Chapter 44

Agonizing Malaria

 

I loved to go on investigative probes into parts of the mission estate that had not been visited before my day. There were areas that had excellent hardwood trees. The only way to reach them was through slimy, stinking swamps inhabited by countless snakes and other creatures and insects. One blank on my map I was anxious to fill in, so I set out for the lake shore with some of my students and trained workers. The Chief of the district was first informed with a request to provide guides to lead us the best way through the swamps or around them. From my army training I never left things to chance. I took all interested parties into my schemes.

One other concern was to have quiet lectures to my students on Bible study and a better way of presenting The Gospel to others through our daily work.

The medical staff at Livingstonia kept telling me that I was prone to fevers, especially malaria. I was warned to take quinine regularly, make full use of mosquito nets at night, to wear long mosquito boots after sundown, not to work too hard and avoid murky, humid, swampy areas near the lake.

After travelling by road and small rowing boats, we reached a secluded shady spot on the lake shore. The Chief and his guides were waiting for us. They had gifts of ivory bangles, rush mats and eggs. In return I handed over salt, vegetable seeds, large beads and squares of calico. It was a very friendly introduction and I told the Chief my aim was to drain part of the swamp for a rice catch crop. I wanted a river higher up on the hills to have irrigation channels zigzagging to a twenty-acre bush land, so that the whole area, when cleared, would grow maize and ground nuts, have a tree nursery bed (including coffee and tea) and, if possible, a new village built where workers under my supervision would enlarge the acreage. The Chief was overjoyed. In return I promised to pay his government tax (10/-) and 1/6 each week in cash. One of my students wrote down the agreement.

For a couple of hours I surveyed the area and as it was getting hot, 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, I retired to my cool tent to write up notes and rest and later in the cool of the late afternoon, to have a conference with all the parties concerned. My notes written up, I lay on my camp bed. As I was thirsty, the cook brought me a large juicy paw paw. It was very refreshing, but the eating caused me to perspire. In less than a minute I was shivering, plus violent throbbing headaches. I knew what was wrong - an attack of malaria. One of my students came in to report progress, when he noted I was flushed, pouring with sweat and eyes bloodshot. He advised me to go to bed.

'Leave everything to us, Bwana, we will complete the work,' he said.

As I was twenty-five miles from the Institution, I considered the advice sound, so I undressed and was soon under the mosquito net. My student attendant, who was also the cook, brought me warm fresh lemon drinks, but as I was agonisingly hot one second, freezing the next and then violently shivering, I only took a sip of the liquid. An hour later I took a double dose of quinine and the lemon juice. I got off to sleep.

When I woke up it was dark, my head was buzzing and all my body was pained and hot. I managed to raise myself up and I saw my faithful African attendant squatting at the entrance of my tent. Outside there was the glow of afire. I listened intently, someone was speaking outside, not far away.

'Lord look upon our Bwana, make him better - Lord make him better.' I knew the voice, one of my students - they were praying for me.

How very proud I felt for these men, my faithful chocolate coloured Africans. Here was a revelation of their loyalty, their regard for me - praying together - 'Lord look upon our Bwana and make him better.' I lay back on my bed. For a moment the pain, shivering and distress seemed to disappear as I listened to the little prayer meeting outside my tent. I was caught up in the intercession. 'Lord make us faithful workers, keep us loyal in all we do and say, make our land Christian for Jesus Christ's sake . . .' I felt my own faith was weak in the light of the passionate prayers of my African friends. The prayer over, silence, except for the noisy crickets and croaking frogs. Again my head throbbed and body shuddered (only those who have had malaria understand what I mean) - the suffering was agonizing.

The attendant at the door of the tent came towards me. 'How are you, Bwana? Please tell me how I can help.'

I asked for a tumbler of hot lemon and within seconds it was handed to me, under the mosquito net. It was refreshing. I took more quinine and once more lay flat on my back on the camp bed. I felt a little better. The fire outside was cracking merrily. From the jungle various animals were grunting and snarling, but I was not afraid, as loyal men were protecting me, loving men were praying for me still. I slept again and only woke up when the sun was rising. I felt a little better. I called my attendant - like a rocket he was at my side, raised my mosquito net and wondered how I felt. At my request he brought tea and buttered toast - I managed a little.

As the attendant removed my tray, he said, 'Mr MacKenzie, the planter at Vintukutu, is coming with a machilla team, to take you over to his home.

This was a surprise to me. Two students had walked during the night to tell Mr and Mrs MacKenzie of my bout of fever. True to his word, my friend 'Mac' arrived at 7 o'clock and an hour later I was in a covered hammock, carried by two of my students who insisted on doing so. On the journey I learned from my senior student that all the survey was complete, all the information documented and the chief had agreed to start work at once. A valuable survey had been finalized by my trusty Africans.

On reaching Vintukutu, Mrs MacKenzie ushered me into her guest room and after a warm bath I was back into a comfortable bed, in an air-conditioned room.

By a swift courier (runner), I sent word to my wife and a note to Dr Laws telling him my survey was completed and I was at Vintukutu with malaria for two days.

I travelled back most of the way by bush car (unusual for me), as I did not want to risk another attack. All my students and supervisors were hard at work when I got home. My wife had everything up to date, so I had another two restful days at home writing up the full survey from notes.

The projected plan was a great success - in all, forty acres were reclaimed from the massive swamp and as much again from the mountain bush, with two irrigation channels five hundred yards long. The chief, who had agreed to follow my survey, called on me to say, 'Do you require bamboo poles?'

'Yes,' I said. 'Six hundred.' The bargain was struck for: cash 1, a nanny goat, twelve hoes, six axes and a 21b tin of salt.

The journey, the survey, the malaria, the prayers, the thoughtful Africans, the kind MacKenzies, the return journey and the supervision by my wife of all the Homestead work, is a lesson of missionary endeavour and African co-operation at its best.

 

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