Part 2 - England & Togo
At 24, Antoinette went to England for a year to learn the language. At first, she worked and lived as a household help for a family, but then she taught science in a secondary school. Because of her poor knowledge of English, Antoinette did not feel up to the task.
In the interview, Antoinette said right away that she came from a French-speaking part of Switzerland, whereupon the superiors enthusiastically asked her about it. Nobody was interested in whether she was suitable for this work at all. Finally, she followed a book with all the learning material that she was supposed to convey to the students, and took up this challenge.
One day an inspector was in class. During this lesson, a girl came forward and corrected the English on Antoinette's panel picture. Antoinette thanked her and corrected her mistake. Later, during the debriefing, she received unexpected feedback from the inspector: he was very happy with her because he really liked her response to the girl's attribution!
Back in France, the Missions Company in Paris was urgently looking for people. Antoinette explains: “I refused their offer, because I didn't have the right job. When they asked me what I was studying, it turned out they were looking for someone who could teach science at a secondary school in Africa! So, I agreed for a year, but I wasn't really proud to be a missionary after all. It also made me sad to have to leave again - because I was friends with a pastor whom I loved very much. Claudine took me to Marseille and the boat went to Togo. Since there was no port in Moor, we had to be brought ashore in small row boats.
Initially I lived in the capital, Lomé, with two other missionaries. The two soon noticed that I was not wholeheartedly involved. Every day they got on their knees and prayed for me. I wanted to give my whole life to Jesus, but I still couldn't. After three months, I suddenly got on my knees with the other two and gave my life completely to Jesus - this time without restrictions. I remember the great joy that came over me and I started reading the Bible regularly.”
Antoinette takes a sip of her now cold tea and seems to be far away in her thoughts. After a deliberate pause, she continues with shining eyes, "One day I was sitting in my room when I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder and heard a voice that said " I want to be your only love." But instead of getting angry and insisting on my own ideas, like I would have done before, I was deeply touched. I asked Jesus why He chose me for this task? I had nothing; I didn't do a good job. Why would someone want me for such a big job? It was an agreement between me and the Lord, which made me very happy.”
Finally, Antoinette stayed in Togo for 20 years, which was still French-speaking at the time. For a long time, she taught young people science. They all spoke French, but still had considerable difficulty following Antoinette. One of her students had to "translate" for his classmates with the African mentality.
Antoinette even learned Ewe, the language of the locals, which a syllable can have up to five different meanings, depending on the pitch! Nevertheless, she spared no effort, since she also wanted to talk to the elderly who did not speak French.
“Although I spoke the language fluently and tried to integrate myself, I still remained white, and therefore, different. It was very difficult at that time; especially when I later lived in the country. For example, when I was at the post office, as a white person, I had to pass the queue and got my turn, before everyone else. It was really difficult for me ...
During my first days in Togo, thank God, I met Rubi, an African my age. Rubi had a very strong faith and helped me in many practical matters right from the start. I really enjoyed visiting her and her big family, and being among the locals.
Togo then became peaceful in the 1960s. For us missionaries, this meant that we were no longer working under the French Organization, but under the direction of an African pastor, which was very good. We were also given a new assignment: Rubi and I went to the villages, visited the women there, and told them about Jesus. This time Rubi was able to "translate" for me.
We also brought the Girl Scouts to Togo. I myself had had very nice experiences in my own childhood, and now had great pleasure in developing a program for young girls. I even wrote a book with all kinds of tips and tricks for the daily life of girls in Togo. One day we got a French visit from the official scout organization. They were enthusiastic about our work, which in turn encouraged us.
Rubi and I ended up even living together in a missionary house and enjoying the community. Over time, however, the need grew to be no longer an official missionary, but simply to live with and among the locals. This meant no water at the push of a button, no electricity, and great poverty in general ... I wanted to be in the queue and on the street with people to sell things. So, I moved out of the official missionary house, but quickly found that it was more difficult than I thought. I was still relying on my monthly financial support from France to tell the women who lived in unimaginable poverty, how good God is and how lovingly He cares for us. I didn't want to go on like this. There were also some African women who were ready and trained to do my job.”
At this point, Antoinette's mother also contracted Parkinson's Disease and Antoinette noticed that her time in Africa was over. It was particularly difficult for Rubi to say goodbye since Antoinette was already part of her family. Rubi even came to visit her in Switzerland once.
"Back in Togo, I attended a seminar once in which we - 30 priests, pastors and missionaries - considered together how to best present the gospel to the locals, who believed in an afterlife, but who did not believe in Jesus. We spent three days together, black and white, Catholic and Evangelical siblings, and exchanged views. I remember a very good community, which is why we ended up holding these meetings twice a week for three years. I also met while there for the first time, Susanne, who also came from France. She was a little younger than me and was currently working as a school principal in Togo. At that time, I had no idea what great role she would play in my life. In retrospect, Susanne told me once that she remembers how I complained at the seminar: "We must not forget that it is not the Lord who is serving us, but we are serving Him. We don't use the LORD to do what we want, but He uses us to do what he wants." Then Susanne, who was Catholic, really wanted to talk to me more, which was the beginning of a close friendship. Even back then we prayed a lot together."
To be continued...