Billy Graham Center Archives

Papers of Hester Hartzell Withey - Collection 418

[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. ]

Since we are migrating our website to a new platform, we will no longer be updating this earlier version our site. Please visit our Archon database for online guide descriptions. In early 2018, look for our new site, currently under construction, linked in the BGC Archives section on the Library and Archives page. (12/11/2017)

Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Hester Hartzell Withey

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

Audio file and written transcript for T4

Audio file and written transcript for T5

Audio file and written transcript for T6

Audio file and written transcript for T7

Audio file and written transcript for T8

Audio file and written transcript for T9

Audio file and written transcript for T10

Audio file and written transcript for T11

Audio file and written transcript for T12

Brief Description:
Interviews in which Withey describes the missionary work of her parents and grandparents in Angola, her childhood in Africa and the U.S., her education in South Africa, her conversion, nurses training, missionary work for WEC International among Tibetans in China and India and among Nepalis in India, the communist takeover of China and expulsion of the missionaries, medical mission work, her singleness, Bakht Singh, and charismatics. Also a manuscript about Kantze, China.

Collection 418 [September 3, 2010]
Withey, Hester Hartzell; 1913-2009
Papers; 1989, n.d.

1 Folder (.1 cubic feet), 12 Reels of Audio Tape

Restrictions:: None.


Full name: Hester Hartzell Withey

Born: March 21, 1913, at the Quiongua Mission Station of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Angola, Africa
Died: August 31, 2010

Parents: Herbert "Bertie" Cookman Withey and Ruth (Bassett) Withey, missionaries to Angola with the Methodist Episcopal Church; father did translation work
Siblings: Sister (18 months younger), brother (five years younger)

Raised in: Angola, California, and Cape Town, South Africa

1929?-1933 University of Cape Town, BA in English and French
1936-1939 Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, Graduate nursing program
1940? Women and Children's Hospital, Chicago. State registration in South Africa and Illinois (registration lapsed while in China)

Professional Activities:
1940 Applied to WEC mission board and was accepted
1946 Began WEC headquarters training
1947-1948 Operated a rural medical clinic in Kangding [formerly Kangting] in western China near Tibetan border
1948-1950 Established dispensary in Kantse
1950 Returned to Kangding after communist army arrived in Kantse
1951 WEC team escorted out of China
1951 Waited in Hong Kong for visa to India
1951-1956/7 Assigned to India near Nepal border
1956/7-1977 Worked in Darjeeling area; worked with Tibetans and Nepali church women; began conference ministry with speakers from G.W. North's group in England, and ran "fellowship house"
1976-1978 Reassigned to Lucknow, India; helped in various projects for Bethel, and some work on chorus book for Darjeeling
1978-1982 Assigned to Delhi; continued conference ministry with speakers and ran a "fellowship house"
1982 Left India to retire from field service, ca. 1983
1984-? Retired status, but taught course at WEC headquarters in Ft. Washington, Pennsylvania
1985 Traveled to Tibet

First furlough 2-17-57 to 4-20-58
Second furlough 8-10-64 to 9-19-65
Third furlough 5-12-71 to 6-23-72
Fourth mini-furlough 4-25-78 to 9-8-78
Last furlough 5-1-82 to March 1983

Scope and Content:

In addition to the oral history interview described in detail below, this collection contains a manuscript written by Hester Withey for submission for possible use in a book being written on the work among Tibetans titled The Kantze Arrival Story (folder 1) .

Hester H. Withey was interviewed by Paul A. Ericksen on June 20 and 21, 1989, at the WEC International headquarters in Port Washington, Pennsylvania. The events described in the interview cover the time period 1880s-1989.

T1 (43 minutes) (Click for link to audio file and transcript). Family's call to Africa; grandparents (Amos and Irene Withey) move to Angola with children; deaths of family members; adapting to new life; God's faithfulness; learning a new language; Methodist Church took over mission work; founding of local churches; how parents met (Herbert C. and Ruth Bassett Withey); their courtship; father's return to Angola alone because of her mother's poor health; her healing and their eventual marriage in Africa; Hester's birth; the personalities of her father and mother.

T2 (46 minutes) (Click for link to audio file and transcript). Continuation of description of mother, mother's efforts to polish father's manners, her contributions to the family; father's contributions to the family; her mother's family were pioneer missionaries in Iran; stories of Presbyterian missionary work in Iran; Hester's family's return to U.S. when she was a child; trip back to Africa during WWI; life memories of war and Armistice; Hester's conversion at age six; grandfather's influence; incident of visitation of Holy Spirit upon her and her grandfather; other childhood memories; father's translation work in California; Hester and frail sister left in New York while rest of family planned to return to Angola and sorrow at being left behind; rest of family's return delayed by 1918 flu; return to California to recuperate; discipline when children; her naughty behavior; return to Angola with parents; travel; lack of fresh milk; games in Luanda, Angola; malaria; bubonic plague; transfer to Cape Town; father's sudden death.

T3 (50 minutes) (Click for link to audio file and transcript). Hester's life in Cape Town, church, high school, University of Cape Town; family's move back to Angola during her college time; the Africa Evangelistic Band and Bible Institute of South Africa; relationship among Evangelicals in South Africa; Victorious Life conferences; mother's health problems caused mother and brother to return from Angola; brother's education and his relationship with his father; Hester's nurse's training; another year of student nursing in Chicago; spiritual burdens and struggles; desire for right relationship with God and others; planned to be a missionary in Angola and application to the Methodist Mission Board; mother's work at Chicago Evangelistic Institute; how she learned about WEC; no peace about going to Angola and decision to resign from Methodist Board; background of WEC; applying to WEC mission; undertook home mission work under WEC and the Chicago Evangelistic Institute; visiting various colleges to challenge other students about missions; Paul and Jonathan Lindell; Pearl Harbor ended travel; Bible training before she applied to WEC; Bible training at Chicago Evangelistic Institute before starting nurses training.

T4 (44 minutes) (Click for link to audio file and transcript). WEC-approved Bible schools at that time; areas of mission activity in Central Asia; China open to missionaries under Chiang Kai-Shek regime; delayed going to mission field in order to take care of mother in California; family situation at the time and the need to move her mother and other elderly relatives to New York to be near Hester's sister; sister's inability to care for them; her brother's return from the Army in 1945; mother's stroke and her response to Hester's move from Methodist Church to WEC; mother's burden for Hester to go to mission field; mother's death; her brother's offer to care for the elderly relatives so Hester could go on mission field; beginning WEC training in 1946 and comparison with WEC training now; personality clashes on field; struggles with her temper, loneliness, and spiritual influence of the Rwanda Revival (also known as the East African Revival) and their stress on principles of interpersonal relationships; continuing struggles to get along with co-worker trip to Kangding and geography of area around it.

T5 (36 minutes) (Click for link to audio file and transcript). Continued discussion of geography of area; background of mission in Kangding; meeting rest of team at Kangding; inflation and unrest in area; China Inland Mission (CIM) and other missions in the area; fellowship with other missionaries; attendance at CIM meetings; Tibetans who came to Kangding and the population of the city; transportation; cultural differences between Tibetans and Chinese; coping with high inflation; Tibetan tea, Yaks, caravans, travel, and bandits; arranging supply lines from Kangding; arrival in Kangding September 1947; opening a new station in July 1948; the Catholic hospital and cathedral in Kangding and good relationship with nuns there; CIM decision not to aim for Tibet but they did work with Tibetans at Kangding; WEC's move to Kantse, which was nearer the border between China and Tibet, hoping to get into Tibet, where they felt gospel was so needed; Hester, Margaret and Edith Seeger were the first group to go to Kantse; details of their trip to Kantse; David Woodward and his wife came afterward; making Tibetan tea; Tibetan food.

T6 (51 minutes) (Click for link to audio file and trnacript). Continuation of discussion of trip to Kantse; Chinese and Tibetan views of each other; differences between the two peoples; Tibetan and Chinese forms of Buddhism; Tibetan debt to Chinese culture; Tibetan desire for freedom from Chinese; Chinese effort to force Tibetan nomads into communes created great hardship for Tibetans; different attitudes toward Chinese among urban and rural Tibetans; geography, travel and natural beauty in area; difficulties because of cold climate; previous westerners in Kantse area; Tibetan reaction to the missionaries; Tibetan xenophobia; concerns for safety because of banditry; Tibetan village lama turned them away from Kantse but Chinese allowed them to stay; establishment of a dispensary in Kantse; living arrangements of the team; evangelizing the area; language problems; difference in and examples of Tibetan concepts totally different from Western concepts; Margaret and Edith's fasting and prayer; Chinese conversion to Christianity; spiritual pressures, difficulty of prayer; Hester's continuing difficulty getting along with Margaret; people's growing trust because of medical help; interesting medical contacts, such as caring for a gunshot victim; Tibetan vicarious lifesaving ritual; disappointment at victim's death, and years later meeting a nephew of victim near Bhutan who was another interesting medical case; competition with village priests; village priests also coming to the dispensary.

T7 (44 minutes) (Click for link to audio file and trnacript). Tibetan customs and perspectives that made it difficult to provide medical treatment; lifestyle of average Tibetans; homemade beer; Hester's desire for spiritual power encounter, but didn't see much, possibly because of their own lack of spiritual maturity; continuing struggle to get along with Margaret; return to Kangding, help from rest of team in her struggle; decision to move to another border town; Margaret and Edith sent to new town, Hester stayed behind because of difficulty getting along with Margaret; deep discouragement; Margaret and Edith never got beyond Kantse; new worker came to go to Kantse with Hester, but Hester feared she would herself ruin things; many new believers in Kantse; trip to Kantse with new worker; continuing struggle; Margaret's observations on Hester's difficulty and suggestions; Hester's contract with God as she started claiming His victory when tempted; change in her feelings toward Margaret; American consulate left China after communist takeover in 1949; WEC and CIM stayed for a while; arrival of the Red Army in Kantse in April 1950; Tibetan resistance; Red Army commandeered their house forcing them to move; Air Force officers next door were treated better than the ordinary soldiers; communists wanted to search missionaries' rooms; giving them medical supplies; Nellie Stokes [?] kept them from searching.

T8 (43 minutes) (Click for link to audio file and transcript). Continuation of story about Nellie Stokes; dispensary and church services continued, though most new Christians were afraid to come to church meetings after the arrival of communists; the communist general thought missionaries were funny; many evangelistic opportunities with Chinese soldiers; increasing restrictions on missionaries' movements; CIM missionaries; leaving Kantse for Kangding in July 1950; security detachment from Kangding checked their baggage, then allowed them to go to Kangding; mission house in Kangding; decision to leave; increasing persecution; relationships under stressful conditions; the westerners had to hang together, even if someone blundered; escorted by communist guards to Chongqing; Eric Shipton; large group of foreigners gathering together in Chongqing, going down river to Hangkow, then Canton to the border; relief felt when they crossed border; mistreatment of others by communists; earlier interrogation of George Kraft to betray Chinese Christians; layout of Kantse; typical day in dispensary; how Tibetans were told about the gospel; Scripture materials available in Tibetan; gospels in the form of Tibetan books; typical day in dispensary; Chinese evangelist who had financial troubles; going visiting, celebrating birthdays, and trying to bake American cake mix in earthenware oven; presenting gospel to patients through use of pictures and diagrams; language training in Tibetan; what the missionaries did for entertainment; musical instruments in Africa; going from Canton to Kowloon and Hong Kong, waiting five months for visa to India to work with Tibetans there; WEC staff member and author Len Moules; the four WEC mission fields in India at that time.

T9 (43 minutes) (Cilck for link to audio fileand transcript). Going from Calcutta to Bareilly, meeting WEC staff, and then going on to Himalayan field base at Abbot Mount[?]; summer hill stations; headquarters base at Abbot Mount, and working further up in the mountains; beginning language study in Hindi with field leader Len Moules who later became international leader of WEC; moving to Mussoorie in the spring and then to Landour for language school; lots of missionaries there then though later India refused visas to missionaries; Hester told that she would have to give up Tibetan work, because there were so few Tibetans in India; meeting Tibetan woman at lunch stop on way from Bareilly and finding fairly large population of Tibetans at Landour whom, although hardened to the gospel, she enjoyed talking to; finishing language school in fall of 1952 and going then to Ramnagar, a rail head where people came for the winter; dispensary work there for four winter seasons; use of kerosene projectors for filmstrips and phonograph records in various languages; being robbed and buying a dog the next year for protection; spending summers to the mountains in the Garhwal region with the dispensary, showing filmstrips in evenings there also; description of house and dispensary in mountains; importance of maintaining social respectability as single women; Sadhus, holy men of India; demon possession among holy men; openness of various peoples to gospel; Indian evangelist A. K. George; relationships between Tibetans and Indians; transferring to Darjeeling to work with Tibetans; geography of Darjeeling area; reasons for transfer; description of Darjeeling area and peoples; tensions between Bengalis and Nepalis; the areas of Sikkim, Nepal, and Bhutan.

T10 (43 minutes) (Click for link to audio file and transcript). Languages used in area and further description of people groups in area; WEC went to area because Tibetans there were not much evangelized; evangelism methods tried; Bakht Singh's influence in Kalimpong and Darjeeling; no medical need for dispensary, but helping people go to the hospital and interpreting for them; associating with an Assembly church affiliated with the Church of Scotland and later associating with Bakht Singh Assemblies in Kalimpong and in Darjeeling; first furlough in 1957-58; going to Kalimpong on return; Edith and her husband already working in Kalimpong with Tibetans; difficulty reaching Tibetans with gospel, especially older people who were very hardened; also working with Nepali Christians in Assembly church; working with church women; Bakht Singh's view of Christian workers' relationship to church; description of Bakht Singh; weakness of teaching for living Christian life and struggling with sin; Dalai Lama's flight from Tibet in 1959-60; communist take over Tibet in 1950, and Tibetans feared that the Chinese would take Dalai Lama to China; many Tibetans joining Dalai Lama in India to flee Chinese persecution; seeing the Dalai Lama earlier in Kalimpong; Dalai Lamas visit to school for Anglo-Indian children when Withey was there; comments and observations on Dalai Lama; Tibetan refugees who came with him seemed more willing to listen to gospel; Lord's provision for evangelizing Tibetan refugees; committees to help refugees' physical needs; evangelism methods; holding regular meetings for several years, and taking interested Tibetans to the local church; Nepali Christians' attitudes toward Tibetans; Tibetans' own factions.

T11 (45 minutes) (Click for link to audio file and transcript). Tibetans eventually settling elsewhere in India and world; Tibetans' factions almost tribal; efforts to evangelize Nepal; how United Mission to Nepal started; Nepal's increased openness to outside world; fighting in India between Muslims and Hindus; partition of India in 1947; tensions between cultural/religious groups in India; many languages in India. End of June 20 interview and introduction to June 21 interview: Tibetans gradual loss of interest in attending Nepali-speaking church; still holding meetings for Tibetans in her home; spent most of her years in Darjeeling; relief work with Tibetans stopped when no longer needed; working with Bakht Singh church in Darjeeling, teaching women's class; regret that she didn't know Nepali better; discontinuation of medical work in 1956 when she went to Darjeeling, except for helping neighbor's children; typical day; decision to hire household help as servants were good contact point with neighbors; visiting people in community; operating as missionaries in the caste system; food offered to idols; stopping in England during 1964 furlough and hearing G.W. North, very moved; interest in charismatic movement; visitation of the Lord during one of the meetings; G.W. North 's visit to India in 1971 and she invited North to speak to her group of friends; North's return the next year; renting guest house to use for conferences and some "fellowship house" activities; trouble with Bakht Singh church over her charismatic sympathies, being removed from teaching women at Singh's church; WEC's policy on charismatic doctrine; only WEC member in Darjeeling with visa; North's conferences produced more results than previous efforts through church; a Bengali family.

T12 (35 minutes) (Click for link to audio file and transcript). A Bengali family, especially the eldest son's emotional and health problems; his anointing by Spirit; Hester's conflict with boy's father; when the boy ran away from home, Hester and another missionary were arrested for kidnaping him; case was eventually dropped, but the government forced her to leave Darjeeling; conference ministry with speakers and camps continued until she retired; moving to Lucknow for a year and then Delhi for two and a half years; fellowship house in Delhi; Victor P [?]; why she never married and how she felt about it; revelation of God's love for her in her fifties; Lhasa trip in 1985 and her chance to witness to Tibetans; Tibetans' reactions to gospel; Operation Charlie, racing to get to Chiamdo [now possibly Qomdo]; how she came to teach course on missionary attitudes at WEC headquarters; attitude problems new missionary candidates have; interpersonal attitudes; what she would do differently; wishing they'd seen more visible fruits.



The materials in this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives by Hester Hartzell Withey in June 1989.

Accessions 89-64, 89-66
April 23, 1997
Kate Baisley
P. Ericksen
J. Nasgowitz

Accession 89-64
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 45 minutes. One side. Interview with Hester Hartzell Withey by Paul A. Ericksen, June 20, 1989.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 42 minutes. One side. Continuation of interview with Hester Hartzell Withey by Paul A. Ericksen, June 20, 1989.

T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 50 minutes. One side. Continuation of interview with Hester Hartzell Withey by Paul A. Ericksen, June 20, 1989.

T4 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 44 minutes. One side. Continuation of interview with Hester Hartzell Withey by Paul A. Ericksen, June 20, 1989.

T5 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 36 minutes. One side. Continuation of interview with Hester Hartzell Withey by Paul A. Ericksen, June 20, 1989.

T6 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 51 minutes. One side. Continuation of interview with Hester Hartzell Withey by Paul A. Ericksen, June 20, 1989.

T7 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 45 minutes. One side. Continuation of interview with Hester Hartzell Withey by Paul A. Ericksen, June 20, 1989.

T8 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 43 minutes. One side. Continuation of interview with Hester Hartzell Withey by Paul A. Ericksen, June 20, 1989.

T9 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 43 minutes. One side. Continuation of interview with Hester Hartzell Withey by Paul A. Ericksen, June 20, 1989.

T10 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 43 minutes. One side. Continuation of interview with Hester Hartzell Withey by Paul A. Ericksen, June 20, 1989.

T11 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 43 minutes. One side. Continuation of interview with Hester Hartzell Withey by Paul A. Ericksen, June 20-21, 1989.

T12 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 32 minutes. One side. Continuation of interview with Hester Hartzell Withey by Paul A. Ericksen, June 21, 1989.

Folder Item
1 Manuscript: The Kantze Arrival Story by Hester Withey; n.d.

Send us a message.
Return to BGC Archives Home Page
Last Revised: 11/14/17
Expiration: indefinite

© Wheaton College 2017