Billy Graham Center

Papers of Eric and Lydia Christine Wire Maillefer - Collection 328

[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

Biographies of Eric and Lydia Christine Wire Maillefer

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

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

List of the Contents of Boxes of Paper Records in This Collection (Container List)


Audio file and written transcript for T1

Audio file and written transcript for T2

Audio file and written transcript for T3

Brief Description.
Interviews, speech manuscripts and prayer letters of the Maillefers. The interviews were conducted by Paul Ericksen on 5/13 and 6/2/86. Lydia worked as a teacher and school administrator; Eric worked first as a teacher, then on loan as a conference coordinator to the Africa Evangelical Office (AEO), and later as administrative secretary of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (AEAM). In the interviews, Lydia describes her youth, spiritual development, education at Wheaton College, missionary work for the Evangelical Free Church in the Belgian Congo/Zaire, the 1960 revolution and 1964 rebellion, administration of the Congo, her marriage, expectations of missionary women, and the education of their children. Eric describes his youth, spiritual growth, missionary training, work with the Free Church mission in Zaire, the country's educational system and national leadership, founding and early life of AEAM, ecumeni- cal movement in Africa, American missionary influence, Byang Kato, Tokunbah Adeyemo, theological and social issues, Nairobi, and his future work for the World Evangelical Fellowship in Europe, etc. The speeches are on syncretism and ecumenism.

Collection 328
[January 6, 2009]
Maillefer, Eric (1933- ) and Lydia Christine Wire (1927-2008 )
Papers; 1971-1991

1 Box, Audio Tapes (.22 cubic feet)

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Lydia Christine (Wire) Maillefer was born in 1927 in Chicago to Danish immigrant parents. Her father was a cabinet maker; her mother was a seamstress. She was raised in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka in an evangelical Christian home. Along with her family, she attended Winnetka Bible Church. She made a public commitment of Christian faith in 1937, and recommitments during her freshman year in highschool and freshman year at Wheaton College. From her early childhood, Lydia had wanted to become a missionary and arranged her education to achieve that. Following her graduation from Wheaton College in 1949 with a degree in Christian Education, she decided to join the Evangelical Free Church mission to be a teacher in the Belgian Congo [now Democratic Republic of Congo].

Having decided to become a teacher within the Congo system, mission requirements and Belgian standards dictated the path her training followed. The government required teachers to hold a non-religious major, which she did by completing an English major from Northwestern University in 1950, along with acquiring a teaching certificate. She was also accepted by the denomination's mission in 1950. The mission required her to get some practical church experience, so she then worked for a year in a congregation in New Philadelphia, Ohio as part of the church's music program, youth program, as pastor's secretary and worker in the community Christian bookstore. Before beginning her work in the Congo, Lydia studied for a year in the Colonial Course of the University of Brussels, which provided an understanding of Belgian history, law, economics, and French.

Once in the Congo, she was first assigned to teach on a station an hour from Libenge, located in the northwestern corner of the Congo along the Ubangi River. Following three months of study in the trade language of the area and Sunday school work, she was moved to become the principal of the mission's elementary boy's school in Tandala; she also taught in the school's newly added sixth grade class. At the end of her first year on the field, the Free Church Mission began cooperation with four other missions in a teacher's training school in Mbandaka (called Coquilhatville at that time), where she was then sent to be the representative teacher for the mission. Returning from her 1956-1957 furlough, Lydia was appointed director of the elementary school in Libenge. The following year, she returned to Tandala to serve as superintendent of a network of twenty small outlying schools and as principal of the station school. Lydia returned to Northwestern University during her 1960-1961 furlough, where she earned an MA in French. She studied at Wheaton College Graduate School between 1981-1982. She died June 10, 2008.

Eric Maillefer was born in 1933 in western French-speaking Switzerland. His parents died when he was 7 and 9, and he was raised from that point on by his brothers and sisters. In 1948, he relocated in German-speaking Switzerland, where he worked as an apprentice in landscape gardening and horticulture. On October 12, 1956, he came to the United States, and was then drafted into the US Army (July 1957-June 1959), with which he was returned to France for his tour of duty; while in the Army his responsibilities included that of being an interpreter. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States on July 5, 1962, following the completion of his service. Influenced by his experiences in France while in the army, he developed a desire to serve as a missionary, and applied to and was rejected by several mission agencies for lack of qualifications. Following his engagement to Lydia, and the mission's refusal to accept her resignation from the mission, he applied to the mission and was accepted, pending his completion of one year of study and orientation, which he did at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1961-1962.

In 1961, Eric and Lydia married. The Maillefers' furlough was extended through 1962, as Eric completed his special student course study at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. When the Maillefers returned to Zaire, they began teaching at the newly opened secondary high school established by the Free Church Mission, where they remained until shortly before the 1964 rebellion. While in the United States, the Free Church Mission was approached by the EFMA/IFMA Africa Committee, which was exploring the possibility of assisting in the organization of an Africa-wide Conference of Evangelical Leaders called "Africa Evangelical Conference". Although it was not intended to be modeled like the U.S. body National Association of Evangelicals, that was the form which it took. In 1965, Eric was temporarily reassigned to work with Ken Downing of the Africa Evangelical Office (established in 1962) in Nairobi on organizing a conference to be held in February 1966, from which it was hoped might emerge the African counterpart. The outcome of the conference was the establishment of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (AEAM). While in Nairobi, Lydia participated in the American Women's Club, an organization started by the American embassy to involve the wives of embassy personnel in charity work in Nairobi.

When the Maillefers returned to Africa in 1965, Eric had done so via Zaire, where Ubangi Christians requested he continue there; he agreed to return following his temporary assignment in Kenya. In 1967, the Maillefers did return to the Ubangi, where they remained until 1968, when Eric was asked to return to Nairobi to coordinate the first general assembly of AEAM. After their furlough during 1969-1970, the Maillefers returned to Nairobi, where they were based, except for intervening furloughs, until 1985. While in Nairobi, Lydia taught at a Mennonite school for expatriate children from 1970 until 1985; for a two-year period, she also taught Bible at a public African girls school.

In 1986, Eric was seconded by the Free Church to the World Evangelical Fellowship to open the Brussels office of the World Evangelical Fellowship.

The Maillefer children, Renee, Roger and Nancy, were educated in a number of institutions: a Baptist kindergarten in Nairobi, a private British school, the Mennonite school at which Lydia taught, and Rift Valley Academy.

The Maillefers spent each of their furloughs in the Furlough Homes in Wheaton. Prior to the Maillefers' marriage, Lydia studied during a furlough at the Wheaton College Graduate School. When they retired from their AIM, they took up residence in the United States.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of oral history interviews with the Maillefers, along with a few miscellany documents. The documents include: manuscripts of addresses given by Eric Maillefer and Samuel Odunaike of AEAM in folder 1-1. Prayer letters of Eric and Lydia Maillefer, spanning from 1971 to 1991, are found in folders 1-2 and 1-3. Folder 1-3 also contains an obituary for Jacques Blocher, a WEF Global Report concerning Eric Maillefer’s acceptance of the position of director at WEF’s European office in 1986, and an article clipping from Evangelical Ministries by Kenneth Downing entitled “How AEAM Was Born.”

Lydia Maillefer was interviewed by Paul Ericksen on May 13 and June 2, 1986, at the Archives office; the time period covered by her interviews is from approximately 1932 to 1986. Eric Maillefer was interviewed by Paul Ericksen on May 13 and June 2, 1986 as well; the time period covered by his interviews is from approximately 1930 to 1986. The boldfaced entries are intended to highlight the topics covered in the interview. 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.

T1 - (Click to link to the transcript and audio file of this tape).Introduction to interview; Biographical summary: birth, childhood in Winnetka, parents, church, conversion, education, joining Free Church Mission, leaves and furloughs assignments, projected future assignment; Winnetka Bible Church: positive impressions, outreach at Pacific Garden Mission, missions emphasis and disappointing missionary; Spiritual growth: beginnings, belief and doubt, assistance of Raymond Edman, early desire to be a missionary, exposure to missionaries, parents' example, Sunday school teachers; Early desire to be a missionary: appeal, influences; Preparation for oversees work: evaluation of Wheaton input, joining Free Church, further education, church experience in Ohio, training in Belgium; Role of education in missions: debate on education vs. evangelism; comparison of national run Christian schools and Catholic schools; deficiency of African Christian education, examples of success; School in Congo: students, travel, disappointment, impressions of and first experiences at station; Language training and responsibilities at first assignments; Physical description of Tandala station; School: typical day, faculty and students, costs and government subsidy, suspicion of missionaries' financial mismanagement, discipline; Personal crisis: strength of commitment to missionary career tested by engagement to Belgian, headquarters involvement in decision; Joining Free Church mission: superficial interview; choice of mission and country; family feelings; Status of single and married women on the mission field; Developing cultural awareness; Causes for minimal culture shock during furloughs; observations about Americans; things she missed from the US and Zaire when relocating; Life on the station: use of leisure time by missionaries and students; Tandala central and outlying schools: her duties, system's effectiveness; Decline of Protestant education and being outpaced by Catholic system in Zaire and Kenya: devaluation of education for church planting/evangelism, failure to use missionary personnel in schools; End of interview and tape

T2 (88 minutes)- (Click to link to the transcript and audio file of this tape). Wheaton College: impressions, Mrs. Mignon Mackenzie's influence; Wheaton College: influential students, avoiding missionary image, disappointment in spiritual and social environment, dating, academics, theological debates, Wheaton revival in 1950; Wheaton College: impressions of Dr. V. Raymond Edman, pranks, city of Wheaton, humorous incidents, contributions to her mission career, weakness in the Christian education major; Wheaton College: changes and continuity since she attended, shielding from worldliness, Graduate School course; Congo's independence revolution in 1960: positive evaluation of Belgian administration, exploitation of independence movement and false hope among Africans, African anger focused on Catholics and Belgians; Graduate study in French while on furlough in 1960, weakness in program; Eric Maillefer (meeting, process of their relationship, failed resignation from the mission, his easy adjustment to being a missionary); Limited changes observed in remote Zaire; Minimal impact of having a child on her work at the school; Warning signs of coming turmoil, utilizing subsidized flight for furlough; Planning for a conference aimed at forming Africa Evangelical Office

T3 - Side 1- (Click to link to the transcript and audio file of this tape).
00:00 Beginning of tape
01:15 Continuation on Africa Evangelical Office, interview with Clyde Taylor, her adjustment to less defined ministry and loss of relationships with Africans, finding fulfillment in teaching
07:45 Changes in Africans attitudes towards missionaries in Zaire after 1967
09:15 Roles of Free Church missionary wives, expectations of other missionaries
12:00 Education and rearing of children: impact of parents' attitudes, problems among mk's, comparison with non-mk's, preparation for re-entry into a Western educational system
19:30 Pending assignment in Brussels: comparison and contrast with work in Africa, her goals, involvement of missionaries' wives in ministry in Europe
27:00 End of interview and tape

T4 - Side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
01:00 Introduction to interview with Eric Maillefer on May 13, 1986
01:30 Biographical summary: childhood and youth
03:15 Spiritual growth: background, commitment, influences, God's provision
10:15 Biographical summary: marriage, Africa
13:00 Becoming a missionary: first thoughts, contributing factors, Lydia's resignation and mission's refusal of it, his qualifications which appealed to the mission, alternatives to missionary work
19:45 Orientation, easy adjustment to Africa, how he met his wife
24:00 Trinity Seminary; comparing European and American education systems
30:45 Adjustment to Africa: easy adjustment, insecurity of emerging African leaders, attempts to live on the level of the nationals frustrated
37:00 Station on Ubangi River: physical layout, isolation
39:45 Congo politics: stress, benefits of speaking French, impact on station, underestimation of problems
45:45 Departure prior to 1964 rebellion using government-subsidized tickets
46:30 End of Side 1

T4 - Side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Overlap from Side 1
01:00 Continuation on government-subsidized flight tickets, wife's health problems
03:00 First impressions of Congo: absence of culture shock, depth of poverty
05:45 Teacher training school: courses, typical day, free time, interuptions
13:15 Relationships: lack of social interaction between Africans and missionaries
15:45 Debate among missionaries on issue of education vs. evangelism
19:30 Transfer of administration and property to national administration, uncertain origins of policies, mission and national administration compared, missionary role in advising and decision-making
26:45 Africa Evangelical Office: origins, his assignment, Zaire interlude
30:45 Conference: informational purpose, formation of Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar, AEAM weaknesses, lack of African leadership and participation in conference
39:30 Influence exerted by American missionary enterprise and church, American and European attitudes on ecumenism
45:30 End of Side 2

T4 - Side 3
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Overlap from Side 2
04:45 Continued discussion on American influence, absence of British support for AEAM, American/British tribalism
07:15 End of interview

T5 - Side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
01:00 Introduction to interview with Eric Maillefer on June 2, 1986
01:30 Relationship between AEAM and AEO, criticism
07:00 Growth and support of AEAM, contribution of Jacques Blocher, Kenneth Downing, Byang Kato, AEAM ministries
11:15 Eric's return to AEAM in 1968 to organize 1st General Assembly, changes, developing leadership, Byang Kato as General Secretary, office location
16:30 Ambiguous AEAM identity: perceived affiliations, Western tendency to label
26:15 AEAM financial base: primarily American, changes over time
30:15 Eric's return in 1970 to organize the 2nd General Assembly, confusion of titles, duties and authority, Samuel Odunaike
33:30 Byang Kato: character, his death, comparison with Tokunboh Adeyemo
44:00 Misinterpretation of Adeyemo's comments re South African apartheid; slow development of AEAM's treatment of apartheid issue
46:00 End of Side 1

T5 - Side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Overlap from Side 1
01:15 Continuation on apartheid in South Africa
05:15 African theological liberalism, liberation theology and basis for violence
09:45 Syncretism; compared to superstitions among Western Christians
13:15 End of tape

T6 - Side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
01:00 Nairobi as a center for expatriate Christian organizations: reasons, pro's and con's, cooperation, disappointment in developments from Pan African Christian Leadership Conference (PACLA), African perspectives
12:45 New attitudes evident among missionaries, lone-ranger missionaries, declining competition between agencies
17:00 Changes in the African situation: well-trained leadership, decline of Protestant school systems and comparison with Catholic program
21:15 Ken Downing
24:00 Dislike of furloughs, Free Church financial support system compared with nondenominational mission agencies
31:15 Raising children on the mission field: education
32:30 Analysis of European context, evangelical activity, exclusion of Pentecostals
37:30 Responsibilities in World Evangelical Fellowship, Europe as a mission field, cooperation with and openness to established denominations
45:30 End of interview and tape

The materials in this collection were received by the Center in May and June 1986 and July 1991 from Eric and Lydia Maillefer.

Acc.#: 86-47, 86-48, 86-52, 86-59, 86-60
April 30, 1991
Paul A. Ericksen
C. Easley

December 28, 1992
M.L. Wohlschlegel

March 22, 1993
M.L. Wohlschlegel

Accession: 91-64
June 27, 2005
Christian Sawyer

Accession #: 86-47, 86-48, 86-59, 86-60
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, approximately 85 minutes. One side only. Interview with Lydia Maillefer by Paul Ericksen recorded on May 13, 1986. Discussion of her childhood, spiritual development, joining the Evangelical Free Church mission and missionary work in the Belgian Congo prior to her marriage.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, approximately 65 minutes. One side only. Interview with Lydia Maillefer by Paul Ericksen recorded on June 2, 1986. Discussion of her education at Wheaton College, Congo's revolution in 1960, Belgian administration of the Congo and Catholic influence there, and meeting and marrying her husband.

T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, approximately 25 minutes. One side only. Continuation of interview of Lydia Maillefer recorded on #T2, June 2, 1986. Discussion of the roles and expectations of missionary wives, and the education of missionaries' children.

T4 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, approximately 95 minutes. One side only. Interview with Eric Maillefer by Paul Ericksen on May 13, 1986. Discussion of his youth, spiritual development, missionary training, work with the Evangelical Free Church mission in Zaire, Zaire's educational system, national leadership of the church, the founding of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (AEAM), the impact of ecumenism on African evangelicals, and the influence of the American missionary enterprise in Africa.

T5 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, approximately 60 minutes. One side only. Continuation of interview with Eric Maillefer recorded on #T4, June 2, 1986. Discussion of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (AEAM), the Africa Evangelical Office (AEO), the benefits of national leadership in Byang Kato and Tokunboh Adeyemo, and the issues of apartheid, theological liberalism and liberation theology, and syncretism.

T6 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, approximately 45 minutes. One side only. Continuation of interview of Eric Maillefer recorded on #T4 and #T5, June 2, 1986. Discussion of Nairobi as an evangelical center, changes in the African church and missionary situation, a comparison of Protestant and Catholic educational programs, his dislike of furloughs, and a look forward at his work for World Evangelical Fellowship in Brussels.


Box Folder Item
1 1 Address Manuscripts; 1969, 1977
1 2 Prayer Letters; 1971-1986
1 3 Prayer Letters; 1986-1991

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