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[Note: This letter appeared in The Moody Church News, July 1941, Vol. 26, No. 7, page 3. Four of the missionaries on board the Zamzam were members of Moody Church in Chicago, Illinois, USA: Robert Muir, Walter John and Clara Guilding, and Jessie Blanchard]
Zam Zam Refugees
Dear Brother Hall:
When thou passest through the waters (of the Atlantic) I will
be with thee and through the rivers, (of Africa) they shall not overflow thee.
For I am the Lord, thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.” (Isa.
Praise God for His word that is established forever in heaven? We are all safe an(l sound here in Lisbon, Portugal. Mrs. Muir and myself are hoping to be able to proceed to Angola, Portuguese, West Africa from here. Of course, you have long heard of the disaster that overtook the Steamship Zam Zam-and the fact that we were rescued. The simple facts are as follows: The German Raider overtook us in the early hours of the morning of April 7th. They followed us, unknown to our own officers, till daylight. Even when seen, our officers did not suspect that it was a raider and only after it opened fire, was it realized. About fifteen shots were fired, damaging the Zam Zam.
One shot hit below the water line which made the ship to list. This was what led to the apprehension that the Zam Zam was going to sink quickly and there was an increased effort to get every one off immediately. However, it soon righted itself and would have stayed afloat another day. As it was, the raider took us all on board, and sent the crew to salvage as much clothing, bedding and food as possible. At about three o’clock the same afternoon, they dynamited the Zam Am and it went over on its side and sank. We were all on the deck of the raider and witnessed its sinking.
Immediately we turned west and that night about midnight, contacted the "Mother" ship to the raider. We were transhipped the i8th of April to the Dresden (the Mother ship). We stayed in the South Atlantic another week while the raiders sought fruitlessly for other victims, and then were sent off to Europe. There •were two Americans and one British passenger badly wounded and had to be left on the raider in charge of the doctor. The last we heard from them (which was just before we sailed for Europe) was that they were doing well and the German doctor had worked hard to bring them through. They had ugly compound fractures of limbs and one had a skull fracture. All the missionaries escaped without a scratch and there were only minor wounds to the Egyptian crew.
The German Captain of the Dresden was very kind and did everything he could to make it easy for us, especially for the women and children. They were given the cabins and the men and the Egyptian crew were given spacious hatches, below deck, of course, but we were above deck all day long and could see the women and children two hours every day as well as conduct religious services on Sundays.
The worst of all was the constant suspense of running the British blockade the last four days when going into Spanish waters. But it is all over now and we praise God we are free to either return to America or, I hope, go on to Africa. This is yet very uncertain but we will advise you as soon as we know definitely. Praise God for all His marvelous goodness to men. We thank Him when we realize that we have you there praying for us. Continue-instant in prayer-with thanksgiving.
-Bob and Martha Muir.