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INDIA, the home of the Hindu, the Mohammedan, the Parsee, the Jain, and the animist, and the birthplace of Buddhism, has been called the most powerful citadel of ancient errors and idolatry in the world. The population of India and Burma is over three hundred million, and Christian missions have been carried on in these countries for upwards of two hundred years.
The work of Seventh-day Adventists in India and Burma, as in most other mission fields, was pioneered by colporteurs. Late in 1893, A. T. Stroup and William A. Lenker were sent to India as canvassers, and were joined by Mr. and Mrs. Masters from Australia. They began their work early in the year 1894, and for about two years gave their best efforts to introducing the denominational literature in the cities of India.
The pioneer in zenana work was Miss Georgia Burrus, now Mrs. L. J. Burgess, who landed at Calcutta in January, 1895. Miss Burrus was sent out by the Mission Board, which paid her traveling expenses with the understanding that she was to work the first year on a self-supporting basis and study
one of the native languages. Her funds soon ran low, but help was providentially provided from a source then unknown to her. A man who had recently accepted the Adventist views in Africa sold his billiard table for £100, and sent the money in quarterly instalments to Miss Burrus to enable her to continue her study of the Bengali language.
In the year 1895, Mr. and Mrs. D. A. Robinson and Miss Mae Taylor, now Mrs. Quantock, landed in' Calcutta. Miss Taylor took up the study of the Bengali language, and united with Miss Burrus in the Bible work. Some time later D. A. Robinson, who went to India to take general charge of the work, opened up mission headquarters in Calcutta. His first efforts were for the English-speaking people of that large city. He conducted a series of meetings in a hall at 154 Bow Bazaar Street in the autumn of 1895, and continued the effort through the winter with an increasing interest. In the spring and summer of 1897 these meetings were transferred to the Corinthian theater. The Dalhousie Institute was also used for public meetings. A small company of believers was gathered out as a result of this effort, and regular Sabbath meetings began to be held in a rented hall on Free School Street.
Meanwhile the staff of workers had been further increased by the arrival in 1896 of Dr. and Mrs. O. G. Place, Mr. and Mrs. G. P. Edwards, Miss Samantha Whiteis, and Maggie Green (Mrs. I. D. Richardson). Dr. Place opened a sanitarium in Calcutta, and operated it until his return to America, being succeeded by Doctors R. S. and Olive G. Ingersoll.
In May, 1898, the first number of a monthly magazine, The Oriental Watchman, appeared. It was edited by W. A. Spicer, who had come over from England in the same year. The first edition of 1,500 copies was distributed free; but the magazine soon had a paid subscription list of 4,000. The denominational books were also being sold at this time in Bengal and Bombay by Ellery Robinson; in South India and Ceylon by R. W. Yeoman; and in the northwest, far into Kashmir, by I. D. Richardson; while H. B. Meyers, who had accepted the truth in Calcutta, carried the literature into the Malay States and Burma.
Something had also been done in a philanthropic way. At the time of the Santal famine in 1895, D. A. Robinson and his coworkers were active in their efforts in behalf of the suffering natives. An orphan school had been opened in Karmatar, 168 miles to the northwest of Calcutta, and here some of the most needy children were gathered in to be cared for and taught the Christian religion. This work was under the immediate
direction of Mr. and Mrs. F. W. Brown, who had recently come over from America.
The work thus well begun in the several lines received a severe setback when D. A. Robinson, superintendent of the mission, and F. W. Brown, of the orphanage, died of smallpox in 1900. The leadership devolved on W. A. Spicer, who carried it forward until the General Conference of 1901, when he was called to the secretaryship of the General Conference. He was
succeeded by J. L. Shaw, formerly principal of the college at Cape Town, South Africa.
For five or six years the work was carried on in much the same way as it had begun, by means of English publications. The denominational literature continued to be widely circulated. In 1904 an English edition of Good Health was introduced, and continued to be used for six years, until in 1910 The Herald of Health, published in India, began to appear. The Watchman Press office was opened in May, 1903, at 38 Free School St., Calcutta, under the charge of W. W. Quantock. In the year 1905 it was moved to Karmatar, and placed under the charge of J. C. Little. In 1909 it was transferred to Lucknow, and W. E. Perrin became the manager. In 1924 it was again moved, this time to Poona. Its full name is The Oriental Watchman Publishing Association.
During all these years constantly increasing evangelistic work was being done for the natives. Miss Georgia Burrus, after spending two years in learning the Bengali tongue, began to do house-to-house work in the city of Calcutta and its suburbs. Her first two converts, Noniballa and Kiroda Bose, were widows. In a high-caste Hindu zenana, Noniballa first met Miss Burrus and heard from her the story of the cross. Her heart was touched, and she decided to cast in her lot with God's people. Scaling the walls of the compound by night, she made her way
to Miss Burrus, who gladly took her in and instructed her in the way of salvation. Noniballa later came to America, but continued her membership with the home church in India. The next native convert was A. C. Mookerjee, a great-grandson of William Carey's first convert. He first came in contact with the mission workers at the sanitarium in Calcutta, and was the means of giving the message to various members of his family, who accepted it and became workers in different capacities.
Educational work was carried on from the beginning. In the spring of 1896, Misses Burrus and Taylor opened a girls' school in Calcutta, which was a help to them in perfecting their knowledge of the language and in getting into the homes of the people. Kiroda Bose was employed as a teacher in this school. A second school for girls was opened in Baliaghatta, a