African Adventures, Part 1


[ Grave of Cecil Rhodes ]

April 19 – I grew up in Southern Rhodesia, named after Cecil John Rhodes. My parents went as missionaries in 1935, and their first assignment was to Solusi Mission, the oldest SDA mission station in the world, named after old chief Soluswe who lived in the area, and now is Solusi University. Solusi is about 30 miles away from Bulawayo, the second largest city of Zimbabwe, which is what Southern Rhodesia used to be called.

When the first missionaries came to the area of Southern Rhodesia, Cecil Rhodes gave them about 1000 acres of land for their mission station. He died in South Africa, near Cape Town, but his grave is in the Matopos hills in Zimbabwe, in a cavity dug out of the great pinkish granite stone of a high hill, or koppie. From this grave site one can look out over a large part of the land that he loved. Cecil Rhodes was a politician, a prime minister, an Englishman who hoped to see all the land between Cape Town and Cairo under British rule.


[ Carved axes ]

This part of the country was the territory of the Matabele tribe, a tribe that moved north from Zululand when the chief had a disagreement with the Zulu king. Like the Zulus, the Matabele were a warlike tribe and conquered all the smaller tribes in this area. Tired of being subjugated by the white people, the Matabele staged a rebellion and went raiding and killing the Europeans around the country.

To find safety, the missionaries at Solusi fled to the city of Bulawayo. The Africans left on the mission station took the missionaries’ furniture and hid it in a cave, and after the rebellion they returned it to the missionaries. I have been in that cave – and came out all itchy with the toxic hairs from a kind of caterpillar that clung in large numbers to the rocky ceiling.

Between Solusi and Bulawayo there is a quite large river, the Gwaai, which is dry for much of the year and had a very sandy crossing. When the mission truck, called a lorry over there, made its weekly shopping trip to Bulawayo, several young dormitory men went along on the back in case they were needed to help along the way. One week the driver, my dad, stopped to pick up an old villager who needed a ride. At the river Gwaai the truck got stuck in the sand and the young men got off to push. The old man tried to be helpful, and while remaining on the truck bed he pushed valiantly against the back of the cab!

One summer I was a literature evangelist and sold books in Bulawayo, and cycled home for the week-ends. Much of the road was sandy, and I often noticed the trail of pythons in the and as they crossed the road at night.


[ My dog Blitz ]

My parents were twice assigned to Solusi, once to Rusangu in Northern Rhodesia, now called Zambia, and once to Lower Gwelo back in Zimbabwe. Lower Gwelo is where Chris was sent from Erie, PA, to be a teacher. At that time I worked in Gwelo, Zimbabwe’s third largest city, as a customs clearing/travel agent. I ended up clearing Chris’ goods through customs, and so we got acquainted.

About then my folks returned to the USA for a year’s vacation and I spent that time boarding with a church family in Gwelo. I had to give away my dog Blitz, and Chris was the lucky recipient. To see Blitz I would ride out to the mission on my motorcycle now and then, a 20 mile trip.


[ Wedding Bells ]

Eventually I was seeing more of Chris than of Blitz, and on May 1st, 1955, we were married in Gwelo, now Gweru. We spent part of our honeymoon at the Victoria Falls on the Zambesi River. The town of Livingstone was close by, on the Zambia side of the river, and there was a place there where the wood carvers and potters and weavers assembled to sell their wares.  – DALE

(come back tomorrow for part 2)

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