Days of Great Importance
One of the great joys of my life is that God spared me and protected me all through many battles of World War One and led me to Central Africa as a missionary. Yet, more than that, He gave me a wife whose life coordinated with mine: to help forward the evangelization of a fine class of people. Our driving aim was to prove that, given a chance, the African could rise to the occasion and play an important part in world affairs. The Livingstonia mission had thousands of acres of land and my: object was to utilize the land to the full for the food of Africans.. To teach new methods of cultivation, to bring in new varieties of plants, to turn the dense jungle areas into fine villages, fine, holdings with lots of domestic animals. To respect the Africans was not enough. For many generations the tribes had longed. for peace, ample protection and a sense of being loved. To this end I toiled and had full support from the people I was proud to serve.
I was always experimenting; finding better ways and cheaper ways to produce something worthwhile. To this end I carefully selected ten Africans, ministers, teachers, clerks, carpenters and a chief. I gave each an exercise book and a pencil. I told them to write down questions on any subject, questions dealing with tribal life, customs, welfare, mission work, attitudes to missionaries, planters, Indian traders, about conditions laid down by Government, questions on family life, pagan rites, Christianity, promotion of education to all, regardless of sex and opportunities to travel abroad. There were more outlines, but I wanted the team to express their own views in crisp sentences. I gave the ten men two weeks to write up what they had in mind, at the end of which I would provide a meal and also let each one choose a 5/- book from the bookstore. For this purpose, I had money in hand from well-wishers at home.
Our second meeting was a revelation. The information far exceeded anything I had hoped for. The answers were something valuable and unique. Not only had they written down over a hundred questions, but they had frankly discussed and noted down the answers. The team had kept their bargain. I fully kept mine to the joy of all concerned.
The programme was so exciting I called in two of my colleagues, Rev A.G. MacAlpine and Rev T. Cullen Young, both theologians. They were amazed. Questions and answers that had puzzled every missionary for twenty years and more, all secured within a fortnight. The evidence was so far-reaching I was requested to verify some subjects. This was done within another week. My sincerity had broken down many ingrained hopes and fears and in a polite and frank manner, they had responded. I became very knowledgeable about the African mind. I found my African friends dependable, upright, a people with very high morals. Yes, I had witnessed days of great importance, the kindly openness of a great people.
With the New Year of 1925 over, the two days of relaxation gave way to a period of intense activity. Dr Laws had sent out many invitations to Missionary Societies, Government Officials, planters and distinguished African leaders to attend Jubilee Celebrations in October 1925. Later, a conference was held on the station, all Europeans were present to arrange in detail about the great event and especially as to where each visitor was to stay.
All my plans were well advanced. Drawings and sketches of the model village and suitable quarters for exhibits, material for the conference hall was already at hand. One very big problem was uppermost in my mind: food for the thousands of Africans expected from hundreds of miles around. We settled one headache: where the sixty Europeans would stay, also where 10,000 Africans would be housed.
Dr Laws was highly pleased with the conference - he requested each missionary to put their plans in writing and deliver them in seven days, also to give written progress reports to him monthly, up to July.
The day after the conference, a boy delivered a note from Dr Laws: 'Come and see me at once!'
When we met, he said, 'Mr Caseby, we have overlooked something. Where are all the thousands of Africans to sleep?'
All his life Dr Laws was a man of action and he liked all his colleagues to possess his drive. In my khaki shirt I had two breast pockets with buttons. In one pocket I had a day-to-day diary, in the other a 'work ahead', plus 'problem' booklet. I read from my diary.
'I had a meeting with chiefs and headmen two months ago. Each chief has agreed to provide lodgings for 100 visitors, each headman for 50 visitors, the boarding house 200 visitors. Mr Caseby to extend the Homestead village for an extra 200 adults.'
Before I had finished, the Doctor was 'breathing down my neck'. I expected a ticking off. Instead, the dear old man said politely, 'Thank you, Mr Caseby, you really have everything settled for 10,000 Africans.'
'Yes, doctor,' I said. 'I've also made arrangements with chiefs and headmen along the lake shore to house and feed 10,000 more, if necessary, for one week.'
The problem was solved. What I did not tell the Doctor was that he had a copy of what I had just said in the Homestead file in his office.
Days of great importance lay ahead. After Easter services 1925, I held a discussion group with all Africans working with me for the happy event of 12th October 1925. Later, the model village buildings for crafts, booths for exhibits, miniature church, school and allied industries, were pegged out.
The material required was carefully worked out. They included: 500 bundles of thatch, 500 bundles of reeds, 1,000 strips of bamboo, 200 tons of clay (all erections would be wattle and daub), 3 miles convolvulus, 50 rush mats, 200 poles 12" X 3" and 28 lbs of vegetable or bark dyes. Everything about the buildings had to be African - no nails, nuts, bolts, sawn timber, string and European paint to be used. All my people joined in the work. It was great fun. One morning at six a.m. I dug the first sods for the village, read a portion of scripture and offered a prayer, then work was started. Everyone knew what to do, twenty key workers supervised.
My office was large so I set aside one part to receive curios on loan. A clerk wrote down every item day by day as goods came in. The office became a miniature museum. So many articles piled up I had to appoint a night watchman.
The model village soon took shape like all other erections under my department. Overnight there was a sudden delay. The scourge of animals, East Coast Fever, struck a second time in fifteen months. Oxen drawing wagons bringing materials, food and ship cargoes died on the hillside. The fever spread like a bush fire, destroying cloven hooved animals, domesticated and wild. I had to send out students to outlying districts to recruit 250 people to hoe ground, as I had no trained oxen to pull ploughs. I had another fifty people drawn from forty miles inland, people formerly trained by students to plant trees and essential catch crops. Method, quick thinking, regimentation and patience all played a big part in overcoming difficulties. What had seemed to be a calamity three weeks earlier, turned out to be a blessing.
This work, Going With God, is copywrited by Ronald R. Caseby, 1993. All rights reserved. Used here by express permission.