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Beryl Ramsey Sand:
Singing I Go!

The Beginning:
“On Our Way Rejoicing”

It was a chilly, gray morning in November, 1943. A group of young people from Bethel Church stood on the railroad platform in Clear Lake, Iowa, along with my parents to see me off on the first leg of my journey to serve the Lord in Africa. My thirteen pieces of freight baggage had gone on ahead, so Dad helped me onto the passenger car with my hand luggage. I don’t remember what went through my mind as the train pulled out of the station, but it was not fear, even though I knew World War II was still raging in Europe and Asia. This was what I had been preparing for most of my life, especially since the night I had recommitted my life to the Lord and announced to my parents that the Lord had called me to serve as a missionary in Africa. “Oh,” Dad responded. “Before you were born, I prayed that one of my children would be a missionary!”

My parents and my church had prepared me well for that day. As long as I could remember, there had been visiting missionaries coming to our country church, and usually they would be invited to our home. Mom would say, “While I prepare the meal, you entertain the guest.” So I was like Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, soaking up information from many lands. Then, during our family devotions, the names of these missionaries would be added to our prayer list. Many years later, a former missionary to China told me that Dad had given him a check for five hundred dollars to build a chapel.

During the summer of 1943, Rudolph Steffenson, a single pastor working in Poli, in North Cameroon, had died. He was also a “shirt-tail relative,” with roots in Lake Mills, Iowa. I felt that, in some way, I was replacing him because it was about that same time that I was officially accepted as a missionary by Mr. Gunderson. So, when I completed my student work at the Swedish Hospital School of Nursing in early September, I went home to shop and pack. Friends at my home church gave me a “shower,” just like they did for girls who were getting married.

Dear friends of our family, James and Viola Dalby, invited me to their house one day after finding out about my acceptance. Viola was dying of cancer, and she wanted me to have her little, portable folding organ to take along to Africa. Thelan Elthon, in Fertile, Iowa, made a sturdy plywood case for the organ, as well as two other plywood boxes for packing. We made numerous trips to sales to find good, old trunks. By the time I was ready to go, I had thirteen pieces of freight baggage, including a twin-sized rollaway bed, which was crated. This was all shipped to a warehouse near the pier in Brooklyn, where it was stored, awaiting our sailing date.

When the train rounded a bend, and I could no longer see the group on the station platform, I shed a few tears. They were not tears of grief, rather of excitement, to think that I was actually on my way at last!

The train took several hours to get to Chicago, where I was to meet Laura Burton, a nurse from Minneapolis. She had already spent one term of service in Africa and would be my “big sister” who would get me to our “field.”

When I alighted from the train, Laura was there waiting for me. We took a cab to the Lutheran Deaconess Home where the deaconesses were expecting us. We spent several days in Chicago. I soon realized that I had made a mistake in bringing only my light spring coat. The “Windy City” was true to its name, and the wind was cold! But wasn’t I going to Africa? Surely I wouldn’t need my winter coat there. How wrong I was!

After a few days, we took a train again on a journey of three days and nights to get to Brooklyn, N.Y. There, too, the Lutheran Deaconess Home was our destination. Laura and I had been commissioned under the Sudan Mission, also known as the Gunderson Mission which was founded by Mr. A. E. Gunderson, and that we were “faith missionaries,” having no guaranteed salary. Our financial contract was summed up in the words of Phil.4:19: “My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Most of our friends and relatives knew about this principle, too, so many of them contributed to our needs for equipment, baggage, and train fare. Our address in Brooklyn became common knowledge, so the mail often brought us checks to meet our needs and to buy the steamship tickets to Africa. The precious sisters didn’t know when they ushered us into their guest room that we would be occupying it for nearly four months. These saintly ladies, many of whom were retired missionaries, knew of our lack of ready funds, and they did not charge us. They also provided our meals in the hospital dining-room. That was missionary work!

 

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