Zion’s Mission Work
January 1898 — General Conference, AME Zion Church’s Women’s Home and Foreign mission Society, Mobile AL
One of the greatest drawbacks to a religious cause is, persons are likely to seek to carry the lightest end of a cross; and it is so much easier to tell than to do, that a great many excellent tellers are poor doers.
The way we have thought more advantageous to the advancement of home and foreign mission work, is to make ourselves missionaries, individually. We are so sensitive and sensible of self and self-interest — and as a general thing, so insensible to the interests of others, that a transformation scene is often necessary to arrive at facts in their true light.
It is not amiss to know (for very few so consider it) that the only true service which can be rendered to God, can only be accomplished by serving our fellow creatures. This is a striking evidence that there can be nothing selfish about true religion. Whenever we allow self to occupy the throne, the connecting link of the spirit of Jesus Christ has been broken. Persons are not likely to judge justly when self is in the way. The Prophet Nathan knew this fact, hence, when he would call from King David’s lip a declaration which reflected on the integrity of the king himself, the prophet took up a parable, and putting gin David’s place a transgressor (instead of the king), he found it easy to kindle David’s anger at the flagrant violator, and drew forth as judgment: “As the Lord liveth, the man that had done this thing shall surely die.” Had David known that the “Thou are the man,” would follow in the next sentence[,] doubtless he had not rendered the severe though just judgment before quoted.
Speaking of missions and missionary work, when we are in our comfortable homes, surrounded with the blessings of life, by loving, kind and benevolent friends, we least think of our less fortunate brothers and sisters who are differently situated, in mission field, — home and foreign. It is not always necessary to go to foreign mission fields in order to find distress among a class of God’s creature who are strangers to the inviting calls of the gospel — we may find them sometimes in our gospel land.
The way we think best to awaken our thoughts to the true interest of this important work, is, to put ourselves in the places where missionaries are employed — in the home and foreign mission fields. We will speak:
—1. Of our home mission work. In this our land of boasted civilization and Christianity, there are millions of people who seem worse off than those of heathen countries. There may be those who have opportunities to assist themselves (while others may not) but have not the will or energy. Notwithstanding the neglect of favorable opportunities, for them Jesus lied, suffered, died; and in His dying breath prayed that they may be forgiven — that they may be saved. Of that class of individuals He declared: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He sent His disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
It is true some people are not eloquent in tongue, but they can use other means just as effectively, and which may speak more eloquently than tongues.
The sinful people are faulty, the reason they are not saved, does not relieve us of responsibility in trying to save them. Were it not for the efforts of others, directly and indirectly we would be in their condition. The fact remains, they are unsaved, and it is plainly our duty to make every effort possible to save them. They cannot “Hear without a preacher”; neither can preachers preach unless they are sent. God has employed the efforts of man in sending messengers to preach the Gospel. It is our indispensable duty, our Christian duty, a duty that God demands of His people, to send missionaries to cultivate the waste places in His vineyard. Go into the vineyard and work, says the Master, and whatsoever is right I will give thee. Remember, pay-day is coming! Sometimes we send ministers into Christian communities and they suffer. Think of what is implied in sending them among a shiftless, unwilling and “don’t care” people. Yet to that class of people Jesus not merely sends us, but came into the world to save. If that class of people cannot nor will not support themselves, it is useless to expect them to support ministers; yet, they must be saved, if possible. It is our duty to do our part in that direction. Is it not our duty to assist in the support of missionaries? Let us ask ourselves — ask ourselves individually — how much do I give annually to the mission cause, to aid in the conversion of my less fortunate brothers and sisters? Do I give for the salvation of my brothers and sisters, according to my ability, what God requires of me? These are searching questions, and worthy of our serious consideration.
— 2. Foreign mission work — While it is our first duty to look out for home and its necessities, that is not our only duty; it is only a part of our obligations.
The following expression came from the sacred lips of our blessed Saviour during His earthly career: “The field is the world”; and so the world is our field of operation. If this were not so, we would be in darkness today. When the light of truth shone in the countenance of others, they made their way to their less fortunate brothers and sisters and succeeded in getting the word into their hands and hearts. If they were the means of bringing us to Christ, for this if for no other reason, we ought, also, to make or send the word of reconciliation to our brothers and sisters who are in the land of darkness and the shadow of death.
When we contemplate the cruelties and suffering of the heather world, our [sorrowful] go out in pity for them but what will that avail, unless we give them a helping hand? When we see with our eyes the sufferings of those who are in darkness in civilized and Christianized countries, like our own, what must it be like him China, Japan, Africa, India, Fiji and other heather countries? Is is not our Christian duty to send them the Gospel? Yes, we feel it is — we know it is! Sometimes we send it with much [scarcity] — with apparent reluctance, and so the bearers suffer the consequence. Ought we to allow those we sent to heather countries to suffer? Is it generous? Is it Christianlike to do so? The Lord pardon us for such dereliction.
When we send missionaries to heathen countries, we send them to contend with obstructions, to overcome great difficulties, and amid them all to spread the light of the blessed Gospel. They go to oppose heathenism and to dispel the darkness. We cannot expect the heathen to help them in so doing. Christ said himself that Satan is not likely to oppose himself; we ought not to expect it. When we send missionaries abroad, we must be prepared to render them some support, or we will assist the heathen in opposing them.
Let us put ourselves in their stead. We are in a strange land, among a strange people, contending with darkness and striving to spread the light of life. We tell them we are sent to give them the light of truth — that we are from the land of light, peace and righteousness. That the people of our country are enlightened, gracious, God fearing and benevolent. They doubt our good intention, as is natural, and look for evidence as in days of old we looked for miracles to establish the truth. They say to the missionary, if the people of your God send you, if they are gracious. God fearing and benevolent, we will see; let the supply your necessities. So saying they wait for the evidence, and lo! starvation looks us in the face. We write to our Christian friends, but receive no reply. It is natural this destroys the faith of the heathen. If our brethren who send us refuse to sustain us, what proof have we that our holy religion is better than the heathen’s?
Source: Small, Mary J., “Zion’s Mission Work,” in Daughters of Thunder: Black Women Preachers and Their Sermons, 1850-1979, ed. Bettye Collier-Thomas, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass), 1998, pp. 95-97.