My family had just traveled five hundred miles through mud, swollen, swampy streams and dangerous terrain to Kabala, home of the boarding school my brother and I attended. Our Landrover jeep had been pushed through much of this by natives in nearby villages, us, appreciating the help, them, being tickled to get to see white people up close. As we went north, we were quite the sight, because many villagers had never seen a white person.
Aside from them touching my platinum hair, and checking out my Mother's thick auburn hair, they were talkative and very friendly. I understood what they said, as I spoke Mende, my first language, having arrived there in my toddler years. At this time I was eight and my brother Jim was 10.
Jimmy Lee and me, I was called "Hope" (my middle name)
Me and Andrew, my nanny
After many miles of jungle, we drove up the dirt road that circled what we kids called a mountain. It was really just a very high hill and from the top you could look down to see the picturesque view of the small village of Kabala.
There at the top was our boarding school on one side, a baseball field, cement block dormitory, dining hall and living room, on the other. I suddenly started to not feel good and I was sad anyhow, because coming to school meant eight months away from my parents. Many a year I went crying and chasing my parent's jeep down that winding, dusty, mountain road, watching Mom look over her shoulder at me sadly, as they disappeared in a puff of dust.
I was starting to cramp up as I lay there. Mom and Dad came in and noticed I was fevered. The house parents, as we called our new authority figures, were very concerned. Our house mother was a nurse and it was decided that I was having an appendectomy attack. My parents loaded me up and even with the pain I was happy, knowing I would get to spend more time with them.
So we went right back through the two day mess, we had just come through, hours before and drove to the nearest surgeon. That is when I looked up, upon waking and saw Dr. Gess. He was a tall, lanky thirty-ish man, with beautiful sparkly eyes and wire rimmed glasses, he was smiling and telling me to count, as he placed the ether mask over my mouth and nose. I felt less and less pain as I went under.
I barely remember recovery, but Dr. Gess was teasing my Dad, because he had tried to watch the surgery and passed out! I do remember his wife Ruth, a knock-out gorgeous and loving lady, she was his assisting nurse, an RN.
They prayed all the time. They prayed, as we did, before trips, before meals, before any surgery or aftercare. They were very kind to my family, setting them up in their house and served us all our meals.
Dr. Gess was an ophthalmologist, but the only surgeon, so he was happy to help our family with this emergency. At no cost, also.
Dr. Gess and Mrs. Gess, my Dad and Mom traveled by foot and machete to an area called Kissy. Dad and Mom assisted them in the surgeries they performed. There Dr. Gess gave many natives, with cataracts, their sight back. One lady that was in her 90's, had been blind her entire life and Dr. Gess and God, gave her the gift of sight. They were the forerunners who established what is now called the Kissy Eye Clinic.
Mom's friends, Mom and me
Six years before my Father's death, he asked me to go with him, by train to Washington state for a Sierra Leone missionary reunion. It was a lovely trip through the Rockies and the Cascades.
Our first evening there was the opening reception, an elderly man with a cane, approached me and said, "So how is your appendectomy scar, seeing these days?" It was Dr. Gess, he was 84 and had recently quit surgery. He and his wife gave of themselves in service to Russia, China, Africa and probably more countries I don't know about.
They have 6 children. His son Tim, we had gone to boarding school with, took over his practice. His book is great reading with many pictures of town I lived in, and he speaks of my Dad also.
I think the most amazing thing about these people is that they dedicated their entire life and talents to serve others and God. With their talents they could have been very wealth, with summer homes, great vacations, yachts, the whole nine yards, but they chose this work as they believed God called them to serve.They both felt other people's value was of utmost importance and whatever service they could be to them, was to be first and foremost. I remember Dr. Gess preaching in one of the villages, he was quiet, kind and so filled with love for humanity.
When I contemplate my self-absorption and my need to always be in control, I stop hard and look over to people like my parents and Dr. and Mrs. Gess. Their type of love for God and witness through how they lived will always be my goal.
by cindy Prochnow
Dr. Gess preaching
Dad teaching Bible study
Jimmy, me, and one of our nannies in front of our 1st home. Our house was built of mud, manure, sticks and thatch.
Mom and me, Hope
Us with rabbits, goats( Ninny and Nanny) and dog.
Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory by Lowell A. Gess,B.D., M.D.
This is his book about his years in Africa.
Dr. Gess's quote from a portion of his book.
“It is our firm conviction that:
We face a humanity too precious to neglect.
We know a remedy for the ills of the world too wonderful to withhold.
We have a Christ who is too glorious to hide.
We have an adventure that is too thrilling to miss.”
From the Epilogue of his book, Pg. 425