All things are wonderfully ordered for us by God. Such has been my experience for a long time past. If only we will wait and watch, the way will open for us.
Where shall I begin with my history as a Missionary? When I was a child, it was my mother’s hope and wish that I should bear the glad tidings of the Gospel to distant lands. She was a Missionary in heart herself, and it was her earnest desire that one of her boys would grow up to devote himself to that most blessed work.
However there seemed little likelihood of her wishes being fulfilled. I disliked the idea of going to Oxford as my brothers had done. A wild free life away from the restraints of civilization was my idea of happiness, and after studying agriculture for a year or two in England, I bade farewell to my native shores and started for Canada.
Then God took me in hand. I had been only three days in the country when He put it into my heart to become a Missionary. The impulse came suddenly, irresistibly. In a few days it was all settled. Farming was given up, and I entered upon my course as a theological student. That same summer I spent a month or six weeks on an Indian Reserve, and became, as people would say, infatuated with the Indians. For this and other reasons, I preferred remaining in Canada that I might study for the ministry, to returning to England; and whenever opportunity allowed, I paid a visit to some Indian Reserve, or went on an exploring tour up the great lakes.
After rather more than two years’ preparation, I returned to England, and in December, 1867, was ordained deacon at the Chapel Royal, by the Bishop of London, Dr. Tait, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury.
Shortly after this, it was arranged that I should go out again to Canada as a Missionary to the Ojebway Indians, under the auspices of the Church Missionary Society, the Rev. Henry Venn being then Hon. Secretary, and on July 1, 1868, accompanied by my wife and an old faithful servant named Jane, we started for Canada.
My wife, accustomed to the refinement and comforts of a beautiful old rectory home in Gloucestershire, knew not whither she was going–she had never been out of England before, and all was new and strange to her. Indeed, I for my part was going out also, “not knowing whither I went.” Whether our lot would be cast in one of the older and more civilised dioceses of Canada, or whether we should find a home on the very outskirts of civilization, I knew not. My instructions from the Church Missionary Society Committee, were simply to go first to London, Ont., where the late Bishop of Huron (Dr. Cronyn) then lived, and from thence to travel around and select what might seem to be the best spot to make the centre for a new mission. We had thought of Cape Croker on the Georgian Bay, and we had thought of Michipicoten, on Lake Superior,–but nothing could be settled until after our arrival in Canada, and as for my wife she was content to go with me wherever I went.
We had a splendid view of icebergs on the eighth day of our voyage. It was a clear, keen morning reminding one of Christmas time, the sailors were washing the decks and all looked merry and bright, and around on all sides were icebergs of every size and shape, some looking like great sea monsters bobbing up and down on the water, others as if a large extent of Dover Cliff were floating past. Twenty-seven we counted at one time, and during the morning fully 150 must have passed us. “Ah,” said an old sailor, “if one of them had touched us, this ship wouldn’t be here.” Then came the excitement of whales, spouting in the deep, and at 10 a.m., on July 10th, the rocky coast of Belle Isle was in sight.
When we landed at Quebec, the heat was intense, the glass standing at 99 deg. in the shade. My wife’s first experiences of Canada are described in a letter home, dated from London, Ont., July 22nd, ’68. “At 4 p.m. we left Quebec and started by boat for Montreal. The boats for the lakes and river are simply splendid,–such large handsome saloons and everything very nice, except that we had only one small towel between us and very little water. After leaving Montreal we had to go through a succession of locks which was slow work and made us feel the heat very much. On Wednesday it was a little cooler, and we were able to enjoy the most lovely scenery I had ever beheld, ‘the thousand isles,’–that alone is quite worth coming out for. From Hamilton we took train to London. No one can remember such a summer before, for the last three weeks the glass has been standing at between 103 deg. and 99 deg. except in the evening, when we think it cold if it goes down to 80 deg. The boarding-house we are in is cool and clean and quite English-like about a mile from the so-called town.”
Almost immediately after settling in at our London boarding-house I started on my first Missionary tour, the object being to choose a spot suitable for the centre of our Mission.