This is a complete and accurate transcript of the second oral history interview of Wayne Bragg (Collection 96, #T2) 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 in November-December 1986 by Fran Brocker and Robert Shuster.
Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (108 minutes)
Collection 96, #T2; Oral history interview of Wayne G. Bragg by Mary Ann Buffington, on the campus of Wheaton College on May 9, 1980.
BUFFINGTON: This is an interview with Dr. Wayne Bragg by Mary Ann Buffington, Missionary Sources Collection, of Wheaton College. This interview took place at the seminar room in Blanchard Hall on May 9, 1980, at 3:00 p.m. Last time when the tape ran out we were talking about receptivity of the students to your student work in Costa Rica and Haiti and Dominican Republic and stuff. So if you'd like to start and talk about that for a few minutes.
BRAGG: Okay. It's been a good while, but students in Latin American, (I don't know if I said this last time), are a very volatile group in that the governments put a lot of pressure on the students. They're very politicized, and I think one of the obstacles I had to overcome was the fact that I was an American, and that's still true today, even maybe more so after some of our foreign policy debacles, like in Chile, after Allende and some others. So, I think, I had to overcome the CIA syndrome. And the students on the whole were quite receptive. The reason, I think, is the tactic that I felt was useful, and that was a very quiet low-profile approach, person-to-person, one-to-one, small groups, not making big waves, no headlines. And I remember Cesar Acevedo who came up from Paraguay, wanted to go out and put the thing in the headlines of the student newspaper, `Christian group starting on campus'. And I said, "No, no, Cesar, that's not the way to start a group." And I think that has proven worthwhile over the years in terms of strategy. Because if you go in, especially even now more so, if you go in as a foreigner immediately you're suspect. And the governments don't like you messing around with the university students. They get...they don't[?].
BUFFINGTON: Okay that kind of leads into another thing I had noted, was any...the racial problems, and the problems from working with another nationality, I'm sure. How did they accept your family and....
BRAGG: Hmmm. No problem. Latin Americans are very open. We even did some cross-cultural, even non-Latin American student work in, in Puerto Rico. There were a number of African students. Did I mention that?
BRAGG: There were African students who came over to the Inter-American Uni- versity, which used to be a Presbyterian school, a university in the southern part of Puerto Rico. And so Miss Martha Michaels, who was a professor, had had Inter-Varsity background here and came down, and we got in touch with her. And she became our contact on that campus, and through her we met a lot of international students, a Brazilian young man, a lot of people from Kenya, from East Africa. And I took one or two of those home with me one Christmas. As international students, they had no place to go. Well, and one by the name of Wilson Okite. His real name is Odhiambo, we called him Wilson. And he's a brother-in-law of Tom Moboya[?], Kenya. And had been in prison in Kenya as a student radical, and then they sprung him, and he came over to Puerto Rico to study. Well, he came into our home, and he wasn't black, he was purple, he was so deep, such a deep, beautiful color. And our kids took to him right away. And here were these little tousled-head, headed white kids, you know, sun-burned noses, climbing up on his lap. And he'd just...they'd come running to him every time he came. And I was with him a little over a year ago in Kenya. And he was reminding us of what...how our family had made him so at home. We had a Haitian student or two also, Max Ewald, who became a Christian in the student movement there...I talked with him just the other day in Haiti. Wilson became a Christian that Christmas, and we sent him to Wheaton...well, after he graduated he worked with me in student movement in Puerto Rico, among international students. He became an international student campus representative and did that for us for about 6 months. Then he came to Wheaton, did a Masters in theology, and then he took a Christianity Today course, and worked with them, and then Time magazine. And went back to East Africa as Time magazine's representative. And now he's a leading journalist for that part of the world, and he edits People magazine, much like our People magazine here, among other things. And he's in development work. He's chairman of....(he comes from a little island out off Lake Victoria, out in Lake Victoria). So he's a chairman of a development organization that's gone into to give public health, and nursing, and employment, and fresh water and some other services to that. So there was really no problem. And the Caribbean of course is a good mixture of people from various racial backgrounds, a lot of African influence especially in Santo Domingo. And Haiti, of course, is totally, now, the black republic. Brazil...again the same thing. You have a wide mixture. They took me more for Italian or Spanish there because of my accent in Portuguese, which was not an American accent. But there is...uh, you know, there are racial problems in these countries, but they're not, they're really based on race so much as social status..,
BUFFINGTON: Uh huh
BRAGG: ...economic status. And Brazil especially is very open, yet there is a hidden bias because of the economic factor, but it's not because it's a racial....
BUFFINGTON: Okay exactly what years were you in each location?
BRAGG: 1956 to 57 in Costa Rica, and '57 to '66 in Puerto Rico, with a year out in '55...'54-55. That was our only furlough. And then from there we went straight to Brazil. We were there from '66 to '70. And I went off of IFES staff officially after a leave of absence to do graduate work in 1972.
BUFFINGTON: Okay what when we were talking last time you mentioned we were talking about the Dominican Republic and Haiti...that each one had their own story to tell...you were just going through very quickly. And perhaps you would like to return to those two areas and give me maybe a highlight of your ministry there, or some particular story that you would like to share.
BRAGG: The Dominican Republic invited me over, that is Christian young people, in 1957. They heard that I'd gone to Puerto Rico through Mr. Stacey Woods who had gone over to visit. Now this was a dic...closed dictatorship. Trujillo had been in power for 25 years, and did not allow much travel to and from. And they searched us each time we went in for guns, and the whole works. And did I tell you about being followed by...
BRAGG: Alright, now about the student work as such. The students really took a great initiative on their own. And I think the, that particular student group, in that, in those days called the Grupo de Estudientes Cristianos Universitarios or GECU were the initials. Now that's changed to Asociacion Dominicanan Estudiantes Evangelicos [?] or ADEEID, and it now has undergraduate work, graduate work, and high school work. Now the peculiar characteristics of the Dominican student work. One, it followed the mold of the Dominican mentality in terms of leadership, strong leadership, and that was the only thing these kids had ever seen as a model in terms of their president. Their dictator was a strong leader. And so they took a lot of initiative, and so it really got a good start after just a little, a few visits. One visit or two and they were off running. And we met almost clandestinely on the roof of one of the buildings which belonged to the widow of one of the Brethren churches there[sic]. And that's another characteristic. It was very...although it was interdenominational as a student movement, the leadership came from the Brethren. And these are sometimes called the Plymouth Brethren. The missionaries there were Canadian, and still are. And Dr. Elias Santana is, was the first...he was a medical student then, and I may have mentioned him last time.
BUFFINGTON: Uh huh.
BRAGG: And Alfonso Locqures[?], who is now university president, ex-banker, [unclear] Portes [?] is a banker. Raphael Conteras is in water resources and head of that for the whole country. All of these were Brethren, young men. And their own, I think the church structure, which was not professionally-oriented...they didn't have a pastor. And so the young people, along with the missionary, would take charge of the congregation. They would give bible studies, and they, they would lend their books to younger members...it was really a beautiful thing to see. They would take their vacation and go together as a gospel team and go to the north part of the country, uh...very dynamic group. And Dr. Santana was followed by [Spanish name], who became the president, and after that another Brethren. So I think it was characterized by strong leadership. It was characterized by a strong sense of self-determination. They were not ready for any external organization to do it for them...there was no dependency syndrome. I had to learn very quickly...and this was very good for me as a new, young missionary, that indeed these young men were capable and able. And I remember (I may have told you about the first camp)....
BRAGG: OK, when I got sick and they ran it,
BRAGG: Okay. (Should have gone back and listened to the tape.)
BUFFINGTON: [laughs] That's okay.
BRAGG: there are an awful lot of stories in the Dominican Republic that I could come up with. But it's particularly gratifying, I think, since I talked with you last, we had had the Dominican project...
BUFFINGTON: Yes, it was in February when I talked to you last.
BRAGG: Oh, OK...well, we'd had the student project out there...
BUFFINGTON: Well, I think they had just come back or something...
BRAGG: Well, we've had a follow-up since then of two more groups that have gone down, Taylor University, and [a] group from Park Street Church in Boston. And now I've just sent in a proposal for some funding to...it looks like all the pieces are falling into place for a community development program in the city where we want to build 85 houses. So that will be a nutritional, church planting, preventive medicine, curative medicine, educational, farming, income-producing project that would go on for...well, we hope from now on, on behalf of the unemployed, the poorer kids, the hungry kids. And interestingly enough it will be Dr. Santana's widow who will be carrying that. She's coming up tomorrow night in fact to take a course from Ball Canning Company on how to use a cannery that Student Government is sending down. So...
BUFFINGTON: ...while we're talking about these countries there are few details that we'd like to try to get, such as the economics of the country, and you indicated earlier that that was a big class struggle there, so maybe you'd like to talk about the economy in these countries.
BRAGG: Okay. The...it's...they're rural-based countries and except most of them have dual economies, so that you have the modern sector, around Santo Domingo, for example, which is quite progressive, skyscrapers, and nice restaurants and the whole bit. But you go just a few miles out, or just right in the circle around Santo Domingo, and you get into the slum area which is extremely poor. I just read a description from a pastor who's working among the poor there. It's really sad. And that's why Dr. Elias Santana was so concerned to get into a holistic ministry, and to move the church in that direction. But, you know, literacy is very low. Most kids don't have money to go beyond third or fourth grade in grammar school, so they're functional, functionally illiterate probably, most likely. parasitology, parasite load in the population is very high, malnutrition...like 95% of the people in the rural areas have first-degree malnutrition that is of the children under a certain age which is the ones we measured. [pause] the income is low, the average income is $60.00 a year, and that's an average we're talking about. So you've got the millionaires on one hand, and people who don't earn anything on the other hand, who are not even in the money economy. In [Spanish name] for example where a student project went, or whatever, the unemployment rate in the urban area is very high. Only five families out of 85 have any fixed income at all. So what we're interested in is moving in with some help to increase their income with the agricultural program and through helping rebuilding a cannery, I mean, a turpentine factory, and possibly a...we've already sent some block-making machines down to get them started making cement blocks as an income-producer. yet the resources are there in Santo...uh, the Dominican. I mean, it's a wealthy country. It produces...it could produce 3 crops a year of food, and yet, I found out when I was down there in February, a 100 pounds of tomatoes in the field was being sold for $2.00. And so that people have been ripped off. And what we want to do is put our cannery in production, and buy the tomatoes at a more reasonable price, give them some income, and then not make as much profit. And then we'll turn profits back into the project. So health-wise, education-wise, income-wise, everything, it's just really in pretty bad shape...typical of Latin America, typical of the Third World.
BUFFINGTON: What sort of means of exchange do they use, with no currency?
BRAGG: The peso. Oh, that would be just simple barter or just subsistence farming. So that you would raise potatoes and corn, beans, just live on that. Buy salt and pepper at the store and trade for some coffee.
BRAGG: Now, Haiti is even worse off. It's probably the worst place in the Western Hemisphere economically. And we read about the Haiti boat people now...there are 25,000 in jails in Florida, and yet we turn around the let the Cubans in. Because apparently our government sees Communism as a dictatorship as being oppressive, but it doesn't see the quote democratic Haitian system as being oppressive. And yet it's not democratic, and it is oppressive. So I think that's got to change. But, uh....
BUFFINGTON: Okay. You mentioned the illiteracy rate. What type of educational system do they have?
BRAGG: it's an elitist system. In the Dominican obviously the government cannot afford to pay or at least their priorities have not been to establish enough schools for the burgeoning population, because 50% of the population is under the age of 15. So you have a young population which is going to explode into a demographic problem. And so you don't have the resources to pay the teachers, and put up the buildings and, and so on. And in the rural areas the kids may have a little small primary school that goes through fourth grade, but then if they go on from that they have to do into the provincial capitol, or walk if they're close enough to...five, ten, fifteen miles a day to get there and back to go to school. So that doesn't create a very good situation. I think they need to decentralize education a little bit more. They need vocational education as well. Because the model that you go on is not very practical. You know, To rote memorize historical dates and facts and figures may be good to educate you as a liberal arts type of person, but it doesn't give you any skills for employment.
BUFFINGTON: Do any of the countries have any vocational programs for...
BRAGG: Yeah, there are vocational, but they're not generally available in the outlying areas. I think one of the great needs in, in the church in Latin America is to make every, to turn every church into a vocational school during the week, or into a school of some sort. And they're doing it little by little. A lot of schools, just simply utilize...a lot of churches, utilize their buildings and their appendages for small schools, either kindergartens which are needed too, and feeding programs, and vocational things...sewing things and....
BUFFINGTON: What about the relationship with government officials? Did you have any problem yourself?
BRAGG: no [laughs]. In...uh, well, normally, of course, we're guests of the country, and so we try not to put too high a profile. My motto was, keep a low profile and keep moving. But we working...were working with a very volatile group which was suspect by the government of being possibly revolutionary. So that's why they followed me around, and knew everywhere I went. I think if I were going back now, I would probably go back with a little bit different approach. And that might even make things a little harder. I think anything that has to do with social action in the military regimes is looked upon as being communist. Anything, anybody who is dealing with the poor in the slums...um, so you have to be careful as I always was anyway with student work to go and tell the people where you are going. Even under Duvalier in Haiti, (Papa Doc) when we went to have the university camp...the students had arranged it and everything...but I would go with the leader or with some church leader, adviser, and we would go to the chief of police and tell him where we were going. That we were going to hold a camp in such and such a place, and would go for these days. And invariably we would find some non-students showing up at that camp. And we knew who they were, I mean they were representatives of, to spy, to spy for the government. But we tried to keep ourselves open and above board, and apolitical insofar as possible. I mean and most governments in Latin America and around the world are not too afraid of people who are studying the Bible. I think that's a mistake, because when the Bible is really read, it's liberating.
BUFFINGTON: Yes. [laughs]
BRAGG: They are afraid of, of some wings of the Catholic Church, and some wings of the Protestant church today that are getting more vociferous and more involved with politics and with social concerns. but we didn't have a problem. And I say that in retrospect to my shame, because I think we could have done more in the social field. But I saw my primary goal, and again I've been rebuked internally by the Spirit later, and by students as they taught me more about myself and about my own values. But I saw my primary goal as working with them spiritually. And to prepare leadership of people that would take responsibility before their own people and before own governments and become.... But you see the problem with that approach is that if you don't give them a model, and if you don't give them an avenue, they...they don't go into politics. They tend to repeat, so a person will have a church that's alienated from the social system and from the problems of the country. And the Latin America students and the young people themselves taught me, and I think they're teaching the church today that it has to be involved. And a lot of missionary friends are getting very nervous about that. But it depends on how you do it...in refugee work, in relief work after disaster, or even in development work, or social concerns in the ghettos, the, the slum areas. As long as, you know, if you can find some allies in the government, some agencies that are doing that sort of work and ally yourself with them, there are a number of local agencies that are working with those kinds of people. And I think it's a mistake strategically for us as evangelicals, to continue to think that we can set up our own little church-related thing, and not relate it to the overall government development plans, for example. They welcome us with open arms. And in fact the secret of the Dominican project as far as the Student Government goes was the fact that I had high-placed people that I could go to in the government, and say, "This is what we want to do, and will you help us?" In essence what we were doing was helping them do their job better and make them look good. And so when the newspaper comes out with a picture of one of their own men, and one of us, and the students working, you know, putting up houses, this is what the government is doing with the help of Wheaton College. And then, you see, this turned out to be beneficial. We stopped our little $85,000 or whatever it was ran out. Even with our cannery that's going in, we don't have the land to put it on, so we're going through the government. And the government has already promised us the cement and the zinc for the roof for the building. So the government now incidentally has picked up in the National Institute for Housing in the Dominican...has promised to finish permanent housing for all those people we put in temporary housing. Meanwhile they would have lived there a year outside of the school where they're all crowded together like a concentration camp. So it's been a good thing. So each house now will be built by the Dominican government. So I think our intrusion, as a, as a(uh, this is a little bit peripheral to the past but) our intrusion really brought hope to the local people, immediate relief for their suffering. And it focused the attention of the government on those communities in a way that now the government's taken more responsibility. And we're still cooperating. We will say,"Now we'll put a cannery in. Will you give us a building? How can you turn that down?" And so we're, by our presence, and this is I think the role of the church in the role of development in these countries, is exert a pressure by our presence and our interest, but work with them and help them do it, so they don't one, cross their arms and sit back and look at us do it, and say, "Well, it's nice these Christians are doing this work." And on the other hand they can't sit back without any excuse and not do anything. We go in and show 'em up. Our interest has to be matched by theirs. But anyway that's how my thinking is going now. So maybe the time is right and it wasn't before. I say that because if I had gone in to try to do something in the Dominican Republic in 1957...say there'd been a hurricane. One, they would have not, I would not have had anyone in government circles that would have, that I could have referred to. So that when I went to the man in charge of the relief, civil defense and relief for the country, last fall, I could say, "uh, Alfonso Locqures[?] is a friend of mine, and Dr. Elias Santana was a friend of mine, or Raphael Conteras and I worked together." "Oh, Raphael, yes, he's a good friend. We've studied engineering together." Now it turned out in fact that the man, Colonel [Spanish name], had studied in the same engineering class as Raphael Conteras. So that opened a door like that. Now, if Raphael had not been, you know, had not been prepared years ago in the student movement, and was not serving his country as a water resources man professionally and had not been well-known...in other words if we hadn't penetrated this level with professionals, then we would have been marginalized in that whole thing. But I can go in and I can do the same thing in the Dominican...in Haiti for example. The head of all natural resources is a product of our student work there. And the fellow who has recently been cited by Baby Doc, given a citation and everything, was under...was one of our early members of our student work.
BUFFINGTON: Okay, now... yes.
BRAGG: You see the point so that all that sowing ...
BUFFINGTON: Is reaping...[laughs].
BRAGG: ...is now being reaped, yeah.
BUFFINGTON: Okay, now let's move a little bit toward your relationship with the other churches, and maybe with the church that was established. How did you...you worked with the political group now.
BRAGG: Now you're going back to student days?
BUFFINGTON: Well, yes....
BRAGG: When I was working? Alright. It was mixed. In Costa Rica we had no problem 'cause there was...the Latin Mission was there, the Central American Mission was there, I went to a denominational church, and so there was no, no problem. So we started student work and it's continued, as I said before, to this day. And professionals are still there, in their, in their churches, and so they've seen the long-range effect of this. In Puerto Rico because there was a student group there that was spawned by the World Student Federation, which was a World Council project, there was resistance. And I think the close ties of the Church Association...the Council of Evangelical Churches, Council, (they call it Evangelical Churches because that's the name in Latin America for Christian, for Protestant) was closely tied to the Council here, and to Geneva. There was a lot of resistance, and we had to overcome a lot of opposition. They said, "Why do you want to come and start a separate movement?" And I said, "I don't, I want to work with the one that's in existence." And they said, "Fine," and invited me out to one of their camps. But it was like walking into a lion's den, because they were set to, to bait me, to try to you know, to put me into a category saying, "Well, you're too conservative." So I said, essentially, "Well, what I want work with you but we've got to have something in common." We sought that common ground, and the leader of that, what they call the Fraternidad, the Fraternity, which is a Christian student movement, the WCF, was very adamantly against any cooperation. And he...even though the students who were there at that conference, wanted to cooperate, wanted to welcome me, he alienated them from me. So essentially I was forced into starting a separate group. in fact we had been leading a Bible study informally, but then we went ahead and started a formal organization. And gradually however some of our strongest members came over from this group, who were really hungry for more biblical teaching. And I think the thing we offered them was more direct...uh evangelism, techniques, more direct Bible study techniques and things that they, in their churches, were getting to a degree but not fully, sort of superficial. So that created another problem. When our movement became successful, our students were getting a lot, so they would make innocent comments like, "Well our Sunday School is weak. We don't have Bible studies like we should," and the pastor instead of saying "Show us how to do it," would get jealous, and say, "Well, you belong to us." So it became our students, versus your students. And I kept telling these leaders when I met them, I said, "They're not ours, they're not mine, they're not yours, they belong to the Lord. We're here to help them and that's all." But little by little we won them over. And today the WSCF group has practically disappeared, and their leader, Mr. Velez [?] is a well-known professor on campus of sociology, and is making all kinds of strong nationalistic, socialistic statements. Now I could make the nationalistic ones, but I couldn't make the others quite as strong as he can. So church relationships were good in some places, bad in others. In the Dominican Republic we had the support of the churches. The main-line denominations were again with a shadow of a WSCF group, but they really didn't ever meet. So that gradually they came over when they saw something going over, their young people crystallized around this group. Dr. Socrates Perez, for example was with them in number anyway, and he's now on the board of the other group. His daughter's studying at the Free Methodist school up here in the states. In Brazil it was carte blanche almost because Presbyterians...Presbyterians, Methodists Lutherans, German Lutherans, Baptists, everyone accepted us. I could go to the Baptist Convention where they'd have thousands of young people and get up and speak. You know, we were invited. It was a good relationship.
BUFFINGTON: What about with the Catholic church?
BRAGG: Okay. we never had problems. I'm trying to think now in terms of official, there was never any official confrontation. In some cases we had good rapport with some, some Catholic priests who were probably considered liberal priests. No, we never really had any trouble with Catholics. In fact a lot of people came to our group, were from a Catholic background. And in some cases would stay on in the Catholic church. but get bible study and prayer and other things with us. I remember Colombia, the group that I met with in Bogota was largely...it was largely started by two Protestant young people, by Arturo Gil [?] and is now a PhD, and I remember being in his home right across from the campus [of] Catholic University with about 25 young people, and all of them were not really Catholic. And he and one other girl were the only evangelicals in the bunch. So I went and lead Bible studies and some of the discussions. And I remember distinctly once that the Catholic priests, the parish priests, had called one of the young people aside and said, "What is it with you...you're not frequenting confessions as often now." And she says, "Well, I, you know, confess directly." And he says, "Well, when are you going to get right with the church?" And she just smiled very beautifully and said, "Well, whenever the church gets right with God." But she wasn't stopping going there. She just didn't fit in the mold.
BUFFINGTON: H Well, what about your work with other missionaries. Did you ever help them or assist them in any of their activities, and help other missions in their activities?
BRAGG: Well, since student work was service-oriented, I mean, we didn't go in and start a mission as such. In fact I was not a missionary in the normal sense of the word. I didn't start churches and baptize people. So we did cooperate. We needed the cooperation of missionaries. In some cases we had the full cooperation right from the beginning. Mr. Emmanuel Prentice, for example, was Christian and Missionary Alliance in Puerto Rico. And he was the first bridge...it was...with his young people that we started, Jorge Cuevas and his wife Miriam, later to be his wife. And there were a number of missionaries in the Dominican Republic, (Brethren), who used to be called West Indies Mission, now it's World Team. Some of those people have really gone right on to the top to be heads of those missions, especially World Team. Fellow in the Dominican Republic is now General Secretary of World Team. And they would come out to camps and speak. We'd invite them to give a series of Bible studies or lectures or come and counsel, or come and be in the dorm, or whatever. They'd furnish...they'd furnish their cars or transportation. In some cases they would come out in a very service orient...they would come and not do anything except cook for the camp. We had a missionary and his wife who'd come and cook. We had another who would lend his Volkswagen bus...Puerto Rico, and another one in Brazil. But we did not form part of the establishment, missionary establishment...partly for political reasons. If you're working with university students who are anti-American, and you want to reach that class, you can't spend your social time (I may have mentioned this before) with the missionary class. You can't go to an English-speaking church for missionaries, which they had in Brazil and they had one in Puerto Rico. And you can't go send your kids to missionary school, because once you start sending them to the school you have to coffeeklatsch with the teachers go to the PTA, and pretty soon you're in a fund-raising campaign for a new school, basketball uniforms, or something. And pretty soon your social life is apart. So we deliberately chose not to work with the mission...not to live socially with the missionary community. But on occasion I would go and speak at that church, or work with their particular their young people or whatever they wanted.
BUFFINGTON: What about your relationship with the indigenous customs and cultures of each country? Because I'm sure that that was...
BRAGG: Yeah, yeah,
BUFFINGTON: ...what? [laughs]
BRAGG: Even the language...even though Spanish was a commonality, it was a different Spanish. So you had...I had to learn...I, being of course, having been trained in anthropology here and some linguistics, and having a literary bent, and having studied Spanish formally in the university, both in Costa Rica and in Puerto Rico, I was able to pick up quite quickly on the, what we call "modismos," particular slang expressions, and common proverbs and so on of each country. And I made a point to listen to the songs, to read books of proverbs from the cultural point of view...read a novel, novels that were being produced in those countries. In other words, I tried to acculturate myself to each one. And even when I went from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic, they were two different worlds. The Spanish of Puerto Rico is different form the Dominican, and both of those are different from the Colombian and the Costa Rican. And (I may have told you this before), but the major surprise of most people was the way that I was able to fit into the linguistic pattern of...and the tonality and the sing-song patterns of...of that particular.... Now I can't do it quite as well as I could without living there. But I still go back and drop very quickly into the Dominican way of talking, for example. And it's quite different. As far as customs, umm, the Spanish culture is pretty uniform. You know, you have certain culture patterns like machismo, and [Spanish word], which is a nice flattering statement you say to the girls, or to married women even. But is to let them know that you've paid them some attention, which in this country would not be looked upon very favorably...
BUFFINGTON: [laughs] BRAGG: ...but you learn those patterns. And you do it, because you feel, at least I did, feel part of the culture. And I made a point to... by living apart from the missionary community, living among the people. And I guess if I were to say one thing, it would be that the primary cause for success in student work in Latin America, humanly speaking, would be this association and identification with the people, and my interest in learning from them. Because then that put me in a different role than most missionaries go in. Most missionaries go as someone to teach, or to lead, or to govern or to guide. And I went to learn, to listen, to cooperate, and to build up people. Obviously, they would say, "We're going to build up people too." But if you, if you go in one role, it's hard to get out of that role in the minds of the people. When the Dominican students looked at missionaries as "Mister", and put them up there on this level, and looked at me as, as `Hey, you', then that was a breakthrough for them. That made them comfortable. And that's why I formed deep friendships with the people. And that's another characteristic of the culture is to form deep friendships. Where you go on a level where you can knock on the door any time of day or night, you can call on them for money, you lend them money, you know you might never get it back. Or you borrow from them and never give it back. you know, I've gone so far as to lend my toothbrush. And yet that is very important, because that's a model that means...that says a great deal to them in terms of strategy, in terms of your willingness to be one of them. Now, obviously that was why I would never be one of them. And yet in my innermost being I really felt, and I still feel, very much more Latin American in some ways. I can...there's a repertoire. When you're here you're with your people and you feel this way. And you're there you're that way. So, I guess the most single important factor though is this role which you establish when you go to work with people. And I think that has a great deal of meaning, even on Wheaton campus. And I may have told you, but a lot of foreign students drop by and see me all the time, and I tend to be a sort of a brother figure or something to them. And the word gets around. I mean, they keep coming up here, and I've never had anything to do with them, but they've heard it from someone else. And just yesterday, a fellow who's doing his Master's thesis now, Nicholas, was telling my assistant, who's helping him do some corrections him do some corrections [unclear] on his thesis, how much Gabriel Abikoye, who went back to Nigeria, though of us and how much I had helped him in his Master's project. Which was very little, and yet he seemed to appreciate it so much. Now why? I think they, they can feel instinctively that someone understands them. And I should understand them, because I was vulnerable like they were, like they are, but I was down there, see?
BUFFINGTON: How did your family adjust? Now you were living in a social situation apart from other Americans.
BUFFINGTON: How did your family adjust in this situation?
BRAGG: Well quite well. We lived in some very hot, little small apartments to begin with. Third floor walk-up, cold water. Of course cold water felt pretty good. but where you, you know, where Ann when she would wash the clothes would have to put the kid on one hip and the clothes basket on the other, walk down three flights and hang the clothes in the hot sun, and back up. you'd have to ask her. It wasn't easy, it wasn't easy. And living apart, sometimes without a telephone, in some cases without an automobile because IFES did not give us enough money, and would not let us raise money for an automobile. There was a social and economic distinction between us and most missionaries who were pretty well taken care of. And you could grade the missions according to how well they care of...you know, you do that, back yard gossip.
BRAGG: But the Southern Baptists take care of them very well, and the Presbyterians were probably next, and the Methodists were next and you know, you go down the list. But I think one of the adaptive characteristics was that our kids grew up with friends from the neighborhood. And right to this day they still have trouble adjusting to the mono... mono-cultural situation in Wheaton, homogeneous situation. We have a lot of foreign students over, and missionary kids and other people. But they, they were in culture shock when they got back here and saw the disparity between the racial and sub-culture groups. Eric when he got back, when he got to Wheaton, went to school and came back and he said, "Where are the people?" And I said,"What do you mean, the people?" And he said, "Well, they're, they're all, you know, like me over there. Where, where are the blacks, where are the Mexican-Americans, you know," 'cause we'd been in Texas. So sure enough, Vince is a little black fellow, he is one of his best friends. He runs track with him and plays with.... So I think we benefited from it in the long run, something I wouldn't trade. And my kids have later said to me that they wouldn't trade that experience for anything. I think the hard part was that Ann didn't have that normal social support group of missionary wives that she could plug into. When she had troubles, we had to depend on neighbors and students. Students would come by, they very good in Brazil, very good in Puerto Rico to come by. Sometimes too good. They come by too often, usually at meal time, and so here Ann would end up serving.... But now, it's interesting to go back, they say, "Now we, now that we're married and have our own children we want, we apologize to you both for our being so abusive. We didn't realize how much trouble we must have been to you." [laughs]
BRAGG: But that's part of it. And I guess that's what it means when it says, you know, when the book Betty Elliot wrote, HAVE WE NO RIGHT, or that article, I guess. I guess that's what it means to fall into the ground and die. Is to die to yourself, die to your culture, die to your support system. That's what incarnation means. If it doesn't mean that, it doesn't mean anything. And there were moments, there were times in many ways we were rescued, quote-unquote, by some people now and then who'd come along and say...in Puerto Rico one fellow came along once and invited us out to dinner. Went out to a restaurant for dinner. We ate out twice in Puerto Rico in all those years. Because we were on a different salary basis too. We didn't have enough money to do that. And we were able to visit some Mennonite friends in the mountains of Puerto Rico and spend a week in their home, in the upstairs apartment, have a little vacation. And so we weren't totally separated. And we didn't mean to be. We weren't trying to be snobbish.
BUFFINGTON: Uh huh
BRAGG: But you just have to make your choice.
BUFFINGTON: What about interesting cultural things you noticed in each country?
BRAGG: Well [pause] I think one of the interesting things in Costa Rica was to visit the city on the eastern coast called Puerto Limon, which has a large English-speaking black population. These were the West Indian workers who came to work. They are...and went down to Panama to work. There're a lot of sub-cultural groups like that that are very interesting. Peculiar customs... I guess food is the biggest differentiator. People are...it's hard to change people's food patterns. And so when you get into camps and conferences where the...you're not cooking American-style, or even in our home we didn't. But we didn't eat spaghetti for breakfast either at home, or hot chocolate with onions in it for supper, you kow these idea in some places, or monkey's eyeballs in Bolivia, you know [unclear]. So that's...you know, there are a lot of funny customs, quote and unquote, which are reasonable within their cultures but not to us. I think one of the, one of the most interesting things that educated me was the way Latin Americans can entertain themselves. And this was again back in the late 50s, early 60s before TV was commonly accepted or even available. And there was a lot into camps, and you go visit the students, or Saturday night party after the Bible study, we'd go down to the beach and play the guitar and sing. And start poeticinterchanges where one person get up and say a poem and another person would get up and say it, someone would get up and sing. And they'd even go into an old form which is still being used in some places, of making up poetry as you go along. You take a theme and you say, "Alright, I'll challenge you and I'll make up a strophe, a stanza, and you make up a stanza." And then you sort of go along, making it rhyme too. And the memorization factor was great. And I found that, that in order to compete with that, I had to memorize poetry, in Spanish.
BRAGG: And that was fun. But you see we've lost a lot of those cultural values. We've lost the art of conversation, which is another big thing I.... Coming from the South, it wasn't as hard for me as it was for Ann. She's very much to the point no ifs and and buts. And everything's very simple and straightforward. You say yes or no, and that's it. But.... And you go directly to the point. But not in Latin American culture. And I think one thing that a lot of Westerners or missionaries still don't know how to do is to sit down and talk with people and listen. And we're in too big a hurry. We get in our cars, which are perfect time capsules. And we rocket ourselves through the city and out through the country. We don't walk with people, we don't listen, we don't sit on the doorstep with them for a couple hours...we're too busy. We want to go in and say our thing and get on the way, or have a meeting and get on the way. And I think coming from the South where I had the model of my dad and my grandparents and sitting around in the general store, playing checkers and talking and everything, it was very helpful. I think coming from the South, coming from a rural area, is helpful. But that may be changing now in Latin America, unfortunately, with TV and with the urbanization move. But they're still basically peasant societies, peasant customs. What other strange cultural things? Well, the relationship of man to woman. Again it's very Latin and very southern, where the woman has a certain place, and the families are larger, and the woman is not inspired to go out and compete with men. And although, again, in Latin America, you have a lot of women who are very dynamic. The mayor of Sao Paolo...of San Juan, was a woman, Teresa [unclear]. And but it's very much like what I was used to. That only, my wife would say, only reinforced my resistance. You know, my resistance to wash dishes [laughs] as woman's work, you know.
BUFFINGTON: [laughs] Well let's move to your South American experience a little bit. We haven't touched on...
BRAGG: Not much.
BUFFINGTON: ...your Brazil ministry, so if you'd like to talk a little bit about when you went to Brazil, and under what circumstances you made the move from the Caribbean to....
BRAGG: Okay, I had gone to Brazil in '61, invited by the Brazilians to give a leadership series, in a camp. And I was enamored by the Brazilians and by the country. Again it was very much like southern US, and a lot of land, you know, red dirt, [laughs]
BRAGG: ...and cotton fields and corn and watermelons and peanuts, and the whole thing. But they invited me then to head up the work there, to come and work with them, because they had a gal, a lady, who was working there. And in a macho society, that doesn't go too well. Although the Brazilian woman, she's not an Amazon, but she's a dynamic personality, you know, much more so than a Spanish wife would typically, out-going and effervescent, and so on... partly because [of] the cultural mixture, Italians, and Greeks, and Germans and all kinds of people there as well Portuguese. But I couldn't. I hadn't finished up in the Caribbean, so I when I was starting to finish up in '65, I got a letter from the General Secretary asking me if I would consider going to Brazil. And I was away on a trip and he had to have an answer right away. So Ann wrote back and said, "Well, from all that Wayne had said about Brazil, I think his answer would be positive. So why don't you take that as an answer." [Laughs]
BRAGG: So I accepted that. The Brazilian movement, very small, invited me to come to be the General Secretary because this gal was sick and was going away for a while. And there'd been some other problems. The movement had not matured as it should, it hadn't brought up its own leadership, and they had seen me do this in the Caribbean. And I guess they felt comfortable with that. I guess it was a servant-leader model that they were looking for, rather than someone to come in and do it for them forever. So we agreed to come in for 4 years.
BUFFINGTON: Was this also under IFES?
BUFFINGTON: This one too?
BRAGG: But, but the condition there was since I wasn't pioneering, I had to go under the umbrella of the national movement, which was the ABUB Asociacion Brazilera Universitates [unclear]. So they had, they had a student committee that I was to respond to, and they had one part-time staff worker, and about 3 groups that were really functioning and a beat up German typewriter, and one file drawer, but no files in it and a bunch of old leftover magazines and a box of cooking goods for camps, pots and pans and so on. That was it. They weren't registered, they didn't have a post...post office box. [pause] In fact it was even negative in a sense because some leadership had built up to a certain point, but had not been given a chance to go on. And part of it was this male-female thing. But anyway...and part of it was personality...but anyway, when I came in they welcomed me with open arms. And I had to start learning Portuguese.
BRAGG: And so I started speaking Spanish to them...I never talked to them in Portuguese. Gradually transferred from Spanish over to Portuguese over a period of about six or eight months. Went to university there for intensive summer course of Spanish...of Brazilian history and language and culture, politics and some other things. so we started from there, and started out with a very small group. We had a first leadership training conference called Institute for the Preparation of Leaders in Portuguese. The first January that I was there, January '78, (I'm sorry, '67), and we only had about fifteen people there. Some from the northeast...traveled three days by train to get down, day and night non-stop...and some of us from around there. Well, out of that first fifteen we got four full-time workers...a year or so later, I mean, we started training them and by the end of the year or so they were full-time workers. And a couple of associate workers, and a staff member, a former...a foreign staff member who came over to...who was seconded by his mission, Carl Lackler, of Swedish Baptist here in Minneapolis, St. Paul. And so it was a significant camp, even though it was small. Paul Little came down. They invited him down to speak. Then the next year we had another one. They invited Hans Burki of Switzerland to come over and speak. And then Hans kept coming about every 2 years...well, he had been there the first year that I got there, in a, at an Easter conference. I got there in the middle of Easter, spring conference of the university students of about twenty, twenty-five [unclear]. He and his wife were there speaking. well, to make a long story short, just to give you a perspective. Four years later when I left we had six full-time workers, (staff workers, field workers), four part-time workers, an office which we were buying. We were registered from the government, we had a post office box, we had a bank account, we had...our donations had grown from $600a year to about $20,000 a year from within the country and about five to six from outside the country. And that was in a very high inflationary period, so every staff member we had, we had to raise that additional support. Plus we were dropping off our support from outside, through IFES, on a declining basis. So that, so that we were...the gap was great. And yet...so one of my main functions was to really consolidate, and to...to raise money from within the country. And essentially my approach was, "This is your movement. It's not mine. I'll be here for a few years. But whatever you do is yours." And the second step then was to form at that first congress, form a...an executive committee made up of professional people, including one foreigner who was Dr. Ross Douglas, a Canadian physicist, teaching at the University of Sao Paulo, and a...a nuclear physicists. And had been a very servant model for a number of years by the time I got there. And yet he had not been in an official leadership capab... capacity. I brought him and three or four young graduates together and they formed an executive committee. But the student work belonged to the students. They had a congress every year that they, that each group would send delegates to. And they made all the decisions. And then the executive carried it out, and the staff followed through. And...and so every year I was subjected, along with all of our staff, to reappointment. And if they said goodbye, goodbye. And and so at the end of the four years they had a budget of $25,000, twenty of which were raised within the country. We had a campgrounds of our own in the north, even though it was underutilized and underexploited, an acquired campground. It was practically given to us. We had a whole series of leadership...we had a month-long leadership training conference each year. We had a high school work starting in a number of places. We published...started our own publishing house, publishing a magazine. Which, incidentally I was just told the other day by a Brazilian who's on campus, who is also a product of that movement, Laszio Suarez[?] that that's one of the best communicators, the best magazine from and evan... from any perspective, that is communicating the gospel in Brazilian context. KAIROS is the name of it, K-A-I-R-O-S. And we had a professional group movement underway. And we had an embryonic social concern, professional group that was concerned about reaching the masses, reaching the poor people. And that was just getting underway when I left. So...and we had about forty groups all over the country, university groups. Right now, though, they've got 40 staff workers. They have a big old mansion, house that's been converted into a series of offices. They've got a printing, (not a printing press itself).... They've got the publishing houses putting out books by the score like the InterVarsity Press here, some of which are written internally. Many of them are now being written internally rather than translating. a good strong professional group work throughout the country. They've had their own professional...well, we had some when I was there. We had also an encounter of all the Christian university professors of the country when I was there. Did a lot of things. Then they run a whole series of not just one leadership workshop[s] now for the whole country, but they run about five of them simultaneously in the month of July all over the country. They have a full-fledged group of people working with missions, missionary projects and development projects. I just talked...a guy just called me yesterday from there, and we're putting in another student intern from Wheaton [in to work?]. They've got a number of projects all over Brazil where they're taking the Gospel through an integrated community development program. They've got, for example, they've had a...an all Latin-American encounter of Christian professional people. They had it in Brazil and invited Latin Americans from Mexico, from all over. They also had two missionary conferences on the order of [unclear]...did I tell you this?
BUFFINGTON: Mm mmm [no].
BRAGG: A couple of years ago they had their first one, about three years ago. Five thousand students from all over Brazil, a number of missionaries, mission societies represented. In order to be able to go there you had to apply through your local group, you had to do a bible study by correspondence beforehand to make sure that we had some common background.
BUFFINGTON: Uh huh.
BRAGG: And they had to turn away...they turned away 5000 people. Now out of that they're sending missionaries to their own people. We've got missionaries that are back up in the interior of the country, missionaries who are working with the Indians, missionaries working with Wycliffe [Bible Translators], linguist types. And when I was in London a couple of weeks ago I met a Brazilian and his wife who are working in Italy, sent by the missionary movement, the student movement from Brazil to Italy to work with the students there.
BUFFINGTON: Where are you located in the country?
BRAGG: Sao Paulo, which is a big industrial city in the south, which is the state that has the most universities in it and the most university students. In fact when I was there it had half the university students in the whole country in that one state. It's a wealthy coffee and now industrial center of the south. San Paulo's the largest industrial complex of any city in the world. All the Pinto Motors in this country are made in Sao Paolo, Volkswagens are exported all over Latin American, made in Brazil. And locomotives and steam ships, and all kinds of things. I mean, it's really a big industrial complex. And so that economy allows them to put a lot of money in education. Very good...I mean, the only atomic, one of the two atomic reactors in Latin America was there...and so on.
BUFFINGTON: So you found the culture in Brazil much different...
BRAGG: Oh, yeah.
BUFFINGTON: ...from the culture in the Caribbean.
BRAGG: Yeah. Yeah. The Caribbean people were open and happy and not as pessimistic as in some of these more indigenous areas where you have a sort of a pessimism, an indigenous stoicism, which may or may not be part of their lives inherently. It's a cultural thing. But, you know, when you're dominated by the Spanish for 400 years you're not too happy, but.... Or the fatalism of Spaniard thought, you know. But Brazil is entirely different. It's very happy, very outgoing, you have the samba, you have carnival, soccer, (three times world champion, you know), so there...it's really an exuberant, pioneer, young society and very optimistic. Whereas in the other side you get a little bit of fatalism, pessimism, sort of a dull gray existence. With exceptions of course.
BRAGG: But I'm giving broad generalizations. Also we have a mixture of races. We have the German influence. I mean, there are whole sections of south Brazil are totally German. I mean, right now if I want to send an intern who speaks German to the Third World, I just send him to Brazil. But they've got whole communities which speak German. Well, they speak both now because since World War II they made them start teaching Engl...,ah, Portuguese in the public schools. So, but until they get to fifth grade they only speak German. Much like the Mennonites here in some cases where they....Italian, the best pizza in the world is made in San Paolo Greek Orthodox, Lithuanians, Americans. Little town called Americana which was established by people from the southern US who after the Civil War said, "We don't like this", packed themselves up, bag and baggage, implements, everything, and went down to Brazil and established a whole colony in San Paolo. And they speak Spain...Portuguese in the street, but at home they speak English. And they eat corn bread, and chitlins, and, and black-eyed peas, and everything...collard greens, just like you get in the south. So it's a rich cultural setting. And the Gospel is going much greater there. I mean when ten percent of the population is now evangelical. Large churches, I mean, there are churches with 20,000 members. There are also a lot of little [unclear] churches. But the gospel is...now they have spiritism too. Macumba[?] which is very strong, [unclear] . But it's an entirely different situation. And I think that's one of the reasons why the why the gospel is taken hold...why it was really a delight to work with university students. Keen, it was an elite group because university system screened out. It was only the best. It was like working with West Point, with Princeton or Yale or Wheaton-types people, so you just give them an idea and they go with it.
BUFFINGTON: Were you subject, or did you see much of the spiritism and the more indigenous practices while you were there?
BRAGG: in Puerto Rico I was in...we had a young fellow who was in spiritism and was possessed, and we prayed...and that was kind of a real experience. In Brazil, because I was working mainly with Christian students to get them trained and involved so they could reach young people better, I didn't get much into it. But there were overtones in the culture. I would see it going on. You know when New Year's night people would go down to the beach and worship, you know, one of the African gods who was a god of the sea. They would light little candles and put them on a barque and float out to sea at night and [unclear]. You know, you see it going on, but I didn't get into it as much as I would if I were working in a lower class community or in a village.
BUFFINGTON: Uh huh. What other...now you mentioned Colombia several times. When you were working in these other Central American...?
BRAGG: Well, when I was in, when I was in the Caribbean I would get a call or a letter or something to go over to work in Venezuela. I started to work in Venezuela. I cooperated with a young fellow who started on his own, Arthur Hill [?] in Colombia. And then later Rene Padilla went up to Colombia to live there. And that was during that year, from '57 through '66. I went to Venezuela in fact in '57, late '57, early '58, and started student work there with a group...a couple groups of young people. There was a missionary also in Mayda, in the western part, by the name of Dale Shaneley, who had started a student group in his home, so I cooperated with that. And got the group started in Caracas, and invited some of their leaders over to a Caribbean conference and to Puerto Rico and they'd come and visit me, go to camps in Puerto Rico and go back and carry the idea...just a very exciting time to see how things....
BUFFINGTON: What was the political situation like in Brazil when you were there?
BRAGG: Well, they'd just gone through the so-called revolution of '64, which was really a military coup. And rather repressive, and it got more and more repressive as I stayed there. Sixty-seven was a year of all years just like it was in this country. All around the world it was student uprisings, in Paris they were throwing tiles at the policemen. Well, we had this student shot over a cafeteria incident, was killed. He was buried. That sort of inflamed the youth. There were marches, and protests, and people thrown into jail. And in fact we had some camps where some of these young people, one of them in particular, had just been released from jail on bond. And he came to our camp and became a Christian. He was a Communist...uh, at least a fellow-traveler. And had been a...he'd been actually inciting revolution against the government. Became a Christian and now he's a psychiatrist. A leading...finally became a staff member later. He went to trial, was given a sentence, and it was waived because he had shown exemplary growth. So, you know, we were involved with a number of these young people who were...uh, for example, one night we woke up one night in Sao Paolo and somebody was knocking on our door (or clapping as they do, stand outside and clap). And so we went, and here were a couple of students from university who had been...the police had gone in and pulled them out of their...the dorms, closed down the dorms, sent them all packing. So here they were with a few suitcases in their hands and no place to go. So we took them in, which was a dangerous political act, and yet we had to. And they stayed with us a few days until they could get home. So it wasn't easy. it was a funny thing because on the one hand I was telling the students that they should...you know, I was siding with the students. And on the other hand I was going to the authorities and saying, and taking their place and saying, "Alright, what we want to do is work with these young people. Give them a goal to live for." Actually had bible studies with a group of senators along with the Presbyterian guy who had had contact with them in...in the capitol. So they then told their people that essentially gave us...they examined us. They sent people around to,to visit us in our offices. They could have closed us down any time if they found a fault. But, uh.... So it was not an easy situation. And politically it was hard for me as a foreigner. There were times when I would not even go on the campus. I tried to keep a very low profile. So that people would come see me rather than my going to the campus.
BUFFINGTON: What about the country's relation to the United States? Perhaps....
BRAGG: Well, the US cozied up to the military dictatorship. They were buying a lot of our arms, and we were training a lot of their people in Fort Leavenworth. But then Carter came along with the human rights thing, but they sort of split over that. And they said, "If you're going to insist that we, that we do things like you want us to do, we won't buy any more arms, and we won't send any more people up there." Essentially they didn't.
BUFFINGTON: What precipitated your decision to finally leave Brazil?
BRAGG: Well, it was a combination of things. One, I was tired. I'd been in student work for fifteen years with hardly a break, and all of these cultures, my family was growing, my oldest boy was thirteen, fourteen. And I began to realize that in four years he'd be going away to college, or three years. And I hadn't spent much time at home...50-60 per cent of my time I traveled all those years. And you really should be interviewing Ann as far as seeing the real perspective on things. She still suffers somewhat from, from that. We're...you know, she realizes now what an extreme effort it was to let me travel all that much. And to be alone...and the car, when we did have one, would always break down. Or was stolen one time when I was gone. We had a flood when I was in Peru, once on the continent and the house was flooded. the washing machine would break when we did have one...whatever. [laughs] Something always.... So she, really...the pressures were there in terms of really rebuilding my family and spending time with my five kids. In Brazil however, we were, you know, when we went there I said, "Alright, I'm going to have vacation with my family, two weeks regardless." And we had some really good family times. We took in a Dutch girl who had...her parents had migrated from Holland years before (and she only had an elementary education) to help us. And so she studied during the day, and then she'd come home after her studies and help Ann with the kids while Ann went out and taught school. So when Ann came home she wouldn't have to come to the kids on their lessons, and get supper ready, and do everything else. She just got married over in Holland. She went back. But that gave us a chance to get away with the family. We...I took them to camps with me. We took...we did camping together. I joined the camping club of Brazil. They had some very nice camps sites. We could get away from there. And the school Ann taught in was a British-Brazilian school where our kids went to school. They did go to the American nor to the missionary school). She was the only American teaching in the British school, and they want her back any time. And it had a little...it was two blocks from our house. That's one reason we chose our house. And it had a...had a little swimming pool, and a soccer field, and parents and kids could use it Saturdays and holidays. So that was nice. It wasn't all gloom and doom [laughs].
BUFFINGTON: [Laughs] looking back, I know you've continued your work with each country. How...how...Can you give me a little idea...
BUFFINGTON: ...of what you see of the work, where it's going...and where it's been...
BRAGG: I've given you a pretty good idea...
BRAGG: ...of where the Brazilian group is going. They're all under... understand they're doing great things with a budget of over $100,000 a year, supporting themselves entirely. I tried to send a donation down. It was sent back. And that conference, missionary conference cost them another $100,000, and they raised that. And, [laughs] so, you know, it's one of those miraculous things that...I look back, and in four short years to go from 3 small groups and a half-time person to today, fifteen, fourteen years later, it's really great. Dominican Republican is still going. They've got professional groups. I went back, the first time I went back they gave me a banquet. And filled a big hotel, with old friends and students. I speak at camps now and then. I speak at professional conferences, when I go back we have a meeting of professionals in Haiti or Puerto Rico, or Dominican Republic. Costa Rica, when I go back there, I meet with the graduates there. I'm working with them on different level too. We sent interns down to help them on some things, research and some other things. I'd say on the whole, Dominican Republic is going well, Puerto Rico is going fine, Costa Rica has continued to grow, the Venezuelan movement is strong. The Colombian movement is weak. In fact it was just revived in the last few years by a fellow who was there. Haiti is...because of the political pressure, the mulattos had to leave the country, and they were the educated classes when I went there, although we did have a number of pure blacks. And it's really great to see Claude Noel[?]. He's one of our men, and he's a member of the World Evangelical Fellowship's executive board. And he's on all kinds of commissions and he was cited by the President recently. And some pastors, school teachers. The movement is weak in Haiti, as a student movement. But the country is weak. The leadership now is weak. It's very hard to study and if you're too poor to study, and you're too poor to pay 25 cents extra to pay to come back to a meeting at night. Or you don't have the clothes, or you can't afford the ten dollars for a camp. So it's pretty hard going in Haiti. But that's true of every movement there.
BUFFINGTON: Were all the countries able to establish national leadership in every country totally?
BRAGG: Yeah, I left...I would only leave when they could do that.
BUFFINGTON: After you returned then to the United States in '72....
BUFFINGTON: You then....
BRAGG: Well, I came back in '70 and did a Master's degree, but then...
BUFFINGTON: When did you finally come back to Wheaton?
BRAGG: '76. I was getting ready, I think I told you, to go back to Brazil to teach. Had a contract with the Federal University in Bahia [Brazilian state] when Wheaton called me. And made me this crazy offer, the godfather offer, I couldn't turn down because I had college-age kids coming up. But it was a very interesting program here, and it was some that dovetailed with what the Lord had been preparing me to do all, all those years, and I didn't know about it. Because in my doctoral work I had done work back in Brazil...um, community development and evaluating that. And the project was showing how university students from the countr...the cities, from the country to the interior, had crossed literally back into the medieval society that was back there, and were trying to help these people develop. And essentially Wheaton's program is a short-term program sending educated, middle-class, literate people to identify with the poor and try to help them develop. So there're a lot of parallels. And so, that's it. Now...
BUFFINGTON: Do you see any, ah...
BRAGG: ...finishing up it's fourth year.
BUFFINGTON: ...possibility of returning to South America or...
BRAGG: My heart is in it. I had lunch with a guy the other day who was trying to recruit me to go back, but in development work, which is alright. My heart is there....[pause]as it is now, I have the best of both worlds because I can visit my friends [laughs].
BRAGG: And I can help them.
BRAGG: You know I can find, I know some people that I can even give jobs to... by saying, "Right now we're setting up... involved with things going on." So I can give a job to somebody who needs it, or call upon some resources. So it's a, a funny...I'm sort of in exile here, voluntary exile. But it's good to go back and renew those contacts in the field. If you're one of them you can't....
BUFFINGTON: I'm kind of closing up here.
BUFFINGTON: we're kind of summarizing things. I was thinking about what you'd told me earlier of the group, the original group of young students at Wheaton, and how you got started. Do you maintain interest? has that group retained interest and contact in Latin American mission?
BRAGG: Well, Rene Padilla of course is in Argentina and is a Ph.D. now from England, University of Manchester under F. F. Bruce. And he's editor of a leading magazine in Latin America, and does a lot of writing and conference speaking. I was with him just recently in London at the conference on theology and development of simple life style. And there was a...well, that's a different story. Samuel Escobar is in Peru now, and I'm in contact with him. In fact the three of us will share a platform together in November there in a conference that I'm setting up. Samuel will speak on development ideology in Latin American, and Rene will give a series of Biblical bases for development. There will be some of our Brazilian friends coming over, and the fellow that helped to start the student work in Colombia is coming down. He's now on the road. So, yeah, there's a network. George...Dick Jones died in a car crash in Panama. And George, (now you ask me), George and his wife Jean, out in, are in Barrington College teaching music still. And I...he supported me all those years in Latin America. Very, very nice. George Biggs and his wife. let's see, some of the others. Benton Melbourne was in Costa Rica for a number...several years, a number of years, and headed the student work there. But now he's back, for family reasons, he's back, and in California, and out of, quote, missionary work as such. But I'd say, the main group has maintained its interest.
BUFFINGTON: Are there any comments you would like to make as you summarize your mission work and have shared with us some of your experiences?
BRAGG: Yeah, I guess, in synthesis I would repeat in terms of a continuing problem that I had hoped we had buried a long time ago is the problem of the differentiation between missionaries in terms of their life style and their social involvement with easy other as a sort of missionary establishment, and the people at the level of the receiving end. I think we still have some pockets of resistance there. People who haven't really learned the partnership approach. It's still an issue. In fact in Sunday school class I'll be talking about this issue, and giving illustrations about how we still have somewhat of a siege mentality, somewhat of a,a compound mentality in some ways. Even though we are living among the people now, I think psychologically, you know, we're not living behind these mud walls. But psychologically we still have the mud walls between us and the people. You know, (and I hate to say that), and...but I think that just for the record, for the historical prospective.
BRAGG: Twenty years ago I came home and gave a talk here at College Church, and my pastor almost ran me out afterward and said I was very nasty. I shouldn't have said those things because we had all these very nice missionary retired people there. Essentially I was saying what frankly what I saw, was that mentality going on. And, and I was trying to reflect the hurt that the people have. If you want to document this today, we have two theses. One that is just now being finished, and one that was done last year. Gabriel Abikoye for his graduate thesis wrote on the church in Africa today and what its relationship to the missionary group is. And Gabriel, I'm sorry, and Nicholas, and I can't think of his whole name, from Ghana, is writing his. And there is still a lot of hurt there, and still a lot of manipulation. There is still a lack of trust, a lack of dignity in relationships. Because we're still besieged by the missionary mentality. And the missionaries' problem is that he is a missionary. He says, "I am going to do something," rather than going and being something, rather than going and learning something. We go and we do, and we do and we do and we do. And even in the development area, people have...nationals have said when I was in Nigeria here last summer...one said to me about a big missionary project that has to do with rural development. He said, "Well, the missionaries came and they evangelized, and that's fine. And they found we could evangelize our own better than they could. So they left that and went to church planting. And then they left that and went to church growth, and to radios and to clinics. Now the government's taken that over and the poor missionary has nothing to do, so he invents another thing to do which is relief and development."
BRAGG: Now that's his perspective, but I'm just saying that to illustrate that it's still there and if you just scratch the surface you find it's there. And it's a pity. And there're people who are very...you can ask the nationals and they'll tell you who they would like to have back. But you see because our power base is still here, and we receive our salaries here, we're not vulnerable. And I think the missionary movement needs to become vulnerable. It has become in a sense of visas because some of these national governments are saying, "We don't want more missionaries." And it's become vulnerable in that movement of missionary moratorium which is sort of passed now. We're asking for thousands more of North Americans to go abroad. And I believe they should. But I believe they should go with a new spirit. And I trust this generation it will go with a new spirit. But unfortunately it has to fit into an old mold, and the only model we have is the mold that's there. And I wish there were some way of breaking that cycle. And maybe, I would say this just for, maybe looking down the pike just a little. But part of the reason for this is the life style. That as the technological society grows further and further from the traditional society, we grow further and further away from the conditions in which Christ lived. He lived in a more traditional society. So we've got to do more of a double effort. We've got to do a Philippians 2 act, coming down the success ladder, coming down to the level. And I think of a guy by the name of Cowley[?] from New Zealand down in in the Dominican Republic who, who went in (he's an agriculturist), but he went in. He said, "I will not bring a thing with me other than the clothing on my back and essentially a few books, and I'm going to live like the people." And he's moved into a mud hut, and his place is a, you know, sort of a Grand Central Station. People feel free to come in his mud hut because it's like their mud hut. And they come...they'll sleep on the floor. They'll stay there and they'll talk way into the night, and he goes to their places. It's just a beautiful thing to see. And it's getting increasingly hard for North Americans in our affluent society to come down to this. And I think our very possession of wealth and goods and...makes us, almost...we're too self-contained. And we need to be vulnerable. I think we need to go back to that passage in Matthew 10, where Jesus sent out his disciples the first time. And He said, "Don't take a staff, don't take a robe, don't take a purse, don't take shoes. Just go." And the principle was, attach yourself to a worthy man. And that meant somebody would take him in, somebody would have enough work to support him. And then you're vulnerable. And then your message has to be culturally appropriate or he'll kick you out and you'll starve to death. You know, I think we need to go back to that. In saying that, I recognize that I didn't totally do it, but I did it insofar as was possible. And it was easier in those days in some ways. I think people are spoiled too much today in Western society. Now there are those who will do it. But I think we need to get that message out.
BRAGG: Those are...those are the principles. I guess that's sort of the modus operandi that I would go by. And become all things to all men. Now if there's anything else I would say for the record, I think the Billy Graham Center, since this is sort of sponsored by that, should really seriously examine the whole problem of brain drain in Third World countries to here...the whole problem of cult...acculturation of the people, especially for, (and I don't know, I'm speaking from ignorance now) as to how far the thinking has gone in terms of bringing large masses, or even small masses of people, for a longer...long training period here. I think the long training period, the longer you keep them away, the harder it is for them to go back. And I think we've had a good success rate so far here in the grad school. I think 95% of our people go back, which is fantastic. But I think we'll have to be careful. And I would rather see, again, rather than bring them here and let them see, rather than fill their eyes with the American way, and...and... and even the building we're bringing them into. I would be happy if it were less pretentious. You know, and it may have to close down because of lack of fuel. But I would rather see a program which would go from here out there, even for short periods of time, or bring them here for short period and then work with them over the years there in their own context. And having said that, I think maybe our life style, and the cost of gasoline...you figure it costs $10,000 a student this year, to bring a foreign student, to bring his family you've got another ten. It's very expensive. It's an expensive way to educate people. I think the theological education by extension is one model... that, that doesn't depend on dislocating people. And I think we need to look at that in international students. That's my sermon for the day.
BRAGG: I do, I do it when I talk with people about this...but our life style, Mary Ann, will bring us...maybe this is God's way. Maybe He's using the Arabs, even Kissinger and the Shah...
BRAGG: ...to bring us to the point where we will lower our life style and not, that we'll become again syncrynous [sic] with the rest of the world. So that we can...you see, increasingly our missionaries are able to go and function in the big cities. Because the life is high, the apartments are very nice. You have an automobile, you have a telephone, you have TV, you have an urban city. And so what's the difference. You work here, you work there. But I'm thinking about the great masses of people. And I think it's...and I'm not being critical only of our mission, or of our life style. I think the life style of the elite in Latin America. I mean, you have people who are more universal, cosmopolitan, and feel more at home in Rome and in Paris and in New York, than they do in their own country, even though they're nationals. So I think it would be a continuing education toward an incarnational model, even within those countries. That's why I'm thrilled about the...the conference in Brazil on missions, just getting these people. There's six medical doctors and their wives, well, some of are wives that are medical doctors..,
BRAGG: ...who are back, way back in the interior. And I had a letter from [them] yesterday saying, "We...We're looking like dirt...1200 miles from Rio de Janeiro, way back in a poor town." And they said yet in that letter, this gal, "We're looking for a place that is even more needy, way back on the Amazon." Here these are educated people. They could be making a fat fortune, and they're willing to move back. That's the kind of thing that we need. And I find that here, I mean, our HNGR interns, and our campus response this year to the Dominican Republic and in Thailand, has been a tremendous eye-opener to everybody. I think what we're having now is a children's crusade that's going to lead us back to where the missionary ranks used to be but with a new purpose and a new focus. And you know, I'm really greatly excited about that, and thrilled. That's what keeps me in Wheaton. And I'm finding more and more people are thinking along these lines. There's a group in fact that's meeting, that's had a second meeting of faculty and staff who are looking to band together to simplify our life style, and help each other, so that we don't all have to be independent, autonomous, and have all the problems of carrying our heavy financial burden here alone. So we're going to pool our resources, and simplify and whittle away, and serve as a, a check to one another. And one guy came up yesterday at lunch, or after lunch...we had a meeting...and said, "Look, I have this problem of deciding of whether I should do this or this with some property I have. What should I do?" He said, "How can I justify having that when my brother is so poor?" So one of the things we suggested...and he's going with me for 2 weeks to the Philippines to visit the poorest of the poor. He said, "I want to get into the slums, I want to see what they...I want to see where they hurt." And so he's educating, using a little bit of that surplus to educate himself. Those are good signs. You know, God is not dead. And I hope that in this tape I haven't been pessimistic...
BRAGG: ...or too critical of our brothers who have done a great job. And there've been a lot of missionaries who've done a lot of social action jobs that I don't hold a candle to. So [pause] well...it's...
BRAGG: We're living in great times. And I think our young people realize that more than we do. I hope that we can be more optimistic.
BUFFINGTON: Well, thank you for your time.
BRAGG: You bet.
END OF TAPE