Billy Graham Center

Interview with Ruth Edna DeVelde Hess - Collection 242

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Ruth Edna DeVelde Hess

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 tape T1

Brief Description.
This collection consists of an oral history interview of Ruth Hess, a missionary with the Plymouth Brethren Church at Sakeji School for missionary children in Zambia. She discusses her life as a child in Wheaton, Illinois, and schooling at Wheaton Academy and Wheaton College; her marriage to Lyndon Roth Hess; their calling to be teachers of missionary children; the decision to go to Africa; their work at Sakeji School from 1932 to 1982; and the Lunda tribe of Zambia.

Collection 242
[July 9, 2004]
Hess, Ruth Edna DeVelde; 1909-1997
Interview; 1982

Audio Tape


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

A complete transcript to the interview in this collection is available.


Ruth Edna DeVelde was born in 1909 in the Chicago area, and grew up in Chicago suburbs, including Wheaton, Illinois. Her father was a high school teacher in Irving Park. Being concerned about providing a Christian education for their two children (her older brother was Everett C. DeVelde), her parents decided to move to Wheaton in 1923, in time for her brother to enter Wheaton College. Ruth attended Wheaton Academy.

Ruth went on to attend Wheaton College herself (1927-1931), and met her future husband there (Lyndon Roth Hess). They shared a common calling to serve on the mission field as teachers of missionary children, and were married in August, 1932, before sailing for Africa in November.

They were sent out to Sakeji School in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), under the auspices of the Brethren Assemblies (Plymouth Brethren). Mr. Hess began as a teacher, but assumed the duties of principal when the British missionary who had held that position went back to England. Ruth Hess also began as a full-time teacher but, during their second year at Sakeji, she took on the responsibilities of the school's housekeeper. She continued to teach on a part-time basis.

The Hesses had five children, and served at Sakeji School until 1975, when Mr. Hess resigned because of a suspected heart problem. Following a furlough in the United States, when the condition was discovered not to be serious, they returned to Sakeji, becoming involved with direct ministry to the Lunda Tribe.

The Hesses retired in 1982 and lived in Wheaton until they moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1994 where Ruth died on March 4, 1997.

Scope and Content

This interview was conducted at the Hess home in Wheaton by Virginia Luknic on December 2, 1982. The dates covered by the interview are 1909-1982, and the topics discussed include Ruth Hess' education at Wheaton Academy and Wheaton College, years of service at Sakeji School, and descriptions of life and customs in Zambia among the Lunda Tribe.

Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. This index is keyed to the cassette copy of the original reel-to-reel tape.

Tape T1 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:01 Born in 1909; raised in Chicago suburbs; brought up in Christian family; taught to live by the Word of God
00:53 Parents concerned about Christian education; move to Wheaton, Illinois, for better schools
01:20 Description of Wheaton College campus
01:57 Move to Wheaton in 1923 when brother (Everett C. DeVelde, Sr.) began college
02:23 Ruth Hess attended Wheaton Academy in old grad building; Christian education
03:04 Ruth Hess enters Wheaton College in 1927; met husband (Lyndon R. Hess ); graduated in 1931
03:32 Interest in missionary work using training as teachers; Leonard Gammon discussed needs of missionary children with them on a visit to Wheaton
04:37 Letter received from missionary friend in Northern Rhodesia who was working at Sakeji School
05:25 Medical course at Moody Bible Institute
05:38 Plans to go to mission field (1932); married August, 1932
06:00 Sailing to Africa via England and Scotland; landing in Angola
06:32 Trip to Zambia from Angola by rail
06:45 Former means of transportation by previous missionaries; foot, hammock, and cycle
07:15 Several days' trek from Zaire to mission on foot and bicycle
08:42 Introduction to Sakeji
09:57 Description of school
10:15 Adjustment to working with British missionaries
10:56 Growth of school
11:20 Difficulty of transportation in Zambia
11:57 First furlough in 1938; birth of two children between 1932 and 1938
12:32 Change in work from teaching school to being school housekeeper; care for children at school; challenges of living far from stores
14:40 Other missionaries working at Sakeji School
16:27 Thoughts of retirement during 1975 furlough; return to Africa; furloughed in 1979 with use of airplanes; love for Africa
17:30 Life in Wheaton on furlough
18:05 Brother's work as a Presbyterian minister
18:35 Life in Wheaton while attending high school near college; sporting events
20:35 Impressions of Wheaton College before attending
21:35 Influence of Tuesday night prayer meetings at Wheaton College in preparation for mission field
22:17 Size and atmosphere of Wheaton College; favorite professor John Leedy, Sr.; Russell Mixter
24:42 Wheaton College curriculum
25:47 Classmates; John Walvoord; 45th class reunion; Alice MacKinney Oury
28:10 Activities; basketball and baseball; women in college sports
29:20 Opportunities for preparation for missions; influence of classmate, Betty Johnson, on decision to go to Africa
30:55 Impressions of Africa and its appeal prior to going
32:40 Desire to work among Africans as well as with missionary children; husband's work with Africans
34:00 Lifting of school responsibilities in 1975; ability to interact with Africans
34:25 Motivation for going to mission field; role of Walter Fisher family in establishing Sakeji School in 1925; growth and success of school
39:50 Missionary speakers at Wheaton College
40:25 Mission board of Brethren Assemblies--Christian Mission in Many Lands (CMML)
41:00 Financial support; reliance on the Lord for provision
43:40 Use of currency in Africa
45:00 Appointment and approval by Plymouth Brethren for missions
45:31 End of tape

Tape T1 - side 2
00:00 Recapitulation 01:30
01:30 Appointment and approval by Plymouth Brethren for missions; require ments
03:00 Influence of college education on missionary abilities
03:55 Impressions upon arrival at mission station
05:00 Description of African dwellings
05:50 Everyday dress of African people
07:00 Reaction of Africans to missionaries; forms of greeting in Lunda Tribe
08:20 African church buildings
09:56 African church services; elders; breaking of bread
11:51 Seating arrangements during services
12:25 Singing by Africans, especially Lunda Tribe
13:00 Church meetings during the week
13:30 Traveling between churches
15:24 Adaptability of Sakeji School children as adult missionaries
16:03 Ruth Hess's grasp of language
17:22 African workers at Sakeji School dining room; dissatisfaction with payscale; resolution of problems
19:36 Conversations with African women
20:27 End of tape


Other Sources

See also BGC Archives Collection 228, Interview with Lyndon Roth Hess.



This tape was received at the Center in December, 1982.

Accession 82-176
November 20, 1987
Lannae Graham
T. Jodon
J. Nasgowitz

January 19, 1990, revised
J. Nasgowitz
L. Beloz

Accession 82-176
Type of Material: Audio Tape

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel tape, 3-3/4 speed, 66 minutes. Interview with Ruth Edna DeVelde Hess by Virginia Luknic. Mrs. Hess discusses her upbringing in Wheaton, Illinois; her time at Wheaton College; and her service at Sakeji School in Zambia. Recorded December 2, 1982.

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Last Revised: 7/9/04
Expiration: indefinite