Statements of Mission Leaders on the Value of Mission Archives
I was completely taken by surprise, while attending the Consultation on Mission Archives held by the Billy Graham Center Archives on November 1-3, 2001, by how little I understood relating to the proper care for a mission agencies archives.... I reflected back on my years of administrative services in missions organizations and how I had a blind spot concerning the proper storage and arrangement of papers, that reflected the organizations heritage, and their preservation. Yes, the saying that "old dogs can learn new tricks" is true and I am now a strong advocate for the importance of mission agencies setting board policies for the preservation of records in an organized archives, in order to protect the vital history of missions.
John E. Kyle - Senior Vice President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Ministry Agencies
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Anniversary celebrations are wake-up calls to the value of historic documents, photos, and artifacts. I saw these materials come to life when we celebrated CAM [Central America Mission] International's centennial. In subsequent centennial celebrations in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and other Central American countries, CAM's archives emerged as priceless treasures. Archives not only review the past; they give guidance in the present and impart vision for the future. Neglect of mission archives is a malady that must be cured. Preserving records of what God has done is high priority. It is His story for His glory.
Ron Blue, President Emeritus, CAM International
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I thank you and all who worked with you to provide the Consultation on Nondenominational Mission Archives. I appreciate the unique opportunity to have been a participant. I'm grateful for the people (archivists, historians, representatives of missions and institutions) who attended.
I'm even more grateful for the expertise that God has given to you who are archivists, historians, etc. and for your willingness to share that expertise and to preserve the wonderful heritage that God has allowed to be ours as Christians.... May the Lord increase your number and may I be faithful as a mission leader to do my part to challenge, encourage and preserve the story of God's work in our midst for the encouragement and benefit of others.
Carl McMindes, GMU [formerly Gospel Missionary Union]
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On stepping aside as president of the Latin America Mission, I chose to get involved in the archives of the Mission.... What compelled me to become immersed in the minutia and myriad of details in sorting out bits of info and organizing dusty files? Basically, I took up the task because I wanted to assure the continued full and faithful recording of our Mission's history -- under which I served for ultimately 40 years. In a word, we want to be true to our rich inheritance. I am extremely grateful for the recent 'Consultation on Nondenominational Mission Archives' held at the Billy Graham Center and the opportunity to be a part of it. I came away with valuable technical help, with new enthusiasm for our task, and the desire to convince other institutions of the vital importance of initiating and maintaining a well-thought through system of archives.
Clayton L. (Mike) Berg
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In his 1969 presidential address to the American Historical Association, the distinguished Harvard Sinologist John King Fairbank challenged his colleagues. He asserted that the missionary is the "invisible man" of history. Yet, said Fairbank, the missionary movement is the single-most important intercultural experiment in history. Although Fairbank was no apologist for Christian missions, he saw their significance in cultural history and told historians they ought to pay attention to the rich documentation to be found in mission archives. Fairbank's observation challenges us to place the impact of Christian missions in a broader perspective- without in any way minimizing the enduring significance of witnessing to the gospel and establishing the church through the world. Mission executives are stewards of a rich resource. Modern culture has schooled us to exalt the future and devalue the past. Tradition has gotten a bad rap. But we need to cultivate a healthy sense of tradition. In this I am guided by the aphorism of Jaroslav Pelikan: "Tradition is the living faith of the dead." The outstanding mission leaders of the past 200 years - Rufus Anderson, Henry Venn, Gustav Warneck, Robert E. Speer and Max Warren - all lead by cultivating a strong sense of tradition. They saw the present and future of missions drawing continuously on the strength and values of the past of their agencies. They kept that past alive by reflection on it and drawing on those enduring values that defined their agencies over the years. Archival records were indispensable to their extraordinary leadership. From the reporting we have heard, it is apparent that one ‘strategic alliance' that ought to be encouraged is for educational institutions - Bible colleges, colleges, universities, seminaries - to become repositories where missionary agencies place their archives. The educational potential of these collections is considerable. The institution can provide expert supervision in a proper environment; but the missionary agency thus makes available an important resource for research scholars and students.
Wilbert Shenk, professor of missions and author of numerous books on missions history
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Last Revised: 12/13/01
Last Revised: 1/5/05
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