Friend of the Zulus

Lillian Young Otte served as a missionary in Zululand, South Africa for over 40 years.  She left country, home, family, friends, and said, "I do not consider it a sacrifice, but a privilege."

Lillian Mary Young was born January 19, 1901 in Eagle Grove, Iowa, daughter of Charles and Hattie Young.  They moved to the Cooperstown area a year or two later and settled on a farm two miles east of Cooperstown where the Ralph Tweed family now live.

Lillian graduated from Cooperstown High School in 1919, and taught school from 1919-1921.  In 1925 she graduated from St. Olaf College and completed nurses' training at St. Lukes' Hospital, Chicago, Illinois in 1928.

In 1929 she was called as a missionary from the Lutheran Church (now ALC) and went to Zululand, South Africa.  There she met Rev. C.N.H. Otte and they were married July 1, 1931.  They had six children - Carl Jr., Solveig, Elsa, Daniel, Paul, and Ruth.

Mrs. Otte made four trips back to the United States, the first in 19:38, the last in 1968.  She was much in demand as speaker, and traveled in many states.  Her presentation was illustrated by flannel-graph and pictures she and her daughters had drawn, depicting life in South Africa.  She had a keen sense of humor.  In her last visit in 1968 she also spoke at the mother-daughter banquet in Trinity Lutheran Church here.

Some excerpts from her letters:

"When I think of the faces of the Zulu children, I do not think black, I just see their faces and the different features.  Is not this one of the greatest of miracles, that of the world full of people no two faces are exactly alike."

"Now I doctor the poor ones - the old ones - my life is nearly sad with the pain and suffering I see ...  some are so pathetic, so many starving ...  there is a drought ...  they are truly the ones Jesus spoke about 'the least of these".

(Donation from Sunday School children) "birthday money went into powdered milk - that went into mush and baby bottles -that went into tummies.  I can't say rosy cheeks - the cheeks are black, but they are fat cheeks, and all the kids are well and cheeky ...  they're so lively! ...  Love, and happy Jesus' birthday."

I have a theory that to accomplish the most I must not be bored .  .  .  have many schemes and projects afoot at the same time.

"My feet flew fast to make the time last longer."

"Spring is coming here ...  It's been cold all winter - 48-50 - inside and outside."

"I am thinking of North Dakota and spring time - chokecherry blossoms and the wheat coming up - have lots to remember of North Dakota and the different seasons and the people, most of the ones I knew as a child are gone - but very much alive in my imagination.  "

(On gardening – for family and Zulus) "I don't like the feel of earth through gloves -like chewing with false teeth or listening to sermon through interpreter or trying to get a kick out of someone else's love letter!"

"The little girl who was weeding the garden left all the little weeds.  I asked 'Why?' She said they were small - not big enough to pull yet!"

(On going to an outstation) "Last Sunday we felt like flies on the wall the hills so steep, and the brakes still ache."

(On last visit to U.S. - when she visited 10 states) "We got a good peek at American life 40 years after the first exit."

"Several tooth abscesses and the flu along with the trauma of settling-in gave me the shrinkage I needed to be able to wear my clothes again, after the broadening experience of America."

(When someone pondered 'I wonder what I will be like when I am old’)  "I could prophetically say 'Just like you are now, only more so."

In 1968 they moved from Ntumeni to Eshowe where they planned to live after retirement.

In a letter dated Nov.  4, 1968 and published in the Sentinel - Courier to "dear friends in many places" she concludes "We wish the good wishes that the peace of God can give you in this turbulent time.  We thank Him for the days we have had here in Africa, for the love and prayers of those who support us in the service of Zulus whom they will never see, and the shadows are lengthening."

She died July 3, 1969 and was buried in Zululand among "her people" whom she loved and ministered to for so many years.

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 150

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