to listen to an audio file of this interview (116 minutes)
This is a complete and accurate transcript of the oral history interview of Zoe Anne Alford (Collection 177, T1) 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. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" and "um" were usually omitted. The interviewer interjected "un-huh" or "um-hmm" frequently, but these were not transcribed unless they came at a definite break in the conversation. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was attempting to say. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
() Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Deborah Tamte-Horan, Brett Phillips, and Janyce H. Nasgowitz and was completed in May 1993.
Collection 177, #T1. Interview of Zoe Anne Alford by Galen R. Wilson, 1981.
WILSON: This is Friday, May the twenty-second, 1981. This is Galen Wilson, Associate Archivist at the Billy Graham Center, and I'm interviewing this afternoon Miss Zoe Anne Alford, [interviewer questioning the pronunciation of last name] Alford...
ALFORD: Alford [pronounced All-ford].
WILSON: ...Alford, about her time in the mission field in India under TEAM. I'm first going to ask Ms Alford about her background and her birth, her family and her upbringing.
ALFORD: Well, it is rather interesting to see how God prepares a missionary, in that when you are in different missionary conferences or even just comparing notes with fellow missionaries, God uses all different methods and calls people from every different background that you could imagine. Now, I was a country girl in a cotton patch and called to India when I was sixteen and a half years old. And it took me sixteen and a half years to get there. But I would say the most significant thing about how God prepared me as a missionary was the remarks of an older friend somewhere along the line. She said, "I have seen the guidance of God more clearly in your life than I think I ever have in the life of anyone else." Looking back, I can see that, too. And it's a marvelous thing. You know, it's a thing that gives you the...the strength and stability just to live through thick and thin. And, I will say that I started with marvelous Christian parents who did have an education, which was quite...really unusual perhaps for the early 1900s. My father [had] a business education and my mother a college education. And both were dynamic Christians who loved their...their Lord and loved to work in missions for Him. But they both passed away by the time I was twelve. So I was reared by my pioneer grandparents out there fifteen miles from a town in the middle of a cotton patch. And, the interesting thing is they said, "Now, Zoe Anne must have an education. The three brothers could manage somewhat. We'll do the best we can for them, but Zoe must have an education." So, by my freshman year, they sent me into the little town fifteen miles away and I boarded with friends three or four years, the last year in the home of a Presbyterian pastor and his wife in my hometown. I think one very, very special thing about my early training was that I was in a very, very fine high school, which today we might designate a Christian high school. All the teachers were Christians. We had chapel every day, visiting ministers from the town at least once a week.
WILSON: But it was technically a public high school?
ALFORD: It was technically a public high school, but there was a strong Christian influence. I had the benefit of that, and it so happened the superintendent of...of the school was a member of my church. The woman principal was my high school Sunday School teacher. And all those influences converged together. Well, I...another point is that a very godly pastor and his wife, when I was still a freshman in that high school, talked to me about going into full-time service.
ALFORD: And I would like to think...I wonder how many pastor's lives missed an opportunity there, because that made an impression on me for the [unclear].
ALFORD: Then, when I was sixteen and a half years old, living next door to the Presbyterian there, a very, very wonderful Presbyterian missionary named Miss Lena Boyd from Santa Anna, Texas, came to speak in the local Presbyterian church. She spoke in the high school chapel. She had me over for a visit. She dressed me in her Indian sari and took our pictures together, and from then on she wrote and she prayed. And there was a period where, I remember, "I don't believe God wants me to leave." But she wrote back and lat...years later, and said, "I've continued praying regarding." So I sort of feel that Lena Boyd prayed me out to India.
WILSON: Now, was she out there under the Presbyterian church?
ALFORD: Under the Presbyterian church. A very, very interesting character. But I did face bitter family opposition when it actually came down to my relatives knowing that I wanted to be a missionary. There was bitter family opposition. And there was never any family financial support. But God can provide anyway, no matter what your family...even if every single member of your family is able to send you to college and they don't do it. God has ways of doing things. Now, actually my mother was a graduate of Texas Christian University (TCU) and I wanted to go there. My aunts had gone there from the Alford side. But, I could not afford it. My local church didn't offer to send me. Years later, a member said, "Zoe Anne, I've always been ashamed that we didn't send you to TCU." And I said, "I've always been ashamed of it, too." [laughs]
WILSON: That a girl [laughs].
ALFORD: Anyway, I did have high academic honors in high school. I was the highest ranking student graduate, so I did have a Regent's scholarship which paid my tuition to the University of Texas for that one year that I went. And then I was given a scholarship which was given only to one girl in Texas each year, three hundred dollars, which paid about half of the school's...year's expenses. I had a job waiting on the tables in the rich girls' freshman dormitory. I've seen an entire table of girls get up and walk out right in front of me cause they didn't like the food. Having worked on a farm and learning how hard it is to raise food, you think they're pretty foolish. And also, you have to use all the tact and psychology you can to try to counteract such influences. But at least God provided in those different ways, and also borrowing a hundred and fifty dollars from my grandfather. Well, you get through one year of university and you get a two year teaching certificate. And so I started teaching school on the corner of a big ranch. I taught school six years, but I was free in that school to start a Sunday school. I was free in the next school I taught four years later to start a youth group. And God laid those burdens on my heart. He gave me the privilege and gave backing, and so there was early training, you might say, an early opportunity to work at these things, an early sense that God was leading on in those areas. I might repeat this. I don't know whether it's significant or not, but years later, a cousin of mine who was teaching in my old high school was talking with the school superintendent about something and he said, "Our highest ranking academic student through all of these years is a missionary who is in India, I've been told. Her academic record has never been equaled in our high school." And my cousin said, "Yes, I know her. I'm related to her." Well, what [unclear word, effect?] that had, I don't know. I felt later that maybe I missed out on some of the social affairs in school, but I was elected the best all-around girl in school because I played basketball, I debated, I loved drama, I loved making speeches, I went out for this and that. So God gave training in different areas during high school. During that one year of university, I had close contact with a fine church. I joined the Student Volunteer Movement, which was still in existence at that time. And there were some dynamic Christian leaders in that.
WILSON: What do you remember about...do you remember any specifics about the Student Volunteer Movement?
ALFORD: The two leading...the two outstanding leaders were sons of a Presbyterian pastor in Austin who later went into missionary work. I still remember Ruth Elder from Iran coming and speaking to us. And our social activities and a few of the high points, Easter breakfast, sitting on Mount Bonnell [?] and seeing way down there on the stream below the boats close to shore, and seeing in imagination the Lord Jesus saying, "Come and eat." God gives you things like that to help you live on when you have this family opposition. And when you have a physical labor and difficulty. Now that very summer, I had...I was not paid twelve months of the year. I was only paid eight months of the year because we had only an eight month school that year. And so I put on my...borrowed my brother's overalls and put on their clothes and went out and pulled cotton, we called it, picking cotton and pulling the whole boll off and putting it in a long sack behind you. I did that for the month...season when the cotton harvest was right in order to make ends meet and start educating my brother, just younger than myself. I had forty-five cents when I drew my first paycheck. But forty-five cents is enough for a balance, if you know that God is taking care of the balance. Well, I taught on the corner of that big ranch for four years. My brother and I lived in an old, old house, a three-room house with two rooms for us and one room for the young widow I was teaching with. There were cracks in the walls one-half inch thick. You could just see daylight through the walls. We put in windows. That was what we were to pay for rent, install windows in the old house. There was an open cistern outside. There were rattlesnakes by the door and under the house, but I kept...I had a pearl-handled six shooter and I kept my boyfriend's six foot rifle [both laugh]. My young brother went into school, to the same high school where I went, nine miles away on a school bus, and we went, well...we drove to our home twenty-five miles away every second or third weekend. I might bring back three gallons of butter milk, two gallons of sweet milk, some canned goods, and some baked goods and everything I could scrounge to have something for him and me to eat. But anyway, the Lord saw us through. I was teaching four grades and the other teacher was teaching three grades in this little country school. It was fascinating work. A Texas cowboy rode his horse up to the front door of the schoolroom within the first week or two. He was a brother of the other teacher and he said later he fell in love with me at first sight. And [laughs] he waited ten years hoping that the Lord would say, "Yes, she's to be my wife," but the Lord led otherwise in that. Anyway, I went to summer school two summers, and by the time I had finished that second year of university, I didn't want to go to TCU or anywhere in Texas. I wanted wider horizons. And the marvelous thing was that, during those years, I had lived in my...this Presbyterian pastor's home, and...my senior year, they had been my spiritual parents from then on, although I had become a Christian when I was nine years old. My mother was instrumental in influencing me to take a stand for Christ in a revival meeting in our little Brush Arbor. And I was baptized that next day and I knew the Lord from then on. I remember taking Bible a correspondence course when I was eleven years old on the meaning of the church. But anyway, Mama Cargo, too, the Presbyterian minister's wife, was concerned that I do get on with my spiritual training. And it...she felt it so deeply, she took me over to the church once when I came in for the weekend, and she said, "Now, Pop, you stay home and pray. I'm going to go talk to Zoe Anne in the church." And she told me about Moody Bible Institute and gave me a bit of literature. Well, it was still over a year before I could save enough money....my...this brother was still in high school and I was financing him. But, I saved money, I got Moody brochures and catalogs, and applied. And so after my six years of teaching, I came from a Texas cotton patch to the big city of Chicago. I spent four years there. I had to earn every penny I spent. I had savings for the first term because they do not permit you to work your first term. But from then on, I worked my way entirely through Moody. And, as I said, any one member, older member of my family, could have put me through school. But, God didn't lead them in that way, or they didn't obey His leading if they did. [laughs] Well, what I did do was to be blessed of the Lord by having a job in Moody library. I worked there three years. I also worked in the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago, a big well-babies clinic, a free clinic. And I worked in thirteen different clinics. I would come in to eat an early lunch, go to the desk, pick up my assignment for the day, get on the streetcar, ride to work, weigh and pull records for as many as ninety babies in one afternoon, finish some filing, then get on the streetcar and go back to work an hour or two in the library, and go to my room after supper to study. Well, those were heavy years and I said [?]....
WILSON: That was during the Depression, wasn't it?
ALFORD: Yes, this was 1937 through 1940. I graduated in August of 1940. And, all I could see then was the desire to go back to college, a real, real college campus and to get a degree, because Moody didn't give a degree in those days. But God kept saying, "No. You stay here. You stay here. This is my place for you." So I stayed on in Moody and it was the richest stud...year of study of my life. Post-graduate courses in missions and Bible under teachers like Dr. Wilbur Smith and people like that. Going to TEAM's [The Evangelical Alliance Mission] big annual conference that June in Moody church. Through the years, I had heard TEAM missionaries speak in chapel, but then I actually met a number of them, especially from India. I had one for lunch at my apartment and I asked a whole list of questions. And it only took a week or two for me to know that this was God's choice for me. So, I applied and sent in my application. And I walked through fire that week. It was liter...it almost...walking through fire because I told my grandmother goodbye, during that week, in my heart, although I didn't leave for India until four years later. But there had been, not so much her opposition, but the opposition of my Aunt Zoe, whose home was my only home by that time. Well, it took four months for me to be accepted. There was a medical question raised. And then my letter of acceptance was lost in the mail. But I did go to a TEAM board meeting. I did meet the TEAM officers in the home office. I had a fair amount of contact with TEAM then, and so when I went back to Texas nine...September 1941, no job, no money, no prospects of support, no prospects of a visa or anything else, not knowing what God had for me, and went back to Aunt Zoe's home to face this very bitter family opposition and real illness with her and with my grandmother. God took me through that with sustaining power, and I will say that what God took...the preparation that God gave me spiritually through those years just came out of the Word. Later, I wrote those verses in the front of my Bible and called them Scripture Milestones. "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my grace [strength?] is made perfect in weakness." [2 Cor. 12:9] I...when that letter was lost in the mail for six weeks, my letter of acceptance, and then no job, nothing for several wor...weeks after that. "Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." [James 1:4] And all through those years, God gave those scriptures that just sealed it to my heart. But nobody went to...they couldn't even get the senior missionaries back in 1941. So I registered with the Moody employment bureau. Here came a letter to Texas, saying, "There's an opening in the Navajo Methodist Mission School in Farmington, New Mexico, for an assistant health mother." Well, by that time, I had six years of high...higher...seven years of higher education. But God opened the door and I knew I should go. Just before I left, a teaching opening...opening in a public school [unclear word] right there. But I said, "No, God had this other for me." And I went out there and spent two of the happiest years of my life. There was cross-cultural shock, even going into that work. But it was a grade in high school for Navajo Indians. It was a very, very conservative faculty of twenty-three missionaries from Wheaton, Moody, and Biola. The superintendent later came back to Wheaton as Dean of Students. And it was wonderful preparation....
WILSON: Who was that?
ALFORD: Dr. C. C. Brooks. Dr. Charles Brooks. He and his wife are both Wheaton grads, and when his health failed there, he came back here. Well, there was marvelous preparation there in many ways, including some medical work. I relieved the nurse of her wor...duties for two afternoons and evenings and she taught me a good deal about medicine, which was a real help later in India. I...and the most important thin...thing I learned was this: missionaries don't have wings. [laughs] It's pretty important to learn that sooner or later. And life on the foreign field is a little easier if you learn it...if you learn it earlier. Well, we came to live simply when it came to clothes, when it came to food. We lived through World War II. My three cousin brothers and my two brothers were in World War II. One hundred of the Navajo boys were issued a call to come and use their language in [unclear word] telephone work because the Japanese had never been able to crack the code of the Navajo language. They cracked any code but they couldn't crack the Navajo language. We saw those boys go. We saw every one of them come back alive. God had preparation for me in those years. But in May of 1944, I had resigned and left that work, and I really came to Wheaton to get a ship. Now Wheaton doesn't happen to be on the seashore [Wilson laughs], but I thought, "If I'm back in the TEAM area, and if there's a ship, well I surely can get on it." So I came back, and I spent eleven hours one day taking exams to validate my Moody work, transferred my university work, and spent twelve months getting a B.A. from Wheaton College. I didn't want a B...a B.A. I didn't care if I never had a B.A. I thought I had enough education. I wanted to get to India. But God knew I needed a B.A. So I finished that and even, with dear Dr. Tenney's help in giving some extra graduate assignments, I got five hours of graduate credit, which was the only thing that made it possible for me to do a Master's degree on a furlough in ten months. Well, anyway, I had those twelve wonderful months here at Wheaton. And I didn't form the ties at Wheaton that many people did. But one interesting thing, the day that Billy Graham graduated from Wheaton College  was the day that I enrolled. And then I still remember, just a year later, his coming back and preaching in the li...little Masonic chapel where he had been pastor for a year and then where Dr. Tenney took over. So I remember Billy Graham preaching that one time. I remember hearing his little radio program, "Songs in the Night". And I had dusted Beverly Shea's desk as a student at Moody in doing my domestic work there. It was a sign. There were a few links there that, later, I prepared a sermon about. It meant a considerable bit as I look back and thought, "If they had not obeyed God, or if I had not obeyed God, look what we would have missed." Anyway, I was in Wheaton College. I still had no possibility of support. I had no [pauses] knowledge of whether I would ever get a passport or a visa except that two new missionaries and two returning missionaries had gotten passports and visas and had gotten as far as Portugal, and were sitting there for four months waiting for a ship to get on to get to India. But in January of 1945, a letter came to me, sent by the TEAM home board, which was then in Chicago. And the letter said, "A children's home in Alaska has always supported Indian children in our orphanage in India. And now we have a letter from them saying, "We do tithe all of our income from whatever source, and we have so much...so many more children and so much income that now we have enough to support a missionary. Do you have a missionary ready to go to India?'" And here I was, sitting in Wheaton College, sixteen years a candidate in my heart and here was this support. By the time I graduated from Wheaton in June of forty-five, I had a passport, a visa, a thousand dollars for passage and anything else needed, and a supporting group who supported me for twenty-five years in food. And so, you know, God di...calls a missionary, He prepares him in His own way. That summer, people would say to me, "Oh, Zoe Anne, you're so brave to go to missiona...to India as a missionary." I said, "India holds no terrors for me. I have tried and proved God, and I know already that God will see me through those years." During my years at Moody, I had holes in my shoe soles as big as a dime, walking the ice and snowy streets of Chicago. But I was never in the infirmary one single time, when other people were in the infirmary right and left. God provided in Wheaton with scholarships, a job, and with some bonds from my grandmother that I cashed in. He just provided in every different way except what you most expected. Why, God has His way of preparing missionaries physically, and He has His way of preparing missionaries spiritually. And, as I said, it was the Word. It was prayer. It was the voice of the Spirit. It was doors opening when God felt that He had me ready. Now, there was one thing God did not provide. And that was a husband. [laughs] And, of course, dating back to that Texas cowboy, that had waited ten years, you think, "Well, what about that?" Well, of course, every woman wants to get married. Practically every woman. And, all through those four years at Moody, well, I just saw a lot of desirable men that would make wonderful husbands. But God never once all...allowed my path to cross theirs, in the sense that He wanted me to consider them as a husband, or them consider me as a wife. So I was sitting in women's devotions one evening, just in my senior term, and I was paying no attention to the speaker. I don't know who it was or what they preached about. I was thinking, "Now here it is my senior term, and I'm not married. I haven't even had a date the whole three years. God, what are you going to do?" And it came just as clear as a bell from Romans 8:32: "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?" "So, Zoe Anne, I can give you a husband if that's the best for you." That settled it. It settled it all those years. Of course, you get lonely. You wonder who'll take care of you in your old age. But then, also, we had the fun of taking out the Sears Roebuck catalog and looking through the pages of these well-dressed men and picking out the man we'd want for a husband. We didn't go around mooning over the fact that we didn't have a husband [laughs]. You can laugh when you have the deep, deep assurance that you know you're in the center of God's will.
WILSON: Have you regretted remaining single?
ALFORD: Never. I have known that God had a work to do through me that He could not have done through a married woman. I have always believed that His perfect plan is the Christian family on the mission field unless He calls you to remain single. But to me, that was a very, very clear call, to remain single.
WILSON: Well, the Apostle Paul states that....[knocking at the door, noise of machine being turned off and on]. Well, the Apostle Paul talks about the blessedness of remaining single and that it is a gift of God to those who are able to do it [I Cor. 7:7].
ALFORD: Well, one thing that was stressed in our recent TEAM conference in [pauses] three days of women's seminars was this, that hospitality and opening up one's home to each other can be one of the very special blessings on the mission field which missionary wives can offer, and so on, and I'll say that...that my relationships with the married missionaries and their children were always rich and blessed and fruitful, and then, of course, I taught missionary children ten years, which was very special. Well, in looking at how God prepares a missionary and the physical preparation, I can see how God gave me all the training way back there as a teacher, learning all that about how to conduct school sports, Moody Library (all right, how I used that on the mission field), medical training in the Infant Welfare Society in Chicago and in the Navajo mission which I used off and on during all my missionary career. God gave actual physical training for physical reasons and then He did give the spiritual reinforcement all through the years through the Word and the voice of the Holy Spirit. Just a few verses that come to mind, "He knoweth the way that I take." [Job 23:10] "Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord." [Hosea 6:3] And in that dark winter of 1941 I was doing post-graduate work at Moody. The war...the war was raging in Europe. We were almost in World War II, and we just knew we would be. Some of us students went out on a little deputation meeting, and there on the literature table was a little card with a verse at the top, "He knoweth the way that I take. Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord." And then a poem which was very meaningful. I picked it up and kept it. I still have it. I found the source, and I ordered them by the hundreds and gave them to my younger friends. "He knoweth the way that I take (all right). As thou goest step by step I will open up the way before thee." And it proved that to me, as you can see, for this sixteen and a half years. But even for the four and a half years after that it was a gradual opening up. So there was spiritual preparation all along the way, spiritual strengthening, spiritual reinforcement that "This is the next step. Take this step." I went to New York City...the mission sent me to New York City to sit on the docks and drive around the ship in September of 1945 because we had been given apartments in an apartment building there by the Brooklyn Free Church, I believe it was. I sat there ten days and a...a lovely married couple, Iner [?] and...Bertelson [?] and his wife came. We heard of a ship sailing from Vancouver, British Columbia. It's one step at a time. Anyway, then I got to India. And how does God use a missionary in India? What does he do there? Well, He uses all kind of missionaries for all kind of different purposes but for us in TEAM in the western India field we had to study one of the four hardest languages in the world. It was called Marathi. It was in the old Devanagari script in which Sanskrit was written, and people who know scholarship of ancient India know that that script goes back, I believe, three thousand years before Christ. We had to learn that and pass two language examinations on it, and we were the first post-war crowd. There were sixteen of us, and it seemed almost as though there were no language teachers. And I was thirty-three years old by that time. I think if I could have picked up the language study when I finished Moody at twenty-eight or twenty-nine it would have been far easier, but I had fallen in love with the Navajos and my work out there, and it was a tremendous break to have to give up my relationship to those Navajo young people, and I was homesick for the Navajos. Many, many times I wasn't homesick for Texas or [Wilson laughs] Wheaton or my family or anybody else. I was homesick for Navajo land. But God did see us through that awful language and...
WILSON: Now, how long did it take you to become proficient in the language?
ALFORD: Well, I never became proficient. By the time you take your second language exam they consider that you have perhaps a sixth or seventh grade education in that language, and the examinations were given only twice a year, so I did cover my actual language study in about a year and ten months. I had to wait until conference for my actual stationing, so I was sent to one of the other stations where there was a very, very large outpatient medical work with as many as fifty thousand outpatients a year. I did not learn to give injections in that little Navajo Methodist mission hospital, so they sent me to the house with a lemon and a hypo needle and said practice giving hypos, and the first day I gave ninety hypodermic injections for malaria.
WILSON: Oh, boy.
WILSON: One...one more question on the language. Wer...is this something that was a requirement by TEAM or by the political government in India, that you learn....?
ALFORD: No. The United Language Board of all missions in that state had banded together to sort of correlate and standardize the language study and draw up the language examinations, so it was a fairly standardized thing [sound of train], and the examinations themselves were given in a city with very close supervision.
WILSON: Oh, okeydoke.
ALFORD: All right, language.... I managed to struggle through and live through the time until I could be stationed in January of 194...
ALFORD: ...eight in the work that I felt God had been preparing me for my whole life long. It was our TEAM Baby Fold and Orphanage [in Dharangaon, north of Bombay] with about thirty babies and orphan children up to the age of fifteen and then about thirty-five other girls who came and lived there in this boarding school. Now probably thirty of them were children of our pastors and evangelists, because back in the late forties there were no village schools in any of our tribal areas. TEAM had started, way back in 1908 I believe it was, the first tiny little village school for village children through fourth grade, and at one point we had fifty of those village schools because, government cared nothing for those tribal people and paid no attention to them. They had no vote or they didn't know how to vote and they mean nothing to us, so TEAM took advantage of that, and, of course, that was the beginning foundation of our work. But anyway....
WILSON: Now, where was this orphanage and school?
ALFORD: It was in a place called Dharangaon, which was....
WILSON: You'd better spell that for us [laughs].
ALFORD: D-H-A-R-A-N-G-A-O-N, which was only twenty miles from the big main station called Amalner (A-M-A-L-N-E-R). The work...TEAM's western India field is in a triangle up north from Bombay going up the main railroad line from Bombay to New Delhi. About two hundred miles up you reach a cross railway line which goes directly west, and in about one half of that triangle TEAM's work has always been there in the western India field.
ALFORD: And so we were stationed there, some of us who had been able to finish our language studies, some of the couples were kind enough to be willing to leave their second year of language study in order to take over so missionaries could go on furlough. A number them...some of the missionaries had not had a furlough for nine years. But we were at that annual conference when I got there in October of 1945, we were thirty-nine missionaries. I believe it was within five years that we had climbed to one hundred missionaries (at the most between five and ten years). We suffered growing pains, and some of them were pretty painful, I can tell you that. Part of it had to do with not having enough teachers for language study, having to shift us around from one station to the other to be able to make room for us and to make room for a language teacher, and so on...to provide for our three months in the hills where the concentrated language school took place. But at least God took us through it and especially these missionary couples were so willing, I felt, to make a real sacrifice in giving up their straight stretch of language study, which I did have. Then when you're put in a girl's school, in charge of sixty-five girls day and night, you learn to talk Marathi [Wilson laughs]. You may not talk it correctly, but you learn to talk it. And I was there a year and eight months and I loved it. I just loved it with all my heart. I was stationed with Bob and Jean Couture, who are now our TEAM representatives living here in Wheaton. I was stationed with other people at different times when they went back for language study, but when they, they...oh, one interesting thing that happened then. Don Hillis, whom some of you will know by name, later an associate director of TEAM, was holding evangelistic meetings for the girls in the school at the beginning of the summer term in June, and at the table one day he said, "Zoe Anne, why can't we have a correspondence school course? Why, the Seventh Day Adventists in Pura [?] have a correspondence school course, and they have such and such a number of people taking the course." I said, "All right, why can't we. You write it." [Laughs.] So without his saying anything more [Wilson laughs], I went to my bookcase after the meal, and I pulled out a Scripture Press Junior Quarter...Teacher's Quarterly on the Gospel of John. I said, "Here's a sample to start from. Write the lessons." And he did. He sat down and wrote the very first lessons right there in that mission bungalow, as I remember. And the correspondence school work, of course, has grown to be one of Don Hillis's ongo...special projects and then one of the outstanding works of God around the world today, I think, because it's spread into twenty-four languages in...in Asia years ago and then into South America into Spanish, and so on. But there are different links like that that were fascinating. And I will say this, that one of the things that I feel God used most in making a missionary out of me was in leading me into and keeping me in a wonderful board. It was then the Scandinavian Alliance Mission of North America. It later became the Evangelical Alliance Mission of North America. But for many, many years I've said the two things I'm most grateful for in my life have been my Christian family and TEAM. The board, my fellow missionaries, the administration, the field council, all of the executive set-up and the day-by-day rubbing shoulders work, I have seen in TEAM a combination of the practical and the spiritual that I have not found, and I am almost sixty-nine years old now. You have rather broad experience when you're in Christian work or Christian training schools for forty years. I have seen in TEAM a family spirit and this combination of the practical and the spiritual that I have never seen anywhere else. I wonder if you have any questions to date on this.
WILSON: It's fascinating to date. I...you mention the orphanage and...and school where you had what, you said sixty-five little girls you were in charge of. Now, these were Indian children?
WILSON: And where did they come? I mean, how would they wind up at the orphanage?
ALFORD: The thirty who were directly orphans came from different sources, mostly illegitimate children in Hindu families who were given to us because the family would lose caste if they did not get rid of the illegitimate child or a father where the mother died and he just simply could not rear a tiny infant alone, and, of course, they were all ages from sixteen months to fourteen or fifteen or sixteen years when I took over. Then, as I said, perhaps thirty of the other thirty-five girls were children of our pastors and evangelists in villages where there were no schools at all or none above fourth grade. And then that very year there were a few tribal girls who came from our tribal area. I still remember some of the very first ones who came, and we didn't charge them any fees. We gave them free room, board, text books. All they had to do was bring their clothing and a bit of bedding. So it was the beginning of a real surge of education in India because this was January of nineteen forty-s...eight. The partitioning of India into India and Pakistan had taken place in August of 1947 and within the years after that, when India took over her own responsibilities, there was a tremendous development of their educational systems. Shortly after that there were five thousand primary schools opened within five years, and I don't know how many colleges. But I lived through that period of adjustment where we had to upgrade our school textbooks, our teachers, the amount of background training they had, more paper work, and all of that. So I lived through real sociological and educational changes in India.
WILSON: Would...was the education of girls, specifically girls, was that a new idea for the Indian culture? I...how...how did the culture accept that or were they used to the idea of...of their daughters being educated?
ALFORD: I think it was far more limited then than now as I hear mature Indian women speak, even here in America, of how they didn't want to go to school or their parents didn't want them to, or whatever, but in the towns and cities and in certain more cultured areas there were girls going to school. But these tribal areas (we might use the word hillbilly here in America) but especially these mountainous tribal areas where government had no concern, there were no schools for them to go to, so it was an utterly new idea.
WILSON: Now, [pauses] these girls that came from the tribal area, would they have had any contact with Americans before they arrived?
ALFORD: I'm sure they would have had contact with some missionaries because in that tribal area we had a good number of missionaries then. Any one missionary might itinerate over a very large area, but, where some family showed interest in sending their daughters to school, the missionary would make the most of that interest and perhaps even drive out in a bull cart and get the child and put her on a train and...and even possibly pay her train fare to the school. Missionaries played a fairly important part in getting those first tribal girls to the school.
WILSON: Would most of these tribal girls arrive as Christians? Or...
ALFORD: I think so. I think at that time we did not take any girls that were not Christians. They may have in later years. I don't recall.
WILSON: So, the school itself wasn't involved in, say, evangelizing.
ALFORD: As I recall, not at that point except that when our pastors' and evangelists' daughters came, particularly in the two or three years after I went to India and just before, the missionaries were realizing that a whole second generation were growing up that were Christian in name only, and there began a very intensive evangelistic campaign to make these second generation men...boys and girls, men and women realize that there had...you had to have a personal relationship with Christ as your own Savior.
WILSON: What...they had confused western culture with quote Christianity unquote?. Is that...is that what you're saying?
ALFORD: I...I think it was more the caste system than anything else. Because you're in a...a Hindu caste, or you're a Muslim, or if you're a Christian you're in the Christian caste. So all your children....
WILSON: Then you're just in? [laughs]
ALFORD: Yes. And...
WILSON: I see.
ALFORD: ...even today one has to be careful about that. So many of those pastors' and evangelists' daughters, perhaps, came to us in first grade and had not even grown into a knowledge of what it means to accept Christ as Savior. But there were wonderful missionaries there before me and after me who did give every emphasis possible to bringing them to know Christ. And I doubt if very few if any ever left without coming to know Christ as Savior.
WILSON: Did you ever keep in contact with any of the girls that you had had as children there at the orphanage?
ALFORD: When it was my privilege twice later to visit in that tribal area, I visited a number of them, and one little wee thing who was sixteen months old when I did go there later came to the seminary, and I had the joy of teaching her, which was very, very interesting. I have not kept contact with any of them as such. I have kept more contact with the s...men students from our area who came to the seminary later that I taught. And one very broad change that I saw was, of course, everything was anti-British when I went out. Esther Ritzman [?] and Walter Olson had spent the night out in a field back of the mission bungalow because it had been announced that the bungalow was going to be burned down that night. And once a riot was started by a drive of...of a very large crowd to burn down the main station, and some people...the police...the main police headquarters was between them in the downtown area and the mission house. It was practically adjoining the mission house, and when they got that far, the firing stopped them. But I lived through that anti-British sentiment. Then after partition into India and Pakistan, well, everything was...became more and more buddy-buddy with the British, but there was a strong anti-American feeling for a while. And we felt that at times.
WILSON: Did you ever personally feel in danger because you were an American...
ALFORD: I didn't.
WILSON: ...and a foreigner?
ALFORD: I don't think I ever did, but I was mighty careful where I traveled at night, and if I was in a compartment alone in a train, I saw that those locks were locked. I might have to open them at a station for other women to get in, but I never left an unlocked door and the windows were barred on any railroad train. And I never lived alone on the station, not ever.
WILSON: You said that you might have to unlock the doors for other women to get in. At that time, did women and men not cohabit...
WILSON: ...train cars?
ALFORD: ...it depended on what...what class you were traveling and whether or not you wanted to travel in the one all-women's coach. If you wanted to do that and felt a little safer, or there was a little more room, or you wanted to talk with the women, well, you might travel in that or you might find space in the mixed coach. Yes, there was plenty of...it was all mixed traveling ex.... Many times it would be a whole Indian family, but particularly if an Indian woman was traveling alone, perhaps with her children or a younger woman, she would surely go to the all-women's coach. And then, of course, all through the years before and after this, there was always the...the friction between the different tribes and communities in India, the Muslim against the Hindu, the Hindu against the Muslim, the different castes, the different tribal factions. Communalism is a way of life in India. And it often handles the sword. So we saw these raw sociological changes and factions and independence, and also, through those twenty-five years that I spent in India, we saw the gradual realization that independence for India has not brought utopia. And by the time I left India in 1970, we were beginning to see those open doors. Now, just to give a quick rundown, I was stationed at the Indian Girls' School for a year and eight months. I felt it was worth it. God had trained me for...all my life, and I loved it with all my heart. And then one day, the director of the mission drove over with his wife from the head station twenty miles away and he said, "A certain missionary from another mission has become ill and has to go on an emergency furlough. And it's just the beginning of the school year in the mountains here for our little Central India Missionary Children's School. Would you be willing to go up there and teach the missionary children?" Well, I had been a teacher six years in America. I had had my two years university work directly in education. And then Christian education majors at Moody and Wheaton. I had to decide. I went to my little dressing room and shut the door with the Word and with the Lord while the cook prepared lunch and I had about an hour to decide. But I felt that the Lord said, "You're a steward of the training I have given you, and this is where your training is needed, so it's for you to go." Well, within just a very few weeks, I did go up to the mountains to a little new school which had been started for children of five missions in central India, Christian [and] Missionary Alliance, Conservative Baptist, the Free Methodists, the Nazarenes, and TEAM had gone together to start a little school. Actually, really, the Christian Missionary Alliance being the moving spirits in it because they had property that had been given them by old British officers retiring and going home in what's called a low hill station, a vacation resort in central India that was only three thousand feet high, but a much better climate than down on the plains where our station work was. So, that old mission house plus the line which had been built, a line with a bedroom, a bathroom, and a veranda for various usages for mission...for the...for the British officers' servants maybe. And in later [unclear word] mission, that became this first school. I taught school in an old made-over garage, and I lived in a princess's house that first year [laughs]. Where...we were allowed to live in that little house.
WILSON: Princess who?
ALFORD: Oh, I've forgotten, but she was a princess of a native state at that time. And that was her summer home that she had leased. Well, I taught in that school ten years.
WILSON: This is the MK [missionary kids] school?
ALFORD: The MK school called Sunrise School, then in Chikalda, India, which later was moved down to Nasik, where we have our present TEAM headquarters. Our field council chairman lives there. And our treasurer is there. And that also has a...a higher elevation. And by that time, we had so many Canadian missionaries with younger children, that we had a need for the school on a...on our own field. But the other four missions, which were American missions, did not have [unclear word] and did not have the younger children. So it was better to have it on our own field. And we were able to lease property, and they built one building. And the school continued on there for another ten years. I think the school ran from about 1947 to 1967, something like that.
WILSON: Now, Chikalda is the name of....?
WILSON: Is...is that town still in existence? I looked for it on an Indian map this morning and I could not find it.
ALFORD: It is still in existence. Different missions there were given property or bought property, and so at one time, there were three different hostels for our children about.... Most of you know the word hostel means just a...a boarding home. And then we did build a little classroom building. And we rented or leased the old district judge's home for our TEAM hostel. I think the school had at its highest point about 50 students. We used the Calvert system of education, which came from Baltimore, Maryland, a correspondence course for the children of American missionaries, or diplomats, or whatever. And we had children from the five missions, but I don't believe they ever took children there from other missions. There was so much pressure brought on us when they moved down to Nasik that they did take some other children. And the quarters there, which were Baptist's quarters at that time two miles across the valley, now housed a school for training Indian missionaries to go to unreached areas of India.
WILSON: Oh, indigenous missionaries?
ALFORD: Yes. Well, the...it is a missionary couple in charge of it but for indigenous missionaries to go to indigenous fields of India. I was stationed there for ten years, came home on my furlough in nineteen...December of 1957, with an invitation to go teach in Union Biblical Seminary. And they did have enough teachers for the missionary children's school, and my heart's longing when I first went to India was to teach in a Bible school. So now God had opened that door. So I came home, arriving in the United States on a ship on January the fourth, 1958. I had thr...oh, a week or two in Texas, came to Wheaton College, and spent the winter semester of '58 and the fall semester of '58-'59 finishing a Master's degree, doing a thesis on the Christian education department of Union Biblical Seminary, which was just being opened up, and then went back there and taught twelve years.
WILSON: Now the seminary was just opening, you say.
ALFORD: As a seminary. It had been a vernacular Bible school since 1937. It had been closed through the war years when Frank and Betty Kline had to stay home during the war years. It had been reopened in English as a joint undergraduate four-year Bible school type of thing, which gave a graduate in theology distinction, because the Mennonites, the Conservative Baptists, and others said, "We need our...our people to be trained." And of course with all the nineteen main language areas of India, you couldn't use Marathi. You had to use English. So from, I think, 1946 or seven, when the Klines went back, the undergraduate work also was all in English. But the seminary itself of the level of...of what a seminary is here in the States, has al...was opened in 1953 and the teaching has always been in English there, too. It was opened in '53. I came in June of 1959, and saw it grow from, oh, perhaps ninety or ninety-five students to about one hundred twenty students. Now they have well over two hundred students and they've had about two thousand five hundred graduates scattered all over the world, missionaries, pastors, writers. They accepted women students for which I praised God. And many of those women just went in to key positions in India. It was fascinating, and one thing that was started the very month I went to the Union Biblical Seminary was [pauses] the Christian Education Evangelical Fellowship of India. India at that time had what you here in America call the National Association of Evangelicals.
WILSON: [Unclear phrase].
ALFORD: In India, its called the Evangelical Fellowship of India. It came for its annual meeting to Yeotmal [India] where Union Biblical Seminary is located. And they had the meeting for three or four days, but plans had been made ahead of time, feeling we need a separate organization for Christian education. They had planned to stay one extra day, those who were interested. And they did stay and make plans and talk it over and appoint a continuing committee. And they said, "What shall we call this thing?" And I had the privilege of naming the baby. The Christian Education Evangelical Fellowship of India. So now it's called CEEFI. Then they developed a radio wing and a literature wing. And all three are still continuing. But some of my former students are now the key leaders in CEEFI. And it was thrilling to have a part and to sit on the sidelines also and watch the development of that.
WILSON: Sure. Now, were the most of your students [pauses] Americans or were they Indians at Union?
ALFORD: They were all Indians except, each year, from one to five foreign students. Several came from Japan. There were students from the Philippines, from [pauses] Rhodesia, I believe. Some...one country in Africa. I know we had students from Burundi and Rwanda. Mission boards in America, say the Free Methodists, the Conservative Baptists, and others began to realize, "We can send our students there for seminary training and the standard of living will not be so radically different from their own, that they would decide not to go back. So we began getting more and more foreign students, and we had students from Ceylon, we've had...I think we had one or two from Nepal. We had them from Bhutan. I don't know if we ever had one from Tibet or not. But we certainly had them from all over the world, even one TEAM missionary whose station had to be closed for political reasons came for one semester. We had one or two Britishers, and Canadians, and Australians who came to study a semester and.... This was a sort of set-up where they could get a visa if they studied for one semester and then the other semester they got out and did evangelistic work.
WILSON: You mentioned the folks who came because their station had been closed for political reasons. Do you remember what the deal was behind that?
ALFORD: [laughs] Very clearly.
WILSON: [laughs] Are you interested in telling us what the deal was?
ALFORD: Well, a cow got into the mission compound, and the cow had no business in the mission compound. But somehow she got in. And then she didn't have sense enough to get out. And if I remember correctly, instead of going out the gate where she came in, she tore around the compound with a dog chasing her, or Indians following her, or something. But she became so excited she dived under a gate and broke her neck, and that was just enough for a...an American missionary to get his head cut off. So that station was closed.
WILSON: Closed by....?
ALFORD: Well, just by pure political pressure.
WILSON: But, I mean, the Americans closed it themselves for fear of what [sound of train] would happen?
ALFORD: Well, the TEAM...
ALFORD: ...the TEAM governing board ca...closed it.
WILSON: It wasn't that the state closed it.
ALFORD: No. No.
WILSON: So they just left the area for a while until things cooled down?
ALFORD: Yes. The...the...the board felt that it wa...the council out there felt it...that it would be far greater wisdom for all missionaries to leave the area, and particularly for the couple who lived on the station, who actually were not responsible in any way,...
ALFORD: ...for them to get completely out of the area. Not even go to another one of the stations in that part of India field.
WILSON: So there was still not much pressure from the innate Hindu...
WILSON: ...mind set?
WILSON: How long had missionaries been in the area when that happened?
ALFORD: Only a year or two. So you see...
WILSON: Oh, okay.
ALFORD: ...they had not had time. This was what we call a princely state, which was closed to missionaries all through the years until the partition of India and all these princely states were persuaded to become a part of India proper. And so the state of Gujarat [?] was opened up to missionaries. And some of our single women, I'll say, faced real dangers, living together but in a big city. That crowd up there in the north India field faced dangers when they went in their...their open doors. Now...and, as I said, as I left India in 1970, the doors were beginning to open. And I was hearing my students, I was hearing missionaries, any foreign business people saying, "People are open to talk on the trains. They'll ask you questions. They'll listen to you. They will buy gospels." And that was a thrilling thing to realize that doors were opening. Now, of course, we're seeing the harvest. I'm seeing students that I had taught in Union Biblical Seminary. Our TEAM students came from this tribal area, these hillbillies, so to speak. They knew very little English in comparison with the...the sophisticated city young people who just knew English as a first or a second language. People from Madras, or Bombay, or wherever. And here our poor TEAM boys and girls could hardly speak any English. And I taught always at least one, usually two or three of those freshmen their beginning classes, so we used Hindu, Marathi, English, Malialum [?]. We translated back and forth in any language that we felt we needed to...
WILSON: To get the point across.
ALFORD: ...to get the point across. And then, one of the things that I treasure most in my career there at the seminary was that the Lord laid it on my heart to have a little TEAM prayer meeting every Friday after the four to five o'clock study hour, which was compulsory, to have them come to my apartment. And I was right on the main drag in just a small apartment there. But they would come, and we would have our little devotional, leading by turns, leading in Marathi, leading in English if they wanted to practice, praying in any language we wanted to because, by that time, we did have about three different languages in which TEAM people were working. One later went into our mission from another language area. But we shared together, and I think the sheer encouragement of it was one thing that...they felt that somebody really cared for them as TEAM young people. And now they're key people on our field. I got a letter recently from one of those boys who was so poor, he didn't have the money to pay for his railroad ticket to the seminary. The...our field council had voted his scholarship and all of his expenses in the seminary, but he had to pay his railroad fare, two or three hundred miles. He didn't have the money for it. And the Lord sent a butcher to buy two goats that day from his mother...his widowed mother. The butcher had never come to their home to buy any goats, but he came that day and bought two goats. So he managed to get to seminary. I got a letter from him about a month ago. He's teaching in the Marathi Bible College and he loves it. And his wife is teaching. So we see tho...these changes. Now, Union Biblical Seminary...I didn't identify, but it was right in the heart of India, founded originally by the Free Methodist mission as this little vernacular Bible college. It did grow into this [pauses] seminary which had, I think, nineteen supporting bodies when I left India, and has...had a very fine campus. And it had very, very strong leadership, three men of God as principals. At one time, that tiny little seminary, with about a hundred students, had six Ph.D.s on the faculty. And another fascinating thing about that seminary was that we were six nationalities on the faculty all of my last years there. And a...just that fellowship with Christians on your same level as faculty members with people from six countries of the world was very, very enriching. The...the seminary was only forty miles from where Mahatma Gandhi picked out a place called Wardha [in Maharashtra and said, "This is the center of India", and he built his ashra [Ashram?] a famous agricultural experiment station, spiritual life retreat, and what-have-you. It was the place where the main railroad lines crossed, which went from Madras to New Dehli, and which went from Calcutta to Bombay. So we were forty miles away from that by bus in one direction and thirty miles by bus in the other. We were isolated in that sense. Travel was always difficult no matter where I lived in India. I seemed to find the hard place to get from and to [laughs]. But the good Lord preserved us in that. Well, what questions do come to you out of this?
WILSON: Well, now, you were talking about the language that the TEAM students having...not...not having as much proficiency in English as some of the others. And that got me to wondering. Your...the Union Seminary, was it open to anybody or was it specifically to be students that were sent from one of the mission.... I mean, did you have to have a missionary's recommendation to get in, or could you have come off the street somewhere and presented yourself?
ALFORD: Well, candidates were screened quite carefully, but we accepted students from many other missions. Now, the Nazarene mission was in our area, and we all studied language together. They did not become a cooperating member of the seminary. They later started their own Bible school. But they sent one of their key young men, a very fine person, who did later become principal of the new Bible school they started. And there were different ones like that who came to us.
WILSON: But almost all of your students found their way to Union via a mission?
ALFORD: At least in the early days. Now, Indian organizations grew up which...now these different.... I think there are per...possibly forty different indigenous Indian mission boards, if you want to label them that, which met together two or three years ago in Nasik, to kind of see what they could do about correlating their efforts in training. And as I've mentioned, there is a lit...a short-term training school for them in Chikalda. But I'm sure they now screen candidates and send them to us for training.
WILSON: All righty. [Pauses.] What was the curriculum that you would teach out of in the...in Union? What kinds of things would you teach?
ALFORD: In the freshman year, I believe there was always an English course and possibly through your second year. Perhaps you had to take a qualifying examination in English. I've forgotten. My main first year topics were Introduction to Christian Education, a Bible introduction course for one semester, and some years I taught the Pentateuch. I've forgotten whether that was a first or second semester course. And, I recall those as my first year classes. I...in other years.... These four years of G.Th., a Graduate in Theology curriculum, would be the equivalent of going to a Bible college in the United States. And there were at least one or m...there were probably two or three Bible courses every semester, and almost always by the inductive method of Bible study. They were very strong on that. Then there were certain theology courses. I've forgotten how many years of theology would have been required. At least one year of church history. But also I think my first year there I taught general psychology, written by Wallace Emerson, a graduate of Wheaton College, to first year students who knew almost no English. And it was a staggering assignment. I remember taking weeds into the classroom to illustrate the nervous system, all these branches [Wilson laughs]. I don't know what else I didn't use for an assignment. But they shifted that from first year after.... I taught the Gospel of Luke in second year by inductive method of Bible study, four hours a week. So you could do a lot for the Gospel of Luke four hours a week for fifteen weeks. They were rich years of study. The difficult thing was that when somebody went on furlough, somebody else had to pick up their courses.
ALFORD: And you just taught what you were assigned. Then you might get into the Gospel of Luke and have all your notes and it might be your favorite course, but when the other person came back, well, he might want that course back [Wilson laughs]. And he usually got it back, because my field was Christian Education. I did teach Introduction to Christian Education. Then we taught a beginning child psychology course which.... We had some wonderful rich textbooks written by a professor here at Trinity. And we studied the pre-school child, we studied the primary child, we studied the junior child, and then adolescent psychology. And then fourth year, Administration and Organization of Christian Education. Finally, we developed a third year course, or what you would call a junior course, in Methods and Materials for Teaching Christian Education, which was, I believe, four hours a week, and you could do a lot with that. Of course, the Bible classes went along with other professors. The theology courses, church history, any...it was a general Bible school curriculum, shall we say.
WILSON: You mentioned teachers coming back from furlough and wanting their courses back. Well, that got me to wondering. What...what were the relations like between the teachers and the school? I mean, did you all come from...from TEAM? Obviously not.
ALFORD: No. In fact, I was loaned to TEAM, I think, with great unhappiness on the part of a few field council members. But David Johnson was out there that year, I believe, the general director of TEAM. And he went to bat for me. And also, I believe, the chairman of the field council. And they said, "Now Zoe Anne has done what we wanted her to do for these years. Let her do what she wants to do. And I think they saw later that it was a basis of getting trained leadership which has made a terrific contribution in our field. There were one or two significant things about the work that have co...popped in and out of my head and I'm not sure I can recall.... Oh yes. One was that then, with the B.D. level as it was, the four year undergraduate work didn't give a degree. We were not affiliated with the government of India in such a way that we could give a degree. We gave what was called a distinction, a Graduate in Theology. But then we were giving a, when the seminary started in 1953,...a Bachelor of Divinity. And I taught some Christian Education courses in that from the beginning, but only Christian Education, mainly a youth psychology course or teacher training methods. And one course I taught either in undergraduate or graduate, I forget which, was a course in Christian apologetics. So when...and I loved it, because I had delved into Christian apologetics, with deep concern for unsaved relatives and I'd gone pretty deeply into it. Well, here the new principal comes back from furlough and he thought it wasn't seemly or becoming for a seminary to have a woman teaching Christian apologetics to the men. And, all right, well, if he feels that way about it, I can teach something else. And he started teaching the course. But, he borrowed my notes to teach it [both laugh]. And I have razzed him about that a few times. And I think if I see him in heaven, I'm still going to razz him about it.
WILSON: Has he already gone on to....?
ALFORD: He came home [chuckles] and settled into teaching here for.... But, anyway, there were many, many interesting things, many interesting relationships. We did have an Indian librarian through those years. I was on the library committee all those years, and the fascinating thing that happened was that Mrs. Tenney [Helen Margaret Jaderquist], Dr. Merrill Tenney's wife, came out to Yeotmal to visit Women's Missionary Union, because her sister, Mrs. Paddon [Mary Elizabeth Jaderquist], was Chairman of the Board. And she didn't...Mrs. Tenney didn't get down to Yeotmal to visit, but she then attended the next meeting of the boards here in America which supported the Union Biblical Seminary at Yeotmal. And there was some discussion of how to raise money for the library, or what they needed in the library. By that time God had provided, and we had built a new administration building. The home boards had sent out a Christian and Missionary Alliance missionary...no, I'm sorry, a Christian and Missionary Alliance librarian from Asbury Seminary, and a Free Methodist librarian from a college here, Greenville College, is it? in southern Illinois, who spent six months out there recataloging our collection and helping us order new books which were made available through a special theological fund. But, Mrs. Tenney here in America began to offer some suggestions, so they just made her Chairman of the committee to do all of that. And so for all those years, Mrs. Tenney and I worked together. I was appointed the liaison person on the faculty to keep contact with Mrs. Tenney. And she would send me lists of books she could get free or at low prices. I would make lists of books when faculty members requested them, or I would review the library. And I have spent as many as fifteen hours answering one letter from Mrs. Tenney. But it was such a thrilling experience to see those parcels of books come. And dear Dr. Tenney, a scholar if there ever was one (and I sat in his classes here in Wheaton), he took the time to wrap those books in newspaper, pack them in packages, take them to the post office and register them. And I don't know how many thousands of books we got that way. So the Lord does raise up different people to provide different needs, but it's just something.... You remain on your knees, at least in your heart, thanking God...
ALFORD: ...for seeing what's being done.
WILSON: Now was your library mainly in English?
ALFORD: Yes. We did not try to build a library in Marathi, although I was beginning to try to accumulate, because I felt that there was going to be a need in the future, at least perhaps for some research. And when I left in 1970, we had seventeen thousand volumes. I don't know what they have now. But we did have modern, new library stacks and equipment. And, as head of the Christian Education department, I had come home and asked for funds, and had started a little Christian education library up on second floor, just in a very small room built for that purpose. Also an audio-visual library. And that was continued. Now the lovely thing that happened was that I found an Indian student whom I had hired for the...as librarian one hour a day up there, who took the library work. So I moved him down to the main library after I became director the last three years. Our Indian librarian resigned. He was unhappy. He didn't want to go on and get further training in theology. And the seminary was growing and developing higher curriculums, and they were not willing to keep him on unless he would do some part-time study, even right in the seminary. So he resigned and went into a secular college. And it was just dumped in my lap. There was nobody else there at that point to direct the library. And I had had three and a half years of student library work at Moody. So (and I'd been on the library committee all those years)...so I became library director. I saw potential in this young B.D. student and kept him in the main library because students worked there an hour a day to earn pocket money. I think they were paid a dollar a month, something like that [laughs], pocket money for an hour of work a day.
ALFORD: Can you imagine it? Twenty hours a month. Anyway, I called a...the attention of the American principal to him. And the Indian Dean, they watched him closely, and then sent him when he graduated for three months of technical library training to Madras, the city of Madras, to the university there. And he came back and took over from me in the summer of 1970, as...labelled assistant librarian, although he really took over as main librarian. A British woman from another mission came and became the head librarian while he was sent to America for further training. And he is the head librarian now. The Dean...the Dean...the Indian Dean's wife was to come to Trinity for him to do a sabbatical year of teaching, and she was to study. She was ready to take over Christian Education courses. My health was shot, and it seemed to be time to come home. So I came home and retired from India at the age of fifty-eight and a half years old. One thing I would like to point out. When I knew I was to teach in the seminary, I did come home and study, as I said, for a Master's here at Wheaton. It was the richest year of study of my life and the easiest year. I had studied with Mary and Lois LeBar when they were doing a Master's and I was finishing my B.A. in Christian Ed. here in 1944-45. I had even studied under Lois LeBar as a first year student at Moody. So it was thrilling to come back and sit in their graduate classes, Dr. Kenneth Kantzer's classes, and that of other men here. I didn't have the privilege of taking a class of Dr. Tenney then. But I knew what I was going back to in India. I wrote my thesis on the cu...the curriculum of the soon-to-be-opened School of Christian Education. And so every minute of study was very, very highly motivated and centered around what I would be doing in the future. Now, we did begin giving what was called a Bachelor of Christian Education because that's your British system. Anything above a four-year undergraduate level in England and many different phases of study is called a Bachelor's degree. If you get an undergrad degree in engineering and then get a graduate degree, it's a Bachelor of Engineering. You...you do not get a Master's until you're about one year away from your Doctorate in England. So we gave that Bachelor of Christian Education course from the time I went back in 1966. And one of those students came to America and studied and went back. He got a half-year of credit for that work. The next year, the three men students went into different phases of work and went out as head of our leadership training and instruction school in India. He did come...I think TEAM sent him to Dallas Seminary for a year of study. I taught two girls in that advanced graduate work once, one a young married woman who had her own little daughter to study...to practice on. And she and her husband went to Malaysia as missionaries under the American Methodist Board, ha...are still having a very fruitful ministry there. The other girl was a tribal girl from Eastern India, who did not have a powerful I.Q. But I've never had a student who could see in what you gave her what she could take and use for her people as much as she did. And it was a joy to teach her. Then, during that period, I had contact as an editor and slightly a financial supporter and an encourager of the development of the curriculum that the...that CEEPI started for India. They took Gospel Light materials and rewrote them in English with Indian names and illustrations and then those have been translated into ever so many languages of India. And now those are being revised by Indians [sound of train]. So that was a sideline which was, I felt, very fruitful, even though more contact than I had with it.
WILSON: Yeah. Well, now, did most of your students then return to their native areas in India to carry on some phase of Christian endeavor?
ALFORD: I think most of them did. A few of the women were called into specialized work, maybe in other parts of India, writing or editing, Sunday school work, or whatever. And a few, I'm sad to say, came to our seminary only as a stepping stone to get to America. Some have stayed on in America, maybe a few went back. But the mission boards on the whole would not send a person to America for training from us, unless he was married and had a post in the Indian church so they were sure that he would go back.
WILSON: Yeah. I wanted to ask you about Indian culture and that whole area. When you first went out there [pauses], you know, for...for all of your study and all, you...you still hadn't experienced Indian culture. What is it like to confront something...of course you...you'd had the experience of the Navajo culture, and so it wasn't a first shot deal for you but...what...what were your first impressions of India? What did you find when you went there? What...was it what you expected?
ALFORD: Yes. When you read and study and think and pray India for sixteen years, and talk with missionaries, you have a fair understanding of the culture. I think the thing which hits you that can never quite strike you as forcibly until it strikes you through your eyes, is the great masses of people. And, of course, that's even more so now because the population of India has doubled since partition in 1947. And we saw that those last years in Bombay, the mad traffic and so on. The most frustrating thing to me was to be absolutely tongue-tied for six months because I've always been a woman that liked to talk. And then to just be so unable to talk. That was a very frustrating thing.
WILSON: Were...were you, as an American, obliged to take on certain phases of Indian culture, or did you pretty much have a very Americanized compound-type situation? I mean, what was your living situation? Were you forced to deal with Indians in the markets,...
ALFORD: It depends...
ALFORD: ...on the station. With the Indian girls' school, I had such wonderful Indian co-workers. And I guess I was alone there for a few months at one time. And I would go to the bazaar occasionally to..., riding in a bullock cart, to do the shopping. I didn't have to very often. I would always go to the bazaar to buy the new school books, or to buy cloth for clothing for the orphans, or medicines, or things like that. Then, in the missionary children's school, we were a world unto ourselves, and the main shopping was done by the missionary who was in charge of the hostel. And we teachers took our meals in the hostel for the first several years. Then later, we had our own ho...our own household. But we would have to order most of our fruits and vegetables sent up in a tin suitcase from thirty miles down the mountain. We were that isolated in...in an area where there was not rainfall the year-round. So we had very little contact with the Indians there. And you...you really need, for health reasons often, to have your missionary children isolated. They learned the language much quicker than we did. And they felt no barriers at all, if they could have contact with our servants' children or anything like that. But we were two miles from the village, across a deep valley, and so on. Then, in the seminary, I always had a servant because it's the logical thing to do when you ha.... All the men and the wo...what women teachers there were, if they were full time teachers, worked from thirteen to sixteen hours a day, taking time to eat, perhaps. But other than that, you just simply put in long days of work. So you let your servant do everything he possibly could.
WILSON: Were your servants usually men?
ALFORD: Mine were, yes, although many Ind...many missionaries would use Indian men. Now there, we tried to have contact with the local college faculty. And we tried to have some type of open house if we had a visiting professor who was particularly outstanding in some field, like the field of psychiatry. The man who started the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Champagne was there as a visiting professor, three months. I remember having the Indian college faculty come and listen to a lecture, and then we served them refreshments and so on. You were limited in time that they could spare or that we could spare. But we did try to have cross-cultural relationships there.
WILSON: Do you remember ever being in...in a typical, indigenous home in India, especially in those early years? What...maybe the parents of a student you'd have or...I mean, were you ever entertained in a...in a home?
ALFORD: Well, always our pastors' and evangelists' homes and....
WILSON: And what were they like? What...what...from your memory, what were the indigenous homes like in India?
ALFORD: Well, cow dung floors, and we all sat on the floor to eat. If we went there for a meal, we always wore Indian sari. And then there would be Christmas affairs where you would each take your own plate and drinking glass (your little brass plate). And, we did that in the girls' school, joint meals together. That was a real special joy. And I had tea parties, just one after the other at different times for servers, carpenters, students. One special joy was having the graduating class of the seminary in for a Sunday noon dinner, in a group small enough that there could be interchange and I could give them the little card that says, "A...As thou goest step by step, I will open up the way before thee." I enjoyed getting into Indian homes, and had one very, very close friend in the seminary who bo...was in a Montessori school there as a teacher, and who lived near us. But neither of us had time to visit often, but we...we...visited each other's homes when we could.
WILSON: I'm going to flip this tape over one quick minute here. [Tape recorder turned off and on.] When you were in India, did you have any contact with the Muslim or the Hindu religions? Did you have any...well, any contact with those at all?
ALFORD: Oh, there was one period there during my later language study that I went out with the Bible woman. And, of course I didn't have enough of the language even then to do much talking. But I always felt that I was pouring water through a sieve. I guess God gives us our gifts. And then, that was a hard station, and this was 1945 and six and seven, when there was such a strong feeling against foreigners. It was not really easy to as...to make contact.
WILSON: Did you find, you being a woman.... In both the Hindu and Muslim cultures, the woman's place is much less than it is in Christianity. Did you have any resentment from Hindu or Muslim people or especially men for your even exist...existing there, etcetera?
ALFORD: Well, I'm sure there would be some underneath. But the Indian people, as people, are gracious and polite. And I think they would be polite to us even if they very, very much preferred that we were not there. And then, of course, there was a great deal of curiosity. When I would be travelling on a bus alone, the women might ask me who I was, and what I did, and if I was married. And I would always say, "I am a professorine [?] bae [?] [chuckles]. I was w...an associate professor at the seminary, and "professorine" would be the feminine and bae [?] means "woman." So, I'm a professor woman. And that always satisfied them. That put me in a category all by myself. [Both laugh.] And I suppose the same was true for our nurses. I suppose if they...they would ask the...if what they were doing or who they were, and they said they were nurses. Indian people have had tremendous respect for TEAM's medical work. And that would just take you anywhere.
WILSON: Now, when you went to the city, what...was the city Bombay?
ALFORD: The city would be Bombay. And our TEAM mission conference, after the first few years when we became so large, our TEAM mission conference would be in the general area of the missions of sou...central and south-central Maharashtra. Bought an old hospital that an Australian man had built for his son, who was an army officer out there, and turned it into a spiritual life retreat. And it provided an ideal place for conferences. We didn't get into Bombay to make the change to go to Pune [pronounced "Poona"], but then in later ye.... Anyway, I would always make the drag around by Bombay to do my annual shopping, because when I lived in Chikalda, you couldn't buy a piece of paper. You couldn't buy a...a spool of thread. You couldn't buy a nail. So we just went down to Bombay and stocked up, two or three suitcases, and maybe a burlap bag, and maybe a huge bamboo basket of vegetables. And then we ordered crates of food (canned foods, pepper, salt, things like that), shipped up by freight and bus. But I....and then dental work, anything having to do with passports or travel back and forth. It was a marvelous thing to go to a missionary guest house. You might...you usually only paid a dollar and a half a night for maybe two meals and a good bed.
WILSON: Un-huh. But still a month and a half of student labor, one hour a day. [Laughs.]
ALFORD: [Laughs.] Yes. But it was a reunion on the part of the missionaries. And then in later years, another spiritual life center was opened in Nasik, where we have TEAM's mission headquarters now. And that was a hundred and ten miles from Bombay, so we would usually make it into Bombay for that.
WILSON: Um-hmm. Now, Bombay, from where you were stationed, though, is what, about three hundred miles or....?
ALFORD: It would be just about exactly five hundred from the seminary and I think about five hundred from Chikalda. There's another thing that is more personal, but I think that if you get any complete picture of missionary life, you have to see this sight, too. I got malaria, oh, when I'd been in India a few months. I don't remember how long. And of course, you have malaria in your bloodstream. I had to go to a tropical disease clinic in California to get rid of it after I returned to the States. I acquired acute appendicitis up there on that mountaintop and could easily have died, but the good Lord took care of that and got me down to the Baptist mission...Conservative Baptist mission hospital at the foot of the mountain, for three hours on and off [unclear word] table with only the doctor and his wife there to do surgery.
WILSON: Now was she a nurse? His wife?
ALFORD: She was a nurse. She said to me, "Zoe Anne, I knew you were dying," and I thought I was too, because my heart stopped beating three times. And so he pumped me up and started over again.
WILSON: Oh my.
ALFORD: And finally he did it by a local [anesthetic]. At that time, there was a question raised about cancer. So he said, "Well, when you get these stitches out, why you'd better go to Bombay." He came out to Chikalda for his vacation. And he said, "You get on the train, and go to Bombay tomorrow. And if they won't do anything for you, you get on a plane and go home." To make a long story short, our TEAM doctor, Karl Clockee [?], was to meet me there. He had to take his little boy down that very day because we suspected that the little boy had...they suspected that he had rheumatic fever and he did. Then [unclear word] Saunders, one of our TEAM children that had been teaching the month before, was buried the day before. She died during a tonsillectomy. But Karl met me in Bombay and we went to the big new, modern cancer research hospital there. The surgeon was a Parsi, the...the special group in India that came over from Persia, maybe one of the ten lost tribes [of Israel after the Exile], who knows. But he had had four stints of training in upper level cancer surgery in America. And I had to make that thousand-mile round trip four times before. He did a biopsy and knew it was cancer, and I spent fifteen days in that hospital eating Indian curry and rice. But that was in 1950 and I lived to tell the tale [chuckles].
WILSON: I...I should say, for the sake of those who are just hearing it, not seeing it, the distaste on your face when you said Indian curry....
ALFORD: [Coughs.] Well, I did pay one dollar for a tin of Australian jam to give a little variety. And one dollar back thirty years ago was a fair amount of money to pay for a...one can of jam. But, anyway, the Lord saw me through that. And then, all the intestinal parasites, all of the amoebic dysentery, plus a few other odds and ends, plus some minor surgery, all those things, you go through thick and thin, And I was in...stopped in a train which stopped only two minutes away from the wor...worst railroad wreck in Indian's...in India's history. I killed three poisoned snakes in the old home in Chikalda where we were living when we were teaching the MK's.
WILSON: Well, you came by that honestly from your days in Texas [chuckles].
ALFORD: I did so. [Both laugh.] You live through dangers. But you know, when you're in the center of God's will, He's there, too. And it's such a thrilling thing to feel that you have that shield of protection. And then you know when He's saying, "Your time is finished. Go home." And when He has prepared others to take over your work. That was our goal, to work ourselves out of a job. I came home in November of 1970. January...by late January of 1971, I was on my way to Biola College in La Mirada, California, to work as a library clerk. I had nine years of higher education. But God said, "This is your job." I could shut the door at four-thirty and go to my apartment and cultivate the m...the missionary kids, the MK's in India. I had as many as one hundred dinner guests a year. I would have, oh, five or six or seven house guests that might stay two days, three days, a week, most of them TEAM missionaries. Not all, because I...in both the MK school and the seminary, I had co-workers from different missions. But I felt those seven years in Biola College were fruitful years because of the contact with the missionary kids.
ALFORD: And I have failed to say very much about this Alaska orphanage. But you see, they wrote and said, "We want to support a missionary." The very summer that they took on my support, God blessed them by giving them eighty acres of raw, virgin Alaska timberland in the Anchorage area. Now this was down at Valdez, the only port in Alaska which is free of ice and snow the year round. But it was a bad place to rear high school and older boys, and they'd always felt the need of a farm for those older boys to work on. So God gave them that, I think, because they did take on the support of a missionary. The next summer, Mr. Hughes, the superintendent, and eight or nine of the older boys, went up and cleared enough land to build a little log cabin...two-room log cabin, and the government gave them five quonset huts. And they lived in those quonset huts when I came home in 1951 on my furlough. Of course, they had me come up each furlough. I lived in the little log cabin. They were still living in the quonset huts. That entire group, and I think they were 65 children then, plus the staff members, they had two wash basins. And they took their baths behind a curtain in a tin washtub. And that was all they had for the entire group. This was down in the basement. But they could still support a missionary. So then they had enough money that they could support two missionaries. And so, as long as the two homes were in existence, they supported two missionaries. The very year that I came home from India, Lazy Mountain Home, the one near Anchorage, lost their license because they would not teach social dancing as a part of the curriculum. And so God closed that home. And it is now a Bible school for the Indians and the Eskimos, because there are two tribes of Indians that were indigenous to Alaska. And that's been a thrilling chapter. But twenty-five years of prayer support, by children and missionaries. If you look at how God has protected me, if you look at the ministry that He gave me through which now we're reaping the harvest of baptisms in India, of trained leadership, of having our own training schools, you know it was done through prayer, the prayers of the supporting folks at home. I did have a small amount of support from a few others the last term. And then my last furlough in 1965 and six, I was commissioned to come home and raise money for a girl's dormitory on the seminary campus. And I travelled from Atlanta, Georgia, to Anchorage, Alaska, and spoke almost all the way in between, and in the Chicago area. And God sent in about three-fourths of the money for that dormitory during that furlough. And that was a very interesting thing. But you knew you had the prayer support back of you.
WILSON: And that means everything, doesn't it?
ALFORD: It just mean everything. Training did me a great deal, of course. And breadth of experience. But knowing that G...you were in the center of God's will, and that you had prayer supportners [sic]...prayer supporters and partners at home, meant...was a tremendous thing.
WILSON: There's one more thing that I wanted to ask you, and that was that you lived through a very exciting period of India's history...
WILSON: ...the partitioning, [Jawaharial] Nehru, and Mrs. [Indira] Gandhi was coming into power when you left, was she not? Or was she already there? Anyway, I...and Mahatma Gandhi was still alive...
WILSON: ...when you went out, and so I was wondering what you remember of...of Indian politics, and the secular government of that time. Of...of all the years you were there, what...what policies affected your work? You know, what...what went on in government that made a difference to the mission, etcetera? Do you remember meeting any of these...any of the leaders...
ALFORD: No, none at all.
WILSON: ...seeing them? Or....
ALFORD: I never got that far away from my local station. But I will say this, that during those months of the partition, when there was...the British acc...Empire was trying to make the division or to set up one nation, trying to give India her freedom. I read those newspapers every day. Maybe it was one reason I didn't become more proficient in the Indian language. But I have always had a keen interest in politics, and I read as widely as I could to know what was happening and how to pray for India. And I shall never forget the day that India became independent [January 26, 1950]. We were living in the language station then, and it had a flat roof, and you often went up there and studied because it was warmer up there than it was down in that old stone bungalow with stone floors. And I went up and asked God for a verse for India. And He gave me a verse from John, "That they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" [John 17:3] And that was a preci...precious word for India. Well then, of course, that time when a million Indians killed each other, I...in a sense became very real and personal to me because Miss Lena Boyd, the Presbyterian missionary, was living in north India. And...
WILSON: Oh, you were both out there at the same time?
ALFORD: At the same time for about five years, I believe. And actually, she came to visit me on her way home for a furlough, and stayed a month or so, at the time when Mahatma Gandhi was killed. And the shock of that news was shocking. And of course it penetrated all of India. But I was far enough away from big cities that those things didn't affect my work as such. Except the improvement in the educational system, which meant buying new textbooks, securing teachers with higher levels of training, and so on.
WILSON: Which to some extent would be more a pleasure than a burden [laughs].
ALFORD: Yes, it was. And then, in the later years, as visas were refused from them in 1951 on, the decline of the number of missionaries and the doubling up of the work, and.... Plus I was never on the field council because I was never in our field area and I might not have been selected to be anyway. But talking over and praying, how do we train leadership? How do we get ready for the eventual elimination of missionaries in India? And I will say to the credit of India as a nation, that they were very, very kind and generous and fore...I think, showed forethought in allowing the old missionaries to keep coming back, even though they didn't grant any new visas, because I suppose they realized there would need to be a period of...of gradual turnover which would mean more stability.
WILSON: Are there many American missionaries from TEAM in India today?
ALFORD: I believe the number is sixteen, perhaps sixteen on the field and on furlough. I'm not quite sure.
WILSON: And that's from what you said, about a hundred, right after the war?
ALFORD: Well, within five to ten years after the war, yes. And the only reason we had anything like that many was that a number of Canadians were able to secure visas and have been returning. Not all of those who were there...,
WILSON: Through their British affiliations?
WILSON: Okay. Well, I thank you so much...
WILSON: ...for coming.
ALFORD: ...it's interesting to think of Wheaton College and what it's contributed to my career and to be able to share a little bit. And also, it's really an inspiration to think that somebody cares enough to want [?] all those significant papers that I've accumulated.
WILSON: Oh, we care [laughs]. I assure you, we care. And I want it to be said on the tape here that Ms. Alford is coming to us just having been down yesterday with laryngitis.
ALFORD: [Chuckles.] Yes, I...
WILSON: To sit here for two hours and talk is really something on her part, and we appreciate it very deeply.
ALFORD: Well, I appreciate that explanation because I have hesitated and stammered ther...wher...and I may sound like a man talking when I usually dot...do not. But I am only in Wheaton just for a few days, so it was wonderful that we could work it out together.
WILSON: It was, indeed. Well, thanks again.
ALFORD: Thank you.
END OF TAPE