Chapter 3 – 18 Howland Avenue, Toronto

Chapter 3

18 Howland Avenue, Toronto

Edwin and Lilian Pudney had served as Missionaries in the Belgian Congo between 1923 and 1931 with the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade Mission (WEC). Their return from the Congo was principally for a furlough or break, however, Lilian’s father was not well and the Pudneys did not envisage going back to Africa at this time. George Kerrigan, a colleague of theirs in the Congo was also home in England at the time. There was a great deal of discussion both in Africa and England at this time, there were differences of opinion between the missionaries on the field (principally Congo and Brazil) and the organisational leaders back in the home countries, which resulted in the formation of a new Mission Society – the Unevangelized Fields Mission (UFM), which was to be Interdenominational as well as international. The politics and drivers for this change are not pertinent to the story of Ione and Hector and therefor will not be elaborated on further, suffice it to say that the Mission was established in 1931. Rev Len Harris became the Home Secretary in London.

Rev WF Roadhouse, who was the North America leader for both the WEC and the UFM, resigned his position due to ill health and the UFM leaders requested that Mr and Mrs Pudney consider taking on the leadership in North America, to be based in Toronto, Canada. Lilian Pudney had suffered a great deal of ill health whilst in the Congo and the couple felt that they could not return there, however, this request allowed them to continue Mission work in another guise and they accepted the invitation and arrived in Toronto September 1931.

At first they were based in a small three roomed apartment in Toronto, then as they became more established, they moved to a bigger apartment and then on to 18 Howland Avenue.

The mission, besides being international and interdenominational, was also a faith mission. They believed that God would provide all their needs and guide them in the direction they should go. Mrs Pudney recounts how, when they moved to the larger apartment, a member of the church congregation was downsizing and offered Mrs Pudney all the furniture they no longer needed. Mrs Pudney gratefully accepted and gave prayers of thanksgiving that God was continuing to provide and bless them. In the early days, Edwin was rarely home as he took every opportunity to visit churches who were interested in mission work and spread the word about the mission. Support came from many sources and avenues. Lilian stayed at home, maintained the office and managed all the letters.

The Pudneys were never or very rarely referred to as Edwin and Lilian and were usually afforded the title of Mr and Mrs Pudney, although they did have an affectionate name of Pudu – well at least it was used for Mr Pudney.

With all their experience of working in the tropics, Mr and Mrs Pudney were well equipped to prepare and guide would be missionaries through the preparatory phase. 18 Howland Avenue meant that several candidates could be resident, live as a family, and share the chores as well as the worship. This communal living would prepare them for the communal living and collaborative working that is all part of being a missionary. Candidates were expected to stay for at least a month. Hector had arrived first, his plans were to go to Brazil. Six others joined him, the last to arrive was Ione who he should have met at the station but missed her, and he had gone to the wrong station so Ione had to get a taxi cab.

Ione describes her first 24 hours to her mother in May 1941at the Home thus:

It’s a good deal as I expected, a private dwelling, and the candidates help do the work. It’s as deeply spiritual as I expected and very sensible and not fanatic. So far, every contact has been a real blessing and I feel as the Lord has truly “called me apart” for not only a change and a rest, but to show me His will for my life. I arrived in time for “tea” Monday, helped with the dishes, spent awhile in my room writing letters (cards) and then had a cozy chat with Mrs Pudney, who is a very lovable person. It’s been a little difficult to get used to her talk and her expressions and I have to ask her sometimes several times, but I found it paid to find out first rather than do the wrong thing (Whilst America and the UK share a common language – English, Ione is beginning to realise that there are nuances and differences which affect meaning). Yesterday I slept until almost noon – under orders, and I have a good bed – got a bit of breakfast for myself at 11:30, washed the breakfast dishes, helped get dinner, and washed dishes. I did a few little extra things (squeezed out dirty dish towels, etc.) which she commended me for, and then went to my room for a while. She let me get supper (tea) all alone and I served it out in the garden, which is a fenced-in grassy plot with flowers around a lilac bush, etc. Hector, the young man candidate, washed the dishes, as is the drill in the evening for the men. I made a hospital call with Mrs P. Ironed a cotton blouse for her upon return; she was pleased. We sang at the piano and went to bed.

Tomorrow I’m to sleep late again and then help her get a room ready for some more candidates. She calls them her “candid dates”. We sang again tonight. We have prayer both at dinner & supper. Read from Daily Light (The Daily Light is a Christian devotional book first published in 1845; it is a grouping of biblical verses apportioned for each day of the year which can be read morning and evening – there is no additional commentary, the verses speak for themselves with the intention of being supportive and inspirational. The book is still published and used today.) some scripture passages and one prays for some definite need.

At any rate, I feel grand, have good food, lots of rest, and time to actually think. Pray much that the Lord will help me when candidate study begins – tomorrow afternoon I think.”

Candidate study starts in earnest, initially led by Mrs Pudney and their focus is on a book ‘Ambassadors for Christ’ by Cable and French; a book Ione has already read. This is followed by a two hour prayer and intercession period:

This morning we spent an equally long time and now I know this is the secret of their success in the field. There is a regular prayer meeting like this each Tuesday (I spoke at the last one) and while candidates are here it’s each day.

I’m learning some real lessons. These British folk have something that we don’t have. The more I read here and see what a missionary must face, the less courage I have……. Oh Mother, I don’t see how we have gotten along heretofore with so little prayer. So many weighty things to decide, and we’ve spent so little time in prayer; now I know this is the secret of their success in the field.

There were opportunities to socialise with other missionary hopefuls which Ione found especially uplifting, as she explains to her mother:

Today is Empire Day, a national holiday (in Canada) so we had an outing – went to what they call ‘The Island’ – a ferry ride and three mile hike around the island, interspersed with baseball. We went with the eleven candidates at the China Inland Mission Home, which is just a few blocks away. It was wonderful to be with these all afternoon. Imagine! Sixteen young men, nine women, ready to sail for China, Brazil and Africa”.

Back at the headquarters there are a couple of issues that Mrs Pudney had with Ione which she felt should be addressed. One is that she wanted Ione to be less interested in the style and fashion of the day and to maybe fit in more with the style of the other applicants. Ione could see the point she was making. Every other woman wanting to a missionary that she met at this time had their hair pulled back and secured with pins. Not only that, but their hemlines were noticeably longer. However, she did appreciate the simplicity of their dress and decided that by mismatching her outfits she could achieve a more homely appearance. The other slight problem is her relationship with George Kissenger, an interested boyfriend. Mrs Pudney had noticed that Ione was getting a deluge of letters from him and she felt that although he was a good Christian man with good intentions, unless he was destined to be a missionary, then he would not be suitable for Ione. Having a relationship based on letters might eventually make Ione wish to give up her calling and come back home. Once again, Ione sees the wisdom of Mrs Pudney’s words and reluctantly realises that the relationship is doomed but at this point does not take any steps to end the relationship. This is hard for Ione but she was so focused on her mission to Africa now that she finds she is able to make the break. And, at the same time, she has noticed Hector with his laughing eyes and gentle sense of humour. She had seen in a mirror in the mission dining room:

a pair of large hazel-brown eyes studying me. But I never met them with my own blue eyes. He was applying for Brazil, while my field was to be the Congo.

Besides noting the colour of his eyes, Ione noted Hector’s wicked sense of humour; she made a batch of muffins that were in edible and had to been thrown away; Hector, much to her consternation, kept asking where the muffins were as he had seen her preparing a batch, thus forcing Ione to come clean to everyone and own up to the food that had been wasted.

As such, he is equally unsuitable to her way of thinking. Her pathway to Africa is hampered for a while when a ship heading that way and carrying some missionaries with the Sudan Inland Mission was sunk and all the passengers were taken prisoners by the Germans. “

The sinking of this ship may make it harder to get a passport for Africa, but Mrs Pudney says that a boat may be available by September. The Lord knows about that. He may not want me to go to Africa, and if so, I believe He’ll tell me. ‘A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps’.”

Ione admired Mrs Pudney enormously. She soon becomes used to her different way of speaking and is able to have some cozy and personal chats. As Ione tells the family:

I’m very happy here and the adjustment has been good for me. We’re used to so much at home and I’m trying to learn how to conform. If anyone is careful of mission funds, it’s the UFM, for they are so very frugal here and every penny goes to the field……….Every speck of food is used but we have the best of everything, fresh vegetables, fruits, etc., and always our nightcap of milk before we go to bed. We are so busy, but I’m enjoying it very much. How I praise the Lord for letting me be here………I am becoming more and more sure that the Lord wants me in Africa. The Scripture has opened up to me in a wonderful way; and the hours with the Lord bring me so vividly in touch with the great need there. There is every opportunity to change plans and not go, as the Pudneys have in no way forced it upon me. But I do believe the Lord wants me there. One thing they have both made plain to me is that if I’m sure the Lord wants me in Africa, I must be willing to leave ‘home’ although they have said that it would be very possible to still help (you) in a financial way. And I must be willing to leave all the comforts of this land………I have faced this all along with other things which must be laid aside in order for me to carry the Gospel message so far. And I do believe I am willing. Tonight we’re going to see some films on South America that will be interesting, and we take notes and will be questioned later. There’s plenty to study, besides getting meals, scrubbing, washing dishes, laundry etc. And we’re required to walk two miles a day. And we must have our lights out by 10:30. Discipline!! Lovingly, Ione.

Finally the evening came when all appeared before the Board in order to be accepted by the mission. The seven young people stood in the kitchen, their hearts missing every other beat, until they were called one by one. Hector and the others were accepted for Brazil. Ione was accepted for Congo.

On the 18th July 1941, Ione at home in Pontiac writes to the passport office in Washington DC:

Dear Mrs Shipley:

I have been informed today by the Clerk at the Oakland County Court House that it is necessary to obtain permission from the Department of State to apply for a passport for travel to Africa to engage in missionary work.

Passage has been booked tentatively with the American West African Line of 17 Battery Place, New York, for their September sailing. They expect the boat to go to Lubito or Matadi. Should the boat ultimately have to route through South Africa and Rhodesia en route to Congo Belge, it will be necessary to have this noted on the passport. My destination is the Belgian Congo.

Will you kindly give this matter your consideration?

Respectfully yours,   (Miss) Marguerite Ione Reed

Later that month Ione gets her reply:

My dear Miss Reed:

In reply to your letter of July 18, 1941, you are informed that before consideration may be given to the granting of passport facilities to you for travel to the Belgian Congo, it will be necessary for you to submit a letter from the missionary society which is sending you abroad showing the urgent necessity for your journey to the Belgian Congo for missionary work at this time. The letter should set forth whether your presence in the Belgian Congo will be an increase in the American personnel already there, whether the work cannot be carried on by persons already there, and whether you will be going to the Belgian Congo to replace an American missionary who will return to the United States and, if so, the name of the person who will return. It will also be necessary for you to submit duplicate photographs, recently taken, one of which should be signed along the side. In this connection, you are advised that the Department is replacing outstanding valid passports which are in use by new style documents.

Sincerely yours, R.B. Shipley, Chief, Passport Division

In response; Mr Pudney duly writes on the 7th August:

Dear Sir:

Miss Ione Reed of Pontiac, Michigan, is a missionary of the above society and will be making the application for a passport in order to proceed to the Belgian Congo.

Miss Reed and Nurse Hiles who is also making similar application are urgently needed on the field to take the place of Dr. & Mrs Westcott, also of Michigan. Mrs Westcott is a sick woman and Miss Reed expects to first of all care for her home and children until such time as they are able to leave for furlough. Following their departure these two ladies will seek to care for the hospital built by Dr. Westcott, and which is doing service of tremendous value throughout the Kole district in Stanleyville Province.

This Mission undertakes full financial responsibility and is prepared to repatriate these workers if at any time it is deemed necessary to do so.

We trust, dear Sir that you will find it possible to grant the necessary document. The sailing is expected to take place by the American West African Line, which is still able to maintain monthly service to the Congo.

Yours truly,   E.J. Pudney

The First Baptist Church in Pontiac publishes a magazine ‘Gospel Echoes’ and its autumn publication contains the following:


In this issue we present two more missionaries who plan to sail for Africa October 30th. They are going to assist in the work at the hospital at Bongondza, where Dr. George Westcott is located. It is hoped that soon after their arrival on the field Dr. and Mrs Westcott will be able to come home for a much needed furlough.

Miss Ione Reed is one of our own young people. She had hoped to go out to China last Fall but was unable to obtain a passport. She has been assisting in the Church Office in the capacity of Membership Secretary.

Ione will assist in the care of Mrs Westcott and the children until they are able to return home. She will then assist in the hospital and general missionary work at Bongondza.

The Board of Missions had been praying for some time for a Nurse to go out and assist Dr. Westcott in the work at the hospital and to take over the work while he was home on furlough.

The name of Pearl Hiles was brought to their attention – a nurse who had just recently graduated from the Moody Bible Institute. A letter was sent to her and at the time the letter was delivered she was on her knees asking the Lord where He would have her serve Him.

For the past several months Pearl has been taking special Tropical Medicine training in a hospital in New Orleans, awaiting the first possible sailing for Africa.

Ione and Pearl plan to sail on October 30th in company with Misses Schade and Walker of the Unevangelized Fields Mission who are returning to Bongondza. Pray for these young women as they go out.

In the autumn of 1941, some of the candidates gathered at the newly established UFM headquarters in Philadelphia. Ione and Pearl are there anticipating getting a sailing date. However, there are delays in travel arrangements due in part to the war. Ione was surprised to find Hector there. Mrs Pudney took them all to dinner at the apartment of a dear Christian friend of hers, Mrs Evans.

Hector sat writing in the well-furnished living room in a chair next to mine. Hector’s chair was beautiful but somewhat frail, even slightly unsteady on its legs, so he concentrated his thoughts on it as he tested the strength of each leg in turn while sitting in an upright position. Then, with an overwhelming desire to see what was wrong with that chair underneath, he shocked everyone by jumping up and turning the chair upside down. Satisfied that he could do the job, he reached in his pocket for a small tool and tightened the loosened parts. Mrs Evans came to call us for dinner just as Hector finished the repair of the chair. She was surprised to find her chair turned over, but exceedingly pleased to find that it was now steady on its legs. As we walked to the table, Hector quoted in my ear from Proverbs 18:16 ‘A man’s gift maketh room for him’. I decided that Hector’s gift would make room for him anywhere he went.

It becomes apparent that Hector’s immediate future are to change:

He will need to serve his country for a minimum of two years. After that he will be free to offer for any of the UFM fields. Mr Pudney and I would like then to send him to the Congo.

Ione writes:

This was the first time that I knew Hector might be going to my field of service. Mrs Pudney was quick to notice my surprised pleasure. ‘Does this interest you?’ she asked and then went on to say ‘and if it does, you might be glad to know that he likes the way you cock your head on one side like a robin!’. And Mrs Pudney laughed in high girlish glee. ‘If he writes to you, would you answer?’ was her next pertinent question, ‘for if you are not interested, we will not make him miserable by sending him to your field. That fellow is too much in love to be put through such pain’. I told her that I was interested, and would answer a letter if Hector wrote.

At left, Pearl Hiles, Ione Reed and at right, Hector McMillan, in front of the UFM Headquarters in Toronto (April 1941).

However, Mrs Pudney decides to play a waiting game and does not reveal to Hector that Ione would look favorably on him, should he wish to correspond with her.

Whilst waiting for her sailing date, Ione finds herself making up curtains for the rooms and helping out in the kitchen preparing meals, Mrs Pudney leaving her to get on with things. Ione also joins in with taking meetings and singing in the services that she attends. She writes home:

We are going to pay $4 a week board here. We’ll learn more French and some of the native language, too. And Pearl has to be inoculated yet, too. There is so much more to be done and learned before we go. Pray much that the visas will come soon. Also that the gov’t will extend our passports when they run out Nov. 20th and 24th respectively. The devil is making it as hard as he can, but we have a great God, don’t we? Could I bother you too, to see if you can find my Red Cross certificate? It is very necessary that I have it. It is about 4 by 6 inches and has a Red Cross seal on it. Our luggage in NY is being stored at the International Storage. We still haven’t heard about visas, but keep praying.

Having been given her passport, Ione then discovers all passports have been revoked as America has become involved with the War in Europe. This necessitates trips to Washington, and appeals made in person to the passport office, who finally give permission for Ione, Pearl and others to leave.

During this time, Ione makes several shopping trips to New York and ensure she has all her papers in order. The extended stay has incurred many additional costs, and Ione’s letters to her mother are all full of requests for postal orders and bank transfers. Ione feels the responsibility of leaving home and tries to ensure that her sisters will support their mother in her absence. Ione finally meets up with the family one last time – her date for departure being the 16th December 1941.


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