Chapter 36

Africa -  Setting the Scene

 

This chapter is by way of a thumbnail sketch of all the other chapters to give you, the reader, an insight into the overall plan before detail partly obscures it.

Month by month from about the age of eleven, until I went to War in 1915, I had leaflets about Livingstonia and its fine tribes and people from the Rev Chrichton. Steadily, my scrapbook of African stories grew. I had a Nyasaland map: dotted on it were all the Outstations, the names of active missionaries, the founder, Dr Robert Laws, some of his medical workers: Rev Dr Walter Elmslie, Rev Charles Stuart, Dr Chisholm, Dr Donald and his wife Dr Agnes Fraser, Dr Turner and Ministers: D.R. Mackenzie, A.G. MacAlpine, R.D. MacMinn, the Young brothers, T.C.Y. and W.P. There were also many other gifted people who freely gave of their skills and knowledge such as builders, joiners, stone-masons, engineers, printers, teachers, nurses and many loyal wives. Also an ever growing host of forward-looking and thinking Africans such as:

Yakobi Harawa, Edward Boti Manda, Peter Joli, Kenneth Kaunda, William Mkandawiri and all the many broadminded Chiefs who were receptive to new ideas.

Hand drawn map of Nyassaland

These Greatheart adventurers, by freely offering love and instruction, had brought peace and tranquility to a land that for generations had been torn by tribal war, slavery and disease. The more I read about Livingstonia, the greater my longing grew to be there and work with my boyhood heroes.

In 1912 Dr Laws was made Moderator of the United Free Church of Scotland. I went to hear him preach about Livingstonia when he came to St Pauls Church, Dundee. From that moment on, my sights were firmly set on service in Nyasaland and to the Livingstonia Mission in particular.

The Great War came in late 1914 and even after I enlisted the Rev Crichton wrote regularly to me in the trenches and so I was able to quench my thirst for information about African missionary work during lulls in the fighting and amongst the worst carnage imaginable from the Battle of Loos in September, 1915, to a score of others, up to the final one at Mons in 1918.

Soon after my demob in January, 1919, the Rev Thomas Crichton, then Minister at West Calder, had a letter from Dr Laws wondering if I was well, finished with the Army and of a mind to be a missionary at Livingstonia. When the Doctor knew that I was, he invited me to Glasgow, to be interviewed by Dr Laws and the formidable eighteen-member Foreign Mission Committee.

It was an interesting meeting. One old minister asked about my army career. I said calmly, 'Sir, you were too elderly to fully understand what battles, wounds, comrades killed at one s side, hunger and thirst, could do to a man's spirit and soul. If you mean drink, smoking and other evils, I say here and now, I am clean and I am proud to say so.

The old minister came over to me and patted me on the back. 'You really read my thoughts.'

I was appointed Assistant Horticulturist, Agriculturalist and Head of Forestry Department at Livingstonia.

Many years later, after Dr Laws had died, the Rev Chrichton's family gave me the following letter that their Father had received and treasured from the Doctor.

 39 Merchison Crescent
Edinburgh. 21 Feb, 1922

 

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This work, Going With God, is copywrited by Ronald R. Caseby, 1993.   All rights reserved.  Used here by express permission.