Billy Graham Center

Collection 51 - Katharine Hastings Dodd Schoerner. T1 Transcript.

Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (78 minutes).

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the oral history interview of Mrs. Katharine Schoerner (Collection 51, T1) in the archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words which were recorded were omitted. In a very few cases, the transcribers could not understand what was said, in which case "[unclear]' was inserted. Also, grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers of this transcript should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and even rule than written English.

... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence of the speaker.

.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.

() Word in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.

[] Words in brackets are comments made by the transcriber.

This transcription was made August-October, 1988 by John Horn and Robert Shuster.

CN 51, T1. Oral history interview of Katharine Hastings Dodd Schoerner by Garry Ziccardi (Wheaton College student), October 12, 1988.

ZICCARDI: This is an interview with Mrs. Katharine Schoerner by Gary Ziccardi for the Missionary Sources Collection of Wheaton College. This interview took place at 9550 South Homan Avenue, Chicago on October 20, 1978 at 7:20 pm. Mrs. Schoerner, I wonder if you'd tell me just a little bit about your family background.

SCHOERNER: Well, my father and mother were both missionaries out in China. In fact, they met out there and were married out there and I was born first born of a family of a four. I had two sisters and the youngest one was a brother.

ZICCARDI: What part of China were you born in?

SCHOERNER: I was born in Shantung province, which is central eastern China.

ZICCARDI: I understand that you came to the United States for your schooling, college work.

SCHOERNER: Well, I left the schools in China in my senior year and came over here to this country to have a little bit of [chuckles] American school experience.

ZICCARDI: This was your senior year in high school?

SCHOERNER: Senior year in high school. At that time I went to Park College in Parkville, Missouri and they had an academy so I had... I associated with college students, but I was only an academy student. And I was in the dormitories with the college students.

ZICCARDI: I see. Would you tell me a little bit about your decision to come to Wheaton and at what point in your education you decided to do that?

SCHOERNER: Well, at that time my parents came back from China and it was their furlough year and at that time my uncle was in Wheaton as a pastor of one of the churches in Wheaton. And so they decided to take us all up there and we would spend their furlough year up there at Wheaton. I was not terribly thrilled over the prospect at first but I got to like Wheaton very much because I was given the opportunity to go back to my senior year and I did not.

ZICCARDI: Uh huh. Could you tell me some of the things you were involved in while you went to school at Wheaton?

SCHOERNER: took me just about all I could do to work and go to school. But I was .. I was in the Greek club. I was in the choir for a while.

ZICCARDI: I see. So you worked your way through school pretty much?

SCHOERNER: Well, not exactly. But I...I augmented the twenty-five dollars a month that I got as sort of an allowance.

ZICCARDI: I see. Tell me when you decidedyou would like to go in to the mission field and some of the thoughts that went through your mind in making that decision?

SCHOERNER: Well, there was not very much decision because as a small child I remembered that my father used to bring out his big silver watch and look at it. And he said, "Every time this watch ticks a Chinese person goes down to a Christless grave." So that was always was impressed upon us. The urgency of getting the...the Gospel out to these people who were going into the Christless graves.

ZICCARDI: And did you choose to go to China especially because you had grown up there?

SCHOERNER: Yes.I think so more or less. It was...I had an advantage in a way that I did know the people and did know somewhat the language. But I did not know the written language.

ZICCARDI: So did you learn the Chinese language in writing when once you got to China?


ZICCARDI: How is it that you came to choose the China Inland Mission to be associated with?

SCHOERNER: Well, that's rather a long story too. But to make it shorter. About that time my father was having some difficulties with the Presbyterian mission that he was in at the time. They were becoming more and more modernistic on the field and as a protest he resigned from that and he joined a newly formed mission which was the ...which became the Bible Presbyterian Church over here in this country and the Bible Presbyterian Mission in the

other. I think it was the Independent Board they called it then.

ZICCARDI: So that is the forth that you originally started out under - the


SCHOERNER: No. folks were in that transition period.


SCHOERNER: And so I thought that rather than to wait until..until things got more or less clarified I during the time the Inland Mission.

ZICCARDI: I see. From your little bit about the China Inland Mission in terms of sizes of numbers of people in it?

SCHOERNER: Well, there were about...about a thousand workers at the time when I went over there, and it kept up just about that number throughout the time with the people who were being retired, people who had died on the field and all that. It kept up just about that number.

ZICCARDI: No doubt. What kind of special training did you have before going to the mission field?

SCHOERNER: Well...I had...I had...I had enough Bible to have almost made a major in it.. And then I went on to Moody Bible Institute for two terms and got some additional work. It was considered sufficient at that time because we have quite a different system of doing things. We don't go out there ready to do a lot of technical stuff but we...we had the Bible knowledge .And then we worked under older missionaries, and we had quite a good school just for the China missionary, the language school.

ZICCARDI: What kind of travel did you use to get to China?

SCHOERNER: Well, we went by boat, and it was petty nice. And when we got to Shanghai we went by train up to the language school and...

ZICCARDI: Do you...?

SCHOERNER: was fairly good.

ZICCARDI: Do you recall about how long it took to get from say New York City. Or did you leave from New York City?

SCHOERNER: No. We left from Chicago. Oh, about...I guess about four weeks.

ZICCARDI: Four weeks. Would you tell me a little bit about the kind of work you were involved in your first six or seven years in China?

SCHOERNER: Well, it's started out of course with language study and then as we got more able to speak, we wouldgo out into the country with the Chinese helper. First they did most of the speaking and we just added our two cents worth. Then we began [laughs] then we began to talk more and they... and they would explain what were trying to say. But most of my work was with women and children.

ZICCARDI: What kind of things did you do?

SCHOERNER: Well...we had Sunday schoolwork. There was a school in the...on the compound where we were so that gave me an opportunity. I taught Scripture and I also taught drill...gym classes.


SCHOERNER: Things like that. Andthat was about all that I did with the children at that time. Then with the women they had women's meetings and we also gave opportunity for some of the ones that were keen to study more of the Bible to come in small groups and read the Bible and we tried to help them over some of the difficult parts and give them some historical background. And in that way they were able to know more about what they were...what they were preaching about. We were coming to a time when there had been quite a

...a movement of the Holy Spirit, and people were going out with what they had which was rarely more than a hymnbook and a...a catechism book.And they knew practically nothing of the Bible.


SCHOERNER: So in reading the Bible they had to be taught to read their own

characters, their own Chinese writing, and then they had to ..had..then they had tolearn how to say it and so then they had to memorize what they saw. So it was quite a difficult thing to teach people how to read. But there were ...there was work done on thephonetic script and there were times when we would teach them phonetic script. Now we did not have very much success with the phonetic script because they thought that was harder than the Chinese characters.


SCHOERNER: There we were. There were places where and I have seen children

who have learned the phonetic script without having had a day in school and were able to read the Bibles fairly coherently.

ZICCARDI: The language was a major means of bringing the Gospel?

SCHOERNER: Yes. Well, it was helping them to learn how to read and to disciple the people who had...who were...who had at least registered some sort of desire to follow the Lord.

ZICCARDI: hmn. How did the Chinese government...what was their attitude towards the work you were involved in?

SCHOERNER: Well...there was hindrance at that time. No. None at all.

ZICCARDI: And this year was?

SCHOERNER: This was in the early thirties.

ZICCARDI: The early thirties.


ZICCARDI: Did you come in contact with other mission boards while you were in China and did you have cooperation among...?

SCHOERNER: Well...where we were we were...we were out in...we were really out in sticks. Out in the outposts. And we had to pass through one station belonging to another mission and most of the time we just went through their out station and went up by boat or by bus and did not even stop over to see them, even. It was a number of years that we...since...from the time that I actually went into the station and stayed with people there.

Ziccardi: Um. I understand that you met your husband on the mission field or that you were married on the mission field?

SCHOERNER: We were married on the mission field. But that was a great many years afterwards. We were out seven years before we were married.

ZICCARDI: Could you tell me how you met and what...?

SCHOERNER: We met at Moody.

ZICCARDI: At Moody Bible School?


ZICCARDI: And did...was there correspondence between you during your early years on the field?

SCHOERNER: Yes. There was.

ZICCARDI: [Pauses] Tell me something about how your groom to be got to where you were to be married.

SCHOERNER: He was up northwest. He was up in the northwest.In central Asia. And he had to take a number of weeks to get out. In fact it was almost six months before he got out from...from the time he started ...started out on the trip until he got to Shanghai.

ZICCARDI: What kind of travel did he use...

SCHOERNER: Well he....

ZICCARDI: ...during the thirties?

SCHOERNER: Well when he got into Chinese Turkestan I understand he had to take a truck which the mission bought for them and which they were supposed to sell after they got there. And then his way out was by horse cart and then by on horseback and then perhaps by bus. Then...then by train. And then by boat from India. He went over the mountains to India....


SCHOERNER: And then down through India and then around Singapore and then to Hong Kong and then to Shanghai. At the same time we were because of the war I was cut off so that I had to go down from Hanchow [new spelling:Hangzhou Shi] to...from Hanchow Hong Kong and then came up by boat to Shanghai too. So the way was...was closed for us to get get back out to Shanghai unless we took circuitous trips.

ZICCARDI: So you had some traveling to do also?


ZICCARDI: Tell me about the classes of people you came in contact with in China?

SCHOERNER: Well...we did come in contact with the higher class of people but I think for the most part it was the...the poor...the ordinary people thatwe had the most to do with. There were always a few who were from the...the overning people that we would have some contact with. We did have contact with a number of them, but we didn't try put ourselves out to find them. If they...they came to us, that was all right. But we didn't go to them.

ZICCARDI: Could you describe what a higher class person.... How he lived and what means distinguished him from the lower class?

SCHOERNER: Well...they...they certainly had more wealth, but their wealth wasn't always very evident. They thought we were very wealthy because we had nice clothes and things like that but everything that we had could be seen. But what...what they were showing was the tip of the iceberg sort of.


SCHOERNER: So you couldn't tell too much whether they were very wealthy or not unless you just somebody told you that they owned so much land or that they were such and such an official like that.

ZICCARDI: So you could not tell just by outward appearance too much a person had in material goods?

SCHOERNER: No. We cold not tell too much.

ZICCARDI: What was it that the Chinese people valued most?

SCHOERNER: Well...I think they valued their land most...


SCHOERNER:Well... because we were in a rural ...more or less a rural place. We were living in a Chinese city, but there was surrounded by farms and...and most of the people in the city did own some land out in the country.

ZICCARDI: Turning to evangelism, was it difficult to convey the gospel message to the Chinese in their culture? Did you find some difficulties in explaining it to them?

SCHOERNER: I don't think so. Anyway, the...the way had been cleared mostly for us before by other people so that we had books and things that helped us to present the gospel as from the Bible and of course lots of them don't ...did not understand the ...just some of them would say, "We can't understand a word that you say." And we were trying to talk Chinese [laughs] and ...."


SCHOERNER:"You talking your own language...."


SCHOERNER: They thought we were talking our own language. Their ears had been closed beforehand. And that was one of the things that you had to struggle against. They...their preconceived ideas that we were talking our own language and not their language. And then finally they said, "Why are you talking ...they're talking Chinese!"


SCHOERNER: But it took them [laughs] a long time to have get the idea that we were trying to communicate to them in their own language because they were so sure we were using our own language.

ZICCARDI:. So they even had trouble recognizing what you were saying.

SCHOERNER: Yes. But since we did not go out by ourselves but we had Chinese along with us if there was any...they could usually sense when...when some point was not gotten over because they re...reiterated in their own way what we had been trying to [laughs] say in the first place.

ZICCARDI: In the Chinese churches could you tell me what a typical format would be or...

SCHOERNER: Well...they...

ZICCARDI: ...service?

SCHOERNER: ...started...they started early and the people gathered....

ZICCARDI: Early Sunday morning, you mean?

SCHOERNER: Yes. Not too early. But fairly early from when the service began. And then the women would sit on one side. And the men sat on the other side. And generally we went around among the women and helped them with their reading and...and helped teach them certain Scripture passages that they were trying to memorize or something like that. We listened to them memorize. And then when the meeting began, they sang hymns and choruses. There were a lot of choruses that they...they knew almost instinctively and they would sing them and with great gusto with any kind of tune that they thought that generally the rhythm was right. But [laughs] the tune was not always right. And then they'd have preaching service and the pastor would preach. We were there helpers. was a church that had been...had been turned over to the Chinese. But they needed all the help they could get because they had so many people who were not taught.


SCHOERNER: And so sometimes the...we had the girls' school. And we would sit among the students to keep them in order and if we weren't with the group of women helping them find their places and hymnbooks and then the Bible and so forth.

ZICCARDI: What was your husband's role in the church services?

SCHOERNER: Well...he wasn't there then.

ZICCARDI: Oh, you're still speaking of the early years.


ZICCARDI: All right. Tell me how your life changed after you became married and you were back on the mission field again.

SCHOERNER: Well...there was quite a lot of difference. We...we were often...we were often told to go to a certain place, and the war was still on, and we would get stopped in one place, and it wasn't safe to go anymore, so we would stop off at that place, and we would help as we could there, and then we would go on. And finally we got to a station that we had been assigned, and when we got there I had the Sunday school teachers I kept...helped them with their lessons so that they could teach the others. And then there were two...two different days a week when the women would come in for their meetings, and that was mostly helping them before the meeting began...helping them with their memorization of Scriptures and helping them read and.... Some were...they were in different...they were in different stages of development. One was for women that were just sort of inquirers. That's what we called the people who were just...who had just come, and had stated a willingness to learn more about the Lord. And then we had the Christians who were...who had been many years, perhaps, coming. And so we helped them that way. And then on the days that they did not come we would go out with one of the Bible women which...the Chinese Bible women and went visiting in the homes. Sometimes in the homes of Christians...sometimes in the homes where... where somebody was sick and wanted to be prayed for and sometimes to try to find out why so and so didn't come to the meetings and encourage them to come ...come back again and start out learning more about the Lord.

ZICCARDI:Um hmn. Could you tell me something about your work with the marriages between the Russians and the Chinese?

SCHOERNER: Well...that was towards the end of my time in China. There were...there was some Chinese merchants who went into Russian...into Siberia and into Russian territory and had stayed there quite a long time...learned the language and married Russian women. And then...when the war was on ...they didn't feel too comfortable staying in Russia, and so they moved down with their wives into this city on the edge of Tibet where we were staying Lanchow. And so quite a group came towards the end of the war. the time I felt a real burden to reach them. most of them knew some Chinese, so I would speak in Chinese, and then one of the women who knew...spoke Chinese and quite well and Russian would interpret what I would say, and then we had a a meeting in the church for them on another night of the week I had them in my home. I had some of them come and then was...there were a few men. Some of the husbands of the women came, and we had a meeting in the church for them and a Chinese young man who had also learned how...learned Russian in Manchuria I think it was. He was my interpreter, and he interpreted what I...what I had...or what I said so that we went through quite a number of books of the Bible. And most of the...those people had been Christians (at least nominal Christians) before. Some of the hadn't. But they were anxious to re-identify themselves after having lived in the Soviet Russia where it was...they considered it illegal to be a Christian. That was the way they spoke to me about it.

ZICCARDI: hmn. I understand you were often involved at the...a hospital in China.

SCHOERNER: the evangelistic work of the hospital.


SCHOERNER: I had classes with the lepers.


SCHOERNER: And with both the men and the women's apartment. And that took quite a long...that took about two or three days of the week in the mornings.


SCHOERNER: And then I was also in charge of the Sunday school for the children who came to the meetings in the hospital chapel.

ZICCARDI: hmn. Was there a special reason or love that motivated you to work with the lepers?

SCHOERNER: Well...that was another thing that happened in my early life. But when I was about ten or eleven years old my folks moved to a station where there was a new leprosarium area being built. And then when they...when it was already built how the people came...came to it. And my parents were the parents were the father was a pastor of the lepers for many years. He'd go out every Sunday and hold a service for them. And so that...that seemed to a be a very natural thing for me to go into help the lepers.

ZICCARDI:Um hmn. I see. Something from your childhood...


ZICCARDI: ...was carried over into your missionary work. So you didn't really come into contact with the medical problems or medicines used? Diseases?

SCHOERNER: No. No. I didn't have anything to do with.... I was not a medical person. My husband was the business manager in the hospital. And so I didn't have anything to do with that part. There were times though when a woman would be crying because she lost a child that I would go and comfort her and tell her about the Lord and how the little one.... Because the little one was very small...


SCHOERNER: was reasonable to feel that they were...went to be with the Lord. And try to encourage them to believe because they would be able to see their child again.

ZICCARDI: hmn. Did the Chinese people have a confidence in modern medicines, or were they backward in ....?

SCHOERNER: Well, it depends on where you are. Where we were in Lanchow, people did have a confidence in the medicines, or they wouldn't have come. They had seen things being done, and even when I was doing a little bit of clinic work when I was in the the station my first term, there was a wonder what a teaspoonful of castor oil would do...


SCHOERNER: ...for children. It never worked with my own children though. never [laughs] helped them much. I had to really get down and pray for them.

ZICCARDI: [laughs]. Was there an attitude of anti-foreignism or anti-Westernism going around from China?

SCHOERNER: I was never very...I was never very conscious of it. Only once as during the time in our language school. And we were going over to another mission compound. We had been invited over to meet friends or something like that, and I was riding in a rickshaw, and a man was standing up higher. The road was...was sunken a bit, and the man was standing higher at the side of the road, and he spit right into my face.


SCHOERNER: But that was the only thing that I can remember of anything.... And yet that was what they did to the Lord.

ZICCARDI: hmn. You identified with Jesus.


ZICCARDI: What was the Chinese attitude towards democracy during these years when you were there?

SCHOERNER: Well...I think they thought they had it.

ZICCARDI: They felt that they had a democratic government.


ZICCARDI: Did you have an idea of how the Marxist philosophy affected the people?

SCHOERNER: Well...that of course was all later. That was after 1948. That's certainly was...was something different again. They had gotten in with the...per...personnel of the hospital and had taught them how to do things... to disrupt. See, that was the whole thing. They were supposed to disrupt...


SCHOERNER: ...things. And then we would be helpless. Then we would have to call on them for help to settle our troubles, and that was what they taught some of our hospital...young students....



ZICCARDI: So that was one way that the Marxist philosophy affected you.


ZICCARDI: Were there other ways?




SCHOERNER: Earlier? Well...the only time we really had any inkling of what would happen was when our friend Betty Scott Stam and her husband John Stam were killed by the Communists. At that time they seemed to be more like bandits, Communist bandits. But they had not come to the places where I was. And of course we felt that if they came then that would be it. We were facing perhaps what was sure death.

ZICCARDI: hmn. Did you see the...the political life of China gradually decaying and corruption coming into it?

SCHOERNER: I think this matter of corruption as far as I can tell is mostly a figment of most peoples' imagination because it was never more was never more corrupt than our own governments had been. And I don't think that's quite fair. We had...we had generations of Christian teachings behind us, and they didn't. So I wouldn't...I wouldn't put any accusation of corruption against the...the heads of government anyway.

ZICCARDI: But did you notice any?

SCHOERNER: Oh...there were little things, but not much.

ZICCARDI: hmn. [coughs] Do you have any distinct impressions of the Communists?

SCHOERNER: Well...they...they were very difficult people to get along with anyway. I know that for months after we left Communist China I was...I was snapping off lights and doing things that.... Well, when we got to Philadelphia they would...they had many trees on the grounds, and they had the water going watering the lawn under the trees although it was still raining. And I thought, "Well, what crazy things were doing over here." It...we were getting more of a consciousness of the things we were doing that were...that seemed to me wasteful. And then in the middle of the day when the bright sunshine, we had lights on in the room because there were so many trees.


SCHOERNER: And those things sort of bothered me because we were so conscious of ...of the way that they...they looked on us as if we were wasteful and very.... I don't know exactly how to express it.... But they...they impressed on us that feeling that we were ...we were being very wasteful of ...of the things that [were] around us.

ZICCARDI: hmn. How did the Communists react to the Christian message?

SCHOERNER: Well...they didn't react at all. They ...they didn't care for it. And...and they let us know that. We didn't have much chance to preach to them.

ZICCARDI: And then how did that affect your ministry in China?

SCHOERNER: came to the place they weren't...they weren't going to persecute us for preaching the Gospel. But they told the people not to have anything to do with us because we were spies from America and that we were there to teach them all the wrong things and that kind of thing.

ZICCARDI: Um. Can you think of more accusations that they made?

SCHOERNER: Oh. They just intimidated the people that's all. That...that we weren't...that they would...they would come to see us and then when they got out they'd say, "What did they say to you? What...what did they tell you?"


SCHOERNER: Every once in a while we'd know...somebody who really knew us very well would come to say, "We know that what they're saying about you is not true."

ZICCARDI: But did the majority of the people react negatively against you because of what Communist propaganda was doing?

SCHOERNER: [Pauses] Not exactly. We got a lot of sympathy especially as we traveled out with our three small children...four small children out of the country, and we weren't allowed to take the...the airplane. They wouldn't us do that. And we had to go on the top of a truck which was carrying salt. And it meant that...that we were sitting on top of the salt bags.


SCHOERNER: And we'd hear the people say, "Oh. What a pity. They came out often to do us good. But now this is the way we are treating them."

ZICCARDI: Um. During the war did your life change in China from World War II?

SCHOERNER: certainly was changed a lot. We weren't able to get any supplies from even many books and things like that didn't come from the coast.


SCHOERNER: And we were up...we were up in the ...up in the interior. We had to make do with anything that we could get for food, clothing. Everything had to be locally made because we couldn't get anything that ...that was bought from abroad.

ZICCARDI: So if suppliers were hard to get.


ZICCARDI: How about your communication with friends, loved ones?

SCHOERNER: Oh. That always took a long time. But after the air mail came in, we could get letters over the hump into India, then across to the States...


SCHOERNER: ...from India.

ZICCARDI: Did you come into contact with the Japanese?

SCHOERNER: Yes. In the early part of the war we...when we came back from our first furlough we had been trying to avoid them up until we went on furlough. Then when we back from our first furlough we were in an occupied territory.


SCHOERNER: And we...they were very different. You know Japanese in Japan are most charming.


SCHOERNER: But those that went to China and were occupation troops, they were very difficult please or to do anything with.

ZICCARDI: Did they treat you badly?

SCHOERNER: Well, no because we weren't at war with them at that time, but we had to ...we had to get out of our rickshaw. We had to walk into the city gate and bow before the...the guards at the gates.

ZICCARDI: Um. And as a Christian?

SCHOERNER: Well...that wasn't anything. Bowing was just a...a light handshake in China. [laughs]

ZICCARDI: Oh. I see. Custom.

SCHOERNER: It's just a...just a customary thing. Of course it had...had something to do with...they...we didn't bow to.... we bowed to people that we knew. We would walk down the street if we didn't know the people, we wouldn't bow and scrape to them.


SCHOERNER: But in this case these were people we didn't know, and it didn't...didn't go down too well, but the Chinese were having to do it, and so we did it too.

ZICCARDI: hmn. Did you come in contact with some of our allied forces

in China?

SCHOERNER: Yes. We did. That was when we were ...when we were up in the northwest. And there were a number of...of people being sent on special missions and so forth and that the... they would often come to our hospital for medicines or something like that. That's how we would get to know that they were in town.

ZICCARDI: hmn. In what ways did they help you besides medicine?

SCHOERNER: Well...they ...they'd sometimes give us some of their rations and things like that we could.... So we had things that...that we could...that, well, like coffee and tea and things like that we couldn't get otherwise. Then later on when they left, then there were almost like five gallon tins full of coffee that...that were being sold on the street market. We had to buy those and have a few provisions up until we left for our second furlough.

ZICCARDI: Did you feel like the United States government hada protective attitude towards missionaries and other citizens living in China...U. S. citizens?

SCHOERNER: Well...I don't think we....where we were we didn't really need any protective attitude. We weren't in the...we got... usually got out of places where there was real fighting. When we were and then we would pass on from place to place.


SCHOERNER: Until we got up to northwest China, and then there was no real problem because the Japanese were far away at.... So it wasn't a matter of protection that we looked to them for. In fact when we were in one place while we were traveling, there was some American flyers in that place, but they didn't have any feeling of...of wanting to protect us or anything like that.

ZICCARDI: So in your opinion that [the] United States government didn't treat you...

SCHOERNER: Oh, no...

ZICCARDI: ...[unclear]

SCHOERNER: wasn't like that. We didn't need it. We didn't need to.... And then our policy was....


SCHOERNER: ...not to look to governments and so forth for protection. Our protection was from the Lord.

ZICCARDI: I see. But.... I...I understand how you didn't really require their help.

SCHOERNER: No. We didn't.

ZICCARDI: But...but I was asking about their attitude if you did need it.

SCHOERNER: Well...some of them felt ...felt as if we were a kind of bother you know. They didn't. But it was not their policy to do anything very much out of their way for us. And we didn't ask for it.


SCHOERNER: But of course there were places where perhaps they had more help especially getting over into India for people who traveled at that time went over into India in some of the planes that the ...that the U. S. government brought in supplies and forgot people. But we didn't have that necessity on us then.

ZICCARDI: hmn. Could you tell me a little about the philosophy of Confucianism in China? much a part of the Chinese way of life was it?

SCHOERNER: Well...I think it did govern a lot of the peoples' thinking up until the time that the Communists came. But the Communists brought in something that was... was completely different. And the old people didn't like it very much, didn't like the new philosophies. They liked their old philosophies.

ZICCARDI: I thought that Confucianism had been around for....

SCHOERNER: Oh, yes. It did.

ZICCARDI: ...many centuries.

SCHOERNER: Yes. But you see when the Communists came in, they were...they were opposed to the things that Confucius taught.


SCHOERNER: And well...I can't think of any special place. But Confucius taught...taught people to get along well together in their families and in their village, in their pay deferential respect to elders and things like that which was very engraved in the Chinese life.


SCHOERNER: But when the Communists came, they wanted the youngsters to tell

on their parents if they were doing things that ...that were disapproved by them...the Communists.


SCHOERNER: They would pick up children and ship them off to (well, young people) and ship them off to a far off place away from their home environment and...and their loved ones. And...and it caused a great deal of distress to the parents not knowing where their children were.


SCHOERNER: And they promised...made promises that they didn't keep. They promised to give them a good education. Then they'd turn them loose on the land and say, "Go and scratch for yourselves." Sort of like that.

ZICCARDI: hmn. So Confucianism was basically a moral way of life?

SCHOERNER: It was ethics and morals. Yes.

ZICCARDI: Would...did you have trouble convincing the Chinese of the difference between Christianity and Confucianism?

SCHOERNER: Oh. Yes. We ...we had ...we had posters in which there was a

Taoist priest and a Confucian...Confucius maybe and the Lord Jesus Christ. And there was a man down in the pit. And the two Chinese religionists would say, "You ought to get up out of that." But they didn't put down their han... hands to help them out. The Lord Jesus Christ helped them out of the pit, you see.


SCHOERNER: And they...they often didn' first they didn't quite get what we were saying. "Oh, yes. This is what we believe. You should be good. Be good. Be good." And then we would have to say, "No. But we can't be good of ourselves."

ZICCARDI"hmn. [very softly]

SCHOERNER: And then they would say, "Oh, yes. It's be good." "No," I'd say. "We cannot do this of ourselves. We have to have a savior to help us..."

ZICCARDI: So that their....

SCHOERNER: "...and change us."

ZICCARDI: Was their religion one of self help and good works?

SCHOERNER: It was mostly good works. They thought that they could get if they balanced the scale, then they would avoid the sufferings after death. And they had a lot of things that they.... They had a sort of a doctrine of almost like a purgatory that they had to go through various tortures and suffering before they could move up.

ZICCARDI: I see. Did you become familiar with Buddhism in China also?

SCHOERNER: Well...the religions of China.... Although there...there were three main ones that most of them subscribed to all three of them. They...they wouldn't differentiate. And then they wanted to add....


SCHOERNER: We had to tell them that wasn't the way to do it. They thought that the more they believed and the more they went into these practices of their religion that they would gain some sort of merit and they thought that they all worked some way or other. And they wouldn't fall down between two stools because they had...had a flat bottom rest on.


SCHOERNER: You had to...had to if they were really interested Christianity, they would have to see that these things were false. That the idols were false gods. That the teachings of Confucius could not really make them good.


SCHOERNER: Because they had an evil heart. And that the Taoism also with their idolatry was...was not effective in changing their hearts that we had to have a changed heart. And that was the way we had to deal with that.

ZICCARDI: What were those three re... main religions in China?

SCHOERNER: Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. And most of the people gave lip service to all three. You wouldn't have a pure Confucianist because he had these other things underlying and they thought that the more that they did the better it was for them.

ZICCARDI: I have spoken with some Muslims who....

SCHOERNER: Oh. Yes. We had Mohammedism too.


SCHOERNER: But they were...they were not the Chinese that we had most to do with at the time. Where my husband was they had Mohammedans.


SCHOERNER: And they were very difficult to really bring into the light. We had a few who had of the lepers in our leprosarium who had been Mohammedans and would turn to the Lord.

ZICCARDI: Did some people feel they could be both Muslims and Christians?

Schoerner: Not so much. No. You couldn't couldn't be a Taoist and a Muslim. You couldn't be a Buddhist and a Muslim.

Ziccardi: hmn.

SCHOERNER: That was....they had very .... Well, we were uncompromising, and so were they.

ZiCCARDI: hmn. Tell me something about Chinese superstition. We hear a lot about those in the United States.

SCHOERNER: Well. I...I find it very hard tell.

ZICCARDI: Some kind of the things that a housewife might have...


ZICCARDI: ...for keeping her home protected from spirits or....

SCHOERNER: Well...they had ...they had a spirit screen in front of

of your door front of your gate from the street...


SCHOERNER: ...because spirits could only go in one direction. They couldn't turn corners.


SCHOERNER: So they would hit up against the spirit screen, bounce back, and go on in another [laughs] direction. And well, I don't know. There is several things that...that they use to have...have a strange idea. They said if you go out in the rain without covering your head, you'd get lice in your head because the rain made lice.


SCHOERNER: And that was something that we had to argue with some of them about [laughs] because you could only catch lice from people who had lice.

ZICCARDI: Were there superstitions involving birth, birth of children?

SCHOERNER: Well...yes. There were...there were a number. They...they had certain diet prescribed for the mother after the child was...was born. Eggs and more eggs. And sugar on the eggs and so forth. Poached eggs with sugar in it. Things like that.


SCHOERNER: So whenever we had...had a baby why we were deluged with eggs.

ZICCARDI: Were these superstitions tied in with their religions or were they....

SCHOERNER: No. I think it's more old...old wives' tales sort of thing. Just like the acupuncture. I...I understand it's become a science over here now.


SCHOERNER: But the way I saw it was pure superstition because they said that they had to...had to puncture these places to let the evil spirits out. That's the way the old women did it.


SCHOERNER: And one time there was a girl that had cholera. And I had some medicines for her, but it...she wasn't getting well quick enough. And so they called in an old lady to give her...give her some acupuncture. And I had some disinfectant with me, so I disinfected and boiled the needle up real well and gave it back to her. And she ran it through her head to get it greased up again to use on [laughs]...on the this girl. Though she did get well. But I ...I was awfully scared [laughs] that she would start some kind of infection....


SCHOERNER: Because you couldn't think of anything more germy than her hair.


SCHOERNER: Cause well...she wasn't very...very...a very cleansly person. She only did it.... That was the difference. We didn't think they were so sterile about their ways. But they wouldn't to be called dirty people because they had their ways.


SCHOERNER: And their cleanliness was more like a ceremonial cleanliness. They had certain vessels. You know. The Bible says vessels unto honor and dishonor. And they had vessels unto dishonor. And you didn't wash your feet in the the same basin that you washed your face and hands.


SCHOERNER: And things like that. It was.... And they would cons...they considered us really a little uncouth because we bathed all over in the same bathtub, you see.


SCHOERNER: And so there were differences that ...that were fairly difficult get across just what...what we should do. The woman would say....and she'd wash our cups you know. She'd serve us with tea. And she'd wash our cups and then she'd get a grayest...looking almost gunpowder gray [laughs] rag and wipe them out for us [laughs] after she'd scalded them out.


SCHOERNER: And so we just had to close our eyes and say, "This isn't germy. [laughs] This is going [laughs] to be all right."

ZICCARDI: So you found that the culture of the Chinese people was...


ZICCARDI: ...markedly different from what....


ZICCARDI: were use to.

SCHOERNER: Well, it was very different. We had to always boil our water.


SCHOERNER: And we boiled milk. We always ate cooked vegetables. We never ate raw unless we knew where they had been raised. And then we could use boiled water to wash them.


SCHOERNER: Cold boiled water. Something like that.

ZICCARDI: I suppose one of the biggest questions that missionaries...young missionaries today considering going to the field are asking themselves is "How am I going to able to adjust to a foreign culture?" Now what advice would you give to young missionaries? What attitudes should they take with them going to another culture?

SCHOERNER: Well...I think that it's just like when you have...when you can control it yourself, be very careful. When you can't control it yourself, don't offend, but trust the Lord.

ZICCARDI: I don't understand what you meant by controlling.

SCHOERNER: our own homes we always boiled our water. We always washed things in boiled water. Washed our dishes in boiled water. And things like that.


SCHOERNER: But when you're in somebody else's house, just trust the Lord.

ZICCARDI: As far as eating their prepared food...


ZICCARDI: And living [unclear].

SCHOERNER: Yes. Because you could offend them.

ZICCARDI: So it'''d advise to be aware of the social norms in the culture you're...


ZICCARDI: ...a part of.

SCHOERNER: That's...that's of course the matter of...of cleanliness. And to be conscious of ...of their...of their likes and dislikes and not try to offend.


SCHOERNER: And there will be plenty of people that'll help them. Help them to see just in whatever locality they are just what is expected of them. And I remember a friend of mine was telling me when she was in Brazil. And

she was going out visiting. She was told that she had to drink this strong

coffee in the small cups. And she came back, and she was looking very....she was having really a bad time. And she said, "Do I really have to drink

all that coffee?"


SCHOERNER: And the...the senior missionary looked at her and said, "What do you mean? He says, "I have drunk... I have drunk dozens [laughs] of cups of coffee today."


SCHOERNER: And it was really making her very nervous. And then she said, "Well, you can always explain I've just been so and so's house and had some."


SCHOERNER: And she could refuse.

ZICCARDI: Did you think of the scripture where Paul says he was all

things to all people that he might win some?

SCHOERNER: Yes. I think that's...that is where it doesn't anything to do with...with idolatry. So many of the Chinese customs of course have to do with their idolatry.


SCHOERNER: And there you have to draw a line. But where it doesn't have anything to do with idolatry, and it is customary just like when you go to see...see a new baby you take a gift.


SCHOERNER: And when you go to another place you do something else. You have.... There are certain sets of things that one does.


SCHOERNER: But where it comes to idolatry they understand and very

few of them will...will press anything on you that would...that

would be abhorrent to you.

ZICCARDI: As the Chinese people came to believe in Jesus as their savior, what kind of expectations did you place on them as far as changing their life style?

SCHOERNER: a rule if it was a real conversion they did change the things that they did. Now for instance at New Year's time they put up variousposters well...not posters but strips of paper with various... various characters on it. And with "good luck," "happiness," and "long life," and all that. And those things when they became Christians they put up Scripture verses on those things on their door. Things like that.


SCHOERNER: So that they made a difference. You could tell a Christian home from a non-Christian home. Of course it was more difficult where changes having the spirit houses on their mantle pieces as it were.


SCHOERNER: And those things. If they left those up that meant trouble for them.


SCHOERNER: Because they were afraid of trouble to take them down because there was only one person in the family that believed. And there was nothing could be done. But if the family professed to believe, as a family, they should take down that because it became the center which the evil spirits would come out and come upon these people and make them say all sorts of terrible things.

ZICCARDI: Did the Chinese believers ever come to feel that you American missionaries that you were trying to impose on them something similar to what the Judaizers did to the Greek Christian...early Greek Christians?

SCHOERNER: Oh...I don't think the Christians felt that way. Maybe there was some that did. But I know that they wanted to know if Christmas was a new thing for most of them.


SCHOERNER: And they wanted to know.... Christmas was a new thing for most of them...


SCHOERNER: ...and they wanted to know how we...we observed Christmas. And we perhaps foolishly had a Christmas tree.[unclear] And the Chinese woman that was working for me, she would tell them,...she said "Now this ...this is the tree that bears the fruit of the Spirit and all those beautiful things on the tree were different fruits." And she was preaching away to them.[laughs] And they thought it was quite [laughs] wonderful. And they did enjoy coming and seeing the Christmas tree. And we had lights. Well...we had candles. We had even candle light by the Christmas tree because we didn't have any electric lights at that time.


SCHOERNER: And they...they even enjoyed...even enjoyed having a little bit of fun with Santa Clause and things like that. Of course it wasn't...we didn't ...we didn't consider it as a a religious thing. But this was the way that ...that we could have a social time and have fun with them. And they enjoyed that. They didn't think that there was anything out of... color by it.

ZICCARDI: hmn. What would you say were the highlights of your twenty years as a missionary in China? Things that gave you the most satisfaction and joy.

SCHOERNER: Well...I think that sometimes that when you go to a new station and you ...and you see people coming out to hear the Gospel and you go through the streets and you have people running out from a shop and asking you questions about the...the scripture portions that they have received and helping them with this and that. That was a very wonderful thing to have...


SCHOERNER: ...happen to us.

ZICCARDI: How did you find raising children on the mission field to be?

SCHOERNER: Well...of course I couldn't put quite so much time into the work. Usually we didn't have too much help. And they were my responsibility mostly. And their food and everything. You couldn't slip up even if there a few slips and they'd get sick. Then it took them a long time better.

ZICCARDI: hmn. Did you feel that your family was closer as a unit because you were in a strange culture with your children being young?

SCHOERNER: Well...we never had our children all together until we left China because some of them were at school and some of them were at home. And one of them was at school when the...the fourth was born. So he didn't meet his little brother until he came back two years later and...and so forth. So we were...we were mostly a separated family towards the end anyway. We had...we had good times with the children where we traveled. We only had two when we traveled over across China to the Northwest. We only had two. They...they rode in baskets. And in baskets on our...on our bicycles. We took them ...took them along with us part of the time, and then we put them into ...into their ...their the baskets in the cart.


SCHOERNER: And it was...if it was that...that one of them we almost lost during the time. Because there wasn't proper food along the way. It wasn't easy to get hold of the kinds of things that they needed.

ZICCARDI: I've heard that some missionaries say that raising their family on the mission field were very special because the children weren't subject to all the dividing influences that they...they would've had in the American culture. And that was...that was what I was asking about.

SCHOERNER: the time they were really more conscious of that we had them over here.


SCHOERNER: And we were very happy that we were all together because I was thinking...thinking often that was our prayer that we wouldn't be separated and some of them held over in China because the Communists could've done that very thing. They...they separated families...put the parents in prison...and left the children at home with the servants.


SCHOERNER: And things like that. We had friends that this was what was happening at the time when we all got out in group. And...and we were very happy about that.

ZICCARDI: What year was it that you left China?


ZICCARDI: And how...tell me about the circumstances that led up to your leaving?

SCHOERNER: Well...we got the children home for Christmas holidays, but about that time we were told that ...that we should try and apply for our exit visas. And so we had the children at home for the last two and a half or three months. And it wasn't until March they were...they were home at Christmas time and then it wasn't until March that we were allowed to leave. And we were going to the office every day to try to get permission to leave, and then we had to get permission. We were shunted from one office to another. And finally they told us we couldn't go by plane, so we had to go by truck. And then we went out that way. And then we didn't get to the train. We had a four day flight before we got to the train.


SCHOERNER: We got on the train. It was easier going. You could go in just a few days what it would take you to go by truck. And we just about two days on the way and got out to Hong Kong.

ZICCARDI: hmn. Then you returned to the United States?


ZICCARDI: And where did you take up your residence?

SCHOERNER: took us a little while to find a place to live, and ...and we were with relatives for a while. And then we...we had a apartment that was scheduled to be torn down near the [Moody Bible] Institute where we stayed for a short time, and then we moved down to the south side[of Chicago]. And we were over in another part of Chicago and then we moved here to Evergreen Park.

ZICCARDI: I meant to ask you about your looking at your missionary work as a whole. I asked you what satisfying things were. Also what were the things that were most fearful to you? And the greatest trials you had? Danger to family or....

SCHOERNER: Of course there was the danger of disease, but...then there were ...then were the times we weren't sure just what the Communists were going to do with us.


SCHOERNER: And that was rather scary at times. The Lord brought us through all right.

ZICCARDI: And what have you been involved in since 1951 here in the Chicago area?

SCHOERNER: Well...of course coming home I had to be the ama and the cook and the table boy, [laughs] every...gardener and everything so that my work in the home was just about most of what I did. Of course I did take some things and so forth. Since coming here to Evergreen Park I have gotten into Bible studies and done that kind of work.

ZICCARDI: Are you...are you still affiliated with the China Inland Mission?

SCHOERNER: Well, yes and no. We go there for their monthly prayer meetings and we'er ...we are still getting...their papers and things like that. But my husband is closer affiliated to the Bible Institute now then...then...

ZICCARDI: The China Inland Mission?

SCHOERNER: ...the China Inland Mission.

ZICCARDI: hmn. Tell me about what you expect for the Chinese Christian today?

SCHOERNER: Well, we have to pray for them. That's one thing. The last things some of the people said. They came and said "Pray for us. You can always pray for us."

ZICCARDI: What would you say their needs are?

SCHOERNER: Well...their need is for courage and for protection and, oh, the ordinary needs of people that...that are a minority. They are a minority people if they keep on being Christians in the midst of Communism. And they are discriminated against. That they might be courageous and that they might not be cowed by persecution.

ZICCARDI: So those would be the main things?

SCHOERNER: hmn. Yes.

ZICCARDI: I see. Well...I want to thank you for giving me the interview and telling about your life for the archives.


ZICCARDI: Do you anything you'd like to add? Anything I might not have asked you about? Or might have commented on?

SCHOERNER: No. It's been rather hard associate certain things with the way that you asked them. But just like the philosophies of China and their superstitions. I would know them, but I can't always recall just what it was that they did and why they did it. But I was considered that acupuncture was a...was a...was a piece of demonology as far as I was concerned.


SCHOERNER: But perhaps it does have its values. The way it was practiced by the old grannies it was certainly demonism almost at its worst.


SCHOERNER: And we came up a lot against demons. I think our difficulty was perhaps sort of an indifference, prejudice against things foreign . They had...they had already decided that they did not understand what we said. And so that they just closed their hearts and closed their ears to what we were trying to say.


SCHOERNER: And then demonism was something that was very real. We saw it working in them. I mean, we didn't see any demons. Of course they tell us...the Chinese told us that the demons cannot be seen by Christians. But the Chinese people who believe in them see actually something. And it's rather scary at nights when things go pop in the night [laughs] and things like that when you're alone in an outstation or something like that. And you don't whether it's a rat or just what it is.


SCHOERNER: But it''s a little bit scary. You call on the Lord to protect you.

ZICCARDI: Thank you, Mrs. Schoerner.


Send us a message

Return to BGC Archives Home Page

Last Revised: 4/27/99
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2005