[January 31, 2007]
Mellis, Ruth Margaret; 1907-2007
2 Boxes (DC, .7 cu ft), 4 Reels and 7 Cassettes of Audio Tape, Photographs
There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.
Ruth Mellis was born and brought up in St. John, MO, a suburb of St. Louis. She was the oldest of four children. Her younger brother, Charles Mellis, later became a co-founder of Mission Aviation Fellowship (see Collection 136). The Mellis family was of Scottish background and nominally Presbyterian. They began attending the interdenominational Hope Church, and became active supporters of mission work.
Mellis graduated from Harris Teachers College in 1926. During a graduation trip to the British Isles and Greece, she learned of the work of Near East Relief with Greek orphans following the League of Nations' exchange of Greek and Turkish populations in 1922-23. Attracted to the work, she asked her parents to let her stay to work as a teacher in an orphanage on the Greek island of Siros (also spelled Syros). She remained there until 1928, when she returned to the U.S. at her parents' request. She taught in a public school in the St. Louis area for a year and then in 1929 enrolled in Wheaton College, where she was influenced by several teachers, particularly Miss Edith Torrey and the College president, J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. Following her graduation from Wheaton, she returned to St. Louis to teach once more in the public schools.
In 1946 she went to Ethiopia to teach in the Queen's School in Addis Ababa, where she also had contact with some of the Greek orphans she had taught years before in Siros, who were now grown and settled in Ethiopia or Egypt. Following the expiration of her teaching contract in 1949, she again returned to the U.S. Encouraged by her pastor, J. B. Thornton, she returned to Greece in the early 1950's as a "faith missionary," earning her keep by giving private English lessons. She also worked in Macedonia with the Greek Evangelical Church. She continued her efforts on behalf of the Greek orphans, helping to find displaced families in Greece and throughout Europe and northern Africa in cooperation with the Lost Persons Bureau of the Greek Red Cross.
In 1956 she returned to the U. S. once again, due to her parents' ill health; her father died in 1956, and her mother in 1957. While she was in the United States during that time, she worked as a counselor at the Billy Graham Crusade in New York City. After returning to Greece from 1957 to 1959, she came back to the States again, and from 1959 to 1962 taught and then, during the last few months of that period, worked as Dean of Women at the Midwest Bible Institute in St. Louis, MO.
Mellis traveled to and from Greece between 1963 and 1971, when she with an American woman who had married and then separated from a Greek man. Mellis tutored the woman's daughters and guided their adjustment to American schools and the English language. For the involvement with this family, the Greek husband brought suit against Mellis and she was prevented from returning to Greece again until a visit in 1985-86.
From 1973 to 1977, she served as a teacher of missionary children and librarian at the CAM International school in Puebla, Mexico, following which she retired in the St. Louis, MO, area and remained active in the affairs of Hope Church. She died January 15, 2007, three months short of her hundredth birthday.
[NOTE: In the Scope and Content description, the notation "Folder 2-5" means Box 2, Folder 5.]
Scope and Content
This collection consists of two boxes of correspondence, prayer letters, and newspaper and magazine clippings; four audio tapes of oral history interviews with Mellis (T1-T4); four audio tape cassettes (T5-T8) dealing with a missionary conference at Hope Church, a report to Hope Church on a trip to Mexico to attend the 1981 Billy Graham Mexico Crusade, a report on a trip to Greece in 1983, and a personal letter to a friend in Mexico urging her to follow Christ; and three audio tape cassettes which have to do with her brother, Charles Mellis, Jr. (T9-T11). The folder arrangement and folder titles, in the instances where there were none, were provided by the archivist.
The correspondence found in this collection includes personal letters, newsletters, and prayer letters written and received by Mellis. See the Container List for the names of her correspondents. Some documents in folder 1-5 mention the work Mellis did, in collaboration with the Hellenic Red Cross, to help her former pupils from the Orphans Home of Syros Island to locate lost relatives. Mellis taught for several years in the Bible School operated by the Greek Evangelical Church in Katerini, Greece, and information about the school and church, as well as the church's pastor, Argos Zodhiates, may be found in folder 2-2.
There are newsletters of the Society of Biblical Studies of the Greek Bible Institute, Athens, Greece, in folder 1-17. This was a missionary program under the auspices of Greater Europe Mission. Mellis was involved with seeking evangelical Greek language radio programming, both that was meant to be heard in Greece and that for Greek-speaking people in the United States (folders 1-9, 10). In connection with her interest in Greek-language radio programs, Mellis attend the Third World Conference on Christian Communications held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, June 12-15, 1961 (see folder 2-4). Correspondence and photographs documenting work Mellis did at the CAM International School in Puebla, Mexico, may be found in the Photo File and in folder 2-2.
The oral history interviews of Ruth Mellis were conducted by Robert Shuster on June 20 and 22, 1987. In the interviews, Miss Mellis discusses her childhood, attendance at Wheaton College, work with Near East Relief in Siros, teaching in public schools in the St. Louis, Missouri, area, teaching at the Queen's School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and work in Greece as a faith missionary. She also discusses the various cultures she encountered in the countries she lived in, and the situation of the Christian churches there. The time period of events discussed is 1907 to 1977.
Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is noted in the margin to the left of the topics discussed. The index is keyed to a cassette copy of the interview, not to the reel-to-reel original. The boldfaced entries correspond with the Cross Reference List at the end of this guide and are intended to highlight the topics covered in the interview.
T1 (63 minutes) (Click here for audio recording and transcript).
Family's religious life; evangelist Norman B. Harrison; Near East Relief Organization; life on Siros [also Syros] island, Greece; teaching orphans; orphanage evangelism; relationships with other personnel; Dave Hoagland; religion in Siros, Greece; learning and speaking the Greek language; death of friend; work in the United States with Greeks; attending Wheaton College; Edith Torrey; Alice Spaulding; her conversion; applying for missions work; disputes between missions agencies; Elsie Dow; J. Oliver Buswell; difficulties on the mission field.
Tape T2 (32 minutes) Click here for audio recording and transcript).
Comments on Buswell as a teacher; challenge by Buswell to examine Scriptures more closely; Dow's attitude toward life in philosophy class; Chaucer class with Effie Jean Wheeler; relationship with Wheeler outside of classroom developed by Pearl Lowenstein; invitation to Wheeler to attend Open Gate with Ruth; visiting Wheeler at her home; correspondence with her; spiritual life on Wheaton campus; Tuesday night prayer meetings; groups of students sent to girls' home in Geneva; visit to DuPage County poor farm for religious services; Scripture distribution headed by Will Aldrich; fellowship and ministry during summer school; street ministry; early morning prayer meetings held by Don Hillis; opportunities to witness during poor farm visits; people's reactions to visits at poor farm; taking holiday treats to poor farm. Need to be careful building one-to-one relationships on trips to girls' home; letter from Wheaton friend involved with girls' home after Ruth had left; struggles of girls' in the home; salvation of some of the girls; evangelistic motives curbed by restrictions at the girls' home; Wheaton College social life centered around literary societies; dislike of planned activity and desire for more participation; dates taking form of walks; being caught dating two boys at the same time; breaking up with one boy to date the other; word given to boyfriend as a pre-engagement gesture; word taken back; final breakup; utility of being single for mission work in Greece; difficulty of breaking up with boyfriend; differences between Ruth and her boyfriend; smallness of Wheaton College community; roommate's reaction to Ruth's date for Washington Banquet; lasting influences from Wheaton College helpful on mission field; living at the Spaulding's house the second year of college; roommates first year; Pearl Lowenstein, Emily Mixter, Dorothy Erickson; trip to Black Hills with the Russell Mixter family; majoring in teaching failed to adequately prepare for the mission field; working as a maid; Father's charitable giving; Depression at Wheaton College; project to distribute YMCA camp literature and tracts on South Side of Chicago; curiosity over chapel in Chicago; appointment to meet with a man to see the chapel; mysterious appearance by the man in charge of the chapel cult; Dorothy Erickson's response to Ruth's going to chapel cult; later appearance of expose article regarding cult and man with whom Ruth had met; thoughts of not having been cautious in South Chicago.
Tape T3 (67 minutes) Click here for audio recording and transcript).
Teaching in St. Louis public schools; resignation from teaching position in 1945; interest in Ethiopia and Sudan Interior Mission; need for teachers willing to teach missionary children; interest in SIM school in West Africa; difficulty in finding a way to go to Greece as a missionary; request by SIM representative to teach in Ethiopia; decision to go to Ethiopia; signing of agreement in 1945; assignment to Queen's School for Girls (Empress Menan School); description of school; diversity of students' backgrounds; process of selecting students; teaching assignments within the school; travelling to Ethiopia by boat; restrictions and difficulties of sailing during World War II; waiting for passage in New York; arranging to sail on ship carrying dynamite; assistance offered by missionary doctor in making sailing arrangements; captain's assurances of ship's safety; captain's concerns over sailing through mined waters near Malta and Gibraltar; changing ships at the Suez Canal; many Armenian ex-orphans from Greece relocated in Egypt; travelling to Cairo to visit former orphans; warnings to ex-orphans in Alexandria against returning to Armenia with the assistance of Russian Bolsheviks; ex-orphan's hopes in returning to Armenia; history of Armenian exiles; friend Koharig's change of plan regarding return to Armenia; signals from first group of returnees indicating poor conditions; frst impressions of Ethiopia; description of Ethiopians carrying baskets of bread; method of eating Ethiopian food; description of having tasted Ethiopian bread for the first time; spices used in Ethiopian food preparation; mountainous scenery; learning to "put things off 'til tomorrow"; problems of getting permits to leave Addis Ababa; lack of educated people in Ethiopia and hardship for emperor; hesitancy of poorly educated permit writers to write passes; Italian aggressions against Ethiopians prior to the return of the emperor; incapacitation of educated peoples; hiding educated people during the Italian occupation; Italian castration of Ethiopian leaders to prevent procreation; remembrances of Italian occupation; construction of buildings by Italians to improve conditions during war; Italian plan to take over rather than to destroy; uncertainty regarding extent of Ethiopian resistance movement; working under the Ethiopian Minister of Education; general difficulties of young missionaries working under less expert superiors; resistance to Minister of Education's directions; Christian community in Addis Ababa; SIM, BCS, American Mission, Swedish teachers; joint fellowship meetings held in English; use of fellowship group to reach Greek ex-orphans in the area; description of spiritual daughter and her husband; materialist philosophy of the husband; leading her to the Lord in Canada 20 years later; traveling by Greyhound Bus to visit people in U.S. and Canada; searching for lost Greeks in U.S. as reason to minister to them; eagerness of students to learn; injury to leg in car accident; use of injury to lead student to Christ; student's marriage to head of Swedish church and move to Sweden; vsit to Ethiopia by Donald G. Barnhouse, who had a conference with Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie; Coptic Christianity in Egypt and Ethiopia; Christian teacher fellowship with Americans, Indians, Egyptians, Mennonites, and Canadians; limitations within school for sharing the Gospel; after school Bible study group for students; sending of Ethiopia students to foreign universities in Soviet Union, England, America, and Beirut due to a lack of universities in Ethiopia; demands by mountain people for education; rapid opening of schools by Minister of Education and Haile Selassie; denouncement of Selassie by students returning form international education; personal respect for Selassie's work and financial management; slight awareness of governmental unrest; man claiming to be an American holding Soviet passport; sowing seeds of discord; Russian takeover of hospital; Russian intermingling with Ethiopians; awareness of Soviet threat to Ethiopia by Christian community; time spent at Sudan Interior Mission; never attended Coptic Church service; filling housemother's shift at the school from time to time; taveling to other parts of Ethiopia; Dr. Homer Wilson, Miriam Wilson; transportation by salt trucks to the Wilsons'; accompanied to Wilson's by two servants; guide getting lost; visiting with former cannibals at church in route to Wilsons'; communication with people at the church; offer of protection for the night by people at church; eating cracked wheat and salted coffee; need to respect ways of the natives; communications sent ahead to the Wilsons' by the natives; thankfulness for breakfast with natives; amazement over protectiveness of natives; change in length of stay in Ethiopia; inefficiency of the Ethiopian government; expiration of teaching contract in June of 1949; departure suspended by rail strike; French Somaliland rail; delays in placement of teachers by government; slight nervous illness before returning to U.S. due to spiritual matters; re-establishment of contact with Greek ex-orphans through visits to Greece in 1947 and 1948; interruptions of Greek contacts due to German occupation of Greece; desperate needs of Greeks; saving money for assistance trip to Greece; teaching English in Greece for income; encouragement by pastor, J. B. Thornton, to go to Greece as a faith missionary; Mellis' opinions of missions organizations and missionaries going out on their own; decision to go to Greece as a faith missionary; refusal of offers to teach English; work as a private tutor for children; arrangements to give lessons in exchange for meals; purchasing canned foods; finding housing at a friend's relative's home; receiving money from friends in other countries; reassurances of God's will for Ruth to remain in Greece; first year spent in Macedonia; request by Church Consul to lead religious direction of Greek Evangelical camps; desire to assist Greek Evangelical Church; Dr. Hadjcantoniou; making arrangements with Greek Evangelical Church; preparation in St. Louis for camp work; request for Ruth to teach Child Evangelism Bible study in St. Louis; start of development of camp work; organizing a library at Hope Church; attempt to win orphans for the Lord; plans to bring used clothing to Greeks as evangelical inroad; illegality of proselytizing in Greece; evangelizing in spite of restrictions.
Tape T4 (46 minutes) Click here for audio recording and transcript).
Re-establishment of ties in Greece; distribution of clothing to needy Greeks; visiting friends in villages; advantage of popularity of Americans; delivering the Gospel; use of Dave Hoagland's exemplary life as evangelical tool; personal testimony shared with ex-orphans; danger of clothing distribution; called in for questioning by Greek police; foreigners watched carefully by police; strategy of staying in villages for only one night at a time; law regarding evangelism of Greek Orthodox people; legal protection of Greek Orthodox religion; Youth With a Mission (YWAM) evangelism ship docked in Greece for repairs (1983?); story of evangelism of young Greek boy by YWAM workers; recommendation of Kostas Macris as a fellowship source for the boy; reaction of Greek boy's mother to his conversion; development of incident into a court case (the Athens Three); sentencing of YWAM workers and Kostas Macris to prison; world response to sentencing; difficulty of conducting evangelical religious activities in Greece; young pastor asked to go to Evangelical group on Corfu for communion, 1951; refusal of permit to bury regular pastor of Evangelical group; arrangements to obtain permit; examples of permit refusals based on Orthodox animosity towards Evangelicals; circumstances surrounding Ruth's questioning by police; explanations given to police for her activities in Greece; police questions regarding required teaching permits to tutor English; police questioning of friends and neighbors; receiving Greek refugees at home for evangelistic gatherings; use of Bible recordings at refugee meetings; use of English lessons as evangelistic tool; strategy of combining Christian English students with non-believing students; police informed of teaching activities; explanation to police satisfactory; story of man looking for family thought to have formerly lived at orphanage; disbanding of Near East Relief organization in 1931; changes in Near East relief function; searching old Near East Relief records; use of Near East Relief to bring clothing into Greece; surviving records given up by Near East Relief; former records burned; misuse of orphans' records for material gain; exchange of population between Greece and Turkey arranged by League of Nations; inequitable exchange of land rectified; property redistributed unequally; decision to find property for landless Greeks; division of ownerless land outside Athens for orphans use thwarted; participation in ministry of housing; assistance by a Christian official; work towards passage of Housing Bill in Greek Supreme Court; visit to Supreme Court official in former palace; plea for division of land outside of Athens; obtaining property for orphans; inability to find man's family opens opportunity to find other refugee's families; Red Cross assistance sought for advice and cooperation in finding displaced people; stories of Ruth's work finding lost persons in Greece, Turkey, and France; use of people-relocating activity as excuse to travel widely in Greece without question of the authorities; opportunities to locate Greeks in U.S; frequency of return trips to U.S.; her parents' poor health and death in 1956 and 1957; inability to return to Greece until money could be earned; work as Dean of Women at Midwest Bible Institute; participation in Billy Graham's 1957 New York Crusade as a counselor; discussing crusade with Dan Piatt; investigation of credentials to counsel; counseling Puerto Ricans at the crusade; reactions to Crusade; counseling of woman in the choir about difficulties with her daughter; keeping contacts with those counseled; working with Central American Mission (CAM International) as a teacher of missionary kids; appreciation for CAM International.
These materials were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives on June 20 and 22, 1987.Accession 87-68, 87-70
Accession: 87-68, 87-69, 87-70, 87-135
Type of Material: Audio Tapes
The following items are located in the Audio Tape file.
T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 i.p.s., approximately 65 minutes. Interview with Ruth Mellis, conducted by Robert Shuster on June 20, 1987, at the Graham Center Archives. Discussion includes family background, work with orphans and the Red Cross in Greece, attendance at Wheaton College, influence of pastors and teachers, other kinds of missionary work, and problems on mission field.
T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 i.p.s., approximately 30 minutes. Continuation of interview with Ruth Mellis, conducted by Robert Shuster on June 20, 1987, at the Graham Center Archives. Includes further discussion about professors, social life, and influence of Wheaton College.
T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 i.p.s., approximately 65 minutes. Interview with Ruth Mellis, conducted by Robert Shuster on June 22, 1987, at the Graham Center Archives. Discussion includes teaching in Ethiopia, Christian community in Addis Ababa, Italian occupation of Ethiopia, contact with Greek ex-orphans, teaching English in Greece, and the Greek Evangelical church.
T4 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 i.p.s., approximately 44 minutes. Continuation of interview with Ruth Mellis, conducted by Robert Shuster on June 22, 1987, at the Graham Center Archives. Discussion includes distribution of clothing to needy Greeks, legal protection of Greek Orthodox Church, refugee work in Greece, Turkey, and France, and working with CAM International in a Christian school in Puebla, Mexico.
T5 - Cassette, 3-3/4 ips. Side 1: Approximately 25 minutes. Personal messages to Ruth Mellis, serving in Puebla Mexico, from participants in a missionary conference at Hope Church. Most of the tape features June Ettinger concerning a trip to Puebla being planned with a group of teens from the church. 1977. Side 2: Approximately 15 minutes. Continuation of above.
T6 - Cassette, 3-3/4 ips. Side 1: Approximately 30 minutes. Report from Mellis to Hope Church on her trip to Mexico to attend, with her friends from Puebla, the Billy Graham Mexico City Crusade. March 22, 1981. Side 2: Approximately 25 minutes. Taped copy of Hour of Decision radio broadcast from Mexico. Begins with Cliff Barrows introducing Graham's interpreter and then there is a message by Graham and the interpreter. Sound quality is very poor. No date.
T7 - Cassette, 3-3/4 ips. Side 1: Approximately 25 minutes. Mellis reporting on her trip to Greece sent from Thessolonica to a Bible study group. Sep 1, 1983. Side 2: Approximately 30 minutes. Mellis reporting to the Costas Macris prayer group. Mentions Amsterdam '83, answers to prayer in Greece. Sep 3, 1983.
T8 - Cassette, 3-3/4 ips. Side 1: Approximately 25 minutes. A verbal letter, which contains an evangelistic message from Mellis to her German-speaking friend Liz in Puebla, Mexico; n.d. Side 2: Approximately 15 minutes. Additional taped message from Mellis to her friend Liz. Dec 21, 19??.
T9 - Cassette, 3-3/4 ips. Side 1: Approximately 17 minutes. Introduction of Charles Mellis, Jr. in a service at Hope Church and a ten-minute report on his involvement in Missionary Internship. Sep 24, 1978. Side 2: Blank.
T10 - Cassette, 3-3/4 ips. Side 1: Approximately 45 minutes. Memorial service for Charles Mellis, Jr. at LaHabra Hills Presbyterian Church featuring unidentified speakers. Dec 28, 1981. Side 2: Approximately 30 minutes. Continuation of side 1 (long lead).
T11 - Cassette, 3-3/4 ips. Side 1: Approximately 40 minutes. Memorial service for Charles Mellis, Jr. at Hope Church, St. Louis, MO, with meditation given by John F. "Jack" Robinson of Missionary Internship. Jan 4, 1982. Side 2: Approximately 15 minutes. Continuation of side 1.*****
Type of Material: Books
The following items have been given to the BGC LIBRARY:
Mellis, Claire Scholland. More Than A Pilot: A Pioneer in Mission Aviation. (Privately printed,, 1985).*****
Accession: 87-65, 87-135
Type of material: Photographs
The following items are located in the PHOTO FILE; request by folder title (in bold) at the beginning of each entry below.
ETHIOPIA. Photographs include scenes from Ethiopia, the Empress Menan School (Queen's School for Girls) where Mellis taught and which include photos of Haile Selassie and Empress Menan as well as Mellis' co-workers. 1946-48, 1985, n.d. 16 b/w.
GREECE. Photos of a ship in the Corinth Canal and of the stained glass window and cross in a church in Athens which was used by German and American Congregations. N.d. 2 b/w.
HAILE SELASSIE (EMPEROR). N.d. 1 b/w.
MELLIS, RUTH MARGARET. Photos include Mellis teaching in Greece, Mexico, and the U.S. and with various friends and co-workers; Puebla Christian School in Mexico where Mellis taught; Central American Mission workers (including Al Platt, Director of CAM). 1964-1985, n.d. 32 color, 29 b/w.
MISSIONS--GREECE. Photos of a church group in Corfu, Greece; Greek Christians at the Lion of Amphipolis; a gypsy congregation in Tragana, Greece; the Greek Evangelical Church, Bible School, and Orphanage in Katerini, Macedonia; Pastor Argos Zodhiates from the Greek Evangelical Church; Costas and Alky Macris of the Hellenic Missionary Union; and Mellis with Robert and Marie Hill, missionaries with Greater Europe Mission. 1960-1982, n.d. 4 color, 9 b/w.
ORPHANS. Photos of activities of Greek and Armenian orphans supported by Near East Relief; Mellis with Armenian ex-orphans living in Egypt; and ex-orphans from a home for the "incurable." 1925-1950s. 1 color, 5 b/w.
|1||1||Autobiography, Guidance, Open and Closed Doors; 1928, n.d.|
|1||2||Christian Education Materials (in Greek); n.d.|
|1||3||Ethiopia: ELWA Bulletin, Newspapers, Publications; 1947-1987|
|1||4||France: Payne, Homer, 1970-1980|
|1||5||Graham, Billy; 1956-1981|
|1||6||Adoption of Greek Orphans; 1958-1959|
|1||7||Articles, Clippings, Reports; 1952-1986, n.d.|
|1||8||Eastern Europe Mission (Mark and Josephine Diavastes); 1974-1984|
|1||9||Greater Europe Mission (Robert Hill); 1974-1984|
|1||10||Greek American Missionary Association (K. Paul Yphantis); 1945-1958|
|1||11||Greek Bible Institute; 1978-1981, n.d.|
|1||12||Greek Evangelical Church; 1954-1967|
|1||13||Greek Language Radio Programming; 1958-1987|
|1||14||Hellenic Missionary Union; 1986-1987|
|1||15||Lawsuit Against Mellis; 1971|
|1||16||Hellenic Christian Radio Program; 1959-1986|
|1||17||Hope Independent Church, St. Louis, MO; 1956-1986|
|1||18||Korea: Hendrix, Daisy; 1930|
|1||19||Mellis, Charles Jr. and Claire; 1949-1952|
|1||20||Mellis, Charles Sr.; 1949-1952|
|2||1||Miscellaneous Correspondence; 1926-1972, n.d.|
|2||2||Miscellaneous Correspondence; 1973-1986|
|2||3||Near East Relief; 1967, n.d.|
|2||4||World Conference on Christian Communications; Jun 11-15, 1961|