Jack Lenny Testimony
Extract from a testimony from a former student of The Bible of Wales showing the surrender God has called us to restore in these 21st. century days ......
Jack Lenny Missionary in Liberia
Since coming home from Liberia, West Africa – October 1978 – I have been asked from friends near and far, to write of my experiences in Africa.
May the reading of them be a blessing to you as they have been to me in the writing of them.
Jack Lenny, January 1985
Historical Note on Liberia
Africa is a large continent. It has an area of 11,500,000 square miles, and would cover the combined areas of the United States, Europe, India, China, and a dozen Japans. It is 5,000 miles long and 5,000 miles across, the distance around it exceeding the distance around the world. A large percentage of Africa’s millions remain in heathen darkness.
Well might we exclaim –
“My heart is stirred
Around are waste lands
Rich in virgin soil.”
Liberia is on the west coast of Africa, and is the oldest republic with the exception of Ethiopia. It is in between Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast.
It is the same size as England: 43,000 square miles, with a frontage of 360 miles, and stretches inland 260 miles. The population is estimated to be around 2 million.
It was in 1816 that the American Colonization Society was organised, and the first freed American negroes sent to West Africa to establish in 1847 what is now known as the Republic of Liberia.
The early settlers had a hard time to settle in Liberia. They had to contend with tribal wars, fever and dysentery – many of them died. However, the country was gradually taken over. Monrovia, the capital, was named after the fifth President of America: President Munro.
There are more than 20 distinct tribes in Liberia. The government is closely connected with America, and have their form of government, with Senators and the House of Representatives. The official language is English.
American currency has been used in Liberia since 1944; prior to that it was English.
The Republic of Liberia, West Africa
From My Journal 1938-78
The Worldwide Evangelization Crusade started work in Liberia with 8 workers sailing from Liverpool on January 8. 1938. They arrived at Grand Bassa after three weeks’ sailing, a hundred years since Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838. There were no harbours along the Liberian coast at that time.
The William Wilberforce, a cargo boat, carried 12 passengers: 4 traders and 8 missionaries. The late Mrs J D Drysdale, of Immanuel Bible College, Birkenhead, came along in the tender with her teenage daughter with her hair falling down over her shoulders, tied with a ribbon. My sister and a friend, Lilian Nicholson, later Mrs Parkin, were there too.
As we sat in the lounge, Mrs Drysdale started to sing, ‘I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, down in my heart,’ after which we all got down on our knees. I shall never forget how lovingly she commended us to God. Soon after the ship’s horn have a loud blast, a warning for all visitors to leave. With last goodbyes, we sailed on our journey of more than 3,000 miles. I didn’t realise that I would be in Africa nearly 8 years before I saw England again.
I was sick the first night I went to my cabin, and didn’t leave it for three days. The ship rocked and tossed like a baby’s cot reminding one who wrote –
“It’s quite easy sailing the sea in a calm,
To trust in Jehovah’s mighty strong arm,
But somehow I find when waves swamp the boat,
It takes some believing to keep things afloat.
Arriving at our destination we were taken in a small launch to the beach. Kru men stripped to the waist came alongside in canoes out of curiosity, as we jumped from the gang-plank one after another as the boat came up on the waves to meet us. Men were waiting in the shallow water to carry us on the sand, and I well remember jumping on the shoulders of one man who misjudged what I was doing, with the result I went right over his head on the sandy beach. It was my first entry into Liberia.
There we stood on the beach with all our baggage around us, watching the Wilberforce going down the coast, with a Captain who had taken Mary Slessor to Calabar many years ago. What a great honour to have sailed with such a man. I was 27, having been to Cliff College 1932-34, and the Bible College of Wales 1934-36.
The sun was going down over the horizon as we checked our baggage. It was all there. What a strange feeling to know we had left our homes and no home to go to. All I had was ten shillings.
Passage to Liberia was £28. What a contrast to prices these days! I had worked in a cotton factory at the age of 14, after which at 15 I served my time as a skilled mechanic.
We were pioneers in the truest sense of the word.
Finally, however, a trader came along from one of the stores, a German, and took us to an old store that had been vacated a few years before. Later he came with crockery and sandwiches and was most kind and gracious.
After waiting upon God for three weeks, praying and seeking His guidance as to where he would have us to go and locate our mission stations, we separated in 3 parties, to the Bassa, Gio and Mano tribes. We were not to see each other for nearly 12 months when we met at our first missionary conference. By that time two lady missionaries had joined us - Miss Isobel Finlay and Miss Emma Wisser – making 10.
As we moved inland we trekked up and down stony hills, through creeks and swamp and dense jungle, looking for sites on which to build our mission.
After a few weeks of trekking Horace Davey, the Field Leader, and myself went to see Percy Clubine, Cyril Holloway, John Finlay and David Carson who were going to work amongst the Gio and Mano tribes. We went to see District Commissioner Dumbar who gave us permission to work amongst these tribes.
When we found our locations, we cut down a large area of bush, built small shacks with thatched roofs. During the rainy season it rained as much inside as outside with the result that one was constantly fixing leakages. Tornadoes would blow up the thatch from the roof, and vicious flashes of lightning would lighten up the jungle around us, causing us to wonder what was going to happen next.
One night a leopard came round the shack, but must have been scared away, we having put a fire there during the day. We heard next day that it had been moving around.
Bricks were being made out of ant hill dirt, mixed with water and then put in a mould, after which they were taken out and left to dry in the hot sun. It was hard going as we made many of the bricks ourselves.
Language work and the translation of the Bible were being done by some of the missionaries, also surveying and mapping the districts where we were working. Many hours have I spent at map making after a hard day’s trek, in lantern light before going to rest on my camp cot at the sound of drums and dancing.
At one period I was alone for over four months when Horace Davey called me to Gaypeter where work had been started in cutting bush for a new mission. Before that time I had a bad dose of fever. Sometimes I would look at the looking-glass to see if I was black or white. The many hours of loneliness and trekking would be unbearable but for the consciousness of the Lord’s presence. I always felt He was near.
Then I really had a bad fever which almost brought me to my death – quite an experience when alone. I was delirious. My pyjamas were soaked with perspiration. It was very bad.
One didn’t have the medicines that one has now. It was either quinine or atebrin. I chose the latter. How I survived those days was a miracle. I can’t begin to count the times I had malaria. Fever. Only those who have had it know what it is like. H.M. Stanley gives a true description: ‘It is like fiery pincers tearing one to pieces, fire pouring through one’s veins. I seem to have lain for hours in the grip of this ghastly delirium which nothing seemed to alleviate.’ However, in spite of suffering with a second world war in sight, the mission stations were gradually being built.
Whilst with Horace Davey we went to see the Paramount Chief who readily consented to our project. Then we had a trek of 28 miles to Bassa to see the Superintendent who was glad to hear of our proposed mission, giving us a typed statement to the effect: ‘You are to remain in Gorblee section, and carry on your school and other operations, which will be to the benefit of the inhabitants of that part of the country, until otherwise ordered by the Liberian Government.’
It was a sad parting when I left to join Horace. Many of the converts milled around us as I left the village: Tonga and Man-o-War, two faithful Christians.
Soon after I arrived at Gaypeter, Percy Clubins and David Carson trekked over 100 miles to help us build. After a few weeks of hard work the house was completed, and the shacks broken down. Percy and David left for their long trek back to their stations.
Kay Tullis, Marion Ross, Herb Congo, Tom Jackson, Billie Price, Cecil Hodgson, Edward Brigfield, and Maud Tully, all Canadians with the exception of Billie Price, all arrived to help man the stations. Later Bill and Edith Freeman arrived from New Zealand, and Robert Munn and his sister Janet; also a girl from Switzerland, and France, was a welcome addition to the crusade. The Freemans and Robert were in transit for Ivory Coast and Spanish Guinea respectively, because of the war.
Emma Wisser made a trek to River Cess 45 miles away, and returned to say that Charlie Town would be a good place to build a mission.
Soon after Emma’s return Horace sent me to River Cess to work there permanently. I lived in a little thatched house in Charlie Town. A few weeks later Percy came over with the Freemans and Robert Munn. They were coming to help until the way opened up for them to leave the country. In the meantime Horace and his wife had resigned. Percy was now Field Leader.
For three days Percy, Robert and I trekked around to see if we could find a better place than Charlie Town, also mapping the district at the same time. We finally came to the conclusion that Charlie Town was the best place to build a mission.
Here I was pioneering again. After we had found a site, Percy left for Gaypeter. We were not long before we had a large area of bush cut down, with nothing but cutlasses, hoes and axes to take out the stumps. Bricks were being made, and timber cut down in the bush to make door and window frames.
Most of the brick were made by ourselves.
I was able to take Robert for a few days’ trek, during which time I developed a painful arm. I could not hold it up straight, and had to walk with it in a sling, helping myself with a walking stick. I felt feverish and could not go on much further. Finally, we arrived in a village where we were able to find a place to stay, a small house with hardly enough room for our camp cots and baggage. A camp cot was soon fixed up and on its legs, with a mosquito net tied to the rafters. I lay on it for two days with burning fever, an unpleasant addition to my bad arm. Robert was a great help and did all he could. I shall never forget his love and compassion.
When I felt better we decided to go back to the mission. My arm was still in a sling and it was hard going, as you can well imagine. Going up the hill to the mission station, one would think we were soldiers returning from a battle.
It was not long, however, before Robert got out his syringe and injected me in the arm with Salvarsal. There was no penicillin in those days. In the space of a few hours I was able to straighten out my arm and felt a new man. I heard later from one of the missionaries that Robert feared I would die, and he would have to bury me in the bush.
I was glad that Robert was with me, and that I was not alone at the time I had that bad fever.
However, in spite of the suffering and the effects of a World War, the mission stations were being built, translation was being done, and souls were being saved.
We were glad to have a visit from Percy and David, who were able to help us put on the roof of our new mission house, and to see all that had been done since their last visit.
Then the time came for Robert to leave for Spanish Guinea, and although I was sorry to see him leave, I thanked God for his contribution in helping to build the mission, making doors and window frames.
It was not long before Bill and Edith left for Ivory Coast. I remember so well. It was late afternoon when they moved away from the mission house, with myself standing there watching them go until I could see them no more. A deep feeling of loneliness came over me, I seemed to have so much of it, and can remember saying to the Lord, ‘Lord, if you want it this way, it is all right with me! I will never leave what you have called for me to do here.’ Later I had letters from our two missionaries at Capeter, Herb and Marion Congo, telling me to close the mission and go to them. I never did!
Now, Bill and Edith had gone, and the boys carrying their baggage were singing. I could still hear them, and stood until I could hear them no more. I was alone.
I could see Bill only a few weeks ago, lying on a hard wooden bed in Charlie Town delirious with fever, and Edith wringing her hands and crying to God, ‘Oh Jack, what can we do!’ ‘I can take it, I can take it, bring me the prayer book,’ said Bill in his delirium. The fever had got hold of him and was doing its worst. The nearest doctor at Bassa was more than 50 miles away, with only a bush path. To take him there was rules out; we must trust God. We did! With medicines and prayer, Bill soon recovered.
Now he was walking away with his dear wife to the country where God had called them. I strolled back to the house thanking God that I was a servant of Jesus Christ.
I though again of Bill and Edith and living with them while the mission was being built, and how the war was going badly for England. France had fallen, and it looked as if England might not survive.
We had no mail from England for several weeks, and no word from our mission headquarters in London. When mail arrived after three months or more, it was censored and dog-eared. We had no money with which to buy food, no sugar, no tea, no milk, and no bread; only water to drink and cassava to eat. Cassava is a root that grows in the ground as long as my arm and as thick. I never knew what it was to be hungry until now. ‘If we only had some salt to go with this cassava, it would taste better!’ said Bill. I agreed. I can honestly say that I counted it a joy to suffer a little for Jesus after all He had done for me. At least we had something to eat even if it was cassava.
We could easily have sent to the Dutch trader fifteen miles away for the supplies we needed, and he would have been only too glad to send them, but I felt we should not go into debt for things we could not buy – and we did not. We would trust God and see Him work. Is it not the test that shows one’s spirituality?
We had two house boys – one called Simon. They had helped us a lot, and we did not like to see them leave us, but this is what we had to tell them: ‘Simon, the white people are fighting in the white country, and we have no money to give you. You are free to go if you wish!’ Before we had finished speaking, Simon, with tears in his eyes, said, ‘We shall never leave you. We will stay until you get what you need!’
Every few weeks we sent over to Gaypeter, 46 miles away, to see if mail had come for us; and many times the boy would return with an empty box. Can you imagine our feelings? We would see him coming down the hill into the village, and our hearts would be pounding with expectation, and then – silence, as we looked into an empty box. Yet we continued to believe God.
Then one day, after six months of waiting, we opened the box to find it full of mail and money. We handled it lovingly, and found we had £20 each, which was a lot of money in those days.
The next day, Bill, Edith and myself trekked 15 miles to the coast and bought all the supplies we needed, and bathed in the sea with a heart full of praise to God. Needless to say, we had a good supper that night, not forgetting the inevitable cup of tea!
Hudson Taylor said, ‘If we do God’s work in His way, we shall not lack His supply!’ God graciously undertook and answers our prayers. Many times I had sung the following hymn without thinking what I was singing. Now I knew the meaning of it:
Trusting as the moments fly
Trusting as the days go by,
Trusting Him whate’er befall.
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Singing if my way be clear,
Singing if the path be drear,
If in danger, for Him call,
Trusting Jesus that is all.
I had been in Liberia nearly eight years when Lloyd Snyder came to help me. I was glad that the work would be carried on as I prepared for furlough.
God blessed the work at River Cess, and we had a fine group of Christians. Jamada and others who I still remember were greatly used of the Lord. It was Jamada who brought us cassava during those difficult days. Never shall I forget his love and concern for us at that time. He is now with the Lord.
Man people have asked, ‘What kind of animals do you have in Liberia?’ There are elephants, bush cats, leopards, monkeys, squirrels and snakes, many of whom are deadly. I have seen elephant tracks in the bush, and come in contact with a leopard as I trekked along. It was getting dark. In Africa, it is dark at 6.00 p.m. all the year round. I had been walking a long time when finally I took a sharp turn on the path. There before me lounged a leopard! I was so scared that the perspiration poured down my face like beads. I stood still.
It is all right looking at leopards behind bars at the zoo, but another thing to meet one on the forest trail. I never lifted my eyes from the animal, but remained rigid until finally it turned aside and gracefully bounded into the bush. I felt much relieved!
Another question asked, ‘What kind of fruit do you have?’ There are bananas, plantains, pineapple, grapefruit, oranges and plums. We have plantations of all these things, so we do not do too badly for fruit. Rice and cassava are the staple food crops; also there are pumpkins, eggplant, okra, and peanuts.
The exports are iron ore, rubber, coffee, cocoa, and piassava.
Liberia has the heaviest rainfall in West Africa. It is five degrees above the Equator, and 90 degrees in the shade. One wears light clothing all the time. Trekking is very hard during the rainy season, as many of the creeks are full and bridges washed away.
I remember crossing one river on a raft, with a rope across one tree to the other on the opposite bank. The river was in flood, and the raft began to go downstream with our baggage and ourselves, until finally some men saw the danger and dived into the water, bringing the raft to the bank.
David Carson and I sailed home together in September 1945, after being in Liberia nearly 8 years before the war and after it had finished. Japan had surrendered just before a bomb had fallen on Hiroshima.
After furlough, I returned to Liberia, and went to the interior at Carplay, near the Ivory Coast border. God had blessed the work during my first furlough, and there was a good group of Christians at River Cess. Jamada whom I have mentioned, and others, were greatly used of the Lord.
God’s blessing was upon the work at Carplay, where I joined Cyril and Gertrude Holloway. Every alternate month Cyril and I would take turns, so that one could be there to man the station. We took a ‘chop box’ with our food, tea, sugar, dried milk, rice, and a cutlass and lantern, for there was no way to buy paraffin, or kerosene as the Americans call it. We were 180 miles from the coast, and supplies were not easy to get, but we did not do too badly, as we often ate what the natives had grown.
In one village I had more than a hundred people listening to the gospel. Many had never seen a white man, and children often ran to their huts in fear. The huts were made of mud and poles with a thatched conical top.
Prior to the meeting, quite a number of hunters came into the village with a wild pig which caused much excitement, and it seemed as though the meeting would be broken up. However, the chief silenced them. During the meeting one little boy sang, ‘If you don’t turn your heart, your spirit will burn!’ Before the meeting closed, two boys and a woman made a profession.
The path on the whole was quite good, although in some places I had to literally go down on hands and knees to get through the dense tunnel of bush. The boys hacked their way through with a cutlass. Then out of this into a series of mud and swamp, up and down stony hills, with the sun blazing down at 100 degrees. The jungle was steaming and sticky. As we trekked along we saw monkeys screeching in the bush, crickets chirping, and birds calling to each other from a forest giant. Many had beautiful colours which I could not begin to describe, and parrots too.
It was always a relief to come in sight of a village. Everyone turned out to greet me, men and woman, boys and girls, dogs and goats. It was like one returning from a battle. Then one man shouted, ‘Has the white man brought medicine? ‘ When my boy replied in the affirmative, they all clapped their hands and started to dance. I never witnessed to much excitement in all my life. They almost went hysterical. ‘We hope the white man stays a long time, because we have many sick people,’ they said. Finally, the chief came along and found me a place, a round hut with a conical roof of thatch, with no windows. The door made of bamboo was small and delicate, and I had to bend down to get inside. I would not think it was a foot in diameter, but I thanked him nevertheless. I has quite a time figuring out where to put my camp cot, table and chair, and it was quite a time before I got settled down.
After a meal, the people came for treatment. Injections were the big item, as most of them had gaping sores all over their bodies, especially the children. One baby’s body was so covered with sores that I had great difficulty in finding a place to inject. The odour was indescribable! I was nauseated and almost sick, but I kept on seeking to relieve them of their suffering.
A woman came with her baby who had a bad dose of fever. I gave the little mite three doses of quinine, and next morning the fever had gone. The woman said, ‘Please give me some of that ‘big medicine’ so that my child will not get fever again!’
A man came who had injured his arm when climbing for palm nuts, so I was able to render first aid.
One morning, when I was looking over a book, The Crisis of Christ, which a dear friend had sent to me, a man came into the hut holding his jaw, and asked if I would take out his big bad old tooth. Fortunately, I had a pair of dental forceps in my medical kit, so I told him to sit in the chair I had put out in the bright sunlight. I fixed my movie camera and told the boy how to take it. Then I slowly gripped the tooth and had it out in just a few seconds. I could hear the film going through the camera. I gave him a glass of water and an aspirin. When he saw the tooth poised between the forceps, he laughed and laughed. I smiled and told him if he had been in our country it would have cost him five shillings, at which he smiled, turning the tooth in his hand as he walked away.
He had not been gone more than a few minutes when another man came who wanted one out, so out came the forceps and it was soon gone. Then finally a third, and that tooth came out too. The people shouted, cheered, and danced for quite a long time. It was most exciting!
After this, I was called to see a woman who was dying of sleeping sickness, but I could not do anything as she had gone too far. She was lying in the hut near a log fire. It was most pathetic.
When engaged in medical work, one sees a lot of sickness. During the last four treks I had given 1,080 injections, and visited 100 villages.
Meanwhile, we had been on the trail of a leopard who had been coming round our chicken house and killing the chickens. One man made a trap, and for several nights waited with a gun. At 2.45 a.m. while I was sleeping, I heard a medley of voices. Later I heard that was when the leopard had been killed.
About dawn, the leopard was brought to the mission house on a bamboo pole – a great big creature, just like one sees at the zoo. Finally, they cut off the skin, a beautiful one too, about the size of a rug that one sees at home. I thought if it could only be cured, it would be worth at least £20; but there was no way of curing it, so we kept it.
Every July we had a Native Bible Conference, when people would come for a week of Bible study. It was good to see them day by day listening to the Word, and testifying to blessings received. Here are a few notes:-
* People tied man in bush to make him recant
* Man left to die in bush, cried to God, and was restored
* Girl having baby thought she was going to die; asked for prayer, and had successful delivery
* Man whose wife had left him stood firm; had bigger plantation than ever
* Woman who had found Christ wanted to make Him known to all with whom she came in contact
* Blind woman said, ‘God helps me in my farm. I cannot see, but I know He guides me. I not only thank Him for what He has done, but for what He is doing.’
We had five meetings a day, and one each night taken by the Christians. God blessed in these meetings, and there were several decisions. It was thrilling to see them accepting Him for the first time, and hear them later testifying to what God had done for them.
There were 46 villages represented; 280 people present; 6 baptisms, 12 conversions, and several communicants.
We had meetings at the Leprosy Colony too. We started work in 1946. As we trekked around the villages, we saw lepers sitting outside their houses with no one to care for them. God laid a burden on our hearts to do something about it, and the work was started. It is a ministry in itself, for many have come to know the Lord. We taught a staff of Christians to help us in the work, giving injections, bandaging sores, and giving out pills; for if the time came when we had to leave the country, the work would go on.
We have dispensaries and schools in all our stations at Carplay, Gban, Saclepea, Flumpa, and Bassa, a coastal tribe. People from the Ivory Coast come to our dispensary, because they say they get better treatment. One man said he would like to make his home here, so he could be here all the time. There is midwifery work, and nurses on all stations – with many difficult cases.
There is a yearly missionary conference. In 1951, there were 26 missionaries present, and it was one of the best ever. I had never experienced anything like it. God poured out His Spirit upon us in a remarkable way. Confessions were made and put right, and a spirit of brokenness was in every meeting, with the result that meals were late. Business sessions were laid aside as the Spirit dealt with individuals. No one knew what God was going to do next. Everyone wept their way to the Cross to be identified with Jesus, and was heard to exclaim, ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me!’ God stripped us of everything until we were able to sing
Standing by the Cross, standing by the Cross,
We will help each other standing by the Cross.
A real spirit of oneness prevailed, and everyone knew that God had done something in our hearts that He had never done before. He had brought us together. How we sang
I will praise Him, I will praise Him,
The lamb for sinners slain,
Give Him glory all ye people,
He alone can wash away our sin.
One night we had a bad electrical storm, with lightning and heavy rain. It was 9.30. I had just come from evening prayers and was settling down for the night when I heard a loud knocking at the door – most unusual at that time of night. It was persistent, commanding, causing me to wonder what it was all about. ‘Who is there? What is the matter? What do you want?’ A hurried reply answered my questions. ‘Oh master, the lightning has struck a house in the village and it is on fire; the Chief begs you to come!’ I hastily dressed, putting on a raincoat, being followed by Graham Davies, who had come to Liberia a few months before. Gertrude Holloway and Joyce Lambden, both nurses, had received word and were hurrying on in front. We followed cautiously in the darkness, assisted by the light of a dim lantern, slipping and sliding in the gutters made by the heavy rain until finally we reached the village. What a sight! The whole village was astir. It was 9.45. Six bodies, rescued from the hut, were lying outside in the pouring rain, whilst the hut was a blazing inferno, lighting up the whole village. No one could put it out, for it was the work of the evil spirit, they said. There were 3 men, 2 women, and a boy of 8 years who had been rescued. Immediately we started artificial respiration, and for two hours we laboured until almost exhausted. There seemed very little hope; no sign of life at all, and a little after midnight we gave the verdict: all dead. After this we prayed, and finally made our way from the smouldering ruins to the station, amidst crying and wailing.
What a heart-break to see those bereaved, who only a few hours ago had never thought of such a thing. But we can never tell what is going to happen from one day to another.
At dawn 6 graves had to be dug. People from the surrounding towns crowded the village. Never had there been anything like it before. What a tragedy! How relieved we were to know that we had done what we could, and yet how sad to look upon those superstitious people who believed it was the evil spirit who had made the lightning. That was the reason why no attempt had been made to save the hut, which was burnt to the ground.
A few weeks later I heard that the lightning had been investigated by the local witch doctor, who called upon all the people to pay 50 pence, so that he could make medicine to stop the lightning. He put the ju-jus and medicine in different parts of the village, fencing them off against the evil spirit whom he believed had brought the lightning. Poor, superstitious people! They truly sit in the shadow of darkness.
My colleague, Cyril Holloway, and I went to a village 12 miles away at Karnplay, to help the Christians build a church. It took a little over two weeks. We worked all day on a building 32 feet long and 20 feet wide, with a stone foundation. All the materials were paid for by the Christians. When completed, it looked fine with a new zinc roof. They are a wonderful group of people; they certainly worked very hard. The women helped a lot too, and there was no murmur or complaint.
Before we left the village, we all thanked God for Him enabling us to carry on the work, for it was no easy task nailing down zinc which almost burnt one’s fingers in the hot sun.
On our way back to the mission, I had a most unfortunate experience when I lost my shoe in a creek. Cyril was going ahead when finally we came to a large creek, which could only be crossed if one jumped far enough. I told Cyril I would take a chance and make the jump. I did, cautiously, slowly, to the other side, but missed by a couple of yards and went into the water – or I should say, mud – for I came out minus a shoe, with my clothes soaking wet. We looked around in the mud and water for quite a long time, and then decided to go, for there was no trace of the shoe. We sat there on the bank, wondering what to do and how to reach the next village, when suddenly a man appeared on the scene. He was wearing rubber boots, so he gladly let me have them. After walking six miles, we finally reached the mission. What a relief! It is better imagined than described.
I was teaching school grades 2, 3 and 4, so with trekking, building, and Leprosy Colony, I was very busy.
Later, new workers came to help us and I was free from school.
Five school boys left that mission this morning, after breaking the rules. It was sad to see them going after such a long time in school. However, rules have to be kept and discipline maintained, otherwise there would be no controlling the school.
A week later, the school boys arrived back, feeling rather humbled and ashamed. They were sorry for what they had done, and were forgiven, re-instated, and back in class. We trust they have learned their lesson, and will comply with all the rules in the future.
The Leprosy Colony Church is now completed. We had a dedication service, when over 300 patients were present. Some crowded around doors and windows, other were sitting on the grass outside. It was a wonderful sight.
A few months after the Church had been built at the colony, the Bible School at Bahn had been built for the training of evangelists, and 12 houses, including a lecture hall. Some of the missionaries from their respective stations went to help build it.
Early one night I heard a loud knocking at the door. I put on my dressing gown, got hold of a torch, and went to see what it was all about. The light of the torch lit up the darkness; there before me I saw a man with blood trickling down his face. There were other men who had carried him in a hammock over 9 miles through bush and jungle. I went back to my room, dressed hastily, and took him to the dispensary where I washed and dressed the wound in the light of a lantern. Two hours later, I returned to the house.
The years were passing by. In my journal of 1957, I quote a letter that I wrote to Graham:
I must confess that I had a great surprise when I received your letter today re. your engagement. I must confess I was shaken to my very foundation, and even now I seem to be in a dream. Now that I am getting over the shock, I am feeling much better! I might say how happy I was to hear about you and Marjorie. It is just wonderful how the Lord has worked and brought it about according to His will. How true it is, ‘He gives the very best to those who leave the choice to Him.’ I pray that God will make you a blessing.
The Lord has rewarded you abundantly for your faithfulness, and I believe that He is going to make this marriage a hundred per cent for His glory. All praise be to Him!
Graham, my eyes are moist, not because I am sad, but rather happy. Now I thank God that I am still in His service, seeking to do His will day by day – even unto death. I do not know what God has for me, but I know He loves and cares. You can pass on this letter to Marjorie if you wish, and let me say again with a heart full of praise – CONGRATULATIONS, and may God bless you both.
It is September, and the people are very busy harvesting their rice crops. This is the usual time every year. They have large plantations and cut a large abundance of rice, with corn also. When it is cut and beaten, they take some to the traders to sell, 12 miles away, transported on their heads in bales or kinjas. We use quite a lot of rice for ourselves and the school children.
The natives have no machinery to cut down the bush when making their farms. It is all done with cutlasses, and axes to chop down the trees, many of which are very tall. It is most primitive. Most farms are 20 to 30 acres in size.
When everything is cut down, it is left several days to dry in the hot sun, after which it is burnt. Then the women start to clean and plant the rice. They use little hoes to scratch the earth, after which they scatter the rice seed from little baskets which they carry on their arms. It is hard work. When the rice is growing, they make little shelters in which to live whilst scaring off the rice birds, as they call them. These birds are like canaries and eat the grain. The people have sling shots, called catapults at home. In this way they save lots of rice that would be eaten. The plantations are quite a distance from the village, which makes transportation very hard as it is carried on their heads. Some will carry between 50 and 60 lbs., and the children will help too, but their baskets will not be so big. The woman do all the work, except for cutting the bush – that is a man’s job.
December 1957: Graham left for home today. He wants me to be best man when he returns. Unfortunately, he was married at Cardiff, South Wales, during furlough.
Prayer changes things! The other day, when I was writing at my table, our evangelist stepped in my room. I could see on his face that he was disturbed, so I said, ‘What is the matter? Why look so sad?’ Then he smiled and said, ‘The Christians and myself are being persecuted by the ‘country devil’ and his people. We have to go before the Paramount Chief to talk the palaver.’
I told him that it was an opportunity to prove that God is big past the devil, and that He alone could give the victory if we prayed in believing faith. Later he returned to say that the ‘country devil’ and his people had lost the case, and had to pay the sum of 20 dollars. I shall never forget the expression on Duonyia’s face as he went back to his village, encouraged by the fact that God answered his prayer.
At present, the students from the Bible School are out in the villages, and will not be returning until the end of the month. They are doing a grand work, and living a real life of faith amongst their own people. What a joy to receive reports of God’s blessing! May God protect them from all danger.
There are fairer things,
Than human pleasure couched in ease would win,
And there are lonely summits near to God,
And narrow paths that lead us unto Him,
O, Holy Guide, great Spirit of all Truth,
Take our hand and lead us by the way,
That we may stand upon the mount with God,
And catching all the glory of His ray,
May win some timid shrinking soul,
From paths that lie near earth,
To heights near heaven.
I had a sad duty to perform when a little girl belonging to one of our Christians passed away. She was only 3 years old and such a sweet child. She loved to come to Sunday school, and never missed a service. You can imagine what she was like, innocent and full of sunshine. Her parents took it ever so well, and as I laid her to rest on this remote jungle station, I thought of Amy Carmichael when she wrote:-
Carried by angels – it is all we know,
Of how they go,
We heard it long ago.
It is enough, they are not lonely there
Lost nestlings blown about in fields of air.
The angels carry them, the way, they know,
Our kind Lord told us so.
Then there was one of our school boys who had fallen from a palm tree and fractured his spine. He seemed to recover and was always sick. However, he came to know the Lord as his personal Saviour, and the other day he passed away. Poor little Jimmy! He never complained, but was resigned to the will of God – and now he was with Jesus.
We have now got a radio worked on a battery. This morning was heard the chimes of Big Ben from this remote jungle station, and heard the BBC announcer give out the news from London. This morning we heard that the Queen and the Duke were leaving by air for Canada; also the Russian satellite now in space.
As I heard the chimes of Big Ben, I thought of all the noise and bustle, of cars and people rushing to and fro, while everything is quiet and still here. What a contrast!
How wonderful it is to get up to date news like people at home! The natives cannot understand a voice coming over the air so many miles away. One does not feel isolated when one is able to hear of all that is happening in the world.
For several weeks I have known that ………is in love with me and I with her. It would seem that God is leading us together but we must know His will; otherwise it is doomed to failure. I wait His time, I want His will. It makes me nervous, cautious, afraid; but He will make it plain. How easy to go ahead without consulting Him, especially when you know the answer. But I must know that God is leading in a definite way. She belongs to Him, and what right have I to take her unless He wills it? Last night I thought much about it, prayed about it, and finally gave her up to Him to do as He pleases. I would not hold anything precious from Him. I sacrifice my love and all that I hold dear, that I might do His will. She is far too good for me, but she loves me nevertheless.
I do not ask, O Lord, that life may be a pleasant road,
I do not ask that thou wouldest take from me
Ought of its load;
For one thing only, Lord, dear Lord, I plead;
Lead me aright,
Though strength should falter, and though heart should bleed,
Through peace to light.
An experience I had in 1946 before I returned to Liberia seemed to have an effect on me; for a girl to whom I was engaged broke it off. I shall never forget it as long as I live. I was so broken up by the decision that I could neither work nor think clearly. All contact between us was ended. It was almost unbelievable.
I remember every detail of our last meeting together. I had taken her to Doncaster to meet the London train. We had only a few minutes to spare. It passed so quickly. I remember it so vividly: the last embrace, the banging of doors, people hurrying to and fro, and then the signal to go. The train was moving. I stepped back on to the platform and never saw her again.
Now I have no thought of marriage. This is a solemn thought, and I have made up my mind; nothing can change it. It seems that my vocation is a different kind of happiness, the happiness of love and self-sacrifice. In spite of heartaches and disappointments, I am glad I came back. I felt these people needed me.
Since coming back to Liberia, I have been extremely busy learning a new language, as I was allocated to the Gio tribe 200 miles from the coast. Gio is a tonal language; some words are the same, but different in meaning on account of the tone. When I was speaking in the church, I said ‘Today is the day of salvation.’ That is what I thought I said, but what I actually said was ‘Today is the day of water.’ However, I corrected the mistake after I was told. One lady said after the service ‘I feel sorry for the white man, because he has left his home, and is trying to speak our language.’
Tom Jackson and his wife went to pioneer the work at Bahn, and had the vision of building a Bible School. June 2. 1952 was the opening day, when 5 married couples gave testimonies at the dedication service.
During the same year that the Bible School was opened, Graham Davies and I had an invitation from the District Commissioner to attend that Flag Day celebrations with our school boys. We left the mission two days before, and trekked 12 miles to the nearest motor road at Karnplay. It was in a bad condition and not fit to travel upon. It would not have been used without the Commissioner’s permission, for he had sent his truck especially for us.
It was quite an experience coming to the first hill, where there was nothing but a cart track and heavy stones. The driver missed his gear; the truck stopped, moved over to one side, and began to roll down the hill. I wondered what was going to happen! Our school boys were closed in behind. My heart was pounding. Graham jumped out; I followed and finally, with the help of the car boy, we were able to get a stone under the wheel. The engine was started and we eventually made the grade.
We had to go slowly in many places; up and down hills in low gear. After two and a half hours, we arrived at Government Headquarters, a distance of 24 miles. It was quite a relief to see the end of the road.
The District Commissioner looked after us well; also the school boys. We had the pleasure of dining with the Commissioner and the Secretary of the Interior; we were introduced to a Colombian and an American who had connections with the United Nations.
The celebrations were good. Twelve schools were represented; over 2000 people were present. After a parade, all the schools took part in a programme which lasted two hours. Our boys looked good in their uniforms of grey and blue. They carried a banner and the Liberian flag.
Two hours later, we left for the mission, arriving within 5 miles of Karnplay, the end of the motor road, and then walked to the village. We reached the mission the next morning at 10.30, feeling glad to be back.
After my next furlough, I well remember the journey back to Liberia, starting with the trip to Liverpool. My mother, sister, some other relatives, and Mr Hudson who drove the car, all came on board the ship. There were only seven passengers: Mr and Mrs Stewart, coming out to Liberia for the first time to work in connection with the American Episcopal Church a British Vice-Consul with his wife, a Catholic priest, and a coloured girl from Jamaica.
As we came near the Bay of Biscay, the ship rocked and tossed like a baby’s cot, in spite of the 6,500 tons of cargo. Within a day and a half of Madeira, we experience a terrifying time when the boat went over to angles of 15 degrees. We were truly at the mercy of the deep, and prayer for calmer weather. It was impossible to stand on one’s feet, and all passengers were confined to their cabins. As the ship rolled about, my suitcase and trunk cascaded from underneath the bed across the room. I was just in time to catch camera, papers and books, as they were about to leave the dressing table. I could hear the crash of crockery and trays, and began to wonder what was going to happen next. Still, we kept going hour after hour, with the billows sweeping over the deck and to the portholes.
At last we reached Madeira – and what a relief! I went ashore, as we had a lot of cargo, and would not be leaving until the next day. Madeira is Portuguese, with a population of 300,000. The guide who took me around the town told me that a man called Winston Churchill often came to Madeira for a holiday. Did I know him? Did I come from the same country? He was convinced that I did when he saw the expression on my face.
Leaving Madeira, we called at Las Palmas, a Spanish colony, and finally passed along the coast of Dakar, Freetown, and reached Monrovia, Liberia, on 28th.
March, 1955. I was not long in getting through customs, and having all necessary documents in order. After a week at the coast, I was ready to move inland.
I had a letter from Percy Clubine, our Field Leader, asking me to help Lloyd Snyder in the building of a house, before returning inland. Lloyd and his wife are stationed near the Firestone Rubber Plantations where they employ over 20,000 natives from all over the country. Firestone first came to Liberia in 1924. There are 40 camps, with approximately 500 people to each camp. Some of the finest rubber is exported from the ten and a half million trees. There are over 200 miles of roadway and 80,000 acres, so Lloyd and his wife have much to do in reaching all these people.
After three months of helping Lloyd, I made my way to the interior at Carplay. I received a great welcome on my arrival, when everyone turned out to greet me. It was like a coronation! Over the mission house was a banner “We welcome you home!” Indeed I had come home! The people played, danced and sang for some time, including patients from the Leprosy Colony, until finally they moved away.
One of our school boys will be going into Grade 8 next term. I well remember when he first came to the mission. He arrived with very little; he was quiet and shy. Now he is a big boy, and taking quite a lot of responsibility. He is a good Christian, and teaches in the Sunday school. It is amazing: just an African boy, running about his village, with no aim in life and nothing to do. Now he is well trained, civilised, and a real gentleman.
I might say that six of our ex-students are taking an active part in the Church. One is a Superintendent in the Sunday school. Another is a teacher, and takes part in the mid-week service. They have their own children in school, and it is a joy to teach them. We are beginning to see the results of all our labours.
We had a lovely Christmas Day (1956). We sent boys into the bush to cut down a fern tree, after which we fixed it on the compound, and decorated it with coloured streamers and gifts. It looked ever so nice. The school children were excited, wondering what they were going to receive.
After a brief service, the gifts were distributed, and what a joy to see the little tots and older children running to the tree when their names were being called!
One old man came along dressed in a gorgeous gown, wearing a helmet and a coloured scarf. He looked ever so comical in a temperature of a hundred degrees, with the sun beating down upon him. However, he thought he had better dress up for the occasion. He had quite an imposing beard, reminding one of Rip Van Winkle. Finally, after looking at the tree, he walked to the movie camera for a close-up, smiled broadly, and then walked away with great dignity.
In spite of commitments, we continue trekking to the villages. I visited a clan chief’s town for a couple of meetings and made it my base, so that I could visit the nearby villages without having to move my equipment; also that I might have more time with the Christians.
It was a blessing to meet many of them. When I arrived at the clan chief’s village, one of the Christians called Bukuwa took me to the chief to see about a house. We found him sat on a mat eating rice. I noticed that he was eating with a spoon, whilst others of his family were dipping their hands into the bowl. Quite a number of children gathered around me, but a word from the chief sent them scuttling to their huts. Finally, as I made my way to the house, the children came out of their hiding-place and escorted me to the compound. It was most amusing! After I shook hands with the chief, he said to Bukuwa, ‘This young man is our friend, and we are glad to see him in our village!’ I thought this was a compliment after being in his country for 20 years. The Christians began to sweep and clean out the house I had been given, and then brought a table and wood for cooking. It was a fine gesture. They did not have to do it, but I guess they were so glad that they wanted to.
The first night was quite hilarious. The chief and his people danced all night; guns were fired at intervals, and drums beat incessantly. They were celebrating a death. It was some time before I went to sleep. Dawn soon appeared; I had not been astir very long before I heard a commotion outside. Several women came along, dressed in kodachrome colours, dancing and blowing a cow’s horn. They finally moved away to another part of the town. This continued all day and all night; however, it did not disturb the meetings.
The people came along each night. We gathered in different huts, so that all could have a chance of hearing the ‘good news.’ In the glow of the firelight I told them of the Saviour’s love; how He came from heaven above, to live and die for our salvation. I sat on the edge of an earthen bed about a foot from the ground.
Everything in the hut was neat and tidy. Their houses are made of mud, with a circular roof of thatch and bamboo. They have no furniture: no cupboards, no tables, no chairs; just a box or two, and a raised earthen bed. A fire burns day and night in the centre of the house, over which is erected a frame on which they dry their fish and meat. As the meeting proceeds, the embers are poked into a flame, stabbing the darkness around. A dozen black bodies glow in the firelight; mats cover the floor, on which children are sleeping; a dog whines in a corner of the hut; goats, sheep and cows can be heard outside as they move about the village. As we are coming out of the hut, I speak to Bukuwa about visiting some of the plantations. He agrees and smiles broadly; he was quite an infectious laugh, and is well liked by his people.
The next morning, we visited a plantation about an hour from the village. We had to wade through creeks and swamp, climb over fallen trees, and make our way through dense bush.
At last, we reached the plantation, a clearing where there are five or six dwellings; just logs down the side and a thatched roof. Several people were occupied with their tasks; some pounding rice, others breaking palm kernels. Children were playing near an ant-hill. When they saw me, they let out a yell and dashed to their parents. They had never seen white man. I sat in the shade of a palm tree. Eventually the people gathered, and the story of God’s love was told. All listened attentively. When I am leaving, I notice all the children going back to the ant-hill. A man runs after me with a few eggs; the women go back to their kernels and the beating of rice. My time is now over. After saying goodbye to the chief, I make my way out of the village to the mission, a four hour walk. Bukuwa accompanies me along the path. He is a fine Christian; my last thoughts of him are precious.
Whilst morning prayers are being held on the station for the school children and Christians at 6:00 am, I take prayers at the Leprosy Colony at 5:00 am. We are going through the gospel of John. One of the lepers reads a portion each morning, after which I give a brief exposition. It warms your heart to hear them read in their own language as quickly as we can read in ours, and understand what they are reading. One man has no fingers, and he blows the page over to read the other side. Many are getting to know God in a deeper way, and are being used to bring others to Jesus.
Once a month we have communion with the patients, and taking the bread from the plate, I put the bread into the palm of the leper’s hand. He smiles, and there seems nothing to it. Then I take the glass and put it to his mouth. Most pathetic! I often wonder if people at home could stand up and sing about the love of God if their bodies were eaten away with leprosy and nobody would have anything to do with them!
I was down at the colony yesterday for three hours, giving treatment. The lepers passed through the dispensary one after another, some walking with sticks and crutches, some had their noses eaten away, other with stumps where their feet had been; and yet they are so thankful for all we do for them, for they have a feeling of security, knowing they are being loved and cared for.
A lady from Blackpool sent a gift of £6.00 for the lepers. Her husband had died, and she was sending money instead of getting flowers.
A woman was crying in one of our women’s meetings, after being told she had leprosy. She was heart-broken as she came into the colony; she had never suspected the disease. She had a boy of 7 years; what was going to happen to him? Who would take care of him? He could not come into the colony. They would have to be separated.
God answered her prayers however, and David came to our mission school. He is a nice little fellow; when I mark the register each morning and call out his name, he smiles and says, ‘Present.’ He is very happy, knowing that his mother is not too far away.
Now, after weeks of intensive treatment, she is to be discharged, symptom free; her last test was negative. Every patient must have 12 consecutive negative blood tests. If one is positive, they have to start again. Now, she was going back to her home, healed of leprosy. When David goes home on vacation, she will be able to love and care for him. How encouraging, after all these months and years of self-sacrificial service, to see patients not only healed in body, but knowing the greatest Healer of all…
“Weary was our heart with waiting, and the night watch seemed so long,
But His triumph day is breaking and we hail it with a song.”
We are told – and I quote from a magazine read some time ago – “conditions have changed since the Middle Ages. In those days, lepers were required to wear grey garments, to carry a bell, and to step off a road away from the windward side. They were forced to speak in whispers, and were not allowed to bathe or wash their clothes in streams. They were not allowed to enter public buildings – including churches. Some churches had ‘leper peep holes’ so that the victims of this dreaded disease could look on the services.”
During the days when we used to give injections of chalmoogra oil, the patients did not like being given injections twice a week. There was always a doubt as to whether they would be successful. Now we can hand them tablets, which is a great advance.
We have the greatest hope that patients will only be four to eight years, and we should be able to say, ‘There is every prospect of your disease being eradicated.’ However, sometimes there are ‘burnt out’ cases, and patients are with us a long time – even for life. Many come too late, but as enlightenment grows, they should learn to come much earlier.
Doctor Macdonald gives quite a graphic account of his work which is an encouragement to us who work amongst lepers. To give you an idea of how they suffer, I quote from his book:
“A missionary of many years’ experience tells how one morning when he was travelling along a bush path, he met a party apparently carrying a dead body for burial. To his surprise however, as he was talking to them he noticed that the feet of the supposed corpse moved. ‘But this man is not dead,’ he protested. ‘Oh no,’ they replied. ‘We know he is not dead, but he us a leper, and his misery was so great he asked for burial. We have filled him with gin and are going to do just as he asked.’
The following is a poem written by a leprosy patient:
The Leper’s Prayer
“O Thou Eternal, I cry for help in the day time,
And at night I moan before thee;
Let my prayer reach thy presence,
Bend an ear to my cry.
For trouble fills my soul to the full,
My life is on the verge of death;
I am already reckoned among the departed,
I am but a shadow of a man,
Left to myself among the dead,
Like the slain lying in their graves
Of whom Thou hast mind no more,
They are deprived of Thee.
In the nethermost pit Thou hast placed me,
In abysses dark and deep;
Thy wrath lies heavy upon me,
Thy waves all overwhelm me.
I cannot escape from my prison
And my health pines away under my trouble.
Daily I call to Thee, O Thou Eternal
I stretch my hands to Thee.
Canst Thou work wonders for the dead?
Can ghosts arise to praise Thee?
Can Thy love be recounted in the grave?
Thy faithfulness within the world below?
Can Thy wonders be known in the darkness of death?
Thy saving help in the land of oblivion?
I am crying for help, O Eternal, to Thee,
My prayer comes to Thee in the morning.
Why discard me, O Eternal?
Why hide Thy face from me?
Ever since youth I have suffered and languished,
Crushed by the dread of Thee I faint;
Thy burning wrath sweeps over me,
Thy terrors have undone me,
Surging round me without end,
Closing round on every side,
Thou hast put far every friend,
And darkness is my one companion.”
Why do we undertake a work like this? Why do we run the risk of infection? It is all summed up in the following words of Paul, ‘The love of Christ constraineth me.’ This alone gives lasting satisfaction. ‘We did see him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.’ In the Vulgate those words from Isaiah 53:4 are rendered ‘We did regard Him as a leper.’ The spirit of service to the leper should be ‘Inasmuch…ye did it unto Me.’
One of the lepers died today, and her friend, who lives in the next house, was heart-broken. The tears simply poured down her face; she could not wipe them away, because she has no fingers. We love these people, cry with them as we seek to bring comfort, and lay them to rest in the colony grave yard.
During the last few months, we have been busy making an airstrip. It is now completed, with a runway of 1,600 feet. It was dense bush, which had to be cut with cutlasses and axes; quite a job, not only cutting down trees, but taking out the stumps. Imagine what it was like without machinery, and having to level it all by hand!
What a surprise we had when the American Baptist mission plane came over, which we did not expect, although the pilot, Abe Gunther, knew about the strip. When he came, I was doing some cement work in the school, when one of the boys who was helping me said he could hear a plane. I told him it must be a big plane on its way to the Gold Coast or Nigeria; but lo and behold! It came nearer, and we knew it was a Piper Cub. Dropping the tools, I dashed to the airstrip when the plane was just coming over. The pilot circled for about ten minutes, taking every precaution, for it was his first landing. What a tension it must have been! Finally, however, after flying over the strip, he made a perfect landing. By this time, all the people from the neighbouring village milled around the plane. They were so excited, as they had never seen anything like it. They cheered and cheered, for it was the first time a plane had landed in this remote jungle station, 180 miles from the coast. Abe brought one of our missionaries to visit us. In the early days of pioneering, it used to take five days from the end of the motor way to reach the interior.
I walked along the strip with Abe, who pointed out a few places that needed levelling, and some high trees that needed to be chopped down at the end of the strip; so I got some men from the nearby village to do the job. During the night, with the aid of a drum and lantern, the men worked until the early hours of the morning. Later, the plane took off, and was in the air before it reached the end of the runway. I took a movie film of the plane flying into the sky (January, 1959).
For some time we have been asking the Lord for a plane, so imagine our joy when we heard from Tom Jackson, our fellow missionary, working on a station at Bahn 25 miles from here, “We had a letter from some of our good friends in North Carolina, who said ‘How much do you need, and what kind do you want? We feel the Lord wants you to have it, and we want to help fill that need.’ “
Praise God for answered prayer! (May, 1960)
We were sorry to hear a few weeks later that Roy Watkins, pilot of the Mid-Liberia Baptist plane, had to make a forced landing. In taking off, he hit a bump which threw him off course and into a palm tree. He damaged one wing rather badly, and had to leave the plane. He had flown it to Monrovia, but the weather had closed in and he could not find the field. From then on, it seemed uncertain what he had in mind, but he found a hole in the clouds and a road, so came down. He then found where he was, and figured with 15 minutes’ petrol he could get to Firestone, but instead he had the mishap. We were glad to hear the pilot was not hurt and the plane was being repaired. He was the only one in the plane at the time of the accident.
All the stations have now got a transmitter, and we can get in touch with the pilot, and business agent in Monrovia – a great asset to the work.
When I was home on furlough in 1962, I had the biggest shock in my life when I heard that my colleague Cyril Holloway had died on the mission station. His wife was in Monrovia, and he had been working on an extension to the school when he had to be brought to the mission house. He rested, but was not feeling too well. In the evening one of the evangelists, Miah Joe, came to see him. They talked, prayed, and read the Daily Light together, after which Cyril went to his office to type a letter. Then he went to bed.
He was due to take prayer the next morning at 6:00 am. He was always punctual, but was not there when the bell rang. When he had not arrived, one of the men came to tell our nurse, Miss Lambden. She suspected something had happened. She went to his bedroom, which was unlocked. The mosquito net was hanging over the bed. Then she knew – he had died during the night.
The Christians went to the carpenter’s shop to make a coffin, and dug a grave not far from the mission house. People came from near and far. The Government sent an official. He was heard to explain, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friend!” One of our leprosy patients standing nearby remarked, “When the doctor in Monrovia said that he should go home, that he wouldn’t live long if he didn’t, he chose to remain. He loved us so much that he died for us!”
In his passport was the following poem:
“What matter if I stand at Calvary
And lay my life down for the lost?
‘Twas only what He did for me,
I’ll follow Him at any cost.
Then from the pain and shame of dying,
In glorious power I’ll rise again,
To share the Glory of His Kingdom,
And evermore with Jesus reign!”
Stepping out of the plane on my arrival at the mission, I had a great welcome from the school children, Christians, leprosy patients, and people from round about. It was great to be back and to know I was needed. Then I saw Gertrude (Mrs Holloway). The crowd were following closely behind.
I was walking along with Gertrude when we came to the grave. I had an idea where it was. Then she said, “There is the grave, Jack!” I stopped a moment and the crowd slowed up. It was just like a soldier’s grave, with a wooden cross. There were flowers there too, and I noticed that someone had decorated it with palm branches as if they wanted him to give me a welcome as he would have done had he been here. Palm branches interlaced with colour were decorating buildings and mission houses, and a sign which said, “We welcome you home!” Yes, it was my home to them, and as far as they were concerned, I had come back home. I went back to the grave and rededicated my life to the Lord.
Just imagine a station dispensary, a school of 55 children, a colony of 200 leprosy patients, meetings, and the supervision of the station. However, God gives the enabling, and I count it a joy to have been chosen by Him for such a work. Many might shrink from it, and for all that is involved in a mission station’s routine, for everything does not run as smoothly as one imagines when there are so many children to care for. Petty differences have to be talked about, and an occasional palaver to be straightened out. Yet one finds that God is always there, engineering every circumstance, and giving wisdom and guidance for every situation.
President Tubman was invited to a meeting at E.L.W.A. radio station, prior to a visit to Ethiopia. In the course of his address, he remarked, “I always listen to E.L.W.A. more than any other station. I like your programme, and I am reminded how the Word of God was read in the home as a child.”
(May 7, 1964)Gertrude Holloway came to my house at 7:00 pm, just as I was looking over a message for the evening meeting. She said that word had just been transmitted from Monrovia to say that father had passed away and was now with the Lord. I had not been listening to the transmission as I usually do, on account of getting ready for the meeting, but when I heard, the Lord gave me peace and comfort; for the Lord had prepared my heart for any word concerning mother and father. I went to the meeting and gave the message, after which I administered the communion. Word soon went around the mission, and it was not long before the school boys and girls left their dormitories to express their sorrow. Many were in tears. I hardly knew what to say as I stood before them. Finally, I said, “Father was a good man, a good Christian, and one who knew and loved Jesus.” After this they moved quietly away. The leprosy patients felt it too, and words of sympathy came from the missionaries as I listened to the transmissions; also by letter.
What a sensation! Our new plane came today for the first time - The Evangel. It had gone several miles off course, and had to look around to find the strip. People came from everywhere, and sang a hymn of praise as the plane taxied to a stop. There was a thunderous cheer for the new pilot, an American, who seemed quite surprised at the tumultuous welcome.
(June 6, 1964) John and Margaret Mills’ wedding day. We have been very busy preparing for the event, and were quite nervous of the weather, as we are now in the rainy season. However, we prayed for a good day, and a good day it was. The sun was shining all the time, and it could not have been better. There were three missionary societies present, including our own, and about 20 whites, with a few hundred natives; all told about 800.
The wedding was at 11:00 am. At 9:20 am, some of the missionaries arrived by plane; others who were near the motor road, came by land. Three planes were used, including our own, and the Mid-Liberia Baptist Mission, so it was exciting to see them come and land on the strip. Everything looked so nice on the lawn. Several tables were there to seat the guests, including Elders and Christians.
Then came 11:00 am. One of the Mid-Liberia Baptist missionaries, who had been on trek, was brought in by plane and did not have any clean clothes, so I had to find trousers, shirt and tie. Then I heard someone at the door. “Yes, who is it?” “They are calling for you to come!” I was giving Margaret away in place of her absent father. Our Field Leader, Mr Hodgson, was performing the ceremony, so off I went to the house as quickly as I could. When I opened the door and walked into the room, there was Margaret in her wedding dress, with fancy sleeves, a flowered crown on her head, and white shoes and gloves. I was deeply moved; tears came into my eyes as I said, “Margaret, you look very nice!” She smiled and said, “Your suit is nice too, Jack!”
The bridesmaid, a little school girl carrying a bouquet of flowers was there, and a little boy carrying a velvet cushion with a ring stitched to it in case it dropped off. The record player was playing the Wedding March. Margaret slipped her hand through my arm. The bridesmaid went first, then the two children, with Margaret and myself following closely behind, all walking slowly as the Wedding March was being played. One of the missionaries had my camera.
Then we finally reached the bower, decked with coloured flowers from the garden. The bridegroom and best man were waiting, and when we reached there I stepped back a little, after which came the ceremony with the singing of a hymn. It was most impressive. Missionaries moved around with their cameras, taking distance shots and close-ups. All at once I heard, “Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?” I called out loud and clear, “I do.” Soon after the marriage there were more pictures, and I took a lot of scenes with the movie camera.
We had a lovely reception: bread, butter, ham, pickles, potatoes, jelly for dessert, and a two-tiered wedding cake. We had a table to ourselves, so I had many opportunities of taking shots of the bride and groom. After the wedding, the people began to move back to their homes; John and Margaret got into one of the planes for their honeymoon at ELWA, Monrovia. They will return permanently to this station.
Gertrude organised all the catering and made the wedding cake herself. Everyone was so happy!
It was nice to have John and Margaret at our Bible Conference in August. I wrote in my journal, “The meetings were well attended in spite of the rainy season. Many testified to blessings received. I one meeting, over 100 people stood to their feet to re-dedicate their lives to God. There was quite a movement of the Spirit in every meeting.
One blind lady, who had been coming to the conferences for several years said, “A man came to my village from the Ivory Coast to make medicine, so that the lightning would not strike the houses. Everyone welcomed him. I was told to do the same, but I didn’t agree. I went to the chief, who told them to leave me alone, and they did. They would not allow me to take any water, so my son made a well. After a time their water dried up and they had nothing to drink, so they came to me. God is wonderful!” she said.
A man from the Ivory Coast border told how that one of their Christians had been burnt and beaten because of his faith in Christ, and that since his death seven people had come to the Lord.
We were glad to have a missionary from ELWA. Broadcasting Station. “ELWA” means Eternal Life Winning Africa. One of our graduates is working there, and is being used of the Lord in broadcasting the news in the native language. Other languages are being used along the West Coast of Africa, and to all parts of the continent. Our graduate had been a Moslem, and was turned out of the house because he had become a Christian. That was the price he had to pay. He died later, leaving a wife and children. ELWA is operated by the Sudan Interior Mission; on this occasion there were many baptisms and 90 communicants.
I had a letter from one of the staff at London Headquarters. I quote: “We are much in prayer for our brethren in the Congo. We have had no word from them for over two months, because they are in territory where the rebels are in control. In fact, they have proclaimed that territory as The People’s Republic of Congo. We are in touch with the Foreign Office, but they are just as much in the dark as we are, and do not have any communication with that area. Praise God, we are in touch with the Throne of Grace, and the needs of fellow missionaries are upon our hearts!”
I know that you will have heard all that is happening as you have listened to the radio, and will have heard that many Europeans have been massacred by the rebels – some of our missionaries too. One lady whom I know, well into her 60s, was killed in Stanleyville. How sad!
I heard that 129 missionaries had been killed in Congo. One Dutch man who survived told that six of his colleagues had been massacred, and some of their flesh eaten by the rebels, and the rest sold in the market. 20,000 persons have been killed – 5,000 in the town of Stanleyville. [December 1964]
We thank God for our dear President Tubman, a man who calls upon his people to read the Word of God, and advised all the teachers in the schools to read the Bible before lessons. I am glad that he has two bookshelves of nothing but Bibles. He said recently, “Any attempt to oust, underrate or uproot missionary work and missionaries from the county, would mean virtually uprooting the stability and progress of the nation!”
More news of Congo. Two of our missionaries, Jim Rogers and Bill Chesney, have been shot by the rebels; also Aitken, Taylor, Kingdom, and Harman. The following have survived: David and Anne Davies, Chansler, Cheverton, and Graingers; Mrs Taylor and four children, and Mrs Harrison, were wounded and now in Stanleyville. They arrived in England later.
C T Studd, the founder of the Mission, said, “Ye that fear God, but fear not death nor devils nor men, nor hell, come forth. Join up! Now! Ye who seek to live for Christ. Ye who love Him better than life and breath and all things, come forth my people, come forth! Play up, play the game! Come forth, come on. Do you want to live forever? Then come and die for Jesus, for the way to live is to die, and to die means to live, for ‘he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it!’ Come, follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. He goeth to the whole wide world.”
Fred, our pilot, told me how he had to make a forced landing when the weather closed in on him when he left Monrovia. It was late in the afternoon. After flying over 100 miles, he finally located an old strip belonging to LAMCO Mining Company. It was raining heavily and getting dark. As he hopped out of the plane, he saw a man near a thatched house, who at last guided him to the camp. He arrived soaked through, and knocked at the first house. A young man came to the door, who gave him a big welcome, and the best of hospitality. He sent a man to guard the plane, as parcels and goods were inside for the missionaries. Thank God for His undertaking!
The Leprosy Colony School, which I started building a few months ago, was completed today. I was laying the last two or three bricks at the gable end of the building. I was on a platform about ten feet high. As I was lifting the brick to put in position, I felt something give way under my feet. I knew I was going to fall, ao jumped as best as I could, hitting the ground and grazing my face against a brick; which could have been worse had it been nearer. I was quite shaken, but was all right after a few minutes. The boys who were assisting were upset, but when I smiled and resumed my work, they were soon put at ease. I was none the worse and am feeling fine.
With maintenance work, buildings, laying cement, plastering, ceilings, painting etc. there is much to do. Praise God, He gives the enabling and supplies the need.
Bible Conferences come and go. Time passes over so quickly. My journal of July to August 1965 reads: It was a good conference. We had prayed much, so was not surprised at the blessing that attended the meetings and the goodly number that gathered. What a joy to see them coming from near and far, some by mission plane, others walking for miles through bush and jungle.
The Lord spoke to many hearts in one way and another as they told how they had been convicted, whilst others re-dedicated their lives afresh. They brought tears to one’s eyes, for one could see they really meant it, and were desirous of going all the way with God.
There were some stirring testimonies. One Christian who had been serving the Lord for many years tols how she had been instrumental in leading eight souls to the Lord. An evangelist who I had taught in the mission school several years ago told how he had brought three of his converts to be baptized. Then another lady remarked how she had led seven souls to the Lord, including a woman who had lost her baby; after which a man got to his feet, straightened his jacket, and said, smiling broadly, “I am saved through the grace of God. I have received a good understanding of the Scriptures at this conference and I am very happy. I built a church in my village some time ago with a thatched roof, and wanted to replace it with zinc, but what could I do when I didn’t know how to saw planks? I prayed. Finally, a man came along and said he would put up a zinc roof, and that I could give him what I wanted. I asked him if he was speaking the truth and did he really mean it. Yes, he really meant it, and now we have a fine church with a permanent zinc roof!” A chorus of ‘Hallejujahs’ and ‘Amens’ could be heard here and there as he took his seat. He was one of a hundred communicants who partook of the Lord’s Supper at which I conducted.
There were meetings at the Leprosy Colony also. One patient who was baptized at a former conference was married to a nice Christian girl. It was most pathetic to see him making his way into the water, limping, and walking cautiously, without toes, his hands at his side, with two or three stumps where once there had been fingers; so happy, so radiant! His face was a benediction. What a challenge to those who have all their faculties, and who have no thought of Christ.
The lady who had said she had led eight souls to the Lord told us at morning prayers that she had spoken to a man about his soul, and that after hearing the Word, had destroyed his ju-jus saying they did not help him and now he was going to follow God.
The leprosy patient who was baptized was admitted into the colony 17 years ago. He was about eight years old, and a bad case of leprosy. I remember those days very well, and how he used to sit outside his house. He is now a young man and teaching in the colony school. He was asked to write his testimony. He wrote, “Before I became a Christian, I used to curse and fight. Then in 1949 my parents brought me here to get cured of my leprosy. One year later, Mr Lenny spoke to us at a Wednesday might meeting in 1950. That night I believed that Christ died for my sin and I turned my heart to him. From that time I knew I belonged to God, but I wasn’t really saved until 1962. On May 12, something happened on the mission that frightened me. Mr Holloway was told to go home by the doctor when he was sick, but he chose to die here because he loved us. Then I realised that Christian religion is something to give ourselves as a living sacrifice. From that day I prayed to God to forgive me. Now, I am living for My Lord, ready to meet Him when He comes!”
A new generator house is now finished with a zinc roof and cement floor. All the plastering is now completed. The road is now through from one direction, so that one can go to Monrovia by car in five hours via Karnplay – one hour by plane. Wesley Bell, our Field Leader, cam today by car from his station 60 miles away, bringing diesel oil, kerosene, and provisions. He was the first white man to arrive here by car. I shook hands with him at the grinding of the camera. Then we heard the sound of a plane, and looking up over the trees we saw our plane coming in to land. Fred was coming with a passenger, a Clan Chief, whose village is 12 miles away. More photographs and movies were taken. It was a memorable occasion!
In June 1966, the Lord supplied us with a new generator for electric lights, transmitter, and washing machine. Our school girls take turns on the laundry, and were quite thrilled when they saw the water whirling around, and the clothes being washed without having to wash them, and then go through the rollers without having to wring them. It was not long before they had them on the line and ironing board. It is all by faith, and we give God all the glory for these luxuries after all those years.
The time was getting near for furlough. The missionaries thought it would be nice if I could see the stations where I pioneered 21 years ago, so it was arranged with Fred to fly to Gaypeter and River Cess. We left for Gaypeter, 180 miles away. Jeanette Hodgson, a girl of 15 years, who had been visiting Fred’s station at Bahn, came along with us. Her parents are stationed at River Cess. We took off in bright sunlight, and 10 minutes later touched down at Flumpa to pick up mail, and off again. We had not been going long before it started to rain, and it looked as though there was going to be a storm, so we sighted a strip and came down. It had belonged to an iron ore company who had long since moved from there. After circling the runway, we made a perfect landing, and stayed for half an hour looking over the junk that had been left behind. A few natives came out of the bush, wondering who we were and where we were going, answering questions we put before them. The weather did not look too bright ahead. However, we decided to go on.
We had not been flying more than 10 minutes when we hit the storm. It was dark and cloudy; we could hardly see where we were going. It would be just as bad if we turned back, so we kept on going. We came down to a hundred feet, but could not fly too low because of the hills. Fred was in deep concentration, looking to the right and to the left. What a strain, I thought, when one cannot see too clearly. I was getting a bit nervous, when Fred hollered in my ear, “Do you see the road?” “No,” I shouted, “but I see the rail tracks!” We kept on going, flying higher and coming lower, banking to the right and to the left,
Trying to find a clear spot, with the rain beating down upon the plane. “The mission is over there,” said Fred. At that moment we hit a bright spot and landed on the strip. We were down! “Only the Lord could have done that!” cried Fred.
As we taxied along the strip, Graham Davies and his wife Marjorie came running to us in the pouring rain, with raincoats and umbrellas. It was quite a surprise, for they had never expected a plane to land in such weather and in time foe lunch! They did not know we were coming, because their transmitter was out of order.
It is over 26 years ago since I pioneered this station, so it was inspiring to see all that had been done, We were hoping to leave for River Cess in the afternoon, where I pioneered in 1942, but the rain continued, so we had to stay the night.
The next morning, Saturday, was just as bad. There was no way out. We were anxious to let the missionaries know we were here, but there was no way of letting them know without a transmitter, so we decided to go to LAC (Liberia Agricultural Company) 12 miles away, to use their transmitter. Graham took Fred and me in his car, for we know that the missionaries would be listening every hour or so.
The road was very bad. We had not gone more than two miles when we came to a broken bridge. It was impassable. Some of the planks had broken and were floating about, so we decided to go back to the mission and repair it. Finally, we had it fixed, and over we went.
A few minutes later, we came to a river. It was in flood and overflowing the bank. The concrete bridge was submerged and invisible. We had to return to the mission. It was disappointing, but the Lord was with us, for we had not been back more than a few minutes when the Mid-Liberia Baptist plan came in to land in the pouring rain. What a relief it must have been to the pilot to see our plane on the strip, and to know we were safe and sound! Our missionaries had got in touch with him during the early morning transmission, and he had tols them he would call at the mission on his way to Monrovia and let our business agent know we were here. She would transmit that we were all right. It was a great relief, for we heard later that word had gone out to ELWA Broadcasting Station that we were lost.
Sunday was much brighter, and there were prospects of getting away. The strip was wet and muddy. Fred decided to fly the plane to LAC airstrip and meet us there; so just after 8:30 am, Graham with his wife and two children, Jeanette, Miss Lambden, and myself went to the strip, where Fred was waiting for us.
After we had said goodbye to our dear missionaries, the plane roared down the runway on its way to River Cess, 50 miles away. Jeanette was sitting behind, next to Miss Lambden, and I was next to the pilot, taking movies of the jungle and flooded rivers. In a few minutes, Jeanette would be with her parents and all would be well; and so it proved to be, as the plane circled the strip and bumped along the runway to a stop. Missionaries and school children milled around to give us a welcome, and Jeanette’s mother gave her a big hug!
I was just in time to take the morning service. Over 120 people were there as I took my seat on the platform. Cecil Hodgson, who had been in Liberia for 20 years, presided, and as we sang, “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour,” the tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought of those days when the site was cut out for the mission, and I lived in a shack whilst the mission was being built. Much has happened since those days; buildings have been built: workshop, school, dispensary, dormitories, airstrip, and a beautiful layout of trees and flowers. No wonder I was overcome, and the more so when an elderly man whom I recognised, exclaimed, “Oh, I’m so glad to see you!” He embraced me as a father to his son.
I went to see the village where I had lived when I first came to locate the site. It had changed so much. Houses had been broken down; others had taken their place. The one in which I had lived had been rebuilt for a store. A Syrian trader was at the counter as I walked in to greet him, and was quite pleased to think I had lived in the village so long ago. As we were talking, a young man came into the store. “I am Charlie Brown. I used to work for you on the mission,” he said. “Charlie,” I said, “I hadn’t recognised you. How you have grown!” We gave each other a hearty handshake.
Another man whom I recognised came from behind the store, and that was an added surprise. I slipped the camera from its case and took movies of the memorable meeting. I had not seen them for 21 years.
What a surprise; never have I experienced a greater! The missionaries had extended the welcome with a feast of rice, palm butter, meat and pumpkin, when over 50 baptized Christians gathered on the mission lawn. I was oblivious to all this. I had just come back from visiting the dispensary where I heard the school children singing, when a Christian came and said that Mrs Hodgson would like to see me at the house.
When I arrived, there she was on the lawn, and there before me were all these people sat on benches, holding plates and spoons. The school children marched and sang. They were immaculate in their blue and white uniforms. Mrs Hodgson motioned to sit at the table, where a large bouquet of flowers had been placed for my benefit. They were a riot of colour. Cecil gave a short word, after which I spoke briefly of how God had blessed over the years. Then we had prayer and the feast. The visit will live long in my memory.
After my first visit to Gaypeter and River Cess, I went on furlough, and returned to Liberia in March 1968. I wrote in my journal: It was a cold dry morning as I left my home for Liverpool, the first stage of my journey to Africa. Friends and neighbours gathered at the house to say goodbye, and after prayer and hearty handshakes, I stepped into the car, along with mother, my sister and niece. Mrs Jackson, a friend of ours, was driving the car. All the baggage was neatly packed in the boot: a large suitcase with parcels for the missionaries from friends and loved ones; two small suitcases with my personal belongings; a typewriter and a briefcase. It was exactly 9:15 am.
I enjoyed the drive immensely as we travelled over the moors and through the towns of Oldham and Manchester, knowing it would be a long time before I would enjoy a drive again, and gaze on such beautiful country with its fine roads, parks, gardens and flowers. I knew what I was going back to.
My thoughts and reflections were interrupted as we drove through Liverpool, with its bust traffic and people walking about everywhere. “I wonder where we can park?” said Mrs Jackson. A taxi man was standing on the kerb looking for a fare, so we asked him for the information we needed. “Go up this road, and take the first turning on the right, and you’ll find a place to park your car.” We did!
The cark park attendant was sat near the kiosk and waved us through. Little did I know that when we left the car for lunch, that in less than an hour I would be going to the ship with only what I was wearing, with a briefcase and a typewriter. I remember walking out of Lewis’s with my niece, mother, sister and Mrs Jackson following closely behind, making our way to the car park , which did not take more than five minutes. What a surprise when I looked in the boot to find two suitcases missing, and only the large case with parcels, the typewriter and briefcase which contained shipping ticket, passport and movie camera. But I was grieved to think I had lost my Bible, and 30 years of newspaper cuttings from the “Cleckheaton Guardian” which I had made into a scrapbook, and was irreplaceable; not forgetting shirts, underwear, socks, pyjamas, suits, transistor radio, files, High School and ordination certificates, address book and correspondence file.
The car attendant called the police, who came at once in the police car. After getting particulars, they got in touch with other policemen, took our address, and directed us to the harbour, the police car going in front. After the usual formalities, immigration and passport, we all went on board the “Aureol,” a ship of 14,000 tons with its 350 passengers. After an hour or so, the ship’s intercom bellowed the orders for visitors to leave. I walked as far as I could along the gangway with mother – and then the parting. Finally, the gangway was removed, and the ship began to move away from its moorings, with visitors waving farewell. It was 4:30 pm.
Friends and loved ones waved until we were out of sight. I went to my cabin. All I had was my briefcase and typewriter, less than one would take on a day trip. Later, however, I was able to go to the ship’s store and purchase what I needed, except clothing.
The ship rolled a little when going through the Bay of Biscay when the captain was conducting the Sunday morning service, to the singing of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” It was most impressive to see so many people in the ship’s lounge, singing this wonderful hymn. There were nine missionaries on board, all going to Nigeria. It was nice to have fellowship with them. One morning, as I was looking out to sea, one of the missionaries told me that a baby had been born to a Nigerian lady the night before and that she had performed the delivery.
It was getting warmer every day – and so was I. After calling at Las Palmas, the Canary Islands and Sierra Leone, we finally arrived at Monrovia, Liberia, after ten days’ sailing. Our business agent was there to greet me. After going through customs and immigration, I was able to get all the things I needed that I could not get on the ship. After spending the night at ELWA Radio Station, I made m way to the interior with one of the missionaries and his wife, who were returning after a brief vacation. Word had gone out over the radio that I had arrived, so two days later I was flying to my station over bush and jungle. Over 300 people were there to greet me, all congregated on the runway: school children in their bright uniforms, leprosy patients, Christians and non-Christians all surged forward as I stepped out of the plane, singing and dancing and waving palm branches. It was like a coronation! I had come home!
A few weeks later, I went to visit an evangelist and his wife, who were working near the French Ivory Coast, close to a river that separates the two countries. It is a Clan Chief’s town with a District Commissioner.
Butua is about 28 miles from the mission, but I did not have to walk. If I had, it would have taken more than a day. The mission Piper Cub took me there. How relaxing to fly and look down at the jungle and dense forest! In 15 minutes we taxied on to the strip, to be welcomed by the evangelist and Christians. Along with Wanawa, the evangelist, we walked to his compound with all the people following. His wife was just coming out of the house, and when I stretched out my hand to greet her, the tears began to roll down her cheeks. I wondered if she thought of Mr and Mrs Holloway, who had laid down their lives, and who had been such a blessing to her.
Evangelist Wanawa loves his people. He has been working hard for this Easter Weekend Conference. Over 200 people were sitting on planks under shady trees. All is now quiet. Wanawa rises to speak. He has aged a lot over the years. His hair, once black and crisp, is now going white. At the age of 50, he is still a fiery evangelist. He speaks from the heart and not from the head, a dedicated Christian, and one who loves the Lord.
As I look back over the years, I see him as a lad in the mission school, hearing him stumble over words he is reading. I think of the hundreds of miles we have trekked together, and the meetings and motion picture films we have taken; and
now he is preaching! How they listen! Everyone is attentive. They drink in every word as if it was the last. What a thrill to hear him preach! After a song and prayer, I speak about the events leading up to the Crucifixion: the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter’s remorse, the trial and the Cross. One could feel the presence of God.
The meetings were well attended on the compound, and in the village where we had our evening meetings. The Chief was present. He came dressed in his coloured gown and wearing his best hat. He insisted that I sit next to him. I have known him for many years, and he always comes to the meetings when I visit his town.
The time passed too quickly, and it was time for me to go. Wanawa and his wife looked after me so well. I do not think I could have been looked after better if I had been in any household in England, or in any other place in the world for that matter. Their love and kindness moved me to tears. They are doing a good work and are to be commended. Finally, the plane arrived, and after a few hearty handshakes and goodbyes, I was soon back at the mission.
Soon after I got back, I heard that President Tubman arrived at the Port of Monrovia after a visit to America. He was given a grand welcome by dignitaries and officials. The Vice President, Dr William R Tolbert, said, “We thank our great God for bringing our President home again.” From the harbour they were taken by motorcade to the First Methodist Church for a thanksgiving service. The President is now in his 73. year. May the Lord spare him for many years to come. He appreciates all the work missionaries are doing, having been to a missionary school himself.
Later I had another weekend with the Christians about six miles away. It had been raining very heavily during the night, a reminder that we are in the rainy season. Trekking is not easy at this time of year. However, I went by truck, and shall I ever forget it? The bush road, which had been cut out with nothing but cutlasses and axes was in a bad way, and I wondered if we would ever make the village. It was very dangerous in places where the road had been washed away, leaving crevices of mud and water, causing the car to go down to the axle. We came to one such place over a pole bridge supported by heavy logs away down in the water. Then into the mud we went, the car going to one side and to the other, up at the front and down again. Imagine what it was like with a dozen passengers seated behind the driver, with palm kernels and baggage strapped to the car roof. I was sitting next to the driver, who did not seem to have a care in the world. As I was about to speak to him, the car almost turned over and righted itself. The poor people behind were having a hard time as the water splashed in the sides of the jeep.
“Driver,” I said, “you have got too many people in the truck, and too much baggage on top. The road is not too good for such a load!” As I said this, we passed a truck with a broken wheel and by all appearance abandoned. Yet we kept going, up and down stony hills, through more water and mud, until finally we came to a hill, and half way up we stalled. The car began to go back; the engine stopped, then started, and stopped and started again, each time going further down the hill. I told the driver we had better get out. We did in a hurry!
Finally it reached the top. “Yes, driver,” I said again, “the road is not too good for such a load.” He smiled and remarked, “There’s nothing to fear, I don’t fear, I’m not afraid to die!” he said boastfully. “You are not ready to die,” I said. “You had better keep alive until; you know where you are going, and then you’ll be all right!” It gave me an opportunity to speak about Salvation and Eternal Life.
We eventually reached our destination, when all the passengers spilled out of the truck, looking as though they had been shaken up in a concrete mixer, so relieved they were to see the end of the road. I paid the driver, told him to be careful, and after shaking his hand, I walked into the village. I decided to walk back. I had a sickly headache, so took aspirins and quinine against fever.
The Chief was very kind. He gave me a house that belonged to a JP, who was away on business. I was glad to sit down and rest. Photographs covered most of the room, the most prominent one being of His Excellency the President of Liberia, Dr William V S Tubman.
The meetings were well attended. Christians came from round and about, so with many of the townspeople attending, we had quite a good gathering. It is always inspiring to see the nationals taking part, leading and speaking when called upon to do so. They are so dedicated to the Lord that the work would go on if we were not there. It has taken many years to reach this stage when our churches could be handed over to the national brethren. Now it is a reality. It is the way it should be. We are always ready to help, to give advice on any situation that may arise, but the Lord is blessing so much that they are able to discern in the Spirit what God would have them to do.
One woman made a decision and came to all the meetings. She was ever so radiant! We have now arranged for one of the Christians to go to the village every Sunday to teach the children and preach to the adults.
When the time came to leave, I trekked back to the station, feeling it had been a profitable weekend.
A month later I went out to a village called Naabli Bona. I received a nice welcome, was given a house, a bedroom, chair and table, and an oil lamp. What a contrast, I thought, to the homes in England, of the fellowship enjoyed and the luxury that goes with it.
I was aroused from my reflections when a rat scuttled across the room, which did not give me a chance to throw my shoe ar it. Mosquitoes buzzed about in the lantern light, and cockroaches were climbing up the wall. I sat and meditated as the light cast its shadows about the room. One could hear crickets screeching in the jungle, night birds calling to each other in the darkness, and frogs croaking in a nearby creek, all reminding one that this is Africa.
My meditation was then interrupted with a loud knocking at the door. I almost knocked the lantern off the table in my haste to open it. One of the Christians whom I had brought with me was reminding me it was the time for the meeting. We walked along to the centre of the village, where close on a hundred people – men, women and children – gathered to hear the Word. One could feel the presence of God.
The next day, Sunday, over 50 adults and 30 children attended the meeting. It was held at the Clan Chief’s piazza. The children sat on mats, adults brought chairs, and others sat on stools. Most informal, as you can imagine.
After a few songs and a prayer, we had Sunday School. The Christian who accompanied me took out his Scripture Chart, and illustrated his talk as he explained the pictures. They listened well, and after I had spoken to the adults, 13 children said they would like to follow Jesus, also 5 adults – all men. We had a profitable time, explaining what it means to be a Christian. All seemed most sincere.
John Goma, our workman, came to have a tooth out, so I thought I would take a motion picture film. I fixed a table with a white cloth, with dental forceps, alcohol, aspirins, and a glass of water. I then gave the camera to Graham Davies, and told him what to do. Finally, the film started running through the camera with its zoom lens. I told John to open his mouth, to open it wide. Then I got hold of the lower molar and had it out before he knew about it. He seemed quite relieved as he walked away.
News came over the transmitter informing us that a light aircraft belonging to the Assemblies of God had crashed 250 yards off the coast when it exploded after hitting a rock. The plane was flying to the mission station at Cape Palmas from Monrovia, with two visiting ministers from Texas. It was dark when they attempted to land. All three were killed in the crash. The bodies were finally recovered as they were washed up on the beach. Navy divers from the United States Embassy located the plane. The pilot is survived by his wife, who is expecting a baby, and by two daughters at school in Senegal.
I visited the Church at Karnplay, where Cyril Holloway and I helped the Christians to build it a few years ago. There were over a hundred people at the Sunday morning service, the usual attendance each week. After the service, Teah, the Elder, took me behind the Church to show me a pile of stones that were going to be used for a foundation. The Church was too small and they were going to extend it. Teah has been a Christian for over 20 years. The administration of the Church is indigenous and self-supporting. It is one of the brightest spots of our work.
The entry in my journal is the saddest I have written (January 1969):
The combined Annual Native Bible Conference was attended by two tribes, the Cio and the Nano, the towns closely connected. Over 1,200 people were present.
Sunday was the first day of the conference. The service was chaired by one of the nationals. After singing “Hallelujah to the Lamb Who Died on Mount Calvary,” a prayer was offered and more singing – and then a message. It was a good start to the conference.
In the afternoon I was taking a walk with one of the missionaries, when one of the Christians called us aside and told us some disturbing news about a plane crash, and was sure it was our plane. We assured him that we did not think so, yet there was an uneasiness, so we hurried back to the mission house, switched on the transmitter; and it was all too true. Messages were being transmitted to all the stations, telling of the disaster. What a blessing to have transmitters at such a time! Missionaries were crying. Tears flowed freely. I felt them gather and roll down my cheeks. Was it really true? Was it our plane? Could I believe it was the plane I had flown in the afternoon before the accident, when being taken to the conference? Yes – the messages were telling us so! It was stunning! It was shocking! We could not believe it. Nationals came in crowds to sympathise, and one could only console oneself in the fact that our dear ones were now with the One whom they had loved and served.
The Mid-Liberia Baptist plane circled the station to confirm the news, as the pilot threw down a bandage which fluttered down in the breeze. I picked it up and read: Donald, Hanna, schoolboy – all killed.
How did it happen? Donald left his station at 9:30 am and arrived in Monrovia just after 11:00 am. Our business agent was on the runway to meet him with Hanna and the schoolboy, who were returning to River Cess, over 100 miles away, after a brief vacation. They finally took off, flying over ELWA Radio Station near the beach. After they took some pictures, the engine cut, the wing tipped over to one side, and came crashing down on to the beach, said one observer who was nearby. All were killed on impact. The plane burst into flames, and it took some time to free the bodies that were burnt and charred. ELWA missionaries lovingly handled the broken bodies, put them in boxes, and took them to the radio station.
Donald (33) leaves a widow and two children: Stephen, aged 10, and Susan, 7. I trembled as Stephen held my hand and said, “Uncle Jack, I don’t have a daddy now.” (We are all uncles and aunts to our missionaries’ children).
Hanna (28), a nurse, on her first term in Liberia, was buried at ELWA; also the schoolboy. Donald was taken by ELWA car to his station for burial.
To be continued
c. 2014 The Bible College of Wales Continuing.