Althea Brown Feared for Her Life

Dan Graves, MSL

Althea Brown Feared for Her Life

On this day, November 2, 1904, the missionaries at Ibanche station in The Congo (Zaire), trembled for their lives. Among them was Althea Brown. A runner had brought a branch dripping red to Ibanche, and said it was the blood of a Christian killed by rebel arrows. Warriors were on the march, burning Christian villages as they advanced.

After making strong "medicine" that was supposed to deflect bullets, King Lukenga ordered his troops to bring the hearts of all traders and the heads of all missionaries to him, and the burning of every white person's dwelling. In issuing this order, he was acting in rebellion to the internationally recognized Congo government.

By evening, fierce fighting surrounded the mission compound. Night fell. "None of us expected to see the rising of another sun. Every breath we took was a prayer for deliverance or of fitness to stand before the King [God]," wrote Althea Brown later.

Althea Brown was an African-American who had learned patient trust in her God. When, without linguistic training, she accomplished the amazing feat of preparing a Bakuba grammar, she had to wait twelve years before anyone would publish it!

An honors student and beloved teacher, she left her native United States in order to tell the Bantu about Christ. On either side of the Atlantic, she was an example of applied faith, loving others and making things better for everyone through determined effort. She had even made and sold fudge in college to cover her expenses! She acquired any skill necessary for success, whether to learn a language or sew a dress.

But her efforts seemed destined to end that night. "The hours until dawn seemed endless. Then we sang the doxology."

During the day, the fighting eased off. There was a second long night of fear, until, on the following day, a few Congolese soldiers, well-armed, but fearful of attack, escorted the women and children to a safer town. "There must have been five hundred of us. It was a pathetic sight. Small children four and five years old were walking and even bearing burdens. The native soldiers, fearing an attack along the road ordered us to march at full speed."

Althea survived and later married co-worker Alonzo Edmiston, sewing all the wedding garments herself--their station and their clothes had burned in the rebellion.

Later, Kueto, one of the rebel chiefs, softened by trials, asked them to name their first child for him, which they did. Althea died in 1937 of sleeping sickness and malaria, having given her life for the Congo.

Bibliography:

  1. Kellersberger, Julia Lake. A Life for the Congo; the story of Althea Brown Edmiston. New York: Fleming H. Revell, Co. 1947.

Last updated June, 2007

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