1881 - Frederick Stanley Arnot

Central Africa
1881 to 1914

A good relationship with Lewanika was essential to the development of work among the Barotse, and over time Arnot gained his trust and confidence. He had opportunities to share the message he bought with the king, not always with happy consequences. When he explained that a person’s status in the next world was unrelated to that in this world he ran into a major problem, for the Barotse people believed that a chief would remain a chief and a slave a slave when they died…The breach was not final, and eventually the chief gave Arnot permission to speak to him and his headmen. He asked Arnot, “Was there anything in the book suitable for a king to listen to?”… After an anxious time of deliberation, the missionary preached on the story of king Nebuchadnezzar. He described the king’s response: ‘Lewanika listened intently, turning round to his nobles to see they were listening too. At last, he could not contain his delight, but burst forth with “This is what I am going to be. I am the great Nebuchadnezzar of Central Africa.” But when I came to his downfall of the great monarch to the level of a beast…the king’s countenance fell, and refusing to wait for the rest of the history, he marched indigently away.’

He had opportunities to share the message he bought with the king…

Eventually when Lewanika was ill, he sent for Arnot again, asking for medicine…When the king was alone with the missionary, ‘he began to tell me how he abhorred burning witches, selling slaves, and making war on poor tribes around, but he was helpless he said; still he wishes to keep my “Sunday”.’ Arnot took the opportunity to finish the uncomplete story of Nebuchadnezzar, encouraging Lewanika to accept ‘the unconditional gift of God’s forgiveness. The king listened patiently and as I left him, he said “Come every morning to teach me”.’

Abbreviated extract from Burness, I. (2017), From Glasgow to Garenganze: Frederick Stanley Arnot and Nineteenth-Century African Mission, Echoes International, pp. 89-90