The Regions Beyond Missionary Union - the name of this organisation is arresting, and it may be explained that it has a terrestrial, geographical significance. The term "Regions Beyond" denotes that the work of the Missionary Union was begun, and is carried on, in countries beyond the spheres in which missionary enterprise had been at work hitherto. The union has done pioneer work in the deadly region of Congoland, the Argentine, Peru, and India.
Women hold an important place in the organisation. They are trained as missionaries for the foreign field, and as deaconesses to labour amongst the poor of East London; while as the wives of missionaries, trained and sent out by the union, women take their share in the difficult and often hazardous work of carrying the Gospel to the regions beyond. It is the custom of the mission to rank the missionaries' wives as missionaries.
The Foundation of the Union When the union, in 1908, celebrated the twenty-first year of the labours of the present director, Dr. Harry Guinness, and his devoted wife, there were ninety-one missionaries at work in connection with it - forty-two in Congoland, twenty-two in Argentina, sixteen in Peru, and eleven in India. Out of this total forty-five were women. That large-hearted woman and mis-sionary enthusiast, the late Mrs. Grattan Guinness, was the co-founder with her husband, the late Rev. H. Grattan Guinness, D.d., of the East London Training Institute, the nucleus from which the Regions Beyond Missionary Union sprang. A brief record of her life will help to show the influence of women in the work of the organisation.
The Work of Mrs. Grattan Guinness
The maiden name of Mrs. Grattan Guinness was Fanny Fitzgerald. She was descended from an ancient Irish family, and was the daughter of Captain Fitzgerald. His death left her an orphan, and totally unprovided for, at the age of nine. Her mother had died previously. She was adopted by a childless Quaker couple named Arthur and Mary West, and brought up in their pleasant home at Stamford Hill according to the tenets of the Friends. She attended the Tottenham Meeting House, and early began to take an interest in spiritual things. Later she came under the influence of the Plymouth Brethren. The environment was somewhat curious for the young Irish girl with the blood of the proud and gay Fitzgeralds in her veins. Celtic fervour, however, united to the strict religious training of her youth, made her the power which she afterwards became.
The meeting with her future husband was under romantic circumstances. The Rev. Grattan Guinness, a member of the well-known Irish family, was one of the most popular and successful evangelists of his day. Even when quite a young man he attracted large audiences. He was the talk of the circle in which Miss Fanny Fitzgerald was at that time living In Devonshire. She appeared to be indifferent to the fame of "young Mr. Guinness," and did not attend his meetings. She chanced, however, to be spending a holiday at Ilfracombe, and as she sat by the shore one morning a solitary oarsman pulled up his boat and landed under the cliffs where she was sitting. It proved to be the preacher of whom she had heard so much. A friendship followed the chance meeting. Mr. Grattan Guinness was much attracted by the deep spiritual nature of this quiet lady in the Quaker-like garb, and decided that she was the woman suited to be his helpmate.
They were married in simple fashion at the Friends' Meeting House. Mrs. Grattan Guinness at once threw herself into her husband's work, accompanying him on bis evangelistic tours at home and abroad; she also addressed Gospel meetings for women in the towns which he visited. The life of incessant change and travel which she passed may be judged by the fact that of her eight children the eldest was born in Toronto, Canada; the second at Waterloo, a suburb of Liverpool; the third in Edinburgh; the fourth in Dublin; the fifth in Bath; the sixth and seventh in Paris; and the eighth in Dublin.
East London Institute
The Franco-german War checked the evangelistic work of her husband abroad, and it was after their return to London that they founded, in 1873, the East London Institute for the training of missionaries for evangelical work at home and for the foreign field. The earliest home was at 29, Stepney Green. This, however, soon became too small for the work, and the headquarters of the mission were moved to Harley House, 51 and 53, Bow Road, the present headquarters of the mission.
At the end of the ample old garden, which recalls the time when the East India merchants lived in semi-rural surroundings at their mansions in Bow Road, Harley College was recently built for the training of men for the mission field.
In 1884 Doric Lodge, opposite to Harley House, was established for the training of lady missionaries and deaconesses. This was a branch dear to the heart of Mrs. Grattan Guinness, who realised the great need which missionary work, at home and abroad, had of trained women workers.
The late Mrs. Grattan Guinness
"Mother of the Congo"
From the first the training work of the institute spread rapidly. While Dr. Grattan Guinness appealed for the Work at meetings throughout the country, Mrs. Grattan Guinness mothered the institute at home. She worked early and late as the hon. secretary, founded and edited "The Regions Beyond" as the organ of the mission - now edited by her daughter - and used her skilful pen in many ways. Her enthusiasm prompted the founding of the Livingstone Inland Mission in 1878, a pioneer effort to penetrate the Dark Continent. She indeed merited her title of "Mother of the Congo."