Chapter 24 – Post-Independence Mission Work

 

 

Chapter 24

Post-Independence Mission Work

Ione start the new year with a short break whilst the boys are home from boarding school. The year does not start with the usual round of thank you letters for Christmas presents. Apart from receiving the small packet of sewing needles she requested of her mother and sister, packages are few and far between. The first letter written on the 18th January is the afore mentioned letter to supporters:

Dear Friends:

Our last circular informed you of our need for passage money to the Congo.

We are glad to report that this need was met. We are now in the heart of Africa, rejoicing at the Lord’s goodness in permitting us to return.

People are very friendly and appreciative of our great effort to get back. A visit out into the deeper part of the forest gave us some new believers and there was a request for a full-time native evangelist. We are training such in our Bible School.

Ione is teaching in a small Bible school each morning; afternoons are alternated between village women and Bible school students’ wives. On Saturday she meets with 23 girls called ‘Lumiere’s’. Hector is in charge of the various building projects, the chief one being the completion of a medical unit.

Living conditions are not yet back to normal, but it is possible to get along with a minimum of household items. Our forest people will never suffer from starvation, and while they have manioc roots, greens and occasional eggs they will not let the missionaries lack! We are seeing a few cans of American meat and vegetables on the store shelves, in most cases rationed five to a customer. A can of peaches brought down from the mountains with our children, was too precious to use, so we saved it for a hospitality gift on another station!

Some missionaries receive frequent packages containing soups, cake mixes and puddings. These give a lift to an otherwise drab diet. Parcels seem to be coming safely now, as well as letters.

We want to thank you for your interest and help in our coming out. We are happy and are keeping fairly well in health.

We are trusting the Lord to make us fruitful in this place. Our promise, from Psalm 1: “His leaf also shall not wither”.

Praise His matchless Name!

Lovingly, Hector and Ione McMillan

Time with the boys must have flown by and Ione kept very busy as the next recorded letter available was written on 2nd February 1963:

Dearest Mother,

Again I am rushed, but want to get a note off to you before the mail boy goes off on his bike. I have a few pictures to send, though they are not very enlightening! It at least shows you I am on my feet and that the truck is working.

I don’t know whether you received in time the tiny package which Kenny and I got ready for your birthday. It was prepared with much love. Did you have a nice birthday?

We had a real nice Christmas with Congolese as well as missionaries. I went to Stanleyville when Hector took the boys and while we were there the Field Leaders asked us to come back there February 10-24 to help care for a large group of African and white delegates at a Congo Protestant Council Conference. So we are getting ready for that just now. Just now Viola Walker is here in readiness to go to the Babinza Tribe, but since the pontoon at the river there is broken down, she must wait here. While she is waiting, she will take my classes so that I can help in Stanleyville. I always enjoy going there and it is a break from the teaching which I find takes a lot out of me. It’s not like teaching children and there are no discipline problems, but they (Bible school adult students) are of varying intelligence and you can’t give them all the same work; for instance one (two now, for another came in just now) cannot even read or write. Pray for these men and their wives who seem to really love the Lord.

We did get out a form letter but I am still behind in my thank-you’s for gifts sent out with our allowances. Pontiac church has increased my allowance $700 more a year. I must write and thank them. I don’t have to do much housework as the boy we have goes right ahead and even makes out the menu. But we are still not all unpacked as there were many books, etc. in Stanleyville. And just now Hector has to keep shop things in the office until he gets his shop finished.

We have electric lights and it is a real help.

The boys seemed to have a good time at home, and we have had one letter since they went back. They saw two elephants on their way back to school and some baboons. Their car broke down, but since there were two missionary cars taking the children, they all squeezed into the one and left their baggage in the other and the missionary stayed with it and got it fixed. They got their baggage late, but got to school on time. They like it real well there.

I haven’t received your package yet; in fact, there have been none for us yet. But others do get them sometimes. Mail is difficult between Stanleyville and here as it always was, and takes weeks and weeks sometimes. But it is amazing what does come.

My dresses are wearing out faster than I thought. The two lightweight ones we bought that last trip are very comfortable as it has been hot. And the two drip-dry ones that young Mrs. Ward Sly made at Lake Orion. I think I will write and ask if she would make two more of the same pattern. My socks are wearing out, too.

All for now. The man is waiting. We are well and happy here. Much love, Ione

As the conference in Stanleyville ends, Ione gets the opportunity to write to her mother on 25th February. She explains that it is estimated that only 85% of parcels sent are received by the intended recipient. She goes on to say:

Did you receive a little birthday package which Kenneth packed while he was with us in December?

Altogether I have had three bouts with bladder infection, but have some real good pills now in case another spell comes on. I have had malaria once.

Other than that, we keep well. A letter from the boys this morning says, “We are getting along fine in school. We received 6 books and 2 subscriptions from the Fenton Bible Church. In the Bible we are studying about the bridge of Salvation which spans over the chasm of sin. The 4 arches in the bridge are “Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension.” That from Kenneth. John says he can play many songs on the ukulele and that they are praying much about Uncle Archie (he has had more trouble with his heart).

I have been thanking the Lord for the many people who help us out here. We have been receiving so many letters and gifts and we do hope that folk will not be disappointed as we represent them in this strategic spot. A statement in Power caught my eye just now as I was resting. A Chaplain in Antarctica said he was happy “to be able to be a minister to men in definite need at a high hour in their lives”. That sort of gives you the picture of what people do to make it possible for us to carry on here. Our mission is just now preparing to enter into a new territory among the Babinza tribe. Hector will be the one to carry the missionaries and their belongings in with the truck. Right now they are held up because a ferry motor is broken and they can’t get across a river.

I am enclosing some pictures which we just had developed. We are getting real nice things to eat while here in Stanleyville. And one store just got a number of cases of peaches, fruit cocktail, corned beef hash and powdered soap. There are fresh meats here, too, just now and vegetables.

Hector and I have fixed up the big building which used to be the children’s dormitory to be used to sleep 16 people for the conference. It is not our missionary conference (that is, UFM) but an African and missionary conference with folk from Uganda, Angola, and Kenya as well as all provinces of Congo. An interesting coloured girl from Angola is sleeping in one of the rooms where our little girls used to be; she rooms with an elderly white missionary from the Methodist Mission, a southerner and warm-hearted. The Field Directors of both Congo and Kenya (African Inland Mission) have the room next to Hector and me. The next room after that has a Mr. Dodson, and our own Bill Snyder (the representative of our mission) and two Congolese men. It is an interesting mix-up. We speak mostly French, but some Africans know English. At the moment I am trying to hunt up some missing pyjamas and shirt of the Minister of Finance who is also a delegate. (Ione’s description of the use of accommodation depicts the extent to which they were all committed to full integration).

I must close now as it is time for 21 people to arrive and I must be ready to give sheets if they need them and give cold drinks, etc., and help serve the tables. Thanks so much for all you are doing, Mother. I have just received a letter from Lucille telling that you are resigning from the church. I hope you can take a little vacation and have enough rest to get you feeling better.  Much love, Ione

Ione’s next letter to her mother was written on the 17th March, David’s birthday and illustrates the freedom now has without the children to accommodate:

Dearest Mother,

I am writing this from Ekoko, not far from Marcellyn’s old house which is still there. After nearly 1 month in Stanleyville helping with the big all-mission conference, Hector and I returned to Bongondza. I could have stayed there and taken on my teaching job again, but as Hector had another trip to Ekoko I thought I would like to visit Pearl Hiles. I had not been to Ekoko for 10 years (when Stephen was born). And I knew that Viola Walker would not be able to take my place much longer as she will be soon going into the new area known as the Babinzas. Hector was scheduled to take a new missionary to Ekoko and make several hauling trips while there with the truck. I’m so glad I came because it was suddenly decided here to take the first load of stuff into the Babinzas and I was allowed to go along. The ferry that had not been in operation started again (pulled by a little rice company boat) and the date of this spearhead operation was last Wednesday the 13th. We felt real thrilled to be as it were, at the point of the spearhead! It was the most strenuous 4 days I have ever had, but a good rest yesterday afternoon and again today has brought us back to normal. It was 160 miles; it took us 1-1/2 days to get in and 1-1/2 to get out. We covered one stretch of 110 miles in 11 hours averaging 10 miles an hour (can you imagine Hector driving that slow?).

Mrs Lois Carper got her furniture, etc. installed in a safe place near where their mud house is being made. The natives have started another house next to the Carpers, for Viola Walker and Olive Bjerkseth. The Bengalima people are an unusual tribe and their characteristics are noted in their style of homes and native arts. With only a few visits by missionaries a good work has developed and the Christians have been needing some encouragement. You should have seen their faces when it dawned on them that we were bringing all the Carper’s earthly possessions so that they could live there. It was wonderful to see the genuine joy, worth any effort over roads that are only navigable during this kind of dry season. Steep hills, pits, gullies, precarious bridges (one recently broke off at one edge when another truck plunged top down ten feet below). We don’t mind the hardship and isolation to be a part of the Lord’s plan out here. Lovingly, Ione

Finally, at the end of March, packages arrive and on 31st, Ione can write to her mother saying:

Your March 21st letter arrived with the mail Saturday noon, and then in the afternoon some missionaries came with 5 packages for us which were sitting in Stanleyville. Everyone else on the station got a number of packages, too, and it was a time of real rejoicing. Evidently the difficulty is between Stanleyville and here with regard to packages being delayed.

Your two big packages came in very good condition. The candy was a bit melted, but I put it quickly into a big can with a cover and it will keep all right until the boys come next week. They were asking in their last letters if your packages had come as they were counting on them so. Now they will be thrilled when they arrive. Lucille’s package came, too, with some Smarties, which I will send along for the boys to eat on the way. Lucille also sent 3 soup packages, 3 dishcloths, 5 toothbrushes, 7 embroidery floss. A mouse got into hers and some of the candy was eaten, but most was O.K.

We were so hungry for ham that we have eaten two cans already! We gave supper to the people who came from Stanleyville, and so you can imagine that between 4:30 P.M., when they arrived and 6, when we ate, we were opening packages and planning a nice menu! We had some of the bacon for breakfast this morning, and it was real nice. After breakfast I went out with a carful of missionaries and Bible school students for meetings in a number of villages between here and Kole. Ruby Gray went with me, and got along fine with her newly-acquired Lingala. People are eager to hear and begged us to send a preacher regularly. In spite of our mission school being here for 20 years, not one person in that village could read. The headman’s son went as far as second grade, but dropped out when he lost interest, as many did. Now there is a real keen interest in school, but these men are too old now to go back.

And now for that wonderful bunch of things you sent. Those two games will be fun for us all when the boys are here. Hector leaves day after tomorrow, will stop in Stanleyville to load the truck with supplies for African Inland Mission, then take a load of delegates for a board meeting at Rethy between our missions; this will be for two days before the boys get out; Hector will get to see them during that time; then they will load up all the 11 children and a small amount of baggage, plus delegates, and start the return trip April 10th . We hope they will get here by Easter. Hector has made comfortable seats with foam rubber cushions and backs, and a canopy over top of truck with a windshield and rain shield.

Mother did you know that Archie (Hector’s brother) is in the hospital in Cornwall for his heart. Jean has been sick with flu but is better now. They need encouragement as they feel they just must give up the farm.

Back again to those packages, the boys are going to have fun deciding which gets which of the cars and wind-up toys. We thought we would let them do that when they come, Kenny taking charge of the giving out. Everything looks to be in good condition. And the dress, well, I have it on right now, and I can tell you it looks pretty good to me as it is the first new thing I have had since I left home (which is not too long ago however!). I wore it to the village and felt cool and yet well-dressed. It goes nicely with my green and bone oxfords. Thank you so much for this, and for everything. How did you manage to pay for all that? Can we have money sent to you to pay it back? The band set is just what I wanted, and this week I will organize my little band.

The 4th package was from Lake Orion, a Junior Department, and had shirts and socks for the boys and a model jet each, pencils and sharpener. And the 5th was Kyle Wilson’s new record made at First Baptist Church in Pontiac. It is beautiful, we played it last night.

Now what about your plans, Mother? When did you leave the office? What are you doing now, will you be staying there; there are so many questions I would like to ask. Kenny sent that package in December; it had little clay pots in. We are all well and happy. Love, Ione

On the same day, Ione writes to Lucille and Maurice:

Thanks for the lovely Valentine letter. I want you to know right away that your first package arrived yesterday! Some missionaries brought it from Stanleyville, where it and many others had been stranded.

We will be looking for the package with the seersucker and elastic in. That idea of 25 cent packets sounds good, but I don’t want to bother you indefinitely about our needs out here. One month’s worth would be such a treat, and the tins would be good, too, as I wouldn’t have to use them immediately. But they do weigh more, and packages keep for a month or so out here anyway. Tiny size cloth pieces are OK, and we can make quilts in the women’s class.

I’m glad you are feeling some better. We were given a bottle of vitamins and we seem to last a little longer in strength when we take them. We have to stop in the middle of the morning and have a drink of something which gives energy, and then we are OK thru the noon hour. We must keep up the fluids and take more salt. I get a few ups and downs, like bladder infection and headaches, but have learned to rest more than I would like to, but can last longer.

We are glad of the news of Ruth and Larry. What about Esther? Has she had her baby yet? She wrote us a sweet letter explaining why they could not consider going to the field now, and we do accept it as the Lord’s will for them. I never intend to question the Lord’s leading for our children, but to keep hands off and earnestly believe that the Lord will lead them right. Will Larry get back to Bible school again, do you think?

Mother’s last letter gave Mr. Bryant’s address as her next. I wish I know more about what she is doing and planning. Maybe you can tell me.

This morning after breakfast I went out with a group which stopped at various villages; there were five missionaries and 4 Bible school students. We were let out by ones and twos until the car came to Kole. Then after they held their service, they picked us all up. We were in a village called Wameka from about 9 o’clock until 11:30, and had quite a nice time. It is the same place, 8 kilometres from Bongondza, where I walked in 1947 and then lost our first baby because I walked too far. I remember how bad I felt when I had to give up that Child Evangelism Class; then I heard that the Catholics had come in there and built a church. After that they didn’t want us to have meetings. Today when I reminded them of this, I asked how they felt about it now. I was thrilled when they said they had long-since left off the Catholic interest, and were ready to have us come regularly again. Two spoke up and said they had believed during those early services. A gift of money had come to us for the Bible school and it is enough to buy a bicycle, so I hope that if Hector gets this bicycle next week when he goes after the boys, we can send a preacher there regularly. We’ll see our boys again the 13th or 15th, for 3 weeks. It will be so good to be together again. I have three more classes added to my Bible school for a while so am also teaching Theology, Church History, and Music. Pray for us.   Love, Ione

P.S. Don’t address us Republic du Congo anymore, as some mail has been going to French Congo. Write it CONGO REPUBLIC (in English)

Ione writes again to Lucille and Maurice on 27th April 1963:

The February 4th letter arrived this week, with the Lipton’s beef and noodle soup. Thanks very much; this is the second one from you. We wrote Mary Johnson in February I believe, and again this week. This is a hasty letter as I am in the midst of school preparations and must start to teach on Monday even while the boys are here. And Kenny is sick in bed but better today. He had a low fever with vomiting. Doctor Sharpe thought it was his ear as he has one bad ear, but after taking out the wax he saw nothing very seriously wrong; and Kenny’s dizziness continued after that. Two shots of penicillin have started him getting better and today he has some appetite. He is feeling good enough this afternoon to work on his model plane. The other boys are ‘road grading’ with their Daddy. He was able to get a road grading blade somewhere and has it weighted at the back of the truck; I say, weighted for five boys are sitting on the frame that contains it. It doesn’t look too dangerous.

We are expecting Al Larson any time and he is to bring the man who will see if we can have Missionary Aviation Fellowship planes out here. Do keep praying about this. The station white people are to come here for supper whether Al comes or not, as the food won’t keep until Monday. Except for the roast which is cooked and frozen (our last bit of Stanleyville meat).

With the use of fresh lemons, egg powder and some fresh eggs we have made enough lemon pie for the 17 people (4 Sharpes, Bill Gilvear, David Wilmshurst, the two male nurses, and Ruby Gray, the Irish nurse) plus ourselves and two (possibly three) visitors. Potatoes that Hector bought are just finishing so we will extend our starches with some mashed manioc. The roast is not nearly big enough so we have some cans of chicken which we will fry. There are 3 cans of carrots. Then a salad of bananas with ground peanuts over. We do not have houseboys on Sunday so we have a few things made up ahead for tomorrow, like ice cream and some jello made with unflavoured gelatine (I found a can in Stanleyville), cool-aid for flavour, sugar, and some canned fruit salad which we were very fortunate to find in Stanleyville. We have lots of cans of chicken just now so will probably have that on Sunday. And the cook’s chocolate cake was a flop so we’ll have it as steam pudding with a mock whipped cream on top. You see we don’t do too badly on food here. We use the juice of the chicken (those whole ones whenever we want to make soup, and have spaghetti to put in).

We have been praying much for Larry. We hope he is able to pay all that money for car damage. Is he sure the Lord wants him in that school? What are his plans for the future? I was sorry when he left North-western. That seemed like such a nice place.

I hope your health’s are better. You should be out here where one just can’t hurry or you’d die of sun-stoke!!

Much love, Ione

II Cor. 1:12 – I want simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom – an uncluttered life.

April 30

Kenny is up, but still a slight temp. the infection is from the ear. He may have to go to Kampala, Uganda to a specialist. It is not far from Rethy. We’ll see the Rethy doctor first. Our mission doctor is going with the kids this time. He (Kenny) can’t hear in that ear (his right).

Tonight, Dr Sharpe put Hector’s left knee in a cast from thigh to ankle. It keeps going out of joint with pain. He thinks he can drive though.

Pearl Hiles, who travelled with Ione to Africa in 1942 remains a close family friend. She and Ione have not managed to work together much despite being in the same mission. Pearl’s letter to Leone Reed on 15th May 1963 just adds another layer to the Macmillan story; she writes:

Dear Mrs. Reed,

Thanks for your welcome letter and for the fact that you continue to remember me in prayer.

I have been at Ekoko 15 months now. I had been at Banjwadi before being transferred to this station after I returned from evacuation (In 1960). The nurse here had held the fort during the trouble period except for one month during the most critical stage when she stayed just over the border of Congo in French West Africa. When the rest of us were planning to return, she requested that they send me to help her. The medical set-up on this station is UFM’s largest in Congo. It consists of a dispensary unit, a hospital, a maternity unit and a Leper Camp. It consists of at least 20 buildings aside from the Leper Camp. So you see it is no slight responsibility.

Since Ione and Hector returned, he has been over to Ekoko twice. He was here for a couple of days after Christmas and then Ione came with him when he came to make a trip into the Basoko area where we have just opened a new station. Viola has gone to work there now. Ione and Hector were with me one night for supper and then the day after they returned, they were here for dinner. I was thrilled to see them. Hector has a tape recorder and played some tapes. What a feast. I get so hungry for a bit of good music and to hear Beverly Shea (George Beverley Shea was also one of my mother’s favourite gospel singers who accompanied Dr Billy Graham on his Crusades. They met in 1943, Shea a Canadian radio presenter introduced Billy Graham on one of his early broadcasting programmes and the two men became friends and worked together for many years.) sing was like a few strains of heavenly music. While I was at home, my phonograph was broken, so I have absolutely no music now.

Water is at a minimum at Bongondza in July and usually such a colour that making tea is the best way to use it. I heard someone say that Hector is drilling a well. He has the work of about three men to do. I hope they don’t work him to death his first year out. But every missionary is doing the job of at least two people. That’s the rule out here. And there doesn’t seem to be any answer to the problem. Workers are all too few. One of our married couples with a baby went to Aketi to work and another couple with a ten-year-old daughter (Del and Lois Carper and Marilyn) went to Basoko to open up the work there. Ione was able to go with Hector on that trip so she was fortunate to have visited the new work so soon, while we here at Ekoko are much closer, and may never get to see it, but who knows, we may too. Sometimes the Lord gives us little unexpected trips and blessings on the side-lines.

Thanking you once again for your letter, the coming package and your interest in the work, and above all for your continued prayers. May the Lord richly bless you in your new work.    Sincerely yours in Christ, Pearl Hiles

It would seem that Hector has not stopped since arriving in Africa and driving the truck up to Bongondza; as Pearl mentions above, but even Hector has to stop when a knee injury slows him down. Enforced rest means he gets a letter written to his sister and brother; on 19th May, he writes:

Dear Jean and Archie,

I had this envelope addressed several days ago but didn’t get around to the letter. I’m enclosing some recent pictures.

I’ve been rather laid up for a week or ten days. My right knee had to be put in a cast but was taken off 5 days later because it got too loose after the swelling went down. I keep it bandaged now as it “goes out” so easily. Then I’ve had internal complaints – probably filaria in the blood. I don’t seem to have any reserve energy. I may take a course of medicine to get rid of them.

Perhaps the last photo taken of the entire McMillan family with Hector – Bongondza, 1963.

There are two extra couples here now for a week to help us with preparation for conference for U.F.M. in July ?? missionaries and younger children (not Rethy group) and about 30 African delegates from the various stations. They will be here at Bongondza for 10 days so it means a lot of food preparation.

I was going through a box of former correspondence and came across the letter from Dad. I thought you would be interested.

How did you like living in town? It must be nice to wake up in the morning with no thought of cows and pigs to feed!! Edythe and Archie McLean will be good company for you when they visit you from time to time. Do you still have the V.W.?

The boys had a nice holiday over Easter. As you can see they are still growing. The three older boys are learning to drive. They were a big help around the mission station with its more than 14 buildings. We got a few packages last week in the mail – one from Kay McLean. I think Ione is writing her.

Well I better close for now. Write and tell us about your neighbours etc. Yours as ever, Hector & Ione

It would seem that Jean and Archie have finally given up on the farm and moved into more suitable accommodation. Ione has shared the news of this move with her Mother in March.

As stated in her letter to Lucille and Maurice at the end of April, the boys return to school with Dr Sharpe. This next letter to her mother demonstrates some of the pressures Ione is facing; it is written from Banalia, where one has to wait for a ferry to get across the river. Ione is not one to sit idly watching the river flow, so writes on 28th May 1963: 

The children went back to school May 6. We went with them as far as Stanleyville. Kenny spent about half of his vacation in bed. He started getting dizzy, and Dr Sharpe (our UFM Dr) traced it to the ear that has given trouble before. He was running a low temperature for a while, but penicillin shots helped this.

He was O.K. by the time to go back, and as he was to ride with the doctor, we thought it O.K. to return to school. Dr Sharpe said he would check with the Rethy doctor and if it was in the inner ear as he suspected, he would take him to an Ear Specialist in Kampala, Uganda (a day’s journey beyond Rethy).

A message from Rethy came by short-wave to our station at Banjwadi about him, and as we cannot get this yet at Bongondza, I am on my way to Banjwadi to hear it the next time it comes over. Banjwadi sent a runner to the next station (Bopepe – just the other side of Banalia) and he arrived there the 3rd day after. Mary Baker (the only resident missionary at Bopepe) drove to Bongondza as soon as she got the message. It spoke of urgent surgery. Our doctor and wife are with him, but I am prepared to fly to Kampala when I get to Stanleyville. Mary Baker’s car broke down and we spent last night on the road, but got going in the morning. (Mary Baker was an indomitable lady, with years of experience who originally came from Virginia so spending a night in the middle of the jungle on the road would not have fazed her!)  Hector is on the station, recovering from a sickness and knee that comes out of joint. We have our troubles, but “they came to pass”. We do praise Him for peace and the assurance that “He doeth all things well”.

I’ll let you know as soon as I get news. I was thinking of you and praying for your Mother’s Day. Love, Ione

As in many letters, Ione shares more detail of incidents with her sister Lucille, so we learn that whilst marooned on the jungle road with Mary they ate buffalo meet and watched the monkeys leap from tree to tree not 15 feet away. Lucille’s letter, written on 29th May confirms that Ione has reached Banjwadi; she writes:

I left Bongondza hastily last Sunday evening when we heard that our mission doctor has taken Kenny from Rethy to Kampala, Uganda, for ear X-Rays and (possible) surgery. The message said to listen over the short-wave radio to see if the operation was necessary. We couldn’t get it at Bongondza and I have been listening here for 2 days without any word of him. It is coming thru clearly however with other A.I.M. messages. A.I.M. has inter-communications on 6 or 7 stations and our radios (some of them) can listen but not send. I sent two telegrams from Stanleyville today and we should get the answers tomorrow either by wire or radio. No message was to mean that an operation was not necessary.

He (Kenny) is not in bed, and has even been playing ball, but occasional dizziness with low temperature made the doctor fear an inner ear infection which might get into the brain or mastoid. He was sick for a week or so while at home last time. When he went back to school, he travelled with our doctor who was going on vacation near Rethy. Doctor told us then that when he got to Kampala, Uganda, he would look up an ear specialist he knew there. He found that this doctor would be leaving in a month so thought he should take Kenny over now. If I hear that he is to be operated on, I will fly to Kampala. If not, doctor will bring him back to Rethy. Doctor says he is looking real good and not feeling sick.

The other boys are O.K. Timmy was homesick this time when he went back, and Kenny was going to try to have him sleep in the big boy’s dorm for a while. If I do go up, it would be a help to Timmy, too, and I could just stop and see him a little bit.

In between listening to radio broadcasts, I am planning menus and hospitality for over 100 people coming to Bongondza July 7. This is the first time we are to have a Conference since the arrests in ’61. Pray much that there will be no trouble.

Hector is more run down than I have ever seen him. His knee goes out of joint and pains some. He had it in a cast but the heat and perspiration made the cast go soft and doctor took it off. Other missionary men helped him get the shop roof on last week. We will use it as a big dining room until after Conference.

Finally, Ione gets the news she has been waiting for and on 31st May is able to write to Lucille:

I have just heard by radio that Kenny was operated on yesterday at Kampala, Uganda, for mastoid. I am just leaving Banjwadi for Stanleyville where I hope to get a plane to Kampala.

It is a round-about way, but I am trusting the Lord to get me to him in good time. I need my passport and health papers which are in Leopoldville just now (visa difficulty). So perhaps I can get an authorization to travel from the American Consul in Stanleyville. I need other papers, too, to get out of Congo. (nothing seems straight forward!)

I am sending a telegram from Stanleyville to you, but am not sure it will be sent. I had no response from the one I sent to Pontiac during their Missionary Conference. Did you hear whether they got it?

If you have not received my cable you will need to notify our family and the mission.

We don’t know how Kenny is since the operation, but they said he was in good spirits just before.

I’ll try to let you know soon. Love, Ione

P.S. His grace is sufficient

Despite communication systems seemingly improving, there are still complications when living in the heart of Africa where corruption and mismanagement of public services is rife.

Ione has been under tremendous pressure, her husband is ill at Bongondza, her boys are hundreds of miles away and one has had an operation that was considered urgent enough not to wait for parental consent. However, she gets to Kampala and on 6th June, writes to her sister Lucille:

My journey here was hectic and I arrived almost too sick to see Kenny. But I’m gradually getting hold of myself and can eat again. It is good to see him so cheerful with that huge bandage on his head. The Sharpes have stayed right with him and given him a lovely model boat and he’s putting it together nicely. He is eating O.K.

I may send to Head Quarters for more dollars as francs are no good here. It is lovely high climate and it will be good to rest awhile here. Today Kenny will be put to sleep again and they will remove the packing and stitches. He’ll have a scar behind his ear.

I’ll be able to see the other boys when we take Kenny back to Rethy. Sharpes are willing to wait for us and they are seeing a specialist about their little son’s legs which are abnormal.

Praise the Lord that Kenny is out of danger. Love, Ione

On the 9th June, both Ione and Kenny write to Lucille and Leone:

Dear Lucille and Mother,

I am sitting beside Kenny’s bed on a Sunday morning. He looks nice and clean with fresh pyjamas on. The bandage is off his head and only a tiny scar shows behind his ear. When I came in just now, he was reading, “How I Found Livingstone”, by Stanley. It is 10 days since the operation, and in 10 days more he will have his 16th birthday.

Kenny will write a note now:

I am enjoying my stay in the hospital. For about a week after my operation, I had a bit of pain in my ear but now I am feeling fine. This is my first operation and the first time I have been in a hospital so it was strange at first, but now I am used to it. I am on the sixth floor of the hospital and in a room with 3 other men. The missionary family that brought me here bought me a plastic model boat to assemble, so I am kept busy. I like going to school at Rethy and most of my brothers do too. We often spend Saturdays climbing small mountains or taking hikes in the hills. The climate is very healthy up there and we seldom get malaria.

Since Daddy’s bad knee makes it hard for him to work, we are glad for vacation time, when we can help him with his work on the station. I am glad that Mummy is with me now even though she was not here for the operation. Love, Kenneth

The children’s next vacation starts July 24 and they will have 7 weeks. Kenny and I are going to read and pray together now. I’ll come in again this afternoon. Much love, Ione

A much calmer Ione can write on 14th June:

Dear Lucille and Mother,

At last I have gotten a little rested up and can see things in a little better perspective. I was at the end of my strength when I arrived here, and anxiety made me sick. I know how Mother has felt many times for us!

Now Kenny is out of the hospital and just about rested up enough to start the second journey to Rethy. We’ll take it in easy stages and in a comfortable car. We may go through a wonderful park area and see giraffes (Kenny saw some when he came).

I was able to get hold of enough money to buy some things that we never see in Stanleyville; baking powder, mustard, cocoa, instant coffee, brown and icing sugar, raisins & canned meat. Also a strainer, some scouring powder and detergent. And some chocolate bars that will not melt on the way. I got some matchbox toys to take the place of the ones the boys had to leave behind in Montreal because of overweight. (luggage restrictions when they fly out of the States in 1962)

We got Kenny’s hair cut today and now both sides are alike (they had shaved the side where he was operated). He made a beautiful model boat while in the hospital and we have bought another to do (the Queen Elizabeth), for when they come home July 24 for their long vacation.

We’ll leave here Mon. the 17th, get to Rethy the 18th, spend Kenny’s birthday at Rethy and get back to Hector the end of that week.

I hate to leave this wonderful cool climate for the steamy Congo, but where the Lord wants us holds a real attraction.

Pray for our Conference July 7 to 17. Lovingly, Ione

Ione’s letter of the 23rd June to Lucille completes the story of Kenny’s emergency surgery:

Dear Lucille,

Just to tell you that I left Kenny OK at Rethy. The doctor said he should recuperate in the mountains and the healthiest spot was Rethy. He felt good enough and wanted to finish his term. He has had straight A’s, so will have no trouble in passing. He will not play ball or do sports until the end of the term (July 24).

Just before we came in to Stanleyville last night, we saw a bad accident shortly after it happened. A public works truck was upside down and about 15 Congolese were stretched out on the grass injured. They said one was dead. We could not begin to take them all to hospital, but took one less injured in to see the Inspector and they went right out with a truck to pick them up.

I am feeling quite rested again and ready for the big job ahead. Our Conference starts July 7. Pray for the Lord’s blessing. I am going on to Bongondza tomorrow. Am travelling with our mission doctor and family.   Much love, Ione

P.S. They told me at Rethy our kids should have more new clothes. I can make pyjamas but can’t get jeans here. I’ll write again about this. (Ione always has needs of one sort or another!)

The planned for conference occupies all Ione’s attention and she does not get to letter writing again until the beginning of August. In a letter to her mother, Ione realises that she has not received any mail from Leone for a while, the last letter received being dated 9th April. Ione’s concerns are not for herself but for her mother and she wonders how much news sent from Congo has reached her. On the 5th August she writes:

I hope you got my indirect messages. I am so sorry to be so terribly out of contact with you.

I got a letter from Lucille to the boys while I was at Rethy, and it was good to know that you all were thinking about us during our time of anxiety for Kenny. Then when I returned, I found her other letter written to Bongondza. But still no letter from Mother. And I just couldn’t sleep last night wondering about it. Being isolated as we are, we cannot expect to get letters regularly, and I am committing this anxiety to the Lord, trusting that you are all right. I have not been writing any letters during our busy time here, but now hope to catch up a little. Can you imagine your poor cook of a daughter planning meals for 100 people for two weeks? But fortunately, I was only a member of a team of three and the others were pretty smart!

UFM Missionary Conference at Bongondza, July 7–17, 1963 Front Row (L-R): Allison Sharpe,David Muchmore, Brian Miesel (?), Susan Harms, Allen Muchmore, Marilyn Carper, a Scholten boy, Cathy Snyder, Sharon Harms, a Scholten, Ike Scholten. Second Row: John Arton, John Miesel, Jan Miesel, Elsi Gscheidle, Volker Gscheidle, speaker (who was Margaret Hayes’ pastor in England), Ma Kerrigan, Thelma Southard, Lois Carper. Third Row: Marshall Southard, Mina Esrkine, Olive McCarten, Jean Sweet, Pearl Hiles, Ruby Grey, Betty O’Neill, Jean Larson, Olive Bjerkseth, Bill Gilvear (holding Ruthie Snyder), Nora Parry, Del Carper, George Kerrigan. Fourth Row: Ian Sharpe, Audrey Sharpe, Herb Harms, Grace Harms, Mary Baker, Hector McMillan, Ione McMillan, Betty Arton, Bob McAllister, Dennis Parry. Fifth Row (and behind): Charles Mann (holding Steven), Carol Snyder, Bill Snyder, Sonia Grant, Don Muchmore, Dave Grant, Eleanor Muchmore, Joan Pengilly, Jean Raddon, Viola Walker, Sue Schmidt, Dick Sigg, Dave Wilmshurst, Margaret Hayes, Bill Scholten, Alma McAllister, Stephanie Mann, Dottie Scholten (holding one of hers), Mary Rutt.

I got back from Rethy just ten days before the Conference began. Already Bob and Alma McAllister were on the job, and the men were transforming a workshop into a big dining room. There were lots of native tomatoes on hand and onions and I immediately put Gaston Tele, our cook, to work making chili sauce (this is so good with native meats), and jar after jar of jam, made from a concentrate which we got from England, raspberry and apricot. Our former boy now in Stanleyville has agreed to have his wife make two huge jars of peanut butter and Alfred Larson was to bring the mayonnaise. Each missionary brought about 250 cookies, and for about two-thirds of the time we had bread from Stanleyville, when there was a trip. The days we baked bread here some houseboys made 9 and 10 loaves each.

We put some good missionary cooks in charge of evening meals which were as we called it European (American style, really), and the noon meal was entirely Congolese, prepared and served by the station and village women. The last night we ran out of bread as everyone was making up sandwiches for their journeys, so three of us stayed up until midnight making muffins, which were a treat the last morning.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the food, and we did have some nice treats in the evenings, as we were able to bring back some things from Kampala, and the 12 packages which we had received just before Conference had some beautiful cake mixes which we used for three birthday celebrations. I used up the package soups then and saved the canned soups mostly which Esther and a super-market friend had sent. We still have several boxes of nice things for while the boys are here. But I’m glad I used the packaged things freely as I noticed last evening when I opened two packets of chicken noodle soup, they are already mouldy. These were the last and that means they did not last much longer than 6 weeks after arriving here.

But they don’t seem to deteriorate too much during the long journey. It is very damp on our station.

Just two days after all the missionaries had left (and we had a really good Conference with not any troubles like in ’61 when there was general feeling between white and black; only little petty things which seemed to fall on my lot to settle in little private ‘conferences’ when personalities clashed), we went to get our children. They are all in good health and you should see how Kenny eats now since his operation! He is so much better and has a good colour. And the thing that made us all praise the Lord for especially was that he doesn’t have to go way off to Kijabe (Kenya) in September, for two fine teachers at Rethy just couldn’t rest until they had done their best for him, and finally arranged to give him 10th grade there under private tutoring. He will have one class with grade 9 which is a required subject for graduation and the rest he will do on his own in the library or in his room (they hope to give him a private room), and these two teachers will share his supervision. Now we think that is pretty nice, and the boys are happy they can be together one more year.

Lots more to say but I want this to go today. Love, Ione

With the conference over and the children on a school holiday, Ione and Hector have the opportunity to travel further afield to reach more people with the Gospel. Ione and Hector write a letter in August that will be sent to all their supporters:

Dear Friends,

We have written to some of you many times, telling of driver ants, snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, monkeys and elephants. So you may not be surprised to know that we spent some time this month with the pygmies. (Pygmies are a nomadic people who live mainly in the Western corner of Congo, they are very short in stature (men have an average height of 4 feet 11 inches) but are not ‘dwarf’. The term ‘pygmy’ is now regarded as pejorative and the Kongo term ‘bambenga’ is often used; otherwise the people are referred to according to their tribal status, for example: they are Aka, Mbuti, Twa etc. In the 1960’s, they were still ‘forest people’, hunter gatherers who did not usually live in villages. They carried what they possessed and built shelters out of wood and leaves, only staying a short time in each encampment. They were known to villagers because they would trade in meat. They were hard to reach and very distrustful of strangers, they moved silently through the forest and were almost considered invisible. They account for 2% of the population, but have been subjected to ethnic cleansing that has occurred during the ensuing civil wars that are predominant in this corner of Congo.)

The boys demonstrating a carrying chair for Mother! Also, this is the only photo taken of the truck Hector brought out.

We took our six boys and they enjoyed the rough life in the Bokopo area. We went about 35 miles, as far as the truck could possibly go, over terrific roads which were stirred up by the elephants. Then we went on by foot and carrying chair, or tepoi, for Mother (shown in photo being carried ‘for the photo’ by her boys, with Hector’s truck in background – boys were replaced by Africans in the jungle).

We slept three nights in a village called Bogbama. It was a unique location, between two WARRING groups of pygmies! We didn’t sleep in pygmy houses, which were only four upright sticks supporting a handful of leaves. No walls, no doors. Two horizontal sticks on the ground marked the spot where one of these tiny Africans slept; two more sticks if he had a wife! Kenny, Paul, and David, as well as our missionary friend, Charlie, chose the back of the truck. John, Stephen, Timothy, Mother and Daddy, slept in a mud house belonging to ordinary-sized people.

We crossed the Longele River on a ridiculously small raft, made of bamboo. It was hooked loosely over a vine cable. Only three of us could go at one time, and even then it sank a little, getting some feet wet! We met pygmies in nearly every village. They passed the word along and by the time we returned to the river the first afternoon, there were quite a few around.

The pygmies gave us a ‘program’ which they called their ‘joy’. It consisted of singing, drum-beating and clapping of hands on their chests. The handsome little leader began to dance. Then, on sudden inspiration, he darted into the forest. Out he came again with some fresh leaves. These he stuck in his bark cloth, front and back. The singing was weird, in a complicated syncopation. There were three ‘movements’, and each stopped abruptly on an off-beat. The last was an imitation of a hunt with bow and arrow and the animation of a real ’kill’.

After politely thanking them for their ‘joy’, we asked our pygmy hosts if they would like to see OUR ‘joy’. They agreed to come to a meeting which we would arrange and receive a gift of salt. But when they learned that it would be on the other side of the river, they balked. The reason: they had stolen a woman from over there, and if they crossed, there would be a battle with poisoned arrows.

We were not anxious to get into tribal warfare. We hastily suggested that these pygmies come as far as the river, where Hector and the boys would meet them. An evangelist and Mother would meet with their enemies. This was done with success, and a good witness was made to both factions.

We were not to miss entirely their little war. The group at home base (Bogbama) gathered. Hector and the boys had already crossed the river, when we saw a trio of warriors slipping through our village. They said they were going after their stolen woman! As they filed toward the river, we wondered if our ‘joy’ on the other side would be disturbed. But Hector and boys came back about 1 o’clock with good reports. We had dinner (baboon liver) and a rest.

The boys with the pygmy headman.

It was toward evening when the pygmies moved silently into the village with their woman. She had a string around her neck. They told us they had gotten her peaceably. The miniature headman seemed to want to talk, but while he was occupied with us, the woman ran into the forest. This started quite a commotion, with horn-blowing, and a scurry after her. So far as we could tell they had not found her by night. We were disturbed a little later when in the dark we heard the patter of feet across the compound. But there were no flying arrows, and we slept peacefully, hoping the wee lady would get back to the other tribe, which she seemed to prefer.

In our conversations with the pygmies a few believers were found. They had accepted Christ when Viola Walker was working among them before Congo’s Independence. One older woman named Selina has a very good testimony. Several years ago, the missionaries considered one group ready for baptism. But when they went out to hold the service, the little people were in such a state of war with one another that they were disqualified for baptism. We were impressed with the need for a full-time worker in this area.

Through the entire Bokopo area there is a need of help medically. By the time their sick ones are brought to the Bongondza hospital they are either dead or cured! We found one entire village of sick folk, lying around in various stages of serious illness. There were strings of wooden bit, bones hair and leaves in a corner of the shelter. When we asked what these might be, a toothless hag with an evil smirk, took a bow, and said, “These are my medicines and my patients”. (Witch craft is still widely practised) It made us feel sick ourselves. We left with a deep sense of shame for the many doctors and nurses in the homeland.

May the Lord help you friends to see these things through our eyes. As you consider Christ’s claim upon your own lives, will you not consider Congo’s need at the present time? Lovingly in Him, Hector and Ione McMillan

On the 12th August, Ione is able to put an explanation forward as to the lack of mail from her mother; she writes:

We learned today that the postmaster at Kole has been taken off to jail for stealing Bongondza mail. We have not seen the confiscated mail yet, and perhaps there will be a letter from you if/when it comes!

The boys will never forget the trip we just made. You can only do it with a good strong truck, a healthy family, and a carrying chair for the Mother! We left on Friday and came back today, Monday.

It is wonderful, Mother, to be so conscious of the Lord’s presence in a very hard place. Separation, isolation, deprivation (but very little of that, as we just received a Liggett’s order with even chocolate bars in it!) cannot compare to the joy of being in the place where precious souls can be won to Christ.

We had opportunity to stay in a brick ‘gite’ (French term for a rented guest house), but passed it by as we could be closer to the people by staying right in the native village. We had two good native evangelists with us, and another missionary from Aketi, Charles Mann.

Hector and I were routed out of bed in the night with driver ants, but they did not bother the children as it was not a general raid, but our bed was in their path. We sat up at the table with a kerosene lantern out of their way until they had finished going through. We cosily munched on two Almond Joy chocolate bars; my, what a treat is chocolate away out here! We enjoyed more of the chocolate the next day when we penetrated the deeper forest on foot and in the chair.

It was absolutely impossible for the truck to go any farther, we could see why the natives had been so emphatic about this. As I began to get used to my tepoi means of travel, I had to duck frequently as the vines and jagged bamboos were very close to us. But on the whole the chair was comfortable and I had a place to rest my feet, though very near to the first of the two native carriers ahead of me. The two behind me set a great shout and my ears were deafened to anything else while they sang and yelled joyfully to keep up their teamwork.

It took us 40 minutes to get to the Longele River.  A little raft was hooked over a thick cable made of vine; everything made of forest supplies, sticks, bamboos, and string. It was like a raft a child would make to play on, and were going to cross a swift river. To prevent it’s sinking we went just two or three at a time, the chair last, and only suffered some wet feet when the boys’ tennis shoes went between the bamboos down on the sticks beneath the water. It was fun clamouring up the slippery grey clay bank on the other side, with the help of the ‘cable’ which had guided the raft across.

After the pygmy dance, Kenny was able to negotiate with the headman for the bow, two arrows which were not the poisonous kind, a wrist band (a skin pouch filled with kapok fibre which is hit by the bow string just before the arrow is launched), and a quiver for the arrows.

It was interesting to notice this morning that as soon as we had paid our ‘helpers’ the ones who carried wood and water and brought food, they took the money and promptly bought kerosene and salt and soap from our party. That was the regular natives. The pygmies were only interested in salt. Hector took the picture of a tiny pygmy boy with a little bow and arrows along with Timmy. Then I gave Timmy a franc to give to him, and before the money had hardly touched the little fellow’s hand, a woman dashed up and snatched it.

We need strong young missionaries to come out to this area AND KEEP COMING until these people are properly reached. It will be at least Christmas time before anyone here can get out again to them, and they are no more than 50 miles from Bongondza. I hope our boys will keep this great need in their hearts until the Lord can lead them out as missionaries. I don’t see how young people can make all sorts of nice plans for easy Christian service when these pygmies are not getting a fair chance to hear the Gospel. Won’t you pray with us about this? Much much love, Ione  X

The next day, Ione writes to Lucille sharing much of the same news. About the trip in the jungle, Ione writes:

We passed places where elephants had been playing and stirring up the mud and tearing down trees. We went as far as the road went and then from there on walked or rode in a chair (my lot!), and it was quite fun to be jogging along while four strong men carried the chair.

In this letter, it appears that the Liggett’s food supply was an order worth $500 sent for New York and consisted of:

frankfurters, chocolate, corn, applesauce, beans, soup, pudding powders, beef and ham.  

Ever practical, Ione reports:

I got some pyjama material in Stanleyville, and a lady is sewing a pair each for the boys. We also found underwear for them, and socks.

And ends the letter with a summary of their current activities:

Hector was home only one day and then off again for a load of lumber near Stanleyville. He took John with him. The other boys have been cleaning the attic, making things in the workshop and painting our bathroom and some furniture for the doctor. We are having the doctor’s family over for ‘tea’ as they call it (supper). We will roast wieners and marshmallows and their children say they have never done this before. The boy made some buns. Our flour is getting lower and lower, and none is available in Stan. But we can trust the Lord as did the widow. When flour is gone we can use manioc or rice for starches.

Today the mail finally came and not one personal letter except the two birthday cards from Mother along with the Moody Picture Book. It was nice to see her writing and to know that this had come Airmail so was fairly recent assurance that she is all right. The postmaster at Kole was taken to jail as he is accused of stealing Bongondza mail for some time. Perhaps that is why I haven’t heard from Mother in 3 months! It is frustrating to not be sure of getting personal mail, but even for this the Lord undertakes and gives peace. I do hope you all understand when our communications are cut off.

May the Lord bless you.  Lovingly in Christ, Ione

Two days later, on 15th August 1963, Ione writes to Hector’s sister Florence:

We hear from Jean and Archie and are glad they are well. They seem happy in their new home. The boys keep wondering about the farm, and cherish all the pictures they have of the tractor and places they played and worked.

Hector has been taking medicine for rheumatism and the pain in the knee has stopped. I notice he limped some recently on a long trek we made. He insisted on my riding in a chair, but I think he felt like riding at times. We took the boys and spent a long week-end among the pygmies. They are just 50 miles from Bongondza. We went as far as there was a road and set up sleeping and eating quarters. Then took two trips by day out across the river.

Just now Hector and John are in Stanleyville getting planed lumber from a yard there. We hope they will find flour as we are just about out. We heard there would be none for a number of months.

We do praise the Lord that our boys can be together for one more year. We had thought Kenny’s grade would not be taught at Rethy, but two teachers decided to give him special classes for grade 10. Next year, our mission is loaning a grade 10 teacher so that they can offer that grade from now on. But for this year they have none. We hope Kenny can get into the Kenya Academy by’64. Failing that, there is an English-speaking high school at Leopoldville.      Ione

PS: He is now accepted for Kenya Sept.’63.

Somehow, despite all the problems with post, Ione receives a letter from her sister Lucille dated 22nd August which she receives on the 27th! Ione comments:

It shows that it can be done.

Since Ione cannot source jeans for the boys, she deputises Lucille, on 29th August she writes sending the boys measurements:

The boys’ waist and inseam (inside leg) measurements are as follows:

Kenny – 31 – 27
Paul – 30 – 27
David – 28 – 27
John – 28 – 24
Stephen – 25 – 22
Timmy  – 24 – 21

Ione adds:

Could you buy two pairs each and we will send a letter to Phila. authorizing them to pay you or whomever the bill is made out to? Kenny will wear khaki pants and shirts and jackets at Kijabe, but jeans after school. Any chance of zippers, iron-on patches some time?

Ione appraises Lucille of the change of plans for Ken’s schooling:

we have had a message that Kenny is to go to Kijabe for school this year. (The initial plan had always been for Kenny to move to this school as the school in Rethy had insufficient numbers to make a school year. Ken would have been the only pupil that age and was going to be guided through a correspondence course. The alternative would have been for him to return to either Canada or America.) He is to live right in the home of a wonderful couple named Stauffachers, whom we know. He was accepted just now and they will be expecting us to bring him there in time for school September 18. We expect to leave here in time to get the other 5 (along with 12 other UFM kids) to Rethy by September 12th then the rest of the journey which takes as long as from here to Rethy.

The letter from Lucille must have included news that their other sister Marcellyn was back in the States because Ione writes:

I had not heard before that Marcellyn was home. What was the reason? And how long will she be staying? What is Mother’s work in North Carolina? I am glad to have her address. I was glad also to have news of Doris.

On the 8th September 1963, Ione writes to her mother. The family are ‘en-route’ to taking the boys back to school and broken the journey with a stop over at the Mission Station in Maganga. As they have passed through Stanleyville, Ione has finally received a letter from her mother.

The school at Kijabe is the Rift Valley Academy (RVA), Ione tells her mother:

Over 200 graduates of RVA have come back to the field as missionaries.

On the back of this letter, Tim adds his own note to Grandma:

Dear Grandma,

How are you? I am fine. I love you very much. We are having fun here. We are on our way to Rethy. Love, Timothy Mc

On the 15th September, it is Ken’s turn to write to Leone Reed:

Dear Grandma,

How are you? Mummy, Daddy, and I had a nice trip from Congo to a high school named Rift Valley Academy. It is not far from Nairobi. We came by train part of the way, and also by car through a national park where we saw elephants, deer, buffalo, and a big group of giraffe.

Wednesday 18

We just spent Monday and Tuesday in Nairobi to do some shopping, and today I am being registered here at RVA and I am getting settled into the dormitory. Tomorrow I will start school. Every child must wear a khaki uniform to school. There are lots of sports here, too. There are 66 missionaries on this station, and there will be over 200 children here this year. 80 of them are new. I will be going into 10th grade with 31 other students. There is a good climate here, like at Rethy, but it is windier and colder here. The surrounding scenes are made up of beautiful hills and valleys. This school is about 1000 miles from our station, so I’ll have to fly home part of the way. I am praying for you. May God bless you. Love, Kenneth

On the 16th September, Grandma gets another letter from Tim:

Dear Grandma,

How are you? I am fine.

Last Friday we had movies. One movie was about an ostrich and a mother ostrich, I think. Another movie was a little rocket thing that shot out from under a big jet’s wing and landed on water. The rocket thing’s name was X15 and one of these X15 rockets broke when it landed on water.

Sunday night 4th grade on up went to a Singspiration and a man named Mr. Fonseca played on a horn Onward Christian Soldiers in 4 different parts. The same night a new calf was born.

Today it is raining a lot and some of us are wet but we are having fun at school and I am in the 4th grade and nine years old.

Mrs. Crossman is my dormitory parent and we are in a dormitory with 4th and 5th grade girls and boys.

Mommy and Daddy are at Kijabe where Kenny is going to school I think.

I love you very much, Love OXOXOXOXO Tim Mc

And again on 30th September, Tim writes:

Dear Grandma,

Saturday night we had clubs. Some of us made things out of corkwood.

Friday in the afternoon we modelled with clay and made teapot holders.

Saturday afternoon the big boys usually play baseball but Saturday they played soccer.

Yesterday I was sick but I was lucky I didn’t have to miss school. I am glad I didn’t get home sick.

I think they are going to kill a cow today.

I will be glad when the McAllister’s (Billy and David are Bob and Alma’s sons. The family originally came from Ireland in the mid 1950’s to join the UFM mission) come up because I hope they remember to make some chocolate no-bakes.

By for now. Love, Timothy   XOXOXOXOXOXO

September 30th must have been letter writing day at Rethy because Ione and Hector get sent the following:

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

We are getting along alright here. School seems a little bit harder but with the Lord’s help it doesn’t seem too hard. On Thursday, the 3rd Mr. Larry Brown will start some evangelistic meetings here. In Bible we are studying about Saul and David. We learned the 2 Bible verses: I Sam 15:22 and I Cor. 10:4. They are very good verses to hide in my heart. I am praying for you and Kenneth every day. Love, Paul

Dear Daddy and Mommy,

I am writing in my bed because it is time to go to bed. I like Mrs. Pontier as a teacher. 6 grade is quite hard for me. I pray for you and Kenny every day. Bye-by. Love, John

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

How was your trip home? We had films last Saturday night. It isn’t too hard in the 7th grade except we get a lot of homework. We are praying for you and Kenny. Every Friday night we have clubs. By for now. Love, David

Congo Missionary Kids, Rethy Academy, Congo c 1963. Back Row (L-R): Suzanne Sigg, Dorm parents Dick & Mimi Sigg, David McMillan, Paul McMillan Middle Row: Marilyn Carper, Grace Parry, Steve McMillan, Cathy Snyder, Allen Muchmore, David Muchmore, Andrew Parry, Billy McAllister, David McAllister, John McMillan, Tim McMillan (in front of John) Front Row: Miriam Snyder, Sammy Sigg, Ike Scholten, Alisson Sharpe, Jillian Sharpe (Four of these children were killed in the Simba Rebellion a year or so after this photo was taken.)

On 6th October, Ken writes to his parents:

Dear Mummy and Daddy,

How soon did my other letter get to you? I hope it doesn’t take too long. I got a letter from Grandma and she asked me to pray for her health.

When I wrote the last letter, I had not got any of the khaki pants back from the laundry. But I didn’t notice any difference with them. They don’t fit too bad, though, and they aren’t too different from the other’s pants in colour. (There has obviously been a mix up and Ken may well have inherited pants that had belonged to another boy, it didn’t really matter as long as they did the job!)

I started having music lessons and I have them every Tuesday at 3:15 and I practice at 3:45 every day. My teacher is Miss Barrett.

This past Saturday, Oddvar Esprgren, the Norwegian boy in my room, and I, went out looking for jobs. We took some rags for washing cars and asked at a few of the missionaries’ houses, but we didn’t wash any cars. But when we went to Mr. Lassie, he found some jobs for us. He is building a new house, so we got some jobs like piling lumber, moving sacs of cement, or sweeping. The pay for student workers set by the Academy is 50¢ an hour and we worked 3 hours. Mr. Lassie said I could work for the 8.50 shillings I am supposed to give him.

There were different clubs that we could join Saturday evening, and I thought I would join crafts, but we will have a few tests on Monday, so I decided to study. I heard that you have to pay fees in some of the clubs and I don’t want to waste the money Bill gave to me. Each student in 10th grade has to pay a due of 10 shillings for the class parties of the term.

Oddvar has a transistor tape recorder, and the boys in this room are having fun by bringing other boys into the room, taping them without them knowing, then playing it back to them. It is just about “Young Peoples”, so I will have to close.

Goodbye for now, and I’ll be praying for you. Love, Kenneth

P.S. I am wondering how I am going home.

Letters from the boys at this time give so insight into what preoccupied them at school, or what they felt their parents would like to read:

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

Mr. Brown was here for a few days. He was telling us about how to be saved and singing with us. One day we went into Miss Stewart’s room and Mr. Brown told us about Queen Esther. He let some of us use puppets, too.

Miss Stewart’s dog named Peewee had 5 puppies on her birthday but one died.

The big boys went for a moonlight ride. They ran out of gas so some boys went back. Mr. Crossman met them and got some gas but the dorm truck still couldn’t go. They got the press truck and pulled it out. Presumably written by either David or John as they may not have been considered ‘big’ enough!

Sunday we went for a walk in the dorm forest.

Dear Daddy and Mummy,

We have been getting along alright here. Last week’s letter missed the mail, so we will try to get it out this week. The meetings that Mr. Brown took on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were very good. And many of the children here have come to know the Lord better. They have sure brought me closer to Him, too. And I know that He will help me to live for Him and obey Him.

On Saturday night some of us older kids went out for a ride in the Dorm truck. About 6 miles out we ran out of gas. So 3 of us ran back and got some more. (Paul is obviously old enough to be a ‘big’ boy – probably to the frustration of his younger brothers! This discrimination would not be something the family were used to.) We got to bed quite late.

I’ll be praying for you every day. Love, Paul

Tim’s letter is as follows:

Today we had a Soc. Studies test. John MacDowell made a crow trap. Last night he caught a rat instead of a crow. By for now, Love, Timothy OXOXOXOXOXO

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

I hope you are getting along alright. I had a bad cold a few days ago but now it’s alright. Mr. and Mrs. Brown were here for over the weekend and many children were brought closer to the Lord, and I was one of them. Our Young Peoples’ offering for Oct. 6 we gave to the Browns for the Lord’s work. It was 605 francs. We are having a lot of fun here at Rethy. I’ll be praying for you. By for now. Lovingly, David

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

Around the first of October the senior boys learnt how to play rugby by Mr. Weeks. It is really fun to play it. I have been sick with a cold. Mrs. Sigg said that I couldn’t take music lessons because Mrs. Crossman and the other teacher already have too many pupils. Mr. Brown’s meetings have really blessed me here. The verse he gave me was Jerimiah 32:27. The last time Mr. Sigg checked the rooms Ken B. (Brown) and I got 12 which is the highest mark. I’ll keep on praying for you and Kenny.

Lots of Love, John M.

It took Ione and Hector a month to drive the boys up to school and back, Ione writes to her mother on 8th October 1963:

Dearest Mother,

We arrived back at Bongondza last week after being off the station for nearly a month. We had a good trip. It is a long way to Kijabe, Kenya, but it is worth the time and expense of going. We were able to make proper arrangements for Ken and met everyone, including some former Moody classmates of mine. They will be very good to him, and take a personal interest in him. The school meets our expectations and more. We were able to make arrangements for him to fly to Stanleyville at Christmas time. He gets out of school December 9. The other boys get out December 5, so will have left Rethy by the time Kenny gets there. But some A.I.M. folk will take him to their home to sleep and then about 15 kilometres to Bunia where he can get another plane to Stanleyville. We will be waiting for him there. He is 16 now, and can take quite a bit of responsibility, but we want to help him all we can.

Kenny is in a dormitory with 36 boys, five in his room. There are 200 in the school. Real high Christian standards, Paul will have a chance now to be the big brother to the others. He is very tall now and takes life quite seriously. David is somewhat of a clown, always making dry remarks. John is loveable and friendly, has his very special pal. There are some fine boys there at Rethy. Stephen is really developing into a nice boy. You are still very special to him. Timmy, they say, has a sparkle, but he does not out-sparkle Stephen. Speaking of sparkles, I bought some sparklers in Kampala and we’ll celebrate at Christmas time with them. We also have marshmallows and hot dogs (Leggett’s order).

I must close and get this into the mail. But I wanted you to know that your letters came. Any packages that anyone sends should not be sent to D.Sp. 92/43 anymore (letters are OK), but packages had better be sent to B.P. 216 Stanleyville. Either Al Larson or Del Carper will pick them up and save them for us. I have no special needs. And I’m sure you have a great many.

May the Lord bless you. Much love, Ione

With the boys settled at school, Ione and Hector are able to engage in their mission work and head back 35 east of where they are based at Bongondza; Ione writes to her mother on 12th October:

We came back yesterday to the pygmy area. We are at a brick government house in a village called Bokopo. In answer to prayer we are having a dispensary (this only for today) and a permanent school established. Bill Gilvear, the Scottish male nurse from Bongondza, has a real burden to do full-time medical work here. Pray that the Doctor at Bongondza will be able to spare him to come out here regularly.

(In a letter to Hector’s sister, Irene, written on the same day, Ione shares that Besides Bill, their other travelling companions are Congolese student evangelists and a Pastor. The drop of the students at various points along the way to undertake services and witness to the villagers.

She writes that most of the people have some skin disease and says:

Some have gotten into line three times as they did not want to mention all their ailments at one time! The phonograph is playing a record in their tribal tongue, and some who can read have found the books and tracts at the end of the porch. The Congolese would deem it impolite to take up a person’s time with all their complaints at the expense of the person next in line, so re-joining the queue is ‘best’ behaviour.)

The road is terrible and the people who walk it are not interested in making a road possible for a car. We had to stop and cut away branches and remove logs, and went over dangerous bridges and mud holes. Most of the trees and branches that were in the way were thrown there by elephants whose tracks we could plainly see. It took us two and a half hours to go 35 miles! There are about 80 children to start school, which will be held in the house where we’re living. Two native men will teach. We brought out materials and have had some good meetings.

(To Irene, Ione writes:

Since Independence we find ourselves filling more and more the capacity of Counsellor. We have trained teachers, nurses and pastors. But they want our advice and help, our medicines, books, transport, etc. They are a friendly people and many have become strong Christian leaders.)

We plugged up the places where bats came in and had a peaceful night. We’ll return to Bongondza tomorrow. On the way back we’ll pick up the Bible school students we dropped off in various villages. I think you would like this work, Mother, if you could stand the strain of the bumps and the anxiety as we go over bad bridges! (Ione persists with the dream she has always held sine 1942 of her mother working with her in Africa – but Ione was called and Leone not.)

Praise the Lord! We are happy here. Lovingly, Ione

Ione’s next letter to her mother on the 18th October explains the inclusion of the children’s letter above:

Dearest Mother,

Just a little note before we eat dinner (potatoes, sardines, carrots, cabbage salad, cake), to send with these letters from Kenny and Timmy. This is Kenny’s second letter since school started.

I think I’ll also enclose the letter Timmy sent to us. You’ll probably jump to the same conclusion that I did, that because he was “wet” in the September 16 letter, he got sick (September 30)!! But I just hope that he didn’t have wet feet too long! They are pretty careful of the kids there, but the wet season is on now. I tried to get Timmy some rubber boots but they are not available. And I don’t dare order anything more from home until our overdrawn is paid (we ordered a new wood stove). Since ordering the wood stove we were able to get a second-hand gas bomb stove and we can get new bombs from time to time. I asked Head Quarters to send Lucille money for getting jeans, however. I think I can send Kenny a drawing of Tim’s feet and he can buy them (boots) in Kenya and bring them with his things on the plane at Christmas.

Our children have real special love for you, and so do I! I hope you are not sick, nor discouraged. We are trusting the Lord that your needs will be met. I believe He is able.

I have decided that I will send all the letters we got this week, as I know you will enjoy them as much as we. I’ll try to keep you better informed about the children, and if you are not working too much maybe you will have more time to write them. How about that book you promised to write? (Ione would dearly love someone to amalgamate all her letters and thus her story into a book.) Whenever you are ready for it, I will have the notes hunted out from our stuff at Three Hills!!

I must close now. Have women’s class this afternoon and am starting on a correspondence course with them in Bangala from Emmaus Bible Institute (Chicago); we get the lessons from Mr. Deans’ mission at Nyankunde. We will also do hemstitching and embroidery work. Tomorrow we have the girls’ club. The Bible school is still going on, but one fellow had to be dismissed as it was discovered he had two wives! (What is normal for the culture is not acceptable practise for Christion converts and at times has been an issue over the years for the missionaries.) Pray for the remaining ones. Some seem fine Christians and enter into all discussions. They have a burden to get out among their own people. They have been out in several directions this week and four people accepted Christ.   Much love, Ione

Ione is habituated into keeping letters short as they are sent airmail and weight is limited, and unsurprisingly, there are sometimes omissions, as in this case where Ione follows up the last letter with another on 22nd October:

This is just a note, as I realize I didn’t thank you for the birthday gift which you sent, the lovely card and the Moody History. Thanks very much for remembering me.

Also I don’t think I thanked you for the tape which came. It was so cute and the boys will enjoy listening to it when they come home.

I have had several good weeks with the Bible school students and girls and now the women are starting to come back. They have been unable to leave their gardens while it is daylight, as first the baboons and then the birds, kept coming to take their things. They know of no way except to stand and chase them away! We had a good meeting today, the second lesson in a correspondence course from Emmaus Bible Institute (Chicago, but printed in Bangala here at Nyankunde, Congo).

There are seven taking it. When they finish these twelve lessons, we will go on to a harder one. A number of school girls came in today and their reading is faster and better, which was an encouragement to the women.

This week our students led 4 to the Lord in little meetings outside of class. On Wednesday the old chief sent for him (one of the evangelists named Cornelius) and asked him to preach to his wives and the villagers. There were three saved there, and since then Cornelius has been back twice and one more was saved. They say the chief’s wives, two of them, are real keen Christians. But the old chief has not accepted Christ as yet. Nor has his son, the young chief who now is at Kole.

We heard on the radio that the Congo Capital, Leopoldville, is under martial law for six months. We don’t know what this will mean, but as yet it means nothing. We carry on as usual, enjoying wonderful opportunities to witness and perfect freedom to go anywhere with the Gospel.

Hector and I are well. Much love, Ione

Zaire or the Democratic Republic of the Congo covers a vast landscape, so unrest in one area does not necessarily transmit across the whole country.  The rich province of Katanga continued to be problematic for the administration based in Kinshasa or Leopoldville. The ‘administration’ in Kinshasa had for a variety of reasons not paid teachers, the police or ‘public’ servants and these people began protesting. In addition, corruption was rife. The United Nations had a ‘peace keeping’ force but it became increasingly difficult to maintain peace – hence martial law. Being a long way from a major city, and in the forest surrounded by people grateful to the missionaries for providing education and medical care, Ione and Hector would not feel any repercussions, but this does not last long. On 13th November, Ione writes to Leone:

Dearest Mother,

I never did get the letter with clippings about the fire at Doris’, but there have been some pieces of mail coming through. We never fail to get our allowance, as this comes through the mission treasurer. And as items get scarcer and scarcer here, the value of the franc gets less and less. Now we can get 200 francs for every dollar. Before Independence it was 50 francs to a dollar. Yesterday Hector bought a spool of thread (one of the scarce things) for about 75¢. He just returned from Stanleyville where he had quite an experience.

He parked the truck in a parking enclosure of a friend of his, where no one else had access, but when he came back an hour later, the truck was gone. He was able to locate it several hours later with the help of Nigerian soldiers. Everything removable except tyres were taken, including the spare tyre. He found it in one of the five native cities (Stanleyville had five surrounding townships, the central town having been occupied by ‘whites’ before Independence). He was able to buy a new tarpaulin and has collected a few tools from other missionaries. The local police were not much help and nothing will be done to find the thief, but we are thankful to have the car. In ways such as this we feel the political instability. But for the most part we enjoy peace and quiet. Hector saw lots of milk and soap in Stan, but very little of anything else.

We are thankful to be able to draw from our Leggett’s food order. And we have sent in a second one, smaller than the first, so that more good things to eat will be coming along. I still have several cans of frankfurters and some marshmallows for when the children come home; and a ham; also, a can of popcorn I bought over the border. We have a bank account in Kampala and when we went over with Kenny, Hector had money transferred there from our Avonmore bank account. It was money from the sale of our Plymouth (car).

We have had two letters from Kenny, and he seems to be getting along all right. He will get out of school December 9 and the school car will take him and Tim Epp to Nairobi (40 miles), where they will take a plane to Arua, Uganda. They get student rates. Tim is the son of a couple I went to Moody with. The Epps will meet them at Arua, bring them to Rethy, but by that time our other kids will be gone with Al Larson and Dick Sigg. So he will sleep at Epps for two or three days until the plane from Bunia leaves. Bunia is just about 50 miles from Bogoro where the Epps live. They have a swimming pool there and I am sure Ken will enjoy their wonderful hospitality. We expect to wait in Stanleyville until he arrives. There is a Field Council meeting near Stanleyville (the mission station – Banjwadi) just then.

As yet I don’t know anything about where you live and what you are doing. I’m so glad that Lucille went to Washington with you. I just envy her the joy of being with you. I am looking forward to being with you a long time when we come home again.

When we come next time we plan to stay home until our boys get into the line of work to which the Lord is calling them. Kenny will get home a year ahead of us, but we don’t want the others to be at loose ends. Perhaps we can plan something together and then you and I can get busy on that book! I have more documentary material out here and lots of things from this term. It looks like there will be a lot more, too, the way things are going!

Well, I am having precious times with the Lord. Was especially burdened for Larry Peterson (her sister Lucille’s son) and would like to keep better track of him. I have been praying for him and his future. Also for Doris’ girls.

Oh, in answer to your question, Kenny couldn’t stay at Rethy because there was no 10th grade this year; next year there will be. They were willing to let him stay and take correspondence courses, but when RVA accepted him, they felt he should take advantage of this. It opens the way for all UFM children to go there if they wish. Much much love, Ione

Ione provides Hector’s sister, Irene, an explanation for the political unrest. The letter is a summary of all that the family had done for the year, much of which has already been covered above. On the 24th November, she writes:

We heard the other night of a Communist plot to overthrow the Leopoldville government. It was instigated by Gizenga, the same man who put our missionaries under house arrest in ’61. (Antoine Gizenga was a compatriot of Patrice Lumumba, like Lumumba, he had been educated in a mission school – catholic and believed in a pan African state. At the time of Independence, he was given the role of Deputy Prime Minister but this was short lived, especially as Western Countries supported the leadership that originated from the Leopoldville area.) He has been a prisoner in Leopoldville (because of his association with Soviet Union, China and Egypt), but made arrangements with some Russians across the River in Brazzaville to bring in arms and arrange a revolt. It was discovered and the Russians deported. Leopoldville is still under Marshal law, but this has not affected us.

The two hardships we face at the moment are shortages on some supplies as there are no imports at the moment. And the roads are almost impossible just now because of rains. The only way Hector can get out to the main road is by hauling gravel and taking men along to fix it up as he goes along. Today we had a visit from an Administrator (former schoolboy of mine!), and he expressed his appreciation to Hector for fixing up the road. Hector laughed and said it was a case of either fixing it or just never getting off the station! He goes to get sand for his building projects and takes a load of gravel from our hill so that he has a load both trips.

Some stores are closing up because they have nothing to sell. But at the moment we have ahead a sack of flour, two of sugar, and there are nearly always rice and peanuts. We are going to have a week-end out for meetings this week, and spend one day in a town called Buta, where we hope to get some kind of fat, either margarine or peanut oil. We are well and happy.  Love,  Ione

A few days later, Ione and Hector are out again, this time on the Basali Trail, as Ione explains in a letter dated 1st December 1963:

Dearest Mother,

We are out for a long week-end. This enables us to take some meetings and also do some shopping at Buta. We go to Kole, and instead of going Stanleyville way (which would have been a left turn), you turn the other way (right – it is effectively a T junction) toward Ekoko. The first biggish town is Buta. There you turn off on the Basali Trail.

We have bought quite a lot of things in Buta; cooking fat, margarine, milk, sardines, tomato paste, a piece of bacon, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower and even some withered celery! Our Christmas presents will be: a shirt each for the boys and for the stockings some toothpaste and a comb! But there are several packages on the way, and Lake Orion church had deposited $110 in our Kampala, Uganda bank account specially labelled for Christmas. The next trip there we’ll get some toys and candy, games and clothes. I have a can of popcorn, some marshmallows and can make fudge and peanut brittle.

How are you feeling now? Did the lady who owns the house leave yet? Who will help you if you are sick? I wish you were nearer to Lucille.

And how are you managing for money? Did you get your things from Washington? This lonely trail seems a long way from N.C. But the Lord is here and is blessing. People are hearing the Word and turning their hearts to Christ. Hearts of Christians seem encouraged by our being here. We do believe God is in it. May He undertake for your needs, physical as well as financial.

Much love, Ione

On the same day, Ione writes to her sister, Lucille:

You could have taken out more than $25 from Head Quarters. We surely do appreciate your getting the jeans. They (Ione’s sons) wrote saying they had a letter from you and were hoping they (jeans) would come before they left for vacation. The 5 leave Rethy on December 5 and Kenny leaves Kijabe December 9. We will all meet in Stanleyville and come home December 14.

Yes, I guess some of our mail has been sitting in the Post Office. There is not much one can do except bribery and we refuse to do that. There is not much one can get without paying money on the side. Some people get things by showing a rubber stamp mark on their bodies to show they belong to the right “group”. It is quite like in Revelation the “mark”.

We do not lack “any good thing”. You may have read of an attempt to overthrow the Congo gov’t by the man (backed by Russia) who imprisoned our missionaries in ’61. This has not affected us. But influences from Egypt are beginning to be felt. Two Congolese students have returned from Russia and give hints of Communist Aggression. Our hope is in the Lord. We are getting people ready for Heaven. What a privilege to lead souls to Christ!  We must keep ever before us our main aim – to ENCOURAGE these people. This is sometimes not easy as we ourselves get a bit discouraged. But we are certain He wants us here. Pray that when the enemy comes in like a flood that the Spirit of the Lord may lift up HIS banner.

Is there something I should do about helping Mother?  Much, much love, Ione

P.S. I’m hungry for NEWS of Esther, Ruth, Larry & Jim

Ione has a real concern for her mother and it would seem the hardships she is facing. Her letter dated 18th December is not only filled with good news about the boys but also, with concern for Leone:

Dearest Mother,

The boys are ALL home, and we are so thankful to get them together again after such a separation. Dick Sigg brought the five down from Rethy. Hector was near Stanleyville at a Conference, and waited over a couple days till Kenny’s plane came in. Another missionary brought the other five home here, so that they would not have to wait so many days in Stanleyville for Kenny. So I had the five from Tuesday until Saturday, and then there was a great reunion when Daddy and Kenny arrived. All of them are well, and we all listened eagerly to Ken’s report of Kijabe.  He likes it there and it does seem to be where the Lord wants him and possibly his brothers when the time comes.

Although this Christmas will be our poorest for a long while, we are real happy to be together. And with making a few gifts and buying such things as are available in Buta and Stanleyville, we can give something to each (socks, hankies, shirts, toothpaste, comb, etc.). Hector found some crude native candy which seems to be clean as it is wrapped in plastic. We will have a big Christmas celebration in our out-districts and then bring all the 11 out-station preachers in to Bongondza with their wives and families. Mr. and Mrs. Jenkinson will come to Bongondza for Christmas here and it will be a time of refreshing for all those in the Lord’s service.

The boys have their sleeping bags which we were able to buy for them in Nairobi, so trekking and travelling is not such a problem as it used to be. Although one cannot put a sleeping bag on the floor of native houses.

I am wondering so much about you. How are you getting along? How are you feeling now? The last letter I had from you was written November 6. Were you able to get some work? That church across the street might want someone to help as secretary or in the office. I am praying that this or something like that would open up for you. Do you feel well enough to work? Please write and tell me just what you think. Surely if your four daughters chipped together, we could scrape up enough to pay your rent regularly, like what Marcellyn and I wanted to do last furlough. Would you like an arrangement like that?

Now the truck is leaving, but I wanted to let you know that I love you and do hope that you have a happy Christmas. May the Lord bless you and use you to the salvation of many more souls. Just yesterday I had the joy of leading two Congolese women to the Lord. You may be sure it is worthwhile you giving your daughters for His service.

Much more to say but no time, Love, Ione

On the 22nd December, Ione and three of the boys write to Leone:

Dear Mother,

The boys have just gone for a little walk in the forest. We are staying in a mud house, not quite finished. The walls are rough dried mud. You can see the prints of the hands that plastered it. When we awakened this morning, we saw something draped horizontally about 3 feet from the floor. It was an empty snake skin about 3 feet long! We are wondering if the snake lives in one of the holes. The skin is just in the place where he crawled out of it, all transparent and iridescent (blue-green).

I spoke to about 60 people and the boys and I sang two songs. We were entertained afterward at Christmas dinner of rice, pounded plantain, dried antelope and “sombe” (native manioc greens) followed by sweet coffee. Much love, Ione

P.S. We always use mosquito nets in native villages; sometimes snakes fall from ceilings. Killed 2 snakes in our Bongondza home last week.

Dear Grandma,

We received your letter at Rethy just before we went home for vacation time. Mommy, Kenny, Stephen and I are at a village for a couple of days. Daddy and the other boys are at another one. We have services with the people.

In the letter you asked about the pets at Rethy. Last term we had two young golden-crested cranes, three hawks, eight guinea pigs, a rabbit, a turtle. We are praying for you. Love, David

Dear Grandma,

How are you? Today an African and Kenny, David, and I went for a walk in the forest. We saw two squirrels about five inches long and they came about a yard away from us, and we shot at them with our slingshots. When we came out we came to a tree full of beetles of all sizes and of all kinds. The African said the biggest kind was good to make a toy. He got a beetle and pulled off half of each leg so it won’t grab you. Then you get some string and tie it around the neck and swing it around in the air. If it starts to fly it will make a sound like an airplane. We love you very much, love, Stephen McM

P.S. (by Ione commenting on Stephen’s curved writing lines:) It’s raining now and it looks as if Stephen has sort of slipped around on this paper.

Dear Grandma,

I really enjoyed R.V.A. this term but I am also enjoying this Christmas vacation. My ear has healed well, so I haven’t had any more pain from it. The teachers and students were very nice to me and I found that there were more opportunities for learning at R.V.A. It was a lot of fun going home by plane. Mummy has prepared a nice Christmas for us and I hope you will enjoy the Christmas season. I am praying that the Lord will restore your health.

Happy New Year! Love and Prayer, Kenneth

And so, 1963 draws to a close. In many ways, this has been a fulfilling year for Ione, now able to do the work she has always longed to do, that is, to preach the gospel and share her love for God with people in the Congo.

It has also been a difficult year, the boys are a long way from her and Ione has to trust others to guide, teach and care for them – which is not easy for someone who has always seemed to be in control of these matters herself. She and Hector have had to spend time apart – so they can best combine the needs of the work and the needs of the family and meet these needs.

Ione and Hector have come back to Africa with hope that they may continue in the work they feel called to but, the responsibility of the children weighs heavily, especially with the increasing challenges. Post-Independence Congo does not seem a better place to be and to work. Ione is already considering a prolonged return home, at least for the duration of her sons’ education.

Download Chapter 24 - Post-Independence Mission Work