Chapter 40

Long Hours Hard Rewarding Work

 Mr Archie Burnett was the boss: I was his assistant. We worked in complete harmony and respected each other very much. As the weeks passed I noted a nervousness in Archie. I put it down to a recent bout of fever and I urged him to take his wife and child to the quietness and restfulness of Karambetta, about a dozen miles away and I would see to everything. My boss was quite overcome with my generous offer.

'It's more than that,' he said. 'I'm worried about my wife's: health. She is getting weaker and may require treatment in Scotland - you know what that means.

I just did not know what to say. Our co-operative effort was' in full swing and a long range plan was actually written up; plans for many developments, agreed to by Chiefs and accounted for in the Mission budget. Archie had other things on his mind.

Many cattle, sheep, goats and wild animals had died from East Coast fever and transport of goods was halted. I laughed such things off but Archie was nervous and worried. He asked me in for breakfast at eight a.m. next morning to talk things over. After early morning service, detailing two hundred workers to particular jobs, we left for breakfast. No sooner had we arrived when we heard a scream, a mouse was caught in a mouse trap. We soon settled that and Dan, the cook, re-set the trap and placed it on the floor. In a second, a playful kitten had its paw in the trap. More screams!

Before serving up the wheatmeal porridge, the pot fell off the stove, the toast was burned, the frying pan caught alight and the bacon was truly blackened. To crown it all, the coffee was made with cold water!

These little things did not upset me but highly-strung Archie was very angry and his wife was shouting from the bedroom. After I had managed to get everyone calmed down, we had quite a pleasant breakfast of paw-paw fruit, bread and marmalade and coffee which I made.

By noon that day Archie had a relapse - a fresh attack of malaria. Little Blossom too, was kept to her cot with fever and Mrs Burnett's condition had deteriorated. Dr Laws and two medical missionaries were brought in and their conclusion was that all the Burnetts be invalided home by the first available steamer. All at once I was in sole charge of a vast establishment. I was bewildered, for the Foreign Mission Commission had promised I would get special leave in August 1925 to get married. This was just impossible, so I was told to make immediate arrangements for my bride to travel to Africa and all expenses would be paid.

The Burnetts had ten days to pack. The wives of other missionaries came and packed the Burnetts' goods. I bought some furniture - two beds, wardrobe, tables, chairs and most of the kitchen utensils, as Dr Laws told me to move into the Homestead as soon as possible and rearrange all the work. I sat up late at night - fourteen hours each day, except Sunday, for nearly a fortnight, until I had every detail of the Department mapped out. All the other missionaries came to my aid. The clerks promised to do extra work without pay and everyone of my students lined up.

Everyone - Europeans and Africans - had been so kind. I knew I would succeed. The experience in World War One proved a great asset. I was trained to keep calm, not to over estimate difficulties, to weigh up every problem before acting and above all, to take on added responsibilities cheerfully.

The day the Burnetts sailed from Florence Bay, on the lake for home, Dr Laws asked me what my plans were. He was anxious to help, along with the Rev A.G. MacAlpine.

My notebook read: 50 miles of road, 70 bridges require attention - detail 40 workers; 19 carriers for goods from steamer to Plateau; 25 workers to carry sawn timber 15 miles; 50 workers for afforestation projects; 11 men to cut logs for steamer fuel; 10 men on gardening; 6 buyers for maize, rice, sweet potatoes and cassava flour from North territory 80 miles away, to travel by boat; 20 men to assist in building work.

Dr Laws took my notebook and asked how he and Mr MacAlpine could help? I told them everything was in hand, that all people were detailed and at their tasks. 'In three days time I must get to smallholding areas, forty miles away. I will be pleased if you can help then.' Dr Laws promised to see to the flour mill and rations for the school and apprentice boarders; Mr MacAlpine to the vegetable workers and transport of food.

I returned from my five day marathon trip to Mountain Holdings to find everything at the Homestead in top gear and all promised work fulfilled to my satisfaction.

In an industrial Mission like Livingstonia, every missionary must prove to the Africans that every effort is planned for their good. The Africans are polite and shrewd people. Far, far too long, their country was shrouded in darkness and doubt. Strife was common amongst tribes and evil rites played a big part in destroying harmony in single tribes.

Men and women, mostly from Scotland, became missionaries and travelled to Africa, not to exploit but to explain; not to parade as superiors but to prove equality; not to demand but to share; not to cause friction but to show unity, goodwill and peace. In all my work I treated the African honestly and in deepest faith and in so doing my burdens were eased and all under me knew I, and most missionaries, had dedicated ourselves to uplift every African in sincere work, patient perseverance and all the time prove we were Christians with Christ's love for everyone.

Cable messages passed between Livingstonia and Edinburgh and Edinburgh and Livingstonia about my bride's travel arrangements to Africa. All was settled satisfactorily.

One cable, however, arrived at the Station. Dr Laws brought word that my beloved Mother had died. She lived for and loved her family and was proud of my calling. She always encouraged me and though dead, her memory would be my inspiration as long as I lived. Her charming manner forever lives in my mind. The day my bride left Scotland I knew she would be with me within a month, so I set myself three tasks before she arrived, near the end of April 1924:

1.    To visit every part of my widely scattered projects.

2.    To instruct every one of my staff - students, clerks, supervisors and workers - to complete every project (there were 210 on my staff).

3.    To have a pretty home: fully functional for my bride after we were married.

Even Dr Laws smiled when he knew my three projects. What he did not realise was that my long spell in the army, enduring many battles, hardships and suffering had made me resolute, tough and ambitious to carry through all I had set my heart to do.

 

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