Billy Graham Center

Papers of William Arthur Saunders - Collection 471

[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 William Arthur Saunders

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

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection

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


Transcript 1

Transcript 2

Transcript 3

Brief Description.
Oral history interview and a manuscript translated by Saunders. The interview describes his childhood in England, emigration to New Zealand, training at the New Zealand Bible Institute, joining the China Inland Mission, going to China in 1930, evangelistic work in south Gansu province, the work of Chinese evangelists, worship services in Gansu churches, Howard Knight, the Sino-Japanese war, Pentecostalism in Gansu province, the church under communism, leaving China in 1951, studying under Kenneth Pike. teaching in Singapore, reforming the Overseas missionary Fellowship's language training program, retirement, changes in the missionary enterprise since 1930. The manuscript is by a Chinese elder and gives a brief history of the church in Tienshui, Gansu province from the 1870s to 1900.
Vol: 3 Reels of Audio Tape, 2 folders (.1 cubic feet)

Collection 471
[February 28, 2003]
Saunders, William Arthur; 1905-1993
Interviews; 1992; n.d.
2 folders (.1 cubic feet), Audio Tapes

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Transcripts to T1, T2 & T3 are available.


Full name: Saunders, William Arthur. Generally known as Arthur

Birth date: November 11, 1905, in Watford, England

Parents: William Raymond and Mary Isabel Debon Saunders
Siblings: Molly and Joe
Marital Status: Married to Elizabeth McNaught Bain May 11, 1934, in Shanghai, China
Children: David Arthur (born September 6, 1940, in Chengtu, Szechwan)

Conversion: August 1925 in rural Methodist Church in New Zealand

1927-1929 New Zealand Bible Training Institute
1930 China Inland Mission training school in England, language school in Anking, China
1952-1958 Studied Linguistics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. M.A. in Linguistics Science

1924-1927 Emigrated to New Zealand in 1924. Worked in farms in South Island, New Zealand
1930 Joined China Inland Mission (CIM) in response to the call for the two hundred missionaries. Was assigned to southern Gansu province
1930-1946 Tsingshui, Gansu Province. Evangelism and church planting
1938-1940 Furlough to United States and England
1946-1951 Tienshui, Gansu Province. Evangelism and church planting
1946-1947 Furlough to United States
1951 Departed China
1952 Arrived in Halifax, Canada, on February 15
1952 Home staff of the North America office of OMF. Resigned from the mission
1958 Readmitted to Overseas Missionary Fellowship (formerly the China Inland Mission)
1958-1968 Worked in Singapore as Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) missionary. Taught in Nanyang University, had ministry with Nanyang Christian Fellowship and Singapore churches. For a brief time was in charge of OMF language training program.
1963 Furlough in United States
1968 Furlough to the United States as of June 1968. Retired from mission, December 31
1968 Retired to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Part-time English teacher in Spring Arbor College for two years. Taught English for overseas engineers in University of Michigan part-time for four years. Invited onto pastoral staff of Huron Hills Baptist Church in 1975. Served on the Missionary Committee of Huron Hills Baptist Church, and Chinese Christian Fellowship. Preached occasionally.
1987 Retired to the OMF retirement home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
1993 Died November 27
1994 Elizabeth Saunders died April 20

Scope and Content Description

[Note: In the Scope and Content description, the notation "folder 2-5" means box 2, folder 5.]

Series: Paper Records
Volume: 2 folders (.1 cubic feet)
Geographic coverage: Tienshui City, Gansu Province, China
Type of documents: Two items: a book containing Chinese nursery rhymes in English and Chinese; a typed nineteen-page translation to English from Chinese of a history by the elder Chao of the Christian church in Tienshui from 1874 until 1900.
Subjects: Boxers, G. F. Eaton, Henry W. Hunt, Indigenous church administration­China, Missions­China, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, George Parker, Minnie Shao Parker, Persecution­China
Notes: The nineteen-page manuscript is particularly interesting because it is a history of a local congregation written by a Chinese lay leader in that congregation. It describes the founding of the church in Tienshui and the activities of the missionaries, and, to a lesser extent, the Chinese leaders over the first quarter century of the church up to the time of the Boxer Rebellion.

Series: Audio tapes
Volume: 3 reels of tape (.06 cubic feet)
Date Range: The events described in the interview cover the time period 1920s-1992.
Geographic coverage: England; New Zealand; Gansu province, China
Type of documents: Oral history interview on three reels
Subjects: China--History--Civil War--1945-1949; China--History--1912-1937; China--History--1937-1945; Christian education--China; Communism--China; Evangelistic work--China; Gansu Province, China; Language in missionary work; Missions--China; Missions--Singapore; New Zealand Bible Training Institute; Overseas Missionary Fellowship; Rural churches--China; John Oswald Sanders; W. Arthur Saunders; Singapore; Sino-Japanese Conflict, 1937-1945; Tsingshui, China
Notes: W. Arthur Saunders was interviewed by Robert Shuster on December 9, 1992, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

T1 (60 minutes). Saunders' family and childhood in England, his school and spiritual life; migration to New Zealand in 1924; impressions of New Zealand, working on a cattle farm south of Auckland, converted to Christ at Bombay Methodist Church on August 1925; hearing missionaries such as Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor of China Inland Mission; attendance at New Zealand Bible Training Institute; description of the lectures, ministers, and teachers, such as C. J. Rolls and Evans Harrys; fellow students Gottlay Nagel and Jack Muir; open air preaching in Auckland; the Plymouth Brethren Assembly prayer meeting; Harry Yalland; Saunders' response to CIM's call for two hundred new missionaries; J. Oswald Sanders; going to Shanghai in 1930 as CIM missionary; learning Chinese; working with Edward Taylor; evangelistic work and preaching in Tsingshui; significant Chinese evangelists.

T2 (68 minutes). Significant Chinese evangelists; Yeng Song Tu and Li Seng Fu; the starting of the Tienshui church; aptness of the story of the Prodical Son for China; relevance of the Second Coming to China; the story of Elder Chao of the Tienshui church of Gansu province; would not marry a woman with unbound feet; the influence of the charismatic Jesus Family and their conflict with missionaries over the Holy Spirit; the encouragement of Chinese pentatonic hymns and group prayers; decline of the Jesus Family; Chinese control of the church in Tsingshui; preaching at the Muslim market with preaching poster prepared by George Harris; the technique of using preaching posters in street preaching; Howard Knight and federation of churches in northwest China; reason for not writing to Christians in Gansu after he left; sufferings of the pastor in Lanchow; meeting his future wife in Gansu; experience of living in a small Chinese city; contacts with the Kuomintang; the importance of educated foreign missionaries in the churches of Gansu; lack of effect of the Sino-Japanese war on northwest China; CIM, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Scandinavian Alliance (TEAM) and Pentecostal missionaries in Gansu; CMA missionaries dressing like Tibetans; different approaches of mission boards in mission work, Pentecostal missions; raising a son in China; churches and missionary work under communist rule; pressure on Chinese Christians to break with foreign missionaries; comments on the Three Self Movement; departure from China in January 1951; study of linguistics at the University of Michigan; Kenneth Pike; J. Oswald Sanders' invitation to work in Singapore 1956-1968, teaching at Nangyang University; organization of work among students; conversion of Mr. Ling.

T3 (16 minutes). Organization of work among students; conversion of Mr. Ling; revising OMF's language program; influence of Wycliffe Bible Translators on the language program; leaving Singapore in 1968 to come to the United States; changes in the missionary enterprise between 1930 and 1968; increase in the bureaucracy of missions; tentmaking missionaries; activities in Michigan after retirement: teaching linguistics and English, involvement with Chinese students and Chinese churches; move to the OMF retirement home Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1987.

Related Collections: Collection 215, Records of the United States branch of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (Folder 4-98)


The materials in this collection were given to the Archives of the Billy Graham Center by W. Arthur Saunders in December 1992.

Accession: 92-155
May 25, 1999
Irene Wong
R. Shuster

Accession: 92-155
Types of material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 60 minutes. Recorded on one side at 3-3/4 ips. Interview with W. Arthur Saunders by Robert Shuster on December 9, 1992. Originally recorded on a cassette and transferred to reel tape for preservation purposes.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 68 minutes. Recorded on one side at 3-3/4 ips. Interview with W. Arthur Saunders by Robert Shuster on December 9, 1992. Originally recorded on a cassette and transferred to reel tape for preservation purposes.

T3 - Reel-to-reel, 16 minutes. Recorded on one side at 3-3/4 ips. Interview with W. Arthur Saunders by Robert Shuster on December 9, 1992. Originally recorded on a cassette and transferred to reel tape for preservation purposes.


Box Folder Description
1 1 Manuscript: "History of the Tienshui church in Gansu Province" by Elder Chao; translated by W. Arthur Saunders; n.d.
1 2 Book: "Chinese Mother Goose Rhymes"; 1900

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Last Revised: 2/28/03
Expiration: indefinite