Saturday, June 20, 2015

Portrait of a Man

In recognition of Father's Day--I offer this brief portrait of the life of a man--he is my father, David.

David was born in 1919, and is the baby in this photo. While he was born in Pennsylvania, when he was less than 2 years old, his parents, along with him and his older brother, went as missionaries to southern Africa.

The family lived there for 10 years, returning to the United States in 1929.  While they were there, the third son was born, as you can see in the photo below--the three sons: Arthur, David, and Joel.

Since the formative years of his growing up were spent in a place with a sub-tropical climate, he felt somewhat out of place in the eastern United States. Maybe the clothing in the photo--which was taken in southern Africa before they returned to the U.S.-- also helps explain why he felt out of place.  The life he was accustomed to was not what he experienced upon the family's return. Not until his family moved to southern California in 1933 did he feel connected to where he lived. He loved southern California which reminded him of the climate and scenery in southern Africa.

The next photo shows my father as a young man--he is 18 years old. It was the summer of 1937, and he had just finished high school. Since his family was not rich, and since after returning to the U.S. his parents had two more children, daughters, they informed him that he needed to make his own way in the world.

It was a hard decision--but he did it--found work, saved money, and made plans to go to college .  And then he met my mother at a church revival meeting in Pennsylvania.

Of course, the tidy way in which I present this information lacks nuance and detail--of which there is much nuance and many details. These few details are only to give you a sense of a young man growing up.

Once my father had sufficient funds to go to college, he chose a college in California. My mother, soon after they became engaged, joined him there. And in October, 1942 they were married.

When my father graduated from college, he got a job teaching in central California. Because of that, he had a deferment from military service.  I was born in 1945, just before the end of World War II.  

Although my father was teaching, he had a sense of calling to be a missionary, as his parents had been.  Happily, my mother had the same sense.  When they were accepted by the mission board of their church, they were sent to what was then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

At the very young age of 27 my father was assigned as superintendent of a mission station near the Zambezi River in southern Zambia.  The conditions then were somewhat primitive--no electricity, no indoor plumbing for example. 

Over the next 19 years, my parents served in various capacities in both Northern and Southern Rhodesia.  He was superintendent of another mission station, this time in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and eventually bishop of all the mission work for his church in southern Africa.  During those years, my parents also had an infant daughter die (of malaria), had a son born and another daughter born.  

In 1965, my parents returned to the U.S. for good. I had been in the U.S. from 1960 to 1965, and through the generosity of a benefactor was able to meet my parents after that 5 year absence in London. 

My father, who is now 96, has a prodigious memory and from reading his autobiography, which he has worked on for some 20 plus years, I have learned many tales about his time in mission and church work.

Of course, I have my own stories to tell about my father.  But I would rather turn your attention to a post I wrote on a prior Father's Day--here are the things I learned from my father.



Harriet Bicksler said...

i have often been amazed at your father's prodigious memory! Your family and mine are inextricably linked, not only by somewhat distant blood, but also by deep friendship forged at least in part during their journey together to Africa in 1946. I have just been reading my dad's memoirs again and was reminded of what a journey that was.

KGMom said...

Harriet--the tales of that 1946 journey are among the nuances and details that I didn't relate. In his own memoirs, my dad notes how unusual it was in that day for a missionary party to travel from the U.S. to southern Africa by air. It was post World War II, so ship travel was not plentiful, and somehow the travel agent who suggested air travel was able to get them flights. The journey was multi-day and multi-stops. I can only imagine how your mother, with a young son, and my mother with me a toddler, coped. I do know, from stories, that we children slept in the aisle on the planes. I also learned from my dad that when they landed in what was then Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) my dad thought he could display his knowledge to my mother. However, it was my mother who understood a question being posed to them--and she helped my dad know what to answer.
Quite some heritage we share in many ways.

Harriet Bicksler said...

When I was reading again about that journey, I was struck again by the number of stops, and the countries/continents touched down on, even if briefly. You and John added a bunch of countries to your life list without even knowing it! And yes, it must have been quite trying for our mothers to entertain and care for young children throughout the journey.

Anonymous said...

Actually when I graduated from College and moved to Waukena I was sent as Pastor of the BiC Chucrh there, which is what gave me Draft Deferment. I was a bi-vocational pastor. The church did not pay a living salary and I augmented it as a school teacher. Two different school districts. In the first the Principal & I were the only male teachers. In the second, the Principle, another male who had a physical condition, & I were the only male teachers. The others had all been drafted.

Father Climenhaga

Climenheise said...

Thank you for the memories and pictures.

NCmountainwoman said...

How wonderful that your father has written his journey. What an interesting story.

KGMom said...

Anonymous (also known as my father David)--thanks for the clarification. I had thought that the teaching position was the reason you were deferred, but being a pastor would also make sense. It is interesting to me that bi-vocational pastors are returning, as many churches become too small to support a pastor full-time.

Ginnie said...

What an interesting life and your share in it too. Thanks for introducing him to us.