An African missionary journey
from the Niger to the Copper Belt

Gerard Rathe WF

transcribed for the web
by Robbie Dempsey


I should like to thank Father Vincent de Decker whom we called "The Director", our Photographer, Leo, and his employer, Franz Claas, for the use of photographs in this book.

I am indebted also to the Public Relations Department of Dakar. My thanks are due to Mr. P. J. Short who compiled the maps, and to Mr. J. Bellalta who designed the cover.

Much work of typing and correcting was done by V.B. and P.G., to whom I am grateful, and Father A. E. Howell merits special mention, for without his help this book would not have been written.


Early in 1957 I was invited to join Father Vincent de Decker, also a White Father, who was planning a trip of some 20,000 miles through Africa to get firsthand information on present day Mission problems, whilst at the same time working for the International Exhibition of Brussels and some commercial firms, which latter had undertaken to cover all the expenses. I was invited to join the party as an interpreter when in British or Commonwealth territory. We had a professional photographer, Leo, in the party. The tour we made through the Missions must have been a great experience for Leo for he is not a Catholic. My first, and rather unexpected job as an interpreter was between Father de Decker, who comes from Brussels and speaks no Flemish, and our chief photographer, Leo, who comes from Antwerp and speaks no French.

We left Paris for Africa during Holy Week in the middle of a transport strike.

This book is my journal, which I wrote more or less from day to day. I have thought it better not to bore the reader with a daily calendar, leaving only a few key dates to guide those who might like to work out how long we spent on any particular section of our journey.

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