Billy Graham Center
Collection 228 - Lyndon Hess. T1 Transcript
Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (89 minutes)
This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Mr. Lyndon
Hess (CN 228, T1). No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases
which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly
understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the
transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted
after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]"
was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. 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 transcript by Robert Shuster and Jeff Arnie was completed in February 2003
Collection 228, T1. Interview of Lyndon Hess by James Hansen on October 27, 1982.
HANSEN: This is an interview with Lyndon Hess by Jim Hansen for the Missionary Sources
Collection of Wheaton College. This interview took place at Mr. Hess's house on Union Street
[in Wheaton, Illinois] on October 27, 1982, at 6:30 p.m.
HANSEN: Well Mr. Hess, you're originally from out east?
HESS: Yes, I was born in Buffalo [New York].
HANSEN: Can you tell us a little bit, briefly, about your family background?
HESS: Yes. I was brought up in a Christian home and went through the ususal grammar and
high school education and was interested in Wheaton College, and came to Wheaton in 1927,
and graduated in '31. And during the time I spent at Wheaton, I became very interested in the
problem of the education of the children of missionaries and felt led to go into that work. I
believe it was the Lord's will, because I spent forty-three years...I should have said we...we spent
forty-three years of our lives in that ministry. And then seven years working with the Africans.
HANSEN: Was there anything in particular that made you decide to come to Wheaton College?
HESS: It would be difficult to say, other than that several from Buffalo had gone to Wheaton
and brought back very good reports which interested my mother and of course myself.
HANSEN: Were...did you have any impressions of the teaching program at that time? Or do
any teachers stand out in your memory as...?
HESS: Yes, I elected to take a science course and one of the persons who influenced
my life was Dr. Leedy, Senior. His son John Leedy retired from
Wheaton a few years ago. He was not only a fine Christian gentlemen, but a very
good teacher. And one who created a great deal of interest in the subject which
he was teaching. And I also remember Dr. [Darien Austin] Straw who did a good
deal to improve my English writing. And of course almost always mentioned in the
non-academic field, Dr. [Edward A.] Coray, who had a great influence in my life.
And to whom I look to as a person who did a great deal for me in encouraging me,
not only in athletics, but also in the things of the Lord.
HANSEN: You were quite active...you were on the track team and the cross country team?
HESS: Yes when I left high school, I had an unfortunate incident which made me feel that I was
through with athletics. But the first term at Wheaton I revived my interest and went out for cross
country and was on the cross country team for four years and the track team for the same period.
I very much enjoyed the time.
HANSEN: Uh-huh. Now I know you knew a lot of students while you were here. Do any
classmates particularly stand out in your memory that you might mention?
HESS: Well, as you say, it's a long time ago. But one of my classmates was Dr. Willard Aldrich
and he made a great impression on me. And you remember that he became President of
Multnomah Bible School. I look back to him as a....a fine example of a Christian student and
then a Christian gentlemen. I...I also remember several others who influenced me spiritually. I
wish I could remember their names, but perhaps they'll come back to me at a later date. John
Hall was one of them and I believe that he worked for some years in Nigeria and then he became
a translator. My gifts never reached to that, but I remember his zeal in things of the Lord. I think
I better leave it there [Hansen laughs] until I have more time for reflection.
HANSEN: Now you're also here now just as the Great Depression was coming on the school.
Was...do you remember any part...particular great effects on the school that that had or...?
HESS: No. I knew when we came to Wheaton that aca...academically it had a very good
reputation, but it obviously needed much more equipment and so on - the college did. But I
didn't suffer at all during the Depression. I did know that the college had some problems, but
they never were acute enough to give me any concern.
HANSEN: What particularly led you to go on the mission field or how was your wife involved
HESS: Well, I came to meet my wife, who was Ruth De Velde, toward the end of my first year.
And she was interested in missionary work. And, of course, I soon made it clear to her that I
was. And...we were for a time interested in the African Inland Mission and I had been brought
up in the [Brethren] Assemblies and...of all...there was nothing in the teaching in the Brethren
that would have made it difficult to go...go out with the AIM. I was naturally drawn to the
Brethren mission program. So as I grew older...or rather the years went by, the first and then
sophomore year, I began to meet a good many youngsters who had been brought up on the
mission field. And I was aware that there was a great need for teachers in the schools for
missionary children. I came to know about Rethy and Rift Valley [two schools in Africa for
children of Africa Inland Mission workers]. I did not know that we had a school in Africa, called
Sakeji. That is, I refer to the Brethren. I didn't get to know that until my last year at Wheaton.
But during the years I met two missionaries who had a great influence on that particular part of
my life. And most important was a man by the name of Mr. Leonard Gammon, who was a
pioneer missionary to Angola. And his idea was that it would be a good plan for me and Ruth to
go out there and start a school. He told us something of the problem of sending children from
one country to another. And I was very much impressed. But even at that time I didn't quite like
the idea he had starting a school, seeing I had not taught in a government or any other type of
school, although I had had, of course the teacher's training course at Wheaton. However, this
influence of Mr. Gammon, persisted, and I met another missionary who also was from Africa
who pointed out that there was a great need for a teacher and or teachers on the mission field in
order to keep the missionaries there. Many missionaries had to leave the field when their
children became of school age in order to see them properly educated. And as I have said, it was
shortly after this I heard of Sakeji School and we prayed about going there.
HANSEN: In the interview earlier, you mentioned the Brethren Assemblies.
HANSEN: What was their strategy for reaching the people? What were they doing in their
outreach work there at the time?
HESS: Well...maybe I could just say and give you another aspect.... We went to Moody [Bible
Institute] for one term to take...took the missionary course, but we were both aware toward the
close of the term that we were, as it were, marching in the wrong direction. There was nothing at
all wrong with what we were being taught. But if we were going out to teach missionaries'
children, then much of what we were taking there would be of very little value. Now obviously
this question was of the Lord, because what we thought became a reality when we went to the
field. And it was during the next term, that is the term after we left Moody, that we were called
of the Lord to go to Sakeji School and we arrived there in November of 1932. Now in answer to
your question, the strategy that the Brethren had, if I may call it that, was to first of all preach the
gospel in the villages and secondly to have schools, because at that time the government didn't
have schools in the villages, where the people could learn to read the Word of God. The
Brethren have always placed a tremendous emphasis on the Holy Scriptures. Then the third
aspect of their work was the encouraging of Africans to become evangelists. That is, if they felt
lead to go out and were called of the Lord, we felt that this was a very necessary part of the work.
There were no schools for evangelists in those days, fifty years ago. But the Lord did raise up
some very valuable men, very Godly Africans, who took the gospel to their own people. And I
can mention several of them who started one or more churches on their own. And that, of course,
is essentially a Brethren principle which is documented in the New Testament. That is that
Christians go else where and start new churches and that people from these churches then will go
on and start other churches. Essentially that is the Brethren philosophy, if I may use that word,
and it still exists at the present time.
HANSEN: About how big was the mission work or how many missionaries were involved in
HESS: Well, at the school where I taught there were seven of us. And at Kalani Hill, which is
fifteen miles away and a large mission station, there were about twelve workers when we arrived.
Including one or two who were on furlough. Kalani Hill boasted a large hospital. It was large in
those days and even large at the present time. And their emphasis has always been medical.
They've reached a great many Africans through their medical work. It's an all British work. I
don't think they've ever had an American missionary there, but they have one Canadian at the
HANSEN: By what means did you travel to there?
HESS: Well, when we came into the country we had to trek (that borrowed word from South
African terminology). My wife and I rode in alone for three days on a bicycle. Sometimes she
was in a hammock. There were no cars or automobiles and [coughs] the...the train from Lobito
took us is into what was then the Belgian Congo, fifty miles from the station. However a year
after I arrived the first road was engineered by the missionaries and then we traveled to this place
in the Cha...in the Congo called Wuchacha [?] by automobile.
HANSEN: Did you go across on a freighter then or...?
HESS: No, we traveled to...to Africa on a British passenger ship. I think it was called the
HANSEN: When you first arrived there, what were your impressions?
HESS: Well, when I...when we arrived we were agreeably surprised. We had thought of the
mud huts in a literal sense...something of a hovel. But they had built houses of sun-dried brick.
And they were very comfortable with glass in some of the windows. And although we had old
plumbing, bathing was possible if you didn't mind sitting in a very large tin bath. The food was
very good. We learned to eat and enjoy African food. There was practically no imported food.
But at that time it was still possible to buy game. Meat from the buck [male animal] which were
killed and that came to an end about ten years later when the government put a ban on all
shooting of animals. But the Africans had their goats and sheep so you were always provided
with a certain amount of meat. And there was a town near us run by a...a missionary, a self-supporting missionary. And from him we received eggs and other staples from the farm...the
dairy farm at that time.
HANSEN: How did the school there operate as far as perhaps financially?
HESS: Well, the...all of the workers were commended workers. That is they were sent out by
Assemblies [Brethern congregations]. And lived by faith receiving only free will offerings. The
school paid no salaries and the fees were adjusted so that the parents would have as little
responsibility as possible that is. The cost of the buildings and all of that was left to the
missionaries and we prayed about these things and the Lord provided for them. The mission...the
fees charged to the children were very low indeed so that the missionaries would not be burdened
with excessive fees. Because in those days money was very scarce and a ten dollar bill could
carry a person alone for quite a while. We never...although we had some times when we were
short, we never suffered and we were never hungry. And we thank the Lord for that.
HANSEN: Who did you work with at the school?
HESS: I worked with a delightful Englishmen called Nightingale, Roland Nightingale. He was
not a teacher, although he was named the headmaster. And he was primarily a missionary. That
is he preferred to be in the villages and preaching the gospel to the Africans. He was most
energetic with a ken [desire] to traveling from place to place on a bicycle, as I did, reaching the
Africans. I learned a great deal from him and I also realized that he was not what one might call
a professional teacher. It would only be a matter of time before I took over. And that is what
happened. He went to Kalani Hill some seven years after we reached the field and became head
of the work there. There are also two other ladies, English teachers, Ms. Kelly and Ms.
Hodgkins, both of them well trained, in fact considerable experience in England. And as I was
coming out for the first time never having taught for a salary in the school in the States I had to
depend on them a good deal and I was sort of introduced to the British way of teaching and then
after time I took it upon myself to learn a great deal about it. So in time I was quite at home with
the English way of teaching, the terminology and so on. And I still look back upon that as a very
wise move. Rather than trying to introduce the American system on the British background, I
found it was wise to go on with what was there [coughs].
HANSEN: Do any students that you had stand out in your memory as particularly memorable?
HESS: Yes, there...by the time we left, eight hundred pupils had gone through the school and we
look back with much joy in our fellowship with them and the help we were able to give them and
the appreciation of the parents. One of our earliest families was the Logan family. They were
well known among Brethren circles. Mr. Logan was a most energetic evangelist and very able
man when it came to practical and mechanical things. They had six children (I think it was) at
the school during the years and they were outstanding in the fact that they were most willing to
work, which most people are not. And also they had imbibed from the parents a love for the
Lord and a desire to serve Him. Well, we never did encourage preaching by pupils at the school,
but they showed their good Christian testimony by doing anything they possibly could to help
you. And at the same time there was the Horton family, Brethren, they went through the school.
And they have since taken up more or less influential posts here in the States. And one of them,
Robert Horton...Fred Horton (I'm sorry) is head of a Bible school in France, I believe, and the
two daughters, one is now working with her father as a translator, that's Alice, and Lois is...holds
a high nursing position in one of the Chicago hospitals. Well, I could name a good many others,
one of our pupils is a pilot for the Malawi Airlines. We remember him as a student who was
very interested in soldiering and military. And now he is flying one of the big Boeings. Well I
could name quite a number of others. There's the Wilson family and their children have gone on
well. They're in Australia at the present time and all of their children went through the school.
And I'm thankful to say that one of them, Jim, is a missionary in Zambia at the present time.
HANSEN: How do you think for your own children growing up on the mission field affected
their lives, as far as benefits or difficulties that it might have brought?
HESS: Well, I think that I can say that...they on the whole feel that they were given a fair
chance. One did complain that his mother was too busy, but I very much doubt that 'cause she
was most scrupulous about spending time everyday with her family. But that's the only criticism
that I heard of them. They benefitted in this respect, that the standards were high at the school
and they were also were under the sound of the Word of God. We were able to influence them as
long as they were with us. And then about the age of fourteen they had to go to secondary school
and their problems became much more severe as they do in most teenage youngsters.
HANSEN: You mentioned that while you were there you were able to do some traveling around
to the neighboring villages?
HESS: Yes, I...although I was not commended as an evangelist, don't profess to be one, I have
an interest in the people and a desire to preach the gospel to them. I was never a good linguist in
college and I'm sorry about that. I recommended to those going out on the field to try to get an
estimate from those who are able to give it of the linguistic ability that they possess. Well, I
didn't have that and teaching with the school which was English I wasn't able to do as much with
the language, but I did learn it sufficient to preach and to work with the Africans and to converse
with them. And...and as I grew older, of course, my abili...ability, if I can call it that, with the
language increased. I use to...I must give credit to this to Mr. Nightingale. He felt that every
worker at the school should give some time to work amongst the Africans. And for two years I
taught in a school, an African school...teaching reading and a little arithmetic and so on. I took
one afternoon a week and the other teachers took the other ones. That was a valuable experience
and also helped me with the language. Then when Mr. Nightingale left I gave one afternoon a
week besides Sunday to going out to talk with the people. It wasn't very long before I realized
that talking with the people was much more valuable than preaching to them. And I developed
this to a considerable extent and toward the end of my ministry I rarely ever opened the Word of
God. But that may sound strange. I would like to add to it that I'd memorized a hundred or more
versus of the Scripture, which I was able to use when they were necessary and I was able to
introduce them into the conversation. If you...I found that when you preach many of the Africans
are turned off and don't listen, but when they're conversing with you, you're not only able to get
their train of thought but you're also able to introduce the Scriptures if you have them in your
mind...in your mind. Well, I enjoyed that but one afternoon a week is not very much, however it
kept me in contact with the people. And I must add that like most missionaries, the early days in
my contacts with the people provided problems, but as the years went by I got to know them
better and I began to realize (and I believe that it was a God-given knowledge) that you're
dealing with people of another culture and you cannot blame them for many of the things which
they do. It's a matter of trying to show them a better way, if indeed you can do that.
HANSEN: What language were you working with there?
HESS: The language of the people in that part of the country was Lunda. It's called Lunda
Dembule [?]. Because there is another Lunda [?] tribe in northeast Zambia. Now the Lunda are
an unfortunate people in that their tribe is divided into three. Part of them live in Angola, part in
Zaire, and part in Zambia. So that the chief whose is name is Manteava [?] resides in Zaire has
literally no control over the people. They were a people who were enslaved. They were not the
fighters that you found in the other tribes. So many of our people were enslaved and taken away
to...I suppose to North America, or not. The bad part about that, I know nothing, because the
slave trade had ended several decade...decades before I came to the field.
HANSEN: Has a Bible translation been done for...?
HESS: [coughs] Yes, the first missionaries translated a few portions of the Bible. And along
came the next generation who produced a New Testament. And then that was followed by a third
generation of very capable linguists, missionaries who were very very able linguistically. And
we have the Old and New Testament in the Lunda language. And it is adjudged by the Bible
Society (they have their way of judging these things) as a very good translation.
HANSEN: And the nationals began to build their own churches. What were they like or what
kind of services did they have there?
HESS: Well, the center of the Brethren worship is the communion service. And that is not led
by any one particular person. People...that is, men take part as they are led. And the early
churches started with a preaching service and then as they felt they had enough gift, as we'd call
it, elders who knew something of the Scriptures, then they began their communion service. In
the Brethren of course we don't recognize ordination and we don't see the necessity for having
an ordained person present. So that our churches out there are run by the elders and they take
part as they feel led. And I must add, after these many years in Africa that I look back with much
nostalgia to these meetings 'cause there is no doubt about it that the Spirit of God was evident in
their gathering. Now they also have gospel meetings and some of the Africans, not evangelists,
but just some of the elders, go into the villages preaching to the people on their own. You call
them just lay preachers. But I feel that there is not enough of this and I was one who advocated
that we encourage more assemblies to form, that is the elders would go out and start assemblies
which became more or less gospel outposts. And they in turn as I explained earlier became
churches on their own.
HANSEN: How was the national church able to establish its...its own independence through the
years to be able to stand on its own feet?
HESS: Well for some years the older workers didn't like the idea of any church that was not
run, as it were, by a missionary. In other words that they wanted a missionary in charge. They
felt that the Africans hadn't learned enough and weren't able to carry on on their own. As I got
to know the people better I felt that this was a great mistake because the Africans were taking
every problem to the missionary. He...in other words he was the boss. And although he was
praying for scriptural reason for his decision, it seems to me that the Africans should be making
those decisions for themselves. They had the Word of God and the Word of God is not very
selective, it's for all of us. Well, in time, the idea of a missionary-controlled church became
objectionable to others besides myself and then it was agreed, and I'm very glad to say
harmoniously, that an African church be formed which was not under the control of the
missionary. And that was quite successful and other followed it. And by the time I left, twenty
churches varying in size from perhaps thirty to maybe 150 and they ran all of their own affairs.
The elders took care of the finances and arranging the meetings and so on, took care of the sick
and I would say that this has been quite a success. Now some of these Assemblies have gone on
to other places where they'd join other Assemblies or where they have started their own. Now
we worked very closely with the AEF (the African Evangelical Fellowship) and some of our
people when they go to a new place join with these dear Christian people. But on the whole, the
Africans from the Assemblies prefer to start their own church. Not in opposition to others but
because they can carry on as they feel the Holy Scriptures would have them.
HANSEN: Uh-huh. Were gthere roups such as the Watchtower [Jehovah's Witnesses] in your
area, were they a problem at all for you?
HESS: [coughs] No. When we first started out there were no groups of that kind. Then the
Watchtower came in but they hadn't been very successful. They had one or two churches. And
the Brethren of course might be called a bit rigid when it comes to their teachings about pure life.
In other words, any form of immorality is not only frowned upon but judged by asking the one
who has been in difficulty to leave the fellowship until he's repentant. Well, these teachings
have penetrated the minds of the people. Not only the Christians, but the unconverted. Well, the
Watchtower are not very particular about things of that kind. I think I can say that they don't
encourage imm...immorality but on the same basis neither they do not punish it. And the
Africans were quick to note this. Therefore they made the blanket assertion that the Watchtower
people were not Christians at all. Because they...their people commit adultery and that sort of
thing and we don't. I know that's a very self-righteous attitude but that's what they took.
HANSEN: What influence did the home mission board back in the States have over mission
board on the field?
HESS: Well, we really don't have a board on the field. And the group that sends us the funds
which are given to us by people is the Christian Missions in Many Lands, at the present time in
New Jersey. And they do not influence our work. They are there to help if there are problems, at
one time or another. But they do not influence the work. What happens is that the missionary
themselves meet periodically and discuss problems. Most of these meetings are amicable and
most of the problems have been able to be solved quite easily from the Holy Scriptures. But we
do not have as it were a board nor do we have a controlling influence either in the homeland or
on the mission field. The workers are commended from the various assemblies and they, of
course, are interested in what they are doing and although...and though they themselves do not try
to run the missionary with his life on the field.
HANSEN: Did there or were there racial tensions in your area or province? Or did they affect
your work at all?
HESS: In our area they're mostly all Lundas so we don't have tribal problems, and...but we
know it's in the background because if a stranger comes into the community from another tribe,
he is watched very carefully. And unfortunately some of them have been dealt with very harshly
because they had stolen something or other. And a rather small crime is made into a big one and
they have been dealt with, I would say, ferociously. But that's about all in our area. But very far
from us, about two hundred miles away, you have the Lunda and the Luvale living side by side.
And there have been many clashes between the two. They don't like one another. They don't
like their daughters to intermarry and so on. There's always a tension there. And also our own
people dislike the Bembas. Now the Bembas are the predominant tribe on the Cooperbelt [a
region of Zambia]. And our people don't like them. They have no reason to dislike them. But,
"They're just Bembas, so that's why we don't like them," that's the idea.
HANSEN: What was the official government position or the government's attitude toward the
mission work in the early years and after your retirement?
HESS: Well, we operated under the British government. That is every missionary had to write
and inform the government that he was there. And when we left the country we also wrote
telling that we'd gone. And they kept a record of the missionaries but we got along very well.
Now there are two reasons for that. One is most of the missionaries were British so they're
working under British officials and the other is that the district commissioners and the district
officers knew very well that the missionaries were doing their best to help the people. Not only
in the schools but in the hospitals and so on. So there was very little friction and I'd say
practically none. One miss...one commissioner did open one of my circular letters, which he was
allowed to do, in which I told about persecution of an African and he wrote to me and said this
should be reported. But that was the only incident that I had. Obviously, I could only say to him
that...that I couldn't report it because it was up to the African himself to solve the problem with
the beliefs that we had tried to give him.
HANSEN: Well...Well, did you have any impressions about the rise of the Zambian African
National Congress or [Kenneth] Kaunda?
HESS: Well, I had met Dr. Kaunda three times and I think that he is, as many people have called
him, a great leader. And he is pro-mission. The officials are all from the UNIP [United National
Independence Party] Party and I know some of them personally. Some of them wrote to me, but
as you would expect coming from a democracy where we have two major parties I don't like the
single party system that they have there, one party. And, of course, the Africans don't either.
But they are led to believe that if they have a one party system there will be no problems. But
they soon found out that there were problems. And now that you don't have a balance you can't
remove the officials because essentially the party is in charge, not the people as it is here in this
country. But they don't hinder our work. They have troubled some of the missionaries but when
the government has heard of it they curb the activities of those who are trying to disturb the
HANSEN: And also do you have any impressions about [Harry] Nkumbula and the Northern
Rhodesia African Congress?
HESS: Well, Nkumbula was a...a good man and I personally feel that if it hadn't been for the
rise of the Lunda people of the UNIP, that is the one party, that he would have probably been
elected at a later date. In this country [the United States] when we have a President, well,
usually, today often he is followed by one of another party. But, unfortunately, the African
attitude is not our own. Kaunda couldn't stand in the opposition, the UNIP didn't want anyone
to point out their faults. And so eventually the National Congress died. We are sorry about that
although as missionaries we don't take any part in...in political activities. But I did point out to
one person that they would be sorry that they had forcibly brought the Congress to an end.
Because eventually they would need some kind of opposition. And they didn't understand that.
And I didn't push it because I've already said we're not in politics and we don't want to upset the
HANSEN: Were there any big changes in your area as a result of the [proclamation of the]
republic in 1964?
HESS: No, very little...very little...very little change...the missionaries carried on as...as they
found things. Life became difficult in some ways because the colonial government was quite
efficient and we had considerable difficulty trying to find out what we were expected to do,
especially in the schoolwork and so on. But I wouldn't blame that on the people, it's simply a
question of their having too big a job to do at one time. And eventually they did sort out many of
these problems. But the British system was very efficient as I've already said and they have
many hundreds of years of experience in government. So we feel that on the whole the Africans
had not done too badly. But when it comes to finance the old tribal attitude is dominant. In other
words, there is plenty there so use it. That is the only way they could live in the past. If they
killed a couple of wild animals, a buck, and they just ate meat until it was gone. They had no
way of doing anything else. And that's persistent. And so when there is a lot of money available
then, of course, it soon disappears, just as would it any household, where there is no regulated
HANSEN: Was Marxism at all influ...influential in your area or where you were?
HESS: Not in our area...not at all in our area. It didn't penetrate. I've known two Africans who
were Muhammadans [sic], but they were as it were proud of the fact that they were different.
And they certainly weren't true Muhammadans because they did nothing about...about [unclear]
their faith to others. It was merely a question of, "I'm better than you, I have permission to marry
five wives. And you Christian people can only have one, so therefore we're very much better
than Christians." Now that's all that I experienced. But on the top of that there are more of them
they're more aggressive and they do have a missionary activity. They try to get other people to
see that Muhammadanism is the answer to all their problems. But I can't give you very much on
that because I did not live for any length of time on the Copperbelt [region of the country]. But I
can say this, that it is never a serious problem. And the reason for that is that the Christian
religion under the missionaries has penetrated the minds of the people. And even if they don't
accept it, when another religion or inhabitant comes along they judge it by what they've seen
from the Christian standpoint. They do like the idea of having five wives but most can't even
afford two so really it's not that important. But the Muhammadans don't believe in drinking
liquor. So they don't like that, because Africans love their beer drinking. As for smoking, I
don't really know what the effect is on their thinking.
HANSEN: Okay. Marxism or Communism, has that been influential?
HESS: It's appeared but it hasn't really made much impression on our people. I read a tract
written in our language, Lunda language, and there was the same sort of communistic teaching
that you get anywhere. It began saying that, "You're a carpenter and you get one dollar a day.
Do you know that the white man who is a carpenter gets twenty dollars a day? Can't you do as
well as he can? Yes? Well then why aren't you paid twenty dollars." Well there is such a...an
enormous unemployment problem that this teaching didn't really affect the people very much.
They just wanted to get a job. "If it's a dollar a day that's alright, but I want a job." So it hasn't
made any impression in our area at all. But there is some thought of the government introducing
the teaching of Marxism in the schools. And that, of course, would mean that the children would
be orientated at a very young age to this kind of thinking. But as many of them are poor and
farmers and so...I doubt very much that it would mean anything to them. 'Cause if there is one
thing the African doesn't want to lose, it's his land. My son took some entomologists around and
they were there a few days and then they went home. And one African came to me and he said,
"What is your son doing? He's a traitor." "Well," I said, "what do you mean?" "Well," he said,
"those people come to take away our land." And I said, "Well, they've only come to...to study
the...the insects." Well, he laughed. He said "You can't fool me with that. They want our land.
That's the way you white people did in the first place." "No" I said. "You'll find that in a few
days they'll leave and they'll go away and all they'll take with them are the dead insects." "Oh
no," he said. Well, of course, he found out that it was true. They love their land. They know
that if they have a little farm they can live. If they don't have it they have no way of providing
HANSEN: In as much as they were aware of it how...wh...what was their attitude towards the
United States like?
HESS: Well, there are two aspects of that. A few Africans go down to the towns and
unfortunately they go to what they call a cinema. And that's what we would call it the movie
theater. And I've heard them talking about some of the things they've seen which definitely
gives them a very poor picture of America. Most people in America work hard or want to work
hard, whereas down there they see someone running around with two or three women in a big
car. Well, that's not America at all and I told them that. Well, the same movie gave them the
impression that we're all very rich over here. And they said "Why is it you Americans can't give
us more money?" "Well," I've said, "they have given you lots of money to keep your country
going and to build roads." "Oh," they said, "but we need money to, you know. Tell the people
over there to send us money." "Well," I said, "I can't very well do that, because they're helping
you now." Well, they hadn't heard anything about that. Well, who's to blame for that I don't
know. But that's the attitude they have towards the Americans. I feel we've made a mistake.
Whenever the Russians do anything it's broadcast as it were from every hilltop. "We've done
this or we've done that." Where as nothing seems to be known about what the Americans are
doing for these countries.
HANSEN: Now you've mentioned some of the medical work in the area. Were there any
HESS: Yes, fifteen miles from us is Kalani. I mentioned that. And they have a two hundred bed
hospital. For a long time it was the largest bush hospital, that is, rural hospital, in Zambia. And
there are usually one or two British doctors there. And it has been a tremendous blessing to the
people in relieving pain. They have both pre and post natal program there. And also the
Africans are under the sound of the gospel and a good many of them have come to know the Lord
while they have been there at Kalani.
HANSEN: Were you ever involved in medical work at all?
HESS: In only a very minor way. I have on one or two occasions gone out to see if I could
diagnose something because there wasn't a medical person around. But I have spent a good
many hours taking the Africans to the hospital, particularly the women in labor because many
times women in labor are badly mistreated and we can be a help to them by taking them to the
hospital. It's a great mistake that they don't go on their own, but we can give help by taking
them and other sick people, and they're very grateful. We charge them a little just to prevent
people from abusing the privilege but if they can't pay it, we kind of ignore the fact that they are
suppose to pay.
HANSEN: What were the most serious or most common medical problems in the area?
HESS: Well, the most common one in the early days was TB [tuberculosis]. And hundreds of
Africans lost their lives. That simply came in with the white man and the black man had no
resistance to it. But nature took over and they began to build their resistance and also now they
have some splendid drugs which cure it. Today very few Africans die of TB. When we suspect a
person has it, we send them into the hospital or take him in. [coughs] The medical work there at
Kalani is on a very high order and I can't pay too many compliments. Fine work.
HANSEN: Then what was the local attitude towards the medical workers, very positive then?
HESS: Well, in the early days, of course, and to a certain extent today the people feel that if you
really want to be healed, you'd go to a witch doctor, but the witch doctors are graded and those
who can really heal or that the people say can really heal, are very expensive. And many
Africans today still feel that their witchcraft is superior to our medicine. But as the missionaries
have made medicine available and as most people are cured of their problems, the prejudice is
broken down. And the people now will go to the hospital without worry about what their
relatives think. You see witchcraft is still very common and when a person gets ill he gets plenty
of advice about witchcraft, about someone who is bewitching him. And in the old days they
would try to get to a witch doctor and not go to the hospital. Now the page has turned over and
the tendency is to go to the hospital and then, if they can't cure you then, "We'll go to a witch
HANSEN: What sort of spiritual training was available to the national people? Particularly if
they wanted to...to, you know, be a pastor or something like that...an evangelist?
HESS: Well, as I've already said we don't have an ordained minister, but it's a crisis...it's a...go
this way...if an African elder felt that he was called of God to preach the gospel then he was sent
forth by the elders to go with that assembly. And he became recognized as a minister of the
gospel. He wasn't ordained 'cause we don't have that. Now over in Zaire [coughs] as soon as a
man was recognized by the Africans the missionary was responsible for taking...sending his
name to the government. And the government would issue him a card on which was inscribed
that he was a religious worker. And that's not true of Zambia.
HANSEN: So most of the Scripture training...all of the Bible training was done through the
HESS: Yes and the missionaries...but we do have a school now...Bible school and we have sent
some of our Africans who've wanted to go to the AEF [African Evangelical Fellowship] school
in Angola [?]. They have quite a good Bible school there and I understand that they're planning
to increase the...the credibility of the school [coughs] by having only teachers who have degrees.
But not many of our people have made...taken advantage of...of education of that kind in a Bible
HANSEN: What was the relationship between the different mission boards in..in your area, if
there were other mission boards?
HESS: Well, as I've already said our sister mission is the AEF and there is a very happy
relationship there. If their people come to us they are accepted. If one of their preachers comes
to us he is usually invited to preach. Then to the north of us we have the Methodists, American
Methodists. There again the relationship is very friendly and this is largely because of Sakeji
School because we have educated the children of the Methodists and the AEF (who are largely
Baptists) and we've also...the Pentecostals who are further away from us and who don't border
on our mission. We get along well with all three groups.
HANSEN: Was there any work by the Catholics in your area?
HESS: Yes, they came in about twenty-five years ago and their work is growing very much
faster than our own.
HANSEN: What is relationship like with them?
HESS: They...it's friendly...very friendly...but we are in a sense competing because they build
churches where we have a church. But there...there's a very friendly relationship there. After all
there is no reason why they shouldn't build a church there. Although our own friends, the AEF,
would certainly not do not do that. They recommend that their Christians go to our church. They
would like an ecumenical but none of us feel very happy about it at the present time. They're
very good people and where they have gained and...and in a sense where they have done better
than we have, is that they have trained a number of Catholic young men who are going through
the villages giving the people Catholic teaching and where they get enough of them, then they
start a little church. And these men will eventually become priests. If they have the intelligence
to go through the priesthood studies. But there is no friction although as I've already said we
can't very well say that, "You're the same as we are." That's what they say of us, "We're the
same as the mission. Except that we're first. That we...our church was started by Peter and not
by these people who've come recently." But there's no friction. They attend our conferences
from time to time, but they're not asked to take part.
HANSEN: What were the circumstances involved in your finally leaving Sakeji School?
HESS: Well, I reached the age of sixty-six and I had a possible heart attack and I thought it was
time to hand over to...to other...to younger people. I had been at the work for forty-three years
and there seemed to be no particular good reason for hanging on. I've always been one who felt
that when...as soon as possible you should introduce younger people to the work and that was my
idea then and it still is. Well, as it turned out when I came over here they said that, "You don't
have a serious heart problem." So I went back again but obviously not to take part in Sakeji
School. Once you hand it over, you cannot begin to make suggestions and so on. It must be their
work. Yes, it was a very happy...they gave us a wonderful sendoff and this is a gift that the AEF
gave us and...and that's another gift that was given to us...
HANSEN: This is a....
HESS: ...two African plaques.
HANSEN: A plaque of the....
HESS: One was the African bus.
HANSEN: Okay. Was your area affected at all by the World War, the Second World War as far
as you can remember or...?
HESS: Not very much except that we had to do a lot of great many things. Like we had the
school held for perhaps sixty children. I had to learn how to tan leather because they had to have
something on their feet. And we couldn't get kerosene easily and we couldn't get lamps, so I
introduced a water wheel which is still providing about eighty percent of the electricity there and
those were two good things that came from it. But as I've already said as we rely for the greater
part of our food from what we can get locally, we weren't seriously affected.
HANSEN: Was the area affected at all by the...the Katangai terrorists in Zaire?
HESS: No. Speaking of [Moise] Tshombe's group?
HESS: No. Actually we were very favorable toward Tshombe and feel what happened laterally
[afterwards] was a tragedy. No they didn't affect us at all. Actually, of course, we feel (all the
missionaries there) that the Katanga [province of Congo] should be on their own. That the
country should be split. But that would leave the north [Congo] without the revenue that they get
from the mines so they're not going to do that. Well now, there was a latter problem when the
terrorists came from Angola. Is that what you're referring to?
HESS: They came from Angola and they passed through our area but they didn't do us any harm
at all. They were going over there to...so they said...the Belgians were there. And unfortunately
a number of Belgians was massacred. Whether it was by our local people, I don't know. Those
on the spot felt it was more likely the government troops from up north. But the...they came back
again to our area and it caused quite a stir because Kaunda had said there were no terrorists in the
country. But, of course, we could see them. But they were completely disciplined. They didn't
do anybody any harm, they didn't steal. They went back to Angola and what became of them I
don't know. But the numbers who returned were very much smaller than those who went,
because the French and Belgian paratroopers mowed them down. They were completely
untrained soldiers. They had rifles but you can't stand up to these carefully trained paratroopers.
No, they didn't do any harm nor did they upset the people. Our people were out for a bargain, of
course, and they would trade a garment. And I saw trading a woman's dress, I guess it was, for a
good sized rooster. The poor man was hungry so he handed over this dress for a rooster.
HANSEN: Just in general through the years were any...were you the witness to any historical
events that, you know, might be important?
HESS: Well, the independence...Zambia became independent. I think it was in 1964. And the
word Zambia comes from Zambezi and so, as we live only fifteen miles from the source of the
Zambezi River, a number of government officials came up there to the source of the Zambezi to
speak, give messages and...to speak and to impress upon the people that they now had a new
government. And I was there when the British flag was carefully lowered and the Zambian flag
went up. As I've already said it meant much more to us as Europeans or whites than it did to the
Africans. To them it made very little difference. A few of the Africans entered into
independence and the few who did thought that they were all going to get rich. The rest of them
just went back to their gardens and carried out as they had for years before.
HANSEN: On that same line, did you meet any figures of importance?
HESS: Yes, Dr. Kaunda wasn't there at that particular time. He came a little later. And I met
several others as I got to know. Mr. Bilawail [?] who I think he's still in the government there.
And several others that if I had time I could tell you, but they were Lundas. You see Dr. Kaunda
has tried to keep his government cosmopolitan. He has Lundas and Luvales and Bembas and
[unclear] and so on there.
HANSEN: How would you describe the attitude of Americans toward Zambia?
HESS: Well, on the whole, the attitude of the Americans is excellent. They express their desire
to help financially perhaps more than any others have. A good many projects, both mission and
what has happened in the country, have been financed by the Americans. They do not quarrel
with the people in fact they are very...they were very pro-independence. But they never got into
trouble over it...except one man, a Mr. Williams, I think, who was very outspoken against the
traders and the farmers. And I think he was assaulted. But that was the only incident they had.
In other words somebody hit him.
HESS: But otherwise, actually, the American ambassadors that I've known, or consuls, have
been very pro-Zambia. Very pro-Zambia. They look after their job very well indeed. But they
are not interested in contesting any of the political issues.
HANSEN: What do you see for the national church in Zambia? Where do you think they'll be
HESS: Well, if the government stays out of it...because there are some in the government who
want one church, a Zambian Church and no other church. And that would include the Catholics
and all of us. Well, it would include the Catholics but it wouldn't include us because we'd just
leave. We don't believe that you can...everybody get together in religious things at all.
And...anymore than you can in this country. But if they leave the church alone as we pray that
the missionary emphasis is continued and the work of the Bible society and so on, I think that the
prospects for con...continued missionary work are very good indeed. We're reaching more
Africans, more are learning to read and more of them want literature. And the Brethren (the
Assemblies as I like to call them) has been at the forefront of the literature program.
HANSEN: What do you see in the future for Zambia as a country or where do you think it will
be going in the years to come?
HESS: Well, for the moment it seems to be heading to the left. But the Africans can...they have
the ability of changing very, very quickly. So far as far as I can see the Russians haven't a
sufficient influence in the country to run the country...run the government as they tried to do in
Egypt. But if they do get a foothold and do get in there, one of the first things that will go will be
missionary work. Because the Communists realize that the missionary is, as they say, a very
dangerous person. By that they mean that he can think with the people and also he can tell the
people what he thinks about it and he will pretty much be believed. Because the Africans put a
lot of confidence in the missionaries. For instance, a man will give you ten dollars and he'll say
"Keep this for me" with another five thousand people who could get it. He knows that you'll
give it back when he wants it.
HANSEN: What is the greatest need in your part of Africa today?
HESS: Well, I would say that the greatest need that I can see is more African workers. The
present way in which we carry on is asking the Lord to raise up workers has worked. But we
certainly need more of them. But we also need more educated Africans. The Brethren, I'm
referring too. And the other missions like the AEF and the...of course the Catholics have seen
that for a long time. They see that there is a need for educated people much more than our
people. Because the African isn't going to remain steady. He's going to...going to want more
scholastic things and so on. But so far as the whole country is concerned, I feel that that is true
of the country as well. We need more educated...and, of course, Christian workers. I refer by
"Christian" to those who are born again. As for missionaries, Zambia has a very large percentage
of white missionaries and although nurses and doctors are very much in demand and we need
them, I would say what's needed more than white workers are African workers.
HANSEN: What would you say is the greatest strength?
HESS: Well, obviously the Word of God. Our mission is weak in the sense that we don't have
a firm backbone in a...in a highly organized organization. And yet there are literally hundreds of
our churches throughout the country. The Word of God is the important factor and I'm glad that
the Brethren have been in the forefront of translating the Scriptures as the Lunda and Luvale
Bibles...those are pure Brethren translations. And they've assisted with the Chishinga [?] Bible
the [unclear] Bible is Brethren as well. That's further north in Zaire. So they worked hard at
that. And I feel just as we had during the Reformation when the Word of God became the
dominant factor in the lives of the people then you had a growth period in the religious fervor in
getting...in winning other people to Him. But you also had the...all fruits of the Gospel.
Intelligence which was devoted to learning and science and so on. Much of that came from
directly...indirectly from the Christian influence. And that dates back to the Bible. Yes. I am
one of those that feel that the difference between the Dark Ages and the present was the
introduction of the Bible.
HESS: And I know that in scholastic circles that would raise eyebrows but anyway...that's what
HANSEN: For someone going on the mission field today would you have any particular advice,
instruction, or warning?
HESS: Well, I would say that to anyone who is going out. I admire those who go out for a short
terms but I myself feel that it's...it's a lifetime calling. But one of the first things that I would say
to younger workers is to learn to love and respect the people where ever your going. And you
may think that's rather odd. But a lot of missionaries who return just haven't made it they can't
get used to the culture, which seems to them hopeless. And eventually they figure they got to go
home. And if I could go back, I would go back as a teacher. I spent forty-three years, I think
more or less successfully. It's agriculture that I'd like to see developed. But that's a very long
story. And that's only my idea. But I feel...as in this country over a century was devoted to
agriculture and built up a marvelous agricultural system which can feed half the world. So the
Africans are going to have to learn to change their ways agriculturally before the country can
progress. Well, that's only my idea but as I say if I were young again I wouldn't mind trying it.
But I'm not a farmer. I'd have to learn something about that first.
HANSEN: Well, that is all the questions I have unless there is something you would like to add.
Something I've missed or something you would just like to say.
HESS: Do you feel that I've covered what you what you wanted fairly well?
HANSEN: Yes, I think so.
HESS: Well, I...I would like to say that I'm not sorry that I went off to be a missionary. I'd like
to say that I...like most people towards the end of life...that I haven't done all that I'd like to do.
But I have learned to love the people and I have more African friends, I think, than I do white.
And I always encourage young people to go out if the Lord calls you. That's the important thing.
There's no use going out to take pictures, there's no use going out to write articles. You won't
stay very long. You won't stay long. But gospel is the one thing that they need. And whether
you approach it through medicine or agriculture or just through the schools, as I did, that is the
important thing, the gospel of the Grace of God.
HANSEN: Well, in closing, then, I would just like to say thank you, Mr. Hess, and I really
HESS: Well, I've enjoyed to a certain extent. I feel that I have left out a lot. But in one
interview we can't take...can't take everything into account. My wife has probably been listening
in. [laughs] I don't know if she agrees with all I have said or not. Certainly, I am glad to hear
that you are interested in Nigeria.
END OF TAPE