Tuesday, December 17, 2013

January 11, 1939 - Aba, Congo Belge

Amy's note:  There is a gap of almost exactly a year between this letter and the previous one.  Certainly letters were written, but none have come into my hands. 

January 11, 1939

Dear St. Louis family,

Best wishes for 1939 even though they will reach you very late. We had hoped to get a letter off last mail, two weeks ago but life was so hectic here just then it didn't get done.

We do want to send our warmest thanks to you for the lovely Christmas box which reached us before that day. We celebrated our Christmas as usual, being awakened at 3:45AM by the natives singing carols at our door. After that we dressed somewhat, and Ralph lit the candles on the tree. The candles were given to us by Mr. Miller at Rethi, as special treat to the children, for we had not had candles in several years as ours were finished. Then we began opening the various parcels that had collected. There were several local ones from various of the missionaries who are close friends. We always save the “home” parcels until last for they are always such fun. Every year you all tuck in such a lot of love and thought into your parcel. We can always read such a lot of thinking and planning in each present. Your choices for the children area always favorites.

As I am writing, Edith and Esther are here on the floor playing the game you sent. Edith has her right hand in a pan of hot water for yesterday she fell while roller skating on the hospital veranda (no white patients at the moment so they take advantage of the long verandas). Ralph thinks she has fractured the end bone of her thumb.

Ralph was pleased indeed with his lovely tie. And a book, that’s the thing that truly hits the spot with him. Both of us have already read the “Citadel”. It was very interesting.

My dress fits exactly. Thank you very much! "Before you call I will answer" (1) was literally true of that dress, and also the bath towels. My dresses are all such queer things. I am so glad to have this new one. Then lately we have had very hard wear on our towels as there have been a lot of white patients. Even some towels more or less new have begun to split and I was just saying we would have to send soon for some more. These will indeed be a help. Our wash boys give the clothes such hard wear. They are rubbed on a washboard and they wring them so hard. Then the sun seems to nearly burn them even though we leave them out a very short time.

The children have already made a lovely village out in the yard several times using the little houses and creating a very pretty effect and such a lot of fun. Thank you heaps for giving us so much love and thought.

[Personal portion redacted.]

Our girls too have continued to do good work. Esther was first this time having the highest total average in the whole school, 93.5. Edith has usually been about one point higher but this time she was one point lower. They are both in grade 4.

On Dec 9th we left here for a medical trip among some of our mission dispensaries. We first went to Todro, where Ralph was able to see and give help to a large number of cases. These dispensaries are all overseen by missionaries with native assistants. We visited Adi, Aru, Aja, Aungba also. Then we went to Blukwa, one of our mission stations near Rethi where it is high and cold. We had a week there and it was grand. Just to do nothing but what we wanted to do. We returned via Rethi and enjoyed the school programme. Then it was fun to bring our girls and Ruth Stam, also Mary Grimshaw home for their holidays. Mary’s parents met us at the Todro turn-off to take her in to her home. Ruth’s parents are here at Aba. We arrived home at 8:30 on the evening of the 23rd after a long tiring trip. (2) We had to stop off at Aungba and sew up a number of long gaping wounds on a native who had been gored by a wild pig (3). Then two flat tires, the last out in the “blue” where our jack and pump both failed to work properly. We finally got natives to pry up the car with poles while Ralph slipped on the wheel. The pump hose was bad but by holding both ends and a third person pumping we finally got it up enough to travel.

Reaching home so near Christmas made things terribly hectic as Christmas here is always a busy time. Special native services and they have a day of games and a feast (meat and "fufu" or mush). They eat all of the cow – head, hoofs and insides. So one beast goes a long way in a crowd.

Then many things had collected while we were away. We have nearly worked ourselves to death in the heat to catch up. And has it been hot! Just sizzling. The children notice it terribly after the high cool climate at Rethi. (6)

We plan D.V. (4) to go again to Azandeland for surgery the first of Feb. There are more than 200 surgical cases waiting for operations (5) there. They have been hearing the "Word" daily during this waiting time and we earnestly seek your prayers for this difficult trip. It is a very hot time but we must go then as a number of white maternity cases hedge us in for some time after Feb, also various other things. Operating under such conditions is indeed very strenuous as the time is always very limited and conditions primitive. The terrible need of those poor people and the marvelous opportunity of reaching souls is the only reason we are willing to go. The Azande tribe have been a very hard tribe to reach with the gospel. They are widely scattered over a huge area. This surgical work has brought patients from long distances and it has pleased the Lord to use it in making known the gospel over a huge section.

Recently several patients arrived here in the hospital from up there. They were tired of waiting and so walked to us. They walked more than 450 miles to get here. Unless some kind traveler gives them a lift back they look forward to a tramp of 350 miles (7) back to their home. Poor folks, they wring your heart in their great need. 

At present we have patients from all directions for which we humbly praise and thank our God. The work of years has given them a confidence in us which we earnestly pray may be the means of reaching many souls ere they are eternally lost.

And now my time has gone. [Personal portion redacted.]

You should be here to see the crowds of locusts that visit us occasionally. During this hot dry season they are flying in enormous swarms. When they settle down for the night they surely do mow the place.

Let us hear from you often. Remember that we love and deeply appreciate all that you have done for us all through the years. More than fifteen years have passed swiftly since we first sailed. God has truly met our every need and we praise Him with full hearts. There are of course many things that we would love to have and have not, but all our real needs have been met. He is the same yesterday today and forever. If it were not for this how could we face the future?

We all join in sending our united love and thanks.

Coralee and all  


  1. Isaiah 65:24.  "It will come also come to pass that before they call, i will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear." 
  2. The round trip calculates out to about 819 kilometers. However Google doesn't know about Aja or Aungba, so I had to leave those out of the calculation.
  3. Mom commented that she and Edie always remembered this as a buffalo goring, not a wild pig.   
  4. Deus Vult - Latin for "God wills it". 
  5. These surgical cases were often tumors or elephantiasis cases.  As mentioned in a previous letter, trauma cases often couldn't be reached in time.  
  6. I couldn't find a weather station for Aba, but Wunderground estimates temperatures in the low 90's for December, with humidity readings about 60%. I can't find anything for Rethy but I do remember it (I went to school there too) as being cooler.   
  7. These folks walked 100 miles to the first station (Todro?) and then had to walk back across their own tracks another 350 miles to get to Aba. 

No comments:

Post a Comment