Tuesday, December 30, 2008
[Photo: Frank and Ella White, September 1984)
Dedicated to our Family ... the children and their children.
"Take my life and let it be,
Consecrated Lord, to Thee ..."
I would begin this story with the words from the Consecration Hymn which have always been very precious and real to me from the days of my childhood and youth, in Christian Endeavour circles and the local Baptist Church as well as in a Christian home.
Early in life I found great delight in the reading of missionary biographies and in particular, Mary Slessor of Calabar and many others. The era was one of great courage on the part of anyone who volunteered - or perhaps I should say, who heard the 'Call' to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.
There were many dangers, and severe, fatal illnesses were very common. Medicine and surgery have taken great strides forward since the mid-1900's.
However, to the young zealous candidate, the unknown did not present anything so terrible, which could not be faced in the Lord's strength. Faith missions were pioneering work all over the world, wherever doors were open. The China Inland Mission (CIM), whose founder was Dr J Hudson Taylor was an international interdenominational mission, working in inland China. The CIM was a 'faith mission'; no funds were solicited, and no appeals made. All needs were taken to the Lord in prayer and not told to anyone. So each member's faith was tested and strengthened. All moneys received were equally distributed from the General Director to the newest raw recruit: each lived on the same remittance.
Certain qualifications were needed, and especially after World War II when the doors to China were open once more. I was encouraged whilst still in my teens to train as a nurse and a midwife. My general training from 1936-40 was done at the Royal Brisbane Hospital and midwifery at the Royal Women's. During those years there were many lessons to learn besides learning to be a good nurse! Good fellowship with other Christian nurses was a real strength and friendships with some of the 'girls' remain until this day.
Although the war was on and it was very difficult to travel interstate, I was able to proceed to the Melbourne Bible Institute for further training. The MBI was indeed a place where the Lord was honoured and the studies were such as were both evangelical and strongly supportive of God's Holy Word. The practical training during those two years included open-air meetings, religious instruction in schools, Sunday School teaching, and housework, as well as set study periods. There was OT and NT, Church History, Greek, etc.
Getting on with other students, though not always a pleasant experience, was very much a preparation for the mission field. I had to learn that there were other points of view beside my own - a valuable lesson, especially later in life when the Lord led in a very unexpected way.
I can only summarize this part of my life, and as I drew near to the end of my training, the 'where' of the Call to the mission field became most important. The war was still on and doors were closed. In various ways, through God's Word to me through the Scriptures, and circumstances, I eventually offered an application to the CIM and was accepted.
Late in 1945, I left Brisbane for Melbourne from whence I left my native Australia to go via India by Ship, then by plane to China. My senior missionary was also from Queensland and we were joined by a large group of Americans, Canadians and New Zealanders at Port Melbourne. We spent Christmas 1945 at sea.
After a week in India, we left for Inland China, flying in ex-American war aircraft, arriving in Chungking, the wartime capital. We were soon adapting to sights and scenes and smells.
Language study was full time for the first few months at Loshan in Szechwan Province, and from there I was designated to NW China - the city of Lanchou, where the Mission had a Leprosarium and Hospital [Borden Memorial Hospital, built with the legacy of Borden of Yale.]
Lanchou was an ancient city, situated near the Tibetan border and a city of trade for Turks, Moguls, Russians, Tibetans and Chinese. It was not so unusual to meet 'foreigners' in the city streets. The North-West section of the Great Wall surrounded Lanchou reminding one of the need for protection in bygone eras.
Most days were spent in language study for the morning, and afternoons with a Chinese teacher. The Outpatient's Clinic was open in the city and the hospital was over the river - a wide expanse of ice during winter. Snow fell in Lanchou on the very day I met another Queenslander, whom I had never met previously, though I had heard about him.
God's thoughts and ways are above and beyond ours, and in His providence He ordained that we should meet so far away from home. Frank was traveling by truck to the farest way-out towns with medical supplies which were very scarce after the war. He had to go through Lanchou to get to his destination and was able to spend a few days there enroute both going and returning. Our friendship grew as we corresponded - as he was working in the city of Fenghsiang in Shensi Province. After completion of my third language exam, we planned to marry. This was not easy in inland China. As we were both British (Australian) we would need to be married either by a Church of England Minister or a Registrar-General. We chose the former, though it meant a long trip to the coast. The Director -General of the CIM was Bishop Frank Houghton and he performed the wedding ceremony on September 10th, 1947. We invited all the residents at Sinza Rd CIM Headquarters to attend the wedding, as none of our own relatives were able to be present.
After our honeymoon in Hangchou ("Heaven above and Hangchou below" - a proverb describing the beauty of the place) we returned to the west where we were to live as the first white people in the industrial city of Tsai-chai-po. A small three-room house, with mud floors and outside kitchen was our first home. My studies continued while Frank did the preaching and evangelizing. We were on the railroad not far from Fengshiang where Frank had been working before our marriage.
One spring morning we had an unexpected visit from Elder Kang. He was really worried and he had come to tell us that one of our missionaries, a lady from Sweden, had been taken to the village square, accused of "eating the people's rice, and using the people's money", and she was stoned to death for her crime. Her station was in the next province, not very far away, and the Communist army had infiltrated that far into the inland, and they were still advancing day by day.
While the elder could advise us, he must leave it to us to make a decision - to go, evacuate our home and mission station, or to stay and suffer the consequences. As we wondered, talked and prayed together, sorting belongings and our books, a small piece of paper fell on to the floor. It was the message from God that we needed. In beautiful Old English handwriting, these words were written:
"I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land". Genesis 28:15.
We needed no further guidance, and Frank began to plan our journey - how to go and where to go? We were able to hire a horse cart and boy driver and in this we put our few belongings and I sat on the hard seat and felt every bump along that day's journey!
Frank rode his push-bike alongside and just at dusk, we arrived at another railway town, where there was an inn. How wonderfully God plans for us! As we wondered what to do Frank met an old friend who immediately took control of our situation. Colonel Lui arranged for us to stay inside his room, until time to go to the Railway station. There we were to get into the coal bin of an engine, which was to go to get water, alone - no carriages. So into the bin we climbed and spent the next four hours traveling into the night. At long last we arrived somewhere in the shunting yard and were grateful for the help of a ladder to climb down to terra firma.
Frank went off to get coolies to carry our belongings. I stayed between railway tracks, with the stuff! Chinese men walked past me murmuring "foreigner!". I seemed to be there for hours. It seemed almost never ending, but at last Frank returned with the two coolies. He was extremely quiet and seemed shaken. He could say nothing until later when we could talk. He had been mistaken for a Russian spy and was challenged by the soldiers. He had quite a job to convince them that he was a missionary and where he had come from and how. His heart was less 'hung up' when he was allowed past those trigger-happy teenagers carrying guns.
As we walked along the streets to the only chapel, we saw swords flashing and there seemed to be an atmosphere of apprehension. Obviously, we were really no safer here than at home. However, we went to sleep for the rest of the night on the bare boards which served as pews in the little building.
God still led on - "all places", literally. A young couple from USA had hired a truck, they had German RC Sisters and a group of orphans with them, and we added two more for good measure. As our friends could not speak much Chinese, they were grateful to have Frank's help in this way. After the usual delays, we moved off to the South-West, meeting more evacuees at each stop. We traveled over mountains in this way for several days, on various old worn out wartime trucks and jeeps. The last four days were spent relaxing (?) on the river going further south to the nearest Mission Hospital at Paoning Sze. Frank by this time was worn out and needed to be examined by a doctor. I was five months pregnant, but survived remarkably well the eight-day trip. We soon made new friends at Paoning and settled down to life in the Anglican area. Frank and I were both cared for by Dr George Armstrong, and a deep friendship began which still last. The Armstrongs now live in Tasmania and it was our joy to visit them there a few years ago.
War-time 'diets' are hard on people, and due to a lack of vitamins, Frank was urged to take early furlough. The political situation continued to deteriorate and though we came away for a furlough officially, (when baby Marion was 8 months old) we were not able to return as Missionaries.
Marion Frances (Hua Kwei Ning, or Hwa Cassia of Peace) was born [date omitted] in Paoning, Szechuan. She had fair hair and lovely blue eyes and we thought she was the most beautiful baby! After her birth, I continued my studies, and Frank preached at the Outpatients Department. A white baby caused a stir among the people and especially when we traveled there would be a great crowd looking at her - also peeping through holes in windows of the inns.
The Journey Home is a story which we wrote when we came home and though we have forgotten many details, we remember the flights, boat trips on rivers, and ocean journey - Hong Knog into Brisbane River and home to our loved ones and families. "All Places".
After some time with my parents, I went down to live at Redland Bay where Frank was helping on the farm, as well as doing some deputation work.
Our hearts were very much in the full-time ministry and this period of our lives was one we ourselves would never have chosen. We had many lessons to learn.
Marion grew into a little girl and in [month] 1950, Joyce Isabella was born. She was entirely different in her looks - with dark hair and brown eyes. We were living for a time in the old home, and later in a cottage which belonged to Frank's Auntie. The years went by, and the twins made their arrival very exciting. Well do I remember the Doctor's words - Esther Jane was born first, and then "there is an heir in the White family" when Frank (Francis David) arrived. It was on a Saturday night and when Frank visited me at 'Boothville' next day, he brought me waterlilies from the dam.
[Photo: Ella holding the twins, Esther Jane and Francis David, with Marion and Joy, 1952]
We were very busy parents with four little children, and everyone tried to help us. Frank was helping on the farm and both Mother (White) and Vyn were most helpful. Frank's father had passed away before the twins were born and he was very much missed.
This period of our lives was restless in some ways, as we still felt to call of service, yet the door into China was firmly closed, with the Bamboo Curtain cutting off that land from the rest of the world. We prayed very much about what we should do and where we should go. There seemed to be no 'open door' and the children were all very young. Mission societies at that time did not look favourably on married couples with children.
After much earnest prayer and in answer to an advertisement, Frank was appointed as Farm Overseer at Bamaga, Cape York. He had to go ahead of me and as I was expecting a baby (Barbara Ruth was born on Thursday Island in [month] 1953). I made the trip by plane alone with the four little ones. Baby Esther Jane had just begun to walk, and Francis David had not yet started. My sister Betty to me to the Airfield and saw me onto the aircraft which took me to Townsville, where we stayed overnight in a hotel. Nappies became a problem as my nappy bag had been left in the luggage section and I could not get it. Hostesses were not very thoughtful - noone offered to help with the twins. How wonderful it was when we arrived safely on Horn Island and Frank was there to welcome us.
I will try to tell you my first impressions of life in Cape York. It seemed like the end of the earth! Yes I will call this part of my life story "Life in the end of the earth, the far northern tip of Queensland."
After Frank met us at the airfield we went to Thursday Island (TI) and from there by launch to Bamaga. The other passengers were either Torres Strait Islanders or Aboriginals or of mixed race.
Our house was one of five wooden houses in a row, and in this 'street' the white staff lived - just a mile or two from the village. Opposite us was the farm, which Frank was managing. Along the road or dirt track were ant hills and trees - no variety at all, very much the same everywhere one could see.
As I entered my kitchen, I took one look at the old wood stove (I was used to that variety) and at the absence of stocked shelves. One large bag of flour for baking bread - it was weavely - had taken months to get there by boat. My food orders were sent across to TI but never will I forget that feeling which came over me in that bare kitchen: "What do I feed them with?" A few large tins of bully beef represented the meat, now and again we had fish and dugong as presents from the natives. Bread of course must be made two or three times a week. I was a complete amateur and it's no time to start learning when there are four little children. Two [native] girls came to help - Ugari and Annie Ano. Both loved children but had no idea of how to do any housework. The beds had to be made every day?? The floor swept? etc etc. Never mind, they did their best and were kind to the children. Marion had 'Correspondence' lessons from Brisbane and I taught her the early art of writing, spelling and reading as well as sums and tables in her first year. She did well and received a Book prize autographed by the wife of the State Governor, Lady Lavarak.
Occasionally we took the family to the jetty at Red Island Point to have a swim [photo of Marion and Joy on turtle], but it was positively dangerous as it was well known that not only were sharks in the water, but also crocodiles. Another 'outing' was a jeep run to the wartime airfield built by the Americans, then in a state of disrepair. How often I longed for the sight of a plane. Life was very much the same six days a week: work for Frank, five days school for Marion, making the best fun possible without many toys for Joy, Frank and Esther (and later Barbara and Annette) and what did we do with ourselves on Sunday?
We were the only professing Christians among the white population. No one else was interested in 'Church'. However, we were able to invite some of the children to our place and there we met each Sunday for Sunday School. What a contrast to the life in the city or suburbia or even country life!
News soon got around that we were different and we were also concerned with discipline. We prayed for those who 'got drunk', particularly one young man who was ring leader*. At one time the village had an epidemic of measles - the first time the Islanders had known the disease. On the settlement within walking distance of home was a small hospital - 4 or 5 beds - more like a dispensary, but practically no stock! I was in charge officially as Matron. Two native girls assisted me. We nursed all of the sick ones. Those over 100 degrees F were given Penicillin. Only one young girl was transferred to TI with complications. All of the other victims recovered and the White family of five children did not catch the measles - then! (They did later in life!!)
One other report is worth recording as I remember it very well. When Barbara Ruth was expected, the Doctor on TI insisted that I should go to TI at least two months before the birth. I was introduced to the Presbyterian Home Missionary and his wife with whom I stayed for that period. How often I would wander down to the beach and look across the water towards the mainland. It was terribly lonely for me and much more of a trial for Frank at Bamaga with four little ones to look after. Ugari and Annie helped. One day, little boy Frank, aged about 18 months, took ill and did not respond to treatment which was prescribed over the radio telephone. Eventually he had to be brought across by boat to TI hospital.
Before that, there was one experience that Frank loves to relate, though at the time he was most anxious and under extreme pressure: really worried if we would lose our little boy. The doctor on TI had ordered a Penicillin injection. Frank was to give it to him himself. So he told the two Islander girls to prepare some boiling water to be used as sterile water for the syringe and needle. He gave explicit instructions about finding a little 'pot' to use for the procedure. Having to go out of the kitchen for some reason, imagine his surprise and intense frustration when he returned to get the injection ready. Here on top of the wood stove sat 'a little pot' - no other than the children's little plastic potty!!.
Well, Annie brought Francis David across on the boat to TI the next day - very ill and looking extremely pale.
The Director of Native Affairs went to the jetty - there was no ambulance - and he carried the baby to the hospital. About that time I was informed of what was going on, and as I was already in hospital, I was there when he arrived. He hardly knew me, but seemed to improve quickly afterwards. His cot was placed next to my bed. Barbara Ruth came into the world that night or early morning [date] and so we felt much more like a family again and were soon on our way back to Bamaga - all fit and well. Praise the Lord! We were extremely happy to be together again as a family. Fresh milk was also a problem, and so the familiar Sunshine Powdered gave us all the milk we needed in place of fresh. One could say, "Life wasn't meant to be easy!"
A crisis developed at the end of our two years at Bamaga. Were we to stay on or go? Where should we go? We had relatives but we were now a big family of six children, our Annette Mary having been born at TI. She was still quite a young baby. For her birth, we all transferred to TI. Frank was given a job in the office on a temporary basis and this suited us well, so we did not have the same kind of testings.
We began to pray very specifically:
1. for a home to live in
2. for a school where the children could go
3. for an opportunity to preach the gospel.
We did not have an 'Open Door' at Bamaga. We prayed earnestly and the Lord very graciously and in His own wonderful way answered those 'three in one' petitions. "My thoughts and My ways are higher than yours."
[Photo: Ella with Barbara and Annette, 1956]
A letter arrived one day from the Director of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland. What a surprise answer to our prayers! We could not ignore or reject that letter with the invitation to Frank to become a Presbyterian Home Missionary, as though the Director had heard our specific needs - a Manse, a school, and several places to preach the Gospel were all there in the letter.
* I must now retrace my steps a little to tell another story about Cape York.
The young man, the ring leader, was not full-blood Aboriginal as the majority were. He was almost white in colour, was intelligent, and well endowed physically,, but he was often drunk and was well known in the village. We prayed for him - "Jack". Frank often had to deal with situations, which were not only difficult but also positively dangerous when the men were drinking, and one such incident involved my two nurses at the hospital.
Many years later, a middle-aged man with an Aboriginal wife and family met us at a Billy Graham Crusade. "Hello, Mr White. Do you remember me?" Yes, it was Jack, a born-again Christian now. Praise God for answered prayer. He went on to become a leader in his own Church, and still serves the Lord faithfully and well.
Changes come into our lives from time to time, as the Lord directs and sometimes they are not very easy for us to understand or accept. For me personally, while sure that God had heard and answered our prayer, particularly for an opeen door for the preaching of the Gospel, both Frank and I had been called by God to the Mission field years before. We did not forget this fact, yet to face up to the responsibility of a change of denomination and doctrine was a very deep and real experience for many months and years of study, prayer and acceptance, particularly with regard to the subject of Believer's Baptism and the Baptism of infants. In have no doubt that this was (and is) the perfect will of God for me, now after 30 years in the Presbyterian Church of Queensland. Frank began studies for ordination later and step by step the Lord has led us along life's way.
While at Nanango, our last baby was born - Christine Jessica - another beautiful daughter. They were (and still are) all beautiful children. We had the usual problems and illnesses while at the Nanango Manse, the most serious being Marion's viral pneumonia. Dr Mitchell came and 'did the rounds' whenever we had an infectious disease, and he also sutured Barbara's thumb when she sliced it in a car door, and mended Jane's broken elbow when she fell (??) off a stool!
In order to be nearer Brisbane for studies at the University and the Theological Hall, we were transferred to Gatton for one year, then on to Pine Rivers Charge where we remained for four years until studies were completed.
[Photo: Marion and Joy with little Chrissy, at Bald Hills]
The first 'Call' came from Miles in Western Queensland. As a growing family, we moved with all our seven children plus the cat and kittens. We spent three happy years at Miles before we again moved for the sake of the children's education. This time we came back to the city, to Windsor, and there the family 'grew up' for almost ten years.
Many years later we found ourslves back in Miles for a year helping out during a vacancy, and soon afterwards our eldest daughter Marion's husband, Stuart Andrews, received a 'Call' to Miles.
The suburb of Windsor - I remember going for a ride on the first tram as a child! My home was in the next suburb of The Grange, and so going to Windsor was, in one sense, going back to familiar surroundings. There were still some old friends and acquaintances and my sister Barbara and her husband Bob were living in the old home in Primrose Street. How often during my nursing days I had passed by the Windsor Church in its attractive setting. The building itself was attractive, being Tudor style, and the lawns were well kept with some lovely shade trees - more such trees were added by Frank who planted trees wherever we went. Those same trees are now very beautiful and shady. Behind the Church, was a well built modern Hall and it was used by young and old alike.
Unfortunately, because we were a large family, the Manse was not so suitable, but we managed to survive. A part of the verandah was portioned off for Frank Jnr. And the girls lived three in one room and three in another - a tight squeeze for teenagers! However, during those years our family began to leave the nest one by one. Marion became a teacher and was transferred to Townsville where she met Stuart who became her husband. Joy did nursing training and then decided on Melbourne for her mid-wifery where she met Noel who is now her husband. Jane taught locally and in the country until she met another teacher whom she married - Christopher. Frank did his engineering course with TAA before leaving for Ballarat where he joined MAF for some years. He learnt to fly during that time. Barbara was sent to Nambour High School and after some years there she returned to Brisbane while Annette also became a school teacher in the suburbs, and Christine concluded her high school days and preparedto enter University just at the end of the Windsor era.
All through the various Charges, Frank did Religious Instruction in the schools, both Primary and High, and he instructed hundreds of young people in Catechism and Scripture. I held the position of President of the local womens guild for many years and enjoyed the involvement with the women, though I could not fully accept or appreciate all the methods of fund-raising. I also joined the choir (when there was one) and sang Contralto - particularly at Windsor. When the children were in their teens, the Youth Group performed a Cantata and our Annette was the Conductress. It was a great success. Later, Ann went on to learn singing at the Conservatorium. Each member of the family has his/her own special talents, which I rejoice to see are being used for the Lord. "I have no greater joy, that my children walk in Truth." (1John 1)
The girls learned to cook and sew, weave and paint, and they are all very good with art work - an answer to my prayer that they would be better than I was!!
During Windsor days, Billy Graham Crusades were held in Brisbane, and the whole family became involved. Previously, while at Pine Rivers, the children had made meaningful decisions for Christ and each one knew that he/she was a Christian. They enjoyed going to various SU camps and beach missions, as well as Youth For Asia (OMF) at Mt Tamborine. The place was also a hive of activity with cars and motor bikes when they each one acquired a license - the little VW and the old Austin were 'specials' and very faithfully sold by one to the other as the need arose. Frank and I took our long-service leave while at Windsor and enjoyed a trip as far south as Ballarat and Melbourne.
In the last year at Windsor, I spent three days a week at the Royal Women's Hospital, having done a refresher course. This experience was most stimulating and even though it made me extremely tired, I felt very fulfilled. My work was with the mothers (post-natal) and babies.
Joy was the first member of our family to be married. Noel and his family came up from Melbourne for the occasion and both fathers officiated. Annette and Christine sand 'The New Twenty-third' and the reception was held in the Church Hall. The Guild ladies catered and everyone was invited. Joy went back to complete her midwifery training and later Noel was accepted for further studies in the USA. They lived there for five years - Miriam, Rebecca and Paul were all born in Michigan.
[Photo: Ella holding new baby grand daughter Rebecca, in Haslett Michigan]
When one member of the family leaves home, it seems that it is not long before others follow. Jane and Christopher were the next to be married. This time, Jane was 'given away' by twin brother, Frank, and Dad officiated. Jane and Chris were both able to continue teaching and later Chris studied at the Baptist College. They are now ministering in the Bayer River PNG, and have Peter aged 10 years and Bronwyn aged 7 years.
Marion, our eldest child, 'Hua Kwei Ning', was married to Stuart Andrews in December 1974. Marion had taught at a School for the Deaf. Many of the children's deafness was the result of a Measles epidemic which some young mothers had contracted when pregnant. She met Stuart when in Townsville. They are now living in Miles where Stuart is the Presbyterian Minister, and have four children, Stuart James, Katy, Laura and Duncan.
Barbara and Annette both continued teaching and Christine became a Uni Student. Very unexpectedly, a Call came to Frank from the Devonport Charge, Tasmania. We spent three years in the deep south, far from home and family, whom we missed very much. However the experience was very worthwhile with a loving congregation and rich friendships.
Frank felt led to retire after three years and we returned to Brisbane to the family. We had bought land a few years before, and hand an old wooden house brought out, which was our first 'own' home! Many renovations have been done at Anshui (Quiet Waters). We added a front verandah, side small patio and new toilet and shower recess - added to our main bedroom.
Retirement brought new opportunities for service. Frank became State Moderator in 1980 and I became PWA State President 1977-80. We travelled together throughout the State, met many people from Cape York to Mt Isa and the Gold Coast. The trip back to Cape York was one we treasure after many years (27 years). We even met the Chairman of Bamaga, and Ugari, the girl who helped me in the house. We stayed on TI with the Anglican Bishop and his wife, who gave us gracious hospitality. The Bishop instructed us each morning how to operate the washing machine.
Another door for service came for Frank at Ann St Church, as Associate Minister to the Very Rev K J Gardner and so we found ourselves involved with the old historic Ann St Congregation.
I spent many hours at PWA Meetings and travelling to and from Conferences, Monthly Meetings as well as Rallies. I enjoyed the experience very much and felt the Lord gave strength and wisdom in answer to much prayer. The task could not be called "easy", but I felt a very real call to fulfil it to the best of my ability - and the words of the Consecration Hymn were often on my lips and in my heart. I do praise God for my three years in office and subsequent years on the Executive Committee.
Frank also spends much time in serving the Lord faithfully with visits to the sick and elderly.
For many years, both of us have enjoyed any opportunity which came our way to talk about China and our Missionary experiences. I always longed to return to China, even though for many years the Bamboo Curtain was like an iron wall - no one went to China, and no one came out, and the country was completely cut off from the rest of the world. When we evacuated our first home in China because of the Communist Army advance, the Lord gave us a wonderful promise - it literally lay at our feet on the dirt floor - a piece of paper with the words "I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and ... bring you again into this land." Genesis 28:15
"and I will bring you again..." I felt was a promise to be literally fulfilled, but Frank did not interpret it this way at that time. There was one big reason why I had to be practical and for this I must again go back to 1980.
Such a lot happened that year. My sister Barbara lost her husband, Bob, the first in the family since our parents died many years before. Then in August, at the age of 96 years, Frank's dear Mother, my Mother-in-law and the children's Grandmother, went to be with the Lord. She had been a tremendous lady, and her influence had been very real in our family circle.
Then in November, I entered hospital for major surgery for cancer of the bladder. Much prayer was offered for me - Moderator's wife and PWA President as I was then - the whole State was asked to pray. The support was very wonderful indeed as we both faced the reality. The family was scattered abroad throughout the State and Country, and the grandchildren were very young.
As a result, I was given a new way of life with an 'Ileal Conduit' - artificial bladder - and my natural bladder was completely removed. It took some months to adapt to this, but always there was the sense of wonder - "Why am I still here?" A very precious verse was "My grace is sufficient for thee, my strength is made perfect in weakness." 2Corinthians 3.
The whole family supported me very fully during those difficult days, weeks, months and years. Frank has always been most patient and kind, and he was tested more than any will ever know, as he went through the "fires of testing" with me. "In sickness and in health" - more than mere words of a marriage ceremony.
I gradually became well again so much so that many people would comment on how well I looked. I was not really well, but managed to keep up with normal housework and a few meetings.
Not very good material for a Tourist to China! However, as we prayed, and asked the Lord to guide us, we had a real peace in our hearts. I was able to get a Doctor's certificate, and we proceeded with our plans.
In September 1983, we left Brisbane for Hong Kong and China - three weeks of travel. Our group of 55 people from various parts of Australia was under the guidance of "Westpac". We would have preferred a Christian tour, and were disappointed when an OMF sponsored tour fell through. We stayed in very modern hotels in the larger cities, Hong Kong, Canton, Guilin, Shangsha, Shanghai, Nanking, and Peiking. We visited factories, historical buildings, communes, restaurants, churches, marble wonders, gardens, tombs and many other attractions. The highlight was The Great Wall which we were delighted to visit as we had walked many years before on the North-West dilapidated Wall. This North-East Wall is a real tourist attraction. Many thousands visit every day. It was interesting to see the railway, which leads to Russia. I have written a separate, more detailed account of this tour of China, and spoken several times to groups of interested people. We also have some fine tapestry silk, rice pattern crockery, many fascinating photos, a lovely cotton hand-crocheted blouse cardigan, a Tribal vest, etc. We were delighted to bring home some little momentoes for each of the family.
Unfortunately, we were both quite sick in Hong Kong and on our return home. Frank took months to get better and my tummy trouble took six doctors six months to decide what was wrong! Eventually, in February 1984, I went into Greenslopes for surgery - 'Bowel Obstruction and Adhesions' - two weeks in bed in hospital and then home once again. Instead of improving during this year, I have had more problems due to the growth of a small secondary cancer, which put me in PA Hospital for four days. The biopsy has confirmed secondary cancer similar to the bladder cancer four years ago. This crisis has come just as I have turned 69 years. (I had my birthday in hospital.) Now we await a consultation with a leading Radiologist and my Urologist, after having a CAT scan yesterday.
Photo: The Davidsons of Newmarket
(L-R) Betty Clegg, Evelyn Kuss, Sam Davidson, Barbara Kissick, Ella White
The previous page was written more than two months ago. Now I am back at 'Anshui' after major surgery and complications - six weeks in Greenslopes Hospital.
How much detail should I record? The experience was one we never anticipated when I went in for a 'Colostomy' and removal of all cancer areas. Two weeks was what we expected the stay in hospital to be. Frank visited me every day. On the second day after the operation it became apparent that I had a serious complication known as a fistula.
I have no desire to record details of this very unpleasant and extremely painful condition. Sufficient to say that I have never in my life experienced such excruciating pain over such a long period. Skilled nursing care was of utmost importance, and many loved ones and friends were praying for my recovery. I had to learn to take one day at a time, accept the situation as being allowed to happen to me for some purpose, and not anticipate weeks in bed before they actually happened! Yes, I had Christmas in hospital, though I was allowed out for the day. After six and a half weeks I was able to do my own treatment, and so I was allowed home with a huge carton full of pads, Vaseline gauze, gloves, etc, etc, just before New Year.
It was so wonderful to see the green grass and flowers and trees once more: and in spite of extreme heat and humidity, I am now well enough to do a few odd jobs, and am in a fairly comfortable state even though it is still easier to lie down than to sit up. I still have to take iron and vitamins, etc, and visit the Doctor regularly.
It is now three weeks since I cam home from hospital, and I really am beginning to feel a little stronger each day. Today I cooked dinner - baked leg of lamb and vegies, and also two chickens for Sunday. We expect a great influx of family with Marion and Stuart, Chris and Eric and families. We already have Annette and Brian with us. They will all go to Ann Street for the morning service and then come out here. Frank will be preaching, as Dr Gardner is on holidays.
This year, 1985, is already in the month of March, and so the holidays are all in the past. Meetings have begun once again. I have been reading, crocheting and knitting while resting my sore leg, and also enjoying good musical programmes.
April 25th, 1985. Anzac Day. Since I wrote the previous page, such a lot has happened. For some months, I have not been so well, and last week I was admitted to Greenslopes Hospital suffering acute pain around the right side - front and back. Once more the intra-venous was inserted and treatment given, tests done and BC Rays. After a week a body CAT scan was done and revealed secondaries in the Liver.
Dr. Cavaye was really very kind and has suggested I may need Radium Treatment - later we shall see what happens. At the moment, I take painkillers when necessary, sometimes four hours and perhaps 6 to 7 hours.
I had no idea that Mum was writing this record and found it on her table after the family had returned to their respective homes.
It was an extremely emotional experience and I would remind you that you have a wonderful heritage to remember.
Now to briefly continue with the story:
Early in the morning of Wednesday, April 17th, Mum began to experience pain much more severe than before. She enjoyed a light breakfast in bed but I helped her get into her dressing gown and took her into Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital.
The staff (Casualty) took one look at her and had her on a trolley, into the examination room, and inserted an intravenous drip.
After examination, there were all sorts of blood tests, X-rays, and then an ultra-sound scan. It was about mid-day when she was finally put into bed in Ward 13, and in another lovely single room with its own ensuite. They kept up the intravenous saline drip with pain killers until she seemed to have improved to the point where the pain could be controlled by tablets taken by mouth and the drip removed. At this stage, we were anxious to know what the tests had revealed, but the doctors were either tight-lipped or put us off, saying that they were still not quite certain although X-rays showed no stones in the gall-bladder or kidneys.
There was still a question about the liver, which they said was not clear in the ultra-sound scan because of the ilio-conduit of the earlier operation. They then decided on a trip to the Mater Hospital for a CAT scan. This was on Tuesday, 23rd April.
This was a terrible day for her. She was fasting from 6 am. I returned to the hospital at 4 PM and she was not back from the Mater. A Commonwealth Car had taken her over to the Mater, but there was such a crowd, she did not get back until after 6.30pm. To make matters worse, the Commonwealth drivers had gone off duty and she had to return to Greenslopes by taxi. The driver, who was a Greek, got hopelessly lost and when they finally arrived the gates were closed and she had to walk several hundred yards to get to the lift. She was on the point of collapse when the nurses got her back into bed.
We waited around all the next day, fearing the worst, but for various reasons (or excuses) no one would tell us until about 4.30pm. Dr. Cavaye came and told us quite calmly that there were secondaries in the liver, and that surgery, drugs or chemo-therapy would not be of any help. The only faint hope was Radio- or Radium therapy.
They arranged an appointment with the Radium Institute for Tuesday, 30th April at 9 am.
The nurses and two specialists were very kind, considerate, but very professional when they told us that Radium might only increase the pain and suffering, and the only option was pain-killing drugs until the end came. The social worker came when we were there and arranged for St. Luke's Nurses to visit as from the next day.
We also paid a visit to Dr. Julie Murray, Ella's G.P., who was very sympathetic and gave more drug Prescriptions, and offered to pay house visits to give injections if the pain became too severe.
I tried to keep in touch with the family by letter and phone. I was so glad Marion decided to come down from Miles to help out. It had got to the stage before she came, and before the nurses came that Mum was unable to bath herself and I had to help her. Marion was a tower of strength over the last week.
Jane's arrival from New Guinea was a miracle of God's grace. I had managed to get a message through that Mum was going down in health, and Christopher rang to say they had booked a flight for Friday 10th May from Mt. Hagen. Then on Wednesday, there was an announcement that the Unions were going to blockade Queensland on Friday and Saturday, with no flights in or out of Brisbane at that time. I tried every way possible to get a message to them but it seemed to no avail. Either phones were out, lines were down, or the native operators couldn't understand the message. It was a matter of asking all the family to pray. Jane and Christopher had an uneasy feeling about the booking and decided to go to Mt. Hagen on Thursday. The Clerk at New Guinea Air Lines said, "Mrs. Ganter, we have been trying to get in touch with you. There will be no flight on Friday, but if you leave today, you could be in Brisbane this evening. We have put on a special flight."
Frank met her at the airport, and knowing his way around was able to get her through the Customs before anyone else, although some of her bags were the last to come off the plane.
Although in pain, Mum was delighted to see her. Earlier that afternoon, she had recited to Annette the Aaronic Blessing without faltering.
The next evening, at 9.55 PM, Mum had crossed over Jordan and was "Safe in the arms of Jesus".
I would like to pass quickly over those last 24 hours, but it will be indelibly imprinted on the minds of those who were there. Naturally, she was unable to eat, and the girls were moistening her lips with cold water. The doctor called three times to give her pain-reducing injections. I was sitting beside her, and the girls were around her tearfully praying or reading appropriate Scriptures or Pilgrim's Progress. By this time she was groaning and breathing heavily, and then almost without warning the breathing stopped, the struggles were over, and she was with Christ, which is far better.
The remainder is like a bad dream: the visit of the Doctor to certify she was gone: the midnight call of the undertakers to take her away: the arrival of Joy and Noel and family after a seventeen hour drive straight through from Melbourne: the visit to the Funeral Parlour so that Joy and Noel could see her before the funeral: the service at Ann Street led by Rev. K.J. Gardner and Frank preaching the sermon: the committal service taken by Frank and the burial next to Dad and Mum in Redland Bay Cemetery: the cup of tea in the old Home where everyone was trying to be so obviously kind and considerate: and the journey home knowing that the one we love cannot come back to us. Thank God for the hope fixed Eternal: "I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead yet shall he live.
Isabella Marion (Ella) White
BORN 17TH OCTOBER, 1915
CALLED INTO THE PRESENCE OF HER LORD 10TH MAY, 1985
"Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory."
1 Corinthians 15:57
Posted by Joy Johnston at 11:21 PM
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
1. Joy and Marion with baby Chrissy
2. Mum with Barbara and Annette
3. Mum holding Annette
Marion and Joy (the 'biggies') ready for school
Frank and Jane (the 'twinnies') with the car
and little Barbara with the wheelbarrow. (Barb, Anna and Chris were the 'littlies')
Posted by Joy Johnston at 10:27 PM
Marion and Joy on a sea turtle, 1954
Marion and Joy, 1951
Mum with Marion, Joy and the twins, 1952
Letter written by our mother, to her mother, from Bamaga, N Queensland
C/o D.N.A. [Department of Native Affairs]
My dear Mum and Dad,
There is a boat going to T.I. [Thursday Island] and so I want to send you a short note to let you know we are safely home again.
Before I left T.I. I received your letter saying that you had not received the Telegram. I was sorry to hear that, as I was trying to save you any worry. I went to the Post Office after your letter arrived and checked up. It left the P.O. at 2.10 pm on Friday 29th (the day Annette was born), so where it got to, I don’t know. However, they said they would make inquiries about it.
I am getting back into routine again and have started teaching Marion once more. The baby is settling down too, and is putting on weight. She is always ready for her food, so that’s a good sign. I have enough for her in the a.m. but sometimes have to give her a bottle in the afternoon. I don’t know how I would get on without Barka. She has just been wonderful. She has improved such a lot since we took her to T.I. She loves little Barbara and really she is the Lord’s provision for me, at this time. She has scrubbed the house out today and is still going strong.
Well, we can always count our blessings, can’t we?
The children are all downstairs playing. I want to make a cake for the twins birthday tomorrow. They will be three years old. You won’t know them when you see them.
Yes, Mum, I am very glad you can take us for a week or so in February. No, we are not coming early now. The earliest we think will be the February “Elsanna”, but we are not even sure of that, as the boat may be in dock. So we will let you know as soon as possible.
I have four mosquito nets of my own (nearly all on their last legs!!) but they will help out so don’t buy any new ones for us. We have plenty of sheets and pillow cases and towels too, so I can pack them all where I can get at them easily.
Now I really mus’n’t stop any longer, or there will be no “party” tomorrow for the twins.
Love to all, trusting you are all well,
Your loving daughter, Ella.
P.S. Frank met me at the jetty with the Jeep and brought me home last Thursday. I wasn’t sea-sick as it was a calm day.
[This letter must have been sent not long before Grandma Davidson died. She was gone before we got back to Brisbane. -M]
Posted by Joy Johnston at 10:25 PM