Dr. Gordon Jones was a well-known missionary surgeon in Zambia for over twenty-five 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 form high school days.
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 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 which occurred 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 four years 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 fifteen 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 their ministry was at the Luampa Mission Hospital in the village of Luampa. Their home was a full day’s auto trip from Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. According to Gordon “Luampa is three hundred miles out in the bush and three hundred and fifty miles from the supermarket in Lusaka.”
Every four years Gordon and Jeanette would take a furlough for six months or so and would spend most of the time in El Dorado. He would assist me with many 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 lots stories, and because Gordon was very vocal it was sometimes difficult to tell mine. We both enjoyed the fellowship we shared. 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 many countries of the world. Cathy and I were privileged to have been a part of the ministry for over twenty-five years and traveled together with the team to seven 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 desire to go to South Africa, but Cathy preferred I travel with 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, 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 pastor and his wife from South Africa. I asked how long he had served as a minister thinking it must have been twenty-five years since he appeared to be in his late fifties in age. He said he was a civil engineer for the first twenty-five years of his professional life, and had only surrendered to vocational ministry in the previous ten 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 almost thirty years.”
He asked if he was still there, and I told him unfortunately he had died just two 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 which 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 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 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 enjoy the remainder of the conference that morning I thanked God for His amazing grace. The first man I 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!!