Dr. Gordon Jones was a well-known missionary surgeon in Zambia for 25 years. I was fortunate to have known and loved him, but I knew about him long before we ever met. He was born and raised in El Dorado but had already left for his graduate and post-graduate work in medicine by the time I got to my teen years. His younger brother Delmas was the same age as my sister Marilyn, and I knew him because he was an excellent football player in high school. Gordon’s younger sister Carolyn was married to James Thomas who was a friend in high school.
When Cathy and I moved to El Dorado in the early 1970’s, James was in the food service business, and it wasn’t long before he opened a restaurant, The Union Station Restaurant which was a particular favorite of our family for Sunday lunch. James and Carolyn would tell us interesting and sometimes funny stories about Gordon, his wife Jeanette and their ministry in Zambia. After hearing about them and their ministry, we made it a top priority to meet them on their next furlough home, and that happened in the late 1970’s.
Gordan and I had an immediate connection because he had received his surgical training in New Orleans where Cathy and I had spent 4 years of our lives while I received my training at Charity Hospital. We had several common friends from those days and were able to reconnect some of those relationships from the past. Over the next 15 years we were able to maintain our relationship with Gordon and Jeanette and were part of their support team with AEF (Africa Evangelical Fellowship). We received regular correspondence from them and learned that their ministry was at the Luampa Mission Hospital in the village of Luampa which is a full day’s auto trip from Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. According to Gordon, “Luampa is 300 miles out in the bush and 350 miles from the supermarket in Lusaka.”
Every 4 or 5 years Gordon and Jeanette would be on furlough for 6 months or so and would spend most of that time in El Dorado. He would assist me with some of my surgical cases, and he told me it was invaluable experience for him because he had very little interactions with other surgeons in Luampa. We exchanged many stories and some of them will be the subject of other articles. The photo above is the staff of the hospital taken in the early 1970’s. Dr. Jones is located on the back row next to the end on the right.
The International Congress on Revival is an overseas mission organization which encourages and enables pastors and their wives in numerous countries of the world. Cathy and I were privileged to have been a part of that ministry for over 25 years and traveled together with the team to 7 different countries ICR had a long-standing relationship with the pastors in South Africa, and a conference was held there annually during the month of July. I had a great desire to go to South Africa, but Cathy preferred that I travel with the other men in the organization because far fewer wives made those conferences than the ones in Eastern Europe. I made plans to attend my first conference in South Africa in July of 1999.
In a previous post I wrote about some of my experiences travelling to that initial conference with John Morgan and Freddie Wilson from El Dorado. On the first day of the conference I was seated at a table positioned toward the front of the conference room. I had not met any of the attendees of the conference at this point and only knew they were from South Africa and several adjoining countries. At the first break in the morning session, I turned around and introduced myself to a couple seated directly behind me; a pastor and his wife who were serving in South Africa. I asked how long he had served as a minister, thinking it must have been 25-30 years since he appeared to be in his late 50’s or early 60’s in age. He said he was a civil engineer for the first 25 years of his professional life, and had only surrendered to vocational ministry in the previous 10 years. He asked me how many trips I had made to South Africa, and I told him this was my first. I said, “In fact, I have only known one man from Africa, and he was a missionary doctor in Zambia for many years.” He asked if he was still there, and I told him unfortunately he had died just 2 years previously, and I had never taken the opportunity to visit and work with him despite being invited many times. When he asked where he worked, I said it was a little known mission hospital in Luampa that had been there since the early 1960’s. He said, “You may not believe this, but in the early 1960’s I was a civil engineer working in Lusaka, Zambia and was given the responsibility as project engineer for building that hospital in Luampa. I know every stone and piece of lumber used in that hospital!” He said he had never met Dr. Gordon Jones but had heard stories later told about what a wonderful man he was and what an impact his life and ministry had been there.
As I turned around in my place to experience the remainder of the conference that morning, I again thanked God He always does such amazing things. The first man I personally meet in South Africa is the one man responsible for building the only hospital in Zambia I knew anything about and was managed by the only doctor I knew in all of Africa. My what a God!!