Billy Graham Center

Interview with Bertil A. Ogren - Collection 219

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Bertil A. Ogren

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

Audio file and written transcript for T1

Audio file and written transcript for T2

Brief Description.
Two oral history interviews with Ogren in which he describes his recruitment as a lay missionary in the Belgian Congo from 1948-56; his work there beginning and running the LECO Press, which served the needs of members of the Congo Protestant Council and relations between Africans and Western missionaries. Interviews were conducted in June and August 1982. This is part of the Missionary Sources Collection.

Collection 219 [November 30, 2010]
Ogren, Bertil A.; 1914-2006
Interviews; 1982

Audio Tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Bert Ogren was born in 1914 in Lockport, Illinois. His parents, Carl and Almida, were immigrants from Sweden. There were three other children in the family--Clarence, Carl, and Eleanor. While he was in high school, Bert took over a small printing business begun by his brother Clarence while he was in high school. After graduation, Bert expanded it and named it Ogren Press. The family were devoted Christians and he had a conversion experience in 1928 and attended an Evangelical Covenant church. While he was in the hospital for appendicitis at the age of twenty-three, he met his future wife, Jean, who was a student nurse. They had six children: Kathleen, Erik, Mary, Mark, Elizabeth, and Cynthia.

In 1947, the Ogrens volunteered to become vocational missionaries for the Covenant Church. In 1948, they were sent to Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo where Bert was placed in charge of beginning and running the LECO press, a religious press that served all the Protestant missionaries in the Congo by printing school and devotional literature. The family stayed in the Congo until 1956. After returning to the United States, Bert began working for the LaSalle Press in Chicago, where he remained until his retirement twenty-two years later. He died November 30,2006

Scope and Content

Bertil Ogren was interview by Robert Shuster on June 22 and August 25, 1982 at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. The interviews cover Ogren's experiences in the Belgian Congo as a missionary between 1948 and 1956. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. The index is keyed to the cassette copy and not to the reel-to-reel original.

T1 - side 1 Transcript and audio file
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:30 Preliminary information
01:00 Family background, affect of the World War on the family
05:15 Religious background, including home attitude
08:15 Personal conversion, 1928
09:45 Mission emphasis in the church during Ogren's childhood; attractions
of missions
11:30 Knowledge of Africa before volunteering for mission field, desire to
see the world
12:45 Meeting his wife, Jean
13:30 Volunteering for missionary service, Ralph Hansen, correspondence
with George Carpenter, application as vocational missionary
18:15 Major factors in decision to go to the Congo; very unusual for the
whole family to travel to mission field
22:00 Reactions of friends and associates to his decision to go to Africa
24:45 Preparation for the work in Africa; shortage of funds in the church
25:30 Suggested orientation program for today's missionaries
26:45 Printing presses operated by natives; African workers
28:00 Relations with Belgian government; eagerness for teachers to come to
the Congo
28:45 Journey to the Belgian Congo
32:45 First impressions of the Congo, African coast, Leopoldville; train
ride through the Congo
35:30 Shift in African self-image from pre-independence to independence time
36:15 Went to work right away
36:45 Hiring servants and craftsmen for press
38:00 Wife's work at home, served as nurse for African staff
38:30 Living quarters
39:45 Main objectives of printing shop (quality)
40:30 Disciplining the African workers
43:30 Number of workers in the print shop
44:15 Formation of the print shop; situation of Amerian missionaries in the
Congo during World War II
47:15 End of side 1

T1 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Overlap from side 1
02:15 Impressions of George Carpenter as a man, as a businessman
04:15 Self-support of bookstore
04:45 The Press Board of LECO and its demands on the print shop; the local committee
07:30 Rev. Braun replaces Dr. Carpenter in 1948-1949 for furlough
08:30 Rev. Robert Bontrager and wife replace Dr. Carpenter
09:15 Dr. Carpenter's relationship to Africans
09:30 Meaning of "Pro-African"
10:45 Through Ebony Eyes--book condemning anti-African attitude of some missionaries
11:45 Black attitude toward missionaries
12:45 Decisions on the printing of manuscripts
14:30 Use of the print shop by local missionaries
15:45 Number of languages material published in
16:30 Ogren's work at the press
17:15 Sources of supplies
18:30 Humidity in the Congo and its effect on the work
20:45 The rate of work in the print shop; piecework method
22:30 Training program for management positions, interviewing, candidates
25:45 Relationship between missions; Congo Protestant Council; the Church of Christ in the Congo
27:45 Lack of conflict between denominational groups in the field
29:15 Church attendance
30:15 The Lingala and French languages
32:45 Relationship between Catholic and Protestant missionaries; advantage of Protestant missionaries in having families
34:30 Press relationship with Congo Protestant Council and Congo government
36:45 Signs of National independence movement; more aggressiveness in some of the workers at the press in 1955-1956
38:45 Ogren's opinion on the independance movement and Belgium colonial policy
40:45 Rioting and the declaration of independence
42:15 Analogy between Africa and the American West in the late nineteenth century; modernization of the Congo
43:45 Physical hindrances to national development; high death rate
44:15 Diseases in the Ogren family during the stay in the Congo
45:00 Health care for missionaries and for Africans
47:00 Concluding comments
47:30 End of tape

T2 - side 1 Transcript and audio file
00:00 Beginning of tape
11:00 Introduction
11:30 Correction on previous interview about the conversion of Bert's mother
12:00 Daughter's paralysis in her face
13:00 Adjustment of family to Congo life
14:15 School problems for the children, especially the sons Erik and Mark
17:00 American community in Leopoldville; more difficulties in school
18:15 Adjustments for Bert and Jean; social life, food
20:30 Living conditions in Leopoldville
22:45 Description of Congo river
23:00 Vacation at a mission conference near Lisala; traveling by car in the Ubangi area; baptism of son Mark by Ralph Hansen
25:45 How life was different in Ubangi from Leopoldville; not many people, entertainment, or large cities
26:45 Swimming in lake, hunting, relaxation
27:00 Buffalo, lepards, elephants, monkeys
27:45 Gardening for relaxation
28:30 He shot a monkey who had just given birth to young ones; decided never to do that again
29:30 Giardi--an intestinal parasite
30:15 Appeal of the Ogren's children for Ubangi women
31:45 Scenery in Ubangi area
32:15 Need for textbooks, pamphlets, and Bibles with which to spread education and the gospel
33:15 Conversions more dramatic in Africa
33:45 Superstition concerning twins
34:15 Changes observed in Africans as a result of Christianity
35:15 Effect of the West on African culture
37:15 Most Africans unaware of all the educational possibilities of Western culture
39:15 Africans who left the Congo
40:00 Africans were very open to Christianity
41:00 1948-1956 were good years in the Congo
42:15 Belgian methods of control and policies; Belgian control brought many improvements; legal protection, housing, medical help, etc.
44:45 Basis of economy in Congo: copper, diamonds, cloth, timber, fishing, coffee
47:45 End of side 1

T2 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Overlap from side 1
02:45 Establishment of International Committee on Christian Literature for Africa
04:30 Impressions of Jack McAllister; the Congo after World War II
07:45 Attitude of disinterest on the part of American people toward Congo and missions
11:15 Practical needs of missionaries
12:45 Views of the Congolese about Americans
14:30 Reasons for difficulty in Africans leaving their own country; African family life
15:30 Impressions of Congolese Civil War; Congo independence
17:15 Africans are not as well off today as previously
19:00 Ogren comments that his years in the Congo were the best years of his life
20:15 Impact of his work on the Congolese people
21:15 Problems of LECO press with the government
23:45 End of interview


These interviews were given to the Archives on June and August 1982.

Accession 82-91, 82-123
June 13, 1984
Robert Shuster
J. Diller
D. Garton
J. Nasgowitz

Accession 82-91, 82-123
Type of material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE.

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, 96 minutes. One side only. Interview with Bert Ogren by Robert Shuster, June 22, 1982.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, 60 minutes. One side only. Interview with Bert Ogren by Robert Shuster, August 25, 1982.

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Expiration: indefinite