When the men reached the Pawnee, they quickly befriended the chief, Big Ax, who said of the missionaries:
“I love the whiteman; the whiteman can not cry in the prairie but I will be there to assist him. I want to know something of the great religion which you have among you; and if any of those people who come to teach us about the Great Spirit, and how to write, will come to my lodge I will see that they shall be neither cold nor hungry.”
Big Ax invited Samuel to go with him and his warriors on a long Buffalo hunt, while John was sent on a different hunt with another chief, Shon-gah-kah-he-gah. Though the two men were apprehensive about being separated for more than half a year after just arriving, they realized that being completely submersed with the Indians was the best way to learn their culture and language.
“the American Board became concerned about the missionaries spending too much time with the Pawnees on their winter and summer hunts and not immediately establishing a permanent mission station. The missionaries assured the Board that the time traveling with the Pawnees was well spent as it gave them an opportunity to learn the Pawnee language and gain an understanding of the “Indian character.” Both men felt knowledge of the Pawnee language was very important in trying to preach the truth to the Indians. Reliance on interpreters was too likely to lead to misunderstandings.”1
The missionaries gathered on the hill that would be the site of the new building. They “thanked and praised our God, supplicated his throne, instructed and encouraged the people in their work, and then descended the hill rejoicing”.
For four months, the workers labored endlessly. In September, the chapel officially opened. Turner, on of the missionaries overseeing the work in Tonga, gave an account of the dedication:
At an early hour, many assembled about the little hill on the summit of which the chapel stands, awaiting the appointed time of worship. At nine AM, we entered the new house to consecrate it to the Lord God of Israel and such a company was never before assembled for such a purpose in Tonga. The chapel was crowded to excess and principally with strangers, for the chief had ordered many of our own people to remain outside in order to make room for those who had not been accustomed to attend. Some suppose there were at least one thousand people inside, and as many out that could not find admittance. I judge there could not have been many if any short of two thousand altogether though not half that number in the chapel. All behaved in a very becoming manner and were deeply attentive to what was delivered.
The next week, at the second meeting at the new church, the chief of the village stood up and encouraged the men of his village to take a stand for Christ. Many who had been taking a stand for Christ faced hard persecution from their family and the tribal religious leaders. But when the chief encouraged them to “stand up and say what they had to say, and to speak the truth and nothing but the truth and to say nothing with their lips that was not in their heart”, several prominent men stood up and declared that they were followers of Jesus Christ and desired to “be wise in the truth, so they could learn to teach others. ”
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