Chapter 15 – Plans and Preparations

Chapter 15

Plans and Preparations

As one year ends and another starts, Ione’s letters begin with ‘thank you’s’ but it is clear her eyes are fixed on future horizons:

Dearest Mother,

The packages of books for us all came and I want to thank you ever so much. That large number of books must have cost a lot, but it surely does add considerably to our small library. The children’s books are so well chosen for their ages. I am helping Kenny a little with the one to be filled in, but he does well to find a lot of the Bible references. He can read quite well now. Hector & I enjoy ours a lot, too. The one by Mrs. Aldrich I have wanted for some time as I follow her “Mixing Bowl” in Moody Monthly. The “Thoughts for the Quiet Hour” are excellent.

Enclosed is a letter from Mrs Peck, and I would like it back as I haven’t answered it. Also another picture to give to someone you think might like it and pray for us. (Family pictures are used for prayer cards to jog supporter’s memories and keep the Macmillan’s and their mission undertakings at the forefront of everyone’s mind.)

I hope Marcellyn had a real Happy Birthday. I want to hear all about it. Stephen was honoured at a birthday dinner at Aunt Jean’s. It was fun watching him blow out the candles.

We spent Christmas Day there and she served a lovely turkey dinner. Alice called long distance and she and Claude talked to us “conference style” as they have an upstairs phone. Irene was there with her two and we went for a sleigh ride sitting on bales of hay.

Yesterday, New Year’s, we went to Montreal where Irene had prepared another turkey and just before we arrived it had somehow slipped from oven to floor and Muriel the maid was burned on hands and legs. The kitchen floor was covered with newspapers to soak up the fat and Muriel sat in a chair a bit shaken. But you know how Irene would go ahead anyway and everything went quite all right. Muriel felt better after Unguentine (ointment for burns) was applied and served the meal and washed dishes. We saw Florence and her family (except Joan) for a while. And Mother, Joan had a baby Dec. 12. She had only been married 5 months! But don’t mention it when you write to Florence. She feels quite bad, but loves the baby of course. Joan’s name is McRae. Audrey is quite different and Douglas is a sweet quiet young fellow. We saw the other sister Eleanor, too.

Pray especially for us as we speak at a local church here next Sun. Jan. 9th. I spoke once in the Sunday school Rally Day and now they have asked us to take the evening service.

Timmie can sit himself up, flop over, get on his knees, and stand with a little help. No colds, and I don’t know how to account for it as I keep forgetting to give them their Vitamin C capsules!

We are thinking that when we leave here we will store a minimum of household things so that we’ll have something to have immediately upon arrival next furlough – the heavy furniture and some of the dishes. If we don’t have a “Happy Furlough House” we’ll at least have “Happy Furlough Furnishings”!! Love, Ione

Ione is soon true to form and organising her family from a distance; on the 8th January 1955 she writes:

Dearest Mother and Marcellyn,

You didn’t enclose Ruby Peck’s letter, but I’ll get it when you send another letter I guess. We enjoyed the pictures so much and I was thinking of what an interesting smile on your face it took to bring a smile out of Timmie!

Little Timothy George with Grandma Reed

I presume the conference at Moody is between the 30th or 31st and Feb. 6th, as Moody’s birthday is the 5th. I was wondering if you both couldn’t stop off at Fenton to change your clothes and come right here. Just now I don’t have any money to send to help with the expenses, except three dollars which Peggy Reh gave me for Christmas! But if we ask the Lord about it, He may send to us or you two a gift which would pay for it; if it is His will.

Tonight, we had supper at Jean’s and when I told her of my hope, she brightened and said, “Could one of them stay here?” And I told her we would see what you said.

I hope you can find a house to rent. That rent is terrible. But be sure the heating arrangements are satisfactory. This house we’re living in is much easier to heat than where we were, and we have the whole thing under our control, no one to complain to when we’re cold, just turn it up! We will pray with you about it.

Ione also muses as to when she may get to see her youngest sister Doris. Whilst in Africa, Ione has no opportunity to see her family, yet once in America/ Canada, it seems incredibly difficult to touch base with each other.

Another concern for Ione is the state of some churches and the differences and changes in them; in an earlier letter to her mother, Ione writes:

There is a really fundamental preacher in the Presbyterian Church at Finch, near here, and we were all there this morning. There is nothing in Avonmore and the Wesleyan Methodist here seems fundamental, but a bit shallow & noisy. I have agreed to give a 15-minute message in their Rally Day Sunday School next Sunday. We’ll all go there then. This area is a real mission field. I have had some talks with my nearest neighbour, Mrs. Duval, who has two children who go to school here. They are United Church, but no family worship, no Gospel message, children unaccustomed to anything but rituals of church.

Ione returns to this theme in a letter to her mother on 8th January 1955:

Tomorrow we have charge of the service in the Wesleyan Methodist Church here, the only fundamental group, and they don’t dig very deep for real spiritual food. Cornwall has a spiritual Baptist Church, tiny and in need of our encouragement, but not much deep teaching there either. Ottawa is the nearest, I guess. This week Hector got into a Bible study group in a home which was excellent, taught by a lawyer, who came out of the United Church. He asked his pastor several times to conduct a study of this kind but he did not even care to have a mid-week prayer service. Hector hopes to be able to bring him or another teacher like him, to a nucleus of believers in the community. I have spoken in some pretty dead churches, but I praise the Lord for opportunity to present a Gospel message. All for now. Love, Ione

Once again as Leone Red approaches another birthday, Ione writes to her mother:

Dearest Mother,

Happy Birthday! The enclosed two dollars is not much, but might be handy to buy something you need, especially for your journey to Chicago!

I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate having you for my Mother. Thank you for taking care of me when I was little, for guiding me when I was bigger and keeping me from making so many mistakes. And for your love and sweetness all thru the years. Forty-one years is a long time for a girl to have such a good friend!

God lead thee onward to His ‘more and more’,

The past behind thee, and the goal before,

Until, life’s journey o’er, the victory won,

Himself shall crown thy toil with His “Well done!”

I have wondered thru these past months since coming here, if I said or did something that hurt you before we left Fenton. (Ione, when writing at the time of the move gives no indication of any discord, however, her mother does not respond which prompts Ione to ask whether or not her mother received the letters she sent. The thought must have played on Ione’s mind) I thought in our parting days, as well as in your letters, that I noted a little hurt feeling. If so, I am so sorry, and want to make it right. Or was it that you were depressed with conditions as they were there? I am wondering if things are better now.

“For we have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities…”

We had a lovely letter from Esther tonight telling of unusual blessings in the Day of Prayer spent at Moody. I had sent her the verse –“There is none that calleth upon Thy Name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee.” Isaiah 64:7 and she said it took hold of her in a new way after the Prayer meeting.

I have had such blessing in visiting my ‘letter a day’ since November 14th when I promised that to the Lord. Some days it is more than one. I’ve had some nice responses, one from Alma, Paul & Lee’s sister, told how I led her to the Lord in ’36 out in N. Dakota. Now she & her husband have a Baptist Church near here, about 150 miles. They are inviting us there to speak. (Although there is a sparsity of letters kept for purposes of this book, it is evident here that Ione has taken to writing to someone at least daily.)  

I was glad to see Marcellyn’s write-up in the Fenton Independent. It was well done. I received Marcellyn’s letter & thanks. I don’t believe I had better try to arrange to go to Toronto for the 26th, but Hector will go. I wouldn’t leave them with anyone (the children) as it is too much for someone else & too hard on the children. It would be nice if Marcellyn could come on here from Toronto, but I’ll leave it up to her. Whenever she comes she will be very welcome. And so will you, Mother, be very welcome. If it is at all possible, do try.

I hope you have a real nice time in Chicago and I hope you take notes & let me read them. Give greetings to any Alumni who are old enough to remember me!

Ione’s drawing – 1955

The children have been reading in an encyclopaedia about the stocks as a form of punishment in the early days. There was a picture of a man who had his feet thru two holes in a board and his hands thru two more because he had been bad. Today I found Paul in like position only using the four holes in the egg poacher Mrs. Greene gave us! You can imagine how he looked.

Timmie is creeping now and today we found him half-way up the stairs. It means a little more watching but I’m thankful he is normal!

We have a quarter of beef (what’s left of it now) and 4 big roasters to tempt your appetites when you come.

Tell Marcellyn if she wants to mail those spices it would be nice (if there is no trouble at customs) as I would like to send mine in a package to Ma Kinso with some powdered eggs I have bought. If she keeps them till 26th it’s O.K. for I can send the spices later to the field.

And now, a verse in closing. “His Word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” Jeremiah said the fire burned hotter on the inside than any opposition outside. There is always opposition where you try to get people to know the Lord. But “the battle is not ours but the Lord’s”. We’re glad for some signs of awaking here. Lots of church goers, no liquor in town, but it’s ‘WORKS’ mostly. Pray for Newington & Avonmore.

Lovingly, Ione

P.S. Hector has added the American dollar “from him & the boys”.

Whatever the discord was about between mother and daughter, it seems that it gets resolved as the next letter to Leone on 14th March 1955 is much more in the usual style of communication:

Dearest Mother,

Thanks for your letter this week. Yes, we reached home safely and in good time.

No one was sick and even the next day they were not very fussy as they sometimes are after a trip.

I was glad to hear of the trip to Pontiac with Marcellyn. Sorry about the worm, tho! She’d be a good one to take fishing. I’ll be interested to know the verdict after she takes the medicine.

I’m so glad you are remembering us in the prayer band. I am not letting myself think too much about the details of getting our big family ready to move again. But am keeping my heart in the attitude of expectancy, ready, and looking to Him for each move. “My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him”. I have learned a few little signs and tokens to go by, from the Word, and circumstances, etc., and I think He will show me ways to simplify the ordeal.

One thing I know, it will not be used to gather together a tremendous amount of equipment here, of course, any offers of help will be welcome, but it would be easier for me to have funds of money allotted to household furnishings, clothes, etc., and buy them in Stanleyville. (This is a marked change from previous trips to Africa where Ione has gathered all she needed and arranged shipment to Africa) One reason for this would be because we’d like to fly, and baggage may or may not arrive in time to get the house in working order by the time school starts. I’d like to get all heavy luggage off before we ever leave Newington, and then fly right from the Willow Run. What do you think?

We can’t spend a lot of time the 6 weeks or so we’ll be in Fenton or Pontiac just packing stuff. I’d rather be free to see people. It would help a lot if you get things for us, if you could pack them right up and mail them, that is in individual packages and keep a good account of every package for checking later. We’ll have to find out the best place to address them, where they’ll be held safely.

I’d like to buy an electric stove in Stanleyville, also some other appliances that work on the current there, refrigerator, etc. It will be quite necessary for caring for so many children, with fresh milk, etc to keep. (Ione is not just referring to her six children, the plan is for her and Hector to look after all the Mission’s children, so they can attend school)

Now I must get to bed. We expect to go to Jean & Dad & Archie’s for David’s birthday next Thursday.

Last Friday night about 8:30 we had a telephone call from Jean for Hector to “come right over”. He went, and we both tho’t Dad was worse. But when Hector got there he found he was to help Archie give a bath to their Dad! He has been getting steadily more and more feeble in his mind and he came to the decision that he would not take a bath. Archie couldn’t hold him & it took the two to do it. Everybody felt better afterward tho!!

All for now. Love, Ione

By 4th May, the family’s plans are taking shape, Ione writes to her mother:

Thanks for your letter received this morning. I was glad to hear you have a house at last. (It would seem Leone Reed moves around as much if not more than her daughter; when Ione moved from Fenton at the end 1954, Leone was staying with her other daughter Lucille and it must be reassuring for Ione to know her mother will have a home). It sounds like a nice place. And I suppose you will be moving tomorrow. What a job! I was wondering if maybe Jimmie Lonii or someone like that might help you move the furniture. How did you manage the piano? We’ll be doing some packing soon. And I don’t look forward to it. But it’s nice to be able now to get the winter things put away first. We are going to store snowsuits, etc., right here at the farm at Avonmore. I think we’ll have to store the electric train as the current in Stanleyville will be different, and it isn’t good for it to be run without electricity. But it will be a nice thing to play with next furlough. They have surely enjoyed it this winter. We have just moved it from playroom to garage, as it is warm now and there is a nice cement floor out there, a few chairs, etc., a double garage.

I didn’t have very many meetings, and I guess the rush is over for Hector, too. Only one or two during May, and it is just as well. We plan to leave here, as I guess I told you last week in Marcellyn’s letter, the 24th or 25th of June, and be in Toronto for their farewell the 26th. Then we are not sure yet how we will come the rest of the way. We may get a ride to Toronto from someone here, or else take the train.

Just now a letter comes telling us we are eligible as Canadian missionaries, thru our mission, to two weeks, free of cost at the Blue Water Bible Conference at Wallaceburg, just a few miles from Windsor, I guess on Lake St. Clair. I think there is a States Blue Water Conference too, and they are somewhere along thru the same region. But we were wondering if it might be a nice place to spend two weeks while we are contacting friends and churches in Pontiac. It is only a few miles farther from Pontiac than we were at Fenton from Pontiac.

Another thing that has loomed up in the horizon: Mr. Pudney told Hector at Toronto that John and Susan Stevenson will be going to California for July and August and their house will be empty. It is owned by the mission. We may be able to make some arrangement with John and Susan to live there part of our time. Of course, that is in Detroit and wouldn’t be very handy, but we might be able to plan it for when we need to be around there. We can stay with you and Marcellyn for as long as you think you can stand it. But you have to be careful of your health, too, and you must not give up the bed you are used to.

What are your plans for around the 4th of July? Does Marcellyn (or do you) have meetings then? If we were to book our stay at Blue Water for the two weeks following our Toronto meeting, could you come there for over the 4th? We could ask for a place for you to stay, or you could have a little reunion. The pictures look like a lovely spot for such an event. And if we were to go there right from Toronto, we could still spend a day or so with you during the week before. A lot depends on whether we still have our car or not. Or we could go there two other weeks. But we have definitely promised Dorr Fockler the Sunday of the 17th.

Well, we must keep close together in our plans from now on, as we don’t want to miss any opportunities to be together. Any word from Doris as to the possibility of their coming?

We have had confirmation of space for our family on the plane which leaves Montreal August 25th. It would be nice to work toward that date, tho’ we must be sure of our fare before we leave as we cannot have another overdrawn for a long period of time. I think Hector’s church is going to pay what is left of ours, but I am (and Hector is too) still concerned for Marcellyn’s and maybe we can help her finish hers off. How did she manage to pay her way home from the field? Or is that yet to care for? The plane provides a Sky cot for the baby. B.O.A.C.

Stephen just came to me informing me that he has killed a fly, and it went on the f’oor, and he ‘sepped on it wif his soos. That’s a long sentence for the little baby Marcellyn took care of! He’s still as round-eyed and plump but is quite a boy now.

I’ll be speaking at a Mother and Daughter Banquet at Moulenette, near here, the 25th. Stephen now tells me he sees a bird that is big and long and he’s measuring with his hand, spreading his fingers apart. Timmie is taking his first steps and climbs up the stairs and slides down backwards on his tummy. Good thing it is carpeted. I must go take the clothes down now, and fold them up. There’ll be precious little to get ironed I think! Hector has three nylon shirts, now, so I don’t even have to do the white shirts. There’s no laundry around here, like in Fenton, to have it done now and then. But Hector has had a bunch of shirts done up at a Chinaman’s in Toronto and keeping for the future. All for now. Write when you get settled, if you live thru it! Ione XXXXXXXX

In May, Ione and Hector write another Newsletter to their supporters:

Dearest Friends:

“I sent him therefore the more carefully…” Phil. 2:28

This verse seems to be on our hearts just now as we are making plans to return to the Belgian Congo. Epaphroditus, Paul’s companion, had been sick, but was now returning to Philippi as a messenger and minister, and Paul was sending him ‘the more carefully’. So do we walk softly before the Lord these days making preparations, gently, slowly, but surely. There are six little boys now who must be sure of the way, the feet “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace”. And day by day we shall be nearer to the time of the final quick journey, made necessarily short because of the youthfulness of some of the travellers.

En route to Africa – Aug. 1955

Kenneth is 7 now and Paul is 6, David is 5, John is 3-1/2, Stephen is 2 and Timothy is 1. We approach them on the subject of certain pleasures and foods not available in Africa wondering if they really wanted to go. Kenneth spoke up rather reproachfully, saying, “But didn’t the Lord call us to go there?” So you see it is with one accord that we return. And Mother’s health has been fully recovered. We have had a happy and healthy winter on the farm in Canada and expect to spend a few weeks in the States as soon as school is finished the last of June. There is space on a plane for Congo, leaving August 25, and we hope to be able to make reservations.

There is a job on the mission field which no real missionary (it is an interesting use of words because when Ione first goes to Africa, she goes with the concept of being a ‘real’ missionary yet ends up looking after the Westcott family so Dr Westcott can continue in his work.) wants because of its limitations so far as extensive itineration’s and village to village contacts. But because of our own need of schooling for our children, we believe the Lord would have us take this job of caring for the school children of the Unevangelized Fields Mission. This step necessitates the purchasing of land and the building of a large home in Stanleyville, one day’s journey from our former station, Bongondza. Until this building project can be completed we must rent a house.

And so we shall go carefully, and yet ‘careful for nothing’, knowing that ‘at the last your care of us hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful but ye lacked opportunity…Not that I desire a gift, but I desire fruit that may abound to your account” Phil.4.

It will be possible for us to take a few meetings while we are in Michigan during July and August and we can be reached at First Baptist Church, Pontiac.

Lovingly yours in Him, Hector and Ione

P.S. The high chair will be coming soon, when Hector gets his car fixed. We have been enjoying it so much. Greetings to Joan

With the theme of proceeding carefully in their minds, it transpires that there were some more careful than others as John manages to break his arm; on the 9th September, 1955, Ione writes from the 1st Children’s Home in Kisangani (Stanleyville):

Dear Ones at Home,

A broken arm!!  Just as we were about to leave for Congo! But we had promised the Lord we would go “carefully” in this venture of returning to the field. And it wasn’t just the arm, there was money involved, too. We didn’t have all we needed for the plane, and the Airway Corporation was wanting to know in three days if we wished a cancellation. Well, the hospital was first, six days of it, and finally John was dismissed. We decided to pack when the doctor said the little arm would be all right if we travelled by train to the coast, instead of by car. We bought a ticket for Montreal, but knew that we would not get any farther unless the Lord undertook in a special way. We could go to the farm and wait, if need be. As we put the things into the cases the following conversation ensued:

Ione: This is like Abraham, “going out not knowing whither he went.”

Hector: Yes, and because of the uncertainty of things, he took along Lot.

Ione: (sighing as she looked at the packing yet to be done) Well, we’ve got a lot, too!

So, we left Michigan by train on Wednesday afternoon, the 24th of August. Late that night the train stopped at Toronto, and during the 20-minute stop-over it happened – the remaining $550 was made up, thru Frances Longley and Mr. Small. When Hector came back to the place in the train where I was resting, but not sleeping, he whispered, “We can go!” And so we did. The journey was a fast one, and the following Sunday found us here.

We found a furnished house to rent in Kisangani until Jan. 1st at $150, but then rent would increase to $200, so we are looking for a more permanent resting spot, whatever the Lord may have. School started Sept. 9th and the school-age begins at 3. There are many young children in our mission and we expect to have a full house. Kenny Boyes and Barbara Nicholls are with us already, and Billy Boyes will soon be here and two little Walby girls (Laureen and Veronica). We like this house and it is right in town (Sergeant Kettle Street, next door to a bakery – patisserie shop) and the school bus calls for the children at the corner (at the door on rainy days!). We have electricity and running water, two very large bedrooms and two smaller, several beds, dining room furniture, living room furniture, a five-burner kerosene stove with oven. Four of our children are in school, and they are rapidly learning French. (I had an advantage over the boys, I may not have known much about insects and grasshoppers but I could speak French; my mother having an ear for languages!)

We have already visited two of our mission stations, Banjwadi and Wani Rukula.

(Editorial note:

Although I had met the McMillan’s before, I have a very clear memory of our encounter this particular summer in 1955. I remember going through the long grass behind Ma Kinso’s house at Banjwadi with Paul McMillan and Billy Boyes. They introduced me to crickets, which we caught and captured in matchboxes. Like all the missionary children at the time, we were home schooled, insects did not feature too highly on our curriculum as mother was not too keen on them, so I was an avid learner when Paul and Billy came along. They, on the other hand were not too impressed with me. The only other clear memory was of Ione and Kenny sitting on the back veranda at the Kinso’s house – that house had two verandahs, the one at the front overlooked the river and whilst the view was good, it was warmer than the back verandah, however, having two verandas meant the inner rooms remained cool even at the hottest time of day. The Kinso’s house at Banjwadi was right at the end of the mission station, unlike Bongondza where it was the first house encountered as one entered the mission station. Banjwadi was long and thin with a main avenue running from the road into Kisangani to the river. Along the mid-section of the avenue was the Bible school – a long single storey building. At the end of the avenue by the river were two houses; sitting higher on the left, was Kinso’s house and the first port of call for any visitors. Opposite, also facing the river was the house occupied by the Boyes family. Other mission houses were dotted around the compound.  The Kinso’s house was by far the largest, built to accommodate all the many visitors and I remember two pieces of furniture vividly – a rocking chair, which, if we were very good, we could have a turn of sitting in; and a bookcase! The bookcase and books were not memorable but it held a tiny gold royal coach pulled by six white horses, a replica of the coach used for the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth to the Duke of Edinburgh – it enchanted me and was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  I digress, Ione and Kenny sang ‘There is a Balm in Gilead’ in harmony! I was so envious and wished I could sing so well!)

The roads are typical, tho’ somewhat improved over the past two years. When we were going over a particular bumpy section, David said, “We’ll soon come to the highway!” The children looked for animals, but the wildest things they met up with were some lizards, some very uncomfortable driver ants, and a praying mantis (John called it a praying mattress).

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s the same shall save it.” Mark 8:35           Lovingly, Ione

And so a new chapter opens up in Ione’s missionary story.


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