had arranged to meet John Bratt (see left) at the Denver
Airport, as it was more convenient for him to fly from Seattle to
Denver than to Los Angeles. But we were an hour or more late in
reaching the airport and I had never been there before. After some
driving here and there we “happened” to pass the main
entrance to the terminal — and out walks John Bratt, bags in
hand! We proceeded to Signal Mountain (TN), where we left Mrs.
Chapman with her cousin for the time of our trip, and then on to
Washington to meet with Mother and Dad. We left our car there and
flew to New York, only to find that our KLM plane had been grounded
in Amsterdam due to bad weather. The airline put us up for the night,
and we had the next day to kill before departing that evening on the
overnight flight to Glasgow. From there we took the train to
Edinburgh, and enjoyed a day of sightseeing. Our grand plan called
for Mother and Dad to go to York, where her mother had come from, so
Mother could look up her mother’s ancestry in the cathedral
there. John, Mary Charlotte, Will and Mary Francis were to go to
Belfast, to see Northern Ireland and to meet John’s friend
Frank Maguire’s father, who was an official of the Church of
I was to go to Dusseldorf to get the VW Kombi, and then pick up Petronella Petersen (see right) in Holland, Mother and Dad in York, and the rest of the party in Carlisle, on the West Coast of England. Petronella was a war orphan we had supported over the years and whom we had visited in our 1955 trip to Europe. She was just between Will and Mary Francis in age. We had arranged by correspondence to have her accompany us through England and France before returning to her home in Holland.
So much for the plan. Being a day late already put
pressure on us. I had a reservation on a flight from London to
Dusseldorf in the late morning, so decided I would have to take the
overnight train to London. That arrived three hours late, but I could
still have made my flight if the cab to the airport had not gotten
stuck in horrendous traffic. As it was I had to take a mid-afternoon
flight that landed me at the Dusseldorf airport after 5pm their time.
Then I found I had failed to bring the car papers with me, and only
remembered the name of the car dealer I was to get the VW from. An
accommodating taxi driver with a limited command of English managed
to find the correct one of the five places of business this firm had
in Dusseldorf, depositing me there about 7pm. Not having the papers,
the local people said they couldn’t give me the car, but would
call their manager. About 8pm the manager arrived with his wife, all
dressed up for an evening out, but he took time to authorize my
getting the car. After interminable instructions from the salesman, I
finally drove away about 9pm to head for Holland. To this day I don’t
know why I did that. I had made reservations on the overnight ferry
from The Hague to England, but that left at midnight, and I could not
get there by that time. Also, even though I had visited Petronella at
her home out in the country three years earlier, I had not the
foggiest notion of where it was except that it was about three miles
from the town of Putten (30 miles south of Amsterdam). Nevertheless,
I followed the new map book over the various roads until I drove into
Putten just before midnight. The town was well lit but deserted. I
followed the arrows to “Centrum” until that was reached
and kept going on the other side of the town square. Approaching a
tee, an inner voice said, “Turn right.” At a fork, the
voice said, “Take the left road.” Rounding a bend, I saw
my first human being in Putten, a woman who had just stepped out of a
house on the other side of the street. I immediately stopped, lowered
my window and yelled, “Do you speak English?” She
replied, “Yes, a little.” So I got out, bundled up my
coat and walked over to where she was standing. “Can you tell
me where the Widow Petersen lives?” I asked. She shook her
finger in my face and replied “I’ve been waiting for you
all afternoon!” It developed that she had been engaged as my
interpreter, and was waiting for me at her sister’s house.
Evidently she had set midnight as the limit for waiting, and had
ducked out of her sister’s house to go to her own just a few
doors down when I came along at the precise instant needed to meet
her! Only God could arrange a scenario like that! (Miracle #6).
She got into my car and we headed for the open country, woke up three farm families until we finally reached Petronella’s home. After hot chocolate, she climbed aboard, and we headed for the coast after returning the interpreter to her home. By now it was 3am, and all hope of my ferry was gone. Nevertheless, I went to The Hague to see if a day ferry would be available, but the next one was at midnight also. So we drove to Ostend, arriving about 8am, and took the ferry to Dover. At Dover, I had a hassle with British customs over the car. Although I had ordered a carnet (international document issued by the Automobile clubs to guarantee duty for any motorist who fails to take his car out of the country after being allowed to enter duty-free), the Dusseldorf firm had gotten me a triptique instead. Although much cheaper, it was good only in Western Europe, and NOT in England. After much delay, the AA man at the port finally got me a carnet, and we drove off for York. Having been on the train one night and driven all the next night, I was really beat, and finally had to give up trying to get to York that night.
Trying to take care of Petronella, who didn’t speak a word of English, was quite a problem. She wouldn’t eat anything she wasn’t accustomed to, which included about everything available along the road. She knew me only by reputation, although she must have remembered my visit in 1955. I doubt if she had ever been away from home before, and everything was strange to her. We had bought a “Learn Dutch” course on records and a wind-up phonograph to play them as the family drove from California to Washington, but we really didn’t learn very many words of Dutch. As soon as we caught up with Will and Mary Francis, Petronella felt much more at ease, and I’m sure she enjoyed the rest of the trip.
Mother and Dad were anxiously awaiting us at their hotel in York. Dad wouldn’t leave the hotel for fear I might call, so Mother never did get to the cathedral. After trying unsuccessfully to call, I went to bed exhausted. We reached York the next afternoon, when we should have been in Carlisle, and departed as soon as we could get Dad and Mother checked out. Due to fog and traffic, it was 10pm before we finally reached the train station in Carlisle, where John, Mary Charlotte and the kids had been waiting for us for over six hours, with no food.
Our timetable called for us to
spend several days in London, as Mother, Dad and the kids had never
been there. John, however, had a British pastor friend who had come
to the US on an exchange program, and he wanted to spend the week-end
with him. While the rest were sightseeing, I was busy hunting for and
buying several essential items for our trip, such as the Trans
African Highways book. Somehow John was able to call us and say that
he had been invited to attend the dedication of the American Chapel
of St. Paul’s Cathedral — an event that was a ten-year
highlight for British divines, with the King and Queen in attendance.
He would meet us in Paris on Thursday at the Presbyterian Language
Center. Leaving London Monday morning, we crossed on the ferry to
France, and then drove through Belgium to Amsterdam and Putten, to
return Petronella to her home. We also had to visit the Sperry Rand
office in Amsterdam to pick up the cases of instant coffee, powdered
milk, powdered soup, etc., that I had shipped there for our African
safari. I had learned that Phillips (an affiliate of ITT, where
Margaret and Bob Caruthers had visited often) had produced a
transistorized all-wave portable radio, and thought this would be
great to have while driving across Africa. So we took nearly a day to
go to Eindhoven, where Phillips main plant was, to get the radio.
Finally, coming through Germany and Luxembourg, we headed for Paris
on Wednesday. Driving in Europe is not like driving in the USA! We
could only average about 30 miles an hour, and late afternoon hit us
as we entered Verdun, so we decided to stay there overnight. I called
the Language Center in Paris to leave a message for John, that we
would go to the Gare Hotel (where we had stayed in 1955). About an
hour later the telephone operator called me to say there were eight
Gare hotels in Paris — how would John know which one? Arriving
in Paris in the late morning, I tried to find the Gare St. Lazare
Hotel. Even with a city map, I had great difficulty with both the
traffic and the one-way streets. Finally, after more than an hour of
milling around, we drove by the hotel — and out came John
Bratt, bags in hand! (Miracle #7). He had not yet been to the
Language Center, but had stayed at “our” hotel the
After seeing “Gay Paree”, we headed for Southern France, visiting famous places along the way. To our horror, we found that we had come during the two-week period when almost all hotels close for worker vacations, and did not find a place to stay until after 9pm. Being tired and hungry, we took into the hotel only what we would need for the night — a fatal mistake. The next morning we found the car had been rifled, and all our best things stolen — our radio, Mother’s tweed coat she had bought in York, some clothing Dad had bought, all my wash and wear clothes, and even some of my ties — only the best of them. The report to the police delayed us several hours, and did no good whatever. We never heard further and my German insurance policy got me nothing. Mother and Dad did get some compensation, but the articles were irreplaceable. However, we went on our way through Monaco into Italy and on to Rome. Bill and Doris Tucker, American friends from our local church who were living in Rome, showed us some of the things to see, including the ancient Roman Coliseum. I was struck by Mary Francis’ reaction to the place — she was impressed by the hundreds of cats everywhere, but not at all by the ancient architecture or history of the place. By this time, Dad had had enough of traveling by car. The Kombi was not a particularly comfortable car in which to ride, and there were seven of us. Also Dad wanted to start late and finish early, which made for slow progress. He particularly hated to wait until 7:30pm to get his dinner. So he said he didn’t want to go any further. After all he was 80! After some discussion, we came up with the plan that Mother and Dad would stay longer in Rome and then fly to Athens while we drove through Austria and Yugoslavia. Then they would fly from Athens to Damascus while we drove through Turkey and Syria.
Leaving Rome, we drove up through historic Italian
cities and across Austria to Vienna. There, while the others were
sightseeing, I purchased many items we would need on our trip across
Africa — roof-top carriers, four tires, various spare parts,
gasoline cans, etc., etc. I never did get to see any of the sights,
because we were on a rather tight schedule, since we wanted to be in
Bethlehem Christmas Eve. John had been refused a visa to enter
Yugoslavia everywhere he tried in the US and Europe but was finally
granted one in Vienna. Otherwise he would have had to fly to Athens
from Vienna. We left for the border after dinner, to drive overnight
to Belgrade, reaching there about noon the next day. What a contrast
between drab, dreary Yugoslavia and bright, gay Vienna, decked in its
Christmas decorations! We saw kids plodding along the road at five in
the morning, apparently going to school. We had dinner at a hotel in
Belgrade, and then John and I got our hair cut. We figured the woman
who cut our hair would have to work a full week to pay for a dinner
such as we had just eaten. Then overnight again to Greece, over a
road so rough as to prompt Mary Charlotte to say that the Romans must
have built it, and the Yugoslavs have used it ever since without ever
repairing it. We reached the border a little after daylight, and I
had to use French to handle the immigration and customs affairs. Then
on to Athens. What a magnificent ruin the Acropolis is! It is
incredible to think that these majestic buildings had been
constructed over 2,500 years ago! I was particularly impressed with
the Parthenon, and took many pictures of it — all in vain. I
made the mistake of sending them to Austria for development, since I
had a few Austrian coins to pay the postage to the US, but they never
arrived. Mother and Dad were there waiting for us, and we had a good
time exploring both the ancient and the modern Athens. On the drive
north to Thessalonica, we stopped at the Delphian Oracle, but only
John went in to see it, as it was nearly dark. The roads were narrow
and filled with big trucks. Once during a downpour, a truck forced me
off the road on the mountain side, and the car scraped the mountain,
making several big dents in the door and right side. We were
hopelessly stuck, with the Kombi at a crazy angle. Within less time
than it takes to tell it, four truck drivers stopped, came over to
us, righted the Kombi and went on their way. We got the damage
repaired in Thessalonica, while we rested at a hotel. Leaving
Thessalonica, I managed to get on the wrong road, and became more and
more apprehensive as the road deteriorated. Finally, the Kombi
stopped dead, with the gears locked. I could not budge them. Leaving
the rest in the Kombi (it had started to rain — again), I
walked ahead following a telephone line through a village and into a
pub filled with Greek men drinking coffee. By pantomime I described
my problem. One of the men took my work order from the garage that
repaired the car and called them, using his own money. When the
English-speaking manager came on, I told him where I was and asked
him to come and get me. Several hours later he came with a mechanic,
who was able to get the gear case partially unlocked, so that with
the clutch depressed the Kombi could move. Then they towed me the 15
miles or so back to Thessalonica at the end of a 10-foot towline,
while I held the clutch pedal to the floor. A day later we were on
our way again, this time on the right road.
When we stopped for dinner, I discovered that I had left my overcoat in my hotel room, so I wrote a note to the hotel manager, enclosed all the Greek money I had left, and asked them to mail it to our New York office. It was there when I got home! We crossed the border into Turkey about 2am, having to wake up the immigration official. He kept asking me for my Greek money, as he said it was illegal to take any into Turkey. But I had only a few cents worth. I am sure he simply pocketed whatever was thus confiscated. After spending a day of sightseeing in Istanbul, we crossed the Bosphorus on a very well managed ferry to the Asiatic shore, and headed for Ankara, where another of our local church people was working. We enjoyed a day with them, and then pushed on through Syria into Damascus. At the Syrian border I had quite a hassle with the customs agent, who demanded a large import duty on my four spare tires. The impasse was resolved by writing their serial numbers in my passport. From then on, I engaged the Arab men who promised to “get you through customs” for a fee, which was well worth the cost. Again Mother and Dad were waiting for us in Damascus, and we enjoyed seeing the sights there with them, including the “Street called Straight”, and the place on the wall where the Apostle Paul was let down in a basket (so the sign said). Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the world, and really a tourist must. Then on to Jerusalem.
The ancient part of Jerusalem was in Jordan. The
boundary with Israel was just outside the present walls of ancient
Jerusalem. We could not enter Israel with our Kombi and dared not
leave it in Jordan while entering Israel on foot. So our visit to
Jerusalem was limited to the ancient part. As we came from Amman to
Jerusalem, we stopped over to see the modern Jericho. As we returned
to the Jerusalem highway, we saw that the highway was closed, with
soldiers posted every 200 yards or so, and all traffic barred.
Waiting to see what it was all about, a motorcade drove by containing
King Hussein, as well as other dignitaries, after which the soldiers
withdrew and traffic was resumed.
My recollections of our visit to the Holy Land are not very sharp. I do remember participating with other ‘pilgrims’ in a carol sing on a back road in Bethlehem and of going to one of the shepherds’ caves for a Christmas Eve service. Both were quite impressive reminders of the birth of Jesus so long ago. But the present-day shrines of the Church of the Nativity (Bethlehem) and the Church of the Crucifixion (Jerusalem) rather left me cold. The "Gordon" tomb looked authentic, but even that, somehow, didn’t seem real. I’m glad I went, but I have no desire to go again.
We had one major problem while in Jerusalem — the hotel to which I had written months earlier for reservations had replied after we left that they could not accommodate us after December 23d. However, they did get us reservations at the new Dead Sea Hotel sponsored by the Jordanian government, and we had to go to it after the Christmas Eve activities. It was a very nice hotel, and Dad in particular enjoyed it and said he would like to come and stay a week or more — but he never did. John took the occasion to visit the Qumram caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. It was a rugged trip, and the rest of us declined to make it.
Dad and Mother had decided to fly back to the US in order to attend
Lynne Caruthers wedding to Jim Shaw on December 27th, 1958 (see left),
so we had to get them to Beirut (Lebanon) in
time to make their flight. In driving from Amman to Beirut, we could
see the devastation caused by the brief Syrian-Lebanon war just a few
months earlier — damaged buildings, burned-out vehicles and
other debris. In Beirut itself, the streetlights were not working,
and people delighted in violating traffic regulations like one-way
streets. From our hotel window we could see an Army road-block
stopping all cars and searching them, presumably for weapons.
Bob Smith, the man who had led me to my meeting with the Lord Jesus Christ, and his family were living in Beirut at the time. He was teaching at a small Christian college, and his daughter Roberta was attending the American University of Beirut. Mrs. Smith insisted that we eat our meals with them, as she said it was not safe to eat restaurant or hotel food. At one of the meals we met Dudley Woodberry, Roberta’s fiancée and also a student at AUB. Two years later, we would have the privilege of telling Dudley’s mother in Taiwan all about her new daughter-in-law and family, whom she had never met.
It was time for a check-up on the Kombi, so we turned it in to the VW Agency in Beirut. When we got it, I was told that there was a problem in the motor that had to be taken care of, but which we hadn’t given them time to do, since we were taking a ship for Egypt the next day. I took care of the problem in Cairo. We got Mother and Dad off on their flight, and prepared for our overnight voyage to Port Said, Egypt, boarding the ship that evening.
We docked at Port Said about noon, after an uneventful trip. I had paid an Arab about $25 to get us through customs, including the car, and it was the best bargain I could have gotten. We were routed into a huge building, like a barn, and given printed sheets about a yard square on which we were to list every article we had and its cost. After several hours, the Arab man (who was a Roman Catholic) came to me and said he had to find the Port Director, and needed cab fare. Several times he came back empty handed for more money, and I began to wonder if this was some kind of shakedown. But the customs people made no move to release us, so I sent him off. Finally, about 7pm he came again and said I must go with him. The cab brought us to a downtown restaurant, where a very pleasant Egyptian man joined us. He was the Port Director, and he had us on our way fifteen minutes after we returned to the docks.
The date was Wednesday, December
31, 1958. After a hasty dinner at a restaurant, we started on the
long drive to Cairo, part of which went along the Suez Canal. You may
remember that at the time of the Six Day War with Israel, Egypt
closed the Suez Canal, trapping several hundred ships for many
months. We saw many of those ships, with their lights blazing, as we
drove by. We reached Cairo about midnight, and finally found the
hotel into which we had been booked in Beirut. We had to be 500 miles
up the Nile at El Shellal (near the site of the Aswan Dam) Monday
afternoon to take a once-a-week river boat to the border of the
Sudan. My first stop Thursday morning was to get the motor fixed. The
VW Agency agreed to do it if I would pay the overtime of the two
mechanics (both Thursday, New Year’s, and Friday were
holidays). This turned out to be $5 each! And VW fixed the motor free
under warranty. While that was being done, we hired a guide with a
car to take us to see the sights — the Sphinx, Cheops Pyramid,
and a number of other places of ancient Egypt. Then Saturday morning
I had to go to the Sudanese Embassy to get the car permit to enter
the country. Due to the primitive nature of the Sudan (no made roads
— only desert tracks), the government required a deposit of
$300 per person, in case rescue operations were necessary. I was
prepared to leave the deposit, but was told by the AA office not to
do so, as I would never get it back! The AA office offered to give me
a letter of guarantee for the deposit, which the consul accepted,
after I walked back and forth several times — a mile each way.
Finally, we had all the necessary papers and the car and headed south
on the highway up the Nile to Luxor.
Although the distance was only about 300 miles, it took us all night to drive it. We had been operating as two teams; John and Will were one team, and the two Marys and I were the other. At night we took turns driving and sleeping, on three-hour stints. Being Sunday morning, we attended a Christian church in Luxor, pastored by Rev. Mingarius. He was most friendly to us, and had us come to his home for an afternoon rest, as well as noon and evening meals. It was about 9pm when we got away to go the remaining 100-150 miles to Aswan and El Shellal. Our Trans-African Highways book showed the desert track we were to follow, but we had great difficulty finding it. Finally, after several times in farmers’ yards, we found it and headed for Aswan. What a night that was! The desert track was in terrible shape, and at places it appeared to have been deliberately blocked, once by a huge dike that we managed to drive up on and follow around to the other side of the irrigation canal. It was well after daylight before we met anyone, and I hired a young man to show me the way. He directed us to a place where two dikes met. Along one coming toward us was a huge herd of sheep. On the other a large herd of camels, all roped together. The shepherds shook their fists at us and demanded that we get off the dike. Across the desert I could see what appeared to be some men building a road. With great trepidation, I left the dike and struck out across the open desert. For 500 yards or so all went well, but then we hit a patch of soft sand and bogged down. Nothing we could do did any good, so we sat there. Pretty soon a party of men came from the work area, now much closer, and went back again promising to bring a tractor. Returning in a half hour or so, with tractor and a touring car, they proceeded to get us out and tow us to the work area. The head man got in beside me, and said in excellent English, “You are very wrong in being here. This is a secret airfield. I must take you to the police.” When we were going, he told me about an Egyptian who had stumbled on the place three months earlier, and he was still in jail. The only currency I had was a US$100 bill, which I offered him for his services. He replied, “I don’t take bribes!” After a half hour or so we reached a town, and went to the police office. A police lieutenant interrogated me about a half hour, quite courteously, asking me over and over if we had taken any pictures. Apparently he accepted our story, because the engineer took us in hand again and we headed for Aswan where he brought us to the boat company office — with about an hour to spare! (Miracle #8).
The boat ride was interesting. In the late afternoon, we stopped at the original site of the Abu Simbel Temple (later to be excavated and lifted to the top of the Nile Gorge to escape the waters of the Aswan high dam). It was amazing to be told that an altar a good 100 yards into the mountain wall was so accurately placed that the sun’s rays struck it only once a year! The four statues of the Pharaoh Rameses II that flanked the entrance were huge and very well preserved.
The boat docked early in the
morning at the terminal of the Sudan Railway at Wadi Haifa, where
Egypt ends and the Sudan begins. It took nearly all day to go through
the paper work, get our car off the barge it had come on and onto a
flat car. We had been warned to empty the car of everything we could
carry on the train, as we would have to pay for the car by the kilo.
The car book from VW said the unloaded weight was 1150 kilos, and
that was what I had paid for at El Shellal. But when it was weighed
on the scales at the railhead, they told me the weight was 1550
kilos. That increased my costs over 30%, and already the car freight
was more than the second-class tickets for the five of us. Looking at
the map, I saw that we could get off at Atbara and drive the 175
miles to Khartoum, and would thus not increase the freight charge.
The train ride was overnight, and very hot, as it passed through one
of the most formidable deserts in the world — the Nubian
Desert. We read on our return of a party of two Americans and two
Frenchmen that tried to drive across it and didn’t make it. The
rescuers found two of the men dead near their cars, but never did
find the other two.
While waiting for our car to be unloaded at Atbara, we strolled around the town, and John took quite a few pictures. About an hour later, we were stopped by a military policeman who asked, “You have picture-machine?” John showed him his camera, but the policeman had us follow him to the residence of the provincial governor, where we were entertained for several hours while the military police went over our car for contraband. They didn’t take anything, and we were allowed to proceed, but it made us quite late in reaching Khartoum. Such is life under a military dictatorship.
At Khartoum we had the clutch replaced. I had stripped it in trying to get out of the sand back in Egypt, and we had quite a time getting from Atbara to Khartoum. Everybody had to get out and push whenever we hit a sandy stretch of road. At our hotel we learned that the road west to the Camerouns (where we had planned to visit missionaries from our local church) had many stretches of soft sand, which required either a 4-wheel-drive car or very large tires, which we didn’t have. So we had to change our course and go south directly to Uganda via Juba. Our new route had to be approved by the military government, all of which took time. We finally left Khartoum late in the afternoon on what turned out to be a four-night-and-three day drive to Juba, over desert tracks with no signs, navigating by our Trans-African Highways book, compass and the grace of God. We drove continuously, night and day, stopping only for gas and meals. On one occasion we came to a big bridge, where a long line of cars was waiting. When we got to the head of the line, an Army sergeant proceeded to vaccinate each of us, no questions asked!
At Malakal, we were supposed to visit a Presbyterian missionary named Anderson, so as we drove into the town we asked a white man on a bicycle if he could direct us to the Anderson home. He replied that he was Dr. Anderson! (Miracle #9). At the Anderson home we had a chance to bathe and eat a meal of good old US cooking. As the daughter’s new baby was in serious need of milk, available only from cows on farms and not at all in Malakal, we gave them our case of powdered milk, which should have taken care of the baby until it could eat solid food. Leaving Malakal in the afternoon, we drove for over four hours over desert track that was so rough we often had to proceed in first gear. The resulting gas usage caused us to get dangerously low. We were heading for a town called Jabloich, where our book said we could get gas. The map showed another “road” leading to Melut, on the Nile River, and I remember advising John to be sure to take the correct fork at the road junction. Just before dawn, as John was driving, I was awakened by the stopping of the car. ‘What’s wrong?” I asked John. “The road stopped,” he replied. Will got out with the flashlight (it was very dark), and went a few steps in front of the car. The flashlight disclosed a sign which in Arabic and English said ‘Melut’. Another step and he would have fallen into the Nile River! Now we really were in trouble! Less than half a gallon of gas, and 50 miles off our way! A military policeman arrived to check us out, and said, “Melican missionary,” pointing to a path we had not noticed before. Will went running down the path and came back five minutes later saying, “I saw a white man shaving himself by lantern.” “Well, go back and tell him we are here,” we told him. Very soon, Mr. Koop from Australia, a missionary with the Sudan Interior Mission, came out to us and invited us to his home. When the subject of gas came up, he said, "I have the only gas in over 100 miles — there is none in Jabloich. I operate an emergency landing field for Missionary Aviation Fellowship." Here we were diverted from our planned route by “accident or God” to come to the only source of gas available (Miracle #9). After a delicious breakfast of corn flakes and pancakes, for which we paid in instant coffee, and with a five-gallon can of gasoline, we were on our way by a different road directly to Bor, the next town where gas was available.
We finally arrived in Juba and a hotel for a much needed rest. The ferry across the swiftly flowing Nile was scary, as the ferry boat had to point upstream at a 45-degree angle just to go straight across! Coming out of Juba, the ubiquitous military policeman asked us to take a 10-year-old girl to her home 50 miles down the road to Nimule, on the Uganda border, which we did. At the home, we asked by pantomine to take pictures of the people. They promptly disappeared into their house, and came out a few minutes later dressed in their finest for the pictures. Then on to Uganda.
By now we had used nearly two
weeks of the four available until our ship left Cape Town for Rio de
Janeiro, and we were about half-way there. Crossing the borders was
easy in this part of Africa, I guess because so few cars do it. Our
first overnight stop was to be in a little town with one hotel, which
was full when we got there. The town magistrate, an Englishman,
arranged for us to stay at the home of the provincial governor, Mr.
Cotton, who regaled us all evening with tales of the Mau Mau war in
Kenya, where he was stationed at the time. We were scheduled to visit
the Murchison Falls, where the White Nile thunders through an
18-foot-wide gorge to drop several hundred feet to the plain below.
About seven miles from the falls, the car stopped with a stuck left
front wheel. I jacked it up, and discovered that the bearings were
jammed. John and I were able to free it, but it protested with every
revolution. Here we were, 100 miles from civilization with a bad
wheel bearing! We decided to go to the falls, and I’m glad we
did — they were spectacular! Then the 100-mile journey to
Masindi, the next town on our route. It took all afternoon, after a
delicious lunch at the Park lodge, and had one stop of interest: We
saw a small herd of elephants near the road at a stream crossing.
Will got out with his camera, and went toward the elephants to get a
picture with his telephoto lens. The picture shows this elephant
charging at close range with his trunk in the air. However, John took
a picture of both Will and the elephant, showing the elephant to be a
safe distance away. Nevertheless, both came running, “Let’s
go, the elephants are coming!”
In spite of the bad bearing, we made it into Masindi (Miracle #10), and had no trouble in getting accommodation. The dinner at the hotel included peanut soup, truly the most delicious soup I ever ate! The next morning, I located an Indian merchant who rented his car to me to drive 150 miles to Kampala for a new bearing. An Indian mechanic had taken out the old bearing, which had crumbled over 120 degrees of its circumference. The merchant insisted on his 1l-year-old son accompanying me, and I was glad for the company. We arrived at the parts store at 12:35pm, only to learn it was closed from 12:30 to 4:30! Nothing for it but to wait the four hours, making it about 8pm before we got back to Masindi. Nevertheless, as soon as the bearing was installed, we headed for Kampala and Kenya, crossing the equator in the wee hours of the morning — too dark to take a picture. At Jinja, we crossed over the Jinja Dam, where the Nile River leaves Lake Victoria, its source. The power station there provides electricity for much of the country.
Our next stop was the Tea Hotel in Kericho, a delightful place subsidized by the tea growers and thus quite inexpensive. Near there a lady from our local church taught in a mission school, and we visited her and her sister, in their African-style home. Then we crossed the Great Rift Valley through Kenya to Nairobi, where our main sightseeing was to the Nairobi Game Park, a must for any visitor to that city. Then we drove south into Tanganyika (now Tanzania), past Mount Kilamanjaro, whose top we were lucky to see, as it is usually cloud-covered. Once when John was driving, he left the road to chase a herd of hundreds of zebras. The next night as I was driving, I stopped the car just in time to have a herd of giraffe thunder across the road right in front of me. The drive through Tanzania to Lusaka was uneventful, except for a time when we had to drive until after 3pm before coming to a place we could get our lunch, and then all the inn could give us was tomato sandwiches. From Lusaka (Zambia) we drove to Livingstone and the great Victoria Falls — three Niagaras wide and two Niagaras high! It was such a tremendous sight that we were not content with the afternoon visit, but returned the next morning for more pictures. Then across the suspension bridge over the Zambesi Gorge and on a one-track road 150 miles to Wankie, a coal mining town in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and a like distance to the city of Bulawayo. From Bulawayo, it was several hours drive to Beitbridge, at the border of South Africa, which we reached in the early hours of the morning, crossing at daylight.
We didn’t spend much time in sightseeing, as our sailing date was getting close and we still had nearly 2,000 miles to go. We did take a detour to visit Kruger National Park, and from there proceeded to Pretoria and Johannesburg, where we got mail from the Sperry Rand office. We were quite impressed with the size and nature of Soweto (SOuth WEst TOwnship, a segregated area for blacks who work in Johannesburg) and the huge mounds — blocks long — of waste material from the gold mines — right in the city! Then our route took us south to Port Elizabeth, and along the coast to Cape Town. There we learned to our dismay that we would have grave problems in bringing our car into Brazil. We had bought our steamship tickets and paid for the car shipment through the AAA in Los Angeles, but they had told us nothing of the 600% duty Brazil charges on imported cars! We could not even sell the car in South Africa, because the duty there was about equal to the car’s value, since VW had its South African assembly plants. So we had to carry out our original plans and battle it out when we got to Brazil.
We left Cape Town on the the lnterocean liner Titjalenka, a three-tier passenger/freight ship carrying Japanese, Chinese, and Western passengers and cuisine, each separate from the others. On the second or third day out, all three “classes” joined in for the Chinese New Year’s celebration and feast, with firecrackers popping everywhere, and big dragons moving menacingly around on the deck. Every night at dinner Will would study the menu for many minutes trying to decide which of the three desserts offered he would take. On the third night, the waiter said he could have all three if he wished. Needless to say, Will had three desserts for the rest of the voyage. It was our first family experience aboard ship, and we thoroughly enjoyed it, although the 13 days did seem rather long before we finally docked at Santos, Brazil, to unload our cargo of raw rubber. What disappointed us the most was that the ship deliberately reached Rio de Janeiro the day after Mardi Gras! I suppose the owners were afraid the crew might go berserk if they were allowed there for that event.
Brazil was not only far different from what I expected, it was far different from any society I had ever seen. For one thing there was no color line. People’s skin ranged from Nordic white to deep African black, and nobody seemed to pay any attention to the shade. For another thing, chicanery was a way of life. Those people practiced every form of dishonesty known to man, as a way of life. By far the most corrupt were the police. We heard horrendous tales of what police had done to innocent people. When we first arrived, I was warned that the cabbies at the dock would charge us three prices to take us the few blocks to the hotels, so I went into the city on foot and got a cab. It nearly precipitated a riot when I had him come back to the dock to pick up our party and baggage. I went to the custom office every day for 13 days before they would release our car. Even then, although we had a carnet that was supposedly recognized by Brazil we had to get a letter of guarantee for $7500 from Sperry Rand before we could get the car (eight days later). I’m sure the customs people unspokenly demanded a bribe, which I refused to suggest. We made contact with Presbyterian missionaries soon after arriving, and spent much time with them, in sightseeing by street car, and by visiting Copacabana, Sugar Loaf, the zoo and other visitor attractions around the city. There was no lack of cars, although I was told their average age was 12 years! When we finally did get our car, I was warned by the missionaries to go immediately to the office where it could be registered in Brazil and where both John and I could get Brazilian driving licenses, even though we had international permits. We reluctantly did so, paying a fellow to get the paper work done for us (in Portuguese) as we could not do it ourselves. Leaving that office, we hadn’t gone three blocks before being pulled over by a motorcycle cop, who was quite unhappy when he could find nothing to charge us with. Having the car once again enabled us to drive to Sao Paulo, now Brazil’s largest city, but then competing with Rio for that distinction. We also went to nearby Campinas, where the Brazilian Presbyterian Church operated an audio-visual center. They showed us an organ which had been left to them in the will of a woman from Pennsylvania. The customs people refused to release it without the payment of a huge duty, so the missionaries had a private bill passed by the national legislature to allow it to come in duty-free. This still did not move the customs people, until the Supreme Court ruled that that particular organ was the one designated in the bill! Nobody received magazines by mail. The postal people would steal them and sell them on the streets. When you mailed a letter at the post office, you had to insist that it be canceled as you paid for it, or the clerk would pocket your money, and throw your letter into the trash. We saw a long line of trucks along a highway just outside of the city, waiting to have their cargoes inspected and pay the duty each state charged for shipments entering it from another Brazilian state. One of the main reasons for building the new capital of Brasilia was to shake loose the parasites on the Federal government. We were told that there were three persons on the government payroll for every desk in Rio! I could go on and on, but I think you can get the picture of this society. I went to the American Embassy to inquire if the other South American republics we had planned to drive through would give us such a hard time as Brazil had. They would tell us absolutely nothing, in spite of a letter I had from Senator Connally (through Marion) asking that I be helped in any way feasible. So we decided to give up the trip to Argentina, Chile and the other West Coast countries, and fly back to the US. I had to arrange for my company to ship the car to the US in order to release them from their letter of guarantee. This entailed a complicated procedure for executing a power of attorney for one of the Univac people to act for me in shipping the car. The office of issue looked up each of us in three huge files. Even so, it took a lawyer one full day’s work to obtain the document. My American Express card was a life-saver, as I had just about exhausted the letter of credit with which we had started. The Card was so new in Rio that I had to take our hotel bill to the American Express office and get a check for the hotel, before we could check out. Somehow I learned of a new airline just getting started, and they offered to take us to Miami, without charging overweight on our voluminous baggage, including Will’s “blood-stained” Mau Mau shield and spear. So after three weeks in “friendly” Brazil, we took to the air, stopping at Manaus, Bogota, Medellin, Panama City and finally Miami. John stopped over in Bogota and came in a day later. In Miami, I called Mother and had her send me a draft for $1,000, with which I bought a used Pontiac station wagon to transport us to Washington and then Los Angeles. It was quite a trip!
It is always dangerous to try to read the mind of God, but I
believe that God did have some definite purposes for enabling us to
take that trip. They are these (perhaps among many others): (1) We
needed to experience His care under situations where we had no way of
taking care of ourselves. This is brought out particularly in the
incident of the “secret airfield” at Aswan and the
“accidental” deviation in route to lead us to Melut and
the only gas within a hundred miles. (2) We needed to see
missionaries in their working environment as we did in Melut and
Malakal. (3) Our family needed to have a “together”
experience where we all shared in the adventure. (4) We had the
opportunity of exposing Mother and Dad to Europe and the Middle East
under conditions favorable to them, and to give Petronella a chance
to see something of the world around her. (5) It gave Will and Mary
Francis an experience that would last them a lifetime. (6) It was the
first of many such trips the Lord had in mind for me, and the
experiences it provided were invaluable in planning for and carrying
out the later trips. (7) The many “miracles” that God
performed to make this trip possible were clear proof of His
willingness to provide for all details of the work He calls one to
do. I cannot begin to relate all the many ways God showed this
willingness in later trips, but I will point out the more spectacular
ones. This trip represented the first time in my life when I was
consciously aware that God was in full control of all events and I
had no reason to fear for myself or for my loved ones, no matter how
bleak a situation might appear.
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