WARTIME EXPERIENCES OF A CHURCH OF SCOTLAND MISSIONARY

With the recent commemoration of the 75th anniversary of VE Day, one of my sons asked what his grandparents had been doing on the original VE Day. That prompted me to have a search through my father’s old five-year diaries which he kept all his adult life, and lo and behold, below is the entry for 8th May 1945.

“Celebrations everywhere, flags flying, bells ringing – but I have to spend day in bed, sick and vomiting with a temp. over 104 degrees!! Called in the military doctor (Capt. Lake – a female) from hospital. Better this evening”

The fact that he was obviously suffering from a bout of malaria at the time (for which there is still no effective vaccine!) got me thinking about his experiences in India, particularly during the war years and the result is this small article for the newsletter.

My father, Robert (Bert) Waddell was a Church of Scotland missionary from the late 1930s to the mid-1950s, working as an educational advisor amongst the Santal people of north east India – the Santals are/were an aboriginal ethnic group with a very low social and economic position in caste ridden India at the time. He enjoyed his time in India, where he met my mother who was doing similar work with the Irish Presbyterian church and where I was born. Life for missionaries in India does not seem to have been particularly hard – they had servants, a cook and a gardener and were in many ways considered part of the British Raj. The main difficulty was the climate which was unbearably hot for much of the year and extremely wet and humid during the monsoon. The hottest months of the year, May and June, were usually spent on holiday at one of the many hill stations in the foothills of the Himalayas where the climate was more bearable. My father arrived in India in 1939 and within months World War Two had begun. The main threat throughout the war was the prospect of Japanese invasion from their bases in neighbouring Burma (Myanmar). It never happened but my father’s diary frequently refers to unrest in the area stirred up by what he refers to as “fifth columnists” working for the Japanese.

In 1942, my father suffered a double bereavement when his father died and his brother Douglas, my uncle, was tragically killed in a training accident while serving in the R.A.F. Bomber Command. He decided to come home on compassionate leave to help his sister deal with winding up the family business and this decision gave rise to the most dramatic event of his life – the ship he was travelling in was sunk by a German U boat in the south Atlantic! The whole story of this event and its heroic, yet tragic, aftermath is captured in the book 'Goodnight, Sorry for Sinking You'.  To summarise, my father was one of those lucky enough to survive the sinking and, after spending two weeks on an open lifeboat, to land at the island of Saint Helena, where he was marooned for three months, waiting for another ship to take him back to Britain. He wrote a detailed account of his experiences which was one of the main sources for the book whose title was reportedly the last words spoken by the U boat commander to the lifeboats after the sinking.

To complete the story on a happier note, my father and mother were married soon after and returned to India by ship, this time using the shorter but not necessarily safer Suez Canal route. They spent the rest of the war there and returned to Britain in 1955 accompanied by yours truly aged 2 and his older brother aged 5. Needless to say, I have no memories of India, but the old black and white family photograph albums are a good substitute.

Ivor Waddell
 

COVID KO's ANN'S RIO ADVENTURE!

On Friday 24th May Sue McMinn and I were to travel down to London to have a couple of days relaxation before Sue ran the London Marathon (for Parkinson’s Disease charity) and I flew off to Brazil to help finish renovating a community centre in Rio with Mission Direct. As you know the London Marathon was postponed and my trip to Rio was cancelled. A disappointment to us both, but with accommodation rebooked for the rescheduled Marathon in October we are looking forward to being able to have our couple of days in London and I along with friends and family will be able to stay to support and watch Sue run the marathon.

Mission Direct have now informed me that they have an alternative date in October to go to Rio. As we do not know what is going to happen with this virus and what restrictions will still be placed on us, I have decided it would not be advisable for me to plan to travel to Brazil in October. The virus is rampant in the Favelas in Rio at the moment and this is where I would be working every day. There is another date planned for Brazil in May 2021, and hoping the virus is better under control and by then there is a vaccine, Mission Direct have agreed to postpone my trip until then.

I may not be working on the same project as intended in the Community Centre but will be working with ABBA Children’s project – set up in the middle of the nearby Favelas to provide education to primary children who wouldn’t otherwise have access to education. I will be helping to build new facilities to support the expansion of this vital work.

I do hope all of you, along with your loved ones near and far, are keeping safe and well during this time of “lockdown”. We have been blessed with sunshine and the beauty of spring flowers. On my walks I have seen small unidentified creatures rushing across the road , deer grazing in the woods and squirrels scurrying around looking for food or running madly up and down the trees. I have watched the garden and roadside flowers awaken and grow with their lovely vibrant colours, especially the primroses and marsh marigolds and have had time to watch and listen to the birds. In the past in my busy-ness sometimes I have not had the time to be still. These walks have been my prayer time.

Even though I would rather our lives were back to normal I have in a way been thankful for this time of peace and relaxation with more time to talk with family and friends, research family history, write letters, send emails, read, garden, take photos, bake and make some earrings.

I have missed being with family and friends, 9.30am Church Services, Church activities, working in the Church Office and my Tuesdays at Barcaple , sport on the TV, and of course not being able to go to the hairdressers !!

Let us hope and pray that in the not too distant future all the things we have missed we will be able to enjoy again. I pray that until those days are with us again, may the Lord hold you in the palm of his hand and keep you safe.

Ann Morgan
 

LOCKDOWN NEWS FROM MARATHON MEWS

We send the warmest of wishes to you and your families, from Marathon Mews.

Along with everyone else at this strange time, here at Marathon Mews, lockdown has had its moments of challenge and sadness, and it has been necessary to look for the good things around us to help us stay positive.

It has to be said that Mr Marathon is an amazing example of staying positive, and seeing the funny side of anything thrown in this direction. Mrs Marathon is absolutely convinced that were Mr Marathon to sever a limb in a frighteningly sharp piece of agricultural machinery, his reaction would be along the lines of; ‘Jings, that’s a bit nippy. Never mind, a wee dab of iodine and it’ll be fine’!!!

Enjoyment has been found in listening to the stories and observations of comedians. One day a comedian was heard to say; ‘There are two types of people in lockdown. There are those of you with your springiness, schedules and timetables, your to do lists and your Joe Wicks Daily workouts…..and there’s the rest of us’! Mrs Marathon glanced across at Mr Marathon and asked; ‘Oh no, is that me’? Whereupon Mr Marathon found his complete attention was required by the laptop and was therefore rendered unable to utter a response…..therein I think, lies the answer!!!

New activities have been helping all of us busy and staying positive. Here at Marathon Mews we now have a weekly ‘Virtual Bake Off’ with Mini Marathon the Smaller which is lots of fun! Marathon Mews also now hosts the weekly ‘Wheelie Bin Olympics’, which involves Mr and Mrs Marathon, and our Marathon Mews lovely neighbour, sprinting to see who can be first to bring in the wheelie bins after the lorry has left! (This particular form of entertainment was invented during a VERY quiet week)!

Other excitement during the past month has been Mrs Marathon celebrating a ‘milestone’ birthday during lockdown! Highlights included several ‘socially distanced’ renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’…..from down the drive, through the windows, via telephone, and Mrs Marathon’s favourite; a Scot Rail train conductor friend and a Scot Rail train driver singing a ‘Happy Birthday’ duet on a train in a video message!

For any of you who have been especially following the so far ‘Marathon-less’ Marathon running career of Mrs Marathon, news at this moment is that the London Marathon remains scheduled for Sunday October 4th. Unless no word to the contrary is received by mid-June, it has to be assumed that the organisers have not ruled out the possibility of the marathon going ahead so training will need to resume. This does feel highly unlikely at the moment, and so in that case ‘tick over’ will be maintained until December, when it starts all over again! When this scenario was being discussed recently, Mr Marathon was heard to say; ‘Oh marvellous, almost another 12 months of aches, pains, hobbling and knee niggles’. (To be fair, he does have a point)!!! This protracted marathon training will also mean the purchase of at least one (and possibly two) further pairs of expensive running shoes. But perhaps by that point, the golf course will be about to reopen and Mr Marathon will be so excited and distracted by this that he won’t notice the appearance of any more shiny, spendy-looking shoeboxes……?

Sue McMinn
 

SOS FROM GUATEMALA

Some of you will remember missionaries Hank Miller and his wife (friends of Ann Morgan) who visited us last year and were involved in running a stall at one of our Messy Church services. Frank and his wife are back in Guatemala doing their best to help the poorest families and their kids survive the impact of Covid 19. The already desperate situation of these families has deteriorated even further as a consequence of Covid restrictions to the extent that they are hanging white flags from windows to indicate they have no food. Hank is trying to raise $5,000 dollars to help feed these starving families. You can read more on his “Go-fund-me” page (link below). If you feel moved to help, please click the link below to his page: “https://www.gofundme.com/f/bfuve-food-to-survive “

HOME ON FURLOUGH

Latest News from our Missionary Partner, Gary Brough

It’s been 3 weeks since we came back to Scotland. While we’re looking forward to getting back to Malawi, we know that that’s uncertain for now. Maybe it’s longing to be outside in warmer weather, but I can’t help noticing some parallels between cross-cultural living and life on ‘lockdown’. So, with a mostly humorous tone, here are some similarities:

1. Your friends and family relationships become screen-shaped
For 15 months, and with the exception of Christmas with the in-laws, our social interactions with friends and family in the UK have been done online. We’re quite familiar with pixelated siblings and the awkward “You go”, “No, you go” when the audio lags.

Sometimes the technology frustrates and just adds to the distance but, while it’s no replacement for time together, it’s a social lifeline during time apart. That is unless you have children and are talking with another family – then the best you can hope for is fractured conversation while the children pull faces at each other while using filters to become dragons and wear puppies on their heads. In the end, you take what you can get.

2. Church, but not as you know it

I’ve worshipped in churches in Europe, Africa and Asia. The routines are similar, the songs and teaching can sometimes even be the same, but it is undeniably different. Even when you share a language, that difference leaves you feeling somehow isolated. I find it can be the same with ‘online church’. The people, the songs, the places are familiar, identical even, but different. There’s a bitter-sweet element to that also, where the similarity reminds you of what’s changed and of what you’re missing.

That said, I’m not sure it’s culturally appropriate to go to church in your pyjamas or pick-up an evening service with a glass of wine in many places other than online church.

3. A keen interest in toilet roll supplies

In Malawi, I was not only aware of the toilet roll supply at our house, but also in my office drawer and in the car glovebox. While stockpiling in the UK made supply uncertain, my concern in Malawi was always unpredictable demand.

4. Haircuts are a big deal

You don’t notice until it’s too late, but eventually you wish you’d had one more haircut before lockdown/travelling. Eventually you’ll see yourself on a video chat and realise and there’s only so much hair you can cut off with your webcam before people notice the top of your head is missing.

We have a few haircut stories from our time in Malawi. I cut Jacqueline’s hair once, but that’s a story for marriage counselling, not here.

Sitting in a packed barbers where people were queuing just to watch my hair cut should have been a warning. When I dared ask for scissors a confused conversation ensued before an older sage-like man stepped forward with confidence. ‘Scissors, yes.’ he said. My relief was short-lived as they tried to piece together a working pair from broken relics in a drawer, before someone nipped out the shop and came back with a pair of blunt kitchen scissors. More hair was plucked than trimmed, but we got there, sort of.

5. Well-made plans, says who?

Nothing happens at night in Malawi and with long spells without electricity we were sure we’d read more, learn more, be more productive. I read precisely zero more books last year than when my evenings were filled with scheduled activities.

I have no lockdown bucket list, but I still have that lingering feeling (that many of us probably do) that I should be making better use of the time. Just like all these people having their ‘best life’ on lockdown learning Croatian and the French horn. Only it doesn’t work. Less ‘freedom’ is no guarantee of more time.

Maybe I could get more done, or maybe I could ignore that social media mantra and just keep it together as best I can as a dad, a husband and an individual.

This is clearly no missiological treatise and you shouldn’t read more into it than its poor humour deserves. In all seriousness though, life has changed a lot for all of us, and very quickly. If this was to be a planned cross-cultural transition you’d spend time preparing for the adjustment and learn to be patient with yourself as you settle in. This wasn’t planned, but we can be kind on ourselves in the transition.

Stay home, stay safe, stay sane.

Gary Brough