Billy Graham Center

Interview with Donald Wesley Berry - Collection 325

[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 Donald Wesley Berry

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

Audio file and written transcript for T2

Brief Description.

Oral history interview in which Berry discusses his conversion, education at Wheaton College, and his work as a pilot and administrator for Mission Aviation Fellowship in Honduras and Southeast Asia.

Collection 325 [September 24, 2007]
Berry, Donald Wesley; 1921-1994
Interview; 1986

Audio Tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Donald Wesley Berry was born on December 13, 1921 in Colorado, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Berry. He was converted in the eighth grade while attending an Assemblies of God church. Berry attended one year of state teacher's college in Greeley, CO, then transferred to Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL for one semester before being called into the Army Air Corp. Just before going on active service he married Phyllis Lucille Caradine in 1943, also a Wheaton student. Berry was in training throughout the rest of World War II and was discharged in November 1945, after completing his fighter pilot instruction . Several of the fellow Christians he met in the Air Corp formed Christian Airmen's Missionary Fellowship at this time and the Berrys were early members. In 1946 he and Phyllis re-enrolled in Wheaton (bringing with them their two children Kathleen Helen and Donald William). They both graduated in 1948, he with a combined degree in Physical Education and Christian Education, she with one in Anthropology. After Don had completed taking some courses at Moody Bible Institute (which he completed in August 1949) and helping to start that school's missionary aviation course, the Berrys moved to California in the later part of the year, where Don took airplane maintenance courses. He and Phyllis had been in constant touch with Mission Aviation Fellowship (as the Christian Airmen's Fellowship came to be known; later the name was changed to Mission Aviation Fellowship) and had been regular contributors to the work. They had moved to California to be near the MAF headquarters (at that time in Los Angeles) so that they would be ready when the Fellowship needed them. In 1950 Donald and Phyllis joined the MAF full-time and went to Mexico for Spanish language study and temporary assignment. The Berrys moved to Honduras in early 1952 and Donald began providing air service for the Central America Mission and thirteen other missions in the area, such as the Moravians. His duties included maintaining contacts with the Honduran government and securing its approval for MAF's flights, the creation and maintenance of needed air strips (with the help of local congregations and missionaries), maintaining the aircraft, and, of course, flying. He would fly missionaries and supplies to remote mission stations, transport people to hospitals in medical emergencies, and similar tasks. By 1961 MAF was using 150 airstrips in the country and there were two other families working with the Berrys. Don was also in 1959 instrumental in introducing missionary dentists to many areas. The family moved to the Philippines in 1962, after a year furlough in the United States. Don became director of Pacific operations and helped establish MAF facilities in the Philippines (on the islands of Luzon and Mindoro), New Guinea and Laos. The Berrys moved to the Fullerton, CA headquarters of MAF in 1966. By this time the family included four more children: Lauri Margaret, Jack Edman, Joseph Lawrence and Margery Elizabeth. Don was named director of overseas operations in 1968 and in 1970 vice-president in charge of personnel. He eventually retired from this position (after a heart attack in 1984) but continued on the staff as a counselor for MAF workers who were moving to different fields or were on furlough. In 1985, Don and Phyllis retired from MAF, but continued to assist other mission organizations. Don died August 15, 1994.

Scope and Content

Donald Berry was interviewed by Robert Shuster on February 14, 1986 at the Archives office in Wheaton, IL. The dates of the events covered by the interview were 1935 through approximately 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 Introduction
00:45 Father's background; father's conversion at the age of seventy-five; mother's
background; lack of Christian influence as Berry was growing up; description of his conversion when he was in the eighth grade; attending a "wrong side of the tracks" Pentecostal church
06:15 Attending Wheaton College for a semester before joining the Air Force; first
contact with missionaries and the realization that an agricultural and mechanical background could be used on the mission field; joined Air Corp and call to use aviation for missions; attended Wheaton because his friend William Rayburn did
11:45 Joined Army Air Corp reserve because it would allow him to get some
college education first; moral reservations about becoming a bomber pilot; maintaining his Christian beliefs while he was in the service; harassment; discharged in November 1945
16:45 Scholastic obstacles to returning to Wheaton; heightened academic standards
at the college; meetings with Enoch Dyrness, Wheaton's registrar; general support of America's stand during World War II among the Christian community; Berry's decision for pacifism after his experiences in Laos; Christian and Missionary Alliance work among the tribal people of Laos; changes in his theology and belief that God is in charge of history; the place of Christian beliefs in a secular society
27:00 Married Phyllis while attending Wheaton; missed great Wheaton revival
because they were buying an engagement ring; Phyllis married him during the war despite contrary advice from Edman; very few married students on campus; difficulties of raising children while both parents attended class
33:00 Developing a missionary pilot training program with Paul Robinson and E.
W. Hatcher at Moody Bible Institute in 1948; mechanic training; benefits of a Wheaton education; George R. Horner; influence of a culture on the practice of Christianity; need; lack of openness among missionaries to the ways of other cultures
40:00 Influence of the Pentecostal church in which he grew up; struggle between
Arminianism and Calvinist beliefs while at Wheaton; V. Raymond Edman's influence on students
43:00 End of side 1

T1 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape and overlap from side 1
01:25 Naturalness of Edman's faith; interest in working in Colombia because of
Walter Montano's books, Behind the Purple Curtain; contacts with Charles Mellis and E. W. Hatcher and other Mission Aviation Fellowship workers; joining MAF; characteristics of the organization; communication gap between the executive committee and the field workers
10:00 Dedication of all staff members to the work of the organization; monthly
stipends in 1950; responsibility to raise your own support; financial difficulties met by the Lord; early activities of MAF; differences between W. Cameron Townsend and MAF's leadership; difficulties in developing support systems for airplanes
17:30 Surveying Honduras for MAF
18:15 End of tape

T2 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
01:40 Continuation of interview (There are several seconds of distorted sound at
the beginning of the original tape which have nothing to do with the interview); types of flying done by MAF for mission boards and how these expanded and changed over time; financial policies of the MAF for providing aviation services; flying conditions in Honduras;
07:30 Costs of providing services in Honduras; getting approval from government
directors of aviation; building airstrips with the help of local churches
13:00 Increase in fatalities in the late 1960s; factors causing air accidents; need for
objectivity in the pilot; memorable early flight in 1952 to rush a missionary's baby to the hospital; assistance to the Central American Mission in setting up a network of clinics; starting a series of dental clinics; impact of Berry's flights on one Honduran
23:45 Pressures on Berry's family because of his MAF responsibilities; benefits to
growing up in a missionary family; favorable attitude of the Honduran government to North American missions; influence of MAF on increasing cooperation between missions; relations with the United States government
34:45 MAF began as a service for Evangelical missions; questions of which
missions to provide services for; contacts with Moravians; Berry's growing appreciation of the symbols of the Christian faith; contacts with Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod missionaries in the Philippines; appreciation of Christian traditions other than his own; difficulty for his children to adjust to the materialism of Christian life in the United States after living in the Honduras and the Philippines
43:00 End of side 1

T2 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape and overlap from side 1
0:30 Looking for a worship service where his spirit is at rest; found it in an
evangelical Episcopal church
1:45 End of side 2.

Any researcher interest in additional information in Berry will find it in his correspondence files in collection 136, the records of Mission Aviation Fellowship.


The materials for this collection were received by the Center in February 1986 from Donald Berry.

Acc.: 86-13
July 12, 1993
Robert Shuster

Accession: 86-13
Type of material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 63 minutes. One side only. Interview with Donald Berry by Robert Shuster on February 14, 1986. Topics discussed include Berry's conversion, his education at Wheaton College, service in the Army during World War II, his views on pacifism, the origins of Mission Aviation Fellowship.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 45 minutes. One side only. Continuation of interview with Donald Berry by Robert Shuster recorded on February 14, 1986. Topics discussed include establishing missionary aviation in Honduras, the requirements of missionary aviation, and the effect on Berry's family of life in the field.

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Last Revised: 9/24/07
Expiration: indefinite