The Door is Closing
Despite the political unrest and trauma and turmoil that Ione and family experienced in the lead up to Christmas 1959, Ione starts her letters in January 1960 on a fairly positive note. The first, written on 18th January is to her sister Lucille:
Dearest Lucille and Maurice,
I have just sent a letter off to Mother and hope that you will be able to read it. The carbon copy letter I wrote the day the King of Belgium came here, (in December 1959).
I want to thank you for the money order you sent for Christmas. You have so many places where money is needed and I know you have done a lot for Mother from time to time. You should not try to send us anything. We received more gifts than usual this Christmas, perhaps because people were reminded of us by the letter about the riots here. We were in greater danger December 17th than the riots of October 31, as we were in the middle of an angry crowd. But the Lord delivered us. Hallelujah!
We received the letter from the Prayer Band of which you are a member and did enjoy it. The verses at the end were good for us; “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude…”
George and Ruth Kennedy spent a week with us over New Years and we did so much enjoy them and their 3 children. They were surprised when I told them you were at Covey Hill Baptist Church. George was pastor there for some time. They remembered especially Mrs. Frisbie when I said I had a letter from the Prayer Band. I’d like to know the names of the women and then when we come home, I will be already acquainted!
Our time of furlough is getting nearer. I sent a letter today asking for a cottage at Gull Lake for 2 weeks beginning August 1st. We may be coming from Canada before that as we expect to leave Avonmore around the 15th, but hope to stop in several places on the way. Marcellyn especially asked us to go to Gull Lake beginning August 1st. We could be in your services the 31st July I would think, and maybe the missionary prayer meeting!
Everyone keeps well. Just now all of the children are in school, except the Sigg’s little Sammy, who kind of takes Timmy’s place around the house. Our John is quite thin, but has been taking some build-up ampules and his appetite is better.
Our departure date is June 18, but there may be a stop-over in Belgium. Tell Jim we might be flying in one of the new JETS, from Brussels to Montreal. Kenny is anxious to know Jim better. I hope they can meet ALL their cousins this time! Pray much about Doris’ coming and there could be a reconciliation by June.
How I praise the Lord for you, Lucille. Your life has always been a REAL INSPIRATION to me. Lovingly, Ione
P.S. The wonderful poem you sent on my birthday, I am sending to Mother for hers. It is so appropriate.
Ione writes to her Mother, Leone Reed on the 27th January 1960:
I cannot let your birthday pass without a little special greeting. If our money is thru the bank when Hector takes this to town tomorrow, he can get the international money order which I hope to send. If the money is not, then it will not be more than a week late. This is something I have been asking the Lord about since last June.
“Though we cannot get together
On this day that means so much,
Someone’s thinking of you warmly
And feeling right in touch.
Someone wishes you much happiness
And lots of sunshine there
And many happy Birthday hours
Someone would like to share.”
I do love you, Mother, and cherish every memory of the years you cared for me and gave so freely of your companionship. I’m glad that you clung to the promise, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Truth”, until it was an experience with every one of us.
Yesterday as I made birthday cake for a young woman who will take my place here, I was wishing that I could make one for you. Mimi is only 24 and more like a big sister to the older children. Her real name is Amelia. She is sweet and nice to work with. With 25 children now there is lots to do. Her husband is good at repairing things, like Hector, and the children like to play ball with Dick as he is so good at sports.
Timmy came home sick this noon; it is his second time with malaria since the beginning of this school term (3 weeks). Kenny has had malaria recently, too, and lost some weight. And Stevie was home today, but wasn’t really sick, just pale. It will do our children good to get out of this climate for a while. I am so thankful for the large amount of vitamin tablets Pearl Hiles has given us. We were wondering what we would give them when hers were gone, and just last week our dentist missionary came again to look at the children’s teeth (a friend of mine from Moody days), and she brought with her the two girls on her station (French Equatorial Africa). One of these girls gave us 2700 vitamins, and about 100 packages of soup, 50 coolaids, and ever so many jello, beside two 5 lb. tins of powdered egg and 2 tins of popcorn. We just cheered as these were all the things we needed. Hazel and Marguerite Nicholls sent popcorn in a Christmas box, but packed it in a plastic sack, and a mouse chewed a hole in it and somehow a whole bunch of caterpillars made a raid and left their carcasses inside, along with the mouse dirt. I tried to pick out the good, as Kenny was sick just then and that was all he was hungry for, but I gave him just a little bit and had to throw the rest out.
We got several nice boxes at Christmas and just after. Irene sent me a big purse which I can use for travel. Hector’s other sister Alice always sends us $10. We got a nice box from Lake Orion Church. Walter Ballaugh is still there and they continue a good interest in what we are doing. Reh’s sent us money, also Focklers. And Dr Westcott $100.
We had a nice visit with Barbara and Dwight Slater during their stopover of an hour or so here. We are expecting to meet Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Palmer this Friday, the man who writes the Danny Orlis books. We can surely tell him how our boys just eat them up. (Ione never noticed that I read the books!! It does not seem to have made any impression on her.) I’m so thankful you sent them or we wouldn’t have even known about them. The Palmers are going up to the station where John was born, for a visit.
Now I must get to bed. I wish you could hear Kenny playing these days! You soon will. Love, Ione
Letter writing is still the most common form of communication at this time and at times family miss important dates; the letter from Jean, or rather the advance thinking to account for transit times, Hector’s sister is an example of this; Jean writes to two little boys:
Dear Stephen & Timothy,
What a shame Stephen that I went to Florida for Christmas and didn’t send you a Happy Birthday for December 28th. So perhaps Timmie, this will get to you on time for Happy Birthday for February 6th. And you fellows will be able to stand up for yourselves now when you come home on this furlough. Love to both of you. Archie & Jean
To Hector and Ione, Jean writes at the end of January 1960:
Is it so that on June 30th Belgian Congo becomes independent? Africa has certainly had a disturbed time of it this past year. At any rate African people will realize the value of using their minds. God bless them!
The Belgian Congo has evidently been making the headlines; Patrice Lumumba was released from Prison so that he could attend meetings in Brussels with Kasavubu to discuss transition of power, elections to be help in May and Independence which was scheduled for the 30th June. The riots and poor reception of the King meant the government in Brussels did not relish a protracted period of unrest and civil war, so they acquiesced to most of the demands made by the Congolese delegation who put up a united front. Kasavubu would be President and Lumumba would be the Premier and hopefully the population of Congo would sanction the division of power, the country would remain unified and work collaboratively, putting aside previous divisions.
When is it that you folk leave for home? (there is undoubtable concern being shown here). You will find a lot of differences. Recently Archie & I were in Ottawa for Mr. Wowert’s funeral. That means that Fern (Mr Wowert’s daughter) will have it on her mind to come here to be with Archie. (Apparently a romance that was put on hold whilst Fern looked after her aging parents.) Archie doesn’t have it in mind though and so he has no marriage or anything (else in mind). But God knows best. As Archie says, “It’s too late!” So that’s his mind made up. Now my Bob may have something to say about that (Bob is holding off marrying Jean, hoping that Archie would have help on the farm). We’ll see. I ask for the Lord’s guidance.
Likely you have heard from Aunt Mabel telling you that she slipped on the bottom basement step and broke and sprained her ankle. But she is recuperating nicely and the Lord blesses her. With Love & Prayer, Archie & Jean
As January moves into February, Ione has three main topics on her mind; two of them are alluded to
in Jean and Archie’s letters:
- The fast approaching Independence Day for Congo and
- The trip home.
The third topic as always is her work – the Children’s home and its expanding mission.
At the beginning of February, Ione writes to supporters recounting their ordeal just before Christmas when the King of Belgium visited. The change in attitude of those who she has sought to help seems to have unsettled Ione as she writes to her friend, Alma Minton, back in the States:
I asked the Lord to show me something in His Word about being expendable. I opened my Bible yesterday morning by the tiny battery light that Hector rigged up. The light comes on automatically at 5:10 and goes off at 5:30; its little flash wakens one if you really want to spend time with Him! I read from I Samuel 27:1 –“And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul; there is nothing better for me than to speedily escape into the land of the Philistines…” When faced with a difficult situation, the flesh cries, “This is the end of me!” and looks for a way out. In so many experiences David showed a wonderful flexibility in adjusting himself to circumstances I could demonstrate the expendability of Esther, when she set her heart to do the only thing that was right, saying, “so will I go…and if I perish, I perish.”
The changing political climate makes Ione review the household arrangements; she writes to two supporters: Mrs Fall and Mrs Filion:
…There are 25 missionary children now with us, and we have a little more help in taking care of them. We have a number of African houseboys, but we are trying to get a little more equipment so that we can do more things mechanically as we can never tell when our helpers will leave us. We have a little two-burner bottled gas stove so that we would not have to tend a wood fire as they do. They use charcoal irons, but we have a couple of electric irons put by and they can be used on the motor that runs our lights in the evenings. We have a washing machine run by gasoline, and they (the houseboys) can’t be trusted alone with this, but Isobel Whitehead oversees this, and could carry on by herself if we all helped to hang the clothes.
Well, our helpers are still with us, tending the wood fires, ironing with charcoal irons, and hanging up the huge washings. It might be better to put it, we are still here, as there is more chance of our going than their going! We were impressed when we read that Congo would have its Independence June 30 with a statement in the newspaper (in French) “After the Independence the European population is assured of good living conditions.” So it does not sound like they want us to go. Well, we know that what is His Will, will continue to be His Will, no matter what may be the conditions. In fact, it is He who alters the conditions to suit His good pleasure. And if He wants us to make it possible for our missionaries to penetrate into the deeper parts of the jungle, places where their children would not be able to pursue their schooling, then He will keep us here. We feel our Children’s Missionary Home is as definitely a work of God as is any of our stations. We have just recently been voted a “station”.
The situation must be tense as Ione writes to her friend and supporter Mrs Gladys Rudolf:
Whenever we hear noise a little more than usual from our African neighbours, we listen carefully as we can never be sure that there will be no trouble. But we know that even if the noise of drums and shouting and drinking and wild cries of ‘Independence’ should get out of control, we need not let our hearts be troubled. “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of fearful heart, Be strong..” Isa. 35:3,4 Joyfully in Him, Ione
Ione finds challenges coming from quarters she did not expect, like the cook. She outlines the following incident to Mrs Lefurgy on the 12th February 1960:
This morning the boy who knows how to make cakes and pies was making life difficult for all of us by his loud shouts and declarations about what would happen to the white people when Independence came. He has been getting more and more objectionable, and his Christian testimony is not worth much when he gets angry. I told him he’d better talk more softly and say only things which would help us all to work happily together. This brought louder talk, so I said, “Did we not say in our morning prayers that we would behave ourselves today as Christians?” This was met with the reply, “It isn’t a question of Christians or non-Christians, it is a question of blacks and whites.” “In that case, I said, “Since I have asked you three times to hush and you have not, I will say that we would rather not have your help if we must take the bad talk with it.” He walked out, hopped on his bike and left. This left 8 pies, 30 tarts and 8 dozen cookies to be finished before noon, but Mrs. Sigg helped and all was finished by 11 o’clock except the oven watching which could be done (sometimes burned!) by the little boy who helps. While we have no cook, we will have simpler things, which is better for us anyway. What is that verse about, “a dinner of herbs where love is?”
Each day I ask the Lord to help me in every relationship with the Africans, and He always does. I do not ask that things always run smoothly, but that it may be to His glory. Perhaps this incident will help the other 8 or 9 members of our African staff to see the emphasis is not so much on their usefulness to us as their usefulness to the Lord. Joyfully in Him, Ione
In a letter to Mr and Mrs Samworth, Ione writes:
Stanleyville is a very wicked place, and only those really strong in the Lord can endure the temptations, which are even worse now since there is such feeling for Independence. There is a sect called the Kitawala, which might compare out here to Jehovah’s Witness, who take only one verse from the Bible, “The last shall be first and the first last,” and make all kinds of threats against the whites and the government. The Kitawala ‘church’ first became established in the 1920’s and advocated racial equality and equal pay for equal work, ‘Kitawala’ being a Swahili word which loosely translates: to direct, govern, to dominate. The Jehovah’s Witness were not happy with the Kitawala link and attempted to distance themselves from this sect. They have been deported whenever they are found. There is a group just a kilometre from us here and someone died in the village. They have some superstition about not letting anyone see the dead, and when a young male relative came, he found the person hidden or buried. He went to the Commissaire to complain and this revealed their whereabouts. We saw the car which went to take the whole village. We are not sure whether they went to prison or were sent to other parts of the Congo, but they have not come back. Another group down this same road are being watched, a white secret police said. The unfortunate part is that they are crazy to get hold of Bibles as they use them to dance around in their heathen worship. The state knows this and we have to be very careful if we ever sell or give away any Bible or portion of it. The State confiscates the Bibles if they are proven Kitawala. Well, we are thankful that there were those whom the Lord knows are his. I was talking to our group this morning about that verse, in Rev. 3:9- “I will make them to understand that praying is not just asking for things, but bringing down to ourselves God’s willingness and love. In our ‘staff’ group this morning there is a young man who has yet made no profession. I am not pressing him much as I know he will make a lip profession too easily in order to please me and thus keep his job. Another present was a neighbour, the African wife of a mulatto man who has died and left her with two little children. She accepted Christ here just after his death. I could see she was just eating my words up as though she understood. Pray for these people who listen daily.
Two days later Ione writing to another supporter states:
…The British Baptist have a station called Lingungu and it was recently put under military occupation when it was found out that their missionary nurse had removed a bullet from the wound of a fugitive whom a white officer had shot. The nurse did not know he was a fugitive, and as many times hunters get bullet wounds, she felt she should help him. It made trouble and when the soldiers occupied, they had to close their school for a while. All houses had to be re-white-washed and grass cut back for so many meters. The station next to this, with a large medical work, Yakusu, had a call to rescue a white man who was being attacked by his road workmen. The station leader rescued him, treated him and sent him away as quickly as possible, so that there would not be trouble. Do keep praying for our right attitude during these trying times.
In response to a letter to Mrs Snyder, about the development of the Children Home site; Ione writes:
About the ‘motel’ (the increase in the number of children resident in the Children’s home means the mission has decided that visiting parents and indeed any visitors, cannot stay at Kilometre 8 but must find accommodation elsewhere. The plan is to build a guest house and an office for central administration of the mission on the land. In the meantime, property had been rented in Stanleyville.) just this week the state man and local African chief got together here and made a settlement about our having the land that we asked for. Things take a long time here to materialize. We have yet to pay for a certain number of palm trees planted by a certain woman, and the chief will come in for his share. But the land is a free grant. And we should soon be able to start the building. I think the building will be of cement blocks and tile roofing, and will be financed by money the parents send in. As yet funds have not been available for beginning the building of the dining-room and kitchen for the Children’s Home. But if we can manage the rest of the school year, next Sept. there will be fewer children and not such a strain on present kitchen facilities. Three large families go on furlough at the same time. All of the children are from missionaries serving under the UFM. We have had three requests from three different missions asking us to take their children, but our Committee has not as yet consented, as we have not the accommodation until the dormitory is finished. (The dormitory or ‘hanger’ as it was affectionately named was a building site. Although it had windows and doorways, these were just openings. The building was not secure. The end nearest the main house did have dividing walls and designated sleeping areas but the other half of the building was a store for building materials. It was a shell with a roof on it.)
Ione’s letter to her mother on 15th February reveals the amount of forward planning needed to get her family back to Canada/ America suitable dressed for the occasion:
I just measured my waist and it is 31, hips 39. Just make sure that things are not too tight in the middle as my waist and abdomen have been increasing. I guess you and I are the same height. I weigh 125 lbs. now. The only hat I have is a navy blue that Isobel Jones took off and gave me when she was passing thru Stan on her way to her station. It is a summer one and small and has white trim. I think it would do if it matched my other clothes. And the big purse that Hector’s sister sent from Florida is light beige. Time out while I look at my ‘treasures’. Well, I have some beige gloves which match the purse, also some navy-blue ones. The white trim on the hat is not too much too spoil wearing beige accessories with it. I have two pairs of nylon hose not yet opened, so they should not be bug-eaten, they are sealed in plastic sacks. I can get a good garment here, in case the one I am using (only on Sundays!) is not firm enough by then. I don’t want you to spend money on things I already have. I also have two new blouses, one a white Dacron and the other a yellow and grey sleeveless. Most of these things came in the Christmas box from Lake Orion church. What I have NONE of is something to sleep in. Perhaps two cool summer nighties and a very cheap, easy to travel with, house coat. I have some knit blue and silver bedroom slippers which will stick in any little spot. I have not worn them yet, as they would be ruined and I believe the number was 9 triple A. Something smart, but easy to travel in. (Ione may have been living in Africa for years but the smart young lady who sang in a trio and undertook many public engagements before her missionary experience is still very much in evidence.)
It is all right if you have already made the purchase when you get this, for I realize that you must figure on three months travel time for a package. Please don’t send them Airmail, as I remember how terrible the cost is. If the box is fairly small it will get here in 6 weeks. Mrs. Dunbar sends a food box every three months and hers have been coming regularly in 6 weeks’ time. It might be good to send them in several boxes rather than one big one. Cardboard goes thru the postal authorities easier, as wooden boxes have to be dealt with differently, and we have been feeling restrictions on all items brought in lately. There will probably be 30% customs on everything, and some items even 100%.
Kenny is still quite fat and does not have much height yet. I just measured a pair of pants he has. It is 27 inches at the waist and from belt to cuff the trousers are 30 inches. A shirt he wears is 16 inches from shoulder to shoulder seams. The boys got some shirts for Christmas, but are wearing most of them for school. They don’t have the kind that can be washed while travelling. And they don’t have pants that would do, as they have been wearing for Sundays here the uniform white shorts like they have to wear at school for special occasions. We thought we might be able to find something in town to buy, but am not sure we’ll see anything like they wear at home. I have seen jeans, though. I have been with Hector to look at a Dacron suit in town. There is a beautiful one for 3500 fs., about 70 dollars! We are going to have our co-worker look at it, and if, as he says, it is not unreasonable, I think Hector will try to get it. It is dark brown. Hector can get shoes to fit here; the boys also. Love, Ione
P.S. The boys got beautiful monogrammed bathrobes from L. Orion. Also pyjamas. Also Hector.
Despite all that is transpiring, the stress of life at the children’s home, Ione is still mindful of ‘thank you’ letters to supporters:
…The package which you so carefully prepared arrived December 7th and 11th. By exercising much will power, we were able to hold them until Christmas, and had then the great joy of discovering all of the nice things inside! Perhaps you remember the big embroidered red flannel socks sent to the boys for Christmas a year ago. Well, we slipped the little candy socks into these and tucked in other gifts all around. It looked so pretty Christmas morning. I can tell you the boys were thrilled with their bathrobes. That was the nicest thing of all, and their monograms were done very well. It is the kind of cloth that is just right for out here. The pyjamas fit OK, too, and you would have enjoyed the parade as they wore them! What a lot of underpants, socks and shirts, but it is not hard to divide them out, when you have six boys and a man. Thank you so much for these expensive and wonderful gifts. The cute little suit went to Stephen. I saw him wearing it to school yesterday.
It was really the dress that shamed me into getting this letter written today. I suddenly realized that I have been wearing it two months and haven’t expressed thanks yet for it. It is such a practical dress and yet smart enough to wear into town. I am wondering if you will let me have the pattern when I come home, so that I can make some more like it. It is a style which I like very much. It was a good idea to leave the hem to be finished here. I must tell you that the day I opened it there was a Bible study meeting in town, and I was so thrilled that it was just right in the middle that I didn’t notice that it was not short enough, and didn’t discover it until I got to the meeting. Nothing serious happened and since people of all nationalities and dress lengths appear in Stanleyville, I suppose it was not noticed. But on its second wearing it had a hem of 1-1/2 inches. I would like the lady who made it to know that I do approve the lovely careful work put into it.
The skirt was just right, too, and I have had compliments on it from both black and white. I am saving the blouse that does not need ironing for our trip home. It was thoughtful of you to send the slip for me and the undershirt for Hector. The shirts for Hector and the boys are just right for size and kind. Thank you so much for these items.
I guess you knew that our bedding was getting worn and we would appreciate a pair of bright new pillowcases. And the pot-holders are a wonderful collection which would make any kitchen bright. Will you thank all of the ladies who worked on these? And the dishtowels, too, and the pretty apron. The one who put that darning cotton in, surely had a good idea. I claimed the shampoo brush, but I guess I will be sharing it!
The three sweet little sock dolls we put in the top of the stockings of the three little friends who spent Christmas with us, some twins of three years and a little boy of 2. We were glad to share with them. The two little rubber cars went to Timmy and the other toy to Paul as we thought he would take good care of it (the figure that walks). They are so glad to have the games. And the models did not take many days to put together as Daddy did most of them! He then built a special ‘what-not’ shelf to display them. My corsage goes to church on my Sunday dress. Oh, I wanted to specially to thank Faith Echelson for Timmy’s candy sock. He surely did like it. And tell Buddy Eilson that John and Timmy are ever so grateful for the books.
The day set for Congo Independence is June 30. And many are anxious for that time, as varying opinions are passed. Some Africans would continue as before, but with more power in government and commerce. Others would like to be entirely rid of the white people. But there are just a few years between cannibalism and savage way of living, and we are not sure whether the majority of feeling will come from the wilder element. And there is a common fear that if all white people are expelled that a stronger, more cruel power will take possession (they don’t know much about Russia, but they have heard of oppressed countries and Hungary’s sorrow). There are some wise Congolese who have been well-educated, too and we hope they will not let things get out of hand. Our mission is rapidly putting the churches into the hands of trustworthy Christian Africans. We will share, but not bear the responsibilities of the work, and hope that some will be able to be greatly used of the Lord. Whether our time be long or short, we are committed to Him, to serve Him in just the way that pleases Him most. These troubles are bringing more opportunities to witness, and to show how the Bible has a promise for every need. Some are turning to Christ who have tried the world and found that it does not satisfy. Pray for our Sunday meetings in the native quarters and the daily services with staff and neighbours. And for the children as they pass out tracts at the school.
And there are always the special interest stories like the following that Ione relates to Hectors sister Irene and Barbara and Donny, Irene’s children:
…We continue to keep well. John has had an accident which required four stitches in his ankle. He dropped a sharp rock on it. Hector and the boys went on a little trip with the children of two stations for a week-end (at Boyulu). I was planning to go, but the arrival of our doctor’s child made it necessary for me to stay as she did not know Mimi Sigg very well. It was holiday week-end and everyone had a nice time in spite of the accident. Hector had a chance to go hunting with some friends whom he admires very much. He shot a monkey. He was telling about a missionary doctor in lion country not very far from us here, who went outside with his .22 rifle at night and when he saw two eyes he shot, thinking it might have been a civet cat. He told his natives to go and pick it up, and when they went, they came back terrified saying he had shot a lion. He got lights and turned them on it, and got a heavier gun and fired again and the lion did not move. He found that he had actually killed it with the first shot from only a .22, but it hit right in the forehead.
To the family, Ione’s letters remain reassuring as is her letter to another of Hector’s sisters, Florence:
The children have felt a little antagonism going to school with so many African children, but there are many who are kind as well. And the teachers are always watchful to stop any race troubles (17 different nationalities!). We have talked to our children and feel that they understand that we came to help them to know the Lord, and if they are unkind, we should still continue to love them as Jesus did. They even spit in Jesus’ face, didn’t they?
We are happy in our work here, and glad to have help which can carry on while we are at home. Our household numbers 31 now, with the arrival of 2 more new children. This is our maximum so far, but will exceed this when we return in ’61. The Lord is good to lead us thus far. We can safely trust in Him. Audrey’s verse was a blessing – Isa. 23:14 “…not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord spoke.” Lovingly, Hector and Ione
To Jean and Archie, Ione writes on 3rd March 1960:
All are keeping well. Our good supply of vitamins has helped us get thru the month of January with very few illnesses. We have enough pills now to last until June. John got a bad cut in his ankle when he dropped a heavy sharp rock. They were making a dam during a holiday week-end. He had to have four stitches put in. It did not prevent him from walking, and he carried on as usual, which is racing here and there and being always first. He still does very well in school.
Kenneth seems to be the star piano pupil right now of the eight who are taking. The teacher announced last lesson that he had finished the ‘premier année de musique’ and would not need to concentrate now so much on position, etc. He works hard at it, as well as his studies until bed-time. David finds it harder to concentrate, and right at this moment he is having a special session with his Daddy over long division.
We are ALL looking forward to that wonderful time on the farm. It will just seem wonderful not to have to keep ten houseboys working and plan the menus and jobs for so many others. We have 31 in our Home now, since a little girl and a little boy joined recently. We love Kathryn Streight, and she is getting along just fine. She is old for her age, and thinks things thru. She is loveable and I get lots of hugs. Any cravings I have had for little girls have been satisfied with these eight here now! They are not directly under my care, as Mimi Sigg has them, but there is lots I can do for them, and we rotate tables so I serve them one week out of four or five. I have seven little wiggly boys at my table this week, and I help Isobel bathe nine every night. Well, it is fun, and a joy to love and care for them. Took our houseboys wives to women’s world day of prayer today and there was a crowd of about 700 just women, and they conducted the meeting themselves, although’ Mrs. Freestone, BMS, had helped them.
Ione’s excitement about her forthcoming trip home is palpable in this letter to Mrs Frank Smith on 8th March:
…A recent letter from Mother was bubbling over with joy at the prospect of a large amount of money to be spent on getting the McMillan’s ready for furlough. This was followed by another letter written Feb. 26 the same day that she and Lucille went shopping in Kalamazoo. They must have had a wonderful time, and found some good bargains, too! I am so thrilled to know there is a new suit, a beige ‘walking suit’ with ¾ coat which can be worn with dresses, too. A beautiful sale-coat for Kenny for $10, and shirt and pants for each of the boys. A blouse to go with the suit for me, and two dresses, drip dry. Some nylon hose and housecoat, and some lovely sandals in beige, tan and brown combination. I had told Mother in a previous letter that I thought the sandals would do that Gerrie (and I think some other ladies) had given me the money for when we were home in ’55. I have kept them for just Sundays and when we go to town. But it is nice having some new ones. The other shoes that the ladies helped me buy in ’55 were called ‘clinic shoes’ and I have never even had to have them re-soled, they have worn so well, and I have alternated with them wearing every day, three pairs of brown and one pair of white oxfords. I have never known a day of discomfort in my feet this whole five years, and they are good enough to wear when I come home for working in.
I am trying to prepare myself for the disappointment if Mother’s box does not get here in time, but as it will be summertime, it will not be too hard to find something to wear. The boys would have to wear what they wear here, and short pants look funny to children at home. I told Mother to try to send it not later than the first of March.
I told Mother not to try to send undergarments other than stockings as I have accumulated quite a few nylon slips, etc., from Christmas packages which have come.
Well, it is like getting ready to wear a trousseau all over again, and I want to thank you, Jimmie and Gerrie, for this wonderful gift of money. We hope to thank you in person when we come to Pontiac the last of July or August. Our date of leaving here is June 18, but we have had indirect word that it might be changed to accommodate our mission in getting a reduction by going in a jet and together with several other family’s due furlough this summer. If this is the case, we will not leave until July. We had hoped to spend a month on the farm at Avonmore, Ontario when we first arrive, and then come to Michigan in time to meet Marcellyn when she and her family come from the Dominican. It is nice having our furlough together. We have engaged a cottage at Gull Lake which is just a few miles from Mother and Lucille, for the first two weeks of August.
Ione still retains her sense of fun during these changing times as seen in her letter to Alice and Claud:
…Although assured by many that white people will be permitted to carry on as usual, no one is too sure, and even our mission work is planned so that in the event of our leaving the work will go on. For years we have dreamed of the indigenous church, and have seen a number come into being. And now, in the speed of Africans taking over all important jobs, the churches are finishing quickly a job which we thought would take many more years. It is really wonderful, and yet some work is turned over with many misgivings! There is so much prejudice and hatred between tribes that there is not much hope of justice in any line except thru a white intermediator, whom they have made use of for years. Just this week, our gardener and his wife had a quarrel. As the little old man and the little old lady continued to hold forth, the shouts came to blows and then the old lady made a run for the workshop where Hector was. As Hector stood between them in a narrow passage and preceded to give his words of wisdom, the little old lady pursed her lips, squinted one eye and then reached past Hector and smacked the little old man right in the face. I guess you can see it in a mental picture!! I came just in time to see it all, and then had to duck behind something so that they could not see me laughing. I don’t know how many times in a day one or the other comes for advice and to settle some dispute.
Well, the Lord knows what the future holds. And our present is yielded to Him. May the Lord use us yet to the salvation of many souls to Christ.
Over the years, Ione tries to protect her mother from news that she may find disturbing but occasionally she writes a long and honest letter, on April 15th 1960 Ione writes:
It looks like we will see you a little before we had expected. We will leave here later than planned, but because of leaving here later, we will go directly to the States, and Canada afterward. We had a letter from Tom Downey and he has asked that we fit our travel with the others who are going on furlough in order for the Mission to get a reduction of rates. That means that over 30 of us will go by jet, leaving here July 18th. They have allowed Paul to travel half-fare, even though he will be 12 on the 14th. The families to go together are the Boyes, the Logan’s, the Parry’s, the Harms, Viola Walker and Mabel Wenger. We will arrive at New York, and then be forwarded to our next destination, I think, by plane. It seems we will come in at the nearest airport to you.
I have not written any letters as I have not been very well lately. I keep thinking that it will finish and then I will be able to talk about it as past. It is probably the change of life beginning. Since the 31st of January I have been irregular. It seems to be following a pattern: about nine days’ period, then skip a week, then nine days again and skip a week, which gives me some pain and depression. I had an injection when it didn’t stop for 13 days in February, but it didn’t seem to make any difference. I went again to the doctor, and on the 17th March (David’s birthday!) I had a curettage. I stayed overnight at the hospital and, not being told by the doctor to ‘take it easy’ I tried to carry on with the usual duties the next day and had a bad reaction, so when we went back to the hospital the doctor said I should really rest for a week. Well, I wasn’t sick enough for the hospital and not well enough to be at the children’s home, so Herb Boyes who happened to be in town then, took me to Banjwadi where I had a week’s rest. During this time Mimi Sigg took on all of the housekeeping duties and did such a splendid job that she has carried on ever since. This frees me for quieter times and, now at last for letters. After the curettage I started up again in 5 days so doctor started a series of four shots a month. I will go for the next on the 28th. There does not seem to be any change in the pattern of two periods a month, nor does it ever seem to get out of control. I do not have an especially low blood count, and am taking vitamins. (In a letter to her sister Marcellyn, Ione dismisses this as just ‘the change of life’) And I am gaining in weight quite rapidly. It looks like I will weigh as much when I come home as when we left in ’55! I am 128 now. For a while I felt dizzy and had head-aches, but have no complaints now and feel like working again.
The boys are looking forward to those trousers and shirts and Christmas stockings. Leaving later will give them plenty of time to get here. Hector had another suit given to him by Stan Nicholls and with a slight ‘let-out’ in the waist it fits fine, and will look nicer than the one Herb Boyes offered him, as Hector looks better in brown than grey. That was nice you put in some aprons, as they need them here in the Home for when the children do the kitchen work, and also for our staff. The hankies will be nice for travel, as all I possess is that nice is one that Mrs. Cullen sent from Canada. The boys are thrilled about the pens and notebooks to write about their trip. They are excited about riding in a jet. Someone remarked about so many of our missionaries travelling at once, “Isn’t that putting all of your eggs in one basket?”
Hector’s sister wants to be married to her Bob Jones, and she is only waiting for Archie to get married first. But Archie has no inclination even though a former lady friend of his is now free for marriage (her dependent parent has died). We invited Archie to go out west with us while we are there, so that Jean would be free, but he preferred to stay at the farm.
We should be able to get a car with the savings that is kept out for us. That would be about $400 by now, and I think Jean and Archie have $200 more. But Hector wants to wait until we get to Canada to buy it, as we had so much trouble before getting our car across the border.
It will be nice to hear the Covey Hill Church Orchestra. Kenny and David are enjoying their piano lessons. You will be interested to hear about this teacher’s method. I can’t think of the name of it, but it is like they teach in Europe. He has been ordering the music, etc. from Belgium, but has asked me this time to order some from the States. I said I would ask you. He wants a variety of numbers to practice with two hands in Grades I and II. I am enclosing $5 for this. And I wondered if when you see some Easter egg dye packets you could put in one for the Walbys. They have never had them (and we never use them because we don’t like to side track the real meaning of Easter!), (The rituals surrounding eggs at Easter have been part of many Christian faiths for a long time, symbolising death and rebirth through the resurrection. Ione’s assertion that they detract from the real message of Easter is part of a theological debate and probably contentious because it lacks scriptural support.) but she asked if I would get one for her just to try for the children. The Walbys never get parcels from home, and I thought I would like to try to do this one thing Mrs. Walby asked. If they don’t come in time for Easter, they will dye eggs whenever they wish. (The British missionaries always seemed the poor relations, post war rationing went on for so much longer than elsewhere and families did not have spare money or rations to parcel up and send to Africa!)
There has been a change in the way we get our allowance now, and we have to plan ahead a bit. We are not sure what will happen to the economic conditions here. They say the Congo franc has already devaluated since the Belgians have taken away the gold on deposit at the banks. No more checks are accepted. And the banks are cautious about giving out money even when you give in a check. One of our missionaries was refused when he asked to take out money a second time in one week. Another person who was standing ahead of Hector in line was told to come back later in the afternoon. Our exchange will probably not be less, but we cannot be sure that when we put money into the bank it can be taken out again. And we dare not keep cash in the house because of thieving.
The music teacher had the equivalent of 40,000 fs. stolen in the night a few weeks ago. They took not only the money in his pants, but the pants as well! Much of the thieving is done by children who have older folk hidden nearby. Some take the loot across the river and get it on the train and right out of town quick. We have heard that half of the white people have left Stan. It is probably the Belgians who are seeking employment elsewhere. There are still a lot of Greeks and Indians and Portuguese people. We have not heard that there will be no school in Sept., but folk are saying the school will be the last establishment to be disbanded. The Lord knows what all this will mean to us. But if we are here thru the crisis, we can best advise our young helpers. Pray for our safety.
The white people who have made African enemies have left because of danger of revenge. But we feel we have many African friends here, in the Lord. The priest of the Catholic Mission near Banjwadi accidentally ran over a black man, and had he not dashed hastily to the administrator he would have been killed on the spot. Another man near Bang. did stop when he ran over somebody, but the only thing to do is hurry to the police or soldier camp. Sometimes Africans make their bikes go deliberately near a car, so they will have to pay damage. It surely makes you careful in driving. Do you remember the time when we were at Bongondza and an African who was riding on the pick-up truck fell off while Hector was driving, and was killed? Well, there were some pagan relatives who were all for killing one of our children as a means of revenge. If this accident had happened today, we would have had to leave the country. The priest who had the accident at Banjwadi had to go away completely either to Belgium or a remote place in Congo. And ever since then they have been stopping priests to see if it is the one. Well, these are unusual days, and I do believe that we “have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” If it can bring glory to Him, we shall not mind the difficulties. Our Christians are watching us now as never before. And a number are accepting Christ. Just last week another houseboy, as well as the parents of our houseboys’ wife. And we do see some fruits of the Spirit, though at times they get so wrought up over ‘Independence’, and suspicious that they are going to be tricked.
The children keep well. This morning we were all shelling peanuts together and had fun. We went on a forest picnic as a family; also a hunting trip. Hector went two days in the forest with three other men, and I stayed with the children at Banjwadi. We had fun fishing. Hector shot a monkey and a hawk. The children look forward to playing with the train at Avonmore. Love, Ione
PS (from Tim): I go to school in kindergarten. Dear Grandma, I wish you would send to me a packet of sweeties, and pictures of boats with people catching fish. I love you very much and hope to see you in a few months. Is it true that you said you would get us ice cream cones? Tim XXXXXXXXX
Although there was political unrest in the country, there were still new missionaries committed to coming out and serving in the Belgian Congo. Families like the Muchmore’s would have been in Europe learning French in preparation for their first term in the Congo. The letter from Ione to Mrs Muchmore on the 17th April would suggest that this is the case:
We are not sure the exact day when school starts, but it may be as early as August 29th. If this is the case, you will not have much time after your arrival in the Congo! I will tell Mimi to let you know when we know the exact day, and the children generally arrive here the night before school starts, though it may be a help to your children to come a few days earlier to get acquainted with the Home and Siggs and Isobel. The Children’s Home Committee has decided 6 is the best age for coming here, but as David will be 6 on Sept. 19, I am quite sure they will feel he should start. Brenda was only five when she arrived (December her birthday, I believe), and she was advised to wait awhile. I think Measles are going to make a request of the Committee for her to start in September. The school will take them, but the Committee aimed to have their care in the Home begin at six. I would think David could begin in first year as he had kindergarten in Belgium. But some of the children we thought would go in first were held back another year but I think it was because they had no French experience.
The Siggs are Uncle Dick and Auntie Mimi, and Auntie Isobel does not mind if we say ‘Antie’ instead of ‘Awnty’ (the Americans always teased the British about their pronunciation of certain words!) as they say in England! We have two buildings where the boys sleep and then the Home where the girls sleep. We think Siggs will continue sleeping in the Home and supervising the girls. The two elder Carter boys sleep in the small dormitory just behind this, and the rest of the middle-sized boys in the big dormitory where Isobel will sleep. Here there will probably by a division of ages. In all probability David and Allan will be in the same room. Allan Nicholls will be the oldest of their age group. Allan is 9 years. Next would be Billy McAllister who is nearly 8. Then Wilfred Walby who is 7. We think David McAllister will be ready for the Children’s Home by September, though haven’t checked on his age yet.
About English reading… (here is a discussion about English books at the Home)…I don’t know whether comic books have been an issue with you, but it has been with our family since we had our furlough in ’55. However, we were surprised to find the Committee did not feel it an issue and felt instead that we need not make a rule against them as so few were even available out here. So to combat the effect of the books that did make their appearance (mostly in French from the bookstore in Stanleyville), we wanted to give them an abundance of the kind of Christian stories which would help them most. We can use French books if you can get some that are translations of the nice stories that are on the ‘good reading’ lists that we know about. Books are easy to mail if sent in small packages and plainly marked.
We have dry skim milk, but for drinking and for cereal, etc., we use whole dry milk which we get wholesale here. Breakfast; oatmeal cereal, papaya or banana, bread, butter (Planta margarine), peanut-butter and jam. When we can get wheat, we use half and half for porridge. They like to put ground roasted peanuts on their porridge but we do not require them to do this, but we do ask that the children take a little bit of everything that is offered for the usual items. Dinner we try to have quite like at home, with meat and potatoes, vegetable, salad and dessert, but frequently substitute rice or manioc for potatoes, and a native green called sombi, or cooking banana (Plantain). The children have rose apple. (There was a Rose Apple bush in the grounds that fruited regularly, the fruit is related to guavas rather than apples, have a rosy outer skin but the flesh is white. Unlike guavas, rose apples have fewer seeds. They were very popular). Real apples are not impossible as occasionally we see them on the bargain counter price and we don’t want the children to forget what they taste like. Supper is salad, leftovers, bread or toast. We eat at 6:30 in the morning during school; dinner 12:30; supper 5:15. They take a sandwich and their own drinking water bottles to school in the morning. The bus comes at 7, brings them home at 12:30; goes again at 1:30 and comes at 5. Lovingly, Ione A synopsis of our day!
After the Easter vacation, and no idea whether or not we (the Walby’s) coloured eggs, we returned to school. Ione writes to Tom Downey at UFM Headquarters on 20th April:
…Today marks the beginning of another trimester here at Athenée Royal. Most of the children arrived last night and the Banjwadi ones went straight to school from their station this morning, as it is only an hour’s ride. We have noticed a slight relief from the usual feeling of being crowded, as the Larson’s were able to take a few of the parents for eating or sleeping. I guess you may know that they have engaged a house to rent nearby in order to get going on the Administration Centre project. But others went to the hotel, and some just planned to come into Stanleyville and right out because of no accommodations. Even with just the children and staff we are bursting at the seams, wishing for that new dining room and kitchen. The refrigerator contents are groaning for the next size box. The washing machine stops now and then just for a rest.
But what a happy, jolly group of children. So thrilled to be back with one another, after two weeks with their loved ones, some have been in large native conferences, some trekking, all feeling a part of the wonderful work the Lord is doing here in the Congo. The little boys don’t notice that we still have no installed washbasin in their quarters, and brushing teeth outside with a tin cup is always fun when you can see who can spit the farthest!
The accommodation was better than some of the mud huts we had lived in before the brick kilns got into production!
Gordon Carter had always found adapting to the Belgian school difficult, as the eldest boy in the Home, he was our hero mainly because of his passion for animals, in particular monkeys. Ione was not too impressed when he hid snakes in his bedroom but she, Hector and his parents had a plan which Ione shares with her family in a letter on 22nd April:
…And another decision must be made as well concerning our trip. Some time ago we offered to take the oldest boy in the Children’s Home to Canada to attend Prairie Bible Institute High School. We felt it was time for a real change for him as he was 17 and not really happy in the course he was following. And the French subjects have always been hard for him. The school prefect suggested that he drop out of school at the end of this year, and we are not satisfied to see him just take up employment in a town like Stanleyville. He is a lovely Christian boy and no discipline problems at all. He does have an inferiority complex because his next younger brother is a little brighter, and more handsome, and more forward. We think he would do better if he were ‘on his own’. Well, that has led to much thought on the parents’ part, and last night the father, Mr. Carter, said they might try to get him on the same plane with us, if we could see him to Prairie and get him started there. The father is Australian and the mother English, and they have not been on furlough for ten years.
Ione tells her sister Lucille:
he is like a son to us, as we have had him here for five years. We do not know yet whether he will be coming, but have agreed to be responsible for him. I have written to ask Jean if he could spend several weeks on the farm while we have our reunion in Michigan. I think Jean and Archie would enjoy him and he could go there first, and stay awhile. Hector could take a plane from New York when we arrive, in order to take Gordon there, leave him, and come right back to Philadelphia. If we left Gull Lake the middle of August, we could still spend about ten days on the farm, and then take Gordon and our own and get that special dome-train that runs to Calgary on the Canadian Pacific.
As it happened, events that occurred on 30th June 1960 changed all those plans and Gordon eventually found himself back in Australia with the rest of his family.
Occasionally, Ione gets to write letters like those she sent in her early days of being a missionary, an example is the following that she sent to Mrs Iva Mae Fockler on April 25th:
The climate here ranges between 70 and 90 degrees. It goes above that frequently here in Stanleyville, as we are lower, next to the Congo River. We are in the forest (Ituri) and then comes the grasslands which are hilly, and then the high mountains of the Kivu. This week a plane hit one of the mountains at Bogoro near Bunia, and 33 people were killed, including 3 missionaries (don’t know yet whether Catholic or Protestant). Our people are of the Bantu race, but there are many tribes, and maybe you have read of the fighting between two tribes just now at Luluaberg. We have four tribes working for us in our Home, helping with the housework. They each speak a different tribal tongue, but understand our Lingala or Swahili. All of our missionaries speak one of these two languages.
Those who do not know the Lord fear evil spirits, who are many and strong in this land. There are fetishes made of all sorts of parts of animal and human bodies which they wear or hide in their houses. Their dances are because of the spirits, and they go on and on for days without stopping, just to appease the spirits. A snake worship is practiced near here, and they must drink water from a bottle in which is a snake. They will not kill certain snakes. Since the coming of missionaries some who do not understand the true Gospel message have obtained Bibles and use them for fetishes, though they don’t even know how to read them. For this reason, we have to be very careful about giving out Bibles unless they can read and understand. Otherwise they will dance around them.
The mud houses here are square, but some in other places are round, with leaf roofs here, and grass in the grasslands. The main food on most of our stations is the plantain or cooking banana. But at Ekoko it is manioc. All eat rice when it is in season, peanuts, and any number of the tropical fruits which grow. A nice vegetable is the leaves of the manioc, with palm fat and onions. We often have it for the children with rice. Our children like the palm nuts, too, boiled or roasted. Recently our missionaries about 175 miles away killed an elephant with a shot gun, just happened to aim at the right spot, for it would take a heavier gun for an elephant. They were eating some of the meat, but it is strong and not so good for us. The natives love it.
Climate is often an obstacle for missionary work, as it is so humid and hot, and you get tired quick, and sort of limp, like you do on the hottest day of July, only it is all the time. Yesterday I didn’t do anything special but got prickly heat anyway. We are told when we come here not to expect to enjoy the robust health which we had at home but to always feel a little bit sick. If you can learn to keep on with what the Lord has called you to do, in spite of how you feel, you would make a good missionary. The old missionaries of the past had a lot of other obstacles that we don’t have, for they had no cars or planes. And good food and medicines were not available. David Livingstone went on foot and by boat, and had slave traders and savages to contend with.
Recently we attended the ordination of a native pastor here in Stanleyville. A number of other pastors were at the service and among them a real old man. We were told that when the missionaries first met him, he was chewing on a bone and it was a human bone. (Cannibalism is still practiced in places not far from here; human flesh is sold on the markets sometimes.) Another man who was there was called George Grenfell. He is now the Mayor of the part of Stanleyville where the riots were so bad in November. He is a Christian and the son of a man who was stolen by the Arabs to be sold into slavery. Stanley, the explorer who came to look for Livingstone, bought the stolen man and gave him to a missionary to look after. The missionary’s name was George Grenfell. When this man had a little boy, he named him after the great missionary. The man who grew up in Grenfell’s house and became the Captain of the steamer which the missionaries used on the Congo River. On one of his trips he stopped in the village where his old mother and father lived, and they did not know him because he had been stolen when only a small child. He knew his mother, though and proved to her that he was her child by showing her a scar on his arm he had received in infancy from a leopard. The ‘African’ George Grenfell who was in the meeting gave a nice word of testimony, and said he hoped that Independence for the Congolese would bring them to a real dependence upon the Lord. (Ione and Hector learnt of this story whilst awaiting the birth of Paul at Yakusu).
At present there are about 40 mission societies working in the Congo. The ones nearest to us are the British Baptist Mission Society, the World Evangelization Crusade (or Heart of Africa Mission), the Africa Inland Mission, the Norwegian Baptists, the Swedish Covenant Church, (MEU) and the Brethren (Immanuel Mission).
The types of professions needed for work here are: Bible teachers, which training can only come from a Bible Institute or College; teachers of all types and background; doctors, nurses, children’s workers, Christian education specialists, dieticians (wish I had this training!), business training, engineering of all kinds, for building projects, etc. One of our missionaries graduating majored in forestry. The thing is to get at it soon, and get as much training as you can. If your life is yielded to the Lord, you must seek Him for guidance that the subjects you choose will fit in with what He has specially planned for you to do.
As far as we know, we will be able to continue on here in the Congo, even though the Belgians will probably leave (2,000 have left already). Our living conditions will probably deteriorate, as the Belgians have a high standard of living. Hospitals run by Africans will not be kept clean, etc., that is, not to suit us. Schools will be overcrowded and understaffed because they do not see the value of giving as much individual attention as possible. Cars they buy are overloaded and therefore wear out faster. They are always running out of gas. But if they want the missionaries to remain, we surely shall, and can trust the Lord for grace to bear with the changes that seem to us for the worst.
Ione is an avid planner and organiser; whilst thanking her sister Lucille for gifts sent, Ione is busily organising her family from another continent, and writes on 27th April:
Do you think Jim would like to stay with us at the cottage, so that he could to do the children’s meetings and go swimming with our boys and Marcellyn’s children? I am sure it would be no trouble to fix up a place for him, too, and it would be fun, as he is so near their ages. Whatever he has been saving up will be appreciated, as far as puzzles and toys, as they will have a lot of time to fill up, and can’t just be attending meetings all the time. They love to play games, and four of ours know how to read now. Stevie makes a big effort and may be able to read in English by then. He can already read in French. Our schedule at the Lake will probably be, get up, make beds, straighten up the room. I’ll divide them into groups for helping with meals so that they will know ahead of time what household duties as far as preparation of food, dishes, scrubbing, etc. (Hope Jimmie doesn’t get scared!) If everybody helps we can all play together, and enjoy the meetings. Our meals will be very simple. It will be nice to have some Sunday school papers to look at and our Christian books (others too, but we have so few here and the kids are longing for more of the Danny Orlis series) during the time that we observe as rest hour, just after dinner. We will have family worship when we first get up, and just before we go to bed.
Is Marcellyn going to Otsego right away when she arrives. I thought it sounded like that, as the folk from there were meeting her. It looks like we may be arriving at Paw Paw on the same day that she arrives, but if you are planning to drive to G.R., we can stay over in Pontiac an extra day, so that you’ll be at home when we come. There is a chance that we might go to G.R. on our way to Paw Paw. This is what I would like, but we don’t know the time of day of plane arrival, nor do we know yet the means of transportation we will have from Pontiac.
I’m sorry that Maurice has been sick. Hope he is better now. We want to see Wayne and Esther and children as soon as possible. Are they planning to visit you while we will be there? If not, we will try to get to see them in Coal Valley, is that the name? How I would like to attend Founder’s Week next year. As yet, I don’t see how it will be possible, but the Lord knows what is best.
Thank you so much for offering about the laundry. I’m afraid that is too big an undertaking, unless we come over and help you, if you will let us use the washing machine. We could plan on a morning or two a week, depending upon the means of transportation. If Marcellyn and Larry have a car, we might work it out with them and come at the same time.
That was so good of you to send the tin of popcorn and hard candy all wrapped in Sunday school papers. It came in excellent condition, not a single piece of candy was sticky. There was enough for everyone to have as much popcorn as they wanted, using it all at one time. Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness. It arrived April 2nd.
Last Saturday, the 23rd, two packages arrived with the clothes for me. Everything was in very good condition, and the clothes fit perfectly!
I can’t tell you what it means to be out here five years and then see so many new pretty things all at once. And the styles are just what I would prefer. Isobel and Mrs. Sigg say that hat and the collar of coat are just my type, and the dresses, too. The shoes are just right and so soft and comfortable. Thank you so much for these. I have put the aprons in the drawer we use for children’s times of work, and the children can hardly wait to use them, especially the plaited ones and the one with the towel attached! That is such a sweet housecoat, and the nighties roomy and comfortable. I will not need to take much else, and it looks like all I have to do is pack up.
Tell Mother I received her April form letter and do thank her. We shall be on the look-out for the extra box sent for Stephen. We will have to see when the things arrive just how the sizes fit, as the children are growing so rapidly right now. Thanks for sending the extra things. Ask Mother what part of New York wants her for a week of Conference. If it is in the northern part, why couldn’t she travel with us when we leave Gull Lake. We will stop probably at Lake Orion and Pontiac, then Toronto at Hector’s churches, and Hector’s sister Alice at Dunnville. We could go along the River and she could get into New York from that side, crossing either the Lake or the River.
Well, plans may be changed, but one has to start somewhere. Hector will need to come back from Three Hills for the November Conferences, and will take meetings in Toronto (possibly Michigan as well) around that time. When we know when school lets out, I can make my plans for coming back for the Pontiac Conference which is usually in April. If school lets out early like it did in ’50, we can all come back then, but I may have to come back by myself and maybe Mrs. Cullum could cook for the family during that time. You remember the Bert Cullum who visited us at Fenton, when he bought his new car and drove it out west to Three Hills. He is a wheat farmer. They have been good friends and have followed our work here closely by prayer and gifts.
All for now. There are so many letters to write, and I am glad that Mimi has charge of the cooking now. Lovingly, Ione
At the beginning of May there is a rapid disruption to life in Stanleyville. Lumumba comes to the town from Belgium to organise the forth coming elections. There are several different political parties vying for control of the country, most are based on tribal relationships. As the Congolese had never voted before, the concept of democratic rule was new. The indication the McMillan’s have of impending trouble is when the children get sent home from school early on buses with soldiers riding as guards. Mabel Wenger, a fellow missionary happened to be in town and her car window got smashed. Ione writes:
This week a car window was broken when one of our missionaries drove near to the crowd around the African leader, Lumumba. It was Lumumba himself who rescued her, for the car door was opened and those in the car were spat upon. (The missionaries have been given the assurance from Lumumba that the Protestant Missions will enjoy favour after Congo’s Independence.) When the missionary (that is, Mabel Wenger) sought refuge with us, Hector cleaned up her car a bit, and put the name of our mission on it in white paint, and she had no more trouble. That same day our children had soldier escort on their school bus, as windows had been broken. Yesterday the school authorities asked that we keep the children home in the afternoon until crowds had subsided.
While we are having trouble with race feelings, the people themselves are getting more and more animated about their various political parties. Some have guns, and are using them. I am thankful that we are six miles out of town, as we can protect the children better from scenes of violence.
Ione provides her sister Marcellyn more detail in a letter written 10th May:
Lumumba came Tuesday, and Thursday the Governor made his farewell speech. He left Stanleyville today, and by 4 o’clock we had a car driving in front of our house with loudspeaker and megaphone, asking all white people to identify themselves with the new government (not yet even voted upon!) or else they must leave the country and get their things out of their houses. (Thus, the Belgians left the country without a titular head to formally govern the country.). I guess Kinso will have to go in to their office and tell them what we hope to do as missionaries. The Belgians are leaving and losing their plantations, and everything planted, and are only allowed to take $200 with them. Lumumba is giving instructions this week on voting and Saturday or Sunday will be either polling day or election day, I am not sure. The school had planned their Fete des Meres for Saturday but have pushed it ahead to tomorrow as they fear trouble then. They gave the kids a half-holiday yesterday because of the crowds expected when Lumumba made an appearance. We are beginning to mark our mission cars so that they will not be damaged. It is a queer feeling to be without a Governor, and we are wondering if this will be a stormy time. All sorts of stories are going around, but we do know that Banalia is under military law as of yesterday from fighting and that all of the single girls at Bongondza are sleeping at Walbys. One of the new missionaries was wakened suddenly in the night when an African man was pulling her bed covers off. She is not easily scared, and set up a great noise, and he ran away. The Bongondza folk are concerned about the big girls we take care of here. Laureen is 12 now. (After this incident I stayed at the Children’s Home whilst everyone else went back to school. It was my first realisation of what puberty meant!) So we are being very careful to get them inside the house at dark, and they are always with us. I have not told Mother any of this, and I hope you don’t, as she would worry. And we feel that the Lord has a special reason for keeping us here at such a time. And because you are used to political unrest there, you will understand that even though there are a lot of violence all around one can continue to maintain a normal life, and be at peace knowing it is His will. We will be thankful when these 26 children are with their parents and the responsibility will be for only our own. Final exams are being rushed a bit and it looks like school will not last until June 18 as planned. June 30th is the big Independence Day with 4 days of celebration, when they say even the police will be celebrating. Our missionaries have felt all along that they should stay on their stations and encourage fetes of the right kind. We shall see if this will be possible. We are not having our Annual Conference as usual, and leaving the Field Council till the end of summer when we “know how the matter will fall”.
Although Ione does not inform her mother of the changes that are occurring for her, Ione prepares in earnest for her departure and writes to her mother:
In my letter last week, I did not tell you that I am mailing 15 packages to you. Under 2 kilos they can go as parcel post. Some are old letters, some photos, and some children’s handwork, with a few souvenirs tucked in, of the kind that do not need to be declared. There may be a few more yet, if I can get hold of some more souvenirs. You can open them and if you have any time, start sorting them out. They are quite muddled up, and there may be some that we will not want to keep at all. I will not need to refer much to that lot for speaking engagements, but if I do, it would be handy to have them filed alphabetically. (Our family had no foresight to do this as we had no plans to leave and we have very few photos or records of our childhood in the Belgian Congo as a result).
I am bringing with me the letters of the past year and a half. The pictures I don’t suppose you can do too much with, unless you divide them into parts like, Trio days, family, before mission field, mission field, marriage, etc. There are a lot that I don’t even remember when they were taken.
About the children’s handwork, I thought you would like to see it, and then I wanted to take some of it to Three Hills, for items of interest at school, and to help the teacher to know what work they have done (notebooks and report books, etc.).
I am bringing a few pieces of ivory, but wish I could get a lot more. That we will carry with our luggage, to show when we go thru customs. I have to get a visa to stay in America, and will have to appear in person at the consulate, either in Leo or in Brussels. But since we have only two hours in Leopoldville, I suppose it will have to be in Brussels. I think we stay overnight there.
The June 18th reservations are no good now, and July 18 is definite. Gordon Carter will be coming on this plane with us, but Hector will probably take him to the farm as soon as we arrive. We had a letter from First Baptist and they are happy that we are spending our first Sunday in the home church. They will meet us in Detroit and arrange for us to stay in homes.
We are listening a lot to the World News, and the seriousness of affairs between Russia and the States sort of puts in the shade our troubles here. Our local papers tell of battles with bows and arrows, spears, etc. There are incidents all over, and right here in Stanleyville. Yesterday the African leader Lumumba published that the voting was fraud and the votes don’t count. And because Belgium is sending in white paratroops, there is to be a demonstration against whites in Stanleyville. In fact, United Nations became involved and troops arrived from Ghana, Britain, Eire and America provided troop carrier planes). Do pray for our children, as we feel we should keep them in school as long as we can. They will tell the children not to come if military occupation prevents.
Trouble escalates as Ione chronicles in a letter to Mrs McGrath on 25th May:
…As I write to you, there are soldiers circulating about town, and a helicopter flying low, looking for trouble. As the Congo is going to have its Independence in just a few weeks, a lot of changes are being made. And these changes are not pleasing to everybody. Political parties made up of people so recently out of savagery, cannot settle disputes without violence. Volunteer white soldiers and paratroops which arrived last week are not very welcome, and because of strong protests in the newspapers, two newspapers were seized. The Congolese leader here says that he can keep things quiet without white soldiers, and the Belgians are not going to chance anything.
A good many white people have left, especially the wives and children. Our field Secretary had a talk with the Congolese leader, Lumumba, and he says the Protestant missionaries are welcome to stay. But we are not basing our hopes on his word, as we have a higher Authority, who called us some time ago, and when He closes the door, we’ll know our work here is finished.
Perhaps you remember what Mordecai said to Esther, “Who knows but that thou art come to the Kingdom for such a time as this.” We feel that the Lord has a special purpose in keeping us here at this very critical time. Over the days of Independence Celebrations many white people are lodging in hotels with food and guns. The wives and children of the British Missionary Society at Yakusu are coming to stay in the home of the British Vice Council, in Stanleyville. We expect to stay right here, unless told by our mission to do otherwise. There will be soldier protection in town. But we have our invisible host. Lovingly, Ione
Ione seems to be experiencing a mixture of emotions, excited to be going home, work as usual and worry about the state of affairs; to Marion Hutchinson on 13th June, she writes:
We are getting excited about coming home, and the children have just a few more days of school. Next week we will entertain Dr Allen Redpath, (Dr Redpath was an Evangelist born and brought up in the UK. In 1953, he was appointed pastor at the Moody Church in Chicago. He returned to the UK in 1962 and became the President of the Unevangelised Field Mission in London in 1962) and he will be speaking in Stanleyville. Then a week following is Independence. And we hope to spend that time quietly, out of sight, hibernating kind of, lest the sight of a white face should remind them that they were going to get some sort of revenge! We expect to stock up on food and gas. We’re cutting down our staff (Congolese) as soon as the children leave on Saturday, and the only ones will be those who live on the place. This morning Isobel heard one of them say (in the language she understands) “they’re going to bring rotten eggs to the door to sell and if they don’t buy them, they’ll throw them at us!) Well, there may be some April fool tricks. Hector is going to give a gift to the local chief and hope that this will prevent everybody coming to the door for a present.
We know that you will be remembering us in prayer. I think we will try to get some fire crackers to shoot off with the natives right here who are our friends. (At the end of the school term, we had a choice of prizes to take back to our parents on the various mission stations, mine was a fire cracker – a rocket to be precise, which was let off at Bongondza – much to the amazement of all who saw it! Hector must have bought extras!!) It is not a thickly populated neighbourhood, and is 6 miles out of town. Of course, we will not go downtown for the parades during the three days’ celebrations. The Baptist Missionary Society and Salvation Army want Hector to join them in a plea to get the Protestant Group represented in the parades. The YMCA couple are leaving Stanleyville. And there will be no replacement so far as we know.
June 14th 1960, Ione writes to hector’s sister Irene:
I am feeling fine now, but still must see the doctor and suppose that the case will be referred to the doctor (Dr Westcott, who had worked with Ione when she first went to the Congo) in Ypsilanti for examination when we arrive in Michigan. We hope to have a thorough check-up on the whole family at that time for worms, amoebic cyst, chest for John, and anaemia for all. Everyone except Stevie and I have had fever this past two weeks, and David is in bed right now. The illness may be a type of flu as it seems to be epidemic, but treatment for malaria brings the fever down.
I just told David about the cameras, and he could hardly believe his ears. I can imagine the children will enjoy taking pictures when they first arrive, and we will be able thus to see what things are most outstanding to them after five years in the Congo. Thank you so much for making these gifts possible.
The children are putting little things for the journey in the Sabena bags we bought for them. Their Grandma sent them each a notebook and ballpoint pen to keep a diary of the journey, pictorially for those who cannot write much yet. The suits she sent them are nice and have been already shortened where needed. My suit is beige and has a nice straw beret to match. I wore the skirt and hat and gloves to a reception last Saturday held at the Embassy to honour the Queen’s birthday. That is the second British reception I have attended, the other being in honour of Sir George somebody or other who is the Ambassador from Britain to Belgium.
Now I must close. We are having another little birthday party and a little visitor is coming to supper. There is ice cream and a special cake, with a big chocolate butterfly on it. I made it by cutting a small round cake in two and turning the round sides together with a chunk of cake for a body between. It has silver ball eyes and is studded with silver balls, a bright aqua green with spots made of raisins, and a shiny green sugar dusted over it. The seven candles are around the butterfly, resting on the rectangular bottom layer. This is the last birthday of the term, as Kenneth’s is the day after the children separate. Parents will be arriving beginning today and lasting all week, but most will be staying at another house down the road which our mission has rented for now until our guest house is up.
It is amazing and typical of Ione to maintain as far as possible a semblance of normality in the midst of political unrest and imminent upheaval. Her love for the children enables her to put aside whatever feelings she is harbouring and ensure ‘normal’ life continues; she saves realism for her letters and on the 27th June writes to her mother:
The last trip to town will be made now, and I want to get a note off before the Independence festivities. There are not many white people left, and those staying for these uncertain days are sort of going into hibernation. We do not expect to go where crowds are until things quiet down.
Yesterday as Hector passed the market place there were three truckloads of soldiers trying to disperse a big sea of people. There is more fear than joy just now, as the people really do not know what it is all about. Our houseboys say they will stay in their houses during the fete, as they are afraid that a big crowd will bring trouble, which it usually does.
We are letting our staff go tonight after work, for the four days of celebration. The King is to arrive in Leopoldville today, and tomorrow he will officially give the Congo its Independence. There will be parades, fireworks, special services in Catholic and Protestant churches, bells ringing, etc.
There have been many incidents of violence, and even just yesterday a white man tried to shoot his chauffeur, and when he missed him an African woman was hit. There are more troubles in Leopoldville than here, as that is where the gov’t is being formed. People in town have soldiers around them; and we have a jeep patrolling twice a day past our house. We are getting damageable’s out of the way, and the children will stay pretty close to home.
We are getting anxious to go home. All the children have gone to their homes except ours and Sammy Sigg.
PS: We are thrilled about the bike. It hardly seems possible, Ione
Dear Grandma, We received your letter and are very happy about the bicycle. We are getting ready to go home. We are going to stay at a hotel in Brussels. 13 children from the children’s home are going in the same plane. I hope you are all right. I hope we can take some pictures of America. – David
On the 1st of July, Ione writes to Hector’s sister Florence:
Thanks for your letter of June 17th received a few days ago.
We can understand why you and Buster have separated, and hope that this mutual separation will work out a change in his way. “With God, all things are possible.”
We are giving you our schedule as far as we know it, but as yet we don’t know what time Hector and Gordon (at this point in time, the Carters were still adhering to the plan of Gordon going to America with Ione and Hector) and David will be arriving in Montreal. We have heard that there is a plane from New York shortly after we arrive there Tuesday night, July 19th. It looks like the arrival in Montreal would be either during the night or early in the morning of the 20th. Gordon may have to complete some medical papers there, and it may be necessary to stay half a day or more. It would be nice if you could keep them at the apartment. They want to get off to Avonmore as soon as possible, as Hector has to be back in Philadelphia to leave for Detroit with his family very early the morning of the 22nd.
We will ask Tom Downey at headquarters to let you know when he has the time schedule for Montreal. I hope that you can keep Eleanor posted on our activities.
We are writing to Alice asking if it might be possible for her and Claude to drive up to Toronto to see us on August 17 as we are to have our welcome home at High Park that night, and want to leave from there to come on to the farm. Hector though that would be better than for us to take the time to go down there and then back again to Toronto.
The Congo received its independence yesterday. We did not go to the festivities, as we did not think white people would be welcomed. But last night we took the children out on the brow of a hill overlooking the city and watched fireworks being shot off in three different native sections simultaneously.
All for now. The children are out of school, and the others gone to their homes. The last week of school was difficult because of unrest, and some complications make us wonder if it will be safe for our mission children to continue in this school system, since now there are so many more Africans. At first it was fights between races, then an overfriendliness which made it very dangerous for the little girls. Will you pray about this? Lovingly in Him, Hector and Ione
Ione’s itinery is:
Leave Stanleyville – 11 A.M. July 18
Leave Leopoldville – 3 P.M. July 18
Leave Brussels – 4 P.M. July 19
Arrive New York– 7 P.M.
Ione’s last letter out of Africa was written to Dr George Westcott and his wife:
Dear Doctor and Ellen:
We leave Philadelphia United Air Lines flight 547, 7:15 A.M. July 22nd and arrive Detroit 9:37 A.M.
When Doctor Streight was giving the requisite for X-ray for Heather Arton, he decided to give John one, too, so John has had an X-ray. Dr. S. looked at it and recommended a skin test when we get home. We will bring the X-ray along, but am including the paper that came with it, so that you can decide. And today when I got my shot, I took Paul along as he had diarrhoea, and the state doctor gave him a requisite for stool examination. When I go back for the report I would like to ask if he will order examinations for all. This may speed up your affairs there for us.
In spite of tribal warfare in Leopoldville we do not see it here (yet). Someone made the remark that because of so much drinking the jails would be full after Independence. Another drolly asked, “Of us?” Well, no one knew just what might happen. And there is one white man that we know of in jail in Stanleyville. He got out a gun when a former employee came asking for money, and intended to shoot sort of ‘pembeni’ (close) to scare him away. But the bullet hit an African woman and she died. This made a little trouble here.
One of our missionaries just returned from furlough talked to Bob at Dallas. Marshall Southard is a graduate of there, too. Marshall is heading up our new inter-mission Seminary at Banjwadi, certainly a fine advertisement for Dallas! Hope Bob will be able to come out here. There is plenty of work for him to do. And lots of itchy bugs and ouchy bugs, too! A few are after me at the moment. In Him, Ione
Events in Congo take a turn for the worst. The Congolese army at the point of Independence are still being managed by Belgians and they mutiny because they feel they are underpaid. The Congo, being made up of large provinces, is not one country, whilst Lumumba strove to unify all these different parts, leaders in these other parts strove to establish their own areas of power. The province of Katanga under the leadership of Tshombe breaks away with support from Western Countries. In effect, ensuing civil unrest alarms all concerned. The Congolese army mutinies, its leaders are still the Belgians, who seek support from the United Nations. Lumumba approaches both the United Nations and his Russian allies for support, his involvement with Communist sympathisers alienates from the Americans and ultimately, the United Nations. Few Belgian civilians remain and the British Vice Consul realises that there is no protection from a mutinous army or guarantee that British subjects would be safe should they remain in the country, despite assurances from Lumumba. They advise Kinso and key missionary figures in all missions that they should evacuate at least all women and children that are working in their organisations. Kinso and Allan Redpath drove from station to station throughout the night with news that everyone should pack the essentials and prepare for evacuation within four hours, there was no time to lose. This was particularly hard for those living in more remote areas who had not experienced the unrest and racial tensions that were exhibited in the townships such as Leopoldville and Stanleyville. Missionaries’ in the outlying districts had not experienced the scale of hostility evident in the larger townships. Ione describes these events in a news letter that was eventually published in February 1961, however, the content informs this time frame:
We were planning to go on furlough in five days. Each of the six children had his clothes laid out ready to wear on the journey. Suddenly conditions in the Congo became very difficult. Soldiers, freed from Belgian command because of Congo’s Independence, now were out of control and terrorizing white people as well as the Congolese. In Leopoldville, the missionaries and many other white people, fled across the Congo River into French territory. But when the soldiers began searching cars and houses in Stanleyville, there was nowhere to go, except by plane. Sunday, July 10, Hector went into the city to see if it was safe for us to travel the six miles with the children to church, and later retuned saying it was not safe. He had been roughly treated by soldiers and the car and his briefcase and his clothes were searched to find a gun or shells or a knife. We stayed quietly at home that day but heard Monday that the soldiers were starting to search houses, and where a gun was found, the owner was beaten and taken to jail. We had two hunting guns in the closet of our bedroom, and felt concerned lest we be found with them. Hector went to town to find out where to take them, but decided that it would not be safe to be caught with them in the car even. The guns remained in the closet. On Tuesday things were getting worse, and the order came from the British Vice-Consul to advise our Field Secretary to get our missionary women and children to Stanleyville in readiness for evacuation.
Hector had to carry the message of evacuation to Banjwadi, 50 miles away. It was quite peaceable there, and Hector said his announcement was like dropping a bombshell in their midst. He had received the order to go to Banjwadi just twenty minutes before the city curfew fell. He was unable to get back until the curfew lifted the next morning. This meant that Isobel Whitehead and I would be alone with the children (and the guns!) through the night. Our co-workers, the Siggs, living in the next house, suggested that we rig up a dinner bell in our quarters, to ring in case the soldiers came. I agreed to this. After supper I gathered the children around the Word and found some precious promises like, “Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee, withersoever thou goest.” A great calm came over us, and we forgot about the dinner bell arrangement, and went to sleep peacefully, with no alarm set up.
That night the house next to us a half kilometre nearer to town, was searched and when a gun was found, the man was beaten and taken to jail. In the morning when I took the children to the Siggs house for breakfast, the houseboys told us about our neighbour and we realized that our house would be next to be visited. I lost my appetite and was in deep thought about those guns when Hector drove in. Along with him came the Field Secretary and also the Treasurer, prepared to set up evacuation if necessary. All available men were sent to pick up women and children from distant stations. Hector was told to take his wife and children to the airport immediately. When Hector turned to me and said, “Can you go, now:” I replied, “Yes, but you must get rid of those guns first:”
Hector took the guns from the closet, and while the children put on the clothes they had laid out, he make a hurried journey to the police station. He was not stopped on the way, and was able to leave the guns and all papers there. There was only twenty minutes in all for us to get ready, but I paused for a moment at the bedside to shed a few tears as I realized that although I was not afraid, I found it hard to not be ‘dismayed’. But the Lord’s command was, “neither be thou dismayed”, so I dried the tears and preceded to pack.
Hector took us and Miss Whitehead to the airport and said a hasty goodbye. He returned to the home to find Mrs Sigg and her little boy alone. Very soon after this, the soldiers came to search the house. Some of our Congolese neighbours went out to meet them, and held out their hands as though to prevent them, saying, “Everybody behind us is good, everybody in front of us (indicating our Belgian neighbours) is bad”. When Hector saw that the soldiers might become difficult, he went out also to meet them and told them that he had turned in our guns to the police. The soldiers believed him and went their way.
In the meantime, I was waiting at the airport for our turn to leave. The children had had very little breakfast and when the crowds prevented our leaving before mid-afternoon they were getting quite hungry. But they did not complain, and seemed to understand that this was a very unusual time. They asked what it meant to be a refugee. I looked in the concordance of my Bible and read all the verses I could find on the word refugee. This prepared them for the stops that they would make in the refugee centres, and they knew that they would not have any attentions like we had expected on our journey. As we went off in the big plane that took us eventually to Belgium we could say, “Yea, in the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamites be overpass.” Psalm. 57:1. We were given some supper on the plane and the children slept quite well through the night, though we made a stop at Malta. Here we were offered a very greasy fried egg and a slice of bread. I couldn’t eat as I was feeling ill, and had I realized that this would be the last meal the children would have for the next eight hours, I would have urged them to eat more of it. They were quite hungry when the plane finally arrived in Belgium, and here we were herded into an enclosure with thousands of anxious faces staring at us, across the ropes. Several of the Belgians broke through the ropes to ask me if I knew anything about some loved one, missing since the trouble started. I was glad to give news to two of these. The children were given buns and Coca-Cola at the Salvation Army canteen and toys at the Red Cross. I had to leave them for several hours in the roped-off sections of the Salvation Army for I was told my papers were not in order. The route I wished to travel must be changed. I was also told that the hotel and meals formerly offered on my furlough tickets were not available. And I had just four dollars. Furthermore, to arrange my papers might take 8 to 10 days.
Well, the verse came again to me – “be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed”. And the belief and trust came into my heart that the Lord would show us what to do. Through the American Consul in Brussels I was able to get in touch with the secretary of all protestant missions in Congo, and this man knew me, as I had entertained him one day in Stanleyville. Mr. Stenstrom came to the airport to help us, and had papers which were needed and $40 so that we would not lack money. Our ticket was then changed quite quickly and we went to England in order to get a plane to Montreal.
As Ione describes, the conditions in the small concrete air terminal for Stanleyville were indeed chaotic. It was crowded with women and children of all nationalities hoping for a flight, anxious menfolk who were not being permitted to travel and who did not know when or if they would ever see their families again, harassed officials trying to organise such as massive evacuation and army personnel trying to maintain some semblance of law and order. We were part of that humane crisis, being 12 years of age and the eldest of my siblings, I was keenly aware of the situation. My mother lost her wedding ring on the first plane, an American troop carrier without proper seats, on the first leg of our journey to England. She felt utterly bereft especially as my father had been left behind. I had a French book with me, one of my school prizes from the last term at school which had been given to me for academic achievement. I loaned it to an Indian girl, who was bored on the journey – we never met again, and I never saw my prize again. Like Ione and the McMillan boys, we too, made several stops and had to wait for available flights and we too, ended up in Brussels, spending four days waiting for a flight to London.
On the 18th July, Ione wrote:
I looked around at the other passengers – in various stages of disorder, some hardly dressed at all. I was the only passenger who wore a hat. I said to myself, “Well, I am glad to be properly dressed.” Then I looked down at my feet and to my surprise I discovered I was wearing one red shoe and one tan! So I took off my hat.
Ione also writes to Hector on the 18th July:
Our first letter to you since our parting! We sent a cable to tell you we came here instead of New York. The American Consul in Brussels suggested it as the papers weren’t in order for going directly to America. Now I am able to go to U.S. as a Canadian resident. I want to carry on with our planned schedule whether you are here or not. I miss you terribly, but the children have been good, and keep well. And with God ALL things are possible. I called Philadelphia & asked that the air ticket to Detroit be changed to Montreal to Detroit. If it doesn’t come in time, I think I will get a ticket to arrive in Willow Run somewhere near the time they expect us. If you can come you will know where to find us. Pontiac till 25th, Mother’s till August 1, Gull Lake 1-14, etc. Ralph Odman called from Gull Lake & asked for late news. Newsmen have been here the past 3 days with television cameras, etc. from Ottawa, Toronto, Cornwall. They think I’m the first Canadian (?) woman to be evacuated from Congo! We’ll see ourselves tonight reading the Bible, praying, even telephoning to see what’s happened to you! Toronto Star put thru a transatlantic call but at 1 AM last night they said communication was impossible. I spoke in joint services here in Avonmore yesterday. Am spending a lot of time with the children & they are happy. Love much, XXXXXXX Ione
The family found themselves headline news; a Canadian paper reported:
Avonmore– The first Canadian family to reach home from the Congo arrived here safely over the weekend.
Seven members of the McMillan family were evacuated from the interior city of Stanleyville Wednesday amid growing tension, confusion and reports of increasing brutality to whites.
Mrs. Ione McMillan, 47, and her six sons, ranging in age from six to 13 years, are at the Avonmore farm home of Archie and Jean McMillan, brother and sister of Mrs. McMillan’s husband, Rev. J. Hector McMillan.
The mother and her sons are anxiously awaiting word of Mr. McMillan, whom they left behind in the Congo at Stanleyville.
Mr. McMillan stayed behind to help with the evacuation of other missionary families of the Unevangelized Fields Mission with which he has served in the Congo for the past 15 years.
In an interview, Mrs. McMillan, herself a veteran of nearly 19 years missionary service in the Congo, said that Stanleyville was pretty quiet following the mutiny of two battalions of Congolese police-soldiers in Leopoldville July 7 and 8 until a week ago Sunday.
That day her husband and a young missionary-in-training left their compound, six miles out on a jungle road, for town to survey the situation in the light of alarming radio reports. They were stopped and roughly searched three times by Congolese looking for arms.
(Mrs. McMillan explained that when Belgian troops withdrew after Independence Day they took all available ammunition with them. The Congolese were furious and told her husband they wouldn’t let any whites go until they recovered the shells.)
On Monday Mrs. McMillan had to go into town and took the children with her. Every street had its angry mob shouting threats in a dialect she didn’t understand. They were told a white man had been seriously injured at the Stanleyville shopping centre. A 6 p.m. curfew was ordered.
On Tuesday missionary officials went looking for the British consul who, though he had had no sleep for four days and nights, was off investigating the murder of two British subjects.
However, the word was passed via the British vice consul (Canada has no consul at Stanleyville) for all British subjects to get ready for evacuation, women and children first. The Americans were also getting ready. Mr. McMillan didn’t get home Tuesday night because of the curfew and that night the Congolese, finished with raiding white cars, started a house to house search, ending up at the house next to the McMillan’s’.
Mrs. McMillan said she slept well. “I had such perfect peace and confidence that the Lord would take care of us all,” she said, forgetting to set up an alarm bell she had planned earlier.
Mrs. McMillan said they had two hunting guns (after all, Mr. McMillan killed a wild cat in their kitchen one night while she held a shaky flashlight, and during one seven-day period they had killed seven snakes including a deadly horned viper and a boa constrictor) and she warned him to get rid of them.
Wednesday morning friendly natives came to warn their houseboy that the McMillan’s house was the next to be searched. Shortly afterwards Mr. McMillan arrived home to say the family was to leave immediately. Since they were due to leave July 18 on a year’s furlough in Canada in any case they were practically packed. He drove them to the closely guarded airport but couldn’t wait to see them off. That was the last they saw of him.
Evacuation was on a first come first served basis and the plane was jammed. The McMillan’s flew to Brussels, stopping in Nigeria and Malta, then to London and then to Montreal, arriving at Dorval at 3:30 a.m. Friday. The children were airsick part of the way. They spent the day with two of Mr. McMillan’s sisters living in Montreal and arrived at Avonmore at 11:30 p.m.
Mrs. McMillan, a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, said when she left no missionaries or mission property had been hurt or damaged but there had been trouble in the Congo ever since last October. The McMillan’s who were married 15 years ago operated a boarding home for 26 children of missionaries who attended a Belgian French language school at Stanleyville.
“Three times troops had to accompany the children on the bus to protect them against the rocks hurled at them,” she said.
School closed June 18 and the missionaries collected their children, but knew they could not send their children to Stanleyville in September if the same conditions prevailed as during the last week of school. “It began with fights on the bus but later we found our little girls were not safe from the big black boys who travelled on it.” Mrs. McMillan said.
Mrs. McMillan said her family had been in the greatest danger during the February visit of King Baudouin. They had had to hide in a car from an angry mob.
Independence Day in Stanleyville had been happy, she said. The Bakumu tribe down the road, with whom she had difficulties in past times, had threatened to kill anybody who harmed the McMillan’s and their many native friends had been quite upset when they left.
Mrs. McMillan said that they had hoped key Belgian personnel, professional men, politicians and administrators would remain to help in the transition period. She said when the Belgians left, the Congolese, torn by tribal jealousies, did not respect the authority of those who took over. “When they were told they had to do something they said they couldn’t do it,” she said and added, “They are so cruel to each other.”
Unbeknownst to Ione, Hector leaves Stanleyville five hours after her on a British organised flight to Entebbe, Uganda. From there, he travels by train to Nairobi, Kenya. News of Hector’s journey does not reach Ione until days later, when a cable is sent to the UFM London office and then passed onto the Philadelphia Office! Hector was not the only missionary to travel this route, several others also left Congo that way, including the Arton family, with a very ill Heather Arton requiring an oxygen tent. My father left four days after us, and arrived in London on the same flight as Lumumba!
The Ottawa Citizen News reports:
Rev. J. Hector McMillan, the Congo missionary who saw his wife and six sons off to safety last Wednesday from Stanleyville, has joined his family at his brother’s Avonmore home. Avonmore is 60 miles southeast of Ottawa.
His wife and sons, who arrived last weekend at the Avonmore farm of Archie and Jean McMillan, brother and sister of the minister, had entertained fears for his safety because he could not leave with them.
Met By Family
Mrs. McMillan and the children, hearing yesterday that the missionary was due to arrive in Montreal last night, went there to meet him. He had arrived at Dorval from Nairobi via Khartoum, Athens, Zurich, Frankfurt, Copenhagen and London.
He had kind words about residents of the various towns and hamlets at which the refugee train stopped in Africa.
“All were most kind, Indians, Negroes and whites alike,” he said. “They gave us food and clothing and would not accept money.”
Mr. McMillan spoke of the real suffering being endured in the Congo by people who are anxious to get away, the baggage being searched and threats being made by the natives.
There is a lull in letter writing as the family settle back to living in Three Hills, Alberta. On 21st September, Ione finds time to update her mother:
There is plenty to do here, but I am not killing myself. Have had some visitors from around here (UFM missionaries mostly).
The children are happy and we are getting acquainted with their friends & teachers. Today I inquired about the 4 oldest taking piano. We have a piano here & a teacher next door! $26 for the year’s lessons for each child. – Ione
On 17th October, Ione writes to her sister Lucille:
When your letter came this evening, I decided the night could not pass before a letter was written to you. I haven’t been feeling too well, and just go to bed as soon as possible, but after nearly a week in bed, and some help from the doctor, I think I’m going to be alright again. It seemed to be the flu, and with a good deal of vomiting I had some pain in my heart but the doctor didn’t find too much wrong, though the pulse was a little fast. He found the tumour, but agreed with Dr Westcott that it might not necessarily mean an operation. I have lost a little weight, but am coaxing the appetite back now. I may have gone at it a little too fast, with canning, baking our own bread, and getting settled in, but I enjoy it, and am a little dismayed to not even feel like work now.
I thought Lawrence had a call to go into military training. I worried about him taking psychology in that school, and sort of relaxed that he wasn’t going there yet. Now what is he taking there? I’m glad that Ruthie is at Moody, hope she won’t work too hard. Esther will be busy, and I guess you’ll enjoy helping her if you feel good enough. Wish I had a daughter, but I guess there will be some babies to ‘grandmother’ and some daughters-in-law to love and help, if the Lord tarries.
Hector is taking 14 hours classes here, and enjoys being in school again. I visited one of his classes today. He is speaking quite a bit, too. I have taken a high school girls Sunday School class.
Our mission treasurer, Stan Nicholls, stayed in Congo when his wife and two children were evacuated, but keeps writing letters to her to come out to him. And he is the type of man that needs her there. When we went through Toronto, she was wondering what to do, and we offered to keep the children with ours if she wanted to try to go back. Now we have a letter from her that she will try. If the mission will let her, she will bring them (her children – Allan and Barbara) out here, and then leave. One man has left already, Al Larson, but we haven’t heard what his success was. No visas were possible, and he had hoped to receive one when he arrived in Congo. These children are 10 and 11, the older one a girl. They know us well, as they were part of our Children’s Home family. If this works out, they may be with us when we come back to Michigan, as we will keep them until it is possible for children to go out. We feel definitely led of the Lord in this, and their additional financial help here may enable us to buy our bread instead of baking it. We are cutting down on all we can on washings and ironings, and the daily sweeping, dusting, and dishes are part of the children’s jobs. I rearranged their schedules today to fit in piano lessons and practice; four of them are taking.
We are happy here, and are so conscious of the Lord’s presence and leading. In every meeting, there are such wonderful teachings. The drabness of the surroundings only makes Himself more beautiful. The prairie seems drab, but when you get a few hours away you are right in the mountains, and we spent one day in exquisite surroundings, where Hector killed a moose. We had a picnic dinner by a cold mountain stream, and the children fished. It was cold and refreshing to feel the air there. The people we went with are grand, and fine Christians, have contributed to our work for ten years.
I will send Doris’s latest letter, if you will pass it on to Marcellyn and Mother. Is this debt of Mother’s in addition to the one she owed to some of your folk when I was there? Love, Ione
The next recorded letter is written on the 16th November 1960, and Ione describes some of the adjustments the family have to make:
Dear Mother, Marcellyn and Lucille, Doris, and Glenna, and Esther,
Thanks, Mother, for your two cards written on the way to your new job in Washington. You surely are brave to drive through mountains. I guess it took a lot out of you, though. And then to start right in on exacting office work! I am wondering how you are making out by now, of if you have decided to come home. Do you have Group Leaders meetings every Wednesday? How much rent do you pay there?
You asked about conveniences here. The automatic stoker makes heating the house better than before and there is an automatic blower which blows it into the two basement rooms where three of the boys sleep. The electric stove is big enough to bake six pies on one shelf, and works well. The refrigerator is large, too, and quite new. A new davenport, too. They haven’t better toilet facilities yet as the town water system is just about to get out this far, and they are waiting for that. There’s the chemical toilet in the basement and the outside one. Drinking water must be brought to the cistern in a big tank on a truck. The children take turns carrying it up from the basement, but the rain water is on tap in the kitchen. The food is very much better, and especially for fruit and vegetables. People have never stopped giving since we arrived. Hector is taking 14 hours of classes, and I have a correspondence course from here and have ordered another from Moody. I teach high school girls on Sunday.
About two weeks ago our family increased when Barbara and Allan Nicholls came. Mrs. Nicholls brought them and stayed one week-end, leaving the following Saturday from Toronto for the Congo, where her husband is waiting for her. He has been ill, but she can help him to continue with very necessary work that only he can do. In taking these two we are helping them to carry on out there at this critical time. Barbara is 10 and Allan 9. They seem happy here, and are obedient children. There are three little girls in the immediate neighbourhood with whom Barbara plays. I miss our African houseboys’ help in the washings and cleaning, but Hector does a lot between classes, and occasionally takes over for an hour so that I can go out of circulation during stressful times. There are six children taking lessons so we have a close schedule to work in that many half-hour piano practices. Then each child has at least two jobs a day, like sweeping, dusting, emptying garbage, burning papers, washing dishes, wiping, clearing table, etc. This beside making their own beds and sweeping their rooms.
Barbara has a medical appointment in Toronto around Christmas, so we are to put her on a plane when school lets out and she will be with friends and relatives there during the holiday. We are not sure of the summer plans, but their Mother said they could go with some friends in Toronto if we wished. We will probably take them to the Congo with ours whenever it is safe for children out there. It surely isn’t safe yet. We will make some definite plans in the late spring. Our furlough finishes in July. Two parties of missionaries have returned successfully in recent weeks, that is, husbands and couples without children.
Doris’ letter told of a change in her plans for coming here for Christmas. It looks like it will now be New Years, as the round trip by plane was going to be too expensive, and by picking up a new car for someone they can get the return trip more cheaply. So they will fly to Detroit, get the car, drive to Otsego and Paw Paw and then leave Michigan with ample time to drive to Oregon and probably be there for Christmas and then come here. Am sending her letter to Marcellyn to share. It will be nice to see you, Doris, whenever you can come. Hope the car has a good heater. We’re surely feeling the cold here. We seemed to have plenty of blankets, etc., but I am making more now out of old coats ripped up and sewn in strips, backs out of coat-linings and tied together with pretty yarn.
I have enjoyed the fellowship here, and the messages have been a real encouragement. I have spoken at some ladies’ groups, and Hector has spoken in the tabernacle and in various public gatherings. We have not taken meetings outside yet, but are beginning to see our way clear to visit some nearby spots. Several of the family have had malaria, and I had a week’s sick spell in October. I notice the change of climate, with stiffness of joints. Or is it old-age?
I have been blessed with the study of I Peter. The Sunday school class I am teaching is high school girls and I am one of 48 teachers (high school is over 400 now) who meet each Wednesday for special lesson preparation. We take a correspondence course and turn it in then and the explanations are wonderful. I noticed in I Peter chapter2 verse 5 today that one of the things we can do, acceptable to God, is to ‘offer up spiritual sacrifices’. I was curious to see just what this meant and the marginal references led me to Hosea chapter 14 verse 2 –‘the calves of our lips’ or the speaking of words for Him; Malachi chapter 1verse 11 – ‘incense offered’ and this incense according to Revelations is the prayer of saints; and Hebrews 13:16 ‘do good and communicate’ writing letters. These led me to a heart-searching and incidentally to the writing of this letter.!
Now I see my sick littlest son is asleep from ‘keeping still while Mommy writes’. He has malaria and is responding to treatment but must stay in bed today. He said this morning he guessed I was glad for I would not be lonesome after the children went to school. After the second round of vomiting, he settled back on his pillow saying he felt, ‘just yards better’. They have only started using yard as a means of measure and he hears that word. It is a change from kilometres to miles, centimetres to inches, etc. They got their report cards yesterday and all did pretty well. One appears to be due a promotion.
I hope all of this letter is a little bit interesting to all of those to whom it is sent. (Just an inkling of the difference in pace of life between Canada and Congo and underscores the tensions and dilemmas Hector and Ione were facing in their last few months in Congo.) Lucille, I wrote you a letter a long time ago and sealed it and somehow when I got out the writing things today I found it unsent. I’m so sorry. Am sending it in this mail.
May the Lord bless you all, and keep you happy in Him. We have a wonderful Saviour, and He is able to keep that which we have committed unto Him against that day. Lots of love, Hector and Ione
The last letter of the year Ione writes is to her mother:
My last letter to you was just a carbon-copy kind, and I have been wanting to write a personal one. I am wondering if you will be in Otsego when Doris comes and what your future plans will be. It looks like we’ll be entertaining her around New Year’s Day. Hector’s sister, Jean, may be with us at Christmas. We’ll have one of the Nicholls’ children then.
During the Christmas vacation Barbara Nicholls will be in Toronto. She has to see a certain doctor there for foot correction (she walks pigeon-toed) and will visit her grandmother. So we will be putting her on the plane at Edmonton on the 23rd, and the mission secretary in Toronto will meet her in Toronto.
It is zero here today but no wind. The children have rosy cheeks when they go outside. All are well just now. Stephen has a scar on his chin from the cut he received when he fell from the top deck and hit the rail of the bottom. The doctor said he would have to grow a beard to cover the scar! It healed quickly but one little hole stayed open longer and when the bandage was off, we were surprised to find him whistling thru it. We put the bandages back and it soon closed. Hector has a rail on the top deck now.
We’re going after a Christmas tree next Saturday. It’s a long way to the foothills of the Rockies & we’ll have to take a lunch but it will be fun & we have a good heater in the car. I had a party for my high school girls’ Sunday school class last evening. They were pleased to have mooseburgers, and I could hardly believe my eyes when they went back for thirds. Loads of love, Ione
Dear Grandma, I love you. I hurt my chin but now it is better. I had five stitches. I had a hole in my chin. The school children all wrote me letters. I like my teacher and the boys at school too. I can skate and play hockey too. We have three pucks and four sticks too. Stephen McMillan
The year is like a roller coaster ride with many twists and turns, full of surprise. Whether in Congo or Canada, the family are still exposed and needing the watchful eye of Ione. And Ione herself is feeling the strain as she is experiencing health problems but as ever, Ione relies on her faith to support her and see her through all that is thrown her way.
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