Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine - - News -

This se­ries of Liv­ing Leg­ends is about Vida McLel­lan, a mis­sion­ary nurse who served in Ethiopia from 1955 – 1974. Vida grew up on a farm in the out-back of New South Wales. In 1955, af­ter nurses’ train­ing and Bi­ble Col­lege, she trav­elled to Ethiopia to serve in very re­mote and dif­fi­cult ar­eas in south­ern Ethiopia. Vida, mar­ried Dick McLel­lan, while at lan­guage school in 1955. For sixty years Vida has served along­side Dick both in Ethiopia and af­ter their re­turn to Aus­tralia. The last episode cov­ered Vida’s nurse train­ing in Aus­tralia. In this episode we fol­low Vida to Ethiopia.

Vida served on Peel Is­land in WA, an is­land where Lep­rosy pa­tients were iso­lated. Dick, her boyfriend, was trav­el­ing around Aus­tralia, rais­ing sup­port for his mis­sion work to com­mence in Eh­tiopia. She met with Dick in Wyn­num QLD for a few days on his tour and on the 13th Septem­ber, 1954, they an­nounced their en­gage­ment. Dick re­turned to Syd­ney the next day, and a few days later on Septem­ber 24th he sailed by boat to Aden, then flew Ethiopian Air­lines to Ethiopia to start his mis­sion­ary work. Vida had no idea when she would see him again or hear from him. Vida re­turned to Peel is­land and promptly sewed a wed­ding dress and other dresses to take to Ethiopia.

Vida re­turned to Syd­ney. Let’s pick up the story in Vida’s own words:

From then on it was a very busy time with meet­ings, get­ting the huge kit to­gether that I was re­quested to take. A den­tist pro­vided some den­tal in­stru­ments and a doc­tor do­nated some med­i­cal equip­ment like nee­dles, sy­ringes, su­tures and in­stru­ments for med­i­cal work. I was told to take suf­fi­cient sup­plies to last the five years un­til we came home on our first fur­lough.

All our goods were packed in forty­four gal­lon drums to go by ship and we could take a lot of lug­gage with us on the ship. There seemed to be so much to get done but some­how we made it. I think I have been pack­ing and un­pack­ing all my life.

Our ship, the Oron­say, sailed in April, 1955. There were peo­ple at the wharf to see us off. So many friends were there, friends from the Bi­ble Col­lege, SIM and the Postal Sun­day School, and just so many others. It was a very emo­tional time. Be­fore we boarded the ship dif­fer­ent friends prayed for us, I was hold­ing back the tears quite well, but then they started to sing Blest Be the Tide that Binds and God be with You till We meet Again. Our first stop was Mel­bourne, then Fre­man­tle. From Fre­man­tle we sailed across the In­dian Ocean for the port of Aden.

From Aden we flew to Ad­dis Ababa the capi­tol city of Ethiopia. At the air­port we were met by Mr Glen Cain who was an Aus­tralian mis­sion­ary and the SIM Di­rec­tor for Ethiopia. This was in May of 1955. I had ex­pected Dick to be there to meet us at the air­port in Ad­dis, when we ar­rived from Aus­tralia, but he wasn’t. He had gone away ‘some­where’ into south­ern Ethiopia. Soon af­ter our ar­rival Mr Cain asked me to look af­ter his wife, Winifred, who came from New Zealand. She was suf­fer­ing greatly with de­pres­sion af­ter los­ing their son in a drown­ing ac­ci­dent. Af­ter some time I went to lan­guage school for six months. The time at lan­guage school for those six months was not easy. Ev­ery­thing was all so new to me. We had an ex­cel­lent lan­guage school teacher, Miss Freda Horn, who had a good sense of hu­mour and lots of pa­tience with us all — with me in par­tic­u­lar. I still had no idea what was go­ing on with Dick. Had he had been eaten by can­ni­bals or what? I was up at De­bre Ber­han at Lan­guage school dur­ing that time and sup­posed to be en­gaged, but I couldn’t re­ceive any word of Dick.

Dick and another young mis­sion­ary from Eng­land, Bill Carter, had been sent down into south­ern Ethiopia. When Dick had ar­rived in Ethiopia back in Oc­to­ber of 1954 he had gone to Lan­guage School for a few weeks, but then he and Bill were sent down to build the mis­sion­ary houses and a clinic at a place called Bako. They only knew a lit­tle of the lan­guage. Dick had no way of get­ting mail in or out dur­ing this time. This was an en­tire year. They were iso­lated there. The last I had heard from Dick was in a let­ter be­fore I had left Aus­tralia when he had writ­ten about the truck that had taken all their goods into another place on the way called Bulki. On climb­ing up the moun­tain into Bulki the truck had bro­ken its dif­fer­en­tial and rolled down the side of the moun­tain. It was a very steep moun­tain. They had tried to res­cue some of their things and build­ing sup­plies. He had one pic­ture of Bill Carter hold­ing up the tea pot he had found. Bill was a great tea drinker. They got the goods they had saved up to Bulki town and were there a week or more ar­rang­ing to get their things packed onto mules, don­keys and head-car­ri­ers. Ev­ery­thing had to be car­ried that way into Bako. Bill and Dick rode by mule for four or five days. They had even taken a wheel bar­row. Rather than wheel it along the Ethiopian who was go­ing to take the wheel bar­row put it up on top of his head to carry be­cause he had no idea how to use it. To be con­tin­ued...

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