Chapter 23 – Changing Plans

 

Chapter 23

Changing Plans

The family are all now back in Avonmore, waiting for permission to go back to Africa, and as at the start of most years, Ione writes to family and friends thanking them for their support and to her mother with birthday greetings. The first letter of 1962 is to sister Lucille:

Thanks for your note. We’ll be looking for that package from Esther (Lucille’s daughter)! We’re so sorry we missed the fellowship with you all at Christmas time. We had a nice time here with Jean and Archie. They had a tree, and special little sacks of goodies for the boys. We have a furnished house on Main Street in Avonmore, oil heater in living room, coal range in dining room, electric stove in kitchen, and another stove in the utility room, plus a couple of electric heaters! Oh, yes, and an electric blanket. So we are warm! It has been cold here, too, but we are cosy. We do not have Hector’s departure date yet. But the transport money has started to come in!! We’ll wait until ours is all in. Hector goes to Founder’s Week at Moody (Bible Institute) in February  Love, Ione

On the 23rd January Ione writes to her mother:

The package arrived while we were at Jean and Archie’s just after Christmas. I was especially glad you sent the little stockings as they had not put up any stockings this year (evidence of the boys getting older and the last-minute changes of plans and moves must have impacted on Ione’s usual Christmas preparations). I saw Jean and Archie had prepared large plastic sacks of fruit, etc. and thought that it would be better not to put up stockings. So your thoughtfulness gave them the stockings after all, and they were so glad. They have made them last a long time. Some still have some now. And I noticed that when Kenny finished his candy, he filled his sock with some good things (left-over pancakes, etc.!) for the chick-a-dees out in the tree in back. He puts out special things for the woodpeckers and nut-hatches, too. But the starlings get only the bullets from the BB gun!

The boys have enjoyed those lovely books, and Timmy especially the Lassie story. Hector was glad to have the big box of candy rolls, and he shared them with us. The gloves fit me just fine and I put them right on as they went with everything that I have. And I using the billfold, too. Thank you so much for these things.

Do you have a vacation, and for how long? Since you were not off for Christmas, could you not spend a couple of weeks with us here? We have two bedrooms which we have not even been using, so there is space without changing our sleeping arrangement. All we have to do is open it up and heat it there, too. I think you would enjoy living in this little town, just a couple of doors from the store, church, and school. There is a bathroom just off the kitchen, even hot and cold water!!

The boys are all taking piano now from a lady who is doing it for only $2 for all per week. The boys are singing a lot here, and are keeping real busy. They love skating best of all.

We spent last week-end at Toronto, where Hector’s church had a farewell for him. It was quite a touching service. Although he has no departure date, they wanted to have it when it was convenient for them. They surely love the boys there. Did I tell you they sang for Dr Oswald Smith in a service on our way to Avonmore? Kenny and I are working on a new duet, “He Given More Grace When the Burdens are Greater.”

There have been quite a number of large gifts, of $100, some of them, designated passage, and this brings our passage money that is in up to ¼ of what is needed. Support yet needed is $60 a month. Quite a bit. Hector will not leave till all this is in. We have had letters from the field and headquarters, and all seem to indicate going ahead. There is no trouble in our area. Hector will go to Founder’s Week February 5-12 and take some meetings on the way. I think he will be stopping at Lucille’s.

A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOTHER!!    Much love,   Ione

Settling the boys into the third school for the school year must have occupied a great deal of Ione’s time during February, especially as Hector was away taking meetings and trying to drum up the financial support required to get them all to Africa and as stated in the letter above, they were still some way to their required target.

As mentioned in previous letters, the family periodically experience fresh outbursts of malaria. On March 4th, Ione, again writing to her mother reports:

Timmy is sitting beside me in a rocking chair, and the others have gone to do chores at Jean and Archie’s. Timmy’s temperature is normal now and he has started eating, but he was vomiting this morning. He responded to malaria treatment, so guess that is what it was.

We had a letter from Al Larson, which says there will be no missionary children’s school in Stanleyville now. It was voted down by the Field Council. Reasons will be given in the minutes which will be coming. They have recommended Rethy Academy, the Africa Inland Mission School. This, Mother, is where I’ve always wanted our children to go, as it is such a wonderful school. But whenever I brought it up, it was voted against by the others who thought it was too far away and too expensive. And now that they have recommended it, it means that they have faith enough to believe that the money will be forthcoming. It is right near the border of Congo, the safest place, and in the mountains, a healthy climate, and very good food. The only hard part is the separation for 3 months. But there are planes that run between Bunia, which is near Rethy, and Stanleyville, and we can have them for 1 month after each term of 3 months. Isobelle Jones is stationed there, and for the time being, working right in the school.

The Field Council have sent money to buy a 2-ton truck, probably in Philadelphia, and Hector is to take it by boat around north Africa, down the east coast to Mombasa, and drive it inland to the Congo. He passes right through Rethy on his way. Money will be given for the cost of the transport of the truck. And when he gets it to Congo, he is to be stationed at Bongondza, and have it for the construction of a medical unit there for the doctor. He is to work along with the native church, and they seem to think he is just the one to fit into that situation. That is where Viola Walker is, as well as Dr and Mrs Sharpe, from England, and their 3 small children.

I am trying to remember when the terms of Rethy begins, and I have written to find out, but if it is in May or June as I think, we might be able to go along with Hector. He knows how to adapt that type of truck to passenger travelling. We haven’t showed the letter to Hector yet, but all these thoughts have come to me and there may be changes. Hector arrives tomorrow or Tuesday.

Hector is due at Lancaster, Pa., March 11th-18, and then will have some meetings in York, Pa. I am hoping he can see you then. Would you want him to take a meeting or so the week-end of the 25th?   Love, Ione

(On the back of the letter….)

Dear Grandma, Thank you for your letter. We are not skating a lot now. It was about 5 degrees above this morning. It has been quite warm but there are no signs of spring. Now I am in grade four. Timmy has a fever and is in bed. We are getting along all right without Daddy. The verse in family worship is, “Thy Gentleness hath made be great.” Psalm 18:35. Sincerely, John Mc

In April, Ione is able to report to her mother:

…The children are all well. All are busy helping Uncle Archie get his seed in, etc. They have a small garden behind our home, too.

I checked up on all supporters and found that we’re pretty well supplied for personal support (in other words, pledges of money and money is coming in). The Int Department of Hector’s church indicated their desire last Sunday to have a part in Paul’s support. Timmy & Stevie are not supported, but gifts are coming regularly that cover this. Praise the Lord for this.

We have one more shot, typhus, to get in Montreal.

As soon as we have a travel date, we can make our date to see you.   – Ione

And in another letter, Ione writes:

We received the tape and game and are working on the tape. We have about ten numbers already recorded. Hector wants to put some interesting bird songs on, too, and some of the children’s piano numbers. Timmy and I have a little duet. He is doing quite well in his piano. They are all taking piano from the organist of the Presbyterian Church.

We had hoped to visit you for Easter, in fact I had written the letter, but had to destroy it, for Archie (Hector’s brother) is having trouble with his heart and Hector must not be away. Archie is supposed to stay in bed but gets up some. We are making a quick trip to the UFM banquet at Toronto but another man will do the chores those two nights. I wanted to go to Pontiac, too, for their Conference, but if I am gone it would be too hard on Jean who is not well, either. She has had trouble with her jaw again and then she has occasional spells of epilepsy.

Hector decided to not go any farther south when he learned that he would be around until June, as his sister Irene will be coming to Montreal for the summer when their school is out in May. So he will get to see her without going all the way to Florida. She will spend the summer months working in Montreal. By not going south, Hector has missed seeing Carol, and we had written that he might come; also Mrs. Deconynck. But she wanted me to come too, and do the cooking, if we visited here. Well, our plans will depend upon Archie’s condition. Hector is needed here right now. And I have 8 meetings lined up for myself and the boys for the next month, right here in this community.

We are having spring weather but this week end brought 6 inches of snow. The robins are walking gingerly about looking wistful.

It was not easy while Hector was away, but we got along all right. I think the weekends were the hardest as there was no chance of getting rested up in between bouts with discipline, getting jobs done, etc. And the fires were a bit complicated, as I didn’t want to get the wood fire too high for fear of a chimney fire. We had an extinguisher handy, however, and a box of soda!! Now it is not so cold, although the therm. said 8 above even this morning. And the children still wear their winter underwear and flannel shirts.

It is quite a sight on Sunday mornings, as there is not one other thing that these village folk concentrate upon but going to church right then, and as though with a given signal, the doors open on this little Main Street, and they are all out upon the road walking or driving to one church or the other (there is also a small Anglican Church). It is their custom, but if you were to ask if they had accepted the Lord as their Saviour, they would be amazed, and refer you to their church membership or infant baptism. Do pray for this fine community, so kind to us, and respectful of each other, but many being deceived into thinking they are saved because they are church members. Hector has been going to their homes, and having little times with each over the Word. Many of these folks are his own relatives. We have been trying to get together a prayer meeting, but it has to be done thru the right channels! No prayer meeting, no adult Sunday School class, nor for young people! No evening service in the United Church. Well, we can see why the Lord led us to stay here awhile. My how Hector preached his heart out last Sunday in the Presbyterian Church. And I spoke at night. They have no pastor just now and we have been asked two Sundays to fill in.

Yes, Timmy got over his sick spell; it was just for a day or so. All have kept very well, and I think only T has missed a day of school. I am getting real fat and am wondering how to keep from losing my figure entirely! If I wear a garment, I get that irritation that was bothering me when I went to Washington. It is a fungus that needs more fresh air!! I have been troubled a bit with haemorrhoids, but have something that relieves. I haven’t had a period since February, and that is something new for me, as I was having them every three weeks. So I suppose any funny spells I have now and then could be traced to the beginning of the change of life. I just get a little faint and lay down for a while and then am better. I am getting shots (Vitamin B12) for my blood and nerves; the doctor here is giving free a series of ten. He says my blood count is OK. I feel in good enough condition to go back to the field, and this has been verified by the doctor. The suggested operation has not been found necessary apparently by any other doctor than the one in Three Hills. Hector and I are getting polio shots as well as the children. There have been polio cases on two of our stations. Enough about health. We’ll get typhus shots yet and then we’re thru.

My, how hard it must have been for Doris to get those children back (which implies Doris won her custody legal battle). I am wondering how long Bill (Doris’s ex-husband) will wait before he tries again to get them. We feel constrained specially to pray for Bill these days. He has been so hard. Perhaps this will break his stubborn will.

Now what can we plan for seeing you soon? If we can’t come there, could you come here? We could help with the expense. How much time would you be able to get off? There is a beautiful place near here to visit called Upper Canada Village, and we would go there for a little trip, and other places nearby, so that Hector would be able to help with chores. You can play the piano and help the boys with their music, and we’ll talk and talk. Their vacation days are between the 20th and the 30th. But you come any time.   Lots and lots of love,   Ione

Ione also writes:

…We have written to Rethy for more details and to know their charges, time of term beginning, etc. Planes run from Stanleyville to Bunia, which is near Rethy. Fare for one child is $54. Roads are pretty good up there, but one cannot be too sure of the roads in our area. Hector says they are trying to arrange for Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) planes to operate in our part of the Congo especially with the missionary children in mind. The minutes from the field say that the mission will help in the expense of transport in this. However, we must get a school support before going back, about $150 a month for all. That, in addition to the yet lacking $60 a month regular support. The passage cost may be reduced if we buy tickets from the other side of the water as the money exchange on the dollar is very much in our favour just now. With the sale of the car we will have around $2000 already toward this. If Hector is to take out the new 2-ton truck for Bongondza, we will probably leave from NewYork and go by boat. This will be a long journey, about two months, and a 2-week overland journey from Mombasa inland over Lake Albert, etc. The truck would have to be adapted for passengers in the back with a cover, etc. If the truck is bought in Congo, we might go by plane. We are waiting now to hear about this, and also for the present requirements in Congo for re-entry.

We plan to leave in early July. I’m glad that Hector is going to wait and we’ll go together. Pray for our needs yet. And pray for these many opportunities around here. And the boys will be singing for the UFM banquet in Toronto April 14th. We hope to have a date that you can come and visit us in your next letter.  Love,  Ione

Ione’s optimism over her health issues are ill founded. On the 23rd April 1962, Ione informs her sister Lucille that she has been admitted to hospital as an emergency following a haemorrhage. The doctor she had seen previously thought Ione had fibroids in the uterus, and advised that there was no need for an operation as fibroids shrink with the onset of menopause. However, it would seem that the growths were uterine tumours and not benign fibroids.

On the 24th April, Ione write to her mother:

Now I know the operation is to be tomorrow and I will start this hoping that Hector will add the fact that I am out of the anaesthetic O.K.

The doctor made another examination today to be sure and he will make the incision in the same place as my previous operations! Too bad there’s no zipper!

I can see now why Hector was not allowed to go ahead to Congo. The Lord knew he would be needed now with the boys.

I had stopped flowing the first of February and thought it was the beginning of change of life. For nearly 2 years I had been having a period between 11 & 21 days. I didn’t realize that when it stopped it was all going into tumour. So last Thursday when I started with a bang, I lost quite a bit and still thinking it was just a big period, I didn’t tell the doctor. By Saturday morning I was too faint & weak & poor Hector couldn’t get the ambulance there fast enough. They got me stopped so that I could get strength for the operation & till the cold was better.

Excitement this afternoon. When an “alcoholic” man (gone mental) kept running thru our floor & trying to get out. They finally had to send him to a mental institution. My roommate is a nurse’s aide and “knows the ropes here” so I don’t lack for attention. She is quite keen, though still weak from her operation. Another good church member – no evidence of being saved. I gave her two tracts. She has attended a Billy Graham film. Now a space for Hector – Folks are good to us. Ione was still under anaesthetic. She went in about 8 a.m. & came back from recovery room about 1 p.m. They had an intravenous going.   Love, Hector

How Hector copes whilst Ione is hospitalised is revealed in a letter to his sister Florence on 1st May 1962:

The children are off to school and the house is quiet now. I got the washing done yesterday and all put away. Dorthea (Mrs. John D. Dunbar) asked if she could wash and iron the white shirts, and Glenn McIntyre’s wife wants to do any other ironing. Mary Belle sent a lovely cake yesterday afternoon; in fact, so many folks have been so helpful to us. Ione has received so many nice cards and quite a few visitors. I was up yesterday and took Orma along with me from Chesterville. On the way back, I had an opportunity to talk about spiritual things. Ione was feeling quite well but still had a little chest congestion. I hope she will be able to be home by this week-end. She phoned her mother in Washington D.C., as well as the chairman of her mission board of her home church in Pontiac.

And he reiterates the events leading up to Ione’s operation, adding:

She won’t be able to do much for at least two months, so we may be delayed a month or more in our departure for Congo.

We have had an invitation to go to Rethy (the African Inland Mission school in Congo) to help in supervising the dormitory. We have sent word that we are willing if our UFM field council thinks it advisable. So we await further news.

I have been having the morning services in the United Church in Apple Hill the past two Sundays and have one more. Two weeks ago I met Jean McMillan (Alan’s sister), and this past Sunday Melvin Ferguson was there. The folks seem to appreciate the TRUTH. We will be at Finch Presbyterian this coming Sunday evening and Maxville next Tuesday night. It takes a lot of study but it is good for my own soul. Just a day or so ago I read this to the children from a book by A.W. Tozer, “Pursuit of God”, “Only as children get older and sin begins to stir within their hearts do jealousy and envy appear. Then they are unable to enjoy what they have if someone else has something larger or better. At that early age the galling burden comes down upon their tender souls, and it (pride) never leaves them till Jesus sets them free.”

If you ever see a book by Tozer be sure to get it. He writes very simple and yet so practically for everyday living.

We should try to get down to see you some week-end, but we will have to plan that after Ione is better. Trust all goes well with you. Love and prayer, Hector

Ione’s progress is chronicled in a series of letters to her mother; the first being on the 2nd May when she is able to sit out of bed for a while:

I’ll write until I have to lay down again, but it feels good to sit up straight for a while. A week ago today I was in the operating room. The doctor marvels that I got over the “patch” of pneumonia so well, but I know the Lord gave me strength to keep spitting up the phlegm and drinking a lot. I went to the bathroom the second day, and have been getting up ever since. I have had unusual opportunities to witness & give tracts. My verse for today is Psa. 149: 5,6 as the verse says, I am “upon my bed”, but with a “two edged sword in my hand.” May the Lord help me to use it at the right time.

I hope you can go to that Rally on May 5. I won’t need you. I’ve an invitation to go to a friend’s house until I am stronger, but there is a woman we can get to do housework and Hector can keep on cooking for a while. Friends keep sending in roasted meat, macaroni & cheese, soups, and all kinds of buns & desserts. I laughed at Hector yesterday for he said he didn’t leave enough time to cook the potatoes & carrots for noon so he went down the street & bought a pressure cooker!

When I go home I will just do correspondence for a while (& my 2 correspondence courses which I am behind in!). I will sleep upstairs, but stay down all day on the davenport. The bathroom is on the main floor.

How is your cystitis? Are you drinking plenty when you have this? Whenever I have pain urinating, I just drink lots & it goes away. (not always the best of recommendations, especially should there be an infection, although it helps, a urine test to rule out infection is usually advised.)

Why don’t you plan a date for our family just after school lets out, maybe the first week of July. Then it would be a real holiday for the boys. I think school is out June 29th. Then could you come back with us for your holiday? You could help me pack for Congo, too, as I suppose we’ll go in early August now.

I love my new clothes & will wear them home when I go (don’t know when yet). The hat is perfect on me. I tried it. Love, Ione

On the 4th May, Ione writes:

…I have been expecting stitches to come out today, but not yet. In fact, the doctor didn’t even mention it this morning. He only asked if my bladder was working O.K.

Mrs. Sarginson called up Hector from Toronto and invited me to spend 2 weeks at the lovely mission home there. She was afraid I might be tempted to do too much right away. I think I would like to spend a few days at home, and then would try to content myself to be separated for 2 weeks more. Harold Dunbar has offered to drive me there, a 5 or 6 hour drive. I can type & get correspondence caught up. But I don’t think I’ll be able to lift the typewriter so will try to get it in one spot where I can always use it. I could finish my Moody Correspondence Course (3 more lessons) and get started on the Dorothy Haskin one. I wouldn’t have to do a thing there & it would be a real rest. (Ione has never been idle and the concept of ‘real rest’ is an interesting proposition.)

Hector has been getting along real good with the cooking, etc. He has given a roast 2 times and a lady roasts it. Yesterday she sent them meat loaf & cake. Hector can cook vegetables to go with meat, etc. I got a look at all the boys yesterday by calling them to stand under the bathroom window, which I could open & talk through! (It is probable that children were not allowed to visit patients in hospital to minimise cross infection.) I showed them a robin’s nest in a bush there. I also divided out chocolates from the box Hector brought me. I got $5 today from Peggy Reh, and $10 from Alice, Hector’s sister; $5 from Irene. Irene & Barbara & Donnie are coming to Montreal the middle of June I believe – to work for the summer.

I am able to sit up longer now. Because I drink a lot I make many trips to the bathroom and that is good.

Pray for my opportunities to speak to people. A woman with a vile tongue hung over me with dirty stories & I rebuked her in the name of the Lord & said I was responsible for what I listened to. I tried to give her a tract but she did not take it, but listened to quite a bit of “preaching” from me. Love, Ione

Finally, on the 8th May:

This is my last morning in the hospital. I was told today I could go home. Hector is out some distance away from the farm, cutting wood with Archie, this morning, so my call was not soon enough to catch him for this morning. So I guess he will come after me this afternoon. I heard there were several ladies cleaning our house yesterday, so I expect to find everything spic & span! The ladies have been sending in “dishes” and baked goods, and inviting them out. I hate to make further strains on the kindness of neighbours and relatives, but I think I will try to go to Toronto (or Alice’s at Dunnville for about 2 weeks) just to keep from doing too much too soon. I am supposed to see the doctor again in 2 weeks. He said I was in fit condition to go back to the field in the summer, my heart is O.K., etc.

I won’t start packing until June.

I hope you have a happy and blessed Mother’s Day. I’m not sure of a chance to send you something in time, so I am enclosing $10 for you to get yourself something and tell me what you get. Are you going to wear a white flower? I think I’ll hint to my family to get me a red rose to wear for you. I’m so thankful I still have you and you are so young and beautiful and smart. People marvel that you could get such a perfect outfit for your daughter! I’m going to wear it home today!

If I sent you the money would you be on the look-out for some summer house dresses to take to the field? I just don’t trust my taste anymore! I think 16-1/2 would be wise, although I have already lost some weight. But we wear our dresses looser there. I don’t know whether we’ll go by boat or plane, but I do want to take dresses at least.  Love, Ione

PS: I’ll soon tell you where I’ll be for 2 weeks. The doctor won’t take a cent for his services! Hector had deposited for the 1st week at hospital & they “wrote off the rest” of the 18 days!

About two weeks later, Ione again writes to her mother. She is back home with the family, presumably after the planned convalescence she refers to in an earlier letter. She records her progress thus:

Tuesday Hector took me to see the doctor. He had asked me to come in 2 weeks after leaving the hospital. After examination he said everything was healed remarkably well. He muttered, “Must be the church you belong to.” I must go back once more in a month’s time. He gave me a letter which states that I can “resume former employment” after July!

And about her ‘former employment’:

We have had 2 letters from the field from Al Larson & Viola Walker. The missionaries on the field as well as natives think we should go to Bongondza. But if Rethy will accept UFM children only by our joining their dormitory staff, there will be no choice. It may be someone else can go to Rethy. Apparently, no senior missionaries are available for Bongondza & Viola is the only non-medical worker there. They are very keen for us to go there. Pray about it.  – Ione

Family photo, taken during the summer of 1962.

Ione is not the only one experiencing medical problems, her sister Lucille is also unwell. Ione writes on 11th June:

I don’t like to hear of your blood count being so far down; I don’t think you should wait until after VBS and the special meetings; it may be too late. (Presumably, her sister is planning on postponing her treatment.) We plan to go to Montreal Thursday for typhus shots. We go to Philadelphia and Washington June 30 to around July 11th. Hope to bring Mother back with us. Then to pack!   Love, Ione

Despite all that is happening for Ione, she still is focussed on ‘family’ and in this letter also enquires about her niece, Ruth:

Thanks for your letter received today with the form letter for Ruth. We are praying about this important new step. Did she have enough clothes and money for transportation? We didn’t have any to send, but now we have a little tithe again, if you will tell us just how she stood financially when she left. And where would we write to her?

Whatever Ruth’s plans are, Ione wants to be involved and supportive as much as she is possible, even to sending Ruth some of the precious money that comes Ione’s way for the Lord’s work.

It would seem that Lucille is not the only one to receive news of a health setback, Ione shares with Lucille news of her own setback on 19th June:

A little “chastening for the present” appears to be our lot, you and I; I am to go back to the hospital at any time soon for a hernia operation. I had it when I went to Dr Westcott, but it was not so noticeable and he said it was nothing. Now it is more evident, and must be taken care of. 5 days in hospital & 3 weeks rest! We’ll delay our visit with Mother until the middle of July; I think her holiday is the 15th now (I talked to her last night). Maybe she’ll come here and then see you. We had a letter making it definite that we would take out the 2-ton Bongondza truck, so plan to go to Congo by boat and overland (that means leaving sooner, but I don’t know what the mission will say now!). Mother said she read a letter from an AIM missionary saying we were going to Rethy, but we’ve had no such word. Lucille, please don’t wait for you trip to hospital. I’m worried about you. Love, Ione

Four days later, on 23rd June, Ione is able to report to Lucille that her operation on the hernia went without any problems and she is now recovering and she expresses concern that Lucille has yet had a date for her hospital appointment, she writes:

Please don’t wait too long, Lucille. You are too precious.  Love, Ione

Ione shares her concerns with her mother in a letter updating her about her own progress:

Well the hernia operation is over and I am already on a soft diet, a full diet tomorrow (Turkey!). I walk like an old witch, but I’ve been in the bathroom twice. I was operated on the morning of the 21st.

I wish Lucille was over her troubles. Did you write to her about not waiting so long? I’m afraid they’ll find a lot more wrong.

Two days later, Ione writes to her mother, at this point, Ione has yet to share the speed of events leading to her operation:

I had a good turkey dinner on Sunday & fish today. Donnie Pierce (Hector’s nephew) was with us for 1 week, spending a good deal of the day-time digging post-holes (and picking strawberries!) at the farm. He seemed satisfied to stay on even though I was not there, but his eyes started watering and he started to have the asthma trouble that has always prevented him from staying at the farm. So when Irene (Hector’s sister and Donnie and Barbara’s mother) came this Saturday she took him home, to look for a paper route. Irene brought hot-dogs & buns the day she came, and “took over” affairs in the kitchen. She has a wonderful job; Barbara answers telephone at “Office Overload”. They want to see you. I am hoping your coming will coincide with the family reunion here, but if your vacation starts the 15th and Florence goes away for hers the 17th it’s pretty close!

Hector and his siblings. Back Row (L-R): Eleanor, Alice, Jean, Irene, Florence. Front Row: Hector and Archie -1962.

I’m so glad you had some roses for Mother’s Day. I had a good letter from Marcellyn. Did you get a permanent yet? Jean (Hector’s sister) got me one before Easter – real good. Remember Jean’s health. She is seeing my doctor today; Irene insisted on it when she saw how she was. Since the nerve was cut, her jaw she falls asleep all the time and she forgets. Hector is worried about her, too. I have your letters of June 2, 5 (John’s), 7, and 12 before me.   – Ione

On the 4th July, Ione fills in the details:

I’m so sorry we didn’t get in touch with you the night I went to the hospital. It all happened so fast. I had, like you, thought it would not be so soon. But because Dr Justis is such a busy Surgeon and will not charge anything, I felt I should let him set the time most convenient to him. I told him Tuesday to put it into his schedule, and he called up Wednesday noon, asking if I could be at the hospital around 3 P.M. I said I could, but I didn’t tell him I would have to take a meeting first! I had a very important meeting in a town about 35 miles away when 5 groups of Presbyterian Women would be gathering for their “W.M.S. Sectional.” I thought at first I’d ask Hector to take it, and then decided he would need to be here when the children came home from school. So, as it was not much out of the way to take the meeting and go from there to Winchester, I took it. Dorothea Dunbar drove me. We didn’t stay for their “tea” but had a good opportunity to witness. Then we went to the hospital. I got there about 4:30 and it was just a nice time to get my room and be ready for the nice supper they served. Then there was a very busy schedule of “prep” for operation, etc. including a good hot bath. But no time for anything except to contact a lady who works there for directions for the meeting Hector would have the next night. I knew I had to get this done before they gave me the sleeping pill. I got a map drawn and a note to Hector & put it on the dressing table where he’d find it when he came in after the operation.

Then I went off to sleep not even letting my dear Mother know. But it was not intentional. If I had just said a word to Hector, he would have called you. But we had made so many phone calls on Monday, that we never thought of it. (Philadelphia & Toronto)

Ione reckons that the operation has delayed the family plans to return to the Congo for about 3-4 weeks, which means she does not require Leone Reed to help her with packing just yet. The delay has many consequences, not only for Ione but lots of others too. The people who were renting the house in Avonmore to the McMillan’s need it back by the 1st August so the family need to move before they are ready to leave for Congo. A family (the Oldman’s) in Philadelphia have offered them accommodation for the end of July and Ione debates by letter whether her mother could join them in Philadelphia from Michigan where Leone Reed could be supporting her other daughter Lucille. Of course, the other mooted plans for Leone to meet up with Hector’s family in Canada would have to be forfeit.

The extended McMillan family has a family reunion at the beginning of July which Ione is able to make. She writes to her mother:

We had a lovely family reunion here July 2nd, and all the sisters & brothers were together. We went to a beautiful park on the St. Lawrence & the boys went swimming. They took a camp cot so that I could lay down when I liked! I am feeling better each day. I am lifting nothing and the family waits on me as though I were a queen.

We went to Cornwall last night for our typhus shots & to choose the picture we’re having made (you’ll be getting one). Just as the doctor was doing the last one (Hector) Kenny fainted and bumped his head. I have heard of those typhus shots doing that. You remember how sick I was with my first? The doctor helped Kenny to get better & found his bruise to be slight. But he has ordered 24 hours of quietness for all, so they’re still sleeping through, I’ve been awake for 2 hours. It’s 7:30 now. We’ll do jig-saw puzzles & games today. I am sewing name tapes on shirts! I like your insert on the bulletin. I got a good comment on my first Dorothy Haskin lesson. She thinks I have the “make up” of a writer. Perhaps I take after my mother-!

All for now. As soon as I hear from you I will make our date for the chance to get together at the Philadelphia headquarters.

Much love, Ione

By the 10th of July, it is evident plans have changed yet again as Ione writes to her mother:

I’m so glad you can come here first. And, Mother, we have a room for you and want you to stay with us!

Since we have not needed stoves we have spread out over the whole house (it is a double house) so there is an extra bedroom you could have all to yourself! And so far as cooking, if the lady can’t come when I have asked for her, we can just use things easy to prepare, like canned & frozen foods. You don’t have to see many people as they are in the middle of haying season & even Hector & boys will be away at the farm a good deal of the time. They just leave Paul & Timmy here this week – when we go to Philadelphia the 21st we will only stay a few days and come back here again I think until I am rested and our money is all in. The fares are higher than we thought so we need $2000 more! We’re sending out another letter this week. Our shots are finished now. Everyone is OK. I am up but lay down when I like. About 8 neighbour ladies (WMS Presbyterian Church) are mending, ironing, and sewing name tapes on clothes for boys. Yesterday Hector washed & Paul hung up & took down clothes. Am seeing Dr today for check-up.  Lovingly, Ione

As part of her preparations for going back out to African, Ione and Hector have to be sure that they keep their sponsors and supporters up to date. On the 15th July 1962, Ione writes a letter that is distributed widely:

Dear Friends,

This may be our last letter from this country. We expect to leave around the middle of August. Because we are taking out a 2-ton truck we will be going by boat. This will be fun for the six boys now ages 8 through 15 years, and they will be thrilled with the sights they will see between New York and Mombasa, Kenya, East Africa.

The month-long journey will take us the length of the Mediterranean Sea, through the Suez Canal and down the African coast. When the cargo boat reaches Mombasa, the truck will be assembled and adapted for family travel across the plains to the Congo. After a week’s journey, we will leave the boys at Rethy Academy and go on three days more to Bongondza where the truck will be used for the completion of a medical unit.

It sounds good, but we do not have enough money yet to start the trip. The round-about way is costing more than we had anticipated. We were surprised to learn last week that we need $2,000 more! A shorter way into the Congo by the west coast and up the Congo River would be cheaper. But that way is not possible just now. So once again we are “expecting great things of God and attempting great things for God.” Won’t you join us in prayer about this need?

Our visas must go to Leopoldville and back to Washington, D.C., before they are valid. This business will be completed about the middle of August.

We plan during the boat journey to revise our mailing list. You would have just time now to let us know if we have your correct address. We are sorry that we could not visit all of you during our two years in the homeland. Just a little note from you would assure us that you are still interested and would like to stay on our list.

We want to thank you for all you have done for us. If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, you will understand what we mean when we say we are trusting the Lord, “which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters.” Isa. 43:16. We are trusting Him to begin in mercy a new work of love with us and through us to needy Congolese.

Lovingly in Him, Hector and Ione McMillan

Once again, Ione’s optimism is misplaced and there are yet more hiccups for the family, as Ione explains to her mother and sister Lucille on 26th July:

Dearest Mother, Lucille and family,

It is afternoon and we have all had a good rest. The children are playing in the barn while Hector and Archie see a man about selling his horses. Just a few hours ago Mother was still here and now she has gone and we find a big empty spot in our hearts as well as in the house. It was so nice having you here, but all too short. Thank you so much for coming all that way. And thank you for all your words of counsel, given in love. (This sounds like Ione was on the receiving end of advice giving for a change but she soon gets her own back on the family as seen below.) Thanks, too, for the lovely gifts you gave to us all. As I think over everything you gave it makes a big total for such a big family. You might find this American $5 useful in purchases you will make while at Lucille’s.  I hope you can get your coat and some other things you can only get in Michigan.

I found these notes in the bedroom and thought you might need them. Also the bulletins, I didn’t know whether you had another copy for showing Lucille. And what about that tyre in the back of the house? I can’t remember what you wanted done with that? Did you intend to take it along, or do you have another spare?

Will you tell Lucille thanks for the card she wrote while in the hospital. I remember the name of the nurse’s aide she mentioned, but do not know her. I guess Mother will pass on the news that we have a housekeeper for the remaining weeks we’ll be here, that is once or twice a week. How are you, Lucille? It will be nice to hear about your visit together. I wonder if Ruth will get back while Mother is there.

Our visa forms still have not come, even after phoning twice to Washington. And we can’t send them in until we get them! And after that the processing will take one month! Well, it is a good time to relax and let the sting wear away from the incision. Do you still find yourself sore, Lucille?

Mother, you surely gave us a nice evening last night and by the looks on the people’s faces, everyone else was satisfied, too. I just hope you will not be too tired for that long journey. You must try to rest as much as you can while at Lucille’s. We will let you know just as soon as we have more news.

Mother, be sure and tell Lucille about the help First Baptist church will give with passage money and also two months allowance in advance when we go. Also we must make a date to see her when we come to Pontiac. It will probably be the last of August.

Will you pray that the Lord will send in the $1150 yet lacking for passage? The form letter (Ione is here referring the letter above that is sent to all supporters, sponsors and friends) says $2,000, and we’re thankful that already this is getting whittled down, even before the form letter leaves Three Hills!

Now I must close and write a note to Lake Orion Church; also some others before the family comes back.

Thanks so much for coming, Mother. We hope to see you the last of August, if not before.  Lovingly, Ione

In the end, Hector has to make a personal trip to the Embassy in Washington to fill in application forms for their visas; unfortunately, it did not leave him time to visit his mother in law as he needed to go to Philadelphia to pick up a truck that they were taking back to Congo with them. The acquisition of a truck means that plans change yet again and the family plan to sail rather than fly to Africa.

Despite not having visas, the family prepare for departure, taking services at supporting churches and the outstanding money to pay for the trip comes in. Once again, plans change, and the decision is for Hector to travel by sea with the truck and the bulk of the family possessions, and Ione will fly with the six boys taking just hand luggage. The family get to Montreal, the truck and possessions are loaded on the Thorsriver, but without visas, Hector cannot go with the ship, nor can the family fly. Hector was stuck! The family could always take a later plane, but the Thorsriver was the only ship sailing. It transpires that the ship has to sail 1000 miles up the St Lawrence river before setting out to sea and Hector works out that by flying to Fort Alfred in Quebec in can catch his ship.

Hector stays with his sister and Ione and boys go back to Avonmore to stay with Hector’s cousins for five days. The visas arrive and the family set off, Hector to his ship at the end of August and Ione and boys to Africa five days later. One setback is that the family luggage is overweight for the plane and they have to leave behind four packages, which no doubt the family back home will post on to them.

Hector describes some of his trip in a letter to his sister Florence on the 4th September 1962:

While waiting for breakfast I’ll get a letter off to you. I was a bit sea sick crossing the Gulf so it is nice to be in port again.

I’ll be thinking about all you folks getting Ione and the boys off today. I know the Lord will give extra strength.

Thank you again for all you did for me. It was the best visit we had of our whole furlough. There are so many things to pray about so we all need to be in close fellowship in the Lord.

There are only 8 passengers on board,

  • a retired Salvation Army officer and his wife
  • An administrator and his wife and son (who has been attending McDonald College in Montreal for a year) from Bechuanaland.
  • Two middle aged ladies, one Dutch and one English.

I’ve talked to the Salvation Army officer and I believe he knows the Lord.

We will be here until Thursday morning loading newsprint. By the way this place has the largest output of paper in the world. Just this morning a boat came in to the dock. I was talking with one of the superintendents and he said it was coming from Texas and had a load of 12,000 tons of sulphur – enough to last for 12 months. They burn sulphur and limestone rocks together and the acid produced is fed into tanks of wooden chips. This breaks down the wood fibre and prepares it for the paper process. I was up about 6 A.M. and had a nice long quiet time with the Lord. I found a “life principle” as Uncle Fergus Kirk says. Psalm 116:6 “The Lord preserveth the simple”. We, in our pride, tend to make life complicated but we need to be brought low so that we can “look up”.

There is a storm outside the harbour so we are glad to be 20 miles up in the Humber River.

Sunday evening after supper I went up town to a Baptist Church. I met a Christian banker and his wife. I had a nice visit in their apartment. Well, bye for now. Love and Prayer, Hector.

Ione’s journey is not without incident. Ione tells her mother the story in a letter written on 18th September:

Through some mistake we had no hotel reservations in Leopoldville (Kinshasa), and the mission home was filled up there with Belgian (and other nationalities) people coming out to teach school. And they said the plane the next morning to Stanleyville (Kisangani) was filled and we could get nothing for 3 weeks. It was a shock, but the Lord sustained us as we found a quiet part of the big airport lobby to spend the night. The benches were long and it was dark enough to stretch out without being observed by the hundreds of soldiers outside. A kind Congolese policeman slept on a bench nearby. Toward morning he told us that if we stand near the Air Cargo desk when they were calling the names for the plane, we might get a place. We did that, and once more, the Lord performed a miracle. The names of a number of people were called and they didn’t answer, so we were given their places. We were on the plane by 6:30 A.M. Then they served us a nice Congolese breakfast.

We arrived in Stanleyville at 11:30 A.M. and Al (Larson) was there to meet us. Because the ride was a bumpy one, we were all a bit sick, but it didn’t take long to be feeling better after landing. We all had to have vaccination for smallpox. It is required every year now. We had no trouble with Customs, etc. At the Home we were thrilled to find our boy(houseboy) Malenza & wife. He made us a nice dinner.

Ione’s letter to her sister written on the same day has more explicit detail, some of which is disturbing as life in Congo is not as safe as it once was. She writes to Lucille:

We came into Stanleyville on the 5th and were met by Al Larson (the house in Stanleyville – that is Kilometre 8) has been broken into 6 times during the past year).

Whilst there, the family are vaccinated against smallpox, this has become an annual requirement for living in Congo. 

Ione was supposed to go from Stanleyville to Bunia by plane to get the boys into school but once again plans change as Ione explains to Florence in a letter written at the same time as the two above: 

He (Al Larson) told us that the plane we should take to the school at Rethy via Bunia was booked up for 3 weeks and he could drive us there if he could get another missionary to share the driving. He took us to a nearby station, Banjwadi, for the week-end and arranged for the 3-day trip (water, gas, bread, etc.) (from Stan to Rethy).

It was an exciting ride on very bumpy roads, many road barriers but the soldiers were friendly to missionaries.  Two times we saw baboons on the road and several snakes, and we went right through pygmy territory. Six tires were changed, and once we were pushed up the side of a slippery rainy mountain by Africans who noisily demanded 400 francs. They even wanted more, but settled for this amount ($3). They can’t do anything without shouts and chants and their leader sat in the front seat of the car directing them. It was all in good humour and we were thankful for their help.

From these three letters, we learn that the journey takes three days and David Grant shares the driving with Al Larson. They stop off at mission stations along the way. Finally, they arrive at Rethy and Ione helps the boys to settle in to their new school.

Kenny, Paul, David and John are allocated to a dormitory where the house parents are the Sigg family (Dick and Mimi) who were at Kilometre 8 and had looked after them in 1960. Stephen and Timmy are to share a room in the younger boys’ dormitory. Ione writes to Hector’s sister:

The boys like it real well at Rethy Academy and the cost was less than I expected……

We pay $75 a term (3 months) for the two older boys and $65 for the 4 younger. That’s cheaper than I thought.

The Congolese franc is relatively unstable so fees are paid in US dollars, which Ione arranges mission headquarters in Philadelphia to pay. This means Ione can spend her travellers’ cheques locally and makes a three hour trip over the border to Arua in Uganda to buy supplies that are not available in Congo, such as:

oatmeal, various kinds of canned meats, fruits, cookies in tins, corn syrup, candles, lamp mantles, etc..

Ione leaves the boys in school and heads back to Banjwadi where she stays three days before heading on to Bongondza where she and Hector hope to work. On 25th September , Ione writes:

I am at Bongondza now (this was Ione’s first mission station back in 1942) and living in the house where we expect to be for the next five years. It seems big and empty right now, but I hope to welcome Hector in about three weeks’ time. Then at Christmas the walls will ring with boyish voices! I found a warm welcome here and much to do. I have one houseboy whom I knew as a lad, and a gardener who is a hospital patient. I expect to be teaching the Bible School from 8 to 10 each morning; their wives from 2-3 three times a week; all women in the area two afternoons a week. Since Hector isn’t here I have been asked to speak already twice to the African congregation. This afternoon I will give a little talk to the women and tomorrow night to our ‘white people’. The Bongondza white folk consist of Doctor and Mrs. Sharpe and three children; Miss Viola Walker, whose place I will be taking when she leaves in two weeks; Miss Ruby Gray from Ireland, a nurse (the doctor is from England); David Wilmshurst, male nurse from England; and Bill Gilvear, male nurse from Scotland.

You would be interested to know that when we were having so much trouble getting away, and had just missed both plane and boat, Hector sat down beside me and said quietly, “Only faith has the courage to fail.” That has been a real encouragement to me during these days of adjustment. Love, Ione

At this time, the boys write to Ione from school and she amasses the letters and forwards them on to her mother as one package. Stephen’s writing is not as legible as the others, so Ione transcribes his letter for Leone:

Dear Mommy and Daddy:

On Thursday the 20th Andrew Parry, John McDowell and I went down in the pasture and found a live calf. I was starting to skin a rat, but I didn’t get very far because a cow came charging at us. Andrew and John climbed through the fence and went. I was left behind a tree and the cow was on the other side. The cow came charging around and I took a dash for the fence and climbed through it.

On Saturday the 22nd was mid-term and we went to a different place. After we had gotten our food and dessert, Bill McAllister and I went into the forest and laid down and waited. We started calling. The trees started to shake. One monkey started to come close and it came about 3 yards away. Some other boys came and scared them away.

Today Timmy heard a meow from down in the outside T.O. (their abbreviation for toilet). He told some of us and we called an African. The African got a rope and let a boy down and the boy put the cat in the bucket and tied it to it. It jumped away but now it comes back and it’s quite tame. The boys down our hall are trying to keep it. Love from Stephen.

Communication channels are changing and Ione can report to her mother:

You will be glad to know that we have a radio transmitter and have already had contact with one other station. This will help us in keeping in touch with other UFM stations as well as Rethy.  Much love,  Ione

Whilst Ione has settled the boys into school and resumed her missionary work, Hector is still in transit on board the ship, Thorsriver. From Port Elizabeth in South Africa, Hector writes to his family in Canada on 26th September 1962:

Dear Jean and Archie:

I have time to get a letter off before the ship leaves here this afternoon.

In Cape Town I got a letter that Ione had written that last Sunday she was in Avonmore. She said the boys helped with the threshing, and that you had one last picnic on the hill.

I was just up on deck talking to the captain. By the way he was telling the passengers the other day that on this boat’s maiden voyage they loaded up in South Africa and sailed to Montreal. They had 6,000 tons of raw sugar for Toronto so they started up the newly-opened (St. Lawrence) seaway. They took on a pilot in Montreal and when he got the ship out in the open he gave the order for full speed ahead. So the engineer opened up the big diesel (made in Switzerland) which can do about 23 miles an hour. The pilot saw that things were beginning to happen so he shouted, “Half—slow—dead slow—STOP!” He was used to slow lake boats. They had to start and stop the motor all the time to keep it down to 7 miles an hour. All the embankment was new and the river authorities were afraid that the wash from the ship would break it down. When they got to Snell and Eisenhauer locks, they raised the ship 43 feet in five minutes. It was rubbing against the side, scrapping the paint off, and the sparks were flying. So after that trip he said he had been up the seaway once too often.

My! The cargo we have on board here. It has a capacity of ½ a million cubic feet. Big rolls of newsprint weighing up to 1700 lbs – loaded at Three Rivers, Chicoutimi, and Corner Brook, Newfoundland; probably about 3,000 tons of the stuff. We haven’t started unloading the wheat yet. I guess that is for a port farther along. We are putting into drydock at Durban so we will be there four or five days. The captain suggested October 20th for our arrival at Mombasa. Ione’s letter was sent there but the shipping company knows where all the boats are so it was forwarded to Cape Town.

I was a bit sea-sick just out of Newfoundland for several days and then the water calmed down as we got into the tropics. I must have gotten a sun stroke as I was down sick again for five days. One evening when I was especially bad, the retired Salvation Army officer came into my room and had a reading and prayer with me. He really knows the Lord. He and his wife were in Rhodesia for 35 years doing missionary work. They are coming over for a short visit and are going back to Montreal on this same boat. I gave him Florence’s address and phone number so he may call her up when they get back some time in November.

I had a lovely Sunday afternoon in Cape Town. I went for a walk and after a while asked a man where there was a Baptist church. When he found out that I was ‘on foot’ he very kindly took me in his car to a little church where they were just going in for three o’clock Sunday School. The elderly man in charge welcomed me so warmly and asked me to take the opening prayer. While we were waiting on the platform, he told me that he had been led to the Lord by George Mueller. He has been in South Africa for over sixty years and is the only man alive who worked with saintly Andrew Murray. I showed him the picture of our family and he was more than delighted and showed it to the Sunday School. After the classes he and I went for a walk, spent at least two hours over eggs on toast with a cup of tea, went to a street meeting, visited two cathedrals to see the architecture on our way back to the little church where we had a grand message from the pastor.

Well, I must close. I hope to be getting some mail in Durban. Trusting all is well with you. Love and prayer – Hector

October 13th, Ione writes to her mother from Stanleyville, she has travelled there with the Larson’s, she excitedly reports:

The Larson’s, our field leaders, now have a darling baby after being married 12 years.

When Larson’s were ready to come back to Stanleyville, I came with them, and am enjoying the life at the Stanleyville Home. I am “in charge” of the cooking, so I feel that I am helping a little while waiting for Hector. (Essentially, on the mission field no one owns their ‘homes’; they are used by who ever needs them. Some houses/homes acquire names – like the Doctors’ house at Bongondza because it was built for the Weston’s, who are now living back in America with no prospect of seeing the house again. The Stanleyville home is to all intents and purposes Ione and Hectors but they would never consider it as such. In another letter written in November 1962, Ione explains how she sorted through all that she had left behind and writes:

I left a set of household utensils, etc. for guest house equipment; also silverware for 36 to be used for Conferences, as well as some enamel serving bowls and large double boiler, jug for powdered milk and large cookers. Very little of our stuff was stolen in that line. All the cups were gone, however and some bedding and all the good pillows. I didn’t find any clothes I had left behind of the boys. But we are thankful to have the use of a good many things yet, and added to what we have brought out it makes an abundance.)

Yesterday I did some ironing and baking. In between jobs I am sorting bedding, dishes, etc. getting things lined up for Hector to take to Bongondza when he comes. He will probably be here next week.

I am downtown shopping just now, buying things for the station.  It is surprising how many things one CAN get, but there are many empty shelves. I bought small cans of powdered milk, cooking fat, soap, spaghetti, canned soup, sardines, canned beef, so we’ll not do too badly. I just got a letter from Kenny, Paul & John. They are real happy there, no one has been sick, not even homesick!  Much love,  Ione

A few days later, Ione writes:

Letters from the boys sound good. They were going to have a Halloween party. Hector should be either with them just now, or else on his way between Rethy and Stanleyville (He is now driving his truck through Africa to Ione). I am waiting at Stan, where I have been for 10 days. He may arrive any day now.

Shelves in the Stanleyville stores are pretty empty, very few things like we used to get. But I am thankful to be able to get some canned goods. I am doing a lot of sorting and packing, and guess there will be a truck load, with things for others as well.

The little terrier here at the Home just came to me for some praise, as she has just done a good bit of barking, either at real, or imaginary thieves. Every night she has a barking campaign, and I’m sure it helps to discourage house breaks: Al has a long-range flashlight and he just looked around outside. He had all his clothes taken one night; another time all the bedding from a guest room. But many people in Stanleyville are hungry and turn to stealing; there are bands of robbers that keep going around.  While we were away at Bongondza just recently, they carried away the motor that pumps water. But we got it back (by paying 500 francs!). (Indications that changes have occurred and life is not as comfortable as it was before.)

I am happy to be back, and am anxious to get going at Bongondza. I will be busy every morning from 8 – 10:30; every afternoon and every evening except Friday. I can take village meetings early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Hector is a long-waited foreman here. So many “jobs”. But he will be happy to be so needed. Wide open doors for the gospel, and what stories we are hearing of the Lord’s undertakings.  Love, Ione

Back at Bongondza, whilst Ione is very happy to be doing the work she feels she has been called by God to do, it is now very different in many ways from the Africa she knew before. On the 24th November 1962 she writes to her sister Lucille:

Writing by lamp-light is not so much fun as it used to be. I guess that’s why the letters coming from here are few and far between! I find my days filled right up until bed-time and it is hard to sit by lamp for very long. Hector will probably get the lights going soon, but he has only been here for six days altogether since he arrived November 6th. He is away now at Ekoko and has to make a side trip from there before returning. They have only one small car there and are needing heavy supplies.

When I first came here in September, they were pretty short on food supplies and a cheer went up when I presented them with a small bottle of ketchup! I was able to share some things I got in Uganda when I went there while at Rethy. But lately there have been more trips to Stanleyville and more things available there. Our station has a cooler which can carry meat from Stanleyville, as well as butter when it is available there. When Hector came last Tuesday, he brought a basket of potatoes and some carrots, cabbage and leeks. He stayed only two hours, long enough to unload and load again. I surely miss him, but hope that when he comes early next week, I hope, that he can stay awhile. He has had men cutting big poles to use for stringing up light wires. That is done now and they are ready to drop the poles into the holes made.

I have three sewing classes and do you know how many needles I have to spare? Only three. I don’t know what I will do if any more come. Do you think you could get a flat package of needles in an airmail letter, Lucille? There are none in town, so far as I could see.

Yes, we have a bath-tub here. The water system needs overhauling, and ever since a snake was killed in the cistern, I have not been brushing my teeth with that water! We had a rain (fall – two seasons in Congo, dry and wet. Water becomes a precious commodity during the dry season.) right afterward and I couldn’t have all that water wasted.  But when Hector comes back, he will clean and drain and patch up the cistern, and get a larger place to store water. I haven’t been needing the treatments I had to have at home. Strange that the ailments I have at home I do not have out here, and the old Congo ailments come back! I have kept quite well, but Congo foods give me some gas more than before. There is a small refrigerator here but it has only frozen ice a few times. It sometimes lets the food get too warm. Wicks (it is a kerosene), chimneys, as well as lamp parts and filter candles are almost impossible to get so when these are finished, we will just do without.

The boys need trousers quite badly and Hector has bought some khaki which we’ll try to have made up for them when they come home (in two weeks!). You asked about things to send. They’ll probably soon need things like toothbrushes and underwear. They are supposed to have 12 of most everything, and I don’t think they even have 6!!

When they write they often ask for candy. One time someone went over into Uganda and they sent money and got chocolate bars.

I think it is better to send packages here, except special gifts for the children, because the African Inland Mission sort of hinted that they couldn’t handle too many of packages for our mission. It seems a lot of work for the missionaries just across the border.

Those packages of soup would be real welcome. The doctor from England who lives here gets a little envelope every month with a couple in. Baking powder is still not available. I have shared what I brought in several directions and have one can left. The necessary things are now available such as flour (OK when strained three times!), sugar, powdered milk, cooking fat. Dish cloths would be welcome. Any bits of cloth for my sewing classes. Baby clothes are always welcome for our Bible school families. Embroidery floss is very hard to get. I noticed that green goes faster than anything.

How did you come out about the church in Battle Creek? I’m sorry I’m probably too late to get any snaps sent, before your Conference. I hope it went all right. We haven’t taken any pictures as Hector had the camera.

Happy Birthday, Lucille. May the Lord give you many more!

Lovingly in Him,  Ione & Hector

Despite writing this letter to coincide with Lucille’s birthday, Ione writes again on 27th November. Despite the distance, Ione is still mindful of her family:

Dearest Lucille and Maurice:

This is to wish you a Happy Birthday! I wish we could spend it together. Hope you are feeling OK these days. I have been wondering how Ruth (Lucille and Maurice’s second daughter) is getting along. She is getting no help from us these days. Our tithe (‘Tithing’ is a Biblical concept. Jesus was once challenged by the public who were fed up with paying taxes to Rome – that’s is Cesare. They did not get the answer they were looking for which was to ‘render unto Cesare that which is Cesare’s and unto God that which is his. Many Christians save a tenth of what they are given to ‘give  to God’. Ione and Hector have used their ‘tithes’ to support other people who are doing God’s work – this has been her mother, her sisters and up till now it had been her niece.)  is now going to the local church here, agreed on by all the missionaries, and it pays the salary of the one in charge of the station, Philip Machini; and it goes into the regular church offerings which pay out-station evangelists and the Bible school students a tiny bit each month. (Philip Machini was named ‘Machini’ because his mother saw a bicycle for the first time when he was born. He was a remarkable man, educated on the Mission station and served with the missionaries as an equal for many year. He was one of the kindest men.)

And how is Larry (Lucille and Maurice’s eldest son) getting on? We have never helped him much, but we are surely praying for him and expecting to hear that he is using his precious life for the Lord. And what are Jim’s (the youngest of the family) hopes and plans? Kenny is quite sure that after he finishes high school he wants to return to Congo as a missionary. I know Jim must be thinking much about his future these days.

I wish I could send you a copy of a letter we just sent to Esther (Lucille and Maurice’s eldest daughter) and Wayne. The gist of it was this: Our mission is opening up a new Communications system and will be looking for someone to enter into this work. I just could not get away from the hope that they might yet be able to get into this. So we wrote quite a strong letter urging them to reconsider the health problem and see if it was really a barrier. (I see I have started on the back side; please turn over if you are able!)

You may be getting Esther and Wayne’s reaction soon, but I thought I would tell you so that you could be praying much about this. If they wait much longer, they will be over-age. And I told them that the situation for children is good now, and that they can send them to Rethy when they can read and are 7, seeing them every three months. I thought I was going to have trouble with my own feelings on this score, but not only has He taken away the sting of it, but there has been no sting. I am so satisfied that they are getting the best of climate and food. And they have each other and some very good friends in the school. Even thru those long weeks when I did not even have Hector here, I felt no pang of loneliness, for I was so sure I was where the Lord wanted me. And wide-open doors in every direction made it an exhilarating experience to enter in, and give myself to the fullest to the Lord’s work.

“Measure thy life by loss instead of gain;

Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth;

For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice;

And who so suffers most hath most to give.”

When Hector arrived November 6, he was able to stay only a few days and then left for Field Council. When he came back he stopped for two hours to unload more of our stuff and load up things for Ekoko and off he went. He came back last Saturday night and we have been together now for a few days and it is especially nice today as it is our 17th Anniversary. Hector brought a wooden antelope, almost life size (18 inches tall), made of redwood, nicely polished, with little ebony horns. It stands in back of your home-made davenport on a ledge.

I killed a tarantula in the bedroom last Friday. It reminded be to be careful when I put on my shoes before daylight. Now with the rainy season coming on in full force, there will be more snakes. And the roads will be bad for the boys to travel next week. I am entrusting them to the Lord for that four-day journey. The Siggs will bring them all the way, I believe and visit us for a few days. They have two children of their own. We heard indirectly that the Siggs were pleased with our boys and that their singing has inspired the other boys to want a boys’ choir. Always before they had thought it sissified.

I am trying to get letters caught up before the boys come, as we’ll have to make them all new pants then. When I compared what they had with the requirement list, I figured they have about half as many clothes as are required. And what they have is second-hand so it will not last too long. Will you remember this in prayer. Hector bought a 20-yard bolt of khaki and that will help. I was able to buy some socks for Christmas in Stanleyville. They were about 50¢ a pair.

I will continue teaching while the boys are here, for about ten days until our Christmas program and then there will be a two weeks holiday in my school. Hector has lots of jobs planned for the boys and some crafts like learning to weave grass mats, etc., from the stripping of the vine right all the way thru. Also he brought another antelope, of wood, partly done, for Ken and John to finish with their wood carving tools. There is a children’s library (from here and the books at Stanleyville – just as the houses belonged to no one in particular so to for other items. Travelling backwards and forwards to Congo by plane meant missionaries left behind all but clothes they needed. Books and toys would be left for others to use. Just as I grew up reading Danny Orlis books, American children had Noddy and other Enid Blyton books!) for one to assemble; motors to tinker with; meetings to help conduct, etc.

Well, I guess you know we are happy here. Write when you can.    Much love, Ione

Ione frequently writes several letters on the same day, the 27th November is no exception as she writes to her mother as well:

Dearest Mother,

You have spent so much on us that I am ashamed of asking for anything. It will be awfully nice, though, looking forward to that package, or packages. Packages have been coming thru to Bongondza OK. Only the occasionally rat-eaten one which might have a cake mix in or packaged foods.

As before, when Ione was at Bongondza, she helps with feeding missionaries from other stations who have come for a variety of reasons – Mr and Mrs Morris, a British missionary couple who work at Banjwadi are staying as Mrs Morris is expecting the arrival of their first child.  As Bongondza is the mission station with a resident doctor, it is also where nurses are stationed as mentioned previously, which is why Ione welcomes the food parcels. She writes:

I also try to have the single men (David Wilmshurst and Bill Gilvear) as often as possible. There are two male nurses here from England. One will be married next July to a Canadian girl.

Ione continues:

I don’t like to be begging when you have already spent so much. I am sending this same request to Lucille, and maybe that will do me for now. I got two small tins of baking powder in Arua, Uganda, and have already shared them, plus one of the two big tins I brought out. But we can get soda and will just make cakes that require this, rather than the baking powder ones when it is finished. Hector just got two big sacks of flour and that is a help for our station; he got sugar, too, and cooking fat. I was using palm fat for a while, and it does give indigestion after a few times. But we are getting along fine for food, and I have quite a few things ahead for when the boys come. I have a fruit cake and Mrs. McLean of Finch sent along, a tin of candy we packed in Avonmore, and some little things to put in stockings. I brought our decorations from Stanleyville, and I think Hector will bring the tree on the next trip.

Ione concludes her letter by talking about her work which she is relishing in:

After this I officially took over the Bible School and have been really tied down to it ever since. I love teaching them, but as yet must spend a good deal of time in preparation. And 3 sewing classes keep me busy with getting their work ready. And needles are already running out. I am not sure what I will do, but perhaps can borrow from other missionaries until I can get some from home. Just one or two packets in an Airmail letter would help a lot, Mother. We just can’t buy them here. (Ione has also made this request to Lucille)

There were three who accepted Christ at the hospital this week. Some of our Christians are giving good messages and show a real desire to lead people to Christ. I am trying to teach as many as I can to become leaders and go out on their own.

We will be getting out a form letter (by this Ione means a general newsletter for supporters) as soon as I can get our new addresses listed alphabetically and sent to ‘3 Hills’ (Mission Headquarters) where they will do the letter. We had some wonderful gifts at the last, and the notices have just come thru. We had over $1000 overdrawn just as we left, but that is assimilated now by these gifts. I do praise the Lord for this. One church in New Lexington, N.C. sent $800, Pastor Sampson. How is your work coming? Much love,   Ione

On the 14th December 1962, it’s a very happy Ione writing to her mother:

We have the boys with us now, and it surely is a good feeling. They came with the Siggs to Stanleyville on the 6th, and Hector and I were there to meet them! I think if they hadn’t come when they did we would have started out to meet them. They had a very good trip and were all so excited. Siggs had brought 200 eggs along with 11 kids! Only the bottom layer of the eggs was broken, and the kids were all in good condition!!

The McMillans are back in Congo awaiting Hector’s return. Hector came by boat this time with a truck.

We had fun shopping in Stanleyville; bought the new bikes, six machetes and knives and some running shoes. The boys have enjoyed just laying around reading or painting or building with the mechano set. They don’t have to help with even dishes until Sunday when the houseboys are off. Next week Kenny will start painting around the house windows and doors, a pale brick colour to match the reddish bricks of our house. We have a galvanized iron roof.

This week is busy for me at my school as we are giving exams, but that will soon be finished and then I can start in on the boys’ clothes. We will have to make some pants out of khaki material (no zippers, tho!) and perhaps some shirts.

The boys are keen to start decorating the plastic tree and have already wrapped presents for the names they have drawn.

We have electric lights tonight for the first time. Hector didn’t take long to get the wires strung up and the motor going again. It had a rat’s nest in it; that’s why it did not run. We have white ants in our attic and will have to get busy on them (White ants eat through wood and if not treated would destroy the timber framework of the house). The tape recorder is going now. I guess next it will be movies, perhaps tomorrow night. This is so exciting for the boys and for the natives who are always nearby.

I guess I was too excited about the boys’ coming; I got sick on the way home and they had to wait at Banjwadi until I was able again to travel. It was first a cold and then went into malaria. I had missed taking Nivaquine for only two days. That shows how quick one can get it. From now on I’ll not miss any time for taking anti-malarial drugs. It’s no fun having malaria, and it leaves you so faint. But we have very good medicines here and I got over it quickly. By the time I reached home I was already much better. And now I am OK except for a slight cold.

We are getting so excited about what you are sending. You should not have spent so much, though.

I must quit now as Hector is starting family worship.

We bought two antelopes last night and they skinned and butchered them in our kitchen. They are in the fridge now ready for a Christmas party next Monday; we’ll have about 30 here, the primary school teachers and wives. The following Saturday we’ll have the hospital staff; then the night before Christmas the whole Bible school (about 15) and their families. Christmas day we will have the missionaries here. (Post-Independence, there is far more emphasis on a shared working relationship with the Congolese Christians. Although it had always been the case of partnership working, it was not always made explicit in letters as it is at this point.)

I would love to spend Christmas with you. Hope you do get to Lucille’s. Have a real Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Much love,  Ione

This year, Ione gets to write ‘thank you letters before Christmas! To Lucille, she writes on 23rd December 1962:

Your letter and the needles were received yesterday. My, I was glad to see both! It shows me how quickly mail can come now. I will be able to start my work after the holidays with the right equipment.

We are enjoying the children and they are having a good rest and doing things they like. We were able to get two bikes in Stanleyville and they love to ride them. When you can get things out here, they are quite cheap as the exchange is now almost double the value of the American dollar.

Packages are coming through to other folk and I don’t think you ever need to send to Arua. In fact, they have been so besieged with mail for other missions that they have objected. Unless it is especially for the boys, send here. And if for the boys the address is: AIM, Rethy Academy, Rethy, Nyoka, Congo. The school has several addresses but this is the one they have had the boys send. The boys like their school and their marks are all good (Kenny straight A’s).

The boys will leave again around the 13th of January. We are expecting the Siggs to visit us before they start back. It is a long hard journey and I’ll be glad when this can be done by plane.

Mother writes that she is flying to you and I hope she has had a good trip. She is pretty brave and I am wondering what she will try next. Perhaps a trip out here!! I think the insects would bother her, though. Almost always I am itching somewhere, and I can seldom find the reason why. “C’est le Congo!” is the explanation in French (It’s the Congo).

Bongondza is much damper than Stanleyville and life a little closer to African life and we eat more and more native things. However, just now we have some special treats which were available when we were in Stanleyville to get the boys. Cans of American chicken and even applesauce are on our shelves (just a few, though). I have had two big native dinners this week, one for 43 and one for 46, a big undertaking and along with giving of examinations and having the boys here, I feel a bit overwhelmed. But vacation starts for me tomorrow. Tomorrow night the Bible School will come here for supper: chicken, native sombi (like spinach with palm fat), fried cooking banana, pineapple and cake, coffee or tea. They will cook most of it and I have a houseboy that makes a delicious ‘pai pai’ (paw paw) cake (he follows English recipes now). There will be 25 here.

Souls are being saved at the hospital nearly every week. The wives of the Bible school men have started reading classes in the TB (tuberculosis) section and in the general kitchen quarters of the relatives who cook the meals of the patients. Every patient has a relative who cares for him. (Indigenous family members had quarters in the hospital compound as they usually travelled a distance to get medical help, but some slept under the patients’ bed).  These have listened well to the Gospel messages given by our women. And it is good experience for them. I have just finished helping about 25 little girls make petticoats to wear on Christmas Day. I meet with them on Saturday.

I love the work here and am so thankful to be able to give so much time to it. I know it is going to be nice to look back on these days, so filled with doing just what I love to do and knowing that it is pleasing to the Lord.

I am sorry that you and Maurice are not feeling so well. What is the trouble? Being separated from you is hard, especially when I know you are not well. It will be nice when we can be together in Eternity for such a long while, knowing that our work is done, and that our lives were spent in His service. I was so thrilled to hear of souls being saved thru your work. “You know that your labour is not in vain for the Lord.”

I must get supper as this is the day we have no houseboy. I surely appreciate having someone go ahead and cook, even though’ there are failures now and then.

Thanks so much for the needles. I have enough for a few months now. Packaged soups would be appreciated sometime, just a couple in an envelope.  Love, Ione

P.S. I need cotton under pants. The nylon ones have been eaten by insects. 3 have already gone to shreds! But I could make some if I had elastic!

It seems to have been a difficult year for Ione in many ways; she has had health issues, plans constantly changing but in the end, she is back to the country she loves, the first mission station she went to as a novice missionary and then as a new bride and new mother. In previous years, there were always compromises to be made on the nature of her work. These last few months, she has been able to engage in mission work that she perceives as being ‘mission work’; it does mean she misses the children but she knows that are safe and living in a healthier climate than the one she is living in.

Ione has times this year when Hector is not at her side, although she misses him, she manages to organise, maintain and steer the family onwards.

 

 

 

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