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The Sea of Galilee Mission of the Free Church of Scotland
Chapter IV. The Deputation of 1884

IN February 1884, Dr. Torrance and myself were sent to Palestine by the Jewish Committee to discover the best sphere for a new Medical Mission to the Jews. We were accompanied by Dr. Laidlaw, the then superintendent of the Glasgow Medical Mission, and by Dr. Vartan of Nazareth, the representative of the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society. We recommended that Tiberias should be the central station, and that a branch station should be planted somewhere among the hills of Northern Galilee.

Though we did not know it at the time, we were substantially repeating the recommendation made by M'Cheyne and Andrew Bonar forty-five years before, in 1839. In their famous "Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews" (30th thousand, p. 284), they say: "Thus our last evening in Saphet came to a close. We could not help desiring that the time

would come when our beloved church should be permitted to establish a mission here......A mission established in Galilee would have this great advantage, that the headquarters might be at Saphet in summer......and at Tiberias in winter, where the cold is scarcely felt......They [the Jews] have a peculiar love for these two places, being two of their holy cities, and many of their saints being buried near......If the Spirit of God were poured down upon Saphet, it would become a city that might shine over the whole Jewish world—`a city set on a hill cannot be hid.' Such were our feelings upon the spot in 1839."

Two scenes which I witnessed in Palestine may give the reader some idea of the enormous power of medical missions in that land. In March 1884, our party visited El-Bakeia, an out-of-the-world village among the Galilean hills. It was soon "noised" that three European doctors had come to the village. Words borrowed from the Gospels are best fitted to describe what I then saw. "And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door." Our parallel experience embraced minute details. It was "at even, when the sun did set;" and "in the morning, rising up a great while before day," we went out (Mark i. 32, 35); for our stock of

medicines was exhausted, and we wished to escape froni the importunate sick folk. We were in an "upper room," or "loft," or "guest chamber," in the only two-storied house in that quarter; and the people flocked to us, not by the streets, but over the green flat roofs. The whole village was drawn to us as by a magnet. The "divers diseases" seemed to be the very same, and as numerous, as in Christ's day; and the sick as earnestly besought us that we would heal them. We could hardly find either time or room to eat our bread. F actually saw thorn "bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four" (Mark ii. 4). I felt the slender roof quivering under their tread. Had the healer been in the lower story, they could soon have uncovered the roof and laid the patient at the healer's feet. It would have been but the work of a few minutes to repair the : damage. The daily life of the great Healer was at that hour under my eyes with more than stereoscopic distinctness; and very great was the joy of the surprise. I felt that my comrades were giving these bigoted Galileans the only exhibition of Christ's gospel which as yet they either care for or can comprehend. What an admirable way of ringing the bell, and creating the welcoming mood in the hearers! What a splendid object-lesson on the genius of the gospel!

In 1891 (when again in Palestine on the errands of this mission), in company with Mr. Christie, our teacher at Safed, Dr. Saadeh, our medical missionary, and his dispenser, we made a missionary circuit through the highland villages which our Saviour used to visit from Capernaurn. We were thus both on and in His very footsteps, healing the sick and preaching the gospel. We came to Jish, the Giscala of Josephus, and the home of the Zealots, so famed in the Jewish war. We there found the past in the present, and warm with the full breath of life ; the great gospel scenes lived before our very eyes. The Greek church was thrown open to us, and in a few minutes the doctor had about one hundred and fifty patients. Mr. Christie gave an Arabic Gospel to every boy who could read. The favoured boys were greatly delighted with their prize. Each of them gathered an admiring circle under a leafy tree, and with wonderful animation recited the words of life, which, very probably, Christ had spoken to their ancestors on that very spot. The joyful sound echoed through the whole viIIage. An American in our party took me aside, and said with emotion, "I never expected to see a sight like this on earth. I now understand the life of Christ as I never understood it before. With an agency like this you could soon carry the gospel to every inhabitant of Galilee. I promise you that I shall do all I can to support such missions."

There was keen competition for the honour of entertaining us. We spent the evening as the guests of the sheik of Yaron, the Iron of Joshua. His salutation was, "Peace be unto you. I give you a thousand welcomes." His grandson had been in our school at Safed, and right glad was he to have a real healer under his roof. His patriarchal household numbered about fifty souls, and, along with his favourite Arab mare and one-day-old foal, were all under the same roof with us. The doctor conducted family worship in Arabic.

The medical missionary in Palestine to-day wields such a power as has seldom been granted to men since the days of Christ. The natives have little faith in their own physicians. They believe that medical science is the offspring and heritage of the Christians, and they expect cures to come to them supernaturally through one who is a representative of God. They believe that all the good angels accompany the true healers, whom they call "the people of blessing." They reverence the mysterious doctor almost as a god, and expect him to work veritable miracles. Some even call him "the great physician," and he soon gains a reputation wonderfully like Christ's. "His fame is spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee." They pray for him while he is applying his remedies. And lie is to them a great miracle-worker when contrasted with their own pretenders to medicine. They appeal to him to cure old age, and to give not eyesalve only, but eyesight to the blind, and will not be said nay. Sometimes the dying cling to the doctor, and implore him to save them. The belief still lingers among them that their sick are possessed by evil spirits. As with the wise men from the east, their very superstition may pave the way for the true faith. At least, it offers a most hopeful point of contact to the Christian missionary. These facts show that we can scarcely exaggerate the possibilities of a mission like ours, when wisely conducted, and supported by the intercessions of the faithful.

Our Tiberias Mission may easily be used as an excellent Bible Expositor and Educator, especially for the young. It tends to give them a full persuasion of reality, and a happy home-feeling concerning the gospel narratives; it helps wonderfully to verify and vivify the sacred page; it brings the great Healer very near, and sheds an incandescent light upon His daily life. Such an experience is greatly needed among us. Lecturers on Palestine can tell the most amusing stories about some of their hearers, otherwise intelligent, who have been astounded to find that people could to-day visit the very places mentioned in the Bible. They had secretly concluded that all these spots had long ago been taken up into the floor of heaven, and that they could not see them till after death. Their strange rediscovery of Bible sites has given some a shock of surprise which has deeply affected their Christian life. If the Holy Land be as a fifth gospel, an intelligent sympathy with medical missions in Palestine should bring us something like a sixth gospel.

Our Tiberias hospital is a wonder and a joy to the Galileans when in sickness. In contrast with their squalid huts and tents, its sweetness and cleanness, its pervading atmosphere of Christian love iii that loveless land, its power to bless, and its abundance, seem to them scarcely to belong to this world. Under its roof they feel as if they were in the Paradise of God. To them it is a real Bethel.

Our Galilee Mission brings now, as in the days of Christ's flesh, "the double cure" within reach of the suffering thousands in Galilee, in Decapolis, and from beyond Jordan. We hope that it will also, by God's blessing, revive the religion of Christ iii its earthly cradle, which, for many centuries, has also been its grave. In any case, our beautiful and commodious mission buildings—quite as good as any between Dan and Beersheba—are an impressive monument to the Great Physician. They are also a memorial of Christian faith, and a token that we are not forgetful of our Saviour's twofold command, "Heal the sick that are therein; and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you."

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