MERLE MACKENZIE July 26, 1933 – October 16, 2009
Merle Johnson Born July 26, 1933 in Winnipeg to parents William P. Johnson and Edith M. Gill She was the youngest of 4 children and her siblings are Elna, Lorna and Gordon Her full name was Winnifred Merle Johnson but she preferred to be called MERLE She lived in Oak Street and they actually had 20+ oak trees in their backyard!
Merle Johnson Merle’s mother made her this coat She was a member of the skating team
Merle Johnson Merle completed her Science and Education degrees from the University of Manitoba She taught Mathematics to High School students at the Glenlawn Collegiate for several years until she married Eric and started a career of agricultural development in Africa
Merle meets Eric July 1957 – Merle came to Vancouver to participate in the Western Canada Youth Convention
Merle Meets Eric Merle meets Eric who approached her and asked to give her a ride home Unfortunately someone had already volunteered to give Merle a ride home He tried again and invited her along with some friends for a spin around Stanley Park
Eric Asks Merle To Come To Africa Two weeks and several dates later which included a visit to the Capilano Bridge, Theater Under the Stars and a Trip To Nanaimo, Eric asks Merle to volunteer for Angola too She said, “No, not a chance.” but promised that she will pray for the possibility
Eric and Merle Eric wrote Merle everyday and they continued their correspondence September 1957, Eric travelled back to Hamilton with a stopover at Winnipeg and asked Merle again about Angola This time Merle agreed to see if the mission board will accept her candidacy
Eric, Merle and the Mission Board The mission board said yes to her candidacy but no to the McMaster study plan Instead they told Eric, “MARRY HER AND TAKE HER WITH YOU!” Mission Board: A Match-Making Agency???
Eric and Merle’s Engagement December ’57 Eric arrived with Merle’s engagement ring They spent Christmas in Vancouver; New Year’s in Winnipeg and made plans for a Saturday, September 6, 1958 wedding in Merle’s church in Winnipeg
Merle, the Missionary Eric and Merle travelled the Western provinces to help raise support for this new venture Then, they went on to Toronto for a big send-off for outgoing missionaries They proceeded to Lisbon, Portugal for one-year of language and culture studies
What kept Merle busy in Cabinda ? Merle’s days were spent: Wrestling daily with the wood stove Twiddling her thumbs a lot initially (non-native Portuguese speakers were not allowed to teach) Playing the tiny portable pump organ useful for services and for teaching 4-part harmony Trying to relate to women, majority of whom did not speak Portuguese, but were willing to share their stories through a translator
Missionary Work in Africa Cabinda Training future leaders became a priority in Cabinda with the Angolan war for independence starting Harveys and the MacKenzies picked 3 or 4 of the best elementary school graduates from the 3 operating centres, housed them in Cabinda Centre and sent them to the high school in town
Missionary Work in Africa Merle explained to them things they heard in class but never experienced such as elevators, trains, simple astronomy, ice and ice cream and why it seems to burn Merle taught them to sing 4 part-harmony. Today, there are more than 26 singing groups in the Cabinda church, some writing music They also learned touch-typing on Portuguese keyboards. This skill helped them gain secretarial positions later on.
Double Surprise Caring for the twins gave the MacKenzies much joy and new opportunities for witnessing to God’s love for the people
Furlough and Blessing Furlough 1964 – 1965 brought lots of travel for speaking engagements and more blessings: September 1964, the arrival of the MacKenzie’s 13 month-old chosen son, Craig and the following September, 1965 the birth of Norma
Brussels The MacKenzies were redeployed to the Congo but they first had to travel to Brussels to improve their French
Merle, the Designer The house where they lived in Congo was designed by Merle. It took 13 months to build at half the cost of each of the three other staff houses.
Missionary Work in Africa Merle taught the students how to price what they produced and also taught high school math to nursing students at the medical centre nearby. Behind their house, she built a small nursery for trees. A variety of eucalyptus trees when planted in a thick ring around a village will protect against malaria mosquitoes and sleeping-sickness-bearing tsetse flies.
Missionary Work in Vanga American Baptist Centre for Education and Medical Work Local leaders wanted to increase local food supplies in the face of rising malnutrition Eric was willing to try to change village agriculture – villagers having plenty to eat and no malnutrition The Vanga Agricultural Centre was set-up to supply simple instructions, tools and models for village-style chicken and rabbit houses. The animals were not sold until a farmer’s installation was inspected by the Centre’s agents and approved as adequate.
From Vanga to Lusekele God’s leading brought the MacKenzie’s from Vanga to Lusekele Lusekele was entrusted by the Tropical Root Crops Research Institute of Ibadan, Nigeria with over 2000 genetically different manioc cuttings and seeds to plant, grow and observe Testing of manioc, a food staple, became a major focus
MacKenzies in Africa The MacKenzies returned to Vancouver for 3 years in 1983 They returned to the Congo in Sona Bata for more agricultural work in 1986 1991- Canadian Baptist Ministries moved Eric and Merle to Nairobi to be their Africa Representatives until December 1994 when they returned for deputation and then retirement in April 1996
God’s Work Still in Progress Some of the men who were trained by the MacKenzie’s in Cabinda are still in church leadership. Pedro Manuel, who later completed university level pastoral training was honoured with a doctorate from McMaster University Divinity School in 1994
Manioc “MIRACLE” New root harvest of manioc under the agricultural program supervised by the MacKenzies Vanga woman with diseased manioc roots
To See Is To Believe The head Pastor of the area who had disagreed with the MacKenzies regarding what needed to be done agriculturally, came as they were leaving Lusekele, to apologize for his opposition and to thank the MacKenzies for the tremendous change he saw in the food supplies while traveling in his area, a 200 km radius from Vanga/Lusekele.
To See Is To Believe Also the pattern of babies birth-weights at the Vanga Hospital (50 bed maternity ward) shifted to show the healthiest and strongest born not at the end of the spring rains, as formerly, but at the end of the vegetable gardening dry season
Continuing God’s Work in Vancouver For 50 years, a women’s circle at the First Baptist Church was named after Merle They eventually had to split into two groups because the group became too big, both still kept her name – Merle MacKenzie Circle and MacK II
Continuing God’s Work Merle had also tirelessly worked as Chair of the Little Ark Preschool. She dedicated more than 9 years helping the preschool gain its reputation as a great place for children to start their educational experience She also served in the Global Mission Committee – helping raise awareness and funds for CBM missionaries
“We cannot understand the great things He does, and to His miracles there is no end.”Job 9:10 GNSB