Ione Sails for Africa
Ione finally, after all her preparations set sail from New York for the Belgian Congo on the 17th December 1941 on a cargo ship called the SS Lashway, accompanied by Pearl Hiles, a nurse and Viola Walker, a returning missionary. The journey to Matadi, the Congolese port, was expected to take four weeks, with a stopover in Trinidad. Permission to sail was given one week after war had been declared by America, the impact of which still had to be felt in the States unlike Europe, however, the reality of war became apparent to the passengers once on board ship with the threat of torpedoes and mine sweepers becoming very real and blackouts are enforced. Part of the itinerary was to keep as close to the American coast and down towards the Caribbean until they needed to head for Africa in the shortest way possible thus taking them out of the usual shipping channels. Whilst taking the shortest route to the Caribbean, the ship then had a zig zag course as another contingency against being caught by German U Boats who were patrolling the area across the Atlantic; and down the American coast line so they crossed the Equator more than once. The ship was evidently part of the war effort, its cargo consisting of lorry parts which were to be reassembled in Leopoldville and then driven to the war front in North Africa. The Captain felt that by plotting an unexpected course for his ship, he would be safer. Ione, not wishing to worry her family focusses on other things and writes:
“It was so thrilling to walk up to the pier and see the boat that was to be our home for many weeks. But I must confess I was disappointed, for I tho’t it was going to be a majestic impressive hulk. It was so small I could hardly see it over the stack of merchandise to go on board! I tried to think how I would feel when the waves got high, and the tho’t came to me “well, when I asked the Lord for a boat I forgot to tell him I wanted a big one, so this is no doubt the one He tho’t best for me”, and I must say I have been satisfied. It has already proved itself very seaworthy.
Besides Ione and her two friends there’s the crew, two American freelance writers, three Baptist missionaries and a French lady with whom Ione practices French conversation. Most are good sailors but Viola Walker suffers from seasickness and is quite ill, when stormy, the waves are huge and dark, flooding over the ship which Ione describes as black mountains with a phosphorescent gleam at night. The Chief Engineer assures them that all is well and they should only fear if the swell covers the smoke stack. When calm, everyone enjoys the sea breezes, the pink clouds at sunset, the moon’s reflection. The days aboard soon take on a routine: breakfast at 7.30 am; lunch at 11.30 and supper at 5pm. The food is good, so much so that Ione finds herself gaining weight and she and Pearl devise ways of getting in some exercise; they start by trotting round the deck, then have a game of ‘rooster fights’, their other option is to scramble and climb over the cargo. Ione devises squat and thrust exercises which she does when no one is looking holding on to the deck rails.
Time is spent writing letters, learning Bangala (the African dialect they will use in Congo) and French; Ione is determined to arrive ‘useful’; and playing games such as Chinese Checkers and Lexicon. Porpoises and flying fish offer another distraction, when one flying fish landed on deck, Ione promptly retrieved it and gave it to the Captain. That evening she was presented with it for her supper beautifully cooked.
Evenings are spent on deck talking and in the run up to Christmas, singing carols. Ione and Pearl busy themselves with making cards and small Christmas presents for everyone and everyone gets drawn into Christmas preparations although the ladies are not too complimentary about the steward’s efforts, Ione writes:
“The tinsel is wound around the tree in such a manner as to look like fur necklaces on each limb.”
Pearl found tree lights in her belongings and added them to the tree and once everyone put their little gifts for each other underneath it looked festive. Mr Armstrong, one of the Baptist missionaries’, played Father Christmas and distributed the gifts, Ione received stockings, carbon paper, bible games, hankies and Candy. Back in the privacy of the cabin, Ione opened the gifts from the family back home which included cold cream, toilet water and a Precious Promise New Testament, a box containing scrolls of Bible verses that one can select at random, from her mother. Other gifts she was unable to open as they had been placed in her trunk which was in the hold of the ship, and Ione had those to look forward to at a later date. Ione managed to find a very fine Victorola needle which meant she could hear the recorded messages from home and brought home so much closer to her and made her cry a little.
Christmas lunch consisted of cream of spinach soup, celery & olives, roast turkey, giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, candied yams, asparagus, homemade bread, mince pie, plum pudding, fruit cake, nuts, raisins, candy, apples, another appreciated meal. This Christmas is referred to again in a letter to Ione’s mother written in January 1943, after Ione has had news that the ship had been sunk. There had been some survivors who managed to get into a raft, one of the occupants was the captain but the heat and dehydration caused him to rant and rave and when he died his body was thrown to the sharks that followed them. Ione’s response to the news is:
“We went thru that same water a year ago. How marvellously God spared us and brought us here. We had many talks with the Captain about his soul, but he only laughed at us and said we were foolishly throwing our lives away. Now he knows better.”
There must be time for reflection on the journey of the enormity of the step Ione has taken because she dips into her ‘promise box’ and extracts the following text:
“Now thanks be unto God which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the saver of His knowledge by us in every place.” II Cor. 2:14
And Ione writes home:
It is such a joy to know that we are in the centre of His Will. The ship moves rapidly along and each hour we are nearer the place of His Choosing. How thrilling to be really ‘on the way!’
The Atlantic Ocean was perilous with the threat of mines and German U Boats, especially near the American coast line, indeed a ship following them was torpedoed, and as they neared the coast of Africa more danger was in store, this time from the elements where the Congo River pours into the sea. The whirlpool is referred to as the Devils Cauldron and as the ship navigates its way through the narrow passage, the passengers watch silently as they edge towards the docks at Matadi; these details are extracted from a letter written by Pearl Hiles in 1991.
Ione does not dwell on the maritime dangers, her letters are full of the excitement of reaching Africa. On the 21st January 1942, she writes:
“I saw my first black boy with a white shirt on. He first waved his arms and that being insufficient; he took off his shirt and waved that. By that time I was almost out of mine, hanging over the rail, yelling and waving at him.”
In a diary exert, she remembers the temperature as being 97 degrees Fahrenheit, men wearing a variety of clothes from prison stripes to rags and women wearing colourful robes and carrying all manner of things on their heads – “boxes, sacks, basins, bottles (upright or on their sides, – the bottles, I mean!), pineapples, baskets, wood, and even an umbrella, long and black with a crook handle.”
They disembarked around midday and had to stand around at the hottest time of the day whilst they were processed through customs. The older, returning missionaries’ took care of the novice ones and ushered them through together ensuring that there were no problems and they ensured the girls went with them to the Swedish Mission House positioned at the top of a hill and afforded them fresh cooling breezes as well as panoramic vistas and Ione documents:
“Pearl and I are typing at a table in a lovely room with two nice beds with a canopy of dainty netting with attractive cotton frill. The canopy is of course to keep out the mosquitoes but looks like old-fashioned beds. We had a lovely three-course dinner, and Oh, I forgot, Coca Cola this afternoon! You would be so happy, Mother, to see how the Lord has given so many friends to look out for our welfare, and every piece of baggage is here and in good condition.”
Two days are spent at the Swedish Mission in Matadi before the next part of the journey and during that time Ione accepts an invitation for lunch from the 3rd mate of the ship who had helped her to fashion deck quoits out of old bits of rope whilst on the voyage across the Atlantic for a game of hopscotch. Max is described as tall, handsome, with brown curly hair, “not at all forward”. During the voyage they had several conversations about Christianity and like the Captain was an unbeliever, but unlike the Captain was sufficiently interested to raise the subject time and time again and Ione took every opportunity to ‘witness’ to him. Ione spoke better French than her escort which pleased her enormously as they were able to get them a table in the Hotel. Lunch was very enjoyable and consisted of 7 courses, washed down with lemonade on the veranda and they spent the afternoon resting on chairs in the shade regaled by a purported magician of extraordinary tales of escapes from 36 lions, a rogue elephant which severely damaged his truck, indeed the damaged Chevy was parked in full view. The old man told Ione his eyes were bloodshot because he mistakenly drank kerosene (petrol) instead of beer in the dark. Max and Ione are eventually rescued at 3pm when the taxi arrives to convey Ione back up the hill to the Swedish mission house. There are no further references to Max in Ione’s letters but she obviously made an impact on him, when Viola meets up with him whilst sorting out her luggage, he gives her a cheque of $50 for Ione.
The next part of the journey is by train to Kinshasa (formerly known as Leopoldville on what is called the ‘White train’ but as Ione states, neither she nor the train are white once they emerge from the first tunnel. The hope is that they get there in time to board a Belgian boat, the Reine Astrid which will convey them to Kisangani (formerly Stanleyville), the main town near Ione’s final destination. Their departure from Matadi is delayed as they complete formalities at the Bank and clear the last of their possessions through Customs. Once in Kinshasa, they meet yet another Customs official who initially wants to charge them 3,000 francs to clear all their baggage but after some negotiations, drops the fee considerably. As they depart, he wishes that they all meet ‘beautiful husbands – but I am married! The three ladies, Ione, Pearl and Viola board the Reine Astrid with half an hour to spare. Had they missed the boat, they would have had to spend a month in Kinshasa waiting for the next opportunity. In a letter home in April 1942, Ione itemises her expenses for the voyage thus:
“The Church gave me the following for the trip:
|for the NY to Matadi fare||$475.00|
|For Matadi to Stanleyville fare ($80.00 of this was used for equipment)
See Dec. letter from Mr Pudney re this
|For customs at Matadi||$50.00|
|Actually, the fare NY to Matadi was||$472.50|
|Tips on the SS. Lashway||$5.00|
|At Matadi – Swedish Mission, 2 nights, board, room, truck||$3.77|
|Cable to Phil. – 1/3 cost||$1.66|
|Telephone to Leo for reservation – 1/3 cost||$.12|
|Matadi to Leopoldville train fare and baggage||$7.76|
|Leopoldville – UM Hotel – 1 night, board, room, truck||$2.29|
|Telegram to Maganga for UFM truck – 1/3 cost||$.18|
|Leo to Stan – Ticket on river boat||$29.66|
|Board, 12 days||$20.24|
|Customs at Matadi (Only – because we smiled at the agent!)||$4.43|
|Freight Matadi to Bongondza, on the same items we had freighted from Pontiac (Pearl’s will be much more I think)||$55.98|
|Hotel at Stanleyville – 1 night||$3.35|
Ione is ever mindful that she is spending donations from churches as well as family and friends and would like to be seen as spending the money wisely.
The Reine Astrid is a Belgian owned steamer, considered the best of the fleet that ply up and down the Congo River between Kinshasa and Kisangani, and is their home for the next twelve days. The steamer is not as comfortable as the Lashway, the Africans on the lower decks beat out a rhythm on drums called gudu- gudus; pigs and chickens squeak and squawk, and the odour of wood burning permeates throughout. One passenger is described as a ‘pest’, he tries to sell pith helmets, English magazines and ivory canes to the ladies and they do their best to avoid his attentions. The layout of the steamer takes some getting used to and Ione and Viola have a taxing time on the first day locating a toilet, neither of them having sufficient French language to get them where they want to go. They first enquire after a ‘bain’ and are shown a bath tub; next they ask a cabin boy for ‘douche’ and are shown the shower room before they accidentally stumble on a door marked W.C, which Viola explains to Ione, is a term the English use for a ‘water closet’! Language acquisition speeds up as Ione explains:
“We were in French territory from then on and ate, slept, and tried to talk French from then on.”
As on the Lashway, life on the Reine Astrid takes on a daily pattern punctuated by meal times. Breakfasts consist of fresh fruit, tangerines and pai pai (paw paw) doused in lime juice. Lunch consists of fried bananas or plantain and pineapple fritters. Dinner consists of 4- 5 courses, each place setting has a stack of plates which reduce as each course is served. Two or three courses consist of meat which is served cooked rare. Ione remarks:
“I never find more than one cockroach during a meal!”
which obviously is not part of the ‘meat’ course.
More problematic than food, is water, the only water available is carbonated water available at 12 centimes a bottle. Had they not been tea total, the ladies could have had any kind of liquors imaginable.
Ione spends an hour a day in private devotions and the she, Pearl and Viola get together after each meal time for further prayer and Bible Reading. Their beds are covered with a mosquito tent and they sit inside writing letters home. Thoughts of family are never far away and Ione remembers to write to her mother a ‘birthday’ letter, in which she assures her mother that she is well cared for. The Reine Astrid stops at villages and towns along the way, taking on fresh supplies of fruit, pigs and at one stop a murderer is taken aboard and ensconced on one of the lower decks.
The river trip allows the ladies time to acclimatize to the tropical Congo heat and humidity, the temperatures rise to 99 degrees Fahrenheit by 7.30 am; and occasional forays on shore to buy gifts of ivory from the local markets. The Africans purchase butter worms, dried fish, manioc (a potato like tuber), smelly pieces of dried meat and fruit – bananas, tangerines, limes and lemons which will form their diet on board. They see monkeys, parrots and crocodiles and Ione recounts how in the village of Baloba, 6 people had been eaten by ‘crocs’ that year.
On one excursion ashore, the ship’s photographer gets rid of a group of children trailing after him by announcing that Ione, Pearl and Viola have money, fortunately, as a returning missionary, Viola is able to converse with the children and persuade them that they had been misinformed, no money would be forthcoming and the band dissipated.
Ione takes time to maintain her appearance, her hair still curls and despite the heat, she powders her nose but she quips that her complexion is ‘muddy’ from washing in the yellow river water.
All these inconveniences pale into insignificance when Ione describes the ‘romantic beauties of the Congo scenery’ she writes:
“the yellow sun, blue sky, green trees, shifting as we moved gracefully along, while natives fished, played, or washed their children. The moonlight was exquisite over the waving palms, the arching flat leaves of the elephant trees, the broad flat banana leaves overshadowed by the slender shoots of plantain. Most lovely of all were the lacy tropical ferns with huge hibiscus or a white lily peeking thru.”
However, one aspect deeply disturbs Ione, and she refers to it more than once in letters home to her family and friends. At first, she delights in the African children jumping into the river around the boat, on one occasion there are about 100 boys clapping, chanting and begging for money which upper class passengers on the top deck encourage by throwing them money. The syncopated beat, Ione describes as ‘hypnotising’ and she feels ‘the power of Satan behind it all’. Ione feels the need to physically distance herself from this and turns her back to the scene unfolding in front of her.
Eventually, after five weeks of travel, they reach Kisangani, and spend one more night aboard before moving into a hotel for one night. The final leg of their trip is a two-day truck drive before they finally reach their destination of Bongondza on the 7th February 1942. This meant that they spent one night ‘sleeping’ in the truck, listening to chimpanzees howling in the forest! Ione found the ride bumpy and suffered motion sickness which she in part attributed to the heat and not drinking enough water. Although honest enough to tell her mother about her minor ailments, she is constantly at pains to reassure her that she is well and fit.
Bongondza – a new beginning
Bongondza is the central point of the UFM Mission in the Belgian Congo, with Ekoko 200 miles in one direction and Boyulu 200 miles in the other direction. Kisangani is 150 miles south. There is a hospital established at Bongondza that is manned by Dr George Westcott, an American missionary; it became fully operational in 1941 and was a huge success with people travelling over 400 miles from the north and at least 150 miles from the south to get the required treatment.
Pearl Hiles, in a letter written in May 1942 describes the hospital as:
“The little hospital here far surpasses anything that I had ever hoped to find in Africa, because of the inventive ability of Dr Westcott. He takes a little bit of something that most people would throw away and makes it into an instrument or piece of equipment that will meet the immediate need, and then it outlasts in durability the same thing which in the homeland would cost a great deal of money. When I see the practicability of the whole set-up and realize that he has made most of the hospital equipment, I just stand in amazement and wonder what he will tackle next.
The hospital proper consists of a vestibule for receiving patients, a dispensary, a pharmacy, a laboratory, an examining room, an office, an operating room, an X-ray fluoroscopy room, a dental department, an X-ray developing room, a battery room which is connected electrically with a generator in the workshop and also with the hydro-electric water wheel”.
Dr Westcott records that he is swamped with work and needs more help. He estimates that another four qualified nurses are needed. The mission leaders decided that Ione, Pearl and Viola were to be based here; Pearl to nurse alongside Dr Westcott and Ione to care for Dr Westcott’s wife Ellen and their three children. Ellen had been and still was very ill and needed care until she was well enough to make the journey back to America. The outbreak of war had delayed their plans. Dr and Mrs Westcott had already served one term (usually a period of five years) in the Belgian Congo; Dr Westcott, being a practical man, had instigated the building of a church, hospital and houses at Bongondza, some of which were built of bricks made two at a time in a brick making press before they were fired and used. Their second term of office had been bedevilled with illness, Dr Westcott had Backwater fever and several bouts of malaria, the children had amoebic dysentery and Ellen had tuberculosis, mastoiditis. Dr Westcott and the children recovered well from their various illnesses but not Ellen. Anne, the eldest child also contracted tuberculosis but recovered better than her mother.
Ione’s appearance is most welcome, Dr Westcott write that the children are ‘100% sold on Aunty Ione’ and he couldn’t have wished for a better companion/ nurse for his wife. Ellen manages to leave her bed for two hours in the afternoon with Ione’s help, something she has not managed to accomplish for a while.
The Doctors house is set at the top of a hill and the hospital is at the bottom. It would seem that Ellen had designed the layout and been responsible for where fruit trees were planted and the tennis court sited. It was a large house and being built on a hill had a lower ground floor. The veranda at the front faced out towards the hospital, being one storey up, would benefit by any breezes blowing.
Ione and Pearl share a house and their day soon achieves a routine where they breakfast together and then go their separate ways – Pearl to the hospital and Ione to the Westcott house. Ione’s duties include organising and supervising ‘house boys’ for both homes so she effectively manages five people working for her, planning meals for everyone and supervising the three Westcott children, Anne, Bobbie and Charlotte. Among her activities with the children are ‘cookie making’ sessions.
According to Ione’s description, the Westcott’s have a nice home which includes a piano that satisfies Ione’s passion for music:
“after dinner Dr plays and I sing for 1, 2 or 3 hours.”
It would seem that music is therapeutic for everyone; Ellen stays in the living room longer and the doctor relaxes and rests more. Ione writes home that she is very happy and despite not having all her possessions with her, as they are still on their way from Matadi, she is managing well. There are food shortages but everyone on the mission station is coping.
In the letters home, Ione maintains a positive attitude and views her time managing two households as an opportunity to acquire more language skills, she does not appear too envious of her friend Pearl getting stuck into the nitty gritty reality of mission work, like delivering babies and removing tumours. Ellen asks her to accompany them back to the States when they go and even though Ione has only just arrived, she does not let the disappointment show, but tells Ellen she will be happy to travel with her; only to her mother, in her first letter home since arriving at Bongondza, does she confide:
“I am hoping this won’t be necessary.”
It is two months since Ione left the United States and at this point she has not received any mail, her longing for contact is evident although played down. Eventually the first letter arrives on the 6th March 1942, no wonder Ione weeps for joy! She writes to her sister:
“The news was licked up, every bit!”
In this letter, Ione recounts more about her life at Bongondza, she graphically describes a storm that lifts the corrugated tin roof off their kitchen and how she and Pearl struggle to re-organise their belongings to protect them from the rain seeping in through the leaf roof. Eventually, the seek sanctuary at the Jenkinson’s house and dry off in front of their warm fire.
Herbert Jenkinson is the field leader and had been since 1935, an English missionary who runs the school and is a founding resident at Bongondza; he and his wife are affectionately called the Kinso’s by everyone and these two became surrogate parents to all the missionaries and the most loved surrogate ‘grandparents’.
Kinso had served in the first World War in the Coldstream guards; when he was ‘demobbed’ he undertook missionary training and set sail for the Belgian Congo in 1920 with his wife Alice, a gentle diminutive lady and they worked together caring and serving as well as supervising all the missionaries working with them.
Their house was situated at the top of the drive into the mission station and like the doctor’s house was a brick construction. Ione and Pearl, having lived in their house with no roof for a few days, move into another house previously occupied by the Punts who are currently in South Africa at Kinso’s behest. Ione describes the house thus:
“It is surrounded by gorgeous flowers and trees and has pineapple, bananas, plantain, and citrus fruit trees in the back yard. At night the air is pungent with perfume.” And in later letter, she adds:
“We’re against the forest and hear the chimps but no leopards as yet, altho’ the Doctor treated a man yesterday near here after he had been attacked by one.”
Ione describes the incident better in a letter to Rev Wallace Cauble written in May:
“One case that came into the hospital this week had a broken arm and back, and many bruises. He is a very quiet, patient sufferer and we didn’t know until this day that the way he was hurt was at the time so many of the natives were out after rubber. There was a big chimpanzee in one of the trees and the ‘capita’ or head man ordered him to climb the tree and get him out. The man did and the tree was no little one for they don’t stop growing out here before they reach 30 to 40 feet. He attacked the animal which put up a terrific fight up there and threw the man several feet clear of the tree and he crashed to the ground. His legs are paralyzed; the fluoroscope will fully tell the damage done.”
Description of life in Africa includes the story of Viola killing a snake in her house, Dr Westcott dispatching a huge hairy spider, scorpion and poisonous centipedes. Ione has had her first encounter with ‘driver ants’ but these had not attacked. There are other creatures mentioned in this epistle, Viola has a cat and three kittens and a lemur (a small monkey often referred to as a bush baby); killed a snake and the Westcott children appropriate two birds, a praying mantis and what Ione describes as:
“a tiny bear-like creature which cries like a kitten and will eat chickens when he gets big” which she bottle feeds when the children go on a short trip to Buta.
Ione also recounts how Ellen is responding well and has managed an outing to the Kinso’s house, is eating well and sitting out of bed for three hours a day. Ione is pleased with the progress as it would herald her way to being involved more in ‘mission work’ such as teaching ‘black children and trekking’; she has gone out to the villages with the Kinso’s but this only whets her appetite to do more. The two ladies seem to enjoy each other’s company and have a good rapport.
By now, Ione has been acquainted with the reality of living in a hot dusty climate and has acquired ‘jiggers’ (tuna penetrans; alternatively spelt chiggers) in her toes. ‘Jiggers’ are small fleas that burrow into the skin; the males suck blood and fall off but the females embed themselves and lay eggs. The site of infestation is itchy and marked by a small white spot, the egg sack has a black centre which are the legs of the flea protruding for the exit of the flea once the egg sack has ruptured. Jiggers are removed with a sterilised needle. If the sack has grown large it will leave an open wound which needs to be kept clean and free from infection; however, if caught early enough, all that remains is a small puncture mark. It was believed that wearing closed shoes rather than open toed sandals protected the foot, but fleas can jump 20 centimetres high, so enclosed shoes are not fool proof. Foot hygiene is of extreme importance and just another lesson for novice missionaries. For someone with no medical experience this and administering injections to Ellen was newsworthy information for the family back home.
Besides working at the hospital, Pearl gets to look after a starving black baby boy who is brought in after his mother dies. Caring as ever, Ione writes home that they need diapers and clothes for the little boy and in true Ione style, she stipulates ‘good medium flannel’. It is evident from Ione’s letters that any situation that arises leads to a plan of action. As a result of the little boy turning up at the hospital for care, Pearl instigates child care clinics once a week. These could occur in the local villages (as a child, I frequently accompanied the nurses and helped weigh babies) or at the hospital. Inevitably, some children had to be brought to the hospital for more detailed care.
At this point in time, Ione’s main baggage has still not arrived but the all the missionaries pool their belongings so she and Pearl manage and can even host visitors. Having a doctor on the mission station means that everyone requiring medical aid comes to Bongondza, the Africans camp out in the hospital grounds but all other visitors have to be accommodated as guests in the mission houses. It emerges through the letters that Ione is usually in charge of catering for their needs and feeding them during their recovery.
All the letters from home are censored, but fortunately for Ione the family have not included anything that is seen as a threat to the war that is currently being fought so most letters arrive without pieces cut out.
As in all letters that Ione writes to her family this letter includes concern for her mother’s wellbeing and reassurance that she is well. There is also housekeeping bits, where she details the setting up of her bank account in Stanleyville (Kisangani), and a request for the Homes and Garden magazine as someone else is supplying her with the Moody Monthly. She voices concern about her family:
“did Marcellyn have to give 14% of her income in war tax? I have been concerned, and if you have any doubt that you can maintain the home, let me know, for I would never want the home broken up. I’m sure I could do something about it.”
Her next letter written later in March continues with the housekeeping theme and Ione lists item she wishes the family to send her, the doctor has told her these items will take a long time to reach her, so she is shopping in anticipation of a long wait; the list consists of:
“Odorono – two large bottles
White shoes – leather oxford with rubber or crepe soles, size 8AAAA
Flashlight bulbs – 10 standard size
Flashlight batteries – 10A (they deteriorate very quickly)
Bedroom slippers – any kind in leather – low heels
Cretonne – bright colours, backgrounds – several patterns – about 10 yards – not expensive
Bright kitchen curtains – 2 pairs.
5 hasps for same
Brassieres – size 30 – 4 – not silk and very little rubber – medium width
Girdles – 2 size 29 or 30, I think
Bubble gum for novelty for kiddies – Beeches – a few 10-cent store prizes – small knives & forks
Some Crisco, Spam and canned vegetables would be good – no milk.
And Ione offers the following advice:
“Home canned things will not come in very good shape, nor candy, except melt-proof, or if wrapped very, very well from the heat. Gum is OK.
If you line the packing box in oilcloth it will be good and I can use it. Do not pack too tight, but securely. Not one thing was broken or chipped that you packed for me, but the aluminium was squashed a little.”
For all these items, Ione wants her mother to collect two months of her salary from her sponsoring church rather than have the money sent to her and she requests that if any money is left over, her mother retains it to buy birthday presents for her nieces and nephews back home.
The tone of this letter is more business-like, and Ione reports that Ellen seems to have relapsed and has been unable to sit out, which is disappointing for all, especially Ellen who makes an effort to help herself. It is disappointing for Ione too, in that she cannot be released to do more what she would perceive as ‘missionary work’. Ione details the nutritious drinks she makes Ellen who appears unable to eat normal food. Whilst Ellen’s health has taken a down turn, the children are flourishing and occasionally naughty as Ione writes:
“the Doc ‘licks the tar out of them occasionally’ which they need like I used to, and that’s what makes it so easy for me to take care of them.”
And the Doctor himself, well he eats all the food prepared for him and complements Ione on her efforts.
The sharing of what they all have is again evidenced here; Ione gives Ellen her vitamin pills.
The missionaries employ houseboys to help with cooking and menial chores, a letter written on 1st April 1942 explains that they pay the Belgian government an annual head tax of one and a half dollars for each houseboy employed. The houseboys earn the equivalent of 15 cents a week, in this letter, Ione recounts that the houseboy built himself a bed in the kitchen, so slept on the job and had been caught stealing coffee so had his pay reduced. She also indicates that Pearl is more masterful in getting the houseboys to work quicker and do as she bids. It is evident that Pearl; has a reputation and is called ‘azi mabe’ (is bad) or ‘kusala noki-noki’ (works quickly quickly). Having houseboys can be frustrating, Ione left one making a chocolate cake and came back to find him rolling the dough out for a pie crust. Another time, he put coffee where the water should go in the coffee percolator. This is seen as wanton waste, especial when food is scarce, there are no local shops. Ione writes:
“Vegetables are so scarce, the only thing we can get in tins is peas and carrots, but there are some fresh vegetables like spinach some tomatoes and native potatoes available daily. I was able to buy Klim (‘milk’, spelt backwards, which is powdered whole milk) at Stan (Kisangani) and as cheaply as at home. We buy eggs here for about a penny apiece, but they are small and often rotten. Meat is very scarce, but we have plenty of cans. The Spam is a real treat.”
Ione is ecstatic when her belongings finally reached her from Matadi and is much amused to find tins wrapped in red and green paper. These were gifts from a church at home who envisaged her opening them at Christmastime.
Ione returns to a recurrent theme – animals:
“Bobbie Westcott brought in a beetle tonight as big as your fist. Its pinchers work like a jig saw and he looks like he’s lacquered. Bobbie cut his legs off up to the knees so he couldn’t run away and there’s still four inches left! He has him on a leash in his bedroom. I went in to make Bob’s bed after his nap the other day and stepped on four lizard eggs and kicked over a bottle with ten worms and two cocoons.”
And Ellen, who is having a good spell of health which enables Ione to visit a leper colony with the Jenkinson’s. It is evident that these early days are taxing for Ione and Pearl as Ione requests that the family back home prays for them as they struggle with the climate, the language and the people; her frustrations are evident when she finishes her letter thus:
“These dear missionaries are working their heads off from dawn till late at night, the Jenkinson’s (are) ‘way over furlough, Ludwig’s just about sick (Verna has a bad sore on her leg and Fred looks so tired – they were here a week), Doctor seldom takes his clothes off. And some of you folk could help so much. There’s no reason why the Lord’s work should stagnate in Wartime is there?
“God has his best things for the few who dare to stand the test.
He has His second choice for those who will not have His best.”
Two weeks later, Ione’s letter home has a different tone as she starts with:
“I will cause the shower to come down in His season; there shall be showers of blessing.” Ezekiel 34:26
“Trials make the promise sweet;
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to His feet,
Lay me low, and keep me there.”
During this time two letters are written to Ione, however, there is as yet no indication of when these arrive at this point. One is from Hector McMillan, and although it is clear that he sees Ione as a very ‘special’ friend there is no proclamation of love at this point. He writes:
“Would that I were accompanying this letter. I have just looked up the verse in Daily Light for this evening and the one that best applies is, “Lord, all my desire is before Thee; and my groaning is not hid from Thee. “Ps. 38:9.”
Hector had felt that he was called to serve the Lord in Brazil, but problems occurring in that region meant the Mission leaders had to reconsider the deployment of missionaries. Hector was asked to reconsider his options and think of going to the Belgian Congo instead. The Pudney’s (the mission leaders) are aware of the emerging feelings Hector and Ione have for each other and they stress to Hector that his choice must be for the right reason and not a ‘secondary’ one; i.e. Ione. Whilst getting his passport changed for a new destination, Hector discovers that being Canadian means he is eligible for military service, he is told he may be exempt under special circumstances but working as a missionary in African appears not to count. He arranges to visit Ione’s mother when he is granted 72 hours leave. He needs a letter from her saying she will be responsible for any expense he incurs as he is crossing the border from Canada to America and he reassures her that it will not actually cost her any money.
The other letter sent at this time was from Mrs Pudney, the following section is pivotal:
“Now my dear Ione, I must give you a wee line which is private, just for your sweet self. I did not feel that I should write your message to Hector, it all seemed to happen so quickly, I hesitated to bring anything about which was not of the Lord. Without any word to Hector about you, we knew of his desire to go to Congo if the way to Brazil closed, the matter was discussed at a Council meeting concerning his desire to go to Congo, but there was no mention of you in the matter at all, but solely from the standpoint of the opportunity and the open door, as it seemed then. The Council advised that a letter should be sent to Hector asking him to consider the Congo field. He did not hurry about any reply but waited before the Lord. Eventually he felt that the Lord would have him go to Congo as the door to Brazil was closed. All this development without any message from me, regarding you. Thus that has not been the influence in his decision. Once he made the decision he took steps to get his passport, in the meantime he has become of military age, it complicates matters, and we yet await the decision of the military Council with regard to his case. We are hoping that he will get ordained, in which case he could get exemption. He has no desire to escape military service, in fact it is a Mission Field in itself, but only the odd one goes out to the spiritual battle on the Mission Field and we know that for victory anywhere that will be lasting, there must be the propagation of the precious Gospel.
We went to Toronto for Easter, Mrs M. Thomas was here for two weeks and we took her back. It so happened that Hector had come to the Toronto home for a time, he did some papering and painting, and he wanted to see us also about the future. The night before we left I took him into the office and gave him your message verbally. I think he was filled with awe, to have such a precious message from you. But we talked over other possibilities, that you might meet someone else and he might meet someone else, so that until you two are definitely sure that your friendship should develop there is nothing binding between the two of you. If you both feel that the Lord is leading you together, then that must be settled between you in your correspondence. If it is nothing more than just a friendship, then no harm has been done. I have waited for four months before even mentioning the matter. The only persons who know about this are the four of us, you, Hector, Mr Pudney and I. Others have teased you both, but there is nothing authentic. Others have not spoken of you together at all, so it is now between you and Hector. If you wish matters to drop, this is the time, before anyone knows anything about the friendship. If you want things to develop, the way is open. There are many things to consider, let not mere loneliness decide for you, a life-time together is a serious matter. We love both of you and desire only God’s will for you.”
Given the length of time letters take to arrive in the Belgian Congo from the States, it cannot be assumed that they led to Ione feeling more positive at this juncture. The next letter is copied in its entirety as it eloquently describes life in Bongondza for Ione and her friend Pearl.
“Our recent experiences could hardly be classified as ‘trials’, altho’ we would not have chosen them for ourselves. Pearl is adapting herself more quickly to this strange new life; in fact, she says she feels just like she was in New Orleans, only it is cooler! Some days have been 120 degrees, but most of the time it is very pleasant and we often are real chilly. I think I notice the heat more because my busiest part of the day is thru the noon hour when I am concentrating my activities in the Westcott kitchen. However, I am gaining in weight and feeling fine all the time. I think the biggest jogs to me have been in the way of ants, millions of them, they appear in everything from your soup to your clothes; roaches and crickets; my pink and blue rayon dress has all the blue flowers eaten out already, and the edges of the bindings on all of my books are chewed; mould, especially in my typewriter, but in anything not exposed to the open; jiggers, in toes and fingers occasionally; food, swell, if you want to live out of cans all the while, but it’s a good idea to spread out the supplies and after all there are lovely things here to eat, tho’ they come rather sporadically, and when fresh meat arrives it must be eaten in one or two days or it will spoil like a nice chicken we had only eaten the wings from! One has to watch carefully to keep a well-balanced diet. But it is altogether possible, and we enjoy the finest I am sure. If one can get the boy to prepare what you want, when you want it and how, everything is lovely.
We had a strange experience last week. Our cook’s wife committed suicide, just a young girl and all because of a quarrel with Zaze over 2 francs (a 2-1/2 cent suicide). We dismissed him for the afternoon at 2:30 and by 4:30 she was dead, hung herself in their little 2 by 4 house with a few old rags of cloth. It was most unusual for these people and everyone called her a ‘bambafu’ – fool. I asked the Doctor’s cook where they buried the body and he said, “In the ground, but her heart is in Hell (Lifero)”. We went down about 5 and saw her, a beautiful girl, and poor old Zaze looked all washed-out, he’s thin anyhow, but it was an awful shock to find her dead, and he’s not a Christian. We gave him four yards of Americana cloth for a shroud and some soap to wash her; he had to report to the chief about it and then go to his wife’s people and appease them with all the spears and gifts he could find. In the meantime we are without a cook. Our baby-faced water and wood boy has been pinch-hitting, but the poor chap is in line for an operation and we hate to work him too hard. He’s so afraid of Pearl he jumps when she looks at him, and he’s so afraid of the dishes that you can hear them rattle when he carries them. He’s not used to knives and forks and we have to teach him every little wee step in cooking, dish-washing, etc. His name is Camille (pronounced Ca-meel-ie). The word we use the most with him is “asili” (finished?) but he never is! He fooled me the other day. I said, “Asili, Ca-meel-ie?” And he answered, “Malamu, Madamu!” “It is well, Madame”. But what tickled me was that it rhymed so perfectly. He arrived to prepare supper the other night at 7 P.M. I was battling away trying to get the wood fire to burn, my eyes streaming with tears from the smoke, when he arrived. He strolled in and I tried to use all my vocabulary on him, which is more now than when I last wrote, and when I finished he said words to the effect of, “Well, a fellow has to get a haircut, doesn’t he?” And I looked and sure enough, he’d had somebody cut his wool, all but a spot as big as your fist on top! He looked like a chocolate baseball bat. Some of them cut a line down the middle for a part, and it surely looks ‘ducky’.
Pearl and I have not quite finished unpacking, for as you perhaps know, our luggage arrived the first of the month, two months after our own arrival. It has been great fun getting settled in our four-room mud house. The house is old, but Doctor and Mr Jenkinson have been having the boys fix it up with new plaster and now a lovely new plaster-paint on the walls, with a mixture of mud and clay and water which makes a creamy tan. We have been washing the wood-work and putting on linseed oil, which gives a lustre and brings out the beautiful grain of the solid wood. Two of our floors will be laid with bricks soon, which will be an improvement over mud with a mat rug covering.
We have a light in each of the four rooms, all a part of the Doctor’s electric system, the latter which by the way runs a good deal of the time directly by water power from the stream and his water wheel. He is going to fix us a sink and faucet in the kitchen which will be an improvement over the old basin and pitcher or combination. We’ll also have a desk lamp. Now we’re trying to figure out what we can sew together to cover eight windows! We bro’t about ten yards of cretonne apiece, but have odds and ends that can be stitched together for more. I am using little embroidered dish towels for kitchen curtains. They say, “Wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, etc.” which is a very good reminder. Out of a cretonne garment bag, I am making three pairs of curtains for the bedroom, combining it with some muslin. The green spread given up to me by the Eunice Philathea Class serves for our twin beds and I am crocheting rose cotton on the edges to match the cretonne. We tho’t we had so much equipment, but it’s surprising how many things one needs when the rooms are large and the ceiling high. How I thank all of the folk who gave so generously, for as I have removed the things from the trunks and boxes I remember those who sewed and worked so hard to make them possible and praise the Lord for their foresight. Little things mean so much out here! And the brightly colored things are so cheery out here. Nothing is too gaudy, but pale things soon fade to nothing.
I was happy to learn that two souls accepted Christ yesterday at the hospital. They have enrolled at the baptism. Viola Walker just returned from two weeks of trekking, tired from walking about 3 hours each day, but happy that souls were saved and many Christians encouraged. How I long to go trekking. I shall when I have more of the language and learn better how to live among the natives. It is surprising how safe one is here to walk places alone. No gunmen, kidnappers, highway robbers, and the wild animals run if they see you first. The only things that don’t get out of your way are the driver ants. I saw the first ones tonight, not many feet from our house. They were going in the other direction, but we must be prepared to quickly evacuate the house if they decide to come this way. They eat everything in sight and cover all the furniture. Time out – I just saw a big rat make a dash for our washroom. I was scared to look out there for fear I’d see him again, so I just woke Pearl (it’s 10:30) and asked what I should do, “Go ahead and kill him,” she mumbled and turned over and went back to sleep again. I tho’t sure she’d be wide-eyed like I am. She has enough of the language now that she talks it in her sleep. I caught myself praying in Bangala unconsciously the other day. I think I shall quit now before I get more scared. I think there’s a cockroach after that rat out in the washroom.
Please be assured that I am very happy out here. I may sound like I am frightened to bits, but it is surprising how little these little things do disturb one. I come from a line of scaredy-cats. My aunt tho’t she saw a mouse in the kitchen and in turning to run she stubbed her toe and fell down; she didn’t wait to get up but crawled as fast as she could on her hands and knees! I’m like the old colored man who was frightened at a barking dog and when the man of the house said, “Don’t be afraid, that dog doesn’t have any teeth,” he replied, “Dat may be true, Mistah, but ah doesn’t even want him to gum me!
I have never seen such darkness as here, and I have never seen Christ in a brighter clearer truer way than since I came. He is so real and in giving me a passion for souls he has given me a passion for Himself that I have never before experienced. How I wish there were more I could do for Him! “For every drop of crimson blood thus shed to make me live, O wherefore, wherefore have not I a thousand lives to give!”
After his conversation with Mrs Pudney, Hector pens the following to Ione on the 16th April 1942:
“Words almost fail me but I will see what I can find on this typewriter that will convey something across the dark waters of the Atlantic. I had the courage to inquire about air mail; and although it appears costly, it is quicker and surer.
I would just love to see you trying to study the language, and then tell “Tony” (Ione’s glove puppet monkey that she uses for children’s talks) all that you have learned. At least you can make him consent that you are right. His little fur coat must be pretty warm.
It will soon be a year ago that you came to Toronto for the candidate period. I am sure of one thing now, that I would not miss you again when I was supposed to meet you at the station. It has been a source of pleasant memories to think back on that sweet fellowship that we had with the Lord and with one another. And then there is more recent but not less interesting candidate period down in Phila. at 1162. Days and evenings that we can never forget. What a privilege we had of seeing the Lord’s hand manifested on the behalf of His servants! The reception day is of course the outstanding event, and intermingled with that is the loss of ½ dozen doughnuts. (A prank was played on Hector whilst he was staying at the mission headquarters in Philadelphia, doughnuts went missing and no one owned up to taking them. Periodically, Hector refers to these as he has always suspected that Ione was the instigator, which she always denied.) Do I still hear you trying to evade the issue as to the guilty party? But there is yet one thing that I consider of probable serious consequence…..The Wissahickon hike. And one incident in particular; when I had the supreme and gratifying task of helping you down the hill. A trifling matter and yet what longings, aspirations, hopes, ambitions, reflections and even anticipations have coursed through my heart; the future now and then dark; now and then bright, until I must needs put down on paper, that there is a distinctiveness about you that I believe the Lord has allowed me to observe and discern.
As present this is the situation. I am without a passport. Dr Smith of the People’s Church has been used of God to suggest a plan. I am just entering a pastorate which is without a leader. I will be ordained D.V. (God willing) shortly into this ministry; then I can reapply for my passport; then a visa for the Belgian Congo; then a boat or an airplane; then Stanleyville; then Bongondza; then Ione. I better turn over the paper and change the subject.”
Ione receives this letter on the 15th May and writes back almost immediately; she supplies Hector with news of Tony:
“Tony, the Monkey sends his regards and appreciates honourable mention from you. He is becoming decidedly dusky in complexion and a bit oily from being petted by little brown hands. But he is very happy, tho’ not half so happy as his owner! My greatest thrill came a few weeks ago when I endeavoured to give my first testimony in an informal gathering; the speech was stumbling and punctuated with a few tears, but I believe they understood.”
She candidly explains her hesitancy in writing to Hector, she does not want to influence him unduly, however, her delight in hearing from him is evident as they continue to the banter about disappearing doughnuts; an incident that occurred when they met at the Mission Headquarters in America. However, she is encouraging as she points out ways in which Hector could contribute to the mission work:
“And there is a real field of service right here for you immediately, for the building and mechanical end is a real burden to the two men, who would love to be freer for their respective tasks, medical and preaching, teaching. You could step into a very big job the day you arrive without more than a word or two of the language. There is the work shop, where boards are cut and prepared for finishing the Doctor’s house, the guest house, which is nearing completion, the new church, which is the Doctor’s latest vision, etc., then, the water wheel which bursts out each heavy rain; the generator needs constant repairs; the brick kiln, etc. I have itemized in my mind a hundred jobs to ‘let Hector do’. Please hurry and come! ……
You will be thrilled at the many opportunities to make something out of nothing. Doctor was quite pleased with your refrigerator idea on the closet door, and the porch light shade out of a bread tin. Any odd things you can bring for such inventions will be a source of real joy to the two men. And bring plenty of films. Flashlight batteries deteriorate in about a week, I don’t know why. Maybe you can do something about that! By the way, my motion picture camera is at Phila., for your specific use on the way out and at any time. I was afraid it would be taken at the coast, but it wasn’t such a danger after all. ……
Now I must close and let Pearl know that I am something more than a silent image at the typewriter. Be assured that we shall be praying much for you departure. It is truly in God’s Hands.
“God holds the key to all unknown, and I am glad:
If other hands should hold the key,
Or if He trusted it to me,
I might be sad.”
On the 27th April 1942, Ione finally responds to a letter from her friend Agnes Sturman, (Agnes is an active member of Ione’s church in America) in which she graphically summarises her life at Bongondza to date adding descriptive elements not included in letters home:
“Pearl and I were so happy to hear from you. I know that your letters to the missionaries generally mean giving over your Sunday afternoon for that purpose and do appreciate the time it takes to get out such an epistle! However, the news is eaten up so readily out here and you cannot write too much.
We have followed with interest the letters in “Gospel Echoes” from Jim and June and do praise the Lord for the way He is caring for them. I do hope they keep healthy and happy. We laughed when we read Jim’s remark about the fruit ‘pai-pai’ tasting like spoiled pumpkin. We have a huge one split for our breakfast every morning and do love them very much. At first I didn’t when they served us our first at the Swed. Mission at Matadi, but now we can’t get enough. Whenever someone goes to Kole we have a new supply of a dozen or more, serve them halved with salt on, or mashed as mayonnaise in salad, or mixed with pineapple, bananas and orange juice. I tried a new recipe for cabbage salad today using the ends of the pineapple stalks cut small; is crispy like celery and tastes like cabbage.
Pearl and I have just bought some pretty pieces of ivory. It is unusual for an ivory merchant to come this far, but one has stopped here for a month. Tomorrow we are going to watch how he carves. I bought a lovely bracelet for 20 francs (about 50¢), a large sharp letter opener with fish handle for 10 f (25¢), and we bought a pair of scalloped napkin rings with a snake and fish pattern for about 25¢ apiece. That is quite high, for he has come a long way. I haven’t tho’t yet how much duty it will take to get them to America! If you would like something, tho’, tell me what you want and I’ll try to get it. We are having him make some book ends; mine with gorgeous lions on each, Pearls with native flowers, Viola with elephants. Their native art is nothing striking, but it is representative and very like the objects and people themselves. I have a little ivory man with a pointed head (many of them live near here who have had their heads bound in infancy) his hair braided round and round, pounding on a gudu-gudu (tom-tom); he cost me 50¢.
Our bedroom, where I am writing you, reminds me tonight of your wee office in the 3rd Philathea room with all of the files piled around you the day before we left! We are having two rooms bricked (the floors) today and tomorrow. Then there is one more wall to be painted (cream colored clay, water and starch) and we can move everything in its proper place. Our kitchen has one window and an outside door. Many rows of shelves and lots of cupboard space. My curtains are made of five dish towels, red, green, yellow, blue and pink. Embroidered on each are the names, Virginia Reese, Edith Eastham, Helen Newhouse, Louise Goodell, and with the fifth I have made a valance in red with Nellie Miles written across the right hand corner. I’ll bet you can’t guess where they all came from! I have them arranged in stripes to match my fiesta china and colored enamel pots and pans. Colour cannot be too bright out here. Pearl says it hurts her eyes when she goes into the kitchen! She has made rose and green draperies for the three windows in the bedroom. We have a veranda all the way around the house, and the place is almost covered with vines and large bushes. Since we came the jungle has crept up about two feet on us! One must constantly fight it back, for vegetation grows so rapidly. We don’t want to get snowed under so shall engage a gardener to cut us out soon. You know, the closer the jungle comes, the louder do we hear the chimps at night!
I am so happy here, Agnes. I gave my first testimony the other night and could hardly sleep that night. It’s so hard not to be able to praise the Lord adequately in the native language when He means just everything to me. Pray that I may speak better soon.
I wrote to Kenneth Hempstead last night and at that time felt a bit discouraged about Ellen, but she is much better today. It seems she sleeps good one night and then can scarcely sleep at all the next. You know how that is! And then she has no appetite the next day and its liquids again. She is recovering now from a form of epidemic that has been going around. Pearl had a bit of it for a few days. It causes severe vomiting but no fever. At that time Ellen’s heart seemed very weak but her pulse is normal now. If the present vaccine treatments work she will be more resistant to the constant colds and epidemics and can maybe try sitting up and walking again. I love to take care of her for she is so patient and always thinks of the family first, and insists on my getting sufficient rest. She is highly intelligent and possesses a beautiful vocabulary and is conversant on all the latest issues. She has her finger tips on the activity of every member of the family, including all the servants. She sews much and makes lovely doll clothes for the kiddies as well as clothes for themselves and her. She has everything under control except her husband, who simply adores her, but won’t get the proper rest and won’t wear pajamas to bed, in fact sometimes doesn’t go to bed. She’s crazy about him, too, and takes an active interest in every little thing he is interested in.
The kiddies are well disciplined by both parents, but have lacked Mother’s help at the table and in a few small things which I think I can help with. They are so loving and appreciative of every little thing. Missing regular school has been a handicap, for they have learned to amuse themselves in outdoor things, animals and bugs, they spend hours dissecting a fish head and cutting the eyes open, watching a lizard hatch, or teaching a goat to pull a wagon, but it is hard to knuckle down to long periods of study. Anne loves to paint and plans her own settings, maybe picks a bouquet of lovely flowers, arranges them beautifully in a rose glass vase, sketches it in pencil and then uses water colours. She reads well and knows simple arithmetic. Bob can read some but is so far ahead of the baby stuff that he must do to get the practice and is not able to read the stories advanced enough for his mind, so that it discourages him and he looks at the pictures and can tell the story just as well as tho’ he’d read it. He’s going to be a genius like his father, for he’s a stickler for details, preoccupied to the nth degree, and as smart as anything. He looks like Bob Savage used to look only has dark eyes. Charlotte is a beautiful child with honey-colored hair and brown eyes, so warm and cosy and everybody loves her. She is getting brave like the others about pain, and today hardly struggled at all when a jigger was removed. Now Anne is 9, Bob just turned 8, and Charlotte 4.
I wish I could tell you what you would like to know! Do I think Ellen will come home soon? She is planning on it and has the kiddies clothes laid out for the trip as well as her own and George’s (I call him Doctor, tho’!), but I guess the boat question is the biggest item now. If she doesn’t have another set-back and keeps on eating like she has been, she should be up again soon. She looks so well, weighed nearly 130 pounds a while ago and I don’t think she has lost much of late. Her legs look as tho’ they could carry her, tho they are quite flabby. There is no defect in their coordination in walking, only just excessive weakness. Won’t you pray much for her? Especially that she will not lose courage, she’s had such a hard time!
Please write me again real soon. Oh, I almost forgot the purpose for my writing you – to thank you for your subscription to the “Moody Monthly”. It was so thoughtful of you and I am happy to have it. That and “King’s Business” from Inez Slater are the only magazines I am getting and I surely read them from cover to cover! I have already met two of the former Moody students, Irene Paulson and Margaret Clapper, both of whom were there when I was. Thank you very much for your many kindnesses to me. You have been a real pal and Christian friend. I did so much enjoy working in the office with you one year. Truly “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”
Will you kindly share this letter with the Savages and any others who are interested? I would like so much to know how they are and Helen, too. Give Norma a hug for me. Tell her I’ve had three letters from old boyfriends, so I don’t feel I am so far away at that! G. Kissinger has written once, was quite put out that I left so suddenly without letting him come to the boat. It was best, tho’. He has left his churches now and is Dean of the Norfolk Bible Institute – Va. Tell you more later. Love, Ione
And to her sisters, Ione playfully writes:
“Hi, you old chuckleheads, you snuffy old drones, you with the bare faces hanging out, you with the ruby lips flapping in the breeze and the big splay feet! (I’ve been reading ‘Robin hood’)
I know that no matter when I write I’m just a season behind you, so maybe I had better tell you now what I want for my birthday – see if you can guess what it is – ‘tall dark and handsome and drives a crocodile V-8’
Mental Picture #1 for you: Me, taking my first bath in my collapsible tub. First getting it so as it won’t collapse. Next filling it from two pails, a hot one and a cold one. Next, draping the cracks in the door with a canvas sheet. It falls down, put it up three times and then try my raincoat over the corner of it. Success using both together. Look around for other cracks. Window is of parchment; O.K. Place soap, washcloth, towel, and powder on stool; Skid on a thousand-legged worm on the way into the tub. Scrape my foot off on the chair leg. Water too hot, put in more cold; fish out a roach and two May flies. Wash cloth is sour; get a clean one. Step gingerly into tub, its legs wobble, but safe. Sit down, but look around furtively to make sure no one is peeking in. See a hole in the parchment in the window; try to reach it by stretching from tub; feet slip, big splash, no harm done to the tub. Give up the hole. Stand up, reach for the light and turn it out. Settle down again and take a bath in the dark!
Mental Picture #2: On writing a letter. Take typewriter down from top of clothes cupboard where it’s supposed to stay dry. It is covered with mould ¼ inch thick. Wipe it off. Bring paper & envelopes. Also carbon, but roaches have chewed holes in it! Find a solid enough place to use. Feet hurt, look for bedroom slippers; shake two cockroaches out of one and one out of the other; feel funny after putting them on; shake out one more. Turn my ankle, look down at heel and something has eaten away one side of heel of slipper. Proceed with letter. Swarm of flying ants sweep in at the light under which I’m sitting. Stick in my hair and every crevise of typewriter. Clean out typewriter; find ants have left their wings all over my paper; blow it off (these are the edible ants that the natives eat). Finish letter. Envelope flaps have stuck shut, steam them open with semi-hot water; glue them shut. Stamps have stuck to paper which I put between them. Steam them off; paste them on. Letter goes on its way, once a week.
Mental Picture #3: My Day. Arise when it gets light, sometimes 5:30 or as late as 7; it gets light all at once and gets dark all at once twelve hours later. Nothing happens if it’s dark or rainy. Whistle blows, then a bugle. Morning devotions at three points, we take turns going to each – Mr Jenkinson’s workmen, Viola Walker’s girls, and at the hospital. Before we leave we set out coffee, oatmeal, and bread sliced for toast for the boy; also beat up our Klim with water for milk. Eat breakfast, have devotions, go to hospital and doctor’s respectively (Pearl and I) at 9 A.M. or later if it’s rainy. Inspection at Doctor’s to see if kiddies have eaten breakfast, washed, cleaned teeth, straightened rooms. Give Ellen breakfast and try to cheer her up for the day; help her out in the living if she’s able. School from about 10 to 11:30. A romp outside; help boy finish up dinner in time to eat at 12:30. Read a chapter of ‘Robinhood’ (Doctor has devotions with the kiddies before he leaves in the morning) and they take their naps. I spend the time with Ellen or do a thousand and one jobs around the house I have been waiting all day to do, bake, sew, sort clothing, check on silverware, china and linens. Go home at about 4, if the Doctor stops in for awhile, or leave all with the boy if tho’t wise. Go home to clean up, rest, set out supper for boy at my house. Go back to see about chocolate milk and a cookie for kiddies and Ellen. Plan supper which they eat at about 7. When Doctor comes, I leave. Some afternoons I stop in at the women’s meeting or have Viola’s little girls over. I have engaged a native to give me further instruction in the language. After Pearl and I eat supper we take a stroll to the village and gab with the women, or oil furniture, or sew draperies or write letters or visit the other missionaries. An interesting life.
To make your eyes pop; today a snake was killed on the station 8 feet 4 inches, a type of boa constrictor which squeezes you to death. It’s head as big as a saucer and body as big as a cup.
Please write me soon. I long for news. Love, Ione”
In Christ, Ione”.
Three days later, Ione writes home. She starts the letter with the following quote: “Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.” Josh. 1:9
“Be strong! We are not here to play, to dream, to drift,
We have hard work to do, and loads to lift,
Shun not the struggle; face it. ‘Tis God’s gift.
Be strong! Say not the days are evil – who’s to blame!
And fold the hands and acquiesce – oh, shame!
Stand up, speak out, and bravely, in God’s name.
Be strong! It matters not how deep intrenched the wrong.
How hard the battle goes, the day, how long.
Faint not, fight on! Tomorrow comes the song.” M.D,B.
As always, Ione enquires about the family and adds some personal information; here she informs them that the damp affects her curls so she has changed her way of combing her hair. She thanks them all for card, photos and small gifts that she has received; Christmas, valentine and Easter cards arrive out of sequence but no matter, each is valuable to her. Again, Ione captures in her descriptive narrative what life is like for her:
“If you would like to picture us here you may imagine 7 adults and three children, the only whites for many miles, living in a little slit of cleared land with the jungle pressing on both sides. A highway runs alongside, but that is a narrow road and impassable in rainy season. We are shut off from the world, but the people to whom we are sent are here and that is the great satisfaction. Tragedies are common. Another attempted suicide on the part of a fine native Christian, but he has come back to the Lord and has a wonderful victory. The rhythmic shouting and chanting of a heathen dance was heard just two nights ago for a dead baby. They brought it to the hospital, but it died immediately. The women wore grass skirts and hunched up their backs to dance for the departed. So many are brought when it is too late and they die here. Dr is intending with his frequent visits to train them to bring them in before they’ve tried the witchdoctor. It is horrible what the witchdoctors do to them. Only 7 adults to stand between these people and the blackness of heathendom. I think often of the 7 loaves that Christ broke to minister to the people, and the ‘few small fishes’ – the Westcott kiddies who have their part also in drawing people to Christ. Little Anne, age 9, said the other day she was not satisfied because she hasn’t been doing missionary work. She wants to go down to the village with me an evening a week and tell the women and children about Christ. One cannot help feeling the impulse to snatch these people from their darkness. Much prayer is needed for us that we may have wisdom and strength.
This is the rainy season and Pearl and I just finished planting ten beds of vegetables. Ma Kinso’s chickens were following close behind us but I think we managed to save some that we planted. Pearl threw the rake at one old cock and said, “If you don’t go to roost, I’ll see that you roast!”
The birds are most harmonious at this time, reminding one of the beautiful songs heard in a large conservatory in the tropical bird section. The high flutelike tones, the calls, the chatter, the sad croon of one similar to a mourning dove and in the same rhythm as the native drums; strange that even the birds sing in syncopation! It is most fascinating.
A dozen women cleared away our jungle in back and we discovered we have more bananas than we can ever use, a very large patch of pineapple, a grove of slender pai-pai trees, and much manioc, a starchy potato-like vegetable. The sunset is beautiful from this little hill when one looks thru the broad leaves of a banana tree across the black-green tops of elephant and giant trees to the pearly-rose sky. It is a veritable fairy land.
I have not wearied of my work, but am more and more interested in making a real success of caring for the Westcott’s. They have all gained in weight, in fact, I have myself. And my arms are getting big and strong. I feel fine. Mrs Westcott’s physical condition is best yet and she started playing the piano a few days ago, which gave her a new lease on life.”
Ione finally receives Mrs Pudney’s letter written in April and responds on 19th May 1942, saying:
“I have written Hector a letter (the first, in fact) expressing my joy at his plans for coming out. I wanted to write sooner, but did not want to be at all responsible for his decision and when I left I had not heard for sure yet. He seems quite satisfied to turn his eyes in this direction, and I am thrilled that it is really settled. Of course, there are many obstacles, but I am confident God can open the way if it is His Will. If the Lord shall lead him out here, he’ll find a great work waiting. There are a hundred and one jobs to ‘let Hector do’, and I’m sure he can do them very acceptably! There are some lovely single girls here and it may be that he would find another that he would like better than me. There may be someone else who would be better suited and I feel that our contacts should be only casual until he comes. It’s hard to be casual, tho’, when one is so far away! And it takes a letter so long to go back and forth. It’s true, too, that much depends upon what is said and done now. I know I would be very happy with Hector; he would make any girl happy. The question is whether he would be provoked with my queer ways, and our backgrounds are somewhat different. Yet, Dr Westcott came from the city and Ellen from the country and they are very happy. I must pray more about this and have the assurance from Him that it is all right. “Perfect love casteth out fear”, when the love is God’s and the fear ours, but I am sure it can be true also in a friendship ordained by God.”
This clearly indicates that Ione is a level headed young woman, she has been experienced many advances from men in the past during her singing career and she wants to be sure that not only Hector is the right partner for her but that she will also complement Hector and be the right partner for him.
Mr Pudney gets a more factual letter from Ione:
“Greetings in Christ!!
After having sent an answer to Mrs Pudney’s recent letter I learned from Mr Jenkinson that you have certain gifts for me in the Mission account which require disposal. I would appreciate it very much if you would send the entire amount, $40.00, to my Mother. I shall write the Thendara S.S., thanking them for the $30.00; The Church of the Open Door, Louisville, KY, for $5.00; and Mrs H.C. Bliss, Cleveland, for $5.00.
I have received a bank statement from the Banque du Congo Belge indicating that I have on deposit from the Toronto Bank (Kinso says it is the one with which UFM deals) the equivalent of $20.00. I have been wondering if this is the two month’s gifts also from the Thendara S.S. Can you verify this? Both Pearl and I have a checking account with the Stanleyville Banque du Congo Belge and any amounts may be deposited direct, as you no doubt know. Our salaries have come with the Doctor’s and we are up the date in this.
Would it trouble you greatly to send my Mother the equivalent of about $5.00 per month, should gifts come in to equal that? You may feel free to take it from any amount so long as I know which it is.
You may be sure we are all well cared for here. There is no difficulty in keeping the wolf away from the door! (Only leopards!) Food is very high and scarce, but one can manage for quite a length of time with native things. However, there comes often a craving for more fresh vegetables and meats. Pearl and I have been taking Vitamin tablets that seem to make up for some of the deficiency. It is great fun discovering what one can do with native foods.
Our contacts with Kinsos are always refreshing and helpful. They are never too busy to stop and hear of our problems and give such good advice. It is so good to know that there are two such as them on this end of the line and two such as you and Mrs Pudney at the other end! There have been many problems in caring for Mrs Westcott, and they, as well as the Doctor, have been very sympathetic. I love Mrs Westcott and shall be so happy when we shall see her able to conduct herself normally. (Thus Ione glosses over the problems that she encounters in caring for Ellen and it is only when reading a letter written much later in the year that it is evident Ellen is severely depressed, sufficient to try and take her own life and that reveals more what being able to conduct oneself normally really means.) The three little children are very cooperative and make “Auntie Ione” feel very important. They love stories and have many good books which we explore together occasionally. My work is very confining, as you may know, and I have been limited in getting the language as I should, but am studying Welles Grammar, and Machini (an African teacher, called Machini because his mother saw her first bicycle at his birth. Later, after becoming a Christian, Machini was called Machini Philippe) has agreed to come over to the Doctor’s in the afternoon to give me a lift which will enable me to progress better and still ‘hold the fort’ at their house. I still remember your remarks at the table, Mr Pudney, “Yes, I know you have it on paper, but it is better in your head!’
I am happy to observe how the Lord is blessing here. Everything is so progressive, from the building of Kinso’s new garage, which looks like a cathedral; to the guest house, a very attractive place for white patients; and now Doctor is cutting 40-foot timber for a new church building. The waterwheel is a real success; the hospital is very well organized and Pearl has everything at her fingertips. I have observed how tired Kinso looks of late, for both he and Ma Kinso do need a rest. But getting away nearly every week-end has helped some. Viola has made a number of interesting trips possible for them, for she is so able to carry on. I wish there was something I could do to help them. Today the Kinsos, Viola and Pearl have gone to the leper camp and several other villages. This is Pearl’s first visit to the lepers, altho’ she has seen a number here at the dispensary. I took the Westcott kiddies and went to the church service, at which Machini spoke. We were the only whites there, of course. Machini’s message was very good and he speaks so distinctly that even I can understand every word. Bobbie Westcott had dinner with me afterward and repeated nearly the entire message word for word. It was fascinating to the some 40 little boys who were there and even the little girls sat wide-eyed. The church was full in spite of the fact that Kinsos were away. Nearly all of Doctor’s infermiers (nurses) were there, and all the houseboys, I believe, except ours. He is a bad one. But we are praying that he will be saved and use his strong will and personality for the Lord. He is the boy I spoke of in a former letter whose wife committed suicide a few weeks ago. He had withheld 2 francs from her! Since then he has had a wild drunken spell and two big palavers with his wife’s relatives. I hear the drums beating now for the afternoon meeting which will be at the hospital today. Tonight we shall have the missionaries’ church at Kinsos instead of Doctor’s as Ellen is not quite up to par. These meetings are always so inspirational, as Kinso generally reads from Oswald Smith or the like in connection with a passage of Scripture. We are in II Peter now.
Doctor is spending an hour every evening with a score or more men getting some choir numbers ready. He does well with them. He has arranged for me to take their wives and do some group work with them. Botiki’s wife is going to write on paper the names of all the women interested; then we’ll get started. I laughed when Doctor called his group his ‘paid choir’, but he explained that each boy had to pay ten francs to get in. This to be refunded if they make good. Quite an incentive!
Pearl and I have enjoyed setting up housekeeping together. The natives call us the Mademoiselles long and short! We have a garden in now with ten beds of vegetables. The manioc stalks make nice fence to keep the Kinsos’ chickens out! We are next the K’s. Our garden is hard against the jungle and low. Then as one walks up the hill there is a pineapple (do you say grove or bed or group?) patch to the left, and pai-pai trees to the right. On up the hill one passes beneath stately banana and plantain trees with leaves twice Pearl’s length. Then perched on the ridge is a large orange tree and the beginning of a tropical flower garden with palms and cactus. The cook’s house to one side, then our 4-room manse spread across the front. We are at the head of a broad road that leads down to the main highway, and we love to come up the road and see our cottage snuggled against the hilltop with its bougainvillea blossoms waving from the leaf-roof.
How I wish you and Mrs Pudney were here! All you told us was true, and more beside, and I know I shall never be happy elsewhere. All here are praying for the next party to come out. I am happy to learn that Hector has set his face in this direction. I trust the matter of his responsibility to country will be cared for with his ordination. Although’ I’m sure he would be pleased to serve the Lord in any capacity. It is true that when one is in the place of God’s choice, one is willing to do anything. I would not be satisfied to serve as housekeeper and governess in any other place but Africa! Hector wrote me a real nice letter with some of the typical comments which Mrs Pudney would have said were ‘not necessary’!!
May the Lord richly bless you as you not only ‘hold the ropes’ but endeavour to propagate the Gospel and make known the need of foreign missions.
Yours for Souls, Ione Reed”
By the end of May, Ione experiences her first change in an African season as they move into the ‘wet’ season. She explains this in a letter sent to various people (the family and the girls who were in the Trio with her) at one time. This letter will not be sent by airmail so she starts with Christmas greetings in an attempt to get greetings at the right time of year for everyone. She writes:
“Your seasons change from time to time, but our only changes are from rain to sun to rain; always balmy, refreshing, tropical days, sometimes so humid one’s head aches with the pressure, sometimes so hot one feels as tho’ the sun were burning a hole thru the head, but always pleasant during some part of the day. The storms are terrific. I was alone with Bobby Westcott two days ago and the rain and wind was so strong that a river made its way straight thru the house before we could roll back the 9 by 12 rug on the living room floor, and that with the door closed. Enough water dropped in two minutes to make a pool with high waves in the back yard. A few days before that their brick flower house went down on one side. Also this week the dam at the water wheel burst thru. It seems what the bugs’ leave the storms finish. Our little cottage is quite secure, however, for we are between Jenkinson’s and Viola Walker, on a hill, yet sheltered by the other two. Our first little one-room house was first in line, that’s why we lost our roof.”
In another letter written just to the family, Ione expands on the impact of the rainy season:
“We have had so much rain (and I mean RAIN) that I can scarcely battle my way down to the garden. And the pole beans are ‘way above my head. But the jungle – I never in my life saw the like! The vines hang in curtains, and when a path has been forced thru, it must be a tunnel thru which one walks. I followed the Doctor’s boy thru one with the kiddies to look for a kombo-kombo tree which is good to make toys out of, and the path underfoot was all of vines, damp and green, one could not see more than a few feet thru the vegetation, not far ahead, for there were kinks and turns frequently. One could almost rub elbows with a hippo and not know it.
And the ferns, as high as trees, growing right on the trees, the waving palm branches pressing tight upon them from above; and the cry of insects and birds day and night has grown to a shrill chorus. One big bee buzzes so loudly that I can never tell whether it’s a car coming or not. He is as big as a sparrow. I almost stepped on a snail in the path last night, I thought it was a stone; it stood up about a foot high. I can see it’s no wonder the natives, as well as the Westcott kiddies, place such an importance on the value of insects and animals in their lives.”
The letter in May demonstrates that Ione has a dilemma in caring for the Westcott’s; it is not her perception of ‘missionary work’; the following section in which she describes her walk with Anna supports this view:
I have not led a soul to Christ yet, but opportunities are coming and more and more I can understand them and can talk. A native woman, Anna, walked with me to the stream this week. She helped me dig up a pretty fern and transplant it in a bowl for the house, then carried it for me and talked all the way. One part of what she said I understand quite clearly. “You are a great chief or king, you know all about the book of God”. I said, “I know not all; God in Heaven is the Great Chief. I love Him much.” “Solo?” (Truly) she said. Just a weak attempt at a testimony, but it thrilled me. Anna is not a Christian. She and her cousin, Leone, both are unbelievers.
Ione then graphically describes a social event she and Pearl organise:
“Pearl had invited the nurses up; there are four, plus Botiki, the Doctor’s right hand man. Three have wives.
It rained Friday and no one came. I had made fritters, whole lot of them, and when they didn’t show up, tried to eat them all myself and got plenty sick. Well, last night here they all came, and I had eaten up the refreshments! There were about 14 in all and they seemed to have a good time. I tried to teach them how to play spin the platter and the game of dropping clothespins in a bottle, and they surely took to it in a great way. It was so strange to spend a social evening with all black people, but they were so nice, and Botiki’s wife is a huge fat woman, and everyone laughs at her. When she got up to drop the clothes pins in the bottle, her tummy was so big she never could get them in; of course it was funny to all, and they have such an acute sense of humor. Then I let Tony, the Monkey perform and Alphonse, the ‘baby’ nurse (age 15) fell right over in his chair laughing. Abiti, the Catholic, looks just like Boob McNutt, and his wife is a chubby little good natured girl. Loma talks in a big bass voice and he and his wife, Leone, are so cute together. Then there is Antini who recently married the Nelobo of “Congo Chocolate Drops” if you have read it. Nelobo was here and was so comical and sweet. Her dress was a pretty pink flowered goods with lace on the short puff sleeves and on the square neck. It was a butcher-boy blouse type and the skirt was a full wrap-around to the ankles; the skirt and blouse didn’t quite meet at times which made a strip of brown skin between. She had a silk bandana around her head. Most of the women wear a third piece around the middle which bridges the gap and makes them look more picturesque than ever. Jacque looks like a bull-dog in the face, but has a wonderful personality and is a second-generation Christian; he is Pearl’s right-hand man and takes the broom out of her hand when she wants to sweep; he also is her Bangala teacher. We sang hymns with the autoharp and Botiki led in prayer; then served each a bit of peppermint candy stick. They all examined them closely and remarked that they tasted like ‘dawa’ (medicine).”
As in all letters, Ione responds to news received from home; she empathises with her friend Tee (one of the Trio) on her father’s state of health and congratulates her on the birth of her baby. Sections of this letter are cut by censors, however, sense can still prevail and Ione talks of two men; one a former suitor (George Kissinger) and the second being Hector.
“I had two Airmail letters from George. He is trying to play up to the roll of ‘friend’ as was requested before I left, for I do not believe the Lord is calling him out here and I do not want him to be under any obligations. I only wrote him once from Trinidad, but I think I shall write again soon. He is thinking much of Africa, but it would be a tragedy if he came out merely….. (the end is cut but it is evident she is assuming his purpose is to see her).
This next part seems to be about Hector:
“He was at the Mission Home (in America) both times when I was there…he is hoping to come out soon and the Council would like him to come here first, to (Ekoko – cut by censors) the very place where they intend to send me! He’s a nice chap and I may get to know him better. I don’t know that I’ll ever get married but I know I could never be satisfied unless it is to a missionary.
Strange how this longing has been in my heart so long and the opportunities have come to marry some fine young man, but somehow I couldn’t do it, and now I am happy and satisfied that even I shall be able to do real missionary work in Africa. I believe I am in the place of His choosing; now it is up to Him to decide whether someone else is to come into my life for this great work. “When my life is past, how glad I shall be that the lamp of my life has been burning for Thee.”
Ione must have felt the tensions to some degree as she ends the letter saying:
Oh how I wish I could have a chat with each of you. You are all so near and dear to me. Between us lie terrible battles on the Atlantic, threatening north of us in Libya, we are no more secure here than are you, but God is over all and how I do praise Him. Write soon, Mother, sometime I’d like a stapler for holding papers together, some cockroach powder and more films for 620 camera. Don’t be afraid to write or send things; they come, eventually, I think! Loads of love, Ione
Not long after this letter, there are two from Ione, one written to Mrs Alida Peckham, which appears to be on behalf of Ellen Westcott as all the information refers to the family and she ends by saying that she will send a similar letter to the Westcott family in America. The second letter, which is written to Hector is very honest and depicts the difficulties and illnesses that are part of living in Africa. Despite only the briefest encounters before sailing to Africa, Ione feels confident enough in Hector to write about things she does not share with family nor George Kissinger. Ellen’s condition deteriorates and her demands on Ione mean that the children get little schooling or attention. At this time Dr Westcott makes a trip to Kisangani (Stanleyville) and Bobbie develops cerebral malaria. Ione writes:
“I turned aside from the many duties for a few moments and read from “Streams in the Desert”, the words, ‘Make thy petition deep.’ And I surely did, which time was followed by days and nights of wondering, and then a real sign of progress, praise God. I know God answers prayer. Now, tonight, I find a new condition to refer to Him. Dr went to Stanleyville for two days and just a few hours after he left, little Bobbie, age 8, was taken with an attack of cerebral malaria. Perhaps you know the nature of this form of malaria, quite serious immediately, with nervous twitching, dizziness, a semi-delirious state, seeing things in the room, and nausea. Bobbie’s temperature went soaring and his vomiting was violent; after a few hours I had Pearl come up from the hospital and give him a quinine shot. He was quite ill for a while but now I think the shot has taken affect.”
The Doctor returns from his trip ill, his wife has a heart attack, it seems that everyone on the mission station except for Ione and the two Westcott girls are ill. It is evident that Ione recognises how little she knows of Hector,
“I wish you would write me a great deal about what you are doing, both at home and when you are away. Tell me something about your father and brothers; I remember the sister whose picture you showed me. She was so pretty; I should like to meet her. I have forgotten her name. I suppose by now you have put away your green hat and green topcoat for the hot summer days (or were they blue?). You’re probably ready to take a good swim in some lake. Last summer you were bicycling at the Pudney’s cottage, weren’t you? That must have been fun. Is there a lake near your farm?
A short time ago I made some doughnuts at the Doctor’s and they liked them so I put an X in front of the recipe I followed. I also put it there as a reminder that when (if?) you come out I shall have to make you some to take the place of the ones that disappeared at the Home, which you will remember I had nothing to do with, but still I am interested to make sure you’re well repaid for the loss. I am also saving up some cookies and cakes that didn’t get eaten at the table for you between meals; I hope they aren’t too old and stale by the time you get here. You must get fatter, tho’, Hector before you come out. You will need a little overweight to tide you over the rough spots I am sure.”
And then Ione’s frustrations bubble up again:
“I am at a standstill with language at present. Night and day with the sick has been the extent of activities of late, it is unfortunate too, for I must contact the natives so much and I feel so limited. I can ‘get by’, but I am not satisfied and it is so hard to not be able to carry on the language study of the normal missionary, but I realize I am sent first of all to remedy the Westcott situation, and then to be a normal missionary. Will you pray for real patience in this regard?”
However, she ends this letter with:
It does seem strange to be writing to you after these long silent months. I did so want to see you again before we left, but that was not possible. I remember you last when we said ’good bye’ at the railway station where we came in the train to your sleeping berth. Then came the clever little note telling us of the experiences of the night. I am reminded of you whenever I read from Betty Scott Stam’s poem:
“He’ll have a sense of humor. Ask kindly as it’s keen;
He’ll be a mighty tower. On which the weak may lean;
His patience and unselfishness May readily be seen;
He’s very fond of children, And children worship him.
He will not be a rich man. He has no earthly hoard;
His money, time, heart, mind and soul are given to the Lord.
He’ll be a modern Daniel, a Joshua; a Paul:
He will not hesitate to give to God his earthly all.”
May the Lord bless you, Hector, continually.
Sincerely in Christ, Ione.
In June 1942, Ione writes to her friend Inez Slater, another person she can honestly reflect some of her struggles and frustrations. Her letter starts thus:
My dear Inez,
“When the moon has curved a thousand times across the velvet dark,
Who will remember these bursting bombs, their futile flare and spark,
Or the pigmy rulers who strut and fume? Shadows will cover them –
But across the night will glow, unchanged, the Star of Bethlehem!”
L.S. Clark – “King’s Business”
What a blessing my “King’s Business” has been to me, ‘way out here around the corner from nowhere! I cannot thank you enough for your thoughtfulness in having this magazine sent to me. You always have been a real peach to me and have helped me in so many ways. I think the greatest gift of all was when I wanted so badly to help my little sister thru Moody and you came along just at the right time. I praise Him for your willingness to be used of Him in so many ways. Until just recently your “King’s Business” and Agnes’ “Moody Monthly” were the only mail that came for weeks and weeks. A few letters have filtered in, but I have had to lean hard on the magazines. The last letter from home was written Feb. 27 and arrived the first of April. But I shall be patient, for I know they’re on the way! I keep reminding myself that with the Lord a thousand years is as a day! And I am so happy here that I have no reason to be lonely…..
It seems so odd seeing so many black faces all of the time. My work with Ellen and the kiddies keeps me from having very much contact with them, but often Pearl goes from morn till night and doesn’t see a white person until she sees mine at night, (and that’s not so white always either!) for she works with five native nurses besides Botiki. You would be amazed at the work Pearl puts out and the neat way she keeps the hospital. Doctor has given her things to do that a surgeon studies for a long while; I can’t think of their technical spelling, but she does some delicate needle business on the lungs, deflates big tummies, cuts off big lumps, cuts people open, sews them up, gets blood all over her and pulls teeth. I have been watching some and would like to be a little help to her later on. She sent me for a bandage to tie up a little new baby the other night and after she told me four times where it was, finally left the baby and came for it herself. I ‘helped’ another time, too, – I held a light. At first I got sick every time Doctor removed one of the kiddies’ jiggers, or pulled a tooth, but I can do it myself, now. And when Bobbie had cerebral malaria while Dr. was away I was quite proud to be able to ‘special’ him night and day.
I never saw a case vary like Ellen’s. She can improve for weeks as she did the first six weeks I was here, to the point of taking a few steps by herself, and then a cold or malaria or her sinus trouble can lay her low again. ….. It is a full schedule and confines me a bit, but I love them all and do not mind caring for them. I must remember that ‘for this cause came I unto this hour’; I’m sure you are praying that I may have patience to wait for the time when I shall be a ‘real missionary’. In the meantime I am getting more of the language and customs of the people.
Ione then gives a summary of her living conditions and explains how everything they brought out with them is used, even the packaging.
“It is marvellous how the Lord supplies one’s needs. My bandages were wrapped in waxed paper, so we have a supply of that, too. And my dishes were packed in newspaper and excelsior and waterproof paper, so we have a stack of that for use. And Pearl’s oilcloth in her barrels and boxes is on our shelves already; I had not tho’t of that. Funny how one cherishes little bits of paper, string, etc. here, for you just can’t get more. We’re just about all settled; today Pearl took hammer in hand and put her wooden boxes together for a cupboard; then she hunted up an electric cord and rigged up a light over our study table. Because I am the tall one (the long one, the natives say) it fell my lot to stand on top of a box which stood on top of the flour drum and pound the nails and screws in the ceiling. Pearl says that her father was a carpenter so she made herself a cupboard, her brother is an electrician so she decided to do some wiring. I told her my great-great grandfather might have been a monkey, so I suppose that’s why I was climbing up to pound for her! Honestly, I think she could get work out of a stump. While we were eating the other day, a little ant dropped in her food, so she picked it up gently, brushed it off, and said, “Akei malamu” (go well, or good-bye). Another fell in her tea and died, so she lifted his still form carefully and stretched him on the table cloth, four legs pointing north, and two south, and said, “Akufi malamu” (die well). A lizard was busily engaged on one side of our wall and when we looked closely we discovered thousands of tiny baby spiders; the wall was simply speckled with them. After we took a big cloth and wiped them all off and stepped on those that fell on the floor, Pearl remarked drily, “Do you suppose they all had the same Mother? Well, anyway, the kids all look alike.” Life doesn’t get dull here at all, with the ants and spiders and lizards and cockroaches and snakes — and Pearl.”
Her longing for contact from home is evident in the letter ending:
“I would surely love to hear from you. Please write, for I’m quite certain it will come in a few months, if you send a letter right away. I wish you could pay us a visit, eat some of our homemade bread, canned butter from Brussels, and luscious juicy pineapple from the back yard. But since you cannot come, I know you will be praying for us. As the months pass by, we realize more and more what we don’t know about Africa. One needs such wisdom and leadership and tact. But “God is able to make all grace abound ….. that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things may abound to every good work.” How wonderful to know Him and the power of His resurrection!
May God richly bless you and enrich you in all things. Lovingly, Ione”
There is a letter written by Ione on the 29th October 1942, (recipient is not known) where she describes this month as:
‘being a turning point in my experience. I didn’t think I could go on, and I couldn’t by myself. Ellen’s spells were so bad and I was entirely incapable to cope with the situation.’
It would appear that Ellen had become accustomed to morphine, and Ione writes:
“Again Ellen tried to take her life; she turned against me, and the children seemed so difficult to manage.”
This one small sentence disguises the role Ione has been playing since she arrived; it would appear that besides being a ‘nurse’ to Ellen; she is there to ensure that she does not harm herself. It must have been very difficult for both women, Ellen watching a young vibrant Ione caring for her family and doing what she should be doing, and getting such a positive response to Ione’s presence and interventions in family life. Ione genuinely cares and admires Ellen but is being rebuffed and Ellen is seemingly ungrateful for all that Ione has sacrificed to care for her. Mental ill health was not recognised in those days, nor does it seem to be treated. It is interesting that all her physical ailments are documented, yet the rest is summed up as ‘feeling low’!
With the doctor being away and his son developing cerebral malaria, Ione was stretched. One sleepless night she turns to reading Streams in the Desert and finds these words of comfort:
“Make thy petition deep, O heart of mine,
Thy God can do much more
Than thou canst ask;
Launch out on the Divine,
Draw from His love filled store.
Trust Him with everything;
And find the joy that comes
When Jesus has His way!”
I bowed my head and committed to Him the large petition. “Free Ellen from her addiction to morphine.” Then I had peace.
Gradually, Ellen’s need for morphine reduces and Ione writes:
“To stand in the place where the Lord has put me is one of His severest tests, and to work on and under the burden of their burden requires patience. But He gives it. And how precious to know that out of the buffeting of a serious conflict we may grow strong. The grandest character is grown in hardship.”
It is hardly surprising that Ione pleads for letters, the people back home have always provided her with a bedrock of strength, now she is so far from them and her need is so great, however, it makes her turn and rely more on her faith than ever before. Whilst she refers to ‘hardships’ she is not explicit, it seems like they are too awful to name. Letter writing frees her from focussing on what she really has to deal with and is filled with eloquent descriptions of life at Bongondza.
In June 1942, Hector responds to Ione’s letter.
“I am not so fearful and uncertain now when I sit down to write to you. I was so glad to get that letter. …….
Now to tell you a few of the personal things that have happened in the past two months. I was so glad to be able to write to you and time alone will tell how much the letters I get from you will mean. I certainly need an anchor and I am glad it is in the mission field in the Belgian Congo. I know that you have counted the cost before you went. After all we have to be willing to face the future alone. It is just a pleasant surprise along the way if the Lord leads someone across our path. Since I first met you outside of 18 Howland Ave., there has been some inner attraction that has grown to be more than mere friendship. It was no accident that you found me down at the home in Phila. Altho’ I pulled no wires, yet I was so grateful for the further acquaintance that those few weeks afforded. Even when I said goodbye at the station that Sunday evening, it didn’t seem as though it would be for long. Some of these…shall we call them “spiritual inklings”… are apparently given to prepare us for what lies in the veiled future. It means that in the intervening time I shall be kept from any attachments in this country which could easily cause me to miss the will of God for my life.”
The rest of the letter is devoted to Hector’s activities and offers an explanation of how he finally decided not to strive for ordination in the Ministry but to enlist in the Air Force as a Radio Controller; he writes:
“One evening as Mr Pudney and I were walking home from People’s Church, we discussed a little of the plans for ordination and decided that since the government is rather unfavourable to so many getting ordained that it might be just as well to enquire into the possibilities in the air force for some training that would be valuable. We later heard that all the ordinations that have taken place since some time last summer are not valid, altho’ there may still be loop holes. So I went down to the air force headquarters and was told that since I have the necessary educational requirements that I should consider a course as a radio technician. Then the next morning in Mission prayers Mr Thomas prayed that I might have the voice of the Lord and not of men. Going later to my room I asked the Lord to direct me by His Word; the Still Small Voice; circumstances or even another Christian, but I wanted to know that it was His voice. As I waited before Him, a portion of a verse came to mind, “Go in this thy might…” I remembered that it was in connection with Gideon and so turning up to Judges 6, it was the first verse that caught my eye. The latter part of it was very definite, “Have not I sent thee.” All that was left for me to do was to put in my application. It was a real provision of the Lord, that one of the first ones I had to interview down there was a Christian lad by the name of Tommie Northcote, who was at the Prayer Meeting a few times last year. He was so glad to be able to help me (on the inside track). I passed the intelligence and medical tests, but as yet have not been called up. ”
Hector ends his letter with:
“Well, Ione, I would rather take the place of this letter; but when I do it will be with a greater knowledge of radio work. Who knows but there will yet be a broadcasting station on the Field. So you keep faithfully at the language, because you may be speaking and singing to thousands of darkened hearts, for Him who died for them and us.
In Christ….. Hector”
Ione’s ability to work as a missionary in the Belgian Congo is dependent on the support from churches back in America. Mindful of this, Ione writes regularly to her sponsors giving them news and description of her life. In this letter, Ione focusses more on the life beyond the missionary compound:
“At 4:30 we heard the gudu-gudu beating its tattoo, so I went out to see where the afternoon meeting would be. Jenkinson’s and Viola Walker were out in meetings with the car and Pearl was busy, so I went alone with the natives, about a half hour’s walk down the road. At every little village the head man stood from his seat on his little hillock and waited for the white lady to ‘sene’ (greet) him, which I did – after Libona, the native teacher reminded me about it. I learned how to say, -‘walk down the hill’ and ‘cause to enter into your heart’ on the way. No village seems to have more than a half dozen people in it, but many goats, chickens, and dogs. Some houses are round, but most are very small and square, made of small poles criss-crossed in squares and hand-fulls of mud thrown into the openings. The village we stopped at had a semi-circle of huts and we were led to the middle and a chair brought to me. The headman was very gracious and spoke to me in French. I heard a wheezy accordion being played and asked about it and they brought it. The head man put it in my lap and I slid my hands into either end and endeavoured to play the base notes. They were not – and someone suggested that they had ‘akufied’ – (died). I found one octave in the treble that would play and pulled the thing apart for a good push of air and brought it together again vigorously. Every puff of air that I squeezed out of it blew bugs and dust in my face but I played, “Everything’s All right in My Father’s House”!! A hum of appreciation swept over my congregation and I laid aside the instrument lest it should fall apart on a second selection. I looked around and there were 30 or 40 men, women and children sitting on everything but chairs – beds, stools, blocks of wood, boards, squares of cloth, basins, and their heels. It is not tho’t proper to sit on the ground. They were wearing a varied assortment of clothing – a few nicely dressed in shirts and trousers, the women in very dirty three-piece suits (two yards of cloth around the top, two at the bottom and two to twist in the middle), the kiddies in a loin cloth or string of beads around the ankle. They sang the hymns lustily, but there were many interruptions during the message which Libona gave, and he stopped once and gave them a talk on etiquette in public meetings. One of the interruptions was a pesky, buggy dog that insisted on the limelight; another time two baby goats raced thru the crowd bleating until they found their mother. The service lasted about an hour and then we walked home down the narrow road between the arching palms and giant trees, ferns growing at their roots. After supper we went over to Jenkinson’s for the missionary gathering and had a blessed time praying for the Lord’s work, both home and here.”
She also takes time to recount how she has used the gifts the church gave her:
“I wish you could know how I have put to use every little thing that you gave. The dresses are a real source of comfort and the careful workmanship of each is proving itself under the strain of constant wear. Our boy must wash twice a week as things mould so quickly; we have taught him to put the pembi (white) things in the moi (sun) and the langi (colored) things on the libandu (veranda) which runs all the way around our cottage. He had his own ideas about using the charcoal iron on the full-skirt gathered dresses; when I came to inspect them he had made all the little gathers into accordion pleats! And it had taken him one hour to do each dress. He was rather relieved when I told him they need not be pleated. It was such a happy surprise to find the canned goods you had put in my trunk all wrapped in red and green tissue. And you rascals – you remembered the three favourite foods of mine. We have surely been enjoying them. And I am happy to know that we are able to get more of all three here, for we can grind our own peanut butter from native-grown peanuts and sweet potatoes and baked beans are not so difficult to manage. Martha Johnson’s pole beans, corn, peas, carrots and lettuce which she bought for Pearl are growing magnificently and we have already had some lettuce. Without our own garden we should have to be satisfied with plantain and native spinach.”
A similar letter to the one above is written to another group of friends who support her, here Ione offers another aspect of life – bugs:
“The drab brown walls of our four-room mud house have been painted a cheery cream colour with a clay-starch-water mixture. Since then we have been noticing little brown tunnels where white ants were starting to come, so we dropped arsenic in them and they left – we thought! A short time ago we observed that all at once great holes were eaten in the walls and that the same ants were making nests which perforated both the sides and floor of one room. When we put arsenic in these immediately, and an evacuation took place which spread them throughout the house by the hundreds. We ran for the insect spray, but with the first spray of insecticide, a swarm of flying black ants hurled themselves into our faces, coming from the very holes of the white species! The wings fell off the black ones and they soon died, but their white friends still remain to give us new surprises weekly. The spiders are good to us and eat the smaller bugs; there are the big slow ones the size of one’s fist, the big running ones, slight, fat ones, and tiny nervous ones. We have grasshoppers, black lacquered fellows, also green and gold ones, some of them streamlined like the latest Model Pontiac car, some are sluggish and square, like a Ford Model T. We have crickets which enjoy our cotton things, roaches that enjoy the silks, and a cunning little praying mantis which cocks his head on one side as if to say, “have You prayed yet today?” Nurse Hiles, with whom I live, says she is going to write a new poem, taken from Edgar Allan Poe’s, “Bells, Bells, Bells,” and call it, Bugs, Bugs, Bugs.”
Another facade of African life is given to Ione’s nephew, Lawrence Peterson on July 1942, in a birthday letter, Ione writes:
I have not forgotten that this month you have a birthday, and since I cannot send you something yet because of the war, I will write you a letter. I am saving up things for you, though, and will give them to you when I come home again. I will bring you some elephants and big crocodiles if you like. One day I saw two elephants pulling a wagon. Their ears were flapping to keep the flies off and a man rode on the back of one to poke them with a stick if they didn’t go straight. The elephants I will bring you will be of ivory which is the tusk of an elephant. You would like the big black beetles that little Bobbie Westcott has for pets. He had three yesterday. They pince terribly if you don’t hold them right behind the head. Bobbie ties a string around them and puts it on a stick and lets them fly and they are just like airplanes and make a big buzzing sound. A big brown moth lost his wings so Bobbie made new ones for him out of paper. He tried to fasten them on with glue, but the moth didn’t like that very well!!
Today the children found six big snake eggs and they cut them open with a jack-knife and out came tiny baby snakes. Some were so tiny that you could only see a string with a heart beating on it, and some would have crawled away but the sun burned them right up. They also found a mother toad, father toad and baby toad; the mother got away, but we found her under a bush. The children made a mud house with a room for each of them in it and put sticks at the doors to keep them in. But baby toad pushed the door open and went out anyway. Anne and Bobbie and Charlotte have school right in their house. Charlotte is only 4 but she has school too and is learning to count and say her A,B,Cs. She can spell her name. Can you?
There are no other little white children here except Anne, Bob, and Charlotte. All the rest are black. And some of them are very nice. But they do not like to wear any clothes. They just wear strings of beads or a little raggedy pair of panties. As soon as a tiny baby is born they put beads around its stomach, and sometimes their stomachs get very fat and the beads break, or else it hurts their stomachs. One little boy came to the hospital with a very bad sick leg which hurt him very much. It was caused by the tight beads. The leg grew bigger and bigger until it looked like it would burst; then the Doctor cut it open and it bled very much and the little boy cried. His leg felt better then, but he grew littler and littler until he died. Another little boy came to the hospital just a week after he was born. His mother had died and his father didn’t give him anything to eat. He was very hungry. Then Nurse Hiles fed him some milk and bananas. He didn’t have a name, so Nurse called him ‘My Dollie’, so now his name is Midoli in their language. He has big brown eyes and long eyelashes and curly black hair. He laughs if you rub the back of your finger on his cheek. His cheek feels like velvet.
I think Bobbie Westcott must like you very much, Lawrence. He grins every time I talk about you and everything he makes he wants to send it to you. He may come to America soon and he has an auntie in Jackson, so maybe you’ll see him before your next birthday. He said to wish you a happy birthday.
Would you be afraid, Lawrence, if you were out in Africa and met a big black snake? Would you be afraid if a tiger came to your back door? Would you be afraid if an elephant stuck his big old trunk in your window? Would you be afraid if a hundred ants started to crawl up your legs? No, I know you wouldn’t, would you – for you would ask Jesus to take care of you, just like I do. And maybe when you are a big man Jesus will want you to come out here, too. But you must be a very big boy now and very brave and do as Mother and Daddy say. You must pray, too, that Jesus will help Auntie Ione to tell many black girls and boys about Him.
Here is a big hug for you — — — 0 — — and a kiss, too — — X — — Lovingly, Auntie Ione
In another update to the family, Ione writes:
“What fun it is when the day is done and I have eaten supper to get up and let the boy wash the dishes and then to pull down the typewriter and have a chat with the home folks. It is particularly a pleasure tonight, for I am alone. My buddy, Nurse Hiles, is off at Stanleyville for the required month of special work at the hospital there. …. The Doctor’s house is about a block away (if one can reckon in blocks out here!). I thought I might be frightened at nights, but have had perfect peace all of the time. I shall have three more weeks without Pearl, perhaps only one without the others.
The only two things that Dr warned me to carry a flashlight for are driver ants and snakes; a grey snake was killed in his flower house today. A big black snake came about a foot from Viola Walker’s head the other night. She was just finishing a bath and heard a purring sound, tho’t it was the cat with a new set of kittens, took a lamp to see in her trunk room, but couldn’t see it against the black surface of her case until it raised its head to strike. Then she ran and after she was in the next room she remembered she needed her dressing gown, so took up enough courage to go back and get that and then went and called the boy, by then the snake was missing and could not be found, which of course was rather exasperating. It made her a bit nervous to sleep there alone, so she had one of her little girls stay the rest of the evening and night with her. Dr. has been telling me what to do if drivers come in the night. I haven’t had any yet, but last night a tremendous swarm of little black ants made a raid on about 15 pounds of sugar. It was 10 P.M. and I was ready for bed, but soon put on some speed and put soapy water on them and rescued the sugar.
Enough on bugs. You will be happy with me to know that after five long months I have finally succeeded in praying and witnessing in public. I should have done this much sooner, but my work has been rather confined to white folk, you know. It has been a real sorrow to me that I could not say enough to win a soul to Christ, but just yesterday I was able to pray spontaneously, praise the Lord. Then a young man came to inquire about I Cor. 7 and his responsibility toward a wayward heathen wife, and I felt that what I said to him over our open Bibles was of some help; we had prayer together then, and to my great joy, I discovered our bad, fiery-tempered houseboy, sitting on the veranda listening. He drinks, he smokes, won’t go to church, won’t listen to hymns, and his wife killed herself because of his meanness. Won’t you pray that old Zaze will be saved; he will be a real trophy for Christ. Camille (ca-meel-ie) was operated on last week and we have a dear little Christian fellow, Andre, who will do anything for us and is praying for Zaze, too, he carries wood and water now.
Ione receives two letters from Hector, in one he refers to her as ‘My Ione’. In these, he updates her about the birth of a baby boy to their mutual friends the Goodman’s and a holiday spent with the Pudneys. Mrs Pudney also writes to Ione. It is evident she has yet to receive a letter from Ione and is unsure of Ione’s feelings for Hector but continues to sing his praises and offers support for an alliance between them. She also writes to ‘Ma Kinso’ enlisting her support in encouraging the romance.
Hector writes in August 1942 informing Ione that he has received his call up papers. Whilst waiting for these to arrive, he spends time at Howland Avenue in Toronto and builds a bookcase from two planks of wood which Hector planes and polishes, thus offering Ione an insight into what she can expect in the way of home improvements when he finally reaches the Congo. This letter is signed off ‘Lovingly Hector’.
Receiving and writing letters is a key part of Ione’s life at Bongondza, she tells of her disappointment when the courier arrives before she has had chance to finish a letter to her mother. And then:
“I have received a most welcome letter from Doris, one she had written May 5th. It was such a treat and I had waited so long it seemed, that I read it straight thru twice as fast as I could, laughing, chuckling, or looking serious, as the occasion demanded. I am sending a ‘private’ letter to her in response, but I do want to say how glad I am for the decision for Christ that you made, Doris. It’s the only real choice to make in life and you can never go wrong when you put Christ first in your life.”
In this letter, Ione’s concern for her mother’s welfare is to the fore. It would seem that lodgers helping with the house bills both leave at the same time and Ione is concerned her mother will cope financially; she writes:
“Remember I will be coming back in just two and one-half years, or before, if it is decided that I accompany Mrs Westcott. Don’t feel that I am so far away that I am not interested in home affairs. I want to hear so much. I have wondered what the rent is now, how many pupils Mother has, what Marcellyn makes now, how much more you need, and what bills have been paid. How much more is there on the funeral bill, doctor, by Wheaton, life insurance, etc.? On an average, how much extra a month do you need? Don’t hesitate to tell me, for extra funds do reach me and it may be possible to transfer them.”
And then there is the description of life, the highs and the lows:
Life does not cease to be interesting – and fascinating. One can watch the process of clay turning into brick houses and guest homes, sturdy trees falling and becoming attractive cupboards in our bedroom, coffee on bushes thru the roasting and grinding to the table, flour and yeast to golden loaves of bread, everything must come out of a sack, a can, or the jungle. Today Pearl and I watched peacocks in the top of a fifty-foot tree, flitting, preening, and screeching. A big chimp lazily swung from limb to limb one sunny afternoon in the back of the Doctor’s house. I have been alone in the house for about two weeks again since Pearl has been specialing a Belgian lady in the guest house down the hill by the hospital. I went to my kitchen at 10 P.M. one night and took a banana off the lower shelf and proceeded to step over to the table where I peeled and ate it. As I finished my eyes fell on the lower shelf again where, about 3 inches from where I had reached for the banana a slimy head poked out and a red tongue flashed. I looked under and saw a creature about a foot long, but I know it wasn’t a snake for it had millions of legs and two long fins on the end of its tail. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I couldn’t call the boy and Pearl wasn’t there, so it was up to me to kill it. I took the machete (big knife) and went after it. I wounded it in the back of the neck, but didn’t cut it off. It lay still for a while until I tried to slide a white paper under it to get a better look, and then it started performing, so I retreated for a better aim, and knocked him out this time, but left him still intact to have a further study of his anatomy. I put him in a can and saved him until morning when I learned that he was a centipede, very poisonous. Now I feel brave enough to tackle a hippo!
I have been a real Martha these past two weeks, spending much time in the kitchen. I have been sending trays for all meals to both Pearl and her patient, as well as the patient’s relatives, also to a Greek who is staying in another little brick house after an operation, besides feeding my own little family of five! Ellen has to have special things, as well as pretty close attention, and I’ve been trying to give the kiddies about an hour of schooling every morning.
There has been a deluge of white patients, five and six a day, and if they have a meal here it must be prepared by myself. Viola is overwhelmed with both the boys’ and girls’ school and women’s meetings, and Pearl must give anaesthetics, etc. So, I set my trays out at night and write up my menus in the morning when I find out what they can eat that day. It is not easy, for I have so little food to do with.
It is a real experience for me, but I know the Lord is helping and I am much better able to be a leader than before. And I am realizing more and more what it means to keep house and care for a family. My work is not hard and my hands do not show any traces of dishwater or scrubbing, but it takes a lot of mental energy to keep the boys going. When we got tied up for help, we got in a group of boys and I had charge of three on the ironing and two in the kitchen, besides the two in the yard and two at my own house.
I enjoy Pearl so much; her funny jokes are so refreshing and she is so energetic and vigorous and does things so well. We have quite a system in the house here. We have divided up our work; she keeps the washroom tidy and I the kitchen, and both do the other two rooms. She kills the congoli worms and the spiders and the hornets; I kill the roaches, white ants and lizards, if any lizards get obstreperous or are the poisonous kind. Last Sunday Pearl knocked down nine blue hornet nests and got stung by one. The centipede was really in Pearl’s class for it had many legs, but since she wasn’t there, I had to do it.
I have a new way of fixing my hair so I don’t have to plaster it down with pins – roll it over a bandana and tie it over my noble brow. I have worn out one pair of shoes and half dozen cotton dresses are too tight for my fat mid-line!
Hector is written to on the same day and the news included is very similar to that found in the family letter, however, Ione finds news that might interest him more than how she fixes her hair:
“I watched Dr’s brick machine which makes two bricks at once. All he uses is good smooth dirt, grease the moulds with palm fat and a big lever comes down and compresses it hard. He has a long shed which accommodates thousands of bricks, then he builds them up and builds a fire inside, which is the kiln. And they look fine, too. He has some forty-foot timber, ready now and sliced four inches thick for the beams some 60 houses for the operatives on his waiting list, so there is a new road which we call ‘Stump Street’, well-named for the stumps that yet remain. The jungle is so thick and dense it takes many men, or women, as the case may be, to cut even a path thru.”
It surely will be a fine experience if you are called up as a radio technician. Doctor was happy to know that, altho’ he had hoped you would be soon on your way out.
He feels your interests will surely fit in with the need on this station. I am sure the Lord will guide you very definitely. He will not let you run ahead nor lag behind. “God’s way is the best way-“
Tony spoke in Bangala to the evangelists who convened last week for the yearly Matondo (harvest). They were a lively bunch and doubled up in laughter over him. I am happy to know that the native church here has been able to support fully all of the outstation churches and their evangelists this year. Many of them have suffered real persecutions, but they have radiant testimonies and are on fire for the Lord.
Although incredibly busy, Ione and Pearl have a way of unwinding and feeding the spirit:
“This afternoon Pearl and I took the ground sheet and started down a path behind the girl’s dormitory, walked ‘way down that hill to a level spot beside a stream, in a circle of giant trees. It was a delightful spot and there we spent over two hours studying Hebrews and James together. It was a precious time. We stayed there until we just had to come back, and as we folded up the sheet we hear the crickets winding up their watches for the night. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” was exceedingly precious, and the rebuke about the tongue in James 3. It’s so easy to say more than one should when there are eight boys to keep working in four different places at once. But the Doctor has five groups spread out all over the station! If ever one were to lose his temper, it would be here. But I don’t think you ever would!”
And Ione’s sense of fun breaks through in her ending to this letter to Hector:
Sincerely in Him, Ione
P.S. I baked you a cake today, but the rest of the folk at it all up!
Ione celebrates her 29th Birthday two days later on the 17th August. She writes home:
Your letters of March and May respectively were so welcome. And just last week I received letters from both Mother and Lucille; they had mailed them in July 17 & 15. I have received four letters now from Mother.
My Birthday was such a happy occasion. Early in the morning, while Pearl and I were having devotions, Viola sent her little chocolate drops over; they gathered so quietly that we did not hear them, and then all started to sing, “Happy Birthday” first in English, “Happy Burseday, Mademoiselley,” and then in their tribal tongue, Libua. Then one of them stepped forward and presented me with a gorgeous bouquet of huge pink, wax like flowers, with honeysuckles all around them. Another followed her with a dainty little colored native basket with a big bow on it (from Vee). Another had a gift wrapped in tissue from Ma Kinso (Mrs Jenkinson) who is away for 3 mo. Her gift was an ivory letter opener and a set of cellophane lids for dishes. The day was busy, as usual, but pleasant, as Ellen usually sees to that. I went home for a little while during nap time and when I came back the kiddies had been working hard to make presents for me. Anne drew a picture of a horse on a little tray cloth which she had hemmed by hand; she also gave me some other pretty drawings; Bobbie had attempted a tray cloth also and succeeded pretty well, even washed and ironed it after his rather grimy little hands had finished it. All had made pretty colored blotter pads of different shapes, and Pearl had made little poems typed in. At 4 P.M. I made some chocolate cupcakes for a birthday cake and we had a tea party. When I went home at 7 Pearl had a lovely supper all ready and had baked some tasty little cinnamon buns. My plate was surrounded with gifts from her, each wrapped separately; a mirror, hairpins, darning cotton, hair-oil, ivory butter knife, and shoe-trees. Each gift had the cutest little poem on it. Then under my plate was the loveliest letter to me. She is so good to me and a real pal.
Whilst the Jenkinson’s have a break from Bongondza, the mission is managed by Mr George Kerrigan, who is normally stationed at a place called Maganga. Like Kinso, he is affectionately called Kerri and his wife is referred to as Ma Kerri. The Kerrigan’s came originally from Scotland and are seasoned campaigners like the Jenkinson’s. George Kerrigan first arrived in the Belgian Congo in 1922, he met Dora, his future wife who travelled out in 1926, the two were married in 1928 and it is perhaps their experiences which colour the rules that were set out for future missionaries who met on ‘the field’. George originally set up a mission station at Boyulu before moving to Maganga and setting up an establishment their; he was Kinso’s second in command.
Kerri could appear a ‘dour’ Scotsman’ but he was kindness itself especially with children as he missed the growing years of his own children, who grew up in Scotland cared for by family members. Kerri goes to Buta and fetches back supplies which includes a treat; a bottle of Grenadine (pomegranate syrup) which the girls mix with Klim to make a ‘cherry soda’. A typical ‘caring’ touch from Kerri.
In this letter, it is clear that Ellen Westcott could be flown back to the USA as the American Consul have cleared that Ione could travel with Ellen; however, the mission are reluctant for Ellen to go without her family and the Doctor does not want her to return at the start of ‘cold weather’ in the States, (perhaps not wanting the fragility of Ellen’s mental health status known to all back home either). Ione requests her family pray that the right decision is made. She ends her letter thus:
“PS: Hector writes the nicest letters. He may come to Pontiac to visit soon. What about this nice young man at our house! I suppose I don’t rate anymore since my two good looking sisters have first chance! Mother, if you put $ in your June Airmail, it was taken out!”
In the next letter, Ione describes an invasion of Driver Ants (Dorylus or also known as Siafu or army ants; they migrate as an army searching for food and eat all that goes before them. The Africans vacate their homes for this migration and return knowing all vermin have been cleared and their homes are clean. They can pick the bones clean of large animals and have been reported to kill humans).
The big feature of the week was DRIVER ANTS. We had our first initiation two nights ago at 10 P.M. A few days before they had visited the Westcott chicken coop where some tiny ducks were trying to hatch; as fast as the little things pecked the egg open the ants poured in. Two ducks had succeeded in getting on their two feet, but they were black with ants and were peeping miserably, soon to die if not helped. The kiddies found them and Anne engineered the work of dashing into the box for an egg or a duck and picking furiously, shaking the ants off her fingers before they could bite. I was afraid to try, for I’d already felt a number of times the bad pinch they can give with their big front pinchers while they stand on their hind legs. But Anne said, “Well, do you want them to DIE!” So, I swallowed hard and made a plunge and found it not so hard, but one must work fast and watch both hands as well as the little duck. We got their box outside and hopped on one foot and then the other to keep them from climbing our legs, but at last all were freed that had hatched and we cleaned the pen out.
That was in the daytime and they were not raiding, but Friday night they really raided our house. We were just nicely resting in bed with the light out when the two chickens we had under a crate on the back porch began squawking and kicking their cup over. We tho’t it might be a snake and took a light out. But no sooner had we stepped outside the door when we felt some pinchers and looked down and we were in a black pool of ants; then we started hopping and dashed in and picked them off. We made another attempt to go out, this time overturning the crate but the chickens were so dopey they didn’t know enough to move; (in the morning one’s tail was missing) we shooed them, and then stamped out to the cook house. The ground was black all the way and the cook house was covered with them. We tried pouring hot water on them but as soon as the water cooled they proceeded. By the time we got back they had started in two doors and were coming down the walls over the places where we do not yet have board ceilings. We put our clothes on, grabbed a blanket and light and went out the one remaining door and by that time they had surrounded three sides of the house. We have been told it takes them about 2-1/2 or 3 hours to raid one house, depending upon how much food is open and how many roaches one has.
We didn’t wait to watch, however, but begged Viola for a nail to hang on for the night and she graciously made us comfortable where we slept until nearly 6 A.M. There were still some there in drawers and various spots which showed us they had not missed many inches of the place. I crawled back into bed for a few extra winks and came out with a bound with one hanging on me; they were in our clothes and during breakfast one bit me in a very bad spot to get at quickly.
We were fortunate that none of our food was uncovered and nothing was eaten of value. Just a great many hornets’ nests and the hornets came on into the house where we could kill them the next morning. Little sugar ants disappeared for one day, also roaches and rats. (In a letter to Hector two days later, Ione describes how the hornet nest is demolished, leaving the hornets homeless and easier to dispatch.) Dr tells me that the only way to get rid of drivers is to trace their column to their nest, then get a native to bring a big hunk of clay which is filled with another kind of ant, small and slow, but an enemy of the driver, and break the clay over the nest. This disperses them and they run off into the forest. I don’t think I shall ever forget the sight of these millions of ants taking possession of everything we owned!
(In a letter written on 8th November to her friend Evie, Ione writes:
One of Miss Walker’s little school girls stepped into a column of the ants and because she was tiny and frightened, instead of running, dropped right down among them. Miss Walker picked her up out of them, but she was covered and badly bitten. They will eat a small child if it is not rescued soon enough.”)
Other aspects of mission life are included:
Bobbie’s chief pet this week has been a leaping lizard, about a foot long and looking very vicious with its long, forked tongue and big head. It is said to be poisonous and the natives are very afraid of them, but not Bob! He named it Lizzie and made a house for it. He took it to a party Uncle Keri (Mr Kerrigan, here from Maganga) held for the three children, and parked it outside like one parks an automobile. Uncle Keri was a bit doubtful about allowing it to stay, especially since the natives say that if it bites one you will turn into a woman! But Bobbie said, “Well, it bit me, and see, I’m still a man!” He is 8, you know.
Well, the Dr’s big food order came this week and everybody is happy. They waited so long and all that was left in their cupboard was cocoa and dried prunes and Klim. Of course, there were chickens, a few onions and the inevitable pai-pai, so we could have gotten along for awhile at their house, but they were hungry for real meat. Yesterday they had Spam and did they love it! That’s the most welcome thing out here.
Ellen has suggested so many good ways of fixing native things and it is surprising what variety we have been able to have for many weeks, but it is true, white people like white people’s food, don’t they? Today we had some popcorn from one of the cans the Loyal’s put in, and it was such a treat. But I think there are only a couple left. About one-sixth of the native popcorn pops, but one can use it if it’s properly seasoned. I need to learn so much about food, since that has been my work for seven months now. I do not know when I shall stop cooking for my big family and start teaching the native kiddies, but I am happy to be where God wants me. I have a real opportunity with the Westcott kiddies to witness. They are so open-minded and ask so many questions.”
Ione ends the letter with concern for her sister Lucille, condolences about Uncle Fred’s death and reassurance that she is well and where she wants to be.
“I am pretty well tied down to one spot and cannot get around for work among the natives much as yet, but I am learning the language and customs in the meantime. I spend about an hour every day in Bangala studying or reading the Bangala New Testament.
Lovingly in Him, Ione”
Ione writes to Hector on the 6th September 1942:
“Let us lift up our hearts with our hands unto God in the heavens.” – Daily Light today
Also, “Because thy loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.
Thus will I bless thee while I live; I will lift up my hands in thy name…
Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do.”
Your two letters of July 14 and 28 reached me Aug. 18, and I do thank you very much. I have placed the picture beside our map of Africa where I may be continually reminded of Africa – and you – together.
The letter continues with discussion about missionaries who are working in Brazil and the problems they are encountering. Two new missionaries are heading out to the Belgian Congo, Joan Pengilly from England and Verna Schade from America. Ione expands on news of the Westcott’s; Ellen is desperate to leave but her husband wants to wait, she is recovering from an abscess behind her ear and the doctor feels she will need surgery. She ends with:
“Now take care of yourself Hector. You must be quite stout when you come to the field. Don’t sit up late nights drawing girls’ pictures. I’m writing this letter in red to tell you that it will be a red letter day when I see you once more.
In Christ, Ione”.
Hector shares with Ione how he constantly thinks of her when at work:
“You may wonder sometimes how much time I spend thinking about you. Here is the answer; there is a rule in electrical work: the current passing through a wire, when multiplied by the resistance that it encounters (such as electrical light bulbs or motors) is equal to the force that is behind it — for instance a battery or dynamo. The letter for current is “I” standing for intensity or amount; the letter for resistance is “R” while the other letter is “E” for Electro Motive Force. Probably you have guessed it already. “I”one “R”eed equals “E”verything. You may be sure that I find it always on the tip of my tongue when we have to work out any equations, and that is usually several times a day. Thinkest thou not that this adds a little spice to inanimate objects?”
Hector spends Labour Day at his family home in Avonmore, he lets his father read one of Ione’s letters and his father realises the impact Ione has on his son and gives his blessing to their friendship. Hector hears that American forces reach the Belgian Congo and wishes he were part of the expedition.
Hector writes to his sister Florence:
“I had a letter from Ione this week. It was about a month coming over. She is a lovely character, and I can never thank the Lord enough for leading us together. When one thinks of all the people that we meet and yet there is one who is definitely the Lord’s choice for us. What an advantage the Christian has over an unsaved person; they chose whom they will and take the bad with the good; while the Lord knows just how to mould two lives so that they will glorify Him. I do trust that it will not be too long before I will be able to get to the Field; but that too is in the Lord’s hands.”
Hector’s letter of the 28th September 1942 contains a great deal of banter and teasing, besides responding to topics raised by Ione in her letters to him; he recounts a joke:
“There is another chap here who is attending McMaster University. He was just telling us a joke about a fishing expedition. They had a tug boat that burned coal. They happened to stay out in the lake. The only thing that they had was fish but there were plenty of them. In desperation for fuel someone decided upon a remedy. They sorted out the dog fish that were in the haul; and then set about teasing them until they barked; and threw the bark in the fire and started home…….You may be sure I laughed. We have a real family time around the table, and it makes a change from the daily routine of study.”
And further on, responding to one of Ione’s stories writes:
“Do you mean to tell me that you are more heartless than Pearl? Almost anyone can venture to kill an ugly creature, but to dispose of the shapely ones, needs a well-qualified criminal. Of course I must make allowances for self-defence. I better take note of all these things since someday I might be the victim. How do you keep track of your successes? The casing around the door must be full of nicks”
Throughout all the letters, it is evident that both Ione and Hector rely on God’s word to lead them and in this letter, Hector thanks Ione for the exert she sent him, saying:
“Thanks so much for the promise that you drew for me. Indeed the Lord’s hand is not shortened. I heard something quite good some time ago. Someone began to complain that the Lord did not show much interest since He made so little manifestation. The answer was that God’s clock struck but once or twice in a thousand years, but the wheels were moving all the time. So it is now, with me. It may seem to be rather inconvenient, not to be able to go out right away, but His plans do not necessarily run by our calendar.”
Hector’s admiration and love for Ione is not overtly stated but none the less clear in this paragraph:
“I can readily picture you and Pearl gleaning rich blessing from the Word as you sat under the lofty panoply, surrounded by the hum of forest life. But most of all the simile of the crickets – how do you think of such apt descriptions, I have listened to crickets for years but never before did it occur to me that it sounded like the winding of watches, which is the very truth of the matter. I think that I will not be satisfied until you write a book, Maybe that is why you want me for a right hand man…so I can bring you bread and water, and paper and ink while you produce compositions of international fame. But you better wait until you change your name before you become too widely known. About all, McMillan’s are famous for up until now is that of being Scotchmen. Maybe they will have a break yet. ……
Thanks once more for writing. I think this is one way at least of becoming better acquainted. I never forget to pray for you that the Lord’s guardian angels may be around and about you; that your life may show forth the glories of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; and that you may be given the health and strength and patience and faithfulness for your tasks.
“He bore on the tree
The sentence for me
And now both the Surety and sinner are free:
And this I shall find,
For such is His mind,
He’ll not be in glory and leave me behind.”
Thanks for the cake. Love, Hector”
On October 10th 1942, Ione pens a letter to her sister Doris sending her birthday wishes. Ione is missing key moments in family life such as her sisters Doris and Marcellyn’s graduation. It is now almost a year since she last saw them all yet whilst she regrets not being there, she is convinced that she the decision to be a missionary is the right one. Whilst it may not be an easy path, news has broken of the three young men all called Fred who went to South America for the Unevangelised Fields Mission (UFM) and were killed by the Kayapo Indians who they were trying to reach and minister to, it is the one Ione believes she must undertake.
Mindful that Doris has recently accepted Christ as her Saviour, Ione offers her sister advice on the trials of being a Christian, the tests that come, and even addresses the topic of boyfriends, Doris having confided about a growing friendship with a young man called Lloyd. It would appear that some of Doris’ friends have settled in long term relationships, one ‘running off to get married’. Ione does not want Doris to rush into a relationship just yet.
Ione includes funny stories about lizards dropping on a pile of nurses’ uniforms Pearl was carrying and then running down her back; at which point she dropped everything and screamed. A lizard dropped on Ione’s head and “scared me half to death”. Finally, a lizard dropped on the table, fell to the floor leaving his tail behind. Ione asked the houseboy to clear the tail away and whilst he was doing that, the head end bit his toe. Ione still has difficulty managing the houseboys as the exert reveals:
“I had a ‘set-to’ with our boy the other morning. I inspected the cook house and found his own personal clothing, which he changes when he comes to our uniforms, lying on top of the dish towels. Of course I was angry and scolded him, telling him we do not put the clothes of our body and the clothes of the dishes together. Well, he was offended and picked up his clothes and walked off and said he was going to take them so far I would never see them again. He is fiery tempered, you know, and very sensitive. He started down the hill, and I yelled for him to come back which he did, reluctantly, putting his clothes behind a bush across the street. He said he would not contaminate our yard with them. I finally got him to come within ear-shot of me and talked to him and told him we liked his clothes (filthy rags tho they are!) and wanted them back in our house, but NOT on the dish towels. Well, he finally conceded and put them in a bush beside the cook house and went back to work. One Sunday when Bobbie Westcott was eating at our house we took him out to the cook house for a few minutes and he noticed some peacock feathers stuck into the mudbricks and asked what they were for, Zaze spoke up and said, “To grease the bread tins” —well, Pearl had a fit, almost, for the peacocks around here aren’t any more free from bugs than those in the Royal Oak Zoo!”
Language continues to be a problem although Ione feels she is getting better as she explains to Doris:
“I am working on an object lesson, translating it into Bangala to give in one of Viola Walker’s children’s meetings. I will soon be able to give real messages. Up to now I have been saying things very simply but am learning how to describe things. Instead of saying, “Okangi monoko na yo” – (shut your mouth!), I can say more politely, “Otikali bi” (Be quiet). Give, (Opisi) and do (Osali) were my chief words at first, but now I can say, “Okamati mosala na yo” (Begin your work) which sounds better.”
Food is another preoccupation, a local teacher killed an animal like a goat so they had fresh meat, a change from Spam. Ione writes:
“We can get sugar here, grown in Africa; it is coarser, but otherwise just like ours at home. There is a native seed that pops like popcorn but only swells up and is very tender and crunchy like peanuts. I put some in some fudge tonight. It is called cocoliko. We are learning more and more what is good here.”
Life does sometimes prove too much and Ione shares her problems with Ma Kinso who she describes as ‘motherly’ and in another letter describes her and her husband as ‘pillows of comfort’ (see below). Ma Kinso is the epitome of an ‘English rose’, she has a genteel demeanour that hides a true pioneering core, a matronly figure and the most wonderful smile. Kinso is the most patient of men, tall, pensive, always thinking before speaking. In sharing with her sister Ione says:
“I get discouraged sometimes, because Mrs Westcott has had about twelve relapses since I came, gets back into bed and stays there for days and can’t eat. But she has walked off a pair of shoes, so I have much for which to be thankful. Pearl is studying French hard, so that she can go to Stanleyville for a month of special training which will give her a paper to conduct the medical work of the station when the Doctor leaves. She does some hospital work, too. Viola has been conducting both girls’ and boys’ school as well as the women’s sewing class and will be glad of a lift when the Kinsos get back. Dr is working from early morning till late at night. He came to dinner today at 3; he operates about twice a day, besides making bricks, building houses, a new church, running the waterpower which makes the electricity, clears the jungle back, has directed the building of some 60 native houses for pre-operatives, goes to the forest, marks trees, has them cut into boards for furniture and window frames, etc. He never stops and none of us can keep up with him. I tried to yesterday, holding down the household affairs with two houseboys, a gardener, their three kiddies plus two Greek kiddies whose Daddy has had an operation, and Mrs W. vomiting every two jerks. Dr came strolling in at 8 bells for his supper, just thirteen hours since I came on the job, he looked a little tired but was quite peppy, and I was all dragged out, went home and lost my dinner.
I find I can take eleven hours of it without a rest, but out here there is no limit and one has to sort of test one’s endurance to see how much you can stand according to the weather. I did come home for a little afternoon nap at first, but I have a woman sewing at the Westcott house from 2 to 5 which is a great help with a big family mending, but I must be there with her. I think I could manage the family all right with all of the help I have, but it’s the extra things, white patients continually who need trays, meals, teas, lunches, and whose kiddies like to play with ours and stay all day. It’s ever so much fun and I meet such interesting people, but my head often buzzes trying to think in every direction at once…..
Maybe this sounds like I am not going to stand the big task I have undertaken, but really, I am very healthy and continue to have a big appetite and am fairly bursting out of my clothes. It’s true the continual starchy diet does make one get quite fat, but the heat takes you down, so I don’t try to curb the appetite.
How I long to be cheered up by you. Loads of love to my little honey-bunny-boo.
In Him, Ione ”
This letter to Doris is perhaps more honest than ones to her mother or maybe just written when exhausted and not feeling so buoyant. It must be so encouraging to receive a letter from Hector which starts thus:
“What a privilege to let our light shine into the world’s darkness! And probably you know, by this time, a little of how great is that darkness. How I thank God that your bright and radiant life is a constant witness to the power of the Gospel!”
Hector also includes an example of how the Lord is helping him:
You will be interested to know that the average of my exams for the last month was 92%. The month before it was only 78%, so the Lord is undertaking for me. One instant is worth repeating. We had an exam in Electrical Science as I mentioned in the last letter. A part of one question seemed a little difficult to interpret. I quietly asked the Lord about it and put down an answer. Afterwards as the group of us were talking it over; their answer seemed more feasible than mine. A day or so later the teacher was taking up the paper and described the answer he expected. The class groaned under the agony of ignorance while I could hardly believe that I was right. As far as I know it was the only right answer in the whole class. I had the joy of telling some of the boys that it was an answer to prayer. Probably some of the credit goes to you out there, having your evening devotions. This was about two or three in the afternoon.”
Ione writes two letters towards the end of October, one to Dr Savage (a friend of the Westcott’s) and the other to Mrs Pudney. Ellen’s fluctuating health features in both; she makes a slight recovery so she and the Dr embark on a trip and she relapses and stays in bed for days. Ione reports that her pulse rate reaches 120 beats per minute after excursions. The Westcott’s seem surprised that those back home want Ellen back as soon as possible but it is evident the Dr has no intention of leaving Bongondza before the Spring. The doctor’s reputation has spread and the mission have a steady stream of ‘white’ patients coming for operations and who reside in a small house opposite the hospital. This impacts on Ione’s duties as she has to prepare food trays for them, but it is a task she enjoys as it helps her to improve her French language skills.
In her letter to Dr Savage, Ione again refers to the Kinsos as:
“big ‘pillows’, and one can take the least little problem to them”
Although Ma Kinso had a matronly figure and was soft and comforting, this was not the only aspect that made her ‘pillow like’; she and her husband seemed to absorb and smother difficulties as they arose and must have provided Ione with a confidential refuge when looking after Ellen proved far more challenging than she expected. As well as ‘loving’ others, Ione received ‘love’.
To Mrs Pudney she adds:
“I had another good letter from Hector last evening. I had one also from the other young man who came to your house (tho’ I have not written him since I left America he has sent four letters), and there was no comparison in the two letters. Hector’s was miles ahead. He said I was the apple of his eye and he signed the letter with love and I do believe he meant it! I’m so happy that he feels that way.
I have never been sorry, Mrs Pudney, for your good work in behalf of Hector and myself. His letters do mean a great deal and help to bridge the gap while waiting for him to come out. I am so glad he is having this special training, too.”
Interestingly, Hector also mentions Mrs Pudney’s ‘good work’ in a letter to Ione written on exactly the same day as Ione is writing to Mrs Pudney about Hector. He recounts how nervous he felt when Mrs Pudney approached him, wishing to have a ‘quiet word’. He says he feared the worst at that point:
“my heart was at a loss to know whether to go to my shoes or my throat”.
Since the conversation enlightened him as to Ione’s feelings for him, he felt he could bear anything:
“I feel that there is no price too great for me to pay, that I may be counted worthy of your affection; in other words, a Christian gentleman. And so I press on. The other evening in prayer I just had to thank the Lord that you are the most precious thing on earth to me.”
He shares with Ione a passage from ‘Upper currents’ which he believes sums up his vision of Ione:
“wherever she moves she leaves a benediction. Her sweet patience is never disturbed by the sharp words that fall about her. The children love her because she never tires of them. She helps them with their lessons, listens to their frets and worries, mends their broken toys, makes doll’s dresses for them, straightens out their tangles, settles their little quarrels, and finds time to play with them. When there is sickness in the home, she is the angel of comfort. Her face is always bright with the outshining of love. Her voice has music in it as it falls in cheerful tenderness on a sufferer’s ear. Her hands are wondrously gentle as their soothing touch rests on the aching head or as they minister in countless ways about the bed of pain.”
Yet there is so much he does not know about Ione; he doesn’t know when her birthday is and the only picture he has of her is one printed in a magazine called Light and Life which is published by the mission society:
“Speaking of pictures, you should see the dresser in this room. There is one of my home; another of my Mother and Dad taken on their wedding day (this is about the only picture we have of mother); one of each of my four sisters, and a small snap of the fifth; and then in the midst of all, the magazine, “Light & Life”, of last December, is folded so as to present to view a smiling Princess. Do you know what I have in my mind? I intend to write to your mother after this set of exams are over, which will probably be next week; and in a roundabout way I’ll ask if she has any stray pictures of her daughter that she could loan to me. But after all I have a mental picture of you that fades neither day nor night. Sometimes you are painting furniture until it glistens; or perchance seated across the table, slyly preparing some naughty remark; or maybe singing the sweet songs of Zion. Doesn’t that pretty well take in the situation down at Philadelphia? Just think that a year ago, we were getting ready for your arrival from Pontiac. My diary is going to be real interesting for the next three weeks, as I review day by day last year’s events.”
In this letter, Hector reveals more of himself, he describes adapting a table by removing a drawer and inserting a shelf to accommodate a type writer and make typing easier (a fore runner of a computer desk!) It is evident letters from Ione are as important to him as they are to her; he writes about the frustration when the mission headquarters in Toronto forward a letter from her to Hamilton (where he lives) despite him scheduled to being in Toronto later that day. Hector has to wait to get his precious letter.
In early November, Ione responds to her friend Evie and it is evident how long mail takes between the two countries, Evie sends a letter on 20 July which arrives on 18th August; another letter with a package sent on 29th June arrives on the 13th October. Despite the transit times, Ione is thrilled to receive a small hankie, a birthday gift from Evie. No packages are making it to her, so the hankie is a much-cherished gift. Evie’s birthday must have coincided with the time earlier in the year that was particularly difficult for Ione because she writes:
“I am so sorry to have skipped yours; I did want so badly to send you something and couldn’t even seem to get a letter off in time to reach you then.”
On the theme of communication, Ione describes how times are marked on the mission station, Kinso blows a whistle for the afternoon meeting; however, Machini sends messages via the talking drum:
Immediately the drum took up the call and is now beating a tattoo vigorously under the nimble manipulations of Machini, station evangelist. I cannot see him from my desk, but I have many times watched him, bending over the big hollow tree-trunk, his white teeth glistening in the sun. In half an hour he’ll beat the drum again and then start off with Libona, station teacher, a trail of school children behind, for a nearby village. Later this evening perhaps we’ll hear another drum beating down near the hospital, a wild irratic staccato for the death of a village headman; this will be accompanied by weird cries and perhaps the women will put on leaf skirts and dance; this has been going on for several weeks and they seem to get no satisfaction from it and there seems to be no end of noise and palaver. But the old headman was a heathen and refused Christ many times.
There are souls being saved continually, but it seems impossible to reach them all with the present staff. The backwoods people or ‘basenjies’ never come out and must be reached by treks to their own villages on foot thru the forest path. if there is a path or cutting one’s way if not. These paths resemble tunnels, closed in over head by the jungle thickness, vegetation many feet thick underfoot. It is in these dark damp places that numerous orchids are found, free of charge! These ‘basenji’ folk do not all speak Bangala so it is necessary to take an evangelist along who speaks Babua, their own tribal tongue. Bangala seems to be the trade language among many people, and that is what we speak, but few missionaries have learned very many words of the difficult Babuan language. It sounds to me like a series of ba’s and kwi’s. The houseboys speak it among themselves.
There are a few Bangala words that I cannot recognize now, altho’ my speaking vocabulary is limited yet. I learned three new words this morning in church. Mr Jenkinson was telling the story of Joseph and his dreaming (kuluta). He said that because Joseph was willing to eat (kulia) much sorrow (mawa mingi), God used him to cause many people to live (kubikisa batu mingi). In spite of the fact that his friends (abungaki) forgot him, God remembered and helped him (asalisaki ye). It is strange to be opening the ‘mouth’ of the house and to be ‘hearing’ pain. Their language uses common words in so many interesting ways.
As with most letters home, Ione describes life in the jungle:
“Nurse Hiles killed a scorpion in our house the other day; he was a big fellow waving his stinger high in the air; I guess I told you about the centipede I found. I put mine in a can, but Pearl just left her animal’s carcass lying on the floor and when she went back to it, it was gone – it had revived! Well, there’s only one thing worse than having a scorpion in the house, and that’s having an injured one. So we turned everything upside down until we found it again, walking bravely along. Pearl killed it again and then we went to supper. After supper we tho’t we’d put him on the table for further scrutiny and dissection possibly, but he was gone again! About that time I felt like telling Pearl she wasn’t a very good steward of the things the Lord had sent her, but we found it again, this time it was being helped along by a drove of black ants. We killed it the third time and this time it stayed dead. …….
This is a strange buggy land, and our discomforts do not cease with the visible variety either! There are any number of the tiny invisible kind that Doctor calls ‘damnosiums’ that leave big welts on the skin. Little Anne Westcott had a filarial (worm) removed as it was crossing inside her eye last week; that’s the only place they come closely enough to the surface to remove. They keep constantly moving and cause large swellings and pain. But here I am talking about bugs all of the time.
I am alone in the house again, with Pearl away in Stanleyville meeting the requirements for a medical permit. I haven’t heard anything worse at night than a chimpanzee’s wheezy squeal and a growl in the cook house. I saw two beautiful parrots in a tall giant tree and they were talking, but I couldn’t understand their language – it wasn’t even Bangala. But the way they tossed their heads and glanced sidelong at me, I have a feeling they were saying, “Pooh, what good is that missionary to our forest people” She has scarcely been off the station since she arrived!” But I looked at them squarely and said, “Just you wait until Mrs Westcott is better and she and Dr and the kiddies are safely at home for their rest – then you’ll see me pack a dunnage bag and beat down the trail into the backwoods! You’ll hear a shout that will drive you both to the topmost limb of your big tree, and you’ll hear hot fast words bearing the message that has been burning in my heart for nearly a year. Even you birds up there will know that Christ was born in Bethlehem, and died on the cross for all of those backwoods basenjies!”
Loads of love in Him, Ione”
It must have been hard for Ione to be tied to the station and the doctor’s house, it evidently not what she felt she had been called to do. So, it is unsurprising that her letter written on 9th November 1942 to Edmund Sly and the Thendara Park Sunday School in Pontiac carries so much detail about an opportunity to leave the station:
It will be Christmas time or past when you receive this, but whether late or not, let me wish you one and all a very happy Christmas. I trust Christ will be made real to you at this time. He is truly a wonderful Saviour. We have in the Bangala language words to the Gospel song, “Down From His Glory” (tune, O Solo Mio). The chorus is especially expressive: “How is the Creator, He is a Saviour, God Himself, Jesus Christ.” If you care to sing it – “Na-lingi Yesu! Nan-dimi Ye, Kulika solo kula nyo-so. Ye Mojalisa, Na Mo-bi-ki-sa, N-zam-be pin-za, Yesu Kristu.”
Yesterday at tea time Mr Jenkinson came to my little mud house and asked if I were free to accompany him and Mrs Jenkinson to an evening gathering which he had called out on a little by-path named the Bagara Road. There were folk out there who were out of reach of the Gospel message. I went in his station wagon with Miss Walker, six of her little girls which she calls ‘chocolate drops’, a native woman and her little fat crying baby, a man who begged a ride, and a station teacher. Not a bad crowd at all. We arrived in good time and immediately the big bass gudu-gudu boomed out the news that we had arrived. While Mr Jenkinson was preparing for lantern slides which he manipulated by light from his car battery, Miss Walker and I took a flashlight and crept thru the passage ways from one hut to another, discovering their fires behind them and women who were putting their pots away to come to the meeting. One must bend nearly double to enter some of the doorways.
We stumbled over a few dogs but were met in every case by a cheery greeting. These folk are backwoods ‘basenjies’ who for a great part do not even speak our Bangala, but their own tribal tongue, Babua. I learned their form of greeting then and felt their warmth and appreciation for our coming. They were fascinated by the pictures of the life of Christ, and as Miss Walker’s little girls sang, “All for Jesus” when the picture of Christ was shown on the cross, there was not a sound. All were silently watching Christ dying on the cross. Afterward a number came close to us, and one young man spoke to me in Bangala, “O, Mademoiselle, we are greatly desiring a teacher. We have had none; only one day was Mademoiselle Walker with us when she passed thru on her bicycle. May we not have someone to tell us more about believing?” I said, “Do you believe in Jesus? Has he washed your sins away?” “O, yes, Madame, but there are many here who do not know of Him.”
It was the first native heart-cry I have heard since coming here, and I cannot forget it. I am hoping soon to go to just such people with the glad news of Jesus. The hour was late, but the people still pressed close to the automobile; it was with difficulty that Mr Jenkinson turned the car around so that we could make our departure. As we journeyed home we saw in many places on the road great black masses of driver ants, but we were safe in the car. I sat with the natives in the back, and soon smelled a most unpleasant odour. It got worse, and I turned my head to get a little air. Then I heard them chewing vigorously and grinned to myself. Someone had given Miss Walker’s chocolate drops a treat of elephant meat! I turned to Pakanza, one twinkling eyed, bright-faced girl and said, “Azi mbongo?” (Is it elephant?). She and the others laughed heartily, “Boyo, Madame, azi nyama kulumba.” (Yes, it is that smelly animal). The smell left when the chewing stopped, at least that smell, and we arrived at home safely, and so happy to have carried the Gospel message to people who would never have heard otherwise. Pray for a teacher for the basenjies on the Bagara Road.
I would like to acknowledge your gifts received to date. The money has come regularly to the Headquarters in America and Mr Pudney has forwarded it faithfully. I have received $10 per month by mail beginning with Nov., 1941 until Sept., 1942, a year total of $110. This is a large amount for a group your size and in less than a year’s time. I do appreciate so much your interest and thank you over and over for your generosity. May the Lord bless every man, woman and little child who makes missionary work possible.
Please write me and tell about what you are doing. I can pray more intelligently if I have just a word, you know. Yours in His Service, Ione
On 12th November 1942, Hector writes to Ione’s mother, Mrs Reed. Theirs is an unconventional courtship and Ione can hardly take him home to meet her mother so Hector must do this for himself which he does in the following letter:
“Dear Mrs Reed:
You will doubtless wonder who this letter could be from. However I feel that I should write and tell you a few matters that concern you and yours.
Probably Ione has intimated, at some point or other, that she has made my acquaintance. But since we have been corresponding quite regularly of late, it is time that you should be informed about the present state of affairs, and just who this person is, that dares to solicit the affection of your daughter.
It might be well if I related a little of my early life, so that we will be on the ground of common knowledge. Perhaps I should start with an incident that happened a little more than twenty years ago. As a result of the flu epidemic after the last war, my mother was taken to the hospital, having contracted T.B. I have heard since that three relatives and friends, went to have prayer with her and for her. As is natural they asked the Lord to restore her to health and her family, if it were His will. But mother seemed to know the truth. She was not long for this world. She was ready to meet her Saviour, face to face; but what of those she was leaving. Praying as only mothers can, she committed her fine daughters and two sons into the hands of One who hears and answers prayer. And so she passed into the presence of the Lord of Glory.
Years have come and gone. Until I was 21, I travelled the broad road that leads to destruction. In some strange way I was restrained from going very far into open sin; but yet I was in spiritual darkness. It was at a Bible School out in Alberta, 2500 miles from our little home in Eastern Ontario, that I was saved. There I settled accounts with God; whose gentle and tender dealings I had so long neglected. The past was forgiven and forgotten; as I stood on the threshold of a new life in Christ Jesus. Prayer had been answered. Furthermore, I have had the joy of leading my eldest sister to the Lord and we are trusting for the others.
I might say that since my conversion I have never been vitally interested in anyone as a life partner, until – – – – – Well, this is the beginning of another story.
I suppose you recall sending your daughter to Toronto, for the candidate period of the Mission, about a year and a half ago. It was a time of rich spiritual fellowship as we studied the constitution of the Mission, and were taught by Mr and Mrs Pudney what they expect of their candidates. Of course, we as young people got to know each other better. From the very first I found Ione to be quite congenial; willing to share in the joys and sorrows of others. Her open-hearted testimony for Christ was a blessing to all with whom she came in contact. So, the three weeks ended and we all separated.
There was no thought in my mind of anything further. I was preparing to go to Brazil. Due to gov’t restrictions down there, they could not grant us visas. It meant a period of waiting. The opening of the new mission home in Philadelphia afforded an avenue for some of my repairing ability; and I was glad to be able to help the Pudneys in fixing up their new home. After a few days, word came through that the two girls were coming from Pontiac. That must have been a time of deep heart searching for you as you parted with one who was very dear to you. But when it is a matter of the Lord’s will, I know you would not have it otherwise. I imagine you look upon the whole affair much like Moses, “For he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” I believe the Lord must have a special place in His kingdom, for those who give of their own flesh and blood, that the Gospel of Saving Grace might be carried to the dark corners of this earth.
Thus it was my privilege to renew friendship with Ione. There was some inference that if the way did not open to Brazil, the Congo might be the next consideration, but it did not look like anything serious. It happened that I had to come back to Toronto, as my passport time had elapsed; but I do thank the Lord for the happy time we had, as a family.
It was finally decided early this year that the way to Brazil being indefinitely closed; I should apply for Africa. The difficulties began to arise with regard to military service in this country. I had to get exemption to obtain my passport again. And I couldn’t get exempted because I was not ordained. And I couldn’t get ordained since the government doesn’t acknowledge any ordinations of less than two years standing. So rather than wait for conscription, I enlisted in the Air Force. At present I am in Hamilton taking a course as a Radio Technician. However, I believe that this conflict merely postpones the Lord’s plan for my life. Probably a further preparation for His Service.
I am enclosing a little snap that was taken this past summer. I have also sent one to Ione. Air mail letters allow about one sheet of paper and a picture; so I expect that she may be sending the odd one from the Field. However, if there is one around the home that you could spare, I would appreciate having one to adorn the mantel piece.
It seems that this letter has grown to quite a volume, and I promise that the next ones will be kept to one or two pages. If you have time to drop a line some time, I would be only too glad to hear from you.
Sincerely yours in Christ, Hector McMillan
Two days later, Hector pens a letter to Ione to tell her he has contacted her mother. He admits to asking for a picture but fails to ask when Ione’s birthday occurs. He then proceeds to talk about her Christmas present (the assumption is that they are hankies but he doesn’t want to spoil the surprise so omits to say what it is):
“And now about this little Christmas gift. I was over at my sister’s place in Dunnville last weekend; and we discussed an ideal gift. Since she too is a woman I let her have first say. When she suggested these, there was very little to be added excepting approval. She said she’d be glad to pick them out and so she sent them to me this week. I am not just sure whether I shall put both in one letter or, hold one for the next time. I was showing them to Mrs Goodman to-day and asking her how a woman might make use of them. From her detailed account it appears that you may put one in a little pocket, or cuff; and maybe some time when you are at a banquet it would be nice to have something dainty to hold in your hand. But I think I can leave it to your good judgement to utilize them accordingly to feminine custom.”
He also includes some of what he has been occupied in doing:
Three more months and I will have another diploma. This brings to mind a statement made by one of the Board members in our home town high school. He said that if a person had ten years to live, he should spend the greatest part of it in preparation, in fact I think it was nine years out of the ten. The trouble is that each course I take is more concentrated than the last one. By the time I begin to study language in Bongondza, you may be expected to teach me the whole grammar in a month. Of course during that time we could converse in English else how could I extol your virtues with only a few adjectives.
Mrs Pudney writes to Ione on 17th November; whilst not breaching confidences, Ma Kinso has brought to Mrs Pudney’s attention that both Pearl and Ione have had testing times which prompts Mrs Pudney to write:
“I want to hear from you girls. Ma Kinso has written and she hoped that you would write frankly to me about your situation and this is what we asked also before you left. We knew that there would be problems and we praise God for the grace and strength given to you.
No task is easy, and yours has not been but you have faithfully ministered to those dear ones and the Lord will undertake for you. There is no doubt that the Westcott family must come home and only a miracle will bring them. We are just afraid that you and Pearl are doing far too much and that was another of our warnings, but I suppose it is easy for us to talk but when you have so much to do, it is another matter. However, provision should be made for time for yourselves and for the study of the language. I am sure that you and Pearl have grand times together and I am so thankful that you have each other as companions. I am sure too that you are a real blessing to Mrs Westcott and the family. Hector writes about each month and of course always mentions his ‘Princess’, he sure is – IN LOVE! I am so glad for you both, may the Lord bring you together in His own good time. Hector will make a real missionary and be all the more seasoned through his present experience in the army.
PS: I find the weight will not allow a letter to Pearl – Share as much of this as you can and give special love.”
Whilst life is testing, Ione finds comfort in biblical readings and poetry as seen in this letter home written on 21st November:
Dearest Mother and Family,
“The Lord, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee.” Deut. 31:8
“In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” Isa. 30:15
“Dear Lord, Thou hast new gifts for me this dawning year:
The past held ample strength for each day’s need;
And I can trust Thy love for grace and calm, for cheer
To walk with confidence where Thou dost lead.
I am aware the path will not be always plain,
For life is no smooth highway stretching far;
The past has taught me not to shrink from searing pain;
To hold as precious every honest scar.
For only as I suffer can I ease the load
Of others to whom pain and loss are new;
And Thou didst walk a vastly harder road;
Thy wounds were many, mine so very few.”
-Harriett L. George
This may reach you when the New Year is far spent and Christmas is past history, but know that I am thinking about you and loving you no matter what the season. It has been a long time since I have written anyone. It takes a lot of living, you know, to write down a very little! Just living, in Africa, sometimes is a real struggle. Every time one comes to an exasperating discovery, such as when all of the flour becomes mouldy; someone says, “Oh, that’s the Congo for you!” As we step over the threshold of another New Year, how very comforting out here to remind ourselves that come what may on any day of the year, all is known to our Father-God. What He has promised, He is able to perform, even during the uncertain and eventful days before us!!
We are safe here from danger of the War and what a comfort! I am well cared-for, thanks to the gifts of real Christians who love the Lord sincerely. And greatest joy of all, souls are being saved. Our little wood and water boy, Andre, accepted Christ after coming to the hospital meetings. There will be a baptismal service tomorrow, Lord willing, in Goa’s village, one of the out-stations nearby, where Mrs Jenkinson has been all week questioning the candidates for baptism. These people have all been won to the Lord, probably 8 or 10, by Goa, native evangelist. I visited his village last Sunday, a beautiful white sand compound immaculately cleaned, with a quaint two-room mud house for white people to stay. I have had dinner twice there. Goa’s wife, Juliana, dimpled and smiling, made us very welcome.
I attended the dedication of a new church, built entirely by the natives themselves, in a village just beyond Goa’s. The congregation of 50 could scarcely squeeze into the little building, decked gaily with palms, flowers and two Belgian flags. It was made of poles covered with mud, open on three sides, with a leaf roof. Scarcely had the service begun when a little hairy dog set up a howl to the tune of the first hymn. He was a second cousin to an Airedale and an offspring of a Scotch terrer, I think, I mean terrier! He was only one of four in church, so it was decided that all must leave on his account. Mr Jenkinson took the opportunity to present a platitude. He said if they would chase the sins out of their bodies like they chased dogs out of church, the Lord could use them. After that, during the service, whenever a dog jumped in a window, he was treated like sin itself. When the service was finished, we sat in a leafy shelter for awhile before starting the journey back and ate some delicious corn roasted in a native fire.
Life at the Westcott home continues to be interesting, yes, and complicated too, at times, when the frequent white patients need attention and there are many mouths to feed. But the kiddies are real pioneers and all turn out to make any newcomer welcome. Every time a patient leaves, little Charlotte sheds a few tears and says, “Bad news! They’ve gone, too.” When there are no other white children around, she has imaginary ones that she makes dolls and toys for. The other day they held a ‘ceremony’ for two little Greek children and then cornered them in the bedroom and told them they must become Christians. The Lord is quite real to Anne, Bob, and Charlotte. The other night after all were in bed, I heard Bobbie call out to Anne and say, “Anne, what are you doing?” She answered, “Oh, just sticking my foot out from under the covers and thinking about the coming of the Lord!” When Charlotte asks the blessing, she strings it out as long as she can until Bob reminds her, (in a heavy whisper) – “Don’t forget to bless about the food!” Then if she doesn’t catch the hint, Anne says, quite decisively for her, “For Jesus sake, Amen.”
Anne is determined that her black goat, Meggerly, shall learn to do things like a horse. She has wrecked several carts in attempts to conquer the wild spirit of her steed. She has tried to keep a saddle on her, but she chews it up. She has tried to ride her, but the goat’s fat sides just squash down under her. The other day I took pity on Anne and helped her give Meg her first lesson in the high jump, so that when she gets to be like a horse, she can clear fences and things. Well, it was great. We’d get her short legs coordinating, pulling her by a rope around her neck, she’d keep going until we came to the barrel, then she’d either straddle it or bunt it, but she never did quite catch the idea. One thing tho, she would eat like a horse, no matter what kind of a stall she had. Anne loves her goat and says it would be hard to imagine going to school or even to Heaven, if Meg could not be with her.
Yes, we take 4 grains of quinine each day. I had my first attack of malaria two weeks ago when I stopped for a few days (the gov’t warned us to cut down a bit on account of shortage), so I guess it is quite necessary. I still have a great many of the supply we bro’t out and am so glad we bro’t them. You might put that down on your list for me. The capsules I bro’t have 5 grains and are quinine sulfate. They are a bit stronger than the gov’t has been providing and not quite so quick acting but will do. The Salvation Harbour Missionary ladies’ flannel gowns & diapers will be very helpful. Any time they would want to start on children’s dresses and suits they may, too! I expect to go to Ekoko in the spring and will need ever so many little clothes. Verna Ludwig has several hundred school children and all must have clothes, if they are to be dressed at all! They’re made very simple and of any cheap material. All sizes. Bandages are so needed, too, as well as simple medicines to put on them. Boric acid, sulphur, iodine, mercurochrome, adhesive tape. By the way, adhesive tape is very handy for keeping ants out of things. We use a lot. I will need lots of school supplies for Ekoko, too, just everything. How I long to get started there! Tell the ladies, prayer is mostly needed. Loads of love in Him, Ione”
Despite taking time to write this long letter home, Ione continues with another long letter, this time to Hector:
What a joy your letters have been, tho’ I’ve neglected you so badly for two months!! I have read and reread and looked at the pictures, but it seems to have taken three cups of strong tea and a great desire to write to get this one off at 1:30 A.M. These have been strange months, and especially so these past few weeks, with their busy hours, the click, click of heels on cement or mud, going to and from sick folk, first one, then two, then three, then four and five, there seemed no end, not too wearying for a new missionary, but leaving no time for the needed letters.
The promise for the New Year is Deut. 31:8 –“The Lord He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee.” As we step onto the threshold, how very comforting to remind ourselves that come what may on any day of the year, all is known to our Father-God. What he has promised, He is able to perform, even during the uncertain and eventful days before us.
I am wondering what you are doing, if your training will soon end, if you will be actively engaged (I mean in the way – perhaps otherwise also, when the War is ended and you come to the field.) I wish I were a little flea in some of your classes. I wouldn’t bother to bite, I’d just look and listen. I’m so glad you received a 92%. It makes me so proud of you. I know how difficult the work must be and I am praying that you make a real success of this period of training. Wish I could see you in your English-made suit. Anything from England always seems to be better, doesn’t it? I have always felt that way, perhaps because my grandmother came from England.
The Field Council seems quite definitely inclined to send me to Ekoko in the spring, which matter I have been praying about for some time. It seems my heart will jump right out of my throat when I think of it, for that was the church’s first desire also, and I have felt that I have been marking time so far as the Lord’s work is concerned. But I must know also that this work which I am now doing is of Him, too, and “for this cause came I unto this hour.” If the Faulkner’s go there soon, as they plan, they will take up the work of the Ludwig’s, and then I will help them when Ludwig’s go home on furlough in spring. There are several hundred children there and a real challenge for missionary work, tho’ so untouched and so difficult to maintain. Pray much for this new step in my life.
Pearl has been in Stanleyville for her month and is due back this coming week. I shall shout hurrah for I have been terribly lonely. I never have been alone, tho’ often I wished I could be. Well, I’ve had a chance and don’t like it so well after all. I think the main difficulty is that I don’t have anyone to talk to, and it’s so dull talking to oneself! Of course, when I say I am alone, I mean from 9 P.M. to 7 A.M. for I’m at Dr’s a good deal of the rest of the time. But when I come home I hate to find the house empty. I wish you could do something about conditions like this!
I have five letters to acknowledge from you, beginning with your letter of August 13 which arrived Sept. 8, just after I sent my last letter to you. The other four came in less than a month in every case. Thanks so much for all, especially the pictures. I don’t know which to talk about first. I’m glad my name could be of some help to you in remembering your I, R, and E’s. I am happy you were at your own home for Labour Day. How I would love to meet your Dad and sisters and brother. How I would love also to hear you say, ‘dear, and ‘apple of my eye’ out loud!
Well, it has been a hour well-spent, talking to you this way. I’ll promise not to stay up so late again if you’ll just keep a steady line of letters coming.
“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” Yours in Him, Ione
If Ione is struggling with work she did not exactly envisage doing, Hector too has his frustrations but realises that he too is doing the Lord’s work not exactly as he envisaged and he writes to Ione on the 28th November 1942:
“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” –Heb. 6:10
“Perhaps I better start off with a rich morsel of Spiritual food, which was gleaned last evening in a Bible study class that a pastor of one of the evangelical churches is conducting for his congregation. He is taking a study of “Christ in the tabernacle”. The boards of the tabernacle were a source of real information and application. They typify the believers. These boards used to be in the rough forest, with shifting ground and sand for a foundation. Now they are set upon a foundation of silver, which not only supports them but also separates them from their former state. They are still in the world but they are not of it. Then, too, they are overlaid with gold. No matter what they were before, the gold covers all alike. One might not notice a particular board but its absence would be drastic. I was thinking to myself, that the boards would witness all the activity around the tabernacle; and then began to wonder what Heaven would be like. I believe that there will be plenty of exciting things happening, where Christ is the centre. Surely the Lord will have little surprises for us just as He has here in this life, one of which I will tell you a little later. It’s best to keep the good news until the last. Now don’t you read way ahead.”
He writes that Mrs Pudney has offered an invitation to spend Christmas with them but as he only has three days leave, he declines and opts to visit his family. Mrs Pudney has also offered him a small room at the top of Mission Headquarters as a permanent base and they joke about decorating the walls with mud to prepare him for living conditions in the Belgian Congo.
It is evident Hector feels his mission work starts now in the following paragraph:
“There is a group of young people in Toronto who have taken upon themselves the task of supplying the Christian boys in the armed forces, with gospel tracts. They call their group the Christian Commandos Committee, and they sort of supply us with ammunition. I wrote to them about two weeks ago and received a lovely letter back with a fine selection of tracts. They promise to pray for us and make contacts in Christian homes where we are made one of the family, when we have leave. Already I have had some good opportunity to use this literature. As you might know, it is necessary to have someone in the supply room at the technical school. There are two such shops, where they keep tools, meters, and all sorts of radio equipment; which we get out for an hour or two on “checks”. Each student takes a turn at this. So as the Lord opens the way I am able to have a word with them and leave a tract.”
He then recounts his experience of having an electric shock when testing a transformer, the force threw his hand away violently and he was fortunate that it both hands had not been involved and writes:
“I was not long in recognizing the Lord’s presence. There are certainly just as many dangers right here at home, as there are in the dense jungle.”
Hector also learns he cannot put hankies in airmail letters and voices concern about the present he sent Ione. He is also mindful that airmail must be limited weight wise however, he still copies the response he has had from his letter to Ione’s mother, Mrs Reed. He obviously made an impact communicating directly with Mrs Reed. She writes:
“It was just grand of you to write to me and I do appreciate your interesting letter so much.
“It is so hard to wait upon God when one’s heart is longing so much for the thing you know God has called you to do. One of the lessons that I have been so surprised to learn, is that after the Lord speaks to one about a certain work and puts a great love in one’s heart for that work, or in other words, prepares the heart first that we may be willing, then He prepares the way; and oh, how hard that in between is for the servant of the Lord.
You will be included in our prayers and I hope that whatever the Lord has for yours and Ione’s life will be revealed; for I feel sure that you both are so worthy of His best, and you both deserve your hearts desires. May His pattern be unfolded and His plan be fulfilled. As Ione so often has quoted, “God has His best for those who stand the test. His second best for those who will not have His best.”
In response to this letter, Hector makes plans to visit Mrs Reed in person in the New Year.
Hector has a routine of writing to Ione once a fortnight regardless of whether or not he has heard from her. He writes again on the 14th December 1942 recall events of a year earlier:
“A year ago next Wednesday will be a memory of one thing in particular; your last glimpse of the shores of America. I suppose you are quite a seasoned missionary by now, at least in the physical realm. It is so good that your health has stood up, especially when you have such a great responsibility. Remember those two ladies that we sat with in the restaurant in New York. How interested they were in your going out to the field, and so surprised that you were not afraid!”
At this point, Hector is staying at the mission house in Toronto, there are two girls also staying there preparing for the Medical Mission and they fall into talking about their plans. One, Velma is impressed by the tablecloths and matching napkins he has stowed in his trunk for his home once in Africa. It appears Velma was interested in a ‘young man’, unfortunately, when he went abroad he married someone else and Velma warns Hector that going out to be a missionary with no marital prospects is certainly different; a thought that had not occurred to Hector until this point. Hector then relates his chance encounter at a railway station:
“It’s wonderful all the contacts that the Lord gives His children. I have met several other Christian lads out of the four hundred odd who are attending the radio classes. And then last evening when coming over from Toronto, I got separated from some of the other lads who were with me; and got talking to a soldier just as the train was coming in. We sat together and as usual the conversation got around to the things of the Lord and I found out he was a Christian. He has about three brothers and about the same number of sisters and they are all saved. What a happy family they are! He is in the dental corps and finds his work quite good. We had a grand time together and the trip seemed so short. It was so much better than having to listen to some of the terrible talk that is so prevalent these days. The way I got separated from the other lads, was that one of them was accompanied by his brother-in-law to the platform. He started in cursing and swearing, so one of the boys mentioned to him that I was a “minister”. He said that didn’t make any difference and started right in again. As soon as he had to stop for breath I told him that there was a cure for that kind of talk, but that didn’t seem to interest him. So, I left the whole crowd and walked leisurely away and then met this Christian soldier. I later thought of the verse that suggests that we part company with those that are despisers of the Lord’s mercy, and how richly He rewarded me. Almost like Pilgrim’s Progress, when Christian met Faithful and was accompanied by him on his journey.”
Hector again ends the letter with “Lovingly yours, Hector”
Ione ends the year with a letter to Marcellyn, wishing her a happy birthday. It starts with two promises drawn from the promise box:
“Can a woman forget?…yes they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” Isa. 49:15
“He stayeth His rough wind in the day of the east wind.” Isa. 27:8
Instinctively, Ione feels that these words are meant for Marcellyn but owns that they apply to her also.
Ione has heard from her mother that her sister Doris has gone to California and Ione is desperate for news of her.
“I have spent eleven months in one spot, which is very strange for me, and I think I know the path between here and the Doctor’s with my eyes shut. But I do have opportunities for service and shall be taking women’s meetings for a month beginning Monday next. There are 400 people gathered at the hospital just now whom we are trying to reach daily with the Gospel. They come in yearly for medical aid.”
At last, Ione feels she will be doing ‘missionary work’ she signed up for, however, she has been very busy serving the Lord – as she terms it – being a Martha:
What a time we have had these past two months! Every member of the Westcott family was ill at once. November is the hardest month here and one after the other had colds and Ellen had a bad relapse of pneumonia. She is just recovering now. A few days after the last child was out of bed we had guests for over the holidays; all of the missionaries from Boyulu and Maganga (U.F.M. stations) were here, in fact, everyone but the Ludwig’s. Pearl and I entertained two girls at our house, and I was hostess at Dr’s for two there. Then the various families and groups rotated for meals. It kept me hopping, keeping things going in two places, and Ellen was quite ill all of the while. I was so weary toward the end of the ten days that one night when I prayed I almost fell asleep and caught myself saying, in the presence of the three other girls here, “And dear Lord, take us all to California”- I guess Doris was unconsciously on my mind. The girls laughed at me, for two of them are from England and said they hoped the Lord did not answer that prayer since they want to go home soon. It was a precious time for all of us, for we see so few white people and real Christians are scarce. Many of the whites who come here for treatment or operations have black wives and have terrible diseases.”
As she looks forward to the coming year, Ione hopes that the Westcott’s travel back home which will release her to go to another mission station called Ekoko to help with the boy’s school established there; Ione writes:
“I want to be in the centre of His Will. He has given me peace while being a Martha for a year, so I shall be happy wherever He sends me. I count this year as my wilderness experience. It has taken just that to bring me to the place of real service for Him. I have been battered and knocked about a bit, so to speak, but “A bruised reed shall He not break-“ and I believe out of it will come a field of service heretofore yet unknown. I have come to the place where I feel that I shall die if I cannot win souls for Christ.”
Ione ends with description of Thanksgiving and Christmas:
“I tried to make a real Christmas for the kiddies here. They had a paper tree – a nice size and we made decorations from bits of wrapping paper and parts of Christmas cards, little baskets, candles, etc. They had tinsel, and that with the home-made chains and little imitation icicles, it looked quite nice. A big tinsel star was at the top. We put it on a wicker table beside the stone fireplace. We mended some velvet poinsettias and pinned them on the curtains, tied red bows around candles, and made a huge wreath from African holly for over the fireplace. The three children hung up their stockings and I worked until midnight making popcorn balls, roasting peanuts, making fudge, for you know we could not run down to the store for anything. We had a few tins of walnut meats. Then we filled in the empty with small combs, perfume, etc. The kiddies were quite happy on Christmas morn. Ellen was quite ill but tried to be cheery for their sake. We served tea to 17 that evening (missionaries from two other mission stations joined the team at Bongondza, Ione and Pearl have two guests and the doctor accommodates a married couple. One of the adults dressed as Santa and distributed gifts to everyone. It transpires in a letter to Lucille in January 1943 that Ione herself played Santa! Whilst Pearl looked after their guests, Ione managed the Westcott household and their guests). For the Christmas dinner at Jenkinson’s we had roast duck and dressing, cabbage, potatoes, other vegetables, a real English pudding and mince pie – not bad!
Did I tell you that on Thanksgiving I made pumpkin pie for the Westcott’s out of pai-pai – it tasted nearly like it. I was happy on Christmas because I had made the children happy, but there was a little sadness that I had not heard from home and could send nothing. There is nothing out here that I could send except ivory, and that is so heavily dutied or banned entirely that folk have discouraged me from sending stuff. I have a nice collection for you all, however of knives, forks, spoons, salad sets, pickle forks, napkin rings, little elephants, etc. I trust you will accept my love. I cannot be stopped from sending that – nor can it be censored! Take good care of our family.
Lovingly in Christ, Ione XXXXXXX”
Hector writes to Ione on 30th December 1942, he had hoped to be visiting Ione’s family but all leave had been cancelled so he had to make do with a phone call, after several attempts he finally got through; mother and sisters had been at choir practice. Hector describes his Christmas with family:
“It was nice to be down on the farm again for a few days. There is always plenty of fun, or at least we seem to have a good time. It was nice to be able to repair the radio; put a ventilator in the kitchen; sit down to help eat a 15 lb. turkey; conduct family worship; help with the chores around the stables etc & etc. Then I went down to see some more of my sisters in Montreal. One of them has her first little girl, named Barbara. Of course, it isn’t hard to convince a mother that her baby is the very best in the universe. But really this one is quite charming. I was able to get her a little play suit and there happened to be three booties with it. I guess the extra one is to serve as a spare tire, in case of rationing.”
Hector too ponders on what the New Year will bring:
“The next month will be a critical one. It will mean plenty of study and concentration. It is now or never. It is really amazing the scope that this course covers. We must be the nearest people on the earth to fulfilling that long aimed-at reputation for knowing everything but it is at that point that we realize how little we do know. I sometimes feel like the little boy who was supposed to write a composition on a football match. He let nearly the whole period go by and then wrote these few words, “On account of rain, the game was postponed.” Exams seem to have the peculiar ability of hitting you where you don’t live.
This New Year is fortunately shrouded in mystery. The very thought of its uncertainty makes us draw closer to the Lord. HE measures it out to us in minute little things; each one furnished with 60 wings; they fly along on an unseen track, and never a moment ever comes back. Yet every one that goes by makes me happier that I am a Christian. As one person said, “If the Lord failed, I would be bankrupt”. That seems to indicate a whole-hearted dependence on Him, who keeps us by the power of God.”
Hector also has other disappointments; lack of mail from Ione:
“The mail coming from Africa must have been placed in a rocket plane that has missed the earth altogether. Three months without news from you seems quite a while but it will be more precious when it gets here. This letter is two days overdue, but I wanted to have definite news about this present situation. But even at that I think it will have time to get in the overseas mail. It appears from the calendar that I won’t be writing again until next year. The next 26 letters will be from most any part of the globe.”
Thus ends Ione’s first year in Africa, it has been exciting yet testing, as she says, her wilderness experience and by this she refers to the 40 days and nights Jesus spent in the wilderness. There are aspects of her life which she has graphically described, the vegetation, the animals, the language; yet some aspects are given scant words, like Ellen’s illness. There is just one glimpse of what that involves. Whilst many of Ellen’s troubles are physical she is mentally unwell also, fragile and has reached breaking point many times. Ione has often felt at a loss about what to do. Pearl and Ma Kinso have provided her with the support she needs but it is evident her faith, her reliance on God’s will have given her peace and strength to continue. Her new-found friendship with Hector and the letters from home are of great solace but she never knows when they might arrive.
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