HELP AT THE INSTANT IN FORMOSA
In the opening of work in Formosa, that great island off the coast of China, George L. Mackay, one of the missionary pioneers, met determined opposition.
In Marion Keith’s book, The Black-Bearded Barbarian (the name by which Mackay was known), we are told how the way was providentially opened to establish work in the city of Banka, the Gibraltar of heathenism in Formosa. Not even a foreign merchant was allowed there. Mackay longed to enter. Twice he had been driven out; no one would consider renting him the smallest room. But apparently there was just one man in the city whose heart had been turned. Mackay and his helper, A. Hoa, “stumbled” upon him on a dark night.
“As they turned a dark corner and plunged into another black street, they met an old man hobbling with the aid of a staff over the uneven stones of the pavement. Mackay spoke to him politely, and asked if he could tell him of anyone who would rent a house.
‘We want to do mission work,’ he added, feeling that he must not get anything under false pretenses.
“The old man nodded, ‘Yes, I can rent you my place, ’he answered readily. ‘Come with me.’
“Full of amazement and gratitude, the two adventurers groped their way after him, stumbling over stones and heaps of rubbish.”
The rooms were old and dilapidated, and dirty; but with joy and thankfulness Mackay paid the money for the lease, and the old man disappeared into the night. They were in Banka at last! But what would the morning bring? The story continues:
“As soon as morning came, the little army in the midst of the hostile camp hoisted its banner. When the citizens of Banka awoke, they found on the door of the hut the hated sign, in large Chinese characters,
“In less than an hour the street in front of it was thronged with a shouting crowd. Before the day was passed, the news spread; and the whole city was in an uproar. By the next afternoon, the excitement had reached white heat; and a wild crowd of men came roaring down the street. They hurled themselves at the little house, where the missionaries were waiting, and literally tore it to splinters. The screams of rage and triumph were so horrible that they reminded Mackay of the savage yells of the headhunters.
“When the mob leaped upon the roof and tore it off, the two hunted men slipped out through a side-door and across the street, into an inn. The crowd instantly attacked it, smashing doors, ripping the tiles off the roof, and uttering such blood-thirsty howls that they resembled wild beasts far more than human beings. The landlord ordered the missionaries out to where the mob was waiting to tear them limb from limb.
“It was an awful moment. To go out was instant death; to remain merely put off the end a few moments. Mackay, knowing his source of help, sent up a desperate prayer to his Father in heaven.
“Suddenly there was a strange lull in the street outside. The yells ceased; the crashing of tiles stopped.
The door opened; and there, in his sedan-chair of state, surrounded by his bodyguard, appeared the Chinese mandarin. And just behind him—blessed sight to the eyes of Kai Bok-su [the Chinese name for Mackay] —Mr. Scott, the British consul of Tamsuil!
“The mandarin asked the consul to send the missionary out of the city. ‘The consul said he had no such authority; but that the mandarin must protect British subjects in Banka. The mandarin ordered the people to let the mission alone. The victory was won; and the work continued.”