Notes from "Stories from Brazil" by William Anglin.
For many years Mr. Anglin was a missionary in Brazil. His account of an itinerary is worth recording. He describes himself as The Preacher.
The Preacher is mounted on a horse, carrying leather saddle bags, containing his kit for the journey. He is accompanied by a native brother (not burdened with any luggage) who serves as guide or servant. He starts out after breakfast, and journeys on until late in the afternoon, travelling for twenty to forty miles in the tropical sun, over hills, down dales, passing coffee farms, through forests, crossing streams and rivers, negotiating mudholes, until about 4 pm he arrives at the next stopping place. The arrival is announced by four or five dogs which rush out as though to devour horses and men, barking furiously, until a small boy comes and orders them back, at which they retire with their tails down, and forthwith recognise the new-comers as friends. This house, let us say, is that of a farm worker. It is made of a rough frame-work of wood, with clay walls and clay floor. The furniture consists of seats made of blocks of wood; and trestles with planks laid on top serve as the best beds. Other beds are made of straw mats which will be laid on the ground when the proper hour arrives for the weary to rest. If the owner of the house is accustomed to hold meetings there, he will probably have also a couple of backless forms, and possess a box on legs to act as a table. The seating accommodation is amplified by resting planks on blocks of wood or on boxes. Having dismounted from the horses (which are unharnessed, groomed, given a feed of maize, and led to the pasture by a son of the house) we (the Preacher and company) enter the house and the father, mother, and possibly a dozen children advance to shake hands, including the eighteen months old child, whilst the baby, a year younger, carried by an older sister, is made to extend his arms and shake hands. After a time, we are each given a small cup of black coffee. The evening meal or dinner will take about two hours to prepare, the family having already dined. The meal consists of three items, black beans, rice and a tasteless porridge made from flour of maize and named "Angu". The first two are mixed with pig fat, and the latter lacks salt. The same menu serves for the two daily meals. When all is ready we are invited to enter the kitchen, which is usually the largest apartment. The fireplace has no chimney, and some of the smoke goes out through a hole in the wall, made for that purpose; the rest wanders over the house or rises to the roof and lazily disappears. The result is that the rafters have festoons of blackened cobwebs, and soot adheres to the wooden tiles. The head of the house gives thanks for the food, and then the guests are invited to step up to the fire-place and help themselves to the good things directly from the pots. The fire-place is a long tunnel with a plate on top with holes for each of the pots. Wood is the fuel and burns under the plate, and if freshly put on, the guests' eyes have to smart for it. Each ladles out the three essentials on to an enamelled plate, and armed with a very soft fork retires to a wooden block and sitting thereon with a plate on the knees, proceeds to enjoy his dinner. The dogs (now close friends), perhaps some cats, certainly a number of hens, and at times some pigs "lie at the catch" and when aught overflows, there is a scramble. The competition is keener if there should happen to be a little black pork added to the menu.
Before the meal is over, the folk are gathering for the meeting. The ladies make for the kitchen and join the family in watching the guests eating their dinner. The greasy repast being over, coffee is handed round in little cups, which makes the guests truly thankful. One or two tiny lamps are lighted which give much smoke and a dim light. The forms and planks are arranged for the meeting. The room and every part of the house is filled with folk, many of whom have come several miles. The first half of the meeting is taken up with singing hymns or teaching a new chorus until all are present. All who arrive shake hands with all who arrived before them, not omitting the smallest child, and often repeat the process when going away. If there are fifty folk, each of the newcomers, including the Preacher, will have to shake hands fifty times. After prayer, for which all stand up, the preaching begins. The lamp gives a poor light, and the smoke of it torments the speaker at times. The atmosphere is warm and more suited to perspiration than respiration, but these disadvantages are often forgotten as the Preacher warms to his subject. The people listen attentively, but the Preacher realises their ignorance, and inability to take in much. The preacher has to be of a very simple homely sort. What is the result? Humanly speaking, to expect that a meeting will have much effect, would seem foolish. One has to remember that the Gospel is the Power of God, and the changed lives of such as our host and others are the proofs of the power. As this is realised, one feels that it is worth while to go on sowing the seed, carrying the message over vale and hill, rejoicing to be a bearer of "Glad Tiding of good things." The meeting closes with a hymn and a prayer, and there is a very long pause. It will probably take about half-an-hour before the last one leaves the house, after shaking hands. Then the Preacher is shown to his bedroom. He is fortunate if it possesses a door. He sleeps on a straw mattress, placed upon boards, all too short. If he is only to endure the hardships of the bed, he will be fortunate, for there are often a host of underlying annoyances, over which we must draw the bed-cover. Morning comes, and the Preacher rises at dawn, and unless he has brought a washbasin, he must perform his ablutions at a trough behind the house, and shave before an admiring crowd. Coffee and then ample time before the first meal. This is a repetition of last night's. After this the family "culto domestico" (family worship). For this they take down the text calendar, which gives the reference for the Scripture Union Portion. This is read, all the family standing round, and the passage is commented on, and then the head of the house prays. The horses have been harnessed and are ready, so the Preacher, after a brief prayer, says goodbye to the family, mounts and rides away to the next visit.
Mr. Anglin's hymn in 'Spiritual Songs' is no 395, "O Saviour, we would contemplate Thee". A beautiful hymn of deep appreciation of the life, death and exaltation of the Son of God.
On the back page of Mr. S.E. McNair's booklet, "Reminiscences", there is a hymn called "Meditation". It was translated by S.E. McNair from the Portuguese of Richard Holden. Music by E.P. Ellis.
1st. verse of translation from Portuguese (Richard Holden)
O Saviour as we contemplate Thee,
On earth so humble, yet so holy
We see in Thee as Man the marvel
A life, a death, Godlike yet lowly.
1st. verse. of no. 395 in 'Spiritual Songs'
O Saviour we would contemplate Thee
In all Thy pathway here so lowly,
Thy life so pleasing to Thy Father,
So perfect, faithful and so holy.
"Meditation" has seven verses. The first verse is the only one that has any resemblance to 395 in 'Spiritual Songs'. Mr. S.E. McNair knew Mr. Anglin. He mentions him in Reminiscences as one of his companions from time to time. Did Mr. Anglin and Mr. McNair translate Mr. Holden's hymn and give different renderings? Perhaps we shall never know if the hymn is Mr Holden's or Mr. Anglin's. It doesn't really matter. The fact is that we have a beautiful hymn and it is often used at the breaking of bread.