Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Penney Resident Spent Much of His Life in Africa

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Penney Resident Spent Much of His Life in Africa

Article excerpt

Byline: Marian Chapman, Clay County Line columnist

A year ago we began sharing the stories of our residents who were born overseas. So far we've featured 11 from Europe, four from Asia, and three from South America. What's missing? Africa, of course.

Ben Hobgood was born in the former Belgian Congo to Disciples of Christ missionaries, the fourth of six children, five of whom were born in the Congo. Their father was a prime example of what he called "the only kind of missionary that is any good," one who could and would do anything that needed doing. Though primarily an evangelist, he built churches and schools and became so proficient in the language that he was legal representative for their 100 missionaries and helped translate the Bible into one of the 200 Congo dialects.

Ben grew up going with his father on evangelistic trips for months at a time, traveling by foot, bicycle, or by canoe and accompanied by an entourage of Congolese baggage carriers. "My job," says Ben, "was shooting monkeys to feed them."

In the midst of the war-time conditions of 1943, the family went on a furlough and landed in Kentucky four months later. They had had innumerable delays in Africa before setting sail for Buenos Aires, which Ben describes as "the most beautiful city I had ever seen." From there they got a freight/passenger ship that took them down through the Straits of Magellan and up the west coast of South America, unloading freight all along the way. They disembarked in Mexico and took a train, finally arriving in Lexington. From the choir loft of Central Christian Church Ben soon spotted the cute little daughter of the president of Lexington Theological Seminary (where Ben was later to study). She joined the choir, they went through high school and college together, and are still together 58 years later. Ben and Betsy graduated from Transylvania College, and after additional studies in French and missions in New England and Belgium, headed for the Congo as missionaries in 1954.

Ben envisioned a ministry like his father's, but he was assigned as pastor of the urban church in the rapidly growing city of Mbandaka, also the headquarters of the Disciples of Christ work in the Congo. …

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