On This Day in UB History: August 4 (Crossing the Atlantic)

Clarence and Erma Carlson and children.

Clarence and Erma Carlson and children.

On August 4, 1942, Clarence Carlson boarded an Egyptian cargo ship in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to begin the journey back to the United States. War was on, and German submarines roamed the Atlantic Ocean. Two years before, when he sailed for Africa, the US was not in the war; it was still dangerous, but Americans were not targets. Now they were.

Carlson had already spent nearly 12 years in Sierra Leone. He and his wife, Erma, and two children left in 1938; Erma and both children were sick, but especially Erma–it would take her several months to recover. Back in the States, they were well aware of the need for leadership in Sierra Leone. They prayed about it for severa months, and finally decided there was only one thing to do. Clarence would return to Sierra Leone by himself.

Carlson wrote in the Missionary Monthly publication, “It is not easy to look forward to the separation of our family, but on the other hand, we could not be happy with this burden on our hearts. We shall both be happy in the knowledge that we are obeying what we believe to be the will of God for us.”

Dr. Leslie and Carolyn Huntley, who were stationed at Gbangbaia, later said of Carlson, “He was so gentle and genuine in his love and concern for all….He loved people, especially his wife and family, but he was a true Christian leader for our African workers.”

After two years, it was time to leave. The only other passenger on that Egyptian cargo ship was a correspondent with the International News Service. They slept in their clothes, with the cabin doors open and life preservers handy. They had an escort for the first two days, but then the ship was on its own. Upon reaching Trinidad in the West Indies, they joined a convoy for the rest of the journey to New York City, arriving on September 12.

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