The Protestant Missions — October 17, 2011 at 12:46 am

The “Weeping Prophets” of Emmanuel Mura in Hokkaido!


The Hokkaido was being gradually occupied by settlers moving thither from the main island. In some cases, companies of Christians united in founding colonies. Rev. W. R. Andrews, of the Church Missionary Society, in 1898 thus described the condition of one of these villages whose very name showed the faith of its settlers:

“Emmanuel Mura is a settlement where there are sixty Christians. Of these, twenty belong to the Seikokwai (Native Episcopal Church) and the rest to the Congregational Church. The Seikokwai Christians have their own little church building, having erected it last year, mostly with their own hands. Sunday is well kept in this village; no one thinks of doing any work. All get up later, don their best clothes, and come to church for service at ten, and stay in church till twelve or one. The service proper lasts an hour, but religious talk, etc., keeps them afterwards. The Sunday-school, too, is generally going on while the adults are having their talk. In the evening there is another service. I was told that, however fine the day, no one would ever go out into the fields for work.”

In November of the same year, the present writer spent a Sunday with the Congregationalists of this village. The meeting was held in the cabin of one of the settlers, a rough building about thirty by fifteen feet in size, made of reeds bound to a framework of poles. The wind, rain, and sleet found easy access on every side. In the centre of the hut was a square fireplace, the fire being built on the ground. The fuel consisted of split logs about three feet long. One end of these blazed in Sie centre of the fireplace, and as the logs burned away they were gradually pushed up towards the flame, new ones being added from time to time. On three sides of the fireplace were the boards that covered one-half of the floor-space, the rest being the bare ground. There was no chimney and no opening in the roof except the crevices between the reeds with which it was thatched. In moments of calm, the smoke rose quietly upward to where the poles and reeds had been coloured a glossy, oily black from the accumulations of former years ; but every few moments a puff of wind would send the smoke into the faces of those that sat about the fire. The colonists paid little attention to this beyond squinting up their eyes when the smoke was thicker than usual, but the visitor found it best to carry on the conversation with closed eyes, and when the time came for him to preach he became in truth a weeping prophet The people themselves were not so rough as their surroundings. Their conversation showed them to be thoughtful persons, and some of them had received a good education. One shelf in the hut was heavily laden with books, most of them being of a solid character. These Congregationalists of the Hokkaido might well remind the visitor of those that colonised New England. The eastern boundary of their settlement was marked by a post inscribed: “Love never faileth,” and the western by one on which was written: “The truth shall make you free.”

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