Dorothy Ellen Kinsman - The way it used to be
I recently had the good fortune to be introduced to Mrs. Dorthy Kinsman who lives in Jedburg, S.C. When I learned that she served as a missionary in the jungles of Brazil for thirty years, I realized there had to be a significant story regarding the way it used to be.
Dorothy was born in Nashua, New Hampshire on November 19, 1920. She had three brothers and two sisters. They attended a one-room schoolhouse in Hudson, New Hampshire. Dorothy, with a proud grin added that she always made the Honor Roll.
Unfortunately her mother died when Dorothy was eight years of age. As a result she did all the cooking and cleaning before she went to school each day.
Dorothy's neighbor was a pastor and she started going to his church. She states, "This was the first time I heard the gospel of Jesus and I immediately accepted him as my savior at the age of fourteen years."
After she graduated from high school she attended a Bible school in Providence, Rhode Island for three years and graduated with honors in 1940. Shortly after, she married Earnest Benard De-Camp in 1941. Unfathomable he was killed in the "Battle of the Bulge" on January 15, 1945 during World War 11.
With her bible studies completed, Dorothy was inspired to become a missionary. However the program required that females have a husband who was also in the program. Single women could not proceed without a husband.
Sometimes destiny intervenes in our lives and this happened to Dorothy. A friend of hers introduced her to a male missionary (Gordon Dudley Kinsman) who had returned to the U.S.A. for a short period of time. She met and talked with him about the missionary program. As fate sometimes occurs, they decided to marry. He returned to Brazil.
Dorothy said that to join him as a qualified Missionary she had one year to learn the official language of Brazil, which was Portuguese, and she did. With that completed, she shortly after traveled to Brazil and after a week or two of getting paperwork filled out and completed, they were married.
I asked Dorothy if any particular events stood out in her years in the wild. She told me about an incident that happened several years before she arrived. She said "one day some friends brought in an Indian of their tribe who had malaria and needed treatment. The native was given a dose or so of medicine. He later started feeling better so his friends were going to take him back to his village. The Indians were warned that he would still need further medication, but they took him home anyway. Unfortunately he died on the way back. As a result of this the Indians returned and killed every one of the missionaries at that station. The Indians had determined that an evil spell had been cast on the deceased. That was a dark day indeed." This incident happened before Dorothy and her husband arrived at that location.
Dorothy said that she and her husband came five years later and worked with the same tribe. We were aware of what had happened earlier and any time we provided medication we went to a lot of trouble to explain what they should expect and how to use any medications we gave them. Fortunately we didn’t have any tragic encounters during my years of service.
Our relationship with the Indians was very good. We provided them with medicines and also taught them how to read and write. We were there to help them anytime they needed it. We developed a great friendship with them.
When asked how the Indians had changed her, Dorothy said with a laugh, "They taught me to live in the woods, they showed me what fruits were good, which ones were bad and identified edible plants, etc. In other words we learned how to survive in a Jungle.
When we first arrived we lived in a small house made with limbs and grass. You could build a small fire inside for cooking and warmth. When asked if it ever caught afire, Dorothy said "No, but you had to be careful, occasionally the thatch would have to be replaced due to insects eating the material."
Dorothy said there were other missionaries working throughout Brazil but they were not close enough to visit. We did have an annual mission conference when we would all get together.
When asked about personal health issues in the wild, Dorothy said "For instance if you had a toothache maybe we could get one of our assistants to just yank it out. We did keep limited medications on hand, but that was the extent of it."
Dorothy continued, "Transportation was very limited, for instance my husband built a boat and we would use that to visit various tribes living on the rivers. Sometimes we would be gone for weeks. The rivers have lots of fallen trees and debris, which slowed our progress and made it very difficult and time consuming. In addition, there were continuous swarms of biting insects to deal with. Some of the insects were microscopic. They bit you but you could not see them because they were so tiny. Their stings were like fire, I wore long cotton stockings to prevent bites on my legs. In those days we women didn't wear pants. We wore those long cotton stockings to prevent bites on our legs. We also wore long skirts and the more you could cover the better you would be."
"As a result of my years in the wild I can't donate blood due to malaria in my system. Several times I had bouts of Malaria that nearly got me. I would have a high, high fever. Malaria was probably our primary problem to deal with at the locations we lived and worked in."
"I witnessed improving changes in the well being of the natives over the years I spent there. I was there from 1950 until 1985. At first we traveled about with mule and wagon and then later we had gasoline vehicles. The roads were terrible when we first arrived. You had two ways to bog down, you could be caught in a wet bog or you could be stopped by dry deep sand. It would sometimes be days before you could continue your travel. You had to plan any trips carefully and make sure you had adequate gasoline etc. If something broke, you might be stranded for days before you could fix or replace parts.”
I asked Dorothy if she had any children. Her answer "no" brought tears to my eyes when she informed me that she had lost five children before or shortly after birth.
For thirty years Dorothy and her companions made tremendous personal sacrifices to help and improve the lives of those they assisted. May God bless them all.