding persecution, hundreds of Karens boldly took
their stand for Christ.

But Koh Thah Byu was already beginning to feel the effects of old age.
His arduous and unremitting labors, the privations and hardships he
endured, the long fatiguing journeys he made, always on foot and often
through pouring rains and swollen streams, brought upon him serious
rheumatic trouble. When he heard that Mr. Abbott was to go to Arakan, a
British territory on the west, in the hope of reaching the Karens of
Bassein from that point, he was ready to accompany him, and actually took
up labor there with renewed zeal, but his disease was so far advanced
that he could accomplish but little. On the 9th of September, 1840, he
went to his reward. The records show that at that time there were about
1,270 members of the churches, most of whom, it is said, had been
converted under his preaching.

Koh Thah Byu was a man of very great power, and, as has been said, of
deep insight into the things of God. Not that he ever became a broadly
learned man, after the modern acceptation of the term, but when one
thinks of much of the learning of these days and of the philosophy
falsely so called, one is reminded of the saying of the great American
sage, Josh Billings, "It is better not to know so much than to know so
many things that aint so." Koh Thah Byu never knew a great many things
that are not so, but he knew a few verities with all the intensity of his
nature, and his preaching has been described as being like the boring of
an augur, round and round and round on a few points until he had drilled
them into the minds and hearts of his hearers. He probably could not have
made a successful pastor, for his work was distinctly evangelistic. This
he did remarkably well, and to this day is known as The Karen Apostle.

Not only in the person of Koh Thah Byu, but in the persons of others as
well, God raised up at the very beginning in several of the missions to
the Karens, men of like apostolic fervor. Such were Saw Tah Ree and Saw
Doo Moo of Shwegyin. Rev. Norman Harris began the work there in the year
1853, reaching the town of Shwegyin one Saturday afternoon. The next
morning he gathered the few disciples who had come with him under an old
forsaken shed and preached to them the gospel, taking for his text those
wonderful words, "Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of
the world." While he was preaching, a Karen man passing by and attracted
by the strange sight, stopped to listen. He had been familiar from
childhood up with the traditions of his people and with their expectation
of the coming of the younger brother who should bring to them the word of
life. But he had wearied of watching for the coming of the brother, and
finding nothing in the practices of his people to satisfy the longings of
his heart, had turned to Buddhism. He was among the earliest to go to the
pagoda to worship in the morning, always taking with him his offering,
and he was among the most attentive listeners to the teachings of the
pongyees or monks. Yet he found no satisfaction in it all. But when he
heard the white man speaking in his own tongue and saw him reading from a
book, he believed at once, recognized in the white man the younger
brother, and in the book the long-lost book of his people, and accepted
the teachings he heard as very manna to his soul. Stealing away
unobserved he took his family and friends, and in a few days returned
bringing them with him, and seven weeks from that first Lord's Day, the
first church of Shwegyin was organized with eight members who had that
day been baptized. Saw Tah Ree himself became an evangelist of power
among his people.

Saw Doo Moo also was prepared by God in a remarkable manner for the
preaching of the gospel among his people. Living some distance to the
north of Shwegyin, he rose one morning with his wife and children in
their accustomed health, but at sundown that day the wife and all the
children except a nursing infant were dead, having been stricken down by
that dreadful scourge, the cholera. Distracted with grief, he left the
little one in the care of a friendly Burmese woman, and then wandered
forth not caring whither he went. For orientals are not without feeling,
as is too often supposed. They do not indeed show their emotions on the
surface as much as do the people of the west. A congregation will sit and
look at the preacher with about as much expression on their faces--to use
their own description--as on so many toadstools; but when the preacher
hears them refer to his sermon a year or, perhaps, five or ten years
after, he feels that it has somehow gotten a hold upon them. Yes, the
oriental has as deep feelings as have others, and so Saw Doo Moo left the
nursing infant and wandered forth in the grief and anguish of his heart
not caring whither he went; rose early in the morning and went on all day
long, stopping wherever night overtook him, rose again early the next
day, and wandered on, week after week, until at last he was found by some
Christian Karens down near Mergui, hundreds of miles away from his home.
He told them the story of his grief, and they on their part told him of
the balm in Gilead. He believed. His wounded heart was healed. He
returned as far as Maulmein, entered the little school which the
missionaries had prepared for the training of evangelists, learned to
read, studied the Scriptures, and when Mr. Harris went to Shwegyin to
found the mission there, or soon after, he was ready to go with him, and
largely through the preaching of these two men, Saw Tah Ree and Saw Doo
Moo, during the first year of Mr. Harris's ministry on that field, there
were no fewer than five hundred and seventy-seven converts.

Saw Quah Lah was an evangelist who in the beginning of the Toungoo
mission met with even greater success. It is said that through his
efforts nearly two thousand converts were gathered into the churches. He
did a great work, and for a time was highly respected. Later he fell into
sin, and had to be excluded from the fellowship of the church. He made
full and humble confession and gave evidence of the deepest penitence. He
was restored to the fellowship of the church, but was not permitted to
partake again in the work of the ministry. The whole affair was a cause
of great grief to the disciples but it had a partially compensating
advantage, for it taught the new converts that the moral demands of the
Christian religion were high and not to be lightly tampered with.


It is difficult to transport oneself in imagination to the early
beginnings of the work among the Karen people, and to conceive of the
immense enthusiasm which prevailed on the part of both the missionaries
and the converts. At first the missionaries attempted to reach the Karens
through the medium of the Burmese language, and they have been subjected
to considerable criticism because they did not continue to do so. Some of
the Karens, especially of the men, already understood Burmese, and it has
been thought by many that, if the missionaries had disregarded the Karen
language, which was the dialect of a comparatively insignificant people,
this would have tended greatly to the unification and strengthening of
the entire work in Burma. Aside from the fact that any people is most
effectively approached through its own tongue, it would probably have
been quite practicable to continue the work among the Karens through the
Burmese language. Even to this day, in the missions to the Brecks and
Bwehs and other small Karen tribes of the Toungoo field, no attempt is
being made to translate the Scriptures into the different dialects of the
people. Religious work among them is carried on through the medium of the
Sgaw dialect of the Karen language, which is practically a foreign
language to many of them. Sgaw is taught in the schools, but among the
churches it is customary for the pastors to read the Scriptures in Sgaw
and then preach and pray in the language of their people. Similarly, it
would probably have been quite possible for the missionaries to teach
Burmese in their schools, content themselves with the excellent
translation which Dr. Judson had made of the bible into that tongue, and
let the native pastors put into the vernacular from time to time whatever
was necessary for the edification of the more ignorant of their people.

This, apparently, is precisely what the missionaries started out to do;
but special circumstances arose which seemed to make it imperative for
them to pursue a different course. As has been said, Koh Thah Byu was
baptized May 16, 1828. It was not until June, 1831, that Rev. Jonathan
Wade, who had been in the country since 1823, went from Maulmein on a
preaching tour to the Karen village of Tah Kreh. He was accompanied by an
interpreter and had evidently made no attempt, up to that time, to
acquire the Karen language. At the sight of the white stranger the
villagers, who supposed that he was a government official of some sort,
all took to their heels and fled to the surrounding jungle. After he and
the interpreter had waited patiently for quite a long time, an old man
appeared, and the interpreter called to him, saying that they were not
government officials but preachers who had come to tell them of the new
religion. After considerable persuasion he succeeded in allaying the old
man's fears and getting him to call the other villagers back to their
homes. Then all the people gathered around and listened to the message
which Mr. Wade had to bring. But all unexpectedly an old man from the
company spoke up and asked Mr. Wade for the book. At first Mr. Wade did
not understand what the man meant, and asked him what book he wanted.

"The Karen book," said the man.

"But the Karens have never had a book," said Mr. Wade, "and how can I
give you one?

"Not so, O Teacher," replied the Karen man, proceeding to tell the story
of the lost book as it has already been rehearsed in these pages. "We
Karens once had a book of leather, but we lost it, and the elders tell us
that when the white man comes he will bring us our lost book, and then we
shall prosper. Now the white man has come, but where is our book? If you
bring us our book, we will welcome you. If not, you must go back and
fetch it." This insistent demand on the part of the Karen people in
accordance with their traditions seemed to make it necessary that the
missionaries, if they would do a really effective work among them, should
give them the bible in their own vernacular. This it was which decided
them to reduce the Karen language to writing. Mr. Wade is said to have
accomplished this feat before he himself had learned to speak it. Those
who are familiar with its ear-teasing consonants and complicated system
of vowel tones wonder how he did it. It stands today as a monument to his
genius. He adapted the Burmese alphabet to the expression of Karen
sounds, and produced a system of writing which is purely phonetic. Some
have wondered that he did not adapt the Roman alphabet instead, but this
is easily explained. Some Karen sounds defy expression with Roman
letters, to begin with, and a Karen who had already learned to read
Burmese could readily pass from that to Karen, while on the other hand,
if he learned first to read his own language, he could easily pick up the
Burmese; and to the average Karen, Burmese must, for many generations, be
of much more value than English.

The language vehicle having been determined upon, the next thing in order
was to produce a literature. Among the first books to be translated was,
of course, the bible. This great task was undertaken by Dr. Mason, and an
excellent version from the original tongues was produced. An anthology
worthy to grace any language was prepared, over two hundred hymns,
remarkably true to the idiom of the language and to the genius of the
Karen people, issuing from the pen of the first Mrs. Vinton alone. A
Karen who seems to have had an extraordinarily comprehensive knowledge of
his own language, people and customs, was found, and, although the Karen
is thought of as having a rather meager vocabulary, yet with his
assistance and at his dictation, a compendium of Karen terms and ideas
was compiled in five thick volumes, called The Karen Thesaurus, which has
not been surpassed to this day and deserves to rank almost as an
encyclopedia. Spelling books were prepared, and arithmetics, geographies,
astronomies and other books in great number. Schools were almost from the
beginning a necessity, demanded by the people themselves, for as soon as
a Karen adopts the Christian religion, he wants two things, first, to
acquire knowledge, second, to improve his physical surroundings. Children
and adults sat on the same forms and studied out of the same book
unashamed. To this day, they seem almost to think that to be able to read
is part of being a Christian, for seldom does a Karen turn to the
Christian religion but in some way he manages to acquire at least a
knowledge of the alphabet. Schools for primary instruction were early
started at Maulmein and Tavoy, to be followed later by schools of higher
grade as the need arose. Very soon the necessity for the special training
of evangelists and pastors being felt, in 1845 Rev. J. G. Binney, D.D.,
opened at Maulmein the Theological Seminary which was subsequently
removed to Rangoon, and is now located at Insein, doing an important

From the account of Koh Thah Byu, it will be seen that for many years
missionary operations among the Karens were of necessity largely confined
to the provinces which were under British rule. Much was secretly
accomplished in the neighborhood of Rangoon, to be sure, and in the year
1840, Rev. E. L. Abbott opened a very successful mission at Sandoway for
the purpose of reaching the Karen refugees who fled from the Bassein
district to escape Burmese oppression; but little else could be
accomplished. In 1852, however, a war broke out between the Burmans and
the British, as a result of which a large portion of the former Burmese
kingdom, including practically all the territory inhabited by Karens, was
ceded to the British.

Very soon after the opening of hostilities, the city of Rangoon was
taken, and at once Rev. J. H. Vinton--the illustrious head of an
illustrious family of which no fewer than nine members have seen service
on the foreign field--hastened to the city that he might minister to the
needs of the destitute and suffering Karens. He found that every Karen
village within fifty miles had been destroyed, and that five thousand
Karen refugees were living in carts and under trees within seven miles of
the city. Their standing crops were burned, and their stores of rice were
either seized or destroyed. The Burmans, supposing the Karens to be
secret friends of the British invaders, had tortured and killed men,
women and children with ingenious brutality and unspeakable cruelty. Two
native preachers had been crucified besides having sharp pointed stakes
driven down their throats. Some of the victims had been slowly cut to
pieces joint by joint, or limb by limb, through successive days, while
others had been fastened to crosses and then set adrift upon rafts that
their death agonies might be aggravated by the sight of cooling water. It
was discovered that many of the Karen disciples had been driven at the
point of the spear into the front ranks of the Burmese army to fight the
British. After they had fallen, pierced by the bullets of those whom in
their hearts they were welcoming, portions of the Scriptures were found
concealed on their persons.

With the close of the war came greatly enlarged opportunities for work
among the Karens, opportunities of which the missionaries were the better
able to avail themselves because of the many years of waiting and
preparation. Pentecostal blessings attended Mr. Vinton's efforts at
Rangoon. The mission at Sandoway, already prosperous, was removed to
Bassein and there received an impetus which placed it easily in the lead
of the missions to the Karens. The stations at Henzada, Toungoo and
Shwegyin were all opened in the year 1853. The first mentioned was
inaugurated by Rev. B. C. Thomas, a man of indomitable energy whose
overflowing spirits are still remembered with affection by the Karens.
The mission at Toungoo was opened by Dr. Mason, ably assisted by Saw Quah
Lah, the native evangelist already mentioned, under whose ministry
twenty-eight churches were organized. In the Shwegyin mission, the story
of the founding of which by Rev. Norman Harris has already been told in
part, the first year saw the organization of six churches.

In all these fields not only were churches organized and gathered into
associations, but from the beginning all the activities proper to a
well-regulated Christian community were adopted. Karen pastors were
chosen and placed in charge of the churches. Schools were started, the
station school under the direct oversight of the missionary and village
schools as fast as teachers could be supplied. Missions, both home and
foreign, were instituted and evangelists sent out to various parts. At
the very first meeting of the Shwegyin association, for instance, four
men were appointed to evangelize the far-off regions of Northern Siam.
Throughout the whole Karen community, converts were gathered by hundreds
and thousands, and for a time it seemed that the entire people would be
Christianized, fulfilling the prophecy that a nation shall be born in a


The work was not to be without hindrances. The early promise was not to
be fully realized. Not only did the large ingatherings cease, but, for a
time, many went back. It is probably an almost universal experience that,
when converts are made in large numbers, there follows a period of
reaction. Such is the case even in Europe and America, as witness the
Welsh revival under Evan Roberts. Those early Karen disciples were very
ignorant. It is said that they knew two things only, first, that their
book had been brought back to them, and second, that they had no need to
fear the evil spirits, for Jesus was stronger than the evil spirits. That
was enough for salvation, and many no doubt died triumphant in that
simple faith, but it was not enough for the highest efficiency in the
Christian life. This very ignorance of the early disciples rendered them
liable to be easily led astray, and in the pioneer years of the Karen
missions there were defections which could hardly have taken place after
the converts had become more intelligently established in Christian
truth. Fortunately there were sayings of the elders handed down from
ancient times which served in some measure to hold the people to their
new-found hope. One ran as follows:--

"Children and grandchildren, in the latter days many different faiths
will arise. Be not led about hither and thither by them. When you find
one that does away with the whisky still, that is good enough. Stick to
it." The consequence is that any form of religion which does not
discountenance drinking, even though it may profess to be Christian, is
likely to have little hold upon them.

Moreover some heathen customs have always made it very difficult for a
Karen to leave his family and become a Christian. For instance in
connection with the ceremony already mentioned of eating a pig when some
one has been taken ill, if the family circle should be broken by the
refusal of one member of the family to be present, and the sick person
should die, the blame for it would be laid on the recalcitrant member.
Not that the Christian need care for that, but as a Christian, he must
have consideration for the consciences of others and not impose his
convictions upon them. On this account it has sometimes happened that a
person who fully intended to become a Christian, will first wait to
perform certain heathen ceremonies by means of which it is supposed that
he can forever sever himself from all the obligations of his former
faith. Too often the delay has proved fatal. The person himself has died,
or, overpersuaded by others, he has lost his interest in the new religion
and has gone back forever to the old.

Very early evil-minded persons began to circulate malicious stories about
the white foreigner and his religion. The writer remembers one such story
which became current in his childhood regarding his father, and was
doubtless believed by many of the naturally credulous among the heathen
Karens. It ran about as follows:--

"An old Karen lay at the point of death. Calling his children about him,
he spoke to them as follows: 'My dear children, I have something to tell
you. When Teacher Harris came here, I was one of his first and most
zealous followers. I had perfect confidence in him and did everything he
said without doubt or question. But when he had made about a dozen
converts, he invited us to take a ride with him in his boat. He took us
down the river and out to sea. There a great and wonderful ship awaited
us with sails which were like wings and carried it faster than any ship
we had ever seen before, faster even than the fastest clouds. The room
which he occupied was luxuriously furnished and decorated with gold and
silver. After sailing for many, many days, the ship stopped in its course
near an island. Bye and bye, it began to be rumored that here on this
island lived the Daw T'kah, a great monster which delights to devour
human flesh. And surely enough, the Daw T'kah himself soon came on board
to bargain for us, and when he had poured out a roomful of gold for the
teacher, he scooped the disciples off the deck into his bag with one hand
as you would gather grains from a winnowing tray, and returned to his
home. Fortunately for me, when I saw what was about to happen, I slipped
out of sight and dropped into the hold of the ship. There I was able to
secrete myself until I knew we were well on our way home. Then I became
very hungry and was forced to leave my hiding place. I threw myself at
the teacher's feet, and begged him to spare my life. At first he was very
angry, and threatened to kill me with the most horrible cruelties, but
after much entreaty on my part he finally consented to spare me on one
condition. I was to keep all that I had seen a profound secret as long as
I lived, and in the meantime was to use all my influence in getting more
converts for him. I have kept my promise faithfully, for I knew that if I
did not, the teacher would devise the most excruciating tortures for me.
But now I am about to die, and I can keep the terrible secret no longer.
Listen to what I say. Beware, beware of these Christian teachers!'"

So when Kahchur, a Karen boy, was taken to America to be educated, many
of his heathen neighbors professed to believe during his long absence
that the missionary had fed him to the Daw T'kah, and declared their
intention if ever Kahchur returned, to become Christians and worship his
God. When, however, Kahchur indeed returned, went among them and urged
them to keep their pledge, they refused to believe that he was the real
Kahchur, saying that he was a clever substitute.

But a far more serious obstacle to the acceptance of the gospel by the
Karens than any of these has ever been their essential antagonism to
Christianity because of the high morality which it demands, this in spite
of their own comparatively high moral standards. The human heart is the
same the world over, and the real hindrances to the spread of the gospel
are singularly alike among all races of men. In general, the acceptance
of Christianity is not so much a matter of the head as of the heart.
Especially among so simple-minded a race as the Karens, it is not
particularly difficult to convince people of the truth of the Christian
religion. There is that in the gospel which compels conviction so that
with very little preaching they admit its truth and confess its claims.
But the missionary may say to the heathen Karen today:

"You admit the truth of this religion; you acknowledge that you ought to
become a Christian. Then why do you not?" what will the answer be?
Perhaps one would naturally expect him to say:

"I do not know enough about your religion." But such is not the case. He
will say:

"If I become a Christian, I will have to give up drinking, and
card-playing, and theatre-going, and dancing. And I do not want to."
For--whatever may be the case in more enlightened countries and among a
more civilized people--even among the heathen Karens these practices are
not considered consistent with a Christian profession, although it might
not be easy to prove that they are more debasing than are the
corresponding practices among the people of the west. They have their
intoxicating liquors, vile smelling to be sure, but palatable to their
lips. They have their theatres certainly cruder and more childish, but
possibly no more immoral than some theatrical performances tolerated in
American cities. Of dancing there are various kinds. The Karen is little
more than a slow walk. The Burmese is a kind of posturing which looks as
senseless to the westerner as perhaps the westerner's does to the
oriental, while to the oriental his own mode of dancing probably appears
to be the more modest, as men and women do not dance together. All these
things are recognized by the heathen themselves as being entirely proper
for heathen, but improper and unsuitable for Christians; and here is one
of the chief obstacles to their acceptance of Christianity.

The incoming of different faiths has been a source of perplexity to some.
A Karen once said to the writer:

"What are we to believe? Our fathers taught us one thing; they told us
that there is a God who made the heavens and the earth, but they did not
worship him. The Burmese Buddhists tell us that there is no God, or at
least, that we can know nothing about him. The Hindus believe something
else. And even when you white people come to us, you do not agree among
yourselves, but have your different churches, such as the Roman Catholic
and the Protestant. How can we tell which religion we ought to accept?"

"Oh," said the missionary in reply, "I grant you there are many faiths
but there are only two roads. If you are going along one road, you cannot
go along another at the same time. If you wish to follow the other road,
you have to leave the first one. Now, tell me, if you follow the old
Karen road may you drink?"

"Oh, yes," said the man, "that is part of the ceremony."

"If you become a Buddhist, may you still drink?"


"And do you worship idols and venerate the monks?"


"And if you become a Hindu or a Roman Catholic, is it the same?"


"Do you not see, then, that that is all the same road? But if you become
a true Christian, can you still drink?"


"Can you still worship idols or venerate the monks?"


"This, you see, is a different road, and it is perfectly easy for any one
to discriminate between the two. You know whether it is right to drink
and make a beast of yourself or not. You know perfectly well whether it
is right to set up a stone and worship it instead of the God who created
all things. You know whether or not it is right to venerate the monks who
say it is wrong to take animal life and yet eat meat." The man had
nothing more to say.

Another hindrance to the progress of the gospel among the Karens which
has not been generally recognized but has doubtless been very real has
been the rise among them, from time to time, of false prophets and
leaders. The very fact that Karens are naturally religious has rendered
them the more susceptible to suggestions of this kind. In the olden days
there was little opportunity for this sort of thing, but as the Karens
came into contact with the other faiths of Buddhism on the one hand and
Christianity on the other, some imbibed a little of both and introduced
what they proclaimed as new cults. These had enough of truth blended with
their superstition to appeal strongly to the Karen people, and some of
them gained considerable heathen followings.

The latest and most prominent of these leaders was Koh Sah Yay, a man
who, for a time, gained an influence among his people which was truly
remarkable. Born near Papun in the eastern part of the Shwegyin field, it
is said that at one time he attended the mission school at Shwegyin, but
if that is the case, his schooling must have been very brief indeed, for
he never learned to read. Arrived at young manhood he married, but in a
short time his wife and little one died. In the sorrow of his bereavement
he betook himself to the solitude of the jungle to live the life of a
hermit. He was discovered in this condition half dead from starvation.
Owing to the influence of Buddhism, the people of the country generally
have great respect for the ascetic, and so some began to pay reverence to
Koh Sah Yay. Later he made his headquarters on the summit of a mountain
rising to the east of Shwegyin at a distance of about twenty-five miles.
Here he had a sort of temple built for himself. It was situated on an
enormous pyramidal boulder at the very crown of the peak. The posts of
the building had to be lashed down to the sides of the rock with great
bamboo withes. During the dry season, which in Burma lasts for six
months, every drop of water used for drinking or for bathing and culinary
purposes had to be brought in bamboo joints from far down the mountain
side on the backs of men and women. Of course to take anything else there
was an equally arduous task. Frail bamboo bridges were built across
yawning chasms, and ladders made of bamboo and rattan were placed on the
face of precipitous rocks to make the spot accessible. Yet here his
followers flocked in ever increasing numbers until the ever-watchful
government became suspicious of the movement and feared that a rebellion
might be started. Koh Sah Yay was therefore advised to come down to the
plains. Accordingly he applied for a large tract of untilled land, and,
moving there, gathered his followers about him and urged them to bring
the land under cultivation. In this way he built up quite a good sized

About this time Koh Sah Yay professed conversion to Christianity and was
baptized together with nearly two hundred of his followers. It frequently
happens that when leading men among the heathen become Christians, their
influence over their heathen neighbors ceases, but this was not the case
with Koh Sah Yay. He visited Rangoon, Bassein, Henzada and Tharrawaddy
and his following increased apace. Great crowds of people flocked to him,
and through his influence hundreds and even thousands professed
Christianity and were received into the membership of the churches. For a
time the movement seemed to give promise of being a great power for good.
Koh Sah Yay himself declared that it was his humble mission to bring the
people together and give the preachers who had been educated and had
enjoyed privileges such as had been denied him, an opportunity to deliver
the gospel message. Meanwhile he collected vast sums of money from the
people, and erected great buildings at various centers. What these
buildings were really intended for was somewhat problematical. They were
much larger than could ever be required for legitimate Christian work.
Koh Sah Yay himself represented that they were simply for the
accommodation of the people when they assembled for worship, but some
declared that they were to be courts and palaces for Koh Sah Yay when he
should be appointed and established by God as the Karen Messiah. For
while, as has been said, the Karens are universally loyal to the British
government, there have been, from time to time, some among the heathen
who thought that God by unseen, spiritual, or rather, supernatural power
would one day set up the Karen people above their neighbors. At the best,
the erection of so great buildings to no sufficient purpose seemed more
in accordance with the Buddhist than with the Christian ideal. For the
Buddhist puts up a pagoda or a rest house or digs a well purely as an act
of merit regardless of its probable usefulness, but the words of Jesus,
"Gather up the fragments that nothing be lost," have often enough been
dwelt upon to show his repugnance to waste, though few realize that here
is to be found one of the really great distinguishing features of his

After some years, Koh Sah Yay took to himself a wife, and his influence
waned, for Buddhistic ideals, including reverence for celibacy, have more
or less permeated the minds of all the non-Christian populations of the
country. A child was born to him under a banyan tree, held sacred by the
Buddhists because Gautama attained to Buddhaship under such a tree. He
hoped that in the birth of this child he would be rehabilitated in the
veneration of the people, but the expected son and successor proved to be
a daughter, and from that time Koh Sah Yay's power steadily declined. It
was not long before his dead body was found in a well. How he came to his
death is not known, but it is thought by some that becoming despondent
because of his diminishing popularity and oppressed by the enormous debts
which he had contracted in his various enterprises, he committed suicide.
Many of his followers expected him to rise again after forty days, and
notwithstanding their disappointment in this respect, some have
endeavored to continue the cult, but with steadily diminishing success.

The whole movement was certainly a strange one, and it is perhaps still
too early to estimate it at its true value. Koh Sah Yay's career
resembles in some regards that of Alexander Dowie. Unlike the latter, he
never professed to heal diseases, lived in a very unpretentious manner,
dressed in simple clothing--usually white cotton cloth--and ate plain
food. But in some way he acquired such an influence over his people that
many of them sold all their property and mortgaged their houses and
lands, impoverishing themselves, in order that they might give the money
to him. How he acquired this influence it is difficult to explain fully,
just as in the case of the founder of Zion City. But it seems probable
that while Koh Sah Yay himself may have been a sincere Christian, his
mind was perhaps a little deranged, the movement got beyond his control,
and he did not perceive its true drift. The movement itself seems to have
been built up on superstition, and having this as a basis could not
stand. Certain it is that by far the great majority of those who
professed conversion to Christianity under its influence have now gone
back to heathenism. It seems likely that this and similar movements among
the heathen that preceded it, have been a real detriment to the cause of
the gospel.

These are a few of the hindrances to the progress of Christianity among
the Karens. It should be said, however, that they have proved in some
ways to be helps. They have served to toughen the fiber of the sincere
disciples and produce a royal race, hardy, keen of vision, quick to
discriminate between the true and the false, and ready for every good
word and work.


Some of the hindrances to the progress of the work have been mentioned.
Instead of continuous and rapid growth such as seemed likely at the
first, there was in nearly or quite all of the Karen fields or missions a
set-back. These early gains had to be consolidated. The chaff had to be
separated from the wheat; the sincere and the insincere converts had to
be differentiated and the latter weeded out. This was a long and tedious
process. For twenty or thirty years in most of the missions little or no
progress was recorded; the love of many grew cold. The heart of the
missionary was often pained as he saw those who at one time showed much
promise, give up their faith and go back into the blackness of darkness.
At length, however, a change came. The days of ignorance gave way before
experiential knowledge of the truth and the disciples became established
in the faith. From that time on there has been steady growth.

How great the progress has been may perhaps be judged in no better way
than by comparing the convert of the present day with the experienced
disciple. In general it may be said that the converts from heathenism
know little about Christ. This is perhaps not quite what one would
expect. The missionary is supposed to preach primarily "the unsearchable
riches of Christ"; and some indeed do so. They preach Christ to the
rawest heathen, who may never have heard of the Christian religion
before. The writer has no criticism of such; they may be quite right in
doing so. He merely tells what he has himself observed when he says that
few converts from heathenism seem to know or to be capable of
comprehending anything of the work of Christ. They know only of
worshipping God. They have done with following Satan. They realize the
folly of that, and desire to turn to Father God and serve him. This is
about all the real experience they have, and even this may be vague and
dim. The explanation of the whole phenomenon is probably that, while the
convert from heathenism is too ignorant clearly to differentiate Christ
from God, yet it is Christ in God, that is, the Christian conception of
God as he hears it from Christian preachers, that attracts him.

A heathen Karen will sometimes make up his mind to worship God. To all
intents and purposes, he is already a converted man. But he will say
nothing to any one about his intention lest the evil spirits may get wind
of it and be offended. There is a process, however, by which even the
heathen may put an end to their connection with the evil spirits. The
writer does not know what it is, but infers from accounts that it
involves a course of feasting. He has heard of heathen who tired of
performing their religious ceremonies, and so went through this process
and still remained heathen, steadfastly refusing to worship God. In like
manner, the convert will sometimes wait to go through this process, which
may take a year. When it is complete, he will acknowledge his intention
and ask to be baptized; but it is evident that he has not fully escaped
from the power of his old superstitions, and, as has been said, he knows
little about Christ. He thinks only of turning to God. Nor has he any
deep sense of sin. It is only after Karens have been converted from
heathenism for a good while that they develop that, and as that deepens,
their understanding and appreciation of the work of Christ also

It may be of interest to note here that the heathen are seldom led to
embrace Christianity by considerations of temporal benefit. As has
already been pointed out, the early Karen disciples believed that they
need no longer fear the evil spirits, because Jesus was stronger than the
evil spirits. To this day this opinion prevails even among the heathen.
In view of the constant fears with which the latter are surrounded one
might think that this would be a strong inducement to them to become
Christians. But such is rarely the case. The spiritual element in
Christianity stands out so prominently that few can adopt it and hold to
it permanently, who have not experienced a real change of heart. It is
self-guarding, like the ark of the covenant. The story is told of a
heathen who was haunted by an evil spirit. He never saw it himself, but
sometimes when he was in the house sitting by the hearth, or at night
when he was abroad, it would suddenly appear to others, plainly visible
at his side. This gave him an uncanny reputation, so that people avoided
him and did not welcome him to their homes. At length, knowing the
reputed power of the foreign religion, he determined to escape from the
malignant influence which had possession of him by becoming a Christian.
He accordingly sought out an ordained evangelist and applied for baptism.
He managed to pass such catechetical examination as was required, and was
baptized. From that moment the apparition disappeared, and for two years
the man lived in peace and enjoyed the confidence and companionship of
his fellows. But at the end of that time the restraints of the new
religion became irksome. He longed for the leeks and the onions and the
garlick of Egypt; his soul craved the old indulgences, and he went back
to his heathen practices. Then the apparition appeared at his side again,
and continued to do so from time to time until his death, for he never
returned to the better faith.

Of course the writer cannot vouch for the truth of the story, although it
is told in all seriousness and is circulated among Christians and heathen
alike. But that part of it which relates to the man's return to
heathenism notwithstanding the great incentive to remain a nominal
Christian is at least true to human nature.

Over against this story, as showing how sincere hearts may be drawn back
to a dominating faith even in most adverse circumstances, may be set the
incident which the writer has heard of an old man and his wife who lived
for many years in a Christian village and professed to be Christians and
had indeed lived upright, consistent lives. But bye and bye, their
children were taken from them one by one by death. Then Satan came and
tempted them, just as he tempts God's children in other lands when he
gets them at a disadvantage. And they said:

"Here we have been professing Christians for all these years, and this is
all we have gotten for it--our children have been taken from us one by
one unto the last. We can stand it no longer!" And so they took their few
possessions, perhaps not more than would go into a little bag such as the
Karens carry suspended from the shoulder, probably, at most, not more
than would go into a basket of the kind they carry upon their backs, and
betook themselves to a heathen village, intending to spend there the
remainder of their days.

For among these people Christians and heathen do not live together in the
same village. If a heathen wants to become a Christian, he leaves his
heathen village and goes to live in a Christian village, and
contrariwise, if a Christian wearies of his religion and wishes to go
back into heathenism, he leaves the Christian village, and goes and lives
in a heathen village. Or, if Christians and heathen live in the same
village, as may sometimes be necessary, the Christians live in a part by
themselves and the heathen in another part by themselves. So this man and
his wife went to live in a heathen village. But when they got there, the
heathen said to them:

"Sing us some of the songs of Zion," and they said it, not tauntingly as
the Babylonians of old said it to the Israelites, but because they really
wished to listen. And as well as they could, for their voices were
cracked and had never been very good, the aged couple recalled some of
the hymns which they had learned back there in the Christian village, and
they sang them. Ever as they sang the heathen said:

"How good that is!" When they had finished singing, the heathen asked
them about the teachings which they had learned back there in the
Christian village. And, as well as they could, for they had never been
trained to express themselves very much, they recalled the blessed gospel
story, and as they told it, the heathen said:

"How good that is! How very good that is!" Then the old man and his wife
turned each to the other and said:

"If the very heathen think so much of our religion, it is not time for us
to turn our backs upon it." So they gathered together again their few
possessions, returned to the Christian village, and spent there the
remainder of their days in the fear and service of God.

The attitude of the Christians towards the heathen and their intense
yearning over them are so tender and patient as to be pathetic. The
writer remembers to have heard a Karen pastor tell of an evangelistic
trip which he, in company with some missionary ladies and teachers and
pupils from a school, had made over a week-end among nearby heathen
villages. It was easy to see that the tour had been far from pleasant.
The visitors had been received with a good deal of coldness, and sharp,
stinging remarks had been made by the heathen at the expense of those who
had come to preach to them. But the pastor, in narrating the experience,
made light of that. He said:

"When a man is ill, you bring him his usual food, and he has no appetite
for it. Then you get him some special delicacy which you think he will
surely like, but he turns away from it in disgust. You try one thing
after another, but your efforts are only met with scorn. Yet you do not
get angry with him, for you know it is because he is so very ill that he
has no desire for food. And so although the heathen did not receive us
kindly, we were not angry, for it only shows how very ill they are." The
Karen Christians are eager for the conversion of the Burmese, those who
used formerly to be their persecutors. Their efforts on their behalf are
unceasing. Would that they were more successful! As it is, not a few
Burmese are members of Karen churches. These are for the most part
Burmese who have lived in the vicinity of Karen Christians, and, although
Burmese generally despise Karens, have seen their exemplary Christian
lives, and have been led to become Christians themselves.


The real inner experience of any people is a difficult matter to trace,
especially if it be that of a race who, like the Karens, have never been
accustomed to express themselves along those lines. General confessions
of sin one will hear frequently, to be sure. Before every observance of
the Lord's Supper it is customary among all the churches to have a
preparatory service in which the members are expected to confess to one
another their spiritual condition, settle any differences, and put
themselves as far as may be into a fitting frame for the observance of
the sacred ordinance. At these meetings one will hear so much of
acknowledgment of failure and sin, so little expression of helpful
experiences, that one wearies of listening to it. To get into the deeper
heart life of the Karen disciples one must be content to wait and watch
and listen. When he has once fully gained their confidence, perhaps by
some campfire in the jungles, the conversation will turn undirected to
the subject of the inner life, and then it will come out.

There was a dear old man. The writer had just been to his village, the
farthest Christian village in his field, nearly a whole day's journey
over a long, high mountain beyond the village just preceding, to which he
had been. He was starting back over this same high mountain when this
dear old man seized the heaviest thing he had. For in touring in that
country there are no hotels where one can put up or anything of the kind
and the missionary is obliged to take with him everything he is likely to
require, beds, bedding, cooking utensils, tents and so forth. The
missionary had no elephants or other beasts of burden with him at the
time, so that everything had to be carried by hand. He and the old Karen
man had reached their destination, and had seated themselves and were
resting a while, when the missionary asked the old man what his name was.
It was not particularly strange that he should not know it, for Karens
never think of introducing one another by name. However, the old man said

"Why, doesn't the Teacher know my name? They used to call me Too Loo
Koo's father, but now they call me Miss Fragrance's father." For it is a
singular custom which the people of those parts have of calling a person
after the name of his oldest living child. So, when the old man said,
"They used to call me Too Loo Koo's father, but now they call me Miss
Fragrance's father," the missionary knew what it meant--there had been a
death in his little family.

Then the old man went on to tell about Too Loo Koo, his first-born, a
son, and how his fatherly affections had twined ever more and more
closely about the little one. And when he got to be ten or twelve years
of age, his father sent him down to the station school at Shwegyin.

"For," said he, "I always wanted to preach, but I was never able because
I was too Ignorant, but I wanted this son of mine to be educated so that
when he grew up he might go and preach in my stead." So the little fellow
was growing pretty well into young manhood--in his father's
story--perhaps sixteen or eighteen years of age, when the missionary saw
tears in the old man's eyes and his chin began to quiver, as he said:

"But Teacher, the Lord took him, the Lord took him." In a moment,
however, the chin ceased to quiver, and there came over the dear old
man's face such a look of heavenly resignation as only the saints of God
can know, as he added:

"But it is all right, Teacher. It is all right. There is no rebellion in
my heart, for it was the Lord that did it."

It is blessed to note how graciously God sometimes deals with even the
most ignorant and benighted. The missionary was asked to go to the
hospital to see a young man who had just been brought in. He found a most
pitiful spectacle, a youth of from sixteen to eighteen years of age whose
eyes had been scratched out by a bear. He had been out in the jungle with
some companions of his when the bear appeared. The rest were fortunate
enough to make their escape, but this poor fellow climbed up into a tree,
the branch to which he clung broke, letting him fall to the ground, and
the bear, after the custom of its kind, made a dash for his face,
scratched at it with its long claws, and then ran off. The other men,
realizing the terrible plight of their comrade, hastily put him into a
small native boat and brought him down the twenty miles or so to the
city. The sight of both eyes was completely destroyed. The young man said
he wished he could die. The missionary, seeing his condition, did not
wonder that he felt so. He did what he could for the youth, and went
away. Soon after, he was obliged to take his furlough home, and saw and
heard nothing more about the young man for two years or more. Then he
learned that, although his physical vision had been destroyed, his
spiritual eyes had been opened, for he had become a most faithful and
devoted Christian. Before he lost his sight, he had had few advantages,
for he was a heathen and had known only a heathen home. He had never
learned to read, and knew nothing of the bible story or of Christian
singing. Now, in his blindness, he had turned to God, he consorted with
God's people, and he sought to walk in the ways of righteousness. Ever
when the gong sounded for services, he would grope his way to the chapel,
take his seat near the preacher, and listen attentively to the
instruction that was given. When the people sang, he would join as well
as he could in the singing; and when the time came for prayer, he would
raise his voice and offer his petition, at first with broken utterance,
but with more and more of freedom as he acquired practice. So, little by
little, his knowledge and understanding grew, and his testimony was so
spontaneous, so cheerful and so full of gratitude that it was a source of
strength and encouragement to the little church with which he worshipped
and into the membership of which he was baptized.

But, after a time, there was a change. The travelling evangelist who
visited the place occasionally found that the young man was not in his
accustomed place, and made inquiries regarding him. No one seemed to know
quite what the trouble was, and so the evangelist went to see the young
man in person, and asked him why he was no longer frequenting the place
of prayer as formerly, and why his voice was not raised in petition as it
had been before.

"Teacher," said the young man, "I would like to go to the house of God as
aforetime, and join in the singing and the prayers. My heart is not
changed, or my desire for these things diminished. But, whenever I bow my
head to pray, Satan comes with a host of his friends and he threatens to
kill me, and I dare not pray." The evangelist was a wise man, and, as he
reflected, he thought it likely that the young brother was suffering from
hallucinations occasioned by his blindness, that being unable to see his
thoughts had turned in upon himself until his mind had become partly
unbalanced, but after a moment's deliberation he turned to the young man
and said to him:

"Brother, let me make to you a suggestion. When you want to pray again,
bow your head, and call on Jesus to help you, and tell Satan you are
going to pray any way, even if he kills you." The evangelist went away
and was gone for several weeks. When he returned, he found that the young
man had resumed his former place with the people of God and was joining
in prayer and praise as heartily as before. When he could, he asked him
of the matter, and the young man replied:

"Teacher, I did just as you said I should. I bowed my head, and I called
upon the name of Jesus, and I defied Satan and all his hosts, and he took
flight, and I have seen nothing of him from that day to this."

Surely, if the fellowship of the saints means anything, it is entirely
possible for the Christian of America to have fellowship with the Karen
Christians of Burma at the present day, for they have like precious hope
in the gospel, the same consolations of the Spirit, and the same source
of power. The writer would never feel the necessity of returning to the
homeland for the sake of enjoying Christian fellowship, for he can find
it in Burma among the Karen disciples in just as rich and abundant and
satisfying measure as he can find it anywhere. Many of the pastors of
churches are truly men of God, and the missionary soon learns to take
counsel with them and to value their helpful advice. Most of them are
better versed in the contents of Scripture than the average American
pastor, and to the preaching of some of them any one might listen with
interest and profit.


From the beginning, the Karen churches have been independent and from a
very early period the great majority of them have been self-supporting.
The missionary is sometimes described as being a bishop, but, while, if
he has the confidence of his people, he may have more real power than
mere ecclesiastical authority can possibly confer, yet this power is
always due to his personality rather than to his position. He has
absolutely no authority to impose his will upon even the feeblest and
most insignificant of God's children. At the present time there are
connected with all the Karen missions about nine hundred churches with
approximately fifty-five thousand communicants. The missions are twelve
in number. By a mission is meant a circle of churches under the
supervision of a single missionary. Usually these churches lie within a
distinct region of territory with fairly well defined boundaries, called
the field of the particular missionary, but there is some overlapping of
fields. Of the churches, about seven hundred have pastors, all of whom
are Karens. Most of the pastors have had from one to four years of
training in the Karen Theological Seminary in Insein. About two hundred
of them have been ordained and are competent to administer the ordinances
of baptism and the Lord's Supper. These pastors often consult the
missionary, and here is really the missionary's opportunity. If he is
wise, he can impress his opinions upon his people, and it is highly
important that he should do his best to hold them up to high standards.
The besetting sins of the Karen people at the present time are
drunkenness and immorality. The lapse from the high state of morality
which existed among them at the first is due to their contact with other
races which had no such ideals. On this account discipline has to be more
strictly administered in this regard than would otherwise be necessary.
But when the missionary has given his opinion, his power ends; he can do
no more. It remains for the native church to put his suggestions into
force or not, as they think fit. This may seem, at first thought, an
unsafe course to pursue but the idea is that the churches have the Holy
Spirit as well as the missionary, and it is even better than the church
should make a mistake than that the missionary should force his will upon
it. And it should be said to the honor of the churches that, in general,
their administration of affairs is most creditable. Whenever a member has
done anything unworthy of his Christian profession, whatever his standing
or social position may be, as soon as it comes to the knowledge of the
church, he is subjected to discipline. If the offense is of a minor
character, he is reproved or perhaps suspended for a time from
membership, and exhorted to repent and mend his ways. If it is some
outbreaking sin, he is at once excluded from fellowship. All this is done
in a spirit of Christian love; and if the offender repents of his sin,
and makes confession, and shows the fruits of repentance in his life, he
is restored to the fellowship of the church, and, as lovingly as before,
the offense for which he was disciplined is often scarcely mentioned to
him again. All this is done, as has been said, by the local church
without any reference whatever to the missionary, and most missionaries
are glad to have it so.



But even if the missionary were disposed to interfere in the internal
affairs of the churches, he is precluded from doing so by the fact that
the churches in most of the missions are not only entirely independent
and self-supporting, but they support all their schools and other
enterprises besides. In fact the churches of each mission are organized
into an association, or, it may be, into two associations of churches
which meet once a year, through their representatives, for a comparison
of their work and for mutual help and comfort, and the statistical tables
which these associations publish are quite formidable. They show
contributions on the part of the churches for the support of their
pastors, for the support of the station or town school, for the support
of the village schools, for ministerial education, for home missions, for
foreign missions, and in fact for all the varied functions which are
required for orderly church organization and activity. These
associational gatherings have their own chairman chosen by the people
themselves, their secretaries, their committees, their treasurers, the
last named usually handling all the funds of the association, under its
direction. The chairman presides with dignity, and often with efficiency.
All questions pertaining to the general work of the churches are decided
by vote of the assembly. More liberty in talking back and forth is
usually allowed than would be permissible under strict parliamentary
rules, but the people generally discuss matters until they know what they
want and vote accordingly. The secretaries keep a record of the meetings,
collect letters and reports from the churches, and tabulate them. The
committees manage and direct all the general work of the churches. They
appoint the evangelists who engage in home mission work, designate them,
supervise them, and regulate their salaries. A committee or board is also
usually appointed to have charge of the town school. This committee may
appoint or discharge teachers, gather the funds for the running expenses
of the school, decide on questions of discipline, and determine general
questions of policy.

It has been said that the churches are self-supporting. By this is not
meant that they support their pastors in every case as churches in
America do, but simply that they are not dependent upon mission funds
from America. So far from the church supporting the pastor, it often
happens that the pastor supports himself or may even support the church.
This custom has come down from the early beginning of the work. At that
time, the leading man in each church was appointed its pastor. Most of
the men who were thus chosen had their own means of support, and needed
no help from their churches. Furthermore, many of them were men of
foresight and initiative, and when they saw the advantages of being under
British government, they took up land or started enterprises which were
later of value to their people. Such being the precedent established, the
successors of those early pioneer pastors have had, for the most part, to
find their own means of support. This has not been as great a hardship,
however, as might at first appear, for few of them are men of sufficient
training to be capable of spending all their time in the preparation of
sermons and the other work of the church. When, however, a pastor or any
other Christian worker has that capacity, he is usually given a fair
living; and in general, with changed conditions an increasing number of
churches are supporting their pastors in full.

The schools are the especial care of the churches. Government does not
provide a public school system such as is found in America, any more than
it is provided in England. The English Idea is that any one should have
only such an education as he can pay for. But the desire of the Karen
churches in general is that every one who wants an education shall have
it. Two main systems of schools are recognized by the government, the
vernacular, under native inspectors, in which all subjects are taught in
the vernacular only, and the Anglo-Vernacular, under European inspectors,
in which English is taught in addition to other regular subjects. There
are vernacular schools in nearly every village that can possibly support
one, and there are central or main Anglo-Vernacular schools, usually at
the station, in charge of the missionary. The latter are maintained not
simply because the people have a craving to learn the English language,
but because the grade of work done in such schools under government
supervision is of a higher order than in the vernacular schools. In all
the village schools, numbering about seven hundred with an enrollment of
over eighteen thousand, the tuition is absolutely free, and in most of
the station schools it was free until a few years ago, when the
government required a small tuition fee to be levied. Even now, it is as
small as possible, and in most schools free board is supplied by the
contributions of the churches, so that it is really cheaper for a youth
to attend school than not. Most of the sixteen station schools, with
their nearly two thousand five hundred pupils, are middle or secondary
schools, but there are two high schools with approximately two hundred
pupils. From all of these schools pupils are constantly passing to the
various departments of the college at Rangoon, or, for religious
instruction, to the Theological Seminary at Insein or the Karen Woman's
Bible Training School at Ahlone. The proportion of girls to boys
receiving instruction in the primary schools is about four to five, in
the secondary schools about one to two, and in the high schools, about
one to six.

The Theological Seminary is worthy of special mention. It has a corps of
two American and four native teachers, a four years' course, and for many
years it has had an enrollment of about one hundred and twenty to one
hundred and twenty-five students. Many of the students return to serve
the churches of their own fields, but some go to distant parts as
missionaries of the gospel to other tribes. A Greek department is being
developed for the benefit of men of exceptional attainments. Needless to
say, the influence of this school has extended for and wide. The
financial support of the institution is borne jointly by the churches and
the Society in America.


As has already been stated, all of these various enterprises, with the
partial exception just mentioned, are carried on by the churches
absolutely at their own expense. In a few of the missions, small grants
from the Society at home are still being received for the support of the
station school, but even these are almost negligible and are rapidly
being dropped altogether. The contributions of the churches for all
objects during the last year for which statistics are available amounted
to $107,122. For purposes of comparison with the giving of churches in
America it should be borne in mind that the usual daily wage for
unskilled labor in Burma is about half of a Rupee or one-sixth of a
dollar. Every dollar contributed, therefore, corresponds to six days'
wages which in America would amount to from $12 to $15.

Many instances might be related of the liberality of the Karen
Christians. Recently in Bassein, a school dormitory was to be erected.
About Rs. 20,000, nearly $7,000, had to be raised among the Christian
Karens to meet the expense, the remainder being met by the government. It
was a time of scarcity, for the war made it difficult for the Karen
farmers to dispose of their rice. But one man, who had no ready money,
borrowed Rs. 1,500 or $500, saying that he frequently had to borrow money
for his own work, and why should he not borrow money to provide for the
Lord's work? The Shwegyin association was once invited by one of its
smallest churches to hold its next annual meeting with them. Knowing what
a great task it is to entertain the meetings where the attendance usually
ranges from eight hundred to twelve hundred people and may rise to two
thousand, the committees of the association called the representatives of
the little church, and asked them if they understood what they were

"We Karens usually know what we are about," was the quiet response. Then
it developed that not the whole church, but one man had invited the
association. He was a man of some means, and when he was approached he

"When I was a heathen, I used to give feasts for my heathen neighbors,
and now why should I not give a feast to my Christian brethren? What If
it costs the price of an elephant? I will supply the money, furnish the
eatables, and provide the entertainment in full. Give me this pleasure
before I die." When they heard his remarks, the committee could
remonstrate no further and appointed the next meeting at the old man's
village. Such illustrations of the devotedness of the Karen disciples to
their Lord and his work might be given without number.

It is of interest to note that the very same laws which experience has
proved to be regnant in the lives of the churches in America operate
among the Karen churches of Burma. Especially is this true with reference
to the value to the churches of home and foreign mission work; and again
and again it has been demonstrated that the latter, as well as the
former, is indispensable to the best prosperity of God's spiritual
heritage. For the foreign mission enterprise has in it the elements of
extension; it is like a jointed fishpole. Christians in America send out
their missionaries to foreign lands but that is not the end; it is merely
one section of the rod. When churches are formed there, they in turn send
missionaries to still other regions, and so on. Thus it has been from the
beginning, and thus it will be forevermore until the Lord himself

A veteran pastor in America used to tell how, at one time, when his
church was heavily burdened with debt, he preached a sermon on foreign
missions, and so fervently urged his people to give to that cause that
his deacons came to him after the sermon and remonstrated with him,

"Don't you know, pastor, that we cannot afford to have our people give
largely for foreign missions, because we have this heavy debt on us, and
we must use all our powers to raise that?" The pastor said nothing, but a
few Sundays later he preached from the text, "If I forget thee, O
Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to
the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I prefer not Jerusalem
above my chief joy." And as he presented the needs of the home church,
his words were accompanied with such power that his people gave as they
had never given before, and when afterwards, the sum of their giving was
counted up, it was found that, behold, the heavy debt which had so long
burdened them had vanished away. The pastor always attributed the success
of that endeavor to the previous preaching of the foreign mission sermon
and the opening of his people's hearts to the worldwide work.

The writer once had his attention forcibly called by a minister of
another denomination to the history of the Baptists in America, as
showing in a rather remarkable manner the healthy reactionary effect of
the foreign mission enterprise not only upon an individual church, but
also upon an entire denomination. At the beginning of the nineteenth
century, the Baptists of the United States numbered about seventy
thousand, a poor, scattered, feeble folk, with little of common interest
or cohesion. Shortly after that, they divided about equally on the
subject of missions, half of them becoming mission Baptists and the other
half anti-mission Baptists. It was at the time when Dr. Adoniram Judson
sent back his thrilling appeals from Burma for help. The mission Baptists
heard the call and responded. The anti-mission Baptists, on the other
hand, said:

"Why should we send missionaries to foreign lands, we have not enough
pastors to meet our own needs. No; if God wants to convert the heathen,
he can do it without any of our aid." What has been the result? The
writer sometimes recounts this history to his own people in the Shwegyin
mission and he is accustomed to say to them:

"You expect your strength to be increased, not when you take rice and put
it into other people's mouths' but when you put it into your own mouth.
And so one might naturally think that the anti-mission Baptists would
have increased in strength, and the mission Baptists have diminished. But
that is not the law of the spiritual kingdom which is, 'Give and gain.'"
So the mission Baptists of America, instead of diminishing, have
increased, not two-fold or three-fold, but ten-fold, a hundred-fold,
nearly two hundred-fold, until the scattered thirty-five thousand have
become a mighty host, almost seven million strong; and from being the
tail they have become well-nigh the head, standing among the first in
their educational endowments, in the effectiveness of their
denominational enterprises, and in their equipment for every good work.
The anti-mission Baptists, on the contrary, in addition to being a
"by-word and a hissing," have steadily diminished until now they are
scarcely to be found at all. Some may adopt the practice, but few will
admit the doctrine.

So as the Karen churches of Burma have given they have gained, as they
have scattered they have found increase, and as they have sent their
missionaries afar to minister to the destitute their own resources have
developed. The Karens of the Bassein mission have their representatives
in distant parts of northern Burma, and the Rangoon Karens have theirs in
far-off Siam, and these have always been the very life of the churches.

The writer may, perhaps, be pardoned for referring specifically, by way
of illustration, to the history of his own station at Shwegyin. Not long
after he went out to the field in 1893, he heard one of the oldest and
most experienced of his brethren speak of the importance to the native
churches of carrying on the work of the gospel outside of their own
boundaries. This reminded him of the story of the movement in America
which has been outlined above, and he resolved that as soon as possible
he would bring to the attention of his own people some field which they
might adopt. After consultation, the Salween District, with its
headquarters at Papun, a territory adjacent to the Shwegyin field, to be
sure, but entirely outside the circle of the churches, was chosen. They
took up the enterprise with great eagerness, and from that time on, the
activities of the churches fairly leaped forward. The zeal for the
outside work seemed to impart itself to their home work, so that at the
same time that they took up the former, they opened two important
out-stations, Nyaunglebin and Kyaukkyi, on their own field, points which
seemed to be necessary to be occupied for the best prosecution of the
general work. In 1893, the contributions of the churches for all objects
had amounted to about five thousand Rupees; they rose gradually until, in
1898, they reached seven thousand five hundred Rupees. That was the year
in which this home and foreign mission extension movement was
inaugurated. The next year, they rose to over ten thousand Rupees, the
year after that to over fourteen thousand Rupees, and the year following
to over twenty thousand Rupees, nearly a three-fold increase in three
years' time. The next year, they fell off to something over sixteen
thousand Rupees, but they have not been less than twenty-five thousand
Rupees any year since. Meanwhile, the annual additions to the churches by
baptism rose from about one hundred to one hundred and seventy-five or
two hundred; and, apparently because of the new spirit which came upon
the people, the number of young men who consecrated themselves to the
work of the gospel ministry and went to the theological seminary at
Insein, for the purpose of preparing themselves for that work, rose from
three or four in 1893 to between fifteen and twenty from 1906 on. At the
same time, schools were built up at the out-stations which, in addition
to the school at Shwegyin, with its enrollment of from one hundred to one
hundred and twenty-five, had enrollments running up to two hundred, or
even to two hundred and fifty. Many of the pupils were from heathen
villages and thus the schools became evangelizing agencies reaching out
into the outlying regions in a way which, so far as one can judge, would
not otherwise have been possible.

In fact one is reminded of the story which is told of a certain
sportsman. Up in the hills of the Shwegyin District, there was a "rogue"
elephant for the destruction of which the government had offered a reward
of money in addition to the tusks. This sportsman went up with his
elephant rifle to hunt the animal. He found it. He fired one shot, and
the great beast fell, apparently dead; but to make sure the sportsman
fired again. The elephant moved slightly. The sportsman fired a third
time. The elephant moved a little more. He fired again and again, each
shot seeming to have a revivifying effect until at the sixth shot the
elephant got up and ran away. The Karens tell the story with great gusto;
how many "rescensions" it has gone through, it is impossible to say. But
it is certain that the more hot shot of foreign missions is poured into
the churches of God, anywhere and in whatever conditions, the livelier
they become. Best of all, the effort to carry the gospel to those who
have it not, together with the self-sacrifice which this always involves,
is, of itself, a religious experience of inestimable value to the people
of God.

In this connection may be mentioned an incident which, to the missionary,
was very affecting. The evangelist at Papun had died suddenly, and the
Karen churches, assembled in annual session, were facing the question of
who should take his place. The missionary felt that his successor ought
to be some man of ability and character who could be trusted to take hold
of the work and carry it forward with zeal and discretion; but he could
think of no one available for the important post. Much to his surprise,
the leaders among the Karens said it must be the ordained pastor of one
of the best churches, a man of whom the missionary had never once dared
to think. He seemed indispensable to his own church; he was one of the
most beloved of the native pastors, and the missionary had no thought
that it would be considered possible to dispense with his services on the
home field. When, however, his name was suggested by the Karens
themselves, of course the missionary could raise no objection. It was not
without a struggle that the appointment was made, for as soon as his name
was mentioned, members of his church who were present rose and objected,
some of them angrily.

"Why should you choose our pastor?" they said. "The members of our church
are for the most part widows and orphans. Our pastor is like a father to
us. We cannot spare him. Choose some one else. There are many others."
After they had talked a while, the missionary rose and said:

"I do not wonder that the members of the brother's church feel this way,
for we all love him, and it is indeed as they say--many of the members of
their church are widows and orphans. But now before we talk any more
about this matter, let us go to God with it." Earnest prayer was offered,
and after the prayer it was heart-moving to see these same men who had so
angrily demurred a few minutes before, rise and say, that if this was of
the Lord, they dared not oppose it. A committee was appointed to visit
the church, and give it what comfort and consolation and what
strengthening of purpose in the Lord it was able, and the much loved
pastor was sent forth to do good and acceptable work.


Too much should not be expected of the Karen disciples in the direction
of temporal betterment. The process is slower than that of evangelization
and almost painfully tedious. Economy is the basis of true civilization,
but it takes a long while for many people to perceive the fact. It is
evident, however, in all departments of life. Occidentals use chairs
because, if they sat on the floor their clothing, which cannot be readily
washed, would soon get soiled, and ruined. If they wore sandals instead
of shoes, and could keep their floors scrupulously clean, or if they wore
cheap, washable goods as do the East Indians, the case would be
different. Men wear collars and cuffs to keep their coats from being
damaged. The linen can be laundried, but the material of which coats are
made cannot be. No new invention is practicable until it can be made
economical. Americans are generally considered extravagant and wasteful.
Undoubtedly some are so; and with the vast undeveloped resources of the
country, there is not on the part of most of them that carefulness in the
use of materials which will doubtless become a necessity as the country
grows more thickly populated and produce relatively scarcer. But that
Americans have the economic sense, is evidenced by the fact that they use
more telephones and typewriters and employ more stenographers than any
other people on the face of the earth. These are economizers of time, and
time is economically valuable. The New England housekeeper who, in these
days when matches are so cheap, still rolls firelighters is not
practicing real economy, unless owing to special circumstances, her time
is of no account. Even when rolled, it is cheaper for most people to use
matches. In Chicago, on a five cent fare, one may travel forty miles and
cover the distance in a couple of hours. In the native Burmese cart as
many days would be required to cover the same distance and the expense
would be thirty times as great. Labor in the East is commonly supposed to
be cheap. Aside from a few minor employments, it is cheap only in wage;
in measure of achievement in the large, it is expensive, for there,
time-saving devices are wanting. Of course in all civilization the
element of taste comes in, adding beauty and attractiveness to what would
otherwise be bald and ugly, but the basis is still economy.

Barbarism is always wasteful. Uncultivated land will not support as much
life as cultivated land. Two acres of pasture are considered sufficient
for the keep of a cow; the amount of tilled land required for the same
purpose is much less. From the accounts of some travelers, one might
suppose that in India and Burma a tiger lurks under nearly every bush,
but calculation shows it is a physical impossibility that there should be
more than about one to a square mile of jungle land, and probably the
proportion is much less than that. Supposing a tiger to need for its
sustenance one deer a week--which seems not excessive considering that it
will seldom eat the entire carcase--it appears that, even if jungle land
were as productive as pasture land, a tiger which carefully conserved its
resources and allowed the hinds to breed and keep up the stock would need
a range of at least one hundred and four acres. But jungle land is not
more than from a fifth to a tenth as productive as pasture land, and it
is probable that in most parts of Burma and India a tiger must have a
range of from five to ten square miles. If it frequents the fringes of
human cultivation where it can get an occasional cow or calf, it may not
require quite so large a range, but its hold upon such preserves would be
very precarious, for, even without shot guns and rifles, the natives have
ways of disposing of maurauders of that kind. With a large bamboo laid in
a horizontal position and bent to its utmost tension by the strength of
several men, they will set a trap, sprung by a fine thread or fiber of
tree bark, which will drive a spear straight through a tiger.

But the Karen does not perceive the meaning of all this. He observes that
civilized people have a great many things, and he naturally infers that
civilization consists in having many things instead of consisting, as it
really does in knowing how to use the things one has. So far as
introducing the mere externals of western civilization is concerned,
merchants and traders are doing a part quite as important as that of the
missionary. As a result the people are becoming more industrious than
formerly. The desire to possess this and that--the fabrics imported from
England, sewing machines, and, recently, music boxes and victrolas--all
this, combined with the fact that under British rule the country has been
rapidly brought under cultivation and so withdrawn from general use, has
wrought a great change. The writer well remembers, when he was a lad of
eight or nine, going with his father to see Burmese sawyers about getting
out timber. At that time there were no steam sawmills, and every piece of
timber for the house had to be sawed out by hand. Sawpits were dug, the
logs rolled into position, and one man above and one below would work the
saw up and down. The pay was good for the time, but then the wants of the
people were few, and conditions of life easy. It was possible to go out
almost anywhere, take up a piece of land, cultivate it and raise a crop
of rice; consequently it was most difficult to get the workmen to do
anything. Now-a-days the situation is much different. Sawmills have for
the most part taken the place of the old sawpit, but when, occasionally,
one must still resort to the latter, there is no difficulty in getting
the men to do the work and to do it in good time. The people of today are
much more industrious than were the people of fifty years ago both
because the conditions of life are more difficult and because the
standard of living is higher. This is probably true throughout the
Orient, and the slur upon the oriental that he is lazy is becoming less
and less applicable.

The mere getting of things, however, the lust for possessing modern
conveniences and equipments, the adoption of western civilization out of
hand, by the native of Burma or India, is far from desirable, inasmuch as
it is not adapted to their surroundings. The conditions of living among
the people there have grown up in large part as a result of their
environment, and in order to have a right understanding of the problem of
civilizing them one must be well-versed in these conditions. Perhaps the
manner of life of the Karens cannot be better illustrated than by the
story which is sometimes told of Naw Thoo and Naw Wah. Naw Wah, which
means Miss White, was a little Christian girl who had lived for several
years with a missionary lady; Naw Thoo, meaning Miss Black, was a heathen
child who had always lived out in the jungle. One day the latter came to
the city and met Naw Wah. Naw Wah asked her if she would like to see the
missionary's house, and she said she would. She had never been in such a
house before. It was not a very grand house, for it was more like a barn
than anything else one sees in America, as no lathing and plastering were
used--there was only the single thickness of boarding on the outside, and
all the timbers of the house showed out in the room. Houses there must be
made very open, and the walls thin so as to cool off rapidly at night.
But, unlike American barns, the house was built up on posts, like stilts,
from eight to ten or twelve feet above the ground. This is the general
practice in Burma, partly because of the dampness of the ground during
the rainy season, and partly because it is a custom handed down from the
time when the country was much more sparsely settled than now and tigers
might come prowling about. In spite of this precaution, snakes still get
into the houses as well as centipedes, scorpions, lizards and other minor
pests. Naw Thoo's house in which she lived when at home was built
entirely of bamboo. The country produces a great variety of bamboos of
different sizes. The builder digs a hole in the ground, and sets up in it
a large bamboo, perhaps five or six inches in diameter, for the post of
the house. Then he takes a kind of knife--his only tool--with a heavy
blade about a foot and a half in length, and cuts a hole in each side of
the bamboo. This makes a mortise in which may be placed a smaller bamboo
that answers for a joist. Strips of the same material about an inch wide,
lashed down to the joists half an inch apart by means of a kind of rope
made from the bark of a tree, provide the floor. By taking a large
bamboo, splitting down one side, opening it out and knocking out the
knots, a kind of boarding is made for the sides of the building. Again
bamboos of the same size are split in two, and, after the knots are cut
out, are used for the roof, alternate pieces having the outer curve up
and the intermediate pieces having the curve down.


[ Illustration--KAREN HOUSES ]

Naw Thoo saw the lady's house made of timber, and wondered at it. She was
shown into the sitting room, and was puzzled to know what the chairs were
for. Nah Wah actually had to sit down in one to show her, for when she
was at home she always sat on the floor. She had never seen a table
before, since in her house a table would have been of no use. What could
a person sitting on the floor do with a table? She was shown the dining
room, with the table linen, the dishes, the knives and forks and spoons
arranged on the dining table. She had never seen anything of the kind
before. At home she sat on the floor to eat. A large tray of wood,
painted red, would be set down, cooked rice would be placed in the sides
of the tray around, and in the center would be put a bowl of dressing to
go with the rice. This consisted of rotten fish, that is, fish
deliberated rotted for the purpose. The members of the family would sit
down on the floor about the tray, one of them would dip out some of the
dressing and put it on the rice in front of him, return the spoon to its
place in the bowl, mix the fish and rice with his fingers, make the whole
into a ball, and put it into his mouth.

Then Naw Thoo was shown the lady's sleeping room with the bed, the
mattress, the coverings and the pillow. All these were quite new to her,
for when she was at home she slept on the floor, and if she wanted a
pillow, she would take a stick of wood or a large bamboo and rest her
neck upon it, letting her head hang over on the other side. Suddenly, as
she was looking about, Naw Thoo gave a terrible shriek, and rushed out of
the house as if she had been shot out of a gun. Nah Wah did not know what
to make of it, but after a time managed to catch up with her and ask her
what was the matter.

"Why," said Naw Thoo, "the lady keeps the devil in her house."

"Oh, no, she doesn't," replied Naw Wah, "I have lived there a long time
and I know she doesn't."

"But I have seen him with my own eyes," said Naw Thoo. Finally, with much
persuasion, Naw Wah managed to get Naw Thoo to go back to the house and
show her where she had seen the devil. She stole up the steps, through
the sitting room to the door of the bedroom, and pointed, saying:

"There, th-th-there is where the lady keeps the devil." She indicated
the mirror hanging on the wall. She had seen herself in it and thought it
surely must be the devil. This is not much to be wondered at, for she
seldom washed her face, still more seldom combed her hair, and she
probably never washed her clothes, for the heathen Karens have a saying
that, if you wash your clothes, a tiger will eat you. They do not want
the tigers to eat them, so they do not wash their clothes from the time
they are made until they fairly rot off their backs. Naw Thoo had been
with Naw Wah who kept herself so nice and sleek and clean, and she had
forgotten about herself, so that when she saw herself in the mirror, she
thought it must surely be the devil.

The writer has frequently told this story to Sunday School children in
America, because it gives, in brief compass, an idea of the manner of
life of the Karen people. He usually closes by asking what they come to
Sunday School for, and says: "We come to study the bible, and learn about
God and about Jesus. That is all very good, but there is one thing more
we need to learn, without which all the rest is of no use. We need to
learn about ourselves, for the bible is a mirror in which we may see
ourselves as God sees us, and if we see ourselves as God sees us, we
shall feel not unlike Naw Thoo--as if we had seen the evil one himself.
But when Naw Thoo learned that she had really seen herself, and not the
devil at all, she wanted to wash up so that she might be like Nah Wah.
And if we look into our own hearts and see ourselves as God sees us, we
shall want to be washed in the precious blood of Jesus which cleanses
from all sin."

The writer has related the story here as he has often told it to Sunday
School children in America, and of course it contains some elements which
are not important to the subject in hand; but from this description it
may perhaps seem that it ought to be the easiest thing in the world to
improve the conditions of these people, yet it is in reality no light
matter. On the plains, where the places of abode are fairly accessible to
modern workmen, houses of timber are gradually being introduced, but over
a large part of the country bamboos furnish the only material which is
available for the construction of houses. Indeed, Karens find bamboos
useful in such a variety of ways that they wonder how white people get on
without them. Bamboos grow everywhere. They are light and exceedingly
strong. Properly shored up with bamboo struts, a bamboo house up in the
mountains will stand the wildest kind of storm. It lasts only two or
three years, but from the hygienic standpoint this is an advantage, since
it gives the people a new house to live in.

Any one would say at once that the eating of rotten fish ought to be done
away with; but even that is not so simple a matter. Fish constitute one
of the chief products of the country. Burma has two seasons only, a rainy
and a dry. For six months there is no rain, and the ground becomes
parched and dry. Then for six months there is rain, and the rivers rise
and flood their banks and extend like great lakes on every side. The
rainfall varies from eighty or ninety inches to a hundred and twenty
inches in the vicinity of Rangoon, and from two hundred to two hundred
and fifty inches in Maulmein, and there is an even higher rainfall in
other places. When the writer is at Nyaunglebin, one of his stations,
during the dry season, he is six miles from any running water, but during
the rainy season, he can fish out of his window. For during the rainy
season the fish go up the streams and cover all the land. This is
probably the breeding season for many varieties of fish; but there comes
a time when instinct tells them they must return to the lower waters, and
they begin to make their way down stream. Then men put weirs across the
streams and catch them in great quantities. Those which are detained in
little lakes and shallows, here and there, are caught by means of nets.
Thus at this season fish are very abundant. They are dressed a little,
and placed on platforms in the sun where they are allowed to swell up to
about twice their original size. Then they are taken and put down in
large earthen vats in layers, with salt between the layers, making a sort
of pickle, and are allowed to remain for from three to six months. At the
end of that time, bones and fins have become so dissolved that they are
one indistinguishable mass; of course the odor is reeking. But in this
condition the fish will keep for a considerable period. It will spoil in
time, although how it becomes more spoiled than it already is, according
to western Ideas, it is hard to imagine. Undoubtedly some chemical change
takes place which renders it unfit for food. To western people, the very
thought of eating this preparation is nauseating; but the Karens learn to
eat it with relish, and when anything is said about it, ask if white
people do not eat rank-smelling cheese. It is difficult to see how in
that tropical climate this great supply of fish could be made available
for the mass of the people the year around, unless it were prepared in
some such way.

Of course in the matter of cleanliness, betterment is comparatively easy.
Certainly clothes need not be left unwashed until they rot off the back;
and yet when one considers the conditions in which the people live, and
must live, it is not difficult to make allowance for a considerable
degree of uncleanliness. During the dry season upon the plains, the
ground is baked hard, and when it is beaten up by the heavy cartwheels,
it becomes a fine dust which fills the air and sifts into the houses
everywhere, for the heat of the climate makes it impossible to close the
houses. They must have ample openings for ventilation. During the rainy
season, on the other hand, whenever the people step out of doors, they
may have to go in mud up to the ankle, and between the mud of the rainy
season and the dust of the dry, it is difficult to keep nicely clean.
Moreover, in the bamboo houses, at all seasons of the year, there is a
small insect, much like the weavil, which gradually eats up the fibre of
the bamboo and scatters a fine dust through all the house.

The chewing of betel nut is another matter in which it is difficult to
bring about a rapid change, although it is one of the most disgusting of
habits. The betel nut itself is the fruit of a kind of palm, of
surpassing beauty. The fruit grows in clusters at the top. The nut has an
astringent or puckery taste, and it is said will tan leather;
nevertheless, if used alone, it would probably be innocent enough. With
it is combined the leaf of a vine which the people cultivate. This leaf
is about as large as that of the beach and of similar shape, but is
thicker and has a slightly spicy taste. The user of the betel nut takes
one of these leaves on the palm of his hand, smears moist lime over it,
on the lime places the betel nut which he has previously sliced up into
small pieces, rolls the whole up into a quid and chews it. The lime seems
to be required to make it palatable. The flow of saliva is profuse, and
the custom is even more filthy than the chewing of tobacco. The
expectoration is red in color, and care is required to prevent its
overflowing from the mouth and discoloring the chin. The teeth soon turn
black, and ultimately drop out.

The writer once made a long tour into Northern Siam to visit some Karen
churches which were gathered there many years ago. On the way he passed
through Chiengmai, one of the principal stations of the American
Presbyterian Mission, and formed the acquaintance of a medical missionary
there. The doctor had been asked by a Siamese prince to come and extract
a tooth for him, and was so kind as to invite the writer to go along. The
two went together to the palace and were ushered into the prince's
presence. The prince pointed out to the doctor the obstreperous tooth
which he wished to have drawn, and asked him if it would hurt any. The
doctor examined the tooth and said he thought not. The prince, however,
was not satisfied, and, as there was a prince of lower rank present,
asked the doctor to extract a tooth for that man first, with the
understanding that if it did not hurt him, he himself would submit to the
operation. The doctor examined the second prince's mouth until he found a
tooth which was about in the same condition as that of the first prince,
and drew it. The second prince's face was still placid, showing no
evidence of pain. The first prince asked if it hurt any, and he said:

"No, it did not."

"Well, then," said the first prince, "I am ready to have my tooth drawn."
The doctor said afterwards that the tooth was barely hanging by the skin,
that the lime with the betel nut which the prince was accustomed to chew
had undoubtedly dissolved away the bony process which holds the tooth in
place, so there was nothing to which it could cling.

Users of betel nut often suffer greatly from various forms of dyspepsia,
some of them being most painful and distressing. But the habit is almost
universal and its hold is very strong, so that it is difficult for those
who once become addicted to it to give it up. Old men who have lost their
teeth have little brass mortars with sharp-edged pestles with which they
manage to crunch up the mass, then put it in their mouths and mumble it
with their gums. Some say that unless they have their betel nut, their
food does not taste good, and probably it becomes in time almost
indispensable, as some people claim that they cannot get on without their
tobacco. There seems little doubt that the prevalence of the habit is due
in part to the insipidity and sameness of most of the native food.

The living conditions of the common people in Burma are not, then, so
easy to be improved as one might think. The problem is a difficult one,
and a long time must intervene before a really worth-while indigenous
civilization can be developed. But even though the outward forms of
civilization may be wanting, Christianity undoubtedly implants in the
hearts of its followers the seeds of a genuine culture which will
ultimately find ways of expression. As has already been pointed out, when
a Karen is converted, he wants first of all to get an education, and then
he wants to improve his physical surroundings. Reference has been made to
the zeal and devotion of many of the early pastors and their sagacity in
seizing the opportunities which opened out before them upon the British
occupation of the country. Some of these men took up extensive tracts of
land, rallied their people about them, and had them bring the land under
cultivation, thus establishing many flourishing settlements in place of
the shifting abodes to which the Karens had formerly been accustomed.
Some of them dug extensive systems of irrigating ditches, for the
cultivation of special crops on land which was unsuitable for other
purposes, and thus laid the basis for later prosperity, enriching not
only themselves but also their people. One still marvels at what was
accomplished by many of these men. Karens have told the writer that when
his father first went among them, few owned so much as a buffalo, and
when they needed a cart, the householders in a whole village would have
to club together to buy one. Now herds of buffaloes are seen grazing
about their villages, there is a cart under every house, and a few of the
people have incomes which would enable even a white man to live in
comfort--all very largely the result of native foresight and initiative.

In some parts Karens live in a kind of community house, but when they
become Christians, they want, for the sake of privacy, to live in
separate houses. Christian villages are cleaner than heathen villages; on
this account they often escape epidemics of cholera and other diseases to
which their heathen neighbors are subject. More and more the disciples
are coming to feel that the chewing of betel nut is not befitting to them
as Christians, and are not only discarding its use but ceasing its
cultivation, although some of them have their living by it, and, like the
raising of tobacco in America, it brings them a larger return than would
anything else. Improved styles of clothing are being adopted, dwelling
houses made more attractive; and a greater variety in food, as well as a
more wholesome diet, is being sought.

Meanwhile progress has been made in other directions. Karens have risen
to positions of distinction and honor; some are forest officers,
inspectors of schools, commanders of military police and judges of
courts. A few have become barristers, some doctors, while many are
teachers. A Karen has recently been appointed a member of the Lieutenant
Governor's council, the highest honor within the power of the local
government to confer on a native of the country. Some of them read
Shakespeare understandingly. One has translated The Merchant of Venice
into the Karen language. Many are fine singers. At the world's Y.P.S.C.E.
Convention in Agra, the Karen choir commanded universal praise. In fact
the Christian Karens in general have developed a remarkable gift of song.
The native music is by no means so pretentious as is that of the Burmans.
The latter with their trills and runs, might almost rival the operatic
singer of the west, but their voices are utterly lacking in musical
quality. The tone is a shriek or a yell, formed in an entirely different
manner from our singing tone. The native singing of the Karens, on the
other hand, ordinarily covers a range of only a few notes but, while the
quality is not very good, at least it is not raucous. A few native airs
are still sung by the Christians, suitable hymns having been composed to
go with them. They are weird and of pleasing melody. For the rest, the
Christian Karens, unlike the Indian Christians who have largely retained
their own airs, have adopted western tunes. In the average congregation,
even in far-off jungle villages, every one will be singing; and the Karen
Christian may not have a bible, but he is almost sure to have a hymn
book. This wondrous gift of song goes far to compensate for other
deficiencies, especially when it is remembered that among these people is
to be found an ever increasing number of those who are fine and
companionable in every way, fitted to grace any circle.


Probably most missionaries to the Karens have supposed that they were a
decadent race, or at least that they were losing their language and their
distinguishing racial characteristics. It was feared that they were
rapidly becoming Burmanized. Many of them speak the Burmese language as
fluently as their own, and there are some who use nothing else, having
quite forgotten their mother tongue. This tendency has seemed so strong
that many have expected the Karen language to disappear entirely in the
course of a few generations, if not within a few decades. But on
consulting the last government census report of Burma the writer was
greatly surprised to learn that these fears are groundless. The figures
given in the census prove that, so far from being a decadent race, the
Karens are showing signs of marked virility. Not so very long since, they
stood fourth among the races of Burma in numerical importance, not only
the Burmese, but also the Talaings and Shans taking precedence over them.
Now, on the other hand, they stand second, the Talaings and Shans having
been outdistanced. During the ten year period covered by the census,
while the population of the province as a whole increased from 10,490,624
to 12,115,217, or fifteen per cent., and the Burmese population from
7,437,363 to 8,317,842 or about twelve per cent., the number of persons
actually speaking the different dialects of the Karen language rose from
881,290 to 1,067,363, an advance of over twenty-one per cent. Part of
this increase has been due to the inclusion of dialects or tribes which
were not formerly comprised in the census area. But a reference to the
statistics of the Sgaw and Pwo Karen tribes alone, which were not
affected by changes in the census, indicates that they show practically
the same rate of increase, the number of those actually speaking these
dialects having risen during the period named from 704,835 to 850,756.

But of peculiar interest is the comment of the Superintendent of the
Census, Mr. C. Morgan Webb. Referring to the Karens as a whole, he says:

"In the midst of communities who have readily amalgamated with whatever
tribes and races happened to be in their immediate vicinity, the Karens
alone have remained isolated and self-contained. The ready reception they
have given to the teachings of Christianity has tended to strengthen
their individuality as a racial group, and to widen the differences
existing between them and the remaining indigenous races of the province.
While the Talaings, at one time supreme over the whole deltaic portion of
Burma, are being absorbed by the Burmese, there is no suggestion that any
such absorption, or even that any amalgamation between the Burmese and
the Karen races is within the range of possibility."

Here, then, is presented the phenomenon of a race which a hundred years
ago, under the heel of oppression, was probably no more than holding its
own, if indeed it was not in danger of actual extinction, now steadily
advancing in numbers until it has outdistanced all the other races of
Burma except the Burmese themselves. And this increase is ascribed by so
impartial an observer as the superintendent of the census to the
influence of Christianity. The case is even stronger than Mr. Webb puts
it. For in another place, writing of the Sgaws and Pwos, the two leading
Karen tribes, he says:

"There is a tendency for the Pwo dialect to give place to the Sgaw, but
the figures recorded do not enable the strength of this tendency to be
measured." One might perhaps infer from this language that the Sgaw is
supplanting the Pwo in the sense that those formerly speaking Pwo are now
speaking Sgaw. But such is not the fact. Those who are familiar with the
situation know full well that the Pwos are not becoming Sgaws; they are
rather being Burmanized, and so lost to the Karen race altogether. The
tendency for the Pwos to give place to the Sgaws must therefore mean an
absolute increase on the part of the Sgaws over and above the rate of
increase of the Karens as a whole. This is the more significant because
it is among the Sgaws that Christian missions have been chiefly

For a full appreciation of these statements the racial conditions
existing in Burma need to be borne in mind. Burma is situated near the
head of those spurs and lesser ranges which, beginning in the eastern
part of the Himalayas, extend fan-like, in a south-easterly direction, to
the borders of the continent of Asia at Singapore and other points, and
crop up beyond in the partly submerged mountain-islands of the Andamans
and the East Indian Archipelago. Three of these ranges, the Eastern,
Middle and Western Yomas, pass through Burma itself. In the northern part
of the country, other ranges cross and intersect in such a way as to
divide the face of the land into numerous little valleys. There have been
several invasions of Burma by immigrants from China on the north, but
these have not been, like the early migrations of barbarian hordes into
Europe, when the oncoming hosts surged in like a great flood. The
mountain barriers have prevented that. Rather these invasions have been
like a mere spill, the dashing of spray, a trickle over the passes of the
mountains, at numerous periods and at various intervals. Many of these
waters lodged in little valleys here and there, and formed so many
separate communities, sometimes only half a dozen small villages
constituting a tribe with its own peculiar dialect. It is only those
tribes which in some way push on, or are thrust on, to the more open
country to the south that can ever become numerically important. No fewer
than sixty-five indigenous languages and dialects are named in the
government census, and the list is by no means exhaustive. In olden
times, these races and tribes were comparatively stable, but recently,
with a strong government over the whole country, improved communications
and increased trade, nearly all of them are in a state of flux. The
tendency is for the smaller tribes to be swallowed up in the larger. The
census indicates that of the sixty-five languages and dialects listed, no
fewer than seventeen showed a decrease in number, three of these actually
becoming extinct. Of the rest, fifteen have increased chiefly because
they have only recently been brought into the area covered by the census
operations, and eight are so small as to be negligible. A few on the
outskirts of the country are being strengthened by immigration from
China. There are also the natives of India who come by sea and are for
the most part mere transients, earning a small competency and returning
to their own country. The Karens alone, although living alongside of the
Burmans in the deltaic portions of the country, where it would seem that
they ought most certainly to become amalgamated with the latter, are
successfully resisting that tendency and maintaining their independent,
separate, racial existence.

Is Mr. Webb correct in ascribing this rather remarkable phenomenon to the
ready reception which the Karens have given to the teachings of
Christianity, and, if so, in what way has it been brought about? To the
former question it may be answered, yes, and no. It should be observed
that Mr. Webb does not have in mind the increase of the Karens in
numbers. That is undoubtedly due to the protection accorded to them by
the British government. Formerly, under the Burmese king, as has been
noted, they were subjected to all manner of abuse and oppression. But
with the advent of the British all this was changed at once. Since then,
the Karens have been protected in their pursuits, have enjoyed perfect
liberty to go and come at their pleasure without fear of others, and have
experienced such prosperity and ease as they had never known before. To
these benign influences the growth of the Karen race in numbers is
undoubtedly due. But the Talaings and the Shans and the many other races
of Burma have had precisely the same protection as the Karens; they have
been under the same laws, and enjoyed the same immunities. There is no
reason to suppose that they, as compared with the latter, are lacking in
physical stamina. Why, then, do they all tend to amalgamate, to flow
together, while the Karens alone are maintaining their racial
independence? It is this which Mr. Webb ascribes to the influence of the
missionaries, and he is undoubtedly right, if, with this influence, be
included all that made it possible.

Just here the question may very naturally be asked whether this
persistent differentiation of the Karen race is desirable. Would it not
be better for them to amalgamate with the Burmans and lose their
identity? Why maintain separate language and customs? To answer such
questions as these is aside from the purpose of the writer here,
nevertheless, it may be pointed out that any race which has the virility
to assert itself and maintain its integrity in the face of disintegrating
influences such as surround the Karens, may be supposed, in the very
nature of the case, to be a worth-while race. The presumption is strongly
in their favor at the outset. As to the Karens in particular, if
something aside from brute force is of value in the world, if virtue,
idealism and integrity are real assets and not mere liabilities, it would
seem that the conservation of the Karen race, with its language and
customs, is not a mistake, but is something to be desired; for with its
language and customs would undoubtedly go its comparatively high moral
standards and everything else that makes it unique among the peoples of
the East.

What, then, have the missionaries done to bring about this result? And
what forces have cooperated with them to make it possible? It should be
conceded to start with that, however great the zeal and faithfulness of
the missionaries, their efforts would, so far as one can judge, have met
with comparatively meager success had it not been for the remarkable
preparedness on the part of the Karens themselves for the reception of
Christianity. Beyond this, the work of the missionaries has been largely
confined to the gathering and training of a Christian community. Little
outside of that has been possible. The heathen population, measureably
accessible though they have been to the gospel, have not been open to
what is known as social service, for instance. Whatever influence has
been exercised upon the race as a whole, along these lines, has been
achieved through the medium of the Christian community and on the side of
the religious approach alone. It is commonly said that Peter Parker
opened China at the point of the lancet, but, whatever may have been true
of other races, the lancet does not open the way for the acceptance of
Christianity among the Karens today, and never has. The process is, in
fact, quite the reverse--the Christian religion sometimes opens the way
for the lancet, the preacher has introduced the doctor, and only after
the doctor has been recognized as a man of God have his medicines been

A Karen vaccinator, holding a government license, went to a heathen Karen
village to vaccinate the people against an epidemic of small-pox which
was raging in the vicinity. But the villagers refused to receive him
until a preacher had vouched for him, because, they said, they were
afraid he would innoculate them with the real disease, in the manner of
some Burmese practitioners. After the preacher had assured them of the
man's entire trustworthiness, they consented to be vaccinated. Not a few
government doctors of genuine zeal and devotion to their tasks mourn that
they have so little access to the Karen people--and yet no such obstacle
stands in the way as that of caste in India. The reason they are not able
to reach the people more effectively is that they lack the religious

Even if the heathen had been open to the social approach, it is not
certain that the missionaries could have done much for them. When they
began their work among the Karens, they were as enthusiastic as could be
desired for giving them the benefits of western civilization as well as
of western religion. Occidentals, especially perhaps those of Anglo-Saxon
extraction, are so obsessed with the absolute superiority of their
civilization, that they are likely to think the peoples of the East ought
to accept it as a matter of course. Such is the benignity of their
attitude towards these less favored peoples that, if they do not adopt at
once what is offered, there is a disposition to force it upon them
willy-nilly, and any resistance on their part is prone to be ascribed to
their intense conservatism, the reflection never once arising that the
trouble may lie exclusively in the unsuitability of western methods to
oriental conditions and surroundings.

The writer was once talking with a prominent government official when he
told of an experience he had had while holding a subordinate office. He
got out an American reaping machine and announced that on such a day he
would reap the field of a certain village headman. At the appointed time,
people came from miles around to witness the unusual event. The machine
was turned into the field, and men, women and children gazed in open-eyed
astonishment as it reaped in a few hours what it would have taken them
days to harvest with their little hand sickles. When that field was
reaped, the young officer turned to another headman and proposed to reap
his field.

"Oh, no," said the man, "I do not want you to reap my field." This
incident was related as an evidence of hopeless conservatism on the part
of the second headman, and by inference of the people of Burma in
general; but in reality it proves nothing of the kind. It only showed the
inadaptability of western methods to eastern conditions. There rice
fields are divided up by means of little earthen ridges a foot or two in
height into plots averaging not more than half an acre in extent. The
writer is not quite sure of the reason of this, but his understanding is
that, if the plots were made larger, the wind would set up currents in
them which would interfere with the best growth of the plants. By harvest
time, the water has, of course, disappeared, but turn an American reaper
into one of these little plots, and more grain would be trodden down than
reaped. The old-fashioned cradle might be useful, if made small enough;
the natives are so slight of stature that they could hardly swing
full-sized cradles. But really there, where labor is so cheap, it is
difficult to find methods of agriculture which are an improvement on
their own, and the American reaper is as little suited for their needs as
the leg of an elephant to the body of a cat.

The oriental is really no more conservative than the occidental. The
marvellous changes which have been voluntarily adopted in China and Japan
in recent years, really, though perhaps not confessedly, as a result of
Christian missions, is convincing evidence. But the westerner, when
trying to instruct the inhabitant of the East, is quite as likely to make
himself ridiculous as helpful. The missionaries tried introducing
American plows. The Karens are agriculturists and it seemed that it ought
to be easy enough to find a plow that would be an improvement on the
native implement, which is simply a forked stick with an iron shoe on the
end of it. But various plows were tried and speedily discarded; not one
of them proved to be really practical. American plows are too heavy for
the small native cattle to draw, and in any case a draft of only three or
four inches is required, as the rice sprouts cannot stand up well in
deeply plowed soil.

Now the time has probably come when the missionary, if set free from
other work and given financial backing, which would enable him to do it,
might accomplish something along the line of agricultural experimentation
which would be really constructive. After three-quarters of a century of
intimate contact with the people, he has learned humility and realizes
that he would have to begin from the standpoint of eastern conditions,
not of western. Problems in plenty present themselves. Many of the
Karens, who were originally a hill tribe, came down to the plains when
the country was first opened up by the British, and took up land which
has since become valuable. With repeated cultivation of the same crop,
however, these lands are losing their fertility, while the hills, which
are capable of supporting a vast population and are still the natural
habitat of the Karens--a region where their sturdy physiques have their
best development--remain for the most part uncultivated. The whole great
task would not be an easy one. Probably not less than five years of
sympathetic study on the spot by a trained expert would be required
before even a beginning could be made. The government is already trying
to do something; it has a Director of Agriculture, with two or three
assistants who have been trained in English or Canadian schools. But
government cannot get into intimate touch with the Karens--missionaries
are specialists at that, and recognized as such. There is good reason to
believe, however, that in time the problems mentioned would be solved.
This might mean much for the betterment and prosperity of the entire
Karen race. But, to tell the truth, up to the present, the missionaries
have been able to do little along these lines even for the Christian
community, let alone the great body of heathens.

Nor is it by any means sure that, even if the missionaries had all along
been in a position to render aid to the heathen community, and they had
been open to approach, they would have profited by it. Not that which is
from without, but that which is from within, defiles the man; and equally
true is it that, not that which is imposed from without, but that which
is implanted within, benefits the man. There is not the slightest doubt
that the Christian converts would seize with avidity any suggestions
which they found really practicable. They have the new spirit which would
prompt them to it. Many of them are constantly on the lookout for
anything which may prove a benefit to their people. But as to the
heathen, the case is different. The writer and his father before him have
both been asked many times by heathen to do them some favor. No one was
ever refused. At various times substantial benefits have been secured,
grants of land, reduced taxation, exemption from onerous impressment, and
so forth. The missionaries have always been glad to help, but, so far as
is known, none of the recipients of their kindnesses has ever been really
profited. Not only have they not been more forward to accept the
Christian religion, but they have gotten no real good from what was done
for them. They simply had more money to spend for drink, or more leisure
for carousing, or something of the sort. It was not in them to turn the
favors received to good account, but only to evil.

The temporal progress mentioned in a previous chapter has been confined
almost exclusively to the Christian community. So far as the writer
knows, not one heathen Karen has ever risen to even a moderate degree of
distinction. Some have acquired wealth in one way or another, but not one
has attained to even a subordinate position of honor or trust in the
service of the government or anywhere else. The government has been
thoroughly cordial and would gladly recognize ability wherever found.
Other positions are also open. But the heathen Karen simply does not
possess the power. He is intellectually as good as dead.

What then is the present situation? The number of Karen Christians, as
recorded in the census, is 130,271 less than twelve per cent, of the
entire Karen population. Of course this includes not simply actual
members of churches, but the entire Christian constituency, men, women
and children, those who are Christians by conviction and life, and those,
not very numerous to be sure, who are registered as Christians because
they do not care to subscribe themselves as belonging to any other faith.
This small community has made remarkable progress along all lines. The
same would undoubtedly have been true of the entire Karen nation had it
all been christianized, as at one time seemed probable. It develops that,
although this did not take place, the entire race has nevertheless been
remarkably conserved. If again the question be raised, "How has this
result been brought about?" the answer is confessedly difficult. The
missionaries seem to have had, and in the nature of the case could have
had, little to do with it. Their efforts were of necessity confined to
the gathering and building up of the Christian community. Whatever else
was accomplished was brought about purely and simply by indirection, and
its process is obscure. Was it that the Karens, even though they did not
become Christians, could not forget their early traditions? Was it that
in the Christian appeal they felt the pull of their old time faith? Even
though they may not have heeded it, have they heard the inner call to
return to their God, and has this been a bond to hold them as a race from
dissolution? In other words, has the power of God manifested itself
directly upon the hearts of these people, rallying them about the ancient
ideals which, though crude, were nevertheless in the main true to him?

Doubtless among all peoples wherever a spiritual evangel has been
preached. It has brought temporal blessing, the "healing of the nations."
In some instances this may have arisen as the result of direct effort,
the answer of Christian sympathy to human need, but in the case of the
Karens, it has been achieved, so far as can be judged, on the ground of
the religious appeal alone. The call of God, whether heeded or unheeded,
has been as life from the dead. It has awakened an entire race with the
thrill of consciousness. Even though still partially enswathed in the
cerements of death, it has heard the word of power and is coming forth to
take its rightful place in the world arena. What position it may
ultimately occupy, no one can tell. Probably it will never be numerically
so important as the dominant races of India or of China, perhaps not even
so important as the Burmese. But its moral significance is likely to
outweigh by far its greatness in numbers. Meanwhile it is an earnest of
the blessed work which God intends to carry on among all races through
the gospel of his Son.


The writer stood one day on the banks of the Salween River which, for a
distance of about seventy-five miles, forms the boundary between Burma on
the west and Siam on the east. At the point where he stood, the river is
only a few hundred yards wide, although it broadens out some miles below
into a majestic stream. The channel, which is a rocky gorge, is very
deep, how deep he has no means of knowing. Local tradition has it that it
is so deep that, if there were no water in it, the traveller on foot
would require a whole day to thread his way down one side and up the
other. This is doubtless an exaggeration, but beyond question the depth
is really very great. The current is terrific, reminding one of the
Niagara in the gorge below the falls. It is perhaps like what Niagara
would be if its channel were deeper, for in the Salween there is no
furious dashing of waves on the surface as in the other river, but a
writhing and seething and twisting and turning quite as suggestive of
power. The missionary had with him seven ponies, for he was on a tour
into Northern Siam. A whole month would be required for the journey each
way. Usually he had but five ponies, two for riding and three for
packing, but on this occasion another missionary was going with him, and
so he had two more. The problem was to get the ponies across the river.
By the bank was a native boat, a dug-out of rather unusual size, hewn out
of a single log. It was thirty-five or forty feet in length and about
three feet and a half wide. The seven ponies were led into the stream
alongside the boat. They were native ponies, the tallest only about
twelve hands high, so small that when the missionary stood beside it with
elbow at his side and his forearm stretched out horizontally, his hand
rested on the top of the animal's shoulder, and when he rode, his feet
came within a few inches of the ground. Yet it was sturdy and willing,
and would carry his hundred and ninety pounds up and down the roughest
roads, paths which no self-respecting American horse would travel alone,
to say nothing of carrying a weight on its back.

When the ponies had all been led into the water on the side of the boat
downstream, the missionary took his place in about the center of the boat
lengthwise, holding his two largest ponies by their bridles; ahead of him
were men with two more of his ponies, and back of him were men with the
other three. Then a strange thing happened. The boatman, a large stockily
built man who had a reputation all over Burma for his skill, stood on the
stem as firmly as a tree growing on a rock, grasped the end of a large,
long paddle in his right hand,--the paddle must have been from eight to
ten feet in length, with a blade about fifteen inches wide--wrapped his
right foot around it down near the blade; and struck off from shore,
rowing and steering that great boat, with its dragging freight, alone,
with a single motion of the paddle. No sooner did the ponies find their
feet off the ground than they became frantic. They were so swept with the
current hither and thither that they knew not what to make of it.
Sometimes they struck off away from the boat, sometimes in towards the
boat as if they would climb in, sometimes forward, sometimes backward,
until the craft became quite unmanageable. Meanwhile the ponies with the
boat and its occupants were being borne down the river. For half a mile
or more they were carried until they reached an enormous eddy which flung
its whirling currents almost from bank to bank. The missionary thought
that they would all surely be swept back to shore again, but by that time
the ponies had become so utterly fatigued with their efforts, that they
could struggle no longer. The biggest one, the favorite riding pony, lay
over on its side with its stomach in the air quite ready to give up the
ghost. Its master had to hold its head above water by main force, else it
would have been drowned, then and there. When the ponies ceased
struggling, however, the boat became manageable again, the boatman turned
the prow toward the further shore, pushed forward with his mighty paddle,
and soon the ponies felt their feet on solid ground again, clambered up
the bank, and in a short time were ready for the continuation of the

The incident is mentioned here not because of its exciting nature,
although the adventure was sufficiently thrilling at the time,--for the
other missionary who watched from the shore thought that they would all
be drowned,--but because it gives a picture of conditions as they exist
even today on the mission field of Burma. There were the ponies
struggling frantically in the water, their friend in the boat trying to
encourage them as well as he could with his familiar voice, and the
boatman at the stern, ready, active, resourceful. There are the native
Christians in the stress of conditions which are at best truly
disheartening, there is the missionary doing what he can to encourage and
direct them, and ever at the helm, guiding all, is the Master.

No one can conceive the stress and turmoil of the conditions with which
the native Christians have constantly to contend. To live from childhood
up in a land in which cholera is endemic and one can never tell when it
may spring up is, of itself, sufficiently terrifying. A horrible disease
it is, shudderingly rapid in its action; for in that country one may get
up in the morning feeling perfectly well, and be in his grave at night.
Take a sponge full of water and squeeze it until there is not a drop
left--that is cholera. It turns all the fluids of the system into water
and drains them off, so that soon the eyes become sunken, the fingers and
toes shriveled up because there is nothing to fill out the skin, the
wrist pulseless because there is so little blood to pulsate,--perhaps a
slight pulse under the armpit,--that is all.

The writer has seen only a few cases of this dread disease. The first was
that of a pupil in the station school, about fourteen years of age. He
was taken ill one morning, but the missionary did not learn of it until
noon. By that time he looked more like a corpse than a living person. The
missionary had him segregated from the other pupils, and with the aid of
the teachers and older school boys took care of him. Soon he noticed that
they were grasping the patient's legs with all their might. He asked why
they did so, and was told that he was having cramps, and, if they did not
hold the muscles in place, those from the back would whip around to the
front. Such excruciating pains as the little fellow suffered it is
impossible to describe. He survived until the next morning. While
preparations were being made for burying him, which was done at once,
another child was noticed to be acting strangely, and was asked what
ailed him. He said that he did not feel well, and at two o'clock that day
he was dead. When a case breaks out among the Karens, it is customary for
them to leave a goblet of water by the side of the patient, who always
suffers from a racking thirst, and make for the jungle, taking with them
a few handfuls of rice or whatever else is conveniently to hand. Or, if
it is a Christian village, a person will be left to care for the sick
one, but that usually means that, when the villagers return, three or
four days later, there are two bodies to bury instead of one. For quickly
and mysteriously as the disease appears, it subsides as quickly if it
finds no human victims. Among the Burmese, on the other hand, with their
fatalistic ideas, it is customary for the people to remain in their
homes, and great numbers may be swept off in a few days. Until recent
years the reports of the British army posts, where the best of physicians
are employed, showed only two or three per cent of recoveries from
cholera. Now, improved methods of treatment,--among them being the
introduction into the system of normal salt solution to take the place of
the blood which has been drained off,--may have raised the percentage
somewhat, but of course the natives know nothing of these methods. To
live from childhood up in such a country, constantly surrounded by a
menace of this kind, is like having a continuous nightmare.

There are other diseases. The dreaded small-pox frequently breaks out.
People in that country do not use the precautions familiar with us to
prevent the spread of the malady. Some of the more enlightened are
beginning to resort to vaccination, but the approved native way is to
inoculate with the real disease. Measles is almost as much dreaded as
small pox, as it frequently assumes a virulent form. In travelling
through the jungles it is not uncommon at the approach to a Karen village
to see hung overhead across the pathway a rope from which are suspended
fetters of elephants, neck-gongs of the domestic buffalo, yoke-bows of
oxen, clubs and cudgels, as a warning to bring no infectious disease into
the village on pain of punishment and fines.

But the worst scourge of all, perhaps, although not so spectacular as
some, is the malaria. This is almost universal. It is subtle in its
action, but its effects are often very serious. Young people sixteen to
eighteen years of age, who ought to be in the enjoyment of exuberant
youth, will frequently come to the missionary and say,

"Oh, Teacher, I wish I could die; I am so miserable." And as he looks
upon their sallow faces, their sunken, almost expressionless eyes, their
soft, flabby muscles, he does not wonder at it. Sometimes babies have
malaria so badly that before they are six months old their spleens become
enlarged, and it is quite common to meet a man whose spleen fills half
the abdominal cavity. Most people in America do not know where the spleen
is but every Karen knows.

Mad dogs are another source of terror. Six were killed on the writer's
compound in one season--for there are mad dog seasons in Burma, as there
are strawberry seasons in America, and they come at about the same time.
The Burmese will never kill a mad dog since they think it is a sin to
take animal life. The consequence is that the pests roam at large biting
people and other dogs, and spreading the virus of their dreadful disease.
There is a Pasteur institute in Rangoon to which one may go for
treatment, but few of the natives know of it or understand its value. For
the most part they content themselves with their own remedies. The native
doctors profess to have methods of treatment which first develop in the
patient all the symptoms of hydrophobia and then cure him of them. They
are, of course, of more than doubtful value, but enough people who have
been bitten by mad dogs recover anyway to lend plausibility to the claim.

Venomous serpents abound. There is the cobra or hooded serpent, whose
bite is almost invariably fatal. The members of this family of reptiles
vary in size from a small yellow variety less than a foot long with a
bronze colored head of metallic luster to the hamadryad twelve feet long.
This last is as fleet as a horse, and will chase a man. An instance is
recorded of a Burman who was being pursued by one of these monsters. He
came to a stream of water, and in jumping across it his red turban fell
off. The serpent's attention was attracted by that, it attacked it
viciously, and the man escaped. The Russell's viper is worse than the
cobra. It is a short, thick reptile, only about a foot and a half long,
but as large around as the wrist of a man. It likes to lie in the dust of
the roadway. Step over it, and nothing happens; but the slightest touch,
and its stroke is as quick as lightning and more deadly than that of the
cobra. A beautiful young Karen woman, belonging to one of the choicest
families in the Shwegyin mission, went down out of her house one night,
barefooted according to the custom of her people, and returned saying
that she had stepped on a thorn. Soon serious symptoms developed, and in
a few hours she was dead. It is supposed that she had stepped on the fang
of a dead viper which had been killed there some months before. The body
of the snake had decayed away, but the poison sack remained and that was
still able to inject the poison into the wound made by the fang. A kind
of water snake is described whose bite is said to be even more venomous
than that of the viper. Some one will go to the spring to draw water, be
bitten by this serpent, and not be able to get back to the house, but
drop dead almost instantly.

The python is another denizen of the forest which is greatly to be
feared. It is not venomous like the serpents just mentioned, although the
Karens have a tradition to the effect that in the beginning it was the
only creature whose bite was venomous, and its poison was so powerful
that, if it bit even the footprint of a man, the man would shortly die.
But it had seen no evidence of its power; so it inquired of the birds if
they knew anything about it. The paddy bird and the owl and the great
horned toucan said they knew nothing, but the crow said that it had seen
a man whose track the python had bitten, and it had followed him, but it
judged that, so far from having an injurious effect on the man, it must
have produced a very joyous result, for it had seen a great concourse of
people who were engaged in dancing and singing. The fact was that the man
had died, and what the crow witnessed was a Karen funeral, but it mistook
it for a festal occasion. When the python heard the crow's report, it
climbed up into a tree and in sheer disgust spewed out all its venom on
the ground. Then the cobras and the vipers and the tigers and the toads
came and licked it up. The stinging spine fish had only time to dip its
spines in. The consequence is that all these creatures are venomous to
this day, but the python is free from venom. It is, nevertheless, a much
dreaded foe of man. It may hang suspended from the branch of a tree,
seize the unwary traveller, wrap itself around him, and squeeze him to
death before assistance can come. Tigers, leopards, bears and other wild
animals also roam the jungle to the terror of the native peoples.

From some of the worst of these dangers the missionary is comparatively
safe. During a cholera epidemic he is careful to drink boiled water only,
and eat no uncooked vegetables, or fruit which has not been disinfected.
He never sleeps without having a mosquito netting over him, so is
measureably free from malaria. If he is bitten by a mad dog, he goes to a
Pasteur institute for treatment. Some of the natives know of these
preventives, but few realize their importance, and to change the habits
of an entire race is not easy.

Of course none of these things is new to the student of missions. Every
one who is at all familiar with conditions in the tropics must know of
them. They are mentioned here because, while usually considered from the
side of the missionary, or perhaps merely mentioned as matters of curious
interest, they have a real and vital relation--in fact their most
intimate relation--to the people native of the country. The missionary
returns to the homeland occasionally, and is recuperated, but the Karen
has no such opportunity, and the conditions of life are very hard.

The physical conditions which have been described can be readily
understood by any one who gives them the least attention. They are,
however, but the prototype of other conditions which are more difficult
to visualize and make real to those who have not witnessed them, but
which are, nevertheless, even more serious. Among these are the economic
conditions. The Karens have a saying handed down from the elders:

"Children and grandchildren, in the last days, the earth will become so
narrow as to leave no room to so much as sit down in it." And this saying
seems now indeed to be coming true, so far as Burma is concerned. A
hundred years ago, the Karen had no need to concern himself seriously as
to where to gain his livelihood. He lived in constant fear of his
oppressors, to be sure, but economic conditions did not trouble him. His
wants were simple and easily met. Land there was in abundance which he
might cultivate at his pleasure, and thus secure his living. But, few
countries in the world are more lavishly endowed by nature than is Burma;
it is by far the richest of the provinces of India. A famine is almost
unknown. Once in forty or fifty years, to be sure, in the hill tracts,
all the bamboos of a certain variety go to seed at once. The rats feed on
the seed and propagate enormously. When they have eaten up all the seed
of the bamboo, they descend on the fields of rice and strip them of
absolutely every kernel of grain. When this source of provender is
exhausted, they sometimes migrate in great hordes to other parts to carry
on their work of destruction there. The writer has been credibly informed
of such a migration of rats which took place forty or fifty years ago
near Shwegyin when the rodents came down from the mountains on the east
in vast multitudes, those in front driven by those behind, until they
crossed the river on the other side, where they fought with one another
for places on the little ridges of earth between the rice plots and
myriads of them were drowned. But at the worst, the devastation wrought
in this way is of rare occurrence and is confined to a comparatively
narrow and sparsely settled range of country.

Aside from these sporadic and relatively insignificant times of scarcity,
the land brings forth abundantly, for there is never a failure of the
rains; and it was not to be expected that so rich a country would be
overlooked by the impoverished and often famine-stricken people of the
adjacent countries of India and China. These are, therefore, flocking
into Burma in great numbers. Comparatively few of them are becoming
permanent residents; They are there to suck out the richness of the
country and return home to live in, what for them is, princely comfort.
But they are drawing steadily upon the resources of Burma and making life
in that land more and more difficult. The Burmans themselves are also
awakening to the value of their inheritance and are bringing the soil
under cultivation in a manner which was not thought of in the time of
their kings. The consequence is that the desirable lands are nearly all
taken up, and the struggle for existence is becoming more and more
difficult. It is said that one method of torture sometimes practiced by
the American Indians was to wrap up their victims in a fresh hide and
place him out in the sun. As the hide dried up under the influence of the
sun's rays, it tightened upon the man enclosed and slowly pressed out his
life. If one can conceive of the feelings of that man, one can
understand, in a measure, what is happening to the Karens of Burma. They
cannot migrate to other lands. Their peaceful habits and manner of life
amid the solitudes of their hills has disqualified them for that. But
their own country is being invaded by foreign hordes, they are being
pressed on every side, and fields which a generation ago were almost
valueless are now beyond their reach.

Thus far the Karen has held his own fairly well. How he does it is a
mystery to even the most experienced missionary. In many ways the Karen
seems inefficient, easy-going and wasteful; yet among the Burmans he has
the reputation of being able to secure land and amass wealth as the
Burmans themselves cannot do. Certain it is that wherever there is a
Karen village, there are almost sure to be on the fringes Burmese
parasites who have no visible means of support, but really make their
living off the Karens. Nevertheless the economic problem which faces
Karen Christians is a very serious one. To them it is entirely new. There
is nothing in the previous experience of their race to fit them for it.
And surely enough it seems that their own graphic prophecy will come
true, the land will become narrower and smaller, until there is no room
in it to sit down on--as if men were crowded so close together that they
could not recline or even sit, but had to stand.

But that which most concerns the Christian student of missions is the
religious situation, and of this it is to be said that, notwithstanding
the splendid work which has already been accomplished in the spreading of
the gospel in Burma, this is perhaps the most serious condition of all,
and it bids fair to become more and more exacting. Too often it has been
represented that the heathen is hungering for the gospel. Would that it
were true! The natural mind is enmity against God, and already the
antagonism between heathenism and Christianity is very marked. It is
truly heart-moving to note with what tactfulness the preacher of the word
must conduct himself in order that he may gain access to the heathen. A
young Christian worker was sent to a district where there were no
disciples and the people had been brought so much under the influence of
Buddhism that they hated the Christian religion almost more than the
Buddhists themselves. He went alone. He entered a heathen Karen village
and was soon asked his business.

"Are you Jesus Christ?" they inquired--meaning a Christian.

"No," he said, "I am not Jesus Christ."

"Are you a white book?" meaning a believer in the bible.

"No," said he, "I am not a white book."

"Are you a diver?" that is, a Baptist.

"No, I am not a diver," came the reply.

"Well, then," they said, "we will let you come into our village, but we
will have nothing to do with these preachers." Then the young man asked
them to let him teach their children.

"What, can you teach?" they asked, for they were greatly surprised to
find a Karen who could teach. "And what can you teach?"

"Oh, Karen, and Burmese, and English."

"Do you mean to say you understand English? We never knew that a Karen
could speak English," and finding a scrap of an English newspaper
somewhere which had been used for wrapping paper, they brought it to him
to test him. When they learned that he could not only read English, but
also could converse a little in Hindustani, their admiration was
unbounded. He assured them, however, that where he came from, there were
Karens who knew much more than he.

"Now," he said, "let me start a school and teach your children." Most of
the children were being taught in a Buddhist monastery, after the manner
of the country, but a few of the stupidest were brought together and he
was permitted to try his hand on them--they were so dull that he probably
could not damage their comprehensions any way! What was the amazement of
all to find that these pupils made more progress in their studies under
him in a month than they had made before in a whole year in the
monastery. This was not particularly strange, for in the monasteries
children are taught by the most disapproved methods of modern pedagogy.
They are made to yell out their lessons at the top of their voices--this
is to assure the teacher they are studying. The boy that shouts the
loudest in considered the best scholar--for no girls are allowed. If any
boy fails in his lesson or makes a mistake in writing, he is given a
sharp rap on the knuckles. The result is that people taught under this
method cannot read unless they read aloud, and even then they often do
not understand what they are reading. Many a voice is made husky and
ruined for life, while the ordinary conversation of the people is loud
enough to fill a large auditorium. Two men walking side by side on the
public highway, conversing, can often be heard a block away.

The young man taught his little school faithfully, and soon the
attendance rose from fifteen at the beginning of the rainy season to
eighty-five at the close, about four months later. When he had won the
confidence of the people, he said to them:

"When I first came, you asked me if I was Jesus Christ. I am not Jesus
Christ, but a disciple of his. You asked me if I was the white book. I am
not the white book, but I believe in the white book, the bible. You asked
me if I was a diver. I am not a diver, but a dipper." Then he was
permitted to preach to them, and now a goodly number have been converted
through his efforts.

A native evangelist who was preaching to a little group of people was
once suddenly accosted by a group of Buddhist rowdies.

"Here you are at last!" said their leader. "We have been looking for you
all day--to preach to us."

"That is very strange," replied the preacher, quietly, "for I too have
been looking for you; and now what shall I preach about?"

"Oh, anything," replied his would-be audience, somewhat abashed by his
calm demeanor. He preached to them an hour or two until they began to
feel that their joke was growing tame, so they interrupted.

"Come, now, that is all right, but what we want to know is, which is the
greater, our Buddha or your Christ." The preached hesitated a moment as
if pondering deeply, then answered with a smile:

"I think I shall have to be like the rabbit."

"Like the rabbit?" they asked in surprise. "What do you mean?"

"Why, have you never heard the story of the rabbit?" said the evangelist
incredulously. "Then I shall have to tell it to you." And he related the

Once upon a time, the lion, king of bests, summoned his subjects to smell
of his breath. Now the lion had been feasting on carrion that day, so the
deer, who came first, took a whiff and said:

"Your Majesty, your breath is very offensive. In fact, it is vile."

"What! do you talk that way to your king? Do you insult me?" thundered
the lion, as with one stroke of his great paw he knocked the deer to the
ground. Next he called to him the fox who carefully sniffed the royal
breath and said:

"Oh, your Majesty, your breath is very sweet. It is as fragrant as the
jasmine flower."

"What! You know my breath is never fragrant! Will you lie to your king?"
roared the chief, and knocked him down as he had the deer.

Next to be called was the rabbit whose heart went pit-a-pat. The lion
said to him gruffly:

"How small you are! You would make just about one mouthful for such as
I." This speech made the poor little rabbit's heart beat faster than
ever, but he replied simply:

"This is as big as we grow." Then the great beast leaned down his shaggy
head and opened his fearful jaws until the trembling little creature
thought he would surely be swallowed alive.

"Smell my breath," the lion roared. The rabbit raised his little nose,
and gravely sniffed once--twice--then turned away. Again he lifted his
nose, "sniff, sniff." The king awaited his decision, but again the rabbit
turned away. Thus he did a third time and a fourth until the king,
becoming impatient, cried:

"There, now, you have smelled times enough. What does it smell like?"

"Your Majesty," murmured the rabbit, "I live in the deep jungle; I go out
in the early morning to graze in the meadows; the dew falls on my head,
and I have such a terrible cold that your breath does not smell of

Of course the lion could do nothing to the rabbit, and when the rowdies
saw the point of the story, they realized that they could get no
advantage of the preacher, and good-naturedly withdrew.

One could perhaps wish that the preacher had been more bold and had
declared fearlessly the superiority of Christ to Buddha, but he
understood the temper of the people with whom he was dealing, and he
probably did the wiser thing. He disarmed his antagonists, and at the
same time won their respect for his sagacity, and if, at a later time, he
had an opportunity to meet any of them singly, he would find them at
least cordial to him and perhaps open to his instructions.

These incidents illustrate present conditions only. They show that
already the Christian evangelist must use wisdom and discretion in
dealing with the heathen. These are probably more difficult to reach, in
some respects, now than they were fifty years ago, and conditions are
heading up for a still mightier struggle later on. Burma is the
stronghold of Buddhism, which is, without doubt, the best equipped system
of heathen philosophy and religion in existence. This faith is becoming
more and more conscious of itself, and is planning for a settled conflict
with Christianity. The Young Men's Buddhist Association is being
organized in competition with the Young Men's Christian Association;
Buddhist Sunday Schools are being held in imitation of Christian Sunday
Schools. So far as possible, wherever there is a mission day school a
Buddhist day school is being started alongside of it. And, not content to
let the native Buddhist fight it out by himself, men of so-called
Christian lands are doing their best to embitter the conflict. The
writings of Tom Paine and other western atheists and agnostics are being
published and circulated broadcast. Not infrequently the missionary is
approached by some disciple who has become perplexed by such propaganda.
Some people are troubled because they think that crass Tom Paineism is
being revamped and taught under a new guise in some of the theological
schools of America, but, even if that were true, when one knows of the
conscienceless way in which those long exploded criticisms of the bible
are being used to hinder the cause of truth in heathen lands, one feels
like the old-time minister who, when asked if he believed in deacons'
dancing, said, yes, he wished the deacons would do all the dancing. What
if a few scholars in America are disposed to put a new dress on ancient
forms of agnosticism and call it by some more euphonious name! Would that
they had it all, for it would do less harm there, where people of
intelligence are able to estimate it at its true value than on the
mission field, where the Christian converts already have problems enough
of their own, and, however true and loyal they may be, nevertheless lack
the heritage of Christian tradition and doctrine and life which gives
firmness and stability to their brethren of the West.

Is the part of the missionary clear? The outlook, although gloomy, is by
no means hopeless. As to the physical surroundings of the people, with
advancement in understanding and enlightenment these will gradually
improve. Of course the diseases which prevail cannot be at once
suppressed; they must be met with intelligence and courage. The
government is doing what it can for the relief of the people. It has its
hospitals with doctors in charge who dispense medicines freely to all
that come, and these hospitals are placed in nearly every important
center. But they cannot reach all the people, and there is needed some
one to act as intermediary and bring the hospitals and the people
together. For Karens have their ideas of medicine as have westerners and
they are not to be lightly convinced of the superiority of other methods
to their own. They talk impressively of the ninety-eight kinds of wind in
the system, as occidental doctors, not so very many years ago, used to
discourse learnedly of the humors of the body. To be sure, they do not
always succeed in curing the ailments of mankind, but there are others
who also fail. On the other hand, they sometimes seem to achieve results
where scientifically trained physicians have been baffled. The writer has
been credibly informed of instances in which cases of tetanus that had
been given up as hopeless by foreign doctors, have been cured. As to
western notions, what could be more absurd, from the Karen standpoint,
than to suppose that there is any connection between malaria and
mosquitoes, or that the germ of cholera may be lurking in water which
appears to be perfectly pure and sweet, or that the remedy for
hydrophobia is to be found in something taken from a rabbit? Some are
beginning to appreciate the value of western methods, but it is not to be
wondered at that not all do so. The missionary, as he travels about among
his people, even though he may have had no medical training, carries with
him simple remedies for the healing of the sick, and the fact that he has
a sense of racial differences and prejudices and knows how to make
allowances for them, enables him to accomplish oftentimes what those who
are ignorant of such things or less patient than he, cannot do. Moreover,
he can be depended upon to persevere in his work of instilling broader
ideas and more just conceptions.

The economic problem is difficult, but it is not to be despaired of. No
doubt it demands prompt attention, for other indigenous races have
succumbed to far less strenuous conditions than are confronting the
Karens. Some missionaries are already giving earnest consideration to it.
It deserves careful and thorough-going study. The solution probably lies
not in pampering the people in any way, or in trying to make their
conditions any easier--which would be a perfectly futile thing to
attempt--but in teaching them how to meet the conditions and overcome
them by their own skill and industry. To this end are required men of
special training who shall make a thorough study of the situation on the
ground and give that initial impetus which the people cannot themselves
get without assistance. In a later chapter, the possibilities along this
line will be mentioned more at length; suffice it here to point out the
importance of the subject.

Of the religious conditions now confronting the Karens, and of the great
spiritual conflict which awaits the entire Christian world, it is enough
to say that no one who believes in the promises of God can doubt what the
outcome will be. Truth will prevail. The gospel of grace will triumph.

One who is worthy of all blessing will be crowned King of Kings and Lord
of Lords. But if not only the subtlest minds of the East, but also some
of the best trained minds of the West are to be arrayed on the side of
error and falsehood, shall the native Christians be left to fight out the
battle alone? Let it be remembered that some of the most regrettable
mistakes of the past in mission policy have been made in leaving new
converts from heathenism too soon to themselves. The Karen Christians of
Burma may, in many respects, challenge comparison with the people of God
anywhere, but, as has been said before, they have not back of them that
long tradition of Christian life and service and doctrine which have made
their western brethren strong.

But what if the missionary cannot help, he may at least be able to cheer.
It was a lonely little village in the jungle. The visitor was asked to go
and see a man who was a paralytic. He found him a pitiful object, almost
helpless, lying by the hearth--which was merely a slightly raised place
on the floor of the wretched hut where a sufficient quantity of ashes had
been placed so that a fire might be built on them without setting the
house in a blaze, and as he lay there the filth of the hearth had blown
upon him and covered him. He could not bathe himself or do anything for
his comfort. A niece was there to care for him. She did what she could,
but she was young and found him a burden to her, poor thing. The
missionary of course could do nothing to cure the disease. He simply
spoke a few words of cheer--there seemed, oh, so little that he could
say--offered a prayer, and went away. The next year he came to the place
again and learned that the man was still living. When he called to see
him, he said to the missionary:

"Teacher, since you were here last year I have often been so miserable
that I wanted to put an end to my own life, but I have thought of what
you said, and that has strengthened me."

Was it worth while? Is it ever worth while to cheer the people of God
when one cannot help them?

The ponies in the midst of the maddening current, the steersman at the
stern, the man in the boat--this is the picture. The maddening current of
conditions surrounding the disciples has been described, however
inadequately. Thank God, there is a boat there, and at the stern, strong,
ready, resourceful, stands the Master. Is the missionary needed? Let him
who is thoughtful consider.


The man in the boat cheering and encouraging his struggling ponies who
know his voice is the picture which has been drawn, in a previous
chapter, of the missionary in his relations to the native Christians
under his care. The great task of the missionary is to help, encourage
and strengthen God's people in every way he can. In order to do so he
must win their confidence, and in order to win their confidence he must
know them intimately and have a sympathetic understanding of their lives,
their thoughts and their inmost desires.

What are some of the dominant characteristics of the Karen people? Their
physical appearance has already been briefly described. They are short of
stature, supple and active. A man six feet tall towers among them almost
like a giant. In features, they have the broad, flat face, with the wide
nostrils of the Mongolian; their skin is light brown in color, not unlike
that of the Chinese, but they have not the latter's almond eyes. The hair
is straight and black. Men as well as women formerly wore their hair
long, and did it up in a ball-shaped knot on top of the head, but now
they are more and more adopting the customs of white people and cutting
it short. In general, the Karens have good powers of endurance,
especially those who live in the hills.

Many Karens of the present day are coming to wear the costume of the
Burmese, with its flowing skirts and short, loose coats, but the typical
Karen costume is exceedingly simple. For the men, it consists of a
sleeveless jacket made out of two straight pieces of cloth. This cloth is
woven in a small hand loom, and is only twelve to fifteen inches wide.
The two strips are sewn together at the sides in such a way as to have
much the appearance of a bag, but with openings, where the bottom of the
bag would be, for the head and arms. This "bag" is slipped on with the
mouth down, and reaches to a little below the knees. It is the sole
garment of the men except for a narrow, straight piece of cloth sometimes
worn as a turban. The material is white cotton, often with red stripes or
bands across the bottom of the jacket. In the olden days, the number and
breadth of these stripes used to indicate the tribe or family of the
wearer, much as the Scotch clans have their special plaids. In regard to
the costume of the women, customs differ according to locality. In some
parts women wear a long, white jacket of the same pattern as the men, but
reaching down to the feet, until they are married. This was, perhaps, the
universal custom in the early days. After marriage they wear a shorter
jacket and a skirt. The former is usually of dark blue cotton spun, woven
and dyed by the owner herself. These jackets are frequently ornamented
very tastefully with simple patterns, embroidered in red thread and with
white seeds, of a variety found in the jungle, about an inch long and as
large around as a coarse darning-needle. These seeds are very hard and
have the appearance almost of ivory. The skirt consists of two straight
pieces of native cloth, sewn together lengthwise and then at the ends,
making the skirt the same width at the top and bottom. To fasten it no
pins, buttons, hooks, and eyes or puckering strings are used; the skirt
is simply folded over from one side to the other in front and the outer
fold tucked in. The cloth for the skirt has stripes of various widths and
colors running the length of the goods so in the finished garment the
stripes run horizontally around the person. A turban of narrow, white
cloth, decorated with a design in red, is thrown gracefully around the
head. The dress of the men is so plain as to be almost ugly, but that of
the women is often very attractive and pleasing.



By occupation the Karens, with the exception of those who, owing to their
educational advantages, have taken up such professions as teaching, law,
and medicine, are nearly all farmers. The oriental is generally supposed
to be lazy, but those who know the manner of life of the Karens would not
be likely to give them such a title. There are two kinds of farming in
Burma, lowland and upland. Rice is the staple product of the soil in
Lower Burma, where the Karens live, and lowland farming is the
cultivation of rice on the plains, while upland farming is the
cultivation of rice in the hills. The former is arduous enough. Soon
after the rains begin, about the first of June, when the ground is well
soaked up one of the small plots into which the field is divided is
plowed and carefully harrowed with a rude native harrow until all the
grasses and weeds have been removed. Then, with the water standing about
six inches deep, the seed is sown broadcast, very thickly in this little
plot, which is really a nursery bed. While this is growing up, others are
being prepared in a similar way. When the rice in the nursery plot is a
foot and a half high, it is pulled up by the roots and gathered into
bundles. Then it is transplanted, blade by blade, about a foot apart over
the other plots. As the rice grows up it stools out, sometimes as high as
sixty shoots coming out of a single had, and these fill up the
intervening spaces. When the grain is ripe, it is reaped by means of a
hand sickle, gathered into bundles or sheaves and threshed by being
trodden out under the feet of oxen or buffaloes.

But arduous as is the work of lowland cultivation, upland farming is
still more difficult. Perhaps it cannot be better described than by
telling a Karen folk-tale of the crow. It is said that in the beginning
the crow was asked how it would make its living, would it do upland
farming? The crow was wary, and turning its head first on one side and
then on the other reflectively, it asked:

"How do you make your living by upland farming?"

"First of all," it was told, "you must cut down a fresh tract of forest."
It should be borne in mind that the Karen living in the hills has to do
this for every crop of rice that he raises. He may require from thirty to
fifty acres, according to the size of his family and the quality of the
soil. He lets the timber lie for about a month until it is dried out by
the heat of the sun, and then burns it over, and the ashes seem to
fertilize the soil enough so that he can raise a single crop. After that,
he must let the land lie fallow for from five to fifteen or even twenty
years, to grow forest again before he can cultivate another crop. When
the crow was told that he must cut down a tract of forest he asked:

"Do you eat then?"

"No," he was informed, "you have to let it lie for about a month to dry

"Well, do you eat then?" he inquired again.

"Oh, no, you have to burn it over."

"Well, do you eat then?" said the crow.

"No, you have to grub out the roots and gather the pieces which have not
been burned the first time, and have a second burning."

"Well, do you eat then?"

"Oh, no, you have to take a small stick and dibble the ground for the
seed, making holes at suitable distances apart and dropping in the

"Well, do you eat then?"

"No, you have to let the seed sprout up and grow."

"Well, do you eat then?"

"Oh, no, while the rice is growing, you have to take a knife and cut out
the weeds. You do this two or three times in the course of a season."

"Well, do you eat then?"

"Oh, no, you have to make a fence around the entire field." And the
fences which the Karens make around their fields are really quite
remarkable. They are constructed of bamboo or of brush, anything they
find conveniently at hand in the jungle, but they have to be so closely
woven as to be impenetrable to deer or wild boar, or else the crops would
be destroyed.

"Well," inquired the crow again, "do you eat then?"

"No, indeed, for when the grain begins to fill out, you have to drive the
birds away." To do this a bamboo clapper is used, that is a bamboo,
perhaps five or six inches in diameter, which has been split down most of
its length. One part is firmly fixed to a bit of framework and to the
other is attached a string which is carried off to a small hut or
watch-tower in a distant part of the field. When the birds come, as they
often do in large flocks, especially parrots, the watcher pulls the
string and then releases it, thus sounding the clapper, to frighten the
birds away.

"Well, do you eat then?" again came the crow's question.

"Oh, no, when the grain is ripe, you have to take a sickle and reap it."

"Well, do you eat then?"

"No, after you have reaped the grain, you have to gather it into bundles
and thresh it." The grain is threshed by taking the small sheaves in the
hand and beating them on the rim of a large basket, perhaps eight or ten
feet in diameter, made of coarse bamboo splints. The rim is of rattan as
big as a man's wrist, and the whisp of grain is beaten against this until
the heads fall off into the basket.

"Well, do you eat then?" persisted the crow.

"Oh, no, after you have threshed out the grain, you have to winnow it."
For this purpose, the grain, mixed with coarse chaff, which has fallen
into the basket, is taken out and thrown up into the air and the wind
blows the chaff away.

"Well, do you eat then?" This again from the crow.

"No, you have to build a granary." The people do not live on their farms;
they are obliged to live in villages for the sake of mutual protection
and their fields may be miles away from their homes. They do not store
the rice in their villages, but build small granaries for it out in the

"But do you eat then?"

"Oh, no, you have to carry the grain to the village, from time to time as
you require it, in a basket on your back."

"But do you eat then?"

"Oh, no, you have to pound it out to separate the husk from the kernel."
This is done by hand, by means of a wooden pestle and mortar.

"Well, do you eat then?"

"No, you have to separate the kernels from the husks." This is done by a
curious process of sifting the pounded grain in a shallow tray. With a
peculiar motion of the hand and wrist, the husks and lighter parts are
made to fly off the tray, leaving only the edible portions.

"But do you eat then?"

"No, you have to wash it and cook it." In this manner the whole process
was described from beginning to end, and the crow said in disgust:

"No, I will not make my living by upland farming. I will steal instead!"
So from that day to this, the crow has been making his living by
stealing, but he has never forgotten his repeated question, "Do you eat
then? Do you eat then?"--which in Karen is, "Aw-ah, aw-ah," a better
imitation of the call of the crow than is, "Caw, caw."

[ Illustration--KARENS REAPING PADDY ]

The life of the hill Karen is indeed exceedingly arduous. He must begin
his operations in the field in February, and continue them almost
constantly until October. From November to January he must be collecting,
preparing and putting in place bamboos for the building or repair of his
house. During any spare intervals he must be gathering roots and herbs to
eke out his meager provisions.

In the olden times, marriages among the Karens were always arranged by
the elders or by friends of the interested parties. It would have been
considered very improper for a young man to say he would like to marry a
certain young woman, or for a young woman to express a preference for any
particular young man. It is still by no means unusual, even among
Christians, for marriages to be arranged by mutual friends, and the
parties not to meet until their wedding day. To the occidental all this
seems, of course, quite an absurd way of proceeding, yet the results
among orientals probably prove to be happy as often as in western lands
where the young people decide everything for themselves. With the Karens,
courtship comes after marriage. The writer has been told of instances in
which, when the wedding ceremony had been performed, the woman would have
nothing to do with her husband. But the latter did not take it ill. He
simply went away and stayed awhile, then came back, hung around a little,
helping in any way he could, went away, returned after a time and so on,
until at length--it might not be before a year had passed--he won the
affection of the woman he had married and they lived happily together as
husband and wife. Many a Karen who has been married in this way has
developed such a devoted attachment for his wife that if she died he
would not marry again. In fact, although no hard and fast custom required
it, this was the usual practice among Karens in the olden time.

Karen ideas of death and the under world are very vague. The writer once
went to a heathen Karen funeral and, among other things, saw a shallow
bamboo tray turned upside down. On the bottom of the tray was crudely
drawn in charcoal a representation of a tree with its branches. Some one
would take a pebble, put it on the extreme end of a branch of the tree,
repeat some kind of a lingo, and as he did so, move the pebble down to
the trunk and then to the foot of the tree. This was teaching the spirit
of the dead to climb a tree. For, according to the Karen idea, in the
spirit world, all the points of the compass and all directions are
reversed. Any one can readily understand how that might be. Conceive of
the earth as a flat disk; living people are on the upper side of the disk
with their feet towards it; the spirits of the dead are on the under
side, with their feet up towards the disk. It follows that what is east
to those above is west to those below, west is east, north is south and
south is north, up is down and down is up. With some it is customary, as
soon as a person dies, to tie one end of a string to the finger of the
deceased and the other end to the tail of a dog, with the idea that the
dog will act as guide through the shadows of the under world, and one of
the bitterest epithets which the heathen sometimes address to the
Christian preacher is that of Pilot Dog. Many other fantastic conceptions
are held which need not be mentioned here.

The Karen account of earthquakes is that a giant monster, corresponding
somewhat to the Greek Atlas, has been condemned to support the earth
until all the inhabitants have died off. Now and then a worm wriggles out
upon his shoulder, and he concludes that the people on earth have all
died, that the worms have consumed their bodies, and, finding nothing
else to eat, have gone in search of further forage. He therefore
concludes that his task is at an end, and proceeds to let down the earth.
This produces the earthquake. Consequently, whenever the heathen feel an
earthquake, they always call out:

"We are here still! We are here still!" and then he rights it up again.
The fact that their method of putting a stop to earthquakes has been
successful every time thus far demonstrates to their minds the truth of
their theory.

Intellectually, the Karens are really brighter than they are likely at
first to appear. Owing to a certain shyness on their part one needs to be
pretty well acquainted with them to know of what they are capable. Those
who do not understand their language and see them side by side with the
Burmese, usually think they are stupid. This is particularly the case
when the Burman has the initial advantage of using his own language;
moreover, he is free from the shyness which oppresses the Karen--the
result probably of his hundreds of years of political subjection--so he
expresses himself more readily. The Burman is usually able to show off
for what he is worth, perhaps for a little more. The Karen, on the other
hand, one may have to know a long while before he really knows him at
all. Those who see the Burman and the Karen side by side, day after day
and year after year, do not feel that the latter is the inferior of the
two. The writer has been told by instructors in schools for higher
education, where there are various nationalities in residence, that Karen
students do better in their studies on the whole than Burmese students.

Probably no one would claim for the Karen that he has a philosophical
mind. He has no liking for delving into the mystery of things which no
one can know anything about. He has originated no speculative scheme like
the "chain of contingent existences" of the Buddhists. He has no
vocabulary for expressing such ideas. His language is wanting in abstract
terms, and many ideas which are perfectly familiar to the occidental
almost defy expression until they have been put into a concrete form. But
the lack of such terms does not prove that these people are incapable of
deep and sustained thought. Not many years ago it was supposed that some
of the aboriginal tribes of Australia were entirely lacking in
mathematical ability. They had no way of counting in their language above
four or five; but that was solely because in their simple manner of life
they had no need to count above that number. Now, members of those same
tribes are employed by sheep-raisers to count their sheep. The sheep are
made to go through a narrow passage, and these men will count by the
hundreds and thousands without ever making an error. The world in which
the Karen has lived has not called out his powers of thought but that by
no means proves that his analytical faculties are wanting. Nor is
simplicity of language altogether a disadvantage. The clearest waters are
often the deepest. Simplicity of language is often a help to clarity of
thought. In fact to be compelled to speak or write in a language like the
Karen is an excellent discipline for the mind. The preacher, for
instance, must know with absolute clearness what he has to say, but if he
has thought his subject through and has a fair command of the language,
he will usually be able to express himself. Generally speaking, anything
which is worth saying in any language can be said in the Karen. Of course
the method of expression must be suited to the people, but that is merely
a matter of rhetoric, of the choice of suitable illustrations, figures of
speech and so forth; the real essence of the thought may remain
unchanged. The writer has preached a sermon with equal acceptance, so far
as he could judge, in Karen one Sunday to an audience composed of pupils
and teachers in a middle school, and in English the next Sunday to an
audience composed largely of missionaries. If any one thinks that because
the Karens are a simple minded people he can dish out almost anything to
them, he is likely to be disappointed. The best that he can give, however
wide may have been the range of his previous preparation, he is likely to
find is none too good. On the other hand, if he has something worth while
to offer, he will feel no lack of responsiveness and appreciation.

But it is of temperamental characteristics that the missionary needs
perhaps to know the most if he would be a helpful guide. And it has to be
confessed that the Karens are not easy to understand. This is probably
due to the long years of oppression through which they have passed and
which have necessarily meant for them repression. On first acquaintance
they seem--and it is probably their own feeling about themselves--to be a
meek, docile, submissive, almost obsequious people. In fact their own
name for themselves comes near to meaning "easy." The writer has
frequently heard Karen preachers dwell on this as representing one trait
in the Karen character. But men are usually the opposite of what they
profess to be, or really think they are. No miser regards himself as
penurious. On the other hand the true philanthropist never prides himself
on his philanthropy, but may the rather often upbraid himself for his
want of charity. The proud considers himself humble, and the really
humble is fearful of his pride. The honest man need never say anything
about his honesty; it is only rogues who have occasion to do that. Those
who boast themselves of their liberalism are often the most bigoted, and
those who make no pretentions to broad-mindedness may be really the least
narrow in their views. And so a person who speaks of himself as being
"easy," is generally about the last person in the world whom one may
expect to find subservient. It almost seems as if the Karens themselves
had felt this, and so they do not actually call themselves "easy," but
"just going to be easy," and the significant fact is that they never
arrive at that goal. On the contrary, they are quite likely to prove high
spirited, independent, determined.

The writer once had an experience on which he has often reflected with
interest. Hucksters and venders of sweet-meats were giving much trouble
by coming into the school compound and selling to the pupils food which
was unfit to eat. For a time they were driven out whenever they could be
discovered, but, that method proving unavailing, the rule was laid down
that no pupil should buy. Not long after that, about fifteen of the
pupils, including some of the best boys in school, were caught in the
very act of buying from a vender. They were duly brought up for
discipline. It was decided that they must confess before the entire
school body and promise not to repeat the offense. But when the time came
and their names were called out, to the surprise of the missionary they
rose one by one, and so far from making confession or showing regret in
any way, they defended their action and intimated that they were quite
disposed to do the same thing again. One only showed any willingness to
comply with the requirements which had been laid down. The missionary
listened quietly until all had spoken, and then said:

"I am perplexed at this. You know that you have broken the rules of the
school, which were meant for your own good, and the requirements which
have been laid upon you are none too rigid. I know, too, that many of you
are Christians, and want to do what is pleasing to your Saviour. And yet
all of you save one have shown a defiant spirit. I do not understand it.
Now, first of all, I want to know that my own skirts are clear, and if
the difficulty rests in any way with me, I want you to say so. If I have
done wrong, I am ready to confess it and make it right." Then some of the
pupils, said that they did feel aggrieved at some rather sharp remarks
which they had heard the missionary make. The missionary expressed
regret, and finally the pupils agreed that from that time on they would
abide by the rules of the school. The missionary did not learn the full
effect of his action until about a year after, when the headmaster of the
school told him that the pupils felt so ashamed of themselves to think
that the missionary had been willing to confess his fault and apologize
for it while they had attempted to justify themselves and had shown a
defiant spirit, that they did not know what to do. In any case from that
time on the school experienced no further difficulty from the venders;
they might come, but no one would buy.

At the same time that this incident occurred, a fellow missionary was
visiting in the home of the writer. The former had had special training
in pedagogy and had had much experience in the management of Burmese
schools. On hearing what had happened he said:

"Well, perhaps you are right, but I would not do that way in dealing with
Burmese pupils." In the same country, living side by side, are the two
races, the Karens and the Burmans. The Karen seems to those who do not
know him to be subservient, the Burman high-spirited. In fact, the
contrary appears to be the case. Certain it is that the Karen may be led,
but never, never driven.

Other temperamental characteristics of the Karens might be dwelt upon.
They are honest, truthful, generous, affectionate, appreciative, kindly,
sympathetic, well-intentioned. The writer has dwelt on this other
characteristic more fully, perhaps because he admires the granite. There
are two uses of the word "tact." As frequently employed it refers to such
conduct as is calculated, by shrewd manipulation, to get another person
to do what he would not otherwise do. This is despicable. But true and
honorable tact involves the rare faculty of getting the point of view of
the other man and considering any question which arises from that
position. Any one who would deal with people of another race, as the
missionary has to do, must learn to sink any personal likes and dislikes,
to suffer often the defeat of his plans, and to abide in patience, not
desiring to lord it over God's heritage, but content if in love and
meekness, he is permitted to be a co-worker with them in the service of
the kingdom. Such an one in association with the Karens will find his
respect for them growing continually, and, if he is a man of real worth
in himself, he will prefer that they should have a mind of their own,
that they should think out their own problems and make their own
decisions, even if not always wise, rather than that they should simply
listen to what he may say.


Reference has been made in a previous chapter to the stress of the
physical, the economic and the religious conditions in which the Karen
Christians of Burma are situated. The physical will doubtless be met in
time with the advance of civilization. Even tigers and snakes must retire
before the encroachments on their wild domains of human progress and
culture. Of the seriousness of the religious conflict and of the
obligation resting upon American Christians to help in meeting it,
something further will be said in another connection.

The economic stress is present and urgent. In a large majority of cases,
the Karen youth return from school to the farm. They come back with a
broader outlook and keener minds, but, beyond that, with practically no
training which will help them in meeting these new and difficult
conditions. The school system among these people grew up at the demand,
already noted, of the Karens for knowledge. With certain necessary
changes and omissions, it followed the traditional lines of education in
western lands. Even in those countries vocational training was almost
unheard of until within perhaps a decade. Naturally, therefore, both
government and missionaries emphasized in their curriculum those subjects
which for them meant education. Many, however, are now coming to feel
that in devoting so large a proportion of time to literary studies alone,
they are not only losing an opportunity to help the Karen of today meet
the rigors of his life, but are also giving a one-sided view of western
civilization and the Christian religion. For, notwithstanding the
aspersions which are often cast against the church, because of the
supposed estrangement between it and the laboring man, it may be said
that one of the most distinguishing and marked characteristics of
Christianity as against heathenism, and even of evangelical as against
formalistic Christianity, is that it honors labor of the hands.

Most of the first disciples were laboring men. Jesus himself was brought
up at the carpenter's bench. Paul labored with his hands unceasingly even
in the midst of most strenuous spiritual endeavors. A hundred years ago,
in England, no gentleman was supposed to work, and the revival of
evangelical religion, which began under the Wesleys, is probably largely
responsible for the fact that today it is rather to the discredit of any
one to be idle. Englishmen like to point out that the king himself is a
busy man. In America the economic situation, together with the
comparative poverty of the early settlers, have combined from the first,
to make men honor labor of the hands. But wherever there has been any
serious departure from this norm, it has in general been due either to a
direct and distinct ebb in the religious life of the community or to its
invasion by unevangelized hordes from without, who have brought with them
and subtly disseminated an atmosphere which, by its false emphasis on
class distinctions is foreign to the essence of the Christian religion,
and really antagonistic to true self-respect and highmindedness. Whatever
may be said to the contrary, it is certainly of the very soul and spirit
of a genuine Christianity to honor all honest labor; and in spite of its
detractors, Christianity is the only really democratic religion in the
world. It is therefore with no little apprehension that the missionary
notes a growing tendency on the part of the brighter pupils among the
Karens to covet some position in which they can earn their living without
manual labor, instead of using their faculties in plans for the
improvement of their family acres. For improvement in agriculture is one
of the benefits of civilization which the Karen people need most of all,
in view of the present stress, and are least able to get by their own
unaided efforts.

It is only within comparatively recent years that adequate attention has
been given to this branch of human knowledge even in America. It was
formerly supposed that almost any one could be a farmer. Now, on the
other hand, it is coming to be understood that the farmer, more than
almost any one else, in order to be really successful and accomplish the
best results along the line of his business, needs to have excellent
initial ability and fine preparation. But it was long before people fully
appreciated this fact. For many years few of the brightest young men went
to colleges of agriculture, and even for state schools, the
appropriations of legislatures were often niggardly. Now departments and
schools of agriculture can successfully demand almost anything they
require for their advancement, and in normal times the attendance at
schools of this kind comprises many of the brightest and best. Few more
attractive opportunities are offered to the best equipped young men of
the rising generation than along the line of scientific farming. And yet
this condition of affairs was not brought about without a struggle. Not
until, in one of the American schools, it was found that improvements in
dairy products alone had more than compensated the state for all it had
spent on its agricultural schools during a period of many years, did
people begin to realize the possibilities of which this department of
human knowledge was capable. Even today scientific farming is too little
practiced, and long years will yet be required before the possibilities
for development before the American farmer are exhausted.

In Burma, among an enlightened people, it is still less to be expected
that an intelligent interest will be taken in agricultural
experimentation and investigation which would stimulate the people to
devote to it, of themselves, the time, energy, painstaking care and
considerable financial expenditure which would enable them to improve
their inherited and long established methods. Many of the Christian
Karens are eager to improve their conditions, but they have seen nothing
better, and they do not know how to make more effective what they have.
If, therefore, they are to make any considerable advancement along
agricultural lines in the near future, it would seem that this must be
brought to them from without. The government is sincerely trying to do
what it can. It has its Department of Agriculture, with a Director and
two or three deputies, educated in English or Canadian institutions, and
a corps of native assistants. It is starting seed farms and experiment
stations, and is endeavoring, to the best of its ability, to discover and
promulgate better methods. But, however much the government may
accomplish along these lines, comparatively little benefit is likely to
result to the people at large, especially to the Karens, in their far-off
villages, without the intervention of the missionary. The latter are in
touch with the people, and have their confidence; they are able to reach
them and lead them as government officials could never do. As has been
said elsewhere, they are specialists in that line. This fact the
government fully realizes, and it is largely for this reason that, to
such a considerable extent, general education is left in the hands of the

To any one who considers the agricultural situation in Burma, even though
he may know very little indeed about agriculture, problems present
themselves in plenty. With reference to lowland farming, that is, farming
on the plains, the soil is at present suffering constant deterioration,
owing no doubt to the fact that there is no rotation of crops. Just what
should be done to remedy this condition, it is difficult to say, as
climatic conditions are ill suited to the cultivation of anything but
rice. Commercial fertilizers might be used to some extent, but they are
so expensive that their value would have to be very thoroughly proved,
else they would not be employed extensively. The use of green fertilizers
has been suggested, but so far as the writer knows, has never been given
a fair trial. The proposal is to cultivate the soy bean, or a kind of
split pea called dhal, the roots of which gather and deposit nitrogen,
and to plow under the stalks. This might be practicable, provided
seasonable and other conditions permitted.

It would probably be best at the outset, however, to endeavor to enrich
the soil by adopting improved local methods with which the people are
already somewhat familiar. The mind naturally turns to the use of
manures; but, to begin with, the number of cattle in the country is
inadequate for the purpose. This is chiefly because the Burmese are
Buddhists and believe that to take animal life is one of the worst sins,
hence are not naturally meat eaters. Furthermore, their cattle being of a
very poor variety for dairy purposes, they have never become much
accustomed to the use of dairy products. Now, however, the religious
prejudice is being gradually overcome, so that the people are more and
more learning to relish a meat diet. Some even like butter; but cheese,
certainly, is still a mystery to the average inhabitant.

But even if the demand for products of this kind should cause the supply
of cattle to increase greatly--as would be necessary for the adequate
fertilization of the land--there would, under present conditions, be
difficulty in securing grazing facilities for them. Government has set
apart so-called grazing grounds where cattle may go, but this was done
years ago and the grounds are now quite insufficient. In any case, the
land in these is, for the most part, so low as to be unsuited for any
stock except the carabao or water buffalo. Some means would therefore
need to be devised by which cattle could be furnished with a sufficient
supply of fodder. Perhaps the use of ensilage would be worth trying,
although this again involves difficulties. A cheap form of silo would
have to be devised. Special crops with which to fill the silos would need
to be grown; what these should be is uncertain. The writer has seen an
American government report which indicates that rice stalks have
sometimes been successfully used for ensilage. In almost every
neighborhood in Burma, there are tracts of land which are too low for the
cultivation of the ordinary kinds of rice. There is, however, a variety
which grows in deep water. It is sown while the water is still shallow,
and as the water rises, the grain grows with it and keeps pretty well up
to the surface. Men go out in boats to reap it. It may be that this rice
could be cultivated to be used exclusively for ensilage. Near the close
of the rains and during the early part of the dry season, Indian Maize
might be grown successfully in some places. Granted that there was an
adequate supply of cattle, and that sufficient fodder could be provided
for them, there would still remain the problem of the care and use of the
manure and of the instruction of the people in the value of its

Many of the native cattle are fine looking animals. They are used chiefly
for drawing carts. The native never thinks of fattening cattle for the
market. If he allows one to be killed for beef, it is an ox which has
become too old and feeble to draw a cart another inch or a cow which can
never give another drop of milk. The cattle are allowed to run
promiscuously and little is known about stock breeding, although it is
probable that the native cattle are capable of great improvement. The
consequence is that little profit is derived from them as compared with
what might be the case.

Although rice is a staple product of the country, the problem of
improving the quality and quantity of its production is one worthy of
consideration. Upwards of sixty different varieties of rice are found in
Burma, but they have become so intermixed that it is almost impossible to
find pure seed. Pure seed should be produced and distributed to the
people, and then they should be taught how to select the special variety
suited to their needs, with the methods and importance of keeping it

Twenty or thirty years ago oranges of good quality were grown in great
abundance in Burma. Now they are scarce. A kind of blight seems to have
struck nearly all the groves. The writer has communicated with the
government micologist of India, but he seems not to know definitely what
the disease is, nor is he aware of any cure for it. The natives of Burma
are entirely ignorant of the science of tree-grafting. Many Karens would
not believe such a thing possible if they did not see it mentioned in the
bible. Of course they can know nothing about its advantages, although no
doubt some of the fruits of the country could be greatly improved by this
method. The natives of India have already produced graft mangoes of
excellent quality. The orange, the lime, the durian, the jack fruit, the
guava, the custard apple and other varieties also might profitably
undergo a similar process.

Agricultural implements is another subject deserving of attention. Those
in use are exceedingly crude. At the same time, it is not altogether easy
for one who is not an expert to devise anything better. As has been said,
American plows make too deep a furrow, even if adequate means of drawing
them could be discovered; American reapers crush down more grain than
they reap in the small native plot. American threshing machines might
possibly be used to advantage and run at a profit; but some one would
have to take one out there first and demonstrate its usefulness before
the natives could be expected to invest in anything of the kind. In
general, western machinery could not be introduced bodily, but would have
to be greatly modified to suit local needs. These and many other problems
are presented in the midst of conditions which are so utterly different
from those prevailing in America or, indeed, anywhere else in the world,
that they would need to be carefully studied on the spot.

But, as has already been intimated, it is in upland or hill cultivation
that the most serious problems present themselves, and it is here also
that the greatest benefits might be expected to accrue to the Karen
people. Upland farming, as any one can see by the description given, is
enormously wasteful. To think of cutting down from five to fifteen or
twenty years' growth of timber for a single crop of rice is well nigh
appalling. The government has tried again and again, to find some means
for making it unnecessary, but is still baffled. It has gone so far as to
contemplate the entire removal of the hill tribes bodily to the plains,
compensating them by supplying them with lands and even with sustenance
there. But such radical measures are highly objectionable and will
probably never be adopted. It may be that the hills could be successfully
terraced in Burma as in Japan, although this is very doubtful on account
of the rains which are so heavy that they would probably wash away in a
short time almost any terraces which could be built. Simpler methods, if
such could be found, would be preferable. Perhaps the difficulty in
raising more than one crop of rice is due to some deficiency in the soil,
unfitting it for rice cultivation in particular, for wild vegetation
grows there in great profusion. To supply this deficiency by taking
commercial fertilizers up into the hills, where there are no roads and
everything has to be carried on the backs of pack animals or of men, is
out of the question. Fertilization by means of manures, even if it would
supply the deficiency, which is doubtful, would be almost equally
difficult for a variety of reasons, one of which is that, on account of
the prevalence of wild beasts, it is difficult to raise cattle
extensively in the hills. It may be that, instead of rice, other crops,
such as nuts or some kinds of fruit, could be grown in the hills and
exchanged for the rice of the plains. A kind of nut, called the dog nut,
which is much relished by the Burmese in their cooking, grows freely and
abundantly in the hills and brings a good price on the plains. If a
beginning could be made in this way so that the cultivation of the hills
would be more remunerative, roads could be improved, and, with better
roads, facilities would be increased and other methods might be adopted.
Crops which are not profitable now might prove to be profitable. There
are also little gardens up in the valleys among the hills which might
perhaps be improved or turned to better account. It is these gardens
which really hold many of the hill Karens to their present abodes. They
depend on irrigation. The soil in them is excellent, and they are kept in
a high state of cultivation. At present they are used for the raising of
betel nut for local consumption. They might perhaps be turned to the
cultivation of much more valuable crops. In any case, it seems
unquestionable that the hill districts could be made to support a vastly
larger population than now, and they are the natural habitat of the

Much of the preliminary work which would need to be done in order to make
any project for the improvement of agricultural conditions worth while,
has already been accomplished. For the co-operation of the human element
is after all one of the most vital factors in the success of any such
undertaking. There is a large Christian community, consisting chiefly of
farmers, which through many years of training has developed habits of
independence and initiative. Among these people are not a few men of
intelligence and progressiveness who are eager to adopt any suggestions
for the betterment of their condition and the condition of their race.
The writer was once showing some Christian Karens connected with his
mission the use of a preparation called a "shrub eradicator," which had
been given him by an officer of the government engineering department.
The preparation, which is much like yellow clay in appearance, is first
dissolved in water, and then the water is sprinkled on any weeds or other
shrubbery which it is desired to destroy. In two or three days, the
leaves turn yellow, and the shrub dies. One of the Karens asked for a
handful of the preparation. As he lived some distance away, the
missionary saw nothing more of the man for several months. Then he
appeared again and asked for some more of the eradicator. The missionary
asked him what he had done with the former supply, and he said he had
used it to destroy an annoying parasite which is frequently to be seen
growing on trees in Burma. This parasite finds lodgment in some way on a
branch of a tree. It grows to be a shrub of considerable size, and sends
rootlets up and down the branch which adhere to it very closely. One may
tear off the shrub, but if a piece of the root so much as an inch in
length is allowed to remain on the tree, it will grow again and thrive as
before. The Karen man said he had torn off the shrub, dissolved some of
the preparation, dampened a cloth with the solution and wrapped the cloth
about the branch where the rootlets were. After a few days he found that
the rootlets were dead and easily stripped off so that not a vestige
remained. Then, in order that the tree itself might suffer no damage from
the effect of the solution, he has plastered that part of the branch with
mud, and found that the tree remained in a perfectly healthy condition.
This showed no little degree of ingenuity on the part of the
inexperienced Karen. Probably an arboricultural expert could have done no

The needs are great, the possibilities well nigh boundless. What can be
done to meet the situation? It is quite probable that, in normal times,
the government would give substantial aid if a mission were in a position
to do something really worth while towards the development of the native
people in scientific agriculture. There are, moreover, some things which
the government would need to do if they were done at all; the
construction of roads, the terracing of the hills,--if such a plan were
deemed feasible,--and the opening of fresh tracts for cultivation. In
general the government is generously disposed towards projects for the
betterment of the conditions of the people, but it is probable that in
these present times, at least a substantial start would have to be made
by private initiative before Government could be approached with any
likelihood of success. It would be worse than useless to attempt much
beyond school gardens on an ordinary missionary appropriation, even if to
that were added possible gifts from the native churches. And yet the
expense involved need not necessarily be very great. In China vast plans
are on foot for medical advancement involving the expenditure of millions
of money. An assured annual income of $2,000 or $3,000 would make it
possible for one man, a trained missionary agricultural specialist, to
devote his entire time to this phase of the work and supply him with a
small appropriation for expenses, and thus enable him to enter an open
door of opportunity. Naturally, he could do little theoretical work until
he knew something of the language and the people, but, while he was
engaged in becoming familiar with these, he could well begin work on
vocational training in the schools. The supervision of school gardens in
various centers would help to create a morale for scientific agriculture
among the older, brighter pupils,--the class that now covets clerical
posts and the like. In time, this practical garden work could be
supplemented by a simple course on the subject in the school curriculum.

The next step in the work might well be the establishment of two
experiment stations, one for the study of the problems of lowland and the
other for those of upland farming. There are districts where the two
types are in progress in close enough proximity for one man to have
general oversight of both. Pupils from the schools who had shown special
aptitude for this science might be induced to specialize and train
themselves for further work of the kind. Undoubtedly the missionary would
be able to get experienced Christian farmers to attempt the practical
solution of individual problems either at the station or on their own
lands under his direction. The holding of institutes open to the people
at large where instruction might be given in farming, with
demonstrations, as is done in some parts of America, might prove a good
means of disseminating the results gained from the experimentation and so
making it of more general value. Such institutes, if properly conducted,
would doubtless be very popular and might accomplish much. As the whole
scheme developed, the establishment of a special school or college of
agriculture might prove to be a desirable step. This could be done
gradually as native teachers were trained to give instruction. With the
growth of the work might ultimately come the opening up of new lands for
cultivation and perhaps the improvement of communications, together with
anything else which would tend to the betterment of the conditions among
the farming community. The youth growing up would see farming and its
problems put on a par with other occupations as worthy of study, and they
would be likely to feel more interest in it as a life work and attack the
problems more intelligently. The total result would be to increase
greatly the prosperity of the Karen people, advance them in civilization
as perhaps could be done in no other way, and give them a truer
conception of the many-sided completeness and adequacy of the Christian
religion. And the expense, if the plan were carried out gradually in a
modest way need not be very great.

Millions are being generously given today for literary colleges, and tens
of millions for medical schools in the Orient. Where are the thousands to
come from which will help not only to advance an entire race along the
lines of improved scientific agriculture, but also to make progress in
all true culture and excellence?


Reference has been made to the stress of the religious conditions which
are confronting the Karen Christians of Burma and to the great conflict
of religions which awaits the people of God everywhere. As there has
sprung upon the world in recent years such a general and catastrophic
contest of arms as has never before been known, so there is about to
break forth, has already broken forth, a spiritual conflict in comparison
with which any previous clash of weapons will seem like a child's
quarrel, a battle of spiritual forces in which many of the shrewdest
minds of the West will unite with the subtlest minds of the East to
overwhelm and put to utter rout the forces of Him who hung upon the tree
of Calvary. The outcome of the struggle is certain, as sure as the
promises of God, as firm as the eternal hills of truth and righteousness.
But the people of God everywhere need to gird themselves afresh for the
fight. Especially is it important that the Christians of America should
set themselves in array, for it is to that favored land that the nations
of the earth must now look for light and leading, and the missionary
feels keenly that his own efficiency and the strength of the work as a
whole must depend in large degree on the spiritual resources which are
behind him in the home land.

To nothing is the missionary more deeply sensitive than to the thought
and life of God's people throughout the world. He studies the religious
periodicals, he pores over the issues of the press, he notes trends and
tendencies, wondering ever how they will affect the great, the world-wide
issues before him. Especially is he sensitive to the varying tides of
thought which have their movements now this way, now that, for he knows
that sooner or later, beliefs will have their sure effect upon the life,
and interpretations of doctrine will enter into and stimulate or enervate
the sinews of spiritual strength.

First of all, then, there is needed on the part of God's people a deep
"digging in" with regard to his word. As, in modern warfare, the soldiers
at the front are wont to "dig in," to lay deep trenches in the earth, so
in the revealed word, and especially in the great truths of redemption
and grace, the Christian world must dig in. There is needed a revival of
doctrine. By this is not meant a re-formulation of creeds or an emphasis
on dogma, but a deep appreciation on the part of God's people of the
great fundamental truths of the gospel, the distinguishing doctrines of
the Christian religion. Let it be understood to start out with that these
are not principles which commend themselves to the natural man. As it was
written of old, to the Jew they are a stumbling block and to the Greek
foolishness. Yet it is to these very doctrines--not the things in which
the Christian religion is like other religions, but the things which
differentiate it from all other faiths--that attention needs to be
especially given, and upon these that stress must be laid. The atonement,
through the work upon the cross of Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God;
salvation by grace through faith; the power of the living and ascended
Lord in the hearts of his people by the Spirit--these are things that
Buddhism and Confucianism and Hindooism and Mohammedanism know nothing
of. They are distinctly hostile to every other faith, unthinkable and
incomprehensible to the unregenerate man. Yet it is on these doctrines,
on these great fundamental verities of Christian life and experience,
that the Christian religion is based. By these the hope of God's people
everywhere must stand or fall. No doubt much has already been said and
written on these mighty themes, but they need still to be dwelt upon, to
be studied into, to be investigated, for they are inexhaustible. There is
need enough that this should be done not only for the enrichment of the
religious life of God's people at home, but also for the girding up of
their strength, for even in America mighty conflicts are impending
against insidious foes. But for the strengthening of the forces abroad on
the firing line, it is indispensable.

But, if this deeper study of the word and meditation on its teachings are
needed, still more is required a deeper consecration on the part of the
people of God for the carrying forward of the work of world-wide

The true missionary ideal is at the farthest possible remove from the
spirit of asceticism. Suffering in itself has no merit or advantage on
the mission field or anywhere else. Whatever may have been true in the
past, it is now recognized as the duty of the missionary to maintain
himself in as fair a degree of comfort and well-being as is consistent
with his means and his environment. But the spirit of genuine
self-sacrifice, that spirit which enables its possessor to endure all
things that are needful to the accomplishment of the great end, and yet
is utterly unconscious of itself, not even aware that any sacrifice is
involved, that is of the essence of Christian living the world over and
it is indispensable to the missionary's most effective work. For the
missionary must not simply make converts, gather them into churches and
instil into their hearts the principles of the gospel, but he must also
seek to bring about the deepening of their spiritual life. All of these
objects save the last may be accomplished by preaching and instruction,
but this can seemingly be brought about by means of example only. And it
is often the case that the native Christian--it is a solemn,
soul-subduing thing to say--is disciplined, chastened, refined, in the
person of the missionary.

The writer may perhaps be pardoned for referring here to the experience
of his father. The work of the latter at Shwegyin began, as so much of
the work on the foreign field is done, amid both smiles and tears, both
sunshine and shadow. Of the former mention has already been made in the
conversion of Saw Tah Ree and the formation of the first church of
Shwegyin seven weeks and a day after Mr. Harris's arrival at that
station. But cloud and gloom soon came upon this little band, for,
shortly after those converts had been baptized and the little company of
disciples had observed the Lord's Supper together for the first time, the
missionary's wife, who had contracted a disease common to the country,
but had somewhat recovered, suffered a relapse. It soon became evident
that she had not much longer to live. It is said that in her youth she
was very much afraid of death, so much so that, when her own mother died
in a farm house on the Berkshire hills of Massachusetts, she dared not go
into the room where the body lay, but peered in through the window. But
now, when the time of her own departure was at hand, knowing how hard it
would be for her husband to perform the last sad rites--for there was no
other white woman within hundreds of miles of the place--she pointed out
the dress she wished to wear, helped to put it on, saw to the combing of
her hair, did all she could to prepare herself for burial, and when
everything was complete so far as she could make it, she turned to her
husband and said:

"It is not often that a mother has to array herself for her own funeral,
but I have done it with as much composure as if I were going out to make
a call." After preparing the crude coffin with his own hands, placing the
body in it and burying it with the aid of the few disciples who were
about, the sorrowing husband and father had to take the four little
children to Moulmein and put them in the care of a missionary lady
returning to America. As he stood on the deck and bade them good-bye, one
little fellow put his arms around his father's neck, and said:

"I cannot let you go, papa. I cannot let you go." And the father put his
head tenderly over the little one and said:

"Can't we do this for Jesus?"

Can it be doubted that when the missionary went back to his field the
memory of the triumphant death of that saintly woman and the presence
among them of one whom they greatly loved enduring, for their sakes,
separation from all he held dear, and moving among them without
complaint, with only kindly smiles and cheerful words for them and
theirs--can it be doubted that it meant much to the spiritual life of
those new converts? To this day the Karen disciples of the Shwegyin
mission, by the common consent of those who know them, shed forth a
peculiar aroma of Christian resignation and submissive trust. In all
probability this has been due in no small degree to the influence of
their first missionary.

It may not be out of place to digress just here for the purpose of
touching briefly on the subject of that supreme sacrifice of missionary
life, the separation of families. Is it right? Even though the missionary
himself may be willing to endure all the privations and hardships which
may be involved in his work, is he justified in making his children
suffer with him? Do not his obligations as a father require that he
should give them the personal care and training which only a father can
bestow? It is a difficult problem. No missionary ever undertakes to tell
another what he should do. But it is evident that Jesus considered it
quite within the range of possibility that his disciples would have to do
that very thing, for he pronounces blessing upon those who leave father
and mother and wife and children for his sake and the gospel's, and we
may be sure he thought all around the subject. In other occupations men
leave their children not only without incurring criticism, but even
sometimes receiving high praise. If Lord Roberts was glad to give up his
children and lay them away in foreign graves in order that he might serve
his queen, may not the missionary do much the same thing for the service
of the Great King? There is this also to be said, that in not a few
instances the children of missionaries have themselves caught the spirit
of self-sacrifice from their parents and have been willing to take up and
endure gladly the heart grief, not because they loved their parents less
than other children love their parents--the ties are often more than
usually close in the families of missionaries--but because they loved the
great cause more than they loved their own comfort. "Then, who will tell
those poor people about Jesus?" was the first question of one such
missionary daughter when she was informed of the death of her father
which had just taken place on his field of labor. No thought of her own
great loss! When God in his mercy takes the children of missionaries in a
special manner under his brooding care and instils in them such a spirit,
may not that be compensation enough even to those children themselves for
all that they have suffered? Is not the spirit of self-sacrifice itself a
rich possession, and may it not even have a restraining, a directing, a
purifying, an inspiring influence over the one who has it, though that
person be but a little child, more than equaling all the oversight and
care that father or mother can give?

Will, then, the people of God in America unite with the missionary, as
never before, in that spirit of real self-sacrifice which is demanded not
of the missionary alone, but of every true follower of Christ? There is
nothing which the servant of God more deeply craves. It is needful for
the effective conduct of the work of world evangelization that the entire
life and thought of Christ's people everywhere should be bound up in the
mighty grip of one common devotion.

Finally, there is needed on the part of God's people in the home land a
truer appreciation of the stupendousness and at the same time of the
worthwhileness of the missionary enterprise. If the hosts of Satan from
the West as well as from the East are to unite in this great conflict, if
the brightest minds to be found anywhere are to be engaged in battle
against the Lord and against his Anointed, then surely the very best
possible equipment is needed for the carrying on of this warfare on the
part of the people of Christ, the best training, the keenest
intelligence, the completest endowment. "The best belongs to the worst,"
is an aphorism to which a noted divine gave expression, but he was
content to remain in his aristocratic pulpit and minister to his people
the sparkling scintillations of his brilliant mind. That which many admit
as a theory must become an inner conviction on the part of God's people
and a spring of effective action. "Why should you go to Asia to throw
away your talents on the heathen? You are needed in this country," is a
species of foolish flattery which might be passed over in silence were it
not too often the expression of sober opinion on the part of leading
lights among the churches of America. Whatever advantages of education
and culture the missionary may have had, and however assiduously he may
have applied himself to getting to the full their benefits, he will feel
that he needs the expenditure of every available power, latent or
acquired, in the prosecution of his work.

Even from the point of view of him who thinks only in terms of weights
and measures, and numbers and values, and muscle and brawn the missionary
enterprise is worth while. Many people in western lands are engaged in
works of mercy, in prison reform, in the suppression of child labor, in
alleviating the condition of workers in sweat shops, in securing sanitary
surroundings in the slums of cities. All honor to such, to every one who
labors for the advancement of humanity in any direction. But where is
there on the face of the earth an enterprise in which a handful of people
have wrought, as among the Karens, the conservation of an entire race,
and that, not as the main thing sought, but merely as a by-product? From
any and every point of view the work of Christian missions may challenge
comparison with any other work for the advancement of good among men.

Let Christian people everywhere, then, arise. As God has brought peace
and prosperity to the Karens of Burma and outpoured his blessing upon
them as a race, even though some refused to accept his word, so will God
yet outpour his grace and his blessing, his peace and his glory upon all
the world, and every tongue shall confess and every knee shall bow. The
missionary enterprise worth while? When the glint in the dewdrop turns
black, when the sheen of the rainbow ceases, when the sun and the moon
and the stars are darkened in the sky, when gloom is better than
brightness, when death is preferable to life, when it is better to doubt
and fear, cringe and shrink, whine and moan, weep and shudder, than to
leap and shout and sing, when melancholy is to be preferred to gladness,
when it is the height of wisdom to seek despair, then, the missionary
enterprise may prove a failure!

Is the lesson of the book clear? Has the writer succeeded in bringing out
forcibly his dominant thought? There shines a star in the East. It is a
morning star. While still the other heavens are dark, with only a faint
glimmer of light here and there, it gleams. Not that its luster is always
clear and pure. Rather, like twinkling stars, it now flashes out, then
darkens, now flashes out, then darkens. At first there was that wonderful
light which shone out in the Karen tradition, that conception of God as
holy, righteous, transcendent, infinite, eternal, ineffable. Then there
was the dimming of that light by grosser thoughts, obscurer notions of
the Infinite One, and the strange, fearful delusion by Satan. But again
there flashed forth the messages of the prophets, speaking of hope and
cheer, of repentance and remission, of forgiveness and pardon, with the
renewal of blessing and favor. Once more there came the darkening, the
waning faith of hope long deferred, the doubts and fears of a race ground
down under the heel of oppression. Later came the glad moment when hopes
that had been dimmed suddenly gleamed forth again. The book, the book,
the long lost book had come! It was here. The younger brother, with white
skin and loving eyes, was here! He spoke of life and joy. He brought with
him wonderful things. He was indeed the son to whom Father God had
imparted all wisdom, his wisdom would soon be theirs; they would be a
nation again, and place their feet upon the necks of their enemies. There
were shouts of joy, heralds of gladness to bid welcome to the white
brother and to summon all the people to the feast. Then there was
disappointment. Not in physical luxury and temporal splendor was the new
kingdom to arise; it was to be a spiritual empire, a reign of meekness,
of sobriety, of truth. What! Had they not suffered enough? Had they not
long enough occupied the seats of the humble? Was this to be all? Hark
back then to the past. Serve Satan again. Cast off the new fetters and
return to the old. And so again a period of gloom, a darkening of the
shadows, the dimming of hope and faith and enthusiasm and zeal. But
gradually once more there has been the quiet, steady gleaming forth of a
brighter, truer faith, a hope that shall never be dimmed, the deep, sweet
consciousness of God, the submissive trust, the inner spiritual
perception, the confidence of things unseen yet real. Not that even this
faith is perfect, this light complete. Only this is to be said of it--it
gleams on and on with increasing luster and beauty until perchance--who
knows?--it may be a guiding star for many.

But this is not all. It cannot be. No, this star that shines so brightly
ushers in the dawn that shall yet illumine the whole East. As this star
is now gleaming, a single speck of light against a benighted sky, so
soon, yes, very soon--sooner perhaps than even the most hopeful prophets
of today dare think--not single stars here and there, but the whole sky
will be lighted up, the entire East will glow with radiance and splendor.
And then--and then--who knows?--that may be the appointed time when the
Sun of Righteousness will arise and illumine the whole world with his
radiance, when with a shout of victory, the Lord himself shall return,
and the fulfilment of all things spoken at the mouth of the holy prophets
may be accomplished. God speed the day!

This all too fragmentary account of Christian missions to the Karens of
Burma has been given, not for its own sake alone, but in order that it
might cheer the people of God and spur them on in the confident
expectation that, great as have been the achievements of God's grace
among this people so great and even greater will doubtless be the
triumphs of his power and love, over all the nations that are now
shrouded in darkness, not only in Asia, but in Africa, in South America,
in the isles of the sea, and wherever sin, pain, wretchedness and need
are found. The Prince of Peace shall yet reign. What though the nations
rage! There is a God who will surely make the wrath of man to praise him.
And there will come a day when men shall beat their spears into pruning
hooks, and wars shall cease and strifes will be o'er, and love will
abound and righteousness will flourish, and Him whose right it is to
reign shall all nations serve.


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