The founding of the Sudan-Pionier-Mission in Egypt

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The Founding of the Sudan-Pionier-Mission in Egypt

The Sudan-Pionier-Mission (SPM) was founded rather spontaneously on the mission field, on Ja-nuary 11, 1900 at Aswan. It was, unlike many other mission agencies, not planned and established at the home base first. However, there certainly must have been a plan, even though it might not have been written down at that time. Therefore, I have chosen to describe the plan first and then the actual developments.

The Plan of Karl Kumm for Evangelizing the Sudan Belt

The task here is to deduce this initial plan from what the founders had published months later, until the end of 1900. I assume that both are essentially identical, and that not much has been modified. I call it « the plan of Karl Kumm », simply because in public, it was identified with his person, as he later was its main promoter in Germany. However, I recognize that it was also the plan of his wife Lucy and of his father-in-law Grattan Guinness, and I will equally use what these have published. What then was the objective of this new missionary endeavor? Which route and base were chosen? What were the target area and target groups? Which missionary methods were considered? Where was the support and personnel to come from? What were the goals and expec-tations for the development of the SPM?
The initial objective of the SPM is repeated verbatim many times in the flyers and journals: « The Sudan-Pionier-Mission is an attempt to be obedient to the last commission of our Saviour and to spread the Kingdom of the Lord in those parts of Central Africa which have not been reached by any other missionary society up to now. » 1 The term « Central Africa » is used inter-changeably with Sudan, and thus the next phrase in that document aims for the « Christianisation of the Sudan ». 2
In contrast to earlier attempts by other mission agencies, another route is chosen to access the Sudan: the Nile River. This route is regarded as much healthier than the others, because it avoids the deadly climate of the West African coast. Means of transport by railway and steamer have been established recently beyond Egypt up to Khartoum. The victory of the Anglo-Egyptian army over the Mahdi has put this area under the political influence of a European power, and has made travel possible again.3
For a base and point of departure on this route, the town of Aswan is praised as « the newly opened Nile door to Central Africa ». 4 In fact, this frontier town, which still holds the terminus of the Egyptian railway, was generally considered the « gate to the Sudan ».5 There was no other large town on the Nile further south in Egypt, where Europeans could live. During the Winter season, it was a popular health resort. Its climate was considered among the healthiest in the world.6 It was from Aswan that the SPM wanted to enter the Sudan. However, which area, and which among the many peoples of the vast Sudan, did the SPM target in particular? There are two geographical areas which find special mention: the region of the Upper Nile extending south from Aswan to Khartoum and the kingdoms of Kordofan, Darfur and Wadai.1 The latter king-doms extend on the route between Khartoum and Lake Chad. In fact, the first investigation tour planned by Karl Kumm for Fall 1900 was to cover exactly this area, from Aswan via Khartoum to Lake Chad. 8 However, often enough, prayerful thoughts extended to the « regions beyond », all the way across the Central Sudan to the Niger River.
As a first step, the people groups closest to Aswan came into view: the Nubians and the Bisharin Bedouins. Nubia, which extends from Aswan half way to Khartoum, was immediately covered by a Bible colporteur, and was highlighted in the first detailed reports. 9 The nomadic Bisharin were of special interest to Karl Kumm, who tried to learn one of their languages. 10 They were initially gathered – among others – in a school in Aswan. 11
Thus, a hierarchy of target areas and groups could be established: Mter starting among the Nubians and Bisharin, the SPM wanted to explore and to extend as soon as possible to Khar-toum, and from there to Kordofan and Darfur as the major target areas. However, on its agenda were not only these parts of the Eastern and Central Sudan, but also the whole of the unevangelized Sudan Belt. 12 And as if this were not enough, the wedding card of the Kumms contained a sweeping appeal for prayer for all the unevangelized regions in view from Aswan: westward the Sahara, eastward from the Egyptian Desert to Southern Persia and Beluchistan, and of course the Sudan Belt itself, with a population estimated between 50-100 million at that timeY This atti-tude is well summarized in the modem slogan, « think globally- act locally ».
The missionary methods were focused on four avenues: « 1) Working on the translation of the Bible and other good books in some of the still unknown 100 languages and dialects of the Sudan.
Schools for children and adults. 3) Evangelism. 4) Colportage work. » It was hoped that mis-sionary doctors would soon supplement these efforts. However, their work, though respected as an important means to further missionary work, was not considered as on an equal level with the former four methods, but only as « a helping hand ».
Concerning the home base and personnel, the SPM was expected « to be largely staffed and financed from Germany » .15 Either the new missionary effort was to be adopted by an existing  mission agency, or, if this were not successful, a new mission agency should be formed. 16 Since Karl Kumm was a native German, Germany seemed the better choice for a home base. Guinness felt that Germans could more easily win the confidence of Muslims in Sudan, as Germans had no colonies in Muslim areas, and had not been at war in the Sudan, unlike Great Britain. 17 There might also have been a financial logic: The Guinnesses only knew too well that existing mission agencies in Great Britain were having a hard time in raising their support and could not take up additional work.
The speedy establishment of a home base and a rapid development of the new SPM were expected – at least during the first few months. Kumm expected to raise enough funds, and to win and send several young men as missionaries to the Sudan, already in Fall1900, and to start on an expedition through the major target areas of Kordofan and Darfur to Lake Chad, during the Winter season. 18 The founders of the SPM were convinced that political circumstances would make an approach to the Sudan via the Nile possible, and that in Aswan the Sudan « lay before their door like an open book ». 19 However, the SPM did not develop as quickly and easily as it had been founded.

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The Founding of the SPM in Aswan (January- April1900)

Is it true, as some have maintained, that a founding date of the SPM cannot be given – just as with « a true African birth »?21 Was the SPM really founded with unreasonable haste, as others criticized later?22 Or was there more planning to the process than first impressions show? There are not many documents on this period, but quite a number more than the archives of the SPM hold, and more than what was available to earlier historians of the SPM. 23 These sources contain only few precise dates. Thus, I am trying to reconstruct a logical sequence of events, while enab-ling the reader to distinguish between my reconstruction and the facts, established by the sources – at least when consulting the footnotes.
The meeting of Karl Kumm and Lucy Guinness in Upper Egypt, as well as their marriage, must have been planned months ahead. Plans must have been finalized, before Kumm left on his desert tour at the end of October 1899. For Kumm had most probably not been able to receive any mail afterwards, until reaching Luxor in the beginning of January 1900.24 However, already on December 20, he told residents of the Oasis Beeris that his bride was waiting for him on the Upper Nile, and he was given a young gazelle as a present for her.25

Grattan Guinness alone with his Daughter Lucy

Grattan Guinness had been evangelizing in Berlin, Germany, for ten days in December 1899.26 If this was at the very beginning of the month, Guinness and his daughter Lucy might well have arri-ved at Aswan on December 19, and have spent Christmas there. Guinness only briefly interrupted his evangelistic speaking engagements in Europe, to travel to Egypt. 27 Most probably, he did not only have the giving away of Lucy in mind. It is very likely that he also came with the preconcei-ved intention, as well as some funds,28 to start some kind of missionary initiative, which would take advantage of the opening up of the Sudan. This had been on his mind since his journey to Egypt one year earlier. Once arrived in Aswan, he quickly went about the realization of his plans. During their stay in Aswan, « the condition of the Bishareen of the neighboring desert, and of the Nubians, whose country begins [there] … attracted their attention. »29
He ventured to open a school for them in Aswan. An American lady had promised to pay the rent for two years.30 Guinness also sought advice from the church of the American Mission in Aswan, as to who would qualify as a teacher for his planned school. He was pointed to Girgis Yacoub from Esna, who had previously been a teacher at the American Mission’s school there. Girgis Yacoub was about to move away again from Aswan, because of the heat. Therefore, he only answered Guinness’ call after some initial reluctance.31 Guinness rented a building for the school and arrangements were made for its commencement on January 12, 1900.32
Concerning the Nubians, Guinness also enquired whether there was a teacher acquainted with their language. He was told about a Christian Nubian, called Ali Hiseen, who was working at the Post Office of the barrage works at Schellaal, a few miles across the desert. Without delay, Guinness went there and asked for Ali Hiseen. After a moment, the Nubian recognized that the tall, white haired gentleman was his former teacher at Harley College in London. Then Guinness, too, remembered his former student. Samuel Ali Hiseen33 immediately followed Guinness’ invi-tation to As wan. There, probably in the presence of Lucy Guinness, 34 Samuel told about « the neg-lected condition » of his people, and his own experiences since leaving Harley College. He longed to return to evangelistic work among his people. 35 Therefore, he did not hesitate when Guinness suggested that he should leave his job at the post office, and enter the work for which he was trai-ned. 36 According to his recollections, Samuel entered the services of the SPM in February 1900.37
In early January, it was time for the Guinnesses to travel down the Nile to Luxor, for the ren-dezvous with Karl Kumm, whom they expected back from his desert journey?8 Grattan Guinness used the waiting time for visits with the American Mission in Luxor.39 The person responsible for the area up to As wan was Dr. Murch. Guinness asked him, whether and why the American Mission was not working among the Bisharin and Nubians. The response was that they had enough to do with the Copts. Dr. Murch encouraged Guinness to realize his plans for a mission school in Aswan, as long as he limited it to Muslims, particularly Bisharin and Nubians. For the American Mission had its own school in Aswan, and the Guinnesses’ school was not to take on any children of Copts or members of the Presbyterian Church. Guinness promised to keep this comity agreement.

The Guinnesses together with Karl Kumm

On the evening of Friday, January 5, 1900, Karl Kumm reached Luxor, having left his caravan behind. He hurried to get to the post office to collect his mail, and had to return to his caravan the same night. It is probable that he met the Guinnesses as expected- but briefly.40 On Sunday, January 7, his caravan disbanded in Luxor, and his German travel companion, Paul Krusius, left him.41 Kumm then traveled south to Aswan, and would have arrived on the 7th or 8th. The Guin-nesses might have gone ahead, or traveled together with Kumm.
Now, their new phase of life began, which they had anticipated42 for some time: Karl Kumm and Lucy Guinness became engaged on Thursday, January 11, 1900 in Aswan. They joined their hands, by the Nile, over the clasped hands of two Bisharin. 43 This had symbolic significance: They joined their lives for a common mission in Africa.44 Lucy later described that day, saying: « We stood for Christ in Africa. What can we do for Him in Africa? »45 Thus, the founding date of the Sudan-Pionier-Mission, for them, coincided with their engagement.

1. Introduction
2. Henry Grattan Guinness and Lucy Guinness and the opening of the Sudan Belt to Protestant missions (1887-1900)
3. Karl Kumm: A missionary pioneer for the Sudan Belt
4. The founding of the Sudan-Pionier-Mission in Egypt
5. Establishment of the SPM in Germany
6. Repeated crises in the early work
7. Strengths and weaknesses of the early SPM (1900-1904)
8. Reaching the unreached Sudan? .
9. Mission in faith .

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