Jack Lenny Testimony 2
The Conference were waiting for the funeral. It lasted for two hours; it was tremendous! Now they rest in the Lord to await the resurrection day!
The conference continued and there was much blessing. Many rededicated their lives afresh. There were 34 baptisms and 240 communicants administered by the Christians. The Lord is precious to us these days, and Romans 8:28 is still in the Book: “All things work together for good to those who love God.”
Donald was to have flown Robert Mackay from River Cess, who had come to speak at the Missionary Conference, but it was not to be. Robert, however, took part in the funeral service, and God blessed his visit. God blessed the session of prayer and Bible study which Robert brought each morning.
Soon after, I had to go to Canta Methodist Mission hospital to have quite a big cyst taken out at the back of my neck. I had made an appointment and gave the nurse my card. Looking at it, she said, “You look a little nervous; are you? You don’t need to! It won’t hurt you – you won’t feel anything! She was a national, had been to school at one of the mission stations, and had done her training at the hospital where she was now working. She looked ever so nice in her nurse’s uniform of blue and white, with a butterfly hat, which just about rested at the back of her head.
Finally, I made my way to the operating room. I had never been in one before, and was feeling nervous – very nervous. White and coloured nurses were there. One of them said, “Take off your shirt and shoes and lie on the table!” I did! The doctor switched on the overhead lights which beamed down upon my back, for I was lying on my tummy, with my hands folded beneath. I was fairly comfortable. The doctor then put a cloth over my head, just far enough over my face. “Give me a local,” he said to the nurse. Then he injected around the cyst in two or three places. “It will go numb,” he said. I felt it going that way almost immediately. The sensation was like cutting through a piece of rubber. I could feel it, but there was no pain, so much so that I had no need to be nervous. In about 20 minutes it was out, and stitches inserted, with a plaster bandage applied. It was mid-day. I then had lunch with two of the nurses, after which I rested for a couple of hours.
The next morning, I travelled back to my station, over 60 miles away. The stitches were taken out a week later by our mission nurse.
Before the accident, a new plane was at the docks in New York, U.S.A., ready for shipping to Monrovia, but was held up because of the strikes. Donald was looking forward ever so much to flying it, but it was not to be.
Our co-pilot, who alternated with Donald, sent word to say the plane had arrived and was being assembled; and that he would be flying to the interior in a day or two.
Fred (Venables) came in with the plane today. He circled the station – and made a perfect landing. Townspeople came running from all directions, milling around the plane, not giving the missionaries a chance to get near. It was a time of great excitement. It could not have arrived at a better time, because our nurse had a patient to go to Canta hospital. She was in a coma. The plane would be there in twenty minutes; by car it would take four hours.
How superstitious these people are! I went to a plantation, and met a man I wanted to see. After talking with him, he said emphatically, “I believe what you said is true. I planted the tree. It is my medicine. It will take care of me and the plantation. It will not harm the people!” My efforts seemed of no avail. I noticed a woman pounding her rice all the time I was speaking, not even looking up from what she was doing. I spoke of Noah and the flood – God’s judgement – its consequences – disobedience, and of going one’s own way. She was heard to mumble, “Yes, I’m going to drown too!” She was so indifferent.
What excitement we get these days! The United States airmen circled the airstrip and landed in a helicopter, with the engine roaring and the blades spinning around. They were making an aerial map of the country. The children came running out of school, and people came from everywhere. It was quite an education. They had not seen a machine like this before – only in books. One of the men, with close-cropped hair, ran to us with a map in his hand, asking questions about the district. Then off they went on their mission.
Soon after, Graham and Marjorie Davies went on furlough, and John and Margaret Mills came to help us. Their baby boy, Andrew John, was 10 months old.
1969: Phyllis Kilbourn, an American, teaches in the school; and Jeanette Edgcomb, also an American, helps Margaret in the dispensary, along with one of our school girls whom we have trained. Both Margaret and Jeanette work at the Leprosy Colony, also John, and when the need arises we teach school; so with the supervision of the station, medical, leprosy colony, school, and meetings, we find much to do – and are glad to have such a good staff.
Although we are very busy, we always try to visit the villages as often as we can.
I went to visit one of the evangelists, who with the help of the Christians, is building a Church. I went to see how they were getting on, and have meetings over the weekend. I was glad of the opportunity. Duonyia, the evangelist, is doing a great work – a dedicated and a devoted Christian.
Word had not reached him that I was coming, so it was a great surprise for him to see me coming along the path. His compound is just a little way from the village, with flowers, pineapples, bananas, plantains, and grapefruit.
He was bending over the table with his hands in a bowl, and I wondered what he was doing, but did not have to wonder long, for when he saw me coming, he ran along the path with his hands full of dough. He was making bread – had to walk 10 miles to get flour. After exchanging greetings, he went off to bake his bread, just a little plate outside the house where a fire was burning. His wife arrived later. Both teach in the Sunday school. I need not say how well they looked after me. I had bought them a few things in the village through which I passed; they were ever so delighted. Also, I brought him a flannel graph which he had ordered from Monrovia.
After I had rested a while, he brought me a cup of tea and a piece of bread. Later, I had a meal with them and some of the Christians, some of whom he had led to the Lord.
The next morning, Sunday, we had a meeting in the village. We all congregated on the Chief’s piazza until the Church building is completed. Duonyia gave a word to the children from the flannel graph, after which I spoke. When the service was over, we went to see the new Church. I was amazed to see how well it was built. The walls were completed, and ready for the roof. All the materials were on hand: the timber, cement, and zinc. As I stood within the walls of this new building, I was overcome with praise to God for the way Duonyia and the Christians had worked so hard, without looking to anyone for support; not even the missionaries – which is a true example of faith.
In the afternoon, Duonyia and the Christians accompanied me along the path to the mission. As I left them, they turned again and again to wave goodbye until finally I turned a corner and was out of sight. I had to teach school next morning, and could not stay longer.
I went to see the man who told me about planting the tree to make ‘medicine.’ He was the first to respond when I called for a meeting. He said that he was now a Christian, and following the Lord. I was not surprised! I had prayed for him, and expected an answer to my prayers.
Duonyia the evangelist paid us a visit, and gave a glowing account of his trek to the villages. A man for whom he had prayed for many years had come to know the Lord. 51 people had made decisions.
What do you think? When I was washing my face and neck, I kept using the towel around my ears and the side of my head, and could not understand why the soap suds did not come off, until I finally discovered when looking at the glass that my hair was going white! I will be 60 next birthday.
Margaret is the daughter of one of our leprosy patients. I remember when she came to the colony school. She was about 10 years old, and such a sweet little girl, and no wonder – she loved Jesus as her Saviour. That was over 20 years ago. She helped in the colony dispensary. She lived a life well pleasing to the Lord, and married a fine Christian from the Ivory Coast. Bertram, a young man, came with the other Christians to the Annual Bible Conference, and it was here that he met Margaret. They were both married here on this station. The Rev. David Weber performed the ceremony, with the late Cyril Holloway officiating. Three weeks later, Cyril went to be with the Lord.
Sorrow comes to us sooner or later. It came to Margaret when her husband Bertram died of cancer. She never left his bedside. With her 5 small children around her, she pleaded with God to spare his life, but it was not to be. Before he passed away he said ‘Margaret, don’t cry, I see a bright light!’ With these dying words, he passed on to be with the Lord whom he had loved and served so faithfully.
“The trials surge like angry seas around,
And testing fierce, like ambushed foes around,
Yet, this my soul, with millions more have found,
He never fails!”
At one conference, a Christian was listening to his transistor radio, broadcasting from ELWA. Edwin, our ex-schoolboy, was giving the news. He said, ‘Great excitement at ELWA. A shark was washed up on the beach that evening: 25 feet long, 7 feet high – crowds of people around the shark – one man is standing right on the top of it – others are cutting big chunks from it – it smells, but it doesn’t matter – it looks so big – have never seen anything like it!’ says Edwin.
It is a few years ago now since I told a man that one day cars and trucks would be passing the mission station, at which he laughed and said, ‘It will never be so!’ Cars, however, are now passing by.
Another school year is ended (December 1969). The School programme was good, when most of the children took part. Some sang or recited, and the highest grades gave a wonderful performance of ESTHER, one of the books in the Bible. They did ever so well – good actors and excellent memories.
One of the main items was the giving out of report cards and prizes; so you can imagine the amount of work involved in averaging the subjects. It was quite a relief to know that had passed to the next grade. There are 70 children in the school. Some are following the Lord, but not all. We thank God for those who have responded, and when we look back over the years and think of those who attended the school and who are still following the Lord, it is worthwhile. There are Miah Joe, Duonyia and Wanawa, all evangelists. There is Edwin Kekia, now assistant manager at ELWA. Radio station, and Timothy, now in America learning more about radio work. Phillip, who has now finished high school and in his first year at college, wants to be a doctor. All are committed Christians.
Before the children went on vacation, we had a 16mm. sound projector loaned by the United States Information Service in Monrovia. There in the moonlight, over 800 people saw the film as they sat on the grass. People came from everywhere. Many had never seen a moving picture, and could not understand how machines and cars and people could move about and talk. It was beyond their comprehension.
The moon landing was most exciting. There was quite a cheer when the astronauts were going along to the space ship carrying their briefcases, then the take-off, landing on the Moon, and finally the splash-down. One man said, ‘Why do they want to humbug the Moon? It might get vexed and fall down, and then we shall have no light at night!’
We had an interval during projection when one of the evangelists preached. It was a good opportunity when so many were present.
Another Bible Conference at Bhan station is now over. The evangelists and elders arranged the meetings and 1,388 people were present – over 252 communicants and 30 baptisms. The Paramount Chief from the nearby village extended a welcome to all who had come to the conference. His great-grandfather, Paramount Chief Twasama, died just over 100 years ago (1856-1969).
The Paramount Chief said, “I used to attend the mission school, and now I have great responsibility. I am afraid to rule without Christian mothers and fathers.” I had forgotten how has had been a schoolboy over 20 years ago.
There were over 300 children at the children’s meetings. Shirley was playing her accordion and singing choruses. Everyone looked so happy! They were singing “Jesus loves me, this I know.” I thought of the plane crash just 12 months ago, when her dear husband Donald was killed. Here she was, singing praises to the glory of God. She is a true example of what a Christian should be as she takes her suffering from Him. “Is it not wonderful to know that the Christian life has the quality to take one through such an experience without losing one’s spiritual equilibrium. Separation is always painful. Our hearts are not made of stone!”
Because of Shirley’s devotion to the Lord and her love for the people, the conference presented her with a wooden spoon and a coloured robe, a native custom to one whom they respect.
Of all the years out here, I have never had a vacation; so John, Margaret, baby Andrew and myself had the opportunity of visiting L.A.C.O. (The Liberian American Swedish Minerals Company), one of the largest iron ore companies in Liberia. It is located 40 miles from our station; 15 minutes by plane, two and a half hours by road. A bungalow was put at our disposal, with electric lights, refrigerator, flush toilet, bath with hot and cold water all night through. We were 10 miles from the concession, but since we were able to have a car from the company, we were able to reach the Centre every day within 10 minutes.
It is quite a town here in the jungle. There is a first-class supermarket with imported food under refrigeration; shops, restaurants, hospital, swimming pool, golf and tennis courts, and a railway that carries the ore nearly 200 miles to the coast, the whole project costing over $350 million. After 10 years, the company are now beginning to get the profits, 50% going to the Liberian government. The ore is the highest grade ore in the world.
In addition, there are schools, modern offices, a court house with Liberian judge, police with patrol cars, printing press, radio station, and a petrol station where one had the choice of petrol.
We went to see the manager about going to the mountain to see how the ore is mined. He was most kind and arranged with one of the staff, a Liberian, to drive us there. It was a beautiful hard-top road, winding around the mountain for about 4,000 feet. Finally, on reaching the top, we had a magnificent view of the Ivory Coast and Guinea. The border was just a few yards away.
Word goes on night and day. Conveyer belts move the ore two miles to the railroad cars, which transport it to the harbour at Bassa. The yearly capacity is 10 million tons.
It was most relaxing to fly over the jungle in our mission plane, and land on the L.A.M.C. strip, which would be large enough to take a DC3.
It is a visit I will always remember!
July 1970: Conferences come and go, and there is always blessing. Over 800 people gathered at this time. One ex-student whom I taught in the school years ago said, ‘When I was a student, I didn’t think much about God; but now I’m a Christian and preach in the church!’
Margaret, another ex-student whom I taught, was also there. Her husband died of cancer last year. She witnessed to the whole conference and sang a song about the love of Jesus, with her 5 small children around her.
Five young men said they wanted to attend the Bible School to be trained as evangelists. They seemed very sincere.
The baptismal service was conducted by the elders and church leaders. We had no sooner gathered at the water side when the rain came down in torrents. It continued throughout the service, but no one left until it was over. They stayed where they were, with the rain pouring down. Some had cameras, but no pictures were taken. Everyone needed a change of clothing by the time they got to the village and mission.
It is said that some people can keep a secret, implying that others cannot, but the whole conference kept one from me when a special meeting was called to honour the many years I had worked in Liberia. I was going to be robed! I had never expected anything like this, and it all seemed like a dream as I stood before the people. After a few speeches, the robe was placed upon me, by two of the elders, a custom by the people and government of Liberia to one whom they respect. I finally responded with a word of thanks, and gave a brief account of the early days of pioneering, and of all that God had done over the years. It was a tremendous meeting. It will be 33 years next January 8. Since I came to Liberia, when I was 27.
The District Commissioner attended the closing day of the conference and partook of the communion. He told how glad he was to be there, and that he was a Christian. He went on to say, ‘I want you to pray for me as I lead my people. It is not easy to be a Christian!’ He urged the people to keep on following God.
The neighbouring country of Guinea have reported 2,000 cases of cholera and 60 deaths. Anyone entering Liberia has to show a certificate of inoculation. All of our stations are getting the vaccine. I hear that some governments are holding information about new cases, because tourists will not be able to enter their countries. World Health Organisation teams are giving injections throughout the country. It is through this organisation that we are getting the vaccine.
Margaret gave injections to all our schoolchildren, also including the lepers and ourselves. One man came to the dispensary wondering if he had got the sickness, but we assured him that he had not. He looked nervous and afraid.
Medical flights continue. Margaret went out with vaccine to the villages where the Christians and townspeople had made airstrips. The plane is a great asset to the work. While the nurse is attending to patients, the pilot is speaking to the people.
Graham and Marjorie Davies arrived from furlough, and will be stationed at Firestone. Flora Gibson, a short-term worker, will be teaching school when Phyllis Kilbourn goes on furlough.
October 1970: Our churches are recognised by the government and are called The United Liberia Inland Church. A meeting was called recently to elect officers of the above church. Our Field Leader, Wesley Bell, officiated as chairman. The meeting was opened in prayer by one of the nationals followed by a reading from Wesley – John 15, verses 1-17. He charged the delegate to follow the example set by Jesus in this chapter, and pointed out that the church should serve the church, rather than the church serving them, because Jesus had given this commission.
There were 12 nationals at the meeting. Finally, a president was chosen and a treasurer, both ex-schoolboys. The church is now in the hands of the nationals and we are their servants. They are standing where we used to stand, and the work will go on when we are not there. We lit a candle in 1938; it is still burning, it will keep on burning; it will never go out! It is no longer dependent upon those who lit it.
There are 39 churches connected with our three stations – the Bassa, Gio and Mano, and out-stations, 15 in the district where I work amongst the Gios.
Fred is checking the plane before take-off. Finally, he emerges from underneath the fuselage after finding a cracked exhaust pipe. Leaning against the propeller and looking at the ground, and then to the missionaries, he said with a sad countenance, ‘I can’t fly; I can’t take chances. It will have to be fixed, but I’ll have a cup of coffee first!” Back at the house, he picks up the Bible and reads, ‘He found him in a desert land, and in the waste, howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye!’
(Deuteronomy 32:10). In that verse is protection and security. God does not want us to take chances that would lead to danger. Fred is very precautious.
Fred decided to go to L.A.C.O. with the cracked exhaust pipe and get it welded. John Mills takes him on the back of the Honda motor cycle 12 miles, where there is a better chance of getting a car - and so it proved.
A missionary who is stationed here knew him very well, and a pilot too, welded the exhaust pipe and flew Fred back to the station. A few minutes later, John Finlay, who had been on a visit to the station, was flying back to his own station. One can only imagine what could have happened if the danger had not been located.
David Carson came to present report cards and prizes at our school closing programme. David and I came out with the first party in 1938. He spoke words of encouragement, after which his wife presented report cards and prizes. One would feel the tension as students went to receive their cards, wondering if they had made the next grade. One little girl who thought she had failed as most despondent until she heard the result; when she heard that she had passed, she jumped from her seat like a jack-in-the-box, while the children cheered and clapped. Ester had made it, and everyone was happy.
The parents were delighted to see their children performing before so many people, parents whom I had taught, and was now teaching their children.
When I returned to my house after taking the weekly prayer meeting, I switched on the radio to listen to the BBC news from London, and as I did so I noticed the battery charger for the tape recorder had fallen off its stand.
Looking around to see what had caused it, I saw a large snake coiled around on the dressing table underneath a rack of tapes. There seemed to be no way of getting it from there, so I moved cautiously to the door, opened it and called to some of the men who were leaving the meeting. Paul, Miah Joe, Samuel and John Mills were soon in the house. We watched and studied what to do. Miah Joe said, ‘Cutlasses and sticks are no use; it will only add confusion. I will send for my gun!’ In the meantime, John moved the tape recorder, battery and charger from the line of fire. The tapes had to stay where they were on the rack. Finally, Paul takes the gun, aims through the barrel sight with only inches from the snake. Paul pulls the trigger, and shoots off the snake’s head; the tapes are shaken from the rack and three are broken, the walls are spattered with shot, and blood is all over the carpet. The snake is dead – a black hooded cobra! Samuel takes a cutlass and it is despatched on to the grass. There in the lantern light we measure it with a tape measure. It is 6 feet 5 inches long, and 5 inches around the body. How glad I was that I had the presence of mind to look around after seeing the battery charger on the carpet, and how I praise God for His protection and care.
I went out to visit the Christians in three villages, staying a few days in each, and called to see Duonyia and how the church was getting on. He gave me a great welcome. I fixed up an outside aerial so that I could hear the missionaries when they transmitted from their respective stations (February 1971).
After prayers at 5:30 a.m. Duonyia took us along to see the church. It is almost completed. Doors, shutters and benches are being made; also a platform. Duonyia smiles broadly at the grinding of the camera as I zoom him to a close-up. Then we went to see the airstrip that is being made. The chief came along, and I thanked him for all he had done, after which I paced out the strip to see if it was long enough. When I told him that it needed to be 100 yards longer, he smiled and said he would do it. Before we left the strip, I gave Duonyia a few lessons on how to use the camera and had to re-act some of the scenes. The chief and his messenger were highly delighted as we chatted and shook hands, looking at the camera. Later, I taught Duonyia some English from a book he is studying.
One of Duonyia’s converts arrived in the evening, and I was glad to see him. He is working for the government. He said that before his conversion, God was troubling his heart. He had been sick, and witch doctors could not help, so he went to L.A.M.C. hospital and was feeling better. He went on to say, ‘I did not look for a job, because I’m not too strong, but was given one in the commissioner’s office as a clerk. One morning, the commissioner gave me 50 cents to buy a beer for him, but I refused, and told him that I didn’t smoke or drink and that I was a Christian! He walked away.
March 15. 1971 was a national holiday commemorating the first president J J Roberts (1848-1856).
Mr Massaquiri, Deputy Health Inspector, born and educated in Sierra Leone, arrived this morning to inspect the Leprosy Colony. He stayed for lunch and told us a lot about himself: how he had stopped drinking after being a heavy drinker; how he could not eat, and was nervous with heart condition. ‘My daughter said, ‘Daddy, you will die if you don’t stop drinking!’ So I stopped, and felt better. I used to be a heavy smoker. I had to get up in the night to have a smoke, but I intend to stop,’ he said.
‘You can stop smoking just like you stopped drinking?’ I replied.
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘and I must!’
Now that Flora has left for England, I am now teaching school from 8:00 am to 11:45 am. We are sorely pressed for workers.
The rainy season has been long in coming, and the natives have been concerned about their farms and plantations. I have never known a season like it. Seed rice that had been planted had withered in the sun, and days of hard work has come to naught, but thanks be to God, the rain has come at last, and prayer has been answered. For the last two days the rain has come down in torrents. It has felt quite a change to take an umbrella, open it up and miss all the puddles!
Margaret is having a hard time with a patient who is having her first baby; she is crying and screaming, and rolling about the bed – has to be held down. The patient’s mother takes a switch to make her obey. The baby is born just before midnight and all is well. What a life!
July 23. 1971, my journal says ELWA announced this morning that President Tubman is having an operation at a London clinic. At 9:15 pm, London announced that President Tubman was dead.
July 25. 1971: The whole nation is in deep mourning. The Liberian flag is flying at half-mast throughout the country.
A British Air Force plane brought the body of President Tubman to Robertsfield airport this afternoon, 35 miles from Monrovia. I listened to a commentary over the Liberian network, from the airport. Hundreds of people were crying and wailing. Never has there been anything like it in the whole history of Liberia. Police barriers were broken as people surged forward to the coffin as it was being brought from the plane, accompanied by Mrs Tubman and officials.
Life seems to have come to a standstill in Monrovia, for he was a man beloved, a great statesman, leader, and the poor man’s friend. He will never be forgotten.
When the body was finally transported to the car that would take it to the executive mansion, it was besieged by crying people. The motorcade was 5 miles long as it made its way to the capital; the longest ever.
July 29. – The funeral took place today. Thousands of people from all over Liberia attended the funeral; including also dignitaries and leaders from many countries. The service was relayed over ELWA network. We fixed an aerial in the conference centre where over 500 people listened to the service. We had a memorial service in the afternoon, at which one of the nationals, and myself, spoke.
President Tubman was a great man. One can hardly believe that he is not with us anymore. He ruled the country since 1944 and did for Liberia more than any other president before him. One rarely heard him broadcast without mentioning the Bible and quoting from it. He was a Methodist, and one of Africa’s great leaders, and will always be remembered as one who was an advocate for peace and goodwill.
Dr William R Tolbert, our new president, said in a broadcast message, ‘I will follow the principles and practice of our late president. President Tubman is not dead, but only gone to his eternal rest. His spirit abides amongst us!’
Messages of condolence came from many countries, and included Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Edward Heath. Flags were flying at half-mast on all the buildings in London by order of Her Majesty.
We received a gift from the Evangelical Alliance Relief (TEAR) to the amount of £952.00 to help us in getting a water unit. It is a company of people who help missionaries in their projects and are known in many countries.
John went to L.A.M.C.O. and was able to get all he needed, including a water tower with tank 21 feet high and 10 feet wide, holding 1,000 gallons. The water tower was quite a bulky affair. It was not easy getting it out of the truck. A rope had to be tied to the cistern and to a tree. As the truck moved forward, out came the cistern. The truck lurched forward with a cough and splutter, and it was quite a relief to see it on the ground.
Pipes and fittings came later, a deep well had been dug and lined with cement, and a new generator ordered from Monrovia, so all the pipes and fittings to the buildings and Leprosy Colony was just the money in hand.
About this time Edwin Kahi of ELWA, whom I have mentioned, died at ELWA hospital with a liver complaint. He had been working there for close on 10 years, and was responsible for all the English and Gio news, and outside broadcasts when special events were to be relayed. He was an elder of ELWA and a manager. He was also assistant director for Youth for Christ in Liberia, and had sponsored the Youth for Christ team in America in 1966, where the team won high honours. He organised a Teen Team for teenagers, and gave a splendid performance for the late President Tubman who had died two months before.
Edwin travelled to Jerusalem shortly before his death to take part in a Bible Conference, and the International Youth for Christ Conference. He represented the Liberian and African Youth for Christ groups, and was given a special souvenir to present to the late President in appreciation of his interest for youth; but with the death of the president this thoughtful gesture did not take effect.
Last December, Edwin organised the first African Youth for Christ Leadership Conference, which was held in Monrovia, and delegates came from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya.
In his travels he represented ELWA at the Tokyo, Japan, Conference of the International Conference of Christian Broadcasters in April 1970. He was a member of the Press Union in Liberia.
‘I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies, so that when it happens you will not be full of sorrow as those who have no hope!’ (I Thessalonians 4:13).
His body was brought over 150 miles to the interior and laid to rest near the grave of the late pilot, Donald Collins. Close on 1,500 people were present, including soldiers, police and government officials.
Edwin was 35. I remember him as a little boy coming up the hill to the mission school with his pencils and books, and later when he became a Christian. He was born in a Moslem family, but when he came to the Lord he never turned back. He was often persecuted by his family and friends.
His wife, who is left a widow with 5 children, continues her work at ELWA hospital, and is taking her sorrow as from the Lord.
Coming back to the water plant: John supervised in getting the water tower erected this morning whilst I was in school. The cistern was bolted on to the concrete slabs and lifted on to the drum and gradually hauled up until finally it was put into place. It was quite a job, and John is to be commended for the erecting of it.
Later, we were having trouble in getting the water pump to operate. It does not have the power it should have, so John went to L.A.M.C.O. to find out the trouble and brought what was needed – electric wire and transformer – and lo and behold! It worked – water was coming through – water, water, water! It was quite a feat of workmanship, to say the least.
A few weeks later, we had a visit from Mr Bill Latham of the Evangelical Alliance Relief, and Neil Rowe, leader of W.E.C. They had come to see the power plant. Imagine the excitement as the car arrived at the mission when close on 100 children, dressed in their bright uniforms, surged forward as the car drew near, singing and dancing. Then the men got out of the car and walked ahead of the children under arches of palm branches decorated with flowers – a most colourful scene!
What a surprise when they saw the water system and tower, the generator, and pipes all laid. Mr Latham said, ‘It is wonderful that you have been able to do all this work, and I’m glad to see all that has been done!’
We then went to the Conference Centre where close on 500 pupils were gathered, including patients from the Leprosy Colony. The elders and church leaders gave thanks to God, followed by Mr Latham who said that he was so overcome with the welcome he did not know what to say. Referring to the bad road with all its bumps, ups and downs, it was worth every mile to be here. Neil seemed to be deeply moved as he responded with a word from Psalm 1, which thrilled us all.
Before the meeting closed, both were robed by the elders, much to the delight of the congregation.
After the closing prayer, we made our way to the mission house for a belated dinner with some of the elders and church leaders, after which we had a tour to the girls’ dormitories, dispensary, school, generator plant, the well as water was being pumped, and finally to the Leprosy Colony. After tea and cakes, they left for Monrovia after a visit of 3 hours. ‘I shall never forget what I have seen as long as I live!’ said Mr Latham. They waved goodbye and were off.
January 3. 1972: Inauguration Day. 11:00 am: broadcast from ELWA and ELBC network, Monrovia, from the Centennial Pavilion – Dr William R Tolbert, elected 19. President of Liberia.
It really started yesterday, Sunday afternoon in the Protestant Baptist Church when dignitaries from many countries were present, including Mrs Nixon, wife of the American President, and Billy Graham, who closed the service with prayer. The commentator describes the scene as most colourful.
The President arrives at the Centennial Building carrying a Bible in his hand. The choir sings, after which the chaplain of the House of Representatives prays God’s blessing on the President and nation. Then the choir sings again, ‘The Lone Star Forever.’ President Elect Dr William R Tolbert, with hand on the Bible, takes the oath of office, after which great applause – a happy occasion indeed. The choir sings the Hallelujah Chorus.
The President speaks and pays tribute to the late President Dr W V S Tubman, and then goes on to say, ‘The first President J J Roberts had a great vision for the nation, and so had President Tubman 27 years ago – a vision of national and economic growth. Due to his leadership there was a new emphasis, a new dimension, bringing equity, unity and love. No selfish enterprise, but a great endeavour to solve the nation’s problems.’
He went on to say, ‘There are international scenes of violence, insecurity, oppression, and depression. He referred to India – war, war, war! War has disfigured the face of the world. United Nations have failed. Referring to Africa, he said, ‘The unity of African states is indispensable. African unity is essential. Brotherly love is what is needed. Our government will seek to create all that which is good. It is a restless, changing world. We will continue to identify ourselves with peace!’
Two years ago Ruth, our ex-schoolgirl, left for London to be a nurse. She writes, ‘I’m expecting my States final next year. I might undertake other courses when I’m through, with God’s help!’
I went to a plantation I visited two weeks ago, and the little girl who had measles was now better and running about. One would not have known she was the same girl. She came along smiling with her mother to the meeting. All were attentive and listened well. One of the men took me to a hut where a sick man was lying on a mat. His body was covered with a mixture of white clay, which was supposed to make him better. He rolled over to one side and rested his head on his hand. He looked a pitiful sight. After talking and praying with him, I told the man who was looking after him to bring him to the mission. It is sad to see how these people suffer, especially the children.
July 1972: Our elders, evangelists, church leaders, of the Gio, Mano and Bassa churches, along with Wesley Bell, the Field Leader, took part in a congratulatory meeting at the President’s mansion in Monrovia.
The President, Dr Tolbert, said, ‘I am impressed with what has been demonstrated, and I commend the organisation for its purposes and objectives for spiritual enlightenment in this country. As president of this nation, I cannot but be appreciative of your endeavours!’
Our delegation praised Mrs Tolbert for all she is doing to improve the ‘womanhood of the nation,’ and for all her activities; also thanked the President for all he is doing for the country.
The President conferred honours upon Donald Price, president of our United Inland Mission Church and former schoolboy, who received the Star of Africa with the rank of Grand Commander; also Wesley, who received the Human Order of African Redemption, with the grade of Grand Band.
Our oldest Christian, who is blind, over 90 years of age, received the distinction of Grand Commander of the Star of Africa, with a yearly pension of 400 dollars.
The President gave a gift of 500 dollars towards a new church that we are building in one of the government centres.
Melo, who has been in the Leprosy colony for several years, and who was discharged recently, went to his plantation yesterday and was bitten by a snake whilst climbing a palm tree. He came back in the Colony in much pain, only lived a night, and passed away; a fine Christian with a quiet disposition. He was well liked. We went to comfort his wife and pray for her. Christians made a coffin, and we had a service in the Colony church, after which we laid him to rest in the Colony graveyard – just a clearing in the bush.
Graham Davies is not so well, and is going home to England with suspected cancer. He said to Margaret Mills, ‘If it is sudden promotion to glory, or if it is the Lord’s will to heal me, I am content!’
The school was broken into during the night; books and exercise books were stolen. An ex-student who was dismissed last year was accused of breaking the water pump and setting fire to the school. Since there was not enough evidence, he was given a second chance. However, when we found several books one morning at the back of my house, he later confessed to stealing them, breaking into school, and damaging the water pump.
Heard definitely that Graham has got cancer. Isaiah 43 is a great blessing to him: ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you, I have called you by name, you are mine, when you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up, the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, your Saviour, the Holy One of Israel!’
Excitement in the village! The Giant Caterpillar Grader started working on the road, the first of its kind to come so far inland. The children and most of the townspeople had never seen one before.
The Caterpillar comes to the mission. What a noise and what excitement! The driver has promised to grade the approach to the mission and airstrip. When? We will just have to wait until part of the motor road is finished, which is nothing but a cart track.
John, Andrew and myself went out on to the road where I filmed the Caterpillar with Andrew sitting away up in the driver’s seat while the road was being levelled and dirt thrown to one side. Men were working on a bridge nearby which was almost completed.
July 2. 1974: Cable this morning from Marjorie – ‘Graham glorified June 28…children home…Jesus is Lord!’ I was in school when Margaret sent a note by one of the students. My eyes were moist as I read the contents, thinking of Marjorie and the two children, Phyllis (13) and Glen (12).
Graham worked on this station several years before going to our Gaypeter station, and later to the Firestone Plantation, near Monrovia. He did a good work as he moved about the plantation with its 200-mile hard top roadway, and many were brought to the Lord through his life and testimony. I remember taking him on his first trek nearly 20 years ago. He was indeed a man of God and a student of the Word.
We are going to have a memorial service at ELWA on 12. July, and here when we have the Bible Conference on the 21.
The service at ELWA was a great blessing. It is a beautiful auditorium. The communion table, just below the reading desk, is draped with a white tablecloth, an open Bible, a spray of flowers entwined around a wooden cross, and Graham’s photograph.
The service starts with a reading from the Word by EmmaWisser, followed by a prayer, after which Graham’s favourite hymn, ‘In Heavenly Love Abiding,’ followed by a word from myself, then Donald Price, president of our churches, Pastor Mumford, and David Bleah, who had worked with Graham on the Firestone Plantation, spoke words of appreciation.
Wesley Bell, the Field Leader, read extracts from two letters, after which Betty Wondland and Jane Darland sang a duet. Wesley then gave a message for about 20 minutes, followed by the singing – ‘Crown Him with Many Crowns.’ John Dodd, who had been working at Gaypeter for the last two years, closed with a chorus, ‘He is Worthy.’
About 70 people were present. Several told Wesley what a blessing the service had been to them. The service was broadcast over the ELWA network, and many of our Christians heard it in the interior.
I forgot to mention that Cecil Hodgson led the service and did remarkably well. We had a buffet tea in the Christian Literature Crusade house.
Letter from Marjorie to the missionaries, dated July 30. –
I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to each of you who have individually and as groups upheld Graham before the Lord in faith in these weeks of illness. We are very conscious of your prayers that were answered in the way the Lord knows best. His enabling for myself, Phyllis and Glen to accept Graham’s home-going with peace of heart is also an answer to your prayers.
Graham had begun a month of X-ray treatments, but on Monday his condition worsened, and he could not take any liquids. On Tuesday they attempted to do a dilatation again to give him ability to take liquids, but it was unsuccessful. The last 36 hours I was with him, they moved him to a private room. Mission friends spent the last 6 hours with me, and as they sang, prayed and read the Word, Graham had moments of awareness. He slipped away at about 8:45 pm June 28. to enter into the presence of Jesus, whom he loved and served until the end. The day before he died he was witnessing to the Lord’s saving power.
In the seven and a half weeks since we left Liberia so suddenly, we have experienced so much the love of God through His people. To all of you who have shown us love we say ‘thank you!’ We acknowledge our indebtedness and appreciation to the Mildmay Mission Hospital and the London Chest Hospital.
Phyllis and Glen arrived from Ivory Coast on the following morning, June 29. This we believe was the perfect timing of the Lord, as they can now remember their Daddy as they last saw him when they flew off to school after Easter holidays. The Lord is being their comfort at this time, and I find their being here a blessing.
The funeral service will be on July 5. at 2:00 pm at our mission headquarters at Bulstrode, and we desire that at this time the Lord will be lifted up as He was in Graham’s life. We would like any remembrance for Graham to go towards building a church in Monrovia – a need which was very much on Graham’s heart.
We plan to go to America in time to get the children in school. Beyond this we have no present leading, but we go on ‘nothing doubting’ that He will lead in His ways that we may also fight a good fight, finish the course and keep the faith.
Oliver Berg, Marjorie’s brother, condensed the following by Arthur Gossip, ‘To us the separation may be long and lonesome, but they won’t even have looked around before we burst in. And we do not have to let our dearest be wrenched out of our hands by force. Seeing that it has to be, we can give them willingly and proudly, looking God in the eyes, and telling Him we prefer our loneliness rather than they miss one bit of their rights.’
Later… ‘The folks at Bulstrode have been so good and helpful at this time, and we are experiencing the love and comfort.
The end came sooner than we expected due to a complete blockage through which the doctors attempted to make a passage. They entered the lung cavity instead of stomach, which precipitated death. Graham was great, and indeed there was no fear in the valley. He had witnessed to the last. May we go on to do the same.
We love you all so much. The children are great and I am so happy to have them.’
Thank you so much for your letter. It reached after Graham’s death, but I appreciated your writing. Graham always counted you as a very dear friend, Jack, and for all of us Heaven seems closer now that our dear one is there.’
The days, weeks and months pass so quickly that I hardly believe we have another conference on July 21. to 28. Enoch, the church leader, was the chairman throughout the conference, and evangelist Duonyia the song leader. Each day during the week of meetings, there were two in the morning, two in the afternoon, also at the Leprosy Colony, and open air meetings at night in the nearby village.
The children’s meetings were taken by the nationals and missionaries, and a youth meeting in the evening. There were flannel-graph lessons and Scripture memorisation.
The children assembled with the adults at the opening of Conference, when Mrs Macauley, the pilot’s wife, a first term missionary, spoke about Job, using a flannel-graph to illustrate her talk, after which she took the accordion and sang, ‘When we Walk with the Lord in the Light of His Word!’ After a brief time of prayer, there was more singing, followed by John Mills on Jeremiah, a man who was afraid to do what God told him to do, but went and did it nevertheless, and became a man whom God could use – a man with a message.
Emma Wisser was one of the main speakers. Her theme was the Holy Spirit. Her message were blessed, and many testified to blessings received through her ministry. Emma came to Liberia 8 months after the first party sailed in 1938.
We had testimonies, and here are some of them. One of our students, who graduated a few years ago, went to work at ELWA Radio Station and said, ‘All the time I was broadcasting, I was thinking of the interior and working on the mission, teaching and preaching, and now I am here in the work I’ve always wanted to do!’
‘I am a backslider,’ said one man. ‘I had no peace, but problems of all kinds; but God called me back, and I have regained my salvation!’
Another said, ‘I want to thank God for my husband who came to the Lord just recently. He is here in the meeting!’ We heard that he had come to the Lord through her life.
A young man already on his feet said, ‘I am working in the Post Office at L.A.M.C.O. and I have been trusted to keep the keys of the Post Office, because I’m a Christian!’
Betty, one of our ex-schoolgirls whom I taught over 20 years ago, and who is now working as a midwife in one of the government hospitals, and married to Laurie, ex-schoolboy and secretary of all our churches, told how she had been
blessed in the ladies meetings. She said, ‘We must stand on our own feet and be strong for God; and be content with such things as we have – and finally, I came to know Jesus as my Saviour at this mission!’
‘For 26 years I was in the leprosy colony,’ said one patient, ‘and when I had finished the treatment, some of the patients persuaded me to leave without being discharged, but I said No, it is better that I obey. I did, and now I am free and witnessing for God in my home town!’
During the conference, we had a memorial service for the late Graham Davies. It was a time of blessing when, at the end of the service, the whole conference stood to their feet to re-dedicate their lives to God.
Margaret had to call for the plane for an emergency case when a patient who had been in labour for 46 hours was having a difficult time. There seemed no way for the baby to be born eve after using a vacuum extractor. We were glad to see the plane landing on the grassy strip. There were several women at the pre-natal clinic, so they were able to assist the patient in getting her into the plane, and on its way to hospital – 20 minutes flying time. She seemed to be in much pain. After one of the women prayed, the plane took off. It is possible she may need an operation.
Five days later, we heard that the lady had a caesarean section, and that mother and baby are well.
24 leprosy patients are to be discharged symptom free at the end of the year.
The plane came in to take Duonyia and I to his station about 7 miles away, and not more than 5 minutes flying. It looked like rain, but the sun however came shining through the clouds, and we soon taxied on the grassy strip.
I mentioned that Duonyia and the Christians had built a church to accommodate approximately 150 people. It is nicely furnished and decorated.
There were 40 adults and children at morning prayers at 5:45 am, at which I spoke in lantern light.
One sick boy about the age of 12,whom Duonyia has been looking after, is partially blind and emaciated. He will be brought in to the mission when Margaret goes there for a medical flight when I return.
The Sunday morning service was well attended. Duonyia led the service; he is an excellent song leader. The service was quite informal. After we had sung a few songs, one of the Christians stood to his feet and said, ‘We are glad to
welcome our old Pa who has come amongst us!’ After a time of prayer led by Duonyia, I spoke about Naaman the Syrian, who as a leper, and Gehazi’s sin and its penalty (II Kings chapter 5). It was a time of blessing to speak and have fellowship with these dear ones.
Duonyia is doing a great work, with his wife who teaches in the Sunday school. They looked after me well and could not do enough to make me as comfortable as possible.
Duonyia came to know the Lord when he was a teenager, and has been an evangelist for 17 years. We praise God for his life and testimony, and for all that he means to evangelism and the preaching of the Word.
Dr Paul Getty of Canta Methodist Mission arrive here to see the leprosy patients. He is the Director of Leprosy Work in Liberia.
The sick boy whom Margaret brought back with her went in the plane with the doctor for X-ray and eye inspection. It looks as if he has got cataracts in both eyes. Later he said they found 155 roundworms and 1 hookworm.
A pregnant woman of 4 months was brought to the dispensary in a hammock. She had been drinking ‘blue’ to prevent a birth – a compound for whitening clothes. Trouble in the home was the cause of it. She was given milk and the yoke of an egg to make her vomit.
We had just started the service in the Conference Centre when a young fellow on a motor cycle came roaring to a stop with one of our ex-students riding behind, whom I had taught years ago and was now working as a clerk with the young man aged 23 and a Peace Corps worker, dressed in pipe stove trousers and a crash helmet. He came into the service and stayed for lunch, then decided to stay the night. His name is David Young. The Peace Corps have 200 people working in Liberia and are doing a good work as teachers, nursing, in agriculture, and stenographers. They come for a period of 2 years and can return if they so desire. The Peace Corps have been in Liberia for several years, since the late President Kennedy.
The woman who took the ‘blue’ is now well and moving about. She will be going back to her home tomorrow. We hear that her unfaithfulness to her husband was the cause in wanting to stop the pregnancy.
A man came running to the dispensary calling to Margaret, ‘Missi, Missi, my wife is having a baby and she can’t reach here. She is lying in the bush.’ Margaret ran for her medical bag and hurried along with the man. When they arrived, the baby was born and lying on the ground. Margaret brought the baby back to the dispensary, whilst the woman stayed in a village nearby. The baby is now back with its mother, and both are doing well.
Wesley Bell and his wife Mollie came for a weekend, and Wesley preached at the Leprosy Colony.
George, one of our ex-students, who attended school over 25 years ago, is now a medical doctor after leaving school, and graduating from high school. He went to a medical school in Italy, and had to learn the language, which was no easy task. After several years of study and hospital training, he was finally successful in getting his M.D. He gave a fine word just before Wesley spoke, and urged the young people to study, learn and not to think of other things that might spoil their schooling. He said how grateful he was to the missionaries for all they had done for him with regard to education, and wanted to thank everyone for their prayers and kind thoughts. ‘I can never forget those days at the mission!’ he said.
George is now in charge of one of the Government hospitals at a place called Grand Gedda County. The village where he was born is about 3 miles from the mission. He is now the President’s personal physician.
It was a great day when 24 patients were discharged after weeks, months and years of intensive treatment. Over 400 Christians and friends packed the Colony Church to listen to the Thanksgiving Service, after which they were given certificates, a written statement to say they are now free of leprosy. One man said he was glad he had been a leper, because he would never have come to know Jesus. The certificates were presented by the wife of the manager of L.A.M.C.O., who had been brought to the mission by plane.
We had a feast on the mission lawn of rice, greens, goat meat, grapefruit, and pineapple. The manager and his wife were gowned by the Christians; they left soon after.
I went to visit the Christians in a village a few miles away, but could not get away because of the heavy rain. It rained almost all day, and no cars came to the place I wanted to go until about 6:00 pm, when it was getting dark. However, a small truck came along, loaded with passengers, and it looked as though I might not find a seat. The car boy who sits at the back of the truck moved everybody up front until I got seated; so I squeezed in with my bag, lantern and camera. I was closed in and could not see anything outside. It was hard to get settled on the bumpy road, with the car swaying to one side and the other, causing me to slip from my seat, which sent me bumping into a soldier who was holding his gun; and then, to make it worse, the car hit a hole and sent me and my head to the roof of the car, giving me a bad headache. After a while we came to a village, and the passenger who was sitting next to the driver got out. The car boy motioned to me to take his place. I did and was glad. The car was old, very old, and it is a wonder it kept on the road. There was no fuel gauge, no speedometer, just gaping holes. The car was started by just pulling a wire where the self-starter button had been. As we stalled on one hill, the driver backed the car down the hill, shouting to the passengers to sit still and not to jump out. Then we started up the hill again, and half way up we stopped dead. The car boy ran to the front and lifted up the bonnet, and took out a little funnel, blowing through it with all his might, then put it back again. After a few pulls on the wire, the car began to move, and lo and behold, it went up the hill like a top! One could see the driver was used to the car and its gadgets, and when I remarked it was getting old, he said, ‘It needs some oil!’ I said, smiling across at him, ‘I think it needs more than that!’ We were soon at my destination. I was thinking about the aspirins I had left at the bottom of my bag. I needed them badly. Spending all these years in Africa has helped me to appreciate good roads and pavements in England.
I stepped out of the truck, to be met by the Church Leader whom I have known for more than 25 years. He took me to his house and the room he had prepared, with bed, table and chair. There was no ceiling. The mud walls were dark and bare, with only two small windows, but it was nice and clean, and all that one could desire in an African village. Anna, an ex-school girl, who is married with a baby boy, brought me a tray of rice, fish and soup.
The Christians are now building a Church, and are ready to put on a zinc roof.
I had a profitable time with some good meetings, and was pleased with the work that is being done.
John Cunningham and his wife, who are in charge of the W.E.C. missionary children’s school in the Ivory Coast, paid us a visit with their family. They took part in our prayer meeting, and sang, after which John spoke. He told of the Lord’s undertaking when they were missionaries in the Congo, when imprisoned by the rebels in 1964. ‘God is’ was the word that came before him and his colleague Arthur Scott. John’s wife was at the station with her 2 children. She was unmolested. Over 40 people were in prison, including traders, Catholics, and Portuguese. The mercenaries arrived just as the prisoners were taken out to be shot. Had they been 10 minutes later, they would have been killed. John’s wife and children were rescued soon after. ‘GOD IS.’
When I went to my house after teaching the Sunday school teachers’ class, I switched on my torch and was just about to open the door when I saw a large snake about 3 feet long, coiled around the handle. I stood for a minute and called to the men who had just left the class. Two of them came, and one had a stick in his hand. Whilst I kept the light on the snake, he gave it a whack and brought it to the ground, then finally killed it. We all stood there and thanked God that I had not touched the handle. If I had gone to the class without a torch, like I sometimes do, I would not have seen the snake, and as I opened the door, it would have coiled itself around my hand. I fear to think of what might have happened. It could have been fatal.
Writing of snakes it reminds me that Andrew, Margaret’s son aged 7, had just left the schoolgirls’ dormitory with his mother, when he was bitten by a snake just after stepping over a fallen tree. Margaret cut the bite below the ankle, sucked out the blood, and bandaged it. Andrew was brave, and did not cry. He would not realise the danger. However, he soon got better.
I woke up this morning at 4:30 am with a feeling of dizzy sickness – had a feeling it might be blood pressure – did not go to school – had not eaten much since having fever and diarrhoea a few days before. As I got out of bed, I nearly fell against the door as I was walking out of my room to ring the bell for morning prayers. Tears came to my eyes and began to roll down my cheeks. I had never had anything like this. However, I went for breakfast but did not eat much. I relaxed in the chair, drank a cup of tea and ate a little bread, after which I went back to my house and to bed. Margaret took my blood pressure, which was a little high. It was what I suspected. However, after 3 days I was feeling better and went back to teaching school.
A customer came into our Christian Literature book shop in Monrovia looking for a Bible to put under his baby’s pillow as a sort of ju-ju to keep away sickness. Joseph told him they did not have that kind of Bible, and started preaching to him. The man opened his heart to the Lord. The next day he sent for Joseph to come to his house at lunch time. He had prepared a feast to say thank you. Joseph took the opportunity to speak to the man’s wife, and she too repented and believed.
The boy aged 12 who was blind and emaciated, whom Margaret brought to the mission after one of her medical flights, said at our last Bible Conference, ‘I
could not see very well. Now I can see. It is not medicine that opened my eyes. Jesus opened my eyes!’
At that Conference, 200 people came forward for healing, so that we had to divide them into groups as we anointed and prayed for them. Many were healed. One lady had a little growth in her neck, and it disappeared. She started to sing and dance. Others joined her too. It reminded one what it might have been like at Pentecost, nearly 2000 years ago.
The national brothers were greatly used in this ministry. I John 4:4 says, ‘Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.’
In August 1975, many of the Christians went to Butuo, near the French Ivory Coast border, to complete the Holloway Memorial Church, which seats about 200. President Tolbert is expected to be there to open some administrative buildings at the same time the Church is to be opened and dedicated.
In September, I had two letters from my sister Myra to say that mother is not feeling so well – is wanting me to come and see her – feels that she might not see me again. It is the first time she has mentioned about my coming home. I feel we have a debt to our parents in their old age. I am feeling quite upset – feel I should go home next July – had not expected to leave Liberia until 1978. However, the Lord will lead – will give His peace in all things, I know!
John Mills, Bill Kimberry and I had a request by one of the Christians to go to their village where they are building a Memorial Church in memory of the late Donald Collins, who crashed his plane 6 years ago and was killed.
We could only go part of the way by car, after which we had a trek of more than an hour through hard bush, up and down stony hills, and through creeks and swamp on submerged logs. I found it hard going and was tired and sickly. Finally, however, as we reached the village, we heard singing and dancing and beating of drums. The Christians were coming to meet us with hugs and handshakes. John took the movie camera as I struggled in the village with all the people around me.
After we had settled down, over 200 people had gathered under a shady thatched roof. We sang for quite a while, then after prayer and words of welcome from the church leader, a collection was taken for the new Church, amounting to 600 dollars.
John Mills preached, and stressed the importance of a spirit-filled Church, after which we made our way to the new site. It was already marked out, and ready for the foundation. After prayer, Bill Kimberry gave a brief word about Donald, after which I was given a spade to break the ground.
A few minutes later, we were taken for a meal of rice, goat, and soup. You can imagine how much we enjoyed it, as we had not eaten anything since 6:30 am, and now it was 3:45. The meeting had lasted over 3 hours.
The Christians escorted us out of the village; we made our way back through bush and more trekking! After a tired walk, we reached the place where we had parked the car – all safe and sound.
We were soon on the bad old corrugated road, and reached the mission before dark. Bill’s wife Jean had a meal for us, and soon after I went to bed with a bad headache.
Then in November Bill Kimberry, John Mills and I went to Butuo for the opening of the Holloway Memorial Church. We arrived early afternoon, but the President did not get here until nearly dark, so I did not get any pictures.
The President, Vice President, District Commissioner, and officials occupied the platform, with Laurie McCoy, Secretary of our churches, Donald Price, the President of the churches, and John Mills. The Church was packed, accommodating about 200, with people standing by the windows and outside.
After singing, ‘Now Thank We All Our God,’ Laurie gave a brief summary of the life of Cyril Holloway, one of the pioneers who died in 1962. He went on to say there were two pioneers now sitting in the Church, and would they please stand. David Carson and I stood, with the President looking down at us. Then Donald read the lesson and prayed, followed by our school choir. After a hymn and benediction by John Mills, the service ended, followed by a dinner to which we were invited by the President. He was most kind and gracious. I had a nice talk with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Henries, who is getting to be an old man.
David had the honour of dedicating the administrative buildings, which coincided with the visit of the President.
We went next morning, as it had been too dark to take pictures when the President had arrived. He was now sitting at the table in the new Council Chamber, which had been built for the occasion. It was packed with people, paramount chiefs, clan chiefs, town masters, and many who had come from near and far. Soldiers and security guards milled outside. As I stood near the entrance, looking for a seat with my motion picture camera, the President noticed me and beckoned to a soldier to take me to a seat near the platform. The Liberian press were busy taking photographs and reporting.
The President spoke with power, calling upon his people to do their best for the country, after which he called upon a national minister to pray. After shaking hands with the President, I made my way outside to take pictures. The band and soldiers were all ready waiting for a parade and inspection. Finally, the President came at the grinding of the camera, saluted, and then walked away with the security guards to his car for the journey to Monrovia. As he was getting into the car, he called me to him, and said that I must see him before I go home to my country, and must let him know. The film came to an end as the car moved away.
Edwin Palmer, American Secretary of W.E.C. at Fort Washington, arrived here and spoke at the Leprosy Colony. He gave a good message. He is here for our Missionary Conference in December. Edwin spoke at our School Closing Programme, where 600 people attended. They gave the usual items: singing, reciting, and playlets – one called ‘Ester.’ Edwin presented prizes and report cards. John, Margaret and Phyllis assisted with the programme, and it was a great success.
Margaret has not been too well lately – had 200 patients to be treated for flu in one week. It is amazing how she gets around to all that she has to do. How true it is…
‘Every ministry has mountain peaks of triumph, and dark valleys of despair. It is dark now – very dark – it always is before the dawn.
‘The bottom is usually the place where one finds God!’
The Conference was very good, with close on 40 missionaries attending. Edwin ministered the Word each morning, when one was deeply conscious of the Lord’s presence.
In the afternoon, we had business sessions when items regarding the work were discussed. Station reports were given in the evening, followed with a session of prayer. We closed by singing, ‘Standing by the Cross!’
Had two letters from my sister to say that mother is not too well. When getting out of bed to go to the bathroom in the dark, she knocked her head against the bathroom door and later had a slight seizure. Mother had her 85. birthday on Christmas Day. Missionaries and nationals are praying that the Lord will uphold her at this time (January 21, 1976).
29 leprosy patients were discharged today, the largest number at one time. The usual singing and dancing took place after the Thanksgiving Service, when they all received certificates. It was exciting after weeks, months, and years in the colony, to shake their hands and to know they were going healed in body, knowing Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Close on 800 patients have been discharged since we started the work nearly 30 years ago. Many are now holding meetings in their towns.
Another letter from my sister to say that mother is waiting to go into hospital. Dr Bolshom is trying his best to get her there, as my sister needs a rest after being up night and day for 6 weeks.
February 16, 1976: My 66. birthday today – 38 years since I left Liverpool for Liberia.
Mother is now in hospital – is very ill, not able to help herself. Everything must be done for her – her memory is failing.
March 12. 1976: At precisely 8:15 pm I received a telegram from my sister, sent to our business agent in Monrovia, to say that mother died peacefully on March 9. and is now with the Lord.
I can hardly believe that mother is not with us anymore. However, when I think how ill she was, I can be glad she did not suffer too much. She was in her 86. year, a good Christian, and one who loved the Lord. She lived a good life, and to a good age. Many of the school came to say, ‘never mind’ as expression of feeling. Christians arrived throughout the day to express their sorrow.
The Lord had prepared my heart concerning mother, so that when the end came, I had a deep abiding peace.
God is good. He doeth all things well, and knows what is best. There is a hymn which I often sing which means a lot to me:
‘Let me love thee, I am gladdest,
When I’m loving thee the best;
For in sunshine or in sadness
I can find in thee a rest.
But without thee life is fading,
Treasureless its choicest flowers,
Taken are its gifts eternal,
Left its empty passing hours!’
Phyllis, our school teacher, is leaving for America, and will not be returning to Liberia. She is a splendid teacher, and we are sorry to see her go.
Two of our ex-leprosy patients, man and wife, now discharged, asked John if he would take them to their home 20 miles away in the Land Rover. He said he would.
The road led through the village where our evangelist Duonyia is stationed, so we called to see him. He was busy going about his work, and seemed to have a lot to do.
Finally, we left Duonyia, and had not been travelling more than a few minutes when we came to a pole bridge. As we slowly made our way over, one of the poles broke in two, sending the car wheels down to its axle at the side where I was sitting. I was glad it did not go down any further as it was quite a drop into the water below. I had to climb over the driver’s seat to get out.
We knew we were going to have a difficult time in getting the car on the bridge, and there was nothing we could do without help, so we sent to the town to call the chief. He came with more than 40 men, all willing and ready to help; truly an answer to prayer. We jacked up the wheel as best we could while some of the men brought poles to lift up the wheels. Finally, after replacing the broken poles, the men lifted and pushed the car on to the bridge after 2 hours.
There was much rejoicing as the Land Rover made its way into the village. After a glass of water and a pineapple, we reached the village where our dear ones lived.
Now that mother is with the Lord, I feel that I should not go home now. I had several letters of condolence from friends and missionaries. Here are some:
‘I was amazed at the number who were at the church, which was almost full. The sermon was wonderful, and I have never seen such beautiful flowers!’ (Cousin Ezra Bentley)
‘What blessed assurance we have as children of God. No wonder we can say the sting has been taken out of death. No doubt the news of her death came as a shock to you, even though you knew it could happen and you would be longing to be with her at the end of her earthly life; but that is one of the sacrifices of being a missionary, and the Lord will make it up to you in other ways!’ (Mrs Ruth Naylor, Halifax)
‘God gave you a good mother. Understandably, her departure would have brought a measure of natural grief, the kind that leads a man to weep silently in some quiet place. But over and above the billows of such grief, which Jesus knew (John 11:35) is your triumph not saying, She is with the Lord – hallelujah!’ (Robert Mackey, W.E.C.)
‘You have been much in our prayers these days, for we know your heart will have been at home thinking of your loved ones. What a triumphant entry your dear mother would have had, for she truly loved the Lord. All her suffering is now over. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and Myra!’ (Albert Burrows, Leeds)
‘We were deeply sorry to see her so ill, but were glad to spend a little while with her. She know us both and was able to speak to us a little bit. She said, ‘We have always been good friends!’ Jack sang to her the hymn, ‘From Sinking Sands,’ and she joined in the chorus as she held Jack’s hand. She was going to hospital the next morning, and we understand from what Myra told us, she said she was going to heaven. We offer you our deepest sympathy!’ (Alice and Jack)
‘In the last days she was very peaceful, just quietly resting in bed. The funeral service was a real witness to the Lord. Myra came and asked Jim to take it, and really he did with such love, at the same time presenting a challenge to unbelievers. It was just as you would have wished it. The church was full down the centre block and half one side as we sang two of her favourite hymns, ‘O Heavenly Home’ and ‘When Quiet in my House!’ There were 13 cars in a long procession behind the hearse all along the country lane, where finally she was interred in your father’s grave. You were remembered much, and now we send you our warmest love and sympathy.’ (Mrs James Kilbride)
‘I send you my sincere condolence on the home call of your dear mother. She was truly a woman that feared the Lord. She shall be praised! The funeral service was an inspiration, the large congregation showing how greatly she was respected. It was a great privilege to me to be asked to take the service, and after words of sympathy, comfort and hope, and reference to Myra, and to you away in Liberia, yet very near to all of us on this day, I reminded the congregation that every funeral service is a message from God to warn us to prepare us for that great day. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgement!”
‘What is life without Christ?
How can you live without Him?
How will you die without Him?’
“What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?” ‘How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?’
‘Your mother was speaking to us all; being dead and yet speaking. God bless and comfort you, Jack.’ (Rev James Kilbride)
We had an exciting time when Percy Clubine arrived here from America. He had been Field Leader and retired 12 years ago. He is now 74. His wife is in a nursing home and not expected to get better. He has got married sons and daughters that he sees quite often. He was one of the pioneers; his home is in Canada, not America.
Good Friday, April 1976: John Mills and I took Percy in the Land Rover to a conference at Karnplay. He received a tumultuous welcome from many of the Christians who had known him for many years.
Since there was no meeting until the evening, we took Percy to see our evangelist Duonyia and his wife, and the church he and the Christians have built; also his lovely house with its flowers and fruit trees. Duonyia’s daughter brought grapefruit and pineapples and nice clear water to drink.
After leaving Duonyia, we visited other churches, and went to the border that separates Liberia and Ivory Coast by a river. Two lorries were there at the river bank, who had brought produce to cross the river for Ivory Coast. We hear that an iron bridge is to be built shortly, and the government of Ivory Coast are already building administrative buildings on their side, which means that work on the bridge will soon be started.
Teah, the church leader, and the Christians had a large shelter with a thatched roof to accommodate all the people. It was a great blessing to see more than 300 people from their respective churches listening to the Word. Percy really enjoyed his visit.
I had a letter from Laurie McCoy, the Secretary of our Churches, asking me to visit him and his wife and speak at the church. He writes, ‘We are inviting you to spend a few days with us at Sanaquila and to preach to our people on Sunday. Please let us know as soon as you can. Betty and I want you to come. We hope you’ll come. Betty says, please don’t disappoint us!’
Laurie teaches at the government school, and is in daily contact with the students, while Betty is a nurse at the government hospital. I have heard remarks that she is a very good nurse. She is a midwife too. She has one child, a girl of 7 years; also an adopted girl about the same age. Betty took her when she was a baby, after the mother had died. There was no-one to care for her, so Betty became a mother, like with her own daughter, and both girls are now growing up in a Christian home.
On the Saturday evening we had a lovely dedication service, when one of the Christians asked the church leaders to dedicate his house which he had recently built. He felt he would like to thank God for His help and enabling; also that he and his wife might dedicate themselves too. Laurie was in the chair. After a few songs and a prayer, Laurie gave a brief word, after which I prayer a prayer of dedication. The Assistant Superintendent of the county, who was in our school years ago, was present.
The Sunday morning service was well attended. As we were about to start the service, an old man by the name of Noah came walking slowly to the front where a chair was waiting for him. He was blind and his wife had hold of his hand. He is well over 90 years of age. He was wearing a yellow gown which reached to his feet, and his white beard was long and well-trimmed. He had been a witch doctor many years ago before he came to the Lord; now he attended all our conferences. I went to shake hands with him as we were starting the service, and his face was radiant. He was responding throughout the service as I spoke about Jesus and the disciples caught in the storm – how fearful they were because Jesus was not there. But He knew about them, and came the same way they had gone. They were doing what He told them to do. They were crossing over to the other side, and were in the path of obedience.
It was a blessing to have fellowship with these dear ones. The old man Noah was one who was honoured by the President and given a pension of 400 dollars a year.
I received a letter from Lilian Parkin to say that her husband Percy had died – a very dear friend of mine. She writes, ‘His last service was Easter Day. He took the 8:00 am communion service and then conducted a baptism. In the evening he rested quietly. He entered hospital on Monday, and had an operation on Thursday. He just came through that and spoke to the nurses; then had a severe heart attack and nothing could be done.
‘But he had a wonderful happy Easter. He was radiantly happy, and I really couldn’t wish for a better end to his ministry on earth. Looking back, I realise that in that service he was as near to those who have gone before as he was to us. It really was wonderful!
‘But oh, I do miss him. We have been so very happy and done so much together. I am very conscious that I am not alone, and heaven is much nearer than ever, but sometimes now I long for his human voice. But friends here, as in so many places, are very kind, and my little family are a great help.
‘How lovely it was to receive your letter. I have been overwhelmed by the number of letters I have received from all parts of the country and they are so helpful.
‘May God bless your labours.
My love and kind remembrances – Lilian.’
Letter written to Lilian, July 16. 1976:
‘Thank you for your card and letter. It is very kind of you to write in detail about dear Percy’s home-going, and I do appreciate it very much indeed. I know how you feel at this time after so many years together. One can see by your letter how Percy was loved and respected, and I am glad that you are conscious of not being alone; and that through deep sorrow you have experienced heaven much nearer. When we love Jesus our loved ones are not far away from us, are they?
‘I often look back on those days when we were teenagers, Percy 19 and myself 17, and how we served the Lord at Hightown during those Mission Band days. I remember the night when I first made a real decision for Christ when Mr H H Roberts had his first campaign – October 12. 1928. Percy and I were very close to each other during those days, and I remember the walks we had together across the fields to Walton Cross and calling back at Springfield Terrace when I had tea with him and the family. Then the time came when we were separated for the work to which we felt God had called us, Percy to the home ministry and myself to the mission field. Nothing came between us and God regarding our calling. We conscientiously followed Him day after day, never doubting the call He had given. Jesus was real to us, and we thought of nothing else, only to serve Him all our lives – and Percy did just that. He was a born preacher before he went to Cliff College, and had a great influence over my life. He was the means of getting me interested in the things of God. The Mission Band was a real training ground for we young people, and I never found it easy to pray and speak, and yet God had His hand upon us both.
‘One cannot begin to think what God has done through us both since those days, of souls who have been contacted and blessed, and giving themselves to Christ as we had done.
‘Leaving home for the first time was a great experience, going to a country where W.E.C. had no missionaries and having to start the work from scratch. I can see you and Myra now as I boarded the William Wilberforce – January 8. 1938, nearly 40 years ago.
‘Today after all these years we have mission stations, schools, dispensaries, two leprosy colonies, one here at this station and the other at the coast; also a Bible school, short term Bible schools, and a work on the great Firestone Plantation where they employ 25,000 nationals; not forgetting a business headquarters in Monrovia and a large book store.
‘There are now 46 churches amongst the three tribes where we are now working: the Bassa, Gio and Mano, and an annual Bible conference of more than 1,500. All these churches have now been handed over to the nationals, and are no longer dependent on the missionaries. It is what we have prayed for all these years. They organise all the meetings for speakers at conferences, and what a blessing it is to see them taking the lead.
‘It might interest you to know that five of the party who left Liverpool on that cold, frosty morning have died, one had retired, and only David Carson and myself are left, but others have taken their place and we are now 40 missionaries.
‘One of these days I am to go to the Presidential Palace to be honoured by the President. It is not that we look for these things, but it shows how the government appreciate all we have done and are doing for the people and country.
‘What a blessing to know that since we opened the Leprosy Colony in 1946, over 900 patients have been discharged symptom free and are now back in their homes, not only healed in body, but knowing the greatest Healer of all. One patient said, ‘I’m glad I had leprosy, because if I hadn’t I would never have come to know Jesus as my Saviour!’
‘I know how much you love your little family, Paul, Janet and dear Catherine, and can imagine what comfort they are to you. I can hardly see what I’m writing, the tears are rolling down my cheeks.
‘May you continue to know His presence with you day by day, and the needed strength and fortitude to carry on alone, and yet not alone, for He has promised to be with us at all times and in all places, a friend that sticketh closer than a brother!
‘In His Sweet Name: Jack.’
September 1976: The Overseas Service of the BBC announces, ‘Torrential rains in Monrovia – hundreds of people homeless – stores and supermarkets flooded – hundreds of thousands of dollars’ damage – people sheltering in schools and offices – traffic at a standstill – 2 people killed – diversion to airport. President calls for aid for the homeless – disaster committee for the homeless is organised.’
I was able to attend a Short Term Bible School at Elder Teah’s church. He arranged and was one of the teachers, along with 5 nationals and myself. The classes were held in the church which the Christians had built over 20 years ago. Just recently it had been enlarged to accommodate more people.
There was an average attendance of 90 Christians at the classes. It was a blessing to see them with their notebooks and pencils, listening and writing as the Word was being expounded.
Teah asked me to take morning prayers at 5:30, which I did in lantern light. About 50 Christians gathered each morning – a good start for a week of classes.
Teah, with whom I stayed, has been a Christian for more than 30 years. His wife is a Christian, too. He had a remarkable conversion at the time he was working for the government as a messenger. Going to a village one day to arrest a man, he came in contact with one of our Christians, who preached to him the way of salvation with the result that he was gloriously converted. He joined the church in the village where he is now living and helped to build it. He is highly respected by all the people in the town.
One evening the Clan Chief came in at the door without a knock as we were sat reading the Bible, and straightening himself as to give a salute, he put his hand deep down into his pocket and pulled out 40 dollars for Teah to look after. Then as he turned to go, he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye, and said, ‘I can trust Teah to keep anything for me. He is a good man!’ What a fine testimony, I thought.
One of our ex-students, who is a Justice of the Peace, came to see me, also Benjamin, who is engaged in medical work for the government and worked in our dispensary when he was a student. Both men are far from the Lord and need our prayers. It is over 20 years since they left our school. Not all students follow the Lord, but some do, for which we praise God.
Benjamin had got a fine dispensary with three rooms, and a large piazza where patients can sit and chat as they wait their turn for treatment. He was wearing an immaculate white coat and smiling broadly as I entered the building. He was more than pleased to show me around. I looked back over the years and remembered how he used to accompany me on my treks and take movie-pictures when a schoolboy. Now he is grown up with a wife and family.
I was glad to be with the Christians, to see the work going ahead, indigenous and self-supporting.
January 1977 was another Missionary Conference. Robert McKey and his wife Isobel, our W.E.C. leaders, are here for a visit. Robert gave some inspiring talks from I and II Corinthians regarding the gifts, which are many: apostles, prophets, teachers, wisdom, knowledge, helps, faith, miracles, healing, discernment, tongues and interpretation.
‘God has given a gift to all of us!’ said Robert. One is as important as the other. The initial evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit is not just speaking with tongues as some believe.
The messages were based entirely on the Word of God, and many scriptures were quoted.
There were problems that had to be dealt with in our business meetings regarding furloughs, and much prayer in seeking the Lord’s guidance was brought before the Lord. Praise God! He gloriously answered prayer, in spite of three couples resigning and others due for furlough.
It looked as if one station would be without a missionary, and we could not see how the work could be carried on as before, until one of our missionaries, Miss June Hobley, quickly stood to her feet and told the conference that she was willing to fill the gap at Bahn station after being here over 6 years without a furlough. She was expecting to go home in May. However, the Lord willed otherwise and June is staying on.
At the closing day of conference, we all gathered around the Lord’s Table for our Communion service. After Robert had spoken, David Carson gave a brief word and administered the Sacrament.
We were conscious that we would not see some of our missionaries again. Emma Wisser, who came to Liberia a few months after the first party had arrived in 1938, is now going to the Gambia. She has not been well for some time, and a change of climate was considered to be a help. She will work with our missionaries there, and with Hanna, a former missionary in Liberia, who went to start the work in Gambia in 1956.
Kay Tullis, a close friend of Emma’s, who was more than 30 years in Liberia, is now retiring and going to her home in Canada.
I have no plans about leaving, although people at home are always asking when I am coming. I feel I cannot leave the work yet when there is such a need for workers.
A young married couple, Mr and Mrs Bruce, and Carolyn Pinke, arrived in Monrovia from our W.E.C. headquarters in U.S.A. 2 months ago with their two small children, to work amongst the youth. Bruce had been converted six and a half years ago. He had been a drug addict and a man of the world, now singing and preaching the gospel. I had been in Liberia 39 years, and Margaret made a cake to celebrate the occasion. Bruce and his wife were visiting our station, and Bruce composed a song as he played his guitar sitting cross-legged on the mat. This is what he wrote and sang:
An Ode to Uncle Jack
‘In days long before, there were Weccers galore,
All singing ole C.T.’s refrain.
But for the duration, they’ve changed their location,
And one lone crusader remains.
He too could have gone, but he still labours on,
Not in homeland and comfortable ways.
For he’s an anointed, divinely appointed;
Uncle Jack, the last of his days.
When your hair hangs too low, the Land Rover won’t go,
Or you have some other task to be done.
For almost four decades, he’s been jack-of-all-trades,
Though claiming to be master of none.
If there’s work to be done, you can count on this one,
He’ll try it though nothing it pays
So very far-reaching are his work and his preaching,
Uncle Jack, the last of his days.
When friends have gone and you’re left quite alone;
At the time you sense it quite keenly.
Be assured of God’s grace to help you finish the race,
And complete your service serenely.
As you grow older, just stand a bit bolder;
And taste of the fruit of your ways.
Mid blessings and curses, good luck and adverses;
Stick to it the last of your days!’
[Written by Bruce Pinke on the 39. anniversary of Jack Lenny’s arrival in Liberia – January 28. 1938].
February 28. 1977: John, Margaret and I went to Monrovia for the farewell meeting of Emma Wisser and Kay Tullis. Much preparation had been put into the meeting, and it was well attended. Missionaries from Mid-Liberia Baptist Mission, Pillow of Fire, and ELWA were represented.
John led the proceedings. A skit of the early pioneer days was enacted by John, Margaret, Heather and Ruth. It was well thought out and enjoyed by the audience.
Following the skit, I spoke of the early days of knowing Emma and Kay, after which David Carson made a presentation , followed by words of appreciation from missionaries; after this, Wesley Bell gave a closing word, and after singing ‘How Great Thou Art,’ Wesley commended us to God.
Whilst in Monrovia, we were able to visit the Logos ship at the port, and also attend the meeting at the Centennial Pavilion, when a group of young people from the Logos sang, testified and preached. Hundreds of books were sold on the ship during the 7 days in port, and over 90,000 dollars was taken in the purchase of them. The Logos has 130 people on board, mostly young men and women in their early twenties, a good training ground for future ministry. All the work is done by themselves, and they have a heavy schedule in visiting other countries.
John and I called at the British Embassy, and saw the Ambassador and his wife. She is a Methodist. We had a great welcome and refreshments.
Jeanette Edgecomb has worked on this station for several years, and since John and Margaret went home a few months ago, she has been in charge of the dispensary and midwifery work, with the help of Mollie Bell, who came from her station with her husband Wesley to help. Mollie is an SRN and certified midwife, so while Mollie is helping Jeanette, Wesley gives me a hand in all I have to do, sometimes working on the water plant, and fixing electric lights, etc.
All the babies that are born at the dispensary are given a little white vest and a blanket – so cute when they are small!
We get some very bad cases. One man had a fall from a palm tree and recovered. Palm nuts grow in a cluster right at the top of the tree, which is climbed by the aid of a bamboo pole. Some trees are 20 to 30 feet high and dangerous to climb.
When the nuts are prepared, they are boiled on the fire, after which they are pounded in a moto and the juice taken out. It is then strained, boiled, and put on a plate with rice. Meat is added to it, or fish when it is boiling – a special dish which we enjoy very much. I am well acclimatised after all these years, and always enjoy what I eat!
November 1977: We had a memorial service for the late John Finlay at the station where he laboured for 34 years. Close on 300 people gathered for the occasion from near and far. Old students had come to remember one who had been their father, teacher, and spiritual guide. They would not forget his influence, and of all they had been taught.
A former student, Jacob Kilipo, now working at ELWA and Director of Language Programmes, took the chair. I was called upon to open in prayer, after which the schoolchildren sang, I Want Dear Lord a Heart that’s True and Clean! Then the congregation sang, Onward! Christian Soldiers.
David Carson, who had worked with John, gave a graphic description of the early days, and mentioned John’s life in the Congo; how he had laboured there for several years, and how after his wife had died in childbirth, he had to dig the grave himself, the only man on the station. David went on to say that at the Bible College of Wales, both felt the call to Liberia.
The singing of When I Survey the Wondrous Cross was most effective. Elder Yilikor told how he had come to know the Lord when Mr Finlay came to preach in the nearby village, and how he listened when the Word was preached from the gospel of John chapter 3 – Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night, and asking Him questions about the new birth. ‘That was nearly 34 years ago when I decided for Christ!’ he said.
David spoke again about hardships encountered during those early pioneer days when working with John.
Tom Kehleay told how he came to the mission as a little boy and worked for John and his wife, trekking with them all over Mano country, and the influence they had on his life. Tom is a vet and now working for the government. He is well into his fifties.
After words of appreciation from some of the Church leaders, I gave a brief word about our landing in Liberia, the journey to the interior, and the founding of the stations, Flumpa being the first to be built, and how the pioneers had lit a candle that would never go out. It is still burning, no longer dependent on those who lit it.
Several people, young and old, stood to their feet when asked how many had come to the Lord through John’s ministry.
Wesley Bell brought the meeting to a close, preaching a timely message, stressing the need for obedience and sacrifice, and following in the footsteps of John, who was a true follower of Christ. Wesley closed the meeting with prayer, after more than 3 hours’ service which went all too quickly.
So ended a day of praise and thanksgiving:
‘Through many a danger, toil, and snare
I have already come;
Tis grace that led me on thus far,
And grace will lead me home.’
The new Superintendent of Nimba County, Joseph Dunbar, was there, so I went to extend my greetings. Townspeople and Christians gathered in the church for a service of welcome. Security officers and soldiers were sitting at the back and standing by the door.
Dean, the church leader, took the chair. After a song and a word of welcome, I spoke of how we first located here at Carplay, trekking from the coast, going down with fever and dysentery, and finally arriving at Sannaquali, where the Superintendent’s father was the Commissioner, and how he advised us to build a mission here at Carplay. He was surprised to learn that I had known his father. I went on to say how God had blessed the work, the school, churches, medical work and the Leprosy Colony, and some of the students who had left our school were now working for the government. The Superintendent said, ‘I feel honoured to be here, and I want to do all I can for the interest of the county. Mistakes will be made, and I want you to tell me of them, so that all will go well with my administration!’
After the service, I took him to the mission where we had coffee, and to the school, dispensary, and Conference Centre. He seemed quite impressed.
Donald, our national president, said at one Bible conference, ‘More people have come to know the Lord this year than at any other time. Six ladies walked to one village to get saved. It is all because of prayer. 5,000 students are being reached with the Word of God in the schools by our missionaries in Monrovia!’
President William P Tolbert wants the Bible to be taught in all of the schools throughout the Republic. He says it is a vital part of the schools.
Jeanette made us laugh today at lunch when she told me that a woman who had come to the clinic in labour got on to the table, and having seen all the preparations going on, slipped off and dashed into the nearby bush, with Jeanette and her helper running after her. They delivered the baby right there and then, and she was finally brought back to the clinic. Could I ever imagine anything like that happening at home in England?
January 1978: The Gio-Mano Conference was the largest crowd ever, when 2460 people were present, with over 400 communicants and 72 baptisms. The meetings as usual were by the nationals, who made out a schedule and did remarkably well.
What a blessing to see so many people sitting in a shady glade, listening and enjoying the meetings. The singing was superb!
The messages were blessed of God as one and another came forward to speak and one could sense the presence of the Holy Spirit. Our two national evangelists, just returned from Guinea, gave a graphic report of their visit, and how God had blessed the preaching of the Word, in spite of indifference and persecution.
In one village they were stoned, with threatenings and curses, and told to leave. ‘There was so much noise and confusion that we didn’t know what to do,’ they said. Someone shouted, ‘Go inside and sit down.’ They did. Stones were thrown at the door as they prayed in lantern light. It was Christmas Eve!
On Christmas Day, they went to another village. The Chief called them and said, ‘God is blessing what you are doing. You are not doing anything bad!’ One man who believed was baptized. He had never heard about baptism. It was something new, something they had never seen in that area. Many witnessed the baptism.
The evangelists preached in many villages and 426 people came to the Lord. Some were at the conference. The Guinea church leader said, ‘Because of the work they did on their last visit, we have seen a change in the lives of many who came to the Lord. We want an evangelist with us all the time!’ he said.
February 16. 1978: David and Maud Carson came to celebrate my 68. birthday – 40 years since arriving in Liberia.
No bliss I seek, but to fulfil
In life, in death, thy lovely will,
No succour in my woes I want
Except what Thou art pleased to grant.
Our days are numbered – let us spare
Our anxious hearts a needless care;
Tis Thine to number out our days,
And ours to give them to Thy praise!
The new motor road has now reached our station from Bahn, 25 miles away – a great achievement. What a blessing to see the bulldozers and tractors at the end of the road near the mission.
We hear that John and Margaret will not be returning to Liberia; they have been appointed W.E.C. reps. for the London Metropolitan District.
I had word from a Church Leader to visit his village for a weekend to marry two of the Christians, so I went. There were more than 400 people who had gathered there for the occasion. The bridegroom and his best man were the first to arrive, both wearing identical gowns, with hats to match and a black tie.
The bride took some time to come. Finally, at the sound of beating of drums, she came slowly with her three bridesmaids, all carrying bouquets, into the palm-thatched shelter which had been erected for the occasion. She was wearing a full-length yellow dress, with long sleeves and ruffles. A crown of laced graced her head.
She looked shy and nervous, did not even smile as the service proceeded, giving feeble answers to the questions I put before her, looking down at her bouquet.
After the vows had been made before God, and the blessing pronounced, all the people surged forward to congratulate the newly-married couple, bringing gifts of money, rice, cooking pots, pans, basins and brooms, after which we had a feast of rice, soup, and goat meat.
The next morning, Elder Peter took me to the Sunday morning service where a Church is being built to the memory of the late Graham Davies.
100 people were at the service. A young man, a backslider, got to his feet and said that he had come back to the Lord after being told by one of the Christians that he would not live very long if he carried on living like he did. He was convicted of his waywardness, and requested prayer.
Elder Peter closed in prayer.
July 23.-30. 1978: We have now concluded another Annual Bible Conference here at this station at Carplay, with a record attendance of 1,074 people, including 360 children, and 307 communicants. The Conference Centre was filled to capacity. An extension had to be built between meetings when carpenters amongst the congregation worked with a willing heart.
What a sight to see so many people, so different to what it used to be when they had to walk 20 and 30 miles – now coming by car.
More than 100 people were counselled as they sought to go deeper with God, and the testimonies were just as good as ever. One man said that 150 people had come to the Lord just recently, and were still following God. Another said, ‘God is blessing His Word in many of the villages!’
Church Leaders organised all meetings and speakers and took full charge of the conference as usual.
As one looks back over the years, it is wonderful to see all that God has done, and the progress that has been made since those early days of pioneering. The foundation has been laid. We praise God for those amongst the nationals whom He has called to carry on His work after we have gone.
Time seems to pass so quickly – am feeling very sad about leaving Liberia after being here so long. It will be a sad parting, I know. I’m not as active as I used to be; nevertheless, I’m glad that I have kept going so long.
A flight to Heathrow, London, is booked for October 2. Time has caught up with me at last. The clock keeps ticking and we are all getting older.
Sometimes I have a little weep when I think of these dear ones whom I have loved so long. My heart will always beat with theirs, because they are the heart-beats of His love.
God holds the key of all unknown, and I am glad;
If other hands should hold the key, or if He trusted it to me,
I might be sad.
What if tomorrow’s cares were here, without its rest?
I’d rather He unlocked the day, and, as the hours swing open, say,
My will is best.
The very dimness of my sight makes me secure,
For groping in my misty way, I feel His hand; I hear Him say
My help is sure.
I cannot read His future plans; but this I know;
I have the smiling of His face, and all the refuge of His grace
While here below.
Enough; this covers all my wants; and so I rest
For what I cannot, He can see, and in His care I saved shall be,
For ever blessed!
The above hymn was a blessing to me during my student days at Swansea Bible College, 1934-36, and so it is now after all these years.
Farewell Party at Bahn Mission
Wesley came for Jeanette, Iris, Susan and myself to take me to Bahn mission for the farewell gathering. We had a good time of fellowship as we met around the table to partake of the good things prepared, followed by a song composed by Ruth Wilson, daughter of a former missionary, and Ruth Bell.
“Uncle Jack we won’t forget you,
We are sad to see you go,
But you’ll still live out here with us
In the hearts of all you know.
In the stillness of the morning
Hark, what is that noise I hear?
It’s the bell on Carplay Station
Calling folk from far and near.
In the moonlight with the crickets
All those trees so black above
While the fireflies dance around you
These are sounds we know you love.
Most of all you’ll leave behind you
Those whom you have taught to say
That in every situation
Jesus Christ will have His way.
Of all the dear nights you have spent here
Please may this one be dear too
All the people who have come here
And this song we’ve sung for you.
Uncle Jack we won’t forget you
We are sad to see you go
But you’ll still live out here with us
In the hearts of all you know!
Bruce and his wife Carolyn sang, after which David Carson gave a word, followed by Wesley Bell who spoke of the Good Shepherd who cared for His sheep. David closed in prayer, committing me to the Lord.
For some time I have wanted to visit the Missionary Children’s School in the Ivory Coast, just over the Liberian border, and Wesley, having to take his children back to school with Glen Davies, invited me to go with him.
We left at 8:30 am and reached the Liberian border at 10:00. We had to wait more than 2 hours at customs checkpoints across the iron bridge which had now been built, just 2 miles outside Karnplay. Finally, we got through and reached our next checkpoint at Danani, 17 miles away. We reached it too late to see the Commandant and were delayed for 3 hours, so went to see Pastor Eli of the French Protestant Mission after having lunch in a coffee patch. Had a good time of fellowship with Pastor Eli. He gave us a great welcome, and said that it was 30 years since he had visited Liberia, and that he had heard me preach in a village. He said, ‘I went back to my house and surrendered my life to Jesus!’ I had not known this and was overjoyed to hear it. He and his wife Susannah are doing great work. Wesley had known them and often called there.
We finally got our passports checked, and travelled more than 40 miles on a dirt road. At last, we reached the hard top and made good time for nearly 100 miles, stopping at Delawa for a drink of orange juice, and after driving on more dirt road, we reached Vavoua at 9:30 pm. It was raining heavily. Had a big welcome from Mr Cunningham and his wife, whom I had seen when they visited our station. They are in charge of the school here, and have a good staff of teachers. I got to know some of the missionaries who had brought their children to school. There are 25 children. A new school was in progress of being built for not more than 50. Our journey was approximately 250 miles.
We stayed here the next day, so I went to see Mrs Staniford’s grave. She was buried here on the compound after dying of yellow fever – March 30. 1936.
Just a simple grave with her name and date, with a cement base and cross. I silently stood and read:
Aged 52 years
Died March 30, 1936
“Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life!”
As I moved away, I thought of one who said, “There is a price to be paid for dedicated selfless service!”
Next morning, we were on the way at 9:00 am, and made good progress with little delay, reaching Danani at 1:30 pm – had lunch with Pastor Eli, giving us more than we could eat! We left at 3:00 pm, and reached the Liberian border at 4:00 pm, arriving at the mission at 5:30, after a delightful trip.
September 7. 1978: Wesley and Mollie arrived for lunch, bringing fuel and mail; a letter from my sister Myra to say that she is preparing for my home-coming and inviting my two nieces and children for tea.
Wesley brought David Ferrington, who is W.E.C. Magazine artist, just arrived from Ghana and Ivory Coast. It was quite a surprise to know that he will be travelling on the same plane to London. I shall be glad of his company when I am not feeling too well.
Quite a crowd gathered at the Conference Centre at 4:00 pm when elders and church leaders spoke words of appreciation for all I had done over the years, and were sorry to see me go – and would hold me back if it were possible.
I was presented with a coloured embroidered shirt and a blue suit by Mary, the teacher, after which the children sang 2 items. I then spoke and said, ‘This is a sad occasion. When I came back after furlough I was met with loud cheers, singing and dancing; but today my heart is sad and heavy when I think of you dear ones whom I have known and loved so long. I want you to know that I shall always think and pray for you. When we love Jesus, we are not so far away from each other. One day we shall meet again in our Father’s Home. My heart will always beat with yours, because they are the heartbeat of His love. I thank God that I have been spared to see to progress of the work, the churches amongst the 3 tribes, with Donald, the president and Laurie, the secretary. Keep on reading the Word. Keep on looking to Jesus. I would like to pray for you.’
After I had prayed, David Carson gave a brief word and committed me to the Lord. Then we had a feast of rice, greens, goat and soup.
A baby was born in the evening at our clinic and called after me, so that the parents would know when the baby was born.
The next day, Wesley came for me. The school children assembled on the mission house piazza and sang two items, after which Peter, our school teacher, prayed, and then after shaking hands with Jeanette and Susan, I got in the car. I told Wesley to drive slowly down the mission drive, which he did. One of the Christians was coming along, so I asked Wesley to stop the car. While I was shaking hands with him, all the children came running down the drive-way as I was getting back into the car. They clung around the car, crying and wailing, and it was quite a while before we got moving. They repeated over and over again, ‘Our father is leaving us, our father is leaving!’ Finally, we moved a little and gathered speed. I was upset! I stayed the night at Bahn station.
David Carson took David Farrington and myself to Monrovia, 180 miles away, this morning. We left at 11:20 am, had lunch at Flumpa with Marjorie Davies and Ada, and finally reached Monrovia at 6;30 pm. Heather wrote a letter to the President, letting him know I was in the city.
September 29. 1978: Just before 10:00 am, I went to see the British Ambassador, and received a warm welcome. I was glad I had called to see him. He ordered his steward to bring coffee and biscuits. He was most impressed as I told him of the work I had been doing over the years in Liberia, and went to his desk to get a notebook to write it down for his news sheet. After 40 minutes, I had to leave for an appointment with the President at the Presidential Palace at 11:00 am.
The ambassador asked me how I was going to get there. I told him that taxis were passing on the road all the time, and there would be no trouble getting one. ‘No!’ he said. ‘I will have my driver to drive you there.’ As I walked out of the embassy with him, I saw a Jaguar car. The driver was told to take me to the palace and to wait for me and take me to the place where I was staying.
I arrived at the palace at the appointed time, passing through the entrance gates where guards were patrolling, and finally found myself walking up the steps into the palace itself on the red carpet. I was taken to the President’s room by an officer. As I entered, he was standing by his desk with the Liberian flag in the background. It was an exquisite room, with panelled wells, and chandeliers hanging from the decorated ceiling.
I went and shook hands with him and said, ‘We meet again, Mr President.’ ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I haven’t been to the interior since I saw you there!’ Then he beckoned me to be seated. The press, television and movie cameras were taking pictures.
The President said, ‘My country and I want to thank you for the many years you have been in our country, for all you have done for our people, and for the sacrifice and dedication for the work to which God called you to do!’
After I had spoken a little of the progress over the years, he was now going to honour me. Standing before the President, his secretary gave him a scroll, which he presented to me saying, ‘I appoint you Knight Commander of the Liberian Humane Order of African Redemption!’ He then, with the help if his secretary, put the insignia medal around my neck; the highest decoration in Liberia. He tied this with a red, white and blue ribbon, confirming upon me the above title. Then he embraced me with both arms, touching each with his, after which he shook me by the hand as the cameras were taking pictures.
As I walked from the President’s room into the lobby, I was followed by a press girl who wanted further news for the Liberian Age newspaper, after which I made my way out of the palace to the waiting car and was taken to the place where I was staying.
A smart young man whom I met in the lobby recognised me although I did not recognise him. He said that he had been a student in our school many years ago and was now a security officer working at the palace. He ended a delightful, never- to –be- forgotten day of my missionary career.
I was introduced to the Christians at the Monrovia W.E.C. Church this Sunday morning and gave a brief word, after which we had communion. Had lunch at Bonnie’s – an American girl who is working for CLC (Christian Literature Crusade).
October 2. 1978: Flight to London. Left Monrovia for the airport, 40 miles away, with our mission agent at 9:15 pm in pouring rain. Arrived at 10:15; went through the usual formalities at customs and all went well – did not have any charge on extra baggage, which I was nervous about. The rain continued – it simply poured down!
As David and I waited in the lounge, a young man in khaki, an officer of the Liberian army, came up to me and said, ‘Oh, Mr Lenny, I heard all about you this afternoon when I heard you were leaving for your country tonight, and that you had seen the President!’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I don’t remember your name.’ ‘My name,’ he said, ‘is Kana!’ ‘Oh, I remember you now. It is a long time since you were a student in our school. I remember how sick you were, and we put you in one of the rooms at the mission house, and we thought you were going to die and sent for your parents; but God didn’t let you die, and now you are here.’
He told me he was leaving that night for America, where he would be having training for the army. He went on to say that he could never forget all we had done for him at the mission.
The rain was so bad that we had to be taken to the plane across the tarmac. It was so big that I could hardly imagine how it was going to get off the ground!
Finally, David and I got settled on the plane, with 150 seats. We left at 12:00 midnight in pouring rain. We had a meal shortly after take-off; I enjoyed it, a nice feeling to know that all the baggage was in the plane.
We arrived at Brussels at 6:30 am; we had missed the flight to Heathrow on account of our plane being late at take-off. However, after an hour we boarded a British plane for Heathrow and reached Heathrow at 10:30. Crossing the Channel, I was heartbroken – so upset! Margaret and John were there to meet me; Andrew is now 10.
David had friends from Bulstrode to meet him. I was glad of his help. He took my heavy baggage whilst I took a lighter one.
David Carson is the only one left of the first party. He and his wife expect to retire in June, after 47 years in Liberia.
David Livingstone, that great missionary statesman, who had fever over 40 times in the African jungle said, ‘I have never made any sacrifice for my Lord yet!’ H M Stanley, New York Times newspaper reporter, was sent out to find Livingstone, who had not been heard of for several months. Stanley trekked for several months, coming in contact with slave-traders, going down with fever and dysentery, until finally he found Livingstone. This is what he said, ‘When I saw that unwearied patience, that unflagging zeal, those enlightened sons of Africa, I became a Christian at his side, although he never spoke about it!’
James Chalmers, missionary to New Guinea, said, ‘We should leave the twaddle of sacrifice to those who do not appreciate the sacrifice of the Cross!’
C T Studd, before he embarked for Africa in 1913, wrote, ‘If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him!’
Jesus paid the supreme sacrifice and died on the world’s greatest Cross, and nothing we can do for Him can repay all He has done for us.
I have seen missionaries come and go from Liberia, some for one term, some for two, others for less – not to return, and yet the work of evangelism goes on through Spirit-filled men and women dedicated to the work of God. It is true what one said, ‘We have nothing. The greatness of God is that He has used this nothing to do something!’
Before Sir John Hunt conquered Everest, he prepared his team for weeks and months of strenuous training. They knew what to expect: the dangers, the hardships, the struggles of mountaineering. But with courage and determination Hillary and Tensing reached the summit of their endeavours. It was over. They had succeeded. But we shall never reach the summit of our endeavours until we meet the Master face to face, and hear Him say, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant!’
Jack Lenny, January 1985.
I went to my cousin at Barnsley for a few days at Easter, April 13. 1980, and whilst there I heard the television news about the assassination of the President of Liberia, Dr William R Tolbert, and the Government taken over by the Army. Government officials had been taken to the beach, tied to posts – and executed. It was unbelievable! I felt very sad. Only a few months before, I had been decorated by him, and it left sad feelings.
However, there are only 12 of our missionaries there now, and in spite of the political situation, the work goes ahead.
c. 2014 The Bible College of Wales Continuing.