One cold weekend shortly after Easter 1954, a minister from Northern Nyasaland, Rev Samuel Nkosira, arrived at my father's manse in Kirriemuir. He would be preaching the following Sunday and during the week he accompanied my father around his scattered parish.
On the Saturday evening, after the weekly parade marching to fiddle music with the tiny walking stick that amused Samuel so much, I was about to be sent for my bath. But as there were no signs that our guest was tiring of my playful activities, I was allowed to stay up a little longer.
The roaring fire, stoked by fresh logs perched on hot coals, behind the brass fireguard, mesmerized Samuel. He had never experienced fires inside a house in Africa. No wonder he had seen a Fire Station not 300 yards from the Manse! He took his feet out of his slippers and warmed his feet. He felt relaxed in front of the flickering flames.
Drawing up beside the reflective Samuel, I removed my slipper boots and placed my foot by Samuel’s. I was transfixed at seeing Samuel’s feet. They were not black, like the rest of his skin.
“ Our soles are the same.” I said. Samuel smiled. He lay his hand on my head then stroked his fingers through my blond hair like a giant ebony comb.
“Yes they are, they are indeed. ” he replied.
Imagine my surprise the following morning, when in addressing the children from the pulpit in his jet back gown, Samuel repeated this story. He added a bit more of course and mentioned the word ‘souls’ so often that I found his message confusing. Anyway, I felt I had got Samuel’s children’s’ address off to a good start the previous night!
Eighteen years later, this seminal moment was brought to mind at the interview at 121 George Street Edinburgh, the HQ of the Church of Scotland. One month later found me in my first job. I was a missionary to the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.