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Margaret Nissen:
An African Church is Born

pp 94-98 










Chapter 14
THE GOSPEL COMES TO KANAKURULAND
THE ARRIVAL OF DR. AND MRS. UHRENHOLT

We left the Uhrenholts taking a rest at Du on the. Bauchi Plateau because the war had closed the way to America. While they were there, word was received that permission had been granted by the Government to open a station at Shellem. Dr. Uhrenholt, therefore, started for Numan, leaving the ladies at Du. A few huts had been built in Shellem by Mr. Kjær and Pastor Thompson, but they were so thoroughly infested with termites when Dr. Uhrenholt, accompanied by his Nigerian helpers, Jelani and Galing, arrived on June 21, 1918, that they were hardly fit to live in. Mrs. Uhrenholt joined her husband in September, and they lived in a kitchen-hut til they could build a better house in the dry seasen. A ten acre tract of land across the little strearn from the town itself had be granted to the Mission, and Dr. Uhrenholt, with a group of labourers, set about leveling the whole site. They also gathered materials so that building could start as soon as the rains stopped. The doctor and his wife treated the sick, held devotions, and conducted classes for their own ernployees till permission for a school could be granted. They increased their own knowledge of the language, and translated the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandrnents and the Creed into Kanakuru.

The Chief of Shellem, Mujibouna, and some of the people showed the missionaries confidence and much friendliness. Both Dr. Uhrenholt and Mrs. Uhrenholt had been exceptionally well during their two years in Africa. Several times they had expressed their gratefulness for this fact in their letters home. They had remained out longer than advisable, but, because of the war, this seemed unavoidable. Then in October, just as the rains were over, Dr. Uhrenholt became sick. It was black-water fever, a dreaded disease, in which the red blood corpuscies disintegrate and are passed out in the urine, giving it a black colour. The end seemed in view for our busy Doctor. The two pioneer missionaries, away from home, with no loved ones to support them, surrounded by people who believed that it was the evil spirits who were causing the disease, passed some anxious days. One night, all their helpers would have left them, but they believed the door to be locked (it had been tied with a grass rope earlier in the day by one of the boys themselves). However, God’s hour for His servant had not yet come, and by His help, and the devoted nursing of Mrs. Uhrenholt, the Doctor recovered.

Some of the villagers showed the missionaries much sympathy duning Dr. Uhrenholt’s convalescence, but the Mohammedans, and there were a number of them in Shellem, had quite a bit of influence in the town, and they tried to prejudice the Chief against the missionaries. Our friends sometimes wondered whether they had come to Shellem too late; but they made the mon of their opportunities with their own boys and labourers. They gave them as much teaching as possible and made them learn by heart the fundamental truths of the Christian teachings. Dr. Uhrenholt was a practical, busy man, and his wife stood faithfully at his side during these difficult months, few though they were. A good foundation was laid for future mission work in the Kanakuru tribe. In November, though still weak from his recent illness, the Doctor started the construction of thirty-five huts and houses to be built during the dry season. It had been decided that the two ladies, Miss Madsen and Miss Kristensen, who had arrived in June, 1918, should go to Shellem as soon as quarters were available. The budding of these, as well as a hospital, a school, a church, and a more permanent house for themselves, would keep Dr. Uhrenholt busy till April, when the rains could be expected. He had one hundred labourers to supervise while he was his own architect and constructor. Every available minute was made use of to finish the station by spring. But God’s plan for Dr. Uhrenholt was different.

THE DEATH OF DR. UHRENHOLT
IN FEBRUARY, 1919, friends both in America and Denmark were shocked by a wire announcing that this gifted, devoted, and hard-working medical missionary had been called from this Life. His sorrowing widow, on her way horne, wrote to friends in America about his passing:

"Dear Friends,
"Now God calis me, and my last hour is at hand." These were the words my dear husband spoke when he realized what his last illness was. On Thursday evening, February 13, a cill his frame, and we knew it was black-water fever again. At first he could not understand that it really was the end for him. He had so often prayed that he might have a long day of service in Africa. Looking back over the years of preparation for this work, he felt that his day of labour had been so short in comparison. He thought of all the tasks that he had just started, but now had to leave unfinished.

Then he gave himself to prayer. He asked God if it were possible that he might be permitted to continue His work a little longer. But when he rose from his knees he said to me, "Eline, my last hour is at hand, my soul is free, I depart with peace and joy. I have received the assurance that what will happen will only further the Gospel in this place, and I rejoice at the thought." After he had entrusted us all to God’s care, we looked for a passage which could help both of us during the days ahead.

We received the verse from Isaiah 41:10, "Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." "Eline," he asked, "is that not sufficient?" And I had to say, "Yes, it is sufficient." Then he sang in Danish "Sing, oh my soul of Jesus death," and "My heart, 0 Holy Spirit, that city longs to see." We taiked for a while that night, but then his temperature rose sharply, and l had to rest. Next morning he was able to say a last word to the labourers and to the young people who helped us in the house. He was also able to talk to the English Government official who happened to come that Friday morning to call on us. At ten o'clock my husband said, "Now I'm no longer able to comprehend everything that takes place around me, but one thing I know, "He who the Son has made free is free indeed". From then on he did no seem to be conscious of anything or anybody till he fell asleep quietly on Sunday evening, the sixteenth of February.

During the days that followed I felt buoyed up by the passage in Isaiah in a most wonderful way, and through everything that took place, I too received the assurance that my husband’s passing was permitted by God for the furtherance of His Kingdom in Kanakuruland. The Mohammedans had, for quite some time circulated evil rumours to frighten the Kanakuru people from coming to us, but their plotting was brought to naught. When time came for us to lay his body to rest, the fear of evil spirits on the Mission compound seemed to have left the people. The Chief and all the labourers came and begged to be aliowed to follow him to his last resting place. The Chief himseif had supervised the digging of his grave throughout the night, and he did not leave the next day, till it had been completely filled in and a large mound of rocks had been put on top of it. (Due to the heat burial has to take place within a few hours after death, and the stones on top of the grave are to protect it from wild animals.)

As I look back, it seems that we were torn away from our work at Shellem so suddenly, but it was the Lord’s doing, and, I'm convinced, He makes no mistakes. We have felt so strongly that He was with us from the very beginning among the Kanakuru, and that He worked alongside of us. This gives me the assurance that His approval was over our work. Even though I feel that I have left part of myself in Africa, nevertheless I can say, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." I firmly believe what God says in Joel 2:26; My people shall not be put to shame forever."

Eline Uhrenholt."


As soon as Mrs. Uhrenholt had realized that her husband was seriously ill, she had sent a messenger to Numan asking for help. Mr. Kjaer and his wife (he had married Miss Erichsen in December) set out for Shellem immediately, accompanied by a visitor, Mr. Revne. They arrived before Dr. Uhrenholt drew his last breath. It was therefore Mr. Kjaer who spoke at the graveside about the resurrection of the dead, and the flying hope that shines like a beacon beyond the grave of those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The people of Shellem listened quietly, reverently, and sadly. It was arranged that Mr. and Mrs. Kjaer should take over the work at Shellem temporarily, and finish as much of the building as possible. They were later relieved by Mr. Jensen and Mr. Flatland (a young Norwegian out on one tour with the Mission to gain experience for the Norwegian Branch), while Miss Laura Madsen looked after the hospital work in Shellem. Mrs. Uhrenholt had gone home to America after her husband’s death and was trying to further the interest for the work of the Mission among friends in the U.E.L.C. Her friends and relatives tried to persuade her to stay home, but she couldn’t. Shellem called. She felt she must go back and continue the work which she and her husband had started. Returning to Nigeria in May, she replaced Miss Madsen in the hospital work, while the two men looked after the school and district work, for which permission had been granted in March, 1920.


THE DEATH OF Mrs. UHRENHOLT
Mrs. Uhrenholt had been back only six months when she fell ill. Mr. Jensen kindly nursed her for a few days, but when she became worse he took her by canoe to Nutnan, where there were nurses and a doctor. (Dr. Brønnum had come out an a short tour.) It was black-water fever, the same disease which only twenty rnonths earlier had ended her husband’s life. Her death, too, became a wonderful illustration to the African Christians and fellow missionaries alike, that Christ indeed has conquered death. She died on November 7, 1920. Dr. Brønnum, in telling of her passing, wrote:

"When I stepped over to her bed, there was a heavenly light in her eyes, and her face shone with anticipation. "I’m going horne," she said, "and I'm glad." Mrs. Uhrenholt had a lovely disposition; she was full of wit and humour, and she was one of those rare persons who always can see the silver lining of any cloud."

They would have taken her body to Shellem and laid her to rest beside her husband; but, with the rneans of communication at their disposal, it would have taken too long, and she was buried at Numan in the little private cemetery on the hills in the European residential quarter. The sorrow at the passing of this unselfish and consecrated missionary was intense on the part of her co-workers. Her memory is still cherished by her friends, former students, and relatives in America.

 

 

 

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