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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Caravan of Selves 5: 29-35 years 1973-1980

1973-76 Hillcrest School, Jos, Nigeria.
I have a jumble of memories about these first three years in Nigeria: homesickness, culture shock, new friends, teaching from an American curriculum (with textbooks even for the younger grades!)

Hillcrest is school for missionaries children and other children whose parents want them to have an American education. It covers all the grades from 1-13. Many of the children live in hostels run by the ten missionary societies who also share the staffing of the school. (At least that's how it used to be. The current school website suggests only two hostels now.) Although I have dozens of photos I'm disappointed that most of them are poor quality. Over the years they have faded and don't scan well. This was before era of digital photography!!
4th Grade class. My first year at Hillcrest.

Of course we had to learn about NZ!

Middle school building where I taught 8th Grade for next few years.
Once I settled in to new routines and got over the culture shock (both of Nigerian and American culture!) I had wonderful years in Nigeria. I made many new friends - both school staff and SIM women in the apartment block I eventually moved into. We often went on picnics together and celebrated each others special occasions.
In my apartment. A birthday dinner for Diane my next door neighbour.

Climbing rock formations in surrounding countryside.

Martha Underwood (Principal) and Fluffy!

Stopping for morning tea en route to...?

Jos had a large water reservoir that was a great place for walks and enjoying water views.
8th Grade Bible Class girls round for a games evening
In 1974 Mum and Dad came for a visit. Dad was on the SIM Council in NZ so a trip to SIM stations in Nigeria was arranged. It was wonderful to show them where I lived and worked. They saw more of  the whole country of Nigeria on their trip than I ever did.
Mum and me outside my upstairs apartment.

Dad with Pastors at one of his speaking engagements.

Visiting John and Ladi at their home. John was my "house boy".

A village pottery.

During one of his meetings in Jos, Dad had what seemed like a TIA (small stroke) in the middle of his address to SIM leaders. It was terrifying to see him unable to continue. One of the men had to go and help him from the stage. Fortunately there was a good mission hospital in Jos where he was well looked after for several days until pronounced OK to continue his trip around the rest of the country. It must have been very scary for Mum wondering if it would happen again.

1976. Furlough and Dad's death
I was due for furlough in 1976 and arrived home on 21st June (mid-winter!!). Mum and Dad had retired to Waikanae while I was away but came to Auckland to welcome me home.

That evening there was an SIM council meeting. I encouraged Dad to go as I was jet lagged and wouldn't be much company for the evening. Mum, Dad and I were staying in a bach near my brother Peter's manse in Whangaparaoa. I woke in the middle of the night to discover Mum anxiously saying Dad had not come home. I put clothes over my pyjamas and went out looking for a phone box to ring Peter. He came and took us back to their place. We called the police. Gwenyth looked after Mum while Peter and I were told to drive slowly the route Dad would have taken. The Police would start at the Baptist Tabernacle where the meeting had been held and meet us if anything was found. They pulled us over in Takapuna and told us Dad had been found dead in his car in the Tab car park. We were then taken to the mortuary to identify his body. That was a horrible experience.
We got back to Whangaparoa in the early hours of the morning.

Apparently Dad had prayed the closing prayer at the SIM meeting and gone out to the car and died (presumably of a major heart attack) before starting the engine. He was only 67. It was a very fitting way for Dad to die but a pretty hard way for me to spend my first night home!
The last photo I have of Mum and Dad together. Taken at Easter 1976 by a friend of mine.
The funeral was held in the Baptist Tabernacle where Dad had been minister for 8 years when we first came to NZ. So although it was all terribly shocking we were grateful that his funeral could be there and many of the Tab and Bible College friends were able to come.

Going back to their 'new' home in Waikanae with Mum was very hard for both of us. I had never been there and Mum had left with Dad and the expectation that three of us would return. They had turned Dad's study into a bedroom for me...

During my 6 month furlough I had to decide whether to return to Nigeria or stay in NZ to support Mum. It was a pretty tough few months. I was in a new environment in Waikanae with no networks of supportive friends as I would have had in Auckland. After a couple of months of just surviving Mum was keen for me to go and stay in Auckland for a while - which was very generous of her. She was also keen for me to return to Nigeria as planned. That's the kind of person Mum was. No subtle hints that she hoped I would stay. I'm sure it was best for both of us that I did go back but it was not an easy decision. It was a great blessing that my sister Merrie and brother Andrew also lived in the area with their families so I knew Mum would be well cared for.
Family farewelling me back to Nigeria.

1977-79 Back to Nigeria
It was good to get back to the familiar territory of Nigeria and Hillcrest School. I have trouble now separating these two and a half years from the earlier years there. That probably doesn't matter. I continued to teach in the middle school (Grades 7 and 8). I had my own home room class but also taught English, Health and Bible to other middle school classes. Friendships with staff, Nigerian friends and other SIM missionaries were rich and broadening of my perspectives - theologically and culturally.
Ines Penny with local women

Me, Martha and Lois at 8th Grade ball!

My lovely yellow Bug! Borrowed from furloughing missionaries

In those days being a career missionary meant that you would probably stay "on the field" until you retired. But during these years I began to feel that that wouldn't be my story. It was as if my roots were being loosened but I had no idea what for. I know I sometimes thought "I'd love to teach adults".

Then totally out of the blue I received a letter from David Stewart - Principal of BCNZ. He prayed for all "his" graduates and said he was aware that when I did my training there had been no Theological degree available. So he was writing to ask me to prayerfully consider returning to BCNZ to do my BTh and MTh studies. Would I consider teaching in the Diploma classes and thus paying no fees? Writing this now it does seem amazing that this invitation came exactly when I was feeling "my roots being loosened".

It was in some ways not an easy decision. It felt a bit like deserting the role I had been committed to. But in the end it really was very clear that God was in this. So in 1979 I bid farewell to Hillcrest and the many friends in Nigeria and headed back to NZ. I had no savings or household equipment. When I left for Nigeria my basic supplies were shipped from NZ in two or three 44 gallon drums. Furniture and other essentials had been accumulated from missionaries going on furlough or retiring. I seem to remember I came back with just two suitcases.

1979-80 Transition back to NZ
These were transition years back into NZ. At first I was accommodated in a room in the single women's quarters at BCNZ. That was good given that I had no furniture or household items. I felt homesick for Nigeria and my own flat and my friends. But to some extent BCNZ was a familiar place and I did have some support networks in Auckland.

In 1979 and 80 I completed my BTh studies. (I had been given one year credit from my earlier diploma study.) To my surprise I was awarded the Felix Arnott prize for heading the First Class Honours list and the David Garnsey Scholarship for advanced theological study. This was an unexpected blessing in helping me financially for the next two years of study.

During this time I was also teaching diploma classes in Christian Education, Christian Doctrine and New Testament. It was often strange to be sitting in a lecture as a student and then getting up to be the lecturer of the next class. I was never quite sure if I was thought of as student or staff. I do remember students often seeking me out as "not quite staff" to listen, empathise and pray. The benefit of being accommodated with them and having had missionary experience was a plus.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Caravan of Selves 4: 22-28 years 1966-1973

After my PA year I continued to teach at Henderson Intermediate for two more years 1967-1968. This time I had Form 2 classes of mixed ability - 43 students in each class! That was normal, it seems. They were often challenging children but I loved them and loved teaching so I was happy. I do remember coming home some afternoons feeling totally exhausted and sure I couldn't do another day - but of course I always did. Every year I read CS Lewis's Narnia books to the children at the end of most days. I enjoyed that as much as they did!
Form 2 1967

In 1969 I taught a standard 4 class at Ranui Primary school. With these younger children I could branch out a bit more into some of the creative approaches to teaching that my final year at TColl had allowed me to explore. Very satisfying! One memory is of making the children's creative writing into a book - laboriously copied on the Banda machine and stapled together.

Standard 4 1969

One Easter during these years Dad was speaking at an Easter Camp at Ngaruawahia. In his love of walking he went out exploring one afternoon and got lost in the bush. When he did not return for the next meeting search parties went looking for him. The police were called in when he was not found by nightfall. He was out for two nights and the police warned the searchers they may no longer be looking for a live person. But amazingly he walked out - on the other side of the ridge he had climbed. A farmer noticed him and alerted the rescuers. They said his hand knitted thick wool jersey helped him to survive the cold winter nights.
Family celebrating Dad's return. He is wearing the jersey Mum had knitted!

During 1969 I started thinking about doing theological training. Bible College of NZ was the obvious choice as Dad was a lecturer there. I think in my family preparing for some form of "Christian service" was a given. Not that it was in any way expected - it just seemed natural.
So I applied and was accepted for the following year.

Over the next two years I completed a Dip Theol and a Dip RE (religious education). No degrees were available at that time - which became significant later. I enjoyed the study and made many good friends.
Student leadership team
As women's president I had a larger room with a telephone - note its antiquity!

Obviously it was not all hard work!

One of the things I was most concerned about was that God would call me to be a missionary! I couldn't imagine how hard it would be to "go to darkest Africa" (or anywhere else) as a single woman. I prayed a lot - telling God I was willing to serve him anywhere in NZ but please don't send me overseas. But... in a series of ways that are too long to elaborate here, I knew that "going to darkest Africa" was indeed what God had in mind for  me. Now I can see that facing my greatest fear was the very best thing to free me for many other challenges in the years to come. But at the time it just felt terrifying.

I applied to SIM hoping to be placed in a school for missionaries children in Nigeria. However, the need was greater in the Education Department to work on curricula and other educational resources. So that was where I was expecting to work. Shortly before I was to leave a NZ teacher  (Anne Power) in the mission school had to resign as she gave birth to twins, one of whom died. That very sad occurrence meant that in the end it was to a school for missionaries children that I went! I can't remember who said "God's guidance is usually easier to see in hindsight"!

Before my farewell in Glen Eden Baptist Church I had jokingly said, "They'd better not sing that awful hymn: 'So send I you, to labour unrewarded...'" But you guessed it - there it was on the
programme. It really is a terrible hymn!! Here's the first verse and there are four more equally dire verses! Click here if you can bear to read them!

So send I you to labour unrewarded
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing
So send I you to toil for Me alone

So in 1972 I set off in much fear and trepidation. I was warmly welcomed by fellow NZers Helen and Gordon Stanley who were based in Jos where I was to live. Here is my first accommodation - a flat in the Guest House. I lived there for some months until an apartment was available.
My first home in Jos, Nigeria
I remember huge cockroaches and trying to work out how to use the bucket shower and the small gas stove. But I was kindly looked after during the early months of culture shock.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Caravan of Selves 3: 15-21 years 1959-1966

I am realising that every seven year period covers so many major events! Not surprising of course, but a salutary reminder to make the most of every year... every day.

The wedding that nearly wasn't!
1962 was a particularly momentous year. In April my sister Merrie got married - just! She developed viral meningitis the day before her wedding! She was able to get out of bed, put on her wedding dress and she and Marty Heaslip said their vows in our lounge with close family present before she went back to bed. Marty bravely went to the reception on his own. There was no time to cancel anything.
Merrie and Marty walking into our lounge. Bridesmaid Miriam behind.
Bridal party and close family. I am middle bridesmaid. Andrew with folded arms on right!

Adventure or Nightmare?
A week later Mum, Dad, Andrew (12) and I (16) set off for what was to be a wonderful world trip to accompany Dad as he spoke at various mission events in India and Africa. Then on to England and Wales to visit family. A whole book could be written about this trip - but not for the expected reasons. I endured agonising pain in my ears on the first two legs of the journey and ended up with a hospital appointment in Singapore where a specialist decreed that I shouldn't travel by air because my ear drums may rupture. (Hadn't they invented grommets by then???) Apparently I have extremely narrow eustachian tubes.

My poor Dad and Mum!

The whole trip upended and hard decisions to be made. I'm including their photos as a tribute to the wonderful parents they were. Sadly I have no photos at all of the trip itself.

Dad continued the trip as planned as he had important speaking engagements. Mum, Andrew and I stayed in Singapore (mostly accommodated with missionaries I think) until a cargo ship was available to take a few passengers to England. The boat obviously wasn't designed for the entertainment of passengers - only twelve of us on board. But it was adequate. The very first night en route the ship collided with another cargo ship and had to return to Singapore for major repairs! We were accommodated in the Railway Hotel (pretty basic) and given a set amount of money for each day's food. My wonderful mother made it a game to see if we could eat for less than that amount and save some for doing other things. We didn't know how long it would take for repairs to the ship to be completed. It ended up being close to a month!
Finally we were back on board and on our way. We were told there would be no stops until Hamburg where cargo was to be unloaded. I can't remember how long that took but we were glad to have a day to go ashore and wander round. However, it was a cold wet day! When we got back to the wharf where a taxi boat would take us to the cargo ship we looked across and saw smoke billowing out of the boat!! Yes, our boat was on fire! Apparently some of the cargo had caught fire (crew smoking in the hold?) We had to stay at the wharf for some time until we were told the cabins were not affected and it was safe to go back on board to pack up and retrieve our belongings. They assured us the company would fly us to England!

Another very hard decision for Mum. She tried to get us on a ferry but it was school holidays and no immediate spaces were available. In the end we had to fly and with great prayer and nervousness I agreed to get on a plane and hope I survived the pain. Thankfully I did - and my ear drums stayed intact. In all of this I don't remember ever being made to feel it was "all my fault". Of course technically it wasn't - but looking back I'm so grateful I didn't carry the weight of it all.

Strangely I have very little memory of our time in England and Wales. I know we visited Dad's parents and Mum's Dad and Aunty Freda who lived with him and looked after him.

We got back to NZ in time for my older brother, Peter's wedding to Gwenyth Conway in December. That wedding went as planned!
Peter and Gwenyth 15th Dec 1962

In 1963 I went back to Epsom Girls for my 6th form year. It was a bit strange being with a class of people I had not gone through school with but it was fine and to my surprise I was made a prefect.
Prefects EGGS 1963. Me centre back.
Beginning My Teaching Career
1963-1964 I was at Auckland Teachers' Training College. I had always wanted to be a teacher. No other job had ever appealed to me. So those years were wonderful. In the second year about a dozen of us were offered the opportunity to be in an experimental group with one lecturer (Mr Slane) to oversee our chosen study. It was quite adventurous for the college to do this, I think. We could each choose which lectures to go to, what special areas we would research and how many "sections" (weeks out in a school classroom) we would do.

I've never been a "hoarder" so I have no record now of the research projects I did although I know they were around the philosophy of a creative/alternative way of teaching. AN Whitehead and Carl Rogers writings were significant. I was awarded a cup at the end of my TColl years - I honestly don't remember why! I know the big cup had to be returned after a year and I was given a small "tinny" looking replica - which eventually got thrown away - so I can't even look to see what it was for.  I was obviously not interested in fame!

1965: My P.A. (first) year teaching was at Henderson Intermediate. Here are my lovely children! I relished every bit of that first year. No doubt the children were chosen as well behaved and co-operative - which they were.
Form 1 at Henderson Intermediate 1966

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Caravan of Selves 2: 8-14 years 1952-1959

A lot happens in seven years! As I reflect on this chapter some things stand out: changing from Primary School to Intermediate School to High School. That's a lot of transitions. I was fortunate that I enjoyed school and seemed to always have friends.
Ten years old. Front row 3rd from left.
This photo shows I had two boys and one girl I "didn't like" (crosses drawn on faces)!! I also notice I wasn't wearing glasses yet.
Twelve years old. Middle row third from left.
We had a very nice teacher (whose name I forget) for both Form 1 and 2. I loved Intermediate school except that my parents didn't allow me to learn dancing (!) so I had to sit and watch as the others learned ballroom dancing in readiness for the Form 2 ball.

I was baptised by Dad at the Baptist Tabernacle the day after my 13th birthday. I still have the Daily Light my sister Merry gave me on that occasion.

During these childhood/adolescent years a major highlight was our annual holidays on Ponui Island where Dad was chaplain at the Crusader Camps. Mum and Andrew and I (and sometimes Merry and Peter) camped out in the wool shed. The wool shed was in a paddock that often had a bull in it!! I'm very sad I don't have more photos of Ponui as it was a pivotal place in my life. Ponui is privately owned by the Chamberlain family. There are no roads, no cars, no shops and no "stranger danger" so I was free to wander in solitude without fear and soak up the incredible beauty of bush and beach. It nurtured the inherent contemplative part of me - long before I knew the word!
Getting from the launch to shore. Me in prow hanging on to a friend.
Colleen and me.

Me on left, Andrew the smallest boy. 

I'm pretty sure this was taken at Ponui. Peter, Dad, Merry, Mum, me, Andrew.
The next two photos (from Google) are well remembered aspects of the island.

Free roaming donkeys - a real feature of Ponui!

The peaceful mix of farm and beach

And then to High School - Epsom Girls Grammar School - EGGS for short. At first I rode my bike to school but when we moved to Glen Eden I caught the train every day. We "train girls" were allowed to pack our school bags and put on our hats and gloves just before the bell rang so we could run to the station and catch the train!
I turned 14 in my third form year. Second row from back second in from left.
I was in Form 3AL - L for Latin A for top stream. I don't remember anything much about Latin now!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Caravan of Selves 1: 0-7 years 1945-1952

Baby - born 1945 in England
Grateful for a happy secure childhood in a loving family. Born at the end of the war I escaped the traumas of air-raid drills, gas masks and being being evacuated.

About 5 years old
From 2 years old (after I had whooping cough) I remember constant attacks of bronchitis. Mum taught me to knit. I'm proud of this jumper which I knitted (with some help) - red with white fairisle pattern!

I started school in England but don't really remember anything about it. This photo shows my school blazer - Leighcliff School.
Andrew and Sheila Christmas before leaving England

35 Leighcliff Rd where we lived before coming to NZ. (Photo taken on a trip back to England.)
I remember open fires - roasting chestnuts on the fire at Christmas, -being in bed a lot with bronchitis and Mum or Dad staying with me during the night as I was afraid I couldn't breathe if I went to sleep.

1952 On board the P&O Strathaird to set off for NZ.
L-R Grandad, Grandma, Merrie, Peter, me with ? behind me, Dad with Andrew, Mum
I appreciate now, more than ever, the courage of my Mum bringing four children aged 16, 14, 6 and 2 across the world away from all family, friends and contacts. Dad too, of course, but for him it was an exciting call to a new ministry.

The family photo for welcome to Auckland Baptist Tabernacle
Sheila, Mum (Kate), Meriel, Andrew, Dad (John), Peter.
The years at the Tab were happy for me. We lived in the Manse at 15 Henley Rd, Mt Eden.
This is the only (very poor) photo I have of it.
15 Henley Rd, Mt Eden (Andrew outside)

Still lots of bronchitis and time away from school but I read books constantly and my schooling didn't seem to suffer.

1953 Mt Eden Normal Primary.
I'm second row from back, fifth in from left.
Seven years old and in Mr Martin's class. He was my favourite teacher and is still someone I remember with warmth.