Billy Graham Center
Archives

 

Collection 248 - William John Barnett. T7 Transcript


Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (73 minutes)

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of William John Barnett (CN 248, T7) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. 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. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing.

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 on the part 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 by the transcriber.

This transcript was made by Paul Ericksen, Hannah Parish and Susanne Osborne, and was completed in September 2011.


Collection 248, T7. Interview of William John Barnett by Robert Shuster, April 24, 1998.

SHUSTER: ...Interview with Dr. William Barnett by Robert Shuster of the Archives at the Billy Graham Center. This interview took place on April 24th, 1998, in Dr. Barnett’s home in...in southern California. Dr. Barnett, on our last interview we had just reached a point where you had arrived in Tanganyika. And you had mentioned at the very end of the interview of your great admiration for Mr. [William] Maynard, who was one of the leading missionaries...AIM [Africa Inland Mission] missionaries there at the time when you arrived. Could you say a little bit more about him as a...his personality and his character, his work in the country?

BARNETT: Yes, I indeed did develop an increasing admiration for Mr. Maynard. Mr. Maynard was known as Nangi Maynard.

SHUSTER: Nangi.

BARNETT: Nangi is the Sukuma, Kisukuma word for “teacher.” And it was a special name that the people had given to him to express their admiration for him. And he carried that name...well, they never said Mr. Maynard, or Bwana Maynard. It was always Nangi or Nangi Maynard. He was their teacher, he was the one who had developed the work there along with his wife, Dr. Maynard, who was the one who started the medical work there. And I remember many things during the time that we were at the Kolo Ndoto, sitting at his feet and listening to him, and hearing the stories of how the work began at Kolo Ndoto. And....

SHUSTER: Can you tell an example of a story that impressed you?

BARNETT: Yes, number one. They came to the field, I think it was 1913 that they arrived, which was the year so prior to First World War. There was no transport into that, and they came in through Kenya. And from there on, it was by foot. They walked from Kenya all the way down across the Serengeti Plains and down along the coastal area of Lake Victoria. And the first station that had been established by AIM was Nassa on the shores of Lake Victoria. And that was a previous station of the British CMS (Church Missionary Society), a branch of the Church of England. But they had overextended themselves, and that whole area was known as the “white man’s graveyard.”

SHUSTER: Why was that?

BARNETT: Nassa itself had a cemetery that had a number of missionaries that had died there from blackwater fever and malaria. And it was in the days when very little was known about malaria yet. They did have quinine available and were treated with that, but that was the only treatment they had [clears throat] and it had its drawbacks. And they came through Nassa and the early explorers of the mission were Mr. [John] Stauffacher and Mr. [Charles] Hurlburt. Mr. Hurlburt was the second director of the Africa Inland Mission after Peter Cameron Scott died [1896]. And these two had explored on foot all the way down into Tanganyika. They had come down this...this far and had extended on down almost as far south as Tabora, which is about a hundred and fifty miles or so south of Mwanza, which is on the southern tip of Lake Victoria. And all you need to do is think in terms of what’d have to be then, to see what a safari of that sort meant on foot. These people...the Hurl...Mr. Hulburt and Mr. Stauffacher had done this initial survey. And so their vision for the AIM was to establish stations that would go down pretty well as far as Tabora, because there was nothing on beyond that. So the Maynards then went by foot through Mwanza and on south as far as Shinyanga, which was...at least became one of the railway posts as time went on. No railway at that time yet. But next door just about nine...eight, nine miles east of Shinyanga, which was a government post, they established their little hospital called Kolo Ndoto. It was called Kolo Ndoto.

SHUSTER: And they chose that because it was so close to the railroad, or why did they choose that spot?

BARNETT: Well, it was a...it was a...it was a center, pretty well, of the Sukuma tribe and people. And it was fairly close to this government post where they had some contact and so on. Of course at that time, this was all under Germans. It was German East Africa really is what they called it at the time, German East Africa. And Nangi told of how the hospital was established where Dr. Nina built or put up her first clinic in a tent under a tamarind tree. There in just this open spot under a tamarind tree. And that tent then gradually grew to a hospital which we found when we were there, consisting of basically of three main mud brick buildings. All the buildings were made out of mud brick. But the people built their homes out of mud brick. They used grass roofs on their homes on their huts and so on. But this one had corrugated iron roofs. And the mud brick, this was a new experience for us, this sort of thing. But it must have been an amazing effort on their part, and you couldn’t help but admire them immensely for the...for the efforts and the difficulties that they must have lived through. It was a hot climate. The temperature, most of the time year round, was up in the upper nineties and a hundred...over a hundred. The main thing was that it was a dry heat, you didn’t have much humidity there so it was easier to live that way.

SHUSTER: What kind of a...how would you describe Mr. Maynard? What kind of personality would you say he had?

BARNETT: Mr. Maynard was a quiet man that had a real sense of humor under...underneath. Mr. Maynard was already into business. He was a banker in Philadelphia, and banking when he got his call to go to the mission field. So he...he left a prosperous job. And his wife had gone to the medical school there in Philadelphia. She was a real lady, and he was a gentleman.

SHUSTER: How do you mean that?

BARNETT: Well, you never saw Nangi without a...a shirt and tie on, even though the temperature was up in the hundreds. Nangi didn’t run around like this. He...and...he...they were long sleeves. He had...his whole bearing was that of a gentleman, very polite. Careful in his words, when he talked to you it was just a kindness and a thoughtfulness. I never saw Nangi get angry. He was extremely patient with you. At the time when we were there...arrived there, Nangi had been the field director... he had worked in Tanganyika for quite a number of years. He was the one that headed up the work there.

SHUSTER: How many AIM missionaries were there in Tanganyika?

BARNETT: At the time when we were there, we saw the work grow to the point where I think they had somewhere around seventy or eighty missionaries or so. It was getting fairly close to a hundred missionaries in Tanganyika. They had....I can’t remember just how many stations they had, but they had quite a number of stations extending from the two main islands in Lake Victoria. Ukara was the farthest north, and Ukerewe was the largest of the islands on Lake Victoria, and was just a bit north of Mwanza. And then they had missionaries across from Buko...Bukoba on the western side of Lake Victoria, southwest side, and some other missionaries that extended up north of Nassa fair...fairly close to where the Mennonites had some work on the...on the eastern side of Lake Victoria. That was our northern extension. Then they extended all the way down south of a...of a... Lake Victoria almost...not far from Tabora, which would have been about a 130, a 140miles or so south of the lake.

SHUSTER: Was that...?

BARNETT: That was the extension of the...of the AIM work.

SHUSTER: Was the field basically self-governing? The senior missionaries determine policy? Or was it the field director that...?

BARNETT: Yes, yes it was basically self-governing. It...well, it worked under a field council, elected field council. And as I said, Nangi Maynard was the field director. Not through the entire time that we were there, but he had a very nice, quiet sort of way of managing. And people loved him, including the missionaries, and trusted him and his judgment, and so on. But we [laughs]...he wasn’t a preacher. He did preach, he preached all the time, but he wasn’t a big eloquent sort of a preacher, you know. And...but he was a....everything was very regular, on schedule with him. You were expected to be on time. You’d get invited to a meal at his home, that was... the time you were there was you right on time for it. He kept the time for the mission...for the station. How did he do that? We didn’t have a radio and so on to check up on what time it was. So the most consistent time was the sun. And Nangi would go out every morning and stand at a certain spot and watch the sun rise. And he would set his watch at six o’clock, six a.m. And that was the time for...for the station each day. That went on the whole time that we were there.

SHUSTER: But didn’t the sunrise change slowly through the year?

BARNETT: Oh yes. That’s why he...you were practically on the equator, you’re just about a little south of the equator. We were there. So you don’t have the wide variation...

SHUSTER: Wide variations.

BARNETT: ...that you have when you’re further north or south. But you’d get this slight, gradual change that would go on with the seasons. But he was the pastor of the church that was there. And he was...every Sunday, he...from the time that the church was established, he would tell the people that such and such a time is when the church service will be held. Say nine o’clock in the morning, nine or ten. And Nangi would be there sitting on that platform. And immediately at the time, the service would start. And almost invariably [laughs], the only ones that were there would be the missionaries on the station. [Shuster chuckles] And we would start in singing, and you would think that nobody else was coming. But gradually, over the next half hour to an hour, that church would just fill up. It would be completely filled. And people standing outside, looking through the windows and singing outside. And that...but that...he would announce, [both laugh] every Sunday that this is the time for the starting up and this is the time for you to come. But invariably I never saw that church start with the people in it at [laughs] the time. But he would be there and then he would start.

SHUSTER: Did they they...did they think that was a little strange that he was starting before they got there or...?

BARNETT: Well, I don’t think that they even thought that way though. That was part of their culture. They...they...keeping time that way just didn’t seem that important to them. But being there to the service was important, you could tell that. That was Nangi. And that gave you some idea of his character. But he...the other thing that was so characteristic of him was the importance of prayer. And every day we had the station prayer meeting for the missionaries. That met on his veranda. Now the homes out there were built as much as possible to be able to get the breezes and so on. So many of the homes were built in rectangular form, and they had a veranda going all the way around it. The roofs were grass roofs on the homes there at...at the time to help keep them cool. And so we would meet at (I think it was five o’clock) every afternoon for the prayer time. And he led that prayer time. And it was...I mean, there were times when we were so busy in the hospitals, you were caring for the patient, that you wondered whether, “Well, should I go or not? you know. Can I make the break?” But Nangi was there, and you knew that he was going to be there, and you knew that you were gonna be missed if you were not there. It was never said in a way that was nasty at all to you, but it was impressed on you that prayer was one of the most vital parts of the work that was there. And so each...each day we met with Nangi. [laughs] One humorous thing that occurred once was that we had...we had gotten a monkey. My brother Arthur, after they had gone to Congo, which they did. And when they...when they came back from their furlough we worked together for one year.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

BARNETT: They had been there for a period of practically five years all together. The last year we worked together. They went on their furlough, and they came back to Congo. And when they visited once, they brought us this little, tiny, baby monkey. [laughs] So we had that, virtually raised it. And it was a bane to...to Laura [Barnett’s wife]. [chuckles] She put up with it. But....

SHUSTER: Did it knock things over or make a mess?

BARNETT: Oh, he...he was very tame, you know. He was just part of the family. But she...Laura always maintained a very well-organized home and one of the most important things for our family was our meals, and so on, where we had the family together for meals, especially on Sunday, when she always had a beautiful linen tablecloth and the setting and everything – just beautiful. And we would have our Sunday noon meal with the family all together. And these were the things that our family always remembers. And as she was setting the table up, that monkey would appear out of nowhere and she’d no sooner have everything nice and beautiful, that jump...that monkey would jump up on the table and start.... And then she would just after that monkey, and she’d go to chase him off, and he’d just jump over to the other side of the table. And she’d go after him there, and next thing he was knocking silverware off the table [laughs] and glasses being knocked over and so on. Anyway, here we were all on our knees in...on the veranda there one afternoon. And here comes this monkey over to the prayer meeting, and came up and started...jumped up on one back. [laughs] And people try their best to behave themselves during prayers you know. And here’s this monkey, hopped from one back [both laugh] to the other down the line and finally landed right smack on the top of Nangi’s head. [both laugh] Oh dear, oh dear. We thought the.... [laughs]

SHUSTER: People just continued praying?

BARNETT: They kept on praying, yes. [laughs] Even Nangi kept on praying, you know. [Shuster laughs] And he...we...we...finally we just had to laugh after a time after he was [unclear].... But Nangi told me the story of the early time during the war time when they were there.

SHUSTER: World War I?

 

BARNETT: First World War. And their...their support ceased during the war. No money was coming out to them at all for their support. And he said that they...they lived virtually off his gun. He would go out hunting and he would get game. And they would be able to trade some of the meat in for grain from the African people. They raised millet, that was their main grain in...in Tanganyika. It was...they had several forms of millet. And he had some pretty amazing stories of hunting and so on. But his wife, Nina, was...got the hospital going, but she was also carrying on clinics in the surrounding country. And she had been up to a place called Kijima, which is almost a third of the way up to Mwanza, and Mwanza is ninety miles away. And these safaris were all by foot, doing these medical safaris and clinics. And he said that on her way back, she came down with a terrible, terrible [unclear] of malaria. And she lay down underneath this hedge bush there, and told her workers to go on and get help for her back to the station. But they finally were able to carry her in. And she was so sick that they thought she was going to die. And the...the illness lingered and lingered and lingered for weeks. And she was just become skin and bones, pretty well lost all her weight. And just lingered that way. And at one point there, she said to her husband, to Nangi, “You know, if I could just get a white potato and a piece of white bread I think I’d get better.” This was just sort of an impossibility, that’s all. I mean...food...they were getting nothing from outside at all. They were just living off the land. They had seen nothing like that for...a long, long time. And you know, on that same day a knock came on their door. And it was hodi. Hodi is the...is the verbal knock [instead of physical wrap on the door] of the people. And there stood a...an askari [locally-recruited soldier], or a soldier, in uniform. And he handed in to them a little brown paper bag. And he said he was a member of the German army.

SHUSTER: So he was a European?

BARNETT: Nope, he was an African, African. And the...the...that unit of the army was in retreat before a British unit that was chasing them. And this unit, of course, was under a German officer. And it turned out that this...this soldier said that this officer had heard of the mission station there, and he wanted to send something, just to let them know that they were in the neighborhood and to...something just to show friendship to them. And here...when they opened it up, there was a loaf of white bread in it and a dozen white potatoes, on the same day. [voice breaks with emotion] And they fixed up the meal for her, and from that day on she steadily got better. And it was just one of those series of miracles that occurred.

SHUSTER: An encouragement?

BARNETT: An encouragement. And these were the things that...that Nangi would tell you. And always it was something that was pointing to the...to why they were there and the miracles that God performed for them to get the work going. And he was one of those old-time, faithful missionaries, true to his calling. Both of them.

SHUSTER: When you arrived, the hospital was there and you mentioned those three buildings. What other buildings were on the station?

BARNETT: They were...those three buildings formed the main hospital. A little distance away from it there was another building which was the maternity ward. And so she had a very active service going. And then, just about a quarter of a mile away from that was the leprosarium. Dr. Maynard had started this leprosarium. Leprosy was quite rampant in the country there. And that leprosarium steadily grew to...when we got there, there were two thousand patients at...in that leprosarium. And it grew, obviously, because of the need and because of the love that was being shown them, because the leper...the lepers were outcasts. And she was treating leprosy with the only treatment available in those days, and that was chaulmoogra oil [from the Chaulmoogra tree of the Achariaceae family of flowering plants] which was used...given in small injections. And [pauses] chaulmoogra oil....

SHUSTER: Did that...did that work at all?

BARNETT: It did have some benefits. Nothing lasting and it was not curative. But it seemed to...to help keep it in control, so that it wouldn’t advance as much. So that was the only thing that they knew medically that could help it. But while I was still in training, they developed the sulfone drugs [similar to and an alternative to sulfa drugs where there is a hypersensitivity to the sulfa drugs], and my brother Arthur was the one who introduced sulfone drug treatment in Tanganyika and there at the Kola Ndoto leprosarium. So....

SHUSTER: He introduced it to AIM or was it the first time anywhere in the country?

BARNETT: No. He introduced it to the country. He introduced it to leprosy there in...in Tanganyika. He brought it out with him from the States. Avlosulfone was the main drug that was used and then started. And this proved to be a very effective treatment for control of leprosy. And it had to be started very carefully, because to begin with they would get quite a drastic reaction to it. And that apparently was from the rapid killing of the bacteria, and the toxic results of that. So they would frequently get a severe reaction, and if not watched they would have to be started on a very minimum dose, and these doses would have to be gradually increased. I think in the early days there were some that died as a result of the treatment before they learned how to take care of it. But the eventual results of that were that it was so effective that the...the patients began to drift away from the leprosarium because they felt better right away. Within a matter of just weeks they would feel so much better that they said, “Well, there’s nothing wrong.” Well then they would go. And it was much like, you know, the bacteria of leprosy under the microscope looks almost the same as tuberculosis bacteria. And the...both of them require longstanding treatment if they’re going to really get cured. And this was the problem with teaching those people with leprosy, that they weren’t better yet and it was necessary for them to continue treatment for at least two or three years. And this was extremely difficult to teach them, because they felt so much better. But gradually it meant developing clinics throughout the country within the neighborhood of their homes.

SHUSTER: They would look...they would check up on you to make sure you were following through?

BARNETT: That’s right. So the...once the...once the public health department of the country was educated to this, then they could have these clinics and these people must come in, because you couldn’t give them drugs to last for say longer than a week at a time. Because what would happen would be that they would take...if you gave them much in the way of these drugs, they would take and sell them to somebody else. That was a good source of money for them. In the leprosarium you never put the drug into their hands and said, “Now you go and take it.” You lined them up, and the person giving the drugs would walk down the line and actually put the medicine into their mouth with a tin can of water, and watched them swallow it. That’s they only way that they could ensure that they were really being treated properly.

SHUSTER: And you mentioned that there was...there was the three hospital buildings. There was a leprosarium, there was the maternity ward when you arrived. Were there other buildings at the station? And was there a church or was there...

BARNETT: Yes.

SHUSTER: ...houses for the missionaries or...?

BARNETT: Yes. There were...on that station at the time, we had I suppose, as I recall there were maybe about four, four or five missionary nurses that were there. And of course, my brother and his wife were there, and then we came along. And the Maynards were there. So we had eight...eight to ten missionaries on that station connected with the general work as well as with the medical work. Most of it, of course, was with the medical work. That was the main part of the station.

SHUSTER: Was there a church as well?

BARNETT: And there was a church there, and that church was a...a grass-roofed, mud-brick building. And as I mentioned earlier, that church probably held up to two hundred people. And by the end of the service it was filled. So the...the ministry had gone pretty well in that area. And there was actually an African pastor when we came there. He was an elderly man, and he carried on the services. It was very difficult for him to get to that service on time too. So Nangi always started the service and frequently he gave the message too. Whether there were just a handful of people there or not, Nangi would get up there and preach. [laughs] And eventually the pastor would arrive [laughs], and then you had a second sermon from him. But all these buildings were made out of mud brick. Now this was an education too, because the first day that we arrived there (I don’t know whether I’ve mentioned this one before or not), we were put up in what was the guest house of the station. That was a single-room building. Grass roof, mud brick, the ceilings were calico cloth that were up there. And a number of these buildings, including the hospital, were absolutely infested with bats. They were all up in the ceilings of these places. They seemed to like better the hot areas, so they would get into the hospital which had the tin...tin corrugated iron roofs on there. And the first night that we arrived, we were in...in this guest room, and we went to bed dead-tired from our long journey. And in the morning...during the night, I heard this sort of rustling going on. I couldn’t figure out what it was. And then in the morning, I swung my feet out of the bed and landed right there [creaking noise] beside the bed, up through a grass mat that was on the floor. There was this anthill that was a foot high!

SHUSTER: And it hadn’t been there the night before?

BARNETT: Oh no, nothing there the night before. It had been built all through the night, this anthill, the white ants, the termites. [laughs] And [laughs] then we went around and the dresser, where we had put our clothes in the night...into the drawers of this dresser, wooden dresser [clears throat]. Fortunately this thing was about six inches...six, eight inches away from the wall. But when we [laughs] looked behind this thing, here they had bridged from the mud-brick wall right across to the...

SHUSTER: The termites had.

BARNETT: ...to the...yes. The termites... [Shuster laughs] the tunnel that they had made across there. And they were just coming [Shuster laughs] through the back wood of the...of the dresser. Fortunately, we got it stopped before they actually got through and into our clothes, or they would have demolished our clothes [laughs].

SHUSTER: They did that every night?

BARNETT: They would...they did that even, yeah. But once we knew that they were there, then you would try to control them, you know. You’d watch for them, spray them some, DDT spray [dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane that was later suspected to be a cause of cancer and banned in the United States in 1972] and so on. That building eventually...the only way they ever got rid of the ants in that building was by digging up the floor, the cement floor. There was a thin cement floor under the thing, which you took the entire floor up, and dug and dug. And they had to dig through the en...almost...almost six feet deep down in there before they found the queens. And they found actually seven different queens in that building. And those queens are huge things, they’re....

SHUSTER: You’re holding your fingers about a foot apart to indicate their size.

BARNETT: There...there’s the size of the queen! And the...the abdomen would be a good three to four inches in diameter, just filled with eggs. There’s thousands upon thousands of eggs they’re producing all the time. So that...and the hospital...the walls on that hospital were absolutely riddled, just tunnels. They were just full of all these tunnels of the ants. And so we were fighting them all the time that they were there. And then these bats were up in the ceiling. And we had to get rid of the bats. Now, Dr. Nina was not a surgeon. She was a general practitioner. She did the bit of surgery that she had to do that was emergency sort of surgery and so on. But the big thing that we did when we were there.... Arthur and Peggy did a certain amount of surgery and Arthur was a very fine surgeon, though his main training was as a...as a GP [general practioner]. But they were heading for Congo, was the thing, so they didn’t want to get too well established and everything. So when we got there, I remember, one of the big things we did was to get an operating...a proper operating room set up there.

SHUSTER: Were you able to maintain sterile conditions with the bats and ants and...?

BARNETT: Well, this is...this is one of the problems now, you see. I brought out with us an electric power plant, a diesel engine, one of these Witte power plants that they use in the oil fields here in...in the United States.

SHUSTER: You mentioned that.

BARNETT: Yes. And we took that out, and I took an x-ray machine out there too. These were the things that they just didn’t have. A lot of instruments I took out. And we set up one room. And that was the room that was just sort of an anteroom off of one of the main wards. And the female ward they placed and it had fairly good lighting. I had to make an operating room light. And the way I did that was to make a wooden cross, a wooden cross like that with the four points on that cross. And I hung from each point on that cross these floodlights like you’d use here at home for outdoor flood. And had them hanging up and they were strung with eyes on each top of each point of the cross going up to the ceiling. So then you’d string string up, back and forth through these four corners up to the ceiling. And you could adjust the height of it by pulling on one of the strings and lifting the whole thing up, or lowering it down to where you wanted. It becomes pretty...pretty hot, working underneath that, but at least it gave us light for the emergency work that we did at nighttime. But they had a kind of a hardboard ceiling in there, and that was all discolored. And discovered that right over the operating table, all this, there would come the occasional drip from the urine from the bats up there. Well, I had a job ahead because I couldn’t get anybody to go up and work with me. They didn’t want to get up in the ceiling. So I had to get up there alone and actually found the bat guano a good six to eight inches deep on the ceiling up there. I had to get up there and shovel all that guano out, get it off the ceiling to add something sterile, and put some new boards in there. But then, there’s getting rid of the bats. You go up there and here are just hundreds of these bats hanging from the...the rafters up under the roof there all through the whole ward. And they...we had had these wait-a-bit hook thorn bushes stuffed underneath the eaves of the roof all the way around the building. So the...when the bats would come out at night, in the evening at night, they would just come... [laughs] just hundreds and hundreds of them would come sailing out through a...a quarter say of a...of the roof under the eves, going out to hunt for their insects to eat that night.

SHUSTER: So how did you...how were you able to able to get rid of them, or were you able to get rid of them?

BARNETT: Well, the...the thorns helped to a certain extent, because they...they’d get their wings caught on the...on the thorns, but those things were very clever. But I finally found a container with pure DDT powder in it. And I...I got a blow gun, filled the blow...blow gun with the DDT powder and then went up into the ceiling with the DDT, put a mask on myself. And these things hanging, I took them and just sprayed those bats with the DDT powder all through where they were hanging up there. And you could seem them blinking, blinking at you. And it didn’t seem to disturb them much. [Shuster laughs] But they were upset for getting the stuff put on them. And it was about two, three days later that we began to hear this fluttering going on on the ceiling up above us. And those things, they had been licking this powder off of themselves, and it poisoned them and they all died. And....

SHUSTER: Would you do that a...?

BARNETT: And we...we got rid of them then, and we were able to find all the little holes were they able to come out and fill them in. And supposedly we got rid of the bats. But it was a big job.

SHUSTER: Well, would you do that same thing today? I mean, wouldn’t the DDT be more dangerous than the guano?

BARNETT: Well, today they don’t use DDT in there. It’s...it’s something that they found has...has caused a lot of problems, yes. Poisoning and so on. Also, today if we did the building we were extremely careful of how they were built and how the roofs were put on that you’re...made them tight in one way or another, so that the bats couldn’t get in and out of the buildings that we put up.

SHUSTER: What was a typical day like for you at Kola Ndoto [attempts to pronounce]?

BARNETT: Kola Ndoto.

SHUSTER: Kola Ndoto.

BARNETT: We had it well-organized. I would...usually we were up at 6:00 in the morning or so, and we’d have our family time of breakfast and our family devotions. And I was usually in the hospital by 7:00, 7:30 in the morning. And I would make rounds. The...the staff that we had at the time were...was the staff that Dr. Maynard had trained simply by working in the hospital, and teaching them in the hospital, and so on. And they were quite good, because they had had a lot of experience just from the work that they had done.

SHUSTER: Usually how many patients would you see on your rounds?

BARNETT: Oh, the hospital had at the time, I think there were about sixty...sixty beds in the hospital. It was quite crowded, quite crowded.

SHUSTER: And they’d all be filled.

BARNETT: They’d all be filled, yes. And the new maternity had, I think, around fifteen to twenty beds, something like that in it. And so I would make the rounds there with the people and would give their...the orders and so on.

SHUSTER: And there’s a third building which was the outpatient?

BARNETT: Which was the outpatient. And that one usually had a big crowd of people sitting around outside. We had a...a nurse that was usually carrying on that outpatient clinic to see the patients. She would refer to me ones that she was unable to take care of herself, particularly surgical patients. And then I would start a surgical schedule.

SHUSTER: Every day?

BARNETT: Every day, virtually every day. And that would carry me through till at least two o’clock or so in the afternoon. And a little bit of time out for lunch.

SHUSTER: How many assistants would you usually have for surgery, or would you have assistants?

BARNETT: I would have assist...an assistant. There would be one man, Lazaro, who turned out to be a very excellent assistant. In time, I taught him to do a certain amount of the surgery, particularly hernias. He got good enough that he could a hernia, without complications, without me being at the...at the table to guide him at all. He got very good at it. And he could do an appendectomy.

SHUSTER: So usually you had one assistant with you when you were operating?

BARNETT: Usually I had one assistant. If it turned out to be a real complicated case, we would call in somebody else. Our missionary nurse was the one that was a circulating nurse, and kept track of what was going on in the operating room, kept it organized and so on, they were very good. My wife was the anesthetist. I trained her in anesthesia. So though I may initiate the anesthesia on them, she carried it on. And I did the spinal anesthetics, but she would do all the monitoring of the patient and keep the intravenouses going, and tend to the welfare of the patient during surgery.

SHUSTER: So there’d be three of you then?

BARNETT: That’s right. The three of us at least that would be there with the patient, plus the circulating nurse who was a missionary nurse. Well, then later on in the afternoon, I would go down to the leprosarium and would carry on the clinic in the leprosarium, either seeing patients or diagnosing new cases of leprosy or making sure that their treatment was being carried out correctly. Now at the time when we arrived out there, Mr. Maynard was married again. [beeping sound] Dr. Nina had been gone by, I think, four or five years now, and maybe a little longer than that. And he married one of the younger single ladies that was a missionary out there. Ruby was her name. Quite a number of eyes opened wide on the part of the missionaries. You know, back in those days, the...that sort of thing, well, there was little askance about that, you know.

SHUSTER: People didn’t usually marry again after they were widowed?

BARNETT: Well, [laughs] there were a lot of single ladies, you know, that were out there on the mission field at that time. So there was a bit of buzzing that went on. But it was a real good choice. It worked out as a very fine wedding, but Ruby, his wife, was now in charge of the leprosarium. She kept things organized and going down at the leprosarium.

SHUSTER: Was she a nurse?

BARNETT: She was not a nurse, but she was very practical, very practical. And you were able to teach her just what was needed for those patients, and she had a heart for it. And she did a grand job of taking care of the leprosy patients. And I used to enjoy going down to the leprosarium. I was usually very tired going down there because of the work in the hospital. And I would get down there usually in time for their chapel service. And we had a big building that was up, not a full building but there were posts that were going up, halfway walls. And then these pillars going up, with the grass roof on it. And then later we put the corrugated iron and things, but then you had a clear airflow going through the place. But we had benches in there for up to two thousand people.

SHUSTER: Hmm.

BARNETT: It was a big get-together when they would get together. And let me tell you, to hear those people singing, why, some of the most refreshing times I had when I was extra-tired, maybe discouraged. I would go down there and just get into the chapel service and listen to them sing and hear their testimonies and hear what the Lord was doing for them.

SHUSTER: You were sufficiently grounded in the language then that you could understand them?

BARNETT: Yeah, I was able to hear a certain amount of the school language, and so on, and a certain amount of business Swahili, and I knew Swahili. [clears throat] So....

SHUSTER: The songs they would sing, would these be European hymns or...?

BARNETT: No...well, many of them were. Most of the hymns in those days were with the European...with our old-time songs...

SHUSTER: Tunes?

BARNETT: ...that had been translated, you know, “What a Friend We Have In Jesus,” and on through. And as they went on in time, they gradually would be able to get their own music and so on. But you...it was absolutely amazing to hear the choir, the leper choir sing. That leper choir may have had a hundred, two hundred people in the choir with a choir director who had his fingers all gone from leprosy, his toes gone. And he was the one directing it. And they could sing, and beautiful harmony, absolutely amazing harmony. And I’d go down and listen to that, and it was just...you were in another world. And it was just a real lift...[chair creaks] a real spiritual lift to hear them. Anyway, that was the leprosarium. And then we saw the leprosarium steadily, steadily dwindle because of the...of the...and we...eventually the leprosarium was left with about three hundred patients in it from two thousand. And they were the ones that were in that stage where they had to be watched very carefully as their treatment was being initiated. So that was the work, a typical sort of a day.

SHUSTER: And after that you’d go home?

BARNETT: After that I was able to go home. And...but you were on twenty-four hour duty...

SHUSTER: Hmm. And you were the only doctor that was....

BARNETT: ...beside. It...when we were....after Arthur left, I was the only doctor there. And the surgery and the emergencies that would come in the nighttime were ones that you simply had to go, that’s all. Maternity cases that would turn into emergencies. I remember one night there, you know, there were no such thing as blood transfusions that were being done there in that hospital. That was something that they didn’t know anything about. And they were afraid, afraid to give blood, that they were going to die, and so on. And so I remember initiating blood transfusions. This...I’d been trying to show them that...that a person isn’t going to die, that they can give blood, a certain amount of it, and that a person might live as a result of it. That this...in the nighttime they’d came in...this one with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. And it was very obvious that she was hemorrhaging inside. And she went right downhill and became unconscious from lack of blood. And here I’d been trying to get her relatives to give a pint of blood. We could type...type them and so on. And, “No, no, no” they couldn’t do that. They would die.

SHUSTER: You didn’t have any kind of blood bank that you could...?

BARNETT: No real...no, no, there was no blood bank. [You couldn’t get any blood [laughs] until you give it! And so finally I...I typed Mrs. Maynard, Ruby Maynard, and this lady. And they were the same type. In fact, I knew all our missionaries. We had their types. And Ruby came along. And I had taken out with me...procured on the streets of Brooklyn at one of these little places on...on the sidewalk there, walked by there before we went out to the field. And here there was some medical equipment there. [Shuster laughs] And I looked at that and here was a beautiful setup for giving a direct transfusion. The fellow selling it there, he had no idea what it was, but all the syringes, the proper connections, and everything. So....

SHUSTER: How on earth did he get it?

BARNETT: I got it for all a song, you know, for almost nothing. And I took this thing out to them, and this was the first transfusion given there using direct transfusion. You had your fifty CC syringe. It had an inlet on one side. You would attach the syringe to the donor tube and going out of the other side of the syringe or the end of it, there it had these two outlets like this, or inlet and outlet. You would have the tubes going to the recipient on the other side. And you’d draw the blood out, and push it in the other side. And here’s this woman that was totally unconscious with almost no pulse left in her. And we had Ruby Maynard lying on a stretcher on...alongside...alongside of the operating table and with a tube into her. And we had a congregation there. We invited in the chief, the local chief along with some of the elders and the other big shots of the...of the community that were there, along with all of our staff from the hospital and so on there, and relatives of the patient. Now I knew that this was taking a big chance, because the woman was almost dead as it was. And there was always a possibility that if you didn’t get a complete proper match of the blood that she could die from the transfusion.

SHUSTER: Sure.

BARNETT: But we prayed about it. This was something that we had to do, to try and get blood transfusions started in the place. And we pulled it out, put it into her, and she got almost a...a full five hundred CCs, which is the standard. Then she opened her eyes, looked around at what was going on, talked to her about this, talked to the chief there. We went ahead right away, whether or not they were still connected, did our surgery, took the blood...the abdomen was full of blood, scooped it out under sterile conditions, ran it through a...a sieve to take out the clots that had been there, and into this sterile bottle hitched up, and back into her, the auto-transfusion back into her again. And the woman just came to. And the people were absolutely amazed. They couldn’t believe it. All I can say is that from then on we never had any trouble getting blood transfusions from...certainly from the relatives. And that was our experience with getting started with that sort of work there.

SHUSTER: Was there evangelism going on at the hospital ?

BARNETT: Yes. We had an evangelist all the time that we were there, a hospital evangelist, and the....

SHUSTER: He was an African Christian?

BARNETT: African. We had a woman, Mayu maza [?], who had been a witch doctor in her time and a demon-possessed witch doctor (by her own admission she was that). But she came to know the Lord as her Savior to... totally transformed her. And she became our evangelist in the hospital while I was there. She would go from bed to bedside all the time, and then would hold the services at the outpatient department. And the people all heard the gospel message while they were there, many many came to the Lord through that. I’m going to call a recess a minute.

[tape stopped and restarted]

What I’d like to mention is that the...it was a tremendous privilege to be working there and to be working with these...these pioneer missionaries. I had su...just tremendous admiration for the...for the missionaries that we were working with. Nangi Maynard and Ruby were just tremendous, and Miss [Martha Olinda] Jorgenson who was from Norway and she was running the maternity department and so on. And they had...their deepest concern was seeing these people come to know the Lord and it was a great privilege to be working along with them. The biggest deficiency that I could see that we were there was the lack of a proper, organized training program medically.

SHUSTER: I was going to ask you if this was a teaching college... a teaching hospital.

BARNETT: No. Nothing had been done to have an organized training program. And my own feeling right from the beginning was that our time was going to be very limited, and these countries were all developing. And the most...though I knew that I was bucking a lot of the old-time feeling of the...of missions like the AIM....

SHUSTER: When you say “our time,” you mean Western missionaries’ time?

BARNETT: Western missionaries. I mean, it was obvious that these countries were developing. But many of the missionaries, I think particularly of...of faith missions and so on like the AIM had the feeling that our prime purpose was preaching the gospel to the people. And I agreed thoroughly with that, but I did feel very strongly that it was also our responsibility and opportunity to begin to teach the people to take care of themselves. And from the medical standpoint, they knew nothing and they needed to be taught both in the nursing responsibilities so that you could begin to man your hospitals basically with the national nurses and not be continuously dependent upon missionary nurses and doctors, which was difficult to find to carry on the medical work. And so right from the earliest time that we were there, we began to develop organized classes for teaching initially the staff that was there, and then beginning to take in classes each year. And we got...

SHUSTER: How many...?

BARNETT: ...our own nurses sufficiently interested. And this wasn’t easy. I bucked this both in...in Tanganyika as well as in Kenya when we got up there, because in Kenya also we found that nothing had been done in the way of organized training of nurses and so on.

SHUSTER: How many would be in a class?

BARNETT: Well, initially it was maybe a half a dozen or so in a class, but as time went on we had classes that...that were up to fifteen, twenty and so on like that in a class. But the...the big thing then was getting beyond just our local training setup, which was okay, but when they finished with that, they...all you could give them was your own little certificate that said that they had had such and such a training program here. And so we then took a number of trips down to Dar es Salaam, which was the headquarters of the government down there and the headquarters of the medical services of the country and were able finally to make arrangements with them to allow us to start a recognized nurses training program out there at Kolo Ndoto. And that finally did go through. And then it was finding our own nurses who were trained to be teachers in nursing. Because in order to be recognized, you had to have that as well. And that was a problem. But just at the critical time when we needed, the field director of the Kenya side of the work was in touch with me and said, “Look, we have a nurse up here that just is not fitting in to the Kenya situation. And do you think that you could use her down there?” It turned out that she was just the perfect person for it. She came down and fitted right in to the training program, and she carried on that nurses training for years, several years, and built it up into what became and still is today one of the best known nurses’ training programs in Tanganyika. And in fact, not long ago our son Jim was back out there for a period of a couple of weeks, carrying on some clinics and so on out there. And he went to one of these government hospitals which was way down.... [unclear as recording is muffled for several seconds]

END OF TAPE



Send us a message.
Return to BGC Archives Home Page

Last Revised: 9/07/11
Expiration: indefinite