Dilemmas and Tensions
Its not surprising that Ione’s letters in January 1959 do not focus on Christmas and ‘thank you’s’ as in other years. Ione has catered for 20 missionary visitors and the number of children she is caring for has risen to 18. In the letters to family and supporters, Ione focusses on making ends meet and meeting the needs – both physical and spiritual/ emotional of all those in her care. To her mother she writes:
We have had to go without some things, but I am thankful the food has been enough to satisfy all and the children have round, rosy faces. Our financial account has been sent to all of the stations, and they are marvelling that we are spending each month 2000 francs ($40) more than we are receiving from the parents, and still have no debts! All missionaries have been urged to donate any work funds, which are not already committed, to this need. The Lord continues to do the impossible, and we thank the Lord for gifts from time to time which make up this needed amount.
There is still a debt of $7000 on this property, though the amount is owed in our mission rather that to the former owner. And just yesterday we learned that a gift of $2,000 was on the way from Mr. and Mrs. Bryers in Hamilton, Ontario Prairie Bible Institute friends and relatives have contributed heavily all this term.
Ione knows who to ask for what; to some of her supporters she asks:
If anyone has used games that you think we could use, they will be welcome. Outdoor as well as indoor games. And we never have enough of colour books, crayons, paper dolls, etc., which are nice for rainy days. Stub pencils cast off from offices or schools at home can be used here for amusement at home. (Not that we children were stuck for games, we did have marbles and devised games with these but one of the most popular games was called ‘Kick the Can’. Essentially, we used a large empty can that once contained milk powder. The ‘can’ was placed in the middle of the large driveway and one person was designated ‘it’. They had to count to 100 with their eyes closed and the rest would run and hide. Once 100 was reached, the person who was ‘it’ had to spot/ find all those who had hidden. Once a ‘spot’ was made, the person who was ‘it’ would race back to the can and tap it saying “One, Two, Three, I see …. . The person identified would have to leave their hiding place and move towards the centre and ‘can’. Any person who had not been seen could emerge from their hiding place and race to the can. If they could kick the can before the person nominated ‘it’, all those spotted had the chance to run and hide again whilst ‘it’ retrieved the can and replaced it on the original spot. Older children quite liked it when a younger child had to do the counting and finding because it was easier to race to the can, kick it and keep them chasing. One other point, younger children were less able to find good hiding places, they also got bored and frequently revealed where they were hiding. It was very competitive but it kept us entertained for a long time. It kept us very active as well.)
I want you to know how much we appreciate your interest in us. You have a tremendous job if you are going to try to help all of the missionaries, and we will understand if we are left out.
Ione goes on to explain:
I do hope you will not fail to keep us supplied with some sort of S.S. material, as it has helped the children so much, not only spiritually, but it helps their spelling and reading in English. This has been neglected while they study in French.
Also, at the forefront of Ione’s mind is their anticipated break / furlough. Ione is mindful of the support she has received like the donation mentioned above and tells her mother that she would like to visit them, however, more than anything she would like to include her mother in her travel plans and on 15th January 1959 writes:
And this leads to furlough plans. What we would like to do is fly to Europe, pick up a second-hand Volkswagen (big one) from a German friend who is going this year and would be finished with it by the time we come thru; drive around to the places we want to see in Europe; then put the car on the ocean liner “United States” and go to the States. Mother, if you could get enough money to join us in Europe for this trip, we would be so happy. The only real cost would be your ocean journey as living will be cheap on the continent. Then we could take the ocean journey together, too, and after that visit relatives and friends in the States and take some meetings. We will find out just how much would be your round-trip on the ocean (tourist). The Volkswagen takes very little gas and we could do a lot of travelling without spending too much. A new ruling in our mission provides for our travel expenses right to the address of our former residence in States or Canada. We have been paying into a furlough fund for this, and besides this is the furlough fund that they have been saving from 1st Baptist church work funds. It does not seem unreasonable to do visiting with some meetings thru the summer of 1960. Could you be free to go with us? That would be probably all of July and August, at least.
Finally, in letters to various members of family and friends, Ione addresses the disturbing reports of current affairs in Congo:
I know you will be anxious to know what is happening in the Congo. According to the radio and papers there was a riot in Leopoldville three weeks ago. The report was that 42 Africans were killed, 250 injured, and 10 whites injured. It started with a political-religious group called ABAKO. The Salvation Army property was in their path of destruction so they lost 5 buildings. The Salvation Army missionaries left their homes and put their valuables with friends. Last week there was tension felt here between blacks and whites; it was announced that there would be a general strike if the proclamation from Belgium was not satisfactory. Evidently it was satisfactory as there was no strike. Belgian Congo has severed relationship politically with Belgium.
According to Fabian (1996) in his book ‘Remembering the Present: painting and popular history of Zaire; Kasavubu, a political activist had gone to Kinshasa (Leopoldville) to demand Independence for the provinces of the lower Congo. These provinces were the wealthiest area of Congo at that time as a lot of minerals and copper were mined there. Kasavubu was imprisoned after the riots and then extradited to Belgium. The ABAKO were the largest political group but it was not long before other leaders began to emerge from other parts of the country.
Our children attend school which has a large proportion of Africans. Police were stationed around the school for a few days, and the children were not happy together. When the teacher wasn’t there, one black girl hit one of our girls with a jumping rope and said something mean. Laureen cried when she came home but declared she had said nothing to the girl. We had a good talk to all of the children about remembering what their mothers and fathers came out here for, and to keep loving the African children as they had before. We have heard rumours of another riot in Leopoldville. Two dispensaries were attacked. The Belgians are somewhat bitter and it reflects in their children. Do pray that we will keep our hearts at rest in Jesus and our minds stayed on Him.
The Belgians were getting nervous and equipping themselves with guns and the Africans were emboldened to voice their dissatisfaction with Belgian colonial rule. There was no indication at this time of the physical difficulties and threats that everyone would face in the future. Neither were the feelings of unrest and the frustrated, localised acts of rebellion against the oppression of colonial rule unique to the Belgian Congo. This was a period when so many emerging nations across the world could not find the patience to wait for the independence they had been promised by their European masters. Where the Congo differed from most of those other countries was in its brutal history. Whilst the advancements that the people enjoyed in infrastructure, health and education were undeniable, it was the attitudes of many of the Belgians and the deep-rooted resentment of the indigenous population towards them that set this nation on a downward spiral from which it has never fully recovered.
The first introduction for Congolese people to the Europeans occurred in the 18th century when Portuguese ships sailed into view and weighed anchor in the vast mouth of the Congo river in direct confrontation to the then Kingdom of Congo. Purporting to be traders who might bring advancement and wealth to the region, the intentions of the Portuguese sailors were entirely predatory. Contrary to their initial expectations they found themselves face to face with a complex society, living in an organised city structure which was governed by a supreme king. Nevertheless, they began their ‘trade’ offering guns in return for slaves. They set African against fellow African in their pernicious ventures and thus destroyed the balance of that society. The population of the kingdom, which was a relatively small area compared with the size of the country that it was to become in later years, was completely decimated. Four million slaves were dispatched to the West Indies alone. The lucrative trade in slaves brought many more Europeans, including the British, who all attempted to forge their way into the hinterland by sailing up the river. None were able to progress any further than 100 miles. The 220 miles of rapids and cataracts, which it is now estimated could provide hydraulic electricity for the whole of Africa, were the power ever to be harnessed, had kept invaders out of central Africa for decades. However, late in the 19th century the explorer, Henry Morten Stanley, was finally able to navigate the mighty Congo River by starting from the other end. Travelling across country from Zanzibar in Eastern Africa, he located the source of the river and traced its route northwards and eventually westwards to the Atlantic Ocean. He arrived in Boma, the then capital, in 1887 having taken 999 days to cross the continent from East to West. Initially he had wanted to annex the whole area enclosed by the course of the river for the British expecting their financial input, but their eyes at that time were firmly fixed on India and the east and so Stanley approached King Leopold of Belgium who was more than happy to fund his expeditions. Stanley swiftly laid claim to this vast area making Boma the capital of the new ‘Congo Free State’, a personal fiefdom for King Leopold which was eighty times larger than the country for which he was monarch. As the trade in slaves eventually declined owing to international social pressure, the Congo basin came up with the next commodity that the modern world required most – rubber.
At the turn of the century rubber was needed not only for the insulation of electric cables but also for the manufacture of tyres, first of all for bicycles and later for the burgeoning motor car industry. Half of the tyres in the world were made from Congolese rubber. Wild rubber in its unrefined state would make a personal fortune for King Leopold and having established that the river and its tributaries could transport this precious commodity, he set about arranging for the labour to harvest it. It is no secret that the military were engaged to force the population into the forests to do the work. Their regime was brutal. If the allocated quotas were not achieved, a number of those responsible for the harvest would have their hands summarily cut off as a warning to others. It is not known precisely how many people died from the maltreatment used to fuel the world’s need for rubber but it is generally considered to be a half of the entire population. It was probably one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century and yet it is now all but forgotten by the rest of the world apart from the Congolese people. At least, at the time, pressure was put on the king to bring to an end this ‘businesses ‘of his and in 1908 the whole area was handed over to the Belgian state to take over as a colony.
Turning away from the rubber trade, the next vital raw product to be found in the Congo was a vast supply of copper in the southern Katanga province. It was in fact the largest deposit of copper in the world and came to light just in time to be used in the manufacture of shell casings for bombs and bullets required for the first World War. A few years later, and from the same area, the Congo yielded another precious metallic element at the appropriate moment in the form of the finest high-grade uranium. This was used in the construction of the atomic bombs used to bring an end to the second World War. It is a little-known fact that the Congolese army fought in both wars on behalf of the Belgians. They, in turn, invested the wealth from the mining and other projects into building roads, railways, schools and hospitals. The living conditions for the African people were indisputably raised but the extremely large expatriate community living in the country exercised a rigid apartheid society and it was this, compounded with a history of brutality that fuelled the resentment of the people in the months before the declaration of independence.
It was in this atmosphere of unrest with still a year and a half to go until Independence Day that an incident occurred at the school. A general strike had been announced which prompted many of the Belgians to arm themselves as a precaution and this in turn caused the police to be out in force near the school creating tension in the air.
At the end of 1958, Ione was promised some extra help to join her, Hector and Isabel. The help was to be 6 months residency of her friend Pearl Hiles, the missionary nurse who travelled out to Congo with Ione in 1942. Pearl was still at home in the States and Ione writes to her on 5th February 1959:
It just seems like old times to be in touch with you again, and it looks like we can be together again. I surely am happy about this and hope it won’t be a disappointment to you to be doing this work for a while. I wish it would be permanently, but I know that there will probably be a shift of personnel at Conference time in June or July, so can’t set my heart on anything except to be happy that we can have you until then. (The Mission Field Council have asked Del and Lois Carper to consider taking over Ione and Hector’s duties while they are away on furlough. It would seem the plan was to have them in residence before the McMillan’s left and thus learn the ropes. However, this changes over time.)
I am enclosing a picture of the Home. The big ‘dormitory’ to the left of it is hardly good-looking enough yet to have a picture, but there is some progress, and we are surely occupying it! All of the boys are there except the larger two Carter boys who sleep in a small place behind the Home. The girls sleep in the Home. Since the Nicholls (Barbara and Allan) arrived this week there are twenty children, five girls and 15 boys. There ages are from 5 to 15, from Timmy McMillan to Gordon Carter. The boys are divided into age groups for sleeping and have two bathrooms (far from finished however!). If you could have seen how we lived in ’55 and ’56 you would think this is much of an improvement, but it will probably look quite unready for the job it has to do, this new building. Hector is doing it all himself with whatever help he can get from passing missionaries and occasional native help. Workmen are available, but the wage rate is very high as we are so near to Stanleyville. And because we are adhering rigidly to our policy of no debts, we get only the building materials we can pay cash for. The Lord has worked a miracle in making it possible to carry on, and we are so thankful to be a part of this new project. Many troubles which we have might be called “growing pains!” I hope they won’t cause you to suffer too much!
If you were to arrive just now you would find us struggling with an epidemic of flu. We have had children ill since the start of school. I remember that January is a bad month and we had no vitamins this year to fortify them in advance. A week ago, we took five children to the doctor, and he wrote out an order which permits us to receive free enough vitamins for this number of children and we have given them, but just don’t have the money to put into the extra amount needed for all. We have four new cases this week. Do you think we could get a large amount cheaper if you were to try in Philadelphia at the place where our mission buys medicines? I don’t think you’d have to pay customs, as Topsy (Eileen Walby) was saying that others have been charged for vitamins as food, so it isn’t so much. It is hard to know what is best to do, but I believe the children need to build up a better resistance against colds and flu germs. The only ones who haven’t had it are the three new ones, Billy McAllister and the Nicholls’.
Will you be coming by plane? We want to know when to meet you. Be ready for some HOT weather in Stanleyville! It stays hot nights here, too. It is so thrilling to know that you really are coming.
The Walbys are here right now, meeting the Siggs, and they want me to send you their greetings. Wilfred (their third child) will be coming to the Home after Easter.
Once Ione gets her ‘urgent’ letters written, she can then turn her attention to those letters which she has prioritised as less urgent, so it is not until February that we find out what kind of Christmas, she and the family had. On the 8th February, Ione writes to Mrs Snow:
what a lovely time we had opening that big fat package and the big long package. They came in time to get all ready for the celebration. Everything arrived in very good condition, and the money you sent to cover the customs more than did it. That was so thoughtful of you. Your kindness and love has given us a real happy time this Christmas. May the Lord bless you.
There were cheers when the boys found just the things they had hoped for, and more beside. And the clothing is so durable and attractive. Those beautiful aprons were very welcome, as well as the slip. Just everything was appreciated and I wish we could adequately express our gratefulness.
And to Peggy Reh, Ione wrote:
We received your December 1st letter with the sweet picture of Karen and the $20. Thank you ever so much. We were able to buy each of the boys something in time for Christmas. They had their eye on a telescoping crane in the toy shop here. It does so many things at once and several hands can operate it simultaneously. Well, Hector bought that for all, as it was quite big, and let them each choose a Dinkytoy as well. He hid them up in the ceiling and they opened them along with a package from some ladies at Lake Orion. There was a package from Hazel and Marguerite Nichols which came after Christmas, and the people that support David (Focklers) sent baseball gloves, a mitt, bats and balls. So they really have had a lot of nice things, along with some underwear, shirts, shorts and socks.
Some of the packages do not arrive in time for Christmas: Ione writes to Irene Pierce:
Your wonderful package arrived the middle of January and I can tell you there was a lively bunch of hands ready to open it. We took away the customs declaration and that made the surprise nicer. The individual gifts were wrapped so nicely and we could see the loving care and thoughtful choice in each item. Thank you all so much for giving us this lovely Christmas in January! We don’t mind at all having them later as they did have a parcel for Christmas Day as well as a number of things Hector bought with a $20 bill someone sent. I think they take better care of their things when they don’t get too many all at once! Kenneth and Paul have been using their dictionaries and it was good for them to have English as well as French, for when they write English letters they find difficulty in spelling. The French is useful for their schoolwork. The socks were just right for K and P as well, and they do send you their grateful thanks. The little boys’ toys were darling and they were so pleased. Three of them were sick in bed when they arrived, so they had lots of time to play with them. (We have had two epidemics of flu since September 1958, the last ending in whooping cough.)
And to Marguerite and Hazel:
What a happy surprise we received when, on January 23rd your package arrived! It was beautifully packed and everything came in excellent condition. It was so much fun opening it, and as the table was set for dinner, we laid each child’s presents at his place at the table, for him to find when he came home from school. Then, lest the other children feel left out, we divided out the nuts, suckers and hard candies and gum so that all of the 20 children had something nice to eat or chew! Since there were ten suckers, there were four that we could give to the smallest four besides our own. The popcorn was something they could all enjoy, too, and I found that one boxful was just right for everybody. The second box we will use for a birthday party tomorrow. That was thoughtful of you to send films for the camera which you gave to us during our last furlough. It is a very good one and usually takes a clear picture. Just lately Hector noticed that light was getting in somewhere; you will notice on the picture enclosed a white spot at the bottom. He looked and looked and finally found a tiny corner chipped; he covered this and now it is all right again. Thank you so much for the camera.
Hector was pleased with his tie and socks, and the pretty things to go with them! He has a shirt which requires cuff-links but he had none and was always borrowing some that the Loyals sent to the children last year! Now he has his own, and such smart ones. The slipperettes and half-slip fit me just fine and I am so glad to have them; these items are very handy, especially when we travel. Thank you so much. Kenneth has always wanted a brush and comb set, and this is his first. I hope he takes good care of it, and the nice hankies as well. Paul is real pleased with his mouth organ and finds nice tunes on it. The hankies are especially welcome as the only ones they have had until now are the kind made out of flour sacks! Miss Whitehead, who helps us with the sewing, has stitched their numbers on so that they can tell them apart. David and John felt especially honoured to be trusted with jack knives. They are old enough to know how to use them safely and are keeping them wisely on their shelves. Stevie’s importance went up 100% when he became the possessor of a purse, and with money in it. He will save the money for when we come on furlough, unless he is tempted to trade it for francs when someone goes on furlough ahead of us. It is always handy to have some American coins in your pocket when you arrive, for tips, etc. Timmy’s baseball came at an opportune time, as the bigger boys had just received from Focklers who support David, a real baseball, and Timmy is very anxious to learn how to play the game with his own first. His duck is very sturdy and his squawk has not faltered once, though it has been going for almost a month!! Yesterday a little African boy ‘fed’ it with small stones and Timmy was quite upset and spared no energies to cause a regurgitation and relieve the creature! Thanks so much for just everything.
I just wish we could send you something nice. If you would like some African souvenir, ivory or ebony, do let us know and during the next year we will try to collect what we can. The cost of ebony going out of the country is almost nothing, and ivory is paid for by weight. One can get a lot of small things like salad sets, broaches, bread and butter knives or bigger things like arches of elephants for the mantle, book-ends. Then there are pretty leather goods which the Arabs make of all colours of leather and snake skin, hassocks and handbags, etc.
Joyfully in Him, Hector & Ione
On the 24th February 1959, Ione writes to supporters at Westwood Baptist Church, the letter gives a good overview of life in the Children’s home:
Dear Friends of the Primary Department,
We have recently received $12 from you and want to thank you for it in behalf of our son Stephen.
Stephen recently had his 6th birthday. I am sending you a picture of him sitting in the wagon behind his younger brother Timothy. John is in the back coming down the steps. There are 20 missionary children here now; the youngest is 5 and the oldest 16.
Did I ever tell you what these children do here? They always get up before daylight, except on Sunday. And in order to help them waken and be able to find their clothes, Uncle Hector starts the big diesel engine and the lights come on for a few minutes. But by the time the children have dressed, washed and made their beds and met for family worship, the lights can go out again, and they eat breakfast by daylight. They have papaya, a nice fruit like muskmelon, with a few drops of lemon on, oatmeal and rice porridge, bread and peanut butter and jam, and of course milk, but the milk is made from powdered milk in bought in cans. While they are at the table they make a sandwich and fill a drinking water bottle to carry with them. Sometimes they have some francs and can buy some cold pop or a big bun at school. They play around the yard until 7, when the bus comes and then they get in line. In the morning the tiny children go in first, but at noon, whoever gets there first. The Belgian children have taught our children to be very polite. Everyone shakes hands and says bonjour whenever they meet an adult that they know.
From the time our children leave home until they come back at noon they must talk in French. It does not take very long to learn when you are little. We try to have their dinner ready for them to eat as soon as they come home because they do not have much time. They ate their sandwich during recess at 10, and it is now 12:30. The bus comes again at 1:30 and this time they take just water to drink, as there is none that can be used at school. In the afternoons they do not have hard lessons, but handwork and the girls sewing, etc., as it is very hot. They arrive home again at 5 and have family worship again and then supper. Right after supper there is homework, and everybody does it except those in kindergarten. First graders are already writing with ink and have time to play ball before it gets dark. When the big diesel starts up again that means that there will be hot water for baths, as the water that cools the motor, gives us hot water for all the children. The diesel also pumps it from the well at the same time.
Kindergarten and first grade are in bed by 7, the rest in primary school by 7:30, and those in high school have more homework which sometimes keeps them up until 8:30 or 9. It is a busy life, but they are happier when they have lots to do. We have time for birthday parties, picnics and swimming and trips to the zoo, but now because we are so many, we have taken turns going. Our hearts are happy in Jesus, and we hope each one of you know Him as your very own Saviour. Write to us sometime. Lovingly, Ione
The swimming pool was close to the river Congo, it wasn’t tiled but was a concrete construction filled with filtered water from the river. There was a small children’s pool with slide- the slide was so rough it ruined many swimsuits. There was a spring board and a diving board at the deep end of the pool and a row of showers at the shallow end. A rope a third of the way down denoted where the ‘deep’ end started. We were only allowed in the deep end once we could swim. I cannot recall swimming lessons as such – we learnt from each other and found our own way to staying afloat in water. Nor can I recall any black people using the facility. The pool would be emptied, cleaned and refilled periodically and the water came in from the shallow end resulting in a slippery section over which water flowed. We were playing tag one day, I ran over the slippery section to avoid being caught, slipped and concussed myself – so although caught and tagged, the others soon realised it was wholly inappropriate and called ‘Aunty’ Ione to administer first aid!
As for the zoo, that too was adjacent to the river but by Tschopo falls so nearer to the children’s home at Kilometre 8. Had we known that there were diamonds in the river at this point we might have been more interested in the water than in the animals. We often took picnics, one picnic consisted of a choice between a can of baked beans or a can of peaches – one can between two children, my option was always peaches!
The chimpanzees who roamed freely liked picnics and often came begging or scrounging for anything that was dropped. We loved them.
Four days later, Ione is writing to family (the Cullums – Lizzie, Bert and girls) and at the forefront of her mind are plans for returning to America with her large family:
we would like very much to put the children in the school in Three Hills for the time that we are in the homeland (fall of ’60 and spring of ’61). If we can get a house to rent like we did in ’50 it would be nice. Hector and I will have to be away a number of times for conferences in the States and eastern Canada, but we will try to alternate so that one can be with the children all the time. I don’t know what the children will eat, when it’s Hector’s turn to stay!! In that case, I hope our house is not too far away from yours!!
Aunt Mabel has advised that the children get registered early for school on their return, presumably because choice is restricted if not done in advance. Ione continues:
This past term P.B.I. has done so much for us, and we want our children to get all they can from there. The school here is a public school and all their Christian training must come from our home. It will encourage their hearts to be in a Christian school for a while. I am wondering if any of ours will be near to the ages of your girls. Kenneth is 11 now; Paul is 10; David almost 9; John is 7; Stephen is 6; and Timothy is 5. They will all be in school when we come home, and I suppose Kenneth, and maybe Paul, will be ready for high school. The grades are so different here, it is hard to tell until we see the work they do there in high school. Kenneth, if he passes, will be ready for what they call the secondary school here, by the time we come home. But we have noticed the work is about a year ahead of school at home. It is in French and Flemish.
In a letter written later in the year, Ione describes an incident where Hector feels the need to talk to the teacher at Athenee Royal de Stanleyville which probably affirms for them the need for a Christian education programme; Ione writes:
…We have a problem right now that Hector has gone to town about this morning. The first-grade teacher requested in the ‘journal de classe’ which each child carries and we have to sign every night, a pack of playing cards for them to do their ‘calcul’ (math). Hector went to see the teacher and asked if there were any other cards that we could provide so that we would not have to put into their hands the gambler’s tool. She had no other alternative, and had prepared the term’s work around this theme, and it distressed her to think of changing. Hector left, but decided today, he could ask the school principal about it, and as there were four classes of 1st grade, it might be that we may be a bright and shining light here in this town, and not allow anything that would hinder us from witnessing for Christ. It will be nice when we are on furlough to be able to send our children to a Christian school.
To friends, the Duvall’s, Ione writes on the 4th March 1959:
Our furlough is due next year, and in order to save about $300 (Ione seems to have missed an ‘0’ off the price – see letter below.) travel expense, we may ask to leave before June 19 when Kenneth will be 13 years. It is a big undertaking to move such a big family, as you remember our struggle when we left Newington. And now some of them are nearing to the full-fare rate! But again we are trusting the Lord to provide, and we believe that He will let us come at the scheduled time. Lovingly, Ione
To her mother on 24th March, Ione writes:
Just after your letter with advice about furlough plans, we had a letter from Mr. Pudney, and one from Jean and Archie. Mr. Pudney discouraged the idea of trying to bring a car from Europe, or even stopping there at all. He said if we wanted to visit England on the way back, we might have a little more money for travelling. But he said the average offering for meetings is no more than $10 or $14 and we could not depend on offerings to help with expenses. And the cost of bringing a car across the border is very high. It will cost us anyway $3,000 to travel straight from Congo to New York or Montreal. He said furthermore, that it was a rule that missionaries spend their first three months of furlough where they can rest, so he would rather we wouldn’t do too much that summer.
The letter from Jean and Archie invited us to the farm. Jean is expecting to be married and may be leaving. Her boyfriend, Bob Jones, is a Christian banker in Calgary or Winnipeg, out in western Canada. Archie would like us to live with him as long as we can. We would like to spend some time there during the summer but feel that our children deserve to be in a Christian school at least while we are on furlough and would not like to put them into the school at Avonmore. The rationale for her thinking is explained:
During this furlough impressions will be made which will help them to know the Lord’s will for their lives. If we can show them what other Christian young people are planning to do, they won’t be limited to the inspiration of being a truck driver or shop-keeper in Stanleyville! That was our reason for thinking of the grade school at P.B.I. But I know there are other Christian schools as well, but I don’t know of any in Canada, and it’s there we can get the children’s allowance of $30 a month. Hector’s Aunt Mabel can get us a house for $50 a month. I want to be near you as much as possible during furlough, but don’t see how we could live on a missionary’s allowance around Chicago. We were thinking we might try to get a cottage at Simpson Park for while we are visiting Pontiac, and maybe we could rent some rooms near you for while we are visiting you. We don’t want it to be a burden to you, but we surely want to spend as much time with you as we can. The children require a little more space now than before. Only by leaving before June 16, ’60 can we avoid paying full fare for Kenny! And they are used to an acre of ground here, so will find the confinement of a city a bit hard, but it will be good for them, and they will be obedient, I think. I imagine Lucille has more space where she lives. We will be glad to see their home and work there.
Despite not having returned home, Ione forward thinking as ever writes
We are making no definite plans about when we return from furlough, and it may be better to bring them all back. But I surely would dread to have a child of 16 and 17 mixing with these children here, with all they have to look forward to. And we don’t want them to start keeping company with half-castes and people of 16 other nationalities! It is a decision we will have to make while we are home. If we bring them back, I would feel we should send them up to Rethy A.I.M. school which is about 800 miles from here.
Now I must close. Kenneth is labouring away over an old typewriter, having his first try at it, and Stevie is lying down and sitting up, copying his letter to you (see both letters below). I am making believe for a few days that I have two well-spaced children, and that my husband is away on business! We were all going to spend Easter at Wannie Rukula, but when Stevie had symptoms of jaundice the plans had to be changed. (Earlier in this letter, Ione recounts how she is spending time with Stevie and encouraging him to lie flat so his liver inflamed by jaundice reduces to normal size. Ione and Stevie have been reading books sent out by Leone and through this activity, Stevie is learning to read in English. Ione takes the opportunity to thank her mother for yet another parcel of Sunday School material and explains that there are to extend Sunday School to other white children living in the Stanleyville area). It is very quiet here (being the Easter break), and I am enjoying having just the two. We are hoping to hear soon about Pearl’s departure for Congo.
All for now. It is wonderful just to trust Him day by day. His joy is sufficient for every need. Lovingly, Ione
At this point in time, Ione initiates the boys in the art of letter wring:
Stevie writes to grandma:
Thank you for the games. I won when we played yesterday. I am better now. With love, Stephen
Thank you for your love to us, by sending games for us to play with.
We are learning more bible facts by playing them. Mummy & I stayed with Stephen who is sick, while Daddy & the other boys went to Wannie Rukula station for Easter Sunday because Daddy is going to preach to the natives.
The Rehs sent us a parcel with: toy cars, toy aeroplanes, a lantern, a top, a monkey, pictures, a magnet, bowl covers, candy, books, balloons, & towels.
We are all working hard in school while Timmy stays home to help Mummy or Daddy with their work.
In my report card, for French reading I got: 32 out of 40. For French reciting: 29 out of 40. For French Grammar: 96.5 out of 120. French spelling: 89 out of 120. Vocabulary: 53 out of 60. Composition: 40 out of 60.
For Flemish: 70 out of 80.
In Arithmetic, Mental Calcul: 69 out of 80. Written Calcul: 80 out of 100.
Metric System: 72 out of 100. Geometric Forms: 69 out of 80.
Conduct: 60 out of 60. Neatness: 19.5 out of 20. Cleanness: 20 out of 20.
Application: 20 out of 20. Religion: 79 out of 80.
History: 26 out of 30. Geography: 30 out of 30. Science: 40 out of 40.
Drawing: 14 out of 20. Hand work: 17 out of 20. Writing: 16 out of 20.
Singing: 18 out of 20.
Gymnastic & Swimming: 49 out of 60.
With over the half of the maximum of French and Arithmetic I can pass into the next grade.
I am in 5th year which is 6th grade at home.
The LORD bless you!
And not to be left out, Paul writes:
I am sending you the points of my big bulletin (see below). It is raining a lot here. Auntie Pearl arrived on the 6 of May.
Some of the children are sick. We had some ice cream and strawberries yesterday. Auntie Pearl gave us some pills.
From Paul McMillan.
3rd Term, 1959, Athenee Royal
Conduct 20 19.5
Order 10 9
Cleanliness 10 9
Application 10 9.5
Religion Protestant 30 29
French reading 40 25
Recitation 20 16
Grammar 40 26.5
Spelling 60 53.5
Vocabulary 40 28
Flemish written 30 29
“ spoken 30 26.5
Arithmetic – mental 40 28.5
“ – written 50 41
Metric system 40 33
Geometric forms 20 14
History, Geog., Sciences40 26
Drawing 10 9
Handwork 10 9
Writing 10 8.5
Singing 10 9.5
Gym. and swimming 30 27
Total 600 485
Place in class – 10th out of 30
This week’s grades – Maximum 10
Proving he is not to be out done by his older brother.
Besides the package from her Mother, Ione receives one from the Reh’s, Ione writes on 28th March:
Dear Peggy and Walter,
On March 26th the looked-for package arrived and was it ever big! Bigger than any package they have ever received. Such delight and excitement there was, as Daddy unwrapped it. Somebody was busy reading the ticket. Someone shouted, “Oh, good, now we can take some presents to Wannie Rukula!”
They appointed Auntie Isobel (the lady who helps us) to decide what toys each should receive. She enjoys a job like that, and all would be satisfied. The two helicopters went to John and David; the Honkalong to Timmy; one bus to Stevie, the hydrogen fire engine to Kenny and baggage carrier bump’n go to Paul. There were still four large toys, and because they were planning to spend a long Easter week-end at a station where there were four missionary children, they decided it would not be right for us to have two each and those children have non, so the other bus was designated for a Logan boy, and the beautiful organ-like top for the tiny Cunningham girl. Everyone agreed that Daddy should have the lantern and he has taken it with him to Wannie. But we all couldn’t go, for Stephen became ill with jaundice, and will have to be in bed for a while. Kenneth stayed at home with me and Stevie. I feel like a young mother with two well-spaced children!
Now to go on with the story of the wonderful package. The monkey is something everyone is enjoying together so that is family property. Likewise, the pictures. When Hector got batteries for the lantern and Paul’s car, he also replaced the ones in the view master, so now we are enjoying the new views. Thank you so much for this fine outfit. Hector has bought a few here in Stan to add to the collection. The magnet I have put away for a birthday or a sick child. The bowl covers came to my department with many thanks. Also, as much of the candy as I can manage! Those chocolates are grand and arrived in very good condition. Thank you so much for remembering just the kind we like. One package of balloons was divided between the Logan’s and Cunningham’s; one package among our children, and one kept for birthday or sickness. The five Bible picture stories went to our five oldest, and the colour book saved for a while. David is helping John to learn to read with the Engine story. I am sure they are having a grand time at Wannie with all of these interesting things. The bathroom tissue and facial tissues we shall keep for when the ‘governor’ or someone like that visits; the towels as well. I guess, unless we get too desperate and use them for ourselves.
Thank you so much for all of these things. It is a lot of money to spend on just us, and we appreciate it so much. May the Lord bless you and supply your every need.
It’s not long before whatever caused Stevie’s jaundice infects his younger brother, Ione writes to Audrey Damant on 5th April 1959:
And of course, Florence, Douglas, Shirley, Carol, and Joan, if she is there!
Every day when we pull off one of the sheets of that nice Scripture calendar I remember that we haven’t thanked you yet! It was so good of you to send us another, and we want you to know that these verses are a blessing to a good many people. Each morning’s verse is written on the blackboard, and during the morning devotions we learn it. Then when we meet at night we try to say it from memory. We have learned a lot of scripture that way.
I am still trying to type with a little boy on my lap, but he is very quiet, as Timmy has jaundice and doesn’t feel like wiggling. Stevie is just gotten over it, but both seem to have had mild cases. All of the other children are well, and Hector is playing with them outside just now.
Tomorrow the new school term begins and we expect to have 21 children. During the two-week Easter vacation, we have been working on the new building, and the two fifths that is occupied looks better. We were able to get the rest of the curtains that were lacking, and cement more floor space, and Hector has made six nice desks for the middle-sized boys. He was remarking today how three screws hold up four desks! You can imagine he has some new idea of the suspension. I wonder what would happen if those 3 screws came out and four boys went down.
We have heard that the nurse (Pearl Hiles) who is coming out to help us will be leaving America April 7, so by the time her boat finishes its journey it will no doubt be well into May. We will be thankful for her help even for a few weeks before school finishes in June. She’ll probably give us some good ideas about a ‘sick bay’ for the children, as we have no place yet to put them when they are sick.
We are so happy in the Lord. Day by day we marvel at His goodness, and we have learned that “the joy of the Lord is your strength”. This morning Hector gave a message at the Protestant Church to white and black people who know English. One verse was outstanding, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye.” Love, Ione
One dilemma facing missionaries abroad centres on the family they have left behind. Frequently in Ione’s letters, particularly to her mother, Ione is asking for information, checking that her mother has enough to live on, worrying where she is living and what she is doing. Besides her mother, there are her sisters and letters between Marcellyn, Lucille and her self are frequent, but Ione’s youngest sister, Doris does not write often. Something that worries Ione considerably over the years. Doris is unlike her elder sisters and seems to make life choices that they would perhaps not wholly support and she avoids writing to Ione leaving her mother and/or her sisters to keep Ione informed. News reaches Ione that Doris’ husband, Bill Biederman has sued for divorce and won custody of all their five children. It is evident that Ione, loving and caring for her family as she does, has written directly and probably to both Bill and Doris and has received a letter from Bill. The following is her response to Bill’s letter written on 23rd April 1959:
You were very prompt in answering the letter I wrote, and I appreciate knowing how you feel about the trouble between you and Doris. I did not answer right away as I hoped to hear from Doris as well. However, the only word I have had is that which has come by way of Mother. And I did not want to be prejudiced in any way when I wrote to you again. Now I find within me such a desire to write that it seems like a fire within and can only find relief in expression.
I am glad that you have had 12 years of happy married life. With this background I would think it would be possible for you to be reunited and have happy times again. But this time I am convinced that it must be on a more solid foundation, and the only sure foundation is Jesus Christ. Knowing the Lord can help you thru EVERY kind of trouble, and I do mean EVERY. Irregardless of whose fault it is, THE SAVIOR CAN SOLVE EVERY PROBLEM. If Doris wanted the divorce, and you gave it to her, can you not give her the chance to come back to you, if you really love her? I know there are a lot of things involved and rehearsing them only makes the heartache more. But we’ll have to narrow the issue down to ONE THING – a right relationship to Jesus with the regard to the sin question, and then doing what you know He wants you to – and this, regardless of pride or past experience.
When Doris asked you for forgiveness, did you forgive her? And did you give her a chance to come back? I would so much like to know if you have done all in your part to bring about a reconciliation. I haven’t heard from Doris, and I suppose I won’t until everything is right again, and it can be right too, “for the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” But it takes willingness on our part. He’s already done His part.
Why don’t you just step out on faith, “forgetting those things which are behind you, reaching forth to those things which are before,” make things right between you and the Lord, if they are not already, then do the big thing that the Lord is waiting for – make a move in her direction. For, “whom the Lord hath joined together, no man can put asunder.”
I hope this frank letter will not prevent you from answering as promptly as you did before. I do love to hear from you, and feel as I always have toward you, that you are my brother. I love you and long to see you happy. I am praying for you and all the children and am waiting for the picture which you thought you might be able to send soon.
We leave here July 18th by jet and will arrive in New York probably the 20th. We expect to welcome our sister Marcellyn the 25th when she comes from the Dominican Republic, and then will follow two weeks of family reunion. Doris will be the only one missing. How I do long for you and Doris and the children to join us at that time. We will engage a cottage for you at Gull Lake if you just say the word. Our reservation is Aug. 1-24. Not just for the reunion, but for many years of happy family life to come, DO YOUR VERY BEST, BILL. I’m counting on YOU. Lovingly, Ione
Writing on such a sensitive subject cannot have been easy, especially as recipients of such letters can put their own interpretation on what is said on paper without facial expression or paralinguistics to soften or accentuate parts. There is a large gap in this correspondence, but there is another letter written on 9th October 1959 by Ione:
I am writing to you as I do not have Doris’ address, and do so much want to get in touch with her. It will soon be 15 years since I saw you both, and I believe Doris will be 34 years old tomorrow. I have never seen any of your children and have had few pictures. But I want you to know that I love you dearly, all of you, and hope so much to have a letter.
The last news I had was a letter which Doris had sent to Mother in June, saying that you had divorced her and had taken the children. We know that no judge would give such a decree unless the Mother had done something very seriously wrong, to the harm of the children. And I feel that I cannot pray intelligently for you all, unless I know more about it. And there has been no answer from the letter I wrote to Doris in July.
There is nothing I would like better than to come to you right now and see if there wasn’t something I could do. It is such a helpless feeling to be so far away, wondering and wondering what has happened. I want to do as the song says, “Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there,” and if you will tell me more about it, I will do this.
I told Doris that I hoped there would be a reunion next summer. The last letter from Marcellyn suggests that she cannot come from the Dominican Republic until August. If this is true, we may go to Canada first and spend the last 6 weeks of the summer in Michigan. We had at first hoped we might go to Alaska on our way home this time, but our Mission has requested that we make the direct route as there is not the money available for such a round-about way. After the time in Michigan with Mother and Lucille, we expect to take our six boys to western Canada where they can attend a school in Three Hills, Alberta. There we spent 5 months in 1950. It is not far from the west coast, and failing a reunion during this summer, I think I would try to see you from that point. Our furlough will finish the summer of ’61.
I’m so sorry that you have not had a happy marriage. Hector and I were married the same year, and it seems that with us, each year gets better. Just yesterday Hector was looking over our old pictures as he had to stay in bed with malaria fever, and when he came to our wedding picture, he smiled and said, “It’s been a happy time, hasn’t it?” I don’t know what I would ever do if a shadow came between us. I can’t stand it to let one night come and pass if there have been any cross words unforgiven. We live in quite a confusion, with 24 children around us so much of the time, but there is always the quiet peaceful feeling that Hector has confidence in me, and I would not let him down for anything! And together we have been trusting the Lord for our daily needs, and for leading these children in the right way. We are determined that there will be no black sheep among them, but it is only the Lord that can keep them alright.
If I were writing to Doris I would suggest that she read I Peter Chapter 4 which is a word to wives; and to you I Peter 4:7 to the end as it is to husbands.
Now I want you to give each one of the children a kiss from their Auntie Ione. I hope it will be possible to see them and let them know their cousins. They would be about the same age.
What work are you doing now? And do you have any vacation time? I surely hope you can write soon and let us know all about everything.
May the Lord bless you and help you to do the right thing.
Lovingly in Him, Ione McMillan
Eventually Ione gets a response from Bill in a letter written on 2nd November 1959:
Your mother now has Doris’ address. I do not know what it is but I know where she works. If you don’t hear from your mother you can address her mail c/o Henry F. Wolf, Inc. 2606 Seward Highway, Anchorage, Alaska. I’m sure she will get it.
Your mother wrote to me recently and asked me practically the same question you have. Ione, I could not help the situation any nor make you feel better toward your sister if I tell you all the gruesome details, so please allow me to sum it all up in a few words. After 12 years Doris just got tired of living with the same man. Now, I know these are harsh words but I can’t make them any milder. I did not even tell your mother this much. I figured there was nothing I could tell a mother about her daughter she did not already know, and there is nothing to be gained by saying anything bad about anyone. On the other hand, I hope you consider everything that is told to you (in an attempt to justify this action by Doris) carefully before you accept it as factual.
There were two things in your letter that disturbed me; first our marriage for the first 12 years was not an unhappy one. We were both very happy. I surely was and Doris gave me no indication of being anything but happy herself, and then it happened. I discovered a situation no husband would accept and she immediately asked for a divorce. The second thing that bothers me is the statement that I divorced her – that is true, but I sued for a divorce at her request and only after two years and three divorce suits brought on by her on her grounds. I refused to give her a divorce and attempted to keep the family together but after two years even I was convinced we could not make a success of it and gave her the freedom she so badly wanted. It’s funny how a person when writing will say more than he intends to so please forgive me for any heartache I might give you.
The children are doing as well as any could in a broken home. They miss their mother terribly but they see her daily, spend one night a week with her and all-day Sunday. I don’t restrict visitation rights in anyway. I have hired a full-time house keeper who lives in the home and cares for us all as best as she can and she is doing a fine job.
I would like to ask one favour of you and that is be careful what you tell Doris you have heard from me. She is very sensitive about her guilt and reacts in peculiar ways to cover this guilt and the children are usually the ones that suffer. I’m sure in time she will tell you all, whether it will be the truth or not, you will have to decide. She has not been particularly known for telling the truth during these past three years, but I know down deep, Doris is a fine person and some day she will tell you everything as it really happened.
I should also mention that I have met with Doris on two occasions since we have been divorced and on one occasion she tearfully asked for forgiveness for the misery she had put me thru. I forgave her and she knows I would have forgiven her anywhere along the line.
Pray for us, Ione and especially for the children and may God bless you and all your family. I’ll send you a picture of the children as soon as I can.
As always, Bill
Many of Ione’s letters are to supporters, in part explaining what her and Hector’s missionary work entails, to May Schad, Ione writes on 24th April:
We care for 21 missionary children while they attend a public school here. The missionary parents by sending their children to us at the age of 6 can be free to teach school or do medical work full-time and make frequent trips out into the deeper parts of the forest. We have been happy to see how much more useful these parents are now, and the children are happy here. Hector has them for morning and evening devotions, we take them to two services on Sunday held in town, one in French and one in English, and in the afternoon, I arrange the Sunday School. The parents provide their clothing and pay us for their food. As yet we have no means of acquiring proper furnishings for the Home, but are little by little trying to get things that are available out here, enamel plates, bright cloth for curtains, etc. The Home is the style of most Belgian tropical homes, large and airy, well-ventilated. It is not like any of our missionary houses, which are smaller and more like the natives have, but when we came to Stanleyville, we had to take the kind acceptable here. The rooms are large but not nearly enough for so many people, so we are putting doors and windows (purchased second-hand) into a big open shed which adjoins the property. This keeps Hector busy while the children are in school. During the vacation months missionaries stay here in order to do their shopping and get their cars fixed. We had over 100 visitors last summer.
In addition to this, Hector has a weekly Bible study for white people in town.
I have daily meetings with our African staff and any others who like to come in for the service. There have been a number who have accepted Christ in this way, and we are thrilled that we can do this much. We started to have native work with women and children, but our Mission secretary said this would have to wait until another couple could come, as the only time we could do it was when the children are in school, and often they are not all in school. There is limitless possibility for work among the Africans here, but for the present we can’t do much about it but pray. Right now there is the possibility of the Billy Graham Team coming to Stanleyville, and we are hoping for some real city-wide meetings. Will you join us in prayer for this? There is a British Baptist missionary here, and also two Salvation Army ladies from Belgium, and they do preach the Gospel but they are few among 60,000 Africans and 5000 white people.
Now this perhaps gives you a better picture of us. Do you have Tee’s address? Joyfully in Him, Ione (Tee used to sing in a trio with Ione back in the late 1930’s early 1940’s.)
On May 11th 1959, Ione has good news for her sister Lucille and brother in law, Maurice, her friend Pearl Hiles arrived on 6th May. Ione writes:
I’m not getting quite so much done because of talking (or listening) so much, but it is fun and refreshing. Pearl has one little patient to take care of and is busy going over all of our medicines or lack of such. It is such a help to have her here, and she knows just what to do. She sleeps near the girls and is giving them consistent, loving care. (Isobel has moved over into the new building near us and can supervise better the little boys, of which there are eight now.) She hopes soon to get outside and do some work, too, as the big yard could be so pretty if planned right and cared for. We have a new garden started as this is the season for planting.
We are anxious to get a look at Covey Hill and shall try to see you soon after we arrive on furlough. Plans are changed from time to time, and our hope of stopping in Europe, as well as of getting a car were deflated by Mr. Pudney. But he does advise us to fly rather than take a boat, either to Montreal or New York IF we come by New York we would spend a few days in Philadelphia at headquarters, and then head toward your way. We entertained Ben Gordon here this year and are thinking we might ask him if we could get a cottage at Gull Lake for a few weeks as it is near you and Mother and Pontiac. If Mother is free she might be able to come there, too, and visit around with us. I haven’t written her yet about this. If we leave here before Kenny’s birthday (June 19) we could spend some time in the Michigan area before going on to Toronto to Hector’s two churches, and then to the farm. As yet we have not changed our decision to take the children to Three Hills to go to school that year. If the Lord shows us a better plan we want to be ready to adjust, but as yet we cannot see a better place within our means and where they will be challenged spiritually. They go all the time here to a worldly school, and we feel it is only fair to them to know what other Christian young people are doing. Will you pray about this?
We are so happy here, and enjoy being with the children, though sometimes we get tired, not OF the work, but IN it! The Lord ministers daily to our needs spiritually and keeps us praising Him for just everything. We see a growth in the Christian lives of the children, and they are a loving group. Hector makes the boys respect their mother and ‘aunties’ so that sometimes I feel like a queen. But he works and plays with them and I don’t believe they feel he is too strict (Some would debate this point!). Our times of family worship are precious.
I am sending as many pictures as we have stamps for. Will send a family group later. Love, Ione
Fortunately for Ione and all those she cares for, packages keep coming from America. Ione writes a letter to the donor, Mrs John Dunbar on 11th May:
Thank you so much for the parcel we received May 2nd, and for your letter.
Those buttons and needles and thread I just turned right over to Isobel for her sewing, as our sewing materials are nearly finished. I noticed just a little while later she was already sewing some of the buttons on little shirts. It seems we lack mostly shirt and pants buttons. We have tried to get them wholesale here but have not succeeded as yet. We have used half of the instant potatoes for one meal and will use the other half another time. We can get potatoes here, but the instant are quick and nice to have when company arrives unexpectedly. I was glad to have the two packages of cake mix just alike, as I could make one big cake, for yesterday’s dinner. And it was just enough. By using four trays in our freezing compartment of the Servel (kerosene) refrigerator we can make enough ice cream for our crowd. We are 25 people now.
The suckers were enough for all but two of the children and we made it up in chocolate mints (so delicious!). The mints and chocolate. Mints and toffee crunch were enough to give one each for three days. Hector ate one of the McIntosh toffee slabs and I divided the other between Isobel and me. The gum is saved for a future treat. By ‘extending’ the two packages of chicken noodle soup with a half package of spaghetti, we had enough soup for all. The tomato soup will be enough as it is, for there are 4 packages. The two round luncheon meats when sliced thin did for all in sandwiches for a picnic supper. The other tin I will use some day as an extra when parents drop in; same with the pudding powders. Hector is wondering if the honey came from Duart McLeans. We certainly are glad to have it. You didn’t have it listed on the outside, and the children who untied and rolled up the string of the package were disappointed when they thought there was no honey, then were pleasantly surprised. I think you must have sent me a nylon blouse of your very own, as it looks like the style you wore when I was home. I was very happy to have it, and it does fit just fine! The towels and rain hats are useful, too, as baths and rain are both plentiful here! I will write to tell Jean thank you for the bowls and hope for the rest of them on a future time!
These thank you letters from Ione give insights into life at the Children’s home, as Ione describes how she uses the contents of the packages. To friend Peggy Reh, she writes:
The package arrived May 16th and we opened it on the bed and what a happy crowd gathered around! The vanilla arrived in excellent condition and I would like to express my appreciation to Audrey Brady for such a nice big bottle. We have already used it in ice cream, and it makes it taste much better than just with salt (we use milk powder, double strength, and sugar and boiled water).
The shirts do fit the boys just right; they wore them to church, and then the next day to school. They are just like the well-dressed Belgian children wear to school, and so cool and crisp! The two numbers alike were well-planned as they fit the two boys who have identical weights, Paul and David! Since the appearance of the two pairs of beautiful pyjamas, Hector has pensioned off the outsize ladies’ pyjamas he was wearing! Both dresses fit me, but on the blue-green one with snow and leaves falling I should raise the waist line ½ inch, as it is low there and a little long. The red plaid is just right and I was able to put it right on to wear to our weekly Bible study in town. I would say that, unless it shrinks a lot which I don’t think it will, the 16 and a half would be fine for a furlough dress. My weight stays around 120 to 123 lbs. I stopped gaining a few months ago when the epidemic of flu started. That was thoughtful of you to send the brassieres and they are the right size, too.
The children have enjoyed the balloons and blow-outs. They decided that the colour books were for the three who do not read and divided up the books with the older ones. I think they have read most the Danny Orlis books already (so have I!!) and the Nystrom one appeals to Hector and me, but I am letting him read it first. Thank you so much for giving us something to read; we have no other way of getting English books except from home and it is refreshing to have Christian books. (I was an avid reader and lapped up all the Danny Orlis stories despite them being written for boys. Although I never voiced the sentiment, I heartily wished that the McMillan’s had produced a daughter along the way so that I could have reading materials more suited to a girl aged 11 years. As an 11-year-old girl, the boys were not always very welcoming to their play groups. The boys outnumbered the girls by at least 3:1. I just happened to be the oldest girl so on my own. I never really minded as long as I had a book to read on the porch steps.)
Hector says he can get a dress shirt in Stanleyville, but I’m not sure that he will be able to buy it just when he needs it, so if there is one sent he can surely use it. I think he mentioned being able to get it here because he was hoping that a nylon or Dacron one might come from home! I have not seen many nylon things here. He CAN get a cotton dress shirt, but not one that would be easy to travel in! A real nice long-sleeved one with plenty of room for his waistline! I think size 16-1/2. He is nearly 200 lbs. now. Dress shirts for the boys in the same sizes you sent should be all right. (6,8,10,12,14) The socks you sent went to Hector (3 pairs.) Kenneth (3 pairs.) and the others to John or David I think. The white ones fit Hector, but he will have to buy some garters! He can buy garters here I think and wear them with white clothes. Pearl Hiles just opened her baggage and presented him with 6 pairs of white pants (used) which she brought out with doctor and hospital gowns! Both of our mission doctors are off the field right now.
We are enjoying Pearl a lot and her breezy way is refreshing in a hot place. The little sufferers have been made more comfortable. Today we have only two in bed but this week started with nine ill ones. That is among the children. Isobel fell ill just last evening with the same symptoms, cold and fever. There has been only one day since Easter vacation that all of the children have been able to go to school. Pearl has had it too but has not really gone to bed. Hector took her to get her baggage at customs and they found she had to pay on everything, even used personal items and hospital things. I think it was about $200. She was bringing a lot of things for other missionaries, and they will share some of it, but it was so much more than usual that it makes us feel that a new trend is beginning. A reference to the changing political climate that is taking place). Pray about this. Love, Ione
In her role as house mother, Ione now needs to keep her charges parents informed of events at Kilometre 8; Ione write to Bob and Alma McAlister on 26th May:
We were sorry that you could not spend the week-end with Billy. He was quite happy here until he learned that he had missed seeing you, and then his face fell, but he did not cry (Billy was not the sort of child to cry publicly – tough and stoical as he was). It was then that the sweets and the letter did their part in cheering his little heart.
He received the letter you had sent while you were away. And he sent one in this week’s mail with his report card. It is amazing how well he keeps and even his cough is better, while all around him are sick children. Today only he and Timmy and John went to school from a room of eight. The teachers have asked the sick ones not to come back too soon, as there have been many cases of relapse and re-infection. 80% of Stanleyville has the flu. In the junior boys’ room three out of four are in bed. My, we are thankful that Pearl came just when she did. There has been much vomiting and high temperatures, last night we were concerned about our Stephen, and he is quite limp today. Billy said this morning that he did not mind going to school without Wilfred and Stevie for he could play with Timmy during recess. But the afternoons were harder as Timmy does not go then. I guess Billy’s French will be really put to the test without his little friends to help him!
We have had a telegram from the missionary dentists from F.E.A., the Paulson’s (Moody friends of mine) who have offered to come June 3 to examine our children’s teeth. They are the same ones who came last October. We wired them that it was all right with us. They would not take any pay last time, even for their travel expenses, and they did a splendid job with the children and staff. (Personally – I dreaded the visit and have an abiding fear of dentists to this day!)
Ernie Boyes is still at Banjwadi since the long week-end. I am wondering how Stephen Parry is, but perhaps we shall hear in tomorrow’s mail. He is just as well off at home for a prolonged illness. But I hope he is all right again by now.
Do you remember whether you paid us for Billy’s boots which we bought? I remember you paid us for the ones you took for David. We couldn’t get the 99 franc ones for Billy as his feet were just one size too big, so they were 169 francs. The only other expenses for Billy so far has been a tube of toothpaste, 5.50 francs.
We have had no special indication from the other parents concerning plans for the five days between school’s end and Conference. The Walbys were here recently and the two Banjwadi mothers, and they seemed to think it would be nice to plan Daily Vacation Bible School and special outings, though no one would be free to help. I think Iris (Nicholls) is letting her children choose whether they want to come to Banjwadi and help her get ready for the Conference or stay here with the children. Herb (Boyes)said his could choose, but they had to all three choose the same way! He didn’t want some staying and some going! The Maganga plans I am not sure of, as Nora (Parry)was too rushed the day she was thru here to even hear clearly what I tried to say. What are your plans? Can you come down ahead of time and leave your staff to come later” We still have Kinso’s car, no sign of Jeep parts. Lovingly, Ione
The letter writing to other mothers prompts Ione to write on 15th June 1959:
It seems these days that I am writing to everybody else’s mother except my own! I keep a file of our 8 parents, and keep them informed as to school regulations, expenses, comings and goings of children, etc. It is getting more and more complicated as the numbers of families increases. I like working at the desk, but not when it means neglecting my Mother! It looks like this school term is going to end with sickness as it began, and we have had only one day during the whole term when all have been in school! Timmy has chicken pox now, but most of the children have had the flu two and three times. David has been in bed for about three weeks. The doctor finally took an X-ray of his lungs but found nothing to explain for the temperature but it just seems to take a long time to get over it, and we do not have the quick-working drugs here that you have at home!
At Ekoko where our doctor (UFM) was until last month (he had to go home because of his wife’s sickness) he gave something that snapped them out of it in a hurry. But we go to the state doctor in Stanleyville who is very sympathetic and kind but does not always have at his fingertips the medicine that acts quickly. We received our medicines and care free and are very thankful for this. The day we took David for X-ray and Timmy to see for sure if it was chickenpox, Paul had to take ether and have an ingrown toenail cut out. He did not feel it at all and was not even sick afterward. They gave him a clean bed and quiet room where we could stay with him all morning, and I watched even during the operation (when I could stand it to look!).
I have been led many times of late to awake and pray for you during the night. I have claimed His promises for you as a widow, and as one whose children and whose own life has been wholly yielded to Him for His service. And I have the confidence that He is doing something for you right now, that is to His glory and that will help someone else to be blessed thereby. There is no liberty like that which is in Christ. And to abandon all concern for the future, or the present for that matter, is to completely trust Him, and I believe it is honouring unto Him. What a privilege for me to have a Mother like that! I want you to know that I love you all the more for putting His will before your comforts and necessities, which are especially needful as you are growing older. I’m glad you called Lucille on the phone after you lost your job, and how thankful I am that Lucille is there, while Marcellyn and Doris and I are so far away.
I will write more later, but just must get this in the mail before there are any more delays, and I have just fifteen minutes. We are thrilled about the Sunday School materials coming. How I wish they were here right now, for we are going to have Daily Vocational Bible School (DVBS) for five days between the time school closes and the time the parents will meet their children at the general conference. We have sorted out every bit of material we have for every department and are using bits of material sent by Lucille, bits from Peggy Reh and bits from a woman in Canada, as the other lessons are finished. We are going to have lots of music and get some special numbers ready to present at the conference (June 25 to July 4).
Then from July 6-26 our family will be at a music conference for African boys who play band instruments and it will be sort of like a holiday for all I have to do is enjoy the family and teach singing from 2:30 to 4. I know I will just love it.
We are beginning to get more books from all sorts of places for our children’s home library and I am praising the Lord because most of them are real Christian books. You have sent us the best ones, Mother. Peggy Reh sent 6 Danny Orlis ones. And we have just received two sets of 19 World Book and Childcraft. Our room is nearly finished where we will put them. Pray for glass for windows for it. Enclosed a picture of our two who have no support at all, Paul and Timmy, as you asked about this matter. Wish I could write more. The Lord bless you. Love, Ione
PS: Praise the Lord with me for opportunity to deal with a Belgian lady about the things of the Lord. She really listened to the Scriptures. I am so happy in the Lord and He daily loadeth me with benefits. We finally got the International Money order off to you. It is for $50. This is a birthday gift to you, and even though you may be tempted to get things to send to us for travel, please use it for yourself. Not even for postage, Mother. I was hoping this would help you to replace items of clothing which I know must be worn out by now. Or for payments on anything, or whatever personal need you have especially when it comes. How I wish it were a lot more. I wanted to send you money when Hector’s Dad left some in his will, but at the time it came we were desperately needing a water system here and it went for buying a big tank and well tiles and pipes. But I am thankful the Lord gives us the joy of giving once in a while. X Ione
As the school year comes to an end, there is no respite for Ione with the Mission Conference coming so soon after the end of Term. Once again, Palmiers’, the school magazine chronicles just how well the children have done. Tim gets a prize for good behaviour, Stephen a prize for drawing. Bill McAllister gets the ‘Prix de Sagesse’ (knowledge), prizes for excellence in Religious studies go to Hazel Parry, Veronica and Laureen Walby, John & Stephen McMillan and Ken Boyes. Prize for Effort goes to Heather Arton, Good behaviour prize goes to Paul, Ernie Boyes gets a prize for being a model student as does Ken McMillan. John McMillan gets a prize for overall outstanding performance and Stephen Parry comes second to him for the first-year students and Ken Boyes earns the prize for the second-year students. Allan and Barbara Nicholls get prizes for demonstrating the best effort in their studies.
In terms of position in class: John comes first in his year with Stephen Parry 3rd and Ernie Boyes 9th; David McMillan is 18th, Ken Boyes 19th and Barbara Nicholls 25th. For some reason – perhaps school absence due to illness, Veronica Walby, Hazel Parry Allan Nicholls and Heather Arton are not placed. Laureen Walby and Bill Boyes are both placed 5th (girls and boys are segregated at this stage) and Paul is 13th. Close rivalry between Ken and Mike Carter is maintained with Ken coming 5th and Mike 7th. Philip came third in his year group. So once again, the missionary children do well and this is due to the supervised homework sessions that Hector, Ione, Isabel and the Siggs provide.
On July 8th, Ione updates her mother on some of the things she mentions in the previous letter:
David’s trouble cleared up soon after the X-ray which was negative, and we are thankful Paul’s toe is all right now. I will remember about cutting across the nail rather than round to prevent ingrown toenail. All of the children have been well since a few days before school was out. While the children were waiting five days for their parents to come down for Conference, we were able to take them on two nice trips; quite a job for us to manage 21, but the parents of one boy helped us with car and supervision. We went to Wannie Rukula, 64 kilometres away on the Sunday for services there, and to Yangambi, 111 kilometres on a Tuesday. Then Wednesday June 24th, we packed all their beds, bedding, etc., and took them in several loads to the Conference, where their parents met them. I did quite a bit of singing this Conference and enjoyed being able to do more since our children are a bit older. The DVBS went well and we also had special classes in spelling in English and prepared some special children’s numbers for the Conference. Kenneth sings in a boys’ quartet (with the here Carter boys!). The music classes have started but I am not taking the first week, as there were a number of pressing things here at the Home right after Conference, and Sarah Schmidt was free to take them. I will start next Monday for 2 weeks when Sarah has to leave. Our whole family will go to Banjwadi and live in the Boyes’ house during this time as the Boyes are going for a vacation in the mountains. I won’t have to cook breakfast or dinner as we will eat in a dining hall with the Congolese boys in the Camp. Joseph (Dansi) is among these fellows; you remember the boy we kept at Bongondza just before I was sick in ’53. Joe is a mulatto and starting to be a teacher at Maganga. We received the first package of Sunday School material from Union Gospel Press, they are Sunday School papers for five different classes. We will have five classes this year at the Home as our staff will be five now. Mr. and Mrs. Dick Sigg will join us and Isobel for one year, and then they will carry on during our furlough. The Siggs are Americans from Florida and Indiana; they have a little boy, Sammy, 1-1/2 yrs. Don’t be discouraged, Mother! “Ye shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace.”
I am claiming His promises for you, Mother, in this crisis, that He may be honoured and glorified, and that His will be done. He is surely mindful of your needs, and of the $210 you should have. Are your things at the apartment in Cicero? I think I will mention that you are available for work to Ben Gordon when I write to Gull Lake about a cottage for next summer. It may be that there is something you could be doing there.
In this letter, Ione refers to her sister Doris:
I am committing your needs and Doris’ difficulty to the One who knows the way thru the wilderness. It must have come as a blow to you in the midst of your straightened circumstances. But how anxious the Lord is for us to cry to Him in the day of trouble, and how able He is to “bring to pass” that which is to His glory. I think we agreed that we want His will to be done. It would seem the best to pray that she will soon have her children back with her, yet we do not know what He has planned, or what circumstances made that judge give such a decision. I don’t think any judge could take all a mother’s children away from her no matter how many stood with Bill, except there be some evident reason. And I’m afraid that Doris will feel that if she doesn’t get them back within a certain time that God does not answer prayer. I told her how precious Jesus became to me when I thought I was going to lose mine, when I was so sick, and how when the decision was made that I was willing to part with them for His sake, He gave them back. Our relationship with Him is far more precious than our relationship to our children. And out there in eternity His loving presence will be all that we will need. If I could just make her know the difference between praying for something and HAVING SOMEONE who knows our every little sigh. It is the difference between a Christian life and a victorious Christian life. “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great things shall be the peace of thy children.” Loving her sister as she does, Ione has difficulty processing the news about Doris, and because even air mail letters take time to cross from one continent to another, it is months before she can piece the whole story together.
In the meantime, Ione enjoys the Conference at Banjwadi as she states in a letter to her sister Marcellyn:
We just finished the best Conference yet, and I think my greatest pleasure was singing duets with Alma McAllister and trios with Sarah Schmidt and Coral Snyder. Kenneth sang in a quartet with the 3 Carter boys in four parts. Hector is on the Field Council now so has to help solve the many problems that arise.
Pearl Hiles has been designated for Banjwadi. When we go on furlough the Siggs and Isobel will carry on. There will be 23 to 25 children this year when they all get there, but when we go the Boyes go, too, and also the Parry’s, which reduces the number of Home children considerably! Ione
As the year progresses, Ione keeps mulling over her plans for furlough; she writes to the Samworths on 4th August:
…It doesn’t look like we will be spending as much time this furlough around Hector’s home though they have invited us and I think it would help Jean if we could stay there all furlough. But since our children have been in a worldly school all this term, we feel we owe it to them to give them a chance to go to a Christian school during our furlough. And the best place we can think of is PBI grade school, with the hope that when they get older they will wish to go back there on their own to finish. Now will you pray about this with us, as we do not want to disappoint either my people or Hector’s but cannot see our way clear to send them to school in Michigan either, though there are some very good Christian day schools there. We get a children’s allowance in Canada, and living would be cheaper out at Three Hills than in Michigan. We do plan to spend time in Michigan as soon as we arrive in June, 1960, and then stay the rest of the summer at the farm in Avonmore.
…Then when we go, three other families take furloughs, too, so there will not be so many children in the Home the following year. The mission is taking the property right next to us here and an office building. In addition to this, they have approved starting as soon as the papers are thru to build a big guest house; this is a real help to us as it will make a place for parents when they bring children but as the children enter school this month, we have not one room left which we can offer to their parents! The Lord knows about this, and we praise Him that He is already doing something about it. Ione
August 4th is obviously a correspondence day as Ione manages to write to one of the supporting churches, High Park Baptist Church:
We are late in expressing it, but we do want to tell you thank you for the Christmas gift of $85 for the family. As I recall, most of it has been spent on shoes, and it seems like we are getting the habit of buying our shoes after the gift from High Park!! May the Lord keep us from being over-presumptuous!!
After the other children were gone to their homes, we were able to take our own to a Band Camp (earlier referred to as a music school) held nearby (Banjwadi) for three weeks. This was held for Africans who are beginning to teach in our mission schools. My job was to teach singing each afternoon. At the end of the camp the group held meetings in three places and there were a number of decisions for Christ. It was thrilling to hear their testimonies, some of them who used to be boys in the school at Bongondza when we were there! These young people can do more for winning souls here than ever we can. Our own children received a real inspiration, and we hope they can get some instruments when we go to America and Canada.
I just slipped over to the new building to find Hector doing a bit of work by extension light. He was using the Jeep and a pulley to lift a heavy double door frame into place. He came over beside me to see if it was just in the centre. “Do you think they would want a porch here?” he asked, and I knew he was thinking about the Siggs, who would soon be joining us in the work of the Children’s Home. “And do you think they could put in a little alcove here for Sammy?” He was looking at some levelled dirt and bare brick walls. It was hard to imagine any kind of living quarters yet. But the rest of the rooms have developed with the same sort of imaginations, then a plunge of faith and energy, picking out junk and bits from the dirt which were there when the power tools left this hitherto work shed. Then the reward of faith, some sacks of cement and cement blocks, given by a missionary from his tithe, or a gift from home. And the work goes on. The assembly room is nearly finished, and now the hope of a place for the new folks coming, who will take our place when we leave for furlough. They will spend this year with us, and give a lift with the building project
This week we are receiving groups of missionaries on their way back from a short time in the mountains. The general report from African Inland Mission (AIM) territory (on the borders of Congo and Rwanda) is ‘unrest’. Troubles are cropping up from unforeseen quarters, and some ladies do not feel safe to travel alone anymore. Do remember us all during this. Lovingly, Ione
And to the First Baptist Church, Ione writes:
…There is no greater joy than winning souls to the Lord, and no matter what your job is, there is a way of doing it. Praise the Lord that some decisions have been made in recent months. And will you please pray for the coming of Billy Graham to the Congo. He will spend 16 days in January in Congo, and we expect him to be two days here in Stanleyville. Hector has been asked to be the Convenor for here, and to work with Paul Stough (AIM) who is over this whole area. It will mean Africans and European working together, and committees for this and that, all to be explained in three languages. (It would seem that the missions are preparing for Independence and a time when Congolese take over administration of their country). Hector knows only two of these, but being rather volatile, seems to be able to manage all right even with the Greeks and Indians! Will you ask that the Lord will lead us to the right persons to depend upon, and that a great burden of prayer will be laid upon all of the Christians in the Congo. With riots in Brazzaville (across the river from Leopoldville), violence in Uganda, whispers of ‘independence’ here and there, and unrest everywhere, we feel that this is the Lord’s time for such meetings.
And now it is time for the lights to be out. But before the big Lister diesel ceases throbbing and I am reduced to a kerosene night lamp, I want you to know how much we appreciate all that you are doing for us. We hope to get better acquainted when we come home next year. Remember, we are counting on you to keep our feet “beautiful”, as we “preach the gospel of peace”! “How shall they preach except they be sent?” Joyfully in Him, Hector and Ione McMillan
Come September, school is back in full swing and summer holidays are over. Ione has a writing day, to her niece, Esther on 11th September writes:
Dear Esther and Wayne,
…Our family is well. John broke his arm again and has it in a cast. You remember he broke it just a week before we left America in 1955. It is in the same place. He was playing ball and fell down hard.
Last month we had three missionary nurses here taking their Hygiene “Stage” in Stan, and when they saw Esther’s picture on our big bulletin board, one of them exclaimed, “Oh, I know her!” It was Virginia Landis.
Do you remember her, Esther, from Moody days? We did enjoy their stay. We were painting beds at the time and Virginia helps with this job, while one of the others made pumpkin pie, and another sorted medicine, and helped move stuff out of our storeroom so that we could have another room for two more little missionary children.
We have 24 children here now, and another couple, the Siggs, as well as Isobel Whitehead, who has charge of the children’s clothing. It makes 29 in all. The week-ends are the busiest when they are home all the time, and we have to keep pretty much to a schedule to have things work out all right. They have Wednesday and Saturday afternoons at home. The Siggs have a big Chevrolet carryall which they have changed to a bus and there is just room for all inside. They go swimming Wednesdays, games Saturday night, church Sunday morning, Sunday School in the afternoon and Sunday night supper the children prepare and clean up after. In a land where children are used to being waited on by natives, this is necessary, even though their weekday schedule does not permit much housework. They make their own beds, though. They seem quite happy, and do not mind the strict discipline that we must maintain. We want them to learn to obey while young, and then they will hear and obey His voice when He calls to service.
Games on Saturday for older children often include ‘just a minute’, where one had to speak for a minute on any given topic without hesitation, repletion and long pauses! Occasionally, Hector would get out the projector and we would watch film – silent of course, telling the David Livingstone Story. The other films were mainly from National Geographic!
Now I must close as the school bus will soon be coming. I want you to know that I love you and long to hear news from you even though I write so seldom. I want to know all about the new baby, as I have had little news. Lovingly in Him, Ione
Ione starts her next letter to friend Eva Blenstom:
…Time out to greet the school bus and give out the dinner.
Now they’re gone again, and while my husband puts the finishing touches on ten small stools, and Isobel puts away the clean clothes, I will try to get on with your letter. I hope the houseboy is working on the lettuce and cauliflower and rice for supper. When the bus comes at 5 they will sit down for family worship, then go immediately to eat. After that we listen to their reading and check on their lessons and sign a book that they have done their assignment. All have homework except kindergarten and it sometimes lasts an hour. They do not print but start writing in ink right away in the 1st grade. You can imagine how much ink is spilled as they must use dip pens! But they do eventually learn to write nicely, the Belgian style. One little new kindergartener came home this week proud to report that when she asked in French to go to the bathroom, the teacher had said it was ‘tres bien francais’. The children who have come to us young enough to start in kindergarten have learned French the easy way. (My mother loved languages so my sister and I could manage the basics before we arrived at school; she was quite proud that veronica had a punishment of writing out 100 times ’Je suis une bavarde’ – I am a chatterbox!). The ones who came at 9 and 10 have had to repeat grades. Our John started in before he was 4 and had three years of kindergarten. Now he keeps around the first in his class. He is 7 and in the 2nd grade. He has a broken arm right now, his second break in the same spot! Now all of our own six boys are in school, Timmy making his first attempt at 5-1/2. There are 23 of our mission children here now, and we have a young couple who are helping now and who hope to replace us when we go for furlough next June. Loving greetings in Him, Hector and Ione McMillan
The Sigg family arrive without much of a fanfare; Ione is incredibly busy despite the additional pairs of hands as her letter to her mother on 11th September hops from one topic to the next and is keen to organise her time back in the States:
The Siggs are learning how to care for the children’s things, and making cupboards out of boxes, etc. We had to move a store room to make room for two new little girls. There are 29 of us all now. Can you imagine counting out 90 potatoes for a meal? Our cook did not get back yet and so Mrs. Sigg (she is only 23!) (there is a sense of disapproval here, much as my mother experienced when she arrived on the mission pregnant) and I are trying to keep ahead with baking and other things like gravy, salad dressing, and some fried things, which the present kitchen man does not know. We sit at four tables.
(In another letter, Ione is more descriptive about the food:
I have checked to see if the spaghetti and meatballs are done. There are fresh green beans and banana and peanut salad, with a half cupcake and a cookie for dessert. I have just counted to see if we have 30 eggs for supper, as the man who cooks them will be coming about 12:30. Hector has come from town with tomatoes and lettuce, and they will have rice cakes for dessert for supper. It is fun planning meals, but sometimes I must be content to let the Lord plan them, and when we have to have things that do not seem well-balanced, the Lord continues to give them healthy bodies all the same! Praise the Lord, he knows what is best for us.
It is good that we can get cane sugar quite cheap here. We use a 100 lb sack of sugar in less than a month!)
Hector has made some tentative reservations for a plane for June 18. That is the last day of school. We had a letter from Marcellyn and she was hoping we could have our reunion in late July or August. If she cannot come home before then, we can plan our visit to Avonmore first and then come to Michigan for the latter part of the summer. We had thought we could come to Michigan first via N.Y., and then go to Avonmore the last of July or first of Aug. If we go to Canada first we will get our ticket to Montreal.
Mother, I did not tell Mr. Gordon that you had retired. I don’t know where he got the idea, as I said that you had lost your job and I was hoping you could get work near where we hoped to be for awhile. Mr. Gordon has written us offering us the Mark cottage free any time after May 28th to July 2nd. If we were to come directly there we could take advantage of about two weeks of this offer. And he said even after the Conference is started they might be able to shift us around to facilities that were available, so that we could stay longer. I have not written him again as I want to make sure what Marcellyn can do. Have you heard from Doris?
Yes, Kenneth and Paul got their dollars, and do thank you so much. I felt terrible when they came, for I knew how much you needed the money. And I could not send you anything, except to turn around and send them back. Kenneth has been putting any money he gets, plus some that Hector gives them from time to time on bank day, into the savings bank, until he has enough now to buy a mattress. It is his suggestion and he will be able to give his homemade cotton one to Stevie. We can get nice ones here of foam rubber. Kenneth is so steady and sensible and keeps his room neat. He and his roommate, Michael Carter, are very good friends.
These boys love their Grandma and are really looking forward to seeing you again. David is thinking about the ice cream cone and fully expects to be eating it a few minutes after getting off the plane! You will be sorry to hear that John has broken his arm again, in the same place as before, but this time the ball of his elbow was not moved so far and only one bone was broken. He has it in a cast and a sling and is going to school but finds it a bit hard to dress and use a ruler, etc. The picture of him sitting in the milk drum horse (see photo) was taken a short time before he broke his arm. The hat is a mouse’s hat he wore in the school program. One little boy who visited us recently was talking to him. Timmy asked, “Can you whistle?” The boy answered, “Yes”, Says Timmy, “So can I…….in AND out!” Hector and Ione
(Whistling was something Tim was desperate to master, he practised morning noon and night. Sometimes his eyes bulged with the effort. Older boys tried to teach him or torment him by doing it effortlessly but he persisted until he mastered it – as Ione says – both in and out!)
PS: Pearl didn’t want to stay at the Home but be in full-time nursing. She is at Banjwadi, still a real pal, but the children bothered her.
It can’t have been easy manage such a large household but the McMillan’s, Siggs and Aunty Isabel were a well-suited group, each bringing something to our care. Hector and Ione epitomised ‘tough’ love, they were strict, the main disciplinarians, the ones you wouldn’t want to offend; in contrast, Isabel was like a warm soft duvet to cuddle into when things went wrong or if you were sad and unhappy. Isabel also had a steely determination about her and certainly picked up child who disobeyed and did not conform or behave as they should. The Siggs represented young love, they were an absolute joy to have around and their method of achieving respect was using fun and laughter- whatever each brought to the table – it worked.
When Ione writes to supporters, especially if she is needing something specific including specific prayer points, the detail in the letters is descriptive of life in the Congo and the letter written on the 18th September to the People’s church is very poetic:
…The musical ‘ding-ding’ of water running from the roof into buckets and drums comes to us above the roar of the rain. It is a good sound as rain is clear and clean, and so much better than the stream water which we have been using since our well started to run dry. The beginning of school is a hard time for a shortage of water, but since our “times are in His hands,” we can be thankful that this condition is to His glory. If water is low, houseboys do not wash their hands as frequently, and there is a greater chance of disease common to the Congo. Will you remember this need, please, for enough water for our Children’s Home.
(In another letter Ione writes:
When Hector had dug a well, he attached the diesel motor to a pump and until recently there has been enough water. But as we have gone thru a very serious dry spell, we have many times been carrying pails and sending to the distant spring or river. Hector must deepen the well now, and in order to do this he has to figure out a system to get air down so far while he digs. And as he broadens the bottom, there is danger of the many tiles falling down on him. Will you pray about this?)
Another need, which was as great a surprise as the lack of water, is concerning the tuition which we pay at the Belgian school for our children. At first we paid no tuition, then last year we were asked to pay one-third, but this year when Hector went into the office, he was informed that our missionaries must pay the same as the others. The Director was very kind and wished that it were not so, and even suggested that we present a special request to the Governor-General. (The school must have been experiencing a drop in revenue as many Belgians had already started to leave the country ahead of Independence.) Our UFM legal representative is going to do this. Will you pray that it may not be necessary for any of our missionaries to take their children out of this very good school, just because of lack of money.
Joyfully yours in Him, Ione McMillan
Ione gets to catch up with correspondence on 21st of September, she writes to family:
Dear Aunt Jennie and Uncle Fergus,
Thank you so much for your recent gift of $25 to the Children’s Home. We are so glad to be remembered in this way, and we appreciate your advice and interest in this work.
When the Field Conference met in June they made some plans for the future which greatly affect our Children’s Home. We had suggested ways of enlarging the eating area, but they moved to build a new large dining hall (maximum 100) and kitchen and storeroom. It is to be after the pattern of the Bible Institute refectory at Banjwadi and will be just behind the present ‘Home’. We praise the Lord for this and are finding it easier to endure the cramped conditions this year, knowing that something better is coming. Another important decision was to obtain the land right next to this for an Administrative Centre for UFM. They applied to buy it, and then learned that there was a possibility of a free government grant, so have made out different application papers, and are waiting to know whether it will come this way. Already materials are beginning to come for buildings on this land, as soon as the papers are signed. The first building will be a large guest house, and this will accommodate our parents when they bring their children to school, as well as any other visitors. Then there will be an office building and dwellings for the two couples who do the administrative work. An application has also been made for 6 or 7 hectares of land just back of this, for ball fields and gardens. How thankful we are that we took your advice and came so far out of town. Now there is room for expansion, and the power plant and well can be shared. Joyfully, Ione
In this very busy period for Ione and Hector, it hardly seems like the calm before the storm. Letters at the start of the year hint at trouble in Congo but in this vast country it seems far removed from where they are. However, the news will not go away. On the 20th October, 1959, Ione writes to the Fellowship Bible class back in the States:
We spend some time before our radio these days, getting what we can of news about trouble in Matadi, trouble in Luluaberg, and the Otraco shipping strike. No passenger boats are going now, and the only way out is by plane. The unrest seems to be coming closer and we wonder how long Stanleyville will be so quiet. There is lots of talk of ‘depinda’ (independence), but I am not sure just what it means to them. I spoke of this unrest and trouble to our African houseboys and their wives (about 15 in all), and read 2 Peter chapter 3:14 – “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” I thought it had left an impression on them, until I heard later some of them remarking as some soldiers passed by, “They are coming to kill us like they are doing in Congo-bas!” Pray for our relationship with them. Lovingly in Him, Ione
Ione chronicles the situation in Stanleyville thus:
Dear Ones at Home,
It was like Halloween starting a day early, and in a place, which never ever celebrated Halloween at all, it comes as a surprise.
The trouble in Mangobo (the African township in Stanleyville) started Sunday with an unfortunate car accident, but when the children came home ahead of time yesterday we knew that the political meetings had come to a bad end. The note said, “School closed by the medical authorities.” Some of the teachers told them there was small pox around, but this may have been their way of getting the children out without trouble between white and black children.
Sunday night I went with Dick Sigg to take his wife to the hospital where she lost the little baby they were expecting. (a situation Ione can empathise with!). The doctor was a while in coming and when he arrived, he was called quickly to an emergency apparently greater than ours. Then he came, made the necessary examinations, gave medications, and announced he would be sleeping down the hall if needed. Dick asked if we should go home, as Mimi was under the nurse’s care by now. The doctor looked sharp at us and said, “Which direction?” When we told him, he said, “Perhaps it will be all right. There is trouble in Mangobo, fighting and injuries.” Mangobo is one of the five native cities (districts, townships on the edge of Stanleyville) which, with the white population of about 5,000, makes up the total of 50,000. Mangobo is very near the hospital road we had to travel, but we found everything quiet, except for a broken window in a store, with a policeman standing in front of it. We decided against going around to the post office for the mail, but had we done this we would have seen some wreckage done by an angry crowd which was chasing a European who had run over a child. The papers Monday told of a white man drinking at a native bar and having some sort of harangue about the political situation. He drove off hastily (perhaps because he had drunk too much) and ran right over a native child at the side of the road. The child died on the way to the hospital. So far as we know the European escaped, but there was much trouble in Mangobo after that.
This incident at the time when a strong movement had just started in Stanleyville, has made an unusual tension, though we hardly realized it fully until yesterday. Our missionary children arrived home from school before noon, and they said their teachers had hurried them away, some without their report cards which they were supposed to bring with their first period reports. There was a written explanation with the littlest children, “The school is closed by the medical authorities.” Some of the secondary school children said that there was a small pox epidemic, but as we have viewed the succeeding events, it seems that it was a way of getting them home.
They were supposed to have gone to school thru the afternoon, and then there would be a holiday of three days over All-Saints Day. The Siggs had planned to meet the children after school and take the Maganga and Boyulu ones to their stations that night. Cars were in from Banjwadi to pick up the Banjwadi, Bongondza and Ekoko children who were to spend the week-end at Banjwadi and Bopepe. (We were accommodated by the Boyes family.) Well, when the school was so unexpectedly closed, we quickly added some more clothes to those packed just in case it was awhile before they were to come back. Mrs. Sigg, now somewhat better, accompanied her husband and little boy, with four children and Joseph Dansis and his sister Christina. Joseph, the half-caste boy that Mabel Wenger raised and who was with us at Bongondza, is a grown man now and doing a wonderful job of teacher at Maganga. He and his sister brought Mabel’s car here for Hector to work on, and then they left when Dick took the children. They went to town first to get bread and some other things useful in the bush, but they met a barricade at Belgian Ferme, just before you get into town and were stopped by soldiers to show their identification cards. Joe had left his at Maganga and was taken into custody (in the shade of a tree with some Africans) until Dick could see the Commisaire and get him free to go along. It was then that we discovered that the city was under military law. The soldiers were doing the work that had formerly been done by police and were guarding all exits of Stanleyville. Since this morning I have seen two Jeeps with soldiers passing. I marvel, when the issues seem to be between black and white, that the African soldiers can stand the criticism they must receive from the others.
They finally got off, as did the Banjwadi children and Isobel, which left only the McMillan’s at the Home. We thanked the Lord that this had all been pre-arranged and that the children got to their parents so quickly. Some natives passing by, probably drunk, called out, “White people made us to suffer, now they will feel fear!”
Same day, 3 P.M.
This morning we heard a series of 10 or 12 explosions in the direction of Stanleyville. We are about 6 miles out of town. We have heard sounds like this in past months when they were dynamiting rocks on the big new Kivu Highway. But today, though to us only Halloween, is All-Saints Day to them, a very special and sacred day and there is no work and special services in the Catholic Church (providing anyone got thru the ‘barricades’). Our houseboy told us the noise was shooting, when a white man shot two Africans, but the Belgian man who brings us eggs, said there were big guns used in the part of Stanleyville that is the other side of the Congo River. At any rate, we shudder to think of the results, for one could almost hear the earth shake with each explosion.
Malenza and his wife (the Congolese helpers) have come to get us some supper. I asked (as I had seen him go away on his bike after his morning work) if he had been in Stanleyville. He looked disgusted and said, “Do you think any of us can go there?” Then his wife spoke up and said, “No one can come out of Stanleyville and no one can go in, since the market was closed at 10 this morning.” Then they told us that they heard many shots during the night and could not sleep (their ears are better than ours for we slept well all night!). When they could not sleep they arose, lit a light, read their Bible (they have the WHOLE Bible now in Bangala!) and sang and prayed.
As we were conversing this, Hector turned on the radio and very clearly in Kingwana (local dialect) first then in Lingala came announcements of injuries on both sides of the River in Stanleyville, and one shop wrecked. The names of those in the hospital would be announced at 5 o’clock. A strict curfew would be observed from 8 P.M. to 6 A.M. When Hector turned the radio off he told Malenza and his wife to get together our staff (those who are not detained in town by the soldiers!) for prayer, in the early evening.
Our usual staff of eight has dwindled to two, plus Malenza’s wife. But this is partly due to the fact that it is a holiday. I had told the washing men to come and iron until noon or until it was finished, as we like to give them as much of a holiday as we can. And we thought we could not wash on Monday and let them have that whole day off, that is the washing men. And the cooks I had told to come by ones instead of twos as we had only eight people to cook for. And the two old outside men were not to have come anyway. We know of two of these who were held by soldiers when they went in to town yesterday, but hope they were able to hunt up their needed papers. At any rate if they are in town, they’ll not get out until the trouble is over.
Nov. 1, 1959, 8 A.M.
We heard from the Stanleyville radio station around 5, but no names were given and an announcement was made that soldiers were arriving from Gombari with tanks and other equipment. We were thinking that this group would have passed our station Boyulu and some of our children, now with their parents, would be excited when they saw them pass. Malenza and his wife listened with us to get as much news as we could get from our local station. Then we listened to the news from Brazzaville and Leopoldville. Seven were reported killed. But later that night Hector heard on the BBC World News that 24 had been killed.
While we were having family worship with the children, just after dark a group of people, perhaps drunk, went past noisily and at first it looked like they were coming here, and just then there was a loud bang, like a gun, but as we listened for another or for them to come closer, we realized that it was some sort of a make-believe gun, or a bang of something against our big stump. Anyway, they went on, and it was absolutely quiet from then on. Hector went across the road to visit our nearest neighbours, Belgians, but their lights were off and they must have gone into their bedroom, so he came back.
As it seems now from what we have heard on the radio and the many verbal reports, the rioting only actually started at the time the children were rushed off home to their parents, from an unofficial political meeting which got out of hand. The man, Patrice (Lumumba), we have been hearing about for some weeks, had been gathering a following, and some wanted him to become like a king. He must have a pretty good opinion of himself, as we have heard that when he went into a supermarket here in Stanleyville, he felt it beneath his dignity to push his own food cart, so engaged a little African boy to do it, and when he came to the butter department he would not have the local product, but it had to be imported from Holland! Our impression of Patrice is none too good, and right now the soldiers and police are looking for him, but he is hiding somewhere. It seems the incident of last Sunday of the child being run over must have been an unhappy coincidence which preceded these other very serious events.
So now, we are in the third day of real trouble. Hector heard shots at night, but unless they are real big guns we could not hear much from Stanleyville. How glad we are that we moved this far out. For as it is now, our six are happily playing on the front porch, with no soldiers in sight, while in Stanleyville there is a solid line of soldiers around the section where the white people live. But even if we were right in town as we were four years ago, we should still know His protecting presence. “For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”
The children asked, “Shall we run into the forest?” But their Daddy, laughing, said, “There in only one safe place, and that is where He has put us, and we could not be safer than in His care.” John’s face showed more concern than the others, and when after he was put to bed, he appeared again saying, “My bed is nearest the door and window, and it’s a long ways from everybody else,” I could not resist taking him into our big bed, where he could have some flesh and blood arms as well as those of the Lord Jesus.
A former boy made his way thru the forest with a bicycle and spent a few hours with us. Since the market has been closed, food is difficult for natives in town and we helped him out with some sweet potatoes from the garden. He also carried the wages due to one of our boys who is on the other side of the barrier. (A cordon of soldiers is stretched around the white sector of Stanleyville.) The children were excited this morning when two big double-bodied planes made several trips back and forth; we understood they were carrying soldiers from Watsa (and Luluaberg). One came very low, right over the house. We had a good family worship with the children with Isa. 47:17 and II Chron. 20:12,13,15,17. Then Hector spoke to the houseboys and a couple of others who dropped in. We could not go to church as the announcement on the radio had forbidden any group to gather or anyone to walk on the street in groups of 5 or more. (We have not stopped having prayers with our Christian houseboys. Everyone on the streets are searched for weapons. Trouble is in the prison.)
Nov. 2, 2:05 P.M.
As I wrote the last paragraph I heard a shot from the direction away from Stanleyville. I am not sure what it means, perhaps nothing. I am sitting where I can see the road, and as I write I see a native woman with a basket going in that direction. Now, a second shot, and the woman turns around, throws her basket in the bushes and disappears. It is not very loud and has not awakened Hector and the children who are sleeping or resting in the dormitory next to this building, at least so far as I can see. Like as not, if he does hear it, he’ll keep them calm, like he did last night in family worship. Only their eyes showed the apprehension that was inside, but John had little lines of worry over his eyes.
The Stanleyville radio station just announced that they have arrested the leader of the MNC (Mouvement Nationale Congolese), Patrice Kivumba, at the home of his parents. Others have been arrested, including one European woman. (Ione may be referring to Patrice Lumumba who founded the MNC (Mouvement Nationale Congolese), the first nation-wide Congolese National Party, advocating unification of all Congolese regardless of ethnicity.
Lumumba had attended a protestant primary school and then a Catholic secondary school. Finishing school was the Government’s Post Office Training School and he passed the course with s distinction. He then worked for the post office in both Leopoldville and Stanleyville and is reported to have continued his education reading works of Rousseau, Voltaire, Moliere and Victor Hugo. He was perceived as well educated and held in regard by others in Africa, such as Nkrumah, President of Ghana.
He was labelled a militant nationalist by Belgian colonial authorities. As leader of the MNC, Lumumba had planned a congress for the 23- 28th October but the Mayor of Stanleyville stopped it from taking place and called in the military to maintain public order. Lumumba’s arrest and flogging resulted in him being seen as a political prisoner and raised his status locally and across the country, he gained popularity because his vision was for an independent Congo not just a Province of the Congo.)
Nov. 2 6:30 A.M.
We spent a very quiet evening, interspersing “Papa was a Preacher,” with news flashes from the radio until family worship and bath time. We enjoyed this week-end with our children, the first in a very long time. We listened together to the Governor’s message and were of the impression that all should be quite tranquil now. But by midnight there were again the sounds of heavy guns and by this morning the radio announced 70 dead. (Cars travelling in and out of Stanleyville must wait for several hours and then be accompanied by soldiers in convoy.) I was awakened by crying in a village not far away, and there have been shouts from the road. I hardly know what to say to Malenza, who is in the kitchen now getting our breakfast. Last night when we told his wife that buildings had been burned in Mangobo, shops, a school, a church (we don’t know yet whether Baptist Missionary Society buildings were involved) she immediately said, “It was probably the white men’s guns that did it.” Foramina is a Christian, but she is under a strain, and she told me she has many relatives in town, a soldier, a policeman, a ndombi (sec’t) and others. Hector says we had best not tell them every radio report, but it seems better that they get it straight than thru rumours. And most of the time the news is given (except for World News) in Lingala and Kingwana as well as French, so they are bound to hear it.
As I write the strains of “Lead Kindly Light” come over the public-address system Hector maintains in our two main buildings. As I think of our circumstances and the possibilities ahead, the words are a message to my heart, “Lead kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on; The night is dark, and I am far from home, Lead Thou me on; Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene, – one step enough for me.”
A nice time of family worship with the children, then a good breakfast, and Hector called for houseboys’ service as I helped the children to gather a big basketful of ripe oranges. This is our fourth basket (about twice the size of a bushel) taken from one tree, and there are many more yet. Then one of our missing houseboys appeared, Pierre, with a very exciting story of his narrow escape from bullets. This is the first time he has been here since the rioting started. When he went off Friday afternoon he carried a note from me to two members of the African Congress, our Chief at Kole and our former headmaster at Bongondza, who had just come to Stanleyville, inviting them here for a meal. Pierre found that they were in the city Mangobo and made an attempt to enter and were met by an onrushing crowd. When he turned his bike to flee he ran over a child and broke its leg. The police got the child off to the hospital and confiscated his bike until he could pay 500 francs. When Hector heard this, he told Pierre that we would pay his fine as he was carrying a message for us. Needless to say, the note never reached the Chief, nor have we heard anything of the whereabouts of any of our Christian African friends. But Pierre did tell us that the church and school destroyed were Catholic, and the talk among the rioters is strongly Protestant. This may not set so well in our relationship with the government. A matter for prayer. (Belgians were largely catholic and there were a goodly representation of catholic priest and nuns working along there. Although in opposition to those of the Protestant faith, Congo was large enough to accommodate all. From the early days, when UFM was set up, it operated in the north east region of Congo. The Belgians provided the administrative control of the region but left education and health care largely in the domain of the missions. As seen above, Lumumba was educated in both Catholic and Protestant schools).
Monday 1:50 P.M.
I just came back from across the road where I paid a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Bonte. He is president of the city’s Chamber of Commerce. I asked about the latest news this noon that cars only travel on Buta and Ituri Roads in convoy and with soldiers’ escort (stones have been thrown just outside of town and especially so on the road to Yakusu), and they had nothing to say about this, only that our road was OK and that his wife was going in at 3 and would take any letters we have (hence this) (including letters to our Field Leader and Mr. Pudney in Philadelphia. 2 army Jeeps drove in at the Bonte’s and we think maybe the Bonte’s have asked for protection out here tonight.)
They said the shots we heard in front of the house Saturday night were firecrackers but seemed to feel it was the nearest we have come to trouble in our neighbourhood.
They also said that school was to be resumed tomorrow!! If the bus comes I suppose we should send the children, but I doubt very much whether the ones Boyulu way will be coming, if they have so much trouble getting thru; likewise, the children at Banjwadi and Bopepe. School isn’t all that important that we should risk their being stoned! The attitude seems to be to try to get going as usual and it is not exactly possible with repeated uprisings! We shall pray about our decision for sending the children to school.
(Really, we are safer near so many soldiers than those in isolated places where natives are angry and there are no soldiers near. Even on our mission stations it is not safe from the standpoint of the attitude of the people. But we are sure that the Lord sent us here, and we love the people just as much. If you feel concern for us, just read II Chron. 20:12-17,
“O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.
And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the LORD in the midst of the congregation;
And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.
Tomorrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel.
Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you.”
and be sure that we shall be singing and praising (vs. 22) and that the Lord will do that which will bring to Him glory.)
Now to get this off. We will let you know more later.
Joyfully in Him, Hector and Ione
Ione’s theory that the children would not return from their breaks with their parents was misjudged; from 6pm onwards, cars rolled in with their cargo of children ready to start school. On the 5th November writes to Mr Pudney, head of the mission in the USA:
As you may be wondering what has happened since my lengthy letter a few days ago, this is the sequel.
Much to our surprise, the parents sent their children back Monday evening and early Tuesday morning. We took them to the school which did meet, but only a few were there and not a full staff. And they told them not to come back in the afternoon. Wednesday the bus appeared with two soldiers as escort, so we sent them to school, and have done the same today.
We had not expected to have the responsibility of our mission children during such a troubled time and in such a dangerous place. And had we a chance to notify the parents we should surely have advised them to keep the children at least a few days more. But our letters went only once a week to some, and they arrived here even before the courier went! And there was nothing to do but what we did. And although we kept the tiny ones here on Tuesday, we felt it was best to let them go yesterday and today as they were really safer under armed guard than out here with no guard, and then there was the problem of keeping them occupied, plus keeping the work going here with a staff none too steady! Kinso has been all week at Bopepe and we have not seen him since the trouble started.
But what a wonderful certainty we have in the Lord who said, “Certainly I will be with thee.” Again, and again, and again, we must run to Him, and say, “Oh Lord, this, too!” Isa. 28:29 – “This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.”
We are having a good rain right now, and the motor is working which pumps it as quickly as it comes from the skies, right up into the big storage tank.
Pray much for our accounts, as Stan (Nicholls – the mission’s finance manager) shook his head this week when he did the monthly check. For two months now, our household account is down. But now with staff of five, we have all done something about it, and are starting to contribute more from personal to the running of the car (Dick’s car costs more to run than the Jeep, which is out of commission right now); also work funds to household are in order not only from staff but from others as well, and we have had just now such donations. So we hope next month will be better.
Praise the Lord for bringing us here, and for keeping us here, “for such a time as this.” Though the guard of the soldiers has not been diminished, we trust it soon with be and that there will be a better spirit soon. Joyfully in Him, Ione
Ione picks up the story of the aftermath of the riots in a letter to Hector’s family, Jean and Archie on 15th November:
I believe the last letter I wrote to you was in August, but Hector said he hastily wrote a few lines while in town, the first day that we could go in after the riots. I guess he told you about the exciting time we had. So far as the whites are concerned, everything is normal again, that is, until January, when more trouble is expected. The natives feel that the trouble is not finished even now, and there may be some who will make a demonstration until their leader (Patrice Lumumba) is released from jail. The office for affairs concerning native houses is not ready yet for business, as Hector and one of our boys tried to see someone about a house of the boys’ in town. There was quite a bit of destruction of property in one particular section. I presume you will be getting our form letter which gives a short account of our experiences here at the Home. It was a time of trusting Him hour by hour and calling upon Him in the midst of each new development. Many stories were exaggerated, and some stories were not revealed that were worse than reported. A friend of our houseboys showed us a wound from a bullet. And a houseboy from up the road showed a stab-wound in his face where his Belgian employer stabbed him with a pocket knife. We are waiting to hear just what did happen, but the man and his ‘wife’ (she has a different name, so apparently is not his wife, we hope perhaps his sister!) have not come here since the trouble and they used to regularly come twice a week delivering 30 eggs (6 cents each). They seem to have disappeared, and maybe the man is in jail. Our staff at the Home say they can forgive the bullets in town as necessary to save the lives of many who would have been killed in the mob. But they cannot understand why a white man would stab his boy just because the boy could not get the fire to light quickly on a rainy morning.
There are many things which are hard to understand, but we are happy to see a good spirit among our staff, and the ones who are Christians are able to pray intelligently about it. We urge the children when they go to school to be especially kind to our little African children there. I think there must be as many Africans as whites by now, as they were planning to take in about 400 more this year, in the Athenee Royal. There is another school in town as well, for just Africans, called Ecole Laique (Secular or lay school). But the ones with our children have to reach the standard in living and income of an Evalue, or ‘elite’.
The soldiers rode our bus for a week, and then departed. So, we are without guard now. Of course, we have our invisible host, and have no need for alarm even if trouble starts again suddenly. Our parents are wondering if school will start on time in January or if they will wait to see if there is trouble over the date set of ‘Independence’. It seems so reasonable to accept the responsibility for independence more slowly, but there are many Africans who are unreasonable or who are pushed to a frenzy by leaders of Communistic background. (It was generally rumoured that Patrice Lumumba was a communist but this is debatable; he viewed colonialism and communism as equally malignant. He was an idealist who believed in a Pan African state. He did approach various countries for support against the Belgian rule, the UK and USA both prevaricated but the Soviet Union were prepared to support his push for Independence and hence the assumption that he was a communist. Most leaders kept to tribal or feudal relationships and disputes would lead to genocide in later years.)
We are all well, Hector no thinner, and I am definitely fatter. More about furlough plans soon. Am waiting to hear when Marcellyn has furlough. Lovingly, Ione
Ione describes the recent troubles to her sister Marcellyn on 18th November 1959; added detail missing rom previous letters states:
One white man was stabbed with a spear, others injured slightly. One old man driving in the car on the other side of the river with a boy of 14 or so, and natives came and thrust a pole in and bashed his head and broke the boy’s arm. Tho’ the old man was unconscious, the boy managed to drive the car for help. Another white man was strung up a tree and was going to be mistreated, but the white man’s 7 workmen saved him. All kinds of stories, even on our road….. Even today, we can’t be sure of safety, except as we trust ourselves to the care of our invisible host. We heard guns this afternoon, but think it was only practicing at the army camp.
Ione continues the letter discussing another family tension:
Yesterday I had a letter from Bill Biederman and I think it must be true that Doris has fallen in love with another man. I have the name of the church & pastor where Doris attends (or attended) and I will write and see if he knows what is wrong. Doris sees the children every day & on Sundays. Bill has a full-time housekeeper. Bill said on 2 occasions he has talked to Doris and Doris has begged his forgiveness for her part in the trouble. Bill said he was very happy living with Doris for twelve years, but the last 2 years have been difficult. Doris sued him twice and lost & then asked him to sue her for divorce which he did. It must be an awful mess. Bill doesn’t want Doris to know that he has written to me. He also answered a letter Mother wrote similar to mine.
What about furlough? Shall we go to Canada first and meet you in Mich. in August? Lovingly, Ione
The situation is uppermost in Ione’s mind when she writes to her mother and sister Lucille six days later on 24th November:
It has been four months now and still no news of Doris, that is from her. I did not copy her address when I sent the letter on to Marcellyn in July, so I had no way of writing to her again. So I wrote to Bill. And his answer came this week. He said you had written to me, too. He gave me the address where she works, as he said he did not know where she lives. Mother, do you think she is living with another man? Bill didn’t say, but his letter made me wonder. I have written to her pastor to see what he has to say. I found his name and church in an old letter.
It does not look like we will have things quiet here for very long. The soldiers rode on the school bus for a week after the riots of that week-end of October 30th. Then things seemed to be normal again, so far as the activities of the white people. But there was a lot of talk among the Africans, and just tonight we heard an announcement of the African News on ELWA station that the natives at Stanleyville were packing up clothes and food in anticipation of trouble. They had heard rumours that the whites would attack on New Year’s Eve. This report was disqualified by the government, but since an election was announced for December and some say they will not vote for they just want independence and will fight for it. Most folk expect stormy times in December and January. Our mission was planning a Field Council during this time, but now they are wondering if it is wise for the station leaders to be gone at all just now. And we are not keen for Hector to be gone. We have had a letter from the American Council (of the UFM) giving advice if there should be danger. It may mean evacuation in a hurry. We are to notify authorities if we need protection, but to carry on otherwise.
“Who knows but that thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
There are many opportunities to witness just now, and the children found ready hands today when they passed out some little booklets in French. The man who came to teach the children music at the house tonight had a moment and picked up a Bible to read it. I had a chance to talk to his wife the other day. Kenneth is getting piano and singing lessons in a class of 8 of our Home children. (Ken and Philip Carter were star pupils but I struggled. We had to keep a coin on the back of our hands while we played – I never mastered the technique or the piano!)
I must close as it is time for the lights, and Hector is going to leave early in the morning for town. We are happy and well. I don’t want you to worry about us. We are safe in His tender care, and whether it be for protection or for suffering and death, we are ready to accept His best for us.
I am praying for your full support, and the Lord is able. Lovingly, Ione
Ione expands on the letter above wand writes again to sister Lucille on 25th November:
I was looking over some old pictures of us when we were little and remember the happy times you and I had together. I don’t remember any time all the while we were sleeping in one room that you quarrelled with me! Perhaps you can remember times when I made life difficult for you! I don’t think the Lord wants us to forget those happy times. In the Word it says, “Remove not the old landmarks.” But it also says in Isa. 43:18,19, “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now, it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” So, even while we long to dwell comfortably on the past, there is something new and wonderful which the Lord wants to do with your life and mine, and we trust that some more days of fellowship will yet be granted, right in the line of our obedience to Him. May the Lord bless you, Lucille, on your birthday, and give you strength to “stagger not at His promises.”
We hope to have a little celebration here day after tomorrow, partly for Thanksgiving and partly for our wedding anniversary. Last year Hector bought a desk file drawer for where I write letters, and it has been a useful remembrance of our years together. In it I have building project papers, children’s records, houseboys books, household purchases, letters to answer, letters answered, visitor’s book, valuable papers, stamps, envelopes, and a file for furlough addresses, etc. Also notes, diary, etc. for the book which will be written by someone someday, probably not me. I wonder if Mother will be too busy to take my ‘collection’ and do something with it? I have not said anything to her about it, but have carbons, from when we first came to the field, and especially since the Children’s Home project started.
We still have not heard from Marcellyn of her exact date of furlough and I have written her again just now. If she cannot come until late July or August, we think we should go to Canada first, so that we could have as much time as possible with her before school starts. We can get our ticket to Montreal via New York and Philadelphia for only $5 more, and then we can stop at headquarters as they wish. If we spend about a month on the farm we can get a good rest before we see you. Jean and Archie have invited us to stay as long as we wish there, and so many of our things stored there will need to be sorted out. I don’t know what we’ll do with our furniture if we go out to Three Hills for the winter. Hector’s Aunt Mabel says we can stay in the same house as in 1950, but we would have the whole house and it now has electric stove, refrigerator and washing machine. The rent is very cheap and we will get about $35 a month family allowance. We are not making any definite plans about leaving any of the children home when we come back to Africa, as they will be yet so young, and that is something the Lord will have to give us very definite guidance about. I wish they could be with Mother awhile, and we will pray definitely that the Lord will lead us about this.
Things are fairly quiet in Stanleyville, and the life of the white people has returned quickly to normal, but it almost seems a desperate effort on their part to appear normal when they know the Africans are not satisfied to wait for their independence. An election has been offered for December 20, and this is not what they want. The soldiers have gone, but I wonder if they left too soon!
I must ‘sign off’ yet, as I have not asked about Esther, (Lucille and Maurice’s daughter) and I have her letter of October 1st telling of Wayne’s trouble. I’m so sorry for this sickness. I don’t know much about the pancreas but realize that this form of stomach trouble can last a long time. In the meantime, they must be doing something for the Lord somewhere near where he can get medical care. Well, the Lord will guide them. They will be happy if they go as far as they can for Him and give as much of themselves to Him as is humanly possible. Then there will be no regrets later on, that they missed His best. It may be that the Lord will work a miracle and heal him completely. So they must keep in mind this possibility. But in the meantime, to do a work, from which they could easily transfer to the foreign field should the Lord indicate. Whatever we do, we are still only pilgrims and strangers and getting ready for a better place of service where He wants us. It may be that you will see Esther before I write her, and I hope you can give her my love and sympathy – and advice – if that is what the foregoing paragraph might be called! We loved the picture she sent of Danny and Ruthie. They will be one and two when we see them.
All for now. I must cut out two new mosquito nets to replace those with holes as big as your head. The children have all had shots for Whooping Cough, tetanus, and diphtheria and are going around with a chip on their shoulder, or their arm, I should say. (I still have the scar!) Today is swimming day, but we are taking them ‘window shopping’ instead. There are three or four places where they sell toys and we’ll divide up and let them go in by 5’s and 6’s. Lovingly, Ione
P.S. I guess Mother might like to read this letter as I have not repeated much that is in hers.
On December 2nd, Ione writes to fellow missionaries, Bill and Coral Snyder with a progress report on their daughter Catherine and news from the Children’s home:
I thought you would like the Fete invitation, The Athenee Royale de Stanleyville school put on a Christmas production or Fete each year. At the end of the show St Nicholas and his Imp would hand out gifts to each child – so this would normally occur on the first weekend in December.) even though you can’t be here. I also wanted you to know at the same time that Carters do, that Gordon has diphtheria and is in the hospital here. I don’t know whether this will make the difference in their plans, as it is now only three weeks until school is out. Also a Children’s Home Committee meeting has been announced for Saturday December 5th at the Home, which we expect you will hardly hear of it by that time. But they thought it urgent to meet right away as our October account was in arrears, that is the housekeeping department. But just today Hector has figured up the November books and has a happier report. The Home staff has contributed from every available source, and there has been one or two gifts from parents, so that November ends with a 1000-franc credit. But it is the gifts that have done it, and it would be good to get on a better working basis. Dick has reduced the charge for running the ‘bus’ and this makes a big difference, too.
Gordon (Carter) had shots when Ian (Dr Ian Sharpe, missionary doctor) was at Ekoko, and we, not knowing this had him take another injection November 21st. And now that the doctor says he has the disease, we are wondering if it might be the reaction to the shot. We have not been able to ask if there is an epidemic in town, but suspect so, as the school was so anxious to give the shots right away, and hardly would wait for us to find out whether our children had had them recently!
Wilfred Walby has the mumps just now on both sides. Has Catherine had any other shots beside the ones indicated on the medical sheet you filled in? We want a complete record here in the home of all the children’s medical history. They also should have their yellow fever certificates handy, and other papers in case they need to be evacuated hastily.
You have a lovely sweet little girl and we are trying to keep her from being too lonely until that great day comes for them to go home. Just a hint, they might get to go home a wee bit early, we have just heard in a round-about way, that might not be true. But we think, as they are not being given this Saturday as a holiday (after the Fete) and they usually do give it, that they may be getting in an extra day there so that they can let them out early for Christmas or if there is trouble. In Him, Ione
The year ends with a short note from Ione to her mother, written on 10th December:
I am so glad that it is not true that Doris was interested in another man. Now I shall pray definitely for Bill’s salvation, and for the Lord to enable Doris to endure the separation and suffering. You did not enclose the letter from Doris, and I would like to know more…..Love, Ione
Evidently as predicted by Bill, the two versions of the divorce story differ. The dilemmas and tensions exist in many ways for Ione during this year and remain ongoing.
On the 16th December, Ione and Hector, listening to their radio discovered that King Baudouin of Belgium was making a visit and instead of going to Leopoldville, the capital, was flying directly into Stanleyville. There was no time to prepare for this auspicious event, however, the staff at Athenee Royal de Stanleyville thought they could use the school children to form a welcoming party and we were sent home with instruction to wear white ‘school’ uniform and the buses would arrive early to transport us and our teachers to the airport. Evidently, it was deemed unsuitable for the younger children as the Kindergarten school children were to stay home as were the high school students.
The McMillan’s and their staff decided that they too would make their way into Stanleyville to see the King, however, this journey was more eventful than that experienced by the school children. Dick Sigg drove them all to the outskirts and they picked a suitable spot between the Airport and the Governor’s Palace to watch the cavalcade pass. They were near other white people nearby and the mood of the crowed was not hostile, although one or two Africans began to make their feelings know. Soldiers lined up in front of the sightseers and order was restored temporarily. Ione wrote of the incident:
When a native dignitary arrived, there were cheers, “Long Live Independence!” There were not any cheers for the King when he appeared, just a long continuation of, “Long Live Independence!” The car in which he rode was closed, and he was surrounded by soldiers with bayonets. The car went too fast for the soldiers on foot, so they kicked up their heels and chased behind. It was over in a moment, the seeing of the King, as he was quickly whisked into the Palace which was surrounded by soldiers.
King Baudouin had visited the country in 1955 and had a rapturous welcome, but not so this time. He was in favour of Congo gaining independence and in January of this year, he had made a speech about pushing for Independence for the Colony without ‘irresponsible rashness’, advocating that there be a push for education of the people, and training up suitable persons to assume power. The Belgian government in Brussels had not previously interfered with the administration of the Colony and those living in Congo did not appreciate the changes central government were advocating.
The King’s poor reception, not only in Stanleyville but in all the other towns that he visited led the Belgium government to rethink their ideas of a gradual transfer of power.
But our troubles were only begun, as we had to make our way through the now excited crowd to get to the car. I had Timmy by one hand and John by the other, and took every opportunity to politely get through, but as we continued, the others following me, we seemed to be pressed on every side, and there were many bicycles. Isobel Whitehead, our English worker, was separated from the rest of us when Dick and the big boys stopped to pick up and carry the little girls. When Isobel was handled roughly she objected, and one said, “Knock her down!” She turned and said, “I have given 20 years of service in the Congo and you want to knock me down!” Someone said, “She’s a missionary, leave her alone.” Another said, “She’s a liar!” Isobel managed to climb up on a high grassy place beside a laboratory sign. The African who had been following her, angrily pulled up the sign and waved it about. Oh, they were a rough crowd! We promised the Lord we would not ever again take such a risk, not even for a King!
About this time, our little Timmy was tripped, perhaps accidentally. As he fell, someone said, “Why do they come here with such delicate eggs (meaning the children)!” I clung to Timmy, but John was having trouble at the other hand, and the pull in two directions was making me dizzy. I thought I would fall, but just then two of our houseboys appeared; I did not know that they were anywhere around. One, Pierre, picked up Timmy, and the other, Marcel, took John, and carried the two children high above the heads of the pushing crowd. We thus reached the car, but there was no hope of moving it for some time. Mimi Sigg opened the door and sat in the front seat, but when someone pulled her hair, she felt she could not stay there. We all sat in back then, and Isobel finally joined us. For the first time I was thankful that Sigg’s car had no windows at the sides. By this time they were banging their hands on the outside and it made a terrific noise.
A white man nearby was having troubles, too. His car was dented, and we saw his hat knocked off. The American lady found two natives in her car and had great difficulty in persuading them to leave; and it was one of those tiny ones. The lady’s son was struck. All this time we saw not a police nor a soldier, and we heard later that they were all concentrated around the King. Now we began to see some police coming, and the violence became less, but not before Gordon had a cuff on his head and was knocked against the car.
More of our houseboys appeared, and there was a heated argument as to whether they would get into our car. Two out of four were brave enough to identify themselves with us when the chances were rather poor for us. These two sat in the back of the car, and whenever a taunt was flung by a passer-by, they poked their heads out, as though to protect us. When it was finally possible to move the car, Dick asked one boy to sit in the front with him, and we moved along very carefully lest even a touch might fan the flame of anger. A great sea of people was moving in the direction of downtown. A little later we passed by the prison, and saw their destination was the place where Lumumba was interned. Their hero and leader had been imprisoned at the time of the riots.
The children came home on their bus escorted by two soldiers. They had exciting stories to tell, of angry shouts, and fighting near the prison. Where they stood at the Palace entrance, they had a good view of the Belgian King.
I remember seeing five or six men near the car, each with a garden tool. There were two pitchforks, a rake, a hoe, and I believe a shovel. The men’s eyes were wild with hate, but their arms were down and they were standing quietly. I thought of Daniel’s lions when the Lord had shut their mouths! When we were safely home, Mimi read Psalm 27, and we thrilled at the reality of the word, “Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear…For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion.”
“Who knows but that thou art come to the Kingdom for such a time as this!”
In Him, Hector and Ione McMillan
After all this tension school closed for the Christmas break and life resumed a calmer pace for a brief interval
Download Chapter 20 - Dilemmas and Tensions