Not Beaten, Ever Hopeful
In August 1973, there is a short letter from Ione:
Dearest Sister, just a note to tell you thanks for your letters, calendar and the Navajo Crusader. I miss you not coming here every week or so. When will you be coming this way? What are your plans for next summer?
I weighed 118 lbs. yesterday, so have some more eating to do. And it takes so long to get over this. But the Lord will not let it last too long. John sent me a pretty vase for birthday. Ken gave me a watch but I guess some of the others will share cost. Much love, Ione
The illness certainly has taken its toll on Ione. A formal letter to supporters written in 1974 explains what has happened:
Some of you will remember that I came home from Zaire in June, 1973, ill with bacillary dysentery and malaria. Anaemia persisted, and it was two months before I felt well again. In September, I began to accept speaking engagements again and had a good winter and spring. During the month of March 1974, I spoke 23 times. I felt good when I went in April to get medical clearance for return to Zaire in August.
I was disappointed to learn that the anaemia still persisted, and I would need a better blood report before I could go back to my work in Africa. Then followed many tests during May and part of the summer in an effort to find out whether the failure to manufacture blood was caused from multiple myeloma or from a hypo-plastic condition in the bone marrow. In the meantime, I contracted hepatitis from blood transfusions, and that set me back about six weeks. Now I feel well, and have learned how to carry on normal activities, including meetings, even with a low blood count. I do not have any symptoms of bone cancer in the form of aches or pains or weakness. So, I am thankful to be active and looking forward to conferences and travel in the fall and winter. If I can produce a better blood report by spring, I will try again to qualify for return to Zaire.
In May 1974, Ione writes:
Ken brought your letter and I was glad to read it. Mother was not well enough to come with him. Today is Saturday. Maybe she’ll feel good enough on Sunday. Still coughs and is so weak; she had the vaporizer on last night. Ken is ready to take her to Emergency at Pontiac General whenever she feels that it is bad enough. I hope she is better by Monday for there won’t be anyone there in the daytime until Ken comes home. Tuesday morning, Ken will take me home at 9 AM so I’ll be there after Monday, God willing. People from 2 churches (a number of them) have brought in cooked food to Mother & Ken.
Last night I was given 2 pints of blood & have so much pep today it is hard to stay put. I am really feeling GREAT. I wrote some letters at Nyankunde (Westcott & Becker) to cable the names of the drugs I received there last summer so that the doctors here can have the entire picture. They think the drugs might have started the bone cancer. They have not given yet the prognosis nor filled out the UFM medical form for clearance. I am wondering what will appear there!!
I have asked if I might continue medication in Zaire if I was near a medical Centre for monthly check-up. As yet this is not answered.
So, you see I’m on the brink of a great career just waiting for someone to push me off!!
There is lots to do – here or there and feeling THIS good will help if I need to change my thinking & plans. I don’t think I could keep up to your schedule. You do sound so busy. Mother said Emmanuel has found a house for Marcellyn. Paul says he may go to Alaska after his summer school which ends June 27th. So maybe there’ll be 4 boys there. Doris called me & I talked to Linda & John & Sheryl. All for now. Much love, Ione
On the 18th November 1974, Ione writes:
Thanks for your letter. No the warm weather didn’t make me feel better. I had less energy and seem to need just now the challenge of the cool air.
I am looking forward to seeing you in Alaska. We have a meeting here in the morning of December 1st but I can be in Anchorage by around 10 PM. I will miss the first day of the Conference there.
I saw the doctor today & he was pleased that my blood count is up quite a bit – from 6.2 to 9.7. He took another type of blood test but I don’t know the results of that. The doctor says the blood is better – the bones are not. He made an appointment but will call later. Says I really should have more chemo therapy after the Alaska trip. Hope you will have a real nice birthday. With love, Ione
On the 22nd December, Ione reports to Lucille and Maurice:
But now today I am cooped up with the flu which I caught from Ken. I surely hope Mother does not get it, as it goes into pneumonia so easily with her. Will you pray about this?
August 1975, Ione sends out another Newsletter to supporters and friends:
Dear Relatives, Supporters, and Friends:
This is just a note to let you know how things are going here.
When I went for medical check-up June 16, for returning to Zaire, the doctor found that I still have hepatitis which seems to be left over from last year. I have been having treatment for hepatitis and that ailment is clearing, though some swelling still remains.
X-rays have revealed five bone fractures, and these will take rest and time to heal. But the Christian doctor declares that the Lord has healing in His wings stronger than any medicine. And I am trusting the Lord for His special undertaking for me. I am to see the doctor again on September 4th to learn the results of further X-rays.
I am in bed some of the time, and I am writing this to give you some idea of how I am.
Your gifts and support have been coming, and I have not thanked you personally for some time. I do want to express my appreciation for money sent which was not acknowledged. And for many of you who have supported us for many years with gifts of money and prayers I am truly grateful.
I had a nice birthday on August 17th, but limited as I am as yet I had to have some help in moving about. However, this is getting better.
Psalm 4:1 – “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.” I have claimed and received this help in these weeks past. Please keep praying for me.
With love and gratefulness, Ione
P.S. to Lucille: Thanks so much for the check for $10. We have been following your news carefully. I love you, Ione
On the 1st September 1975, Ione’s sister Lucille, sends out the following letter:
Dear loved ones,
I am spending the day here & will have time to write between doing things for Ione.
Doris spent all day here yesterday. Ione is better but she wants someone with her. So I am here when she feels the need of it and to do things that she would have to call the nurse for. It seems to help her to relax to know someone is here.
Doris got in at 9:00 Saturday morning. Steve and I met her plane. Today Mother, Ken & Steve went with her to the airport. Her plane left at 10:00. She stopped here to say good-bye to Ione and they left me here.
The days have gone fast. We’ve managed to have someone most of the time here at meal time to feed Ione. She eats a little and now is feeding herself as she is stronger. They are getting her up in a chair to eat & for bath and bedpan now. She can breathe better when upright.
I’m enclosing a Polaroid picture taken Saturday evening. Please take good care of it for me. We knelt on the floor beside her. Several were taken but this is the only one I have. We four had not been together for so many years so Doris and Marcellyn wanted pictures.
Dawson’s were on the way to the airport Saturday evening. They delayed their leaving until a 10:00 flight so they could see Doris. Esther & Wayne were also here. (They & four boys came to Dad Huhtas for the holiday weekend.) Then they went to the airport also to see the Dawson’s off. Steve & I rode back with the girl who transported Dawson’s and luggage. Mother, Ken went home.
If the Doctor comes in today, I’m all set to talk to him and find out what his opinion is about her condition. He said she can’t leave the hospital until her lungs are clear of pneumonia. Both lungs have been pretty full & not responding to antibiotics. Doctor said it’s a virus and is harder to treat. She still needs oxygen and intravenous feeding, etc.
I don’t know what to say about coming home. Ione asked if I could stay another week. Are you all right there? I think about you all the time. Last week Ione had some pretty bad times but there was a change for the better Friday. She is on a respirator 3 times a day. She has been able to raise very little sputum for tests. She gets pain medicine & moves more freely now.
The lady that offered to take care of her in now in Mexico on vacation. We expect her back a week from next Thursday.
Here is a request to think and pray about: If the Doctor releases her from the hospital before that lady gets back, could you come, Ruth, & set up the hospital procedures for her care at home? For a few days? Maybe on a weekend? You could have the plane fare from my savings, if necessary. Let us know soon. Ione has asked several times if you could come. They plan to put the hospital bed upstairs. The Cancer Society will furnish everything that’s needed. Then maybe we could travel back together when everything is all set here.
Steve starts in classes at Oakland University this Thursday. He’ll have 16 hours part day classes & 2 night classes.
Ken was off Saturday, Sunday & today, but goes back by 7:00 tomorrow a.m. I may come in to the hospital with him when Steve can’t bring me. Unless Ione says she can get along without anyone here. She is more content to stay here now. But concerned about the expense. Have to write to Marcellyn now as she wants me to keep her informed. Lots of love, Lucille
The September 1975 family Newsletter is written by Ken:
My Mother, Mrs. Ione McMillan, is not well enough to write at this time, so perhaps I can fill the gap by supplying you with the important family news items of the last several months.
Last year ended with hopeful prospects of Mother’s re-involvement in missionary work in Zaire. And since January 1975 she has held 37 speaking engagements including missionary conferences and women’s meetings in Canada and United States. However, the last two months have been rough on her. It has been a difficult experience dealing with one complication after another of the multiple myeloma and having to be in bed most of the time, in the hospital twice. She is now beginning to climb on top of a persistent pneumonia.
Through these trials she feels God is definitely closing the door of return to Zaire. The future hides special surprises I’m sure, but she would like me to convey to you that Zaire is “out” as an option. She leans on Psalm 18:30 – “As for God, His way is perfect.”
For those of you who have not heard yet, Tim was accepted by the Moody Missionary Aviation training program in Tennessee and will be there two years. Paul is engaged to be married to Linda Hoffman. Both Linda and Paul are accepted at Grace College and Seminary in Indiana. Also, Mother’s first grandchild was born on March 15, 1975. Karen Dawn McMillan is her name; David and Becky are her happy parents. Steve is home and attends Oakland Community College, after spending 8 months in Zaire. John spent all summer working in Alaska. Undecided as yet are his plans. Grandmother Reed is still part or our team in many capacities.
Mother says, “Thank You” to each of you who have sent cards, letters, flowers, and food, and to each who has lovingly supported her with finances and believing prayer.
Yours on behalf of Mother,
Kenneth McMillan – (Senior medical student)
Lucille attaches a P.S.: Sept. 16, Tuesday 7:30 AM…
Hello, Maurice & the rest of the Pinehaveners. It was 3 weeks ago today that I left you. Time has gone fast. Today Ione is coming home from the hospital so it can’t be long, I hope, before I’ll be able to be back with you.
I want to stay until I see how she is going to do at home and get a nurse for her – at least daytimes. The oxygen set-up is supposed to be delivered this morning. The Doctor is having 2 units of blood given to her to fortify her for the trip home. No medication except pain pills now, the Doctor said. She still has the hepatitis & some lung trouble – but it’s better. The Doctor said to let her walk about as much as she can. We have a walker for her, furnished by the Cancer Society.
John has arrived at David and Becky’s so we expect he’ll be driving in before the weekend. I have to can peaches and pears this week. A few peaches will have to be done today. These are from a young tree Ken planted 3 years ago. We are having corn from their garden – also tomatoes & carrots.
Mother is feeling a little better but needs lots of rest. Doesn’t do much housework any more. We have to stamp and seal about 1,000 more of these letters sometime today. Worked late on them last night – Steve & Ken, the latest, finishing putting on the return address. Ken made a stencil, finally, & ran them through the addresso-graph. Ken has been quite miserable with hay fever, plugged up ear (the one he had mastoid in) & the virus flu he caught from Mother. He went to the Doctor yesterday.
Steve has classes morning, afternoon & evening on Mondays so he had a long day yesterday. We get up at 4:30 or 5:00 every morning for family worship before Ken has to leave for Detroit Hospital where he’s in training. Mother & I usually go back to bed after the boys leave. Love, Lucille
Ione recovers sufficiently to write to her sister Lucille on 30th December 1975:
Here I am in bed again with the “wheezers” having caught a “flu” germ from one of our visitors. Mother will write soon but is still bogged down with washing. The last of the visitors left Sunday afternoon. We had a real nice time. It was a lot of work for Mother to cook for 11 people but she got along OK. She had two bells’ engagements, too. Pray that this cold I have now will not go into pneumonia. The boys have the humidifier going and I have the oxygen tank still. Thanks for the $5 you sent.
I hope you are feeling OK these days.
We had a nice Christmas with 11 stockings on the mantle piece. A living Christmas tree. The boys are planting it today as 3 boys are here and the weather is warmer. We are trying to get together some gifts for Steve’s birthday tomorrow.
The basement looks nice now. We had the plumber come back and put a vent through Mother’s cupboard in the breezeway (all of her stuff is still out) and the toilet and shower are in. The shower was my Christmas gift to the boys. I’ll have the boys draw a diagram. Pole shelves are real handy and places for visitors’ towels. There were 5 boys slept down there. We were thankful for the roll-away bed. Mother may add to this so I’ll close. Love, Ione
In March 1976, Ione is back to letter writing:
Dear Lucille and Maurice,
A letter today from Marcellyn gave us her telephone number; she has one now since last week: San Cristobal – 528-2380.
A letter from John says that David will have John’s car while he is in Alaska. John goes March 30th. He gave a new number for the fishery, which I presume is the company one. I don’t know whether that includes Doris’ personal address. John said, “You know the address in AK is now:
c/o R. Lee Seafoods
Kenai, AK 99611”
So far as we know now, it has not been confirmed, Linda and Paul will be coming here March 26 to April 6. And David and family will come over the long weekend of Easter. I think that Paul will repaint my bedroom while here, same colour, I hope, as it was before.
Today a letter came from Janice (White) Hadley. She had received our circular from her father Guy Leffel. He has only one leg now; is on our list. I will put her on, too now, I guess, as she seems so interested. But it sounds like she would like to get in touch with you again, as you see in the letter. It would be nice if you are in this area again when she comes for the class reunion in ’79.
Well, I had my first meeting last Saturday night and Steve and I got along just fine. It was neighbourhood couples and the pastor & wife were there, too, in one couple’s house. Steve had the Presentation which was slides & tapes. He had lightning then a crash of thunder and in a loud voice he said, “Africa is in a storm, etc. – political – spiritual”. Then he asked, “What do you think of when you think of Africa?” And he turned on pictures & noise together of rivers, frogs, animals, hyrax at night, birds, then finally drums and the call to prayer. And there is more showing of suffering in rebellion, etc. But he concludes with singing in churches (full of people) showing the worthwhileness of it all. I led the discussion afterward. Got along OK and home by 11 o’clock from Awasso. With love, Ione
At this stage, Ione is well enough to write another Newsletter:
The last letter written from us was done by my son, Kenneth, as I was too sick to write then. Now I am better health wise. I have been out to church services a number of times and have begun to accept speaking engagements for the Spring.
The truth of the verse in Psalm 18:30 has proved true – “as for God, His way is perfect.” It seems to be God’s perfect way to heal me from the very serious illness through which I have come: double pneumonia, persistent hepatitis, and multiple myeloma. Then on January 28, just as I was making a real good return to health, I fell on the tiled basement floor and hurt my hip. But this handicap, too, seems to be passing away. I was on crutches for three weeks and am at present still limping, but carrying on normally.
I wanted the people interested in us to know that life is going on as planned by our Heavenly Father and some big events in the boys’ lives are soon to be coming to pass. The first accomplishment will take place May 16 when Paul receives his Master’s Degree of Divinity from Grace Seminary at Winona Lake, Indiana. At that time Paul’s fiancée, Linda Hoffman, will graduate from Grace College at Winona Lake. Then Paul and Linda will be married May 28th in Eugene, Oregon. They are accepted candidates for missionary service in Zaire under U.F.M. On May 23 Kenneth will receive his MD at Wayne State University Medical School. Then the first part of June, David will receive his BA from Illinois University in Chicago. During the month of June David and Becky and wee Karen will be at our Unevangelized Fields Mission Candidate School in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. At which time decision will probably be made as to which overseas UFM field David and Becky will go.
John is thinking of taking a trip to East Africa after his summer of working in Alaska in my sister’s and brother-in-law’s fishing industry. Stephen will continue in his course of study at Oakland Community College through two more years, while living at home. And Tim has another year or so at Moody Flight School in Tennessee.
I marvel at the faithfulness of friends who have continued to support us, even though I have not been on the field for so long. The need is great in Zaire, and as another missionary wrote just before leaving for Bongondza, “The situation on the field is that I am needed very much.”
So the need is there, the supporters still give, and it remains to be seen what God will do so far as my medical clearance will be to go back. Will you continue to pray for us all, including my Mother? She is still part of our team: helping prepare our letters as well as caring for her own ministries: Thank you so very much.
Lovingly, Ione McMillan
The last letter is from Ken, September 1976:
A few months have passed since my mother wrote to you. She is now in the presence of Jesus Christ.
In her March 1976 letter Mother told of the Lord’s goodness in raising her up to a measure of physical health in spite of the multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer). She then was able to enjoy each of those important events she wrote about – Paul’s graduation from Grace Seminary, his marriage to Linda Hoffman on May 28 in Eugene, Oregon, my graduation from medical school in May and Dave’s and Becky’s acceptance as candidates for the Republic of Zaire under the Unevangelized Fields Mission. But she began to fail steadily after that and was confined much of the time to her bed at home.
On September 19, 1976 Mother was taken to be with her Lord. The enclosed Memorial Service Program tells how she was remembered among her hometown friends and relatives in Pontiac. She did very much wish to be in Zaire the last years of her life and be buried near her husband, our father; however, she relinquished this desire earlier this year when it looked quite impossible. My brothers and I along with her mother, Mrs. Leone Reed, her sisters and her relatives can join with many of you and with her African friends in testifying of her great faith and love, gentleness of spirit and unquenchable humour. She expressed these qualities best in her roles as mother, daughter, sister, missionary of the Gospel, wife and public speaker. It is impossible to recall all the happy moments that came from having her around, but we will try in the months ahead to put together a biography of our parent’s lives. Any personal anecdotes you can contribute toward this are welcome.
As for the future I would appreciate very much if the following were done: if you wish to continue receiving an annual news letter from me covering us six boys and Grandmother, please mail the enclosed card with your current name and address. You may also want a prayer letter from individual family members. Paul and David are both appointed to Zaire mission work under UFM and are raising support. In either case I will be waiting for a response to indicate your desire to stay on the mailing list.
My brothers, Grandmother and I want to convey our deep personal gratitude to you for years of prayer and financial assistance. Our desire now is to seek “not to be ministered unto but to minister.”
In His love, Ken McMillan M.D.
Leone Reed wrote:
Ione has been a very precious daughter, mother, sister, relative and friend, as will as a faithful servant of our Lord Jesus Christ. Her presence is greatly missed by everyone she has blessed. But earth’s loss is heaven’s gain. Her love for each one will linger on to keep us closer to Jesus Christ until He comes again.