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 Early Missionary Progress at Mombasa
By Daniel Karanja

NEW BEDFORD, Mass, JANUARY 30-A lot has been made in some quarters about the relative slow growth of the Christian missionary communities at Mombasa during the first few decades between 1844 and 1880.

When compared with missionary work in other regions such as Uganda in the late nineteenth century, a reasonable and fair observer could be concerned. 

For instance, the Ribe Free Methodist mission had only 40 converts by 1873, which was about a decade since its founding. Richard F. Burton who had a chance to visit the CMS station in 1857, commented rather scornfully on CMS’ spending of a reported 12,000 British pounds with “the minimest of results”.

He does not explain how that figure was arrived at or attempt to quantify the missionary progress or lack thereof. Burton also seems to have taken a dislike for Rebmann and had a few choice words for him.

What these critics fail to take into consideration are the unique circumstances and set of challenges faced by different missionaries in different areas.

An example of a unique problem at Mombasa was the high mortality rate amongst the new arrivals which almost always happened during the first few months after arrival and re-occurred very often after that.

Some idea of this problem is best illustrated by the following incomplete casualty list from both the Rabbai and Ribe missions between 1843 and 1887.

Jul.      1844   Mrs Rosine Krapf                  died from illness*
Jul.      1844   Dr. Krapf's daughter             died from illness*
May     1851   Rev. Christian Pfefferle        died from illness*
Mar.    1862   Graf & Elliker                         invalided
July      1862   James Woolner                     invalided
Oct.     1862   Dr. Ludwig Krapf                   invalided
Apr.     1864   Edmund Butterworth died from illness*
Mar.    1856   Mr. Taylor                               died from illness*
Jun.     1873   Bertie Wakefield                   died from illness*
Jun.     1873   Mrs. Rebecca Wakefield     died from illness*
Feb.    1875   Charles New                          died from illness*
Apr.     1875   D. S. Remmington                died from illness*
Jan.     1876   J. B. Brown                            invalided
Apr.     1876   Dr. Forster                             invalided
Feb.    1878   Mr. Randall                             invalided
May.    1879   Mr. Seden                              invalided
Jun.     1879   John Martin                            died from illness*
Jun.     1883   Mrs Ramshaw                       died from illness while at Zanzibar
Jun.     1883   Mr. Ramshaw                        took his daughter home for upbringing
Mar.    1886   Abba Shora                          murdered at Golbanti
Mar.    1886   Arthur Huko                            murdered at Golbanti
May.    1886   John & Annie Houghton        murdered at Golbanti
Jun.     1886   Mrs Baxter (at Jomvu)          took his ill son home for care
Jul.      1886   Mrs Wakefiled                      returned home for safety
Sep.    1886   Mr. John Baxter
May.    1887   Thomas Wajefield                 invalided

*Most of the people who died at Mombasa were nearly always victims of malaria whose true cause was unknown at the time.

Thomas Wakefield By E. S. Wakefield pp 106
Lake Regions Of Central Africa; A Picture Of Exploration By Ricard Francis Burton, 1860 pp 24-25

The case of Abba Shora is poignant because he was one of the first converts at Mombasa and had answered the call to become a missionary himself. Due to the shortage of manpower, he was sent alone to run the missionary station at Golbanti.

She was the second wife of Reverend Thomas Wakefeld. His first wife died in 1873.


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