Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Monday, February 27, 2006

Boreham on Mentoring

Nothing New
Many people these days speak about mentoring as if it is a new phenomenon about which modern leaders are or should be engaged. It has been called by different names (supervision, curacy etc.) but the practice has been around forever.

Relationship Begins
It is instructive to note the many times in which F W Boreham pays tribute to his mentor, J J Doke and in such words to reflect on what this mentoring involved. This partnership it seemed was neither arranged by the seminary nor established by denominational leaders. The link was birthed in friendship. A year after Boreham commenced his ministry in New Zealand his young fiancée from Theydon Bois, arrived by ship in Christchurch. Boreham had asked the Rev J J Doke of the Spreydon church if he would conduct the wedding and along with the help of J J North, who served as best man, the knot was tied.

Pastoral Mentoring
J J Doke forged a strong friendship with both Stella and Frank and often made the long trek to Mosgiel to visit them on their home soil. On hearing the news of Doke’s untimely death in 1913 Boreham wrote, “He married me and helped me in more ways than I can tell. His friendship in our New Zealand days is one of my most cherished memories.”[1] Frank and Stella were to go through some difficult days of depression and ill health when Stella almost died so the pastoral care exercised by Doke through his visits and his letters was a lifeline.

Mentoring With Mutual Respect
After a month of formal ministry, this man who was fresh out of Spurgeon’s College felt totally inadequate and therefore receptive to any help that he could get. He wrote, “I was just beginning and was hungry for any crumb of wisdom that he, out of his rich experience, could impart.” It was this cry for help and his utmost respect for J J Doke that deepened the relationship. Boreham observed that Doke was “a born preacher”[2] and on another occasion, “I have never known his equal as a preacher.”[3] What amazed Boreham was that his mentor never received a College education, yet, “thanks to an indomitable will and tireless application, he was one of the most cultured and capable ministers I have ever known.”[4]

Different Style of Teaching
Doke was ten years older than Boreham but the younger man was never made to feel the lesser partner. In his essays and book about his mentor (The Man Who Saved Gandhi), F W Boreham attributed his ‘conversion’ to books to the encouragement of J J Doke. As he advised Boreham to read widely and commit himself to studying at least one serious book a week, J J Doke was responsible for prizing Boreham out of his narrowness and broadening him in all dimensions. He increased Boreham’s appreciation of nature (Doke was seldom seen without his camera) and he enlarged his world view. Doke was “an incorrigible traveler”[5] who undoubtedly passed on the travel bug to Boreham and reminded him of the way travel can make one a more interesting person. Like Doke, Boreham became a prolific letter writer and a regular contributor to newspapers.

The Broadening Role of the Mentor
It is remarkable to read the articles and correspondence that arose from Doke’s period in Africa, especially concerning the close friendship that developed between Gandhi and Doke.[6] As pastor of the Johannesburg Baptist Church the Rev Doke championed the rights of the Chinese and the Indians in their struggle for more humane conditions. The letters between Gandhi and Doke reveal that the Baptist pastor did much to negotiate on behalf of the Indians and he highlighted their cause prophetically in his weekly contributions to the Indian Observer and other papers.[7] This gives a glimpse into the way J J Doke was probably responsible for helping Boreham to understand the important social dimensions of the Christian faith and ministry, aspects that had been lacking through his early spiritual tutelage.

Geoff Pound

Image: Photo of J J Doke and front pages of F W Boreham's The Man Who Saved Gandhi.

[1] F W Boreham, The Golden Milestone, 50.
[2] F W Boreham, The Man Who Saved Gandhi, 5.
[3] F W Boreham, I Forgot To Say, 134.
[4] F W Boreham, The Ivory Spires, 28-29
[5] F W Boreham, The Passing of John Broadbanks, 200.
[6] Joseph John Doke Biography,, viewed 20 February 2006. Gandhi and South Africa, viewed 20
February 2006.
[7] The C M Doke Collection of Letters from M K Gandhi (1907-1970)- Inventory, viewed on 20 February 2006.