Chapter 46

Pleasant Assignment

 The expression I often use, 'William, the gun boy', is an endearment, for William was a charming person. At the end of the First World War, William was a member of The Kings African Rifles. He was smart, alert, confident and very brave.

Once, in Tanganyika, an officer called out, 'You, rifleman. Man this post, boy, let no one pass.' That night a shot rang out.

When the officer arrived a dead zebra was five yards from the post. William did not fail in his duty, but the question arose -did the zebra stray or was it driven by Africans towards William? Africans are fond of flesh.

A few miles from the end of an exhausting journey my wife and I heard a shot. Yes, it was William. A large antelope had crossed his path and for our safety William, the gun boy, shot the animal. Africans are fond of meat and that evening, the end of the trek, they had it in plenty. We shared part of it too, a huge roast was carried to our host and hostess at Ekwendeni.

After sipping lemon drinks we retired indoors for baths, change of clothing and lunch. Our stay was short as I had so much to do. With Mr Stuart, students and Rev Peter Tole, Mrs Stuart and 1 surveyed one thousand acres. Willing villagers came to our aid with hoes to mark holdings, test soil, map out nursery beds and afforestation sites.

Forenoons and afternoons we visited schools, clinics, villages, helped in short services and went into huts to chat with elderly people. We visited the very sick and beyond the villages, colonies for outcasts - lepers, blind, maimed and youngsters suffering from fits. The outcasts chose to stay in outside areas, they were well provided for with shelter and food and when necessary medical care. In the evenings I met with various groups of Africans. The highlight was Sunday services in Ekwendeni - a magnificent church, designed and built by Rev Charles Stuart.

The church was packed. Outside, hundreds were standing, all waiting for the second service. The Rev Peter Tole, known as the sweet singer of the 'Ngoni', sang a solo. It was superb. Peter conducted devotions, Mr Stuart preached the sermon -direct evangelism without padding. We did not know the 'Ngoni' tongue with its strange clicks, but from our own Tunbuka, we were able to follow what was said.

The father of President Kenneth Kuanda of Zambia was a popular minister - he led the devotions in the second service -we did not hear him, as I was conducting the English-speaking service, for English-speaking Africans and students. Over one hundred attended. After the service I invited questions - they came fast.

'Why did you come to our country?' 'Did you know about us before you came?' 'Could you not work in Scotland?' 'Would you be prepared to die for Africa?' 'Do you make money like planters?' 'Do you dislike our customs?' and 'Do you try to live the pattern of Jesus every day?'

I was glad Rev Charles Stuart was at my side and he heartily agreed with my prompt answers. In a sense it was an ordeal.

The work assigned to me at Ekwendeni was over. I was proud of my students. The last day we drew up all the various reports into the survey - measurements, soil testing, research into weather and animals and all kinds of present crops, trees and bush vegetation. Dr Laws had a copy.

One of my best students was Chief Jere's son. He was keen to be appointed supervisor. When his course was finished he was put in charge of the whole scheme. I supplied him with seeds, plants and trees and it is pleasing to report most of the survey for food production and water supplies paid a large dividend. Within four years I was buying large quantities of all kinds of foodstuffs - carried by Africans eighty miles away - to support the increasing numbers of school boarders and apprentices at the Overtoun Institution at Livingstonia.

We were sorry to leave Ekwendeni and the Rev and Mrs Charles Stuart and their lovable people. We had a grand send off. Our return journey was a speedy one. A letter- carried by a team of runners met us - it was an urgent message to say two steamers, the Queen and the Chauncy Maples were arriving a week early, so would we hasten our return.

All plans were changed, visits to mountain areas were cancelled and a crash programme arranged. We covered the seventy-odd miles in two days, using four relay teams to wheel our bush cars. It was hard going by day and partly by night. We reached the Homestead about mid-day. After baths and meals my wife was at my side, in the office, by three o'clock. I found everything done and up to the minute - Dr Laws had completed his promise.

My wife looked over the Queen's manifest of goods. I looked over the second steamer's cargo. We needed two hundred and fifty carriers, as no ox wagons were allowed movement owing to cattle fever. By five p.m. (within two hours), all was arranged: carriers would set out to carry goods to the lake shore. At four a.m. I set out with them walking, a long column of carriers - the lamp carrier in front, the gun boy, William, in the rear. It was sunrise when we got to the lake. At six o'clock I checked and found every carrier present, all goods intact, so I ordered 40 lbs of rice and 30 lbs of beans to be cooked at once for all who had accompanied me. The Africans had kept their word as a gesture of thanks; the food was a token of my regard for all.

When I walked over to the 'rest house', for breakfast, the local chief was waiting with fresh trout and a dozen eggs. The chief has a weakness for scented soap, curry and mustard. I had some of each for him - he was very pleased. As we talked, my cooks had a delicious meal ready: filleted trout and some scrambled eggs, toast and coffee. I was just finishing my breakfast when a ship's 'hooter' was heard from the north, also a 'hooter' from the south. I knew both captains would go 'full steam ahead' to get unloaded first. With military-like precision, both ships were unloaded and loaded, one hundred carriers given loads and as three Europeans arrived by steamer, I had bush cars for them. I walked with my workers. The sun was setting when we all arrived at the mission. I had walked twenty-two miles, been on the go for seventeen hours -I was tired.



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