Billy Graham Center

Interviews with James Bruce Dillon - Collection 257

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of James Bruce Dillon

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

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection

Brief Description.
One interview with Dillon in which he discusses his conversion, marriage work in Liberia for the Sudan Interior Mission, the programs of radio station ELWA, the cultural diversity of Liberia, and the nature of indigenous Liberian hymns and worship.
Vol: 1 Reel of Audio Tape

Collection 257
[March 23, 2000]
Dillon, James Bruce; 1943-
Interview; 1983

1 Reel of Audio Tape


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


James Bruce Dillon was born in 1943 in Bloomington, Illinois. He became a Christian at the age of nine while attending the local Evangelical United Brethren Church with his family (As an adult he was a member of first the Conservative Baptist, then the Evangelical Free churches). His family moved to Washington state while he was a boy and he grew up there. After graduating from high school in 1961 he attended the University of New Mexico for one year and then dropped out to enlist in the Navy. After his military service ended, he held various jobs until he was hired by Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Company in Seattle, Washington as a technician. About this time he met Ruth Elaine Reese. She was the daughter of missionaries to Japan. They were married in 1967. James began attending the Multnomah School of the Bible part time in 1968. He and Ruth decided they wanted to enter full-time Christian work. They join Sudan Interior Mission in 1972. The next year James quit the phone company to attend Multnomah full-time. He graduated with a BA in religious education in 1975. The Dillons (including their two children James Jr. and Cheralee Ruth) went to Liberia in 1976, where James worked as a technician at SIM's radio station ELWA while Ruth was a secretary. Eventually James became a Bible teacher and advisor to several Liberian pastors who broadcast over ELWA. He was very influenced by a psychology seminar taught by James Plueddemann which he attended in 1980. He and Ruth both decided to get further education. They returned to the United States in 1982 and enrolled at Wheaton College, he in the graduate communication program, she in the undergraduate program. They both matriculated in December, 1983 and returned to Liberia in 1984.

James continued to work with pastors and also was placed in charge of developing an orientation program for new missionaries and a continuing education program for the rest of the staff. Ruth became the station's public information officer. Their children attended the Ivory Coast Academy, a boarding school in Bouake, Ivory Coast. In 1986 they returned to the United States on furlough. While there James was offered a position at SIM's headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. He worked there as a researcher, studying how new population and cultural trends would effect the preaching of the Gospel.

Scope and Content Note

James Dillon was interviewed by Wheaton graduate student Claire Bureau for her ethnomusicology course on October 29, 1983 at the Billy Graham Center on Wheaton College campus. The time period covered in the interview is from the 1950s to 1983, although most of the interview deals with the late 1970s and early 1980s. Time elapsed from the beginning of the interview is recorded in the column to the left of the column describing topics discussed. The interview is keyed to the cassette copy and not the reel-to-reel original. Bureau made extensive comments of her own on ethnomusicology and other topics during Dillon's interview. These are not shown in the topics listed below.

Tape #T1 - Side 1
00:00 Start of Tape
00:15 Introduction
00:30 Dillon's childhood, conversion, education, service in the Navy, discharge because of bad knee, work with the phone company for nine years, married Ruth Reese and adopted two children, attended Multnomah School of the Bible, joined the Sudan Interior Mission, sent to ELWA in Liberia
05:00 Description of the work of ELWA; worked first as a technician, then as a Bible teacher, the effect of the coup in 1980; met Plueddemann and attended a psychology seminar in Nigeria, reaction to developmental ideas and his fundamentalist background
09:00 Motorcycle accident [blank spot in tape]
10:00 Work with national pastors in Liberia as a spiritual advisor, diverse cultures and languages of the pastors; Liberian English; filing slots in the radio schedule; typical programs; the importance of announcements in a country without newspapers
16:30 Low status of women; difficulty in transmitting Biblical principles across cultures; the story of the brother who was too harsh; applying the Gospel for oneself
23:00 The meaning of being a Bible teacher; study at the Wheaton Graduate School; desire to train missionaries
24:30 Village and city life in Liberia; trip in Guinea
26:00 The meaning of ethnomusicology; music and culture; drums of Liberia; other musical instruments
31:30 Choral singing in Liberia; Liberian Christian songs and they way they are sung; description of a choral program in Guinea; boredom with Western hymns and excitement over African songs; the meaning of music in a culture; tribal variations in singing
39:00 Informal nature of choral singing; the importance of meaning and language over structure in Liberian music
43:00 Western music broadcast over ELWA; the radio audience of Monrovia; thinking in the tribal language; reactions to Western music
45:00 End of side 1

Tape #T1 - Side 2
00:00 Start of side 2
00:15 Survey done by ELWA on reactions to music; changes in the ELWA record library; presence of the radio throughout the country; programing on ELWA for FM and shortwave in French, English, Arabic and ethnic languages
05:45 Inappropriateness of Western hymns in Liberian worship services; social status of being an English speaker; status advantages of being Muslim or Christian; using Christianity for advancement
12:00 The need for missionaries to understand African uses of Christianity; incorporation of tribal music style into worship; pressures of Westernization
18:00 The music library at ELWA; possibility of visits from ethnomusicologists to ELWA; the diversity of ELWA's language broadcasts
24:00 End of side 2.


The tape of this interview was given to the Center in December, 1983.

Acc. #83-159
Robert Shuster
January 26, 1990

Accession #83-159
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following item is located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

#T1 Reel-to-reel tape, 3 3/4 ips, 69 minutes. Interview with James Bruce Dillon in which he discusses his conversion, education, marriage, work in Liberia for the Sudan Interior Mission, the programs of radio station ELWA; the cultural diversity of Liberia, and the nature of indigenous Liberian hymns and worship; October 29, 1983. One side.

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Last Revised: 3/23/00
Expiration: indefinite