Billy Graham Center

Interview with Ruth Sundquist - Collection 266

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions


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

Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

Brief Description.

Two interviews with Sundquist in which she describes her work first in Kentucky home missions as a Christian education worker with the Evangelical Free Church and then her missionary career in China and Hong Kong between 1947 and 1982 as an administrator for a Sunday School and orphanage. Topics discussed include her call, language school in China, Chinese attitudes toward the Nationalists, Communists, Americans in China, and the social needs of Hong. Kong. Interviews were recorded in March and May, 1984. These tapes are part of the Missionary Sources Collection.

Collection 266 [March 24, 2000]
Sundquist, Ruth; 1920-
Interviews: 1984

Audio Tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Ruth Sundquist was born in 1920 in Carney, Michigan, member of a family which included two sisters, Margaret and Eva, and two brothers, Ed and Arvid. Her father, Victor, came to this country from Sweden at the age of fourteen; her mother, Erika, worked with the Salvation Army in Stockholm before emigrating.

Victor Sundquist was a farmer while Ruth was growing up. The family moved often, living in Wisconsin before moving to McHenry, Illinois. Before this move, there had been little involvement with churches because of Mrs. Sundquist's disillusionment with her faith. When Ruth was eighteen, the prayers of a friend of Ruth's sister brought about the conversion of Ruth and her mother's recovery of her Christian heritage. As a result of this change, the family began attending the Evangelical Free Church in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Ruth enrolled at Moody Bible Institute in 1940 to become trained as a Sunday school teacher. Initially her plans were to conclude her work after one year, but she decided to extend her attendance, taking courses in Bible and Christian Education, and she graduated as a Christian Education major, not intending this to be a full-time career.

During the years at Moody, contacts with many missionaries eventually overcame an initial reluctance to go to the mission field. After making this decision, she received a personal call to go to China and work with orphans. This opportunity did not open up after graduation, so Ruth accepted support from the Free Church to work with home missions in Kentucky, setting up Sunday schools and Bible classes in public schools. She remained in this work until 1947.

In that year, a missionary with the Free Church asked her to come to China, where she could work with war orphans. Though she applied to other missions, her decision was to remain with the Free Church. Because of her work in phonetics at Moody, Ruth was excused from linguistic training in this country, but was assigned to language school in Canton. She arrived there after a freighter trip to the Philippines and then to China, accompanied by four other women from the Free Church. Before her two-year training was completed, the Free Church schools and orphanages were moved to Hong Kong because of the impending Communist takeover.

Her first assignment after language school was as superintendent of a large unorganized Sunday School in Hong Kong. In 1954 the Free Church opened an orphanage and Ruth was appointed superintendent. She remained with the orphanage until 1982, when she retired and returned to the United States. As of 1984, Ruth lived in East Dundee, Illinois.

Scope and Content

Ruth Sundquist was interviewed by Robert Shuster on March 6, 1984 and May 22, 1984, at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. 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
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Introduction; family background; conversion at eighteen through prayer of a friend
02:15 Members in Evangelical Free Church, Crystal Lake, IL. Mother's involvement with Salvation Army, Stockholm, Sweden
03:00 Salvation Army experiences; family experiences, unhappy love affair
04:00 Father's coming to the U.S. Early family homes, sisters, brothers
05:30 Dislike of church services and gradual involvement; radical change in attitude
07:00 Moody Bible Institute, 1940; plans to be Sunday school teacher; longer stay at Moody than anticipated
07:30 Jobs during school; father's occupations
08:30 Courses at Moody; Christian Education major seen as avocation
09:15 Influence of missionaries, missions; other students' plans
10:00 Decision to go to mission field because of a speaker; some unwillingness and prayer for change of heart; influence of second speaker and definite call
12:00 Searching for place to go; love of children, appeal of orphanage work; some reluctance still a problem
13:45 Fears of leaving friends, family
14:45 Teaching experiences in Sunday school, homes, classes for neighbor children; teachers from Moody
16:45 Open air evangelism in parks, on beaches
17:15 Use of "wordless" book; description of contents
18:30 Work with primary department children; responses and changes in methods over the years
19:45 Critique of methods; personal encounters after class; differences in Hong Kong
21:00 Points made in evangelization; emphasis on one God as opposed to idol-worship
21:50 Questions asked by children; understanding of sinning but not of continual forgiveness
24:15 Lack of effort to pursue those who rejected preaching
25:15 Co-workers and their activities
26:15 Skills of Miss Bennett in story-telling
27:00 Effectiveness of Moody's training; classes taught by Chinese Christian women in Hong Kong
28:30 Contact with parents; contrast with U.S. and Hong Kong; parents' Bible class became church through home visitation
29:45 Mission courses at Moody; missionary training and inclusion of comparative religions, nursing, practical techniques useful on mission field
30:45 Lack of training in social work, accounting--both needed on field
31:45 Great quantity of social work needed with mission work in Hong Kong; children's homes, institutions, delinquents, etc.
33:45 Influential teachers; Lois LeBar and children development; Miss Bennett and lesson presentation; other training
35:45 Pearl Harbor day at Moody
36:30 Effects on campus; enlistments, international students, serious attitudes
38:45 Special assembly following Pearl Harbor
39:15 Post-graduation support offered, 1943, for home mission work in Kentucky
40:15 Sunday Schools, Bible classes held in schools without objections
42:00 Love of work with children; lack of preparation for deputation work and organizing furloughs
43:00 Students in Kentucky
43:15 End of side 1

T1 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Overlap from side 1
01:00 Responsiveness of younger children; difficulties of breaking with mountain traditions, use of dreams
02:45 Opposition; preaching against missionaries; types of mountain preaching
04:15 Doctrinal differences; lack of assurance of salvation, no Sunday Schools
05:00 Ministering to the peoples' needs; some death-bed conversions
07:00 Delayed baptisms for fear of sinning; arguments over Calvinist, Arminian views
08:00 Converts closely watched; lack of respect for "Holy Rollers"
10:00 Types of food
11:30 Economic levels and occupations; gambling, drinking, child labor
13:00 Illiteracy; effect of war on men's perspective
13:45 Cultural differences as good preparation for mission field
14:00 Kentucky church music
15:15 Separate black schools; lack of differences seen in North and other parts of the South
16:15 No student differences between black and white
17:15 Stay in Kentucky ended 1947
17:15 Assignment with Free Church to China; request by senior missionary for help with orphans, schools; move of schools to Hong Kong after communist takeover
19:00 Applications for TEAM, CIM; Free Church only remained in Hong Kong; board approval of Free Church
21:00 Types of inquiries during board questioning
21:45 October sailing after acceptance
22:15 Release from language school requirement because of phonetic training at Moody
23:00 Six-week freighter trip with other Free Church women; reactions to one week in Philippines
25:00 Cebu City; inspirational communion
26:00 Philippine life in the country
27:30 Chinese feast in Hong Kong on first night; reactions to westernized city as compared to Canton
29:30 Canton by boat, jeep
31:15 Mission compound; shock over Communist takeover expectations; anti-American, pro-Russian attitude of language teachers, British Christians
34:15 Homogeneous class of Chinese language students held in YMCA, Canton
35:15 Cantonese dialect; problem with tone-deafness and different tones; Cantonese dialect use in Hong Kong
36:30 End of tape

T2 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Introduction
00:15 Language study for two years
02:00 Evaluation of the method; completion in 1949
03:00 Decision of Chinese Conference of the Free Church to move to Hong Kong; concentration of missionaries near Canton
04:30 Special meeting chaired by Arthur Lundquist to decide; willingness of those imprisoned by Japanese to leave before capture
05:30 Preponderance of favor for Nationalists over Communists; apparent success of anti-American propaganda
06:15 Newspapers, talk convinced people that Communists would help more than corrupt Nationalists, Americans
07:00 Reasons for America's support of Nationalists
07:30 Reasons for communism's success--poverty, corruption, unrest, dissatisfaction because of Japanese war, need for change
08:00 Evacuation before communist takeover
09:15 Preparation of Hong Kong headquarters purchased during Japanese war
10:00 Trunk left behind; Covenant Church missionaries shot because American
11:45 Loss of trunk
12:30 Desire of Chinese Christians to have the American missionaries leave
13:30 Communication with Chinese Christians after departure; interrogations, accusations, imprisonment; closed churches; story of orphanage leader who compromised
16:15 Harassment, torture, and killing of woman's husband, daughter; other stories of brutality toward wealthy Chinese Christians
19:00 Excuse of association with Americans used to attack Christianity
19:45 Lack of contact with Three-Self Movement; Communist control of official churches, preaching
20:30 Assignment as superintendent of Sunday School in Hong Kong; description of teaching, schoolrooms, materials, students
22:15 Organizing departments; translations needed; use of Scripture Press lessons
23:45 Camping program; difficulties with culture gap; gradual acceptance
25:30 Effectiveness of camping in teaching Christianity; content
27:00 Difficulties in rejecting ancestor worship because of parental pressure
29:30 Lack of much contact with parents in her position
30:15 Training teachers from older Christian high school students in the Sunday School; afternoon classes for training
31:30 Use of Moody curriculum for teacher training
32:00 Discipline problems with larger groups; small children on backs of pupils
33:45 Use of speakers for Christian messages during camps; preponderance of conversions by private counseling; vacation Bible school
35:45 Broad economic spread of students; afternoon classes for refugee students to teach literacy; living condition of refugees
38:15 Refugee life; start of children's home for orphans; living on sidewalks; eventual employment in light industry; British government resettlement houses
40:30 Opening of children's home in 1954-1955 when Hong Kong situation appeared more stable; work with Social Welfare Department of British government; appointment of mission board to launch the Home
42:45 End of side 1

T2 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Overlap from side 1
03:45 Promise of government support if Home well-run
04:15 Home rented; provision of money after prayer; radio ministry of Wilbur Nelson's Morning Chapel Hour and promise of support which lasted twenty years
06:15 Costs and staff at the home; informal, homelike structure; offer of free land from government, stipulations for building, use of land
09:45 Capacity; apartments and changes from orphans to children from broken homes, physical and emotional problems of parents
12:15 Places from which children came to the home; choice of ages 2-5 because of other existing facilities and difficulty of caring for this group
14:00 Children's length of stay and reasons
15:30 Minimal involvement with adoption process
16:30 Problems particular to Hong Kong; high level of nervous breakdowns among mothers because of high level of noise; institutional policies
18:30 Willingness of Chinese widows to give up girl babies
19:45 Description of the children's routine in the home
22:45 Description of her duties as superintendent
25:15 Description of qualifications for housemothers; addition of males on staff
27:15 Careers of some of the home's residents
29:15 Eventual employment of one problem boy
30:30 British government's assumption of support when Nelson's retirement phased out radio ministry support; worry over return of Hong Kong to Communist China in 1997
32:15 Good relationships with churches; resolve to turn over all functions to nationals; Sundquist's work with her replacement from 1979-1982
35:00 Gratitude for return to winter climate; problems with humidity
35:45 More spiritual emphasis in Chinese churches versus U.S. churches; less socializing, more Bible-centered fellowship; efforts of U.S.-based Free Churches to reach all age groups; youth of Hong Kong churches and effectiveness of personal witnessing
39:30 Reaction of Chinese Christians to U.S.
40:30 Greater privileges, opportunities for Christian youth in U.S.
41:30 Short heritage and life or death commitment as reasons for greater spiritual emphasis in Hong Kong
42:45 Proximity to Red China permeates all attitudes; lack of hope in future; lack of incentive to save for future among non-Christians
44:15 Lack of other religious contacts
44:30 Temples, worship of household gods; strength of traditions; worship of spirits and consultation for daily activities
46:00 End of tape


The tapes in this collection were received at the Center in March and May 1984.

Accession 84-39, 84-74
June 27, 1985
Frances L. Brocker
J. Nasgowitz

Accession 84-39, 84-74
Type of material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel audio tape, 3-3/4 speed, 80 minutes. One side only. Interview of Ruth Sundquist by Robert Shuster on March 6, 1984. Discusses early life, studies at Moody Bible Institute, decision to become a missionary, home mission work in Kentucky, and language school in Canton, China, 1920s to 1947.

T2 - Reel-to-reel audio tape, 3-3/4 speed, ca. 80 minutes. One side only. Interview of Ruth Sundquist by Robert Shuster, May 22, 1984. Discusses language school in Canton; attitudes toward Nationalists, Americans, and Communists in China; and assignments in Hong Kong with a Sunday School and an orphanage, 1949-1982.

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Last Revised: 9/09/02
Expiration: indefinite