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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the first oral history interview of William John Barnett (CN 248, #T1) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words which were recorded are omitted. In a some cases, the transcribers could not understand what was said, in which case they put "[unclear]" in the place of the missing word or phrase. If the transcriber was not absolutely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted. Also, grunts, verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers of this transcript should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and even rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
() Word in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments made by the transcriber.
This transcription was completed in May 1991 by Robert Shuster and Kerry Cox.
[There was a previous interview of Dr. Barnett by Shuster, but unfortunately the tape was so poorly recorded that nothing was understandable on it. Much of the information contained in this previous interview was gone over again by Barnett and Shuster in interview #T2]
SHUSTER: This is an interview with Doctor William J. Barnett by Robert Shuster for the Missionary Sources Collection of the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. This interview took place on March 29th, 1983 at 10 a.m. at the Billy Graham Center. Dr. Barnett, we were talking last time about your childhood in Kenya, and I wonder if you could describe for me what a typical worship service was like that your father held? How was it like and how was it different from a service here in the United States?
BARNETT: Well, I think probably the first thing that you would...would notice would be the...the place of worship...the house of worship. So often in the very early days, the services were held out under a tree somewhere with the people simply gathered around, sitting on the ground. And I remember that some of my early love for music came from my mother because she always took with her a small treble [?] organ that had been given her in Sweden, and she brought that out from Sweden. And I can always remember that was part of our childhood and home memories, the playing of the organ by my mother, both at home for our evening sings on a Sunday evening in the family, and then invariably the organ was carried out to the church, or frequently was put in the car and taken out and set up under the tree for one of these early services that were held. The time came, of course, when the church...a small church was built on our station there at Eldama Ravine, and each one of the places where my dad went to establish an out-church. It wasn't too long before a small church was built. These churches were usually mud and wattle (the early ones) with a grass roof. But as time went on, one of the marks of...of distinction was when that church got a corrugated iron roof put on it because that didn't have to be replaced all the time as the grass roofs had to be.
SHUSTER: Where did the iron roof come from?
BARNETT: Well, the...the corrugated iron was something that was an import, of course,
and I guess that most of it in the early days must've come from...from Britain, from England. Some of it, I think, came in from India because the early trade was with these...was with these countries. But the seats in the church were usually just a...a simple...the early ones were just logs that were laid across the...the church and the people would sit on these. And they weren't very comfortable, I'll say that. I can remember squirming on those things in services that...it was nothing for a Sunday morning service to last a minimum of two hours but frequently three and four hours. You heard that church service might start at nine o'clock in the morning and wouldn't be through until twelve, one o'clock or so at least. And people would...would sit without a movement, nothing. They just enjoyed the services
SHUSTER: Why did it last so long?
BARNETT: Well, I think it was largely because the...the...there was a great deal of...of singing as I remember in these services. There was a lot Bible teaching that was given. There was a lot of testimonies that were given on the part of the people. Frequently they were quite spontaneous. And I can so clearly remember some of the earliest Christians and their prayers in the church services. And these prayers weren't just cursory, perfunctory sort of prayers. These people would get up and they.... I think some of my earliest recollections would...would lead me to a faith in the Lord if nothing else and hearing these people speak because they were speaking to somebody who they seemed to know.
SHUSTER: What kinds of things did they say?
BARNETT: They were praying to...I mean, they were talking to God and...and...and it wasn't just to somebody who was far away but somebody who had become very close and near to them, and...oh...and as a boy this made an impression on me.
SHUSTER: What kind of things did they say?
BARNETT: [Pauses] I can remember one of the men who was one of the first elders of the church there at Eldama Ravine getting up and praying. And he would say, "God, you are a God of holiness. You are a God of peace. Above all, you're a God of love. [Pauses] And you have taught us what love is. [Pauses] And you love us. And that's why we're here today because we know that you love us and we've come to worship you." And that could go on in that tenor for five, ten, fifteen minutes, that prayer. And it was beautiful. It was beautiful to hear them. [chuckles] Offering time...that was another thing, too, you know. It wasn't just passing the plate, you know, up and down, but you'd see these people coming into the church service in the morning and they would be carrying all sorts of things. It wasn't just the few pennies that they had and, of course, they would put into the plate if they had a five cent piece or a ten cent piece, on a rare occasion a shilling or so, but most of the time you had...the African currency had holes in it. They were copper pieces. The smallest was called a cent and the highest piece was a ten cent piece. And all of these had holes in them and they would carry these things around their necks strung on a piece of string or so like that as a safety precaution. And...but more often than not they would bring in eggs, almost invariably eggs were deposited in the...in the offering plate but then there would be chickens that they had brought in, chickens with their legs tied, and [chuckles] you'd have these chickens squawking in the middle of the service, you know, or jumping up and trying to run down the aisle with their legs tied together and they had to hang on to those things. One of the other....
SHUSTER: Why did they bring the chickens?
SHUSTER: Why did they bring the chickens?
BARNETT: Because they didn't have anything else. That's what they brought to the Lord, it was the things that they had and the things that had the most meaning to them that they brought. These were life to them. And then you'd see them coming in carrying sacks of flour or grain or maybe a small sack which was made out of cowhide or so like that, those were the containers that they had. Or maybe a large fifty or hundred pound bag of corn or millet [unclear] or something like that that they had. They'd bring it in and they'd lay it down at the back door, just inside the door, and offering time would come and these were their offerings to the Lord. And I can remember my mother, after the services, going through the offering plates you know and counting what was there getting the eggs out and setting a price on each egg and exchanging the eggs for money for the offering. The same things with the flour or the chickens and whatever else had been brought in that way.
SHUSTER: You didn't use that for the orphanage or...? You didn't use that produce for the orphanage or the...?
BARNETT: Oh yes! Yes, we would do so. But the...usually, see, my parents would...would buy it, you know...
BARNETT: ...and exchange it for what they could and then they would have the money that was kept separate. This was an interesting thing because years later I found a book...an accounting book that my mother kept of the offerings that came in the church services there at Eldama Ravine. And this was very faithfully recorded, Sunday by Sunday, month by month, year by year, for several years. This book that I saw is down there and the offering might be three, four shillings that...that Sunday and so many eggs and so many chickens that came in, all written down there that she kept the records of. Very interesting. And the service would be held and my dad would preach. He usually preached in Swahili. If he didn't preach, my mother (who I think I mentioned last time was the real linguist in the family) and I can remember her giving messages in the Kalenjin language, in Tugen or in Masai. I remember that. And the message was usually a good half hour to three quarters of an hour and was invariably a completely Scripturally based message. I can still remember outlines of my dad's messages that he gave and it was always Scripture, Scripture, Scripture. Not what he thought but what the Bible said invariably and so those were the major opportunities, not only for present...presenting the evangelistic message which invariably was brought out but of Bible teaching. So the church services were Bible teaching services, invariably. And I can also remember the end of the service, almost always, was associated with an invitation to accept the Lord as savior. And to the people it wasn't any question of just sitting in your seats and making a decision, it was not just raising your hand but, "If the Lord has been speaking to you and you really want to accept Him, then come up forward. You...we will pray for you and explain." And it was a rare occasion, as I remember as a boy, in those days when there wasn't somebody or a line of people lined up in front of the...of the platform there in the church. There was a funny thing that occurred once. The baptismal services were usually held after they had been through period of...of teaching, [sound of train whistle in background] catechumens' classes as they called them in those days...days, teaching and making sure that the people really did understand the Word of God and their...the basis of their salvation and so on and these were followed then with a baptism service in which these people were baptized and for quite some time these services were held down in a little stream about a mile away from our church where they would dam up the stream in order to get a pool of water there. And the service was held and these were usually attended by masses of people. The heathen people from all through the countryside would get word there was going to be a baptism service up there and they would come, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people lining the river bank there.
SHUSTER: Why would they come...be so interested?
BARNETT: Curiosity, curiosity. This was something that was so strange to them, this matter of baptism. And they would come to see one of their own people being dipped down in the water and coming up. And that was a strange thing. But it was amazing because those services then became a tremendous source of testimony to the whole countryside, because before they were baptized, the people...the candidates would...would stand and give their testimony of what Christ had come to mean to them and why they were taking this stand in baptism to demonstrate their faith and their taking sides for the Lord. And there was many people who were touched by this and came to the Lord through the testimony of those who were baptized. And I remember then my dad made a baptistery in the church and I...I was there at the time when they dug out this...took out the platform of the church and dug a hole down underneath the platform of that church. And I suppose it was about six...six, eight feet long and three, four feet wide and it was about four feet deep. And he lined this thing with concrete and checked it out to make sure it'd hold water and all that, you know, and then he put the platform back in over it and then he made a...a door in the...in the floor, hinged, that he could lift it up and [chuckles] he put a ladder down into the thing. He'd go down on the ladder for the.... I remember the first...first Sunday after this thing was...had been made and the door made and everything was down there and in place and he was standing on it preaching and then he was telling the people about the baptistery, which an amazing thing. They had never even heard of such a thing as that. And then thanking the Lord for some special gift that had come to make it possible for the baptistery. And he thought he would demonstrate to them about this door....
[loud static on tape makes it impossible to distinguish words. This distortion lasts about 40 seconds.]
SHUSTER: How did they [?] react?
BARNETT: Well, in the old days it was a major step to take...take among the Masai people. There's no question that the people began to recognize the change that was taking place on the hearts and lives and way of living of the people. Not everybody miraculously became a new creature, but there is no question that the change in life began to be demonstrated among the people and this made a big impression.
SHUSTER: How was it demonstrated?
BARNETT: Because the change was one of...that began to demonstrate kindness and love toward one another and honesty. And I mentioned the day how these pots and pans that disappeared [from his family's kitchen] began to reappear when people became converted...came back and this whole point of honesty made a big impression on families. The Masai resisted a lot of this. I think of a lot of that based...that caused them to resist it was because when their people, particularly their young women and girls become Christians, they no longer want to involve themselves in the old tribal rites, which were [pauses] down right heathen and a lot of evil spirit worship and so on which was involved in them, circumcision customs particularly. I can remember particularly all the fuss that went on for circumcision customs and the early missionaries took a very strong stand relative to all of these early tribal rites, circumcision particularly and especially female circumcision that went on out there. And it was a rough custom and it's still practiced in quite as number of these tribes out there. And there's no question that it isn't just the custom. It is something that is tied up with a great deal of their worship rites and their belief in evil spirits and things of that sort. But among the Masai, this is a very important thing and when these girls and people began to accept the Lord and then to turn their back on their tribal rites and customs and so on, it did stir up a great deal of antagonism on the part of the tribe...tribal elders and so on.
SHUSTER: How was that antagonism expressed?
BARNETT: Well, frequently it was expressed by these girls in particular, say, that were in these girls' homes that had become Christians and it had come to the point for the circumcision rites were supposed to be carried out, maybe at puberty or shortly thereafter so on and the girls refused to go. And we would frequently find that if the...in the nighttime the families or the Masai warriors or someone would come and kidnap them or take them off and force them through the circumcision rites. And it wasn't always a question of forcing either. This was...this was one of the major points of testing and of decision for a Christian in those days because they were faced with all of the...the threats that came from their tribe, their homes, their families and they were...they were told...probably one of the most difficult things they were told was if they were not circumcised, they would never be able to bear children. And this was a very major thing for them. And there were numbers of them who gave in over a thing like that and made their decisions and went back to the family. But once they...it was a very difficult thing for them, once they had given in and gone through the tribal customs to ever come back again. There were those who did...who did and it was a question of real repentance on their part and coming back to the Lord and there are numbers of them out there today that I can remember as a boy who did come back and they're still among the stalwarts of the church and the Lord, out there today.
SHUSTER: Were there similar kinds of tests for male converts?
BARNETT: Yes, because they also went through the circumcision rites and it was tied in with an awful lot of their heathen customs that they went through. The testing was probably just as strong for the man, but I don't think they were pressured quite as heavily as the girls who went through it there. Speaking of the early church, one...one of the little incidents that marked a real change probably in the church occurred.... My dad used to have a special service at Christmas time. And this became known throughout the country and he had with him a carbide lantern for showing slides. That was one of the very early things. Maybe you'll get one of those into your archives sometime. But that was an interesting thing, but I don't know where he got it. Sweden, I think. Somebody gave him this. And you would put in carbide into the yellow [?] thing then you drip water in on this carbide and light the thing and it would...the fumes...the gas coming out of this carbide was combustible and it...with a couple of carbon sticks across the thing, the gas coming up from that would light and arc across these carbide sticks or carbon sticks and would come out with this brilliant light and that together with a systems of lens in this thing would project the pictures on these glass slides...heavy glass slides. I think they were about six inch...six, eight inch square pieces of glass with the film in between the things. And it would project up onto the screen. And we'd get quite a good picture...projection picture that way. And he had two or three sets of...of slides way back in those days depicting...and one in particular depicting the life of Christ: His birth and His life and miracles and His ministry. And then it ended with the scene of the cross, the death and the resurrection. There was a time in that early period when that...that...the church on this particular Christmas eve was just jammed packed with all the people from all over. They came from miles and miles away to see this slide show, such a new thing to them, unusual. And Dad was...was showing these slides upon the wall in the church there. And they put a white sheet up there. They hung a sheet up there to show. And there came...people were so dense, they were all outside the church and trying to get a look through the window to see. And it was dark, of course, nighttime. And there came one of these Masai warriors, came around with his ochered hair, pigtail down his back and head and whole body smeared with this red ocher and the only clothes he had on were just this piece of muslin cloth around his...tied around his shoulders. And he stood as they do on...on one leg and with spear... supported by their spear and stood outside that window, looking at those pictures and something happened to that man. The pictures of the life of Christ went on and finally it came to the picture of the scene on the cross, with Christ hanging on the cross. And suddenly it was just as though the wellsprings broke in this raw, heathen young man and he left there and he worked his way through the crowd and he pushed through the door of the church and he went up to my father and he said, "Who is that man up there on that cross and why is he there?" And the tears (unheard of) were coming down his face.
SHUSTER: Why do you say unheard of?
BARNETT: Because these Masai people don't cry. Women, yes. And in a situation like that! And my dad told him the story...was telling the story of how Christ, the Son of God, came and gave His life for the sins of the world, for hours and that young man was one of the first of the real Masai who came to the Lord, gave his heart to the Lord that night. He was just a raw heathen seeing the...the picture of Christ on the cross. It was a beautiful thing and he was one of the early leaders...among the early leaders of the Masai church and was one of the ones that was influential in the first early translations of the Scriptures into Masai language. But those are some of the early experiences of the church...churches out there.
BARNETT: They steadily grew...grew and as I said churches before long were all up and down that valley as a result of the ministry in those early days.
SHUSTER: Was the music at the services Western or African?
BARNETT: Well, they...they were...I think that the early missionaries used what they knew and that was their hymns. And they translated the hymns and they used the same tunes that we have: What a Friend We Have in Jesus, many of the older hymns that we know were the hymns of the church in those days. And the people learned them and the people loved to sing. And you would hear the...the singing coming to...out of the church. If you were a mile away, you could hear the singing. And of course, it wasn't always very true to key and so. The Kikuyu people were notorious for their terrible singing. They...their scale, I think, had about four notes in it [chuckles]. Sharps and flats were...were awfully...you know.... But it was beautiful nonetheless to hear them singing.
SHUSTER: Were the lyrics simply translations of English lyrics or were they...?
BARNETT: Yes, basically so. That's interesting because I think that as time has gone on, particularly in these later days now, the...the missionaries have...have realized that the importation into these countries of just their way of thinking and their way of doing things was not necessarily the best way of doing things. And I have seen a lot of changes take place since I was a boy out there. I've seen the...the present church methods and many of the churches today are...the singing in them is bringing in more of their own lyrics, as you say, some of their own tunes and so on coming in, ones that people themselves are writing. And they're good, many of them are good. And interestingly we're finding out that the Kikuyu who I thought would never learn to sing properly are now producing some of the finest choirs in their churches out there. Beautiful singing they're doing. Its a real joy to see what's going on.
SHUSTER: Well, what were some of the other events at church besides the weekly worship service or were there any?
BARNETT: Of yes, there was...there were mid-week prayer meetings and Bible studies, I can remember them. And invariably schools would be set up in the various churches in the...there on the station. And there were regular classes held in the schools. They were very primitive. [chuckles] In the early days, again, kids would come in and simply sit on the ground or on a branch that was stuck across...and the learning of the ABC's and learning to read and write. It was all by rote, repetition. I can remember that too. Because the...all these kids...I used to go out with them and say it with them, [approximation of the sounds Barnett makes] "By bay bee bo boo, ta tae tea ti too, gi ga gee gih goo." And on down. It was endless repetition, day after day until they would gradually put words together and meaning to these words. And before long they were reading.
SHUSTER: Who were the teachers?
BARNETT: My mother was the teacher usually to begin with. And then gradually this...people among...different ones among the people learned to read and to write and get their arithmetic in and they were...became the teachers and.... But my mother was always there, backing them up. They had early blackboards and I can remember going out to find chalks...lumps of chalk that were...deposits of chalk in places. And we knew where we were to get it and get lumps of chalk and bring it in and use it for writing on the blackboard. And then they had slate. Slate in the place of paper. There was no such thing as paper to use at all. They had slates and a slate pencil. They'd write on the slates and just a little bit of water or so would wash it off and start all over again. But schooling was one of the very first things that was introduced by a missionary among these people to teach them to read and write. And I suppose later on, years later, when these people began to think of independence and ruling themselves, the colonial masters blamed the missionaries bitterly for ever teaching the people to read and to write and to get an education because they felt that was what started them on the road to even thinking about independence [unclear].
SHUSTER: What were your parents relations with the colonial government?
BARNETT: Generally good, good. The...my parents were always very careful to stick with what the regulations of the country were and the laws of the country. I remember going up with my dad to the boma (as it was called in those days in the Swahili language) which was the [chuckles]...it was an enclosure, with inside that enclosure were the government offices. The district commissioner lived up in this boma and his subofficers and police officers, the police force for Africans who would be trained and so forth were all up there. And Dad was respected...very much respected by the government officials and so much so that I can remember him being asked to hold the services...the special services for the...the government officialdom on Sundays. He would go up there to the boma and they would invite in the various government officials and people there and they would have a Christian service for them up there. He was the one who was called in for official weddings or funerals or things of that sort. And Dad was always working, doing something. In those early days there were very few roads and I...I can still remember my dad going out with the few workmen he could get together and making roads or repairing roads and building bridges. And it was interesting that there was one bridge there particularly on that river where the bridges were being washed out all the time in flood time, he built this bridge for this particular river and that bridge stayed there for years and years and years. And it was known as Mr. Barnett's bridge and the...many of the other bridges that the public works department had built were being washed out and this had been built so well that it stayed on there. So he was well thought of in the government circles and so on because of his work and his life among the people and among the people...the government people and among the settlers. I said he wasn't afraid to go in and to...to talk to the settlers and deal with them and to talk to them about their need of the Lord. And a lot of these early settlers were rough and tough guys, you know. They said they came out of the army, ones that had lived rough lives out there. They were the ones who gave much of the impression to the people of what Britain was and it wasn't a very happy relationship frequently with the people, because they were so hard on them.
SHUSTER: How do you mean hard on them?
BARNETT: Well, I can remember one day our family was invited up to the neighboring farm...Mr. White. And he was a major..ex-major in the army. Smith I guess his name was, Major Smith. And we used to play with the Smith children and have a good time with them. But that day they were...they had slaughtered a pig and they were making... going to make bacon and ham and so on up there and this was a big old pig that they had killed and they were getting ready to string it up by the hind legs on to a branch of a tree there. They were going to gut it and so on. This farmer, Major Smith, was out there shouting at his employees, his African employees, to get them to do things as he wished and to pull this pig up and he was striking them, hitting them. And he got so upset with one of them that he picked up a rungu which is a knobbed stick that these people carry as a weapon for themselves, as a protective weapon, and he picked that up and slugged this one fellow over the head with it and he killed him!. He killed him outright right there. [Pauses] It meant nothing. It...he was never prosecuted for it. It was just an African, that's all. And it certainly made its impression on...on me as a boy. I can remember it very clearly to this day. And it made its impressions on the people. And it was this sort of handling that certainly pushed the ideas of independence eventually, in spite of the fact that the British officially, I would say, probably ranked highest in their relationships with their people in their colonies. I would say that they probably did more for the people than any of the others, especially the Belgians and the French. The British did push education. They established schools as much as they could. They [?] depended a lot on the early missionaries for them. They made an effort to...to find the necessities of life for the people, like water and so on. In many of these dessert areas, the British went in there and dug wells and put wells in for them. So they...they, basically, I think were humanitarian and tried to help the people.
SHUSTER: What about German colonies? Of course, by the time you were born, they were just about over in Africa. Do you...?
BARNETT: German East Africa was Tanganyika. The Germans were in Tanganyika and that was of course when I was born, the First World War, and the Germans were out of there by the time the First World War...
SHUSTER: But did you hear of any...
SHUSTER: [unclear] missions or...
BARNETT: They were...they were....
SHUSTER: ...the impressions...?
BARNETT: The impressions that I get were the same that you hear of the Germans everywhere. Extremely efficient in what they did, but unequivocally either [sic]. They were rigid. Rigidity meant discipline and they were known as very strong disciplinarians among the people. But also the British were that. I mean I can...the kiboko was an accepted thing among the British and among the people who were colonials in those days. The kiboko was the long leather whip that was used. It was carved out from the hide of a hippopotamus. The name of the hippo was kiboko. So this whip got its name from that. And it was applied very liberally. It was always used on prisoners. It was part of the punishment. You got so many stripes from the kiboko. And I can remember one of our earliest Christians who is...became one of the first pastors that we had out there. Abdula [?] (he was...had been a converted Muslims) being accused of...of stealing sugar, which he never did. They took him up there to the boma and they beat him with a kiboko and I can remember him being brought back down to the station. My mother and I went out with looking for him nighttime. She had to carry a lantern because they brought him back after dark and his back was just a bloody mess, just in shreds.
SHUSTER: And the boma is the administrative center...?
BARNETT: That's the administrative center up there, where he was taken.
BARNETT: B-O-M-A. A boma. A boma basically means a corral. It has that same meaning, a circling where you keep you cattle, that's a boma. But the...the official government posts got to be known as bomas because of the encircling fence or so that they put around them, built in a circle or so, like that, the early ones, that way.
SHUSTER: Did Africans and the settlers worship together or have any contact together in church?
BARNETT: No, it was a rarity to ever see that, because an African was way below the white man, there's no question about that. And for a settler to sit down with an African in their home would be virtually an unheard of thing. The settler might go out to the African's home, sit in his home, but only as a superior person. The only time I ever saw a settler sit in a church, in an African church, was when a family up there near Kipkabus, near Eldoret, became converted, came to the Lord and it was an absolutely marvelous change that took place in the hearts and lives of that family and then they not only came out to join in the services that my dad carried on there but the first church that he had there was a very flimsy [?] one and this family then...one of the first things they wanted to do was to help to build a nice church on their farm at Kipkabus and they used to come out and join in the services. It was one of the very first times that I can recall as a boy out there in which a settler did not conduct himself as a...in a totally separate category from the black people and their superior.
SHUSTER: Was there antagonism between the various tribes your father worked among and if so how did it affect his work?
BARNETT: Yeah, there...you would see some antagonism. I mean, tribalism is a very real thing and tribalism has been apparent all through the years and tribalism is still there today in spite of...of major efforts on the part of governments...these independent governments today to overcome tribalism, it's probably the major thing that is leading to disunity in the countries and making it difficult for them to progress. But all you could say is, in answer to your question on that, is conversion. Christ in the heart and life of the person made the biggest difference and I can remember there at [Eldama] Ravine, especially Ravine where I was born and raised, was a meeting point for about four different tribal groups. The...it was...it became after the Masai were pushed out the center of a farming area for the European farms and the farm workers that were brought in there were Kikuyu, Kalenjin, and Luo were the main three groups that were there. But then in addition to that, we were right on the edge of the Tugen Reserve and then just a few miles on down there is when we came to the Njemps tribe and several other smaller tribes were joined in together. And we had people from all of these tribes worshiping in the church there at Eldama Ravine and the difference was Christ, that's all. And it's still the difference today, even though there are still some very strong tribal feelings. I think that there's...there's only one way that's going to break down and that is total loyalty to the Lord and change that he does make in their lives. And this we were aware of and it's...it's just a very vital reality.
SHUSTER: So your father didn't try to set up churches according to tribal...
BARNETT: No. In some sense it became that because the government had put the tribes in the various reserves, areas...geographic areas in which, "This is your reserve. This is where you belong. You live here." But's there's nothing to break the ability of the people to get out and go to work in other areas. Except I can remember in the early days the British established what they called a kipande system [a kipande was an identification disk] in which every male who had come of age [unclear] was required to carry this registration-identification certificate. And he had to have that with him, carry it with him wherever he went. If he was found without that thing and out of his area, he would be prosecuted, fined or jailed for it. And they...you can imagine what a problem that would be for these primitive people who had no belongings and many of these people carried...there were practically no clothes in those days at all. But they were required to carry this and they did it by...they...they would make a little....or were issued, I think, by the government, a little metal case with a lid on it, a metal lid that would come down and this was kept inside that. And they would wear that thing around their waist, around their neck. Wherever they went, they carried the kipande. And the old timers out there still remember that and they...they remember it with deep bitterness against the British government for ever doing a thing like that to them. But these were the ways that the British kept track of the people. And they introduced taxation on the people, head tax that was put on every head of a family. They had to pay so much annual tax, things of that sort. They weren't very happy about those things.
SHUSTER: What were the responsibilities of the elders in the different churches?
BARNETT: Well, as...as I recall, their main responsibility was...was providing the leadership for the churches and teaching back in the villages, in the homes, and an attempt at guidance and...and direction for the growing, developing group of Christians that were there. And this is my impression that I remember concerning them. Each church had its appointment of elders.
SHUSTER: Chosen by the church?
BARNETT: Chosen by the church usually. But I...probably in the early days when there were so few members in the church to draw on I think that these were probably appointed by the missionaries that were there as leaders in the church. [coughs]
SHUSTER: Did they...were the elders supposed to supervise morals and life of Christian members
BARNETT: Yes...yes. There were ones, I can remember, when the elders where brought in for special...for special classes of teaching....
SHUSTER: By who?
BARNETT: By the missionary that was there. And they would have weekly classes with them, instructing in the Scriptures and the standards in the Scriptures and so on for Christian life...living. And these elders were sort of the...the nucleus, key to the church, to instruct and teach their people and found some churches.
SHUSTER: What about pastors or evangelists? When did Africans begin to come into those posts?
BARNETT: My dad was the pastor of the Eldama Ravine church until I think about 1927 or '28. I can remember then the earliest ones that had gone through [pauses] the early church catechumen classes teaching ones that had taken a particular interest in the Word. Samuel Abdula [?] was the first one that I recall. He had been a Muslim. He had come from Tanganyika I think, wandering through the country [unclear]. He professed to accept the Lord. Chit kona [?] was another young boy from the local Tugen tribe who came in, came to the Lord and shortly...not too long before that the first Bible school had been established there at Kijabe. It was what is known today as the Moffet Bible College and it was the Kijabe Bible School and it was to this school that selected candidates were taken from the established stations in the country and down in [first half of word is unclear]land, where the work first began. Peter Cameron Scott came in there first, in Machakos [the first AIM station was near Machakos at Nzwau] and some of the other stations and then Kijabe and then went out from Syabei among the Masai where the [John W. and Florence] Stauffachers were working and then up to Eldama Ravine and then about in that time also to Mr. [Herbert] Innis had begun the work among the Luo people up near Kisumu and Mr. [Andrew M.] Anderson (Earl Anderson's father) had begun the work at Lumbwa among the Nandi people so these stations were beginning to spread about among the tribal groups and each one of these places would send their prospective Christian leaders and candidates for pastoral work and schools were established like this one down in Kijabe and this is where they were sent. And I remember the first two candidates from Eldama Ravine were these two: Samuel Abdula [?] and Chit koma[?], George Koma[?]. They went to Kijabe. They went through the Bible School course and then Abdula [?], Samuel, was selected to go to the first pastor's course that was given [?] in Bible school.
SHUSTER: Do you recall when that was?
BARNETT: The exact date and year I don't remember, but I would say it must have been in the late '20's because he had come back from a....
[extreme static makes the tape impossible to understand for thirty seconds]
BARNETT: ...and that was in the latter part of 1931, so these were the church's [?] early pastors and numbers of them followed those two men to Bible school the early Bible school at Kijabe [?] and that was followed by the establishment of the Bible school at Kapsabet [?] and then the one at Kefu [?], started one there. [The first AIM Bible school was established in Machakos in November 1928, the second at Kijabe in February 1929.] That's one of the strongest Bible schools today [unclear]. Then a Bible school was established in Kamba country....
[static makes the tape impossible to understand for the next thirty seconds.]
BARNETT: That was when I was seven years old....
[static makes the tape impossible to understand for the next twenty seconds]
BARNETT: [When the tape resumes, Barnett is discussing his attendance at Rift Valley Academy, an Africa Inland Mission boarding school for missionary children in Kenya.] That was not very easy except that it was made a lot easier by the fact that four of the family were already in school there and the four Barnett brothers all shared a room together in Campbell [?], the first...main building of Rift Valley Academy, which is the building that is still there, believe it or not. It was built so solidly in stone. It was the building which...the cornerstone of which was laid by Teddy Roosevelt when he went out there on his hunting trip. And...[Pauses]. Oh, I had lots of vivid recollections of Rift Valley Academy in those days.
SHUSTER: What was it like?
BARNETT: Well, in...at that time it was this big building and it was up on the side of the Rift Valley, the eastern wall of the Rift Valley, looking down on the lower valley, which is seven thousand feet above sea level, where the school was. The floor of the valley was about four thousand feet. So you're looking down there. You looking across at the magnificent view of Mount Longonot with a volcanic rim and [unclear] crater over on the right hand side and right straight in front of you right there was Mount Suswa with its huge crater and this secondary crater in the middle...inside it that you could see and I can remember the fears that we had that those...that those volcanos were going to erupt again sometime. When there were any of the bigger boys at school who wanted to scare a new boy, naturally they would tell him, you know, that they were going to erupt again. I can remember the dense bush that was around it at that time, forest...very dense forest was behind us...tropical forest yet up on the whole floor...wall of the valley and then up above another thousand to two thousand feet above you would come to the top there and that was all dense bamboo forest up there. These whole forest areas were full of animals. Buffalos roamed in the bamboo forest up there. Elephants roams up through there. It was not at all unusual for these bigger animals to be roaming down through the forest and right around the school, down through there. And there were plenty of leopards around the school. I can remember one time we were playing some of our games of cops and robbers out in the bush around the school there when my sister was hidden in one of the clumps of bush...sagebrush there. I guess she was one of the robbers that day or something. Anyway, a leopard came along and stopped and stuck its head right underneath the bush looking at her where she was. And turned around and walked off. [laughs]
SHUSTER: Did she faint or...?
BARNETT: [laughs] She pretty near did. She...she knew enough to become very still and very quiet and not do anything. But these were the early days and Rift Valley Academy, the school itself, was the thing that made.... Perhaps the biggest impression made in my first year at school there were the...were the rats. That school building was infested with rats when I went there. And I had to go off to bed with the...with the younger children early while the older boys all had their study period...study hour. And our lights were all these hurricane lanterns...kerosene lanterns and you'd carry them off with you to go to bed here in this great big room and I had to go alone because my brothers were all in the study hour. And then you'd...with fear and trembling you'd get yourself undressed and...and crawl into bed there. And the mattresses were stuffed with corn husks and corn cobs [laughs] and you'd...you'd...you'd nestle down between these things to try and to try and shove the corn cobs out of the way and find a comfortable place in these mattresses. And...and then the rules required that you had to turn your lantern down and put it outside the door of the room so it would be pitch black inside that room. [chuckles] And then you'd wait for it to start. And after a while, you'd hear it and everything would be sort of quiet in the building. And they would start on the top of the ceiling at the far end of the building. And it would sound like a...just a rustling at first and then it would become what sounded like a...a thundering herd, coming down over the tops of the ceiling, over the top of you. And they would finally come down over the top of your room, just these dozens of these great big rats. And some of those rats that we saw were as big as cats. Huge forest rats that would come down there. And they had gnaw holes through the ceiling [chuckles] and you'd wait for them to come down through those holes and clamber down a wall and the next thing they were crawling over the top of your bed. And you'd stick the blankets over your bed and just lie there and shake [?], you know...
BARNETT: ...while those things were running around over the top of your bed and.... [laughs] I remember one night. We had buckets in the room, you know. There would be one bucket for water for your...for washing your face with and another bucket which was your slop bucket in the room. And that night my brothers'...I guess one of them had used it and forgot to stick the lid back on the thing and we heard the rats running around the room and suddenly there was a big splash. My brother jumped up and tore over and slammed the lid down on this bucket and we thought, "Well, there's one we got. [chuckles] The next morning we got up and there was this trail across the room. He had managed...
SHUSTER: Got out.
BARNETT: ...managed to shove himself up pass the lid and got out and got up, climbed the wall up through the...up through the hole. But those were hardy [?]. They got so bad that we were trapping them every night with rat traps and they had a bounty on the rats. I think we got five cents for every rat that we could present. And some of the older boys were hunting them with twenty-twos [rifles], getting up and shooting these things.
SHUSTER: Did they ever attack any of the children?
BARNETT: I don't remember anybody ever getting bitten by them. I don't remember. But they were sure a fearful thing, terrible. Our...our toilets at RVA [Rift Valley Academy]...they were long drops. And you'd go in there and they things were just crawling with these rats in there. And, boy, it was all you could do to get enough courage to use the long drop. [laughs]
SHUSTER: No wonder. [?]
BARNETT: You'd go in there.... [laughs]
SHUSTER: Were they brought under control while you were at Rift? At the...?
BARNETT: They were never gotten rid of while I was there as a boy. But later on they got rid of them. There are no rats around the place today at all. [laughs] But those...those students that are in there today never knew what they missed. [laughs]
SHUSTER: How...how many students were there at the school?
BARNETT: Well, there weren't very many at the time. When I...when I first went there, there were maybe twenty, twenty-five kids. Something like that were there. It fluctuated went up and down depending on when the parents went on furlough. My folks had not been on furlough for twelve years at that time and in 1925 (that was the year after I started at...at RVA) our family went on furlough. It was the first time that I'd ever been out of the country. And we traveled by boat from Mombasa. We...we were on a ship that was carrying a lot of immigrants on their way to Australia. My dad was Australian so we were going to Australia to visit his relatives there. We went by way of South Africa. I can remember getting off the boat at Capetown and wandering around there. And that was the first time I had ever seen snow. It was snowing in Capetown, so it had to be summer here and winter there (the time that we went) in the southern hemisphere. And I remember that our cabin...there were I think between one and two thousand passengers on that boat, with no doubt at all [?]....
[Static makes tape impossible to understand for 18 seconds]
BARNETT: ...a rough, tough bunch. And our cabin was right underneath the bar on the ship and all this racket would come down. People drunk, etcetera. It was an interesting experience. We had never had anything like that. Our life had been a sheltered, African life, a totally different exposure form anything that other people had had. The ship stopped in at some island before it reached Australia and this one guy, dressed meticulously in a white suit with a partner of his and they got off the boat at the pier we were docked. And it was a...a this guy...both of them were absolutely dead drunk as they got off the ship and we were looking down from the rail at the pier and it had been raining and there were mud puddles all over the pier there. And there was an apple in the middle of one of these mud puddles and this guy with this meticulous white suit went after the apple, slipped, sat down in the mud puddle...sat there in the middle of this mud puddle munching on his apple in his white suit. [chuckles] A little bit later on he walked on the land and he crossed a railroad track and a train ran over and killed him. Early childhood memories. On that same island (here's another one, it made a deep impression) I was...the whole family walked ashore and we....
[end of first side of reel of tape. Shuster flips the reel over and begins recording on the second side.]
SHUSTER: You were saying about a second memory from the same...?
BARNETT: Yeah, we...the family went on shore, wandered in to see what there was to see. And we came to a market place where there...many, many people in this market place, just throngs of people. And we were wandering through the market and we came up to some stand where there was a lot of tropical fruit. And as a kid I was standing gawking at this...at this fruit, you know, my mouth watering and I don't know how long I was there but suddenly when I turned around, the family were all gone and there was nothing but these masses of people all around me, every last one a stranger. I didn't have the faintest idea who they were, I didn't have any idea where to go. I was totally lost. I didn't know which way to get back to the boat or to find anything. And I was standing there.
SHUSTER: You would have been about eight years old.
BARNETT: Yeah, that was 1925. Just about eight years old, yeah. And I was of terrified, absolutely terrified of being lost in a strange country. And I was standing there at the...and the tears were...were coming. This terrible feeling of being lost. Suddenly as I was standing there I felt this from behind a hand come down on my shoulder and I suddenly looked back up and around and I was looking up into my dad's face.
BARNETT: He'd missed me and had come back. He had come back and was looking for me and had found me. Well, I think those were the...the beginning of my practical lessons of what it means to be lost. I've used that as an illustration since then. I've gotten up and told how I came to know the Lord and what it is to be lost and what it is be found again and how He came to me. [?]
SHUSTER: When did you become a Christian?
BARNETT: Well, we...we...we came home and we spent...we were in Australia for three months and then we landed in California and we spent almost a year in San Bernardino and then another...almost a year in Los Angeles that time. And while I was...while we were in Los Angeles [pauses], in school there, I had a few interesting events that occurred there and I suppose the most notable one was I almost lost my eye. My right eye had begun to develop a small brown spot in the iris. Quite spontaneously it started to grow, my good eye really. And the school nurse picked that up one day and she took me to see an ophthalmogist. The ophthalmogist called my mother in and told her he thought it was cancer and advised her that my eye should be removed right away before it spread to the other eye. Well, that was a shocker. It was a shocker to me, it was a shocker to her and my dad. They prayed about that, committed it to the Lord. They made the decision that they would follow the advice of the..the ophthalmologist. I was being watched and it was just about that time or shortly thereafter that the precursor of the modern instruments for reviewing the back of the eye in the various layers of the cornea was invented by an Austrian doctor in Austria. And he had brought his machine over with him to California. I guess he was making a trip through the States to demonstrate this thing. And they had this conference in Los Angeles in which he was demonstrating this thing and he had invited any of the ophthalmologists there to bring in their selection of patients that they would like his opinion on...like to use the machine on, you know. I was one of the ones he chose. I still remember going in there and looking...sitting with my chin in this thing, nighttime. Well, these...this man looked in first, looked at my eye, folded his arms, went off to stand on the side. He didn't say anything. The other...all these other doctors filed by one at a time, looked at my eye. And then they finally asked him what they...he thought. He said, "Its just a change of pigment, that's all." There was nothing there. Just a...for some reason there was a change in the pigment of the iris. And the Lord had been good, you see.
SHUSTER: Had you become a Christian while you were in Los Angeles?
BARNETT: No, I...not in knowing. Now here, this is the thing, that you...you grow up in a Christian [heavy static on tape] and I can remember that while we were in Los Angeles I was baptized. I was baptized in the Church of the Open Door. And the one who baptized me and my sister in the same service was old Mr. Hurlburt.
SHUSTER: Charles Hurlburt.
BARNETT: Charles Hurlburt. He was in California at that time, retired from the mission. But I distinctly remember the baptism and I am sure that I thought I was a Christian. But we went back to the field in 1927. My three brothers remained home in America at that time and my dad, mother, sister and I went back to California [sic] by way of Sweden, saw my mother's mother there. And then finally went back. And then I can remember that in about 1929 the Lord began to deal with me as to whether I really was a Christian or not. And the way it happened was that one day through the post I received a little parcel. Well, that was different. Getting a package in the mail was one of the most unusual things that could happen to us there. And above all, this little parcel came from America. That was unheard of. Everybody flocked around to see what in the world I had gotten. And it was...it came from my three brothers here at home, Eric, Arthur, and Paul and it was a birthday present. And when I opened it, it was a beautiful, alligator skin bound Pocket Testament League New Testament, PTL New Testament that they had sent to me for my birthday. Something snapped in me. I couldn't believe it, that they had thought that much about me to have sent me a birthday present. We just didn't get very much in those days and I can remember taking that new Testament and I went out into the bush that was there around RVA and I just found a little cozy place under the...under the sagebrush, bushes and I sat there and I read. I read as far as I could, starting at the beginning and I went back to that same spot in my Testament time after time and kept reading and reading and reading and it was a totally new book to me. And I read 'til I finished it. And then back in the back of that Pocket Testament League testament there was this final decision page that was there, using John 3:16, where it said, "For God so loved world that He gave his only begotten Son that." They left the word "whosoever" out, left it blank there. "Who believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." And [unclear] "Do you believe this? Do you want to...." [unclear, much static on tape] And when I read that, I made my decision that day for the Lord. And that was...even though all my background in the Christian life, that this was the time when I remember making a firm decision...a decision for the Lord and I was born again at that time. And its made a tremendous change in my life. Almost right after that there came to RVA campus a man by the name of Edwin Orr. Now, you've heard of Edwin Orr?
SHUSTER: J. Edwin Orr?
BARNETT: J. Edwin Orr. He was a young man at that time and he was making a circuit of the world [very bad static on tape makes it impossible to understand for the rest of the tape, approximately seventy-five seconds.]
END OF TAPE