Billy Graham Center

Collection 248 - William John Barnett. T6 Transcript

Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (9 minutes)

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the first oral history interview of William John Barnett (CN 248, T6) 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 November 2007 by Bob Shuster and Kirk Haywood.

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Collection 248, T6. Interview of William John Barnett by Robert Shuster, May 30, 1995 (continuation of T5).

[overlap from T5]

SHUSTER: last question for you, for our interview today. By the time you came back to Kenya again, at Mombasa, you’d been out of the country for most...out of Africa for most of two decades.

BARNETT: 1931 is when we...when I went to the States.

SHUSTER: So it was nineteen years, when you came back.

BARNETT: Nineteen years, that I had...since I had been in Africa.

SHUSTER: How did Africa strike you when you came back, I mean, how did it seem to you?

BARNETT: Well, in many ways, it was different. You’d seen great developments. The of Mombasa was a much bigger town. There were some things that hadn’t completely changed. Like dad and mother, when they met us there in Mombasa, one of the first things they wanted us to do was to go buy helmets to wear. Most important, you must wear a helmet.

SHUSTER: Pith helmets?

BARNETT: Pith helmet, or cork helmet, or felt hats, double layered felt hats with red flannel between the layers, otherwise, you’re going to get sunstroke. And that’s very important, so we followed suit, and got ourselves hats, for it, and people were still generally wearing hats, but you were seeing quite a number of young people, the foreigners that were walking around Mombasa, with no hats on, and I can still remember my dad and mother clucking over them. It’s a "Huh, you just watch, they’re going to be in trouble”sort of thing. Now, of course, today, there are people running all over the place, no hats at all, and just fine.

SHUSTER: Were you humoring your parents, or did you as a doctor still think that you needed the helmet?

BARNETT: Well, I was still accepting, let’s say, because we had been raised that way. We wore spine pads, and helmets all the time, never went out in the sun. Some people actually wouldn’t go out in the the moonlight, a nighttime, without wearing a hat, worried about getting moon-stroke. [chuckles] You know.

SHUSTER: Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but the belief was that Europeans, as opposed to Africans, couldn’t stand the....

BARNETT: Far more sensitive...

SHUSTER: And couldn’t stand the heat.

BARNETT: the sun, sun’s light, and rays, and so on. But, that of course has been proved wrong. And some people do get the heat stroke, there’s no question, you get heat stroke here in this country too.

SHUSTER: So there were some things that changed, and some things that stayed the same.

BARNETT: Yeah. There were a lot of changes, like in Nairobi itself, was tremendous changes and developments, and that’s in Nairobi. Of course, a lot of the developments have been encouraged since 1950, since we were there. [clears throat] Size of the cities has grown tremendously. Nairobi I think is running somewhere around two or three million people now. So, you know a lot of changes in Africa, of course. And we...we lived through the period of the political developments and changes that have rocked the continent of Africa.

[overlap from T5 concludes]

BARNETT: While we were in Tanganyika, we saw the...independence come to Tanganyika. It was the first of the three countries of the British East African countries to get its independence. And I suppose the main reason for that [clears throat] was that Tanganyika, rather than being a colony, was a protectorate...

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

BARNETT: ...that had been German...German soil, so after the First World War, it was given over to Britain to run as a protectorate, rather than a colony. So it was really under the old League of Nations as such. And the pressure was much stronger on those countries to get their independence [than] for the colonies, and then I guess, Uganda, and then Kenya, finally, after living through the Mau Mau era [insurgency by Kenyan rebels, mainly Kikuyu, against the British colonial government, 1952-1960]. But we saw this independence come to each one of them, and it was very historic, seeing the changes, and of course, what we also saw was the major changes that came in the churches, and the developing attitudes that the missions had to face and change, and...and the changes that had to come within the missions, organizationally, and within missionaries too, as individuals, and their attitudes. So we saw all of that, lived through it.

SHUSTER: Now, next time when we talk, if we can go into some of those, and describe some of the changes, that you saw in Tanzania and Kenya, during the years that you served there.


SHUSTER: Well, I want to thank you very much for being willing to spend so much time this morning, going over your memories of the Wheaton revival, and your years at Wheaton, and preparation for the mission field. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close today?

BARNETT: Well, if I was going to add anything at all, I would say that the biggest impressions that I ever had in our lives in the mission field, was that we were building on foundations that had been well-laid by wonderful, wonderful missionaries.

SHUSTER: Including your parents?

BARNETT: Yes, including my parents, but I’ll never forget working with Dr...Mr. [William] Maynard. The old pioneer missionary. I had never had the privilege of working with his wife, Nina. She had gone to be with the Lord. But we heard and knew, just from our work there that we were working on foundations that had been laid by dedicated people who had given their lives for the work. And our work was nothing, compared with what had been done before us. And to me that was one of the biggest privileges that I’ve ever had, in working on the mission field. Just...just realizing that people gave their lives, literally, to set up those works, and keep them going, and build them up to the place where we were able to walk in, and start working. I just often wonder, "Well, what if I’d had to come in there and...and go through what Dr. Nina had gone through?” She almost died several times, from blackwater fever, and setting up that work and carrying it on. And she finally did die from complications in surgery and so on that she had done in [unclear]. And the same thing goes for the work there in Kijabe in Kenya, that others were the ones that did the foundational work, and sowed the seed, and we’re privileged to come along and work on soil that has been well plowed and tilled, and begin to see some of the fruits coming in of their labor, and you could say many, many things about that. But that was the main impression that I’ve had from our years of work out there, that [chuckles] we were nothing, we were nothing.

SHUSTER: God gives the increase.

BARNETT: The Lord was the one, yes.

SHUSTER: Well, thank you again.

BARNETT: Uh-huh.


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Last Revised: 12/31/07
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