Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Adventure

One of the most vivid of memories that I have, growing up as a child in southern Africa, is how the missionaries celebrated Christmas. It is quite a different thing to celebrate Christmas in the southern hemisphere. So many of our images—reinforced in carols and stories—are of an idyllic kind of Christmas, probably from the Victorian era. But, in a place where Christmas falls in the middle of summer, the images of celebrating Christmas are quite different.

In Southern Rhodesia, where my parents were, missionaries were in the habit of getting together around Christmas to have a Christmas picnic. With Christmas falling in the summer, a picnic was a natural way to celebrate. There was one indelibly memorable Christmas picnic, in 1958. The missionaries had gathered at Matopo Mission, in the heart of the
Matopo Hills (photo above on Matopo Hills taken by my nephew) near Bulawayo, for Christmas. The picnic location was one of the out-station schools, which was about eight miles from the main mission station. (An out-station school might consist of several rough buildings, but not proper enclosed building.)

The missionaries in Southern Rhodesia and their children were gathered, some 50 or 60 people in all. The festivities included a picnic lunch and a program that we missionary children had arranged. In the middle of a baseball game, it began to rain lightly, and then it poured. People dashed for the open buildings at the school to wait out the rain. They proceeded to eat the lunch, have the program and then readied to make their way back to main mission.

The road to reach the school included crossing a dry river bed. When the entourage of cars, vans and pickups reached the river bed, they now found a raging river. The rain that had disrupted the baseball game at the picnic site had dumped massive quantities of rain further upstream. There was no way to cross the river. Consequently, two missionaries men hiked back to the mission through the Matopo Hills. They were able to reach the mission without having to cross the river, as they did not have to follow the road. Once back at the mission, they got the mission tractor to drive back and rescue the stranded missionary party. The tractor had a diesel engine, so even though the water was still high, they were able to drive it across the river. They had attached a flatbed trailer to the tractor, and had brought along chains. The plan was that the missionaries could be loaded on the flatbed trailer. However, on examination, the adults finally decided they could have all their passengers inside the vehicles, and then hook up and tow each vehicle across the swollen river.

And that’s how the picnic ended. Bit by bit, the entire party was rescued. I can still remember how much fun we children had with this most adventuresome picnic. Now, more than 50 years after this event, I can still recall the Christmas picnic where we were flooded!


Jayne said...

A world away, and still Christmas! Merry Christmas Donna!

Harriet Bicksler said...

You would think that I would remember this too. I know I always enjoyed these big missionary gatherings at Christmas. However, we moved to Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) at the end of 1957 and therefore probably wouldn't have been part of this particular Christmas celebration.

Anvilcloud said...

Even in the southern hemisphere, Christmas weather can be problematic.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! Not such a fun memory for the adults, I'm sure! (Glad you got to eat lunch though. :) )

Ruth said...

What an exciting time that must have been for the children...not so much for the adults. I remember spending our South African Christmases at the beach.

NCmountainwoman said...

A memorable Christmas indeed. I hope you will share even more of your childhood adventures in Africa. I love hearing them.

troutbirder said...

Catching up here after our Christmas Colorado. Upon your recommendation I came back with Unbroken and a very much looking forward to reading it. Also after several weeks finished the Twain biography. It will take me a while to get my head around that one. Like you comment on an African Chirstmas adventure and also writing Christmas letters (my job in our family).
Happy New Year!