Focussed and Fighting: Life and Death
In January 1952, Ione picks up on a phrase her fellow missionary used ‘Prayer must be focussed and fighting’. In a letter summarizing the previous year, she enumerates the challenges they faced month by month and how the challenges were faced and issues resolved.
For a family living miles from any stores, the Lord provides in the gifts they are sent, Ione writes to Peggy Reh:
Hector was so pleased with the beautiful tie and sox and is saving them for Sundays and special occasions. He has some grey trousers. Do you know that the overalls fit the three boys exactly? They could put them on right away, and I was thankful to find them lightweight and not too warm for this climate. I hardly know what to say for the lovely dress. It is just what I would have chosen myself, and the right style for nursing a baby. Thanks so much for it, and also for the apron. I can make shirts for the boys out of the seed sacks; just the thing. You would have laughed at the boys as they saw their toys. Kenny made straight for the motorcycle, Paul chose the train, and David the racer car. These things have caused them no end of pleasure. The balloons I am rationing out, and also the bubble fluid, and the books and crayons are put away for a while, as we have to remember there are some birthdays ahead, and another Christmas! John’s yellow nightie is just right for him, also the panties. You were thoughtful to use the kind of paper you used for packing! Also for lining the box with plastic which I can use on beds or table; the plastic sack will be my diaper bag for travel. I think the thing we cheered the most over, though I am ashamed to say it, is that you sent candy in a tin, and it preserved it perfectly! We have had candy before, but never has it come in such perfect condition. The chocolate bars were firm and cool, and did not start to get soft until I moved them to a jar, to keep the ants out. Then, of course, we ate them which was no trouble at all! The suckers and others in the sacks will last a little longer so we have not started to eat them yet. I appreciate having the container for a cookie tin. I am going to use the muffin mix this week, as the package was damaged and it will not keep long. I never heard of such a thing – with blueberries right in the package, as well as paper cups! Thank you so much. The hamburgers will be grand, not having had any for so long. We have already used the salmon and one of the tunas; also the meatballs. The prunes and peaches will keep fine in their secure packages. Thank you so much for everything. It was a lot of work and expense for you, but we surely do appreciate it.
I am so thankful you do pray for us. We cannot get along without it.
We are beginning a new year now and I will be gathering together my women as soon as I can get them out of the forest. They go back in the cooler parts of the forest just now and fish, etc. It will be well into March before they all are back. But I am having a little meeting next week to see how many will come; I think I will serve them a cup of tea and some cookies. Then we will have a prayer meeting with them, and announce the coming events. There should be around 50. Pray that these women will grow in grace. Most of them are Christians. I am happy to be working with them but am thankful for every opportunity which allows me to go out to the villages, for they are needier. When my children are a little larger I can get out more, and will eventually organize a native Gospel team to sing and give testimonies as I used to in America. Will you pray for this? I have the singers in training in music class, but they cannot go out by themselves, as they are not advanced enough yet in the things of the Lord.
I must close now. Another snake appeared yesterday – just a small green one, near the bed where Hector was resting on the sleeping porch. He killed it with his bedroom slipper, and we went on with our rest. I forgot to ask him if he threw it outside, and when I did think of it, he just joked about it, because I always make such a fuss about snakes. Now I finally learn that he did NOT throw it out, and dead or not, it has disappeared! I looked everywhere, so I guess it revived and is hiding somewhere. To me that is more serious than it seems, for it just might not be a baby one, as we tho’t yesterday, but one of those miniature vipers. Well, such is Africa.
A wildcat in our washroom two weeks ago with two open doors between him and us until the wee hours of the morning when he made a noise and Hector shot him!
All for now. With much love to all, Ione
And to Mrs Wideman, Ione writes:
Hector was so pleased with the shaving set. He needed those items very much, and has put them to immediate use. I have noticed how carefully he is rolling up the end of the shaving cream as he uses it. My cologne stick makes me feel quite “glamorous”. Those aprons are grand and I was needing some. Do you know we had the lemon pies today, that is, one of them for today and one to eat tomorrow for Sunday dinner? They turned out very nice and the flavour was unusually nice, in spite of the fact that I had only one egg to use instead of the four that were supposed to be used for the two packages! The ready-mix packages have been especially appreciated just now, as we have been unable to get flour for some time. The last time Hector went to Stanleyville he managed to bring about 20 lbs. but that has had to be rationed among four households. We have dried corn, tho, and we shall extend what we have with cornmeal. Our main diet right now is rice, and that is quite satisfying when one doesn’t have bread. Of course, we have some tinned things which we can draw from, tho not too frequently. I have been able to can tins of tomato sauce, pineapple, wild meat, marmalades and jams. The fudge mix you sent was a real treat and we do thank you. The chocolate bits didn’t last long enough to become cookies, for we passed them out little by little as children’s candy. They are still enjoying the suckers. They arrived in very good condition.
I wish you could see how much the children enjoy drinking with their straw sets. It says on the package these will help the children to drink more milk, and Hector laughingly said he wondered if there was a way to get them to drink less for ours do go heavy on the milk!! David still “blows” instead of sucks, but will soon learn I think. He insists on having his Elfunt every time the others use theirs. They have been having fun stringing the wooden beads. They stack up nicely like blocks, too. And the magic slates are a marvel to Kenneth and Paul. But most popular of all have been the toy trucks. They are grand. John’s darling afghan is over him right now. It is cool and light and just fine for this climate. It has such luscious colours and makes his little grey bed look pretty. It is just the right size, by the way! I have found that aluminium foil very useful for wrapping things.
And the Kleenex I am using these days by the handful as I have a bad cold. Thanks for the gift papers, too.
Sometimes, Ione does not know her benefactors, on 3rd February she writes
Dear Bonnie Hilton Prayer Group, Box 78A, R.R. 1, Tufton, Georgia:
Your gift of $5.33 sent April 18th arrived some time ago, but thru an error the thank you letter failed to get off to you. We want you to know that this money was greatly appreciated and we do thank you for your thoughtfulness of our needs.
We would like to know more about your prayer group. And who is Bonnie Hilton? We were told that your gift came thru Prairie Bible Institute so would like to know the connection. We spent five months there during our recent furlough, and enjoyed the Lord’s richest blessings. Hector’s uncle is one of the founders of the Institute.
Our work here is always a pleasure to us, tho’ many problems present themselves. We are faced with material advancement but find spiritual progress slow. Do pray with us for a real revival.
I hope you all realize how missionaries appreciate being prayed for. Several times this year we have felt at certain times that someone must have been remembering us in the homeland. I don’t suppose a wildcat would hurt a person if he could get out of it. But once in the white man’s house it was a problem how to get out. He had smelled ripe bananas and had squeezed thru a square opening near the sheet metal roof. He ate all of the bananas that he wanted and began to get a bit worried toward morning, and in his restlessness he tipped over some basins. I didn’t reach for the flashlight as I got up for we have become more or less accustomed to the luxury of electric lights. But in order to illuminate the wildcat I had to step to the centre of the room where it was and pull the cord! It was more than I had courage to do, so I went for my husband, and when he came he flashed the light into the beast’s eyes and this blinded him for a few moments while I ran for the gun. I didn’t want to waken the children or my sister Marcellyn who was visiting us. Hector took the gun, and as I held the light on the staring cat’s eyes, Hector prepared to shoot. Having some difficulty because of shaking and holding the light steady, I anxiously whispered to Hector, “Hurry and shoot!” At this point, we both heard sounds of my sister getting up. Hector said out of the side of his mouth, “I can’t shoot!” “Why,” I said, breathlessly. “Marcellyn’s coming and I don’t have my bathrobe on!” So I carefully turned the light over to Hector, ran for his robe, put it around his shoulders and as Marcellyn appeared he shot and the creature was dead with the first shot, a good thing as our quarters were rather crowded. Perhaps you were the ones who were praying for us just then.
May the Lord bless you in your service for Him.
In February Ione anticipates saying goodbye to Marcellyn who is due to go back to the States:
Marcellyn will soon be leaving us, and it will surely be lonely. It looks as tho she will get off on a river boat that leaves Stan Feb 28th, and sail early in March from Matadi. You will no doubt have the facts right from her. I expect she will sail with Verna Schade and Olive Bjerkseth. I do hope so, as it will be good company for her.
I cannot write very much as I am trying to nurse John at the same time and must finish in time to straighten the house before everyone comes for the daily prayer meeting. Every time I press the left hand keys John scowls, but he won’t let go, and doesn’t miss a beat in his sucking! He’s not going to miss much by being the fourth! He takes the activities of the others in stride, and enjoys watching them.
I am enclosing the latest negatives, not waiting to have them developed, for sometimes that takes a long time. I tho’t you’d like to be the first to see how I look with four children. Since that picture I have a permanent, so look better now, with my hair cut and curled. I am feeling just fine. I’d appreciate a copy of these if you can have extras made.
We got a package from Peggy Reh this week, a Christmas one. She gave me a nice grey and red dress and Hector some socks and tie. Toys for the children, and a big tin of candy bars and suckers, etc. And our Montgomery Ward order came which had overalls for the boys and Hector and some T shirts, socks for me, and sheeting. The sheets you gave me are just now going to pieces. I tho’t they would do me all term so didn’t bring out any this time. But sun and boiling certainly ages them quickly.
Marcellyn will tell you about the wildcat that got into our house.
Hector had shot another like it on New Year’s Day which was asleep in a tree just behind our house. Then just a few nights ago, a liboli, another type of wildcat which is not striped but black, got one of our roosters and its cries pierced the calm night air, waking Paul who sat bolt upright with hair sticking up and eyes wide. He was breathless while I told him what had happened. Then he sought Kenny and said, “Kenny, a wildcat’s got Nikola’s chicken, it’s run off with him and he’s not even hanging out of the wildcat’s mouf! Now, (with anguish in his voice) what will Nikola say to his chicken?!” And yesterday, a little green snake decided to come up thru the boards in the floor of the sleeping porch where Hector was resting. He squashed it with his slipper and turned over to go back to sleep. By the time I could throw it out it had disappeared. We are quite sure it was just a baby one, but I hope it doesn’t grow up by the time we find it! John has had his first jigger, and Paul his first filaria worm in his eye, so, on we go, living in Africa.
The Lord bless you and meet every need of yours which I so long to meet.
Sometimes Ione feels the need to guide her donors, as seen in a letter written in February:
Dear Mrs Ratts,
You would be happy to know just what happened at the little girls’ party at Christmas time. Perhaps I had written to tell you that the money you sent would be used for them, since it was a group of girls who sent the money. I was able to provide a Christmas dinner for them of rice, corned beef, greens, onions, decorated sugar cookies and chocolate drop cookies, and peanut brittle. While they were eating I slipped a bright coloured comb beside each plate and each one shyly said, “Merci”. The amount of rice each girl ate was the size of a small football! They did especially enjoy this treat, as they have no one just now to provide such things for them. The single girl who usually has charge of them is on furlough. Thank you very much for your gift to them.
Do you know there is something your gifts could do that these little girls would like? Save their stubs of pencils from school and send a boxful sometime. You probably would find it a little difficult to send a package, like it is for sending money, but you will find it is possible. Try just a little one first and I will tell you whether is comes all right. It takes a long time, but you have been patient to wait long months to hear from me, and by now appreciate that you are a great distance from Congo. So the girls will not lose interest tho’ it takes a long time to find out what happened to their pencils. Something they could sew is baby bonnets, for I am swamped with an influx of native babies and I like to give each one a bonnet but haven’t time to make them (too busy making things for four little boys of my own!!).
Forgive me if these suggestions are impertinent. I just happened to think of them as I wrote. I pray the Lord will bless you as you meet together. Perhaps He would like some of you girls on the mission field someday. They must begin to get ready while they are young. First of course, they must know Jesus as a personal Saviour. And then, they must know that if they cannot win others to Jesus at home, they could never expect to on the mission field. The Lord is looking for someone right now whom He can use.
Write when you can. I will love to hear about them. Lovingly, Ione
In March, Ione gets disturbing news from her friend Pearl about the Brown family with whom she stayed when giving birth to John and writes to them on 7th March:
Dear Doctor and Raunie,
I’m afraid to write for fear that I might be wrong, but I feel definitely constrained, for it must be true, the news that I have heard about your little Timmie. Our nurse Pearl Hiles was in the mountains for a holiday and the news came by radio that Timmie had died. Oh, dear friends, how I long to tell you of my own sorrow for you. Your precious little lamb, so ready to go, but so hard to part with! He was on my lap such a little while ago. I was putting his shoes and stockings on, he listened so quietly to the story, and now he has slipped away to gladden Jesus’ heart! I just now looked at Paul; the hair is the same, the eyes are blue, only one month apart, their height was nearly the same, both a good healthy colour, and I marvel that I have mine, and yours is gone. I could have spared mine more easily for I have two others tinier, yet the Lord has chosen Timmie, and taken him from your arms to the Father’s bosom. How close that must bring you to Heaven, how real must be the Saviour, how keen must be His Presence! What an experience! To meet the Lord in this manner, to know the depths of such sorrow. To find that underneath ARE “the everlasting Arms”.
No doubt you will soon be going home for furlough, as I hear that Dr Becker is back. If I don’t see or hear from you before then you will know that I cherish dearly the weeks spent with you, and little Timmie, and will be praying for you.
Lovingly in Christ, Ione
Hector had hoped to get his friend – Brother Murray, out to Congo the previous year to minister to the mission at the conference. The postponed visit seems more likely to happen as seen in a letter written by Hector on 17th March 2017:
As the plans now stand I will likely be meeting you at Stanleyville on June 5th. We will have to spend the night there and come on to Bongondza the following day; a distance of 160 miles. After a few days here we will go farther north to another station called EKOKO about 200 miles from here. After a week or ten days there we will try to visit a station of another mission where the Lord has done wonderful things through the years. The folks in charge of that station now are good scotch people that I know you will love them right away. This detour is a little out of the way on our return but well worth the extra travelling.
On our return to Bongondza we will try to arrange a trek to some of our outstations maybe including a trip to the pygmies.
Our other two stations are east of Stanleyville which means that we will have to retrace that part of the journey of 160 miles. Stanleyville is the capital of the province and there is even some talk of making it the capital of the colony. It has outgrown itself several times in the past ten years.
Maganga is about 80 miles on the eastern route and Boyulu, where Chester Burk lives, is another 60 miles beyond that. Since you plan to spend six week with us, this journey will be during the first few days of July. I will leave the arrangements for those three weeks with Chester, and he can get you back to Stanleyville to catch your plane on the 21 or 22 of July.
Mrs Burk has finished her course in Belgium and plans to come out here to Congo this present month.
As regards the seasons, the rains of June taper off for the little dry season in July. The Big dry season is Jan-Feb. However don’t let the mention of rain discourage you. I think I have only seen it rain all day about once or twice since I’ve been here. It is hard to keep the sun from shining in the tropics. We are just 2 degrees north of the equator.
I think you will be able to get in all you want in the six weeks visit. We will try not to make it too rushed for you. During the day you will have plenty of opportunity for quiet time; while the evenings will quite likely be occupied with meetings either with natives or white people, or both. I’m sure it will be an interesting time for you to see things as they actually are on the field. A short hurried visit doesn’t always give a true picture. I know the missionaries each want to have time to talk over his or her particular phase of the work and your counsel will be greatly appreciated.
Let us hear from you again as you have opportunity to write. Yours in Christ, Hector
Although there are no letters describing this visit, it did occur and was successful – Hector mentions it briefly to his Uncle Fergus on 13th July:
We have very much appreciated Mr Murray’s visit to our Congo field. Everyone, missionary & native, recognized him as God’s messenger and we all thank the Lord for the refreshing messages.
In August, Ione expands on the visit:
The Lord used that man (Mr Murray) in an unusual way; many decisions were made, some first ones, and others for Christian service. We are seeing results afterward, too. It seemed that whether he spoke to us who know English or by interpreter, the Holy Spirit bro’t the message right to the point and it hit its mark. Even the pygmies understood, one could tell by their faces, and when an invitation was given to them, 4 accepted Christ. It has been so refreshing to us all, and there is an entirely different spirit on the station between whites and blacks. We do thank the Lord for his visit. I wish more visits could be made by pastors and Christian laymen. We surely do need it.
In a letter Ione writes on 31st March to Morris and Josephine, we learn that the Kinsos have returned – Hector drove to Stanleyville taking David with him. As with most letters, this one starts with thanks for packages and gifts, Ione detailing how each is used and how what she cannot used is passed on – this time Rosemary Carter at Ekoko gets a ‘darling’ yellow dress. Ione usually includes some aspect of her work:
Before I close I must tell you about our African women’s “reception” which we held in honour of the arrival of Mrs Jenkinson from England. The women planned it themselves, something brand new for them, and I helped provide the refreshments. It was held at the home of one of the oldest members, or rather in her front yard under an orange tree. There were about 40 women and 20 children. There were speeches, gifts of eggs, chickens, rice, peanuts, for her, a message from her, and in the middle of it all we heard a scream down on the main road and almost every woman jumped to her feet and ran. A baby which had just come from the hospital after treatment had gone into convulsions and they tho’t it was dead. The mother of the baby rushed back to our group (she was well-known, tho’ not a Christian) and threw herself on the ground. It was difficult to calm everyone down, and get the child on its way back to Pearl Hiles, who treated it immediately and it recovered. Then the sugar which I had put at the disposal for the occasion was used indiscreetly and about half were served, the rest were informed that they would get no sugar, so the rest politely (but firmly!) stated that they would have none at all! So I hastily sent to my house for more sugar and put a Gospel Recordings on the Victorola lest we have a fight in the meeting over it. In times past these little forest women have flown at each other in a rage over such a little matter. Then the sugar came, and there was enough to put a tiny spoonful in the hand of each child as well, so everyone went away happy.
Do pray much for the women this year. It looks like I will continue to have them, even tho Mrs J. is back. She will be having the Bible School. Pray, too, for much stealing which is going on. (The Congolese did not view stealing as ‘theft’; they did not ‘steal’ from the jungle, they merely used what was at their disposal. As the missionaries seemed to have so much and received so much, the temptation would have become sizeable and therefore problematic.) We never know from day to day what will be missing next. The Lord can take this terrible thing away by changing their hearts. Lovingly in Him, Ione
Although the Kinsos are back, it has not resulted in a change of responsibilities for Hector and Ione; they continue doing what they were doing and Kinso and Ma Kinso take on new roles, Kinso is nominated Field Director and takes on Treasurer duties, probably because Stan Nichols and family go on furlough.
Technology starts to make an impact, more people have radios so despite being in remote areas, the missionaries know some of what is happening further afield. In a letter to her mother on April 21st , Ione writes:
Mary Baker has a tape recorder (presumably an item she brought back from the States when she returned from furlough), and we are busy making recordings to send home. I may be able to send you one if you know someone who has a recorder. We have done about ten minutes of schoolboys’ songs, some greetings from natives with interpretation, and I expect to coach a woman today with her “speech” which I will interpret. Hector got the drum being beaten yesterday for church, and expects to get native sounds while the workmen push a log. It takes about an hour to use a whole tape. I’m going to send one of Mary’s to First Baptist in Pontiac and ask them if they wish to send another to be filled. I’ll have to ask Mary again the name of the recorder so that you will know it. Only that kind of tape can be used.
So at last Leone Reed gets to hear what her grandsons’ sound like.
In May 1951, Ione writing to her sister Lucille describes a recent fatality:
Hector was driving Verna Schade’s pick-up truck with plantain and sand on it and four native men. Hector got the sand as a favour to his head mason who was wanting it to finish his house. Kasi asked two of his brothers and a relative to go along to help dig and the younger brother was Kpodo (Pwodo), our houseboy who has worked for us for four years, a Christian (baptized). Kpodo decided to ride on the back half of the running board and Hector did not see him. Kpodo’s brother told him twice to get into the truck, but the young man apparently tho’t he’d have a thrill, so stayed right there. Hector made a turn, was going about 18 miles an hour as the load was heavy, and he thinks a small branch must have hit him or he tho’t it was going to and ducked, for he fell off backwards, struck his head, turned on his side and died instantly with multiple fracture.
My, how shocked we all were. Going thru this experience and seeing how kind the Christians have been to us, knowing how badly we feel, has given me a new love for them I did not know I that I had. Several young men have believed as a result of it. Hector is going to board up that part of the running board that is out of his vision so that it will never happen again. Hector and the carpenters made a coffin the next morning and I draped it with white cloth and put a new blanket in the bottom. The flowers Kpodo had cut for me the day before were still fresh and I put them into it when our children went into the church for the funeral, they each placed a white gardenia on his coffin. They were very fond of Kpodo. He was the one who saved them from the snake that fell out of the big tree.
Another boy had a luckier escape; Ione writes:
Aurora Gabriel was a schoolboy at Bongondza. He often watched Mama Kinso or Mademoiselle Rutt or Bwana (Mr) McMillan riding on a small motor scooter and it became an obsession with him to get hold of the vehicle and ride it for himself. During one sports day at school several of the bigger boys were allowed to try it on a small spot in a level field. He only knew enough about it to start it and steer it.
Young Gabriel looked for his chance to take it when no one was around, and then started down the steep hill which led from my old mud house to the main road and the stream. Hector with Kenneth and Paul were at the bottom of the hill where the old Ford called ‘Molimo’ (meaning spirit, as it no longer had a body!) was being used to carry water from the stream. The little boys and their Daddy looked on amazed as they saw the black boy, now quite pale-faced, come tearing down the hill full speed. He had forgotten how to shut off the motor!
By now, not feeling very angel-like, Gabriel narrowly missed Hector, but hit the ‘Molimo’, left the bike and flew right over the old car, landing in a patch of jungle forest not far from the river. The boy was terribly frightened, but had only a scratch on his leg. The bike and car had some damage, however.
Hector was pretty pale himself, but he marched the boy up the hill to tell the lady owners of the bike what he had done, and then sent him to his parents to collect the money for repairs.
Ione encounters other staffing issues as she relates to her sister Lucille on 10th August 1952:
We had a dinner already except that; I say “we” for the little houseboy and I did it, for the young fellow who does the cooking is sick today. Our older and most capable cook is gone now, and we are all feeling sick about it. He has had two cases of adultery since we came back from furlough and this week he staged a “walkout” of all of our houseboys for higher pay, which right now we cannot give. Since he was the leader, he had to be let go. He is a Christian, and that makes it very bad. Now we have one less boy and it is better really, as the others can do the work if they try. If you were here, you would know how big is the business of our “help”, dealing with them spiritually first of all, and then keeping them working happily together. All are Christians, and we have nice times of worship each morning together.
In this long letter, Ione recounts that all the family have malaria. She had been trying to titrate the quinine doses but had not accounted for how much the children had grown. To make matters worse, Hector ran out of his supply and was taking children’s doses so for a short time was unprotected from this preventative medication. She asks her sister:
Do you know anything about boils? Their cause? David has had two and now Paul is getting some! If their diet is deficient I’d like to know what is lacking, for I tho’t we had been eating quite well. They get lots of citrus fruit juices, etc. We weighed them all this week; Kenneth 48, Paul 38, David 37, and John 23 pounds. Paul is well, but is of a more slender build. I would like to see him fatter, tho, and am giving him cod-liver oil. David is just one pound behind him, and just about as tall.
Ione experiences dental problems and describes her trips into Stanleyville, where two dentists fail to solve the problem. She then hears of an American missionary Doctor – Doctor Woodhams and the family make a trip to see him, fortunately, he solves Ione’s dental problems. It is at this point, Ione breaks the news of her forthcoming pregnancy:
I could go to this same doctor when our baby comes in January but as yet we are not sure. The road is not good and it is farther than we have yet driven for a baby. But the doctor we had for John is now on furlough. My, how I wish we had a doctor in our mission. Do pray for one.
Interestingly, it is almost a year after John’s birth that Hector writes to chase up his birth Certificate:
Mons. Le Conseiller Juridique:
J’ai l’honneur de vous demander un copie de l’acte de naissance de John Howard McMillan qui etait ne a Banda Terr. de Ango.
Veuillez agreer, Monsieur, mes salutations distinguees.
In October, Ione focuses on her sons’ education and writes:
Would you kindly send information concerning a course of study by correspondence which would be suitable for beginning children?
It will be necessary for us to teach our children to read and write at home as they will not go away to school until they are 7 and then must know how to read before entrance.
I only know the Calvert Course by report (and that is good!), so I will appreciate having your correct address as well.
Thank you very much. Respectfully yours, Ione McMillan
About this time Ione receives a letter from a supporter which prompts her to write back:
I love letters like you sent, with so much news of the church, but interesting references to birds, hens, flowers, and your children. I so often would like to paint word pictures of the many beautiful sights here. There are many awful things, too, – death is never beautiful except it be a Christian; sickness is so often horrible to see; leperous folk are so hopeless except in Christ; faces full of the love of sinning frighten me. A day full of work is hard to face when one is already tired. It always seems on those days that we have to settle the most native palavers, and they are so upsetting to our own spirits. Then we cry for patience, which worketh experience, and experience, hope, and hope maketh not ashamed! Days like that get us a little on the way.
Life is a bit complicated just now with so many little children. But I am thankful I have not had to give up any of my native gatherings and can still have that close contact with the women of the station and nearby villages that I so love to have. I meet with them three times a week. I feel that I get farther with them during the while on Wed. afternoon when we sew together, for then our talk is informal. I generally give an interview to accept Christ after this time, for there are more unsaved ones come to sew than come the other days to read…
To Hector’s sister Alice, Ione writes on 26th October,
We are all well, and thankful that our family has not been affected by an epidemic that has passed around among the natives. A number of local people have been found with hookworm lately; that means we must be very careful; it is a horrible disease and hard to cure. If we wear stockings or long trousers when we walk thru long grass that lessens the danger. The little worms cling to damp grass. Hector is getting quite stout. His waist-line has expanded from 32 to 36 since we have been married! His clothes are all too tight and it is really quite a problem for us to know what he shall wear. It takes so long to send for things, and the quality of garments bought out here is very poor. I bought some socks for him a while ago and they were labelled “3rd quality, miscellaneous undetermined fibres!” That was the best I could do!! I don’t think he is eating too much; he is just going to be as big as Archie maybe! He drinks lots of milk. This week he is labouring under difficulties. He broke his upper plate and cannot wear the old one he had. He cannot make the trip to Stan for repairs for another week I’m afraid, so he is going around with his mouth shut!
Our boys are just like steps and it is interesting to watch them develop. Their weights range from 35 to 50 pounds. The youngest is more like Paul, quite fair. David is a handsome, square-jawed fellow, who at this particular age (2-1/2) is feeling his importance to the extent of contradicting everything we say. If we say it’s a “little one” he immediately corrects us. It is a “big one”. The other night I found out that “Sing a song of six-pence” had been green birds instead of black ones! Paul is quite blond and Kenneth quite dark, I would say he looks a little like your Bill. I suppose Hector looked like Kenneth when he was young. Their eyes are alike. We are starting a “Reading Readiness” course with Kenneth and Paul. I have sent for the Calvert Course, which should follow this; it will be first grade I think. But for now I am trying to develop colour sense, seeing likenesses and differences, left to right eye movements, developing number sense, size discrimination, matching letters and words, pictures, etc. Kenneth was five in June. Do you know that before Kenneth is six we’ll have, the Lord willing, our fifth child! The big date is Jan. 14.
Here Ione discloses the amount of correspondence that she engages with – 400 ‘form’ letters with 60 personal notes in time for Christmas. Letter writing is more difficult when contending with babies and toddlers demanding attention. On the 16th November, Ione grabs an opportunity whilst Hector is entertaining the children to write to her mother:
Dearest Mother and all:
Hector has the children out for a little walk and I will type fast. Your letter came last week and was very welcome. We also had a letter from Marcellyn. I can’t find hers just now to refer to, and don’t dare take the time to look. So will just give you news and get it off in tomorrow’s mail. She would be interested to know that Mary Baker has had a little fever over a long period, somewhat like she had at Ekoko. But she has not missed school, just feels punk. She did manage to get over here for dinner today. Everybody else is well.
Mary Rutt has arrived from furlough and is helping me with the women until the baby comes. She is planning and taking charge of their Christmas program. This is a big relief to me, as I am getting a bit heavy. I have written out the schoolboys’ Christmas program, but the 5th and 6th year are translating it into Lingala and will chose their own parts and under Mary Baker’s supervision will not need me. I am only drilling them in the six songs that go with the program. I am teaching the women a song, too. That’s about all I am doing right now, and am glad for a little break. You see Christmas Day is a little too near the baby’s arrival to count on my doing too much then. And I am hoping I can attend the General Conference which meets January 1-8 at Ekoko, then take a boat from Bumba to Yakusu for the baby. That’s the latest plan. Doctor Moore at Yakusu can take the case if we bring along a nurse. I think the most likely nurse will be Mrs Snyder who is arriving in a few weeks (from America) and will be needing to go to Stan after our baby comes for her “stage” at the hospital. From all I hear about Mrs S. I think I will like her very much. She has turned over her work to Janet Cowger and is getting ready for furlough.
Kenny is learning to read and spell by leaps and bounds. I find he is able to take all I can give him. And he follows me around getting words of songs and the alto part! His mind is so eager to learn. I will need to give him more and more time.
The children are getting excited about the package you’re sending. They haven’t had anything new for a while, so that is the big coming event. I don’t suppose it will arrive before Christmas, so I am trying to convince them that it takes a long time.
We were all sitting in the living room one evening, all the missionaries, the children were in bed, when a large praying mantis flew across the room and lit on the door opening into the office. Immediately a tarantula leaped out of the darkness, from the ceiling of the office, I guess, and grabbed the praying mantis. We were so surprised! Then of course, there was a grand scramble to kill the tarantula.
At another gathering a native dog came thru a hole in the screen and when it saw such a company of white people and couldn’t get out again, it acted like a wild animal and Hector had to kill it right there. I didn’t stay to see it, for there was so much noise, and I dashed in where the children were and shut the door. I talked to Kenny and Paul while the deed was done. Marcellyn knows how dangerous village dogs sometimes are.
Now to close. Kenny has come and the rest are on the way. Our Sun nite supper is French toast and syrup. It smells good.
Christmas celebrations go with a swing, in a letter to her sister Marcellyn now back in the States, Ione writes:
There were as many or more people on the outside of the church as inside. The biggest crowd there has ever been, and the best program, by all agreed. Perhaps it’s because I took a backseat and let someone else do it! The boys’ program was from the little booklet you left here, with the Bohemian Carol in.
Yesterday we had our Christmas dinner at Kinsos, eleven adults and 4 children. We had three ducks, and all that we could wish to go with it. Nothing really typical, tho in the eats line for Christmas, for not one of us got a Christmas package yet! There are many on the way, so we’ll look for some cranberry sauce or nuts later. I was afraid the children would lack for toys, for we had not been able to get any when folk went to Stan, but the Snyder’s had forethought to bring 4 little presents from Belgium, two tops, an airplane, and a miniature farm. And Pearl had bought more tops, some ninepins, etc. Viola Walker gave them some cute little leatherette suitcases which she had bought in a native shop. They had lots of chocolate bars, gum, life savers, peanuts, etc. Pearl had big gauze socks more than filled with things; they were hanging on Kinso’s mantle when we arrived for dinner yesterday. The Friday between the native Christmas and ours Hector had to go to Buta, and brought back cute little cars for all four, that nice sturdy tiny size. We had both dinner and supper at Kinsos. Supper was so much fun. It had rained and was chilly so they built a fire and we roasted wieners and had them on buns and bread with piccalilli and potato salad. There was pumpkin and lemon pie and cherry ice cream, and lots of Putu (American/European) salted nuts that Pearl had saved from last year. Then as a surprise Bill Snyder brought in some marshmallows and we roasted them. Kinso read us several funny poems and some more serious things, and we sang carols. John went to sleep nicely in his carriage, David on Kinso’s bed, and finally Paul on the couch. Kenny stayed awake until we left about 9:30. The children had just as much fun as we did.
No sooner is Christmas over and then preparations start for the New Year Conference at Ekoko; people gather at Bongondza with the intent of all travelling together. Seats are put in the back of the lorry. Ione writes:
The Burks and McAllister’s will sleep and eat here. All will rest as much as possible tomorrow evening and night and Tuesday, and then we’ll leave about 8 o’clock Tuesday night, hoping to get to Ekoko in the morning. We’ll make breakfast on the road, however, as they expect us at Ekoko for dinner. I guess the cars will try to keep together. We’ll put the choir benches in the Indian’s truck and you can imagine the fun (and discomfort!) of those who ride there! ! The Conference starts on New Year’s Day and lasts until the 8th. My baby is due the 14th, but I think it will come before then. You will soon know. If it is a girl it will be Ruth Leone.
But things do not go to plan as Ione tells her mother on 3rd January 1953:
A Happy Birthday, Mother!
This is the first letter since the arrival of the baby, and I want it to be to you. By now you should have received the telegram Hector sent. Stephen Arthur was born at about 7:30 P.M. Dec. 31st. He didn’t quite make it to the New Year! His birth was a little abnormal for he came face first. He weighed 8 lbs 2 oz. but looks easily as fat as David did, with the chubby cheeks, pug nose and broad forehead. I have a very clever and kind doctor, to whom all the Belgian women go from all around. He did everything possible to make it quick and easy and painless, and best of all, he let Pearl Hiles stay with me and even administer anaesthetic!
I don’t suppose you will be bored with the details, so I will tell you all about it. It was a wonderful example of the promise “He goeth before”. Perhaps you knew that all of the U.F.M. missionaries were to gather at Ekoko for a conference from Jan. 1-8. Those from Boyulu & Maganga had to pass Bongondza, so we arranged lodging and food for their stop-over. Then all were to leave Bongondza Dec. 30 at 8 P.M. to travel thru the night in a 5-ton truck (arranged with seats), an English “voiture” of Artons, and Viola Walker’s carry-all, about 35 people in all! We expected to pass thru Aketi in the early morning and reach Ekoko before dinner. But before leaving I had a showing, and in the excitement of serving 4 guests and finishing our own packing up, some pains came on. I informed the group and the whole party jumped into their places as quickly as possible and away we went! I lay down the whole journey on a comfortable roll-away bed. Pearl was right beside me with her emergency kit. Pearl began to get fidgety when the pains came to ten minutes apart, then eight minutes! And such a distance to go! Then I went to sleep counting and when I wakened they were about 5 minutes, but not hard. They were not regular, tho’, and I felt good.
We got to Aketi finally and went straight to the doctor. Hector, David, Pearl & I. The other children were taken care of by different “aunties”. He had me go right to bed and tho’t the baby would come in an hour or so, but in spite of enema, quinine and a needle, the baby didn’t come until evening. He was over two weeks early, but is fully developed with long fingernails, etc. Hector had to get my trunk out of the big truck which had gone on when we were delayed at Aketi; so he left Pearl with me & took David. He fed the children and put them to bed and left them in the other’s care and came back with Herb Boyes a little after 7pm. Pearl was trying to get a bite of supper from a tray and the men were standing there trying to decide whether Pearl should stay all night, and I was having some real ones by then. I got impatient & said, “If you men will get out of the room, maybe I can have this baby & then you can decide!” So they meekly slipped out. Then the doctor helped me to walk into the next room which was the delivery room. And it all happened quickly. There wasn’t time for the ether then but I surely appreciated it when the stitches were taken! Pearl did go home, or rather to Ekoko, that night, when she found the nurse takes the baby to sleep where she sleeps and if I need anything I have a bell to call a boy on duty and he in turn calls the nurse if necessary.
I slept right thru the night, and again the next night, but last night I didn’t sleep so well. The doctor thinks it is a touch of malaria – but I have no fever. I think it was the pains that come when the milk comes in. The baby started nursing today. He is darling, so much like David when you took care of him. And such a good disposition!
Hector and Mrs Jenkinson bro’t them all (our children) to see their brother yesterday and all were impressed except John, who wouldn’t even come to me, after just three days ‘absence’! He is fond of Mrs J. and it is just as well. I will win him back when I leave the hospital. The children are having a good time with 11 other children, and good meals and supervision. Dolena Burk is giving them baths and keeping their clothes straight. They sleep with Hector.
I marvel now at all I was able to do before going, when the baby was so near. I had prepared about 16 doz. Cookies, 2 fruit cakes, 4 lbs. marmalade, 2 quarts peanut-butter and 2 loaves bread (of course my cook did most of it!) to take to the Conference. They are having some real blessings. There are two of us missing – Audrey Edwards had an appendicitis operation in Stanleyville, and Louie Rimmer who stayed with her to nurse her.
All for now as I expect the nurse.
Download Ione McMillan Preview - Chapter 12