Billy Graham Center

Collection 124 - Helen Gignilliat Torrey Renich. T2 Transcript.

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the second of the oral history interviews of Mrs. Helen Torrey Renich (Collection 124, #T2) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words which were recorded were omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. This is a transcript of spoken English, which of course follows a different rhythm and rule than written English. In very few cases, words were too unclear to be distinguished. In these cases "[unclear]" or "[?]" was inserted.

... 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.

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

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

This transcription was made by D. Reifsnyder and J. H. Nasgowitz and was completed in November, 1990.

Collection 124, #T2. Interview of Helen Torrey Renich by Robert Shuster, May, 1982.

SHUSTER: When did you first go to school in Korea?

RENICH: First I went to boarding school just outside of Peking, in a place called Tungchou. And then in 1933 we transferred over to boarding school in Pyongyang, which is about the thirty-eighth parallel, Pyongyang, Korea.

SHUSTER: Why...why Korea?

RENICH: We were quite unhappy in the school, in Tungchou school. It had kind of a British atmosphere, which we American children weren't too used to. And it was my first experience of boarding school, and was strict in many ways and we had begged our father to take us out of school. And he hadn't wanted to send us as far away as Korea, because it was a three day trip to Korea, and the Tungchou school was only a relatively was a day's trip to get up to Peking. But because of our unhappiness in the school at Tungchou, he decided to investigate further the Pyong school. [Train noise.] [It] had an excellent reputation and many China people sent their children to it. It was run by the Presbyterian Presbyterian missionaries, and some the teachers were missionaries' children returned to teach for a short period of time before they got into their life work. And it was an excellent school, a very happy school, with about a hundred and fifty young people. Pyongyang was quite a large center for missionaries, so they started with...I think even with kindergarten (I'm not sure about that), but the lower grades, because the children lived in the area. But the boarding school students probably started about seventh grade.

SHUSTER: And you were there with your sister?

RENICH: I went with my brother to start with, Archer Torrey III, and he and I went at first. And then later on my, I guess it was my last year, my sister Claire joined us in the boarding school.

SHUSTER: What...did you notice any differences between Korea and China?

RENICH: It was interesting to be in a different country. It was very exciting getting there because first, I believe, my father took us and then we went...because we transferred in the spring...and then we went on our own and we had to cross China. And Korea then was owned by the Japanese, and we had to go through questionings by the Japanese. And Korea was entirely different from China: different language, which I didn't know; and the Koreans were under the Japanese people at that time. And I noticed their bravery. They weren't supposed to wear white, which was sort of their national color (the Japanese trying to destroy their nationalism). And they would wear white anyway, and the Japanese would throw ink on their clothes to try and get them under control. And at that time it was a persecution of the Christians, and that impressed me tremendously. I had a fear of persecution anyway.

SHUSTER: By the Japanese?

RENICH: By the Japanese. They wanted the Korean Christians to worship the sun goddess. And I had already in boarding school in China heard a story of the Boxer Rebellion which just terrified me, should I ever have to go through persecution. And I saw the people actually that had been persecuted. For instance, I...I actually only saw one person, but I kept hearing stories from the missionaries. Went to town with one of my friends and here was a man on the street corner going "Jesu, Hallelujah," but he didn't look like he was all there, and it just didn't seem like he was too coherent. So I said to my friend who lived in Pyong, I said, "What is it with this man that is talking on the street corner?" And she was used to this sort of thing and sort of flipped it off and said, "Oh, he's...was persecuted for his faith until he lost his mind, and then when he lost his mind they let him go." And it went...oh...over me. Here was a man who loved Jesus so much that in his half-demented state he was still trying to win people for Jesus on the street corner. And this was very, very impressive to me. Probably some of these early impressions formed my own commitment to the Lord in later years. I knew, at least in part, of what real commitment could mean, and what it did mean, because I saw what commitment to Christ had meant during the Boxer rebellion in 1900, being told it by a missionary. And then I saw this man who had been persecuted. Then missionaries told us of others who had suffered persecution. And so this really had a...made a lifelong impression on me.

SHUSTER: Was that the only way that you heard or saw persecution, through the stories that were told? Were there any kind of public demonstrations or...?

RENICH: No, there were no public demonstrations, at least not to me as a school child. It was all behind the scenes. I would not have seen it because I was isolated in the foreign school and there was no persecution of us. And we were allowed to...the missionaries, as far as I know, were allowed to preach the gospel. I don't know how limited it was. It seemed to be a freedom of preaching the gospel. And then we were, as I say, in...on the school...on the school compound. We were allowed to walk to town and do shopping. So I didn't actually see any persecution. But I remember in chapel, I believe it was, one of the missionaries told how he was wakened up in the middle of the night, and he saw the face of this particular Christian at the foot of his bed, and he knew instantly the Christian was in trouble, and so he went to prayer, and he prayed until finally he was...felt that God had answered his prayer. And several weeks later there was a knock at the door, and this Christian arrived at the door, and the missionary knew exactly when he had been wakened..."Where were you on such and such a date at such and such a time." And he said, "That's what I've come to tell you." And what they had done was they had strung this Christian up by his thumbs to try and get him to deny Christ, and the pain was so excruciating he didn't know how he could stand it any longer and he was crying out to the Lord. And he said the Lord Jesus came, put his arms around him and lifted him...lifted all the weight off of his thumbs. What apparently happened was that he lost consciousness, and he was taken down, and later released. So these are things that made a tremendous impression on me as a high school girl.

SHUSTER: Do you recall what missionary that was?

RENICH: No, I can't recall his name right at this instant. I would....

SHUSTER: Did you by any chance know Bruce Hunt when you were in...?

RENICH: Not really. I...I know his name but I didn't really know Bruce Hunt.

SHUSTER: Because I think he was also attending that boarding school about the same time. But a little....

RENICH: ...little earlier perhaps. Yes.

SHUSTER: You mentioned traveling to Korea from China. How did you travel?

RENICH: We traveled by train, first by Chinese train and then its through, I guess Manchuria, and then crossed the border into Korea. And then we got on a Japanese train, and there we had to go through Japanese customs. We had to have passports or travel passes to go through. All of our baggage was inspected at the border, and they asked us many questions about where we were from and where we were going and so on, and then let us through and it was about a three day trip. Two nights, I think, and three days it took us to get from where we lived. Sometimes I went by (if we were in our summer resort, which was Chingtao on the coast of Shantung province)...then we boarded a Japanese ship and were overnight on this ship and went up to Dairen in Manchuria, and then caught a train from Dairen and went around into Korea. What is so marvelous is how our parents would allow us to travel alone. There might be ten or twelve young people in the group. And this one time that we went off to boarding school we got on a ship with smugglers from Japan who were smuggling all the silver dollars that they could get out of China. And every person our part of the ship, which was (we traveled in the hold of the ship for economy's sake)...had on these silver jackets. And these were jackets that were made into grooves that fit dollars, and they had sewed silver dollars into these jackets, and even the little children had them on. And they were taking all the silver backing out of China so they could weaken China for the Japanese war later. And we had to be...go through an inspection line to get off of this ship and they were feeling every passenger that went off of this ship, and....

SHUSTER: And this was a Japanese ship then...?

RENICH: Japanese ship, yes. And the whole thing was just done by the Japanese government...

SHUSTER: But the Chinese were the ones who were feeling each passenger, searching each passenger...?

RENICH: No. The Japanese, the Japanese. It was a Japanese ship, and when we started to get off of the ship, we got in line and saw that they were feeling every passenger...the Japanese officials were feeling every passenger that went off of the ship from the hold, where we were. But when they saw us in line they sent us back down into the lower part of the ship again. And the Chinese were back in the lower part of the ship. There was a limited number of Chinese, and then us missionaries' children. And we sat there for what we thought was an interminable length of time. And I was the leader of the group. (I guess it was my senior year, 1934 it would have, no 1935 it would have been, the fall of '35. And I was in charge of the group. By this time I was the oldest.) And we sat and waited. And of course I prayed, just really prayed. And then finally we went up again. We hadn't been signaled, but we went up again and saw the Japanese being felt, and going off of the ship. And I think the thought was that they wouldn't let their silver jackets off over the side of the ship or get the money for themselves or anything. It was a whole thing organ...the whole thing was organized. And the guard said to me very roughly, "Do you have any silver dollars?" Well, then I tried a stunt. I said (talked as fast as I could, which I thought they wouldn't understand)...said, "We did not have any silver dollars. We were just school children." In fact, all I had was this little bit of money, and I showed him my purse, and that's all the rest of us had. "We just had our ticket and we were going off to boarding school." And I just talked a rapid-fire, and then got on my knees and opened my suitcase to show him, and began to demonstrate different articles of clothing that were in my suitcase. And all the young people that were with me were absolutely convulsed because it was just ridiculous. And even the guard started snickering and laughing because it was...the whole thing got to be so funny. And the man who was inspecting me and asking us got so embarrassed over the whole thing he told me to pack my suitcase and get off of the ship. And when we got off of the ship and were on our way to the train station one of the boys said, "I have silver dollars sewed in my pocket." I said, "You have what?" And he said, "Yes, my mother gave me silver dollars so I wouldn't lose on the exchange when I came back to China again." I don't know what they would have done if they had found the silver dollars sewed in his pocket. But he didn't say anything, fortunately, and I didn't know anything about it, and we got safely on the train and started on our way to Korea. So our parents knew some of the hazards. But they could have let us off over the edge of the ship and nobody would have known the difference, because we had seen all the smuggling. And they could have said, "Well, we got off of the ship, and there was no one to meet us." So we could have just disappeared into the...into the murky waters of Dairen harbor, and nobody would have known the difference.

SHUSTER: Dangerous situation.

RENICH: So, the faith that our parents had to have to send us off to...a bunch of children off to boarding school like this, I really feel was commendable.

SHUSTER: What were the trains like?

RENICH: The Chinese trains were very dirty, very dusty, exceedingly crowded. Sometimes we were in this back section, you know, where they have sort of like a porch (I don't know what you call that section on the train), where it links with the other train.

SHUSTER: Observation car?

RENICH: Like an observation car except it hooks to the car next to it. I suppose it would be the observation area if it was the last car. And it was all open. And we often had to sit on our suitcases in this open part. And by the time we had arrived in the morning you could hardly recognize your schoolmates, we were so black with soot that had blown in. And I remember joking with a young fella that was sitting next to me and I asked him [laughs] what nationality he was, because he was so black with soot, and we all just looked just horrible. And it was terribly crowded. Sometimes we could get on the edge of a seat or sometimes we had to sit in the aisles on our suitcases, and sometimes...well, I was thinking in some of the trains, maybe the Japanese trains, there was a...a...a ladies' room, but most of the...the WCs were either for men or women and it was just like one little cubicle that a person went into. So...but I think maybe it was a different kind of a train. Maybe we were traveling better class when I remember sometimes we were sitting in this room in the back. But most of the time it was very filthy and dirty. But the Japanese trains were much cleaner and much more efficient. And we...though we traveled third class we traveled...had berths. And the bottom berth was one dollar and the middle berth...the bottom berth was three dollars, the middle berth was two dollars, and the top [pauses] berth was only one dollar. And the middle berth was the back of the bottom seat. And so when night came, they would lift up the back of the bottom seat and so we had all these three layers that we slept in. And curtains around each one. I always took the top one because I was so tall, and the Japanese people were so small; my feet hung off the end, [laughs] up above the heads of the people, so that I could stretch out in my berth. Also it was one...just one dollar. So the traveling was quite comfortable on the Japanese trains but they always woke us up in the middle of the night when we crossed the border, and had to find out all about us. So we thought we'd be very clever and had two children that had large families with passports, and get them to say that we were just two families and these were the eleven children in the family, and the rest of us slept. But in the middle of the night we got called anyway and they said the Japanese knew how many boys and how many girls there were and they [laughs] didn't match the passports. So they were more...intelligent than we thought. And so we all had to get up and confess to our sins and put it right as to who we really were. [laughs]

SHUSTER: You mentioned about...with Koreans wearing white and sometimes Japanese throwing ink on them. Was that something you witnessed or heard about?

RENICH: I guess I actually maybe s...maybe I heard about it, because I don't remember seeing the demonstrations. But they...there were apparently demonstrations in the streets. And I did not actually see it. We were pretty well protected and isolated in our boarding school. And I guess if they knew there was going to be any trouble we would not have been allowed to go to town. So when we went to town, we really didn't see too much ruckus.

SHUSTER: What was an average day like at boarding school?

RENICH: We would go down and have breakfast in the common dining room, and then we would scurry off to school. I don't even remember.... It's interesting how those things can go out of your mind even though you do it [laughs] every day for thirty years. And we would be in boarding school until lunch time, and then come home...come back to the school for lunch, go back to boarding school after about an hours lunchtime. And then have school until I think roughly three thirty or four o'clock in the afternoon, and then have a couple of hours before supper at night. And then we had supper, and then we went back to the school again for study hall in the evening, and then came back about eight-thirty at night and were supposed to be in bed around nine o'clock at night, maybe it was nine-thirty.

SHUSTER: So you spent a long school day?

RENICH: So we spent a long school day. We had freedom after four o'clock between four to six. We had maybe games or walking, or doing...well, free time what we wanted to do. One thing that would be interesting, I think, to people was that, the year before my senior year in boarding school, I began to be more and more miserable, feeling that I needed to commit my life to the Lord. I had seen the things I told you about and was under real conviction of sin, that I had never really committed my life to Christ. And during the summer, one of my friends wrote to me and she said, "Jill, have you surrendered your life to the Lord?" And I [pauses] mother read all my mail and when she got to that part I knew what would happen. She would ask me. And I said, "No, Mother." And...

SHUSTER: You mean she read it to you, or...

RENICH:, I...after I finished my mail I had...we had open communication in our house. It was just terrific until you got to something like this that you didn't want your mother to see. And so I...after I'd read my letter she asked if she could read it and then she came to that part where my friend had asked me if I'd surrendered my life to the Lord. And I said, "No, Mother," and then waited for the lecture. But she didn't say a thing, and that was even worse because she was praying [laughs]. And later in the summer there was an opportunity to go to a conference. That particular summer we were spending in our hometown, Tsinan, Shantung, and had rented our house in order to have more money for us children to go to school. (It cost so much to go to boarding school). But back where we spent the summer there was a conference, and she asked me if I would like to go. And some people were passing through on their way to the conference. I did and I didn't, because I knew I had business to do with God. I went to the conference and there I surrendered my life to the Lord. [I] came back to boarding school that fall really charged for...up for God. I became the head of the Christian Endeavor and I wanted to see the Sunday night young people come alive. It was just a dead series of [pauses]...dead as some of the Sunday school that we had, and the meetings. It was something that you had to go to, and it wasn't a bit interesting. So I decided we would have subjects that were relevant to us as young people and every fifth Sunday we would have somebody read a biography and report on a missionary. And I read Borden of Yale and about his prayer life, and later somebody shamed me into reading my first book of Grandfather's. They had asked me if I'd read my grandfather's book and I..."Oh, what young person reads an old man's book." I mean, even if he's related that doesn't [laughs] help any; he's still old. Well, she finally shamed me into reading The Power of Prayer. And I became so excited about that book, The Power of Prayer, and about Borden of Yale, who had prayer in Yale, that I gathered around me five girls who had a hunger for God and had them praying with me. And when we came back from study hall we raced home, jumped into our pajamas and came into my room ( senior year, had a room alone for the first time in all my years of boarding school), and had prayer together for ourselves and for the school. Later on we divided up; the...there were about twenty-five young people we felt that were careless about the things of God, and we divided their names. And each one of us took five. And one of the girls in my group was Ruth Graham, Ruth Bell Graham, who was of so...such a godly woman...girl, at that time. And she had the same concern that I did. And she and I and three other girls prayed together every night my senior year, and divided up these students. One was...the one I of the ones I took was a young boy whose father had died and his little sister had died, and the mother bravely had come back out to China again with these two boys. The older boy was really serious about his faith and the younger boy was very careless. And this troubled me a great deal, that a mother that would be that sincere and earnest, that her little boy would be this careless. I would...I can see myself as a great big senior on the...the stairs of the school exhorting him to give his life to God and he laughing up at me. Great big brown eyes and curly brown hair and just as cute as he could be, just careless about the things of God. And would you believe that probably thirty years later, my daughter went to Cass Technical High School to [pauses] one of their Christian meetings and this young man, a man now [chuckles], came and spoke at the school. And when I asked my daughter who was speaking, she said, "A Mr. Kauffman," and I..."who...who was almost born in China." And I said, "He wasn't from Chingtao, China, was he?" "Well, Mother, how do I know?" And "his first name wasn't Paul, was it?" "Well, how do I know [chuckles]." So...but anyway I tracked him down and found he was this little boy I'd prayed for, and never had heard from all these years. But the following year he had...well, when he became a senior he went off to...his mother had prayed him into Bible college and he had given his life to the Lord. And now he's a very, very outstanding missionary in Hong Kong, China.

SHUSTER: Paul Kauffman?

RENICH: Paul Kauffman. And when they want an excellent missionary speaker up at the People's Church in Toronto they've often havd Paul Kauffman speak there. He's written books about China and he's a [pauses] unusual missionary. But I...I've just been thrilled to follow what the Lord has been doing in his life. He's done some rather unusual things. I don't think it was just my prayers. He had a very pray...a very sincere, earnest Christian mother and a praying mother and probably she had many praying friends. But I remember because I was so concerned for this [laughs] little boy [laughs], more so than the others on my list.

SHUSTER: You mentioned Ruth Graham, Ruth Bell, I suppose at that time.

RENICH: Right.

SHUSTER: How did you first meet her?

RENICH: We were in boarding school together and I met her right along with all the rest. There was Ruth Bell and Rosa. And I roomed with some of the people from her area of China. And we just knew each other like we all knew each other in boarding school. Then I believe I c...well, she continued the prayer meetings after I left my senior year, and then she came to Wheaton College the year after I did. Both she and her sister were here. And I...I knew her but we weren't real close friends. She always knew who I was and I always knew who she was, and of course followed her with great interest through the years. And then it's interesting now that I'm sitting here in the Billy Graham Center to remember that Billy Graham was quite the southern orator and young man preacher in those days.

SHUSTER: Before we go into that let's stick with career for a little bit and go into your....


SHUSTER: Did she make any particular impression on you as a child or...?

RENICH: She made an impression on all of us in that she was such a devoted, sincere, earnest Christian. Yes, she stood out in her Christianity from the other...I would say from the other young people that were in the school. [Sound of passing train.]

SHUSTER: I get the impression from what you say that there were some...some of the kids there were very devoted. Some were rather lax about their faith.

RENICH: There were. It's just like a cross-section of any Christian church or any Christian group. And these other three girls were very sincere, earnest Christian girls who God had been...apparently had been dealing with during the year. And...but Ruth would have been outstanding and she probably was the first one that I asked if she would join me in prayer, because I was so concerned for the whole atmosphere of the school.

SHUSTER: What was the social life like at the school?

RENICH: Social life was excellent. Our teachers provided parties...parties for us, wholesome parties. We had dress-up parties, we had gym during schooltime, which was also very wholesome, a lot of exercise. We had ice skating, and we would even have maybe parties for ice skating in the wintertime. And we had...we were allowed to date, and we would go walking for dates, or have a date to a party, or have a banquet, or have games. And the weekends, quite frequently, were filled with fun. was really a...a great school. The principal was a Presbyterian missionary, Mr. Reiner, who later was also persecuted by the Japanese as he stayed over. My sister was in the last graduating class in 1944 and then the school had to close because of the pressure. And...and Dr. Reiner was persecuted by the Japanese and had really suffered. But the...the teachers were fun-filled teachers and the school was fun. And during vacation time, because I couldn't go home, I would go home time with one of the teachers and another time with a young person who was attending school there.

SHUSTER: You mean you couldn't go home because it was so far away?

RENICH: So far.


RENICH: It took...for a short va...couldn't even go home for Christmas. We had two weeks. Well, by the time it took three days going home and three days coming back, they felt it was not worth it for us to go home at Christmas time. So we were away from home for nine months, which was a long stretch. [laughs]

SHUSTER: You bet.

RENICH: be away from home. But they...the people, the missionaries did everything they could for us. And we were welcomed into the home of the missionaries there in the Pyong community. And they would have sings for us and have us for supper in their homes. And they were wonderful to us as young people.

SHUSTER: What about academically?

RENICH: Academically the sch...the school stood so high that we did not have to take entrance examinations. It was known for its scholastic standing. And we had excellent teachers with good reputations and no need for college entrance exams, so I was able to come from Pyong and come right into school here.

SHUSTER: When you did come to Wheaton, did you seem to be [pauses]...did your education seem to be better than the ones who would be coming from U.S. schools or was it about the same?

RENICH: Didn't [interruption on tape]...couldn't...I couldn't tell. I didn't know how we stood for that [pauses] educationally and academically. I found that when they gave us our personality tests...psychological personality tests, they asked me questions that I had never experienced because of having grown up in the Orient. The questions were very strange. I didn't even know how to answer some of the questions because they were tailored to an American person who had an American orientation. And....

SHUSTER: Such as? Do you remember any of them?

RENICH: I can remember one vividly because I found what the answer was later. They asked that if you were walking down the street and came to somebody that you did not want to encounter, would you cross the street to avoid them or would you just encounter them and go on. And I had never known of anybody that I'd never...didn't want to encounter. And so I had no idea what I would do. But I found out. There was somebody [laughs] that I did not want to encounter because she had given me something, and I had lost it. And I was so guilt-ridden, when I saw her coming down the street I went the other way. So I found out what my personality would do. I avoided her. Later on I had to confront her and tell her I had lost this thing that she had lent to me and feeling just terrible about it.

SHUSTER: Do you think your puzzlement with that question was your own personality or something that you'd picked up from China...Chinese culture? Was it....

RENICH: My what?

SHUSTER: Your puzzlement at that question. Do you think it was your own personality or was it...

RENICH: I had never...

SHUSTER: ...something you'd picked up from Chinese culture?

RENICH: My puzzle at the question was that I had never encountered anybody that I ever tried to avoid, or needed to avoid. And so the puzzlement was just out of my experience. It was beyond my experience because I had never...we had been all in boarding school and...I don't know. If you didn't like a person you just walked past them, and didn't make any big deal over it. And I had never been asked a question like that and didn't remember ever experiencing trying to avoid anybody [laughs]. So it was just ignorance of the question. And as I say I found out. And that's why I remember, 'cause the question seemed so strange to me because I had never ever tried to avoid anybody. And I didn't know what I would do. And then, you see, because it stuck in my mind, when the incident came up then I found out what I did do [laughs].

SHUSTER: Were there any teachers at the boarding school who made a particularly strong, lasting impression on you?

RENICH: Yes. There was a man who came in [pauses] (isn't it awful, my memory for names. I wasn't expecting all of this. My sister is better on memory of names.)...there was a teacher who was a man who came to our boarding school, and there seemed to be an unusual commitment about his life. And I admired him tremendously in his Christianity. And then...his Christianity was what I admired about him. And he is now in Dubuque University, or Dubuque Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. And my sister has se... Miller, his name was Miller. Now I can't remember....

SHUSTER: And he was a teacher?

RENICH: And he was one of our teachers. Came out for a short term. He was a young man, came out for a short term and taught us. Dr. Miller, and....

SHUSTER: What did he teach?

RENICH: He taught us Bible.


RENICH: And he taught us Bible in an inductive method, which made such an influence on me that I was planning to...after I finished Wheaton College...I would go to a Bible school. But I would go to a Bible school that taught inductively. Which was... White Bible Institute in New York was the only one I knew of...Biblical...Biblical Institute in New York. I guess Dr. Miller told us about this school. Later on I found that Prairie Bible Institute had the same type of inductive method along with their high standards and I went to Prairie for one year. Another teacher that made an impression, adventure-wise, was a teacher that came out and...who had taught for a short...short term in India. And when...she had a four months vacation and traveled all over India. Helen Yates was her name. And later she...she came to Korea to teach, and each summer was dedicated to traveling [in] Korea, one summer dedicated to traveling in China. (In fact, [on] her China trip I went with her for part of it.) And one summer was Japan (for the three years). Well, she gave me...I loved traveling anyhow, and she gave me the desire to travel. And I decided that I would become a teacher so I could have three months vacation in which to travel [laughs]. And she had a tremendous influence on my life. And little did I know that God had put this travel within me, which was the thing that made it very hard for me to surrender my life to the Lord, because I was afraid that I'd have to sit in a corner and pray, and I couldn't travel if I gave my life to the Lord. So that was a real issue with me. Finally I surrendered that to the Lord, little knowing that God had put this desire to travel in my heart because that's what he wanted me to do for all of my life, and which I have done. Ever since with my life [chuckles] I've always traveled. But Helen Yates made a tremendous impression on me because of her love of travel. But she was a music teacher and a very sincere, earnest Christian.

SHUSTER: But just the way that she...she showed you the excitement of travel....

RENICH: Right. Her love of life and her interest in places and people. I traveled with her even in Korea. We went up to the Diamond Mountains [English translation of the Korean?] and...and just her interest in life and her interest in travel and places. And she also being an earnest Christian just excited me because I guess I was tuned in that direction.

SHUSTER: Well, when you...then when you graduated in '36....

RENICH: '36, right.

SHUSTER: '36. Then you went with your family to the States or you just...?

RENICH: No, I came alone. I had to come alone because my family were not coming on furlough. My father took me to Shanghai and I boarded the ship in Shanghai and it was a month's trip coming to the States. There were probably a dozen missionary children all coming at the same time. Another Wheaton College girl, Elizabeth [pauses] (isn't it terrible? I've forgotten her last name, slipped my mind this minute), who was also...Hill, Elizabeth Hill, who was also, I believe, coming to Wheaton College at the time. And so we traveled together. She was my roommate on the ship. And then there were missionaries but they were not responsible for us. We were all respon...each one responsible for ourselves and had no parents with us.

SHUSTER: What was...well, before you...we leave China, perhaps I should ask you if you think that growing up as a...children of missionaries on the field had an effect on your character, on your life?

RENICH: That is a good question. I like being asked what it was like, or what effect it had on my life to grow up as a missionary's child, have run into missionaries' children who resented it. In fact, when I was in Wheaton I ran into a missionary's daughter who had gone to another boarding school, had a very bad experience, and was bitter that she was a missionary's daughter. was a...their philosophy was that they leave their children when they're six years of age because they're primarily missionaries. And she had been left in boarding school and had gone through some rather bitter experiences. The Presbyterian philosophy was that you keep them as long as you can and if you can teach them you keep them until you can...until they're ready for high school, which was what my parents were able to do. So I felt that I had a wonderful growing up period. My parents kept emphasizing to us what an advantage it was to be missionaries. They were very much...I had a very positive mother, very serious-minded father, and a very positive happy mother. And she would say how fortunate we were to grow up in China and to be missionaries' parents [sic; children?]. And look at all the experiences we had. And we knew all about China. And we could travel all over the world. And how good God was to us to not only give us the opportunity to win the Chinese people for Jesus, but that we had the opportunity to live in another culture in a different land, and so on. So, though I was desperately homesick when I went off to boarding school (I was one of these children that really suffered from homesickness), my parents made it out to be so good that I was a missionary's child and all the advantages, that it never occurred to me that it was not an advantage. Then, I remember, when I came to College somebody asked me, "Don't you resent the fact that your parents are missionaries?" And I said, "No! I'm just glad I was a missionary's daughter, brought up in China." And I think the attitude of my parents had altogether to do with my own attitude of thinking it was a privilege to be brought up as a missionary's daughter. And so I still carry that. I just think it was a privilege to have been my parents' child, one of four of five children (the one...I told you that my little brother died), and to have the opportunity to go to this wonderful boarding school. And then I don't resent the horrible boarding school I went to. It just built something in my soul that needed to be built into my soul. God was just using that to make me his servant for later years. So I don't resent that at all; it was wonderful, horrible training.

SHUSTER: Do you think your years in China altogether as a missionary' an MK had some permanent effect on your character?

RENICH: Oh, yes, it just had to. My character was really developed from my family. They were the ones that instilled my character traits into me, and taught me to accept my circumstances, and taught me to accept life as it came to me, and to be able to look to God for the needs that I had. And it gave me, I feel, an iron in my soul that I would not have had, had I lived in this country because every vacation (except when my folks were on furlough) I had to look for a job or I had to look someplace to go in order to weather the time between school. And it just built something in me. I had to be on my own, I had to be independent. And our parents had taught us this from the time we were in China. We had to travel the three days to get to boarding school. They taught us to be independent. My father, when I went off to the second boarding school, gave me...told me how much it would cost to go to boarding school and asked me how much money I thought I'd need for incidentals. [He'd] turn all the year's finances over to me. So that I had to manage all my money from the time I was about fifteen or sixteen, which was excellent training for me, and to be self-reliant on traveling. Well, that has stood me in good stead all my life.

SHUSTER: When you first came to the United States...of course, this wasn't the first time you'd come to the United States. You'd been here before. But when you came as a [pauses] teenager, what impressions do you recall?

RENICH: I had a glorified idea, because it'd been many years. I was an early teen when I came and a later teen when I came back. When I went back to China I was an early...just an early teen, so I didn't really have a realistic idea of America. And when I came back as a later teen, older teen, now I saw America through different eyes entirely. And I had an idea that everybody in America was white-collar, like the missionaries. And that we were, you know...never pulled heavy loads or did any menial work. It was totally unrealistic, and when the boat pulled into the harbor I saw all of these American men loading and unloading the ship and doing manual labor. I thought, "These are my people. You know, I belong to them." And it was quite a shock to realize that they were not all professors and teachers and educated...necessarily educated people. There were some people that really worked for a living by the sweat of their brow. I'd seen the Chinese work like...that hard, but I had not occurred to me that any Americans worked that way. And then, in my background, my mother was from a well-to-do home in Georgia and then my father, as you know, was R. A. Torrey's son. And he had been brought up in a nice home. And I did not know anything about farms in America. I had never had any contact with rural America. So there was a whole segment of America that I knew nothing about. I just mother's sisters were well-to-do and had these great homes that they lived in and I thought all Americans lived in beautiful homes with the latest thing, latest plumbing and so on. I didn't know that in was quite a rude awakening when I was taken to a home in America that actually had to go outdoor to...outdoor facilities [chuckles]. And that came as a shock because even in our home in China, my father put running water in. On the third floor of our home he put a big tank in and pumped the water from the well up to the tank and then the water ran down and we had running water in our home that way.

SHUSTER: What about the ideas and impressions that Americans had about China? Would that...?

RENICH: I was...I was very strange when I first came, because we didn't have any sidewalks in China or Korea, and I could not confine myself to walking on a sidewalk. I just felt all tied in. And why I had to walk on this little strip of pavement when there was the whole road I could walk in like everybody in China did [laughs]. So my adjustment was very difficult, but that wasn't what you asked me. What was your question?

SHUSTER: No. What about when the Americans talked to you about China? Did you get any idea of what they were interested in?

RENICH: They were not particularly interested in China, and asked me very few questions about China. One girl took an interest in me and wanted to know a little bit about China, but by and large the Americans were interested in their own lives and never asked any questions about China, and had no idea that I was different. Now I felt different. I didn't even know how to pick friends, because all my friends had been missionaries' children before. And here were children of all sorts. And I wasn't quite sure how to pick friends at first or how to read character of the people in school and where I would fit among the young people. So I was friendly with everybody. I...whenever I stood in line I got to know...I said, "Where are you from?" and "What did your parents do?" and I would ask them. But nobody ever asked me any questions. Except my name [chuckles] was what got them. They would ask plenty about that.

SHUSTER: Did...when you came to the U.S., you went right to Wheaton?

RENICH: Yes, [I] came right to Wheaton. And my grandmother was living here in Wheaton at the time and my Aunt Edith.

SHUSTER: So you stayed with them.

RENICH: I believe I stayed in their house before the school opened.

SHUSTER: What are your first memories...first impressions of Wheaton?

RENICH: I thought Wheaton was a beautiful town, and [pauses] the people here were so good to me as a child because they were trying to find me a roommate that I would be compatible with and they found me Ruth Holland, whose parents were missionaries in Africa. And they thought that with the two different backgrounds like that.... And Ruth Holland was a darling girl and she...I'd met her...almost the first person I met, and she was so enthusiastic. She'd come down to...I didn't even come down to the College to start with. I think the whole thing was quite overwhelming to me. But she had...I believe she had gone to boarding school in the States besides being a missionary's daughter. And she came to the house to meet me, over at my grandmother's and was so enthusiastic about the College. And later I came and saw how beautiful it was and the little town. But I had an odd impression. Somebody said that they were going to take me out to the drugstore for something to eat. And the last place that I had been to was in Shanghai, and they was a perfectly beautiful place my dad had taken me to, with a live orchestra playing and soft lights and music. And I thought, "Oh, if they had this rinky-dink thing in Shanghai, think what they must have in the United States." So I couldn't wait to go to this drugstore, which I didn't even know what it was, where we could have something to eat. And there would be a live orchestra playing and soft lights and music. And we would walk in on squashy carpeting, and all of this. And they took me down to Walgreen's Drugstore.

SHUSTER: [Laughs]

RENICH. And I sat in this hard bench with these bright lights and there was no orchestra and people making noise around and that [chuckles]. The culture shock of that was really something I'll never ever forget. And I asked for a pot of tea. And I was used to a big pot (you could have half a dozen cups of tea), and they brought me this little tiny pot that held one cup of tea. And that was also a culture shock, that a pot of tea held one cup. And I was thirsty for tea because I was used to it in China. So that was [laughs]...I'll never forget my impression sitting in this hard seat, and the transition from what I thought I was coming to in America. See, as I told you I had a totally unrealistic picture of America. I'm sure I was in a drugstore before I went to China, but none of those things made an impression on me and as I got older I had this phony idea [laughs] of America. But other things...the whole College I thought was just beautiful. I had a lovely dorm in Williston. My aunt had seen that I had one of those Willit...Williston suites and my roommate and I had a nice situation there.

SHUSTER: Now let's see. What buildings were there on campus then? There was Blanchard and Williston....

RENICH: East Hall. Or no; what do you call it now?


RENICH: What was it?


RENICH: The one next to Williston hadn't been built yet.


RENICH: We called it East Hall in those days.

SHUSTER: Uh, Willi...that's called....

RENICH: Is it Evans?

SHUSTER: Evans and McManis. Yeah.

RENICH: Evans and McManis. That had not been built then. And it was a very limited campus. Chapel, of course.

SHUSTER: The gymnasium.

RENICH: The gym...the women's gym in those days and we had...Pierce Hall was our chapel where we all met. So it was reduced considerably in size to what it is now.

SHUSTER: And so you stayed in a dorm, then, rather than with your grandmother?

RENICH: Yes I lived in. Aunt Edith was not at all well, and could not have anyone living with her. In the summer times I took care of my grandmother while my aunt went on vacation...had a little change. But I did...never really lived with her. [I] stayed in the house occasionally.

SHUSTER: Well, did you...when...during the school year you spent most of your time on campus?

RENICH: I was on campus all the time. I would go over and see my grandmother. Oh, my grandmother was just darling. She knew that campus food might not be all that ins...really unusually good food, but of course many of us complained. I didn't do too much complaining. I'd had a lot worse food. I thought it was pretty good. But one day she roasted a whole chicken and sent it over to where I was living [laughs]. I just thought that was fantastic. That was Dr. Torrey's wife, my grandmother.

SHUSTER: Where was the cafeteria that time?

RENICH: Cafeteria was in Williston...downstairs in Williston, in the back of it was where we ate.

SHUSTER: Was dining rather formal or was it...?

RENICH: No, we went through the line, picked up our food, and were allowed certain foods, and I remember [laughs] I...I wasn't too familiar with all these...a lot of this American food. I got...a dessert was put on my plate and it looked just terrible. It was a brownish color and I just steeled myself. I had been taught that you take a teaspoon of everything whether you like it or not and you just learn to like your food. We didn't have to like it, we just had to eat it in our home. And so I just followed that on through with all these odd things that I had when I was here at Wheaton. Odd because they weren't in China, that's all. They weren't odd at all. And this dessert was just...looked just gross. So I finally put my spoon in and just steeled myself. Well, at first I couldn't even taste it, my mind was so steeled against it. And then it began to taste, and I'll never forget how delicious it was. It was a prune...a prune pudding of some sort, and of course the color of prunes and whip...with whipped cream, I think it was. It was just fantastically good, [laughs] and I'll just never forget trying to...trying to eat this and then discovering how absolutely delicious it was.

SHUSTER: You'd never seen prunes before?

RENICH: Never seen a prune...I don't think we had prunes in China. And I'd never seen a prune pudding before, or prune dessert, and it hardly ever get it. I haven't had it for years, but it was certainly delicious. [laughs]

SHUSTER: What was the spiritual life on campus like at that time?

RENICH: I thought it was in three divisions. There were those who were on campus that were just out and out for God, really sold out to God and trying to live for him, wanting to get the most they could out of the campus that they could. Then there was the medium group that were sort of mediocre and they were, to use my term again, "professing Christians." And they went to church and did all of the right things, but they, they never did anything really bad and they never did anything really good. They just were like most church people are. And then there were the rebellious ones.

SHUSTER: Was any particular group dominant on campus?

RENICH: I wasn't aware of it. I soon found my friends in the group that I wanted to be with. And I know I was really troubled by those who were rebellious or those who got into trouble or those who professed to be Christians and lived an inconsistent life with their Christianity. But I would not my own mind, the dominant group would have been the sincere earnest group because they were the ones who surfaced it and who made their voices to be heard. And if there were things that they didn't like they would protest them, so I was more aware of the aggressive Christians. I don't know whether they were the most dominant or not.

SHUSTER: What kind of activities were there for [pauses] spiritual worship or for witness on campus....

RENICH: A lots of good social life and the lit societies were very active in those days...

SHUSTER: Well, I was thinking more of what kind of activities were there for worship or for fellowship or for witnessing?

RENICH: Nothing, in an informal type of way. There weren't any fellowship groups outside of whatever church you selected to go with, and...

SHUSTER: Nothing like the prayer group you started at your boarding school?

RENICH: No, there was nothing like that. But when I got again revived by the Lord I went over to Mrs. Mackenzie's home and rallied about forty young people with me, because I had seen some...the life of faith as I had never seen it before. And I was so enthused about what God had shown me that I just gathered a big group of people and went over to her house and we met for quite some time like that. But before that time I was not aware of small groups...of prayer groups on campus. There may have been, but I did not get in touch with them. Created my own later.

SHUSTER: There was of course chapel.

RENICH: There was chapel, and most of the time it was very boring. And I was something one endured. But I never will forget one chapel speaker that came. Every person that came to chapel said the same thing and they had the same jokes. So we began to laugh, you know, before they even had started their jokes. (And when my father came to speak in chapel, I told him...I was trying to get to my father to tell him all the no-no's he was not to do. He was not to give certain jokes and he was not to say that this was the most wonderful...these were the most wonderful years of our life, and a few things like this, but I didn't get to him. He didn't say any of them. I was so relieved.) [Shuster laughs] But this one chapel speaker came and he was different, and he said, "I don't envy a one of you here." And I thought, "Oh, at last somebody doesn't envy us." Because I found...found my college years difficult. It was hard. Studies weren't too easy for me and it was just a hard life. And I didn't know where I was going or what I was going to do. And he said, "When I was in college, I didn't know where I was going or what I was going to do." And he said, "Now I have been in the Lord's service so many years. I didn't know who I was going to marry or if I could stay married. I found my wife and I have been married to her for," let's say, "25 years" (whatever it was). And he said, "Your best days are yet to come." And I was so relieved. I thought he was terrific. Because I felt that these were such days of struggle and decision and didn't know which way I was going and I...I think a lot of my friends felt that way. But everybody who came felt that we were in Mecca now. And I thought my Mecca was going to come. And it did come, better. After I graduated, I found the man of God's choice and I got into the Lord's service, none of which I knew where I was when I was here.

SHUSTER: Do you recall who that was that was speaking?

RENICH: No [laughs]. I don't recall. It wasn't any outstanding speaker, but he was outstanding to me. It was no one, I think, whose name we would have known.

SHUSTER: What about opportunities for outreach or witness? Were there any kind of groups similar to the Christian Service Counsel?

RENICH: I believe the Christian Service Counsel was functioning then, but I was not participating in it. I remember one young man that I knew well, Charles Frame, who

later went as a missionary to Africa, but we had a lot in common. We were good friends because he had been brought up as a missionary in Africa and I in China. And he had a church, I believe, in West Chicago and he did outreach work because I remember he was telling me about it. It seemed, if I remem....

SHUSTER: What kind of thing did he do? What did he do?

RENICH: He had a church that...he pastored a little church, for one thing. Then it seemed to me that some had classes in the Chicago area. But I think they were more in line with, seems to me, with the courses that they took that they had these outreach opportunities.

SHUSTER: Student teachers and stuff like that?

RENICH: Student teaching type of thing. Now I took Christian Ed. major and I had my choice of teaching all year in a released time type of class or teaching in daily Vacation Bible School in the summertime, and I elected the summer so I could have it all together, finish all at once. I was just...there were outreaches, but I was...didn't participate in them so I didn't know of them.

SHUSTER: You mentioned something a little earlier about your faith being revived. and.... How did that come about?

RENICH: I have a very unusual brother; my...have an older brother and a younger brother. The older brother is just younger than I am and he had heard of a group called the WEC, the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade. And when I had been in college here we had all been given the book C. T. Studd, Cricketer and Pioneer, and I had read it and was very taken with his commitment to Jesus Christ, and Archer got in touch with his mission, Worldwide Evangelization Crusade Mission, and they were...some of the men were coming here, coming to Chicago, and were going to have meetings, so my brother got me to Chicago to meet these men, and the group, and they had informal meetings and it was really very interesting. And they gave an aspect of the Christian life that I hadn't heard too much about, and that was the life of faith, trusting God. I those days, I thought it was mostly financially, but actually it was the totality of life, and though I had committed my life to the Lord, I was very worried about my...worried about my life and worried about my future and worried financially. I never knew if I could stay in College the next term, where the money was coming from, because though my parents had taken out insurance on the younger children, there wasn't insurance in the days that I was growing up. And Wheaton was very expensive then, comparatively speaking. And how was I going to make it through another term, and I, I really ran myself into the ground trying to baby sit and earn money as I could in little jobs and things and....

SHUSTER: Did you have to pay for the education entirely yourself?

RENICH: Well, my parents were paying for my education, but I felt responsible and I didn't know how much money they had and whether they would be able to meet the finances for the next term or not. So I was in a constant state of concern as to whether I could finish College or not. Also, I wasn't at all well. I was...I had never had good health from the time that I was young, all through boarding school, I was forever getting sick and in the infirmary and having high fevers and nobody knew exactly what it was all about. And I continued this sickly pattern here at Wheaton, and I could not take a full schedule due to poor health. (You would never know it by looking at me now.) But I, which made me have to take College an extra year, due to not being able to take a full schedule. And that worry was worrisome too; would I ever be able to put in the fifth year. And then I met these people in Chicago who had learned the life of faith through C. T. Studd's influence, had come to this country with nothing and started the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, and had trusted God for a building and trusted God for the missionaries and they trusted God for their food and they trusted God for all of their needs and I remember they said (just thinking about this the other day) that if the Lord wanted to He could just take the treasury in Washington and dump it in their laps if they needed it and if He wanted to. And they acted like they really believed that. And I saw the evidence of their faith and I realized that I had to trust God in the same way, in the same essence. And so I was face to face with seeking a life of security, of where I could see, or launching out and trusting God with no visible means of support. And I felt like I was hanging, dangling off a branch of a tree, just hanging on and if I let go of the tree, that I would drop into nothingness because there would be no visible support under me. At least I was hanging on to a tree, something that was visible. And my Presbyterian background had a visible means of support, and if I went with the Presbyterian church I would, they would take me under their wing and they would take care of me financially and so on, but maybe that wasn't the way God wanted me to do it. Could I trust Him with nothing, you know, just trust Him alone. So I had this tremendous struggle while I was attending these meetings, and finally decided to let go and let God take care of me and join the mission of His choice. Do what He wanted me to do, go where He wanted me to go, not looking at the visible means of support. So that was a...really a crisis in my life, and I let go, and decided to trust God, and not worry anymore about Wheaton, being able to get through, and my life and what.... Every summer was, you know, a crisis, because what was I going to do for the summer? Where was I going to go? The relatives didn't want me. What would I...where would I find a job? And so my life was just...was already a life of...should have been a life of faith but it was a life of worry. Every vacation period was a life of concern. Where would I go for Christmas? Where would I go in the summer? And then how would I get through Wheaton? So it...that was so big, that God took me to this conference, and there I felt I began to walk with God. Came back to campus not to worry any more about what was going to happen to me in the summer and what was going to happen to me going to school. Well, so I wanted to tell everybody on campus how big a God we had [laughs], how nobody had to worry about anything anymore; we could trust God. So I rallied them all around and I told them all what I knew and when it ran out then we disbanded.

SHUSTER: You formed this group then...

RENICH: Formed wasn't anything formal but I just beat the bushes and I just got in as many, about forty or fifty young people to just tell them about how real God was and how trustworthy He was. And how we could do what He told us to do and we didn't have to worry about finances. I think a lot of other young people were equally worried about how they were going to get through college and what did their future hold for them. But I found that we could trust God. I saw these men who did trust God and how far He led them. And He wasn't a respecter of persons and we could trust Him too if we just let go, and let God do it for us. So it was really a faith thing in my life at that time.

SHUSTER: Did the group that you had for a little while have any affects on other people that you know of or [have heard of]?

RENICH: I think the ones who were in the group were all affected by it. They all had a touch from the Lord. I think that in one of Edman's books...he knew about it and he heard of it and he referred to it in one of his books. We did...we all were affected. I think our lives were never the same again after that.


RENICH: The atmosphere of the College was super. It was after Edman came in, and the atmosphere of the College...there was a hunger all through the College. So that it was conducive to, shall I say, a revival atmosphere. There many of us felt dissatisfied with sort of a mediocre Christian life, and Dr. Edman had this wonderful attitude toward the Lord. And he encouraged anything like that. He wasn't afraid of it. And so that we could sort of spontaneously burst out with a new touch from God.

SHUSTER: Was he the president the whole time you were at Wheaton?

RENICH: No, Dr...

SHUSTER: Buswell?

RENICH: ...Buswell was the president. [Shuster says something unclear here] And so I went through the rather difficult transition period when Dr. Buswell left.

SHUSTER: Was the....

RENICH: [I] Thought the world of Dr. Buswell, but....

SHUSTER: Did you have much personal contact with him?

RENICH: No, I didn't. I had more personal contact with Dr. Edman. Dr. Edman knew every one of us by name and I felt he had an understanding heart and I went to him personally a time or two. And he knew about this group and he knew about what God was doing in my life. Dr. Buswell was [pauses] intellectual type (well so was Dr. Edman) and Dr. Buswell was concerned about heresy and this type of thing. And we were, in the my early days of Wheaton, I was a wonderful heresy hunter. I could...every chapel speaker I was lining up; did he speak of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, he must be a modernist, and I was just really good at that, like a lot of us were on campus. And then the Lord balanced me up. I realized that you just don't have to give your whole doctrinal background before you get up to speak. And, well, I guess the thing that brought me into balance was when some of the young people who were as critical as I began to criticize some of the missionaries that I knew were solidly evangelical. But they just assume, knowing that Wheaton stood for the truth, they just took off from there to give the young people what they felt they needed. And because they didn't use all the proper language, they said, "Oh, hmmm, he must be a modernist." Knowing that he wasn't, I thought, "Uhn, this is just what I've been doing. How do I know?" And the Lord began to disabuse me of my critical spirit.

SHUSTER: What...what do you remember...what impressed you about Dr. Buswell?

RENICH: I think the thing...that his sincerity, his earnestness, and I liked his contending for the truth. He was so straight [train sound in background] in his contending for the truth, and yet there was a sweetness about him in it. And oh his...I knew his a little bit acquainted with his wife. And in fact I...when my folks came back from being interned, his wife sort of took me in, in New York. They were there at the time. And there was a sweetness about him and yet this strength of doing what he felt was right, of contending for the faith. If you just saw him from the outside, I think you would have thought he was perhaps brittle and hard. But I don't believe he really was. There was a gentleness about him. But he was a committed man to what he saw that God wanted him to do, and that was to keep the purity of the faith. You couldn't help but admire him for that.

SHUSTER: Did you ever have him as a teacher?

RENICH: No, I didn't.

SHUSTER: What was the reaction on campus when he was dismissed?

RENICH: There was a lot of turmoil. I think a lot...some understood why [pauses], some didn't. Because he was a person that was so black and white, he would make a situation like this divisive, because either you were for him or you were against him. Again I was with...I would say I was with a group that were neither extreme for or against. I think that...don't like to say we were more mature, but we could see his good qualities. But we could see what was happening and why the College decided to do what it did. And we were both in his corner and in the College corner. But the young people that I was with, as I remember the was tense. We hated to see happen what happened. We saw that it needed to happen. I think my heart went out to him, because I realized he had done what was right in his eyes and he was suffering for it. And I could see that. And I think that probably the young people...I don't remember discussing it too much with the young people. We weren't the type of person that hashed over all this. Though on campus it was...the in thing was to talk about heresy and whether Calvin was really on the ball, or whether Arminius was, and what they really stood for, and you got into big hairy discussions about these things. But I don't remember the people that I was with...did not have a critical attitude either (that I can remember) either toward the College or toward Dr. Buswell, but there was an understanding. And it may have been because of the way the College handled it that gave us the understanding and those of us who were willing to listen heard it. 'Cause it doesn't make a vivid impression that it caused a lot of chaos. Now Dr. Edman, when he came in, the type of person he was, this gentle, loving, and yet firm in his own commitment, was able to pour oil on the troubled waters.

SHUSTER: What was the understanding among the students about the reason why Dr. Buswell left?

RENICH: Whew, you are taking me back so far. [pauses] My understanding (if I can resurrect it from way back into the dark, dim past) [laughs] was the rigidity of his stand on [pauses] the faith and the way he held his beliefs was turning people away from the College because it was a divisive stand that he took, which was the kind of person he was. It was either black or is it white, and because of that he was alienating a whole group of very godly people from the school. Now...

SHUSTER: I...I....

RENICH: What...have you...have you been told anything in the...?

SHUSTER: No, I've...well, there was an article in the Record, as a matter of fact, a couple weeks ago about Buswell, and they brought an interesting point that many different people give different reasons for his...his leaving. For example, some people felt that it was over the support for the...for the football coach who was dismissed, but...Buswell said, "If you dismiss him then you have to dismiss me." Another brought up this...a split in the College Church, which led to the formation of the Bible Church, in which Buswell became involved, and some of the trustees thought that...that too divisional. I just wanted to get the impression of someone who was there at the time.

RENICH: Huh, I don't remember anything about a coach. I think probably the doctrinal issues would have been what was...would've concerned me more, and I felt...I would've felt that it would be the divisiveness of the doctrinal issue, and....

SHUSTER: How was was the change communicated to you as students? Do you recall that?

RENICH: No I don't, because one day he was gone and ....

SHUSTER: There was no official announcement in chapel?

RENICH: I'm sh...there wa...there probably was, but it just...well, this shows how, as far as I was concerned, how smooth the transition was. I think we probably were up in arms for a little while, but it was handled so well that I just don't have any dark impressions. See, I'm not a melancholy type of person. I...I tend more to see the positives in life as you can tell by the way our interview, and I...I'm not one to see all these negatives. Now somebody who was a melancholic type of person that was here that just saw all of this could probably give you a very dark story. But from my standpoint, being a different type of temperament, I felt that it was handled very well. And I was just not too involved or I think I didn't get myself emotionally involved in all of these issues. I have never been a militant type of person. I admire them for what they stand, but I find it very difficult to go along with the...the...the militant people. that I prefer to see the oil put on the troubled waters, and to try and walk in such a way as not to offend. Not to compromise (I don't believe in compromise at all), but somehow I believe there's a way of walking in the middle of the road without turning to the right or to the left, and'll offend some people, but without offending so many people by being rigid.

SHUSTER: Umhmm. Do you recall when...when Edman became president what some of his first acts were to put oil on the troubled waters, as you put it?

RENICH: No, I just felt it was his...sort of his whole overall attitude. The love was permeated through to the students. We knew he loved us. Well, perhaps the first thing he did was to learn the names of every student on campus. That floored us, because I don't think Dr. Buswell would have known me from anybody else on campus. His...I got to know his wife a little bit but...(now he might've because I had a famous name), but... (so...would've been a little bit), but Dr. Buswell [she means Edman] didn't matter who you were. It wasn't long before he knew the name and would meet us on campus and call us by name. And that floored us. And I think that showed us that he loved us and cared. And I think that did, probably as much as anything. All of a sudden we were not a number. We were people. We were a known people. And we had a president who knew us and cared about us. And he made it his business to know every young person on campus and a little bit about them. So that was the biggest thing to me.

SHUSTER: Did you get to know him personally?

RENICH: Yes I did, and I...when I needed help, I felt I could go to him. He wasn't a president. Now I would never have gone to Dr. Buswell for any help because of the type of person he was. But I was in an oratorical contest and I wanted some help on my oration, and I went to Dr. Buswell to ask him if he would help me with my oration, and he did.

SHUSTER: Dr. Buswell?

RENICH: I don't mean Dr. Buswell. I mean Dr. Edman. And he did. He just took the time to help me with something that was very important to me at the time. But how I had the nerve to ask the president of a college as big as Wheaton College to help me with an assignment that was an extra-curricular activity, I don't know how I ever did. But that shows you what kind of a man he was.

SHUSTER: You've mentioned before there had been a certain amount of heresy hunting on campus. Did this die down when Dr. Edman came in?

RENICH: Yes, I think it died down. I didn't hear too much about the heresy hunters. Though I think we all left Wheaton pretty good heresy hunters. I even...though I mellowed a great deal, I wanted to make sure that I didn't, you know...people weren't too modernistic, and [train noise] I think Dr. Buswell had left his imprint on us, or maybe the College being so clearly evangelical had left an imprint that we did not want any truck with modernism and we were trying to ferret it out.

SHUSTER: Now was this same intense concern about modernism true in China, or is this something that more developed in you when you came to Wheaton?

RENICH: I was not aware of it in China, but it began to come up because this is when the...this was the beginning of this whole militant movement. And then when they began to accuse evangelical missionaries....


RENICH: This...this group of militant Christians in the States began to accuse...McIntire began to...(group...not McIntire personally but McIntire's group), began to accuse evangelical missionaries of being modernists because they stayed with the Presbyterian church. And even my father fell under this, and was...and people believed it. And my father really, really suffered deeply from this. The word got around and my father has never veered from the faith, and was one of these very gentle people. His...his father was very strong and bombastic and he would have put the people right [Shuster laughs] right now, but my father was not that way. He was a very gentle spirit like his mother. And he was deeply, deeply hurt by the wrong accusations of him. And I had...saw the hurt in my father and I saw his attitude toward people, and so it made me aware of how hurtful this type of attitude could be. But it was very much up in the air in those days because this was sort of the beginning of the whole movement. And we heard a lot about it on campus and those who were for...Westminster Seminary was started around this time and what they stood for. And what was freedom of the faith. And how much could you drink and still be a Christian. And, you know, different things like this.

SHUSTER: Was there a pledge at that time?

RENICH: Oh, I believe there was, yes, and this rather shocked...well, the third group signed the pledge and didn't have any intention of keeping it. And the rest of us kept it. And we began to feel it was a little...little tight because it was supposed to...we were supposed to keep it when we were off campus as well, I think. But they told us wherever we went we represented Wheaton College, so if we went to worldly places then we'd represent Wheaton as worldly...worldly concerned.

SHUSTER: Now what was in the pledge at that time? Nowadays, of course, there is no smoking, no drinking, no drugs, no social dancing, as well as discretion in viewing films and television and reading material.

RENICH: The whole film industry was out in those days. Smoking, drinking, dancing, card playing (and the kids stayed up all hours of the night playing rook). So [laughs] it was really cute. I think they were trying to prove that Rook could hook you as much as cards. And no theater-going at all.

SHUSTER: No theater-going?

RENICH: And I think there was question about opera in those days. There were drugs in those days, so that wasn't a part of the pledge.

SHUSTER: You've mentioned a group that was rebellious on campus. How did their rebellion show? Was mentioned they didn't keep the pledge. Was there other activities that come to mind as channels for the rebellion?

RENICH: Yes, I can remember of the things that struck me, because I had very high ideals on dating, and they were rather...what I felt were rather loose in their dating morals. They had no...along with lack of standards in other areas, of not keeping the pledge and being careless about their hours of going in and out of their buildings, they also were careless in their their dating conduct. And as a result, I can think of one and there were probably several girls who got pregnant and had to leave College at that time. So it even happened then as well as now. But everything was quietly...they just quietly disappeared off of campus, but I''d heard what the reason was.

SHUSTER: What kind of a social activities were there on campus? Were there...they did...on campus?

RENICH: Dating was free and there's a free mixing among the students. And then they had a lot of activities that...planned activities, by the Lit societies and other organizations...language organizations or they had...didn't have Youth for Christ then, but they had what was one of the earlier...Foreign Missions Fellowship, and young people...and the professors would ask you over to their houses for social evenings.

SHUSTER: Were concerts or plays on campus...?

RENICH: Yes, oh, had some magnificent concerts and the band concerts and the choir would sing for us. And there were planned programs every few weekends.

SHUSTER: What about plays on campus?

RENICH: No, we didn't have plays in those days. Those were for...playing and acting was borderline then.

SHUSTER: Not even anything like Shakespeare's, say?

RENICH: No, no. Nothing like that. We had speech...we had a dramatic speech presentations, but plays were a no-no then. That was bordering on Hollywood.

SHUSTER: Nowadays, talking of complaints among the students that dating is difficult, that boys around here are afraid to ask out girls. Anyway there's a kind of a stiffness there. Was this evident in your day, or...?

RENICH: I don't know what you mean by that. Is it that there's no place to take them, or they feel...?

SHUSTER: It's just that...

RENICH: They hate to ask a girl out?

SHUSTER: Apparently, yes.

RENICH: [laughs] I was not aware of any stiffness. You saw many couples walking on campus together and then there were a lot of activities like taking a girl to the concerts and to the parties. But I think probably the biggest thing was the Washington Banquet in the spring; Valentine's party that was. You just hoped against hope for a date for that. And then we had...another fun thing was open house. You could ask a boy to open house.

SHUSTER: What was that?

RENICH: This was where the girls would ask the boys to open house. When was it?

SHUSTER: What was that?

RENICH: We opened all the dorms. Girls dorms were opened for the boys to come through, and we had a whole evening of just milling through the dorms and seeing all the dorm rooms. And we dressed our dorms up. I remember I made my bed into a Chinese bed with a canopy. And I had a little bit of Chinese furniture and my room looked quite different than most of the other rooms. And the would ask a boy, who'd be your date for the evening and then you'd wander around see the other people's rooms too. I think we must have ended up with refreshments. I mean how could you have an evening like that without refreshments. And then the boy would return your date; at an appropriate time he would ask you to do something.

SHUSTER: Perhaps a musical or....

RENICH: Either that or to a concert or to a Sunday evening walk or whatever. He... he...if he was not at all interested in you, he would make the activity a very small one like going to church with him Sunday evening and going for a short walk and having ice cream and then taking you home [laughs]. But he had done his obligation. He fulfilled his obligation.

SHUSTER: What was the main social event of the year?

RENICH: I think the Washington Banquet was one of the main social events of the year.

SHUSTER: Was that usually held on campus or...?

RENICH:, it wasn't. They would find some gorgeous place off of campus. I didn't...I didn't get a date to that so I'm just.... But, oh, it was a big thing that was looked forward to, and you bought your long dresses and you wondered what kind of flowers you were going to receive from the man...just had to know what color dress the girl was going to wear. It was the biggest thing in those days on campus, and they came and escorted them and it was an off campus and beautifully done type of party. Dinner, I mean it's a dinner. Save for it months ahead.

SHUSTER: Academically, you mentioned at Wheaton that you had trouble with some of your classes earlier. Was Wheaton very difficult?

RENICH: I found Wheaton difficult just because I'm not as academically inclined as some of my brothers and sister, and I...I have turn of mind is to the very practical. And when I had the theoreticals...theoretical subjects, I found them exceedingly remember theory. And Dr. Emerson, who was Dean of Students then, called me in and he said, "I see that just the way you are that if you can get through these...these theory type of subjects that you'll get with a Christian education, you'll get to the practical, and you'll do just fine." Which is exactly what happened. I got through the theory and then got into the practical area of where it pertained to life and where whole subjects are just sailed through, thoroughly enjoyed them, and that is what I've used all through my life. My paper was on creative teaching, and as a result of going to a creative school and taking this course in creative teaching I have invented a course called Creative Teaching and Speaking that has launched many a woman into the field of sharing Christ in her own creative way. So I did fine. Made up for all the bad subjects that I had earlier, and was able to graduate okay.

SHUSTER: Did you find any courses particularly challenging, particularly enjoyable?

RENICH: I'm trying to think of the professor that taught zoology and that was not one of my courses, but one of the things we had to do was to hunt fifty birds, identify fifty birds on the wing, and I found that fascinating. [I] never [had] been interested in birds and I went with different people and identified the birds and made a notebook of birds. And I've been interested in birds ever since. Just a little extra-curricular. I'm fascinated by birds in Pennsylvania where I live and finally organized my library enough that I found my bird books and will try to identify more of the birds in that area. And that is something that's stayed in the back of my mind and now that I'm older and I've learned to live not quite so hectically, I would like to have more time for birds and it's a hangover from then. My...oh, Dr. Price was a great challenge to me in my subject because she was the head of the Christian Ed. department and I found her a challenging teacher.

SHUSTER: In what way?

RENICH: She...when sh...her outlines were so practical. She said they were pegs on which to hang your thoughts. And one outline...second in your outline linked with number one. It just built on it and number three linked with number two. And this, you see, being practical I could handle, and could remember many, many things out of her classes, as I was taking her subjects, because I could hang everything together. And it was something that I could use and something that was very practical. And I found her just a...really a practical, helpful teacher.

SHUSTER: Were there other teachers who were important to you when you were here?

RENICH: I loved my own aunt, Edith Torrey...

SHUSTER: [You] took some classes with her?

RENICH: I took some courses with her, but she tended to be academic, and I didn't find her classes easy. I found her classes were difficult.

SHUSTER: Was it hard being her niece taking her classes?

RENICH: It was dreadfully hard being her niece, because she insisted that we wear stockings in her class and that.... And she made a big thing over the fact that I was in her class and she would ask these abstract questions which I would not know and I remember one day she said, "And now I believe I will call on my niece." Well, all eyes were on me, "Miss Torrey," she said (she loved to call me Miss Torrey because it was her own name), and then she asked me this question. I had no idea. I just hung my head in shame and I was just...if I'd known it, I would have forgotten it by all this sensational way of asking. And she said "Well!," she said, "my niece doesn't know. I guess I'll have to call on somebody else." It was humiliating. And I could not live what I would call a normal life because I was identified as her niece.


RENICH: And they would say, "What! Miss Torrey's niece doing..." whatever the thing was that I was doing that was really normal for any other person. But they would think that I should be a little bit different because I was her niece.

SHUSTER: What about your classmates? You mentioned a little bit before about Billy Graham. Did you know him when he was on campus?

RENICH: Not really. We all...almost everybody knew the outstanding students, who they were, and I started to tell you that I went to...I heard that Billy Graham was speaking, and I think it was in the Masonic Lodge here in Wheaton, and....

SHUSTER: That's right. He was...that was called the Tabernacle.

RENICH: The Tabernacle. He was an up and s...he was starting to be a preacher in those days and I wanted to hear him and because he was know, "Support our campus...


RENICH: ...young people." And I went and I heard him and...

SHUSTER: How was he?

RENICH: Excellent, of course. Just really oratorical and was good evangelistic type of preaching, which is what his strong point has been. And I thought he was splendid and I left. Ruth, at that time...I did not see a great deal of her, but her sincerity and her earnestness carried over from high school days and I was told that she fasted every noon. I don't know if you knew of that little facet of...


RENICH: It wasn't a well-known fact but I knew and I wasn't surprised because that was the kind of person she was. And it's my understanding was that when Billy Graham heard that there was a girl like that on campus (he had no idea how beautiful she was, too), but when he heard that there was somebody of that caliber, he said, "That's the girl I'd like for my wife." And so both of them were...just had the same type of devotion for the Lord. And it doesn't come out in many books, but I know that her own devotional life, ever since she was in high school, is the outstanding thing about her. And I feel that that's what's held Billy Graham steady. You know, so many men like this can go down because of fame or discouragement or whatever it is. He just has such a hard schedule and she with five children to rear. And if it weren't for her devotion to God he would not be the man of God that he is today, I feel, looking at it from a woman's standpoint. She was behind him much as my grandmother was behind my grandfather. She had five children she had to take care of, but her walk with God was such that he knew the family was well cared for while she...while he was out in evangelistic campaigns. And I think Billy Graham feels the same way. I understand that he feels he wished he'd taken more time with his children, but hindsight is always better than foresight. We do what we feel is right at the time.

SHUSTER: Was he considered at the time one of the outstanding students on campus...?

RENICH: Yes, he was. He was. Well, he was considered outstanding, yes. No one knew her because she was quietly outstanding.

SHUSTER: No, I said was he one of the...?

RENICH: Yes, but I was saying, he was outstanding. But she was also outstanding, but she was quietly outstanding, and only known by a few intimate friends, how...what an unusually devoted woman of God she was.

SHUSTER: Wasn't Grady Wilson on campus about that same time? Or didn't you know him?

RENICH: Didn't know him. Think he was a little before.

SHUSTER: Did you meet Graham at all while you were on campus? Or have any...?


SHUSTER: No, so....


SHUSTER: Of course, this was a time of a great deal of turmoil in the world, both in Europe and in Asia, with the outbreak of the war in Europe and the other in China. Did this have any effect on campus?

RENICH: Yes, it did. There was a lot of tension on campus. In fact, one of the years when the Lord was supposed to come again like He' know, periodically they say this is the year. One of the years, except He was supposed to have come again in September of that year and it was...we were all uneasy and then....

SHUSTER: Now, who was saying that?

RENICH: Oh, I don't know, some fanatical group.

SHUSTER: On campus...?

RENICH: [Loud noise on tape], not on campus. It [loud noise on tape] was a sort of a notori...[loud noise]...sort of a notorious type of thing. It was just in the papers and among Christians. The campus didn't...we just knew it on campus but the campus wasn't saying it. But we were all wondering, you know, because one of these dates it's going to be right [laughs]. Because it's just...everybody has almost every date, so.... And then the war came along and some of the students that we knew were lost in the war. Archie Campbell was one of those, a missionary son from Korea that I knew in Korea, and he was one of the first ones that was lost. I think he was...actually died in this country in training. And there...there was a lot of uneasiness about the war.

SHUSTER: Now, were you on campus when war actually broke out between the U.S. and....

RENICH: What year was that, do you remember?

SHUSTER: Well, it was December 7, 1941.

RENICH: Oh. No, I wasn't, no. I was not on campus then. But I was in the Westmont College then. It was the year I graduated. That was the year I graduated. It odd thing happened. My parents went back in the end of the '30's ('39 I think it was, and I had a terribly uneasy feeling.... I thought something terrible was going to happen to my parents. And I actually thought that they were going to be killed en route across the United States. And they got all the way across, and I just could hardly sleep nights, and finally I think they called me. I was at a camp, a girls' camp; they called me, and they got across. Then I heard they got to China okay and I couldn't understand this awful oppressive feeling that I had, that something dreadful was going to happen to my folks. A premonition of something just awful. And they got across and they got to China okay, and then the premonition went away. And as soon as Pearl Harbor came I said, "That's it," because they were interned. They were interned in their home and that was the premonition that I had had that something dreadful was going to happen to them. But it was all uneasy because war all over the world at the time, uneasiness and...

SHUSTER: Do you recall the time when the war broke out in Europe and Hitler invaded Poland, what the impact...

RENICH: Reaction...?

SHUSTER: ...on campus was?

RENICH: No, I don't. It was just a horror time of unrest and uneasiness and we would....

SHUSTER: There's no particular about this that stands out in your mind as...?

RENICH: No, it doesn't, no. No particular.

SHUSTER: Well, I think we're just about at the end of the tape here, so it's a good time to stop. I want to thank you again for an interesting interview.

RENICH: Well, thank you. You've had me go back in [laughs] memory's lane to many things that I had not thought of for forty years.


Send us a message

Return to BGC Archives Home Page

Last Revised: 5/11/99
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2005