After many years of ministry in the ‘boondocks’, Carol and I were asked to move into town to assume duties as Field Secretary (administrator) and Field Treasurer. We had enjoyed our years “out of town”, the supervision of primary schools, construction, working with the African pastors, opening a new station and planting new churches and, after that, doing maintenance work at the main mission/church hospital. It’s interesting in that we had told ourselves that “we would never move to town” – but the Lord had other plans.
So, we found ourselves in Mwanza. I remodeled what had been a church bookshop to provide for the Headquarters for the Africa Inland Church, put in a sewage system and was given one of the 5 rooms as an office for Africa Inland Mission matters. It was good to be in close contact with the national church leadership and we could work together on many matters – immigration, finance, missionary assignments, etc.
As the field Mission “director” I was responsible both to the church and the government for the oversight of the field missionaries. Also, in case of any touch-and-go situation, I was supposed to be “the last word” relating to missionaries. And, that included the responsibility of being the Executor in the case of the death of any missionary on the field.
One of our single lady missionaries, who had been a missionary for many years – in fact, she was on the field for years before I even became a missionary – had an unfortunate accident and passed away. With the African church leaders, I planned her funeral, made the needed notifications to the national government and the American Embassy. And, I was the official legal Executor.
Difficulty – as was often done in early missions, this lady had raised an African man from boyhood. As he grew he showed real promise in ministry but later he lost his fervor. Even though he was married now and had a family and they lived nearby, he rarely darkened the door of the church and was just generally ambivalent to spiritual matters. But because he had been raised by this lady missionary he considered himself to be her sole “inheritor” and made it known that everything she owned belonged to him.
The problem was that I had her Last Will and Testament, certified by the town magistrate, that made no mention of him as inheriting anything. He didn’t like that at all.
To try to mollify him, I gave him her good shortwave radio, a good silverware set and, to his wife, several of her best dresses. These were delivered to him, nothing was said (not even “thanks”) and I thought all was cared for. I carried on disposing (selling) her other household things and distributing funds received as per her wishes. (See my blog of July 15, 2016 – Clerk of the Court)
About a month or so later the African church leader called me into his office. He showed me a letter, duly stamped by local authorities, that accused me of taking away that man’s inheritance, of blatant racism and that I should be deported from the country as undesirable. Copies of the letter had been sent to the political party headquarters, to the Central and Regional government leadership, to the Police Commander and to many others whom the writer thought would rally to his cause.
Of course this caused my heart to sink. These were the days of real anti-foreigner feelings, of political party interference in many local matters and a lot of general unrest. All I could to was leave this in the Lord’s hands. The church leader and I prayed about the matter and agreed to do nothing to complicate matters.
Very little more happened. The only inquiry about the matter came from the local Police Commander. All we did was refer him to the town Magistrate who had verified the Will and the solicitor whom I used. I was not even asked to produce evidence of having made the distributions as the Will had stipulated.
“All is quiet on the Western Front” is a well known saying. And that was true – to our relief – in this matter. And again, another “Thank You Lord” for caring for matters which were beyond our ability.
About that man who claimed to be the Inheritor? The last I heard was that he was in prison, accused of anti-government and anti-political party activities. I never saw or heard from him again.