Archie Dunaway – Good Neighbor, God’s Martyr

Two weeks ago I was attending the Southern Christian Writer’s Conference at the First United Methodist Church in Hueytown when I met Shirley Crowder. She was describing one of her several books on prayer to me and she mentioned she had co-authored it with another MK from Nigeria. They had grown up on the same mission station and hospital.

I asked, “Ogbomosho?”

She looked surprise and said, “Most people can’t even pronounce, never mind know where it is.”

I explained we had some friends, the Dunaways, who were missionaries from Nigeria who had transferred to our Sanyati Mission in Rhodesia, which also had a hospital and I grew up next door to them. She mentioned how a missionary from Rhodesia came to Nigeria, Lolete Dotson, after the Dunaways had moved from Nigeria. It’s a small world where you know the same people from two small stations. She remembered all the Dunaways’ children but I only knew Mark and Martha as the two older children had already left home when they were at Sanyati. My sisters and I enjoyed going next door to play Monopoly with the Dunaways as Mark made up different rules, like the fact all the fines paid to the bank were put in the middle of the board and if you landed on the corner you could collect all this additional money, which really helped when one was in trouble. We went by “Mark’s Monopoly rules” for years.

I saw on Martha’s Facebook on June 15th, that it had been 43 years since Archie Dunaway’s death at Sanyati. I remember Archie Dunaway as a good man, a quiet man, whom the people loved as he wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty, doing the hard jobs on the station right alongside them, whether it was trying to keep the boilers working, the electric generator running for the hospital, or fix the two ambulances which frequently broke down on the rough dirt roads into town. He showed God’s love for the people by fixing broken machines. Even though his hands were rough and frequently grease-stained, he could be surprisingly gentle when he pursued his hobby of planting flowers and trying to raise them in a harsh, hot climate. He turned a barren anthill in the front of his house to a raised stone covered patio, surrounded by terraced flowers, and shaded with trees. This was the place to be for the weekly meetings and meals by missionaries. Margaret, his wife, was a nurse and also ran the midwifery school, as she enjoyed helping deliver some of the 2,000 babies born each year at Sanyati Hospital.

During the civil war in Rhodesia many Christians and missionaries were killed for their faith in God. On Thursday, June 15, 1978, Margaret was taking care of a very sick baby. When she finished and started walking home at 7 pm, she thought it strange that Archie’s car was at the hospital with their dog, Jojo, but Archie was nowhere to be seen, and this was unusual as there was a 5 pm curfew. When she returned home, he wasn’t there either, and she became concerned. She called John Monroe, the dentist, and he called my Dad, Maurice Randall, to look for him. They drove around the station and found where the fence had been cut through at the garage but no Archie. The police were called about 1 am but they said they couldn’t come out at night as it was too dangerous. The missionary ladies and children moved over to the Dunaway’s house and stayed there praying all night. The Dunaway children were called and told their dad was missing.

In the morning the police came and found Archie’s body just outside the hospital. Later it came out that four armed men came to the hospital when he came to pick up Margaret and took him behind the hospital where they killed him.

When Maurice returned to the Dunaway’s house, he told Margaret it was just as bad as they feared. She insisted on seeing Archie’s body and said goodbye. The police were going to take his body back to Gatooma but she asked that he be taken in the mission ambulance and they agreed. The mission and police wanted to evacuate all the missionaries immediately from the mission since the war had come but Margaret asked to stay until Saturday to pack up and have a memorial service for Archie.

There was a question if anyone would come as the four men had threatened people in the hospital but Margaret felt strongly that she needed to share. That morning at 10 am the church was packed with 500 people. Margaret had incredible grace through the Spirit and told the people that she loved them and God loved them. She didn’t harbor any blame towards them. It was a beautiful service. Then she flew out to go to Gwelo for a final memorial service for Archie. She asked as people were packing up the rest of their things if they could find and send the plastic bag of Sabi star flower seeds Archie had collected so painstakingly. These were found and sent back to the States.

It is hard in June on Father’s day for those who have lost their fathers, especially when it occurred suddenly and there is no answer this side of heaven as to why? God gave amazing grace to Margaret as she shared God’s love with the people of Sanyati.

Psalm 24:3-4

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart
Who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.

Archie Dunaway was a good husband, loving father, a missionary mechanic, whose sometimes dirty, callused hands showed his love for the people he came to serve. He had a clean heart and today has clean hands as he walks the mountain of the Lord.

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