This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of first oral history interview of Wayne Bragg (CN 96, #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, 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 November-December 1986 by Fran Brocker and Robert
Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (65 minutes)
Collection 96, #T1. Interview of Wayne G. Bragg by Mary Ann Buffington, on February 15, 1980.
BUFFINGTON: ...ruary 15, 1980, at 3 p.m.
BRAGG: Do you want to record?
BUFFINGTON: We're recording now. So.... [Pauses] first let's talk about your family background, your schooling, why you decided to come to Wheaton.
BRAGG: OK, I was a...I'm a southerner. And when I was a senior in high school, I decided to go to college. I went to a small Baptist (southern Baptist) junior college, one year. Was given a scholarship for the next year. But I decided not to take it, and opted to come to Wheaton through contact with some Wheaton graduates. Dr. Jimmy Johnson, my pastor. Also in Charleston, SC, was, Grady Wilson, associate now to the Billy Graham Association. And, Iner Basinger and Emily, his wife, all of whom I had met in camp in North Carolina...in South Carolina, King's Mountain Bible Conference. And, I came to Wheaton primarily because I...they had an anthropology department, and I wanted a Christian view of anthropology, thinking that I might go into missions or into evangelism, and feeling that theology is not enough. You have to know the audience that you're reaching. And Marie Fetzer was a teacher here, and she was also a North Carolinian. , her sister, in fact, and I were good friends. We dated at this camp and.... There's a little anecdote there. I didn't have the requisites to get in. That is, I lacked geometry. And so after my first year in junior college I went back, worked a year in a cotton mill in Kannapolis (Cannon Mills), to earn money for my first year at Wheaton. And I took geometry during, during the day. I worked the swing shift at night in order to get into Wheaton. And Jimmy Johnson told me at that time that he wrote a letter to the President that if they didn't let me in he was not going to recommend the school any more. But I don't know if he did or not. But he was a strong supporter of mine, and, so that's how I got here. In 1950 I hitchhiked on a truck all the way...transport truck we call it, big semi-truck-trailer. Took 2 l/2 days from Charlotte, through West Virginia. We broke down. Got into Chicago, went into the men's room in the trucking terminal, took off my watch to wash my face and hands, get the grime off. My introduction to big city life, somebody stole my watch, [chuckles]. So I came out Roosevelt Road, which was then country, basically, turned in, saw the same little sign up here, "Wheaton College." [unclear]
BUFFINGTON: You had arrived.
BRAGG: Had arrived.
BUFFINGTON: But what about your earlier experience, your family were..., did you have a Christian home?
BRAGG: Okay. My mother was from a Christian home, but she had as they say, sort of grown cold, when I was tiny. We were actually...I was actually born in Georgia between Lewiston and Danielsville, on a farm, a share- cropper's farm really. My dad was a share-cropper. Forty acres, plenty of red dirt, peanuts, watermelons, corn, cotton mostly. And I picked cotton when I was tiny. Mom made cotton bags, picking bags out of, sugar sacks for the kids.
BUFFINGTON: That was your early experience.
BRAGG: Yeah. Then we moved to North Carolina during...well, after the Depression really, but, when I was about 5 years old. And then an evangelist came through by the name of Harold J. Smith, from Portsmouth, Arkansas and had a campaign in town, a tent campaign. And I remember hearing my dad saying, "I would not send a dog down to hear that man," but then he got interested and went down, and became a Christian, walked the sawdust trail, and my brother and my mother. I was nine, eight years old. But a year later my brother kept talking with me, and a year later in an outdoor meeting in the park, another preacher (I've forgotten his name...Dutton) was there, and, I became convicted, and was...became a Christian. I was, I guess, nine years old. And one of the earlier memories was listening to "The Old Fashioned Revival Hour" on the radio. It's all we had. And in fact, I was listening to "The Old Fashioned Revival Hour" the night that Charles E. Fuller's program was interrupted to say that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, and, I remember that very distinctly.
BUFFINGTON: What are some of your remembrances about, Fuller's radio program?
BRAGG: Scripture memorization program. I'd enrolled in that, and went through memorizing scriptures. And, essentially I guess in those days it was alot of preaching on eschatology, Second Coming. Let me say that those were cataclysmic years, you know, war years. And everybody was really anxious for the Second Coming [laughs], or thought it was the beginning of the Apocalypse.
BUFFINGTON: Do you remember any of musical programs that were on, or in the....
BRAGG: No, not really, just the choir.
BUFFINGTON: , perhaps Mrs. Fuller, her letters....
BRAGG: Her letters. She'd read letters from [unclear]....
BUFFINGTON: [Unclear] ...Well, how many brothers and sisters did you have?
BRAGG: One brother. He's older, 2 years.
BUFFINGTON: And you came to Wheaton [unclear]. So while you were at Wheaton, what sort of things were you involved in?
BRAGG: Well, the first thing I joined was the Dixie Club, which no longer exists. But it was the only integrated club on campus. We had Ruth Lewis (who is now Ruth Lewis Bentley), who felt more at home with her southern friends than she did with the Yankees, even though obviously we represented repression for her in some ways. and I wrote for the RECORD, and I wrote for KODON, a reporter, was active in individual sports, in hand ball, weight lifting, and some things like that. I roomed with Gerry Hawthorne when I came here. This redhead from southern California. And he was a great influ ence on me. We're now across the hall from each other, teaching. Immediately, some of my best friends, because I was interested in the ministry...I got in with a group of fellows.... Richard Shrout from Decatur, who was our campus radical. There was Peter Deyneka Jr., Leighton Ford, John Wesley White, Norm Rohrer from Paradise, PA. Let's see...oh, the guy who's teaching history, you know, up in Wisconsin, Frank Nelson. , we had a daily prayer meeting that used to meet in the second floor of what is now Coray gym, every afternoon at about 4:00. And it was sort of this...a group that really sought, you know, to live a life of faith, to pray together. It got quite rowdy. I remember Frank Nelson's loud praying, you know. The windows would reverberate. John Wesley White's long involved, praying. We got to be known, I guess, as sort of a radical group...spiritually radical [unclear]. Leighton was there, all these fellows. , that was, that was probably one of the changing points, this type of friendship. We used to have long, serious discussions about theology, evangelism, and about preaching. At that time, I remember Leighton was, enamored of the Billy Graham style, and he was the only Canadian with a southern accent that I knew of [laughs]. , one day he came up to me, and asked if I could introduce him to Jeannie Graham, which I did. And I had another friend that was dating Jeannie at the time, and he was mad at me because I had introduced Leighton. We used to ride back and forth to Charlotte (see, I.m from Kannapolis, which is just 30 miles from Charlotte) on holidays. We'd go back and forth, car pool (I didn't have a car), and a guy by the name of Bert [pauses] (can't think of his last name right now), had a car, and we'd ride back and forth, Jeannie Ford, (not Ford then), Graham and,...my memory's getting.... [pauses], bunch of kids from Charlotte, Okay? [Laughs]. Used to have a good time together. Gal that married with Stan Hogle, and, Doris, Doris (what was her name)....At any rate we had a...we had a good group, good group of people.
BUFFINGTON: What about teachers here at the...when you were here at school. Who do you specially remember?
BRAGG: Well, I took biology from the,...Russell Mixter is now retired. Went out to the Black Hills, and, he really integrated faith and learning, as we say today. He quoted Shakespeare to us at night around the camp fire and taught us about birds even it wasn't an ornithology course, and taught us a lot of spiritual truths, as well as biology. That was a great experience. He was a good teacher. , obviously since I was studying anthro, [coughs] the anthro teacher (who's now Marie Fetzer...Rayburn, who married William Rayburn who's also an anthropologist)...she was influential in my life. And I guess understood the southern boy who was up here in the cold north. Later I went to do some field research with her in Ecuador, after I'd graduated in the [unclear] vallet.... some other teachers...I had Carl Armerding for one of my courses....In fact he later married my wife and me as a pastor here at College Church. [Pauses] Dr. Cairns, as a history professor..I did switch to history my last year because Marie left and got married. And I'd taken all the anthro courses you could take. So a kind of double major really...poor history major, but more anthro than history.
BUFFINGTON: What bout administration? Who was President then?
BRAGG: Dr.,...(can't answer you straight off)...Dr. Edman. Yeah, he used to...I knew him as most all the students knew him. He was very first name with everybody. He'd walk across campus and say, "Hello, Wayne, how are you?" Or when Ann and I were dating, he'd talk to us. Dr. Fadenrecht was here too, I think, at that time.
BUFFINGTON: About special events, things that happened. Any event that would stand out in your mind as being significant. Events, campus happenings when you were here?
BRAGG: Yeah, special services. We had (boy, this is going back 'cause I graduated in '53), we had a chap from England...we had several....Redpath was one of them that was outstanding in my mind. And, there was another (I can't think of his name right now, an English...). They had special services [unclear]. Basketball was a big thing, in many ways. It's not like it is now. You go in and it's half empty. Almost everybody went to the games. It seemed like a simpler life for some reason, not as many things going on on campus. I joined the Young Democrats. And argued, debated on behalf of Estes Kefauver when he was running. Sang in the "Messiah". That was a high point. This, Robert Shaw, of the Robert Shaw Chorale, came and led [unclear] some workshops. It was pretty much a lot of studying, a lot of,... We built the Library while I was here. I was in fact active as the senior...the junior class representative for raising money to build the present dining hall. That's the only place I'm in bronze [chuckles]. If you go in the door you'll see my name there. And our motto then was, "No More Lines". But I look back with a little nostalgia on the different arrangements we had for eating. We had a small dining hall in this end of Williston Hall, the south end, where it was cheaper, you could...it was a much cheaper rate. And so all of us poor kids and missionary kids, and Bill Henning down the way, (he and I got to know each other then), Norm Rohrer, some others, we used to eat together here. So they had a sort of a stratified eating system. Everybody invited in didn't have to pay the same prices. Roomed with Bill Gray...then my second roommate was Bill Gray. And we moved out to a house because housing was, was more a vail....off-campus housing was used then a lot more. We didn't have the big dorms. And, then my last roommate was Dick Longnecker. He's a theologian of some repute. We used to.... I basically came from a Baptist background, and he came from a Presbyterian. And so we used to get into these long debates over free will. But I never forget about Dick. He was quite an interesting guy. He'd set his alarm every morning, and we lived in the third floor, attic floor, of a family down on Harrison. And, we had this little narrow, sort of den, you know, you'd bump your head if you stood up. But he'd wake up in the morning with his alarm. He'd get up, get his Bible, get on his knees, and in just, (I could predict), in about 3 minutes he'd be snoring again. So I used to cough gently, or make some noise or something, to wake him up so he'd get on with his devotions. He was a good theologian though. So that's some of my memories of campus. Used to have a lot of debates informally among us. I guess that still goes on quite a bit among students. But I think it was right during the Korean War, '50 to '53, and, I was classified 1A and expected to go any time. Except the North Carolina fellows had...they graduated from high school and dropped out and joined the Army rather than go into the cotton mill, and so they just never called me up. But, we had some veterans around still...but not too many. Those had gone...class of '49 or so was about the last big veteran class.
BUFFINGTON: So, when you left Wheaton where was your next stop?
BRAGG: Well, I went to, Fuller Seminary for a year. But before that, let me say this for the record. I think this is important, at least to me. I came here with that $l000.00 that I had saved working in the cotton mill, at 98 cents an hour. And, that ran out after my first year, or just at the end of my first year. [Coughs] But I'd gone to a camp in New Jersey one summer after helping use the services for a evangelistic campaign for Jimmy Johnson in Lancaster, PA. He put me on a bus and sent me down to Harvey Cedar's [?] Bible conference on the coast of New Jersey. So I worked the rest of the summer there. And it was really there that I decided that I would come to Wheaton rather than take the scholarship. Actually the scholarship was to Wake Forest College, Southern Baptist. And, at any rate, I did a little bit of everything there, swept the hallways, carried luggage for conference people. I carried the luggage for this rather elderly couple from Pennsylvania. And,.... Scranton, PA. Mr. John G. Moffett. He was a Scots immigrant, and, had...I found out later had gone into coal mining and done quite well for himself. Well, he called me...he liked my attitude, I guess...and he called me one day and asked if I'd sit down and talk with him. So I sat and talked with him in the sun room there on the end of the porch[?]. And, essentially took an interest in me, and kept writing me, and I told him, you know, I was going to work a year and come to Wheaton. And he encouraged me to come to Wheaton. And, just as that first year was ending here, he wrote me at Easter time and said, "Could you come out, take the train and come out to Scranton and spend your Easter holidays with us?" So I did. And, even sent me money to buy a suitcase, Sears and Roebuck leather suitcase. I got out there and it was a three-story mansion on North Washington Ave. And here I was, sort of a country boy who didn't have a proper sport coat or suit coat or anything. And, so he took he down to his tailor, to a store, and had a suit, a blue double-breasted suit (in fact two of them, a grey one and a blue one) made for me. And then, essentially said that he, you know, that his own children had disappointed him. He'd sent them to Wellesley, and Harvard, and Princeton, some of the best schools, but none had turned out for the Lord. He was a Scottish-Presbyterian. And, so he literally, took me as a son. And, because my father in fact was invalid, had multiple sclerosis, and couldn't really work. Supported me through the rest of Wheaton studies and Fuller, the first year at Fuller, than back to Wheaton. But really, if it hadn't been for that provision, I probably wouldn't have made it. We didn't have the scholarships and money that you have these days.
BUFFINGTON: I'm sure that came in handy.
BUFFINGTON: A real answer to prayer.
BRAGG: He would...he would, you know, without my knowing first who was doing it, he would send a bill, a check to my account. And then I'd go out and spend vacations with him again, and he followed me through.
BUFFINGTON: Did you keep up contact over the years?
BRAGG: Well, he died in 1959 on the operating table. Yes, we had kept...I was already in Costa Rica...no, I had gone to Puerto Rico by then. And he made a provision for us that gave us a start really, of some stocks that, that were put in trust for us. [Unclear] So I went to Fuller for a year, but I felt that they were preparing me mostly for a, a North American ministry. Meanwhile when I graduated from Wheaton the year before I went to Fuller for the summer, I'd gotten together with, with a couple of guys who were interested in Ecuador. And I'd,...that Abe Van Der Puy, who was the brother-in-law of the Erickson family that I lived with here in Wheaton on Harrison. And I kept asking questions. So he said, "Why don't you come down and see what it's like?" Meanwhile my professor had gone to Ecuador, and so I had a reason to go. So three of us got together,...John Mosiman, who is a gospel artist, John Allen, who is a minister and quite a musician, myself. But it made a basic gospel team, and asked the College to sponsor us to go to Ecuador. And they said, "Well, we can't really, because, you know, if something happened to you, we'd be liable." But we went ahead through Christian Service here, and got engagements in the area. We added Clayton Bell, and Jack Ward. Jack Ward, was a musician and a song leader, and Clayton Bell was that too, musician and song leader. And so I did the speaking, John Allen did the music, and he and Mosiman worked together on these chalk talks and the music that went with that everything. And we then we had the song leader. And when we got ready to go, just the three of us went. Clayton Bell, you know, who is Billy Graham's brother-in-law. And, Jack didn't go....they couldn't go, or didn't choose to. So we spent the summer in Ecuador, and it was there really that the, sort of the threads of my life began to unravel toward Latin America, and with the people that were represented with the student work. So when I was there I, spoke at a Youth for Christ meeting in Quito, being interpreted by...can't remember his name right now). And that night I got sick. As soon as I got through speaking, a young fellow from the high school took me in a taxi and took me home. It was altitude sickness. We'd stop the taxi every little bit so I could vomit. That fellow's name was Rene Padilla. Rene wanted to come to Wheaton, and I encouraged him. So he came then a couple of years, I guess a year after I got back. And, when I came to Wheaton from Fuller, he was here, and we started a group interested in Latin America. Really it was a prayer group that met once a week. I was married then by the way. I married Ann Kay when I came back from Ecuador. We'd been going together for a couple of years. Local Wheaton girl, Tom Kay's brother [sister], teaches history. And so Ann and I had an apartment at 310 East Union. Group of us. George Biggs, who had been converted in Korea, from a Brahmin family back in Boston, and his wife, and Ann and myself, Rene Padilla, let's see, Richard Jones, son of the founder of HCJB...(uh, [pauses] can't think of his name now), and another fellow too, used to meet once a week to study Latin America and to pray about it. And we kept...Rene kept telling us, what Latin America needs (see, I was in anthropology and interested in the Indians), what Latin America needs is not someone who would go to the Indians, though that's important. We need to reach the upper classes. That was his constant theme. And he convinced us. We did some study on education in Latin America, and decided to form...to start a graduate school of theology or what have you, Biblical studies, in Latin America, and even aim toward a University. And we got a name, Commission for Education in Latin America, CELA. We registered at the.... We went through the study program in preparation. And, Benton Melbourne was the other fellow who was important in this. We were in grad school together, all of us except Rene, and he just...was just finishing undergrad, philosophy. So I was the first to graduate and they essentially said, "We'll lay hands on you and send you.", so Ann, who had been teaching school here, gave up her job. And I gave up a little church that we had started in Round Lake, IL, called Indian Hills Community Church while I was a grad student here. And, finished writing my thesis one day, packed our stuff the next day, and we left for Costa Rica and language school. Ken Taylor was a member of our church. I was a member of their's, which is College Church. And he called...I remember distinctly, he called us out to his place. It was an old place still before they built their new house, an old ramshackle building. We had a picnic out on the lawn. As we sat there eating a picnic lunch with his numerous family, he said, "Uh, well, Wayne, you know, what do you want to do?" And I told him, and he thought that was great. And he said, "Well, I would say one thing, you should get the language down first very well first." `Cause I was aiming to go right to Chile, to the University of Chile to enroll as a bona fide student to use that as a means to get into the culture and language, and to get literally an education in Latin America so it would qualify me for.... So, most of these other guys were bilingual. You know, Ben Melbourne had been raised in Central America, born in Spain, raised in Central America. And so was Dick Jones, Rene Padilla. George Biggs and I were the only ones.... , so, I did go to Costa Rican language school. We didn't go on any boards. In fact, we'd heard...we'd done some writing. And we'd heard about a fellow by the name of Bob Young, who had gone out with IFES, International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. And, and Bob....we wrote a letter. And he wrote back quickly and, encouraged us. He was sort of an itinerant. He was living in Argentina, but itinerating in Latin America working with university students. And he was a real pioneer, he and Ed Pentecost. Ed went to Mexico many years before that. So he wrote us back and encouraged us to come on down, pursue the idea, higher education with Christian focus. And, so I went to Costa Rica, and these fellows supported me. Basically the church chipped in a little bit. But we were not with a mission board, so how could they really do it, you know. It was that...all those problems.... But each step we took.... Like I remember speaking in the summer school chapel my last summer here when I was writing my thesis in biblical studies, which is what I did my masters in here. And, I spoke in chapel. And a fellow came up to me afterwards...a fellow by the name of Louie, Louie, (I can't remember) from Memphis, TN. And he said (he was just a summer school student, just came up for the summer), he said, "I really liked what you said. I'd like to help you." So the next I knew, he'd given $300.00. And that was exactly what I needed to pay my passage down there, for my wife and myself. He grew pansies. [chuckles] And that was all he did was pansies and sold [them] in the super markets, and, so Louie came up with just the right mon...you know, that's happened time and time again in my life. Just when I needed something, like Mr. Moffett, whatever. But we got down there, went into language school. , Ann was expecting our first baby before we left, which didn't make it much easier for her to leave. And, oh, we had lots of experiences like enforced landing in Puerto Limon because it was socked in with bad weather...first time a big plane had ever landed down there, etcetra. Well, we got there, and, I enrolled in the language...we enrolled in the language school, but also I enrolled in the university because I felt then as I do now that anyone who goes out should, should get as much of the culture of the people as possible. And so I was in the University of Costa Rica, and in the language school. And about 3 months after we got there, sort of limping along in Spanish, we rented a house, a big house near the University of Costa Rica. (Interrupt me any time you like).
BUFFINGTON: Oh, just keep going. I'm just going...checking off all the little questions. [Laughs]
BRAGG: Okay. We enrolled at the University of Costa Rica, and I...and right near there there was a big house with five bedrooms and a big interior patio that was covered, because it rains a lot there. We get literally...we had one fellow that we took in who rode his unicycle around inside there. And we had to [unclear]. We took in...we made a youth hostel, partly to make the rent available to us, partly to learn the Spanish. We had Costa Rican students from the province who came, who didn't have a place to live from the university, so we took them in. And we took them in, and we took a few North American missionary types in like Jim and Kathy Paul, who are now with Central American Mission. So we had a big sort of family affair. And it was there in that home that we began bible studies in Costa Rica, in South America.
BUFFINGTON: Now, how long were you there?
BRAGG: Just a year, from '60, '56, or '66, '56 to '57, Okay.
BUFFINGTON: ...in Costa Rica.
BRAGG: ...In Costa Rica, and Dick, our oldest, was born there. Then Stacey Woods came through from IFES. Let me back up just a little. I had, we had gone to him, Rene Padilla and I had gone to him here in Chicago [on] North Astor when the IVCF and IFES were all in the same.... And Rene wouldn't go in to talk with him because he had talked with him at a conference, and, he had promised to send him some materials and never wrote him. And that offended Rene, but he stayed out in the park along the lake shore there while I went in and talked with Stacey. And Stacey received me in his typical, you know, Australian fashion, very sort of brusque, and saying, "Well, we don't really need more people out there. We need better ones," which is sort of a cop-out. But he said, "We'll recommend...we'll cooperate as you go out, but we won't take responsibility for you." And, so after the year, he came down to see what was happening. He saw the bible study going, flourishing, and spoke at the language school. And one day sat down on a park bench there in San Jose and asked if I'd join the staff. And instead of going on to Chile, where I'd planned to go, there was a fellow from Lima from the group there who'd already gone to Chile to start work. So there wasn't as big a need. So he asked if I'd go to the Caribbean. Well, that was a big decision. I didn't want to go to a tropical island. I wanted to go to Chile. But anyway I thought it over, and we decided to go to the Caribbean. And that's where in 1957 we ended up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the big university there, really it was in Rio Piedras, but at the big university there. And I had, Central America and the Caribbean was my bailiwick at that time. And I started in the University as a bona fide graduate student in Spanish studies. I was the only foreigner studying Spanish studies, and that was the most nationalistic and independent, department in the whole university. And it was sort of a hot bed of, radicals, from the point of view of wanting to be independent. So they thought sure, you know, I came in, (I had a black briefcase), and they were sure that I was a CIA. [chuckles] So I had to convince them that I wasn't. So that's how the student work got started in Costa Rica, and then we started.... And then Melbourne went down to Costa Rica after I left. Meanwhile, just to give you the thread, we...this little group of people that had formed the group, the study group on Latin America and the mission for education, we got some money together and I took Rene and Benton and myself...we met in San Jose, and then from there we went down to Cochabomba in 1958 to the first all Latin-American conference of university students that was held.
BUFFINGTON: Did you organize it or...?
BRAGG: Bob Young had organized it, but I was bringing sort of contacts from the Caribbean. And, then we tacked on to that a trip all through Latin America exploring the possibility of Christian higher education. And we dis- covered it would probably be counter-productive to try to start an institution, and it would be better to work with the universities that existed and not compete with them. And not draw all of the evangelical teachers out of the places that they were. And, so we disbanded officially. Meanwhile we'd gotten Rene...Samuel Escobar, to join us, who was a Peruvian. And in 1959 at Messiah College, we met just before going to Europe for a conference, and we disbanded officially. But then we dedicated ourselves to student work. So Rene then came into student work, having gotten me interested in Latin America and then he...then I got him interested him in student work.
BUFFINGTON: Well now, what did you do? How did he function? You were functioning under the,...
BRAGG: Yeah, well, he came out then in 1959 or '60 under IFES, and Samuel came under IFES. And so we began, and Benton Melbourne worked with us for a while in student work in Costa Rica. And so we formed the first phalanx, the first cadre of individuals working in Latin America, along with Bob Young. But Bob left in '59 just as we were starting in and went back to his doctoral work.
BUFFINGTON: Well, you started the work. But now I want to know some of the nitty gritty details...
BUFFINGTON: ...about the reception of the students, how did you go about getting the word out?
BRAGG: Okay. Alright. Each place was individual. In Costa Rica because I was a student, and because some of my Engl...my Spanish teachers were university kids and Christians, we, I just invited them to our home. And then we joined together with those students we'd invited to live with us, some who were not Christians. And incidentally, that group is still going. I mean, it's not a university group any more. It's a group of professionals. I met with them last summer...in fact, about every year now for the last couple of years. Essentially the same group now is all professionals, most of them university professors, meet about every week and have very good input into the govern ment. There's a journalist there, who is a leading journalist in Costa Rica, and the head of the biology department at one university, linguistics, English, and so on. There's a lawyer here. That same group still, still meets...which is really amazing to me. , alright...in Puerto Rico the way I got started was by enrolling in the University, and generally making some contact with a few pastors. But there was a fellow from Paraguay who was on an exchange program for a year, by the name of Cesar Acevdeo. A C E V D E O., so Cesar and I got together and decided we would start meeting every morning for prayer at 7:30 on campus, out by the library steps. And then one night, a young fellow came knocking on the door, and he had a girl with him, by the name of Jorge Cuevas[?]. Jorge and Miriam said we hear you're, that you're here to start university work and we'd like to help you. So out of that grew the Asociacion Biblica Universidad (ABU) of Puerto Rico, which incidentally is still going strong. , the going was hard in that situation, because there was an association under the old ACCA, or the World Council of Churches group. , I'm trying to think of it in English (Asociacion Christian...), World Student Federation. They had been going there a number of years, connected with the seminary, which was a quasi-liberal seminary, I guess. And, they fought our entry to the university there quite strongly, tried to blackball us. We tried to cooperate with them, but they didn't want to. And, well, to make a long story short, it was very, very hard to get going in some ways. But the group was evangelistic and we began to reach out, and about the second year Billy Graham came to Puerto Rico, and I was on one of the organizing committees [coughs]. And, so we decided to create a group, a team of students that would go and do follow-up in the follow-up meetings and pray with the people that came down. And so I prepared Jorge and several, a bunch of us, and we got in the...in San Juan we went to the meetings there. We got into a car and went out to Mayaguez, on the other end of the island, and worked in follow-up there. And, we essentially stood at the place where the candidates came through and looked at the college age kids. One of the meetings was on the campus of the college. And, it was there that I...we dealt with six or eight, college age kids [who] became a Christian. So then I started doing follow-up every week. I'd drive around to the meetings and the Bible study. And we found a layman there who [was] down with the guided missile project, a Wheaton graduate by the name of Chris Dietz, Christian Dietz. We'd known each other here. We just saw each other at that meeting. , his home was open to us, and he had [unclear]. And out of that group eventually came the fellow who took my place in Puerto Rico, a fellow by the name of Louis [unclear name].
BUFFINGTON: But were you trying to train nationals to...
BRAGG: ...to take over?
BUFFINGTON: ...to take your place?
BRAGG: Oh, yeah. My goal each place I went was to work myself out of a job. And, so I had the Caribbean area, and I was ready to go sooner in Puerto Rico, but later in Haiti and Dominican Republic. And so, it was a...I stayed there really nine...nine years in the Caribbean, counting Costa Rica, seven years without a furlough. We finally came home for furlough, went back for two years. And then went to Brazil from there.
BUFFINGTON: What countries were you...were you always in San Juan or did you move around the Caribbean?
BRAGG: Well, we...I left the family in San Juan because there was dictatorship in Dominican Republic, and dictatorship in Haiti, dictatorship in Venezuela, and dictatorship in Cuba. So it wasn't very, conducive to family, and to getting in and out. So I left my family there and would take a trip about every couple of months across the islands. I visited to Cuba in '58 just before Fidel took over, and it was in November of '58. And I was invited up to speak to his troops (they were fighting up in the mountains), but when I got to Havana, the, situation had gotten so bad (it was just a month before he came marching in triumphantly) the government, put a curfew on. And so if anybody was seen moving after 6:00 at night he got shot, then they asked questions later. So I...I had Ann and Richard with me (he was just a tiny baby), and the Christians there in Havana begged me not to go out there. So I canceled that trip. I couldn't let the guy know because the telegraph wires had been cut. So he risked his life to go down and meet the plane, and he was going to escort me up to the mountains. And I do regret not getting up there. Because that would have been a really good chance. There were a lot of Christians fighting with Fidel, and all...a lot of us were disillusioned after he turned to communism afterward. But he was not, he was not a communist before, probably had socialist leanings, but he was not a communist.
BUFFINGTON: What were your impressions of the country since you were able to be in just prior to the revolution?
BRAGG: Well, it was pretty rotten. I mean, the situation was bad. Batista had really sold out to North American interests, and, it was sort of America's playground with lots of prostitutes and gambling. He cleaned that all out...Castro did. Then I worked in Dominican Republic, 195...7. In December I went over there invited by students who had heard about me...got a letter, and went over and started with a group of Brethren students plus a few others from other denominations. There was Assemblies of God, and Free Methodists, Baptists. And that group was a really dynamic group, under the leadership of Elias Santana, who just died last January a year ago, who became one of my dearest friends and colleagues in the work there. And we worked under a lot of hardship because of the dictator. You couldn't say anything. It was really politically very tight, and to work with university students, you were suspect. And that's a whole other story (I don't know if you want to get into it). You know, they searched me going in and out, X-rayed my equipment, had buzzers to check to see if I had any arms on me. They followed me literally from country to country. And, we had evidence that they followed me to my home in Puerto Rico. They followed me all the way down to Bolivia to that conference. And they followed me back, and when Trujillo was killed, Alfonso Locqures[?], who was the second-generation leader of the group, was called into the, center for the spies, (the cavdilles [?] they call them), and was shown, you know, 2 large files, one of him, one of me, and there's one of Santana...everything we'd ever said in public, everything...all of our contacts where we had been. In fact one fellow followed Elias day and night. He'd get up, open the shutters in the morning, and there he'd be sitting across the street. He'd say "Buenos Dias." and the guy would say "Buenos Dias." He followed him into church, and one of them became a Christian from Elias' preaching. He's a medical student...became a doctor. , so things were quite tense. , student work was not easy in those days. Dominican... Haiti we had "Papa Doc", Duvalier, and, that's the whole set of stories there too. But I started there with a group of...well, I was invited by the Unevangelized Fields Mission. They got a few students together from various, church backgrounds, Baptists, Methodists, and others. And, we met in an old AME Zion church in downtown Port-au-Prince, in a rickety place. And we were up in sort of the back room of balcony. We had to go up this long rickety wood stairway with termites holding it together.
BRAGG: , and when we were meeting back there, making plans and praying about starting student work there, there was a funeral with all the pomp and circumstance, like a New Orleans funeral in the jazz times, you know, the dark suits, and the women crying, and the band, the whole story. Here we were meeting in the back to start a new movement, and there's a funeral there. It was real interesting. Haiti is a very different country to start.... I was not a student in the university, I was white, stood out from everybody. So essentially my philosophy there, and in the Dominican, everywhere that I could go, was to find the right people and then work with them on a very low key discipleship basis.
BUFFINGTON: Well, now, in the other, on the other islands Spanish or Portu- guese was spoken. Now Haiti, isn't that French?
BRAGG: French and Creole.
BUFFINGTON: What sort of language difficulty did you encounter [laughs]?
BRAGG: Yes, well, I had never studied French, so I just picked it up, enough to get along. And I had some students who were bilingual Spanish-French, so I would speak in Spanish and they'd interpret the French until I got to be able to carry on a conversation in Creole, which is sort of a baby-pidgin French.
BRAGG: Yeah. And, Spanish I was really quite at home in because I was doing my Master's in Spanish studies, in literature. And, but I had to pick up on Creole. Then when I moved to Brazil in '66 I had to start all over with Portuguese. But I got along well with that too. , Okay, what else?
BUFFINGTON: Well, you were talking about your equipment at while ago that you were carrying about from country to country. What sort of equipment did you carry with you as you were moving along?
BRAGG: Oh, oh, just...
BRAGG: ...just books. There are very few books in Latin, in Spanish from a Christian perspective, in those days. And one of the first things I did in fact while I was in Costa Rica in '56, was to get together with a fellow by the name of Alexander Clifford. Clifford is a British, was a British Argentina subject, born in Argentina of Brethren parents, and was a professor in the University. And he came up to Costa Rica and worked for a while on some literature. So I sent him up to Chicago to meet with Stacey Woods to talk about starting a new magazine. And we started it and we called it Certeza, and it's still going today under Rene Padilla, Ediciones Certeza. And we'd begin to prepare some materials in Spanish. I got a, bible study on Mark by Jane Hollingsworth, I think, translated into Spanish. We published that...some simple, a simple folder on personal work translated. And, I can't remember. I'd have to go back and review some of the others that we got started in publishing because there's a real dearth of material. And then the magazine of course is to reach the thinking class of people, and in Latin America. It has a wide acceptance.
BUFFINGTON: You...the class of people of you dealt with, was it totally the upper class?
BRAGG: Well, in Puerto Rico, because of the democracy in process, a lot of scholarship, there was a large student body, 16,000 students in the univer- sity. And, a lot of them came from lower classes. [Unclear Jorge Cuevas[?] came from a very small little town. Some of the people came from the slums actually, but they would dress up and put all their money in university clothes and text books. But on the whole it was the intelligentsia, if it were, you know, not economically, but at least in terms of intellect.
BUFFINGTON: What about the particular problems that you would encounter in evangelizing the intelligentsia?
BRAGG: Okay. Well, obviously we had to use a different approach than the standard....Uh...we used bible studies, inductive discussions, speakers. We created I guess what you would call equivalent to pre-evangelism-type meetings where we would have a speaker come like Hans Burki from Switzerland. And he would speak on sex, and marriage, and so on, or creativity, or any secular topic, and then weave the Christian message into it. And then we'd do follow up on those people. , essentially it was...it was a small group, person-to-person, incarnational evangelism. You know, I really felt I had to get inside the skin and thoughts of the people, and that's why I studied in a university. Everywhere I went I studied in the university, even in Brazil, as a means to an end and as an end in itself.
BUFFINGTON: So you created your opportunities?
BRAGG: Uh huh.
BUFFINGTON: What...you told me you used the bible studies. What other tacks did you use as means of evangelism? Did you preach, did you do other things in addition to just...in your bib...student work?
BRAGG: Within the student work?
BUFFINGTON: Or in your total work. In your total ministry there.
BRAGG: Yeah, we would have concerts on campus. Ed Lyman, for example, he gave a beautiful concert. He's a dramatic tenor...uh, sang in several languages, including Spanish. And, we used that then too as a way of attracting people, and then followed up on them. As I said the Billy Graham campaign in Puerto Rico did give us a real shot in the arm. , conferences and retreats, camps. We held the first camp that was ever held in the Dominican Republic. Most church work had been done in the churches. And the students there, Elias and Jorge and Raphael Contradas[?], a few of these fel- lows, really put on the first conference ever...camp. We held it in a school up in Santiago. And I got there a couple days before it was to start. I came down with malaria. So here I was running the first camp, helping them really. And I wasn't much help. I was confined to bed every morning in a high fever. And, they'd come in there and my bed would probably be shaking on the floor...you know, I mean this mosquito net, with fever and chills...talk with me for a while, and Elias prescribed some drugs, and started getting me better. But, we had a number of conferences. In fact the first Caribbean conference, all university...all Caribbean university conference I organized in 1959 in the Dominican...in the Dominican Republic. And that was very interesting because we had the dictatorship. And, Trujillo was trying to make friends because Castro on the one hand was getting a lot of pressure, sort of the upsetting of dictators' applecart. In fact I swam in the swimming pool with Batista after he fled Cuba. And, I also saw my good friend from Argentina, Peron, riding his bicycle around the Dominican Republic. It was sort of a haven for ex-scalawags and so on. , so Trujillo tried to bribe us. He gave us a...he wanted to give us money. He gave us a bus to take students out to the beach one day. We refused everything but the bus. But we had to go through all the rigamarole of getting visas and special permits, and talk to the Ministry of Culture [unclear] as they call it, religion. And while we were on the beach, I remember he...they sent a small plane over and bombarded us with pamphlets, anti-Castro pamphlets. One of them was a poem in fact about Castro the Castrato, the castrated Castro. And they knew where we were so they just gave us this free propaganda to take back with us. Very interesting days, but real leadership under pressure. The student leadership really grew and was really dynamic. At that conference we had people from Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Santa Domingo, those were the main countries.
BUFFINGTON: Was it...was it easy to recruit people for these conferences?
BRAGG: Well, yeah, because we, we were beginning small students works in each of these places. And I'd gone to, to Venezuela just before the conference and met with some students. Guy by the name of Shanely, Dale Shanely, had started a group in Merida [?], up in the mountains of western Venezuela. And I started a group then with a couple of fellows in Caracas. So these people came, representatives came to the conference. And then they started coming over to Puerto Rico to some of the conferences. Puerto Rico was easy to get to.
BUFFINGTON: [What] percentage of the student population do you feel you reached during...?
BRAGG: Oh, it was, it was small. It was never intended to be a mass movement. So whoever we could. Some of the groups got to be quite large. We'd get 40, 50, 60 students out in a year [for] Bible studies. And we broke them up into smaller studies. And, our real point was to, to build into them some real principles of leadership, as well as some character, you know. And to supply what the churches were really not giving them, because the churches neglected the intellectual climate. And a lot of the pastors were trained in Bible schools, and that was fine. But when they got college kids in their, in their class or in their church, they didn't know how to deal with them. And a lot of them would sort of put down the idea of studying. Studying is evil because you're out there with sin, you know. There was this dichotomy even in those days.
BUFFINGTON: Did you find the general college student receptive, or university student to what you had to say. Or did you find...
BRAGG: OK. It depended on the place. In some places where communism, I should say Marxism as such, was sort of the high...
BUFFINGTON: The tape is just...[tapes runs off reel]
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