This is a complete and accurate transcript of the oral history interview of Joan Gordon Brain (CN 252, T3) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. 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 transcription of spoken English, which, of course, follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
The interview took place over a courtyard in which children were playing; background noises are ongoing throughout the interview although these are not noted in the transcript. The interview was originally recorded on cassette tape and later transferred to reel tape for preservation. A notation about the blank tape part way through the interview represents the break during the original interview when the interviewer turned over the cassette.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
() Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Christopher Easley and Paul Ericksen, and completed in August 1993.
Collection 252, T3. Interview of Joan Gordon Brain by Paul A. Ericksen, June 11, 1983.
ERICKSEN: This is an interview with Joan Gordon Brain by Paul Ericksen for the Missionary Sources Collection of Wheaton College. This interview took place at the Brains' home in Lanham, Maryland on June 11th, 1983 at 3:00 p.m. Joan, I'd like to start by asking you how you got interested in missionary work?
BRAIN: I was brought up in a very missionary-minded church. The pastor of our church had missionary conferences every month...every [pauses] year. We had missionary speakers off and on during the...during the course of the...of the church year. And very early in my...in my life I was directed towards...towards missions. And then later on in my high school, I decided that I wanted to go into missionary service, and had always wanted to go to China. And China being a closed field I had to think of some other place. And in my junior year in high school, I went to a Labor Day youth conference in Providence (Rhode Island), and there a team of men had just returned from Africa. And this was all we ate, drank, slept for the next three days. And it was during this time that the Lord directed my attention towards Africa as a possible missions field. And then when I graduated from high school, I went on to a Bible institute, and still with the interest of going to the missions field in a medical capacity. So after a year of Bible school, I came back to my home and then went into lab technician training. It was at this time during the...during my course of study in Boston, in lab school that I went to another one of our missionary conferences there at the church. And it was at this time that I narrowed down the mission board that I had hoped to go with, and then sent in my application forms to what was then the South Africa General Mission [later became Africa Evangelical Fellowship]. After that, when they...Bob came into the picture, but I was still single, and I had applied on a single basis because when I did apply, we weren't even going together. So they accepted me on the same basis on which I had applied as a single candidate. Therefore they asked me to go to two more years of Bible school, so I went to Gordon [College] for two years. And then, eventually we were...we were married shortly thereafter, and then we...and then I finished off my training and then we went out to the mission field.
ERICKSEN: You mentioned a Bible institute that you studied at. Which one was it?
BRAIN: I went to Pikeville, Kentucky, was the Southland Bible Institute, which was then in Pikeville, Kentucky. It has...it's moved I think now to Ash...Ashland, or something like that in Kentucky.
ERICKSEN: Anyone particular in you earlier years that was particularly influential in your interest in missions? You mentioned the church's strong emphasis.
BRAIN: The church's strong emphasis. I...the...the pastor, of course, in many ways, I suppose, not...not necessarily in a personal way. There were several of these Chinese missionaries that I really enjoyed, and one was a little small lady named Edith. And she would write to me and it kind of kept up my interest that way for some years. And another very influential person was a man from the Africa Inland Mission. I can't think of his name just now. Oh, Ken Downing, Ken Downing. He and his wife came to one of our missionary conferences and he stayed in our home with my parents and...and us kids. And just his being there and the fact that a few months after that, he and his wife and two little children passed through and the asked if they could stay with us again for a weekend. And then over the years I had seen Ken. In fact, I was very much drawn to the Africa Inland Mission, because I liked the initials of their...of their mission: AIM. I thought that was very good, but I didn't go [laughs].
ERICKSEN: What about your folks? How did they feel about your growing interest in missions?
BRAIN: My folks were very, very pleased. There was never a problem with my parents. They were...they had given me to the Lord many, many years ago. I think they may have been disappointed in the fact that some of my brothers didn't have any interest in, well, even in church let alone the mission field. So there was never a problem that way, nor down through the years when we were away, or even during my dad's illness. There was never any...any question of the fact that I ought to be home supporting them or taking care of them. And they realized that this was the right...the right thing for...for me and they were very happy and content with this. With my brothers it may have been a little different [laughs].
ERICKSEN: Could you talk about your conversion, when that....?
BRAIN: I was very young, about seven, but I can remember it very, very clearly. It was in the same church in which I had grown up and I was in a Sunday school class. The church pianist and organist was our Sunday school teacher, and I can remember as we sat circling her this one Sunday morning in the month of November, way back in 1949, and she had asked if there were anyone there that wanted...(not '49, '42, I guess) if there was anyone there that had never accepted the Lord as their personal savior. And I can remember my girlfriend and I both making this commitment at the same time. And then the...this commitment grew through the years with her help and with other Sunday school teachers, as well as the church and its influence with Bible teaching and...and missions.
ERICKSEN: [pauses] Could you talk a little bit about your studies at the Wilson...
BRAIN: Laboratory School.
BRAIN: This is a...a school. It's been taken over by the Carnegie Institute at present. But it was a school set up for teaching laboratory techniques. And I went to school five-and-a-half days a week for a full year. We had classes from nine 'til five every single day and then Saturdays from nine 'til one. Then I'd get on the train and go back home, and instead of going home, I went up to the hospital where...in our town, where the head lab technician was a graduate of Wilson, and she took me under her wing and she allowed me to work under her. I didn't get any pay, of course, but the experience was terrific. And she taught me lots of things before I even got to them in...in lab school. So it's a long course, but it took in all of the...the different things of chemistry and bacteriology and hematology, and all of the things, I guess, that are still required of medical technologists.
ERICKSEN: And your aim was to...to be able to work on a medical staff in a hospital?
BRAIN: That's...that's exactly what I had wanted to do. I had wanted to go to the mission field, and that was where I felt I wanted to...to work, would be in a hospital as a medical technologist.
ERICKSEN: Okay. What about your studies at the Bible institute? Remember anything about that?
BRAIN: I can remember two of our teachers in particular that I appreciated very, very much. One was a man that was interested in and had worked with, I believe, the Navigators [Christian organization emphasizing discipleship and Bible memory], and so he got us going on the Navigators' system of Bible memory that I enjoyed. And our other teacher was Irving Jensen, who of course is a rather famous guy now. In those days, I guess, he was just beginning [laughs]. So it's rather interesting that I was able to sit under him, and his teaching of...of the Word was very, very interesting and his methods of...of study just made the Scriptures live for us.
ERICKSEN: What was the spiritual climate of the...at the institute?
BRAIN: It was very, very good. And they were very keen on trying to keep the...the spirit of the school in a...in a spiritual way as well. We had rules and regulations that we had to follow. But it was all done, I think, in...in love and a real interest for the...for the students. They had different meetings and different times of...of fellowship and working with...with the students to help them in their own spiritual lives. And I think many of us were...were really drawn closer to the Lord at this time. They certainly gave many opportunities for you to think over things, and to...to come to conclusions. I mean, you weren't pigeon-holed into any particular thing that you had to follow, but they...you were made to...to think these things out for yourself and to come to your own conclusions and to make your own commitments to the Lord. And I can remember there were at least two occasions that the Lord really dealt with the student body as a whole and also with individuals.
ERICKSEN: In regards to?
BRAIN: In regard to, well, behavior or just attitudes, or of just our own spiritual walk at that particular time.
ERICKSEN: Were there any sort of activities that [pauses] sort of encouraged involvement or support of missions on campus?
BRAIN: At that school? Well, maybe. It was such a small school and it was in the mountains of Kentucky, and quite a few of the students were [pauses] not, shall I say, they...they...they were from [pauses] country places. Many of them were just eager to...to get in training so that they could go back to their own village settings or towns and to work with churches or to become pastors. We've had several that have...have become pastors. As far as missions per se, I [pauses]...we were all involved in some kind of an outreach. I mean, we all taught Sunday school or did something locally in the churches or go out on visitation, so that we were always challenged to go ahead and do more. So from that viewpoint I would say that many of the students, of course, went on from there to other schools to train.
ERICKSEN: Now at that point were you married yet?
BRAIN: No. I was...I was just fresh out of high school.
ERICKSEN: Okay. Then you went to the lab...school.
BRAIN: Then I went to the lab...
BRAIN: ...school in Boston.
ERICKSEN: Okay, I'm going backwards. And then you went to Gordon?
BRAIN: And then I went to Gordon for two years.
ERICKSEN: What do you remember about Gordon?
BRAIN: I can remember enjoying it very, very much. The...we...I didn't...I just took special courses. I didn't take the full...full course, so that I didn't have all that heavy a schedule. But I did take course...Bible courses and [pauses] I think some psychology courses. I...I remember mainly...well, two things stand out. The study of...of the Word of God under Dr. [Philip C.] Johnson at that time I found to be very, very beneficial. Somehow, under some of these men, they can really make the Scriptures more personal, and make you really want to dig in and...and...and learn more. And Dr. Johnson had that effect on me. And then it was from there, too, that we had a very, very beautiful commissioning service to the mission field. There were several of us that were headed towards the mission field at that time and they had a special candlelight service for those that were going out into missionary work. And so those are sort of two highlights out of Gordon that I specifically remember.
ERICKSEN: What specific things happened at that commissioning service?
BRAIN: I can't even remember. I know that they had a...it was...I don't know if it was a song that we sang or if it was a poem that was written, and I put it in my Bible and that Bible was stolen from us the night that we left for the mission field after one of our furloughs. So that I...and it was all...I had it all documented, the dates and the...and this particular poem that had meant so much. But I don't have that anymore because it's [unclear].
ERICKSEN: Could you talk about the whole process of applying to and being accepted by the mission?
BRAIN: As far as I'm concerned, it.... Of course, it came in two stages. I had applied on a single basis, but by the time that I was accepted we were married already, so that in between there was a little bit of [pauses], well it was a little bit of a problem in one way because after I had been accepted provisionally, by the...by the mission board, if I would finish off another two years of...of Bible subjects and then I could be accepted. So that my mother decided, well then, I should go ahead and finish my schooling before we got married, and, of course, we thought otherwise. So I remember we phoned our general director at that time, Ezra Shank, who was a very dear friend of ours. And we talked with him, explained the situation, and his advice was, "Get your lovin' behind ya and get down to business." So we did. We got married and I went off to school for two years, Bob finished off his seminary and then he went down to the same Bible school and taught for about six months while I was finishing off my requirements there at Gordon. And then we...we were accepted as...as full- fledged missionaries and then we started in on deputation.
ERICKSEN: Did you have to go before a board, anything of that sort in the acceptance process?
BRAIN: You know, I can't reme.... The only thing I can remember is the first time that I met Ezra Shank and he scared me half to death. He...he was a fairly big man but not all that...that tall, and he had...his eyes were half slit like this. And I remember that we went down (we were just engaged at this time)...and we went down, and I think that maybe in those earlier years there wasn't quite so much of the board meeting. In fact, I think the first time we ever met the board was when we came home, was it this ye...no, in '75, when we came home, was the first time I think we'd ever met the board as it was. But we went down to their apartment where he...they lived on the second floor of where all of the business offices were, and he had invited us to come and to have lunch there with him and...and his wife. Like I say, I was absolutely scared to death. I was only about nineteen, not quite twenty yet, and he...he just terrified me. And we walked into the...the room, and I sat down and we were having lunch and she had served some of these salady things and some bread, and he could tell that I was very, very frightened. So, I...I...I don't know whether he just took a plunge and decided there was...there was something under there that he could work on under my fear. So I remember he asked me if I wanted another slice of bread, and I told him, no, thank you, I didn't need it. And he looked at me and he said, "No, it's true, you don't need it. You have had enough." And from that time on he had broken down my resistance and there...there was a real good feeling, you know, between us. And then he...he found out that once he started something like that, that it ended up by being sort of a half war from then on until he [laughs]...until he passed away and went to be with the Lord. But I don't ever remember meeting anyone other than...than Ezra Shank in those early...in those early years.
ERICKSEN: So it wouldn't be on his recommendation that you were accepted? Who decided for the mission?
BRAIN: I don't really know. I suppose it would have been his, perhaps Mr. Bowen at that time or...and the...you know, the others that might have been in there in the...in the mission. And whether they just took the...the reports and the applications and what they found when they actually met the individual, I...I'm not too sure. It was a long time ago [laughs].
ERICKSEN: Was there any sort of orientation training?
BRAIN: Not in those days. We didn't have any orientation. Now whether there was for other people, where...you know, where they...I don't know whether it made any difference (I don't think it did) that Bob had grown up on the mission field, because when we went out, Peter and Ruth Muir were going out at the same time, and I don't believe that they had any kind of...of a training other...other than what...what they had been trained for at schools.
ERICKSEN: As you look back now, is there anything you wish you would have studied, had the chance to study, that you didn't?
BRAIN: For the mission field?
BRAIN: I wouldn't mind having a little bit more knowledge on children's work and Christian education, which, of course, has been of prime interest and importance. I've had some studies and others I've just gleaned from, you know, other ideas and things I would glean from...from books. I think that it would be...would be good. But when you come back on a furlough, you spend all your time running around from one place to another and it's virtually impossible to sit down and try to...to study something. So that if we had, you know, been home...unless you took, I suppose, and extra...an extra year, a study year or something along that line. Otherwise it would be rather impossible to do...to do anything more. But I...if...there may not have been very much along that line in those days, because I think the Christian education of children nowadays is something far different from what it used to be. And there's been a lot of books and studies and seminars that have taken place on...on this subject that I would think in our early years of missionary life were just nonexistent. So I probably had as much at that point as...as...as was needed. And then...but I suppose it would have been a good thing in later years to have been able to add on and do a little it more, but it's almost impossible [laughs].
ERICKSEN: Any classes that were especially helpful?
BRAIN: Where? At....?
ERICKSEN: During...in your education in this country in preparation for.... As you look back now, was there anything that was particularly....?
BRAIN: This one class in particular, I believe, where we had this teacher that was interested in the Navigators work, Bob Denison, I think he really taught us along with Irv Jensen in getting...studying the Scriptures and how to go about getting into the Scriptures and studying them for ourselves as well as for preparing things for use with...with other classes or in the mission field or whatever. I would say that probably those two were... had the biggest influence on...on being a help as far as they type of work that I've been involved in over the years in the mission field.
ERICKSEN: When you got overs...when...when you went overseas, first you went to Portugal for your language study. Can you remember what it was like learning Portuguese?
BRAIN: I certainly can. They are horror marks in my life [laughs]. We went...we traveled with Peter and Ruth Muir on the boat, enjoyed that except for sea sickness. But when we arrived in Portugal, the very first night that we were there, Bob had said, oh, he couldn't remember any of his Portuguese, and he was going to be starting from scratch just like I was because he couldn't remember a thing. And before we got off the boat, he was translating in Portuguese for an American girl who wanted to take her camera aboard, and the...or off, I should say...from the...from the...the boat onto the land and the man didn't want her to take it. And I thought, "Well, so much for this. He's...can't remember a thing and yet he's able to translate." Well, that wasn't so bad at that point. But then when we moved into a little room with a family, we...we were studying with a teacher. She was Portuguese married to an Englishman, and they had been missionaries in Angola for maybe nine or ten years. But because of health reasons, they had to return to Portugal. Her husband actually was an engineer. So that she was a very, very good teacher. She also was a...an extremely big help to me, and was able to help me over all of my hurdles at the time. My biggest problem, I think at the first, was that I got pregnant and I was sick, so I didn't feel all that well. And I was in bed for...off and on, for nearly seven months of that first pregnancy. So I'm sure that that had nothing to do to helping me to...to cope with the fact that Bob could speak and do all of these things that I couldn't do. I don't think I would have minded it too too much, but one of the things that was a v...hard to take was at meal times, lunch and supper, at this home where we were, there were perhaps maybe ten people that ate there. One was a Swiss girl, who was there studying and several of them were Angolans, so that you'd have two or three in one conversation and two or three in another conversation and two or three in another conversation, and there I sat, didn't understand anything. I found that very, very difficult. Then we moved away from there and moved to another home, and there we had a Portuguese lady who spoke perfect English and she also had an English com-panion, so that I didn't have that pressure on me of having to...to speak in Portuguese all the time, but I could do...could speak in English and they would understand me. Then, about that time, I decided that although everybody else was going to the University of Lisbon to take some courses, I went and decided I would take one course, which was in sort of like remedial reading. Now that I didn't mind because all of us were in the same boat. None of us knew what we were doing so that we can read it and try to explain what we were reading in Portuguese, but we were all very halting, and so this didn't bother me. I didn't mind that class. The other class scared me half to death. I was sure that professor was going to ask me questions and he talked like a shot out of a gun anyhow. I couldn't understand him. So I decided I was getting out of there fast. So I did. And I went back to my tutor and asked her if she would take me by myself. She thought that was a really good idea. So she took me alone, and...because grammar...I'd get all the grammar. My problem was in trying to...to...to remember and to speak this language and to hear it and to answer...answer back. And so I began to make a little bit more progress that way. And then when we finally left, I was able to pass the examina-tion, but I always stuck with somebody that knew what they were doing for fear I would get asked something that I wouldn't know [laughs] how to answer. But it was a good beginning, because after that we had to learn a...an African language. But that one didn't phase me half as much because of the...I suppose, having gone through one more or less traumatic experience [laughs] language-wise, the second one was...was a lot easier, I felt, coping with.
ERICKSEN: What does the mission do if you don't pass the test?
BRAIN: Well, from Portugal, if you don't pass the test, then you can't get a visa to Angola, or that's the way it was in those days. So you'd have to just stay there until you...you know, you would be able to pass it. And the test was very, very simple. There wasn't really very much to it. But it was just a beginning, because all of your dealings with government officials or anything like that is all...was all done in Portuguese, and so you did have to be able to, you know, to communicate somewhat. But it...especially when you're working with it year after year, after a while it becom...it's...it's not quite so...quite so bad. I don't know what they would do if somebody couldn't...couldn't pass.
ERICKSEN: What's Portuguese like?
BRAIN: Portuguese is very similar to Spanish. There are many many words that are alike, and the pronunciation is a bit different, although there are different pronunciations of Portuguese as well. It's a Latin based language. Several words, if you looked at them, you'd probably know what the meaning was just from...because of your...we've...so many words in English that come from these same stems. But the pronunciation would be a bit different. But it...it's not all that difficult, I don't think, to learn. It does have some irregularities in their verbs, but I think English probably is a lot worse, [pauses] trying to...to learn them.
ERICKSEN: Then when you got to Angola, you...is that where you began work on the...the next language?
BRAIN: Yes. After we were there, then we...I had to start in language study again. And so this time I got pregnant again [pauses] and I wasn't able to attend the class that everybody else was attending. So later on after I was feeling better and able to be up and around a little bit, one of the missionaries took another mission...not...a language course that one of our former missionaries had made up, called "Twenty Lessons in Nyemba" [Nyemba is one of the Bantu languages]. It was a very abbreviated thing and I had six weeks of language study with her, and that was the end of my language studies. I never took an exam, nobody ever asked me to, and that was...that was that. But I worked with it day after day after day, so that it was a...it wasn't a matter of just learning something and not, you know, not using it from then on.
ERICKSEN: What was it like coming into a new country with a baby on the way and a little baby alongside? Do you remember what it felt like [in ca. 1954]?
BRAIN: Well, I can...I'm not exactly sure when I had these...these feelings, whether it was before we ever went to Portugal, or if it was after we got into Angola, but I had always had sort of a deep fear: what would ever happen if I didn't make it as a mis-sionary, and we had to go home on my account, because I couldn't take it, or my health broke down or something along that line? Now maybe that's a normal fear for mission-aries to have. I don't know. But after we had arrived and...and we got into the work and I found out that I was able to...to cope with things, well, then I didn't have to fear anymore [laughs]. But that's...that's about the only...I think, the only fear that I had. I didn't fear the people or going to a different place. I think this...[pauses] culture shock [pauses] statement is sort of funny in a way. I...I never experienced any culture shock going that direction, and you expect it's going to be different and you just take it as it comes. I think you find the culture shock when you come back to the States and find things the way they are. To me that was far more of a shock perhaps than ever going to...to a mission field. But I think that was about the only fear really that I had, that I might not make the grade, and then as he had been brought up on the mission field, I mean, he would know what it was like. And it wasn't a matter of something being new to him. It was all old to him and he knew sort of what to expect and all, and...and I just always wondered, well, what would happen if...if...if I couldn't and I had to take him home, then what would...how would...how would I react to that? And that was my...my biggest fear, that until we had really settled into the work. And then after that that was gone.
ERICKSEN: What were your first impressions of Angola?
BRAIN: It was too hot. We landed at the...at the coast and it was very, very warm. I...I tried not to have any ideas in my mind of places where...when I get there, I will kind of form my own opinions afterwards. I don't like thinking about something first and expect-ing it to be this way or another way because it...you always seem so either disappointed or.... Nothing ever seems to be...be the same. So I didn't even try to picture what it might be like. I don't even think I saw any pictures of...of Angola to know just what it was like. I was a little afraid, I think, coming in be...simply because you're here in a land where they don't speak English, and therefore you have to rely on what you had learned in your Portuguese. But I came up country with a...another woman and she had two little children with her and then our two husbands traveled together up on the truck and we came out by train. And she spoke the language very very well. Her husband was the one that had the problems in their family. It was the other way around in ours [laughs]. So, as long as I stayed with her, I felt quite secure that we could...could manage. But we came up...up country. We had a hard time trying to get them to attend to us on the...on the train to take care of the children and to get our beds made up and all of these things. But as far as being afraid or, you know, having that type of a fear, I don't think either one of us did. It was all so new and so strange, and you just take one day at a time until you get to your destination.
ERICKSEN: Before we get any farther, I want to back up just a hair and ask you what you remember of Al and Mary Lee Bobby from Portugal?
BRAIN: I remember going to their house and I think we had bacon and I don't know whether it was pancakes or something that we hadn't had for a long long time [laughs]. And just having some really good fellowship with them. I'm not even sure I would even...when I...if I saw them, I don't know as I'd even remember them. Just the...the name, and I think we talked with them one other time when we were down here in this area, but I can't remember if we...if we saw them. But they took pity on us as we were there with the language study, and sort of [pauses] gave you like a shot in the arm. You know, when you get into a foreign country and you have...everything is their way, it's kind of nice to be able to get into an American home and then have it all our way just for one night or one...one meal. And I think we appreciated that much about the...the Bobbys, for their...their friendliness and their willingness to sort of be kind of what we needed at that time, to...to encourage us. And I felt that that one time was a real encouragement to us when we met them there.
ERICKSEN: What [pauses]...what's the responsibility of the wife [pauses] generally in AEF [Africa Evangelical Fellowship]? Is she sort of considered a missionary right alongside her husband? Is she expected to be involved in some aspect of the work?
BRAIN: The mission doesn't set down what you have to do. I think they feel that this is something that you have to make a decision on yourself. How much you're able to take, what you feel you're able to do. When we'd got there to Angola and after our second daughter was born, one of the missionaries said to us, "Well, now you have your family behind you. Now you can get down to business and get into the work." Of course, we had three more children after that, but that was her idea of a family. Two, that was it. Then I was working at the hospital part-time, and one of the, I can't remember if it was the nurse or if it was the doctor that we had there at that time, said for us...said to me, "Well, we really don't need you at the hospital. Why don't you just go home and take care of your kids and your husband. We'll take care of the work up here." So you get two extremes. You'll get the one side where your children are just sort of incidental and you take care of them as little as possible, ship them off as quickly as you can, so that you can get down to work and do all the things on the mission field that you're supposed to be doing. Others take the role that the home is the most important, and they don't do anything. And I try to hit a happy medium, because just staying in the house all the time and not having any kind of an outlet at all would have been, for me, most frustrating. So down through the years, I've tried to mix business and pleasure, as it were. And while the...the children were little, I...I worked in the...with... well, I did...I worked hospital a little bit. But then I did leave the hospital work until such a time as they decided that they really did need my assistance, and then I went back and worked. So I've been dabbling in...in and out of hospitals. I mean, the Lord knows my...my heart because it was a...I found it very difficult to leave the hospital work. I'd felt that I had...when I had applied even to the mission...mission board, I mean, this is the way I felt, that it getting [?] medical training. But the...somewhere along our first years of...of missionary work we heard of the ten missionary commandments, and I cer-tainly would like to get a hold of a copy of these. But one of them was, "Thou shalt not go to the mission field with the idea of doing the work for which thou hast been pre-pared for thou shalt not do it." And this was something that I found down through the years, because I really loved doing the...the medical work, enjoyed being in the medical work, and yet, although the Lord has allowed me to do it on occasion and I've been able to stick my fingers into the work again once and a while, it has not been my main work. And one...the one thing that I felt that I never wanted to do was the one thing that I ended up by doing almost my entire missionary career, and that was teaching. I worked at the Bible institute, actually filling in for someone else who had been filling in for someone else. And that's how I got started. And then taking over the junior church work from one of the nurses who...who had started it, that was while we were in Angola still.
ERICKSEN: What were you teaching?
BRAIN: At the Bible school, at the first, I finished off a course in Hebrews. That was the...[pauses] no it wasn't either it was in the book of James, I guess. One of the mis-sionaries...actually it was Mrs. Muir senior, and she was filling in for, I think, it must have been one of the Pearsons [Regina and Edla], who had been home on furlough. And something had happened that they had to be transferred quickly up to the mission, I think, it was in Cavangu at that time, and so I had to finish off teaching her...her course there. So that was my first introduction. And then I taught arithmetic for a little while. And then after that I...I can't remember what [pauses]...what actual courses I had. I remember there was one in [pauses]...I can't remember in those early, early years. I mean, the curriculum was all made up and they just handed it to you to...you know, to fill in.
ERICKSEN: So the Bible school wasn't just Bible courses?
BRAIN: No, no. It had other courses as well, because the...the...the mathematics was a very simple thing, but it was to help to teach these folk how to keep records so that when they were out in pastorates, when the offerings would come in, they were able to keep simple books, and...and write down things, so that...that math had a very definite purpose. It wasn't just to give them information on what to do, but it was to help them in their...in their village work.
ERICKSEN: Is there anything you had to do differently in teaching Angolans than you would do in teaching Americans? Any cultural characteristics of an Angolan that made teaching different?
BRAIN: Well, I think you had to put things down on a very simple level, because many of the concepts that you were trying to teach were completely new and different. I mean, when we taught like child-care, for example, I mean, there were some things that they had never even heard of or even considered. I mean, they do things the way it comes naturally, I suppose. And...and so some things that perhaps were commonplace to us were things that they had never even considered. So, from that viewpoint, I suppose there would have been some ways that you would have to try to put things down onto their...their level and try to explain it. And sometimes, something that was so very, very new, then you would have to go over it several times before it became apart of them. Also the fact that there were no textbooks, that you'd have to make up your own, then they would have to, you know, learn from that or else learn from some notes that you would make...make for them. But basically they...they were people that were eager to know, and...and so what you...what you taught them they...they wanted to...to learn. Sometimes you find it hard trying to get them to...to think. They can memorize anything, but if you're teaching them something, well...or they...they can learn it as it is, like learning a poem would be, but when you try to get them to think through something, and put down the why of it, or for example to think of an aim for a story or for a...for a Sunday school lesson, this was something that was very, very difficult. Another thing that was very different for them too was doing things in a series. They wouldn't start at the beginning like of a book and go through and teach it, you know, verse by verse or chapter by chapter along this line. So this was something else that was just strange and different to them and that you had to...had to teach them Sunday school lessons, going like on the life of a person, and starting going right through a whole life or taking a theme of some sort and going through. This was all very, very new and different and they had to see the importance of this.
ERICKSEN: How would they have done it if they'd have just been left to their own....?
BRAIN: They would just pick out anything, and then usually they'd just preach. There's no concept of teaching or training or carrying points along, on...on the average. I mean, you do have a few that really will give you something to think about, but most of them, they...they just don't. And the preach from Genesis one week and Psalms the next, or...you know, they...they just don't have any concept of starting off with something and building up on it and going back over them. I mean, the teaching principles seems to be completely lost. But memorizing, they can do that easy enough. But then if you have them read a verse and you say, "Now what does it say?" And they will turn right around and re-read it. They find it very, very difficult to take words, put them in their own words and to give it back to you. And I think that that is one of the hardest things. I mean, they can memorize anything, but if they can't work...work with it and understand what they're tyring to...trying to do, then it makes it a little bit harder.
ERICKSEN: Is there some way that you got through that other than repetition or....?
BRAIN: Sometimes you wonder if you're not there [pauses]. You try and you just have to keep...keep at it and hopefully they will begin to get the idea. This was why we went ahead and wrote out lessons for them to follow and to give them an idea. And if they have something that their following along with, well then they can kind of get caught up into the spirit of it and with the helps there they can...they've been able to manage fairly well. But on the whole, left to themselves, I think they would find it rather...rather difficult in trying to find these ideas, like an aim for them, you know, what really and truly am I working on here. But working with the teachers, talking with them and then various ones sharing information, I think, was very helpful and they...they began to see that there were even some examples in their own experiences that would bear out some of the things that they were teaching and then they would...they began to use these in their...in their messages too.
ERICKSEN: So was the difficulty for them sort of thinking on an abstract level? Is was that....?
BRAIN: Just plain thinking. They are so used to just memorizing. I mean, even...even the Portuguese in their training and their schools, they...they have a lot of...of memoriz-ing of things. And they...they learn...and the Africans are the same way. They...they would learn from this memory and we've found the same thing in Zambia. They...they're just taught and you...you hear them at the school there where the teacher will say something and they'll will parrot it, you know. And this just keeps going on until they learn something. They memorize very very quickly, but to try to find out exactly what they have learned is a little bit different. And a few of them are gradually...are able to...to tell you and can explain. But it's...it's very, very difficult to try to get them to...to be able to think through something, and to give you in their words what they have read. And that's just something that we just have to keep working on all the time and helping them to see [rustling noise], asking like leading questions to get them to...to pinpoint a word or an idea. And hopefully after two or three years of working with them like that they kind of get the idea of how to...how to go about it themselves.
ERICKSEN: Do you remember anything else about the school, about teaching?
BRAIN: Where? In Angola or in...
BRAIN: ...or in Zam...in Angola?
ERICKSEN: You don't have to. I....
BRAIN: In the earlier...in the earlier years, well, there was one rather funny incident. I suppose, it was way back in my very, very beginning. I was having...doing this math class, and Edla Pearson was in a...in a room adjacent. I don't know what she was teaching. But she was another one, you know, that grew up in the language like Bob did, so neither one of them had to learn it sort of thing. And so, I was in there with these math students and we were carrying on and I was getting so mad at a couple of them because all they wanted to do was talk, and they weren't putting their mind on their work. So finally I got good and mad and really let them have it. This was all in the Luchazi language. And Edla, who sat...(she told me this years later) she sat in the other room and just started to laugh and chuckle and chuckle. And she said to her class, "I think Dona Joana [name in Portuguese] is beginning to get the language." And they all had a big laugh and they could hear me hollering in there at them [laughs]. That was about the only thing I can remember though [laughs] in those...those early days.
ERICKSEN: What about the...the work at the hospital and the medical work? How did that fit into sort of the overall strategy of the mission?
BRAIN: In Angola?
BRAIN: In Angola, we used the...the hospital for a.... Well, there were...there were many things that were very very good that...in trying to reach both the workers.... We had Bible studies, not exactly Bible studies, but they used the Scripture Union readings each morning and...and the nurse would...would work with them on this. They always had a hospital evangelist who had meetings inside the hospital in the different wards, as well as with the out-patients when they...when they came. But also, when there were problems, the...the nurse that was working there, especially...(this was more in the time when I was there, because I can't speak of...of it more when they...when I wasn't working in the hospital) but we'd often have problems with some of these young girls coming in who were not living very morally. And we would have the opportunities to talk with them and to point out the Scriptures to them, I mean, girls that we knew from church. And so there...there was a real burden on the part...by...well, of like Jesse McGill when she was left there alone with this work to try to reach the spiritual needs of these people, and not just a [pauses] service for their...for their physical bodies as well. And there were [pauses]...there were many people that were, I think, reached there at the hospital, mainly through the hospital evangelist who would go, after he'd had his meetings, he would go from bed to bed, and speaking with all of the patients and having prayer with them and...and talking to them. And then other...out-patients, I don't know. I...he...I imagine he must have had some [pauses] cases out there too, where he would deal with them, because there would be people that eventually would start coming to the new believers class, that would come from some of his contacts there. So it wasn't just for...for healing. They...they really tried to...to help in the...in the spiritual realm as well, those that were working. And also if any of the people working there fell into sin, they were out. They were not allowed to work. And this also had an influence on them because even though you...they were needed, if...if they weren't walking with the Lord, then they were asked to leave the staff.
ERICKSEN: Point blank or was there sort of a...
ERICKSEN: ...disciplinary phase or....?
BRAIN: There was a disciplinary phase. And then if things worked out and they were able to come back or if they had, you know, had made a repentance and...and...and all. I mean, not immediately, but eventually, because we did have some that had some problems that way and they were allowed to come back eventually, but they were out of work for...for some time, and only after they really showed they were sorry for what they had done.
ERICKSEN: You mentioned junior church work. Was that something that was set up...
BRAIN: It was a beginning.
ERICKSEN: ...before you got there?
BRAIN: One of the nurses decided to...that they had to do something to get the chil-dren out of the...out of the church, because they were just, I guess you...in fact, maybe she just felt they were too distracting or maybe she just felt that they needed something on their own. And so she started writing up some very simple lessons and gave it two one of the nurses. And he would take the children out and then they would...they would have their own little...little group. But once [pauses] when I...when it was turned...turned over to...to me and they church work itself was growing and all, then we began a dif-ferent type of a program, by taking the children out at the...at the preaching time. But then during the summer when there wasn't any Sunday school, then the junior church met separately in one of the Bible school buildings, and then we would have our own... our own sessions. And then, for a time, we did have junior church the entire time. We didn't...it grew to such proportions [airplane flies overhead] that we stayed down in the Bible school building because we were having a hundred and eighty, two hundred chil-dren, and we had our own [pauses]...our own worship service and they had their little choir. We had one that...man that worked with those who were planning to be baptized, and he had them in a class. And the choir would practice in another room. And then we'd have our junior church and then they would separate into two groups, an older and a younger group, and then after the meeting was over, then they would walk through the woods with the teachers and go up to Sunday school, up to the main church. So that it...it...the junior church at that point was a little bit more involved and a little bit more organized. At the very beginning, it was...it was just to get them out of the church, where they would have their own lesson, but it wasn't a...it wasn't anything that was really planned for too much in those early, early years.
ERICKSEN: How did it develop over your whole period in Angola?
BRAIN: Well, it grew to be a very important thing. During the school year, we would just meet in the church, of course, until it was...this was after the...I should say, this was after the...the Bible institute had been closed for some years because of the government. This was during the war. And so when the Bible institute was closed down in 1967, we were not able to use the buildings down there for the junior church, so at that time things sort of came to a bit of a standstill. Then later on in '71, when we were able to have the Bible school again, they built other buildings, but right next door to the church, so that everything was more in one general area and not isolated in any way. And at that time, the junior church would just meet at the time of the...of the speaking. They would go out and they would have their own service. Then during the summer...by then I had taken over the Sunday school as well, and we [pauses]...and we changed the hour of the Sunday school to be before church, rather than after church. And then we...the using the buildings that we used for the Bible institute, we were able to break up into the various classes. And then junior church was held as usual. They would come...it would be in the main service until the time of preaching and then they would go out. Then in the summer months when school was out, we found that it was very, very difficult to find enough teachers to be able to teach Sunday school and to carry on some of the ministries. Because during those cold months, (our summer months there, or summer months here, July and August, are our cold time there), people would use that time to go on trips, so that attendance was a little less. We decided that at that time, instead of having Sunday school, then we would have a complete program for the children, so that they would have their own meeting from start to finish. And this is what...what we would do during those two months of...of time without...without Sunday school.
ERICKSEN: Now was...were the children that were involved children of members or were they children from the community?
BRAIN: Both. There were children of...of the community. Many of them had parents who were members and many of them just came and perhaps either one or...or maybe none of the parents of the...of the children would be there.
ERICKSEN: Were the children seen as a way to get...children of non-members seen as a way to get out into the community, or not really?
BRAIN: Well, I mean, they would come because children love anything. They love to come to any kind of a...of a meeting. They enjoy anything when there's some kind of activity. They're...they're right willing to go. I would imagine that there have been some who have been instrumental in helping to bring parents, especially if you have some kind of a...of a program that they're going to be...be in or...or trying to...to get them to bring parents. I don't know as we ever even made a poll in anyway like that to know how many of them were without parents that were there or whether they would just come... come on their own.
ERICKSEN: Were there any particular Bible stories that the Angolan kids really liked, that they seemed to respond to more, that...?
BRAIN: I don't know as there was any in particular. I mean, they seemed to enjoy anything that they...that they were taught and learning. I know that in Sunday school one time we had [pauses] as a draw card to try to get people to come on time...at the very beginning of our Sunday school session I had a flannelgraph story about a little Muslim girl from Africa, and the story was only supposed to be five chapters long. It should be five lessons and mine went on for months because we'd just have a little bit each time and then just leave her in a very tough spot. And they loved that, I mean, and some-thing carrying on and wondering what was going to happen next. And they...they enjoyed that...that type of...type of thing. I suppose like the...like David and Goliath and that sort of...sort of thing, I suppose would be very inter...but they...they just seemed to enjoy whatever you had to teach them.
ERICKSEN: What was it like raising...raising a family on the...on the mission field?
BRAIN: I think I found it much easier to raise them there than I would ever think of raising them here in this country, at least the way...the way things are now. I don't...I don't know of really what problems we had, maybe just because they didn't evolve into great problems. When they were sick, we had a nurse there, but we didn't have...have a doctor. The nearest doctor, when the children were little was two hundred and fifty miles away, and no radio or telephones. So lots of times you just had to rely on what the nurse was able to do, or else you just popped them into the car and left. When Bob Foster moved there in 1970, we were only a hundred miles away, but that still was about a five hour drive [pauses] in order to...to get to him. But the Lord in his graciousness and goodness, our children never did get all that...that sick that things weren't able to be...be taken care of. As far as schooling was concerned, we had seen some very adverse effects of some children who had gone off to...to school, and I think at the very first we just decided that we were never going to send ours away. You know how you can kind of get carried away with some of these things, because it didn't exactly work out that way. But the beginning years for all of our children, they had...had their schooling there at home. In later....
ERICKSEN: And you taught them?
BRAIN: Uh-huh. In later years, we could see that they really...the older...the girls when they were in their early teens, we could see that they...they really needed young people their own age. And at that time we did consider sending them away, and sent them down to, South West Africa [now Namibia] at that time...to Windhoek. And they were there in an English school. They didn't like it very well, but it was a...it was a good year all the way around, I think, because they...they really learned a lot more than just academics. But then after that they did come back to Catota, and they stayed on and... and our oldest finished high school by correspondence and then came home and went to Northeastern Bible College for a year.
ERICKSEN: What didn't they like at the....?
BRAIN: At Windhoek? Well, I suppose after having an American system of schooling for so long, this was more on the British, and I think that it was just a little bit different. They...they enjoyed it, I think. I think if they...they weren't happy in the home in which they stayed and I think that that made it more difficult. There was partiality shown, I think, between the two children that...that belonged to the couple there where they stayed, and what Sandy and Jewel [Brain] were allowed to...to have, food-wise and...and every-wise. And I think that this sort of built up a bit of rebellion and...and hard feelings and that had really nothing to do with school as such. I think as far as the school was concerned they were both quite happy. They enjoyed their...the students and...and they got along very well with them and they enjoyed the church in which they minister... fellowshipped and...and...and worked in. But I think the home situation was what had really made it unpleasant, which of course in many cases, I mean, even for children going off to boarding school and going to some of these places, it...the dorm parents either make or break the child as...as far as we can figure out. So they had that...that one year there, and were...and had learned considerable. Like I say, it was not all academics. There were many things that they...that they learned about [?] those...that year. And then when we came home in '75, of course, it was just...we thought it was supposed to be for six weeks, and ended up by being two years. So the one girl, she would have...she was almost through. She just had an elective actually to finish by correspondence, so she just went into a school situation there in Pennsylvania and finished off her last year and graduated from the high school. And the next one came out to Zambia with us for a year, and then she came back and finished her last year in this same school and grad-uated in Pennsylvania.
ERICKSEN: That was....?
BRAIN: Uh-huh. She [pauses]...she would have been six...well fifteen. And so she decided. We had left the decision to her. Did she want to go with us for a year and then return or did she just want to stay and carry on in the school. Well, she took six months to make up he mind and then she decided that she was too young to leave the nest so she came to Zambia, which was really good, I think, because she got to see where we were, she knew what work we were in, what we were doing, and so that, you know, in her lonesome moments, at least she, you know, sort of had an idea where we were and what we were doing. And then she came home and finished her last year of high school and then went into college right from there. Then Calvin had...he was the only one of the children that really asked to go away to school. He had also been studying by correspondence, was doing very well, but he really missed male companion-ship of his own age. And he would...he'd play soccer a little bit with some of the Zambian fellows, but things were just a little bit too...they're too different for him to, you know, actually be able to have real fellowship with...with boys of his own age. And so he asked if he could go away to Rift Valley Academy. So he had two years there, or a year and [pauses]...over a year and a half. It wasn't quite full two years. And then Betty, the last one, she...she's been doing correspondence. Now she is the one that's had perhaps the most problems academically. And we changed her over from a regular school curriculum to the Accelerated Christian Education [ACE] program, and she seems to be able to cope fairly well with...with this type of a program, because she doesn't always pass, but she can redo the work and then go on, which in an ordinary school setup, of course, is impossible. Therefore, she has been able to...to do this. And so we put her into this course a couple years ago and then when we came here to Lanham, we wanted to put her in this type of school so that she'd be able to carry on with it, and that's where she is now in, Lanham Christian. And then since she's been here she's had a few other problems with some of her studies, but the...the teacher has changed her from [pauses] certain books to others and so she's still able to carry on quite well. So, they've all had varying experiences [laughs] in and out of school.
ERICKSEN: Anything you'd do differently looking back?
BRAIN: As far as the education of the children are concerned?
ERICKSEN: Or just raising them.
BRAIN: [pauses] I don't know. I [pauses]...they've turned out fairly well. I don't know what I'd do to change [laughs]. I think to see them one by one going off into the Lord's work and following the Lord is more reward than what we could ever hope for. And I...I don't know how...I don't know what else different we...we might have...we might have tried.
ERICKSEN: Do you remember anything particular about difficult adolescent years when [pauses] there were, I don't know, your run-of-the-mill problems that made work on the field more difficult?
BRAIN: Well, it was at that early adolescent stage that we felt that these girls needed to get away, because especially since the oldest one had decided that she was in love with a Portuguese man who was seventeen years her senior. That was the...the one thing that was a little bit difficult to take. This went on and off and on for a few years, and even after she got back here in the States. But then the Lord undertook in both directions as far as he was concerned, as far as she was concerned and they were both very happily married to other people. So that was that one...one thing. [pauses] Sandra, I think the...the shock of what happened in Angola and having to leave what she felt was home, made it a very, very difficult year for her. And she...by then she was, what? She was seven...sixteen, seventeen.
ERICKSEN: That was the furlough in....?
BRAIN: In '75. And realizing that we couldn't go back, and it had a very, very...she went through a very, very difficult time. And outside of the home she would be very happy and sunny, and as soon as she was home she was just sort of like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She was very, very withdrawn, and mad and...and just found it very, very hard to...to cope with everything. And she had given her life to the Lord and had wanted to...to...to serve Him. And we had gone up...we were going to be going up to this missionary conference, and we felt that that could very well be a turning point in her life. She was determined she was not going to go. But at the last minute she decided to go, and it turned out to be the turning point of her life, because she did rededicate her life to the Lord. And...and then later she went back to that particular church and she went to Bible school there for a year. They have a Bible institute right in the church. And then she finished off three more years at Washington Bible College, and, of course, there she met her beloved and so....
ERICKSEN: The rest is history.
BRAIN: The rest is history [laughs], future and past. And Kris, well, so she's just graduated now and she's sort of [pauses]...well, it's a bit...I suppose in one way it's a little bit difficult for her now. She hasn't had any parental guidance close by for five years and now all of a sudden she's under our roof again and I think this might be...it makes a little.... But we...we try to remember that she is twenty-one and she must make her own decisions, and we have to learn to keep our mouths shut and we can give advice when it's asked for. And there's a real openness and...and...there so that we can make sug-gestions. Whether or not they're taken, it...it's up to her, of course, but....
ERICKSEN: What about [pauses] furloughs? You referred back awhile to how...to just the running around of furloughs and how you...it's almost impossible to get much...much done. Can you talk about that a little more?
BRAIN: Most of our furloughs have been very different. When we first came...came home, we lived in New Jersey. And at that time we were thinking of...of trying to get a small plane to take back for our work. So, at that time, with two small children, we stayed in...in one place there in New Jersey, and Bob worked on getting his pilot's license. And then we were able to buy a plane, and he and his cousin finished it, fixed it up, and then we were going to try to take it back to Angola. Well, of course, we never could. The government never would allow us to. So that was...I suppose that was one furlough that was sort of more or less normal, because we were at home and he would have, like, working hours. Our next one, we lived up in New England area, and the church had gotten a home for us. And that was...we were there most of the...most of the time. But we were only there for seven months. We had been on the field for seven years, and we came home and we only stayed seven months and then we went back. Because we were...we had been told that we were able to...I think, to start up the Bible school again or something, and then...then we found out that we weren't going to be able to, but it was after we had made all the arrangements to go back. So there were just seven months, all winter months, and most of the children in school. So there we were at home and then only had maybe about a month that we were actually running around doing the...visiting the various churches. Our next furlough was one that lasted for two years. And I suppose that one would be probably the most normal, I suppose, because we lived in...in a...in a home and had...Bob was working off and on running...riding... driving a school bus and things like that. And so...but we didn't run around as much at that time. But we did go out to conferences here and there, but it was...it wasn't all that...that bad. But I think this furlough has been by far the busiest one, or it seems to be. Now, I don't know if it's just because of our location, because we've had to go, you know, in different directions. But before, I mean, we've been in...we've lived in a different place every furlough, or whether it's because of the children [pauses]...spread. We go to...you know, to visit them. And [pauses] our churches, well, we've al...we've had this...most of the churches that are on our list now we have had almost the entire time. There have been a few new ones added, but we've had most of these right from our very early years and we've always gone to visit them at least once. But I suppose one of the times though when we did our visiting, we did it with the airplane, and that was...you know, that wasn't any...any sweat that way [laughs]. This way, this term, I don't know. It just seems like we've been gone so much, and...and maybe because we're older we feel it more, the traveling back and forth and going to some of these conferences. We've tried to get them in...you know, in areas so that you can be in different churches that are in the...in the...you know, in the general area, so that you get a lot of them over with in one...at one time. But it doesn't always work that way. So, this particular furlough, [pauses] well, right now we are in a twenty-five day period that we are here at home and that's the first time we've had that long for anything over a two week period since last February when we moved here. So it's just.... We were gone the entire month of March, half of April, half of May, and it will be ten days out of June that we're [pauses] away from the home.
ERICKSEN: Is that a hard way to spend a furlough?
BRAIN: Well, yes and no. It's fun being able to visit everybody, but I think what's hard is that, you know, you have your kids here and you haven't seen them in so long and you'd like to be able to spend as much time with them as possible, and yet you find that just the highlights of their life, their various programs like at the church, that you would like to be at, that's the time when you're away. And sometimes that's a little hard to take, because you'd like to be able to...to be there at that...at those particular times. And yet the Lord more than makes up for it. So we just gripe a little but don't really complain [laughs].
ERICKSEN: What have you noticed (this will be a double-layered question)...what have you noticed changing in the United States on your successive furloughs and what have you seen change in the churches?
BRAIN: Well, I think two things have sort of hit me this time that I never noticed quite so much. One is that in some of these churches, the...the people seem to be really very ignorant of...of what we're doing. Not just what we're doing but what missions in general perhaps is doing and I've been rather appalled at the...at the ignorance and wondering if it's because our letters have not been as informative as they should or if we are expect-ing too much of people or feel that they...they already know some of these things, and therefore we don't bother to...to mention them, because it seems so elementary. Another thing is when you...you come home and you find, since most of my dealings are with children I, this is where I...I...I look at these children. And you come home and you think, "Well, how am I ever going to reach a child and to explain to him what's going on on the mission field when they have got some of these sophisticated toys and these TV things and all." I...I just found that just sort of mind boggling. But then I...you know, I wonder, "Well, what am I ever going to say that would ever interest these kids who are so tied up with...with things that are so beyond me. I can't figure those things out." But I found that because of their ignorance really of missions and...and mission fields and mission works, that we've been able to...to have a good...good time with them and...and make it interesting for them, because they just didn't know anything about it. And I think that kids like to know new things. That's...that's probably why there's always so much new going on that you find here when you come back to...to the States, is that they're always wanting to explore new avenues. So that this was...would actually be sort of a new avenue to them because they knew so little about it. But that's the hardest thing.
ERICKSEN: Are you going to do anything with your prayer letters because of what you've seen, you've....?
BRAIN: Well, I...I think that maybe we'll be a little bit more...more basic. I mean, just for example, one of the churches that we had been writing too, and I had sent our...our letters to faithfully, and when we get...get here, we find out that the girl that had been taking our letters, and who has been supporting us and who has written to us for years on end, thought that the Bible school that we were referring to was a type of a Sunday school and that it was with children and not with adults. And yet you...when you talk about, we'd...we'd...in our letters we would write about the students and the students' children. And yet it just didn't seem to register and you thought, "Well..." you feel that, "Well, there is something wrong here, that we're not...not doing or...or reaching." And yet you go into another church and they would have understood fully. So, it's...it's kind of hard. I...I think that we'll probably try to be a little bit maybe more basic and not take too much for granted [laughs].
ERICKSEN: How do you decide...first of all, who does the prayer letters?
BRAIN: I do.
ERICKSEN: And how do you decide....? Do you do them...how...what...with what frequency? Are they monthly, try to be monthly?
BRAIN: No they don't even try to be monthly. They try to be four times a year.
BRAIN: We have had a different approach to the prayer letter than most. We type a letter to each of our churches. Now at one time we had twenty- four supporting churches. This is down to nineteen and it will probably be down to about seventeen that...when we go back this time. We type out a letter to each of these churches and then we make carbon copies as we're going along for various friends of ours that aren't in these churches, or like for the home office or the international office so that they get a copy of our letter. And this is what we have been...what we will do. So that there will be, like say, those nineteen copies plus roughly fifty carbon copies to...to various indivi-duals. And some have written and they say, "Well, look, I...I would like to have my own copy because I need it for something or other even though the church gets one." And so we would...we...anybody that asks like that, we will add them on to...to our list. So we try every four months. It doesn't always work that way but we try. It...it's at least three times a year we'll get one out. And then we have a list of, I think it's at either twenty-five or twenty-eight, at this point, of personal supporters. And I have those on a list so that every month I write to eight of them, so that they will get about four letters a year, either a letter or a postcard. But on the postcard I...I put quite a bit of information with very little writing so that it doesn't look like I'm trying to cheat them [laughs]. And then we answer all personal letters, so that...that's my job too.
ERICKSEN: Does that get to be quite a job at times?
BRAIN: Well, it's a job. And it's hard but it's something I don't mind doing. I enjoy writing. I get behind sometimes. In fact, I'm usually behind. But people have been very, very patient, you know, and they know that eventually they'll...they'll hear, so we haven't had too much problem that way. We've...in fact, I think in all of the years, we've only had maybe two or three people that have asked us if we send out a prayer letter. And obviously, because enough information filters back to the church or from these. Our prayer letter, we call it "Brain Waves." That's...that's the name of it. And so it's not...sometimes it's not exactly a letter and we try to put different [pauses]...different things in it and so it's more like a...a report or just do it different...differently each...each time.
ERICKSEN: How do you decide what to put in?
BRAIN: Well, sometimes I'll just ask Bob if he has anything that he wants to say or...and then occasionally we'll...we'll have one that would be...just involve the children [clears throat]. And then we'd put down different things the kids are doing. Or it might be one that will be entirely on the Bible school [clears throat]. And it's just [pauses] things that...that sort of come up at that particular time. And sometimes I feel that I've written enough of them, so I'll say, "Alright, now you do one." And so he'll try to figure up some...something to...to say. We try to keep them fairly brief, because we know that most people, when they get a letter, if it's too long they immediately put it down. So we try to keep it to the minimum and yet to get enough information across so that it's helpful.
ERICKSEN: You sort of described your whole prayer letter program. Is it...and it is...it sounds different than...than other...what other missionaries use. Has it been effective...
ERICKSEN: ...for what...what you've wanted it to do?
BRAIN: ...I feel it has because the...the churches feel that they've, you know, that they've received enough information from us. And in many of our churches we have individuals that are writing all the time and they share information back and forth too. So that whatever you have for information to...to the church as a whole, or if...if it comes to them personally, if there's something in there that they would...would share or let others read the letter. So that the information usually gets around. We have found it...it's been a...it's been a big job, because it's...when you...everything is...is personal. But we feel that it has really paid off in...in...in prayer support, and...and in...in just keeping us there on the field all...all these years, is all...they just know what's...what's going on and they...they feel that we have responded. We've had some of the churches tell us that they'll send the money into a missionary and they...they never hear from them. And... well, I mean, that kind of makes you feel good, because you, you know, sometimes we feel that we haven't done enough or haven't written enough. But at least we've written. And some of these others have...haven't been even that faithful.
ERICKSEN: What do you find is the most valuable thing that local churches do for you in terms of support?
BRAIN: Well, we appreciate the...the letters, when people will write. I mean, we have some churches that have been spoiling us for years, and...and we, well until this particular furlough, we really didn't know but maybe two or three people in the whole church. We...we went to a conference...well, in fact, they had called us in...in January and had asked us if we would be available to come to their...their missionary conference. And we said, "Well, we're already booked for that week but we'll see if we can get away for those two days, and then we will let you know." So we contacted the head of the committee here, and it...because it was in this church here that we were going to be ministering, and, "Oh," they said, "Yes, it will be alright because there's nothing really much going on those particular days, but so long as you're there for the two weekends, it's's no problem." So we phoned back and said, "Yes," that we would be able to go. And so Bob said, "Well, we're really looking forward to meeting your pastor." Dead silence on the other end of the line. He said, "We don't have a pastor." He said, "He left." "Oh. Well, how long ago did he leave?" "Oh, he's been gone over two years." We had had no communication from that church in almost three years. The money came in faithfully, but we didn't know anything that was going on. So that you like for the churches, you know, to take that much of an interest in...you know, in knowing where their money is going. I mean, they want to hear from us. Well, we'd like to hear from them as well. And then we appreciate those that do things, like send things if...you know, if they can food...food things or like books for the children. I mean, years gone by, we used to get lots of parcels, food parcels or things for the kids. And I suppose now that they're all grown up they feel they don't need that sort of thing. But there have been a lot of people that have been very good this way. And several people now are very interested in sending out seeds and in also doing something for the...for the children out there. They have been getting toys for...for Christmas or different things, you know, to...to help with the...with the children there. So that I think that by and large the people are beginning to get a little bit, maybe a little bit more interested and want to...want to help out in these ways.
ERICKSEN: Have you ever had churches withdraw their support from you?
BRAIN: We are in the process of having one now. And it's my own home church. And simply because they have become a very separatist church, and they feel that our mission is not that separate for their liking, and therefore they wrote us some years ago and told us that they would keep us on until at the end of this furlough. So we just expect, although they haven't sent...they haven't written a letter since. This was way back maybe in '78. They haven't sent a letter since saying anything else. So that we just presume that at the end of our furlough year, that that would be the end of that particular church. But all of our other churches, I can't think of any that have...that had been supporting and then...and then dropped. In fact, most of them have added on as inflation comes and they've...they've added...added financial help.
ERICKSEN: What's AEF's [Africa Evangelical Fellowship] policy if...do you have to be up to full support to go back out, or do you have to be at a percentage level? How does that work?
BRAIN: I would imagine it would have to be up to a certain percentage level, because I don't think that we are up to what they consider the Zambian standard. And then there are different levels as well, because there are different things that you can...can raise...get raised support or raise your own support for, like for education of your children, or for car allowance, and all these things which are over and above what your regular support would be. And of course, if you raise your own money, well then, you can get...get that extra. But some of the...they have a standard for each field and Zambia is rather high because things are expensive, and in fact, so much stuff is not available and therefore it has to be gotten elsewhere. And therefore it makes things a little bit...a little bit higher. But [pauses] it...it seems to me that even when we went out to...to Zambia at first, I don't think that we were quite up to what they considered the...the full support ought to be for the Zambian field. But it was enough. And I would imagine if you were below a certain percentage, that they would insist that you would have...have that much. I know when Dave and Sandy first went out, they had to have [pauses]...they had...that was the first term, first time, and they had to have so much before they were allowed to go. I mean, they've already booked us on the plane so obviously we must be in the right bracket at this point [laughs].
ERICKSEN: Well, I see we're at the end of our allotted time, so thank you very much.
ERICKSEN: I enjoyed talking.
BRAIN: It's been fun.
END OF TAPE