This is a complete and accurate transcript of the second oral history interview of Richard Edgar Scheel (CN 83, T3) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations, such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers should remember that this is a transcription of spoken English, which, of course, follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
Note: English language reference works on Ethiopia seem to make it a point of honor to make sure that at least half of the Ethiopian place and ethnic names are spelled differently than those in any other English language reference book. For this transcript the transcriber used as definitive Area Handbook for Ethiopia, published by the U.S. Government Printing Office in 1971 and Area Handbook for Somalia, same publisher, 1977. Place names mentioned by Scheel are spelled differently than those in these volumes when his pronunciation indicates he is using a different spelling. The definitive spelling is given in brackets.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
() Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Robert Shuster and was completed in September 1993.
Collection 83, #T3. Interview with Richard Edgar Scheel by Mary Ann Buffington, February 13, 1980.
BUFFINGTON: This is an interview of Richard Scheel by Mary Ann Buffington for the Missionary Sources Collection of Wheaton College. This interview took place at Dr. Scheels office in Wheaton on February 12, 1980 at 3 pm. [Tape recorder turned off and on, followed by a long silence]...going on.
SCHEEL: Did you want to introduce it again or did you think you had it okay in your introduction?
BUFFINGTON: I think I had it okay in the introduction, so now its just...
BUFFINGTON: ...beginning with the background again.
BUFFINGTON: I'm sorry.
SCHEEL: No, no problem. I think we indicated in our previous tape that we'd done a fair amount of eye disease and the Lord gave us this training back in Nigeria back in 1951. And as I look back on those eighteen months spent in Kano, I feel they were invaluable. We made friends, we had orientation, and some of the folk in our lives at that time made indelible impression on us in giving us training and help which have stood us for more than twenty-five years in our service in east Africa. In Ethiopia we find an incidence of around ninety percent trachoma or eye disease. The WHO [World Health Organization] have also made studies and they finally quit [chuckles] taking samples and surveys and they go into a village and work in the market or into the school and just give medicine to everybody, feeling the disease is so widespread. There's a group in Europe (they're also in Wheaton) called CBM. Their location in Wheaton is on Roosevelt Road. They have taken over the property previously owned by Greater Europe Mission. In this country they are called Christian Blind Mission. For more than fifty years they served in Europe under the name Christoffel-Blindenmission and about 1968 they became interested in our work in Ethiopia and they've been very generous in supporting and helping us in eye work. We began with two teams, perhaps eight workers, and these folk would go into a village and they would live for four weeks. The first week was spent in case finding: going through systematically through the entire village, visiting house to house, checking everyone, noting where there was trachoma, whatever eye disease, what was amenable to surgery, what needed medication. And then weeks two, three and four were spent in giving treatment. In a central location twice a day, the folk would gather and receive their treatments. In the evenings the team would do literacy work and this was a tremendous opportunity to not only teach the folk to read (because illiteracy is more than ninety percent) but also to get the Gospel out. In the homes where there were young people, children for example who had learned to read in school, a Gospel was left. And during the eighteen months, two years that this program was in effect, we covered an area forty miles wide, sixty mile long and every home in every village was visited. Some of this was done by air. Most of it was done by trek. And I say hats off to the ladies and to the nationals who helped. I had a very minor role in supervising it and encouraging it, but the main work was done by Ethiopian staff. And we just thank the Lord. And in hindsight we look back and we feel that it was God's way of getting a testimony out to an area that was perhaps ninety-nine percent Mohammedan. And getting the Gospel to them and getting the word of the Lord to them before it would close. You see, even though in those days we were restricted, with the medical facility we were given an open door to go anywhere and others could not do this but with our medicine we were allowed, so at the same time we were able to give them God's Word. The other thing that we have mentioned as far as an opening was the famine. This occurred in '73, '74 and on into '75. The main famine was over in '75 and from then on it was community development and seeking to rehabilitate the folk. And for this we received ten young people (women) from Europe who came to do community development. This was an integral phase where their immediate needs had been met but now we had the opportunity of giving training and helping them with alternate forms of economic income. You see, for the most part they were farmers and the land that they were living on was area that had previous been meant for, probably, grazing. The Americans came in there in the early '50s, cleared the area of malaria, the people moved in, began farming. But the rainfall is not sufficient to produce adequate harvests. And in the early '70s there had been succeeding years...three succeeding years of drought, so that in '72 there were over a quarter of a million people who died from famine. Famine afflicted two million people. SIM [Sudan Interior Mission] was very fortunate to receive help from the Canadian government. We received over a million Canadian dollars and this was used in famine relief. We also received a hundred short term workers from Canada and these were young people who gave a year of their lives, left Bible colleges, Bible schools and came to Ethiopia and served. This was a great thing. It accelerated the pace of missions in the north of Ethiopia by at least thirty years. Because these folk were innovative and they were not afraid of trekking, they were not afraid of being with the people. And though they did not know the language yet they were a team. Each one from the States or Canada was teamed with an Ethiopian who knew the Lord, who knew the language and was able to be the translator and be the worker to go along side this one from abroad, And in that way needs were met in getting grain out, in getting food out. And then the program of rehabilitation came. And for this we recruited ten from Europe. Two interestingly were from Holland. We'd never had workers in SIM from Holland before. Also we had one from Sweden. But anyway, this was timely because we were receiving a large grant from the Dutch government to build a new hospital and to have two on our staff from Holland impressed the folk who were giving us the money [chuckles]. Well, that was just one of the little things that the Lord used in arranging the program for us. But these ten came. They went to four areas where previously we had done tremendous amounts in meeting the starving hundreds who were afflicted by the drought. Their thought was to introduce alternate forms of income And the US government had made a previous study indicating three hundred industries were applicable to Ethiopia. From this group we selected perhaps ten that we felt would work and give some income for these folk and diversify, so they weren't just dependent on agriculture. Let me give an example. We found that sesame seed was good, that it didn't require a large rainfall. And so we had folk planting sesame seed and they had a good harvest. When the Arabs received the grain, the seed, they immediately took advantage of the folk and did not give them much of a return. And so we determined to help them and get an oil press. Local timber was not adequate, was not the right type. The first press cracked and was of no value because the oil leaked out. So we had two presses made on the Sudan border or a special wood which would not crack and they were trucked into Dessie. Dessie area is very mountainous (we lived at nine thousand feet) and it was difficult to get to the terminal destination in a vehicle, in a truck. However, a British engineer drew a plan as to how to winch it up the mountain and it was to going to take 3 days and so many mules and so on. Well about that time [chuckles] one of the pilots working with World Health [Organization, WHO] offered to fly it in. He said, "How much does that weigh?" I said, "Thirteen hundred pounds." "Well," he said, "I can winch up to a ton." So he kindly lifted that press with his helicopter winch and dropped it on the top of the mountain. What took three days he did in ten minutes and put it in place so that the people had the use then of the oil press. This took the thing one step further. We had them with sesame seed [sic]. Now they were able to grind it and that press was going twelve, fourteen, sixteen hours a day, producing oil. And now they are marketing a product in cooking, a variety of procedures. And actually overnight made their income four times what it would have been just with the seed. Well, the girls were very innovative and they found they could go one step further and use the oil to produce soap. Here's a culture that had not known soap, a folk who needed hygiene and health teaching and so they're producing soap. And in addition they were teaching wea...weaving, they taught leather work, they had chicks...eggs brought in and did poultry, they did tree planting, they built homes, they did beekeeping, they collected grass and made brooms. They had a project making various types of brooms. And all together there were about ten projects these girls had going which diversified the economy and gave these folk a help in getting adjusted again to making a living. Well the ones who were receptive, the ones who took this were the ones who had shown an interest in what the mission had to offer, namely those who were saying yes to Jesus Christ and becoming believers. And when we left the area back in '77, at Ruga [?] the church had been established and this is tremendous that out of community development, out of famine, the Lord planted a church in the Muslim area. Not a large group, but a handful who meets on Sundays and who worship Him because of what the mission had done in a Muslim area in bringing help in a time of desperate need. I think that covers community development. We could go quite a bit more into detail about that. But it gives an idea about a new trend that the Lord is giving in missions and this is being duplicated I believe in the Dominican Republic and other areas of Central and South America. Also SIM is having success in Nigeria with the same idea. There they are using a hatchery and a project to use chickens. Another question.
BUFFINGTON: Okay, well you mentioned the trachoma. What other diseases did you find prevalent or...well, in the country that you were working in?
SCHEEL: Other diseases that were prevalent? Actually when we did the trachoma project the government was the Marxist government and they were coached by the Chinese. The Chinese had what they called barefoot doctors. Actually, that's a misnomer. They weren't barefoot and they weren't doctors. But the idea was that they were local people who went to the rural areas. And this was the system that we began using. We chose local people, for the most part Christians, but brought them in and previously in Soddu in the south the government has insisted that our program be a three year training program. Now the officials were content that it be four weeks, six weeks. At the end they would certify them as health workers and allow them to go out. This was tremendous, because instead of a long training period, we could give them a month's training and then put them into the remote areas. And they were people who knew the distant location, knew the terrain and could get about. Each one was given a mule (we had thirty-five) and it's true, their initial training was trachoma and at the same time we trained them in leprosy. So the first year they were out (actually nine months, for the three months with the rains it was impossible to get about) the first nine months that was their task, to give leprosy treatment and to care for the eyes. But then each year during the rainy season we would bring them in for refresher courses. And our thought was every year to teach them one new disease. The first year they came in we taught them typhus and typhoid and relapsing fever. Their thought was over a ten year period we could give them the ten most common diseases and in this way they could care for eighty, ninety percent of what they would see and the remaining ten percent refer in to a center where their was a hospital and get more sophisticated care for those cases. And in this way we had thirty-five who were going about treating common illnesses like malaria and giving help and at the same time being a Gospel witness. Now, I can't claim that all thirty-five were evangelists. I don't want to give that impression, because again we're talking about a Muslim area, we're talking about local people and in some cases the response had been good but in others, no, they were not Christians. But for the most part we tried to choose Christians and we tried to encourage them and we had a supervisor and two deputies who would go about and visit to encourage them and to check on their work and on their movement, making sure they were busy and doing the job and that the medicine was being given out. And so I feel this was another way to reach two, maybe three million with the Gospel words. We were just a small handful on the base station, but at the same time we were used...able to use then local staff and to get witness out in a short period of time. Now in hindsight we can see that though the country is closed, yet the Lord used that to evangelize a province which previously had not been reached.
BUFFINGTON: Where did you get your medical supplies?
SCHEEL: Originally we ordered from six, maybe eight different countries. When we first went to the field I was responsible for this. In the interim the Lord gave us pharmacists. I imagine at one point we had three, maybe four trained pharmacists on the field. We set up our own pharmacy in Addis Ababa. They supplied many clinics. They supplied five SIM hospitals and perhaps ten or fifteen other mission hospitals. MAP [Medical Assistance Program] here in Wheaton shipped many surplus drugs. I know of one shipment alone that brought four truck loads of medicines to us. I think it was around ten, maybe fifteen tons that came in that one shipment. But this was a very great help in meeting the needs of...well, we used to call it "Third World." Actually, one of the recent articles indicate it was "Fifth World." And in fact Ethiopia is one of the ten poorest nations in the world, the average income being something like less than eighty dollars per person per year. Anyway, with the MAP drugs we were able to help and give them free medicine that had been provided by the kind drug companies in the United States. Also W H O [pronounces each letter seperately] and UNICEF gave certain base drugs like pherasulfate [?] for anemia and certain worm medications and we got regular help with that. All of our leprosy medicine was from UNICEF, particularly for children in caring for leprosy. Some of the research drugs that we used for cases of reactional [?] leprosy were given by SEVA [?] and Swiss companies for free and we would furnish reports then as to how the medicine was...what the reaction was, what the response was in case of experimental use on cases who has not been able to tolerate the sulfone drug. But there were other medicines, of course, that we had to go and buy on the open market. But in contrast to the early days where I would have to do the ordering, with the pharmacy, they were able to find the best price and order from Holland or England or Italy, wherever they could get a good buy and that way pass on the saving to the missionary and the local hospital. A case that comes to mind is one of the antibiotic from Italy, Lapetite [?]...what is it? One of the Italian companies gave a good price on antibiotics and the pharmacy was able to get a good quantity. Again we had a special shipment of eye medicine made up to specification from Germany when we did the trachoma project. In the time of famine we had a special consignment of interventus fluid made up by a Swiss company, Vivor [?] which was flown in to meet a need of, well, people who were moribund from dehydration and the fluids were flown in to help at that time. And the pharmacy helped with the logistics of getting all this, in getting these medicines. So in contrast to the early days, where one doctor was responsible, in the end it turned out we had a big operation in Addis, with perhaps fifteen, maybe twenty employees supplying a large number of clinics and a number of hospitals, making it easy for us.
BUFFINGTON: What sort of facilities did you have in the way of...in your hospitals for your patients? Did you have extremely...well, maybe you want to talk about your hospital facilities on the...?
SCHEEL: Originally at Dessie...this was our last station. Originally at Dessie we had a mud wall hospital. This was adequate but it was not what I term hygienic. And that was why we appealed to the Dutch government and they graciously made a grant and...(it was a third of a million dollars US) and built us a brand new cement block building. We had sixty beds, thirty beds were for leprosy patients, thirty beds were for eye patients. The general cases were handed...handled in the government hospital in town. At Soddu we also got a hospital started there and interestingly the same people, the Dutch government, provided most of the funding for the hospital at Soddu. This was the hospital that Dr. [Harold] Adolph staffed and where our advanced training program took place. And this was the revival area and once again the program was province wide, because there were trained dressers who had gone out to the rural areas and were operating their own clinics and while it wasn't sophisticated, yet it was a great advance over the witchdoctor. And there being a pagan area, there's been a tremendous response to the Gospel so that these dressers, as we call them, have been local leaders, have been elders in the church and have assisted in getting the Gospel out. And the response there has been tremendous. In the first year that the mission left (that would be 1977, '78) October to October, there were fifteen thousand baptisms although the number of professions, if you wanted to count them would be much, much more. But we know of at least fifteen thousand who confessed the Lord in baptism that year, the first year that the mission had left Ethiopia. And a lot of this was the result of medical outreach in the south. In the north, we tried to do it similarly, but again, I say we are dealing with a Muslim culture and the response has not been [pauses] so tremendous and yet I recall when we went there from our last furlough (this would be 1973) the average Sunday attendance would be between forty and sixty. In the middle of our term we enlarged the building and upgraded and when we left for furlough in '77 the average Sunday attendance was around two-fifty, three hundred people and I feel that even though it was Muslim, yet the Lord gave us a nucleus of Christians who were regularly meeting and worshipping and a number of these are keeping faithful as elders and leaders, encouraging the local Christians and each month we send two tapes for messages to these Christians and they are played in a home. There are about ten, maybe twelve, who understand English and they listen to the tape and then on the following Sunday the pastor takes one of the messages and preaches it to the others so that the message has a wide circle to hear it and encourage them, even in their time of persecution. Some are in jail, some are being tortured for the Gospel, and yet the word that comes back is, "Just pray that we'll keep faithful to the Lord."
BUFFINGTON: What...the fact that the mission was forced to leave. What prompted the departure?
SCHEEL: Now, that's something that I want to clarify. The mission has not been forced to leave. It's been a policy of harassment, where they have just made it increasingly difficult and would not renew work permits. However, there are thirty-six who are still there today. And I suppose this has an effect on keeping us quiet [chuckles] because...because of our thirty-six there we do not say too much about local conditions. We want to keep it so that they are allowed to continue and are not harassed any more than usual. But, yes, you could say we were forced to leave. Our hospital was taken over by the government. If I went back today there would not be a job for me. We had five such hospitals and the government took all five. Interestingly, the ones who've been allowed to stay, the one thing that's operative is the press and it would seem that this would be the first thing that they would take over. But it's still functioning and the Scriptures are still being printed and distributed, which is tremendous. Again, from the corp of teachers, early in '74 the mission indicated they would not teach Marxist philosophy, that they could not teach in the school there is no God, so overnight we had thirty-some ladies who were redundant. But the teachers were seconded to literacy, to multimedia. They've been doing translation and today we have translations in seven tribal languages that had never previously been permitted. And translations and tapes and cassettes are being multiplied for that generation which will never yet learn to read. There are tapes. Even in our own hospital we left a complete set of John's Gospel so that the Christian workers in the ward, on the two recorders, could play John repeatedly to the folk as they came in and get the witness in that way. So that even though our numbers are drastically reduced (at one time we had over three hundred, today thirty-six) yet the Lord is allowing us some part in assisting the church and encouraging them even in this time of curtailed endeavor.
BUFFINGTON: Okay. Going back to the government for a moment. What sort of relations does Ethiopia enjoy with her neighboring countries at this point?
SCHEEL: I think this is one reason why the country hasn't gotten its act together as far as persecution of the church. The most you could say is that there is harassment. In some areas churches are closed. I know of one area in the south where forty churches are closed. But in other areas, like at Dessie, the church is not being punished, but in other area believers are in prison. I don't know of any at Dessie who are at prison. The pastor in a neighboring town Kembolcha, thirty miles away, is in prison along with his wife. The question is, "What relations do they have with their neighbors?" And the answer is, they have civil war with Eritrea and this is northern Ethiopia. Early, the general in control wanted to give regional autonomy to Eritrea and the ruling council negated this and actually the general lost his life over that issue. The second leader [Teferi Benti] lost his life over whether the peasants should receive arms and the ruling council indicated that they should be armed. And, of course, this was dangerous, since you had a state of anarchy, where local people were carrying guns. Anyway, through it all, the Lord's kept his hand on the situation. To the east, there's been constant conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia. And interesting Somalia has gone one hundred and eighty degrees. Five years ago, Somalia was in the hands of Russia, today they're asking the United States and...the United States is negotiating for the possibilities of bases at Berbera and perhaps further south on Somalia territory. To the west Sudan. Their relations are very poor. There are many refugees from Ethiopia lodged in the Sudan. And I don't think there has been too much fighting but certainly there is a state of tension along that border. The only area where there's not real animosity and difficulty is along the Kenya border. But on three fronts Ethiopia has poor relations with their neighbors and this has made them hesitant, I feel, in taking an open stand against the church in putting down Christianity.
BUFFINGTON: Okay. What about their attitudes and relationships with the United States?
SCHEEL: Up until '73, '74, the United States was giving a large grant annually. At one point (I think it was in 1977) President Carter withdrew eleven billion...no, eleven million dollars...eleven million dollars worth of aid, but this was for armament and since this was a country which was not showing [pauses] compassion, not showing human rights, the US government felt they could not use...or allow arms any more. However that same year I think the figures were like thirty million were given in the way of economic and food aid. But because they withdrew the military aid they received a very bad image and a lot of criticism. I don't think any aid is going right now to Ethiopia. Ethiopia is pretty much in the Eastern orbit. There is something like seventeen thousand Cubans there and a number from East Germany have been brought in to teach torture technique. The Cubans have been teaching guerrilla warfare and the impression I have is that the government has systematically tried to eliminate any who were educated. Anybody beyond tenth grade has been sought and the figures I have read are in excess of one million have been executed. I know in March of '77 they were killing at the rate of three hundred and fifty a night. May 1 of '77 in Addis Ababa alone they killed eleven hundred in one night and the hospital...the morgue was right across the street from the mission, so these figures are fairly accurate as to the number of fatalities.
BUFFINGTON: The Marxist government that has now taken over, what sort of influence are they exhibiting on the lifestyles of people at this point educationally and medically, whatever.
SCHEEL: Well, of course, their thought is to reprogram everybody according to Marxist philosophy. Some of this came about in a very natural way. The land, for example, for centuries had been held by shirttail royalty and the national church, so that the local people only own about one third of the land. But in redistribution of land, they just exchange taskmasters and it's the military and the government that owns the land and they are giving fifty percent, seventy-five percent of their harvest to the government, so the situation really hasn't changed for John Q. Citizen. It's unfortunate, because land reform needed to come. And it shows that the basic heart of man is evil and the new government has only taken advantage of a bad situation and used it toward their own ends. However, in the north, when the assignments were made, our governors were men from the air force. The air force had previously been trained by the Swedes, by the Israelis and by the United States, so we came out very well. Our local governors were people very friendly toward the west and this allowed then a great measure of freedom in '74 through '77 when other areas were closing down we were still able to move ahead. Other areas did not move...make out so well. Even today, however, there are men in government who are godly. The man in charge of the air force...I am sorry, the man in charge of defense is an air force officer who is a godly Christian, a member of the SIM church and the only explanation I have for this is that the dictator in charge, General Mengistu [Haile Marriam, head of state from 1977 on] has found that the one person he can trust are Christians. And so he's chosen some of these to be part of his cabinet. Meanwhile these who come in have indicated plainly that they cannot go to excess, they cannot indulge in the same pleasures that some of the others do. But at same time they're allowing the Lord to use them in government. So I don't think the situation is lost and I think in God's time He can open the door for missions and allow the church to resume a lifestyle where they are not persecuted as it is this day. But as the letters and tapes come back, interestingly, the Christians don't ask that we pray that the persecutions stops, they only ask that we pray that God keep them true in spite of the torture that they are experiencing.
BUFFINGTON: Uh huh. What about...? In talking about the influence of the Marxist government it made me think about the hierarchy of government. How is the governmental system structured as far as [pauses]...
SCHEEL: There's a...
BUFFINGTON: ...from local to the top?
SCHEEL: ...man at the top, who's General Mengistu who's pretty much a dictator. it's military style government, But at the local level they've put it in the hands of farmers' communes and this varies from area to area. It's not uniform. Your farmers' commune would be responsible then for the cultivation of the land. It would be responsible for all decisions and everyone is required to attend. Usually the meetings are on Sunday and failure to attend is a three dollar fine, second time five dollar fine, third time five...ten dollar fine. So it's quite rigid, the authority they hold over the people. Interestingly, the folk in Dessie were our neighbors and we had good relations. In '74 I called in the local chiefs, the local leaders and I said, "I want to get two things straight. Number one, we will not tolerate any bloodshed. Number two, I'd rather not have any rioting. If there's any rioting or if there's any bloodshed, we will leave. I hope that's clear." I said, "We're your guests. We have two hundred acres of land. If you feel you need some of our land, you may have it back. We're here at your invitation and we want to respect your authority." Well, they did. They took perhaps a hundred and fifty acres. But then we had to ask that they give a large subsidy or increased subsidy for the leprosy patients, because the purpose of royalty in giving us the two hundred acres was to provide income to support the leprosy program. But during those years, '74 to '77, the Lord gave us friendliness with those local people. Now, it's kind of reminiscent of what's in Revelation [last book of the Bible]. People could not buy sugar, flour, cloth, commodities, unless they're a member of the local commune. And when our local commune opened their store, they called me to the dedication, to the opening and we sat with and had an afternoon of fellowship. And in the program they had a little speech and they had me stand and they said, "We want to tell you that we appreciate what you are doing. We are glad that you've came to our country. We know that in many areas the missionary is being asked to leave. We want you to know, Dr. Scheel, that we will never ask you to leave. We want you here. And further, we want you to know that if some of your patients in the hospital need help, supposing they don't have sugar, supposing they don't need...don't have tea and they're from a distant area. They are not members of our commune. You tell us and we'll see that they get these commodities that they need. We want your patients cared for at the hospital." And I thought this showed a good relationship and like I was saying in our area we got along. In other areas, no. But it demonstrates the anarchy that existed throughout the country. And in many areas the local people were influenced by folk from the outside. In '76 a course was held (six hundred attended) called an agitator's course. And at the end of the course, four weeks long, these folks were sent out to various parts of the empire, one to an area, and introduced to the communes and they were actually agitators. Their purpose was to stir up. And they went into a local area and tried to accuse, make trouble [chuckles] and in many areas were very successful. But the local people through the mission and through the work done in the years that the mission was there had confidence and allowed us to stay and our hospital at Dessie was actually the last the government took over.
BUFFINGTON: What about the Ethiopia...Ethiopian government's relationship with the USSR? Did...?
SCHEEL: That is flourishing. That is flourishing. Now the communists came in in '74 from China, but their work ethic is not Africa's work ethic. [chuckles]. You know how at in the Chinese laundry the man's there at six in the morning and ten at night he's still working hard. But that's not Africa's work ethic, particularly male...men folk. And the Chinese left in '75, '76 and in their place Russians and then as we indicated the Cubans came. And they have a very good relationship with Russia. In '77 they received one billion dollars worth of million...military hardware. This was more aid in one year than the US had given in thirty years. However, it was all military and a lot of it was World War II vintage and not modern or in good repair. However they sought to extend and put their influence and domination on the folk and the impression we have is that Russia [sic] is in the camp of the East.
BUFFINGTON: Okay. In the same vein, what the about the foreign investment made economically in the country besides...?
SCHEEL: I don't have accurate information on this. I do know at one point somebody in Wheaton approached me about making an investment. They wanted to use it for the church and Gospel influence. And all I know when I inquired at that time, the answer I see was that money would be received, but no profit would be taken out. In other words, if it did prove a profitable venture, the profits would have to be plowed back into expansion, capital investment in the company...country itself. And actually this discouraged a lot of foreign investment. Coca-Cola, for example, did not come into Ethiopia until the late '60s and up until 1970, I don't think...there were only about ten industries that had really shown much promise in Ethiopia. However, in the early '70s there were a number of ventures that were very successful and people were experiencing what we had here in the late 80's, the Industrial Revolution, where industry and automation came in and revolutionized their work force and enlarged their cities and gave employment to many who'd been rural up until that time. It also gave a tremendous opportunity for the Gospel because in Addis alone, SIM had five churches with a large attendance and the five...various churches were in various parts of town so that each had a large satellite group that they were responsible for in the way of witness.
BUFFINGTON: What about the role of the woman in Ethiopian society. What role does she play?
SCHEEL: Up to this time she has not had much in the way of leadership. For the most part the woman has been looked down upon. In Christian culture she's been treated as an equal. I can recall in the '60s attending communion and at communion Sunday they would read out a list of those who would not participate in communion and it was not uncommon at all for a man to be barred from the communion table for a six month sentence against him and the offense was for beating his wife and I look upon the Gospel as one of the large forces in giving liberation to the women and giving them a feeling of being on an equal footing with men, that Islam and paganism previously had kept them down and had refused to give them much in the way of advancement or consideration. The king, after the death of the queen, had a lady who did the entertaining and the social calendar of the palace and this woman has escaped to the West (she is living in Indiana) and is involved heavily in relief, particularly to the Ethiopian refugees in the Sudan and that is one case in particular where the woman was elevated to a status in leadership equal to that of any man. I don't think the present Marxist government has continued this. I...I have the impression that they have kept women to a place of servitude and certainly that has been true in Africa all along.
BUFFINGTON: Okay. I don't want to get into anything else heavily, because I want you to talk a little bit about your expectations for growth and the church in Ethiopia, just from your experience and what you know of the needs and your hopes for it.
SCHEEL: Uh huh. At one time at Dessie I think we had ten evangelists. Interesting...interestingly the last letter I received indicated that the church is still supporting one evangelist. And I feel this is great because they don't have much in the way of financial income, and yet these believers, in spite of poverty, are taking tithes and offerings and supporting one man full-time in the work of the Gospel, plus their pastor. In the south, of course, they are perhaps three hundred who are supported by the church and working full time as evangelists and the work of witness and evangelism and missionary outreach is going forward in an unprecedented way. The [pauses] future I think is bright, whether a Marxist government or not. I feel that the Christians will not be intimidated. It is true many have gone to jail for their faith but even young people who have been asked to support political rallies, they refuse. They say, "Our instruments, they're for the service of the Lord" and they have refused to use them in playing at political rallies in seeking to exalt Marxist philosophy. The radio is going forth. One of the first things that happen was the radio station RVOG, Radio Voice of the Gospel, operated by Lutheran World Federation was taken over but in its place the Lord has given the radio station in the Sey...Seychelles Islands. This is a thousand miles off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. It's operated by Far Eastern Gospel Crusade and they have thirty minutes a day now in Ethiopian languages and that's being expanded. My previous administrator, Paul Innes [?] is in Nairobi. He's making tapes in Amharic and these will be broadcasted from the Seychelles back into Ethiopia, Again translation has gone forward and I mentioned the seven languages. But in addition the Somalia Bible has just been issued. There're perhaps a half a million to a million Somalis in Ethiopia and the Scriptures are now available to these folks for the first time who never had the Scriptures in their own language. And so translation, literacy is moving forward. The believers [pauses] realize the importance of witness and in spite of the fact that each person's supposed to work on the land and each person...each person's supposed to be enrolled in the commune, the figures that we have indicate that three hundred are serving as evangelists. The other thing that thrills me is that the church is supporting ninety-eight Bible schools. This means that they are continuing to train young people, and particularly in leadership roles, men who will carry on as...and women too, carry on as pastors and evangelists in days to come. So this is great that they recognize their responsiblity in the indigenous program to be self-propagating. And, of course, there is very little money coming in from the West at this point. Most of it is being supported locally through their own offerings and gifts.
BUFFINGTON: What about the national church? Do you see a future for foreign missionaries coming into the area?
SCHEEL: I am not sure how much missionaries are allowed to trek. I know they are allowed in Addis but I don't know if they're being allowed down country and of course this is where the people are, down country. Addis is considerably different from the local situation in the rural areas. But only God has the answer to that one, as to whether missionaries will be allowed in large numbers again. Certainly Ezekiel 38 would indicate to us that Ethiopia's on the side of the East and I don't know that much of eschatology, as to whether this is the end time or not. The Lord knows that. And that's the comfort I take. Even though I can't go back at this time, even though the church is persecuted, yet the Lord's word is, as He gave it in Matthew...Matthew 16:18, "I will build My church." And He's sovereign. Even though we feel that it's a bit of an eclipse, yet the work is moving forward. I indicated in that first year there were fifteen thousand baptisms and certainly this speaks of health, this speaks of viability, this speaks of outreach and I'm not discouraged. The Lord did not qualify it and say, "I will build My church as long as a missionary is present." No, "I will build My church and the gates of Hell will not prevail." And that's been true in Ethiopia, that in spite of persecution, in spite of torture, the Christians for the most part have kept faithful, have kept true and the Lord continues to bless and honor His word. And I'm not discouraged and if the Lord sees fit to open the doors once again, fine. Missionaries will be willing and anxious to return. A good example is the Sudan. Eight years ago, five years ago the Sudan was a closed country. Missionaries had to leave. Some were given forty-eight hours to get out. But today Sudan is welcoming missionaries. And it's an open door. SIM has five teams right now in the south doing rehabilitation and health and other activity and getting the Gospel to these folk who are very much in need, because of the devastation through the five years when Islam was reignimg and had excluded missions. And so the situation could change. I don't know what the Lord will do in the future. I think that's a good thing. If we knew, we might be discouraged. But certainly in the interim we've been able to send these tapes, we've been able to pray, we have been able to encourage others to pray, we've been able to speak and make folk aware of what is going on, so they in turn can support missions in other countries and get the Gospel out to other areas where the door is open. And even though Ethiopia for the most part is closed, yet we can reach the Father's throne and He in turn will bless His children as they faithfully serve Him.
BUFFINGTON: Well, it's...those are the questions I have. Do you have any other comments you'd like to make?
SCHEEL: No, except this note of optis...optimism. It's very easy to be discouraged, it's very easy to feel, "Was it worth it all?" And I would say, "Yes. It was worth it all." On the way home, I stopped in Europe, I talked with the donors, the people who'd given me a third of a million dollars and their one question was, "Is it still being used as a hospital?" "Yes," I said, "In fact, most of the Christians that we have employed are continuing on. And we encouraged them to be faithful in witness. That was the closing words we had and the closing prayers we had with them were, 'Even though we are not here, the Lord is with you and He will help you.' And as far as we know they are being faithful in witness.' " And so the donor said, "Well, as long as its being used for a hospital, we don't mind whether you're operating it or the Ethiopians are operating it." And I have felt that that was a very healthy attitude. Even so, I am not discouraged. It is true, we gave many years of service. But in all those areas, first of all in Kallafo and in the southeast, the Lord used that to form a nucleus of Christians. In the south, in Soddu, the pagan area, there was this tremendous revival which continues to this day. And now in the north, in Dessie there are groups in Muslim country...or in the Muslim part of the country who are Christians and so I feel the Lord has used His word, He has honored His word and He has proved true and even though at the present we can't be there, yet the work is going forward. The Ethiopians are faithful in their service to Jesus and all indications would be that the church continues healthy.
END OF TAPE