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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the oral history interview of Carl Armerding (Collection 180, T1) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. Nothing recorded has been omitted, except for any nonEnglish phrases which could not be understood by the transcriber. In a very few cases, words were too unclear to be distinguished, in which cases the word "[unclear]" was inserted. This is a transcription of spoken English, which of course follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... 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 Lannae Graham, and was completed in May, 1989.
Collection #180, #T1. Interview of Carl Armerding by Robert Shuster, June 16, 1981.
SHUSTER: Happy birthday.
ARMERDING: [Laughs] In Jersey City, New Jersey. That's where I spent my early childhood and, up to, oh, in my twenties. My mother began my education, I guess I was around five when she taught me by both German and English alphabets.
SHUSTER: Ah, you came from a German family.
ARMERDING: My parents were German, and I could write both of those alphabets before I went to grade school.
SHUSTER: The old German script.
ARMERDING: In fact, my mother had taught me to read before that.
SHUSTER: In German?
ARMERDING: And I was the oldest in the family, since, I had a sister immediately after me, a little more than a year younger than myself. And I went through the grade school then in Jersey City, New Jersey. When I wanted to go to high school, my father said, "Well, you have quite a few brothers and sisters," because the family was large, we had ten children all together. My father said, "I need your help."
SHUSTER: What did your father do?
ARMERDING: He was a carpentry, but to the time to which I refer now, he was superintendant of a factory where they made equipment for railroads: switches and crossings and so on. So, to compensate for no high school, I went to night school, and I studied Spanish in a sight, night, night school. I [unclear] that God was going to send me to a Spanish speaking field. But in my later teens, I doubted whether I'd go anywhere, because I suffered so with asthma, but I didn't expect to live. In fact, when I was seventeen, they gave me up. But the more I studied about South America, the more enamored I became of it, and I think it was more than that, it was a spiritual interest in South America. At that time, I was reading also a magazine published in Los Angeles, called Missionary Gleanings. I got deeply interested in the Spanish field, and so, in my early twenties, I had an offer made to me that if I wanted to go to the field, one of the brethren in New York, a businessman living in Plainfield, New Jersey, and he said he would finance my trip to the field, and he gave me a sizable check to that end.
SHUSTER: How did he know about your interest?
ARMERDING: Well, we were in the same fellowship, the same Brethren fellowship.
SHUSTER: I see. Plymouth Brethren.
ARMERDING: So that, I communicated then with the senior missionary who was on the field, in Honduras, and he of course was thrilled to think that a young person was going to come down to help him. So I went down to the field, but I know, hardly there before I took malaria, and I run a high fever. I made only one trip into the interior. And I didn't think I'd come back alive from that.
SHUSTER: Because of the malaria.
ARMERDING: On account of malaria. And so, I, I decided I'd better not try it, but I was ashamed to come all the way back to New Jersey, because I'd made such wonderful provision to go. But one of the brethren in Key West suggested that instead of going direct home, to spend a little time in the Bahama Islands. He was a Bahamian himself.
SHUSTER: Sounds nice.
ARMERDING: So, I spent a whole year in the Bahamas, with terrific blessing. The Lord was saving souls almost every night. I was preaching night after night. Which was a great encouragement to me, because I did retire from the field discouraged. And after a while, I felt well maybe I've recovered my health, so I went back to New Jersey to visit my family and to make preparation to go again to Central America. So, the second time I went down, and this time I was much more cautious about what I was eating and drinking and so on, on the field. But it wasn't long before again, I had the malaria again. That time I stayed about a year. In the meantime I said farewell to the senior missionary who had to return on account of his health, so that I was left alone on the field. I travelled up into the interior to see some of the other missionaries.
ARMERDING: I still felt that I was not called to spend my life in that field. So again, I returned by way of St. Louis that time. And in St. Louis, I met the man who was used to bring me to a decision for Christ, as a young fellow. In fact, I used to think of him as my spiritual father, but I think my parents had more to do with my conversion than any. Anyhow, he said to me, he said, "I'm not running your affairs, but I think you ought to get married and settle down." Well I said, "who in the world would marry a broken down missionary?" [Laughs] So, well he said, "you'd be surprised." So there was a Bible conference going on up in Manitoba, and he suggested it might be a good place to freeze out this malaria. So I went to this conference, and I was quite taken with a young lady there, and I wrote back to this man. I said, "since you suggested that I might get married," I said "what would you think of so-and-so?" I knew that he knew her. He says, "just the one I was thinking of for you." And she became my wife a year and a half after that. Well, we decided to settle in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I could use the Spanish language. And while I was there, I met the president of the University of New Mexico. I was speaking at a luncheon....
SHUSTER: Who was that? Who was president?
ARMERDING: A man by the name of . . . oh, it'll come back to me. At the moment I don't, I can't recall it at the moment. Anyhow, he was at a luncheon, I think it was a, one of these luncheon clubs, you know, something like, oh....
SHUSTER: Something like [unclear] club, or....
ARMERDING: I can't think of it, but anyhow, they invited me to it, and I spoke at this luncheon, and this president of the University came to me, he said, "of what school are you an alumnus?" I said "what do you mean? I have an eighth grade education." He says, "no one'd ever know it." He said, "why don't you come up to the University?" He said, "we have some courses that you would like to take." So I was encouraged by this to go up there, and in the meantime, I met the dean of the University, who was a devout Episcopalian, but very fine character. I was drawn to him immediately. Dr. Mitchell was his name. And so I, I made him my friend, and I was allowed to do two years' work as a special student, but after that, I'd have to either qualify for a degree or stop studying. So I went in at the end of two years, and I had taken a number of courses already, and with one exception, with all A grades. So he, well I told him I was going to quit. He says, "quit?" he says, "you're just in the middle of things." Well I said, "I don't have a, I don't even have a high school diploma." "So what?" he says, "you can follow the, take the entrance examinations." I says, "is that possible?" He said, "why yes, you know two languages now." He says, "you know German and you know Spanish. Why don't you take the entrance examinations?" So I took the entrance examinations and was admitted to the University as a regular student.
SHUSTER: You majored in Spanish?
ARMERDING: No, I studied, studied Spanish there, but this was all in English, of course. The courses were in English, except for the professors, the professor of Spanish, of course, then all the lectures were in Spanish.
SHUSTER: What, what was your final degree in? What was your final degree?
ARMERDING: Just an ordinary B. A., that's all. So, one day I, near the end of the two years, the graduation was coming up, I was late for a class meeting. I never used to miss a class meeting; liked to be in on the business of the class. And I came in late, and I said to one of the fellows in the back row, I said, "what's going on, what's, what's the [unclear]?" He says, "you." Says "what are they discussing?" He says, "well, they're discussing who's going to preach the baccalaureate sermon." Because they still had that custom at that time. I said, "Oh, it's not I." "Well," he said, "they've already decided that you're the man." So, when the vote came out, the only negative vote was mine. [Laughs] Anyhow, I did preach the baccalaureate sermon, and I remember how disgusted the president was. He wasn't in favor of me at all.
SHUSTER: Why was that?
ARMERDING: At the, I don't know why, but, he had somebody else picked, but he had the student body....
SHUSTER: Well, it was his own fault, he had you come to the University.
ARMERDING: The, the student body told him that they'd already sent the press releases, releases to the newspaper, and all they wanted was OK.
SHUSTER: What did you preach about?
ARMERDING: I preached on a text in Joshua, "Be strong and of a good courage."
SHUSTER: A good text for a graduating class. If we could backtrack for a second, you mentioned about the, the man who was your father in the Lord. How, how were you converted?
ARMERDING: How old was I?
SHUSTER: Well, how old were you, and how did your conversion come about?
ARMERDING: Well I, I was about, I, I graduated with the class of twenty-six, and I was born in eighty-one, eighty-nine. How many are, twenty-six....
SHUSTER: oh, that would have been....
SHUSTER: eleven, about thirty-six, yeah. But how old were you when you were converted, when you became a Christian?
ARMERDING: When I was a Christian....
SHUSTER: and how, how did you become a Christian?
ARMERDING: about fourteen or fifteen, somewhere in there.
SHUSTER: and how did you become a Christian?
ARMERDING: Well, I as I say, I believe my parents had really prepared me for all of this, so when the question was put in, in a public way in the meeting, "are you saved, do you know the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior?" I in my heart was saying, "of course I do." But after the meeting, the brother who had been preaching, he didn't have any public invitation, but he approached me personally about it, says, "how about you?" So I told him, I said, "I've answered that question and positive I'm a believer in the Lord Jesus." Well, as soon as this was made known, I was announced for baptism, because my folks believed in believer's baptism. So I was baptized then, came into fellowship, as the saying is. If you know about the Brethren, do you?
ARMERDING: Well, this, that's how I got in.
SHUSTER: What was the name of the man who was preaching?
ARMERDING: McKenzie, George McKenzie. His son, Fred McKenzie was president of the Missions in Many Lands, back in New Jersey. And Fred's with the Lord now, too.
SHUSTER: When you went to Central America, to Honduras, did you go as a Plymouth Brethren?
ARMERDING: Yes. Yes, it was a Brethren mission.
SHUSTER: And, what exactly was your work in Honduras? Were you mostly an evangelist, or were you working with churches already existing?
ARMERDING: There weren't any churches. We would just, we were, we were pioneers. We'd go into these places and....
SHUSTER: How did you start? How did you, what'd you do then?
ARMERDING: We'd just have an open air meeting. I, the Lord had blessed me with a fairly good voice to sing, and my com, my companion sang along with me, just the two of us, and of course we were the attraction of the whole crowd. We soon had a crowd around us, never had any difficulty getting an audience.
SHUSTER: Because you were Yankees, or....
ARMERDING: On the other hand, we were also stoned more than once. Because it, if the priest was listening in, he soon got people to show that they were on the wrong side, they were Roman Catholics. So, we were stoned. We thank the Lord for that. I remember one night, after we'd been stoned, I, we went to our apartments and the people pelted the house with stones. They couldn't stone us, they'd stone the house. And the roof was made of tile, and the next morning I saw the roof was all full of holes where the, the man, they'd almost ruined his house. But he was very gracious, he said to me "I'm on your side," he said "I'm accepting this as part of the, of what comes to me." So, we were thankful for that. But when we rode out of the, that courtyard that day on our mules, a man by the name of Gro...?, A.......Gro....? we rode out fully mounted, and we were supposed to keep ahead of the crowd because our animals could travel faster. Finally I thought, "this is rather cowardly to get, do this." So I suggested to my companion in English, I said, well I said loud, "well let's turn around and face this crowd." He was of the same mind. So we just wheeled around, in fact so fast that the crowd passed us. They came back to see what it was all about. I said, "well, we just want to say good-bye to you, and tell you that we're praying for you, hoping the day will come when the Gospel will have an entrance in this place." This was a place called [Corina de Santa Barbara?], and today there is a testimony there. In fact, the leading brother has again and again asked me to come back to speak in the place where I was stoned, where they wanted to kill me. But that lasted only about a year or two, as I've said, I, I had to get back again to the States.
SHUSTER: Were you mainly then, come to a town, preach at two or three meetings, and then go on to another town?
ARMERDING: That's what we do. And distribute literature, and sell Gospels and Testaments.
SHUSTER: And if there were people who became Christians, did you help them form a church, or did you....
ARMERDING: We didn't, we didn't do any of that, no.
ARMERDING: In fact, I wasn't there long enough to do that. Because we did an itinerant that the idea was to spread it as far and wide as we could in the time at our disposal. So we, we never made the same trip twice in the, while I was there; we just chose a new place altogether.
SHUSTER: Have you, you mentioned this one town which now has a, a Christian church, you mentioned one town where you were stoned which now has....
ARMERDING: It was a Catholic church....
SHUSTER: a Christian church, has, have you heard other evidences over the years of the results of this one or two years you spent in Honduras? Have you heard from people who were started on the road to salvation, or who remember hearing you preach, or who were affected one way or another?
ARMERDING: There was one, one, one man that's I think he's still alive, I remember his name distinctly [Spanish or Indian name]. He said that he remembered me being stoned, and was very anxious that I should come back again and let the people see the person who was persecuted before there was an assembly of Christians there. But there is a strong testimony there today. Evidently the seed was sown. As I said, this was our objective in those days, was not to stay long enough to establish a church, but was to spread the, spread the seed.
SHUSTER: Was there any kind of follow up then, done on your work, later?
ARMERDING: I think there was later on, but not immediately. No, I had no immediate successor.
SHUSTER: Was the, was the Catholic church, I take it from what you said, hostile generally, towards you?
ARMERDING: Very hostile.
ARMERDING: Uh huh.
SHUSTER: In the Bahamas, you worked in the same way, traveling?
ARMERDING: Well, there were assemblies of Brethren there.
SHUSTER: And that's where you spoke?
ARMERDING: So, so I just worked with them. The man who suggested that I should go to the Bahamas was himself a Bahamian.
SHUSTER: Who was that?
ARMERDING: His name was Johnson. Copeland Johnson.
SHUSTER: And what were the church, what were the Brethren churches like in the Bahamas? Were they active, growing churches, or were they....
ARMERDING: They're very active still. Yes, they have a good testimony there in the Bahamas.
SHUSTER: And, what was, how was your experience of preaching?
ARMERDING: Well, mine was rather, shall I say elementary, because I, I never had a course and gone even to a Bible institute, but I had been watching other preachers and taking notes when they preached. And I will say this, that those who, with whom I worked in these open air meetings, they were men who just studied the text of the Bible, and that's what they preached on. If they preached on John 5:24, that was the text then. They repeated it again and again, and, and this way I learned textual preaching. And I found this was very helpful. And I also used the parables quite a bit in the, in the Gospels. I made great use of those in my early days.
SHUSTER: Because they were so simple?
ARMERDING: Yes. And I used the Old Testament, too. Stories like, well Isaiah's conversion in the sixth chapter of Isaiah. That would be one case. And I got interested in the Old Testament, in fact, later on I was known as an Old Testament man. Because I'd already begun studying Hebrew then. But I've never come, become very fluent in Hebrew; I can read it and enjoy it, but I wouldn't be an authority on what the Hebrew says. I'm not a Hebrew scholar. Not like my nephew up in....
SHUSTER: Carl Edmond....
ARMERDING: He reads it like English, you know.
SHUSTER: When you, when you preach the Gospel in the Bahamas and Honduras what part of it affected people the most? What seemed to touch their hearts the most?
ARMERDING: Well, it would, these little stories of how man would be convicted of sin and what his reaction would be "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." And the question of the Philippian jailer, "what must I do to be saved?" These were texts that I used over and over again. Including of course, John 3:16, and John 5:24, these were, these were standard texts, that every place I went, I preached on them. In fact, I would spend quite a few minutes over our Lord's introduction, "verily, verily," I say, "you know what you're listening to here is something that's, it's true, "verily, verily." So our messages for the whole part were positive, and I wouldn't say that they were emotional, except as there was something in the text itself which would, like a person convicted of sin, like the Philippian jailer. But we avoided all these tear-jerking stories, we didn't, we didn't.
SHUSTER: When you were growing up in America, did you hear many well-known evangelists, such as Billy Sunday or Gypsy Smith or Henry Stough?
ARMERDING: Yes, I've heard Billy Sunday himself, I heard him. About all the contact I had was to shake hands with him.
SHUSTER: Well, where was that?
ARMERDING: That was, it was in Detroit. I remember the incident particularly because he was guarded by the police getting to his meetings because there was some threat on his, on his life. But he was fearless just the same. And I heard, who else did you mention?
SHUSTER: Gypsy Smith?
ARMERDING: Gypsy Smith. I had an experience with Gypsy. I was preaching in a little place in Pennsylvania, and in the opening exercises I said to my friend who was in charge of the meeting, I said, "do you know that Gypsy Smith is in the audience?" "Oh, no," he says. Said "yes, he is there. You see him sitting down there?" He said, "are you sure that's he?" I said, "I'm sure it's he." "Have you met him?" I said, "no, never met him, but I've seen his picture." So he said, "well, if you want to" he said "you can speak along these lines if you want to make note of the fact that he's here." I said, "well, whenever you turn the meeting over to me, I'll do that." So I looked down in the direction of this man, I said, "if I mistake not, I have the honor of having Gypsy Smith in my audience today." I said, "Mr. Smith, would you mind coming up and singing a solo for us right now?" And he left his seat immediately and came up and sang a beautiful solo. I forget the title of it, but I was moved by it. Such a gracious man.
SHUSTER: Did he talk with you afterward, after the meeting?
ARMERDING: Oh, yes, we had, that's the only time I talked, I had contact with him. Mrs. Smith was with him at the time.
SHUSTER: You mentioned you heard Billy Sunday speak in Detroit....
SHUSTER: What kind of preacher was he?
ARMERDING: Well, he, he was very active, as you know, on the platform. He, he liked to slide to baseball, liked to sliding homerun, you know. I could see him doing that. He moved from one end of the platform to the other, he was very active.
SHUSTER: What were the contents of his sermons like?
ARMERDING: Well, they were strictly simple and evangelistic, evangelistic meeting messages. I didn't hear him often enough to make any general idea of what he could do. But I think he was very earnest in presenting the Gospel.
SHUSTER: And you say you were one of those who went forward to shake his hand?
ARMERDING: Yes, I came after, I don't think he was deceived that I was, I wasn't up there as an inquirer. Because when he shook hands with me, he shook, looked me in the eye. We knew we were brothers in Christ. He was no fool about that.
SHUSTER: He must have had....
ARMERDING: I think he had a good insight into human nature. I credited him with that, because he had had his early days in Chicago, alone, is now the Pacific Garden Mission, where [Harry Saulnier?] is now. And Billy, Billy knew his audience pretty well. Any of these four-flushers coming up there, he, he had their number right now.
SHUSTER: You, you mentioned your work at the University of New Mexico....
ARMERDING: Yes, sir.
SHUSTER: And I understand you also preached while you were going to the University of New Mexico to a Spanish-speaking church?
SHUSTER: Where was that?
ARMERDING: That was right in Albuquerque.
SHUSTER: How did you, how did that come about?
ARMERDING: It came about by getting contact with a pastor who was not a Mexican, to begin with, in fact he was Scotch, his name was Ogilvie, and I learned that he spoke Spanish and was preaching in Spanish, and he was a man who was very anxious to have all the help he could get, so he invited me to speak. In fact, he announced a whole series of meetings that I would take. Spanish. This happened on a Sunday afternoon when I was free. Because I was free, not free in the mornings Sundays up and Sunday evening I was busy with the Gospel, preaching in the little chapel in Albuquerque, but that was in English.
SHUSTER: It was Brethren, Plymouth Brethren chapel?
ARMERDING: Yes. But I was being invited to various other places in Albuquerque as well, because by attending the University I got in touch with students who loved me, and I loved them, and they invited me to come speak to their young peoples' groups, which I was happy to do. So, I got, and then there were two boarding schools there for girls and boys. Presbyterians had a boys' school, and the principle of that school was also a member of the Kiwanis Club, and because I had spoken at the Kiwanis Club, why, he invited me to come up to hold a series of meetings for the boys up there, which I was happy to do. And the Methodists had a girls' school also in Albuquerque. And the principal of that school said she needed a, a teacher of Spanish who was also acquainted with English. She said, "we have Spanish teachers here, but they don't know enough English to be authorities." And says, "you have both languages; I would like to have you come and join our staff." At a very modest sum of money, I, I think it was just a very few dollars. Anyhow, I taught there for a while in that girls' school. Then after ten years in Albuquerque, I moved down to San Diego, because the altitude was getting a little too much for my wife. See it was five thousand feet. So we moved right down to sea level in San Diego, and in San Diego, I had a nice ministry to the Brethren Assembly there. But meanwhile, Dr. Ironside, who was connected with Dallas Seminary at the time, he'd go there. He invited me to come to the Seminary, and joking, and he introduced me to Dr. Chafer, of the Seminary, and the result was that Chafer asked me to come also and lecture to the students.
SHUSTER: On Old Testament?
ARMERDING: Yes. In fact, I gave a series on the Old, the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, and Dr. Chafer paid me the compliment, he says, "it's never been done here." Says, "you're the first one who's talked about the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament." Well, I said, "He's the first person of the Trinity that's mentioned in the Old Testament." And of course this rang a bell with him. And as a result of that series, I was going to, I was just going to stay for commencement and see what it was like, but then I thought, well, no, I won't stick around here because I think I better get back home to San Diego. And I....
SHUSTER: You were teaching in San Diego, too? You were teaching in San Diego, or....
ARMERDING: Well, I was preaching there, but, I, I wasn't teaching in San Diego, but I was, I had this invitation to go to Dallas for the Seminary, which at that time was known as the Evangelical Theological Seminary, E-T-C, and while I was there, I also got an invitation from Memphis, from a Presbyterian minister there, who invited me to come and hold a series of meetings, which also I was I really owed this to Dr. Ironside, it was he that proposed my name. But after I had, the first time I got invited again to come back, so I paid several visits to Memphis on my own. But coming back to the time when I'd given this series on the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, Dr. Ironside heard that I was going back to San Diego, he says, "you're not going to stick around for commencement?" I says, "no." I said "I won't lend anything to your parade." I said "I'd just have to sit as a listener." "Well," he says, "I think you ought to stick around." Well I kept asking my question "why should he want me to stick around?" Well finally, he had to tell me, he said "they plan to give you a doctor's degree." So, first of all, I turned that down, too, I said, "not, not for me." "Oh," he says, "you'll need it." I said, "when will I need it?" Says "you don't need it now, put it on ice, it'll keep." So this is where I got the doctorate, and he claims that this was my dissertation, while I preached on the Holy, Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. But Ironside was a very personal friend of mine.
SHUSTER: What kind of man was he? What were his most distinguishing traits?
ARMERDING: Well, I hardly know, I never knew a man that I was more drawn to than Harry Ironside. Something about his person was very attractive to me. In fact, I liked his very simple approach to the Gospel, and he could bring it in any time, even in a profound address, bring in the Gospel. One thing I remember about him, they would take a missionary offering, and he thought he'd look in the baskets when they came back. I don't know just, well, I should say I do know now, but he just wanted to see what the offering consisted of. So he leaned over and he says, "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil." [Laughs]
SHUSTER: Many pennies, huh? [Laughs] What kind of preacher was he?
ARMERDING: Oh, a very attractive preacher.
SHUSTER: How did he compare with somebody, say, like Billy Sunday?
ARMERDING: Well, I think there was more meat to his sermons than there was to Billy Sunday's. Although he was a, he and Billy Sunday were good friends. And he would pray for Billy Sunday, or just to go and hear him. Very gracious that way. I forget who else it was, who was another evangelist that he recommended we should go to. He was very gracious. I don't think he ever was jealous of anybody. Jealousy wasn't in his nature at all. Kind of a man that I admire for that very reason.
SHUSTER: You, of course, by this time you'd done many great deal of work with, with Spanish speaking churches.
ARMERDING: Yes, I....
SHUSTER: Did you find....
ARMERDING: [unclear] I, I ministered the word in Dallas. I taught in Dallas Seminary then. Chafer invited me onto the faculty of the Seminary at that time. And that way I got to be known around churches around outside of Dallas, smaller places that would like me to come hold a series of meetings, which I did. Then when I came up to Moody, I, I think again it was Dr. Ironside who had recommended me to Moody Institute. And I got acquainted with Dr. Houghton, who was then President of the Moody Bible Institute. And he invited me to hold some meetings at the Institute. First of all, I think to speak to the students and then to do some ministry outside for the Institute. Well, I thought this was just temporary. But one day, I got a phone call from him. I was living in Windsor, Ontario at the time, and he was going to stay at the Statler Hotel in Detroit. He said, "come over and have dinner with me tonight." Said, "bring Mrs. ARMERDING with you." Well I said, "I'm afraid I'll have to say she can't get away tonight," but I said, "I can come." So, I went over and met him that night and he said, "let's have a word of prayer up in my room." So I went up to his room for a word of prayer before dinner, and he reached out his hand, he said "you know the Lord is saying to us at Moody, 'get Armerding.'" But get Armerding for what? He said "to teach at the Institute." "Oh," I said, "no," I said "He's not saying that to me." "But He's saying it to us," he said, "and Dr. Culbertson's one with me in it," he said, "we'd like to have you on our faculty." So, I thought well, I can't do a thing like this without discussing it with my wife, so I went back to Windsor that night, I said, "I have an invitation to teach at the Moody Bible Institute." She said, "oh, does that mean you have to move?" I said, "I guess it will." So we thought, what, what'll we do? We had, we had children in Wheaton College. So, we put two and two together that if I was living in Wheaton, I could make a home for my children at the same time I could teach at the Institute, so the thing fitted together. So I told Dr. Chafer, Dr. Houghton, I would gladly accept his invitation. Well, he said to me, "we know that our constituency may know you, who you are," he said, "but we'd like you to go on our extension staff for a year." So I did that for a year, which meant a lot of travel for me, I was home only once a month. I had to travel around. We went from coast to coast, I never knew if I was in Florida or Seattle the next, it all depended where the invitations were. And this, was very tiring to me, so I thought, well the time has come for me to urge them to put me in on the faculty here, which I did. I went in on the faculty after serving on the extension staff for some years. But I was very much disappointed in the difference between the night school and the day school. The day, the dean of the school at that time was a man who insisted that because we were giving the same diploma we'd have to give the same courses. But my black, my evening classes were practically ninety-nine per cent black. And people that didn't have more than a third grade education. And the morning classes that I had were people that were graduates from high school. At least they, they had been out to, to the day school and had graduated from that. So the morning lectures were much higher level. And I told the dean, I said, "Dr. Fitzwater," I said "I can't do this, because" I said, "you either have to lower the morning lectures to the level that would be discouraging to these people, or" I said "we, we're going to have to discourage these night school students." I said, "why not give them a different kind of a diploma?" Well he didn't think that was a good policy for the Institute, have two kinds of diplomas. Says, "you try it" he said "give them the same in the, examination that you give in the morning." Flunked every one of them [unclear]. It took all of that to convince him. But my morning classes were even up to two hundred students, and here again, I was facing the problem, what kind of examination am I going to give them? Oh, somebody says, "give them a true/false." I said, "I abominate that." I said, "I don't consider that's an examination at all." Says, "[unclear] it's a guessing game." And so, but I had to do it with two hundred papers to correct. So this, I did that for seven years at Moody. In fact, I was with Moody about ten years all together.
SHUSTER: Three years on extension, then, three years on the extension program, and seven years on the regular faculty?
ARMERDING: Yes, I was more than three years on the extension, more like six years, and a few years on the, on the faculty all together. But ten years between the two. But meanwhile, I had been, I went down to Dallas again.
SHUSTER: Let me, ley me break in for a second and ask. You mentioned you were in Windsor, Ontario?
ARMERDING: Yes, sir.
SHUSTER: How did you come from Dallas to Windsor, Ontario?
ARMERDING: We moved.
SHUSTER: What, what was in Windsor? Why did you, why did you move up to Windsor?
ARMERDING: Well, you see, my wife was a Canadian, and there was a Canadian Assembly there, and I could also minister to the assemblies in Detroit. So it was quite a center for us.
SHUSTER: I see.
ARMERDING: But when Dr. Houghton invited me to come to, to Chicago, to that neighborhood, and as I said, we had two students at school at Wheaton, my son who is President here was then a student. So, we decided to move to Wheaton. And after I had to resign from, from Moody, because of, I didn't feel I was doing the job that I should, Dr. Chafer invited me back to Dallas. I was supposed to be professor of homiletics back there in Dallas. So, I went down to Dallas for a year, but meanwhile, Dr. Edman, who was then President of Wheaton, came after me to be a teacher at Wheaton College. And so I put all this together that I was living in Wheaton, and I could live at home and teach, so I told Dr. Chafer, I did go back for a year to teach homiletics, but I just thought, well, the Lord is moving me here. So that was the beginning of fourteen years at Wheaton College.
SHUSTER: When you, when you left Moody, it was, it was over this matter of the night classes and the evening classes different diplomas, or....
ARMERDING: Well, it was only with the dean, it was my own discouragement more than anything that the Institute had to. When Dr. Culbertson became President of the Institute after Houghton's death, Culbertson wanted me to stay on, but I, I'd developed such an affection for Dr. Houghton, I couldn't pass his door without breaking down. And it was a case personal love for a man. And I, I told him, I said, "I don't think I can work here because of the connection I've had." I said, "this is no reflection on you, Dr. Culbertson." I appreciated very much that he wanted me on his faculty. But I, I just felt I'd be happier away from there.
SHUSTER: When you think about Dr. Houghton, what kind of characteristics do you remember?
ARMERDING: Well, I think I was much drawn for his wonderful sincerity on the platform. A man who did not indulge in any hair-raising stories or anything like this, it was just a simple presentation of the Word, and I was drawn to him on, on that account, because I like that kind of ministry myself. [Long pause] Did you ever know Dr. Houghton?
SHUSTER: No, no, I never met him.
ARMERDING: He was a Baptist, he was pastoring a Baptist, and became pastor of the, of a Baptist church in New York City. First Baptist Church there. Where [Haldemans?] had been. So he had a good heritage. Then he called him to Moody, and one day when he was down in Los Angeles, they found him dead in the bathroom, dropped dead, heart trouble. So this was another reason I didn't want to stay.
SHUSTER: What kind of administrator was he?
ARMERDING: Wonderful administrator. He had a man, he had a way of holding a bunch of men together, you know.
SHUSTER: He could bring out the best in an individual?
ARMERDING: On these, on these extension staff, he would always be present there for the first meeting of a series. He said, "fellas, let's pray." When he prayed, I felt the thing had really begun. A man that was talking to God. [Long pause] Yes, I cherish the memory of a man like Dr. Houghton.
SHUSTER: He taught as well as at Moody. He taught at Moody, too, didn't he? Or was he just a....
ARMERDING: Well, after he became President, I don't think he took many courses, if any. Because he was a good administrator. I think he did something to the Institute, as the administrator.
SHUSTER: What kind of thing? You said you think he did something to the Institute, what, what....
ARMERDING: Well, I think he, the whole organization was improved, you know. Because I observed it, perhaps I'm being wrong in my observation, but it seemed to me like each teacher was a law unto himself 'til Houghton came there. But Houghton had us all blended into one; he made us feel like we were part of this, that, and this was a characteristic of the man. He could draw men together.
SHUSTER: He had a vision for the larger. [Long pause] Of course, you've had a great deal of experience with the Spanish speaking church, your experience in Honduras and in New Mexico and the Central America Mission. What do you see any characteristics that are special to the Latin church, or that differentiate it from the North American?
ARMERDING: Well, I wouldn't say the Latin church as a whole, because I think the two leading missions, like the Central America Mission and the Latin America Mission, they have a slightly different philosophy. This becomes evident, I think, in the, the way they have developed their missionary work. Our missionary work is, well, I, I shouldn't perhaps I shouldn't say this, but it might be a reflection on the Latin America Mission, which I don't want to, I don't want to leave any, but there is a difference between the two missions, in the way they operate. I receive literature from the both, and uh, Mike [Berg?] is a friend of mine at the Latin America Mission, and so I [wouldn't want to] say anything that would reflect on Mike.
SHUSTER: But, in talking about the Latin church, would you say there are special characteristics to it, or special....
ARMERDING: Well, I think....
SHUSTER: strengths or weaknesses or....
ARMERDING: If I could just venture this one remark. I think they lean more toward the charismatic, which the Central American doesn't. Perhaps that's a general statement I would make. Generally, our people are not drawn to the charismatic side. But I think the Latin America Mission welcomes this. I think they, themselves would agree to that. This isn't an unfriendly criticism at all, it's just an observation of what I think is a fact.
SHUSTER: Well, quite aside from the Latin America Mission and the Central America Mission, but the church itself in Latin America
ARMERDING: Oh, I think the church....
SHUSTER: how would you, how would you describe it?
ARMERDING: The church itself is developing along beautiful lines. You take now the seminary in Guatemala City, which I've had a deep interest in that. They even named a building after me down there. And I preached the inauguration sermon for that building. And the members of, the original members of the faculty there are all personal friends of mine. So that I could see the effect of the Latin American, [unclear] faculty down there, they're giving it an impetus of the Spanish side of the work, including men who were born on the field, who are Latin in their thinking, their whole manner of life, so that apart from a few outsiders now, the faculty in Guatemala City is made up of nationals, and even one Spaniard, and now we have one converted Roman Catholic priest on the faculty, Dr. Laguerra. So, I'm interested in that, but we've also been facing this fact: that with the growth of nationalism in South America, that we would soon find ourselves being ostracized and perhaps our properties taken over, too. But now we've taken the seminary and given it to these national brethren. So, they come now and say, who's your faculty and who's your president, it's all, they're all nationals.
SHUSTER: Why do you think the church is growing so rapidly in Latin America?
ARMERDING: Well, I don't know why, but it is. It is. You take the Brethren alone, with whom I'm fellowshipped, we have in Honduras, more than a hundred churches. We have in Guatemala, at least a hundred and fifty churches, and most of them are Indian, because sixty per cent of the population of Guatemala is Indian. Some of them don't even speak Spanish. And our missionaries are translating the Word all the time in the native languages. I know Cameron Townsend gets a lot of credit for what he's done, but we've got people down there been doing even more than he, Cameron Townsend's ever done. He, he translated into the [name of an Indian language], but these men are translating into dialects that are perhaps spoken not outside of one group of one group of villagers. And they're reducing it to writing. We've got a couple there name of Engstrom, David Engstrom and his wife Helge, both excellent linguists in these Indian languages. They're translating these in, even to small groups. So that small groups are getting the, the Scriptures in their own languages. [Name of an Indian language] of course is a, one of the more prominent Indian languages, and Cameron Townsend has the credit of making the first translation into [name of Indian language]. But coming back to your question, I think one of the reasons why the church is growing is because they're realizing that they have a, a freedom that they never had under the Roman Catholics. That being recognized now, whether they've had a religious training in the Roman Catholic church, that's a side issue, they're Christians, they're believers, and they call themselves "crentes" which is "believers." That's the name for them. And I think they rather enjoy the fact that God is blessing their ministry, and some of them, like Elizear Hernandes down in Salvador, had to quit, he married an American girl, and he's off the field today, he's working in Denver, a man who had a strong work in Salvador.
SHUSTER: Why did he have to quit?
ARMERDING: Threatened, threatened him with death.
SHUSTER: The Catholics?
SHUSTER: Has, has relationships between Protestants and Catholics improved any in Latin America, I mean, this last story doesn't sound like it has, but are there other parts of Latin America that you know of where Protestants and Catholics now are able to work together?
ARMERDING: Well, we haven't found it, I'll say perhaps that the Romanists that I know of have been at least civil to me. But they realize that I'm on the other side. You can't be anything else in Central America, you have to be positive. You're anti-Roman by the very fact that you are a Protestant.
SHUSTER: Well has the threat of communism drawn Protestant and Catholic together any? Has the threat of communism drawn Protestant and Catholic together?
ARMERDING: That I can't answer that, I don't know enough about the politics, and not having been resident on the field, I couldn't answer that question.
SHUSTER: What is your impression of the theology of liberation?
SHUSTER: The theology of liberation. Which is, we've read a great deal in the last few years of Latin American theologians talking about a theology of liberation of Christian social responsibility, in the various countries in which they are involved.
ARMERDING: Well, I think there again is the reason for the difference between the Latin America Mission and ourselves. I think more of their work is social, they've emphasized the social side of it. But on the other hand, we've not publicized the fact that we, too, have been interested in the physical needs of people, and have ministered to them, in fact, into the thousands of dollars, from the mission in Dallas for the physical help and food for people. But the Latin America Mission makes no bones about this, this is one phase of their work, is to attend to the physical needs of the people, as well, and I'll say to their credit, it, I thank the Lord for it. But it has not been one of our primary objects. Our primary object has been the spiritual need of people.
SHUSTER: How did you first become connected with Central America Mission?
ARMERDING: Well, when I was in Dallas, on the faculty of the Seminary, I met Carl Hummel, who was then the General Secretary of the mission, and I used to attend the Scofield church at that time, with my family, and I got to know Dr. Hummel very well. And one day he said to me, "you know," he said, "you, with your experience in Honduras and your knowledge of the Spanish language, you ought to be on our council." "Well," I said, "that's, if they'd like it, I'd be glad to." So, I was invited to join the council of Central America Mission at that time. Dr. Hummel was then the General Director of. Well then, Hummel took sick, in fact, he later died, but before his death, he, he was not capable of running the mission, so it was turned over to a man called Taylor, William Taylor, who has since relinquished the position to Albert Platt, who at the present is President of the Mission. But it was through Carl Hummel that I got to be a member of the Mission. And then as a member of the Mission, he invited me to accompany with him, accompany him on a trip to Central America, and he and I made a trip of all the republics together, right after I became a member of the Mission. And this was also under the auspices of the Moody Bible Institute, because at that time, I was also on the extension staff of the Moody Bible Institute, and Dr. Houghton says, "we'll pay your fare, your wages while you're gone." And other people paid my fare, so this is how I got to spend this time with Dr. Hummel on the field. And to do, we had a great ministry together, practically visited every one of the fields, not every village, but every field we visited, of the six republics, including Panama. That's how I got to know the South America Mission.
SHUSTER: What did you do as a member of the Mission, you were on the Board of Trustees, or what....
ARMERDING: Directors. We had what we called Council, then later on when Dr. Hummel resigned, we elected another man to take his place. His name escapes me for the moment. I seem to have a poor memory for certain names today.
SHUSTER: That wasn't Pratt or....
ARMERDING: No, it wasn't Platt. It's another man who's, he's now working at Florida. The name will come back to me maybe later this, but anyhow, he was President a while, but I don't think he enjoyed the job. So, when we had a meeting again, the question came up, who, we ought to have some director living here in Dallas, and would I undertake it. So I consented to undertake it. To be President of the Mission, which job I held for some twenty years. I, I quit there when I was eighty years old, I quit the Presidency.
SHUSTER: Well, what were your responsibilities as President?
ARMERDING: Well, it was really to preside at the meetings, determine policy, and so on. Deal with certain problems that might have arisen on the field. I'd nothing to do with the the admission of the candidates. We had a candidate secretary who handled that matter. But the administrative work in the office was under my control, and. We had a very small group compared to what they have now. They've got a, quite a large force in Dallas at the present time.
SHUSTER: How did CAM go about choosing where it would send its missionaries? How did it decide to go into a particular area?
ARMERDING: Well, a lot of it was determined by the desire of the missionary that, him or herself. Why, why do you want to work in such a [unclear], what field are you attracted to, what have you read on the subject? And they, times, again and again, they've decided well I'd like to work in Honduras, or I'd like to work in Guatemala. Sometimes they were attracted by the indigenous work in Guatemala with the Indians, which had its attraction, and take Nicaragua and Honduras, purely Spanish. Same way with El Salvador. Costa Rica is also a very attractive field to some. My last trip through Central America, with one of my grandsons, I didn't realize I was going to have him, I planned to make a farewell trip, a trip on my own in '78, three years ago. I was going to just [unclear] farewell trip when I had resigned from the Presidency, and I was President Emeritus, which honor I still have, of course. And my daughter in Windsor said to me, "Bob would like to go with you," and, that's my grandson. I said, "oh, that's very nice." She said, "well what concerns us, we've been looking at these schedules, and as far as we can tell, any plane that leaves here will get to Guatemala City before the plane from, from California." Well I said, "don't let that worry you." "Oh," but she [said], "he doesn't, he doesn't know the language, he doesn't know what'll happen to him down there." I said, "you just leave it to me. He's all right." So he booked himself, went down to Guatemala, went through Dallas into Guatemala. I went right from Los Angeles down. I got there about thirty minutes after he did. When I looked over the barrier, here he was with smiling face; he'd been through customs and everything else. He'd already made friends with some of them in the customs.
SHUSTER: Seasoned traveler.
ARMERDING: [Laughs] And that night we were introduced to Missionary Home in Guatemala City. There's a family, a missionary family with three boys, they were all about his age. They were out there playing basketball and having a great time. And he went with me to every one of the republics, all six of them, including Panama, back in '78.
SHUSTER: What are the obstacles today to preaching the gospel in Central America?
ARMERDING: I wouldn't say there are anything preachable that, today were I accepted, you might find in one of the outlying villages, where people are still fanatical and so on, but.... We're recognized in all the big centers of population. There are really churches there, not only our own, but, you take and the Latin America Mission is finding the same [unclear] we got the opposition from the Mormons and all that. They're [unclear] really busy now.
SHUSTER: The Mormons are.
ARMERDING: But the charismatic movement has taken over too, you know. People are emotional and they like hand clapping.
SHUSTER: How does the Central American Mission churches get along with charismatic?
ARMERDING: We don't encourage it, I'll put it that way.
SHUSTER: What do you think are the reasons for the pentecostal revival that is going on in Central and Latin America?
ARMERDING: Partly, I believe, is to the emotional nature of the Latin. It appeals to him.
SHUSTER: You also served on the council of the China Inland Mission, did you not?
ARMERDING: Yes, I was there a while, 'til I was retired.
SHUSTER: How did that connection come about?
ARMERDING: Well, my wife's name was Taylor,
ARMERDING: and her father and Hudson Taylor were born about six miles apart in Yorkshire, England, and before we ever knew each other, she had made a little desire in her heart, if she ever got married and God blessed her with a son, he's going to be Hudson Taylor. So when we got, became engaged, and were talking about plans for a family, I told her, I said, "you know, I'm a great admirer of Hudson Taylor." I said, "if the Lord blesses our family, and gives us a son, I'd like to call him Hudson." She said, "exactly what I want." So when the baby was born, that's Hudson here now, there was no question. And the doctor says, "and what are you going to call him?" I said, "that's already decided. He's Hudson Taylor."
SHUSTER: What if he'd been a girl? What if it had been a girl?
ARMERDING: Well, we didn't know what we were going to do then. Although Mrs. Howard Taylor was also a great friend of my wife's, in fact, one of our children is named after her: Geraldine. Named after Mrs. Howard Taylor. Because Geraldine, my daughter, was a baby in arms when the Taylors came back from their last visit to China, Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor. And I rolled the baby into Mrs. Taylor's arms, I said, "this is our youngest." "And what might the baby, the baby's name be?" I said, "the baby's name is Geraldine, after you." "Oh," she said, "Howard," speaking to her husband, "I feel so flattered," said, "they named this little child after me." So she rolled him into Howard Taylor's arms, and there in the public patio of the hotel in which they were staying, he removed his homburg hat, put it down, knelt down on the pavement of that floor, and began praying for the baby. And you could see the men in the lobby taking off their hats when they saw this man on his knees with a baby in his arms. [Laughs] It was a terrific testimony. So, and when we were on one of our visits to Yorkshire, my wife, of course, was anxious to see where her father had been born, so we went to [name of a town in Yorkshire] where he was born, we found it wasn't very many miles from [name of another town in Yorkshire] where Hudson Taylor was born, so we went there too. So, this maybe answer your question of how we got an interest in that.
SHUSTER: And when did you begin serving on the North American Council of CIM?
ARMERDING: Let's see. I think it was, there again, the name escapes me, the man who was General Director here in the United States at the time. I'd have to look over the roster to recall his name, but he said, "with the interest that you have, and your wife had in the China Inland Mission, you ought to be on our council." So, I was invited on the council. I'm sorry I don't recall his name at the moment.
SHUSTER: Were you very active in CIM's work?
ARMERDING: Well, just attending the meetings if I could get to them. It was more an interest in it, and my wife was always liberal with her gifts that she wanted to go to the Mission. Always liked it when she made the decision to give so much to the Mission.
SHUSTER: Well, why don't we, we break it off there? Perhaps when you visit Wheaton again, we can have a further interview, but um, I'm very grateful for the time you've given us today.
ARMERDING: My pleasure. Thank you very much.
END OF TAPE