Billy Graham Center

Interviews of John David Ellison - Collection 461

[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.]

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions


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

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)
    Audio Tapes


Collection 461 [April 3, 2003]
Ellison, John David; 1925-1998
Interviews; 1992
Audio tapes (.08 cubic feet)

Brief Description. Oral history interview in which Ellison talks about his parents' work as missionaries for Christian and Missionary Alliance in French Indochina between 1924 and 1940; his own training at Nyack Institute; his and his wife's work in Thailand among Cambodians from 1950 through 1980; and his work in the United States among Cambodian refugees.

Restrictions: None


Full name John David Ellison
Birth November 15, 1925, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to missionary parents
Death October 3, 1998 at his home in Wheaton, Illinois
Parents David Witham and Muriel Eleanor (Harrison) Ellison
Marital Status Married to Jean Arlene Beck in 1948
Conversion May 1935 in Dalat, Indochina (Vietnam)
1932-1936; 1938-1941 Attended school for the children of C&MA missionaries in Dalat, Indochina
After period of internment by the Japanese, returned to the United States with family and finished high school in Danville, Ontario
1947 Graduated Nyack Missionary Institute
1947-1949 Pastor in Two Rivers, Nebraska
1950-1980 C&MA missionary in Surin, Thailand, where the population was 80% Cambodian
1975-1980 Evangelistic and humanitarian ministry in the Cambodian refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border
1980-1982 Lived in Lansing, Michigan
1982- Lived in Wheaton, Illinois. Active in evangelistic outreach to and relief work for Cambodian refugees
Other significant information
1941-1942 For six months was interned with his family in Thailand by the Japanese as enemy aliens. They were exchanged and returned to the North America on the ship Gripsholm via Portugese East Africa and Brazil.

Scope and Content

John Ellison was interviewed by Robert Shuster on October 2 and 29, 1992, at the Ellison home in Wheaton, Illinois. The events described in the interview cover the time period 1914-1992.

T1 (76 minutes, click to link to the audio file). Father's experiences in England during World War I; mother's background in Canada; Christian and Missionary Alliance culture during their courtship and early work as missionaries; parent's decisions to be missionaries; life at Nyack Institute in the 1920s; a wedding cake made of charcoal, R. A. Jaffrey; father's personality; killing a cow in a road accident in Cambodia; father's ministry to French soldiers in the Foreign Legion in Cambodia; story of a Cambodian convert; comments on his father's work in Tamar Kol, Cambodia; mother's love for the Cambodian people; parents arrival in Cambodia in 1923; translating western hymns into Cambodian languages; Cambodian Christians Ock Soth and Peng Kun; memories of the Bible school in Cambodia; incident with a water buffalo on a Cambodian road; family devotional life; description of his father and mother's faith; catching frogs as a boy; church services at the mission station; experiences with spirit mediums and the occult; conversion at the age ten at the school in Dalat; Angkor Wat; boarding school at the age of seven; memories of the Mekong River; memories of boarding school

T2 (33 minutes, click to link to the audio file). Tigers at the boarding school; a boar hunt; Japanese occupation of Indochina in 1940; changes in the Thailand-Indochina border; going to Bangkok three days before Pearl Harbor; father's arbitration of the border in 1945; internment by the Japanese in December 1941; testimony of a Cambodian Christian during this time; return to the United States in 1942 via Saigon, Mozambique, Rio de Janeiro, and New York; Robert Ekvall

T3 (67 minutes, click to link to the audio file). Meeting his future wife at Nyack; training after graduation; pastor of a church in Nebraska; reaction to wartime internment; preparation to be a missionary; more on his country pastorate in Nebraska; selected as a missionary to Cambodia; arrival at Surin; evangelistic work among Cambodians living in Thailand; speaking literary Cambodian; distributing the Gospel of John; importance of the Cambodian language; ways of presenting the gospel to a crowd; Thai evangelist Ajahn Sinnet; language study in Thai; themes in Cambodian culture that lent themselves to evangelism; Thai Buddhism and the difficulty of converting people from it; Cambodian Christian workers Suthat and Suphon; Baptist missions in the area; a Cambodian worship service; Cambodian hymns; testimonies; trouble with a Communist Vietnamese auto mechanic; effect of the Korean War on missions to Thailand; death of Paul and Priscilla Johnson in 1952; witnessing at a leprosarium near Surin

T4 (31 minutes, click to link to the audio file). Short term Bible schools to train Cambodian Christian leaders; tithing; resistance to a permanent Cambodian Bible school; Buddhist passive resistance to Christian witnessing; Joe and Pauline Doty's work in Thailand after being expelled from Cambodia in 1965; effect of the Indochinese wars on Thailand in the 1960s and 1970s; work at Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand in 1975; the polite Thai governor; return to the United States in 1980; moving to Wheaton and becoming involved in Cambodian refugee work in the US; need for indigenous Christian leadership among Cambodians in Thailand


The materials in this collection were given to the Archives of the Billy Graham Center by John David Ellison in October 1992.

Accession: 92-122, 92-133
March 26, 2003
Robert Shuster


Accession: 92-122. 92-133
Type of Material: Audio Tapes
The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE file.

Reel or Cassette Speed Length Sides Contents Dates
T1 Reel 3.75 76 min. 1 Interview of John D. Ellison by Robert Shuster 10/2/199
T2 Reel 3.75 33 min. 1 Conclusion of interview on T1 10/2/1992
T3 Reel 3.75 67 min. 1 Interview of John D. Ellison by Robert Shuster 10/29/1992
T4 Reel 3.75 31 min. 1 Conclusion of interview on T3 10/29/1992

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