COMPLETING THE CIRCUIT
The Civil Air Transport plane left Tokyo promptly at 11:30 PM on the evening of June 17. I dozed a bit on the first leg of the long flight to Taipei, but got little rest, and was wide awake when we reached Okinawa at 4:30 AM on Wednesday, the 18th. The plane landed here for refueling, and we were permitted to disembark while the operation was in progress. I joined others for coffee and pie in the small cafeteria, but, the island being a military air base, we were not allowed outside the terminal.
We arrived in Taipei at 9:30 AM that morning, and I was met at the airport by Miss Lillian Bode and the Rev. Mr. Egbert Andrews. Both were resident missionaries, Miss Bode representing the Christian Reformed Church, and Rev. Andrews representing the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. I had not previously made the acquaintance of the veteran Miss Bode, who appeared to be in her sixties, but I knew Egbert Andrews from student days, when we were members of the League of Evangelical Students. These two good people joined in making my stay in Formosa (Taiwan) pleasant and instructive.
Andrews had reserved accommodations for me in the Friends of China Club, where I was assigned a large, well-furnished, air-conditioned room with bath. Upon arriving at the Club, we had coffee, after which I was taken on a tour of the city until noon. The city appeared clean and prosperous. It boasted tall buildings, broad streets lined with trees, and people intent and busy. Two things attracted my special attention: the multitude of pedi-cabs, and the exposed thighs of the slit-skirted Chinese women who, mounted on bicycles, rode modestly and sedately by, unnoticed by any but foreigners.
I was the guest and featured speaker at a noon luncheon put on by the local chapter of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). I spoke to the fifty-five member group for half an hour or so, and responded thereafter to questions from the floor. It was 2:30 PM when the meeting broke up, and an hour later when I reached my room. I unpacked my bag, and was about to take a needed nap when Andrews appeared at the door, and stood ready to take me to his home for dinner. Mrs. Andrews was the former Betty Heerema, a sister of Edward Heerema, and she prepared for us a most delicious dinner. We were joined at table by Miss Bode, Dr. and Mrs. McLeod, and two members of the local church community. Conversation flowed freely, and I was able to absorb a good deal of information amidst the banter that always goes on in good company.
Miss Bode and I left the house before the other guests, for I was scheduled to speak at 8:00 PM to the Young Peoples’ Class which she regularly conducted. I met with the class until 10:00 o’clock, and when I got back to my room went straight to bed. I was sorely in need of sleep.
I was awakened in time by the Club attendants on the morning of Thursday, the 19th. After breakfast I was driven by Miss Bode to the Taipei Theological Seminary where from 9:00 to 10:00 I addressed the assembled faculty and students. That done, we set out on a fifty- mile trip to a southern city, where a certain Rev. Johnson pastored a church and conducted a Bible School. After I had addressed the students at the school, we had lunch with the Johnsons. At 2:00 o’clock that afternoon I preached at the church to a sizable congregation assembled in anticipation of my visit. Time was taken after the service to explore the city, and it was near 6:00 o’clock when we got back to Taipei.
I was the guest of Miss Bode at the dinner we ate in Taipei’s Grand Hotel that evening. After dinner we rented pedi-cabs and went shopping. I bought gifts for Hilda and the children, and was glad when towards 10:00 o’clock a busy day came to an end.
When day dawned on Friday, June 20, it heralded my imminent departure from Formosa. The two days and nights that I had spent here had been pleasant and instructive. I had learned about the ongoing mission activities, and had come to believe that this was the place to train missionaries for eventual deployment on the mainland. I had inquired about the political and military situation, and had gathered that, though the existing regime was authoritarian, the economy was free, and personal liberties were not unduly restricted. Militarily the island resembled an armed fortress, and the political hope of displacing the communist regime in China was still strong among Chiang Kai-Shek’s ardent followers.
My visits to Japan, Korea, and Formosa were programmed and filled with assignments, but I would now be free from official engagements until I reached Ceylon. To fly directly to that country did not, however, seem prudent. Between here and there lay many interesting places, and it seemed proper to touch down on some of them before taking up the duties that awaited me. Through arrangements previously made, people stood ready to accommodate me in Manila, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Rangoon, and New Delhi, and to these cities I now stood ready to take flight.
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I enplaned for Manila at 8:00 AM on Friday, the 20th, and, after an uneventful flight, reached that city at 11:00 o’clock. I was greeted upon arrival by the Rev. Mr. John White, a young missionary working under the auspices of the Disciples of Christ. White had been a classmate of Leonard Sweetman at the Mission School in Hartford, and, upon Len’s representations, he had agreed to take me in charge during my brief stay. He and his wife did just that, and did it with uncommon courtesy.
I was taken to their home for lunch, and thereafter conducted to a number of meetings which John had arranged with resident religious leaders. I conferred that afternoon with the General Secretary of the United Church of Christ, the President of the Theological Seminary, and the General Secretary of the Inter-Church Mission Board. In what time was left John took me on a tour of the city.
The evening was spent at home. We sat, after supper, on a shaded lawn, sipping cool drinks, and partaking of native fruits, while talking of many things. I had been scheduled to leave for Hong Kong at 2:00 PM the next day, but learned in the course of the evening that the flight had been canceled, and that I would have to stay over until Monday. This disruption in my plans being intolerable, I made further inquiries, and happily discovered that I could leave on another airline five hours earlier than planned. This settled, I went to my room, wrote letters, and went confidently to bed. At 9:00 AM on Saturday, the 21st, I took off for Hong Kong.
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Residing in Hong Kong at the time were Dr. and Mrs. R. P. Kramers, a young Dutch couple engaged in a study of the language and culture of China. Initial contact had been made with them through the good offices of a Dutch banker I had met in Osaka. In the correspondence that followed, these good people indicated that they would be happy to have me as a guest in their house, and to make my stay in the city as pleasant as possible.
Arriving several hours earlier than expected, I was not met at the airport by my hosts, but a phone call brought Mrs. Kramers promptly to my side. Arriving with her two small children, she took me to her home, settled me in my room, allowed me to freshen up, and, after lunch, took me into town for shopping. Upon her advice, and under her supervision, I bought a linen tablecloth with twelve napkins for Hilda. For Dick and Ellen I bought some things, not excluding a local pennant and a costumed doll. Although I had bought a camera and a pair of binoculars in Japan, I had not otherwise indulged myself. Here, however, I came upon a beautifully-carved ivory chess set, the attractiveness of which I could not resist. The pieces came with an inlaid board for playing, and the whole package came to forty dollars, which I gingerly laid in the shopkeeper’s hand. Since I could not myself transport these several purchases, I was grateful for Mrs. Kramers’ expressed willingness to send them home by parcel post.
Dr. Kramers, a 35-year-old Sinologist, had been engaged in an all-day conference, but was at home when we returned from our shopping trip, and he proved to be a most genial host. We spent the evening in conversation. The Kramers’ apartment was set high on the face of a promontory, and, seated on the verandah, we could look down upon the spacious bay teeming with ships and boats at anchor and in motion. The scene was breath-taking. The pleasure I took in it matched the excitement I felt when, in the afternoon, we walked the busy streets and wandered in and out of shops and stalls in search of things to buy. Our conversation touched upon many things, including family connections, and that is how I came to learn that Mrs. Kramers was the daughter of Hendrick Kraemer, the distinguished Dutch theologian, whose book on Religion and the Christian Faith I greatly admired.
On Sunday morning we attended church, and, after the 10:30 service, we drove into the New Territory, where we had dinner with the Director of the Chinese Study Center, a Norwegian scholar, who engaged us in learned conversation until 4:00 o’clock. We drove from there to another friend of Dr. Kramers, the Director of a Study Retreat sponsored by the United Church of Hong Kong. We enjoyed a light supper there, and arrived home at 8:00 o’clock that evening. Having talked a good deal during the day, there was not much more to say, and soon after we arrived I retired to my room for letter writing and needed rest.
At breakfast the next morning I expressed my thanks to the family, and left with them a small token of my gratitude. Mrs. Kramers brought me that morning to the hotel in Kowloon, from where I took a bus to the airport. At 12:25 PM on Monday, the 23rd, I was airborne and on my way to Bangkok.
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The flight to Thailand consumed five hours, but, due to a change in time zones, it was only 3:30 PM when the plane landed at the Bangkok airport. The 18 mile bus trip into the city consumed another hour, and it was near 5:00 o’clock when I was met at the Plaza Hotel by my host, Dr. Robert Lewis, head of the local Presbyterian Hospital. He greeted me cordially, and, after conducting me on a tour of the hospital, brought me to my room in the mission guest house.
Residing in that house was another person I was most surprised to see. The Rev. Mr. Tucker and his wife had earlier that day arrived from Kobe in order to assume the pastorate of the International Church in Bangkok, and when he appeared at my door I could hardly believe my eyes. As it turned out, he and his wife were to be welcomed that evening at a festive dinner, and I was invited to attend. We feasted on curry and other Thailand dishes, and it was 9:30 PM when we got back to our rooms. I went soon after to bed, the better to be prepared for the excursion planned for the morrow.
Dr. Lewis had concluded that there was no better way to introduce the Tuckers and me to the sights and sounds of the region than to take us on a boat trip down the river that intersected the city. We got an early start the next morning. By 6:30 AM we were on our way, and for three hours thereafter we traveled down a waterway laden with boats of every size and description, many of them conveying supplies to the houseboats moored along the shore. We novices came away impressed by the scene, and grateful for having had the opportunity to observe at close range the manners and customs of what appeared to be a happy and industrious segment of a teeming populace.
It was between 10:30 and 11:00 o’clock when we got back to the guest house and in the interim before lunch I was conducted on a tour of several mission stations manned by Presbyterian personnel. After further conversation at lunch I was driven to the Plaza Hotel, from which I caught the bus for the airport. At 3:45 PM the plane took off for Rangoon. It was Tuesday, the 24th of June, my fiftieth birthday.
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Garritt Roelofs was the chief representative in Burma of Robert R. Nathan Associates, consulting economists to the government of Burma. He had invited me to be his guest in Rangoon, but had since returned to the United States with his wife, who, suffering from cancer, was now under the care of American physicians. He had told me in Tokyo, however, that I was not to cancel my visit. “All arrangements for your stay have been made,” he said, and so indeed it turned out to be.
My plane arrived around 7:00 PM, and I was met at the airport by Mr. Takahashi, an associate of Garritt. An American Japanese, with a doctorate in economics, he arrived in a chauffeur-driven car, which all during my brief stay stood at my disposal. I was put up in Garritt’s house, which was manned by two or three servants, all of whom did their utmost to make me comfortable and at ease. They carried my bags, settled me in a comfortable air-conditioned room, and promptly prepared for me a cool glass of Scotch and soda.
I was called for at 8:00 o’clock and driven to the home of Dr. Manton, pastor of the local Union Church. A gala reception awaited me there. A sumptuous dinner had been prepared, and the guests included the Professor of Philosophy at the University of Rangoon, the President of the Union Theological Seminary, and the General Secretary of the Church of Christ in Burma. The conversation was lively and informative, and it went on until near 11:00 o’clock. Upon returning home I spent another hour talking with Takahashi. It was well past midnight when I went to bed.
I was brought coffee in bed when the “bearer” awakened me at 7:00 on the morning of Wednesday, the 25th. I had breakfast with Takahashi at 8:00, and from 9:00 to 12:00 I was driven around town to see the sights. The day was warm and bright, and my camera was on the ready. The city was filled with the ornate and many-storied pagodas that enshrined the cult of Buddha, and in their presence I called to mind the lyrics of Rudyard Kipling that had fascinated me in my teens. A port city, Rangoon was not far from Moulmein, and I recalled how Kipling had stood by “the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ eastward to the sea,” had watched “elephants a-piling teak in the studgy squdgy creek,” had absorbed “the spicy garlic smells, and the sunshine, and the palm tress, and the tinkly temple bells,” and had seen “the dawn come up like thunder outer China ‘crost the bay.” All this came alive as I toured the city that morning.
At 12:30 PM I had lunch with Takahashi and several guests. At 1:30 I was driven to the airport, and at 3:15 I enplaned for New Delhi, where I would be the guest of Kenneth Bunce, my war-time friend and associate.
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I reached Calcutta at 5:00 PM. It took half an hour to pass through customs, and for the next hour and a half I sat in the waiting room observing the people. The few people I talked with were conversant in English. The women I saw wore the long, flowing, silk dresses native to the country, and many of them bore on the forehead a red dot, and at the nostrils a tiny gold ornament–appurtenances that I found quaint.
The plane for New Delhi left promptly at 7:00 PM, and landed in that city at 10:30 o’clock. Ken Bunce was on hand to greet me. We were taken to his home in his chauffeur-driven car, and, with drinks in hand, we sat and talked until 1:00 o’clock in the morning.
Ken had retired from the navy in the rank of Commander, had worked in the State Department, and now headed the United States Information Service in India. He lived with his wife Alice in a large air-conditioned house, staffed with a considerable complement of servants. Alice was away on vacation, and would shortly be joined by Ken, but the absence of the hostess detracted nothing from the care lavished upon me by the servants. They made my bed, prepared the meals, did my laundry, ran errands, and in every way made my brief stay pleasant and comfortable.
I was up at 6:00 on the morning of Thursday, the 26th of June, had breakfast at 8:00, and at 9:00 began a tour of the city under the guidance of Ken’s chauffeur. Ken was otherwise engaged that morning, but he came home for lunch, and in the afternoon the three of us continued our exploration of the region. New Delhi was in essence a British enclave, with tall buildings set along wide avenues, and adorned with spacious parks and esplanades. Most of the buildings were made of the red sandstone of which quantities exist in India. Red and cream are the dominant colors, and together they are pleasing to the eye. The new city stood in marked contrast to the old, with its dense population, narrow streets, unsanitary conditions, and impoverished people. We made the rounds of both communities, and each made its own impression on me. I saw the Hindu temples and shrines, artfully embellished with engravings, chaste and unchaste. I saw the sacred white cows, which wandered unmolested along the streets, monkeys cavorting in the trees, and, in the market stalls, chunks of mutton hanging exposed to the 110 degree heat–this and many things besides.
At 5:00 o’clock that afternoon Ken and I attended a Tea given in honor of a departing official. Here I met and chatted with the United States Ambassador to India, the Ambassador to India from the Philippines, and also with Dr. Radhakrishnan, the well-known Indian philosopher, who taught for many years at Oxford. We did a little shopping afterward, had dinner at home, and spent the evening in conversation.
Ken was to leave the next day for the mountains to join Alice, and he urged me to journey that day to Agra for a view of the Taj Mahal. I considered the suggestion for a while, but determined to forego the pleasure and stay at home. I did not wish to spend the money, I did not relish the 115 degree heat, I had my fill of beautiful buildings, I was tired, and I needed to write letters.
Ken and I breakfasted together on Friday, the 27th, and spent the morning in leisurely pursuits. Ken left after lunch, and I spent the afternoon and evening in a frenzy of letter writing. I managed that day to write 23 letters, not forgetting, of course, to write Hilda, a daily occurrence. I was attended meanwhile by the servants, who again did my laundry, plied me with snacks and cold drinks, and prepared an ample dinner, which I ate in solitude at the table in the spacious dining room.
Having labored diligently in readying my correspondence, I was prepared in late evening to take my departure. A week had elapsed since I performed my duties in Taipei, and the time had now come to set out for Colombo. At 11:00 PM on the evening of Friday, the 27th, I was driven to the airport, and at a little after 12:00 I enplaned for Madras. The overnight flight was uneventful, and, although my sleep was interrupted by a stop at Nagpur, I was ready for a new day when at 6:45 AM on Saturday, the 28th, the plane set down in Madras. I was supposed to leave for Colombo at 10:30 AM on Air Ceylon, but the plane was held up for repairs. This troubled me, since my friends would be awaiting my timely arrival, but no great harm was done. With the ready assistance of the airport personnel I was able to book flight on an Air India plane that left at 11:15 AM.
The four and a half hours I spent in Madras were not wasted. The waiting room was nearly empty, a writing desk was available, and I managed to write several letters, and post them, before taking off.
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The new Viscount on which I took a seat cruised at 16,000 feet above the earth, and after a nearly two-hour flight landed at Colombo a little after one o’clock on Saturday afternoon. I took the bus into town, and was met at the Airline office by two of the resident missionaries. Richard De Ridder and John Van Ens, both former students in my classes, greeted me with open arms, and afterward conferred on me every courtesy good friends can offer.
It had been decided that I would be staying with John and Sylvia Van Ens, and it was to their house that I was soon afterward conveyed. It was a large high-ceilinged burger house in which my hosts lived. It was set down in a garden spot, and was surrounded by coconut-bearing palm trees, papaya trees, and a variety of flowering shrubs, the whole enclosed by a crumbling stone wall. It was hot and humid that day, and all the doors and windows of the house were open to catch whatever breeze might blow. A room was reserved for me on the upper floor, and John’s ground-floor study, with doors opening both upon the garden and upon the veranda, were put at my disposal.
It took some time to settle in, but in late afternoon Rich and Ade De Ridder and Clarence and Marge Van Ens came over to enjoy the “tea” that Sylvia had prepared. It was a time of fellowship and good cheer, a reunion of sorts of friends whom time and space had kept apart. A late supper was served after the guests had departed, and I went soon after to bed. I had had little sleep in the last 24 hours, and there was work to do on the morrow.
It was into a Dutch Reformed community that I was insinuated when on the day after my arrival I joined my friends in worship. The Dutch presence in Ceylon was of long-standing, and the Reformed witness there had not died out. The Dutch East India Company had established coastal settlements on the island as early as 1640, and The Netherlands claimed sovereignty over it until 1813, during which time many Reformed churches were established. The fortunes of the churches gradually declined when, after the Napoleonic wars, the British took control, but some continued to exist, and those that remained constituted a small, though viable, denomination at the time of my visit.
The descendants of the Dutch were known as “Burgers,” and these were the people who formed the core of the churches afore mentioned. They prided themselves on their ancestry, but their speech had been anglicized, and the physical features of most of them gave evidence that the blood of their fathers had been mixed with that of the natives. Their orientation to the motherland had, however, remained fixed, they had kept the faith, and they continued to reach out with the gospel to the indigenous population.
It was to this body of believers that our Christian Reformed missionaries were attached, and in whose interest they worked. While engaging in evangelism at several outposts, they also served as pastors of established congregations. Three of the seven parishes in greater Colombo were manned by our people. Richard De Ridder, the Secretary of the Mission, was minister of the church in Bambalapitiya, John Van Ens served the church in Maligakanda, and Clarence Van Ens ministered to the congregation in Dehiwela. The missionaries were associated in their ministry with two “Burger” preachers, the Rev. Mr. Richard Metzeling, and the Rev. Mr. Dick Foenander, pastors of inner-city congregations.
I had been scheduled to preach three times on Sunday, the 29th of June, but recent riots and fightings between the Sinhalese authorities and the Tamil insurgents had caused the government to impose a 9:00 o’clock curfew. In consequence of this the early afternoon and late evening services were combined and reset for 5:00 o’clock, and I was called upon to preach only twice.
I preached at 9:30 AM in Colombo’s famous Wolvendaal Church, the oldest and largest of the Dutch Reformed Churches still existing in the land. People had gathered from all parts of the city to hear the sermon, and I did the best I could to make the service worshipful. After the service I was conducted on a tour of the building by Richard Metzeling, the resident pastor. The church, I learned, had been erected in 1742. It bore on its face the coat of arms of the Dutch East India Company, and within its confines could be found the insignia of early Governors General, the remains of some of whom lie buried in marked graves under its stone floors. The church vaults contain the archives of the denomination, as well as many engraved silver vessels donated by the rich and powerful when the church was in its heyday.
I preached at 5:00 o’clock in another church within the area, and after the service the Van Ens families and I gathered at the De Ridders for supper. We spent a pleasant, but short-lived evening together, for we were under the constraints of the curfew. The party broke up at about 8:30, and by 9:00 we were off the streets and ready to retire.
I awoke early on Monday morning, the 30th of June, and wrote several letters before breakfast. After we had eaten, John Van Ens took me on a tour of the city. We visited all seven parishes, inspected a few Buddhist and Islamic temples, reconnoitered the waterfront, and visited a few shops and bazaars where I made small purchases. A port city, Colombo boasted at that time a population of nearly half a million, and the heavy traffic attested to its considerable size.
I lunched that day with Dick Foenander, who had studied at Calvin, and was no stranger to me. We discussed matters relating to church and mission, and, although my host’s temperament and disposition differed from my own, I came away satisfied that I had grown in awareness of what was being done to advance Christ’s cause in this region of the world. The day was brought to a close by an evening conference. The meeting was attended by all the missionaries and their wives, as well as by Metzeling and Foenander. In the “rap session” that we held a variety of things came up for discussion, but it was not all “business” that engaged us; there was food to eat, and tales to tell, as well as plans to make and hopes to cherish. It was ten-thirty when I went to bed that night.
I spent Tuesday morning in the company of Mr. Cecil Speldewinde, an elder of the church. I had been told that, not only coconut and tea, but also rubber, was a major product of Ceylon, and, when in an unguarded moment, I expressed an interest in learning how rubber was produced, there was a quick response; Mr. Speldewinde would let me actually observe the process, at least in its initial stages. He called for me at 7:45 AM, and, after traveling for about 25 miles into the countryside, we reached a rubber plantation, where in the course of the morning I was shown just how the base substance was extracted, and told how the final product was produced. During the trip to and from the estate I was impressed with the beauty of the land. There were fruits and flowers everywhere, and I began to understand why the island was known in all regions of the world as “the pearl of the Orient.” We were back in the city by noon, and I was brought upon arrival to the home of Rev. and Mrs. Metzeling for lunch. The visit with the Metzelings was pleasant and informative, and lasted until 2:00 o’clock.
I was scheduled to deliver a major lecture at 3:00 PM, and a little before that time I found myself at the Study Center in Wellawata, the headquarters of the National Christian Council of Ceylon (NCCC). Present were many pastors and church leaders of various Christian faiths, and they listened with various degrees of approval and disapproval to my address on the nature and claims of historical Christianity. The forty-five minute lecture was followed by an animated discussion which touched upon a number of Christian doctrines, and lasted until five o’clock. An account of the meeting appeared in the daily “Herald,” and the lecture I delivered was afterward published by the General Consistory of the Dutch Reformed Church. I am told that 1500 copies were eventually distributed.
When the session at Wellawatta ended I was brought directly to Bambalapitiya, where people were gathered in Rev. De Ridder’s church for a special six o’clock worship service. The service was, I believe, part of the festivities attending the beginning of a new term at the denomination’s Bible School located there. I preached that evening on man’s search for salvation, and on God’s free offer of it in Christ Jesus, his Son. The sermon appeared to be well-received, and I went home thankful for the blessings the day had brought.
I was up before 5:00 o’clock on Wednesday, July 2, for at 6:00 o’clock that morning I would be leaving with Rich De Ridder on a two-and-a-half day mission into the interior. The day was warm and sultry, as it had been since I arrived, and in accommodation to it I dressed in the lightest clothing I possessed. My shaving kit and other paraphernalia I packed into a small PanAm bag, and so accoutered I was ready for the journey when precisely at six Rich appeared at the door. We set out in his Austin van, and headed north along the western coast.
At Puttalam in the north province we turned eastward, and stopped at Anuradhapura, where we inspected the ruins of that sacred city and also saw the ancient Bo tree which, in Rich’s words “is alleged to be over two thousand years old, and grown from a shoot of the tree under which the Buddha is reputed to have gained enlightenment.” We proceeded thence to Kahatagasdigiliya, the site of a mission station, at which Rich conducted a brief worship service. We stayed that night in a government rest house some miles east of the mission station. Set down in a wooded area, on the shore of a body of water contained by earthwork dams, the house was not furnished with screens and had no running water, but we slept that night in tolerable comfort under protective mosquito netting, and in the morning made our ablutions over a pan of standing water.
Early on Thursday, the 3rd of July, we continued our thrust eastward through jungle territory, and over rough boulder-strewn roads, until we came to a village in which a memorable event took place. A former Buddhist priest, by the name of Hemapala, had renounced his erstwhile faith and become a Christian. He wished now to be baptized, and had chosen to undergo the sacred rite in his native village, the one at which we had now arrived. Rev. De Ridder baptized him that morning in front of his parental home, and in the presence of the still-alienated villagers. Hemapala’s mother, a committed Buddhist outraged by her son’s conversion, refused at first to leave her home and witness the ceremony, but she was finally persuaded to make an appearance. In De Ridder’s words, this is what happened: “When I was ready to baptize Hemapala he interrupted me and said, ‘Wait a minute.’ He persuaded his mother to come to the front from behind the curtain where she was hiding herself. He then knelt at her feet. He spoke to her in the hearing of all present, and said, ‘Mother, I have always been an obedient son. I have always honored your wishes. I know you are not in agreement with what I am doing this day, nor that I have become a Christian. But I must obey God. I pledge to honor and respect you from within my new-found faith.’ He arose and indicated that he was now prepared to be baptized.” I was present when all this happened, and although I did not understand the spoken words, the drama enacted before my eyes spoke volumes, and as long as memory lasts I shall be able to recall that stirring moment in the backwoods of Ceylon.
When the ceremony was over, and the celebration had ceased, we proceeded on our way, and came to Yakalla, where a second mission station had been set down. Rich held a brief service here in the presence of the local workers and a handful of the faithful. When we resumed our journey we were not far from the east coast city of Trincomalee, but before reaching it we turned south toward Kandy. We stopped along the way at Dambulla, where there were ancient temples hewn out of solid rock, and we lingered a good while at the famous Sigiriya Rock for a view of the age-old paintings that adorned its walls and chambers.
We reached Kandy in late afternoon. Set down amidst mountains at an elevation of 2000 feet, and bordering a lake in which the peaks were vividly reflected, Kandy was among the most beautiful cities I had seen on my journeys. There had been hostilities in the neighborhood, and a 6:00 PM curfew had been imposed, but we were able, before resorting to our hotel, to visit the famous Temple of the tooth, where a supposed tooth relic of the Buddha is housed under seven golden domes within a sacred room to which only the initiated are admitted. We lodged that night in Kandy’s Queen Hotel.
I was up early on Friday, the 4th, and wrote Hilda a long letter before breakfast. Before leaving Kandy and heading south for Colombo, we visited the Peredeniya Gardens, and surveyed the buildings and grounds of the University of Ceylon. Enroute to Colombo I reflected on what I had seen and heard. In my mind’s eye I saw again the jungle territory, the rough roads, the imposing scenery, the remains of past civilizations, the primitive art preserved for ages, the wild monkeys, the tea, cocoa, banana, and coconut plantations that everywhere encompassed the ground, and much else besides. And I recalled what we had eaten–the egg and meat curry, the brinjals, the country rice, and the palm tree pudding, all of which tasted the better for the circumstances under which it was ingested.
We reached home shortly after noon. I slept a while after I had settled in with John and Sylvia Van Ens, but knowing that this would be my last full day in Ceylon, I soon bestirred myself and began to set my things in order. Sylvia graciously did my laundry, and in many other ways helped to expedite my preparations.
At 6:00 o’clock that evening the members of the General Consistory, with their wives, held a Reception-Farewell party for me. We gathered on the lawn at the home of one of the elders. There was food and drink, and plenty of good company. Around 8:00 o’clock, when the party was about to end, Mr. Speldewinde gave a speech, and presented me with a silver dish inscribed with my name and the date of my visit. I spoke in response, and, after someone offered prayers, and we all joined in singing the doxology, we went our several ways. The event was a moving conclusion to a long and exhausting day, as well as to a pleasant sojourn among friends and associates who had done everything to make my stay meaningful and instructive.
I was poised now to go to Nigeria, where other duties awaited me, but I planned to reach it by a devious route. Lying between Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Nigeria were peoples and lands that I had not seen before, and it seemed imprudent to pass all of them by. In Egypt and Israel, and in Athens and Rome, the history of western man had unfolded, and, since these places lay upon my path, I was determined to set foot upon them, if only for a moment.
I left Colombo on Saturday, the 5th of July. The Van Enses and the De Ridders accompanied me to the airport, and at 2:20 PM I boarded an Air Ceylon plane bound for Cairo. The passengers were many, the seats confining, and the flight seemingly endless. We stopped for the exchange of passengers, or for refueling, at Bombay, Karachi, and the Persian Gulf State of Bahrain, and during the more than 20 hours we were enroute I slept hardly at all. Of the stations we stopped at I saw nothing save the airport terminal facilities, but as day dawned I looked down upon the vast Arabian desert, the gleaming Gulf of Agaba, the Sinai Peninsula, and the silvery Suez Canal. When Cairo hove into sight it looked like a desert oasis, a green jewel laid upon a carpet of sand.
* * * * * * *
The plane landed at the Cairo airport precisely at 8:00 AM on Sunday, the 6th of July. It was a day that Christians reserve for worship, but I could not at first be glad in it. I was tired, my legs were cramped, and the Egyptian heat was stifling. I looked for my bag on the terminal luggage rack, but it was not there. After making several inquiries, I learned, after forty minutes, and amidst mounting tension, that the bag was still on the plane, and about to be flown to Rome. The bag came finally into my possession, but now I faced another difficulty. I was to be shepherded around Cairo by my war-time friend, Raymond McLain, who, having been discharged from the navy, had returned to academia, and was now President of the American University in Cairo. He had asked me to call him when I arrived, but in my search of the phone book his name did not come up. I called the university, but there was no response; it being Sunday, the office staff was apparently off duty. I had then to find a hotel, and was directed to one in the vicinity, the slovenly appearance of which betokened neither comfort nor hospitality, and this did not raise my spirits. I nevertheless secured a room there, and learned upon inquiry that the university was nearby and could be reached by foot. Having determined to visit the place, I took a bath, changed my clothes, stuffed all my valuables in the pockets Hilda had sewn inside my trousers, and hit the streets. I was admitted to the university by an Egyptian porter, and, after searching through the almost empty interior, I finally came upon an American at work in one of the rooms. He was able to give me McLain’s phone number, and with this intelligence my prospects brightened.
I reached McLain by phone, and found him affable and expectant. My arrival, he said, has been anticipated, and the reception dinner was in preparation. He picked me up from the Lotus Hotel at 1:00 PM, and brought me to his home where, at a well-set table, we recalled former times and spoke of things present and future. Dr. and Mrs. McLain drove me after dinner into the desert for a view of the pyramids and the Sphinx. These ancient monuments to Egyptian skill and ingenuity were awe-inspiring, and the impression of their grandeur did not diminish when, at one point, I descended from their contemplation onto the back of a docile camel who carried his timorous burden with calm indifference around the premises.
Later that afternoon we drove into town and walked through the bazaars, where, upon the advice of Mrs. McLain, I bought for Hilda a round, beautifully engraved, brass tabletop, together with the collapsible stand that was designed to support it. These items had, of course, to be shipped home, and this the merchant agreed to do. We had supper that evening in the University club, and at 9:00 o’clock I was taken back to my hotel where, after devotions, I went promptly to bed.
I spent Monday morning in the Egyptian Museum, where I viewed with mounting pleasure and excitement the ancient paintings, sculptures, and artifacts with which that interesting place is filled. Of special interest was the King Tut collection, selections from which were, I believe, later exhibited in the United States. A university staff member drove me in the afternoon to the outlying Coptic community, where we inspected a church said to date from the 4th century AD. I spoke at some length with several priests there, and was glad to see that Christianity had survived in Egypt in spite of age-long Muslim dominance and hostility. We visited some mosques on the return trip, among them the famous Citadel, and toward 8:00 o’clock I was brought to the home of the McLains, where a farewell dinner had been prepared for me. Present at the table were a number of faculty members, with whom I discussed religion, including the imperious claims of Christ. It was 11:30 PM when the party broke up and I was driven back to my hotel.
My stay in Cairo was now virtually at an end; I would be flying next day to Jerusalem. My going directly to the “City of David” represented a slight change in my plans. I had earlier intended to go there after spending a day with Henry Madany in Beirut, but I had been informed that Beirut was in turmoil and unsafe for travel, and this led me to revise my schedule. It was good that I did so, for in subsequent days the fighting grew in intensity. So critical did the situation become that on July 17 President Eisenhower put 5,000 United States Marines on the Lebanese shore in an effort to bolster the pro-western government of Camelle Chamoun.
Jerusalem, to which I was now pointed, was a divided city, and this dictated travel strategy. The old walled city in which much of biblical history was enacted, lay within the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan. The newer Jerusalem, or some part of it, lay in the State of Israel. Travel between the two cities was, however, restricted; one could enter Israel from Jordan, but could not enter Jordan from Israel. This being the case, my mind was readily made up; I would fly to Jordanian Jerusalem, and, after due exploration of the Holy City and its environs, I would venture into Israel.
I arose early on Tuesday, the 8th of July, and arrived at the airport in time to catch a 10:10 AM flight out of Cairo. I had been royally treated by my hosts, and I had in two days seen as much as a casual traveler could expect to see, but I had not always appreciated the Egyptian lust for tips and handouts. The appetite of the service people for gratuities seemed insatiable, and it demanded satisfaction until the moment I boarded the plane. The unattractive and non-uniformed stewardess who attended us in flight required no emolument, but neither did she serve refreshments, and she slept during most of the 2 1/2 hours we were in the air.
* * * * * * *
We landed in Jordan at 12:20 PM, and around 2:00 o’clock I took up residence in Jerusalem’s American Colony Hotel. It was a pleasant enough place, quiet and uncrowded. There were about twenty guests, all Americans, most of them old ladies. I was given a room with bath, and charged seven dollars and eighty-five cents a day, a sum which covered not only the room, but also the three daily meals that were served in the pleasant dining room.
After I had settled in and sent out some clothes for laundering, I set out on foot for the inner city, which I reached in the course of fifteen or twenty minutes. I entered its narrow, vehicle-free, streets through the Damascus Gate, and for the next three hours walked leisurely through the city’s various precincts. I traversed the via dolorosa, the path the cross-bearing Savior is said to have walked on his way to Golgotha. The “way of sorrows” is marked every one hundred feet or so by a station where one or another gospel-recorded incident occurred, and at each of them I paused to contemplate anew our Lord’s atoning sacrifice. I visited that afternoon the Dome of the Rock as well, and also the Church of the Resurrection with all that it contains. I returned as evening fell to my comfortable lodgings, and went early to bed.
I was up early on Wednesday, the 9th, and immediately after breakfast set out on foot for the Garden of Gethsemane. I lingered there a while, recalling Christ’s anguish during that never-to-be-forgotten night of loneliness and dread in which he drank the cup which none but he could drink. I had left the garden and begun to ascend the Mount of Olives when an importunate young man pressed himself upon me, wanting to be my guide. Finding him irresistible, I agreed to pay him a dollar for his services, and the two of us stayed together the rest of that long morning. We reached the top of Mount Olive, walked along its ridges past Bethphage and within reach of Bethany, and stopped at intervals to inspect the churches and mosques that lay upon our path.
We were together again in the afternoon. My young guide had offered to secure for me a car and driver, and to accompany me on a tour of outlying places. I accepted his offer, and he arrived at the hotel at 2:00 PM in a chauffeur-driven 1955 Dodge sedan, in which we promptly set out. We spent some time in Bethany, explored the town of Jericho, the new as well as the old, surveyed the Jordan River, which was much narrower than I had supposed, and proceeded to the Dead Sea, where I tested the water in rented bathing trunks. I tried, when on the sea, to duck under the surface, but to no avail; I could do nothing but float on the salt-laden element. Encrusted with the saline solution, I showered in one of the stalls that lined the shore, and, that done, I remembered Lot’s wife, and thought of Sodom and Gomorrah. We traveled back along another route, and it was 7:00 PM when we arrived at the hotel.
I counted the afternoon well-spent. I had had for five hours a car, a driver, and a guide for the price of ten dollars. I had seen and experienced much, and I had been in charge of the proceedings. When I saw something I wished to photograph, I bade the driver stop, and he stopped. In this way I acquired a sizeable pictorial record of the day’s activities.
I spent Thursday morning in Bethlehem, which I reached by public bus at the cost of fifteen American cents. When my intention to go there was perceived by the ubiquitous and importunate guides that surrounded me, I brushed them off, and proceeded on my own. Riding the bus was an experience in itself. Passengers carried aboard parcels and packages of every description. Some were transporting chickens in cages, others had baskets laden with fruits and vegetables, and one lady sat with a live duck on her lap. All were dressed in the exotic garb of the region, and I, obviously a misplaced foreigner, became the cynosure of all eyes.
I toured Bethlehem on foot, and saw all that I came to see. I visited the local churches and mosques, stood still at the place where Jesus is supposed to have been born, surveyed the fields of Ephrata, and mingled with the people in the public square. I was not attracted by the baubles that were everywhere for sale, and without expenditure of money returned in early afternoon to Jerusalem in the same bus by which I came.
I spent Thursday afternoon in the inner city, where I again traversed the way of the cross, walked the streets, absorbed the atmosphere, and bought some gifts for Hilda and the children. I also stood at the supposed site of Pilate’s Pretorium, set foot on Calvary, and visited the place where our Lord is said to have been entombed.
I left Jordan on the morning of Friday, the 11th of July. After securing an exit visa at the American Consulate, I walked through the Mandelbaum Gate, and at about 9:30 AM stood upon Jewish soil.
* * * * * * *
I spent the rest of Friday morning in Israeli Jerusalem. Storing my bag in the office of the American Express Company, I walked, map in hand, as far as my legs could carry me. In the course of my wanderings I came upon King David’s tomb, and I entered the house which is reputed to be the scene of the Lord’s Last Supper.
It was around 1:00 PM when I boarded a public bus and headed for Tel Aviv. Arriving there in mid-afternoon, I settled in at the Hotel Jacobsen, to which I was referred by the people at the American Express. It was not a hotel in the ordinary sense. It was a privately owned “Pension,” quartered in a three-storied stone house on a quiet, tree-lined street, and managed by the resident proprietor. I was escorted here to a pleasant room with bath, and informed that the tariff was four dollars a day for room and breakfast.
I did nothing the rest of this day, except write letters. I went out upon the streets at dusk, and took supper at an open-air cafe, where I dined on gefilte-fish, soup, bread, and beer. It was the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath, but there were still people about, and in observing them I was impressed with the contrast between Israel and Jordan. The people I saw were, in dress and demeanor, quite like those one regularly meets on a typical American street. Absent were the swarthy Palestinian males with head-cloth and the veiled Arab women in colorful long robes. Present were cosmopolitan people reflecting western culture and contemporary civilization.
I went to bed early that night, and arose at 5:30 on Saturday, the 12th. I wrote a letter on the shaded verandah in the cool of the morning, ate breakfast, and was ready at 7:30 AM to begin the day’s activities. The Sabbath was being observed, and there were not many people on the streets, but I was able at about 7:45 to catch a taxi-bus for Haifa, parts of which I surveyed on foot. I left there after a while, and headed for Nazareth, at which I arrived by bus about an hour before noon. Avoiding the guides, and not caring to be shown the house in which Jesus is supposed to have lived, I walked leisurely through the town, and observed with great interest its various features. The flat-roofed stone houses, the narrow cobble-stoned streets, the small, open shops, the central market, the pack-donkeys threading their way through the crowds, and other things besides, intrigued me. There was, I noticed, a marked absence of Sabbath rest, and then I recalled that Nazareth was not a typical Jewish town. It was heavily populated with Palestinians, and many of these were Christians, who on this day went about their usual business. I dined here at noon at Haslik and french fries, and from my seat at the open-air cafe observed all that went on in the vicinity.
I pulled up stakes in mid-afternoon. I had intended to go from here to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, but I found that the buses were not running. I could have gotten there by taxi, but, since I could ill afford the expense, and since the day was already far spent, I decided to abandon my plans, and return to Tel Aviv. I arrived there in late afternoon, and, after taking a shower, indulged in a much needed nap.
When evening fell, I walked up and down Dizengoff Street until I found a good place to eat. The Sabbath was now over, and the erstwhile deserted streets were crowded with people and cars. The shops were open, the vendors were out, and the populace appeared to be in a celebrative holiday mood.
I awoke early on Sunday, the 13th, and prepared to go to church. I learned from Mr. Jacobsen that there was a Presbyterian Church in Jaffa, and being informed that a ten o’clock service would be held there, I set out on time. I arrived at the church by bus, only to learn that no morning services were being held; the summer program provided for evening services only. I then inquired about other Protestant churches, and was directed to an English-speaking Lutheran church about a mile away. I set out for this, but could not find it. After searching diligently and covering several additional blocks, I made further inquiry, and was directed to a Christian church on one of the streets I had lately passed. I retraced my steps and came upon a Catholic church, from which the people were just exiting. I was told here that there was a Protestant church two miles distant in another direction. I undertook the journey, but did not find the church. I thereupon gave up, and returned to where I could take the bus back to Tel Aviv. I judge that I walked somewhere between eight and ten miles that morning. I was wearing my best and only suit, with dress shirt and tie. The day was hot and sultry. I was wet with sweat, I was frustrated and tired, and I had not been at worship. But I had seen the town, and this was the silver lining to my black cloud. Jaffa is an ancient biblical city, lying close to Tel Aviv, but much of it was now in ruins due to the Jewish-Arab war of 1948. What remained of it was, however, redolent with antiquity. The narrow streets, the quaint old buildings, and the very atmosphere bore witness to the past, and evoked images of a once flourishing civilization.
I spent the afternoon in reading, writing, and meditation, and when evening fell I went out in search of supper. This was to be my least evening on Israeli soil, and I took the opportunity to watch the people as they filed past the cafeteria where I sat. Some greeted me, others paused to say a word, all appeared friendly and fine-spirited.
I was at the downtown office of the British European Airways (BEA) by 7:00 AM on Monday, the 14th of July, and was at the airport by bus at 8:00 o’clock. The plane was scheduled to leave for Athens at nine, and in the hour of waiting I bought some things in the airport’s tax-free store. More absorbing was the sight of a group of soldiers executing steps on the runway. They were, I was told, rehearsing a marching routine in preparation for the imminent departure of President Ben-Gurion for a conference to be held in The Netherlands.
Our flight was in two stages. We landed first at Cyprus. There was fighting on the island, but being sequestered in the “In Transit” room, we were sheltered from the fray. After a one and a half-hour layover, we again took flight, and at 2:15 PM the plane set down in Athens.
* * * * * * *
I had made no hotel reservations, but learned from a passenger that his tour group was being put up at the Pension Nikes, a moderately-priced mid-town hostelry. Upon reaching town, I made application here, and was given a room with bath, which, with breakfast thrown in, cost me 120 Drachmas, or four dollars in American currency.
As soon as I was settled in I set out to see what I could see. There were less than twenty-four hours at my disposal, and under the circumstances I did what seemed best; I engaged a taxi, and bade the driver show me whatever there is in Athens that speaks of ancient Greece. He drove me about from 3:30 to 5:00 o’clock for the sum of three dollars, and in the course of our travels we visited the ruined Temple of Zeus, the Acropolis, the Temple of Theseus, the Agora, and other places, at all of which we paused for such inspection as seemed appropriate.
Back at the hotel a little after five, I freshened up, did some laundry in the wash basin, had supper for nineteen drachmas in a nearby cafe, and at about 7:15 set out to revisit the Acropolis, which, I was told, would this evening, as usual, be brightly illuminated. I walked for forty-five minutes through the darkening streets, and just as I came in sight of the still distant citadel ablaze under the lights, I heard the sound of music. Peering below, I saw a symphony orchestra playing to a large audience in an open-air amphitheater set among ancient ruins. Arrested by the music, and intrigued by the locale, I determined to join the audience. I bought a ticket for twenty drachmas, and heard three quarters of a delightful concert in an inspiring setting. The concert by the Athenian Civic Orchestra ended at 11:00 PM. The walk back to the hotel consumed some time, and it was well past midnight when I went to bed.
I had no disposition to undertake further adventures when I awoke quite late on the morning of Tuesday, the 15th. I had breakfast brought to my room, wrote letters until mid-morning, and around ten-thirty went out for a cup of coffee and a bit of shopping. I wrote Hilda that morning that my travels were taking their toll. My bag was showing some wear, the only suit I owned looked beat up, the soles of my shoes had worn thin, and the heels had run down, but I myself was still in the best of health, and the weather had everywhere been kind to me; since the day I left Tokyo not a drop of rain had fallen.
I reached the airport at noon, and at 1:30 PM the TWA plane took off for the two-and a-half-hour flight to Rome.
* * * * * * *
Owing to a favorable change in time zones, we reached Rome at about three o’clock. The passage through customs, the consultation with representatives of the Italian Tourist Agency, the purchase of Lira (at 621 to the dollar), the bus trip into town, the visit to the American Express Company’s mail room, where I joyfully came into possession of four letters from Hilda–all this consumed considerable time, with the result that it was near six o’clock when I reached my hotel.
It was a C-class mid-town hotel in which I took up residence. I had to share a bathroom with another resident, but the fifth floor room I was given was large and comfortably furnished. It boasted a veranda, from which I could look down upon a public square, and, while reading Hilda’s letter, I beguiled myself in observing the heavy evening traffic that passed by below. For the room and three daily meals I was charged six dollars and fifty cents a day.
Dinner is not served in Rome before eight o’clock. People enjoy siestas from one to four in the afternoon. Shops and offices reopen at 4:00 PM and do not close their doors before 7:30. Late dinners are therefore the rule. I went down at 8:30, ate at leisure a hearty Italian meal, spent the rest of the evening writing letters, and retired at midnight.
I spent the next two days in sightseeing. I had signed up for conducted tours, and at 9:00 AM on Wednesday, July 16, the tour bus stopped at my hotel and took me aboard. The bus made other stops to pick up passengers, and, when it reached the American Express office, I was most surprised, and genuinely pleased, to see what were very familiar faces. Standing ready to join the tour were David and Gayla Holwerda, and John and June Primus. John and David had been students in my classes, and were currently engaged in graduate studies at the Free University in Amsterdam. On an extended vacation with their wives, their short stay in Rome just happened to coincide with mine. We remained together all day, and, after the day’s tours, they joined me for dinner at my hotel, where we lingered over our meal and talked of many things.
We spent most of Wednesday morning in the Vatican Museum, where I gazed admiringly at Rafael’s paintings. We lingered long in the Sistine Chapel, where Michelangelo’s frescoes riveted our attention. I stood amazed at the ceiling paintings, and pondered the figure of the long-bearded Jahweh who, clad in a mantel of glory, stretched out his hand, and with the tips of his fingers brought man into being. I wondered, then, why the Catechism, in commenting on the second command, considered such depictions of God as illicit. The commandment, I thought, forbade idolatry, not each and every pictorial representation of deity. In any case, I found the painting not only masterful, but spiritually uplifting as well.
The three-hour morning tour was continued for another three hours in the afternoon. We paid an extended visit to the Church of St. Peter-in-Chains, which houses the marvelous statue of Moses by Michelangelo, and where penitents are wont to mount the steep steps on hands and knees. We also spent time at St. Paul’s outside the Gate. Said to be built upon the grave of the apostle, the church stood outside the old city walls, and contained prized paintings and sculptures by medieval and renaissance artists. In going to and from places the city, of course, unfolded before our eyes. We looked upon the Tiber, the aqueducts, the Coliseum, and other such things, and were made mindful of the changes in architecture over the years.
My friends did not accompany me on Thursday’s two tours; their schedule required their early departure. On this day our guide took us to St. Peter’s Cathedral, the inspection of which consumed most of the morning. In the afternoon we travelled the Appian Way, and explored the extensive catacombs. One could not in two days “take in” the city of Rome, or absorb its meaning, but I came away from the tours with enhanced knowledge, and with an increased awareness of the vulnerability of civilizations and cultures. Yet the sarcophagi in the catacombs, with the symbols and inscriptions that were everywhere to be seen, betokened the undying devotion of deceased saints, and bore witness to the vitality and endurance of Christ’s church.
The day’s tours ended at 5:30 PM, and I was settled in my room by six. The time of departure was now at hand. I was to leave that evening for Nigeria, where I would again be under assignment, and in the presence of friends and associates. To make myself maximally presentable, I had earlier had my suit drycleaned, and after supper on this day I had my shoes shined, and their frayed laces replaced.
I reached the airport by bus, and at 9:15 PM on Thursday, the 17th, the BOAC plane took off on its overnight flight to Nigeria. There was only a handful of passengers aboard, and we moved about freely. The British attendants showed us every courtesy, and opened their stores for our delectation. Champagne was served with our dinner of mutton and mint sauce, and there was brandy afterward. It was past midnight when I found sleep, but I was awake at four, and at 5:30 AM on Friday, the 18th of July, the plane put down in Kano.
* * * * * * *
I had come to Nigeria at the behest of the Christian Reformed Mission Board. I was commissioned to survey the field, observe the work, receive suggestions, and in a general way acquaint myself with the mission enterprise in West Africa. I had earlier been in correspondence with the Rev. Mr. E. H. Smith, the Secretary of the Mission, and had said: “I should like to visit as many missionaries as I can at their posts or stations, and in the process see something of African life outside the urban centers. I should be most happy, in addition, to call upon the African leaders, and such other representatives of the church of Christ in the Sudan as you think I should meet.” In accordance with these sentiments Ed Smith had prepared a tight schedule that would keep me fully occupied during the whole of my twelve-day stay in the country.
Arriving in Kano early on the morning of the 18th, I faced a layover until early afternoon, but not relishing so long a wait for my scheduled flight to Jos, I managed to book passage on a plane leaving at 8:00 AM. Because of my unexpected early arrival in Jos, there was no one at the airport to meet me, but a phone call to the Driesengas brought almost immediate relief. After enjoying a visit with these good people, I was brought to the temporary residence of Rev. and Mrs. Smith, who, in anticipation of my arrival, were staying at the headquarters of the Sudan United Mission in Jos. I spent the rest of the day at the compound, had dinner with the Smiths at the Hill Station restaurant that evening, and spent the night in a small cabin on the mission grounds.
What struck me about Jos was not only the lush vegetation and the abundance of flowers, but the mildness of the climate. I had been uncomfortable in Rome’s 95-degree heat, and had wondered how I would fare under the hot African sun, but I found I need not have worried. Situated on a plateau, Jos is swept by cool breezes that make it a favored vacation spot, and on the day I arrived there the temperature stood at a delightful 72 degrees. It would, I was told, get warmer in the interior, but with light summer clothing suited to the climate I was prepared for the contingency.
News reached me in Jos about the continuing disturbances in Lebanon and Jordan, and I hoped that the arrival of the United States Marines would prevent the conflict from spreading beyond the borders of these troubled communities.
I left Jos early on the morning of Saturday, July 19, in the company of Rev. and Mrs. Smith and their house boy. The Smiths arrived at my door in their station wagon at 6:00 AM, and we promptly proceeded south toward Mkar. The 260-mile trip was over mostly dirt roads, some of them muddy, and we were twice compelled to push ourselves out of restraining muck onto solid ground. Mrs. Smith, the former Nell Breen, had brought along a basket of food, and we picnicked at noon beside the road. During that long day we talked a good deal about missions, and about the religion and customs of the Nigerian people, but I also kept my eyes on the changing scenes, and observed with interest the pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Many people, I noticed, travelled in trucks serving as passenger buses, and many of the women I saw wore no clothing above the waist.
We arrived in Mkar, in Tiv country, at 7:30 PM that evening. The mission at Mkar had been started many years ago by the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa, but the field was now in the process of being taken over by the Christian Reformed Church. Established there was a large hospital, a teacher training school, and, in the near vicinity, a sizeable leper colony. I would in due course visit these facilities, but now was not the time. We were quite exhausted after our long journey, and, having been assigned to a thatch-roofed hut reserved for visitors, I soon took possession of it, and went early to bed.
I attended a Tiv worship service on Sunday morning, and, though I did not understand the language, I was put into a worshipful spirit by the general proceedings, and especially by the singing. I had dinner that noon at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Leonard Van Ipperen, a Dutch couple who were attached to the hospital. I inspected the hospital and the leper colony in the afternoon, and also paid a visit to Boko, a bustling town five miles from Mkar, where the tribal chieftain had his residence. Most memorable was my visit to the leper colony. The physical deprivations that I saw deeply moved and sorely pained me. Facial disfigurations and wasted hands and feet, testifying to the ravages of the dread disease that afflicted the colonists, were everywhere to be seen. There was, however, a mitigating feature. The nurse who attended the patients moved freely and compassionately among them, and these in turn gave evidence in their visage and bearing of the tender Christian care they were receiving.
I had supper that evening at the home of Dr. and Mrs. John Vroon, who, like the Van Ipperens, were in attendance at the hospital. I thereafter attended the evening worship service conducted by the Rev. Mr. Smith in the English language. A fairly large number of us gathered after the service at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Dik, teachers at the training school, and here, upon request, I gave an account of the mission work being done in Japan and Ceylon. We talked thereafter of many things, and at the end of the day I had absorbed all that I could about Mkar and the work that went on there. I wrote a letter to Hilda by the light of a lantern before I went to sleep.
It had been determined that I would be conveyed from station to station by the people posted at each place, and so it happened that on the morning of Monday, the 21st, I was brought to Kunav by Ralph Dik. Ed Smith and I had breakfasted with him that morning, and after the Smiths had left for Lupwe, Ralph and I set out on our fifty-mile trek. This took place, however, only after I had addressed the training school students at the morning chapel service.
I spent only about five hours in Kunav, but was able in that time to confer at length with Harold De Groot and Rolf Veenstra, who were stationed there. I inquired about many things, but was principally interested in the attitude these men took toward the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN), over which Harry Boer presided at Gindiri. The college had been established by a consortium of sponsoring churches, but there were those in the States who were fearful of ecumenical involvement, and were advocating the establishment of a strictly Reformed Seminary in Nigeria. I raised the question of the seminary not only in Mkar and Kunav, but at every station I visited, and found, to my great satisfaction, that the vast majority of people favored the cooperative endeavor, although a few, like De Groot and Persenaire, tended toward separation and ecclesiastical exclusiveness.
At about 3:00 o’clock on Monday afternoon I was driven by Ralph Dik to the Katsina Ala River, where I was met by a representative of the Sevav community. Gathered at the river were many natives, some milling about, some hawking wares, others transporting fruit, among which bananas were most prominent. There was no bridge at the spot; one crossed the river by barge, poled by attendants. The crossing technique was curious and ingenious. The barge was poled a short distance upstream and at a given point headed cross-river, allowing the current to drive it to the spot selected for landing.
I was met at the river by Gerard Terpstra who, after the crossing, drove me to Sevav, the station he manned. He was associated there with Eugene Rubingh, who had only lately come to Nigeria, and was at the time engaged in language study under Gerard’s tutoring. We arrived at the compound at about 5:30 PM, whereupon I was settled in a thatch-roofed hut near the Terpstra residence. Accommodations such as this were provided me at almost every station I visited. The cabin was sparsely, though adequately, furnished. There was no running water, no indoor toilet, and no electric light; one read or wrote by oil lamp or lantern. One slept under netting for protection against mosquitos, and one had to learn to live with the scary, though harmless, lizards that often scrambled up the walls.
The evening of this day became one to be remembered. Gerard had arranged for me to meet the native Christian leaders in a nearby village. A supper had been prepared by our genial hosts, and, seated on low stools under the open skies, we partook of goat meat, pounded yams, and roasted corn on the cob. Of cutlery there was no trace; we used the fingers God had given us. Dipping hands into the large shared bowl of yams, we periodically extracted what we wanted, dipped it into a dish of seasoned sauce, and brought it to our mouth. We talked while we were eating, and in this way there developed a veritable communion, common cup and all.
I spent the next morning touring the grounds of the Sevav compound, discussing with Terpstra and Rubingh whatever pertained to the mission, and keeping up with my never ceasing correspondence. At about 3:30 that afternoon Terpstra and I set out for Zaki-Biam, where Peter Ipema was stationed. We arrived there near 6:00 o’clock, and I spent the evening in conversation with Peter and his wife Martena. I arose early the next morning, inspected the neighborhood, and thereafter held a two-hour conference with four African pastors.
After lunch on Wednesday, the 23rd, Peter Ipema brought me to Wukari. I had hitherto been in Tiv country, but would now be in Jukun territory, where Hausa is spoken. We arrived in Wukari about 3:00 PM, and were cordially received by Peter Dekker and Cornelius Persenaire, the resident missionaries. It may here be remarked that the Christian Reformed missions posts were neither in the “jungle,” nor in urban centers, but in the “country,” in most cases not far from rural villages. The station to which I had now come lay in the vicinity of Wukari, a considerable town, to which I was taken soon after Ipema had left for home. Although I had previously been in Kano and Jos, I had not hitherto been conducted on a tour of a sizeable city, and the two hours we spent in Wukari afforded me a rather comprehensive view of a typical Nigerian inland city We were there not far from Ibi, on the Benue River, where Johanna Veenstra first landed, but, for want of time, we did not venture forth to see it. We spent the evening in discussion, and it was near midnight when we called a halt to the day’s proceedings.
It was immediately after breakfast on Thursday, the 24th, that Peter Dekker drove me to Baisa, a distance of 60 miles from Wukari. Robert and Constance Recker were stationed there, and I spent a pleasant and instructive day in their company. We talked of many things, but, as far as I can remember, did nothing else worth recording. I am now not certain, but it is likely that I took a long nap that day, for the pace I had been setting had taxed my strength to the point of exhaustion.
I was taken on the morning of Friday, the 25th, to Harga. To get there we proceeded westward and crossed the Donga River by barge. Ralph Baker manned the station at Harga, and I spent the day with him and his good wife in conversation, exploration, and relaxation.
I came to Takum on Saturday, the 26th, and had lunch with Dr. Larry Den Besten, who was then director of the new hospital that had recently been established at Takum. Here, as in Mkar, I was appalled at the sight of the huge goiters with which several patients were afflicted. Ed Smith picked me up in late afternoon and took me to Lupwe, were he resided, and where many additional workers were stationed. The compound here was large, and there were a number of residences set down in it. There was also a cabin reserved for visitors, and it was to it that I was directed.
On the evening of this day I was introduced to most of the residents on the compound, and, somewhat later, I held a conference with a group of African church leaders. I was presented at the close of this meeting with a goat, a gift reserved, I’m told, for VIP visitors. I thanked the givers for their generosity and esteem, but being unable to take possession of the royal gift, I referred it for disposition to my missionary friends. The goat, I learned, was later slaughtered by the presenters, and consumed within their community in remembrance of my visit.
Sunday the 27th of July, was the last full day I spent among my friends on Nigeria’s inland mission field. I preached that day at a morning service in an African church near Lupwe, Ed Smith interpreting. The simple thatch-roofed church building was full of worshippers. There were, as I recall, no windows in the church, the sides being open to the warm summer air. The people sat attentively on long crude benches, and the songs they sang were rendered in full voice and with pleasing African cadences.
I had dinner at noon with Ken Stuart Bergsma, and preached again in the evening, this time at a service for the missionaries and English-speaking Africans. After this service all the people in the compound gathered at the Smiths for coffee, and here most of the final farewells were said.
I went to my cabin late that evening in good spirits. I had not for a long time heard from Hilda, but there came into my hands this day three letters from her, all attesting to the well-being and health of herself and the children. I did not go to sleep before I wrote by the flickering lamplight a letter to Hilda expressive of the pleasure I took in the news received.
The Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) owned and operated a small single-engined plane capable of carrying two or three passengers, and it was in this that I was to take my departure. The plane, bearing Dr. and Mrs. Richard Wierenga, put down at the Takum landing field at 10:30 AM on Monday, the 28th, and at 11:30 it took flight for Jos with none but the pilot and myself aboard. Before boarding the plane I had opportunity to converse with the Wierengas, and to say farewell to the other well-wishers who had gathered to see me off. It was 2:00 o’clock when we put down in Jos.
I was to be taken that afternoon to Gindiri for an inspection of the theological college, but the Driesengas, who were entertaining me, suggested that I would be well-advised to fly out of Jos in late afternoon rather than on the morrow as I had intended. The weather was bad, the predictions were unfavorable, and it was unlikely, they said, that tomorrow’s plane schedules would be kept. I heeded their advice, and enplaned for Kano at 5:00 PM that afternoon, a full day earlier than my original plans had called for. I did not, accordingly, get to Gindiri, and did not much care, for Harry Boer had left on furlough, and it was with him that I principally wished to confer. What I came to regret, however, was that, due to my early departure from Jos and the scarcity of flights out of Kano, I would have to spend an entire day in that northern city without prospects or engagements. I was happy, nevertheless, that before leaving Jos I was able to inspect the Hillcrest school, where the children of missionaries were educated, and where the Driesengas served as house parents.
The commercial plane on which I had booked flight arrived in Kano at 6:00 PM on Monday, the 28th. I engaged lodging that evening in the SIM guest house, where, to my surprise, the Rev. Mr. Harold De Groot and his family were also staying. The De Groots were preparing to leave on furlough, and had stopped here to complete the arrangements for their departure. Harold and I walked the streets for a while that evening, and I remember seeing a vast mound of peanuts stacked high on a city square. Besides yams, cotton, millet, and palm oil, peanuts, I was told, were among Nigeria’s major crops.
Tuesday, the 29th of July, was a relatively unfruitful day. I was unsuccessful in booking flight on an early plane, and was in consequence doomed to remain, without prospect or resource, in an alien city for the whole of a long day. I partially redeemed the time by sending off letters to various correspondents. I also took time to reflect on my Nigerian experience. I had, I recollected, visited every Christian Reformed mission station in the country, had talked at length with the men and women in charge, had had contact with several native leaders, and had in the process learned considerable about Africa and missions. I had, in addition, renewed friendships with former students, and remained in good health. Neither the climate, nor the food, nor the mosquitos, nor the things that go bump in the night, had sufficed to cancel or amend the program that had been laid out for me.
I could now have flown directly home. My work was done, and my deep longing was to be with Hilda and the children. But in hand was a previously fashioned schedule, with plane tickets, hotel reservations, and appointments attached. When early last Spring I was planning for this trip it seemed right to both Hilda and me that in circling the globe I should, between assignments, stop at key places enroute, since it was unlikely that I should ever travel this way again. I had until now done just that, and not without benefit, but time and circumstances alter perceptions, and I was now torn between returning home immediately, and remaining abroad for another week and completing the circuit. For good or ill, the original reasoning regained the ascendancy, and I determined, not without misgivings, to abide by the established schedule.
In accordance herewith I flew out of Kano, Nigeria, at 8:40 PM on Tuesday, the 29th of July, and headed for Lisbon, Portugal.
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I arrived in Lisbon at 5:30 AM on Wednesday, the 30th. The nine-hour overnight flight had been uneventful. I didn’t get much sleep, but after I had taken a room in the Hotel Rivoli, and had there bathed and breakfasted, I felt fit and ready for the day’s activities. It was a little after 9:00 AM when, map in hand, I set out to inspect the city. Disdaining bus tours and guides, I walked the streets until near five o’clock in the evening. My interest was not in buildings and monuments so much as in people, street scenes, shops, and markets, and of these I saw an interesting variety. I also lingered at the estuary and watched the boats. Tired and foot-sore, I returned to the hotel for dinner, but learned at 6:00 that dinner, as in other southern climes, would not be served until eight. I took a nap during the waiting period, and, after a late dinner, went promptly to bed.
I left Lisbon at 8:00 AM the next morning, and arrived in Madrid at 10:00. I put up here at the Succia Hotel, where for five dollars I was given a nice room with bath. I spent the rest of the morning and a good part of the afternoon in the Prado Art Museum, where I also took lunch. I was back at the hotel by 4:30, at which time I joined a group setting out on a three-hour guided tour of the city. We were taken, among other places, to the Bull Ring, the public parks and buildings, and what was known as University City. It was after eight o’clock when I got back to my room.
Bound for Amsterdam, I left Spain at 10:00 AM on Friday, the 1st of August. After a two-hour layover in Paris, the plane set down in the Dutch metropolis at 5:00 PM. I spent the next two days visiting friends in the city, among them Harry Boer, some of my associates at the Free University, and members of the Byleveld family. When not otherwise engaged I revisited those parts of the city with which I had become familiar during my student days. I worshipped on Sunday at the Scottish church in the “Begijnenhof,” where I had for a season been a surrogate preacher. No one recognized me there, and of the elders with whom I had been associated there was no trace.
I enplaned for London early on Monday, the 4th of August. I had made brief stops in London in 1953, but I now took a guided tour that consumed most of the day. On Tuesday, I went to Cambridge to see my nephew, Charles Ryskamp, who was studying there, and in the course of my visit I made some acquaintance with the town and the university. I returned to London toward evening, and that night cut my ties to foreign lands, and headed for home.
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The overnight flight brought me to Detroit on the morning of Wednesday, the 6th of August, and before noon of that day I reached Grand Rapids, where Hilda and the children, with others, stood ready to welcome me home. The joy and relief of reunion was such as could not be put into words, and during the next several days and weeks there was little to do but bask in the warmth of the love we bore to one another, and relish to the full the companionship we had for too long been denied.
I returned with the same suitcase and shoulder bag with which I had left. Both, of course, were the worse for wear, and the one suit I owned, and now wore, was wrinkled and soiled. The appearance I made was, therefore, not impressive. What did not improve matters were the rubbers I wore when I left the plane and walked into the sunshine of a bright August day. That bit of apparel did, however, bear witness to my ingenuity. The sole of my shoe had come loose in London, and to make walking possible I donned the rubbers I had taken along. I did not by this acquire sartorial excellence, but I did by this lay the flapping sole to rest and restore my ambulatory capacities, and that, I thought, was gain.
Hilda had responded regularly to my almost daily communications, and I therefore knew in general what had transpired during my absence, but details now came to light that had not previously been disclosed. The children had completed their terms at school. Ellen had sung in church, Dick had taken up baseball, both had been to camp, and each had tried to make things easier for Hilda. But the burden that had rested on her had not been light. The household chores, the tending of the yard, the care of the children, the shopping by foot, the receipt of money and the payment of bills–all this and more demanded her time and attention. She had weathered electric storms, had walked long blocks for groceries, had papered the walls of a bedroom, had made clothes for the children and herself, had suffered often from migraine headaches, and, in spite of many promises, had been ill-attended by friends otherwise liberal with expressions of solicitude. All this caused me some distress, but I was happy to hear that Clarence Boomsma had been a regular visitor and a faithful friend and counsellor. These things having been noted, and their significance pondered, it was necessary now to put the past behind us, and, aware of God’s care, face the future with hope and confidence, and this we sought to do.
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I had not, while away, been able to pay attention to what was happening on the local academic and ecclesiastical scene. I learned now that the Board of Trustees of College and Seminary had at its May meeting selected a site on the new campus for the erection of the new seminary building, and had instructed its executive committee to proceed immediately with construction. I learned, too, that the community was still mourning the death of the venerable Dean Rooks, who had died in February at the age of 89.
The Synod of the Christian Reformed Church had met in June, and the Rev. Mr. Eugene Calendar, the church’s only black pastor, had for a time been seated as an alternate delegate. This, I was told, had prompted the First Clerk to declare that “with Rev. Calendar’s arrival this becomes the church’s first bi-racial synod.”
With reference to its own internal affairs, Synod appointed the Stated Clerk as Denominational Archivist, a position hitherto held by the Director of the Library. It ordered the publication committee to publish in the Psalter Hymnal the “Epilogue” to the Canons of Dort, and, in remembrance of John Calvin, it decided both to contribute 2000 dollars for the restoration of the Genevan auditorium, and to observe in 1959 the 450th anniversary of the Reformer’s birth.
The mission of the church was advanced when Cuba and Formosa were formally adopted as denominational mission fields, when Bassam Madany was appointed to the staff of the “Back-to-God Hour” radio ministry for the transmission of the Gospel in Arabic, and when, despite consistorial and classical opposition, Synod decided to continue its support of Harry Boer “as a teacher in the Theological College of Northern Nigeria.”
The seminary faculty underwent a change when Professor Herman Kuiper resigned under pressure, and Dr. Anthony Hoekema was elected to replace him. The New Testament Department was promised a new look when, to assist the ailing Professor Schultze, Bastiaan Van Elderen was given a two-year appointment as Assistant Professor, to take effect in September of 1959.
That the church had not yet reached full maturity became evident when Synod threatened to defrock Henry Beversluis upon his acceptance of the principalship of a Christian High School, when it ruled that sins against the seventh commandment must be confessed before the full consistory, and when it disapproved of any congregation affiliating itself with a local agency connected, however tenuously, to the National Council of Churches.
Synod displayed good judgment, however, when it rejected an appeal against woman suffrage in congregational meetings, and when it judged that pictorial representations of Jesus did not violate the second commandment.
I was at this synod made a member of a committee on “The Nigerian Theological College.”
Except for an awareness of the disturbances taking place in Lebanon, I was for four months out of touch with world happenings, but history records that in February of this year the United States put a 2 1/2 pound Satellite into orbit, that during the summer the navy’s 7th fleet was kept busy protecting Chiang Kai-Shek’s hold on the island of Quemoy, and that on the first of August the USS Nautilus, a polaris-equipped nuclear-powered submarine, starting north of Alaska, steamed 1800 miles under the polar ice cap, and emerged four days later on the European side of the pole.