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Chapter 5: They That Sow in Tears
Thus saith the Lord God; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar... and will plant it. Ezekiel 17:22
It was April 8, 1955. The early morning, still hampered by the dark clinging shrouds of night, gave place slowly, reluctantly to the pale, gray dawn. Long before the first glimmer of daylight we had listened to a great drama in thunder and lightning with steady rain. For hours it continued - long rolls of thunder chasing around a vast circle of the sky; thunder that knocked itself down long distances like tenpins; thunder that began like a low growl, gathering momentum into a great roar; or that crashed splinteringly and suddenly upon us, and then wandered away in smaller and smaller replicas of its first voice; or thunder that resembled a squadron of jet planes at supersonic speed zooming overhead. Finally it had ebbed in solitary occasional booms, muffled and far away.
At 7:30, the time of our scheduled flight to the Sudan, the out-of-doors was soupy with fog and rain. When we arrived at the airport of Entebbe (on Lake Victoria in Uganda), M.A.F. (of England) pilots Marshall and MacDonald, along with the pilots of all northbound transport, were advised to wait, "If," said the respectful Britisher, "your passengers will not be embarrassed." That statement, in all its broad a's and dress-suit intonation, was music to our ears. We, the passengers, were glad to wait! *Missionary Aviation Fellowship of England, started simultaneously with the organization of the same name in America.
"The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet" (Nahum 1:3). Five hours later we were to discover that this hour's delay at Entebbe was to be a very significant factor in "his way" for us; and this early morning's military score in clouds and thunder would set the accompaniment for our entire coverage of this vast area (the Sudan is nearly one million square miles), just as a martial band quickens the pace of feet marching in step "with the cross of Jesus, going on before."
It was Good Friday. Back at Kampala, only an hour's drive away from the lake shore, the big African drums were beating for church services at Namirembe, "The Hill of Peace." Only sixty years ago Hennington and Mackay had laid down their lives as martyrs among the untamed Buganda tribespeople. Today a great Anglican cathedral crowns the hilltop, and Christians are counted in ten thousands. Kampala itself is a modern city, beautifully ornamenting the many hills of the township. On one of these hills gleam the white walls and turrets of Makerere College, East Africa's one university, on par with Oxford and Cambridge in England.
The veranda of Archdeacon Palin's home commands a wonderful view of the cathedral dome on the opposite hill. One day at breakfast, we had watched a mist veil the dome, and blot it out as though the entire edifice had been erased and was no longer there. Only the iron cross at the top of it could be dimly seen. Then faintly, as a memory, as an ethereal symbol of all that the building in brick and steel stands for, it appeared again, behind the mist, a round dome pointing into the sky. Catching the glory of the morning sun beyond the clouds between us, the church stood there, where the martyrs had planted it in the soil of primitive Uganda. Today Uganda, awakened, prosperous, its many tribes at peace in the security of the well-managed, orderly protection of England, owes all its present blessedness to the cross that came so dearly to its land. Yet the political clouds are rolling in - so like the curtains threatening a beautiful world. These are sadly building up for sorrows, even in Uganda - one of the most perfect countries we have seen. Yet if ever the church is blotted out by the storms - its cross cannot be lost, nor the ultimate triumph of it.
Good Friday found our Africa team still separated after a period of eight months. Ann Sherwood and Sanna Barlow sat in the airport waiting rooms at Entebbe. And Joy Ridderhof was detained in Scotland. There in a little hospital out in the suburbs of Glasgow, Joy attempted a brief note to loved ones at home. The shaky handwriting betrayed her weakness, yet the song of rejoicing carried her pen legibly along:
Today is Good Friday, and I am in Scotland. Did you ever hear of a God like ours who could find His child weary and ailing, take her to Scotland by air, and put her in one of the loveliest homes, among the finest people in the world - the Scottish; lay her flat on her back with a raging fever, give her the privilege of fellowshipping in His sufferings and also those of all mankind; then pick her up on a stretcher and take her to a hospital in the country where it is quiet and the care is loving and informal? Have you? Day after tomorrow is Easter, and I say "Happy Easter," do you blame me? Rejoice! It gives me such joy too, to know that multitudes of "little people" of earth are hearing the Good News, and many are believing and rejoicing in a living Saviour because they heard.
Thank you for your prayers,
This trial in Scotland was also part of "the dust of his feet," as our path to follow was pointed out through the clouds. Certainly "He that regardeth the clouds" shall not sow, nor reap! At this time of her illness, which proved to be a very severe bout of malaria, well-meaning friends wrote to Joy suggesting that perhaps this was an indication that she should not go to Africa. From the human standpoint, this thought seemed very well taken, from many sides. A new branch of Gospel Recordings was beginning to bud in London; the work in Los Angeles was in a most critical and trying stage - busy hands handled the precious "corns of wheat" while eyes were not without tears. One staff member wrote at this time that her concern to get the records out to their urgently needed fields, coupled with the current acute trials and frustrations in progress, had often awakened her in the wee hours of the night, and constrained her to prayer, much prayer with tears, that the sowing might not reach these closing lands too late.
How solemn too, is the thought that often comes to us who work together in teams at home and abroad - how sobering is the fact that a seemingly small defeat in the life of one worker can block off the miracles involved in the transport of light to hundreds, thousands, even millions of untold peoples for whose eternal destiny the element of time if the superlative factor!
"His people offered themselves willingly in the day of his power." Sometimes this offering is a cruel altar; a rugged cross, a dying-place; a permanent grave, to some individual or individuals behind the scenes where the world may see only hands, or feet; but God "looketh upon the heart." How paramount it is to have a heart "broken and contrite"; and single to His glory; a heart "at leisure from self," to ask largely, unlimitedly "in his name" with a requesting that cannot be denied, because His name signatures the motive, and the asking! The trials that force upon us the cross; the compassion for the sheep of His uttermost part of the dark pastures; the love that weeps as it sows, that falls as fuel into "the flame of God" - are the ultimatum of fruit, and of the resurrection power "to usward who believe."
Many precious covenants from the Word indicated to Joy that His path for her was to Africa. "Let us go hence" had been the assuring voice of guidance when the difficult time had come for her to again leave the home fort at 124 Witmer Street in Los Angeles and set out once more for the front-line recording effort now in Africa. And at the present hour in London, as strength slowly returned - even before it had - her spirit had risen and was ready to go - to walk, to run, to fly - in order to take up the Africa task. Of the one thousand and more languages of this continent, the team had done since November, 1954, when they entered Mombasa from Pakistan, only 57. The work had scarcely begun.
In London one day late April, Joy packed her suitcase for Africa. Her plane ticket was made out from London to Khartoum. A very desultory recuperation had left her lagging far behind normal health, and the comfortable home of dear friends in London, the Livingston Hoggs, would have tempted a longer sojourn. Letters from the Africa duet were full of remonstrances to "stay put" until her strength was fully restored. But springtime had come to England. The London new branch, indigenously organized, was sturdily "on its own." And Joy read with new singular meaning those words: "Lo, the winter is past... arise... and come away!" A poem came to hand which, in its depths of meaning, spoke not only to the recording teams "on the go" in lands abroad, but to the whole effort of Gospel Recordings in a world-wide scope and significance of the commission that we seek along with others to fulfill. In it was the reiteration of the necessary cross, the tears, the suffering. As Dr. Robert C. McQuilkin had said so often to his Bible college students: "It is suffering, and then glory. Not to have the suffering means not to have the glory." And in the following poem a silver trumpet clearly sounded the call, "Let us go hence"!
And must we go,
Go from this quiet place,
This paschal chamber
Where we listening rest
And hear Thy blessed voice
And see Thy face
And lean upon Thy breast?
Go to that awful garden
To those throngs of midnight violence?
To the unjust bar,
To all the dreadful world's insulting wrongs,
And impious war?
Yes, we can go,
Arising at Thy Word:
Our sacred place goes too,
Our vast defense:
For Thou hast said,
Companion, Leader, Lord,
"Let us go hence."
In Africa, as well, an unmistakable guidance, spectacular in its swift-moving dovetailing of events and in multiplied tensions and conflicts, had brought Ann and Sanna to this rainy morning at the airport in Entebbe. "The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind, and in the storm," is not an empty parallelism we discovered, for certainly, from the Africa side of the pattern the whirlwind was our pathway into the Sudan. We could never have known ahead of time that this date and this date only would be the appointed margin for gathering up the languages of this country. In fact, plans for a trip to Sudan had come almost accidentally.
A diary note under the date of February 21, '55 tabulates a seemingly routine incident. The setting: 11:30 P.M. Ann Sherwood just finished the last recordings of our sets in eight languages at this Mennonite Mission on Lake Victoria; Sanna Barlow, at the desk of Miss Phebe Yoder's trailer house, Musoma, Tanganyika, perusing the sheaf of Africa correspondence. A letter two weeks old (that had only stunned us then, in the midst of travels in western Tanganyika) came to light. It was among a cluster of invitations representing every Protestant mission in the Sudan. Yet this one provided a definite peg to hang our hats on, and therefore it arrested our attention like a "Halt" sign at a crossroads in British East Africa. The letter from Archdeacon Gibson, Juba, southern Sudan, queried, "Can you give us dates in April?" Later we discussed this together, and our thoughts began to counsel us like this: We are completing Kenya, Uganda, and western Tanganyika by the end of March. There is no hope now, due to fumbles, of receiving the jeep station wagon at Mombasa before the end of May or June. There is no hope of our Southern tour developing before July. What about rainy seasons in the south? Correspondence supplied the answer. The period between June and December was best for eastern Tanganyika, Nyasaland, the Rhodesias. Sudan, immediately then? Further research revealed that we just could make the Sudan trip before its big rains began in June or July. It would mean a swift schedule though.
At this juncture our prayers began to center upon that sizable spot on the map of Africa known in our geography books as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan; now the two adjectives are discreetly not used; and people speak of the evolution of "independence" there as "Sudanization." Because of the contingencies of this rapid change-over to a new system of government, from the start our hopes for visiting and moving freely throughout the country seemed precarious, and this circumstance grew worse toward April, until it seemed most dubious; some would frankly tell us it was "impossible."
February 22. We arrived in Kisumu, Kenya, to find word from Joy stating her own recent impression that we should go to the Sudan as soon as possible - a conviction that had apparently been simultaneous with ours.
Then had begun the "whirlwind," our career in west Kenya and Uganda. It was outlined as follows:
February 23. Off the gangplank into Rev. Harry Capen's green Chevy - sped to recording appointment at his home; blitz had begun! By that time the next day we were at our fourth recording stop; stretched the twenty-third to last until 3 a.m. of the next day, recording.
February 23 to March 7. Letters - twenty in one day on several occasions, to handle all aspects of our onward plans. Recording at Kisumu, Kima, Maseno, Butere, Kisumu, Kaimosi, Maseno, Kapsabet, Nasakol - all of this in our hitch-hiking era; full cooperation of all missions* involved. But all had raced the accelerator for us in order to whisk us in and out of the narrow spaces provided between their own prearranged obligations. It was nine recording stops in thirteen days! Fortunately our efficiency experts at Kisumu, the Capens (who had kept us in touch with our mail with the precision of wizards) had sent scripts ahead promptly upon learning of our sudden decision to work Kenya before Uganda, because of a radical change in lake-steamer schedules. This almost haphazard incident was another large stepping stone toward the Sudan since it meant our being in Kampala, and near Entebbe at the proper moment. (*Africa Inland Mission; Church Missionary Society; American Friends; Church of God; Bible Churchmen's Missionary Society.)
March 10. First replies from Sudan letters. Visas and permits (separate requirements for each area) dubious factor because of the settling-in of the new autonomous government; a prominent man sent out of Juba after tying to enter. News full of turbulence in Sudan - transport strikes, etc. No foreigners allowed to enter southern Sudan. News that rains begin in mid-April. One letter mentioned that itinerary in the Nuba Mountains would not be possible after May!
March 14-18. The center of the whirlwind! Buwalasi College in Upper Nile Diocese of Uganda. Our most terrific schedule - 94 recordings in 20 languages in 4 days! No hopeful news about the Sudan. Bishop Usher-Wilson, pointing northward into the flat misty plains of many unreached tribespeople, expressed his great concern that we go there soon.
March 19-23. Schedule easing. Upper Nile Diocese completed. Arrived Kampala via African bus, ten-hour trip. Letters from Sudan told us they were pressing visas hard, but doubtful about speedy processing; nevertheless would proceed with planning our itinerary.
March 24. A letter from Archdeacon Gibson in Juba postponed recording there until May 19. This suggested our travel from north to south, instead of the reverse. A letter from Joy suggested that she meet us in Khartoum around April 6. A letter from the Missionary Aviation Fellowship advising us that they would be flying from Entebbe to Malakai (central Sudan) on April 6. Would we like seats? How many? Total weight?
Learning that all commercial planes were booked up until the end of May, we cabled M.A.F. (in faith that visas would be secured) accepting this flight for two. Cabled Joy that we would meet her in Khartoum after April 6.
March 25. Completing backlog of editing, 38 reels, the work of two weeks only. Word from Joy of her plans to travel in Ireland and Scotland before her arrival in Khartoum.
March 30-April 3. Recording at Mukono College near Kampala. Full schedule, but not rushed. Completed Uganda languages. Of the East Africa total of 57, 34 had been done since February 23.
April 4. Monday. Back at Kampala. Guest House full. Squeezed into Archdeacon and Mrs. Palin's home on "The Hill of Peace." Word from Sudan. No visas yet. All permits not in. They plan for us to go first to the Nuba Mountains before the airstrip is closed by rains. (One reason why all-weather Juba was postponed until last - in the plan of the Chief Engineer!) A letter from Joy spoke of "coming down with another severe cold."
It was only two days before our scheduled flight - no visas, no permits, no possibility for later transport, Kampala accommodations strained by school vacations and Easter season. These were days of "standing-by." We cabled Mr. Forsberg (S.I.M.)* in Khartoum: "Transport unavailable after sixth. Need temporary visas Khartoum until other permits granted. Cable advice. Sherwood-Barlow." *(Sudan Interior Mission.)
Monday evening. Returned from a recording reconnaissance at the "Kabaka's College" at Budo to find: (1) A package slip from Nairobi which meant that a sufficient supply of tapes had come (we had only two reels left!). (2) Cable from M.A.F. in Nairobi stating that the flight had been postponed until the eighth. (We later learned that an accident in Ethiopia had brought them to Nairobi to have the tail of the plane repaired thus causing the delay of two days.) (3) Then we opened a blue airform from London. It was Mrs. Livingston Hogg's cautiously written detailed account of Joy's very severe illness in Scotland. The effect of this news, in the midst of all our tense "standing-by," was almost suffocating.
April 5. Tuesday morning. No mail. But very clear message from the One whose way is in both whirlwind and storm. Concerning Sudan, He said: "Go... in the strength of the Lord thy God." About Gospel Recordings' needs in both Los Angeles and Sydney (we were thinking of recent home news), He said: "As poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things." About Joy: "The Lord will strengthen her upon the bed of languishing... Thou wilt make all her bed in her sickness... He giveth power to the faint." And to us, He spoke the theme of the clouds and thunder, the storm, and of the sowers' tears; the reapers' song - "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." We were deeply comforted. Nor shall we forget the many kindnesses of dear friends in Kampala; the Palins, whose oneness with us in this effort was noticed in their quiet attention to details; and Margaret Parry, hostess at the Guest House, who joined us in prayerful concern and interest in this entering into new territory.
Tuesday evening. A cable came through from Khartoum stating:
WILL TRY WIRE PERMITS JUBA SEVENTH. MAY BE DELAYED.
This encouraged us, though it puzzled us. Why permits, not visas? We must have visas. Permits surely could be obtained one by one. (We later found that all permits needed to be in before a visa was granted!) Yet we assumed that Mr. Forsberg meant visas as well. Little did we dream that he had sent another rush cable to us immediately after the above; and to make sure it would reach us he had forwarded a sum of three pounds (over eight dollars) to get it to us by the fastest rate. It was a cable telling us not to come, that the proper papers had not been secured. This particular telegram never arrived!
April 7. Wednesday. The expected telephone call came through. Alistair MacDonald and Gordon Marshall had arrived in Entebbe. We would fly to Juba tomorrow. Ann explained our situation, quoting the telegram. They were happy to take us. At six o'clock that evening we left Kampala by taxi-- Mary Ewing, Marian Farquhar (American Mission, Malakal), and the Recordings Team of two. An hour and a half later the four of us were most royally accommodated (our only choice!) in the beautiful Lake Victoria Hotel not far from the palm-bordered beaches of the lake.
Now, we were the party of four passengers waiting for a rift in the clouds. The storm was a general cold front moving down from the north - not much hope for ideal flying weather but we trusted that the break would come. It was a great thrill to be actually en route to the Sudan: although we did not doubt that we were going, uncertainties made the event more than exciting.
Recently we had received a letter from a mission working in one of the largest language areas of Sudan, the Nuba Mountains. The letter addressed to Miss Sherwood from the field superintendent had encouraged us with the news that one of their very own missionaries had been appointed to the task of recording, under Gospel Recordings' supervision, the many dialects and languages of this needy tribal area. Knowing as we did, that our visit there must be short because of the pressure of many circumstances, our hearts rejoiced in this news.
One of our workers, Mr. E. W. Mollenhauer, has been making records in two of our tribal areas during this dry season, and it would be very helpful to him in the early stages of that work to have the advice and help from you folk and to do some field work with you. Of course, if your team is able to undertake the full work of recordings in the Nuba Mountains, we would be very happy for you to do this. In that case Mr. Mollenhauer could either continue with the team, or return to normal district activities.
There are more dialects (45 at least, not overlapping or mutually understandable) in the Nuba Mountains than in any other area in the Sudan. It is reckoned that there are at least 11 different language groups and these can be split up into many dialects. So the longer you can stay, the better. We shall do all that we possibly can to help you in any way that you may need. Arrangements will have to be made in advance as this is a closed area and special entry permits have to be obtained from the governor of Kordofan Province, El Obeid... If possible we should be glad to have something definite from you before April 17 when we are meeting in Field Conference.
Yours in Christ,
W. J. Lunn
This letter had forewarned us that our new itinerary must be matched together with perfect timing, in step with things seen, and unseen, "working together for good." We could have guessed, from the beginnings too, that the events would move with exciting rapidity as they linked us into a schedule by sky-taxi, sparing us the months of time which we did not have.
An hour and twenty-five minutes had ticked away while we sat in the airline waiting room. Then at 8:55 we boarded the silver-and-red striped "Rapide Dragon," M.A.F. plane. At nine o'clock, in this double-winged "dragonfly" we were air-borne, Gordon at the controls, Mac at the radio, earphones on. Leaving the rolling green country at Lake Victoria to quickly recede from us, we flew north toward very extensive cloud masses. Presently we were in and out of clouds and turbulence that tossed our toy-weight "Rapide" like a puppet on a string. Mac talked comfortingly to us. "See that cloud mass like a great stage curtain? It is the cold front approaching from the northeast."
"Do we go straight into it?"
"No, we are moving away from it actually." Presto, we were into more white invisibility and turbulence.
"These little planes, can they take it?"
"Oh, yes, they are very strong, actually. We are considering overshooting Gulu because of the advantage of the tail wind. We need the time."
"How far to Malakal?"
"Six hundred sixty miles as this crow flies! Now we are flying at 6,000 feet. We've decided to see what the wind is doing at 8,500 because we will need that altitude to clear the hills beyond Gulu." So up we went, and what a revelation we were in for! It was about one hour in blind cloud most of the time, and in a leaping and falling turbulence! Mac said, "Our tail wind has coincided with a southward current!" Then, gulp - we soared like a badminton birdie, then dropped! Gordon worked hard to keep the plane from going into a landing stall.
"Updrafts!" Mac stated, mildly. Marian was ill; the rest of us, anything but nonchalant!
We thought of the white invisibility, the tossing, the pressure, the tense and silent skill of the pilot steering his plane - the progress buffeted, but moving on. It was a parable of our work of Gospel Recordings Incorporated - in Los Angeles, and in Sydney, there was the going through blind clouds; the storms; the lifts and drops due to currents and countercurrents. Then at last, out into the clear!
As we descended to a better view of the flat patterns in green below us, Mac informed us, "We're stopping in Gulu for fuel. The weather is too uncertain to risk a nonstop to Juba. See Gulu over there?"
Gulu in northern Uganda was a perfect little model city of Lilliputian houses, tree-lined penciled streets and tiny garden spots, government office section and "downtown." Off to the side was the airstrip which we banked toward, and dropped down upon, careful not to pick off the grass thatch of mushroom homes guarding its lower edge. A storm was pushing toward us from the east, hence fifteen minutes later we were in the air again and climbing toward the cumulus walls to our north. Then followed another turbulent era, then a pass through massing black-based clouds.
At one o'clock we were touching down at Juba. A circle of match boxes in an expanse of open barren land, suddenly grew up to meet us with a normal-sized airways building, and Africans in police uniforms, Englishmen in starched white shorts and shirts. The Sudanese officer behind the immigration desk seemed pleasant enough.
"Only one hour's margin here," Gordon told us. "We must be air-borne at two o'clock to make Malakal before dark. That eventful hour was accounted for as follows:
1:05 - Alighting at Juba airstrip.
1:15 - Preliminary introductions to various "who's who" of the local mission, et cetera. Health certificates checked.
1:20 - The crisis is precipitated. "Any telegrams?"
"No, madam. May I see your visas please? Your passports, madam?"
We offered them, and MacDonald explained, "Don't worry about permits, we"ll just see the governor of Malakal and he'll fix it up!"
"But Mac, we have no word about visas, either!"
"What! You don't mean that do you? Why, we couldn't have brought you if we had known that!" Then we were confused. How had they missed getting that detail? Gordon Marshall rushed into our huddle.
"You know they sent the 'so-and-so of such-and-such' out of the country by return plane because he did not have proper papers! This is serious."
"Gordon, we cannot let the M.A.F. take the blame for this. Can you telephone the police at Juba? Perhaps they have news."
1:30 - Crisis mounted as the telephone conversation developed.
"We have no word."
"What shall they do?"
"No - but a telegram."
"Can you read it."
"Yes, it says... et cetera."
"Quite vague. They shouldn't have come. Can you take them back immediately?"
"It is late and the weather is uncertain." Then came a progression of solutions. First, "They can stay in Juba overnight"; second, "They can wait a day or so until word comes from Khartoum."
1:35 - Gordon came to us - all of us sitting on a bench in the long barn-like room of Customs House. "Well, we'll just all spend the night here. Perhaps word will come in time to take them on to Malakal tomorrow." This precipitated a discussion; the Recordings Team, full of apologies, but finding it hard to win their point about hostessing this "emergency." The Sudanese officer looked distressed. "He's blaming me," Gordon said, "but don't worry, I don't mind!"
1:40 - Busily talking, we looked up at the sound of sudden laughter. Gordon was practically dancing. Everyone was talking at once! The Sudanese Immigration Officer had burst through the doorway, and striding across the room waving a sheaf of papers, he made for his desk, his face one broad grin from ear to ear! He was shouting, "They've come! They've come! While we were talking on the telephone the cable came, and the police called back immediately!" Everything crescendoed into a clap of applause, a sudden burst of delight shared by all around - African, Indian, European alike.
1:50 - Making final arrangements for Juba, work scheduled for May 19-30.
2:00 - Air-borne - "The whole lot, with all our bits and pieces"!
Serving afternoon coffee from our thermos jugs and feeling the full effect of all this thrilling episode. "The customs officer," said Gordon, "just waved his hand and said, 'It is all right, you have no dope or guns do you? - Right! That's it!'" And the Immigration Officer had told us, "I have given you unlimited visas. When you get to Khartoum, you may have them limited there." (Referring to time limits.)
At 5:20, one-half hour before nightfall, Malakal was sighted - a tiny circular brooch set in a vast land, barren as the surface of the moon, where the silver Nile is sketched all the way to the skyline. We had been in the clear since Juba - no more barriers in the sky or earth below - just an open way. Looking up we were delighted to see the faint but complete arch of a rainbow like a limitless gateway - as big as the earth and sky - to welcome us. "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving."
At 5:30 after "buzzing" the American Mission (United Presbyterian) we circled the airstrip and skimmed into port. This was Malakal, headquarters of M.A.F. who were to be our main transport and co-ordinators for the entire coverage of the Sudan. We cabled Los Angeles and London: "Exciting entry Sudan. Read Deuteronomy 33:26." The reference was a code which gave away the whole story in its summary. "There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky." And there was a little color slide in verse 16 of this chapter which mentioned "the good will of him that dwelt in the bush!"
We afterward learned the sequel to that visa story. When Mr. Forsberg had failed to secure the proper papers and cabled us accordingly, he had learned through a communication from M.A.F. that we were actually en route. Rushing once more to the proper offices in Khartoum, he had again sat at their doorstep, as he had done literally for weeks. Minutes before the close-down for the Moslem Fast of Ramadan throughout the land, he had succeeded in drawing attention to our unsigned papers, and had seen them signatured! Just before the telegraph services were off, he had wired Juba. It had taken until 1:40 p.m. for the message to reach its destination - in the nick of time. The day after our arrival in Malakal, a wire came from Khartoum stating that our permits for entering the Nuba Mountains were granted.
All of this was the preface to our Easter Day in Malakal, April 10, 1955 - a glorious day, and our hearts were filled with singing. "He lives!" - "Who rideth... in his excellency on the sky!"
Easter Day was shining, with its "skies above a brighter blue," its "earth beneath a sweeter green." Birds overflowed "with gladder songs"; "flowers with deeper beauties" shone. And the quiet hush of the morning church service was a draught of pure rest - after the past weeks that came and went on running feet and in the flush of continual excitement. We looked up toward the front window of the church, and noticed that the window itself was simply a slender cross, fitted together in squares of hollow tile, each opening to the outside sunshine which poured through and fell across the pulpit platform in a golden shadow of light. Then we saw that just above the horizontal beam of the window, a dove had built her nest, and there she sat - her home in the cross. Even at the time we had witnessed this parable of a bird nesting in the cross, and that cross a window, we had felt its unspoken, unanalyzed portent.
Many months later, the picture talked to us again - at a time when words could not be found. We were reading in the midst of stunning news, a most triumphant letter from Mrs. Edgar Mollenhauer in which she spoke of how the Lord "brought particularly to me the message of embracing my personal cross, and glorying in it." This picture of peace and security in the very center of courageous sacrifice was a slender window upon the heights of victory we may know, not only in "the fellowship of his sufferings," but in the light, the power, the glory of "his resurrection." This window that resurrection morning is a memory that will ever speak to us apart from the awkwardness of sound or ill-chosen words - of a dove's nest in a chosen cross where she "hath found her a house... even thine altar, O Lord of Hosts."
In preparation for the morrow in which we expected to fly in to the Nuba Mountains northwest of Malakal, the M.A.F. pilots had sent a wire to the Sudan United Mission stating the approximate time of our arrival at Kadugli airstrip. "However," Gordon had told us, "there is just one chance in a hundred that they will get this telegram in time - sometimes it has taken five or even seven days!" Then he added, before we had a chance to reply, "But when we saw how wonderfully the Lord worked things out for you at Juba, we decided to venture it, trusting this telegram will break all records and reach them in time. Obviously, the sooner you can get in, the better!"
Little did we imagine, as the "Rapide" pilot talked to us this Easter Sunday evening about our next morning's flight to Kadugli, that the one vehicle of the Sudan United Mission which could possibly meet us in that out-of-the-way place, was the Landrover at Abri, about 150 miles from the airstrip. And Sunday evening at six o'clock, Edgar Mollenhauer got into the Landrover, turned it around, and drove out onto the road, heading the car toward El Obeid - in the exact opposite direction from Kadugli. He planned to drive through that night in order to reach the town of El Obeid by noon on Monday.
In the morning at nine we took off for Kadugli. A light rain was falling, but presently we were out into clear sunshine, and flying over perfectly bald flat country smeared in various shadings of browns and tans. Gradually we left the wide curving Nile with its trim of bright green and feathery palms, and before long we were seeing the rocky peaks of the Nuba Mountains rising only an average of 2,000 feet out of the brown sandy country fuzzed with widely spaced low trees. A few minutes later, above the dune-like hills, we were searching for the mission station at Shwai, the nearest link with Kadugli, probably 75 miles away. Following a slim line of road, crossing the low hills, then out into more level country, we finally spotted a neat group of grass-roofed buildings shaded by many lovely low trees - and there on the ground were two sheets spread out, our signal that the missionary was home and we were to drop our message. Circling, banking, turning to buzz the station, we realized we were very low when the trees suddenly looked normal size! We flew right over the center of the compound and Mac quickly opened the back door and dropped a paper sack filled with dirt, to which a note was tied. It landed in a puff of dust only a few yards from the little grass-roofed school building. Again we circled to gain height, and headed west toward Kadugli, leaving the mission station intact, and apparently unalarmed, planted snugly against a beautiful blue-purple rock mountain, the desert kind, as are all the Nuba Mountains.
Only ten minutes flying brought us to the neatly laid out little town of Kadugli. Flying over the Sudanese District Commissioner's large domicile in the suburbs to announce our coming officially, we then turned toward the airstrip, and dropped down upon it, steadily, gently. As our speed slackened the blur of green and tan about us became focused. Here was the real Kadugli, of the earth earthy; and immediately, as from out of nowhere, the variously dressed or undressed people of the land were swarming about the plane. A few yards beyond our right-hand window we saw a dusty green Landrover, and beside it a great big blond Australian missionary, his face beaming with a welcome as he stood there waving his handkerchief.
This was Edgar Mollenhauer. And our two weeks of working together soon revealed to us his superlative dimensions in other aspects than the physical, though upon first sight, he was certainly the finest example of human vigor and abundant energy, scaled to perfection in stature as well, that we had ever witnessed. We soon found him a giant in other lines. When radio equipment failed, it was Edgar who fixed it; when the vehicles were out of order (the two that serve this large area of eight stations), we noticed that Edgar was around to repair them; if a Sudanese official required advice about the vital subject of well-digging, it was Edgar who gave him hours of time to discuss this important problem; and Edgar proved to be the man who would get both of our recorders into good shape for the entire Sudan trip.
Our admiration for this missionary did not diminish as we talked together of many other things. We found he had made a detailed and thorough survey, not only of the Nuba Mountains languages, but of the totally untouched Darfur Province to the west; and that, since his correspondence with Los Angeles last fall and contacts with Gospel Recordings, Sydney, during his recent furlough, he had already recorded sets of records in three of the Nuba Mountains languages. A practical comprehension of linguistic problems, and an excellent working knowledge of Arabic increased our cupfuls of thanksgiving to overflowing in this gift to Gospel Recordings, in Edgar Mollenhauer.
But most of all, we rejoiced in his vision and all-out intention to get the precious message of life to these tribes-people. He had no less a burden, no less initiative, no less courage and unquenchable faith, than we would expect of one of our very own staff recordists sent out officially from Gospel Recordings in order to accomplish this one thing. In fact, his zeal to reach these people strongly challenged us.
"I have been rejoicing recently," Edgar told us as we drove along the wooded road toward Shwai, "a few days ago a very important part of my tape recording equipment was stolen." Knowing what a great loss this was, and how the money to buy it had come from sacrificial gifts in answer to much prayer, we thought, "How full of faith, a preface to such news is!" To have said, "I have been very much distressed," would have been more natural; but he said, "I have been rejoicing."
As we continued the interesting trip that would bring us from Kadugli to Abri by 1:30 a.m., Edgar gave us much information about the tribal languages of this mission area and outlined a feasible plan of itinerary which could possibly add ten more to the three already recorded. Since our visit would be a mere ration of time, he would work with us, learning all he could of various techniques in the recording of unwritten languages, and then during the next dry season, with recording supplies and equipment again in tact, he would seek to get many more, until eventually all could be "in the bag." This was the beginning. We went on to talk of the vast populations in Darfur Province.
Edgar told us of his correspondence with Los Angeles; a letter dated September 13, 1954 had said:
While I was home in Australia, I first heard of your work and unfortunately just missed meeting Miss Joy Ridderhof in Sydney; however, I spent some time with your representative there and gained a little information. Ever since coming out to this field I have been greatly burdened for numerous tribes surrounding, and the humanly insurmountable problem of language. Our policy has been on entering a new area, to learn the vernacular of that people, but the problem is that there are approximately 50 different languages with a total population of one-half million souls. Before I heard of Gospel Recordings, I had considered the possibility of tape recording messages and playing them back among the various tribes, and purchased a tape recorder for that purpose. But this method is tremendously restricted, and I have felt directed of the Lord to write you concerning the matter.
I expect that from January, I shall be set aside by our mission especially to do this recording, therefore I should be most grateful if you could give me the fullest information. I was given a copy of Recording Technique in Sydney and 16 messages (scripts). The messages are of excellent quality though they will have to be suited to our people, for they speak in a narrative tense which does not lend itself to the simple, short, direct statements as contained in your scripts. However, nothing of the message is lost by putting it into the narrative. I shall be using the medium of Arabic in recording all these languages.
Under the Lord I shall be fully responsible for recording and distributing the records together with follow-up work and, by faith, the forming of churches. my position is such that I shall be able to contact most of these tribes a couple of times each year.
As you no doubt are aware, the Sudan is changing rapidly and we are making an all-out drive to establish the existing church and reach out to those who have never yet heard of His glorious saving power.
Yours in the great crusade,
Edgar W. Mollenhauer
Indeed it was a great crusade! Our blood tingled with the thrill of it - to think we were here, in the Nuba Mountains with a key in our hands that could, under God, unlock the windows of understanding and bring into darkened souls the experience that is the right of every man - to know the entrance of the "light of life" - to see His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. It was wonderful, glorious!
"Say," Edgar exclaimed as we neared the previously buzzed mission station at Shwai, "did you know it was nothing but a miracle that you two ladies were not left 'out in the blue' there at Kadugli?"
"Yes," we chorused. "But that is why Mac and Gordon buzzed Shwai - just in case the telegram had not arrived!"
"True, but you know there is no vehicle at Shwai. We have two, but the Blitz is loaded with grass for thatching and is busily engaged at Heibans, and the Landrover was on its way to El Obeid just last night!" Speechless, we sat wondering what had happened.
"I was to take the Landrover to El Obeid," said Edgar, "and had just set out, when of all things, the post lorry passed right through Abri on an unscheduled trip to a government official. It stopped at the mission at the exact minute I was leaving. Naturally, I waited to see the mail. In it was the M.A.F. telegram announcing your coming to Kadugli tomorrow. I just went out, got into the Landrover, turned it right around, and headed southwest instead of northwest. I could barely make Kadugli by driving all night. Reaching Shwai at three o'clock this morning I slept awhile and then pushed on for Kadugli. All went well until motor trouble developed. Having no spare part to take care of the situation, I had to repair the broken piece before continuing. But the Lord undertook, and I got to the airstrip about ten minutes before the plane arrived!"
The Landrover took us through open woodlands filled with a great variety of trees, though with practically no underbrush. Now and then we passed villages of quaint little houses with roofs of shingled straw, peaked at the top like a fancy handle. Twice we stopped while Edgar shot guinea fowl and tied them to a rope at the outside back corner of the car. Reaching Shwai just before sunset, we were served tea on the front lawn as Mr. And Mrs. Lunn introduced us to the mission station personnel and African Christians. Two darling African girls, dressed in bright blue and green satin dresses, approached us shyly. When the airplane had buzzed the mission, and the giant bird had roared lower and lower, these girls had panicked and tried to climb a tree!
After a happy time of fellowship and a delicious supper outdoors, we set off again. The next stop was Heibans at 9:30. The next, Nyakma at 11:00; and the last Abri, an hour or so past midnight, and then, to bed "straight away!"
"Good-morning tea" brought to us by Miss Evelyn Lambie, on the following Tuesday morning, April 12, began our more conscious hours in one of the most enjoyable eras of this present "missionary term on wheels." As Joy so often exclaims delightedly, "We love Australians!" And these folk made us feel that our Sydney staff were surely just around the corner somewhere. All the flavor of the land "down under" was here. People were folk instead of folks; an automobile was a vehicle; things were done "straight away" rather than "immediately"; and life was delightfully punctuated with a hot "cupper" (cup of tea) which always made a legitimate opportunity for a relaxing visit. We had an automatic sense of belonging to this group that has never faded. Perhaps the name, "Gospel Recordings Incorporated" means that we do incorporate ourselves into missionary teams like this. We do in spirit, at least. And the word incorporated becomes an honorary title - a tremendous privilege from our point of view!
But it had been no time at all until we were saying goodby to friends in Abri, some of whom we suddenly realized we had scarcely seen. Marion Mollenhauer and the children had been in the throes of packing to go to their newly appointed station at Salara, among a very different tribe - a soil as unresponsive as the hardest, driest desert. Nobody ever mentioned this place, Salara, without describing it as a peculiarly trying situation - very unusually claimed by the powers of darkness and witchcraft. The people there seemed to have worked up some taboo on the church building itself, and though a few would listen when visited in their villages, none at all would even come near the church. But Edgar had seen a break among these people at the time he had spent several days in one of their hill villages recording in their very own language. Repeatedly they had listened to the replayed tapes, and a distinct difference in attitudes had been observed. And it was with great expectations that the Mollenhauers were moving to Salara for this coming winter season.
As Abri friends farewelled us with "Cheerios," we set off for the leper hospital at Nyakma. As we were there only from Thursday evening to Saturday evening, the two days were heaped to capacity - no minutes were unmomentous or ordinary. Ann wrote in a letter home about one of the episodes which is an indelible memory of those joyous brimful days at Nyakma.
My studio was the beautifully made little church at the edge of the colony, built by the loving hands of the lepers themselves. Edgar said it had been a challenge to all the rest of the field, because it was the most carefully done of all their chapels. Just in front of the platform was the recorder, and hour after hour we recorded, with a small "congregation" sitting on the board benches in front of us, enjoying every word whether they understood the language or not. One young fellow with no hands and no feet - only stubs - was always present on the front bench, but as the hours wore on, his strength would fail, and he would first sit on the gravel floor, leaning on the board behind him; then, when he could no longer sit, he would curl up on the floor, but his enjoyment was so keen that he couldn't bear to leave.
The next day we were recording his own language, and the beaming face in front of us showed unusual appreciation of the song as it was being sung. Then I played it back. Suddenly the joy was too great for him, and I saw him take the corner of the dirty gray cloth slung over his shoulder, and between teeth and stumps of hands, he extricated a precious, long-preserved penny. Then in ecstasy he hobbled toward me, extending his offering in those fingerless stubs - his "all." I was reminded of earlier Christians of whom it was written, "In a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality."
We had come to the Nuba Mountains at a very exciting period - at the brink of "the rains" while day by day the clouds were building up into more awesome proportions and more foreboding blackness, and traffic involving the two vehicles became more and more congested as the mission personnel settled in, each to his appointed post for the coming six months. While we were at Heibans, Miss Olive Stebbins and Miss Peggy Ashpero cheerfully coped with boarding and rooming 19 guests in transit. The system of radio communication was a tremendous help in coordinating these affairs, and our effort was given priority in spite of the rush and the exigencies of this season. Often we heard echoes from the "wireless" directing the maneuvers of the "recording ladies" by Blitz or Landrover to the necessary language-finds of their quest.
Monday evening of April 18 brought us to the close of our allotted time in the Nuba Mountains. Tomorrow the Landrover was to take us back to the Kadugli airstrip in time to board the M.A.F. plane due at three o'clock in the afternoon. But the eight days had seemed all too short, even in spite of the knowledge that Edgar would carry on the work in a most efficient manner. Because of the eager cooperation of all the informants who had spoken for their tribes, or helped with interpretation, we had managed to get record sets in 12 more languages. Yet this was but a sampling, just an entrée.
No news had come from the outside world; and no Landrover had appeared either by Monday evening though the night grew late. People talked of what day the roads to Kadugli might become impassable, yet at this date the night was clear and sparkling with stars. There was familiar Orion (strangely enough the tribes here have the same name for that constellation!) and close to the horizon in the South, the Southern Cross appeared. Always seen at this season in the Sudan night sky, it became an eloquent symbol to us.
Then at last, before 11 p.m., we heard the rumble of a motorcar, and the Landrover drove in; a few minutes behind it came the Blitz, with a load of wayfarers all en route to their permanent rainy-season locations. Presently the recording ladies were hailed with three telegrams and a few letters that somehow Mr. Capen, of Kisumu, had forwarded to us. How they ever found us, out in these desert hills, remains a mystery. Two messages from M.A.F. told of a delay of two days in our previous schedule. The third was a cable from London informing us that Joy was recuperating in a hospital in Scotland. This was our first news since the London airform received at Kampala, April 6. It was good news from a far country.
Immediately in a huddle with Edgar, we made plans for the best use of these two extra days. Then it was decided that from Heibans we would take separate courses. Ann with Edgar and the Landrover passengers would go on a hunt for the Shwai language, and incidentally, Edgar's lost transformer (which he never found!); and Sanna would accompany the happy crowd aloft the Blitz and its cargo of furniture and belongings being returned, along with the people, to various homes and stations to hibernate during "the rains." For these wet-season months would absolutely shut them into a roadless, planeless world apart. Literally, they would become winter-bound from all the outside world, even from their nearest mission stations. Here the rainy season demolishes the sticky cotton-soil roads, fills the dry season khors (potential stream beds) with raging torrents, and all missionary life must be carefully adapted to these two seasons - "the rains," when no one travels, vehicles are overhauled, home-base chores completed; and "the dry," when safari time is on, and all the year's marketing and concourse must be accomplished.
On Tuesday afternoon, April 19, both the Landrover and the Blitz pulled out of Heibans with full loads bound for various centers. The two vehicles went along the same route as far as a little bower station called Kauda. From there the Blitz continued, Bill Willoughby driving, attempting to reach Moro by midnight. It was a glorious trip under a desert sky filled with stars. The air was perfumed with the fragrance of frankincense and cassia tress, and now and then the scent of frangipani and honeysuckle. Bill skillfully managed some very slick hills and a few hard pulls out of a khor or over a wide shallow waadi. Once we could discern the rhythmic beating of grain and the singing of those who threshed it far across the flat sandy plain to our left and hidden in the selvage of the night. For a long while close to our right, two sharp-peaked great rocks or jebels jutted into the velvet sky, one of them just piercing the belt of Orion as he bent too close upon those twin Sinais. Grass fires along the edges of the hills outlined their steep, austere contours. It was an Old Testament world!
We arrived at Moro before Winn and May Clucas, and Enid Semm had gone to bed. Of course we had tea, before settling into the bunks prepared for each of us.
At the breakfast table next morning, the hot, sultry atmosphere (90 degrees at eight o'clock!) crackled with lightning and thunder and suddenly a strong wind began to blow. Within seconds it seemed, the new morning darkened under a black curtain of cloud. Bill Willoughby and his passengers for the Blitz and its next stop at Tabanya were off in a great hurry, hoping to outrun the storm. Their haste reminded us of the graphic comment made by an African schoolteacher when describing a recent "strike" among certain students who were "all washed away in one flash of lightning."
While our language informants were being collected, we took an umbrella and dashed across the campus to hear the radio* communications for the day. *(Facilities made possible through the services of the Christian Radio Missionary Fellowship, Australia.) Weather conditions created an unusual amount of static, but some of the messages were quite clear. Marion Mollenhauer's voice seemed next door as her cheery report on the news at Abri came through. She also told of the progress of Edgar's trip for the language that he and Ann would record today. Then she added, "The Landrover goes to Moro this evening - To Moro this evening - tomorrow Edgar takes the ladies to Kadugli. They leave Kadugli - leave Kadugli for Malakal tomorrow."
It was saddening to hear those final words. We didn't want to leave. Yet we were at rest in the thought that Edgar would carry on the task until every language in the Nuba Mountains could be supplied with the Gospel messages adequately explained in the vernacular of each one.
The morrow brought the inevitable day of our departure. And now it was our turn to say cheerily to Winn and May and to many others, "Have a good rains!" Reluctantly we were off; and according to plan, we arrived at the airport in plenty of time to watch the "Rapide Dragon" land - with its tail up for an uncommonly long time! As we boarded it, we were seated so as to take care of this quirk in this afternoon's air currents. The M.A.F. delay that had given us, among other things, yesterday's precious "new talk," had been due to motor trouble in Khartoum. Alistair MacDonald, the mechanic, had spent one entire night working on the repair job.
As Mac and Gordon took longer than usual to prime the motors before the propellers began to whir, we waved more postscripts to the farewell handshakes. This ten days had been too full for any adequate expressions of our thanksgivings and praise, or of our prayers and expectations for the future - except that as we looked out once more to see Edgar Molenhauer wave a last good-by, his serious, earnest face matched our own thoughts and prayers for the tribes of the Nuba Mountains and Darfur Province to the west.
But little did we dream then of how God's higher ways would move toward fulfillment - no doubt a fulfillment as much greater also as the heavens excel the earth.
In a few minutes we were lifted into the blue skies over a miniature map of Sudan, and only an hour later were again set down upon the wide wind-buffeted runways at Malakal. Subsequent trips, many of them on these same silver wings of the "machine of the sky," would take us to Nasir on the Sobat; Daja Post, a dot in the vast bald expanse of Sudan to eastward; to Doro, Wadiga, Miri, and Chali in the Kurmuk District on the borders of Ethiopia; to Khartoum; to Juba in the south. Wings made possible for us a coverage of the necessary mission outposts of the land - and all of this could therefore be completed within a little more than two months! Only the last two weeks' work in the southern Sudan represented safaris by truck, lorry, or Landrover in both C.M.S. and A.I.M. missions covering the area.
But why must it have been so fast? We ourselves did not know at the time except that many outward factors beyond our control prescribed for this particular country a speedy completion of our work.
Indeed these seven weeks, or fifty days, following the Nuba Mountains trip fell upon our screen of history with the same breath-taking adventure, color, interest, import, suspense; and with the perfect linking together of sequences, with the plot and the climax of a most exciting film story; all of the interplay of conflict and victory, suffering and glory, tears and joy, clouds and blessing, death and resurrection were there as well.
At this point, the Sudan story must be abbreviated into topic sentences in order that there may be a clearer perspective of the over-all picture. The missionary who "sows in tears" - (not selfish tears, or carnal tears, but the tears of Calvary love!) is the foreground figure, and he may be placed anywhere in the Sudan, from the desert cities like Khartoum or Omdurman in the North, to the hills-bound bush stations in the South, like Logotok where the Latukha people set fire to a large new mission hospital and home; or in the far East under the dark blue mountains in Ethiopia, at lonely Sudan Interior Mission posts where missionaries must enter into battle, far into the night, to wrest a new convert from the clutches of The Terrible who never lightly surrenders his prey; or at other frontiers where two alone take up the task of breaking hard ground, the first preparations for the Lord's new plants in a virgin tribal soil.
Here, one man and one woman find themselves surrounded by people dressed like "little jets," who speak a strange language, take flight at the sight of a camera, slip three or four eggs from the mem-sahib's own hen's nest and sell them at her back door for one shiny tin can! For places like these, as well as for many tribes to whom no one has gone as yet to break the first ground, the records have been prepared. The corn is ready to be sown in their hearts. Sixty languages can tell the Gospel story for Sudan ears throughout the country.
Yet this abundant seed, and the portrait of the sower who "goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed," is only the earthward setting of the picture. The other half of it is the sky above his head - the drama in the heavens, the clouds building up steadily into gigantic proportions - almost terrifying, darkening, until they shall empty themselves upon the earth. They appear full of calamity. Yet faith standing beneath them sings - of impending blessing; the outpouring of Heaven's miracles which shall give to the precious seed its rooted life within the softened, rain-soaked, prepared ground.
At the time of the reunion of the Africa team, a day in early May when we composed the entire passenger load of an M.A.F. flight to the station of Betty Cridland and Mary Beam -- two Columbia Bible College fellow-alumnae, whose work we have followed with great interest through the years -- at Chali among the Uduks, this day of light mists for us was clouding darkly at home in Los Angeles. The clouds of trial and of ultimate blessing, took varying shapes - of building stalemates; of unsuccessful experiments in new record materials; personnel problems; and a prolonged financial crisis which eventually built up into a cloud-mountain before it burst in overwhelming blessing - too much to contain. But this "weathering" for His glory took time - from Spring until December, the longest test of this kind in our history. Yet afterward had come the expected emptying of His "plenteous rain" from this cloud also, as it had abundantly from all the others.
At Gospel Recordings no financial needs are made known outside "the family"; our dealings are with God alone - hence from Him directly come the blessings within both the experience of testing and the answered faith.
In Sydney too, cloud patterns there spoke of an identical Heaven above our heads. Molly Mill (Mrs. J. Stuart Mill) wrote during a very severe time of trial which overtook the workers in Australia:
My, what things have happened in the past few months! How the enemy opposes the forward moves! Last week end I learned to sing "in the dark." What a comfort these G.R.I. choruses are! - "Our Blessed Lord Is Working out His Purpose"! I said to Stuart recently that although the way is hard at present, I would not have it otherwise. It is so thrilling to be in partnership with our Lord, and to be helping to fulfill His commands.
At about the same period, Stuart Mill wrote staff in Los Angeles as follows:
Now that we are joined together in this fellowship, it is a wonderful thing to think that we can help each other in times of adversity... We are looking to the Lord in faith, knowing that He is in control.
Always staff letters, reaching us as they did in various parts of Africa, came filled with singing, both from U.S.A. and Sydney. If an allusion was made to a cloud shadow such as, "It is a close walk these days with our eyes focused rather pityingly on accumulated shipping!" there was also the much more emphasis upon singing. One letter began with a paragraph of obligatos:
Add the buoyance of lilting voices, the beam of warm smiles, the graciousness of "esteeming other better," plus much love, to these words and you will have the spirit of today's goings-on.
Then quite naturally when the expected happened, and the "windows of heaven" opened, the same song of praise was there awaiting His bountiful entry. Again it was Marguerite Carter who set the news to music like this:
Today the presses seem warmer, the hum of the boilers more tuneful, the commotion of workers rhythmic because His glory is visible here... The test has been very precious. And now, He standeth sure.
In Sydney as well, the showers fell abundantly upon their singing faith. One day Stuart Mill addressed another letter to 124 Witmer Street, Los Angeles. There it was received with a jubilance that we caught ten thousand miles away - "Isn't the news from Australia staggering! We were prostrate with delight when we shared Stuart's letter telling of a Melbourne property donated to Gospel Recordings, Australia!"
And Stuart Mill's letters to us rang out with the counting of manifold additional joys. "What about our new professional master-cutter coming to join us! And from my desk I can see a great line of finished Austraphones that will be packed and on their way in a few days. Best of all, there is a fine spirit of rejoicing and teamwork here, Joy."
It was not until shortly after we had left the Sudan that the general weather forecast for rains in that country developed great thunderheads that broke furiously in the southern parts. And the thunder and downpour from its stormy skies echoed loud repercussions in our own back yard squalls at Witmer and Sussex Streets. During one of those mystifying weeks that would pop up now and again when the "weather" at our place reported "shipping three weeks in arrears," the world news broke out into headlines about rioting and bloodshed among the tribes of the South Sudan.
We knew that behind the headlines missionaries with whom we had worked only a few weeks previously had been forced to flee their stations. (And here we remember a chain of miracles bringing a half-dozen unmissionized tribal languages into a Gospel vocabulary - thanks to the all-out co-operation of Sydney Langford [A.I.M.] in the Torit area.) A state of Emergency restricted all normal travel and communications for many weeks. However, by late September the gradual stabilization of the situation had permitted some missionaries to return to their homes in the area of Juba and Torit: and in Los Angeles S O S orders were coming in requesting that we give urgent priority to South Sudan languages. Why? Obviously -
Over us all, obviously, there is one sky. At about this time in August and September our teams in Australia and Los Angeles were brought into the storm center of the Big Rains that broke upon the Nuba Mountains and the mission frontier post at Salara in Sudan.
Certainly a retrospect of the year 1955 is a commentary on the wisdom-words of the preacher who said: "If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth." The New Year, 1956, has early begun with clouds. A sky filled with sorrows has shadowed other new plots cleared for the first sowing of light. So often, the sowing of the church in these primeval soils begins with the deep-planting of martyr graves. News from home as recent as January 12 has brought us all under another of these strangely shaped clouds of His ordained purpose. This time, its pent-up rain will soften wide swaths of jungle territory in Amazonia. But the face of such a "frowning providence" shocked and grieved us as we read Virginia Miller's letter saying: "We were saddened yesterday to learn of the loss of an M.A.F. plane and five passengers, including Nate Saint, in the jungles of Ecuador." Later news brought the full story of: Nate Saint of Missionary Aviation Fellowship; Ed McCully, Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, of Christian Missions in Many Lands; Roger Youderian of Gospel Missionary Union, who sacrificed their lives to win the Auca Indians - one of the fiercest Stone Age tribes. And a few days afterward, their widows with equal courage could look up and sing: "Thine is the battle, "Thine shall be the praise."
And "what shall we say to these things?" - Except that it is the same paradox described in Hebrews 11, where the accomplishments of certain heroes are semicoloned by another list of those appointed to greater, higher valor, "of whom the world was not worthy"!
One of the most outstanding fruits of this past year of rains has been a pronounced tightening of the spiritual bonds which unite us as a team at home with missionaries in far-flung outposts abroad. This tie has been strengthened by an increased effort to fulfill our own responsibility to pray for the outgoing records. A staff member wrote of this. "We are devoting much more prayer to the fields awaiting their first records. How needful that the seed fall upon prepared soil!"
Among the many letters which upped our June orders for records around the world, there was one from Sudan United Mission, Salara, Via Dilling, which began: "Dear fellow laborers." It proved to be a letter from Edgar Mollenhauer ordering records in 13 languages, including the three he had recorded for the Salara area. It was a letter full of hope and vigorous faith.
I have a very great privilege here; not only has it been possible to make records in this area, but I will have the personal supervision of their distribution and follow-up... We look to God for a real tidal wave of spiritual awakening among these Nyimang-speaking people.
This was an expression of daring faith... "a tidal wave of spiritual awakening" - among a people who have "known the depths of Satan" throughout the deep length of centuries! - as from of old when their people, possibly, were among the Nubian armies joining battle against Asa, king of Judah. We could picture their heathen witchcraft permeating those ancient days when "there was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job." And this lone man, outstanding from among his contemporaries four thousand years ago, was one who feared God and eschewed evil and whose faith had dared to say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him!"
Edgar's letter continued: "Although there is no sign of awakening yet we praise Him, for we know it is coming."
* * * * *
What is involved in being a "missionary of the cross"? Is it only that he preaches "Christ crucified"? Or is it not even more important that he lives in the practical victory of being himself, "crucified with Christ." If so, he is the person whose positive optimism declares that "Christ liveth in me... I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me"! He dares to strike this note of certainty in spite of present belying circumstances. He refuses to be disillusioned in his people. He is one who disregards the protests of his own flesh upon the rack of disappointment, weariness, the devastating humdrum, the incessance of "petty demands"; the swarms of gnatty annoyances that sting most fierily in the heat of the day. He is a soul who has the sheer courage to prove the sacrifice he pledged the day that he became a "missionary"; and "on the field" he is deliberate about those Pauline axioms of "I die daily... Daily offered upon the sacrifice of your faith... Spending and being spent for your souls."
It is an inspiration, for instance, to remember a man like Uncle John Boyce in the South Sudan, who smiles as he struggles with that unyielding soil; and who will not take no for an answer although his problem is far more than that of the need of more walls and better irrigation! Yet Uncle John fully expects to see a break in the clouds, and the miracle of "pools of water" on the dry ground. "I just pray," he confided in us, "that the Lord will let me be here to see it when it comes!" This is the triumphant faith which alone explains Uncle John's happy, vigorous approach to each new day!
Edgar Mollenhauer had signed his letter, "Yours in Calvary's triumph." That beautiful phrase could have been easily penned... but what was behind it? In the lives of the Mollenhauers it was not a prettily spoken sentiment. But for them, at least two cups were to be poured, brimful of the anguish that Calvary is made of. His letter had only hinted this prediction. "Commencing next week, we are going to have a special week of prayer that the Lord will overthrow the Devil and liberate the people He has given us." A battle with spoils in this degree could not be softly, shallowly, silkenly won! It sounded too much like those dearly uttered words spoken by the Lamb of God who talked to His Father in the prophetic past tense, and in one breath had mentioned: "I have finished the work... I have glorified thee" - at the time that He gave thanks for "the men whom thou gavest me out of the world." This was a post-Calvary conquest.
What took place during that week of prayer at Salara? We later learned that it lengthened into nine days. But the full story is veiled from our eyes - except that three young missionaries went into battle in spiritual realms where the fight is very real, retreat is fatal; and the one hope of victory lies in an experience of Calvary, before a person can be ready to say to the Lord with splendid meaning, "Yours in Calvary's triumph." At some point during those nine days of "battle" each must have faced his own involvement in the bitterness of death to self as the Spirit of God showed the one way out into victory.
From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From seeking when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.
From subtle love of softening things,
Easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified
Not this way walked the Crucified)
From all that dims Thy Calvary
O Lamb of God, deliver me!
Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire -
Let me not sink to be a clod,
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.
There was undoubtedly a deep entering into the cost of conquest... struggles... tears... as each faced his own personal cross, his own proffered death whereby he could glorify God among these people. Edgar, his wife Marion, and Muriel, the young nurse beginning her first term of missionary service, were the three gathered together at the little sanctuary in Salara. And then, at one of those hallowed moments, Edgar prayed these words of utmost devotion: "If it takes the dying of a corn of wheat before a Church can become established among these Salara people, I am willing to be that grain."
Marion's prayer followed this in a complete embracing of her own personal cross in order that life could flow out to these people.
We feel, with these young people, the agony that must have come before those final offerings of themselves were made. Because to them had been revealed the very real meaning of those words, "in Calvary's triumph."
"If it be possible... let this cup pass... nevertheless, not my will, but thine... be done." As the three of them knelt in that sacred place, Another in their midst accepted their sacrifices. Gently, He pressed to the lips of each, the filled cup... But afterward there must have come the lasting vision of His glory - the clear view of the coming triumph because of this Calvary. And it must have been at that moment that "the glory of God came into the house by way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east... and the glory of the Lord filled the house."
At the time Edgar Mollenhauer sent in his order for Nuba Mountains languages, the Africa recording team was just arriving in Kenya after the completion of the Sudan safari. We immediately settled down to the editing of those many tapes in 60 languages, and posted them to the United States. Edgar's own tapes were carefully listened to and timed on the recorder of the proper speed. They were excellent. These were fully edited and posted later by air. Received in Los Angeles in late September, the Sudan tapes were almost immediately put on top priority lists, because by September, S O S letters from other parts of Sudan placed these records among those marked Urgent. By early February these completed records were being shipped according to the orders in hand, to missions in the Sudan. The pressing schedule for Sudanese records added up to 30,600 records. Total records pressed in February alone exceeded 32,000!
In a letter written July 11, 1955, to our Kenya address, Edgar Mollenhauer outlined a very comprehensive estimate of the great task involved in reaching the scores of untouched tribes in Darfur Province. - A people numbering at least 850,000 souls to whom no door to the Gospel has been opened! It was a masterful presentation of the scope, tribal statistics, and mileage necessary to be covered by "Landrover and trailer" (3,000 miles). And at the end of this carefully prepared survey, Edgar had added the statement, "It does present a glorious opportunity."
And his letter continued with the appeal, "We are praying daily for the speedy return of the records - in fact, I have asked if a couple of each message in the three tribes here, could not be sent by air... At a market place about 14 miles from here, 1500 people gather every Friday..."
In early August we chanced to meet Gordon and Jean Marshall of M.A.F. who had come to Nairobi to have the plane overhauled. This was an annual routine. They brought us news from friends in Sudan. Betty Cridland had been flown to Egypt for further treatment since the severe attack of jaundice had not yet cleared up. A missionary couple in the Nuba Mountains had been flown to Khartoum for emergency hospitalization - this had been managed, in spite of the rains, through the efforts of Edgar Mollenhauer in contacting M.A.F. in time, and in the achievement of locating a truck to take the patient to Kadugli. The mercy flight had been successful and... all was well.
"All is well..." Gordon had told us, and even as he said it, August 10 had passed into history. And we did not know that God had covered Himself with a cloud and had entered into Salara "by the gate that looketh toward the east."
On August 17 we set out in the new Willys jeep station wagon for a safari of five months.
In early September, upon our reaching a mission station out in central Tanganyika, among our mail appeared a letter from Sudan dated August 15, 1955. Opening the envelope, we were delighted to see fall from it a photo of recording on that last day in Moro - it brought back vivid, happy memories. The letter was from May Clucas. We read it eagerly. Midway down page two, we read aloud details which Gordon and Jean had just told us. We turned to the third narrow page of the handwritten note, and read on to the paragraph which told of radio troubles there.
Next our batteries were flat, so the two of us were cut off from outside news of any kind, for the mailman just didn't call in. Finally, the battery charger arrived from Tabanya with two runners last Monday night... The charger was busy pumping power into the batteries all day Tuesday, and so at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, August 10, we tuned in once more to S.U.M. stations. We had been off the air a week or so and did not know that Edgar had been sick.
With these words, May's pale ink grew darker; and the next sentence rose suddenly up in bold black type and struck us dumb!
So you can imagine the terrific shock when we tuned in just as Marion Mollenhauer was saying: "Edgar has gone to be with the Lord. - Edgar died this morning."
We read this far and stopped, our eyes frozen to the incomprehensible letters, syllables, and yes, the words, that meant Edgar Mollenhauer is dead. It was black, tragic news!
Surely, there must be some mistake somewhere! For many days the shock of this news left us stunned and groping for an answer to it. "How are the mighty fallen!" And we hushed the question in our hearts. "Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets... of our enemies; lest... the Philistines rejoice... lest... the uncircumcised triumph"! And again would come the baffling sorrow-filled questions. "How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle" (II Sam. 1)!
We could so clearly see in this a vast defeat - all the giant strides which Edgar had planned for the conquest of those tribes, and for the entering in to Darfur province! "How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!"
And we couldn't believe that the central pillar of an entire mission had suddenly collapsed. What could it mean?
Later we picked up May's unfinished letter and read it to the end. And as we read we first began to see an inkling of the purpose of this mighty stroke - this stunning blow to the S.U.M., and to Edgar's family, and to Gospel Recordings.
May's letter was as victorious as a bird in purposeful flight:
The message at our church service here yesterday was of Samson, who accomplished even more in his death than in his life. Our prayer is that Edgar's death will be used of God to save more souls than could his life.
There was light in this - and comfort. And we studied this new cloud and its storm.
"And I looked, and behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself" (Ezek. 1:4).
And what was the result? "The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!"
But we looked again at that "great cloud, and a fire infolding itself... And above... I saw as the appearance of a fire round about within it... as the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain."
"And when I saw it, I fell upon my face." Selah.
Yet again, May Clucas' letter talked to us.
Marion's clear voice in breaking the news to us all only an hour and a half after Edgar's departure was a testimony to her close fellowship with Christ.
Underlining this word, the passage from Ezekiel went on to tell us more of what had taken place that Wednesday morning, when the day that came up out of the east had brought with it "the glory of God entering the threshold of the house..."
Marion's testimony seemed to take the form of these continuing lines:
And the hand of the Lord was upon me
And behold! ...the glory of the Lord stood there.
After many weeks had passed, Marion's own letter finally reached us... It was a reflection of glory that brought tears to our eyes - tears, and a clearer vision of Something that had happened on that bleak, lonely mission post at Salara the tenth of August when her husband had died in the morning, and at noon they buried that grain of wheat in the back yard of the empty church. That morning, African teachers from the town had set about the making of a coffin from pieces of timber on the station. Local people, under the chief, began to dig the grave, and the people of the land gathered at the little church at twelve o'clock. And behind it, at about noon, "we buried Edgar - not the kind of a burial service we would have wished for him, but none of our fellow missionaries were present to lead, so Yusuf Shami read from the Arabic Bible and prayed..."
But... what had really happened? We began to see it as never before, as we read Marion Mollenhauer's victorious letters.
It would be hard to understand why the Lord should take Edgar just now, were it not that we know that this is the way He works, and that life through death is a real thing in spiritual realms; and for the grain of wheat that dies, there is a harvest, in due season... Edgar was full of ideas for his work in this district and elsewhere, pressing on to know the Lord more closely and to see His power displayed before men... Just a week before he died he had walked to one of the villages whose unknown language he had recorded in January this year. The strenuous mountain climb at the end of the twelve miles, and then a wetting by rain on the walk home brought on the malaria and suspected pneumonia which caused his death in just four days...
How vividly we could see now that march that Edgar took into Calvary's triumph! And then had opened the "gate with its prospect toward the east" ...and afterward, at 12 noon, there had been the funeral which Marion's letter described, when "the court was filled with the brightness of the Lord's glory."
Then - afterward - did the glory remain at that place?
The shock to the local folk here and in the mission has been great. However, we do believe that Edgar's going is but the beginning of big things for the Nyimang people. We claim it by faith, and also for the Fanda people who recently have been so promising in their response to the truth... We believe that the Lord will raise up someone to take on this unfinished task... Edgar was particularly praying for young men to swell the ranks of our mission that he might be free to do the Gospel Recordings work, and that the mission might extend its activities into new areas... He had high hopes of entering Darfur with the recorder; and maybe someone else will have that joy now...
At this point, let us see the future, as of a truth it is - set in the wording of Ezekiel's "In Memoriam":
"Thus saith the Lord God; The gate... that looketh toward the east... on the sabbath it shall be opened... The people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate" (46:1,3).
And from the summit of Calvary's Triumph we can share Ezekiel's vision of the future living waters that began at the base of the altar and flowed "out from under the threshold of the house eastward... And he said to me, Son of man, has thou seen this? ... Then he said unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country and go down into the desert... And it shall come to pass... that everything shall live whither the river cometh" (47:1-9)!
* * * * *
When Edgar's own Salara tapes in the Katla, Fanda, and Nyimang languages arrived safely in Los Angeles some weeks after the news of his passing through this gate to eastward, the report came to us from Marguerite:
The Mollenhauer tapes have come - as though carried by an angel - and our work on them witnessed by heavenly hosts.
Those who prepare these tapes into multiplied seeds of light are watching as they work. What will be the fulfillment of that promise: "And I will cause... this people to possess all these" (Zech. 8:12)?
In Australia the women's section of the Sudan United Mission are giving 500 phonettes in memory of Edgar Mollenhauer. These simple hand-operated record players are to be used by the tribespeople in the Nuba Mountains. To meet this order, our co-workers in Sydney are yoked to the same plow which commits us all to make ready the furrows through which these living waters "shall go into the desert."
Our faith Sudanward must include, as well, the tribes of Darfur Province, the Moslem North, the Berber States, the Red Sea Hills, and the peoples of the Ironstone Plateau in the southwest. Much land is to be possessed in Calvary's Triumph. And still more and more - because "the field is the world."
"My judgments are as a light that goeth forth," saith our God. And we know that over all the earth: "He hath his way in the storm... and the clouds are the dust of his feet." And of the Church, He says: "I have sown her unto me in the earth." "If a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die... it bringeth forth much fruit."
What does the future promise? "The seed shall be prosperous... the ground shall give her increase... And the heavens shall give their dew" (Zech.8:12).
"And God called the firmament Heaven... God called the dry land Earth... And God said, Let there be light: and there was light... God said, Let the earth bring forth... and the earth brought forth."
And the field to be sown in light for a harvest of light is the whole world.
* * * * *
"Shhh... God is talking!" whispered a Mexican Indian child as she listened to the disco that spoke her language.
"How good it is that this Jesus wants to be our Goer-with when walking the trails," a Mangyan tribesman from the mountains of Mindoro in the Philippines had commented.
"Play, 'Yes, Jesus Loves Me,'" requested a monk at the Lamasery Hostel in Padong. And as the gramophone talked his own Tibetan, he nodded his head, repeating the words as he listened, "Yes, Jesus loves me."
"I never knew until now," spoke up a young man whose home is in a very ancient land, "but from this box, I understand that Jesus Christ bore my sins on the cross."
A little shepherdess in Navajo-land heard the phonograph telling the story of the Lost Sheep. Weeping, she answered the Indian voice in the box, "I am also a lost lamb. I want Jesus to be my Shepherd."
"Do you have the words about Jesu Masih in Garhwali?" asked a turbaned tradesman from a bazaar in the India hills at Mussoorie.
And from the lips of a Latvian D.P. in a hospital in London came his first testimony of light, "I have listened to the record, and I want you to know I have seen God."
"Do you understand it?" asked a white stranger. And they - the Igorots, the Eskimos, the Mayas, the Zulus - replied, "Of course, it is our language!"
And with these few scenes hinting of the wonder of 1300 languages for 1,300,000,000 ears, those thrilling words of first-century miracle come to mind. People who were Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Jews, Greeks, Romans... all were amazed and marveled, saying: "How hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?" (Acts 2:8).
That day was the time of first fruits, the season of the early harvest!
But today... what shall be the end of all these things? What the extent of sowing? What harvest... when "they that sow in tears shall reap in joy"?