Dueling Missionaries

April 8th, 1873
From: Rev. Erwin Cranst
Leopoldville, Belgian Congo
To: Foreign Missions Committee
Mobile, AL, USA
Dear Brothers in Christ,

To begin, I would like to thank you for your generous support of our efforts in converting the heathen tribesmen of this dark continent to the light of our faith. However, I am pained to have to report that our efforts have been recently suffering unexpected setbacks. I am afraid that our wily adversary, the devil himself, has begun to employ a new tool in confounding our efforts at bringing the truth to the primitives of this region.

This new tool that is being wielded against us comes in the form of men sent from mohommedan lands, spreading their wicked lies amongst the credulous Negroes of the Congo. The outrageous gall of these mohommedist proselytizers goes completely unchecked by the officials of King Leopold! As you know, the Belgian king has been rather hostile to the presence of missionaries in this region. So, it is not terribly surprising that the thuggish officials he has appointed turn a deaf ear to our complaints against the spread of such heresies.

In fact, these immoral Belgians are, in essence, lending aid to the mohommedans in their efforts to poison the minds of the natives. The colonial officials routinely brutalize and murder the indigenous tribesmen in an effort to force them to produce more rubber and ivory, or to force greater efforts from them in building railroads into the heart of the dark continent. Even worse than the colonial masters themselves are the native tribe that they use as their henchman, the wicked “Zappozap” tribe.

Despite the rather ridiculous and humorous name of the tribe, the men of this tribe are not in any way jocular or pleasant. Armed with European rifles and led by their psychopathic Chieftain, Malumba, the Zappozaps have gone on a rampage of bloodthirsty slaughter and slaving throughout the region of the relatively peaceful Kuba people.

The atrocities committed by the white man and his cohorts have naturally caused many tribes in the Congo to distrust us. This has had the effect of making for easy inroads by these new-come mohommedan preachers. At one time, the tribes in this area would have been more resistant to the efforts of these heathen “missionaries” due to the fact that muslims often took slaves from this region. Unfortunately, the cruelty of the Belgians has so severely overshadowed these past abuses by the mohommedans that the natives now see their “Allah” as more kindly than our own loving Lord.

So now, I find that I am in something of a race against these new adversaries. If we allow these false prophets to reach the more remote tribes and infect their minds with their lies before they hear our truth, we could lose any chance we have at winning the hearts of those people. Therefore, I am writing to you to request a special increase in funding so that I may undertake a foray into a region that is especially forbidding.

I plan on entering an area that is known to be inhabited by cannibalistic headhunters. This undertaking will be extremely dangerous, but, by the Lord’s grace, I have faith that I will be able to spread the Good Word in a new and fertile field. We must plant our seeds of purity before the mohommedans have the opportunity to sow their thorny weeds in that soil.

May the Lord bless you all,
Rev. Erwin Cranst

***

May 26th, 1873
From: Rev Erwin Cranst
Belgian Congo, Interior
To: Foreign Missions Committee
Mobile, AL, USA

Dear Brothers in Christ,

As I intimated in my previous communication, I have made a foray into a more dangerous and darker area of the continent. I am afraid this letter may have taken some time to reach you due to the difficulties in finding reliable couriers in this region.

The Lord has indeed blessed my efforts. While it is true that the natives in this region tend to be especially hostile and murderous, I have had the good fortune of stumbling across a rather sizable tribe that is extremely friendly and welcoming! This tribe calls itself the “Bimrobo”. They are surrounded by the vicious “Yotara” tribe.

For reasons I have not yet been able to understand, the wicked and bloodthirsty Yotaras rarely attack the peaceful and friendly Bimrobos. Thus, the Bimrobos are able to live in an area where most small, peaceful tribes would quickly perish. This curious circumstance is a true mystery; I can only assume that this is an example of our gracious Lord extending his protecting hand over a people that warrant his mercy.

Of course, the Bimrobo are idolaters, as are all the primitives on this continent. But I believe that the Lord has seen fit to spare them despite their heathen ways due to the fact that their hearts will be receptive to the message I am called upon to deliver.

I have began to teach the people of this tribe English in an effort to introduce them to a more civilized tongue, and thus, to a more civilized manner of thinking. These people are a quick-witted lot and have shown a great aptitude for learning our language. I believe that, once I have taught the truth to these people, I may even be able to make converts amongst their more vicious neighbors.

I am also happy to report that there is no sign that the cursed mohommedans have been to this area. The Lord has truly blessed my efforts.

May the Lord bless you all,
Rev. Erwin Cranst

***

July 9th, 1873
From: Rev Erwin Cranst
Belgian Congo, Interior
To: Foreign Missions Committee
Mobile, AL, USA

Dear Brothers in Christ,

I have continued with my efforts to bring the light to the natives of this dark region. The Bimrobo have continued to be friendly and receptive towards me, but I have had little luck in actually bringing them to the truth. They seem rather unable to fully grasp the concepts that I have been trying to teach them.

Initially, they seemed to find it comical that I worshipped a God that could not be seen. They, of course, worship idols, so they are used to seeing some sort of physical representation of a deity. The idols they worship are a particularly odd collection of statues. They have a special hut where the idols sit in a semi-circle around a large, deep pit full of ashes. They have six of these heathen statues, all of them carved from some dark stone that I have never before seen. The stone is something like obsidian, but has a different feel to it. All of the statues are extremely realistic looking and show incredible craftsmanship. This is extremely odd due to the fact that the Bimrobo do not seem to have any other items made with this type of skill. I have not had any luck in determining how they made their idols.

The idols are a rather creepy collection of beings. I have not seen anything quite like them before. All of the other tribes in the Congo that I have encountered have had idols that were effigies that where either shaped like humans or some manner of animal. These idols do not resemble any sort of creature of this Earth. I cannot really describe them in any words that would accurately communicate to you their form. They are truly bizarre.

The tribe’s shaman seems to be in charge of the statues but is not as protective of them as is the norm in a primitive heathenist. He has allowed me to inspect them without any interference. When I asked him if I could see his gods he told me that I could do as I liked. He said that his gods did not need him to protect them. His attitude is quite odd.

Even more odd is the fact that he has not made any statements to his people regarding my efforts to bring them to worship the true God and to abandon his false gods. He seems to be completely unconcerned that his followers may abandon him.

Unfortunately, his lack of concern has not made it any easier for me to bring these people to the Lord. As I stated earlier, they find the idea of worshipping a god that they cannot see to be ridiculous. Finally, out of sheer frustration, I made a journey back to Leopoldville and acquired a large Catholic crucifix. I pray that the Lord will forgive me for resorting to a graven image, but these people apparently need something they can see.

The crucifix helped somewhat in making the Bimrobo take my message seriously. At least they no longer think that I worship the air or the clouds. I am still experiencing some difficulties in finding converts however. The Bimrobo seem to be of the impression that I should be able to get the figure of Christ that hangs from the crucifix to “do something”. I have not yet figured out exactly what they mean by this.

I can only assume that their shaman must employ some sort of trickery to make this tribe believe that his statues can move about. As I am completely unwilling to stoop to trying to fool these people with some ventriloquist act involving the cross, I am at something of a loss. I am not sure what I should do to convince them to worship the true God when they expect me to make Jesus sing and dance around while hanging from the cross.

I have to find some way to expose the trickery of the shaman so that the people will realize that his idols do not move. Unfortunately, I have not seen him performing his chicanery yet. Moreover, despite the fact that I have closely examined the idols, I have found no mechanisms of any sort that would produce the illusion that they move. I fear that I will simply have to sit and wait for him to perform his little magic act before I can expose his deceit.

May the Lord bless you all,
Rev. Erwin Cranst

***

September 15th, 1873
From: Rev Erwin Cranst
Belgian Congo, Interior
To: Foreign Missions Committee
Mobile, AL, USA

Dear Brothers in Christ,

Once again, I apologize for any delays that you have experienced in receiving this message. As you can appreciate, the mail service here is rather poor, (non-existent in fact).

I have sad, and somewhat infuriating, tidings that I must impart. The village of the Bimrobo has been invaded by an entity of pure evil and perfidy. One of the despised mohommedans has made his way into my little enclave. He has begun to preach his vile lies to these ignorant natives. Worst of all, he has been preaching to them in English – which I taught them to understand!! The audacity of this wicked heathen is beyond belief!

This proselytizer insists on condemning me for “assigning partners to Allah”. He is claiming that his message supercedes my message as his prophet came after Jesus. He has the unmitigated gall to claim that our Lord was nothing but a prophet! The man is nothing but bold-faced liar! Worst of all, he continuously uses ridiculous scare tactics to try to influence these people. It seems like every other sentence he says something like “Lo! A fiery torment awaits the unbelievers! Such is a hapless end for those who refuse to acknowledge these clear proofs!”

Clear proofs? This man keeps on insisting he brings “clear proofs” from his false god, but shows no proof at all! He seems to think that the fact that the sun rises and that birds can fly proves that his “Allah” is a true god! It is totally ridiculous! His arguments make no sense! When I challenge him to show some sort of real proof he says something like “Wait ye! Lo! We too are waiting!” What is that supposed to mean?

Sadly, these uneducated tribesmen do not possess the type of logical reasoning abilities that would allow them to see how utterly harebrained this mohommedan’s statements are. They seem to lend as much credence to his ravings as they do to my teachings! Meanwhile, their pagan shaman sits there and laughs at us while we argue! It’s intolerable!

At least the mohommedan doesn’t have any sort of statue that he can show the Bimrobo. They tend to give me a little more credence due to the fact I at least have this crucifix to show them. It seems that the mohommedans don’t use any sort of graven images at all, so this false preacher is running into the same type of problems I initially faced. I can’t help but enjoy watching his frustration when the tribesmen ask him where his god is hiding.

In closing, I would like to ask you to pray earnestly that the Lord will help me overcome this messenger sent from the devil.

May the Lord bless you all,
Rev. Erwin Cranst

***

October 2nd, 1873
From: Rev Erwin Cranst
Belgian Congo, Interior
To: Foreign Missions Committee
Mobile, AL, USA

Dear Brothers in Christ,

A most tragic event has taken place. The vicious Yotara tribe has raided the peaceful Bimrobo tribe that I am living with. They killed several people and took some captives.

The Bimrobo are rather upset, but not nearly as upset as I would expect. They don’t seem to fear that this attack indicates that the bloodthirsty Yotaras have decided to wipe them out. When I question them regarding the attack by the Yotaras they respond that the Yotaras aren’t very smart and sometimes they will come and make trouble because they “forget”. Forget what?

The Bimrobo seem to be completely unprepared for any further attacks, I have not seen them creating any weapons or sending out any war parties. It seems that these primitive heathens at least truly practice turning the other cheek.

The Bimrobo have said one other thing to me that is truly bizarre. They seem to expect the crucifix to defend them somehow. While faith in protection from the Lord is commendable, it seems like their expectations go a little further than that. It seems that they actually want the figure of Jesus to get down off of the crucifix and go attack the Yotara! I am really wondering about the sanity of these people.

Unfortunately, the mohommedan, who calls himself “Ibrahim Muhomed Hassan bin Ansar”, survived the raid by the Yotara. He is preaching that the raid by the Yotara was a judgment from his Allah! He is trying to scare the Bimrobo by claiming that, unless they all repent and worship his god, that Allah is going to have the Yotara kill them all. He goes on and on with story after story about how his Allah wiped out tribes that refused to believe. I’m beginning to think that his god is more bloodthirsty than the Yotara!

If you do not receive any further messages from me, I think you will be safe in assuming that the Yotara attacked again. Please pray for mercy from the Lord and for the safety of this tribe.

May the Lord bless you all,
Rev. Erwin Cranst

***

October 6th, 1873
From: Rev Erwin Cranst
Belgian Congo, Interior
To: Foreign Missions Committee
Mobile, AL, USA

Dear Brothers in Christ,

I’m afraid that I may have somewhat misjudged the nature of the Bimrobo. They must have staged a massive raid against the Yotara last night. When I awoke this morning, the hut in which they store their idols was full of the heads of Yotara warriors! The shaman had built a large fire in front of his false gods and tossing the heads into it. Even more gruesome than that was the fact that he had apparently smeared blood and gore all over his idols. He had even somehow managed to wedge small bits and pieces of human flesh, fingers, toes, and ears into parts of the statues that somewhat resemble fangs and claws. The sight truly turned my stomach. The Bimrobo are much more bloodthirsty than I had suspected!

The Bimrobo are behaving rather strangely for a tribe that just attacked its neighbors. They haven’t shown any sign of a victory celebration. I assume that their raid must have been a tremendous victory for them because I have not noticed that they lost any tribe members during the attack. In fact, none of them are even wounded. None of them even seem tired. Its as if, while I slept last night, they all snuck out and spent the entire night decapitating Yotaras then came back here and started going about their business as if nothing had happened at all. It is very bizarre.

Ibrahim, the mohommedan, is claiming that Allah has shown them great mercy and that they should all fall down immediately and start praying to mecca in thanks. He just never gives up.

The villagers have just laughed at this latest announcement from him. They say that his “nothing” god didn’t do anything. They say that their idols punished the Yotara. This, of course, completely enraged Ibrahim. He declared that the idols “have no power to hurt or benefit”. Then, to prove that the statues were powerless, he strode into the hut where they are kept and proceeded to spit on all of them.

I was rather shocked that he would dare to do something this drastic. He must have a revolver hidden underneath his robes or something. I figured the Bimrobo would try and tear him limb from limb for such an act of desecration. I was shocked when they all started laughing at him! They just laughed as he committed blasphemy against their false gods. Later, some of the Bimrobo that had been most friendly to Ibrahim stopped by the little hut that he had built, (which he calls his “mosque”), and said goodbye to him. He told them that he wasn’t planning on leaving and that his god would punish anyone who tried to harm him, but they seemed to be convinced that he wasn’t going to be around much longer.

Ibrahim has been trying to denigrate our True God by claiming that I do not have faith enough in our Lord to follow his example and spit upon the idols of the Bimrobo. I was tempted at first to let him bully me into following his example, but I resisted the urge. I’m hoping that, by behaving in a more civilized fashion, I can show the Bimrobo that the Christian God is the true God.

May the Lord bless you all,
Rev. Erwin Cranst

***

October 9th, 1873
From: Rev Erwin Cranst
Belgian Congo, Interior
To: Foreign Missions Committee
Mobile, AL, USA

Dear Brothers in Christ,

I am happy to say that the mohommedan, Ibrahim, is no longer spreading his vicious lies amongst the Bimrobo. Unfortunately, this news is not without a darker side.

This morning, I awoke to find that Ibrahim had disappeared. I made a cursory search of the area, just to ensure that he wasn’t up to some sort of treachery, and eventually located him in the hut of the idols. Rather, I should say that I found his remains there.

I do not understand exactly how it was accomplished, but the mohommedan proselytizer had somehow been dismembered and his body parts had been distributed amongst the statues. The truly strange and uncanny part of this is that his body parts were being firmly grasped by the various appendages and orifices of the statues, as if the parts where truly protruding from between very real fangs and claws. I could almost swear that some of the statues had been moved somehow, it seemed as if they were in slightly different postures. However, I have not been able to find any way in which these solid stone figures could have been manipulated. I am beginning to feel that the power of the devil may be stronger here than I had ever imagined.

Due to my lack of success in the conversion of the Bimrobo, I have decided that it might be best if I seek out another tribe in a different area. I plan on journeying to Leopoldville soon, and then moving on to another region.

I am having some misgivings in regards to abandoning this tribe after having done so much work here. I know that it will only be a matter of time before more mohommedans arrive to try and spread their lies. Nevertheless, I feel that the Lord is calling me elsewhere. In fact, if I happen to run into any more mohommedans, maybe I’ll even send them this way….

May the Lord bless you all,
Rev. Erwin Cranst


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