Wednesday, March 01, 2006
The Man Who Saved Gandhi: Part 2
J.J.D., as we affectionately called him - although the natives of Central Africa knew him as Shikulu Dolcowas one of two brothers, the sons of the first minister of the Baptist Church at Chudleigh in Devonshire. Both boys early imbibed a sincere faith in Christ and a fervent enthusiasm for the evangelization of the world. The elder volunteered for the Congo, and, almost as soon as he arrived, laid down his life there. The tragic circumstance profoundly affected the mind of the surviving brother. He remembered how, when Thomas Knibb died at the very inception of his missionary venture in Jamaica, his brother William, who had cherished no overseas ambitions, immediately took the vacant place. But the cases were not parallel. With the Knibbs, it was the weaker brother who died, leaving the stronger to succeed him. But, with the Dokes, it was the more robust brother who perished, leaving the other unequal to the coveted task. Joseph would gladly have gone out to the scene of his brother's sacrifice, but, though possessed of the essential spirit and the requisite gifts, his health was far too frail. Notwithstanding his alert mind, his hunger for knowledge and his winsome personality, the doctors would not hear of his taking a college course. He abandoned with a sigh his African dream; but the fact that, years afterwards, he named all his children after heroes of the Congo mission field, indicate unmistakably the emotions that still held all his heart.
But although the colleges were closed against him, no power on earth could have kept him out of a pulpit. He was a born preacher. Looking back over a fairly long life, I affirm deliberately that, for the natural eloquence that can stir men's deepest emotions and sweep an audience off its feet, I have never known his equal. For some years he held his brittle body and his shining soul together by occupying a pulpit for a few months, saving every penny that he possibly could, and then spending the proceeds on an excursion or a cruise.
On all these gipsyings, he became the idol of his fellow-travellers. He was lounging one evening on the deck of a P. and O. liner in the Mediterranean when the captain, taking the empty chair beside him, asked him if he was on his way to the Holy Land. Mr. Doke, who had only saved enough money for the return trip to Port Said, explained that he was going straight back. Guessing the reason, the captain ridiculed the idea. “Nonsense!” he laughed, “you're going on! Now look at me! I'm the skipper of a liner, having nobody on earth on whom to spend my salary! You go on; see all that there is to be seen in Palestine; and you'll make me happy for the rest of my life!”
I remember, too, his telling me of a bitterly cold night that he was forced to spend on a lonely wayside station in India. “My only companion,” he said, “was a tall Bengali, rolled up in a rug on a wooden seat, fast asleep. I paced the platform to keep warm. At last I was compelled to lie down for a minute and must have dozed. For, when I awoke, I was snugly wrapped up in the rug and the Indian was walking up and down to keep warm!” In the fine biography of my old friend, written by Mr. W. E. Cursons, we catch glimpses of him in South Africa, in Ceylon, in America and in many odd corners of the planet; and, everywhere, he exercised his resistless magnetism on everyone he met.
F W Boreham
Joseph Doke the Missionary-Hearted, by W. E. Cursons, F.I.C.S., published Christian Literature Depot, Johannesburg
Posted by Geoff Pound at 10:21 AM