Saturday, January 06, 2007
The Tree by the Cook-House
She'd set sail from Canada for what was then known as the Congo, full of excitement and anticipation, following the call of God. In her teens she had felt called to go to China at a time when there were rumours of missionaries were being boiled in oil. She made up her mind to go--a streak of Scottish grit--combined with a determination to follow Christ--was stronger than her fears, but the door to China stayed firmly shut and a boat bound for Africa via England, was where she found herself.
After weeks of travel by boat and then by sedan chair, carried into the jungle, she found herself in another world. The African children called her Mama Macadoni, but some fifty years later, I knew her as Agnes MacDonald, my friend.
She had another friend back in the jungle, a young missionary named Frances. Frances was as spunky as Agnes, with a head of glorious red hair. The missionaries often fell prey to tropical diseases and there was a burial ground high on a hill. All of them kept wooden coffins, prepared for use if suddenly needed--in the heat of Africa, quick burial was essential.
Agnes had joked with Frances that if she were to die, she did not want to be buried far away in the missionary burial ground; "Make sure they bury me under that tree by the cook-house, she had said to Frances, little knowing that before long she would be critically ill with malaria.
Not expected to live, Agnes sank into a coma. She couldn't move or speak, but she could hear everything said in her room. She heard Frances and she was arguing with someone--insisting that if Agnes died, she was going to be buried under the tree by the cook-house.
Agnes looked forward to dying and seeing Jesus. She had just received word of her beloved mother's death back in Canada. There was nothing to go home for anymore and she felt so very ill.
Then she heard him praying, calling on God to heal her. When she heard his prayer she knew she wasn't going to die. She wanted to tell the man in her room to stop, he was interfering with her plans, but she couldn't get the words out.
Agnes did recover from that crisis, but having malaria meant that she had to leave Africa and go home. She left behind Frances and someone else very special whom she loved. Her first love had died in the first world war and now she could never be a missionary wife in Africa. Agnes never married--she came back to Canada and worked at the Pentecostal Assembies of Canada head office for many years before I met her, an old lady by that time.
The paths that a life takes are sometimes hard to understand. I have no idea why the door to China remained shut--although I'm glad it did, or Agnes may have ended up in a cooking pot--and I have no idea why a willing heart and pair of hands, were sent back from the Congo--but I do know that if I hadn't met Agnes, I would have missed part of who I became through knowing her.