Billy Graham Center

Interview with Robert Carlton Savage - Collection 250

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Robert Carlton Savage

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

Brief Description.
One oral history interview with Savage in which he discusses his work as a missionary evangelist in Colombia (1942-1944) and his work in Ecuador for missionary radio station HCJB and Yourth for Christ (1944-1969). Interview recorded on 6/3/83.

Collection 250
[April 1, 2005]
Savage, Robert Carlton; 1914-1987
Interview; 1983

Audio Tape (1 Reel)


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Robert Carlton Savage was born in Barron, Wisconsin on April 30, 1914, the son of a Baptist minister. He attended Wheaton College, from which he graduated in 1938, majoring in Bible. While a student at Wheaton, he met his future wife, Wilda Johnson. They were married in September, 1938. Following their marriage, Savage worked as assistant pastor of the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington, D. C.; he then became pastor of First Baptist Church in Romeo, Michigan, and then founded the First Baptist Church of Washington, Michigan.

The Savages went to Colombia with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) in 1942, first in Pamplona for a period of language study, then serving as an evangelistic missionary at a mission station in Chinacota. In 1944, frustrated by the lack of progress in the work in Colombia, Savage moved to Quito, Ecuador to work for radio station HCJB as Program Director. He later went on to become a member of the board of directors, Field Director, and eventually the Vice President. Savage was named Director of Youth For Christ in Ecuador in 1945, and he later became Vice President of Youth For Christ in Latin America. He held these positions simultaneously with his work at HCJB. Between 1954 and 1966, he served as Vice President of World Radio Missionary Fellowship.

Following his retirement from HCJB in 1969, he returned to the United States where he became the pastor of the Dalton Baptist Church in Muskegon, Michigan, remaining for eight years, after which he served in several other Baptist churches. He passed away in November 1987.

Scope and Content

Two interviews were conducted with Mr. Savage by Robert Shuster, the first on June 1, 1983, followed by a second on July 3, at the Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College. Technical difficulties during recording rendered the first interview completely inaudible, and the tape of the interview has therefore been disposed of. The second interview is numbered T1. The time frame for events covered in the interview is: T1, 1942-1969. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is noted in the margin to the left of the topics discussed. The index is keyed to a cassette copy of the interview, not the reel-to-reel original. Due to the length of the interview, T1 has been transferred onto two sides of one cassette and another side of a second cassette.

Tape T1 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape.
00:30 Introduction to interview on June 3, 1983.
01:15 The Savages' call to missionary service; Baptist churches he pastored first, in Washington, D.C. and Romeo, Michigan. Mission conference where he decided to accept call. Song that his wife wrote: "Lord Send Me."
05:45 Journey to Columbian interior in 1942.
06:50 Reaction of church, friends, colleagues; his extreme enthusiasm.
08:15 Impact of World War II on their travel; questioning.
11:30 Strength of his call compared to that of his wife (Wilda), sister (Helen), brother (Jim).
12:45 Choosing a mission board, influences of Harvey and Georgina Hammond and Ernie Fowler.
13:45 Christian martyrs he knew. Death of Ernie Fowler.
15:15 Decade of violence in Colombia 1945-55; dates of his time in Colombia (1942-1944) and Ecuador (1944-1969).
16:45 Account of persecution of one church.
18:30 Political nature of the violence; conservatives (controlled by Roman Catholic Church) vs. liberals; definition of "liberal" and "conservative" in that context; change in relationships between Protestants and Catholics.
20:30 Early expectations about mission work: naive.
21:30 Nearly dropped out in their second year: difficult year for most missionaries.
22:45 Persecution of missionaries by Catholic clergy, violence.
24:00 Insufficient training before he went to Colombia.
24:45 Arrival in Colombia, enthusiasm through difficulties.
26:00 Training Cora Soderquist, Minnie Waage in Spanish lessons; training from Elaph and Isabel Anderson, Wilt Watson.
29:00 Typical activities: learning Spanish, evangelistic work with high school boys. Teaching English as a means to reach high school boys.
31:00 Evangelistic work in rural settlement during second year; half of population evangelical; Bible studies, Sunday School; visitation using mimeographed article "What do the Evangelicals Believe?"
34:15 Virgin Mary issue.
35:30 Discouraging second year; little "fruit bearing".
36:15 Quito, Ecuador: radio evangelism, church planting, Youth For Christ, large crowds.
37:15 Size of church in Colombia, many poor and uneducated.
38:45 Dangers of becoming a Protestant in Columbia.
40:45 Colombians' views of Americans.
41:15 Various reactions of Catholics to Protestant religion.
43:00 Approach to presenting the Gospel in Colombia.
44:15 End of side 1.

Tape 1 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape.
00:05 Overlap from side 1.
01:00 Evangelistic techniques; films (Moody film, "The God of Creation"; Billy Graham film, "Mr. Texas,") and slides of their own country very effective. Invitation after conclusion of service to those interested: successful.
04:15 Specialized in instruction for new Christians; published a booklet, "Elementary Studies of Great Importance for the New Christian."
05:30 Printed tickets for meetings in large theater: free, but needed to enter.
07:45 Polemic and appealing approaches used by missionaries in presenting the Gospel.
11:00 Love of controversy and polemics in Latin America.
11:15 Messages about the home, responsibilities of a husband and father.
12:30 Pope John XXIII's influence produced change in attitude of Catholics toward Protestants, relaxation of controversy.
13:45 Attempts to meet Catholic priests to reduce antipathy. Meeting with Jesuit priest. Sharing Gospel choruses and flannel board techniques with Catholic priests; increase in Bible use among Catholics.
16:15 Indian religious influences, flood story.
17:30 Work among mixed blood people: Indians and Spanish.
18:30 Racism Ecuador against Indians descended from the Incas.
20:30 Example of evangelistic work among Ecuadoran mountain Indians by Seventh Day Adventists, Christian and Missionary Alliance, and Gospel Missionary Union.
21:45 Impact of racism in churches: strong preaching against it; some Ecuadoran Christians believe Indians don't have souls; difficulty of blending Indians and Mestizos in same congregation. Blend is beginning to happen now.
24:30 Churches now self-supporting but not in the early days; high growth during persecution. Work of Gomez in Colombia, from janitor to preacher, starting churches.
28:15 Before persecution: missionary with subsidized pastors; now: financially self-supporting because of numerical growth; pastors' in South America holding other jobs as well.
30:45 Move from Colombia to Ecuador due to restlessness and dissatisfaction with slowness of progress in Colombia.
31:45 Leaving TEAM to join radio station HCJB; Clarence Jones, Reuben Larson.
33:45 Effect on Savages of their first two years in Colombia; taught them Spanish and how to prepare messages, appreciation for missionaries in hard rural places.
35:00 Positions held at HCJB: Program director, member of Board of Directors, field director, Vice President.
36:00 HCJB history.
39:00 Development of HCJB when the Savages joined and now: languages, wave lengths, wattage; World Radio Missionary Fellowship, Inc.
42:00 Tasks of director of programming, all live radio.
43:15 End of side 2.

Tape 1 - side 3
00:00 Beginning of tape.
00:15 Overlap from T1a - side 2.
04:15 Advent of tape recording helped in night broadcasting.
05:00 Importance to him of Spanish ministry and programming, but others also existed (Russian, German, Portuguese, Swedish).
05:45 Programing policy based on mail response; their program of hymn singing; family feeling with audience.
08:45 Input of staff members; foreign programs in language divisions.
09:45 Mixing Gospel presentations (1/4 the time), with "bait": folk music, drama, government use of HCJB.
12:00 Cooperation with whichever government was in power; political revolutions; incidents involving revolutionaries asking to use the station, and how HCJB staff stalled and double-checked, contingency plans.
14:45 How station was governed.
16:00 HCJB executives: Clarence Jones, Reuben Larson, then Abe Van Der Puy, now Ron Cline. Length of time Savage was vice president.
17:00 International Christian Broadcasters: Jones as catalyst for its founding. What Clarence Jones was like.
20:00 The move to television. Financial and technical difficulty with television.
22:15 Jones' idea for a hydro-electric project for their own power source; Jones as an administrator.
24:15 Introduction of English and Swedish broadcasting; Ellen Campana.
26:00 Reuben Larson's role and style as an administrator; his wife, Grace.
29:15 Involvement in Youth For Christ 1946, VP for South America; acquaintance with Torrey Johnson, Billy Graham and Ruth Graham in Wheaton.
30:45 What he did as VP of YFC in South America; youth rallies, "Forward Youth." Use of instruments to attract crowds, former Roman Catholic priest as speaker. Use of National Theater, Gospel tent; souls saved.
34:15 Relationship with U. S. Congressman, A. Leonard Allen.
36:30 End of T1b - side 1 and interview.


The materials in this collection were received by the Graham Center Archives in June 1983 from Robert Carlton Savage.

Accession 83-61, 83-64
October 27, 1989
Lannae Graham
P. Ericksen
S. Feeck
J. Nasgowitz

January 17, 1990, revised
L. Beloz

Accession 83-61, 83-64
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, one side only, approximately 120 minutes (2 hours). Interview with Robert Carlton Savage by Robert Shuster, recorded on June 3, 1983. Discussion of mission work in Colombia and Ecuador with TEAM, radio station HCJB, Youth for Christ. June 3, 1983.

NOTE: A second interview with Savage was also conducted by Robert Shuster on June 1, 1983. Due to inaudibility from excessive distortion, this tape has been discarded.

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