The Unsung Hero Of The UBC Mission: A Tribute To Mama Baker
I would like to dedicate this poem entitled “Thy will be done” to the memory of Mama Evelyn Baker
“My God and father, while I travel
Far from home, in life’s rough way,
Oh! teach me from my heart to say,
Thy will be done
What though in lonely grief I sigh
For friends beloved, no longer nigh
Submissive still would I reply
Thy will be done.
Though thou hast called me to resign
What most I prized, it never was mine
I have but yielded what was thine:
Thy will be done
Let but my fainting heart be blest
With thy sweet spirit for its guest
My God to thee I leave the rest.
Thy will be done
Renew my will from day to day
Blend it with thine and take away
All that now makes it hard to say
Thy will be done.”
The above poem was written in 1836 by the Rev. John Keble.
They say that behind every successful man there is a strong woman. This is perfectly true of the Baker family. Mama Baker had always stayed in the background. Most people know the names of the founder of Centennial Secondary school and that of his children. But apart from those very close to the family how many people prior to now can honestly that they knew Mama Baker’s first name.
The reason is that she had always stayed in the background but never the less she had always solidly supported her husband in all his ventures.
The following lines quoted from my favorite hymn in the UBC hymnal aptly describes the story of the Baker family and all the other Missionaries that served in the UBC mission.
There’s a call comes ringing from the restless waves,
Send the light, send the light.
There are souls to rescue
There are souls to save
Send the light, send the light.
Send the light,
The blessed Gospel Light
Let it shine, from shore to shore.
During the first half of the 20th Century, Mama Baker and her husband answered the call to spread the Gospel in a tiny country on the West Coast of Africa known as Sierra Leone.
Mind you in those days our beloved “Salone” had earned the unsavory nickname “White man’s Grave”. The reason being that Sierra Leone was a mosquito infested country in which scores of Europeans had died because of malaria spread by mosquitoes. In addition to that less than fifty years prior to their advent “The Hut Tax War” had claimed the lives of innocent UBC missionaries. If were to put ourselves in their place, in the spirit of empathy, just how many Sierra Leoneans today will be willing to go to a foreign country known as “The Black man’s grave?”, none I suppose.
Notwithstanding that both Mama Baker and her husband were determined to spread the Gospel light from the shores of the United States of America to the shores of Sierra Leone. This goes to show the level of their dedication towards their cause.
We all know about Pa Baker’s efforts as the Founder of both Centennial Secondary School and Bumpeh High School, but not much has been said about Mama Baker, the woman who stood solidly behind him.
She was there, bearing his children, cooking his meals washing his clothes, comforting him in times of stress. Of course, after a hard day’s work building schools for the local population, Pa Baker did not come home to labour over a hot stove. Someone was there who had already done the cooking: It was Mama Baker.
When the children cried at night and needed attention someone had to rush to their cradle and comfort them: It was Mama Baker
As we all know the Baker family had experienced immeasurable tragedy in their days at Centennial Secondary School. I’ve known families that fell apart in the face of similar tragedies, but I’m sure it was the resilience of Mama Baker as the pillar of support that kept her family together.
In this connection, I’ll quote from the unpublished works of a yet unknown author entitled “Gems of Wisdom”. When choosing a life partner, a man should always choose the woman that loves him sincerely. The woman that loves you sincerely will make sacrifices for you when the need arises. You do not have to be a genius to tell that Mama Baker’s love for her husband was of the very sincere kind because it stood firm in the face of tragedy. Another quotation from the “Gems of wisdom” is that Our successes and failures are dependent on the help and support or lack of help and support we get from other people. Thus for every success story, there is a benefactor whose immeasurable support somewhere along the line promoted the success of the person supported.
Mama Baker to my mind was a staunch domestic benefactor who solidly supported every member of her family thereby being the moral glue that held her family together in the various phases of their lives.
In this connection, I will quote a couple of verses from a poem written by the Victorian poet Ebenezer Elliott entitled “Woman”.
“Things worthier still, and holier far,
Our sister yet will do;
For this the worth of woman shows,
On every peopled shore,
That still as man in wisdom grows,
He honors her the more.
Oh, not for wealth, or fame or power,
Hath man’s meek angel striven
But silent as the growing flower
To make of earth a heaven!
And in her garden of the sun
Heaven’s brightest rose shall bloom.”
Culled from a poem “woman” written by Ebenezer Elliot
Just to digress a little bit, what most people don’t know is that when The British Colonial Government introduced Secondary School education in Sierra Leone it was the exclusive preserve of the sons of Paramount Chiefs and Tribal authorities. The reason being that the American Revolution had taught the British a very bitter but valuable lesson 1776: When the subject peoples become too educated they are bound to question the legitimacy of Colonial rule. Therefore the British were determined not to create African versions of men like“George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or John Adams in their African colonies. On the face of it, Secondary School education was open to everyone but the British being the masters of subterfuge simply made the cost of Secondary school education excessively prohibitive and out of reach of the common man.
Therefore it was left with the missionaries to bring Secondary School education to the ordinary citizens in the hinterland of Sierra Leone. Thus you find that Schools like Centennial, CKC, Harford, and St Francis in Makeni were all built by Christian missionaries. This is another reason why the Baker’s should be celebrated because they played a significant role in bringing Secondary School education to the doorsteps of the ordinary man in Bonthe district. As most of us know, in the nineteen-fifties, it was almost impossible for a poor farmer living in Mattru Jong or Gbangbtoke to send his children to school in Bo or Freetown.
The missionaries had realized that religious education is more effective amongst the younger population. Therefore you find that children who attended a particular school became strong adherents of the denomination which owned their school. Thus schools became the most effective channels of evangelism.So one can rightly say that Mama Baker and her husband were giants of evangelism. I know a particular classmate of mine who became a staunch Christian by the time we graduated from Centennial despite hailing from the other side of the religious divide.
Through their efforts, Centennial had produced Ambassadors, heads of Universities, teachers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, and a myriad of other respectable professions that have made everyone connected to this great School very proud.
As they say, “Old age is both an achievement and a celebration because despite all the obstacles the world threw in your path, yet you still made it to the touchline”. Although death is a painful separation yet we are not lamenting the death of Mama Baker, but rather we are celebrating a life well lived by an astute mother and a loving wife all combined in one single person, Mama Baker. As they say “Sorrows like wounds are apt to heal, but blessed memories are like scars that will linger in our hearts forever”.
She may have passed away but the memory of the tremendous effort of her family in bringing enlightenment to us will linger in our minds and that of future generations forever.
To the Baker family, I’ll use the following words of Master Jesus himself: “Let not your hearts be troubled, you who believe in God believe also in me. For in my father’s house, there are many mansions. I go and prepare a place for you. For where I am there you will be also.
We as Christians have the hope of the resurrection and the life. When our bodies return to dust, from whence it came, our souls will be in heaven where we shall all eventually meet again in the presence of our Lord and savior Jesus.
May Mama Baker’s soul rest in Perfect Peace.
The Unsung Hero Of The UBC Mission is “A Tribute To Mama Baker” written by Centennial Secondary School, Mattru Jong Alum, 1012, Emmanuel Young. Young is also the Chairman of CeOSA-UK/Ireland