THE DOCTOR’S MISSION
Liberia, Africa, 1918
William Mayweather placed his worn leather Bible on the table beside him and
stepped out on the deep, shaded porch of the Newaka Mission Station. His evening
devotions would have to wait if what he was hearing was any indication of what
was to come. The smooth, hand-hewn rail transmitted the day’s heat through his
hand while he listened for confirmation of his hopes from the dense Liberian jungle.
There it was. His ears hadn’t deceived him. The escalating cries of monkeys in the treetops telegraphed a clear
message over and above the noise of the busy mission compound. Someone was coming. Finally.
The two-week delay here at the base mission station had seemed like forever despite the hospitality of his hosts,
Hannah and Karl Jansen. William chafed to get back to the Kru people and begin his work anew. He didn’t even mind
the amount of physical labor that would be needed to restore his former mission at Nynabo after a year of unfettered
He looked past the rectangular compound lined with tin-roofed wooden buildings to the welcoming arch at the
entrance of the mission. No one yet.
The Newaka mission had long ago brought in tin from the beach to roof their home, the school and the
dormitories. The other outbuildings were thatched just like his in the interior at Nynabo were—if they still stood. He
squinted, as though his vision could possibly penetrate the dense jungle vegetation that lay a few feet past the mission
entrance. Perhaps it was only a supply run, but given the dangers of travel in the bush, the regular caravan would
have welcomed additional support and waited for the two new volunteers promised him by the Mission Board.
His pulse elevated with anticipation. Reviving the compound at Nynabo was back within his reach. Doubts it
would ever come to pass had fled at hearing of the unexpected providence of God. God who had supplied not one, but
two men now en route to join him in spreading the Gospel, and one a doctor no less. It spoke volumes about the
character and dedication of these new volunteers that they dared see past the mission’s deadly history and heed the
call to evangelize the unreached peoples of the remote jungle interior. Now if they would just get here.
With his free hand he warded off the glare of the low-hanging sun. Behind him, the door opened and he turned to
see a flour-dusted Hannah stepping onto the porch.
“Has the first runner come yet, William?”
“Not yet, Hannah. But the monkeys are in full chorus, so he should arrive any minute.”
“Good. I don’t want to miss greeting our new brothers.” Hannah glanced down at the porch floor, a tight crease
popped up between her brows and her Dutch cleanliness came out in full force. “Oh, dear. Company arriving and I
haven’t swept out here since morning.”
William’s chuckle escaped despite his efforts to suppress his amusement. Hannah’s fight against common
household dirt was legendary in the African bush. She would be scandalized if a guest caught her unawares. “The porch
is fine. The only thing you might want to do is brush the flour off yourself.”
Hannah’s hands went straight to her apron to remedy the problem. “Fine for you maybe, but one of our guests is a
doctor. He’s bound to have high standards. We don’t want to run off the first doctor the Board has ever sent us.”
She removed her apron and gave her voluminous blue skirts a good shake. Her hands nervously smoothed her
graying hair in anticipation of company.
“You look fine, Hannah. I’m sure once they get a whiff of your fresh-baked bread and realize they’re in time for
dinner, it will be a distraction from all else.” William pointed to the birds rising and calling out in frightened flight.
“Dinner is only a simple affair. I didn’t think they’d arrive so soon or I’d have done more.”
“They are going to be glad to be out of the never-ending jungle. And I know your idea of a simple meal. You’re
going to spoil them, Hannah. Unless one of these men can cook, we’re not going to be eating to your standards once we
get to Nynabo.”
“All the more reason for a good meal or two before you set off. I worry about you out there with no wife to take
care of you.”
Grief broke through his protective walls at the unexpected reminder of his loss. He schooled his face carefully
into smooth lines to hide the effect of her casual words. “I think God already spoke on that subject.”
“God doesn’t expect you to grieve forever. It’s been a year since malaria took your Alice.”
“I am trying, Hannah. But grief or no grief, I could never in good conscience take another wife into the interior.
This is not a life for women. You, my dear, are the exception to the rule.”
“Nonsense. How many women pioneered missions in this area before you were even born?”
Hannah’s direct gaze left him at a loss for words. Grief had no logic at hand to argue with her.
His lack of an answer hung between them, dangling unsupported, until movement in the compound distracted
her. She turned to her husband as he emerged from the schoolhouse across the way, his straight posture commanding
attention and belying his advancing years.
Obviously aware of the jungle’s message too, Karl Jansen nodded at the two of them and turned to greet the
approaching caravan. Three shiny black torsos covered in little more than sweat and grass cloth entered the
compound through the open arch. As the three unburdened themselves of the canvas-wrapped packs secured on their
heads, the first of the hammock-chair bearers came into view. A single pole atop the circular corn-husk pad balanced
on the porter’s head, his counterpart in united step behind. Between them, a hammock swayed with the weight of the
occupant they carried.
Karl moved to greet the new arrival, whose face was blocked from William’s sight by the bearer standing at
attention while his passenger disembarked. Karl turned and flashed a quick, unreadable look to William before giving
his attention back to the occupant of the hammock chair.
As William approached to greet the travelers, Karl’s liver-spotted hand reached out to help their guest alight.
William’s stomach registered the first knot of impending doom when a stout, stocking-clad leg came out of the chair. It
was attached to a smiling, barrel-shaped matron in a newfangled split skirt and white shirtwaist. Her pith helmet was
removed to reveal a neat, brown bun secured in the back.
A shock ran clear down William’s spine. The Mission Board sent him a woman? A sturdy-looking woman of about
forty years, but a woman nonetheless. What were they thinking? Had his last venture into the interior not proven
Nynabo unsafe for the fairer sex? And matronly or not, a woman alone with two men deep in the bush would be
compromised. Before his hopes of a quick return to Nynabo sank slowly into a bog of despair, a spark of hope and
They’ve sent me a married couple. Of course! The Board would never send a single, unchaperoned woman to
serve with a man.
He shook off the worry and quickened his stride as the second set of bearers rounded the corner. He reached the
hammock chair just as a slim, trousered leg complete with protective panniers and an impossibly small boot emerged.
Fiery red hair peeked out from under the pith helmet and topped a porcelain complexion reddened by the heat.
Intense and very feminine green eyes stared up at him. Karl nudged him and William’s manners took over. He
automatically offered his hand and let go of the breath he held.
Obviously these were no missionaries. Not two white women alone in the interior. Whatever sort of tourist trek
these ladies were on, they must be hopelessly confused to have ended up here. He’d heard of the new travel fad of
wealthy women, women who ran from the natural state of marriage to travel to exotic locales. But wasn’t it confined to
Arabia? Liberia didn’t boast the excitement of ancient, lost civilizations that drew these types of sensation seekers. Yet
here they were.
Disappointment at what would be a longer wait pulsed through him and he struggled to mask his irritation at
receiving two adventuresses instead of two mission workers. Yet the hand he held, delicate in form, put him mind of
his Alice. He’d not held a woman’s hand since hers as she lay dying. He was saved from grief’s hold by a hand that
responded with a surprisingly sturdy grip.
“Thank you.” Her voice was melodic. “I was beginning to think I would never get out of that contraption.”
Despite his misgivings, William stood transfixed by the petite beauty as she emerged from the chair. The top of
her head barely reached his shoulder. It was not until her eyes crinkled in a puzzled look that he realized he was
staring. He felt a gentle tug and released the hand he’d held a little longer than was polite.
“Forgive me, ma’am. Pastor William Mayweather at your service.”
“Excellent. Just the man I was looking for.”
“Me? I do not understand.”
“I’m Dr. O’Hara. I was told you would be expecting me.”
Dr. Mary O’Hara lifted her chin and stared up past a broad chest covered in a white cotton shirt minus the
traditional attached collar to find rich, mahogany eyes. Eyes that made her forget that every known muscle in her
body ached, plus a few muscles she’d forgotten existed. Three days on the trail had taken their toll. Yet somehow the
sight of this tall, rugged man took her mind off her mundane pains.
This was the pastor she was supposed to meet? If she hadn’t heard his name from his own lips, she wouldn’t have
believed it. When she pictured herself working at a bush station with a missionary, she’d imagined a wizened, older
man, glasses perched on the end of his nose and maybe even slightly stoop-shouldered from bending over his Bible.
Nothing prepared her for this magnificent, broad-shouldered, six-foot man without a stooped shoulder in sight. She
certainly wasn’t expecting the warmth that radiated from his hand or the spark of awareness igniting. She tugged her
hand back just to recover her ability to think straight.
Piercing eyes stared at her in frank amazement, probably doubting she could handle living in the jungle. Quite
understandable. Men often looked at her like that when they first heard she was a doctor, underestimating her. The
inevitable banter would follow while they tried to get her to admit she was joking. Last would be a final look of disgust
or horror when they realized a member of the fairer sex had overstepped the bounds of propriety and actually studied
human anatomy in detail.
She’d thought she’d hardened herself to the inevitable path that first encounter took. But for the first time in a
long while, she regretted the disappointment she would soon see. Might as well get on with it.
She squared her shoulders and tilted her chin higher than her five foot four inches normally allowed her to see.
“The Mission Board sent letters. Weren’t you informed of the impending arrival of Mrs. Smith and myself?”
His eyes flashed disbelief and despite his polite tone, she could see the resolve of his answer in the set of his jaw. “I
was indeed informed of the arrival of two new mission workers, Miss O’Hara, one a physician. I just did not expect the
Board to send women, because of the deadly history of the jungle interior. I’m afraid you’ve been sent to the wrong
place. I simply cannot take someone so delicate and unsuitable for the dangers to the compound at Nynabo.”
Unsuitable? She wanted to laugh at the irony of being found lacking after having just left a frontline mobile field
hospital for this man’s dangerous jungle. She took a deep breath to steady her voice. It wouldn’t do to sound shrill and
create a negative opinion of herself. She needed this position; was, in fact, desperate for it.
“Obviously, Pastor Mayweather, we are both surprised to find someone whom we did not expect. But I assure you
that while your opinion is no different than most other men in society, ones who do not carry Bibles at their ready, it
is entirely unwarranted.”
Mary could only imagine what her dear mother would say if she could hear her now. She’d managed to keep a
polite tone but still broken her mother’s cardinal rule—Don’t challenge a man in charge. Her own loving mother had
never found herself able to hold an opinion that wasn’t first that of her husband, Mary’s father.
Pastor Mayweather’s eyebrows raised and his mouth opened, drawing in breath for the next volley. Before he
could launch it, a matronly older woman put her hand on his arm and pushed herself forward. Mary couldn’t help but
catch the disapproving frown the woman gave him before smiling at her visitors.
“Welcome to Newaka.” Thick arms enveloped Mary in a hug and squeezed the breath right out of her. “I am
Hannah Jansen. My husband Karl and I serve here at this station.”
Hannah Jansen was as plump and well-rounded as her husband was spare. Mary resisted the urge to check her
ribs when the apple-cheeked matron stepped back. “I’m Dr. O’Hara. But you may call me Mary.” She telegraphed the
stuffy Pastor Mayweather a look over Hannah’s shoulder that she hoped said, “And you may not.”
“Hannah, this is my friend and travel companion, Mrs. Clara Smith.”
Clara stepped toward them and smiled. “We introduced ourselves while you were meeting Pastor Mayweather,
“Yes,” Hannah said. “Dr. Mary, this is my husband, Karl.” She pointed to the tall gentleman who had helped Clara
from her hammock chair.
Karl stepped up and took one of her hands between his bony pair and pressed gently. His eyes twinkled with good
humor that carried in his voice. “We are so pleased to have you, Dr. Mary. I can’t tell you how happy we are to finally
be assigned a physician in our area.”
“Why thank you, Pastor Jansen. It’s very polite of you to say so.” Mary avoided looking at William. “Most men are
less accepting of a female doctor.”
“We just didn’t expect such a beautiful young woman.” Karl chuckled and offered Mary his arm. “Let me show you
and Mrs. Smith to our home. Someone will bring your bags in a moment.”
Mary swung around and forced a civil smile in spite of William Mayweather’s serious countenance. “Yes?”
“Please don’t unpack more than the essentials. I plan on sending you back when the porters are ready to return.
Or, if the Jansens don’t mind, you can wait here for a more suitable posting at one of the safer coastal stations. While
I’m sure your skills are more than adequate, regrettably I cannot take you and your companion into the interior with
Shock at his highhanded assumption froze Mary’s tongue into silence. Silence he must have taken for acceptance
as he turned and walked away. The nerve of the man. Drop his little piece of emotional ordnance and walk off before
the explosion hit. Good thing she didn’t intend to answer to him in this decision.
Disappointment laid itself heavily on his heart as William walked away from the two workers who should have
been his entry back to Nynabo. With his back to the sun’s glare, despair managed to cloud his vision. He’d prayed
about the workers God would have assigned to Nynabo. But where was God in this obvious mistake? What reason
could He have to delay William’s return to Nynabo? Was this some sort of test or temptation? He wouldn’t have
believed it, but Dr. O’Hara, with her long, red locks and smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose, was even
more beautiful than his beloved Alice.
William stopped short at the base of the porch steps. Where did those traitorous observations come from? He ran
a hand through his unruly black mane and rebuked himself. Widowed only a year and reacting to a pretty face. It
He took the porch steps two at a time and entered the relative cool of the mission house. If he was so easily
noticing this woman’s beauty, he would have to flee temptation’s possibilities. If it wasn’t inhumane to the porters, he
would’ve ordered them to simply turn around and start back. Even if he could have done so, Hannah and Karl would
have none of it. Basic hospitality dictated that the women be fed and rested along with their carriers.
He understood Hannah welcoming another woman with open arms, but he’d been shocked when Karl reacted
kindly, as if not seeing the obvious problems. The fatherly man had heard William’s heart many times on the subject
since he’d returned from his stateside leave. Well, he would have a man-to-man talk with Karl later, and then William
would make sure that both women went on their way back the moment the porters were rested.
A lilting laugh flowed through the open windows. The petite doctor no doubt. The sound stirred the buried pain of
the lost laughter of another precious woman, one he’d buried at Nynabo. He had no intentions of burying another
woman there. The jungle’s interior was just not the place for a delicate female.
Oh, Mary O’Hara had pluck. He’d give her that. But she also had no true understanding of the dangers of practicing
medicine among hostile natives, most of whom had never seen a white person of either gender before. This time he’d
make sure a member of the fairer sex didn’t die on his watch. The sooner she was sent packing toward the safer coastal
regions the better. Even if she stayed here at Newaka, it would be substantially safer than Nynabo.
William made a quick decision. He would spend as little time as possible in her company. It would alleviate some
of the guilt he would inevitably feel at crushing her dreams of working in the interior. With that thought in mind, he
headed through the kitchen, out the back door and around to the boys’ dormitory. There would be enough work there
to legitimately occupy him until the women were settled in for the night.
Later, he could talk to Karl and make arrangements. The Mission Board’s policy on malaria would force him to
stay longer here at Newaka until replacements could come or William contracted his first bout of the inevitable
disease. There was enough work here and he enjoyed the Jansens’ company. Surely this was all in God’s ultimate plan.
He rounded the corner to the boys’ cottage at the same time the door flew open, disgorging seven chattering little
brown bodies in their khaki drawstring pants, minus the white shirts they’d worn in class. As if all one confused
sculpture, they froze silently in place when they saw him. Seven sets of eyes flitted their gazes between him and each
other, finally coming to rest on the tallest boy, Sabo. The designated speaker of the pack swallowed hard, took a deep
breath, and straightened his bony spine before asking, “Nana Pastor?” Sabo managed the honorific title and paused
before blurting his question. “Is it true more white mammies have come and one is a medicine woman?”
All eyes turned to him for an answer. William bit back a growl and mentally chided himself for not realizing this
would of course be big news for the children. He’d come to escape the frying pan and walked straight into the
proverbial fire. He chose his next words carefully, well aware that the boys were from a world that saw women as
property. None of these children had ever seen a white woman before Hannah Jansen, a married woman in the
company of her husband.
“Yes, it is true that we have two new guests and one is a doctor.”
Seven voices clamored with questions. He put up his hand and waited to be heard. As they quieted down, the
smallest one braved a question. “Are her conjures strong?”
It was William’s turn to freeze like a statue. It was so easy to forget that even though the boys had been baptized,
they still struggled between beliefs from two vastly different spiritual worlds. Their education wasn’t such yet that
they would see what Dr. O’Hara did as science and not magic. A male doctor wouldn’t have been such an event for the
boys. Medicine could have been explained rationally. Her presence was already causing trouble.
Trouble he had to straighten out now.
“Boys, let’s go back inside and talk.”
In unison, seven little faces frowned their distress, realizing they were losing their chance to go see the new
arrivals. Before any could protest, William put his body between them and their intended route of escape and waited
till they turned and shuffled barefoot back into the cottage. He closed the door behind him and prayed that God would
give him the words to explain the difference between their medicine men’s fetish bags of charms and a female doctor
who practiced science. But more important, how faith in God was stronger than what their medicine men offered.
Mary pushed her chair away from the dinner table. “Oh my, Hannah. I haven’t eaten this well since before I left
home two years ago. Fresh fruit is such a luxury.”
Clara nodded vigorously, sending her double chin to jiggling though she was still chewing a mouthful of bread.
Hannah responded. “Most of the fruit grows naturally here without planting. You’ll find it the same where you’re
Karl’s thick brows knit together. “Two years. I knew the Kaiser disrupted ocean travel, but who’d have thought it
would take that long to make all the connections to cross. It’s a good thing the Allies finally put him in his place.”
Clara spoke up. “Well, it was the Kaiser, but not the way you think.”
Mary chided nicely, “Hannah and Karl don’t need to hear our war stories.”
Karl smiled. “We don’t get much news about the rest of the world here. So we’d love to hear any stories from the
Before Mary could think of another way to change the subject, Clara launched into her tale. Normally she was
such a quiet woman. Why did she have to become loquacious on the one subject Mary preferred to avoid? Even
though the armistice was signed, the Great War was still a big topic. She just preferred not to talk about her part in it,
though avoiding the topic hadn’t stopped the unmerciful memories.
“Dr. Mary and I met at Argonne. We both worked for the Red Cross at the field hospital.”
Hannah’s hand froze over the plate she was about to pick up. “You were at the battle they called the Big Show?”
Her fingers fluttered over her heart. “Even here we’ve heard about that battle. How horrible for you.”
Mary put on a professional mask as best she could while Clara nodded and said, “It was truly. If Hades exists
anywhere on earth, it would have to have been there at Argonne Forest. So many young boys lost tragically, brutally.”
Tears brimmed in Clara’s eyes. “Why Dr. Mary here….”
The chair legs screeched against the floor when Mary abruptly stood. “Clara. I don’t think we need to burden the
Jansens with those horrors. I’m sure their imagination will suffice.” The last thing she wanted dredged up was the death
of her brother. That wound was too raw to touch. Even now pain stabbed through her chest as she tried to shut out her
memories—that final glimpse of him alive, bloody and barely breathing. Would she ever be free of that horrible image?
She caught the questioning look on Karl’s face. Those eyes saw too much. Before he could ask any questions, she
turned to Hannah and asked, “May I lend you a hand with the dishes? I’m not used to being idle while others are
“You’ll both be busy soon enough once you get to Nynabo. Tonight you’re our guests. Next time you come, I’ll put
you right to work.”
“If Pastor Mayweather has his way, there won’t be any Nynabo in our futures. And certainly not a next time here.”
Hannah laughed as she continued her tasks. “Karl will set him straight on that. Won’t you, dear?”
Karl stood and pushed his chair under the table. “I’ll try, but it would be better if he realized the severity of the
situation for himself, Hannah.”
Mary seized on what sounded like a life preserver. “The severity of what, Pastor?”
“Well, if he refuses to work with you ladies, he won’t be able to reestablish Nynabo for quite some time. When you
consider how possessive the jungle is, any more significant delays risk the station not being restorable. He might have
to start from scratch once the white ants get finished with an unoccupied compound.”
Clara asked, “The white ants?”
“African termites, dear. The natives call them bugabugs,” Hannah answered.
Mary’s curiosity overruled her good manners. “What’s stopping him from going on without us?”
“The malaria policy.” Hannah tossed the answer back over her shoulder on her way to the kitchen.
“Pastor Mayweather hasn’t had malaria yet?” Mary asked.
Karl shook his head side to side.
Clara’s confusion threaded through her voice. “What policy? Isn’t it a good thing that Pastor Mayweather hasn’t
Mary heard the back door open as Karl explained. “Until missionaries have come down with the White Man’s
Death the first time, and lived through it, the Mission Board will not allow them to staff any mission post on their own.
Without you, William must remain here until a replacement can arrive. That could take precious months that he
doesn’t have to spare.”
Mary watched as William stepped out of the shadows by the back door and into the room. Anguish churned
across his face and his hands were clenched into fists tight to his sides. “I would rather give up my call than be
responsible for the deaths of these two women.”
Mary’s arms and hands trembled as the tiring day and disappointing reception from Pastor Mayweather finally
caught up with her. Anger coursed through her veins. “Responsible for our deaths? Why, you…”
Everyone but Clara froze. She moved quickly to Mary’s side and placed her arm around Mary’s shoulders,
attempting to herd her out of the room. “Dr. Mary, please. We’re all tired and it’s been a long day. Do not say anything
you will regret. He means no slight.”
Mary pulled away from what was meant to be a calming embrace. She deliberately lowered her voice to avoid its
strident tones. “Clara, dear, I am not going to be stopped from speaking my mind any longer.”
Mary lifted her eyes and looked toward William, addressing him with her most formal of tones. “I am sorry to
learn that you are one of those men who cling to antiquated ideas of women’s roles and set themselves up as Lord and
Protector.” A bit of the exasperation she felt crept out. “It’s the twentieth century, for goodness’ sake.”
Mary glanced to Hannah for her reaction. The plate in the older woman’s hand looked dangerously close to
slipping to the floor, so rapt was her attention. Karl looked down, but was that a smile he was trying to hide? William
readied himself to answer her, but Mary raised her hand to stop him.
“Please, let me finish, sir. You, Pastor Mayweather, aren’t responsible for me. I am responsible for myself, my
own actions and my own consequences. If I were afraid of dying, I would have never signed my agreement with the
Mission Board after they spelled out the possible dangers.”
William wedged in a quick answer. “With all due respect, Miss O’Hara…”
“If you wish to accord me respect, then please address me as Doctor O’Hara.”
“Doctor O’Hara, then. I don’t see how you can possibly understand what you might be getting yourself into.”
William relaxed his fists and stretched out his hands in an apparent plea. “The interior is fraught with dangers, and
even if you manage to live through your first bout of malaria, there are still wild animals and hostile cannibals to face.”
A blanket of emotional exhaustion wrapped itself around Mary. The man meant well. It was tempting to just walk
away. But where would she go from here?
Returning home to her parents was out of the question. Her father’s reply to her last letter clearly stated his anger
and grief over what she’d done. Better to stay here where she could hope to do some good, to atone for her brother’s
Resolved, Mary straightened her spine. “I thank you for your concern, Pastor Mayweather, but I had malaria as a
child back in Virginia. The animals and cannibals I’ll deal with when the time comes. I have orders to establish an
infirmary at Nynabo, and Clara is to run the school. While I would prefer to have a man of your experience along, I
will do so with or without your help.”
William sat on the front porch rocker after the women retired for the evening and wished the inky darkness would
simply swallow him whole. What was he to do with this impossible woman? Nothing he said dissuaded her. And to
make matters worse, she was right. Her orders gave her all the permission she needed to proceed without him. It
would be a total disaster and she would undoubtedly get both herself and her companion killed. Or worse. The only
mission posts run by women tended to be on the coast where help was more readily available. Even government
troops hesitated to travel the interior, a fact he’d ignored when he’d taken Alice to the bush.
His sweet Alice. She’d wanted nothing more than to please him when he’d told her he felt the call to salvage the
mission where his uncle and aunt had been martyred. She’d trusted him. He’d let both her and God down. The year of
compassionate leave helped, but what he really needed was to put his hand back to the proverbial plow once again.
But not while responsible for not one but two women this time.
Panic at the very thought brought William to his knees, using the railing as if it was a makeshift altar.
Father, why have you sent me this woman? Have I incurred your displeasure that my task would be made so
impossible? Please, God. Turn her heart. Show her the error of this decision or show me what I must do to end this
“Am I interrupting?” Karl’s voice jolted William from his silent pleas. Karl stood in front of him with a kerosene
“No. I was just finished.”
“This is one of my favorite places to pray.” Karl settled himself in one of rockers he’d made with his own hands as a
gift last year to his wife. “I can see you are struggling with the direction things have taken, William. It is good that you
are taking this to the Father.”
“I don’t know what else to do, Karl. There is simply no dissuading her. Even in this short time I realize she has to
be the most stubborn female I have ever met.” William returned to the rocker next to Karl’s. The lamp Karl set on the
floor cast the older pastor in an eerie light.
“She reminds me of a stubborn young missionary I know.”
Was that a trick of the shadows or did Karl have a twinkle in his eye? He wasn’t seeing the seriousness of this
situation. “Is it merely stubbornness on her part? How many funerals of fellow missionaries have you presided over,
Karl? It is one thing for a man to choose the risk on his own, but a woman in the interior?”
“My Hannah would tell you that God calls us all alike, Jew and Greek, male and female.”
“God also expects us to learn from our mistakes. I understand now what my uncle must have known before he and
Aunt Ruth were killed.”
“I’m sure that he and your aunt knew the peace of God over all else, my son.”
“But next to God, he loved my Aunt Ruth more than life itself. Surely he knew in those last moments that taking
her to tribes that cannibalize their enemies was a mistake. He must have regretted being responsible for her horrible
“You mean like you feel responsible for Alice’s?”
“Exactly. I should have learned from my uncle’s failure, but I didn’t. And my ignorance cost Alice her life.”
“Malaria cost Alice her life, William, and your aunt and uncle were in God’s hands.” Karl stood and picked up his
lantern. “You’re letting your grief blind you to God’s bigger plan. You need to trust that He is in control, that He is
sovereign in all things.”
“I trust God. It is this place I do not trust. You can’t tell me it is the Divine plan for the women we are charged to
protect to be put in such needless danger when we can avoid it.”
“No, I can’t tell you. It’s up to God to show you His plan.” Karl moved to the front door. “I’ll pray earnestly for you,
William, that God will reveal His plan in due time.”
“Thank you, Karl. I covet your prayers.”
The illumination receded with Karl as William sat alone in the darkness. A thousand lights burned their autumn
patterns in the sky above him, but it was the light of an idea beginning to burn in his mind that captured his attention.
He would go to Nynabo, no matter what. He could see to it that neither woman was exposed to the dangers of the
interior any more than necessary. Especially not the cannibalistic tribes of the Pahn.
And he would die trying if that’s what God’s plan required.
William rose and headed into the house to find stationery. He might not be able to stop them from going to
Nynabo, but a letter to the Mission Board would shorten their stay there. Once he explained his dissatisfaction with
Dr. O’Hara and her unsuitability for the post, the Board would have to act and both women would be sent packing for
safer quarters. God’s work would continue and he’d avoid ventures into the more dangerous territories until her
He couldn’t give his Alice the long life she’d deserved, but he’d do everything in his power to see the women
temporarily in his care didn’t meet the same end. Dr. O’Hara would live to use her talents for God some place safer.
Some place far more suitable.