Call to Africa

I am reading “Dan Crawford of Central Africa” published in 1929. Here are a few quotes:

In the first months of 1889, all this was still future; but it explains to some extent what was the atmosphere of missionary interest which Dan entered when he was invited to the home in George Street, there to meet Miss Grace Tilsley, at that time in her twentieth year and the possessor of a personality scarcely less vivid and of a vitality no less active than his own. Almost at once he realized that he had met the one woman for him; but at that time not only was he about to embark on a most hazardous mission, but his friends were shaking their heads over him and pessimistically predicting, that, if not savage kings, then his cough, more prosaic but not less deadly, would kill him off within his first year in Africa. Accordingly he held his peace. It was not until after Africa, in place of slaying him, had kissed him with healing lips, and not until after heroic journeyings had matured his plans for the occupation of the land and not until Luanza was in the course of building, that he broached in a letter the subject that had been burning like a secret fire in his heart during the intervening years. And then she, being George Tilsley’s daughter, dared the unthinkable; she went out, a lone woman, to join he who, five years before, during a few youthful days, had flashed into and out of the missionary-hearted life in George Street, Bath.

I loved the “…Africa, in place of slaying him, had kissed him with healing lips…”. He consistently coughed up blood before Africa.

It was not until 18 months later, on the 11th November, 1890, that meeting in Excter Hall in March, 1889, had farewelled a party of fourteen. Of them all only three reached the Interior.

There were already American Missionaries along the coast.

The first white ladies that Dan Crawford greeted in Africa were a widow in the first days of her loneliness and a mother mourning the loss of her first-born babe. Nor were they themselves without their troubles. No sooner had they landed than three of the party promptly succumbed to attacks of malaria. Mrs. Arnot and Mr. Munnock wre about again within a few day, but Crawford was obliged to keep his bed for ten days, and for quite a long time after remained very tottery.

The sickest I have ever been was the first time I caught malaria. I felt it coming on during the morning service on Sunday and barely made it through the evening service. That was followed by 3 days of losing every ounce of moisture in my body. A nurse from the church took me to the market, I bought 3 pills, and began to get better the next day. After that our entire family was familiar with the beginning pains of malaria and at first got a blood test to see if the parasite was there and eventually just skipped it since the parasite seemed to always be there.

Was it a presage of worse to follow that round the camp fire one evening Mr. Morris having affirmed (by interpretation) that in Christ Jesus we have eternal life, and one burly porter having, in the free-speech manner of their own courts, objected that this could not be true (“Did not all die?”). Mr. Morris pinched up the flesh of his arm and explained that the body was but the “hut” of himself, his soul; it certainly would die, and decay, but the soul would live on in Christ its Redeemer. Such the sermon; alas that within a few days he himself became the illustration.

Could this book be entitled “Mr. Morris of Central Africa” if malaria had taken Dan Crawford? Sometimes the “why’s” of life are too much to understand. Yes, “all things to work together for good…”. Only heaven can make any sense of it all despite our little glimpses of understanding along the way.

And so on 1th July, 1889, with just those six men, Dan Crawford made his start for the Interior. He took with him some of Mrs. Arnot’s goods, so that he actually left the coast with only one bundle of personal necessities, which included his bedding, one spare coat, an ulster, two or three pieces of underclothing, a pair of slippers, a cake of soap, a cheap rifle, and as much tea as one could hold in two hands. How many others, one asks oneself, ever deliberately turned their backs on ample stores to trudge away with so little on a thousand mile trek through the midst of warring barbarians? Not even a second pair of boots did he have. What he did have, however, was a heavenly Father. He tramped along bubbling over with joy. He sang aloud as he climbed the range out of Catumbella. Two hours of curving rad amongst foothills on that day of the start brought them by five o’clock in the afternoon to emerge on to a plateau. Dan stood for a few minutes gazing back on the rolling Atlantic. Would he ever see it again, he, the blood-spitter? He turned away; goodbye–goodbye! Veering N.N.E., he sang his way into the unknown future, certain of this one thing: that his God was calling him, calling him, as he wrote at that time, “for an especial purpose.”

Should we ever and always seek to adventure out with God!





About hansston

Pastor a church in Sparta.
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