A Canadian Interlude: Tough Loving
Whilst still living in Congo, Ione had received news that her sister Doris had left her husband. There were a few letters about this recorded in an earlier Chapter. As Ione prepared for furlough in the early months of 1960, the family planned a reunion and holiday together. Despite the hurried exodus from Congo, it would appear that the family did indeed meet up and plans made for more reunions. Indeed, Doris and her partner seemed to have met up with the McMillians over the Christmas period as Bob and Doris write to Hector and Ione on 13th January 1961:
Hope this Friday 13th finds you all well – happy – and in good spirits – praising the Lord for His bountiful goodness.
We arrived Anchorage last Saturday night about 10 P.M. (from a trip to Oregon) & it was quite heart-breaking to have to take the children home (Doris’ children resided mainly with her ex – husband as he had gained custody at the time of their separation, however, she did have visitation arrangements). They didn’t want to go in and we had prayer before they got out of the car. I felt pity for their dad because they filed past him into the house with no joyful greeting or hugs or affection. The following morning Gayle phoned me & sounded so discouraged, we went over later that morning. She said they were informed when they got in the house that Bill & Irene (Bill’s new partner) got married while they were gone & the bedrooms were rearranged so they had to tell the kids. It was quite a shock to them & they don’t like the woman anyhow and resented the fact that they weren’t told ahead of time. We checked the following day & found they had gotten married on December 19th, right after we left & had taken their blood tests on December 7th before we left, so it appears to have been planned for some time.
I talked to my lawyer briefly & told him to go ahead and see what we can do but am worried that it will be more difficult – now that they are married (presumably there were still ongoing issues regarding custody of the children and now that their father had married, his case for retaining custody would be stronger). I was terribly depressed the first few days, but feel better now. I was so gloomy that I don’t know how Bob put up with me, but he was very understanding through all my ups and downs. We will go back to Anchorage sometime next week and push things along and see the children. Please pray much concerning this whole matter. I don’t know what the Lord has in mind at this point but all I can do is pray & trust in Him. It is easy to get very discouraged when nothing seems to go right for so long.
Am so thankful to see you all & won’t forget the wonderful visit for a long time to come. Thank you much for the courses from Prairie Bible Institute. We will enjoy them very much I know. Hope you are still considering coming up here in the Spring. We will be thrilled if you find you can make it. Any arrangements you might wish concerning meetings, etc. let me know & it can be arranged.
We are back on the homestead gradually getting caught up on sleep & trying to get energy to pitch in on this house again. There is much to do. I have enough material to keep us busy for a while.
Bob is working hard today on numerous projects all in conjunction with the house. The meat in our freezer was in good shape & nothing seemed damaged too much from freezing.
Send me Mother’s address if you think of it. I never did get it from her.
Give our love to all the boys. I surely enjoyed them and know you must be very proud of them. Love, Bob & Doris
PS: Will send Hector’s razor very soon!
In January 1961, Ione, living in Canada writes to her mother, living in Washington DC, sending her birthday wishes, this appears as two letters at once:
Happy Birthday Mother!
Hope it reaches you on that day to tell you that I love you, and that I hope it will be a really happy day.
This American dollar seems just meant for you and I hope you can get some special little thing you’d like.
I know you are busy. On January 10th, Hector was helping a neighbour on his free day from school & got his hand in the works of a grain auger, breaking his 3rd & 4th finger on right hand. 15 stitches & casts were necessary, but it is healing now. He can use the hand. He had to give up the typing class.
Doris’s visit was nice. She came late because Bob’s mother died while they were in Oregon. So she called Bill & her lawyer to see if it was OK for the kids to come back late. They seemed to enjoy it here. Fergus Kirk took them thru the school. Bob went to a class with Hector & Doris went to my class (I attend a class with my correspondence course to prepare my High School girls Sunday School class). All for now. Love, Ione
After Hector left with your letter, I realized that I did not thank you for the check received and we did appreciate it so much. I was able to get a lot of things for Christmas to put in stockings (and the stockings themselves, too) like; crayons, colour-books, Bible book marks, raisins in tiny packages, peanuts, mixed nuts, hard candies, soft candies, chocolate, apples, tangerines, etc.
Our need for blankets was wonderfully met in a sort of shower by Hector’s church in Toronto, several large boxes & packages, then one lady sent a check for $100 earmarked bedding & fuel. So we sent an order to Eaton’s for pillows, blankets, so that each child had one new blanket & pillow for his very own. I got some nylon stockings this way, too.
We had a large box from Lake Orion with 2 flannel shirts each, pyjamas, socks (4 pairs) each & 2 dresses, skirt & nightie for me.
We feel quite ready for this cold spell that is beginning just now, 10 degrees below this morning. We have plenty to eat, moose, lamb, rabbit, turkey and some smoked salmon Doris brought. There are 30 fish in the freezer all cleaned and brought to us last night by the Bill Grants. We’re getting our eggs & milk free right now as Hector is doing all chores at Cullums for a few days while they are away. When we buy them from the small chicken & turkey farm behind us they are 25¢ or 35¢ a dozen. The turkeys we bought were 35¢ a pd. We get the children’s allowance from the government for the Nicholls children as well as our own.
We have been home 6 months now & it looks less likely now that we’ll get back in Congo in July. Today’s news is bad for our province & in Katwa they have worse troubles (see Verna Ludwig’s letter).
The Nicholls children have been getting letters every week until 3 weeks ago. Now nothing comes. Pray that we’ll know how to counsel them if this continues. The children write every week but only about 3 of their letters have reached their parents since November.
The children do not seem to be worrying, but we wonder if their folks will be forced to leave. I’ve asked Hector’s sister, Jean to come here for 2 weeks while I attend Conference at Pontiac & other meetings, but haven’t had her answer yet. It would be April 19-23 in Pontiac. Love, Ione
As the next letter shows, Ione and Hector are kept very busy looking after 8 children, there are always ‘little’ tasks but of more concern, there is Ione’s health. Ione writes to her mother and there is no let- up in her schedule:
The children are settled down for the night and Hector is repairing a broken table.
Yes, I do owe you a letter and that’s no fooling, even on April Fool’s Day! I was too busy to play a single prank on anybody though I had spent a good deal of time at the doctor’s office today & two days ago, filling out medical papers required by the mission. We have had a letter from UFM saying that only strategic missionaries would be permitted to go back to Congo. I guess that lets us out, for it seems to me we are not strategic. They are considering opening new work in North Africa, Europe or Pakistan. Our doctor here was a missionary in Pakistan and he says there is a splendid school there for missionary children. That is a big consideration for us as we plan to take all the children if we go to the field within the next two years.
The doctor told me I needed a little surgery but didn’t say when. I have to go back for some medicine & I guess he’ll make a suggestion but evidently, it’s not urgent as he knows I’m planning a trip. It’s not the little tumour as I thought (that he says, will wither up at menopause; Dr Westcott said this, too) but the floor of the pelvis bone was weak from the babies and gradually cracked since, leaving a gap for the rectum to drop into. I thought it was haemorrhoids but he says it is this. Bowel movements have been difficult but I usually manage if I keep from being constipated. I have had not more discomfort than one would imagine from haemorrhoids. It may be that we can persuade Jean to stay an extra few weeks while I have this attended to after I return from the trip.
Jean arrives this Wednesday, 5th, and we will have one night together & I leave Thursday A.M. taking a bus to Calgary & then a plane to Toronto. Hector has arranged three meetings there, the first a Council of UFM. Pray for this the 7th. The 8th is the UFM banquet in honour of the Putney’s. I will go to Hector’s church Sunday. A.M. and in the evening the church that supports the Nicholls children. Tuesday. the 11th I’ll speak at a UFM prayer meeting & leave the next morning by train for Pontiac. Inez will meet me and I will stay with her. She has offered to drive me around for my engagements around Pontiac (also Nellie Monroe who lives with her.) When I have finished on the 25th, Lucille & Maurice may celebrate their Anniversary by a trip to Pontiac & Lake Orion & pick me up. I’ll stay with Lucille & Maurice until after the meeting of the 27th Marcellyn has arranged at Otsego & she & Larry will take me to Chicago for the plane back to Three Hills. Doesn’t that sound nice? The only part missing is seeing you. There is a chance that Streights may be willing for us to keep their children and a trip to Bala-Cynwyd might be necessary then but I have not had an answer to my letter. If I have to go to headquarters then I will surely see you. But don’t count on it. The trip is so expensive even to Pontiac & I am not at all sure there will be remuneration to cover it. But if headquarters sent for me that would be taken care of. Well, I must go to bed. I chuckled over your form letter & thought it was the best yet. Write me April 7-12 at 18 Howland Ave., Toronto, then 12-25 at Inez! Love, Ione
In another letter, written the same month, Ione shares with her mother:
School closes here the 30th of June. We are trying to get the necessary travel papers for the Nicholls children. This is very complicated as they have no passports, and the people they must travel with are Americans, while their Daddy is Australian and their mother Canadian! The Philadelphia headquarters (of the UFM) is seeing about the tickets. The children are getting somewhat excited but being highly excitable children anyway this is not too good. And it means more bed-wetting for the boy. We always did get him up when we went to bed, but now I get him up at daylight as well, and we are careful that he doesn’t drink after supper. But in spite of these precautions there is an occasional time and he has to wash out his sheets or clothes (often I have to do it again afterward, but it helps him to better discipline himself) (Allan reports this as intensifying the trauma he was experiencing at this time – tough loving indeed and not fully appreciated). His folks have always had this problem with him, and we had him just about trained in Stanleyville when the rioting and confusion brought it back again. He is a sweet little boy and needs much prayer and love.
The children had their sports events and received a few ribbons for races, etc. Now they are having exams. They had their piano recital, too. Kenny was the star pupil of his group. It is nice hearing him play from the hymn-book, doubling the base, and playing evangelistic style in a simple way.
Now it is time for Timmy to come home. Those children were so thrilled to talk to you on the telephone. I tell you, there is nothing their Grandma isn’t capable of doing, in their eyes, and those model toys will be the most appreciated things in the world when they finally do come! Timmy was looking at the calendar today to see if enough time had elapsed after you received your June pay!!! I told him you might not get it until the middle of June, like we do, which relaxed him for awhile. You asked which they would rather have. I don’t think it matters at all, and a variety would be nice. Hector will make them a what-not shelf to display them on when they are put together.
Now I must close. Love, Ione
From a letter written at the end of April, it is evident Leone Reed managed to meet up with her exceptionally busy daughter as Ione’s next letter reveals:
I’ll be getting off in an hour but before I do, I want to tell you how happy I am to have had those few wonderful hours with you. I don’t think I adequately expressed how much I love you, and how I wish that we could be together more. I don’t want you to ever feel that your girls are really weaned from you. We need you yet, and your advice and opinions are regarded highly though you may think us hard-headed sometimes. I’ll be thinking over all you said and it is bound to have a bearing on our future plans.
I’ve had lovely seats on both planes, just where I wanted. The first plane I sat with a doctor of psychology and had a good opportunity to press him for the claims of Christ. He asked so many questions about how to be saved and I quoted several scriptures. He has heard Billy Graham 3 times, though a Catholic. I am alone in this seat & have had a delicious steak dinner. No trouble at all at Immigration!
I hope you have had a good trip and can rest a bit. I will tell you more about plans when I read our mail at home. I just remembered I did not say in my telegram to Hector that I was coming by plane. I will telephone him if he is not there at Edmonton.
Much, much love and thanks for coming to see me. XXXX Ione
In June, Ione gets the news that her sister Doris has a new baby and Ione’s responds to the news on 8th June:
We received your letter of May 10th and then the announcement about Armin Otto. Congratulations, and may the Lord richly bless that young life and you both as you seek to please Him. It was just a few days later that we received Esther’s (Ione’s niece) announcement about her little girl.
Your letter was very interesting and I think the nicest you have ever written (Whilst in Africa, Doris was an infrequent correspondent, Ione’s pleasure is genuine and palpable as over the years she has missed communication with her youngest sister.). And Bob’s note at the end was appreciated, too. I have been praying especially for Gayle (one of Doris’ daughters from her previous marriage) lately, and do hope that it will be possible for her to make the request to live with you.
We would like to know just exactly what your plans are for the summer, and try to fit in a visit somewhere. That is, if we do not get the call to go back to the field before this is possible. We were wondering if you would prefer that we not come at your busiest time, or if, by any chance, you would prefer that we come then, and that, on the condition that Hector could help with the project. And the boys, too, would be thrilled to pick fish. But if this would complicate things, we will fit in the trip (if it is possible at all!!) when it would better suit you. Hector has a chance to be missionary speaker at a youth camp near here for a week beginning July 3rd, and I do feel he should do that, as there will be so many fine young people whom he could encourage to give their lives to the Lord. And Kenneth, and perhaps Paul, could go with him. Then July 17-23 is the Junior Camp, and the others could attend although we have not made any reservations for this. I remember your big fishing job came about the second week in August. If we wait too long, we may get the call to go to the field and then it would be difficult. The Nicholls children are to leave we think the last of July. If you wanted us in July we could bring them and skip the Junior Camp. If we come in August the car wouldn’t be quite so crowded.
We have had no answer to the letter we sent to headquarters offering to go back to the field. But they did say in a previous letter that the ones whose furlough finished in July would not be considered until their furloughs were completed. So we have an idea there will be no urgent rush. Except that we have offered to go to Rethy, the African Inland Mission school (at Rethy- this was in the north of the Congo on the borders near Rwanda and Uganda) on a loan basis, as house parents, and if they wanted us there that school starts in September. That school is about 800 miles from the U.F.M. area.
I guess I told you that the mission asked us in April if we would be willing to enter into the project of a home for teen-age missionary children here in Three Hills. Prairie Bible Institute (PBI) has offered a piece of land not far away from where we live, and if the door is definitely closed for going back I think that is what we will be doing. If this is the case we will not try to go east this summer but later on, as we would not be away five years like we are on the field.
We are wondering what Marcellyn and Larry are thinking about since the assassination of the Dominican leader (a Dictator for 30 years had brought stability to the Island but his regime was one of terror). We heard on the radio that the Americans who are there may have to be evacuated. But perhaps conditions are not so bad as they sound.
I finished my second P.B.I. Correspondence Course and am on lesson 8 in the Moody one. There is surely some good things in all of these. How far have you gotten on yours?
Since I came back from my trip all of the children have been sick with flu a fever, but all are well now. We have a large garden planted. That is another reason why we’d prefer to come in August, so that the real work in it will be finished then. I think we could be away for about two weeks. I want to visit Anchorage as well. We are counting so much on seeing you. Much love in Him, Ione
With Kenneth and Paul away with their father at a youth camp, Ione gets the boys letter writing to Grandma Reed, on the 8th July they write:
I hope you aren’t sick. Thank you for the models and the games you sent us. We sang for a little church named Mount Olive. Allan and Barbara might go to the Congo. We went fishing last Saturday and Kenneth caught 4 fish, and we saw a beaver on the water. There were lots of pretty beaver dams and lots of fish jumped out of the water. We’re out of school and I passed. Sincerely, John McMillan
Dear Grandma, I hope you are all right. Thank you very, very much for those model cars. Most of them are finished. Kenneth and Paul have gone to camp so they cannot write to you. We have a tape recorder and we are going to send you a tape of us boys singing sometime soon. We aren’t going to know till the 1 of August whether we are going back to the Congo or not. Sincerely, David McMillan
Dear Grandma, Thank you for the model car. On Sunday night we went to a church called Mount Olive. Stephen and I sang a song called little ones. On June 28 I passed into grade 2. Kenny and Paul went to camp with Daddy. Everyone passed. Love, Timmy. XOXOXO
On the anniversary of Ione’s hasty retreat from Congo, Ione writes to her mother and three sisters:
I was going to send a night letter to Marcellyn last night to say goodbye, and when I checked in Lucille’s recent letter on the day, they were taking them to Willow Run, I was surprised to see it was the 14th, and that was already past! So now I am sending a letter to Ciudad Trujillo, but it will have to go through headquarters first as I know it is a large city, and without a post box they’d never get it direct. I hope soon to know your full address, Marcellyn! And I trust you have had a good journey. May the Lord sustain you in the period of adjustment to new circumstances and surroundings. (It would seem that the assassination in Dominican Republic had consequences for Marcellyn and her family).
We’ll be praying about a suitable building for a Bible Institute. Where will you be living? Do you have any funds available for text books, etc? Did your own equipment and passage money come in? And were all of your children supported? Maybe some of these questions were answered in your last form letter and I have forgotten. We are praying for you every few days as the Lord lays it upon our hearts, and we believe He is right now undertaking in your behalf.
This week a year ago was an outstanding time, and we have been living it over day by day. And it is outstanding this year, too, in Marcellyn’s departure, and also in that our Field Conference is being held just now. If there is gasoline enough the missionaries will all try to get together with the Congolese leaders. During this time our future will be discussed. There are about 18 missionaries that went on furlough last year and would be due to go back now. Some have resigned from the mission but there are still quite a number applying to go back (The mission could not support so many missionaries at home at the same time, and many were encouraged to find other areas where they could serve the Lord and not be incumbent on the Mission, this was particularly the case in the UK, another contributing factor was returning missionaries had to make a decision to leave their children behind in boarding schools, some felt that their children were God given and their responsibility to raise so the decision was made for them). Whatever they decide about us will be referred to the Home Council which will meet probably next week, and around the first of August we will be looking for a letter from Mr. Odman. He said our plans would be definitely to be working under U.F.M., but the place would have to be decided. So you see we do not know anything yet.
British Columbia apricots will be in season next week and we will have to decide whether to can them or not. Wax beans are starting in the garden; beets, carrots, peas, pickles, etc., will be more than we can eat, so what to do: shall we freeze or can them? Well, the Lord will surely give wisdom. We have already frozen a large amount of rhubarb, and I suppose we will keep tucking things away in case we will be here in the fall. We have just been given a whole pig, and that is being prepared into hams, bacons, chops, roasts, sausage and hamburger (beef added), and it will go into the downtown locker. These are things which cost us very little and could be given away should we be called to the field. We have several drums of second-hand clothes packed for shipping, the kind of clothes that could be used in the Congo. But if we get the call to go to our Congo area, we realize there is no river boat running, and we could only take what could go in the plane. No packages even can get in there, Christmas packages never arrived for those on the field this past year.
We are having envelopes prepared just now for our form letter, a permanent file and Evangelical Missionary Fellowship here will do our future work. But the letter cannot be prepared until we know. We are having pictures for a prayer card. The Nicholls children are ready to go, but are still with us. They are having dental work this week. Two of our children are at camp this week. Barbara may go to Crow’s Nest Pass a Bible Camp in the mountains, next week, as some very good friends will be there and one of our own missionaries is a speaker there. But if they get word suddenly to go, Hector will have to drive over for her.
Doris is hoping we will come to Alaska, and so are we. But a few more days will tell. Lovingly, Ione
As Ione writes about returning to Congo, there is further unrest in the Congo. Barbara and Allan’s parents are among the 30 missionaries put under house arrest because they were part of a mission conference. The United Nations had a troop of Ethiopian soldiers waiting on the Congo borders, they went in to restore order and the missionaries were soon released. Ione is unsure of her future, her heart wants to be back in Congo and as a planner and organiser, is unsure of what she is preparing for; life back in the Congo or in Canada. Whatever her destiny, Ione keeps herself and the family busy as she shares with her sister in law, Florence:
I am just about finished with my third correspondence course, and have applied for another type of lessons, on Christian Writing. Maybe it will help my letters.
We keep well, and the boys active. Hector has been dismantling an old binder for Bert Cullum, whenever they could sneak away from the gardening! I caught them all just in time yesterday to get beans and peas picked so that I could can them! The boys love to help Hector and they do not mind the gardening either, but weeding and snipping beans does get tiresome. We have beets to do next. We are putting away whatever food we can get hold of, just in case we are to stay here. But we do not actually know yet. When Hector took the boys to camp a couple weeks ago, he stopped at a farm and the same man who gave us a cow in ’50 gave us a pig! So we are enjoying this good meat and have it in packages in the locker downtown.
We still would like to make a short trip to Alaska to visit my sister, but we have to keep putting it off until we know our future and that of the two children with us. And school starts Aug. 31st! So the summer will soon be gone.
I hope you are all well. We do love your letters, and hope to have another soon. Lovingly, Ione
Ione includes one of the boys’ schedule which testifies to them being kept busy all day:
6:15 – get up
6:20 – make bed
6:30 – get dressed
6:45 – clean up
7:00 – sweep
7:30 – family worship
8:00 – processing
8:15 – review homework
8:30 – clean up
9:00 – school
12:00 – came home
12:15 – noon
12:30 – clean
1:00 – school
4:00 – homework
4:15 – garden
Early August 1961, Ione receives a letter from her sister Doris and her husband, who live and work in Soldotna, Alaska:
Dearest Ione, Hector & Family,
Just a hurry up note to let you know we are thinking of you and looking forward to that promised visit up here and to send you our gas credit card with a letter of authorization in case you need it. We want to provide the gas for the trip with some of our tithe from fishing.
The Lord has been good to us this season. It is quite a poor fishing year and I believe Bob has gotten more fish than any other set netter on the beach. We got 3509 red salmon in one 24-hour fishing period. That was when the run (salmon running up stream to the spawning grounds) hit all at once and no one was able to handle the fish because of the rough seas and the cannery couldn’t handle them all at once. The wind blew them in all at once and blew them right up the river so that we are catching virtually nothing now. In fact, Bob doesn’t even have a net in the water this week. He went in today to help put a new roof on the church. Bob went out in the surf on that big day and set nets when no one else ventured out and that accounted for him making a record day. The minister came and helped that period and neighbours also helped bring in the nets. They were so heavy that they took all the strength of three men to pull them into the boat and Bob and the minister were so exhausted from lack of sleep and working in that rough water.
We have much to tell you but will save it till we see you. The baby is fine and is crying right now for attention and must get ready to go to town. Love, Doris & Bob
P.S. The card is also good for any repairs necessary along the way, including tires or car repair.
It is evident that Ione and Hector are still yet to set off for Alaska, as Ione explains in a letter dated 4th August 1961 written whilst they are still in Three Hills, Alberta, to her mother:
It is early in the morning and Hector has taken the boys to Porky’s Lagoon to fish. In spite of the expected company today, I felt I should try to get the rest of these form letters sent off this morning. The McLachlan’s from Toronto have written that they might arrive today or tomorrow. There is a nice room ready in a neighbour’s house and they can eat here. We have plenty of good food. The garden is so big & we have been given a whole pig which is nicely divided & prepared into hams, hamburgers (with beef, too) bacon, etc. And I have on the table before me two large tender chickens from a neighbour, ready to cook. I have canned a lot of things, but today’s vegetables from the garden I will freeze, as it is quicker & I don’t want to be tied down to it with company. We are buying our bread through the summer, too, & that saves work & heat of the oven.
Barbara & Allan are still with us, but may leave at any time if the mission gives permission. They have been waiting for more news right from our missionaries there to see for sure if all is well. All we have had is a letter written just before they (Barbara and Allan’s parents) were arrested. It seems a pity to send the children, but I don’t think there have been any atrocities for a long time & the soldiers are under control. The missionaries were arrested for distributing pamphlets which were felt to be against the Stanleyville government which is now communistic. (Lumumba not getting the help he required from United Nations and the West, took the help he could get from the Russians – he was altruistic and a little naïve).
We have no word from headquarters except to verify news reports. A previous letter said we would be hearing after the field conference. We hope they were able to finish their conference after the soldiers left. (Len Harris, the UFM General Secretary in the UK wrote in his book: ‘Our days in Their Hands’ that following Independence there was a great surge in people turning to Christianity and 140 people were baptised in one service. The African church were sending messages back to both America and UK requesting ‘their’ missionaries back.)
We would like to go to Alaska, but cannot leave here until the Nicholls children get their final word. Then we might go, if there are still 2 weeks before school starts. We would have the money that will come back to us which we have spent on the Nicholls children, to take this trip.
What is your news? A new pastor, yet? A place to live? I am enclosing Doris’ last letter. We have had an invitation to visit Biederman’s in Anchorage, (that is, sister Doris’ ex-husband and new partner) and if the children are there at the time, we will stay there maybe one night. Otherwise we might have a meal with them. Do you think that would be all right? I want to be loyal to Doris, but we must remember the children may be with their Daddy a good while, the younger ones anyway, and they are very close to us.
Do you know I am a pupil in the same writing course with you? I haven’t started yet but just got the first lesson.
I appreciate what you are doing to try to get back my citizenship. We heard recently that Americans near here were allowed to vote on a school affair. Maybe that law is not so strict now.
Do you still have Papa’s coin collection? Allan Nicholls is a coin collector. His sister saves stamps.
The children finished all their model cars & have them displayed here & there. They do enjoy the Bible games. Thank you for going to all that expense.
Aunt Mabel has a leg with very little life in it, as result of the shingles. But she is trying to walk with two people helping & shuffling the dead leg along. She is in a wheelchair about 3 times a day. She is an inspiration because she praises the Lord so much.
Everyone is well here. I have gotten used to having the children home all the time, but it was hard at first. 5 of the 8 went to Bible Camp and thoroughly enjoyed it.
We are at last getting a bathroom made here, and a few other alterations. They are building on a corner room.
Well, I must close and get the table set before the “fisherman” arrive.
I had a nice letter from Lucille recently. Nothing from Marcellyn since her arrival. Lovingly, Ione
Eventually, the Nicholls children leave the care of Ione and Hector with another missionary, Olive Bjerkseth, who takes them to Toronto. From there, Olive will accompany them to Philadelphia and then onto the Congo to be reunited with their parents. This enables the McMillan’s to set off for Alaska and visit Doris and family. Although the family holiday has been some time in the planning, the family’ departure to Alaska ends up being the same day that the Nichols children leave. Ione describes the journey to her mother and sisters in one of her joint letters written on 22nd August 1961:
The first night we stayed at the Peace River Bible Institute and had fellowship with the workers there. The first day was very hot, but after that the only trouble was with dust. The gravel roads were good, however, and the scenery began to be more and more interesting. We had a book called the Milepost, which gives mile by mile points of interest. We were sitting on the edge of the seat most of the time, just looking. The Alaskan Highway started at Dawson Creek, and it was thrilling to follow Mile 0 right up to Tok Junction at Mile 1314. When the mountains started to appear, we were surprised to find the snow tops so near to us, and as we neared Alaska and Anchorage, we were right above the timber line, in the clouds and snow, and imagine, looking down upon real glaciers!! There is a glacier that you can go right on just between here and Anchorage. We were going to stop there (at Portage) as we came from Biederman’s here on Sunday afternoon, but I was asleep, as well as the children and Hector didn’t notice as we passed. We’ll see it when we go back to Anchorage. Doris had given us two telephone numbers to call in Anchorage, as we would come there before Soldotna.
We also had letters from Biederman’s inviting us to stay there overnight. We thought that if the children were there we would go there, but decided we would call the Belleville’s first and see what they thought about it. That was the phone number Doris had given to us. The other was a friend in Soldotna, the preacher there, who would get a message to Doris of our arrival. Bellville’s had found out that the Biederman’s had invited us, and they said that it was a very good idea to go there, so we called them from a gas station just out of town. Irene and the children came right out to conduct us to their house, where we found Bill. There were other friends there, but they left right away as soon as we had met. The children then presented me with a birthday corsage which Doris had helped them get, pink carnations with three little bees and a butterfly fastened into them. Then a gift box with a lovely ivory bracelet. The little walrus shapes were made of fossil and fresh ivory, alternately brown and white, made by natives on the St. Lawrence Island. The next morning everybody went to Sunday school and church, and what good spiritual food and inspiration! I don’t see how Bill and Irene can sit through such a message and not be stirred. They had not been to church in a long time, the children said. We had family worship both night and morning and at the latter Bill sat with us and listened. Irene heard, but did not actually join. Her father was a Seventh Day Adventist preacher, who deserted her mother, a Catholic, when Irene was a child. She was interested enough to listen to me, but seems to have grown a shell concerning really getting down to business, perhaps through experiences of childhood.
When we came back from church Irene made hamburgers for us all, and we left immediately for Soldotna. We arrived at the Soldotna Baptist Church at 5 o’clock, and found out where the preacher lived and went there, about half-mile away. Doris had been there for the morning services and had called us up in Anchorage, but then went back home to make a picnic supper so we could all stay in Soldotna for the evening service. At about 6 o’clock Doris and Bob and baby came with a nice hot supper (it’s only 12 miles from where they live) and when the preacher left for the young people’s service, we used his house for supper. The evening service was well attended, and a very good message. The preacher is supported by Mid-Missions and knew some of the Mid-Mission folk we knew in Africa. They are good friends of the Schmidt’s, and Bob seems to be growing so much in the things of the Lord, as well as Doris, because of the fine fellowship, and working together in the building of a little new church. Doris is at the moment counting the collection taken on Sunday as she is the church treasurer.
Sunday morning a moose appeared in the driveway of the Schmidt homestead (That is Bob and Doris’ house) and Bob shot it about a hundred yards away. Hector is helping him this morning, cutting it up, and getting meat ready to take to be ground for hamburger. We are having mooseburger for dinner today. Last night for supper we had delicious salmon which the children took out of the nets themselves. A little while ago they brought in a bucket full of filleted salmon and we are going to can about a case of salmon right here. You would love it, Mother.
I met a lot of neighbours and friends yesterday, and we got some washing done. Doris has an automatic washer and running water and electricity, toilet inside, etc. The baby is darling and our boys love to help take care of him. But I must leave some space, as this is really a joint letter, I must remember. We do praise the Lord for the unusual and wonderful journey, and that everyone is well. We expect to leave here next Monday and spend one more night with the children in Anchorage.
Just after lunch: This is supposed to be a joint affair, but there is a trip right now and I think we should get this mailed and then send another later together.
I went out to look in two nets with the boat just before we ate, dressed in the outfit which Doris wears. It was so much fun seeing how the nets are looked through. While out on the inlet, we saw a killer whale, and that was very interesting. There was a king salmon, but nothing else in the net. We came back and had sloppy joe hamburgers and pizza pie and ice cream which Doris had made. The food tasted good after being out in the cold rain.
Now Doris and I are going to town to deposit the money for the church. Lovingly, Ione
P.S. No news yet about our future.
More details of the family holiday are shared with Hector’s sister Irene on 3rd September:
It was a very unusual trip to Alaska, with breath-taking heights and cold in the glaciers and mountains. The wild-life was abundant, 5,000 moose on the peninsula where my sister lives. They killed one in their yard the morning we arrived. Hector enjoyed helping with the butchering. The children helped ‘pick’ salmon from the nets, and watched seals trying to get the fish; also, a killer whale which went sailing by. They just love it, and we did not mind the cold, even when we cooked our meals on wind-swept rocks. We were well-dressed. It was 5 days each way from here, and 10 days staying there, not too tiring; had to load up enough food for all that time, as the prices were terribly high on the Alaskan Highway. One sign read, “It’s high, but it’s here!” Two eggs fried for 85¢; a hamburger for $1, cup of cocoa 20¢, all pops 25¢, etc.
The big decision of returning to Congo had to be made immediate upon our return because of giving up the house to Bible school students. So although Hector has been in bed most of the week with cold and fever, we keep pushing at the new plans, packing, writing etc. Pictures can be taken now, and a prayer card made, a new letter, etc. We are making an itinerary for meetings covering the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Illinois, Ohio, until we get to Michigan October 16, the Lord willing. There we expect to put the children into a school for 6 weeks while we contact the supporters of the three children and myself, take speaking engagements, etc. Hector will be able to leave me with the children and go to Toronto and even down home perhaps.
We are leaving here (that’s is Three Hills, Alberta) September 29, in order to free this house for students coming in soon. The children will have had just three weeks in school here when we take them out. The correspondence course which we are arranging will follow this work through the entire year. I’ll have to be the teacher, but I hope by the end of the year our U.F.M. school will be ready for the fall of ’62. The children are happy to go and glad that we will be returning to our former station of Bongondza. Living conditions will not be as high as before, and we cannot take the usual equipment out as there are no river boats to carry freight. We will probably be able to carry enough clothes for one year in our 40 pounds allowance for each. And no household things or food. There is food out there, but not the abundance of the kind of things we get in this country.
Now about your package, which you have lovingly packed and sent, and the jacket which you were waiting for us to accept. I hardly know what to say. If there are things in the package which we can use on our trip and in Michigan we will be happy to include them in our packing right now. We will be running into mild winter by December in Pontiac, but will not need the tremendously heavy clothes we have needed up here. We will take along their winter underwear, and Kenny has been given a beautiful car coat. Now, would the jacket fit Hector, or Paul? It might be that if you send it to Pontiac it would be useful there. And if it is fairly lightweight, it might even be useful in the Congo. You can decide. Our address in Pontiac will be c/o First Baptist Church, for the time being. We have written to ask friends to look for a furnished place for us to live.
You mentioned in your letter about being thankful for not having to worry about our welfare in a foreign country. And now, that worry will once more be brought upon you! I am sure that Mother will feel like you do, and it will not be easy to let us go. But Mother understands that the call of the Lord is something not to be trifled with, and I’m sure you do, too, and we are safer there in His will, than in Three Hills out of it. Hector’s expression about going back was that he just could not avoid it; a constraint to be there, and an effort to get the Gospel message as far as we can, as long as there is an open door.
About seeing you, we will see if that is possible, if we have to come to Florida. We are hoping that our departure will be from Montreal and we can go to Toronto, and home, after we leave Michigan. But these plans are tentative until we know from what port our tickets will read.
I hope Barbara (Irene’s eldest child) enjoys her college life at Tallahassee. You will miss her. But it is not too far from home. Donnie (Irene’s son) does well to be in 9th grade. Paul is just starting 6th and Kenny 8th.
Well, I must go to bed. We’ll be looking for that package. Thank you so much for collecting all of those things, and thinking of our needs. We’ll not be able to buy a thing in the States, as we made purchases and acquirement declarations when we left Alaska September 1, and can’t do it again until January 1st. So the things you send will be welcome.
Lovingly in Him, (Hector and) Ione
Ione shares the final days of the family trip away and her plans for the next few months to her mother on 6th September:
We reached home two days ago, in late afternoon, after spending the week-end at Peace River Bible Institute a way up farther north. I met Mrs Phil Howard there, wife of the daughter of the Sunday School Times Publisher, sister-in-law to Billy Graham (Famous American Evangelist). Spent all my spare moments talking to her, and learned so much about their work among the Indians. They are conducting a language school at the Institute thru the winter for those who will be working in that tribe farther north. The wives came a month early to get their children into the public grade school. She is also sister-in-law to Betty Elliott. Well, one of the precious contacts in the Lord’s work.
Bob & Doris gave us their gasoline credit card for going back, too, but we didn’t have to use it. Doris bought us things for our 5-day eating. We enjoyed using the frying pan in the open, day after day, and then sleeping in comfortable cabins or motels at night.
Hector & Paul had malaria while at Doris’ and this made us a day late. The extreme change of temperature must have brought it on (Malaria remains dormant in the body and can flare at any time after the first infection). Timmy had it on the way up, but got over it soon. Paul is in bed now, but is only bothered with afternoon fevers. I have quinine but am very anxious to get hold of camoquin (anti-malarial medication), which acts much quicker. Ours finished, but I will get it thru our Philadelphia headquarters.
We will have paid our rent only through September & are planning to rent a furnished place in Pontiac for about 6 weeks to make it possible to see folk in that area. And while I take care of the children at school (we are asking to have them in Tom Malone’s) Hector can take trips to Toronto & Avonmore, etc. We must do as much deputation as possible, but are not going to rush it for the children’s sake.
We enrolled them here yesterday and upon inquiring we learned that the Alberta correspondence course follows exactly what they are getting now. We are asking for this year’s work & whatever they get in Pontiac will be in addition to this course, though they will not do much with it while we are there.
On the station (Ione is referring to the mission station), I will devote as much time as is necessary to keep them up with their lessons. But it may not be many months before there will be help in this task. A lady is coming out from England who feels called to teach missionary children on the field. And by the end of this school year, the parents hope to have our own school in Stanleyville established. Money has already been designated for construction of this. We are to go to Stanleyville when the school is ready in order to be houseparents. But for the time being, we are designated for Bongondza.
So, I guess you understand that our hearts are set on going back. There has been no violence there for a long time and even during the arrests in July, there was no attempt at bodily harm & the guarding was more or less a following of orders. And the case was cleared right up to the highest in command. If we stay entirely out of politics, we are O.K.
Mother, if you know of places where they would like us to appear in your area, we could plan accordingly, perhaps later in November or early December
I am beginning to make out our itinerary now. We’ll leave here, the Lord willing, the first of October and take meetings on our way. Pray that the necessary $4,000 will appear in His time and that the other 3 of our children will be supported – (Paul, Stephen, Timothy).
I could say much about our Alaska visit, but will get this off. Am enclosing a letter from Gayle. Love, Ione
Whilst the previous letters allude to a grand trip to Alaska, the fact Ione states there is much she could say but does not, hints at the trip not being totally without incident. It would appear that her sister Doris also had something to say about the trip and indeed plucked up the courage to say something more to Ione in a letter. It prompts this reaction from Ione, who writes to Doris 0n 15th September 1961:
Your letter came this noon, and I’m glad you were frank. I had a feeling that something was wrong, and felt that we should not have been at Bill’s at all, but just couldn’t see how we could be with the children. If we had refused to go to Bill’s, do you think he would have let them come to you for that week. Maybe so, – I was thinking this afterward. It was hypocritical to try to be friendly with him when he had hurt you so terribly. This dawned on us when I was putting the food away, and he went over to tell you to go. Should I have lit into him just then, as I felt like doing? I held it back because I thought it would make it harder for the children. It is so hard to know what is best to do. I wanted to tell him to let you see the children longer that day, but just felt it would only make matters worse. I’m sure I hurt you by just not doing anything about it. And I’m sorry I mentioned asking Bill for us to keep the girls, as I do know that they are yours as much as his. And they are needed there to keep the younger ones happy and give them spiritual guidance. I wrote to Bill from the Congo to try to urge a reconciliation and he answered. Then I left them on our form letter list. In response to a form letter Irene answered and offered the clothes and steam iron. I guess that was when I should have stopped right there. I acknowledged her offer and said we might come to Alaska. That was all. But there came one more letter inviting us there. This invitation we didn’t fully accept until we had had the telephone conversation with Belleville’s. I still did not feel right about it, and I should have followed my convictions. I can see that it only made it harder for you. Well, we don’t want to be on the fence, and we want to pledge you our utmost love and loyalty. Do you think if I just keep Gayle on the mailing list that she will have any difficulty in receiving the mail? I don’t want to do anything deceitful like trying to carry on secret correspondence. But I just want so badly to keep the contact with the children. I’m sorry it appeared that we were falling for Bill’s effort to make things look like they were all right. We were not, but saw no point in telling him so. We surely do not condone his treatment of you. If you think it will be better, we will take the Biederman’s off the list, but keep Gayle on, or Vicki, if Gayle should go with you.
I was only away from my children 3 months, and it seemed long, and I had hope of having them again. I guess I just can’t know the agony you feel about having them gone for so long, and still with the affair not finished. I wanted to know more about just how you felt. That’s why we came up. Because I love you so much and want so desperately to find some way to help you. Would my saying things to hurt him really help you? The Lord does not intend us to fight for what is right and not be placid about things that are wrong. But I can’t honour and glorify the Lord when I have hatred in my heart toward someone. Whatever I could say, in your defence, without hating him, would be all right. Is there anything we could do about this when it comes up in October?
I knew you went to Anchorage that day especially that you might see the children. I think what we should have done, now, as I see it, was to definitely not go back to the B’s again, but to ask if they would let us take the children and then you and the children and ourselves could have driven around to see interesting places. We would do that another time. It was wrong, I realize, for us to go there at all. As it was, the whole time I was there I was wondering what it would be like to be in a motel, with us there with the children. What a miserable evening you must have spent, after those sharp words in the afternoon. I don’t think I could endure that and yet, you have learned such grace through it all. And casting all your care on Him, is a real accomplishment in your case. Now, Satan does want to come in, and mar the lovely affection that you and I have always had. And he will if we let him. But we won’t let him. We’ll get him behind us and under the blood. Your sufferings have made you more mature than I in these things. But I want you to know that what seemed like unconcern was a placidness which was a deception of our real feelings. Now we know how the Lord despises hypocrites and smugness, and wants to be delivered from such. We thought we had witnessed to Bill, but only in the quiet way that we have become accustomed to doing it. And we talked to him about the Lord with the thought in mind that he be saved, not that it might first of all bring happiness to the family, but that an undying soul should be snatched from a Christ less eternity.
I do love you, Doris, and am amazed that my little sister can be so brave with such an aching heart. And I am so sorry to make that ache worse by not showing how I felt while I was there. I wanted you to know how much we loved it there, and appreciated all the thoughtful care of the needs of our big family. I keep thinking of you alone there while Bob is away. How Satan does try you! And how as many times, you come back with the promises, claiming victory. There is always victory with the Lord, and He brings to mend precious verses that help. I wanted to ask you while I was there if that correspondence course helped, or if you were able to follow it. There is so much in it that would help for those lonely times.
My, how the children love Armin, ours as well as yours! He seems to be able to soak up a lot of loving. I’m sure Bob would come back as often as he could to such a loving, cosy little homestead. I was trying to think of what I would do while my husband was away, and I was thinking that I would rig up somehow some more shelves!!! And I find that is just what you were doing. Well, the Lord bless you as you get it more and more fixed up with some ‘conveniences’.
I appreciated especially that part in your letter where you said that what we did while we were with you was done in good faith and after considerable asking the Lord’s guidance. Perhaps He is working in some way that we know not. We do know that all things do work together for good to them that are called according to His purpose. Let’s just claim that good, lest our visit be a hindrance to what he has in mind. It is so good to know that you have learned that the only One who can really help is the Lord, and I’m so glad that you take your problems daily to Him. Perhaps my failure is bringing you closer to the One who really understands. And I would want it that way. But I can’t stand it to have anything come between us. And we will try to keep our loyalty undivided from now on.
I’m glad you have some fish for yourselves in the cans. My, how we enjoyed the cans we opened on the way home, out on wind-swept rocks, heating it in our frying pan. We are going to take it along with us in the car when we leave here, to use some on the way, and some when we live in Michigan for a while. Thank you so much for those two cases. I am praying that Bob will get enough fish to make up for the poor season. I’m glad you can reach him by radio.
We are being ‘fare welled’ here at the tabernacle next Sunday. Hector is speaking and the children and I will be singing. We want to spend two days with Esther, a morning at Moody, taking Ruth out to dinner. The Ed Johnsons want us to live with them, but I don’t think we’ll be wise in staying with such a big family, more than a few days. You could write us at their address: 3977 Lakewood, Drayton Plains, Michigan.
Much, much love to you and Gayle, Vicki, Linda, Jimmie and Paul. Ione
It is evident that some actions undertaken in a loving way, can cause hurt to others unwittingly and Ione is ever ready to accept life’s lessons and learn for her mistakes. Ione also acknowledges that Doris’ path has not been easy and she has suffered much for the love of her children. Ione has discovered that there is greater depth to her sister than she had previously attributed to her and writes to her mother on the same day:
Did I tell you we had about five meetings while with Doris, in fine Mid-Missions Churches? Doris has friends in all of them. Those folks are so good to Doris and she loves to be with them. The woman who was going to help her a bit while Bob is away is a fine Christian. Did you know that Doris hasn’t smoked since last November? They have family worship usually, but Bob hasn’t yet the courage to have it when their unsaved friends are there. Pray about this, as Doris wants so badly to have it, but is trying to let Bob take the lead. We did enjoy our stay very much and wished that we could have stayed longer. – Ione
Ione’s plans made and shared at the beginning of the month take shape and the family end up in Drayton Plains, Michigan, sharing a house with the Ed Johnston’s. Ione shares with her mother in a letter written on 20th October:
They are unusual folk and have taken an unusual liking to our family. They gave us their entire upstairs, moved Bob’s double decker up so that our family could be all together.
Hector & I have that lovely front room & they have a big long study table there for the children’s homework. Then 5 boys sleep in the other large bedroom, and John on a roll-away in the hall. We are able to have the evening meal all together with them, but get our breakfast & Bob’s by ourselves. Ed & Mary both work nights just now which is simpler as they come & go at nearly the same times. And the time when the children come bursting home from school, they are both up. Then they go back to bed again after supper & sleep until 10 & 12 respectively. This is a nice arrangement, but of course we must be by ourselves as soon as possible. We have looked around a bit & talked to some folk, but realize that furnished places for a large family are hard to find. The Johnsons insist that we stay here – you know how hospitable they are. Yesterday I put up a proposition to them. I observed that they did not keep their cars in the garage & that their big breezeway is now winterized. It might be possible to set up beds in the garage (it has a bathroom in it) and use the breezeway for living-dining room & kitchen. Gerry Lonie offered to lend us a hide-a-bed couch, and electric roaster which can be used like a stove & some chairs. We would pay the extra heat it would take, plus electricity & (if they would let us) some rent.
At first Mrs. Johnson would not listen and was embarrassed to think of our big family in the garage and the 3 of them in the house. (They obviously hadn’t fully appreciated the accommodation Ione and Hector were used to in the Congo!) She said, “What would I do with those guest rooms?” I suggested that they would be ready for visitors. She said, “We don’t have many visitors in the winter.” I said, “Then maybe you’d have room for my visitors!” And when she thought of the possibility of entertaining you she warmed up to the idea.
We are saying too much, but last evening Ed was planning how Hector would help him make a cupboard for his paints, etc. & he would clear the work bench for a “study area” & put a little platform high enough for the children to sit at the bench. Also some 2nd-hand 9 x 12 rugs for the bedroom area, etc.
They had already moved their TV & some living room chairs into the breezeway (it is the entire width of the house) and an old dining room table. They have their record player in the living room of the house now as they use that more than the TV. I am telling you all this as you remember the set-up of their house. Will you pray about this decision to stay here?
We have enrolled the boys at Emmanuel (Christian School) (at good rates) and they take their lunches & buy drinks. Love, Ione
In November, Ione learns that the mission would rather Hector travelled alone to the Congo and that Ione and Ione stay ‘home’ until June. Whatever the reasons for the change of plans, the McMillan’s agree but Hector would prefer the family be back at Avonmore. The family leave Drayton Plains on 18th December and arrive in Avonmore on the 22nd, having stopped at a couple of points along the way visiting family. Ione is able to rent a house near the school in Avonmore. Hector’s planned departure is for 12th January and the change of plans means Ione does not get to see her mother for Christmas Day, however, they meet before their departure back to Canada. Ione describes events in a letter to her mother on 26th December 1961:
After you left there was so very little time for writing, as the opportunities for meetings increased until we were going out two and three times a day, and the children were asked to sing a great deal, too. We had to refuse some engagements. There were meals out, too, including one special one at Peggy Reh’s when they had the tree and unusual gifts. Each boy received a little car (about 14 inches long) plus a large basketball game that all could play, and a toboggan for all (a friction toy, two little cars which go around on a roller-coaster), and a large-size tricycle for Timmy. We had to take that apart to bring here and string it on the outside of the car!
The Johnsons insisted that we have their tape-recorder as a gift. So we have brought it here, plus the many tapes that go with it. Some are of the boys’ singing and we will send you one.
We left about 11, but had no trouble at customs, so went right through O.K. We had a nice Christmas supper with the Douglas Haugh’s at Byron, Ontario. They send us about $100 every three or four months. We stayed with them that night. The next day we went to Alice’s, (Hector’s sister) where she let us do our washing in her new automatic washer and dryer. I bought flannel pyjamas for the boys there, and a new black purse for myself. It is a good big size, and Morocco leather. I had been looking for one with tapestry combination, but this was very special and had been reduced.
We had a nice supper and breakfast at Alice’s. The next morning, we called at two places in Hamilton and Burlington, and went on to Toronto. I was pretty miserable by that time with a bad cold which I had had for two weeks. As soon as we arrived in Toronto, we stopped at People’s Church and found their Women’s Prayer Meeting in session. They asked us to bring the boys back at ten to 4 for singing at the close of their prayer time. So we went back. It was just two blocks from the home; you know the UFM has a lovely new home there now. When the boys sang the women shouted and prayed and cried through it all. They were really touched. And as they went out they left an offering for them which amounted to $25. Then they were asked to sing at the Sunday school Christmas program that evening. So that was our introduction to Dr Oswald Smith’s church. He was there and gave us some encouragement in his greetings. We did not appear at High Park as Hector has a date for January 10th, and the whole family will go over for the weekend of the 14th for participating all day in the services.
I felt quite ill during the trip from Toronto here on Friday, and had to lay down. That night I couldn’t go to the Bible study at Finch but went to bed. I was feverish then. The next day I went to the doctor and he gave me a shot of penicillin, and eardrops, gargle, throat pills. I had trouble in the night with my ear, and he said if I wasn’t careful, I would have mastoid trouble. So I kept it medicated and covered and stayed in bad as much as I could. I went out last night for the first time, and the shot seems to have knocked it out of me. The cold is better, and aside from the headaches I feel all right.
This afternoon, a man is coming to talk about renting a furnished house in town, much nicer than the one we were first thinking about. It is on the main street, a big white house, with oil heat and all plumbing. The school is just a few houses away. We talked to the principal, and made arrangements for the children to start January 3rd. Hector wants to take some meetings in the Maritime Provinces, as there are some good contacts in New Brunswick, etc. But that will not be too soon. He will help us get moved in, and will only take short meetings away as yet.
Kenny sent you a little gift for Christmas, his own choice and he paid for it. He had a lovely card picked out for you a long time ago, and when it was time to send the package he couldn’t find it. So if it comes belated you will know that he had it bought in good time anyway. The other boys have pictures for you, except Timmy, and he was not at school the day they took pictures.
The children just love it here. They were out early this morning at the barn, helping Archie, and putting the train together. The table is there, and aside from a little rust, it will work. I wish Mrs. Dickinson could see their pleasure in it, and excitement, even after six years. They are now able to recondition it themselves.
Christmas here was very simple, but I think satisfying to the children. The big thing was the turkey, mince pie, and the sacks of apples, nuts, oranges, candy, etc.
We are going to Florence’s for New Year’s only we will go on Saturday. Pray for our testimony here, that we may not appear smug and self-satisfied, but that we can radiate a light that will draw these folk to the Lord. We had a nice time around the Word with old Uncle Neal, the only one left of the old McMillan family. He is 89, and makes you feel just a little breath of heaven to be near him. He and his son live up the road. That’s where we went last evening.
Paul is working a jig-saw puzzle, with Auntie Jean’s occasional help. Stephen and Kenny and John took grain to town with Uncle Archie on the sleigh. The rest are working on the train. I hope you have a nice Christmas. We want to hear about it. Wish you had been here. Lovingly, Ione
And thus, ends another dizzyingly busy year for Ione. The problems and issues may change from those experienced in Congo but Ione tackles them all with her usual organisational style. The letters are mainly to family as she and Hector, in taking/ speaking at so many meetings, keep in touch with their supporters by seeing them in person.