Chapter 4 - Lubwa (1927-1931)
Lubwa was one of a chain of Church of Scotland mission stations in the heart of Livingstone country. It is near the equator and does have a hot climate, but less hot than might be expected, as it is at an altitude of 4,400ft. - the height of Ben Nevis. It is five miles from Chinsali - a government station marked on most good maps. Dr. and Mrs. Brown had just time to notice the beauty of their new surroundings before their work began again, although this time they were not the only white missionaries - Mr. and Mrs. McMinn (Minister and Nursing Sister) were there to welcome them. The two older children had been left at home to go to school in Edinburgh, spending most holidays at Annan, but it was not long until another boy was born. Sad to say this little one lived only thirteen months - now there were two tiny graves in African soil, but as the years went by they were not looked on with bitterness but as ties of love.
Medical work started right away with night calls and numerous emergencies, but several hours a day had to be spent in learning the new language (Chibemba). It was the youngest member of the family, Mary, now two years old, who learned it most easily, as she learned it in the natural way, through play and conversation. Her parents, learning the hard way, would be amazed and envious to hear the child's effortless chatter with her little black-skinned chums.
However in four month's time Dr. Brown was able to give the sermon at the communion service which had been conducted by Mr. McMinn. Next day in the dispensary his African helpers could not understand his difficulty in making out their conversation - "Doctor, we could understand everything that you said.'"
At Lubwa there was a training school where students would come from a wide area. Part of their training would be lay preaching in the nearby villages and Dr. Brown got to know his district well by accompanying different preachers each Sunday. Later, slightly longer tours of the villages would be arranged, called "Ulendos" in this part of Africa. The Doctor travelled on foot or by bushcar (a chair, balanced on one wheel, with a bearer fore and aft - otherwise known as "a contraption for getting in on one side and falling out the other." If there was a village school this would be examined; there would be an open-air dispensary; probably a hygiene lesson; teaching a new hymn or chorus; and a camp-fire evening service would end each day.
Dr. Brown regarded this village work to be of supreme importance and always regretted when he was tied to his work on the station at Lubwa. Circular letters were still sent out annually - it was impossible to find time to write more often - and were full of fascinating incidents and humour as well as facts and statistics and pleas for help. One example follows:
"Our hospital work has had its tragic and sad cases but happily there are also instances of humorous relief ....One morning before Nurse Service returned from furlough, I had just opened an abscess and had sent Simon off with the lancet to sterilise it. Meanwhile a woman had mounted the operating table, but only for an abdominal examination. Just then Simon opened the door and handed me the knife which, without thinking, I held up to examine. Suddenly, with a wild shriek, the woman leaped from the table and bounded out of the door crying for dear life, "IYO! IYO!" (No! No!)
"She thought I was about to open her abdomen! We all had a hearty laugh over it; for that is the kind of joke your African seems to enjoy, and, needless to say, the woman returned for examination and treatment."
It was about 1929 that the Rhodesian Copper Belt was being developed, and this proved to be a magnet for some of the Lubwa men. Simon, the hospital assistant in the previous incident, was one who left. Many times workers would be trained in the mission, and just when they were competent and useful they would go off where they could earn more money. The missionaries could only let them go with their blessing and a prayer that they would remember their Christian teaching - and start training new workers! "Tribal and family restraints are weakening; age-long sanctions are dissolving and materialistic individualism is becoming more in evidence. If the savage African needed the Gospel a generation ago, much more does his hastily civilised son need it today...... Happily the government is acknowledging responsibility to give us extra financial help, so that we may be able to pay our teachers a wage which will diminish the temptation for them to go off!"
As time went by, added to the regular mission work, a building programme was embarked on "...the bulk of my time seems to be occupied in running up and down the hill, looking after the workers. I wonder sometimes why I took a medical and theological course in order to become a glorified "gaffer"! Happily these moods pass and one learns to thank God that one can help these people in a few more ways than preaching to them only, though the preaching of the gospel must ever be our chief concern."
Some three or four day's journey away was a Roman Catholic mission station, and it is sad to reflect that they were all working for the same Master but yet could not agree. If only the "White Fathers" had taken their Gospel to the many thousands of Africans who had not been reached by any form of Christianity, instead of infiltrating into Protestant-influenced territories, they might have worked happily side by side. Church of Scotland missions demanded study and probation before baptism, in order that, if possible, the people should be able to read God's Word for themselves, and in order that Presbyterian systems of self-government might be built up. Dr. Brown felt strongly that the Roman way of baptism and "claiming as theirs" attracted the spiritually indolent, and led to early backsliding.
When Dr. Brown was asked not to invite any of their people who happened to be patients in our hospital to join in our morning worship, he replied, "Every inmate in Our hospital is invited to join in our daily worship and will continue to be so, but he is at liberty to refuse without being in any way penalised." He said, "We will not refuse enlightenment of mind or healing of body to any man, be he heathen, Romanist, or what he will, be he desirous of joining us in worship or no."
An incident took place involving one of the Lubwa-trained teachers, Reuben, who was a deacon of the Church and took village services on Sundays. He had courteously provided a hut for two Roman Catholic African agents when they asked if they might stay the night in the village. Reuben conducted his Saturday work and worship as usual, but great was the annoyance of the Roman Catholics when no-one accepted their invitation to their service – annoyance shown by shouting rudely throughout the village. Next morning they observed Reuben's morning service – "a goodly and reverent company of 78 baptised Christians and many more come to worship." At the end Reuben told the people not to worry about the baRoma causing a disturbance – "We have in our hands God's book containing his message to men."
Poor Reuben – his own tribal chief's village was one of the neighbouring Roman Catholic mission stations, and there he was summoned to account for his behaviour. First of all his chief showed his power by having Reuben put in handcuffs (supplied to chiefs by government for dangerous criminals). Then he was forced to attend their service. When Dr. Brown later asked him about this, he said, "Realising that I was in a place of worship, I knelt in prayer in my own heart, as I had learned to do."
After the service Reuben stood before the German Roman Catholic priest and his own chief to answer for his sins. "What is this you say about God's book?" he was eventually asked.
"Before I tell you anything, I have a question to put to you. On whose authority have you caused me to be thus bound?" No-one present would accept the responsibility so before long they let him go, on condition that he preached no more, nor spread it abroad that he had been handcuffed. Needless to say the incident had been witnessed by many and was already spread abroad, and Reuben would never promise to give up teaching his beliefs. The matter was finally taken to the local representative of British Justice, who gave Reuben the right to prosecute his chief, Mubanga, for damages. Dr. Brown replied for Reuben that he did not take the case to the authorities "through any vindictive spirit of retaliation but only with the desire to prevent any repetition of such conduct by Mubanga or by others. We therefore waive the right to claim damages."
However the reprimand was given full publicity in all the district, not enhancing the prestige of Rome, but also bringing home the fact that British rule stands for religious liberty and even-handed justice for all.
Sad to say, other differences occurred as the years went by. Dr. Brown commented, "It is all very unseemly and un-Christianlike, and bewildering to the heathen onlooker as well as to the Christian convert. It is nothing short of a tragedy that so many men, many of them devoted souls, should be sent by their hierarchical overlords to places where there is clearly no room for them, whilst vast stretches of rank heathenism – more open to them than to us – are left neglected and untouched…. But what is there for us to do but to go on as hitherto, rejoicing that the Gospel must and shall prevail?"
Pages created 1st March 2006