Billy Graham Center

Papers of Charles James Guth - Collection 311

[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. ]

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Charles James Guth

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

Lists of Artifacts, Audio Tapes, Books, Films, Film Strips, Glass Negatives, Microfilm, Negatives, Oversize Materials, Periodicals, Phonograph Records, Photo Albums, Photographs, Slides, Slides (Lantern), and Video Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

    Audio Tapes
    Oversize Materials

Brief Description.

Oral history tape on which Guth discusses his Wheaton College education, his preparation for the mission field, his work as a Sudan Interior Mission worker among the Koma and Mobaan peoples of the Sudan; the culture of these people; and the effect of Sudan's independence on the church in that country. Also includes four of Guth’s watercolor paintings of scenes in Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Nigeria.

Collection 311 [November 7, 2016]
Guth, Charles James; 1923-
Papers; 1976-1977, 1985
Audio Tapes, Oversize Material [.3 cubic feet]


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Charles James Guth was born September 21, 1923 in Passiac, New Jersey to Conrad and Ethel Chapman Guth. His father was a farmer. His family was nominally Christian, but he did not have a personal conversion experience until his late teens. He graduated from the Bridgeton, New Jersey High School in June 1941 and then went to the Philadelphia School of the Bible. During this time he also worked in the Cumberland National Bank of Bridgeton, first as bookkeeper and then as a teller. After graduating from PCB in June 1944, he went on to Wheaton College and graduated from there with a bachelor's degree in June 1947. He worked his way through college to pay part of his tuition. That summer he attended the Summer School of Linguistics at the University of Oklahoma and while there met his future wife, Betty Jean Bear.

At about this time he applied and was accepted as a missionary by Sudan Interior Mission. In 1948, after a short period of orientation and training, he left for on a freighter for the Sudan, then in essence a British colony. After landing at Port Sudan and spending a few weeks in Khartoum, where he began his language study of Arabic, he and fellow missionary Sam Burns were assigned the task of starting a mission station among the Koma people in southern Sudan, near the Ethiopian border. They decided on a site at Yabu's Bridge, which was the base of their activities for during his work with the Komas. Guth and Bur ns engaged in evangelistic work and also often gave tribespeople simple medical assistance. In 1949, he and Betty, who had also come to Africa as a SIM missionary, were married. Shortly afterwards, they returned home on furlough.

Sometime after they returned to the Sudan, the Guths were transferred to Doro, where Charles was head of the mission station in the territory of the Mobassan people. The station included a church, boy's school, and hospital. Later Guth developed plans for a Bible school there as well. The Guth's four children, Carol (1950), Judi (1951), Charles (1955) and Douglas (1957), were born in Africa. The family returned to the United States around 1958 and went back to the Sudan in December of the same year.

In 1962 the Guths had to return to the United States because of Betty's health problems. Charles attended graduate school at the State University of Iowa from 1962 to 1963 and received graduate credit in art and journalism. In August, 1963 he was appointed to literature ministry at the SIM headquarters in Toronto, where he did artwork, layout and assisted in the production of the missions magazine and other publications. He continued to serve here through the rest of his missionary career.

Scope and Content
Reflective of Guth's artistic background, the collection includes four signed watercolor paintings of everyday and ministry scenes in Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Nigeria.

Charles Guth was interviewed by Robert Shuster on September 26, 1985, at the offices of the Sudan Interior Mission in Toronto, Canada. The dates of the events covered by the interviews were: T1, ca. 1939-ca. 1950; T2, ca. 1950-1962; T3, ca. 1950-1962. 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.
00:20 Early church experiences, conversion as a teenager; call to be a missionary;
influence of J. Hudson Taylor; importance of Roman 10; influence of his pastor, Stewart P. Garver; mental images of missionary work; importance of Foreign Mission Fellowship (FMF) at Wheaton College in the late 1940s; participation in the Africa prayer group; reasons for the influence of FMF
06:45 Spiritual sensitivity on campus; the Student War Board and the clothing drive for Europe; the work of the Christian Council on campus and its supervision of evangelistic activities
10:30 Attendance at the Summer Institute of Linguistics at the University of Oklahoma; reason for attending; reason for interest in pioneer missionary work and contacting groups who had never heard the Gospel; Eugene Nida and Kenneth Pike; size of the Institute
17:00 Reasons why education ill-prepared him for mission work; influence of
teachers such as Merrill Tenney and Rebecca Russell Price; courses that would have been helpful in missionary work
22:15 Reasons for applying to Sudan Interior Mission (SIM); Earl Tanis; applying to both Africa Inland Mission and SIM; reply from SIM and information about work in the Sudan; the application and candidate training process; reaction of family to his missionary work; faith of his parents; reaction of his friends to his becoming a missionary and going to Africa
29:45 Initial belief that his love of art did not fit into his missionary work; types of
art work he did in the Sudan; improvements in the application and orientation process since the 1940s; qualifications of a good missionary; qualifications to work in the Sudan; difficulties of the climate and extreme heat in the Sudan
35:15 Description of deputation work in the United States; typical deputation visit; level of support required in the late 1940s and the lifestyle it required; meeting his future wife Betty at SIL; engagement and marriage in 1949; mission policy toward marriage
40:30 Traveling to Port Sudan on a freighter through the Suez canal; first impres-
sions of Port Sudan; the colonial lifestyle; influence of Islam; description of Khartoum and the people of northern Sudan
45:15 End of side 1

Tape T1 - side 2
00:00 Start of Tape 1, side 2
00:15 Overlap from side 1
01:45 SIM's ministry among groups other than Muslims; means of reaching Muslims; English reading classes for boys; work with Sam Burns selecting a site for a mission station in the territory of the Koma tribe, near the Ethiopian border; problems in making a survey; cultural aspects of the Koma people and low level of technology; needs of the people; medical assistance provided by the missionaries
09:15 Differing reactions of the Koma children, women and men toward the missionaries; finger snapping instead of handshaking; importance of beer drinking in Koma society; length of time spent among the Koma. Starting a station at Yabu's Bridge.
14:15 End of side 2

Tape T2 - side 1
00:00 Start of tape
00:15 No transportation during rainy season; traveling through the district; reasons for settling in the north end of the tribal area; layout of the mission station; a cobra in the bedroom; the roar of lions; Koma workmen on the mission station; the process of learning the Arabic language; qualities of the Arabic language; comparison of Arabic with English
10:15 Advantages and disadvantages of having workmen live on the grounds of the mission station; move to Mobaan tribal area to replace another missionary; responsibilities as an evangelist; drawing a crowd; missionaries mistaken for British colonial officials
15:00 Types of messages preached to Koma crowds; explaining about the spiritual world; presentation of the Gospel in a mountain village; difficulty of judging whether conversions were genuine; animistic practices; strong reactions to the story of the Crucifixion; later history of Christianity among the Koma
21:00 Next steps in building a church among the Koma; attempts to start a Bible school; reasons for the colonial government refusing permission; opposition of the Muslims; Muslim-Christian conflicts during the Sudanese civil war; murder of pastor Gideon Adwok and church members; skills of Muslim traders and their influence on the spread of Islam
26:15 Purpose of the proposed Bible school; follow-up after a few people in a village had become Christians; preaching points (very small churches); reasons for lack of spiritual growth; creating a written Koma language
30:30 Furlough back to New Jersey in the United States; reactions of Americans to presentations about the work in the Sudan; some medical problems in southern Sudan; level of American's understanding of the situation in the Sudan; contacts with anthropologists in the Sudan
36:30 Government of the mission in Sudan; duties of the superintendent; work of the council; election of various offices; senior and junior missionaries; relationship of SIM field councils with the home councils; dismissal of a missionary
41:45 How missionaries were assigned to different fields; Ethiopia assigned to the responsibility of the Australian home council; responsibilities as a station head among the Mabaan people
46:25 End of side 1

Tape T2 - side 2
00:00 Start of tape
00:15 Overlap from side 1
04:00 Size of SIM staff at station and the size of the church; persecution of believers among the Mabaan because of the pressure of the tribal system; difficult for an individual to stand against the group; communal methods of work; communal aspects of drunkenness; importance of clan relations in the tribe; marriages between different villages and resulting strife between villages
11:00 Gracefulness and stateliness of the Mabaan people; difficult for Christians in resisting demands of the group; difficulty for the missionaries in separating what is simply different from what is unBiblical
14:00 Affect of the independence of Sudan in 1956 on the work of the mission; tension with the Muslims; nationalization or closing down of mission schools in 1957
16:45 End of side 2

Tape T3 - side 1
00:00 Start of tape
00:15 The establishment of a new government school close by; difference in attitudes on the part of students; rationale for nationalization of schools as part of the effort to bring Islam to the south Sudan; preference shown to Muslims by the British colonial government; difference between the north and south
05:00 Weakness of the church in the Mabaan tribe in trained leadership; church governed by church elders and missionaries; content of a typical Mabaan sermon; public condemnation of the sins of particular individuals; unusual events during worship services; parties for the church at Christmas and other times
13:00 Prayer meetings; Betty Guth's ministry among women; enormous influence of elderly grandmothers on younger women; no eating during the first seven days of marriage; taboos attached to pregnancy; Mabaan extreme respect for tradition
18:00 Difficulty of young Christian men in finding Christian brides; start of a Bible school near Khartoum; distractions like rat hunts; development of a group of dedicated Mobaan pastors; church growth among the Mabaan; departure from Sudan in 1962 because of Betty's health problem; joining the headquarters staff in Toronto; perception of God's plan in his life
23:00 End of Tape 3


The materials for this collection were received by the Center in September 1985 from Charles J. Guth, and Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections (Buswell Library) in 2016.

Acc.: 85-127
May 8, 1992
Robert Shuster

Acc. 16-18
June 15, 2016
Paul Ericksen

Accession : 85-127
Type of material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, approximately 60 minutes. One side only. Interview of Charles J. Guth by Robert Shuster recorded on September 26, 1985. Topics discussed include his conversion, call to be a missionary, Wheaton College education, training at the Summer Institute of Linguistics, joining Sudan Interior Mission, travel Sudan in 1948 and first contacts with the Koma people. This reel was copied from the cassette on which the interview was originally recorded.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, approximately 59 minutes. One side only. Continuation of interview of Charles J. Guth by Robert Shuster recorded on September 26, 1985. Topics discussed include description of evangelistic methods among the Koma and Mobaan peoples, organization of the SIM field council, cultural characteristics of the Mobaan people, and the independence of the Sudan in 1956. This reel was copied from the cassette on which the interview was originally recorded.

T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, approximately 23 minutes. One side only. Continuation of interview of Charles J. Guth by Robert Shuster recorded on September 26, 1985. Topics discussed include relations between Muslims and Christians, relations between north and south Sudan, development of a church among the Mobaan people, Guth's return to the United States in 1962. This reel was copied from the cassette on which the interview was originally recorded.

Accession: 16-18
Type of material: Oversize Materials
The following items are in the OVERSIZE FILE. Request by collection number and folder location (in parentheses).

WATERCOLOR PAINTINGS (OS28). Four watercolors painted and signed by Guth, titled:

(Previously Accessions1979.0378, 1979.0379, 1979.0380A, and 1979.0380B in the BGC Museum collection.)

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