Billy Graham Center

Oral History Interviews with Donald Arthur Cook - Collection 259

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent. Some or all of this collection can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. ]

Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Donald Arthur Cook

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

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection

Brief Description:

Two interviews with Cook in which he describes his service with the Overseas Missionary Fellowship in Japan between 1956-1972; includes descriptions of administrative duties in OMF headquarters in Hokkaido and in Tokyo, Japanese attitudes toward missionaries, Christianity, cultural and religious conflicts, church growth, OMF principles for operation, cooperation with other missions, and adaptation to Japanese needs. The interviews were recorded on 11/15 and 11/17/83.
Vol: 2 Reels of Audio Tape

Collection 259
[March 23, 2000]
Cook, Donald Arthur; 1923-
Interviews; 1983
Audio Tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Donald Arthur Cook was born May 15, 1923, in Earlham, Iowa, and grew up in a family which included two brothers and one sister. During his childhood, the family left Iowa when their farm failed and moved to Downers Grove, Illinois, where his father took a job in the post office. In his teens, Donald became a member of the Lisle Bible Church and was actively involved in church youth groups, where he met his future wife, Dorothy True. After attending Downers Grove Community High School and graduating in 1941, he enrolled in Wheaton College.

World War II interrupted his education at Wheaton, and Donald spent the years between 1943 and 1946 in the Pacific as an Air Force navigator. He returned to the Wheaton campus in 1947 and graduated in January 1950, with a major in sociology after changing from an earlier concentration in business administration. In his junior year, he made the decision to make full-time ministry his vocation and he enrolled next at Faith Theological Seminary, Wilmington, Delaware. He and Dorothy were married that year, 1950, and by the time of graduation in 1953, they were preparing to leave for the mission field.

His experience in the Pacific during the Air Force years resulted in an urgent interest in the Orient, China in particular. Exposure to the work of China Inland Mission (renamed Overseas Missionary Fellowship after the war) at Wheaton led Donald to decide to apply to CIM. The Cooks were sent first to Singapore for language study and orientation and, because work in China was no longer possible, they then chose to train for mission work in Japan. They arrived in Japan from Singapore in January 1957. One of their first assignments was to relieve missionaries leaving on furlough who had been working in a small town, Tomikawa, on the coast of Hokkaido.

In 1959 the Cooks moved to the headquarters in Tokyo, where there was a need of a staff member trained in business administration to assist with the distribution of mission supplies during the post-war disorganization in Japan. Their son, William, was born the next year, 1960, and a daughter joined the family in 1963. Between 1959 and 1969, Dorothy was in charge of the mission home in Tokyo while Donald remained in administrative work for OMF, utilizing his college training in that area.

They moved next to Sapporo, 1969-1971, where his wife was in charge of the mission home and later worked as secretary. Donald continued to work in the business administration of OMF. Between 1971 and 1972, both Cooks served as house parents for the Chefoo School in addition to their other duties. During a furlough the next year, concern for their children and the public nature of institutional living led to the decision not to return to the mission field. Donald re-entered the business world and in 1983 was employed by an insurance company in Wheaton where the Cooks lived.

Scope and Content:

Donald Cook was interviewed by Jennifer Abe on November 15 and 17, 1983, at the Billy Graham Center. The time period covered by the interviews is 1923-1983. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. The index is keyed to a cassette copy and not to the reel-to-reel original.

Tape 1 (80 minutes).
Family members, their activities and careers; Christian upbringing, personal decision at age thirteen in Lisle Bible Church; parents' Christian background in Friends' Church, western Iowa; failure of father's farm, subsequent move to Downer's Grove and career with U.S. Post Office; choice of Wheaton College through influence of student pastor, gospel teams from Wheaton; commuter life during Wheaton years and effect on campus involvement in activities, church youth group as substitute; return to Wheaton in 1946 while still on terminal leave from Air Force; setting life priorities during service years, exposure to mission work overseas and field possibilities; strong attraction to Asian countries: China, Philippines, Japan, with a preference for China; reaction to poverty, spiritual hunger seen in China; Air Force navigator duties begun 1943, service time in Pacific 1945-1946; return at age twenty-three to finish college; campus interest in Asian countries through presence of returned soldiers, activated concerns for needs; lack of anti-Japanese feelings on campus after war; voluntary ROTC-type program as war-effort on campus; friends at Wheaton: Glen Barker, Dick Cochran, Pete McKnight, Billy Graham a senior when Cook a freshman, Graham's leadership qualities, Ed McCully, Jim Elliot, Dave Howard; impressions of Jim Elliot's deep dedication, fun and energy of McCully, Glen Peterson as outstanding athlete; societies on campus as core of social life; Flying Club activities, cessation because of expense and time, flying from DuPage Airport, Mitchell Field, Woodale; graduation in January 1950, decision in junior year to enter full-time ministry, switch from business to sociologyas major; experience with United Airlines in summer job caused decision to go into seminary, not business world; courtship of future wife, Dorothy True, after friendship in school, church youth group; usefulness of business administration training in career, permanent field secretary's job after second year on mission field; assessment of educational preparation, regret over minimum involvement on campus, alternative of Bible major possible but subsequent career in business administration proved practicality of Wheaton major; involvement with youth in Japan because of their desire to learn English through Bible classes; President Edman's use of illustrations from China Inland Mission during Wheaton College years, reading about Hudson Taylor as cause for joining CIM after seminary training, meeting CIM staff members, reading China's Millions, admiration of emphasis on prayer and faith as core of Christian life; exodus of CIM missionaries from China by 1951, Communist take-over in 1949, growing intolerance for Christian missionaries; choice of Japan as mission field as only open country after 1951, MacArthur's challenge to evangelize Japan after the war; marriage in 1950, wife's consent for mission work through involvement with youth in church; OMF's basic strategy to reach inland areas applied in Japan, work in northern Japan (Hokkaido), southern seacoast, coal-mining, mountain resorts, reversal of strategy on advice of Japanese Christians to work in main cities, work now tripled in past ten years; discussion of methods of evangelizing: use of tents in areas not near foreigners, street tracting, hospital work, factory visitation, switch from tent use to exhibitions, posters, more media involvement; Japan's growing sophistication as cause for change in methods; changes from prosperity as Japan recovered, addition of new styles for homes in severe winter areas; increase of Japanese confidence as recovery proceeds; contrast with numbers of OMF missionaries in early 1950s, now doubled to staff of eighty, work in small towns and cities, slow growth at first and loss of trained Japanese Christians to southern city areas; original headquarters on arrival in Aomori City, Hokkaido, move to Sapporo on Hokkaido; arrival from Singapore in January 1958 after language school, severe winter, reactions to Japanese, problems similar to American, attendance at TEAM church, impressions of Japanese Christian leader with speech impediment, first station out of language school on coast of Hokkaido to relieve missionary on furlough (1958); reaction to friendliness of residents of town of Tomikawa, only period of being closely involved with Japanese life because of subsequent administrative positions; transfer in fall of 1959 to Tokyo because of need for centralizing distribution of OMF supplies; Japanese mission field more western yet OMF methods basically the same as for China, incident of Canadian couple's methods of contacting new converts; difficulty of communicating concept of Christianity with language and cultural barriers, comments on differing Japanese and American relationships with employees and impact on family life after conversion to Christianity, conflicts with home customs of ancestor-worship, female convert and problem with "god-shelf"; description of god-shelf in Japanese homes; varying reactions of new Christians in breaking with cultural, religious customs; rejection of culture on conversion not usual pattern; language as main problem in presenting gospel, superior approach as show of love to break barriers; Cooks' lack of language ease because of work in administration and less contact with Japanese families, more language study after ten years in Japan, usual period of five years needed before preaching.

Tape 2 (86 minutes).
Orientation period in Singapore and problems with accent, period in Aomori City headquarters, better learning situation in Tomikawa, resumption of language study in third term with six months' study in Sapporo, first training from August-January 1956 in Singapore; OMF orientation both to field and to potential field workers from different countries, concurrent work in Singapore churches; orientation emphasis less on culture than on personal relationships; experience in Air Force as preparation to appreciate his future role as supportive, administrative worker rather than on mission field; need of headquarters in Tokyo while Japan was still recovering from war effects; response to gospel slow because of difficulty in grasping basic concepts of savior, sin, and forgiveness, skepticism of students, incident of most skeptical youth who became pastor after conversion, came to U.S. to train, and then returned; opportunity to learn English as main motivation for Japanese to attend Bible classes; major response from personal contacts, open friendliness; Christianity perceived as Western religion, college students understood its universal relationship best; discussion of ancestor worship in Japanese families; simplicity of new church services usually held in homes, gradual conformance to liturgical western patterns as growth took place; "non-church" movement led by Japanese (Kanzo Uchimura) after trip to America, movement away from western patterns, creation of new Japanese cultural models and influence of this movement throughout Japan; OMF policies and changes, emphasis on prayer, faith, down-play of financial aspect, aim of creating self-supporting churches; Japanese respect for missionaries based on respect for teachers, varied acceptance based on reaction to war; appreciation of U.S. help after war; lack of personal experience with nuclear bomb victims; amount of nationalism and acceptance of democratic patterns, confusion of nationalism and threat from western Christianity; Japanese sense of superiority over other Asian peoples, attraction of western ways but desire for good relations with China; difference between Christian American attitude toward Japan and enmity because of war by non-Christians; discussion of role of education in Japanese society, concept as tool for future jobs; students' rebellion against establishment government policies, demonstrations of 1960-1970s and prevention of Eisenhower's visit; cultural factors, not Christianity, main influence in rebellion of students; relationships of OMF and other boards, numbers of missions operating, levels of cooperation; contacts with other denominations, boards: Presbyterian, Mennonite, TEAM, Far Eastern Gospel Crusade; difficulty of estimating influences of Buddhism and Shintoism, interaction of the two; Hirohito's rejection of status of divinity, reactions from Japanese conditioned by age level; travel within Japan while with OMF, often to Kariuzawa, a resort town used for language study for TEAM and OMF; contact and particular friendship with Japanese family in Sapporo; births in 1960 of son William and in 1963 of daughter Donna; departure on furlough in 1972, decision to remain in U.S. because of lack of privacy for family life in institutional setting as house parents; period in Tokyo (1959-1969) while wife in charge of mission home, administrative work in Sapporo (1969-1971) with wife as secretary, work in Chefoo School as house parents (1971-1972); current position in Wheaton; hope for more growth and cooperation between churches for Japanese Christians, expectations for missionary work from national churches; high level of training needed for work in Japan because of widespread education, need for willingness to be friendly, to respect and love individuals, and to learn best means of communication; incident of American woman in her fifties who communicated love and concern without language facility; delay in leaving for Japan because of family needs, influence of pastor to demonstrate importance of trust in Christian life and example of Hudson Taylor's faith as important preparation for mission field; gratitude for experience of being part of mission work and significance of each contribution, memories of good experiences in English Bible classes for Japanese.


The materials for this collection given to the Billy Graham Center Archives in November 1983 from Rev. Cook.

Accession 83-140, 83-142
June 6, 1984
Frances L. Brocker
J. Nasgowitz

Accession 83-140, 83-142
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 80 minutes. One side. Interview with Donald Cook by Jennifer Abe, November 15, 1983. Discussion of family and upbringing, Wheaton College activities and friends, Air Force experience, American response to World War II, decision to join China Inland Mission, evangelistic methods in Japan, administrative work, language difficulties.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 86 minutes. One side. Interview with Donald Cook by Jennifer Abe, November 17, 1983. Discussion of Overseas Missionary Fellowship orientation and training, effective methods of presenting the gospel, church movements in Japan, student uprisings, modernization, relations between mission boards, reasons for leaving the field

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Last Revised: 3/23/00
Expiration: indefinite