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Immigration Archives - The Mission Work At Ellis Island


The following is the translation of a clipping from a newspaper printed in the Netherlands. It shows that the work of Mr. Sydney Zandstra, our missionary at Ellis Island, is known and appreciated:

"Immigrants, when you get to Ellis Island, ask for Missionary Zandstra. He is at the disposal of all Hollanders; he will assist them disinterestedly with word and deed; he is a man whom you can trust. If you understand no English, entrust yourself to him confidently. He is the missionary of the Reformed Church in America, and the helping of Dutch immigrants is his work."

Mr. Zandstra is faithfulness personified in his work of "helping of Dutch immigrants." No ship of the Holland-American line ever docks without finding him upon the pier ready to welcome and befriend our kindred from the Netherlands. It is a ministry of practical helpfulness which he fulfills, and there are many who hold in grateful remembrance his kindness and counsel at a time of particular need.

Through the kindness of friends at the Middle Collegiate Church and the Rhinebeck Church a library for the use of the immigrants has been placed at Ellis Island. It sometimes happens that an immigrant is detained for days and even weeks before he is allowed to land.

In some cases he does not land at all through inability to comply with the regulations of the Immigration Bureau, and is compelled to go back to Holland. Hereafter the detention room—so far as the Dutch immigrants are concerned—will be relieved of some of its tedium and monotony.

There will be books and plenty of them in the familiar language, history, fiction, poetry, travel, theology ; everything the Dutch reader could desire. Those who made this library possible should have joy in knowing that their generosity is bringing sunshine constantly into that grey detention room, where people are called upon to do the hardest of all things—wait.

In connection with the above reference to the work of our own Missionary at Ellis Island, it is well to remember that many other denominations are doing similar work among the immigrants. The New York Bible Society, to whose courtesy we are indebted for the illustrations of this article, has for many years maintained colporteurs
and missionaries at the Island and among the crews of the many ships and steamers that crowd the Port of New York.

The following statistics for the year 19o8 show how large and important a work they arc doing. During this year the Bibles, Testaments and Parts (such as a single Gospel, the Psalms or one or more of the Epistles), which were distributed to the immigrants landing at Ellis Island, numbered 39,071 volumes, printed in thirty different languages.

The largest number distributed, 6,572, was in the Polish language; the next, 4,883, was in Italian; third came German with 4,657; fourth, Swedish, 3,596, and fifth, English, 3,079. Other languages in which 1,000 volumes or more were distributed were Bohemian, 1,980; Russian, 1,951; Hungarian, 1,926, and Yiddish, 1430. The total number of immigrants received at the Island during the year was 423,976.

The Society also does a large work among the shipping of the Port, which is happily carried on by the Rev. William G. Jones, himself once a sailor. For the most part the sailors are not able to buy the Scriptures, and no class of men ought to be more carefully supplied.

The number of sailors coming into our harbor is far larger than thirty years ago, yet the Society is reaching no more than they did then, and needs more money to reach the million of sailors that annually visit our harbor. During the year 3,283 vessels of various kinds have been visited, and 849 Bibles, 5,159 Testaments, and 6437 Gospel portions were distributed.

This Society also does as much work as its means will allow in the distribution of the Bible to the Blackwell's Island institutions, the city prisons, the hotels and families of the city. These distributions during the last year aggregated 35,882 volumes, and much more mild and would have been done had only the necessary funds been provided by the Christian people of New York.



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