50 Years Later
By Rev. David Gilchrist
Way back in 1970, Dr Sid Gilchrist, retired missionary from Angola, and his wife, Francis, were Dean of Men and Women at the Naramata Centre. The couple were invited by St Paul’s United Church in Edmonton for the June 14 Service to tell about the Angola Mission work. Daughter Betty, a missionary teacher on furlough, was visiting them. So they all came earlier in the week to spend a couple of days with us in Calgary and left Saturday morning for Edmonton.
That afternoon I was called home from a wedding reception. Rev. Don MacMahon and Rev. Nelson Mercer were there. I immediately asked if Dad had a third heart attack (he had already had two); but was not prepared to learn that we would never see any of them again. Another husband and wife, headed for a Calgary wedding, had suddenly veered (maybe hydroplaned in the heavy rainstorm?), crossing the median right in front of my family.
We knew that there would be a lot of people at the funeral. I suggested to my brothers that we ask that instead of flowers, people could contribute to a memorial scholarship fund. Students were fleeing the civil war in Angola at that time, and this could help them continue their education in their countries of refuge. I envisaged 10 years, depleting 10% a year. Brother Tom insisted that there be no time limit, and offered to set it up. He was right.
Ten years later, at the AGM, there were so many other missionaries at the meeting, and the children of some who had also deceased, that we changed from the Gilchrist Memorial Scholarship Trust Fund to ANGOLA MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP FUND (AMSF), in memory of all the missionaries – and their Angolan colleagues, who made their work possible. Other denominations pitched in (one recent president is a Calgary Baptist); and a major US denomination came on board and has become a driving force.
At the last AGM recently, we wondered if AMSF has served its purpose. During these 50 years, hundreds of Angolan students have returned to help rebuild their country: doctors, teachers, administrators, lawyers, engineers, social workers, etc.
But Angola has needed us very badly, and this year drought has made matters worse. The Angolans are pleading with us not to leave them now.
The old ardent supporters are slowly passing away; and this past year we had less than $30,000 to support the scholarships, and the Women’s Work (which has become increasingly important), and some infrastructure needed to make the work for effective. (e.g. The Red Deer Presbytery provided needed solar lights for a school).
Back in the 1930s, even with the depression, the small fledgling United Church of Canada supported about 50 overseas personnel. Then as times changed, one of our Moderators said: “The Church that is not Mission, will be missing”. Our Church has continued to have a mission, though it has changed focus to other serious needs (like gender issues), and given leadership in new areas. But I hope we do not lose sight of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, where we have started a ministry of helping some of the worlds disadvantaged.
So, this is an invitation to Chinook Winds Region to join the AMSF – not just to remember those missionaries who have represented us in years past: but to remember also Jesus’ challenge, to “go into all the world.” AMSF sends two news letters a year to all donors.
Gifts can be made on line to www.angolamsf.org Or to the treasurer: Eleanor Ellins, #2016, 1333 Bloor St., Mississauga, ON, L4Y 3T6
Email David Gilchrist for more information.