Chapter 62

The Birth of Our Twin Sons

 

The professional rainmakers told me the storms of high wind, thunder and torrential rain would come in mid-November (1928). They were right to the very day, with cool refreshing rain, the storms came later. The day the rain came the Principal came into my office. The Rev D.R. Mackenzie was a delightful person and he wondered how he could help me. I opened my diary and with his own eyes he read the achievements of 1928. The journeys, the areas cultivated for food in eighty different places and, best of all, one million trees planted. He started to take notes, so I said, 'I have an exact copy for you. I would like you to come back next week and meet all who have worked so hard: chiefs, headmen, students, overseers, clerks, workers and also to see the lovely handiwork of blind, dumb, deranged and outcasts - all valuable mission agents.'

D.R.M. (affectionate initials of the Principal) was very happy to accept my invitation. Before leaving he looked at the projected work chart on the wall.

'I see two steamers are due in the next fortnight. To give you more time to rest, I'll meet one steamer and Rev W. Galbraith will meet the second. You detail the workers and we will do the supervision.'

I was happy to oblige, for meeting a lake steamer was a hard task, with all passengers and goods taken off in small boats and cargo going up or down the lake by the same method.

In all my work I gave credit for all who worked with me - it was team work. Everyone shared in successful adventures. Greater still, every worker heard prayers said and work blessed every morning, except Sunday, which was a day of worship.

November rains left the parched dry ground fit for cultivation. Songs filled the air as hundreds of Africans hoed their gardens and plots and sowed the seeds. I allowed every married man to work on his own garden for the first two weeks in December without loss of pay. This incentive was greatly valued.

The men returned bearing gifts. One elderly gentleman with the rich-sounding name of Kondambiri Sokojere, brought me a pair of white doves as a thanks offering.

'What must I do with the doves?' I asked him. A broad smile lit up his face.

'Bwana, you work very hard. Watch the doves play and sing and good health will come to you.

The doves settled in their little straw house. It was a tonic to watch the pretty birds preen each other, coo and fly around.

Approaching Christmas 1928 I did rest, read and write and watched the doves. Rev D.R. Mackenzie and Rev William Galbraith saw to all the outside work, as their students were back in their villages to cultivate their gardens and spend Christmas and New Year with their families. Other missionary colleagues made day trips to all my selected sites for all kinds of crops and clearance blocks for afforestation. Each brought back good reports. In fact, they exceeded my expectations.

Early January 1929 was an anxious time for my wife. As Mrs Martin (wife of Rev Jack Martin) had died a few months earlier at childbirth, my wife was given extra tablets to ward off fever. On 5th January, 1929, my wife gave birth to twin boys. Two and a half minutes separated their arrival - quick work indeed. They were lovely boys, good and contented.

My wife made a rapid recovery thanks to the attention of Dr Todd and the hospital nurse. I was very happy; so were all our colleagues and the Africans. A few witch doctors and sorceresses thought otherwise.

'If you care for our customs, you will drag your wife and her babies one hundred steps from your house and leave them there from darkness to light. If not you are a coward.'

They came back next day. I took the two babies to the veranda and said, 'See, they are lovely. May God Bless and preserve them.'

They all moved away muttering, 'He is crazy. He cares little for our customs.

The African custom when twins are born was that they were looked upon as evil. The husband was bound by tribal rites to pull his wife into the bush and leave her with her two infants from sunset to dawn. If they survived the cold, insects, wild animals or swooping vultures, the evil was purged. With ceremony, the mother and babies were taken back to the hut and given their names: 'Goli', meaning first born and 'Sinya', which translates as the one who came late or as the second born.

Later in the evening of 6th January I had a feast for all my workers and friends: cooked meat, maize porridge, rice, beans and two drums of fresh orange juice. As I moved among the Africans squatting on the ground around a bonfire, I saw the witch doctors and the sorceresses each with a basket of food and calabash for orange juice.

After the meal and before departing into the night we sang a well-known sacred song and I offered a prayer and asked God to bless all the African people. An African church elder expressed thanks to God for Mamma Nyanhango, Goli and Sinya.

Margaret with twin brothers Sandy and Grant
Margaret cuddling Sandy and Grant on the veranda of 'The Homestead' someime in 1929. Known to Africans as Goli (1st of two) and Synya (2nd).

Quietly I returned to the house. Zinda was asleep, so too Alexander Angus (Goli) and his younger brother, George Grant (Sinya). Dr Todd and the nurse were sitting by my wife's bed. They were anxious to hear about the feast. I said it was a worthwhile celebration, especially the opportunity I had to pray around the smouldering fire arid thank God for all His many blessings.

My wife looked radiant and delighted with her twin sons. So too Zinda, her lovely eyes lit up in pride as she looked at them. Helen became nursemaid to the twins and Alice took charge of Zinda.

In 1922 there was only one white child at Livingstonia and in 1929 there were twelve European children. It was fine to see the bonny African children meeting and playing with the European ones. The white children picked up the African language very quickly. Nearly every day African children played with Zinda on our veranda. They had little parties, fruit, cakes, sweets and orange juice.

When our twins were one month old they were baptized by the Principal, Rev D.R. Mackenzie, in Livingstonia church. It was a memorable occasion, for a number of African babies were baptized the same morning.

Near the end of February, 1929, the ground was sufficiently soaked for afforestation and the replanting of shrubs and breaking up of herbaceous plants. Fifteen miles from Livingstonia, I had a secluded acre for fruit trees, shrubs and flower plants. A young man who had completed the three year course in agriculture, horticulture and forestry, was in charge. He was a first class workman. To a new design from the carpentry department, he had built a very attractive house and close at hand he had two well-stocked and well-protected gardens. With a colleague, I visited Karamteta and to my pleasant surprise I found everything in first class order. I had taught all my students to write everything down, successes as well as failures. Yohanne handed me his ledger and I read: 190 shrubs, 400 flowering bushes, 100 each blackcurrant, redcurrent, bramble, cape gooseberry and ordinary gooseberry (500 all told); 200 budded roses, 1,000 flowering plants, also a large number of strawberry, raspberry and sweet pea plants.

With my colleague, Rev T. Cullen Young, we surveyed Yohanne's work. It was equal to a trained gardener in Scotland. The rows were straight, shading first class, reed fencing neat and a well-designed irrigation supply drawn from a stream five hundred yards away, sufficient for all requirements. He also had five separate sections with a wide variety of crops, so as to work in a five year rotation. I was so pleased that I asked the Principal of Livingstonia to visit Karamteta and see at first hand the work of one fully trained African's skill in agriculture. The Principal was so pleased he wired the Director of Agriculture for Nyasaland (Malawi), who was at the north end of the lake on a visit, to come and visit 'The Botanical Gardens of Yohanne'. The Director was so delighted he said he would like to have Yohanne on his staff at Zomba. The lad would not go, although he was offered 4 per month: he only had 24/- each month from me. At four distant places, 10 miles apart, were students who had also completed my three year course. They all had well-developed holdings, a splendid range of plants, but not up to Yohanne's standard.

I saw very little of my family during February and March 1929. I did not disbelieve my senior staff and students and their accomplishments, I just had to see every phase of the work with my own eyes and satisfy myself that my reports to the Principal were correct.

In the busy planting period I had 400 workers. For two days I had 150 men planting shrubs, roses and flower plants around the Principal's house and the area around the post office and clock tower and along the main avenue.

When all the work was over, I had 5,000 surplus plants, so I gave them free to some responsible workers - about fifty of them. I also gave them a long weekend - Thursday night to Tuesday morning, to go to their homes and plant them.

In writing up my report to the end of March 1929 I came to the conclusion three things in particular stood in my favour:

 1.    The unerring zeal of my predecessors.

 2.    My many experimental plots in many areas.

 3.    My periodic conferences with village chiefs and headmen and their willingness to try out my methods.

 I trusted the Africans and they trusted me. I never asked anyone to do something I could not do myself. 'At every level I knew each worker and all about their families,' was what I told a charming Government official, who was looking over my charts and maps in my office.

 'I am trained to work and worship. It stood me in good stead in the hours of trial in World War One. I am here as a missionary to spend and be spent in the Service of God, for the well-being of Africans.'

He smiled. 'We do not see Africa in the same light.'

We remained good friends. Dr Laws' words often came back to me - 'Mr Caseby, never show anger. Preserve a quiet unruffled dignity and you will be respected and loved. At the same time be just and firm.'

In 1922 I recruited twenty fine-looking men, only one was a member of the church. In March 1929 the other nineteen became church members, loyal Christians, each taking part in morning worship at six a.m., before many non-Christians. They too in turn saw the Light and Love of God.

 

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