This is a complete and accurate transcript of an oral history interview of Dr. Marion Douglas Hursh (Collection 186, T1) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words which were recorded were omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
[ ] Words in brackets are comments made by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Janyce H. Nasgowitz and Paul Winterhalter and was completed in February 1994.
Collection 186 - T1. Interview of Marion Douglas Hursh by Galen Wilson on September 25, 1981.
WILSON: The following is an oral history interview recorded at the Billy Graham Center on September 25, 1981, with Dr. M. Douglas Hursh, founder of the Kano Eye Hospital in Nigeria. The interview was conducted by Galen R. Wilson. [Pause, tape recorder noise.] ...Hursh. It is September 25, 1981, and we are here with Dr. M. Douglas Hursh, who served under the Sudan Interior Mission in Nigeria for many years. The first thing I wanted to ask you was that you mentioned in the biography you gave us that your mother served as a missionary to Burma for many years. That was before her marriage?
HURSH: Yes. It wasn't so many years. It was one term from 1904 to 1910, and she, for health reasons, wasn't able to go back. She was with the American Baptist Mission.
WILSON: Did she ever tell you any stories of her...?
HURSH: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, we heard many stories.
WILSON: Do you recall any of them off top of your head?
HURSH: No, that was too many years ago [laughs]. I...I can...one that I can't forget is she had appendicitis and she was operated [on] by a Burmese doctor. I have no idea where; probably Rangoon. And I think she was on the table for hours. I don't know for sure. But six months later she had pain in her side again, so she went back to the doctor and said, "Well, at least we know it can't be my appendix." And he says, "I'm sorry madam, but I couldn't find your appendix," [Wilson laughs] which was a shock to her. Nobody had told her.
WILSON: Good land! All righty. Well, now, you also mentioned in...in the biography that you did for us that it was 1933 when you decided to go to the mission field. Would you tell us again...
WILSON: ...for...for the public record here [chuckles]?
HURSH: Right. I had graduated from Wheaton in June and was headed for medical school, University of Minnesota. That summer I was up as usual in northern Minnesota. We had a little Bible conference, and when I say little I can't remember how many were there, but it was very small scale and.... I suppose forty, fifty kids and the two teachers were George Kraft, who at that time was at Northwestern [College], which happened to be where my mother had graduated, and [pauses] now, the name slips me. [Unclear phrase.] Holmgren, Layton Holmgren. He was then at Asbury and became later secretary of the American Bible Society. They were the speakers and so, as you can see, no big name job. But one morning we were having the usual messages and George Kraft was speaking on John 11, where Jesus is talking to Martha and Mary and the message went, "The Master has come and calls for you," and that hit home. The Master was calling me.
WILSON: So it took you, what, seven years to...no, more than that....
HURSH: Yes, went on to medical school, four years, internship, a year, and I worked a year in the Civilian Conservation Corps and helped...or rather as camp surgeon and then a year with my father in general practice. He was just changing his office to Hibbing, Minnesota, so that first year I...there was not enough business for both of us. We got going there in July of '39 and during that year I knew that I was going to have to make a decision, because my roots were getting down a little too deep here. And I had no idea where the Lord wanted me, mostly because I hadn't asked Him [chuckles]. But out of the blue a fellow walked into the office one day from California and he said, "I've heard that you're interested in the mission field." And I said, "Yes, I am." "Well," he said "I want to offer you a position in Alaska." He was with one of the denominational boards, very new proposition as far as those days were concerned, because I was going to work four months of the year in the [unclear] industry...fishing industry and they had a house which would be a house like the preacher has, a house [coughs] (excuse me) and salary and everything. Well, I took him home to dinner that noon and my mother got working on him, asking him some very pointed questions and it became very apparent that we couldn't be there for...not...just for the sake of the gospel but the sake of the physical needs of the people. And so, "Why, you can preach all you want," he said. But that opened my eyes to what I should be looking for. And it wasn't more than a month later when my brother sent me some literature on Sudan Interior Mission, which I didn't even read because I wasn't interested in Africa. I was thinking of the East, Burma or some place. It wasn't another month until I got a book from Dr. Helser, The Glory of the Impossible, and then I thought, "O Lord, You're trying to tell me something." And when I got to page sixty-two and it talked about the need for people working amongst the blind in Nigeria, wanting to build an eye hospital, and I wrote him and said, "I...I'm in general practice and had no eye training but if you want to wait until I get it, why I feel the Lord is calling me there." And he wrote back and said, "We have no other offers." We arranged a meeting and we drove down to Duluth and he came up on a train, and we talked it all over. Of course, he couldn't accept me for mission but, for all intents and purposes, I was on my way. So in July I left practice and went to Moody, took six months of Bible and missionary courses, and in the meantime gave the Army a hard time because they couldn't keep up with me. I had a commission as first lieutenant, and naturally they were looking ahead and so was I. At Moody I had no problem with the draft board because I was registered 4F, whatev...4D, whatever they gave those guys in those days. Anyway, I then began my residency at Univer...at Presbyterian Hospital. It was then Presbyterian before they joined with St. Luke's. Only a year in those days, and yet I felt that it was preparing me for what was lay...lying ahead because I got a chance to do a fair amount of surgery. But January came and, of course, Pearl Harbor had come in the meantime. And I was ready to go, but the Army was after me and had a little trouble keeping up with me, but they got a little bit nasty. They said, "Now, we're giving you a last choice. Do you want your commission back or not?" If I'd said "Yes," I was in the Army and if I said "No," then I would be drafted as a private. But we went down and I was working with the draft board, examining applicants and so forth, and they gave me a third opportunity. They said, "Now, you can keep working with the draft board if you want." I said, "That's not what I want. I'm going to the mission field." Well, they didn't believe me, and.... Anyway, that was when we got the shocking news that our son, then almost three, was removed from the passport because they weren't send...letting children go overseas, by boat, of course. They were sinking one boat a day off the east coast in those days. And...but we made the arrangements to have him go to our children's home in Collingwood, Ontario, thinking he would be joining us in three months, six months, whatever. And I moved to New York, sat around and waited for something to break. It took three months, but finally they joined me there, and we got away in May.
WILSON: Now, this was without your son?
HURSH: Without my son. He had gone up in the home, and that was, of course, harder on my wife even than I, but that was the Lord's will. We had some...somebody try to give us advice, "Why do you have to go to Nigeria? Why don't you go to South America or someplace where they'll let him go with you," but that wasn't the leading we had. So we...it took us a month to get there.
WILSON: By boat?
HURSH: Three weeks to Matadi, Congo [now Zaire], and to avoid [unclear phrase] convoy, and to avoid the west coast of Africa, we didn't know how we would get to Nigeria. But we managed to catch an RAF plane, seaplane, and so we arrived approximately a month later up to Kano to look over the situation and decide exactly what we wanted with the building and so forth.
WILSON: Now, why Kano?
HURSH: Well, that was chosen because that was the metropolis of the North, seven hundred miles from the coast, center of the Moslem faith, that and Sokoto. That was the...the point here. We had gotten in ten years before in the leprosy work, but not allowed to really reach out and contact anybody else. They needed an eye hospital. They knew they did. The government wasn't supplying it, the British government, and so here was an offer that was hard for them to turn down. And yet they did for years, for this was in the planning stage from '40 on. But finally the...actually the British government put the pressure on them and they had to say yes, but it wouldn't be in the city. It'd have to be outside of the city, walled city, a thousand years old, a hundred thousand people, and about a hundred thousand right in the suburbs, which was where we were located. They...as I say, it was almost a command because one of the donors for our hospital (we were looking for donors for those two years) happened to be a member of parliament in England [train noise], and he...well, he put the pressure on. And [unclear phrase]...and he said, "Yes," and also appeared at the dedication service on January twentieth, 1943. Some miracles were performed to get that building at that time. No [unclear word] roofing, which is what they used for ceil...roofing at that time, galvinated [sic, galvanized] iron. And you can't get any out of the U.S., it's all allocated. But somebody found some in a Brooklyn yard that hadn't been discovered and got it out there in time and so we opened with twenty-five beds, e...equally divided, shall I say, twelve and twelve, men's ward and women's ward, one private room. They said, "You won't need that many beds for women because the women won't be allowed to come." Before long, we had just as many women as men. They're...they were no use to their husbands when they were blind, but....
WILSON: But their husbands were willing to put the money into the...?
HURSH: No, there was no money involved.
WILSON: Oh, okay.
HURSH: This was free.
WILSON: Can't lose there.
HURSH: No, especially when they couldn't even see to do the cooking, you know. That was most important. But glaucoma was rampant and we were able to help them with the drugs we had at the time plus lit [?] surgery, so that their corneas improved enough to where they could manage to get around. And, of course, they were relieved of a great deal of pain and suffering. And that opened the door because we got them right from Kano city and environs. And, as far as the men were concerned, why they...they were a little reluctant at first. Actually, they were told by the malums [?, malmudim], the teachers, the Moslem teachers, not to come. We would take their eyes out and they'd be blind. "They...they wanted these eyes for bullets," they'd say. "They were going to send them to England," they said, which was ridiculous but they'd believe anything. Or they were told we were..."they put goats' eyes in or monkeys' eyes in," or something like that. But we had to get a few educated people there to break the ice.
WILSON: Keep going. I'm just adjusting the volume here.
HURSH: And once...yes...once we got a few of the upper crust Moslem malums [?, malmudim], why then it was no problem. Especially...I operated [on] a man who was a district head with cataracts, and he was fourth in line in the hierarchy, so that really broke the ice for us. And that...before the four years was up we had no real...no real opposition.
WILSON: What...what were your opportunities for evangelizing?
HURSH: Well, there were no strings attached at all. We had a small staff. We'd...we were operating on a shoe string, so we couldn't have any paid evangelists, but we were able to get Christians in. Actually, we had to train them ourselves as far as nursing went. And they were able to witness to their own people. You see, we had largely Hausas at first and...because that was the predominant tribe there in the North. And yet all of our staff were not Hausas. They were some from the middle belt [?], pagan areas, were Christians. But there was no problem because they spoke the language. And gradually we, of course, acquired it ourselves, although we had a very short time in language school. But we could witness at any time. Always did on the operating table. We always prayed for them individually.
WILSON: [Unclear phrase] ...the anesthesia?
HURSH: This is all local, you see.
WILSON: Oh, okay.
HURSH: So, no problem, and they were awake during the time, this...except for children, of course. But they couldn't get over this fact that they weren't feeling pain. They thought that perhaps we weren't doing a good job, because "I can't feel anything, I can't feel anything." If it were a trachoma operation, they would say, "Tie it tighter, tie it tighter." And we assured them that were getting the proper job without the pain. And, as a matter of fact, one of the...one of their medicine men.... I don't know what to call him. Not...he wasn't a witch doctor because he was a Moslem, but they had learned the practice of "couching" from years...centuries back, as it was practiced in India.
WILSON: The practice of what?
HURSH: Couching? It's...
WILSON: I'm not familiar with that.
HURSH: Yeah. That is a...an external procedure by which the opaque lens is dislocated by pressure around the rim, so that it drops into the vitreous, then the person is able to see. The only problem is, that lens bounces around in there, and if they are not well trained they...they don't do it by the external approach. They'll pierce with a sharp instrument or a thorn or something and try to do it that way. Then these people get infected. They've come to us having lost the first eye and then we get a chance to do the second eye. Well, one of these fellows heard about us, of course. He practiced right there in Kano, and he wanted to watch me work and so I said, "Fine." Now, it so happened that just before that, the government had come to me and said, "Well, we need help in getting this practice stopped, stamped out, and so you must report to us anyone you know of who is doing this operation." Well, I reported but I didn't count on them acting so fast. [Chuckles.] Usually it'd take them a couple of weeks, you know, to go through the bureaucracy. Well, he...after the day he watched me work he said, "You know I want some of that medicine that you used to make them lie still." He said, "I have to have two people holding mine down." Well, I said. "I can't give you that, but I'd like to watch you work now that you've watched me." So, "All right," he said, "next patient I get, I'll call you." Wasn't but two or three days until he called me and we went over all set to make movies and everything else. This was going to be a first, and...but I got there and he had a very long face. He said, "We have to go and see the judge, the Kadi." I said, "Oh?" He said, "You reported me, didn't you?" I said, "Yes, I had to." "Well," he said, "I can't do the work now." So he went to see the judge and I tried to not...get him to...to...to not prosecute him. So, he says, "Now I am going to have to leave the country, because this is the only occupation I have." I'll go across the border to French country." He said, "I can work up there." I said, "Well, you can if they'll let you." "Well," he said, "I'll need a...a paper, a recommendation from you." Well, I [chuckles]...I was on the spot. So I wrote it out on letterhead [train noise] and, of course, it was...I wrote it in English, so he didn't know what it said anyway. I said, "This man is forbidden by law to practice his art of couching in Nigeria," and I signed my name. [Wilson and Hursh laugh.] He went [unclear phrase] where, of course, they couldn't read English either. He came back two years later, very profuse thanks, saying that, "You...you're letter's gotten me much business up there. All I had to do was show them this Kano Eye Hospital and they thought I was one of yours." [Both laugh.] So it backfired.
WILSON: But everybody was happy.
HURSH: Yeah. And he happened to do a good job. He didn't ruin many eyes as far as I could tell. But that was the way [unclear phrase] art of couching. Getting back to your question about the gospel, I even went out to this district head's headquarters twenty or thirty miles from Kano on Sundays playing the gospel records, with his permission, right in his front yard and a crowd gathered there. And he wasn't happy about it, but he couldn't say no. He just felt obligated. And so I was questioned by the British authorities, "We hear you're doing this." I said, "I'm doing this with the district head's permission." They didn't believe me. I said, "You just go and ask him." And they actually tried to stop me, but I...I kept right on anyway. They said, "You're going...you're going to make it hard. I said, "No, these people are here of their own free will. Nobody is being forced to hear the gospel." Of course, I had a P.A. system. They couldn't help...
WILSON: They were forced to hear it. They weren't forced to listen [laughs].
WILSON: Well, what kind of results did you have from your evangelizing?
HURSH: Yeah. Well, they were slow at first. I can remember the first three or four converts because we used to go and visit them. Some...one or two in the city. There was a woman who was a most unlikely Christian, you might say, because she was, oh, very brusk and.... Unlike the majority of the women there, she was more or less of...of a leader, shall we say, and.... Most women in that country, as you can presume, would do whatever their husbands said. Not her. And her name was Pokula [?]. And we said, "Well, now that you've become a Christian," I said, "we...we want to come to your house, and witness to the rest of your household," which, of course, might mean three other wives. We didn't know. A dozen children. The thing about Kano was that, in Kano City, the walls are only about six feet high, and every compound joins the next one. So we went over there and started playing some Hausa records and heads popped up all the way around, and...a couple dozen of them, and here were some more wives that were being able to listen. These people were most of the time in purdah, of course. They were locked in. Well, her husband made himself scarce whenever we came, but he didn't stop her. She...as I say, she was a forceful person, and she got her way. And likewise there was a place out eight or ten miles where we would visit perhaps every month, at least, and preached there and...and a few people would come around. At least his own household would hear and then, well, I would say, over the course of a year we had eight or ten converts. Well, that doesn't sound like much, but in a Moslem country, it is something new. And we couldn't preach in the city. It was forbidden and, of course, you couldn't preach near a mosque. But in the market places they...they didn't stop us. And there'd be thousands of people and maybe two or three hundred would stop to listen. And they were hearing for the first time. But to do it now, it's, of course, very different. We started a blind school for those that we couldn't help, and in no time at all these fellows who had never read, some of them blind from early infancy, were reading the Hausa Bible in Braille. And, of course, they became Christians and that's all...the only Bib...scripture...or the only textbook they had and, before a year would be up, every one of these would have accepted the Lord. And what was there...what way could they make a living but...but by preaching? And...there were small crafts, basket weaving, and so forth, but they weren't going to depend upon that. They wanted to preach and they did. And some of them went on to our regular Bible schools and were able to...to keep up with the regular students. And some of our finest evangelists are...are blind.
WILSON: These...these are the SIM Bible schools?
WILSON: In Nigeria?
HURSH: Right. The SIM in those days. Now, of course, it's ECWA, Evangelical Churches of West Africa, because they have taken over all the...everything, churches, hospitals, dispensaries. We're there only as an advisory capacity. Which was made necessary by...actually by the government. Once they became independent, why they'd run the show.
WILSON: And did.
HURSH: That's the way it should be. And we're not out of a job, and yet they're joining us. For instance, in the Eye Hospital we couldn't get a Nigerian eye specialist. He'd go and get his training. They weren't able to go to the States in those days. Went to England or Ireland, came back and they were all set to make a real financial [pauses] reaping, shall we say, because they could claim their own price. The government made them work for them for five years, for their training, but after that they were on their own. They didn't want to work for the mission for anything that we could afford to pay them. But now, since I've been gone, the government has subsidized them for a year at our place, like a residency, and then to England, and then they can do what they want when they come back. And we have two there now who joined our staff and...always one who is in his training period, so there are four opthomologists there now instead of one or two. The same thing is true in the optical line. We actually paid one of our men to go to England and study, hoping to relieve the optical situation, and he came back. That was thirty years ago and he's...he just now retired, so we got our money's worth out of him.
WILSON: [Laughs] I guess. You mentioned when you were talking about going to the homes, playing Hausa records. Now, what...what were these records?
HURSH: Well, these were both singing and preaching. These were made by our missionaries at first, by an organization in California.
WILSON: Gospel Recordings?
HURSH: Right. Yes.
HURSH: And we had a limited supply at first, maybe half a dozen. And then, in the course of time, well, we actually got native recordings, you see, which, when it came to the preaching, was much more acceptable. They can ver...they can tell right away if it's a white man talking...
HURSH: ...[chuckles] and even though he's very good in...in the language.
WILSON: Now, did Gospel Recordings put out these native ones also?
HURSH: Yes. Yes. They sent people out there to make the masters and, of course, in later years, I think they'd even come to this country. I don't know. I know we've done that ourselves in Florida with the Scriptures, another organization, by putting them on tapes.
WILSON: Was...was it an effective way to...?
HURSH: Yes. Yes, because, in the first place, this was something new to them. They...they'd never heard a voice coming out of a box. And....
WILSON: What...you had a portable, battery-operated, or what?
HURSH: Yeah. Right. A battery-operated recorder, I mean player, and then with a P.A. system picking it up, so that it was maybe not the highest fidelity, but they got it. [Wilson laughs.] And it was...it was a thing of wonder to them. This might be a blind man reading with his fingers. That would draw a crowd right there. And people would...you'd see them going around trying to find where the voice was coming from, and getting up close and trying to figure it out. That was before the days of radio or of transistor radios. Of course, now they're much more sophisticated. [Hursh chuckles.] They've become exposed [unclear word].
WILSON: Yeah, but the inroads were made.
WILSON: When...as you mentioned, the Kano area is very heavily Muslim. Was it a.... How Muslim was it? Was it more...?
HURSH: Ninety-five or ninety-six per cent.
WILSON: All right. What I'm asking, though, is...was it a relatively thin Muslim overlay on a still pagan root or...?
HURSH: No. No, these folks had been Muslims for two hundred years. They were converted back around 1800, by outsiders, of course. They...they're pretty well established. Now, Arabic is a foreign language to them. They have to memorize it. Very few of them, unless they've been to school, can read it. But they would go to their Muslim school...their...to writing schools and write it and memorize it. And that was about the extent of their education. The government tried to get them to go on to school. Men only, not the girls, of course. Buy they didn't succeed too well because, well, they...they didn't know how they were going to make a living. They were farmers. What would...what good would it do them to be able to read? But knowledge which...the teachers themselves got their training in their own Moslem schools. There were no Christian schools until we started them, and not just a Bible school, but elementary schools, first for boys. The only way we could do that was orphans and waifs, and there was no problem getting a school for them if they were interested in board and room. If not, they had to go out and beg.
WILSON: And, well, I...I take it that the point is that you didn't have to get anybody's permission to let those children come.
HURSH: No parents, no. And...and, of course, some of our...we had our own Christians. Their children had to have some place to go, so they joined these schools. And it was a long time before we got permission for a girl's school. They just thought that that was out of this world. I mean, what...what do girls need an education for? But gradually they were broken down and, of course, [unclear word]...they have their own now, higher education for women just as well as men.
WILSON: Were you able to present successfully to the Muslim culture the argument for women's education on a Christian ground?
HURSH: Yes, yes. Well, they had a demonstration there of these wives of our Christians who were Christians and they saw the difference in the way they were handled, the way they were treated. It was an emancipation, really. And it was very evident and naturally something that they...they would desire, apart from the Christianity, because they were chattel before that. And it presented a problem, for many of our converts had more than one wife, maybe even three or four, and the church had to handle the situation. And the man himself realized that he was going to have to make some adjustments, some decisions. And we tried to offer our advice but it comes better from them. They didn't necessarily want the first wife. She was the oldest and the fourth one was the youngest and the prettiest [laughs] and they would have liked to have kept the last one, but they realized, if the Holy Spirit's working in their hearts, that the first one was really the one who was their real wife as far as Christians were concerned, and they had to make some provisions for the others. Either they supported them...many times they stayed there with them. Otherwise, if they were kicked out, why they...there was nothing for them to do but to become prostitutes and...[unless?] somebody else married them. But the church has a way of working those things out. If they were...they had more than one wife, they were...the church wouldn't baptize them, they couldn't become an officer in the church. They were a little bit hard on them. They sat in the back...back of the church [chuckles]. They were marked...they were earmarked.
WILSON: Now, this...the church was predominately under indigenous leadership, wasn't it?
HURSH: Yes, after the first few years. Our...the one we started there in Kano City.... I shouldn't say Kano City. It's outside the city, New Town it's called, [unclear word] grew from seating a couple hundred to six hundred. And we expanded and then in no time at all that wasn't big enough, so they went to two services. And then in the years since I left there, they've built three more churches. The last one seats two thousand. And that's in the area. They now have their first church inside the city. That is...that is a first.
WILSON: Now, is there more than one congregation there now?
HURSH: Oh yes, yes. Well, you see we have so many tribes and they still like to worship in their own language. So there's an Ibo church and there's a Yoruba church and a Fulani church. And the Fulanis are last really to get into the picture because they're nomads and they're hard to reach, hard to...to deal with. And...but now they are actually in considerable numbers. And the latest thing now is a...a group called the Maguzawas [Dr. Hursh means Isawa here; the Maguzawas had a pagan background; see guide, p. 6], or the...actually, the "Jesus people" and the Isawa people and there are some.... You see, Christ is mentioned...Jesus is mentioned in the Koran and much about him, and these were some that would not...who wanted to be Moslems and yet accept Jesus as a prophet. Not as...not as a savior, not as the son of God, but to follow him rather than Mohammed.
WILSON: Oh, okay.
HURSH: They...they'll...they call themselves the Jesus people, the Isawa, but not knowing anything about the New Testament, having only what they had in the Koran. Well, they were pretty reluctant for more years than you could imagine but, in the last ten years, they have come by the thousands. They have their own churches, their own Bible schools, and [are] just crying for preachers.
WILSON: And very much Christian in our sense of the word.
HURSH: Yes, yes. That's something that I...has happened in the last ten years, and right in our area. I mean, a hundred miles from where we were.
WILSON: The...I want to go back to the Eye Hospital for a minute here. Now, where...where did you get your source of supply, or.... You know, Kano's about, you said, seven hundred miles inland?
HURSH: Yes, from the coast. Well, Kano is an international airport, became one after the war.
WILSON: I was going to say.... How about in 1943?
HURSH: Well, that's different...that's different. Planes where coming in there but they were all army planes, you see. U.S. and British and whatever, so it was built up. The airport was built up. But as far as our supplies were concerned, they all came by boat. And....
WILSON: Is Kano on a river?
HURSH: Oh, no. No. There's a small river ten miles away or twenty miles away but it heads for Lake Chad.
WILSON: Oh. No point in going there.
HURSH: The Niger River comes up half way and then divides. It goes to the east and to the west, but there [unclear word]....
WILSON: And Kano is right in the middle, isn't it?
HURSH: Right. So we're on the railroad. Things had to come up by train. By boat to near Lagos or the other port, Port Harcourt, and by train. And, well, even in good times without the war.... You know, we had to figure months because it might get off the ship and sit on the dock and wait for somebody to pay a bribe to get it moved. And we didn't do business that way so we just had to wait. And then it would be broken into, things would be missing, you'd get half of the stuff maybe. So we had to do a lot of [claps] make-doing. I can't think of the word I want...con...what is the word? Well, anyway....
WILSON: I...I know what you're saying.
HURSH: Yes. For instance, we had instruments. I brought those with me. I had to have a complete set of surgical instruments so that I could begin business. And those I got in New York without any difficulty. And eye instruments being small, they didn't take up a lot of room. But sterilizer was...sterilizing was hard. Operating table we made out of bicycle wheels. We had to be able to turn it, so it was a three wheel job, the front wheel turned. Canvas bed. This operated as a litter as well as a table. The patient didn't have to be moved. He was taken back to his bed on the...on the bicycle cart. The only problem was that these fellows turned the corners too fast and dumped a few of them, and tipped over. So I had to go back after that and...and make sure the thing was steadied, and they got back into bed properly. Well, that meant I had to scrub again and it delayed surgery. So eventually, of course, after the war, why we got what we needed. Not much came from the States. Most of it came from England. And it got there in decent time usually. Drugs were a big problem. We find...found we had to get them from Italy or Switzerland or wherever we could. But we...I...again, we did a lot of improvising, which is the word I was trying to think of. Yeah. The beds were no problem. We can make a wooden bed and put a...a grass mat on it and that was better than sleeping on the cement floor. They didn't have to have mattresses. And, oh, if you got into the technical things, like a slip [or slit?] lamp, which I didn't have and needed, why, we made that out of an old microscope, and it did the...did the job. I had a beam lamp I could use and...until after the war, and then we got donations from some places. For instance, the Wheaton Eye Clinic sent me a...a slip [?] lamp which was very adequate for there but which was replaced by a better one by...by them, of course. And eventually the time came when we could buy these things ourselves. That brings up the financial end of it. I said we did things free. Well, we might as well say free because we charged a penny. They had to pay something or they thought it wasn't any good. That was for the farmers. The villagers paid their thruppence, which was a nickel, back in those days. When it came to staying in the hospital, we didn't want to exclude anybody, so if they could pay a shilling a day, twenty-five cents to start with, okay, and that actually paid for their food. They had...we had to feed them and unless they had more money, why that was already paid. If they...and then we gradually realized that these people weren't as poor as we thought, because after a while they gave us their money pouches for safe-keeping, you see, and they might have several pounds in there. That's British currency in those days. So then...anyway, we had to wise up and start charging them for the surgery [laughs]. But the government helped us and gave us a bed grant to pay for the food. Somebody occupied a bed for a year got so much money which paid for their food. And capital grants we got for enlargement so that every four years, or every five years actually.... We were there four and home one. When I came back, we had money enough t..., with what donations we'd been able to pick up in the meantime, to add a wing of twenty-five beds. So we got up to seventy-five and a hundred, and then it became too much for one doctor, so we had to insist on two, which we got. And then gradually it was a hundred and fifty and finally a hundred and seventy-five. And...financially, the government then...when they became independent in 1960, why they could do what they pleased. They could give us more or give us less. They weren't under British authority or advice, and it turned out that they gave us less, so we had to start charging more. And the people had it. Glasses, for instance, we didn't give away. They didn't appreciate them if you did. Although there were some cases where Christians who needed them to read got them after cataract surgery. Of course, they couldn't see without glasses. We thought they couldn't see, they thought they could. They...they were just as happy without. You wouldn't believe it, but we got some cheap ones, I mean cheap plus eights, plus tens cost us a couple of dollars. And we'd offer them to them and they'd put them on and, "Oh my, yes, I can see fine, but I can't farm with these," and so they'd give them back to us. They didn't read so they didn't take the glasses. But gradually, of course, you got the educated ones and they were happy to pay for their glasses. And actually that became our main source of revenue. There was no place else where they could get them, you see, in that country. And the optical shop grew and grew till they had their own building and some very sophisticated equipment, up to five thousand dollars for a machine that could turn the lenses out faster. And so we were...we were doing big business there and yet at a price which would be a fraction of what you'd pay in this country, because actually our help was low paid by this...by this scale.
WILSON: But who picked up your's and your wife's support?
HURSH: Well, that we had to get out and get before we went out the first time, and various places. Being an independent...I shouldn't say independent, interdenominational mission, why, it could be our own church or any other church that we could interest. And she [Mrs. Hursh] picked up the bulk of her's in a little church in northern Michigan that didn't have any missionaries. She was their first missionary. And I got mine from...some of it, from my church in Wheaton, College Church, and an individual in Minneapolis, or St. Paul rather, who has been a benefactor of Wheaton in many ways, and Mrs. Chapman and her three daughters have come here to school. She had half of my support, at least, for the whole time I was out there, twenty years. There's smaller churches or individuals would also send donations, if not to us, to the Eye Hospital. So that there was never any lack. We had...I shouldn't say that either, because the money was pooled, you see, and everybody didn't have full support. So you got your portion of whatever came in for that month. And how we lived during the war, I'll never know. But you lived off the country and food was cheap. And today it wouldn't last you one day what we got for a month.
WILSON: Did you do any of your own farming or...?
HURSH: No. No. When we started the first boy's school, they farmed, and they raised their own grain, of course, and...and support. We didn't even have a garden. In the first place, we didn't have time. Second place, it's too arid there, too dry. You couldn't raise much anyway in any case. But being in a large center, they came to us with the produce, which they raised actually down by.... Sounds peculiar perhaps to this culture but not to them and not to the Chinese. They raised all their vegetables where the night-soil was deposited, and actually not being any sewer system, why, it was just a run-off, and here was very fertile soil.
WILSON: I'll bet [both laugh].
HURSH: But there were carrots which we could wash, and all the easy-to-raise stuff, tomatoes, onions, and that sort of thing. Now, you're a little at a disadvantage when it came to cabbage and lettuce. Oh, of course, the cabbage you cooked but we didn't eat too much lettuce in those days. But you could teach the boy to wash the...(boy, I say, that was our cook)...to wash the stuff in potassium permanganate solution, presumably that would make it half way safe. And...but everybody got dysentery, so you got rather immune before you got through. And the...we had medicine to take. The amoebic wasn't so easily cured, but that wasn't our main problem. Our main problem was malaria, and we, of course, had the [unclear word], as the British would say, or the quinine to take in the early days and that wasn't very pleasant, especially when you had to...came down with it, because you had to take so much that you got deaf from it. But then along came the drugs that the army used during the war and these were developed to the point where we could handle the situation pretty well.
WILSON: Did...did you personally come down with malaria?
HURSH: Oh, yes, everybody had it, but I was never in bed more than one day. My wife got it every time she had a child. She...the resistance was lowered or something. And she had....
WILSON: She would get it during the pregnancy?
HURSH: Afterward. No. The two girls were born out there, our two boys were born at home. The two girls were born out there and right afterwards, within a month, why she was down with malaria. Now why, I don't know, but that's the way it worked.
WILSON: Did you manage to keep your prac...well, I say practice, but did you keep doing your rounds and all with...?
HURSH: With malaria? Oh, yes. I mean, you can have a hundred and one or two and you wouldn't have any problem except a headache perhaps, but....
WILSON: You're quite a trooper [laughs].
HURSH: Well, it hits some people harder than others. You can have such chills that you think you're going to shake the bed, you see. But usually two or three days and you've got it knocked out and you can get back. Buy fortunately, or thankfully, I never lost a day. Other people had to, but my health was pretty good.
WILSON: Now, when you folks went out, your on...you only had the one son and he had to stay behind.
WILSON: What's it like...now, it was...it was three years, wasn't it, before you got him?
WILSON: What's it like to try to be a father an ocean away?
HURSH: Well, it wasn't easy, especially when the communications were so poor during the war, you see. We would never know whether our mail would get there or not. It would be censored, and theirs to us would be censored. And even though it supposedly came by air, very little came by boat. Well, the only air was military and it could be two months, three months, four months, so that we really didn't know what was going on. But the mission ran the home of course, so they kept our pictures before our son like they did the others and tried to maintain the contact, always thinking that, "Well, next month or next year the way would be open." Well, I'm sure that it would have been almost impossible to...to go through that time if you'd known how long it would be. And when you know...when you don't know, why it just...the time wears on. But it was harder, perhaps, on my wife than it was on me because I was busier than she was [coughs] and [clears throat] it was especially difficult because he wasn't well. He...he had allergies and he had surgery, tonsils and adenoids, and they had him at the children's hospital in Toronto, the best care. But when you don't know what's going on, why it's not easy. And the fact of the matter is, they came to the point where they said, "Well, maybe he will be better off in Nigeria than he is here," because his winters he...were very tough. But, sure enough, when he started out and he flew to Miami where Dr. and Mrs. Myers met him, within a week, why, he was better. His nasal condition cleared up and, well, the hot air...the hot, dry...it wasn't too dry, but the hot air at least was better than Toronto or Collingwood. And then the next hop was to Berm...or Brazil and he was in two spots there. One of them for two months in an army camp and he continued to improve right along. By the time he got to us, why, he was in good health.
WILSON: Well, now...then...I hate to keep referring to him as your son but I've forgotten his name.
WILSON: David. Now, David went back to the States then for high school, didn't he?
HURSH: Well, yes. He had the year out there. He came to us [when] he was six and we had one year left of our first term, so we had the year...the first year of school through the Calvert system taught by one of our fellow missionaries who...we didn't have any school for our children then.
WILSON: Now, that was in Kano?
HURSH: Yes, right there in Kano. She just gave him a couple of hours a day, which is all the time she had. But he had so much time on his hands that he just picked up books off of our library shelf or anybody's shelf and before he was seven years old he was reading the Saturday Evening Post and The Reader's Digest and whatever there was to read. As a matter of fact, on his next tour out...well, on the year at home, they'd put him in second and moved him to third. And then he came back and they moved him to fourth and so he was rather precocious. And one day he said to me, he said...the Saturday Evening Post came (this was before the first term), and he said, "Who do you think done it?" It was "The Yellow Room." I can remember the story. I said, "What do you mean?" And he said, "Who...who do you think was the murderer?" Well, I said, "What are you talking about?" He said...well, he started discussing the story and I didn't know that he had been reading it [laughs]. Well, he came to the point where later on he read Foxes' Book of Martyrs, which I had never waded through [both laugh][sound of microphone being bumped intermittently during this passage]. So, by the time he was ready for...to go home the next time, why he was in the eighth grade. And he had his first year here at Wheat...half year in Wheaton Central. Yeah. And then wha...what was the next step? Well, we had to figure out where he could get his high school, so we decided on Hampden DuBose [Academy] down in Zellwood, Florida, and after three years there, he, of course, came to Wheaton as a freshman. And by the time we came home next, why, he was a sophomore and so he had one more year with us then. Actually, it was two. We stayed over two years then because I had to get some more training and besides the fact that I had the...well, I've forgotten the other reason now. But our girls, which had been born in the meantime, where also in grade-school here. When we went back, he was freshman at...or sophomore at Hampden DuBose. And then our girls at that time, of course, were [in] later grades and we had our own school for them in the plateau until finally our oldest daughter had to get her first two years of high school there in a mission school. And then we came back again in the sixties. Why? I had a coronary attack in '64 and then again in '65, so I didn't get back right away for any length of time, although I made short-term...short-term visits, one month, two months, three months about every other year, so that I got back five times in the next ten years. And the rest of my family didn't get back.
WILSON: Now, was David the only one of your children that you were separated from then for a significant...?
HURSH: Yes, except for the others having to go away to school, and actually they were there nine months of the year. And it was a days journey from where we were and the only way we could see them an extra month was to take our vacation during school time so that way we'd have one month there and we'd have the three months with them at home and that worked out very well.
WILSON: The...the schools they went to then were boarding schools?
WILSON: And they were run by the mission?
HURSH: Right. The second one, the high school, was a group affair. Five missions went together to form Hillcrest so that we had a hostel there so that our dozen or more students from our mission who were in the high school had a place to live, but went to the....
WILSON: Now, did you have to pay for that school, or...?
HURSH: No...no. We had to supply teachers. The mission took care of the hostel end of it. I guess we were charged tuition but it didn't amount to too much. Things were cheap in those days. Our greatest expense was getting there and back. Fortunately we took our...our mission plane. We had our own planes then and you could get there in...a hundred and fifty miles by plane, and you could get there in an hour, hour and a half, and three hundred miles by road, and it took all day.
WILSON: Now, the school was in where? In Jos?
HURSH: It was in Meango [?] which is near Jos, on the plateau. That was also where our rest home was where we took our vacations or holidays, as they call them, so it's forty-five hundred feet, very pleasant most of the year instead of fifteen hundred where we were.
WILSON: Now, you mentioned in this little capsule biography that you wrote for me, of roadside preaching, quote, unquote. Now, describe...now, I think that's what you eluded to earlier about preaching in the marketplaces and all.
HURSH: Yes. Right. That was on Sundays. That was the only time I had, and on Sundays we'd have a station-wagon and we'd collect two or three of the students from the blind school, two or three boys from our elementary school to lead them. And then we would drop them off by the roadside two by two, you see, wherever there was a market where they knew there was a...where they had preached before. Perhaps there were one or two Christians and they could get a gathering. And then I would go on to the last place, to the end, and then pick them up on the way back so that we had usually a radius of fifteen or twenty miles. And we...it would take us three or four hours before we'd be out and back. I did very little of the preaching because the others just did a better job.
WILSON: Now, is that because you weren't as at home in the language or because the natives would listen more carefully to...?
HURSH: Well, they listened to them, perhaps, before they would to me. I mean, they would start to listen and then, you know, "Well, I don't understand him." Now, you can...a white man could talk their language very well, but if they had the least prejudice they would just say, "Well, he's not talking my language. He's talking English." And they wouldn't bother trying to listen.
WILSON: Did you encounter a lot of prejudice?
HURSH: Very little really, except by the leaders themselves, especially the teachers themselves, the malums [?]. They could be very hostile and try to even interrupt, try to break up the service. But the people...the people had the last word. The people let them know that they where there because they wanted to be and they were going to hear. And this was good news, this was sweet to their stomach. We had Moslem missionaries there from India come...they were the pure...they call it...thought or looked upon themselves as being pure...purer Moslems than ours. They called themselves the Amadeis[?]. That's a particular branch, and they thought that our Moslems were very lax. Some of them even smoked and that was taboo, you see.
WILSON: Oh, yeah.
HURSH: Or alcohol was the problem. But...so they have had more than one come to the Eye Hospital and...and want to propagate the Moslem faith. And I said, "You can't do that here." Well, he said, "Why not?" I said, "Because this is a Christian hospital and you have no permission to come here." Well, he said...first one...this was the first one, he said, "Who can give me the permission?" Well, I said, "You'd have to see our med...our area superintendent." This fellow spoke perfect English. He was an Indian...he was from India. So we went over there on a Sunday afternoon, it happened to be, and we sat in this...Dr. Helser happened to be also, in his living room. He's....
WILSON: Oh, this is the Helser who wrote the book that inspired you to go?
HURSH: He's not an MD, he's a PhD, in education. And I would s...there's a...I'd be safe in saying that this wasn't his first contact with the Moslem faith because he had been there for some years by now. But, I tell you, there was just a feeling there of...of the devil himself being in our midst. It was awesome. This fellow sat there and Dr. Helser is a person that you have to edge your way in to...to speak, to get...you know, he...he's...he commands the situation [Wilson chuckles]. But he and I sat there and listened to this fellow quoting Scripture, no less, Old Testament Scripture, to prove his points. And I...I just felt helpless. [Chuckles] I was amazed that Dr. Helser didn't feel the same way...I bet he felt the same way. After an hour, we just said, "Goodbye. We've had enough and you have no permission and we don't grant it." And he thought that we were very prejudiced, very....
HURSH: Narrow [laughs], yes. But, I tell you, I had never felt the presence of the devil like I did then.
WILSON: Did you encounter from...well, some time ago when you brought in the...the photographs and the snippets of articles and stuff a few weeks ago, you showed me the picture of the dedication. You showed me the Muslim....
WILSON: Yeah. [Train noise]
WILSON: Now, did you have a lot...ev...even though you were allowed officially to be there and to be doing your work, did you find a lot of cynicism from the official leaders and...?
HURSH: Well, amazingly enough, personally they were not hostile at all. They were friendly. And they realized that we were there to help them and, as long as we stayed off the subject of religion, there was...was no problem, you see. We could go and talk them, we could visit with them, and our wives could go and visit their wives. No problem. As a matter of fact, they needed our help too, and it...probably in the second term, after I had operated [on} this fourth in line, Circumbi [?] he was called, he was a district head. Why, this Emir brought me his mother, who had cataracts, and I said, "You mean you want me to operate [on] her?" He said, "Yes, why not?" Well, in the past...previously to that, the British had insisted on sending anybody with authority to England for their surgery. His father, in fact, had been sent to England for his surgery. And I said, "All right, that's fine. You understand that she'll be in a Christian hospital where she can't help hearing the gospel." "That's all right. That's her business. She can hear what she wants and she can believe what she wants." And he knew very well [laughs] she wasn't going to be easily persuaded. But she was...he was perhaps then...he was a young Emir. His father had just died since...the original one, you see. He was probably forty, forty-two and his mother maybe in her sixties. And...but he was very grateful and she got a good result and she got glasses, of course, and our optical shop paid special attention to her and our Mrs....who's now Mrs. W...Mrs. Myers, was then Charlotte Bruce, who I stole from Dr. Gieser [chuckles], was our...our dispensing optician. So she would periodically go to her house ostensibly to adjust her glasses and do whatever was needed, you know. Well, it gave her a chance to witness and chances.... And it so happened, just to show you what does happen when...when the gospel gets in there, this man's sister accepted the Lord, the Emir's sister. That was through our radio station ELWA, through listening to the radio. She was married to one of these high district officials and she had her own radio and she listened and he knew it. She told him and he didn't kick her out. In fact, here was...her favorite...his favorite...she was his favorite wife. But she got out to us and let us know what was going on and became friendly with one of our missionaries, and wherever we could.... Of course, she was not in Kano. She was out in another area. Why, some of our people visited her and some of them became very friendly, and she was...always welcomed them. And her husband became more and more tolerant as time went on. He never made a decision, but he...he respected her faith, her belief. And she's still alive today, as far as I know.
WILSON: Did you find that you had an easier time converting the women?
HURSH: Yes, yes. They...in the first place, as a rule, they didn't know the Koran. They didn't know how to read. They had more to gain by becoming [chuckles] Christians, the men had more to lose. They lost their inheritance. They no longer could inherit the land, or their portion of the land, from their father.
WILSON: Is it by civil law?
HURSH: Yeah. They lost their jobs, as a rule. They had to think twice before they made the step. Many of them had very little means of livelihood, unless we gave them a job. We could take them on to a certain extent but that was it, or send them off to school and educate them. But there was always money involved there, you see. Usually when that happened, it was an individual who you might say adopted that person, maybe it was a boy who worked for them. You'd get under the age of fifteen fairly easily. Beyond that, once they were considered adults or men, it was very difficult. Of course, they knew the Koran better after they had gotten through school, their school. And so the bulk of our converts in those early years were young people, boys and girls through our schools and women.
WILSON: Now, did those young people...? I grant you I'm asking you this as very much a product of my own culture. The students, the young people that you would proselytize and would become Christians, did they fall away as they became adults?
HURSH: Oh yes, yes, a certain number. The persecution was then very intense at first, many of them were poisoned, and...
WILSON: Poisoned physically or mentally?
HURSH: ...they were killed. Oh, no, no. They were...they were killed. They were...
WILSON: By...by their fathers...?
HURSH: ...by their relatives, their brothers or their father. You see, they...well, I've had them come to me when they were dying, you know. This stuff works fast and there's nothing you can do to save them.
WILSON: What would they be poisoned with?
HURSH: Oh, their own native poison, same stuff that they would put on their arrows perhaps to poison game. I don't know how common curare [various extracts of variable chemical composition obtained from several species of trees] is there but there is a certain amount, I know, like there is in South America. And they would have some very painful times. Some of them we were able to save, some of them we brought through. Some of them were...well, they were just ostracized to the point where it was hard for them to...to get food. They were starving, you see. And they were marked. They were...everybody knew they were Christians, so many of them fell back. I say many. We heard...we know of some. And what they did was...was to get a job. They...they had to renounce Christianity to get a job, with the government or whatever. And that was, well, I'm talking about thirty, forty years ago. Since they became independent in '62...I'll take that back...'60, why it has been quite different. They...they're more or less free to do what they want. In other words, the Moslems say, "Well, now, if you're foolish enough to believe what they tell you, why that's up to you." And they're not...I haven't heard of anyone being poisoned in the last twenty years.
WILSON: This brings up another thing that I wanted to ask you about was the...the political scene, in Nigeria. You've...the time that you and your wife were there spanned a very turbulent...
WILSON: ...time politically for Nigeria. What...what kinds of experiences did you have with that?
HURSH: Well, first of all, we have to...don't have to go back all the way, because they did what they were told to do in the early years, you see.
WILSON: Now who's "they"?
HURSH: The Nigerians did what the British told them.
HURSH: [Train noise.] They were under their control and they had the...well, they had been since 1906 when they were...they came, you see, so this was their way of life and they accepted it. They didn't realize they could rise up and rebel [chuckles]. But when the soldiers came back from the first world war, and there were a good many Nigerians who had fought in Burma and elsewhere, and they changed the picture. These fellows saw the rest of the world, they saw how the rest of the black world lived, or the colored world lived, and it was...it wasn't the same. As a matter of fact, they began to worry. They wanted to keep them in the army if they could, because they began to worry about the possible distribution of arms or.... These guys knew how to use rifles, and...which they didn't have before. And so they wanted to keep up a pretty good standing army. And, of course, the British were still their mentors. They trained them from the ground up, and the British even won their...took their men at Sandhurst [?] and wherever they could to make officers out of them, you see, and they were recognized as a crack army, the Nigerians. And they...well, anyway, to get on to the political scene, the South, being much more progressive, whether it was Ibo or Yoruba, whatever, they had education. And they were nominal Christians, shall we say, a portion of them at least, along with their paganism or animism, we should say. They were educated, much more progressive, so they began pushing for independence in the middle...mid-'50s and the North wasn't ready. Now, the North comprised two-thirds of the population or shall we say one-half of the population, or at least [train noise]...well, they were in the majority because they...they more or less included the middle belt in with them and they...so they could control the legislature. They had...I...I'd say they had two-thirds of the votes. So when the South wanted to push independence they began coming to the North and trying to get powers for their political parties. Well, they had many of their own people in the North, of course, running the government, Yorubas, Ibos, especially Ibos, but when they made the mistake of running down the Hausas, the northerners, especially their rulers, the Emirs, why then that brought on the first civil war, if you want to call it that. Because you had only to speak disparagingly of their rulers and they were ready to fight. And we were out of it, the whites were out of it. It was North against South. We had to take care of the casualties that came to us [coughs], which was a problem because [pauses] who were you going to take care of? They had a city hospital, a large one which took care of the northerners usually. We took care of the southerners usually, because they were more apt to come to us. They couldn't go to the other place, but we were then branded as favoring the...the South. But we got through that episode in '57, '58, in that time. And then along came '60, and, by this time, why, it was one tribe, and that was the Ibos, who were predominate. They got their independence all right. That was okay for it was realized that it had to come and they were ready. They were much more ready than any other African country. They were...they were trained. And there wasn't the big hiatus in there like you had in the Congo and some of those places, so that they were able to take over, even in the medical line [train noise]. Then the South began to try again to rule the North and especially the Ibos, which were more progressive to hold out over the others in the South. So then it became almost a war against the Ibos. [Unclear word] they wanted to se...secede, you see, in '67. I was there on a short-term basis and they had fighting around us, but it didn't really involve us if we stayed out of it, which we tried to do, of course. And when they came onto the Eye Hospital compound, and was using that...they...(I'm talking the northerners), were using that as their fortress against the southerners who were a block away, with an open area between, why, I thought that was going a little too far because one of my nurses got a...an arrow in the abdomen. She happened to be several months pregnant. And so I went out there, all authoritative, knowing that they would listen to me. Now, perhaps a southerner wouldn't, but a northerner would. I said, "You can't fight here. You'll have to go someplace else. As a matter of fact, I would advise you to go on home because," I said, "the word is out that the army is on it's way up here from Kaduna." That's a 150 miles away, but it doesn't take them too long by train. I said, "They could be here any minute, and you're all going to get shot," I said, "they're not going to stay behind bar...houses. If you want to die, just stay here." They believed me. They went home. It was true. The army put them down in no time. But, of course, it was quite an ordeal. But we've had other things that have happened since, of course. Not only a [pauses] tribal thing but a religious thing. This happened just last year when a man came in and claimed he was the Messiah, Moslem, of course. Jesus had returned and he got a following...he came out of Chad...he got a following of his Chadians and before they knew it, why, he had three or four thousand follow...following him in Kano. Well, that...that had to be put down very bloodily. They just came in there and killed them all off. Because...I wasn't there, I got it second-hand and perhaps we shouldn't even get into the politics, but this was really religion rather than politics.
WILSON: They often work very closely. Did you find it easier or more difficult to work under the independent government than under the British Protectorate?
HURSH: I would have to say that it was easier.
WILSON: From what standpoint?
HURSH: They were not as opposed to us as the British were.
WILSON: Now, why would that be?
HURSH: The British looked upon us as upsetting the apple cart. We...they felt that they could control these people easier as Moslems than they could if they were free, shall we say, and became Christians. We would upset the Moslems. We would...they wanted to continue with the status quo, and I'll have to say that there were very few of them who were Christians. I mean, they might have been nominal Christians but we found very few of them who were sympathetic to us in any degree...to any degree. Now, I'm not an Anglophobe. I have some good [English] friends. But once they were gone, we didn't have to worry about anybody coming to tell us what we could do or couldn't do.
WILSON: But now, did Sudan Interior Mission, being Canadian, have an easier way of it with the British than some of the American missions?
HURSH: Not...not really, because the Canadians where in the minority, we were...there were twice as many U.S. Americans as there were Canadians, and we had Australians and Britishers and all countries involved, but on a smaller scale. It might have made a difference with individuals. They might have made friends easier, being Canadian or British, than we would. But as far as the government was concerned there was no difference. We were actually looked upon as an American mission because we were...the bulk of us were Americans and, surprisingly enough, some of the educated Nigerians, educated in...this was after the war...educated in Russia and the satellites, looked upon as C.I.A. agents. And they were, of course, brainwashed and they could give us a hard time. Politically, I mean, they were always against what the mission did. They controlled the press and we never got a good press, we always got a bad press and we...we knew why. They controlled the unions and the British knew that. They were still under the British then but there wasn't a lot they could do about it. And there was really...it made it difficult for them when the time came. They were always publish...putting out the communist line and we were...we couldn't convince them that we were not C.I.A. When it came time to run the labor unions, they controlled them, well, they wanted to run the Eye Hospital, why I...I said no. I said...I was ignorant. I said, "We don't have nurses unions." Well, we didn't have them in the U.S. "Well," they said, "they do in Canada and England." Of course, they knew more about it than I did. And so they had one in the country and they tried to take over the Eye Hospital. And I said, "Whatever you give them, we'll give them, and so they won't have to pay your dues." And we had to do that to keep them out but we succeeded, because we saw what was happening in the city hospital. It was...it was a mess. It was worse when the union got in there than it was before. When it came to trains, the railways, of course, they could...they could tie things up there with strikes and we were very dependent on them. One train a day wasn't a lot but it was something, maybe several freight trains. But the mistake they made, when they had the big riots there in '67, is they killed off all the Ibos. And all the train engineers where Ibos. Then they wondered why there was nobody to run the trains afterwards. [Chuckles.] The same thing was true of the post offices and wherever there was public things. They made the mistake of killing off the educated. Well, you know what's happening over in Kampuchea [Cambodia], etcetera. They're not going to be able to run that country without those educated people.
WILSON: Now, one thing I wanted also to ask you. Now you came home in what, '64?
WILSON: '62, mainly as a result of your....
HURSH: Mainly because...no, mainly because our two girls were in high school. One of them was a freshman, one was a junior, and we felt they needed us home during those years. My intention was then to go back after four years, when they were out of high school and in college. And we had experienced some feeling of being neglected from our son, and.... We didn't know it at the time, but later on we found out that he'd felt that we had dumped him there in Florida and...and he was no longer part of the family. But really what kept me then was my two heart attacks, so from that time on, why, they had the help and they didn't need me except when somebody was away on vacation, so I would go out for maybe a month. [Train noise.] I found that I could take it until the last year that I was there, sixty...or '72 and they were, shall I say, overusing me, taking advantage of me, so that in the three months that I was there I had two days off. They happened to be Moslem holidays or I wouldn't even have had them. Anyway, we had to make rounds on Sunday. We didn't operate, we didn't have clinic on Sunday, but there was a couple, three hours work because we had to see patients then [that] we couldn't see during the week. But I said, "Well, I used to be the slave driver. I know why you guys are acting like this, but now I say you have killed the golden goose." [Both chuckle.] I said, "I won't be back."
WILSON: Un-huh. But now, you pretty much founded that Eye Hospital, didn't you?
HURSH: Yes, yes. I...I was the only doctor, the only medical superintendent, for those twenty years I was there, practically. But...so I...I was glad to turn over it to somebody else when I could and then especially glad now when they have the Nigerians they can utilize. Of course, all of our...the bulk of our staff was Nigerian, but to get...actually get Nigerian doctors. We had Nigerian nurses, registered nurses even, I trained and well trained, but doctors were something else again.
WILSON: How would you look back on your career over there and sum it up?
HURSH: Well, I believe that the Lord called me for a specific job at a specific time because it opened up the North. Now nothing to my credit, but we were in there doing leprosy work and that was it, and that was as much as it was going to be because.. .and here you were reaching a very limited clientele, shall we say. And they were getting very, very meager results. We had churches so-called built in these.... These were provincial leprosariums. We didn't own them. We were just running them for the government and they let us have what was a school but we used it there on Sunday for a church. But there was very limited attendance. And again the Lord began amongst the children and they got them in school and got them there. Buy even so they didn't reach out very far because there weren't very many of these people who were going home, well, you see, cured. And so this opened up the city, Kano City, which was...was crucial, that was central. And it gave us the good will that was needed and in the course of three or four years, why, we were looked upon as an asset instead of a liability. And they were happy we were there and then when churches began being formed out in these places, the attitude was changed as far as the general public was concerned, not as far as the Moslem leaders were concerned or the Moslem teachers. But as far as the general public we were their friends. We were there to do nothing but good and they wanted us there.
WILSON: So. Well, we're about out of tape here...
HURSH: All right.
WILSON: ...so we do very much appreciate your coming and talking with us. I...this has been some two or three years in the offing and we're very appreciative.
HURSH: Well, I was moving out of the area and I was afraid that I wouldn't get this opportunity, so I looked forward to it, too.
WILSON: So we thank you very much for your efforts.
HURSH: You're very welcome.
END OF TAPE