A small girl arrives to deliver a letter from Johannesburg (the largest city in South Africa) to Reverend Stephen Kumalo. Apparently, Kumalo has a ton of relatives in Johannesburg: his brother John; his sister Gertrude and her small child; and his only son Absalom.
He calls for his wife to look at the letter with him. The envelope's addressed to Kumalo at St. Mark's Church, Ndotsheni (the village where he lives), Natal (the former name of Kwazulu-Natal, a northeastern province in South Africa not far from Johannesburg).
It's from a priest named Theophilus Msimangu, and in the letter he asks for Kumalo to come to Johannesburg ASAP.
As it turns out, Kumalo's little sister Gertrude is very sick.
Kumalo plans to depart for Johannesburg the next day.