This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Malcolm Maurice Sawyer (CN 256, #T1) 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. Chinese placenames are spelled in the transcript in the old or new transliteration form according to how the speaker pronounced them. Thus, Peking is used instead of Beijing, because that is how Sawyer pronounced it.
Chinese terms and phrases which could be undestood were spelled as they were pronounced with some attempt made to identify the accepted transliterated form which corresponds to it. In very few cases, words were too unclear to be distinguished, so the word "[unclear]" was inserted. This is a transcription of spoken English, which of course follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
() Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Christopher Easley and Paul Ericksen, and completed in February 1990.
SHUSTER: This is an interview with Mr. Malcolm Sawyer by Robert Shuster for the Missionary Sources Collection of Wheaton College. The interview...this interview took place at Mr. Sawyer's home in Wheaton on September the 27th at 9:15 a.m. Mr. Sawyer, could you tell me a little about your family background?
SAWYER: Yes. At the turn of the century my grandfather was given up to die with TB in Gilford, New Hampshire...Lincoln, New Hampshire. His friends around said that his large family of seven children would be paupers and he would end up in the "county farm", as they called it in those days. He heard about meetings of Dr. A.B. Simpson at Old Orchard, Maine. And he went up there and at those meetings they were not only talking about missions and the Scriptures and particularly the deeper life as they learned in those days, but also on healing. And at that time he was anointed by oil, and he was healed of his TB. We came along much later, of course...the grandchildren. We were always so grateful to God for allowing him to have life, and new life and physical life, and newness. And so he began to really live for God, and...
SHUSTER: So he'd been a Christian before?
SAWYER: He was a Christian before...nominal Christian. But he really got turned on after these things, and it was his great desire that all of his family might come to know God, and also his neighbors and friends. He was greatly concerned. Even the beggars and stuff who in those days would walk along the road...he'd pick 'em up and give them apples or something or give them food. And he was greatly concerned about everyone. Well, in my early days, I remember very young that his youngest daughter farewelled to go to the mission field of South China. That's when I was very, very young...
SHUSTER: The Alliance?
SAWYER: That's right, one of the Alliance to...south China. Then the youngest son went to Boston Bible school with Dr. Tenney. They were friends...
SHUSTER: Merrill Tenney?
SAWYER: ...in those times. Yeah, Merrill Tenney...in those early days. And of course, Merrill Tenney went on to different ways and my uncle went to Nyack after Bo...the Boston Bible School. It was run by a fellow by the name, I think, of Daddy Hartman [laughs], whose daughter and...was a missionary to China and the Stebbinses today are all around the world. In fact, one of the granddaughters is married to the head of our missions group in Nyack...David Moore. So that's just a little history there. Then my uncle was a Baptist preacher from that time on. He's still living now up in East Machias, Maine...almost up in New Brunswick...retired...
SHUSTER: And his name is...?
SAWYER: His name is James Sawyer. And he was the one that led me to the Lord when I was about eleven years of age...it would be 1930. And so then, I went to...as a young man...a young fellow...to Old Orchard, Maine, and got greatly turned on with the good Bible messages, particularly missions. And one of the speakers, as far as missions in those days, was Robert Ekvall. And he gave an appeal for west China. And I stood to my feet and said, "I'll answer the call." I felt definitely the call of God at that young age...I think in about 1933...to be a missionary to the Tibetans in west China. So that was the beginning of my call to missions. And then afterwards, in 1938, I went to Nyack Bible College (it was called in those days a missionary training institute) [laughs]. That was a main altar place in those days. And graduated. And then my wife came and...
SHUSTER: Did you meet her at Nyack?
SAWYER: Met her at Nyack. She's from Louisville, Kentucky...an Alliance church in Louisville, Kentucky. And also to be...be...it might be of interest, because of the healing of my grandfather, I'm probably what I am today as far as missions and being on the mission field all these years. My wife has a...has a similar background. Her mother had TB of the hip bone, and...she was healed at the F.F.B.B. Bosworth meetings in Louisville back...in the...see...back in the early twenties in Louisville, Kentucky. And her husband was given up, you might say, as far as living too much. He was a drunk. He was of German descent from the hills of Kentucky. But he was gloriously saved in a Baptist Church. And they went with the Alliance Church afterwards which was founded out of those meetings, and they were some of the early founders of the first Alliance church in Louisville, Kentucky. And strong missionary emphasis in the church all those years. And her son... (she had one son before she had this sickness for many years)...and then the doctor said because the hip bone was so small that she would...wouldn't be able to have any more children. But after she was healed, within nine months she had a big son, about eleven or twelve pounds [laughs]. And he became a pastor. He's since died in the seventies with a heart attack. My wife was the second one and she's been with us...I mean with me...all these years [laughs]. And then the next one was a daughter...third one was a daughter...was married to a district superintendent now with the Christian Missionary Alliance down in North Carolina. And the youngest is a son who is now...he'll be editor of the...of the Alliance Witness within days now of the first of October. He's been a great preacher through the States, and has been responsible for getting out many, many scores of young people to the mission field.
SHUSTER: And his name is...?
SAWYER: Dr. Morris Irvin...
SAWYER: ...of...recently was pastor of the Allegheny Center Alliance Church in Pittsburgh, but now'll be moving to Nyack the first of October to take over the responsibility of editor of the Alliance Witness.
SHUSTER: So Irvin is also your wife's maiden name?
SAWYER: My wife's maiden name was Irvin.
SHUSTER: You had the call to be a missionary then when you were [pauses] about fourteen?
SAWYER: About fourteen years of age in Old Orchard, Maine.
SHUSTER: And your intent was to be a missionary in western China?
SAWYER: That's right. Because of Robert Ekvall I felt def...definitely led to west China among the Tibetans.
SHUSTER: How did you eventually come to Laos?
SAWYER: Because China closed. We went to China first! We did obey Gods call. The Lord opened the door for us to go in 1947, across China to west China, and we studied Tibetan for one year in the monastery town of Labrang, west China or Gansu, way up next to the Tibetan border. So it was a great experience: seven thousand Buddhist priests in a big monastery. And we weren't able to stay there because in 1949 the American consulate in Chungking advised us to leave. So we went to south China for a period of time...a few months. We had a mission in Kwangsi Province, which is north of Hanoi, where we stayed and studied Mandarin for a few months in 1949. Then China was slowly closing. The communists were advancing throughout China, and so we went to Hong Kong. In 1949, August, we went to Saigon and studied French in Dalat because the French were still there. We hadn't any previous experience in French, and [pauses] for a year we studied and then we went to Laos...
SHUSTER: That was in 1950?
SAWYER: 1950. We went into Laos...quite a different experience [laughs]. It's a primitive country. We flew in from Saigon to Vientiane the capital. We were supposed to be located in the royal capital about 300 miles north...in the city of Luang Prabang...to study the language. That was in September. It was the height of the rainy season. The river there comes up about twenty feet [laughs].
SHUSTER: The Mekong?
SAWYER: Yeah, the Mekong River. And there was no pavement on the runway in Luang Prebang, just grass, and so it was muddy [laughs]. So we did get in there in late September...early October, and we lived there studying the Lao language until...until we came on furlough in '54. Then we went back there and lived until 1959.
SHUSTER: And after 1959 you went to Thailand?
SAWYER: No. We...we worked with a church. Now the church in northern Laos was among the Khmu tribespeople in that day. The Lao are Buddhists and they never believed. They would make fun of us. And the missionaries were there since '28, but they had very little success among the Lao along the riverbanks where they live in the cities because of Buddhism. "Buddhism...you know Buddha is older than Christ, and why should we take something newer when Buddha is... you know...he's been around longer than Christ." That was their reasoning. So, temples every other block like you have here, and the priests going down the road to beg [clock strikes] for their alms and food every morning. So everybody was a Buddhist...every family was a Buddhist. So it was very difficult. But outside town were the animist people, the Khmu, who were there before the times of the Lao or the Thai, who came from China, the time...when Christ was born or about in that time. And they were some of the original tribespeople of the area, and they're probably the largest segment of tribespeople in northern Laos. And so we worked among these people, and in the area there were twenty villages of [pauses] Christians over a period of years. There was a Bible training school there that was training people. But in 1950 to the east in Xieng Khoung Province, where the Meo lived... the Miao of China, who are called Hmong now, living in this country, were the beginning of a great peoples movement. And so we had Christians overnight. Hundred...two...three hundred, and ran up to a few thousand. They were the illiterate. So sometimes they would return to their spirit worship because they had no leadership. Missionaries had to travel on foot and among 'em, and so it was quite difficult most days. (That's a big long story of how the church just started among the Meo...the Hmong as they are all over this country now. Strong church).
SHUSTER: And I want to go into that. But before we go into that...just to sketch out where you were after Laos?
SAWYER: Yes. Now after 1959 with church planting in Luang Prabang, we came to Vientiane to open up a Bible school. A Bible school from 1951 until 1960 was in the province and city of Xieng Khoung, which is near Hanoi near the border of North Vietnam. The Viet Minh came in there and overran that town several times and then finally in 1960 it was lost, for a combination of rebels in the Lao government and the communists. They...they worked together and so the Bible school was lost. And so in 1960, I was asked to come and start a program of Bible training in the city of Vientiane, the capital which is down near the Thai border on the shores of the Mekong River. And that was...difficult days. Inflation was terrible. We bought all of our food in Thailand, even for all our missionaries, for the most part. And we started a Bible school. We had no funds. We rented a building with the roof shot off, where they had fighting in those days. And we repaired it and started off Bible training school in the bottom of our house [laughs]. [Unclear phrase] And in 1963, we had a first graduating class of students, who were mostly Meo or Hmong people. That was a beginning of a stronger church among the Meo or the Hmong tribespeople who...they're the bulk of the Church of Christ in northern Laos.
SHUSTER: And after '63?
SAWYER: After '63 we continued on in Vientiane until 1975. I worked in the Bible school from about 1960 to about 1970 or '71, with furloughs in between. During that time we bought two and a half acres on the edge of Vientiane. And we put up a school in that area, one of the nicest schools of the Christian Missionary Alliance in Southeast Asia. All reinforced concrete buildings. We set up courses. The educational standard of Laos continued to increase (they're almost zero in the beginning). And then we went from third grade up to high school. And so we had to change our courses all the time [laughs] because advance in education. Now, we have a map before us here. We see Luang Prabang is up the...on the Mekong River...not probably only a few hundred miles south of the China border...of Yunnan. And all mountainous Laos is mountainous, very mountainous, all through Laos. And the Lao live along the river banks. Up from the river banks are the Khmu tribesmen, in...in here, and then there's different tribes in southern Laos. On the tops of all of these mountains are the Meo or the Hmong, who numbered six hundred thousand. They're from the seven million who came out of south China originally. There're millions of Meo and Miao or Hmong, different dialects...in south China today, but they came over three hundred years ago to northern Vietnam, northern Laos, northern Thailand, and...mainly, possibly, to find ground for opium. Opium wasn't being able to be used...rather...grown in China, and so this being a neutral area...the Hmong came there. That was their prosperity: raising opium and pedaling it...selling it.
SHUSTER: And the school you were at until '75 was...?
SAWYER: Until '75, I was in Vientiane, right here, on the capital, right next to Thailand. It's right there actually. The...it's just across the border from Nong Khai, Thailand. And we still have a...had a big camp there in recent years from the refugees of Laos. After 1970 to '75, we were asked to take over the literature department of the mission. And so we began to expand the literature program...literature to the churches...
SHUSTER: Still in Laos?
SAWYER: It was in Laos, yes...yeah. And we did that until we had to leave in 1975, when Laos fell to the Red government.
SHUSTER: And after '75, you went...?
SAWYER: '75...we came back here. We were greatly perplexed, and greatly concerned about the people. But, [pauses] when we left in '75, hundreds and thousands of Hmong or Meo tribesman fled across Thailand...across the border into Thailand. They were the fighters...the freedom fighters...the fighters trained by U.S. government in the early days, and later assisted [phone rings]... so we...[phone rings, footsteps across floor]. (Maybe you can shut the door.) [Footsteps, phone rings, door slams] The Hmong fled from Laos in 1975, because they were fearful for there lives. And so we were concerned about them in Thailand. And in '76, we were asked by our mission to go back and we worked with these refugees in Thailand for a period of months. And then we started right her in Wheaton. We lived in the Furlough Homes at that time, and we started sponsorship of the Hmong here, first through the College Church. We made an appeal through there, and some of the men...(Mark Taylor was one of them)...they did...their budget was committed for the year...it was late in the year, but some of these men took these first people right into their homes...and some of the of the people in the Wesleyan Church up here also. So that was the beginning of the Hmong refugees here in Wheaton area...was begun by my wife, actually, for sponsorship. And today there's a large community here, and they have their own church, still in the Wesleyan church every Sunday afternoon.
SHUSTER: Well, I guess that sketches out pretty much your...your travels over the last few decades. It's been quite an odyssey. When you...after you had your...you'd heard Robert Ekvall speak back in '33, and you'd got a call to be a missionary, what exactly did that call mean to you? What did you see yourself as going to do?
SAWYER: Well, I might go back a little bit farther than that. I was really turned on at Old Orchard, Maine in...in Bible study. And my own spiritual life really took on a new shape and I really got into reading and studying the Word of God as a very young person in those days. And so the good preaching there meant a great deal to me. And when I came back to Laconia where I lived in...in New Hampshire, I was always very, very regular in all meetings. Every time the door was opened in the church I was there, prayer meeting and all. And I grew by leaps and bounds spiritually in those days. And so it was confirmed by the Word of God...the call of God. And I felt directed to go to Nyack in preparation for the...for the mission field. I had no doubt from that time on. But I think it was enhanced by the study of God's Word, and I advanced very rapidly those days as far as a spiritual understanding of...of many things. And so I felt the call of God was just...got larger and larger until I arrived at...at Nyack. And...I mean I weren't that much of an angel. But I did comprehend these things. And then we looked to the Lord, and I believe the Lord sent my wife along, too, at the right time. She was a few years younger. And...met her, and...and we got married, and everything has fallen in line ever since. And my brother-in-law, who's a pastor, was here a couple of weeks ago, and he...he said "Do you...don't you miss Asia, Laos, or even Hong Kong?" (where we were recently). And I said, "No." I said, "We have another new ministry now," and my life has always been out front [laughs] And we feel that we're in God's will right presently...whatever, where we're working now. So that's...that's how things worked out.
SHUSTER: Were your parents also in Christian work?
SAWYER: No. My parents...my father actually was a little bit stubborn [laughs] concerning spiritual things. My grandfather was...was the great spiritual leader, and he prayed for all of his children, (seven children), and over a period of years they all became Christian. My father was the last one to totally yield to God.
SHUSTER: And his name was...?
SAWYER: Maurice Sawyer. If you told him when I was young that... if you asked him if he was a Christian, he would admit it but he wasn't living like a Christian [laughs]. His habits weren't bad, but he didn't have time for church, and his main thing was making money [pauses] on a farm. He had a nice...very nice farm. So he didn't have time to go to church. He didn't have time to pray. He never prayed over his food or anything in those days. But I realized that it was wrong because I was studying the Word of God and I was going to church all the time, but wasn't critical, but... There did come a crisis because I said in 1938 that I felt called to go to Nyack, and my father said, "Well, why don't you stay on the farm? There's plenty of money here. You won't get any money if you grow up to be a preacher," (a missionary in those days). And I told him that I had felt the call of God was greater than his advice, which didn't make him very happy, and so he never gave me any support [laughs] as far as going to Nyack. But I knew God was in it so I never held it against him. In fact he changed his mind in the later years and realized that he had done wrong. And so God answered my grandfather's prayer for him. And since that day...(I might say, there's over twenty-five grandchildren, and a lot of them are scattered throughout the earth in Christian work). In fact, I have an uncle right down the street here, who's...all of his children have been through [pauses] Wheaton College, and many of his grandchildren...John Sawyer. And as a result of my grandfather's experience back in 1900, John has been a strong Christian and all of his family, and some of his family have been missionaries and pastors. And they're still great Christian people today...his own children.
SHUSTER: Did your mother support your missionary call?
SAWYER: She always quietly supported my missionary call, but she was obedient to her husband. She obeyed the Scriptures. And she always supported me in every way. In fact, I use to send my clothes home for her wash every...[laughs]...every few weeks from Nyack. And [pauses] so.... But since that day she has been very supportive. She's still alive (eighty-eight within a few days), and very strong in the church, loves God supremely, and prays constantly for [pauses] the work of the Lord throughout the world.
SHUSTER: And her name is...?
SAWYER: Her name is Rachel Sawyer, who is still living in Gilford, New Hampshire, near where I was born, and spends her winters in Florida with her younger brother.
SHUSTER: Did you have a large family?
SAWYER: Four children. I'm the oldest. I have a brother in New Hampshire. I have a...the third one is a brother...is in Florida. And the youngest is a sister who is a graduate of Nyack, Houghton College, and has worked for eighteen years...child evangelism...the head of child evangelism in Maine. And three or four years ago she married a widower pastor and now they have family ministries traveling throughout the eastern United States. They just were here just the other day in this area of Illinois. And they're traveling constantly. She's the baby, but been used of God greatly.
SHUSTER: When you were deciding to go for higher education, was there any...how did you select Nyack?
SAWYER: I...I, of course, I belong to Christian Missionary Alliance. We had a Christian Missionary Alliance church in Laconia. And I felt definite that I should go to Nyack in those days. I didn't have much finance to go on, and I realized how much it cost. It only cost $300 in those days [laughs]. That's all I could scrape together. And we...I had to work to get through Nyack. So that's one of the reasons I went there.
SHUSTER: It was really the only school you considered?
SAWYER: That's right. I didn't consider Wheaton at that time. I wasn't out this way...didn't know anything about it too much as I have in recent years. And I've had...since that time, three of my children have graduated from Wheaton.
SHUSTER: Did...looking back now from your...from your experience as a missionary in many countries, [pauses] how do you evaluate the kind of preparation you got at Nyack?
SAWYER: I think it was great as far as for missions. They've greatly increased in recent years. And I think it was...as far as education it was kind of in a low ebb in those years...and...although Doctor Simpson emphasized it. But I don't think that it was as strong as it should have been. And they realized that in the 50's and they started to increase or to advance as far as their scholarship [pauses] help there, and went to more years. And today, as...as...as far as the grad school, it's...it's a great school.
SHUSTER: What particularly... you say your training there was great. In what way was it...
SAWYER: Well it prepared...
SHUSTER: ...helpful to you?
SAWYER: ...us for...for the...for the work of missions. They're very strong on missions in their missions courses. And teachers were from the mission field...they had great experience. And [pauses] also, they...they...when we went to the field...(they screen 'em better today)...but they were screening them then pretty...pretty good, as far as background and being able to adapt in every way. They didn't have psychology tests like they do today. But they...they screened ya. And also we went to a...a preparation school as far as language in North Carolina...Montreat, before we went to the field. They do have a program now in Toronto that...where all of our missionaries are screened [pauses] as far as language. And if you don't make that, then they won't let you go to the field. And then when you get on the mission field they're very strict, too. We have two units of language study and five different courses. And if you don't pass 'em, they send you home at the end of two years or before. And you're responsible for all the funds that you've [laughs]...expe...have used, too. So they...they're quite strict. And that's one emphasis as far as missionaries, that we have to really get the language. All...all Alliance missionaries going to the mission field throughout the world. That's very very strong.
SHUSTER: Before they arrived there?
SAWYER: Well, when they arrive. I mean, they study there. For instance, in our day we had private tutors. But today in many of the countries they go to...to the universities. For instance, Bangkok. People were in the university and studied Thai. And it's a concentrated course, and so they really have to make it.
SHUSTER: What particular courses at Nyack were helpful to you? What...what was your course of study there?
SAWYER: Well, we had a lot of biblical courses, but we had Christian missions, and...and like that...a mis...missions courses. And that was, you know, giving a background as far as what missions had...had done through the years, and so forth and adaptation. So... Oh, there's a lot of things we didn't...we had to learn when we got to the...got to the field [pauses] as far as the culture of people, cross-culture and so forth. I mean, there was a changing of things when we went to the mission field. Before that, missions kind of supported national pastors and so forth. They were like the colonials in Southeast Asia. They went through the jungles with big groups of people, and...you know, and carried their food and all. But after the war, when we got there, then we tried to adapt to the culture by taking packs on our backs when we went into the jungle, and ate with the people and slept with the people, and...and...worked with the people. Not apart from the people coming in as great warlor...or great lords, but as one of the people. So...that's how we learned in the early days is by being with the people. And I used to go out with the national pastor and every weekend I'd study in the language and listen [emphasized]. First of all, you're a know-nothing when you arrive on the mission field. Here you have church responsibilities and so forth. But there, you're only to get the language and to listen...and don't say anything or ask questions, but you don't give your advice too much. You're just there to learn. So [pauses] we learned that well. And the older missionary set us up in...in language study. And then on weekends we went out and I just listened...listened to the language, and saw...looked with my eyes how...how the national worked with his people and how the people were brought to the Lord. And we began to teach them. They were illiterate. Then you found someone who was literate in the village, and he was the first leader...the elder. And so you started to pour things into him, and saying, "Now you should have this service when we're not here." Because then you used to go once a month or once in two months to a village, because they had so many, and you only had a few workers. And so then we brought in elders [pauses] for elders conferences, maybe for four or five days during the week. They couldn't stay longer than that because they were afraid of what would happen to the people in the village [laughs]. And so that's how the work got going. Then we went into youth conferences. We had the elder (when we weren't there) to teach literacy, because they didn't have schools in the villages in those days. So the young people were taught literacy and taught how to read and write through the village Christian elder. And then we brought them in for our youth conferences. Then the young people of all the villages around...we brought them to our property and they went to the local Laos school in the city of Luang Prabang. So we had many young people in their early teens on our property. My wife used to stay home and take care of the services while I went with the pastor out to the villages. When I got the language, then the pastor would go in one direction and I would go in another. And so that's how the work began to develop [pauses] in these different centers in Laos. And then after the youth conferences they grew up and these young people were the people who came to Bible school. And then they became the pastors. And they're the leaders today of the Christian church in Laos. (They're up in their thirties, forties, fifties.) Many pastors are still there, carrying on or supervising a church. But that's...that's how it began early back then.
SHUSTER: And now of course...I...are Christian schools still permitted in Laos?
SAWYER: No, no, no, no.
SHUSTER: So it's...
SAWYER: It's all government schools. We didn't, as far as the Alliance, we never...we never had Christian schools. We had hostels, and had...helped the young people as far as living in town and they attended the schools. Then later, they had schools through the countryside...
SHUSTER: Well, I meant Bible schools that...
SHUSTER: ...that you were describing.
SAWYER: The Bible school is not functioning. That's a great concern today. I pray about that constantly, that there might be teaching all of the young people who are there, somehow. I don't know how it's...how it's going. We don't have too much correspondence from the people there. Once in a while we get a letter, and they always say that we're very, very poor. We don't have anything. Laos is probably one of the poorest countries in Asia today under the communists. And we're greatly concerned, but the church is still functioning. The church in southern Laos...we've heard that...they're still using their church buildings. The government has...hasn't taken them away. Only a big...we had a big church building in...in Vientiane, and that's been taken over by the government right in the beginning. But there's a couple other churches there that we...are still being used.
SHUSTER: Going back to your own [pauses] training for a moment. Looking back on it, is there anything that you wish that you had had that you didn't have before you came to the field? Any kind of preparation?
SAWYER: Well, I...I...I think if we had more preparation in cross-cultural...you know...missions and so forth. That...that would be very very helpful. We had to learn this thing ourselves, and.... Of course today, things are differently, and young people can go to the fields. And they have summer programs, which is very tremendous. And that's how many of our young people today get enthused as they go out and work first-handed. But when we went, there was no planes, you know. We went by ship. There was no...not...there wasn't the opportunity that you have today. And also we...we went as...life committed [laughs]. When we went, we...we...for the long term. For us today, we have people on contract. We have people short...[pauses]...times that they can work in missions and so forth as well as the long term. I think people are better prepared today, and I wish that I had all that training when I was younger. But they didn't have that back in those days. We survived and we learned as we went. But today they learn many things here in the States which prepares them [pauses] for arriving. But things have changed on the mission field. Education has been enhanced so we have to be specialists as missionaries today. We have to be super-servants because the churches today are established. There aren't the places where...where the Gospel hasn't reached a great deal. And so working with national churches, not in...in administration, but as specialists upon their invitation [laughs]. There's a different...different type of work today in missions. Big city work, but always as a servant, giving assistance [laughs], never projecting yourself [clears throat] as a foreigner. You have to always remember that in a...on a...in a another country you're a foreigner. You're there on invitation. And also to the church. If...we've learned over the years...we've learned about church policy, and...and how that the mission can work with a national church that you set up yourself. Because if you don't work correctly, and that is as servants or waiting for them to ask you to give assistance, then there is problems. There's personal [laughs]...personality conflicts and so forth. That's another great avenue that we missionaries don't talk about too much. Personality conflicts among...in the mission, personality conflicts with nationals on the field. And so this...this is a...a great experience that.... We need to have teaching here in [pauses] mission schools or colleges or seminaries or grad-schools, which we are getting.
SHUSTER: What kind of teaching specifically you think would be...is helpful?
SAWYER: Well, I think the cross-cultural section is how that we can work smoothly with one another as missionaries, and how we can have the same [pauses] working with the national leaders of every church in every country. This is very very important. If you don't have smooth relationships, you can't...you can't function properly. And again, this is...this is the work of God the Holy Spirit, where as He's got to be the ruler of missionaries' lives. And He's got to be the ruler of their personality, as far as [pauses] their...their temperament...their tempers [laughs]...so to speak. You can't express yourself forcefully, particularly in the Orient, where we've been. We've got to learn the eastern way of thinking in culture and do not express ourselves [pauses] before they do or [pauses] either forcefully either. You gotta...you gotta...you gotta...you gotta learn that. If you lose your cool among an oriental, you've had it. I mean your influence from that time on diminishes.
SAWYER: It's not their culture to lose their cool in...
SHUSTER: In other words you have offended them?
SAWYER: You have offended them. That's right, and they've lost face. Then you...you have an oriental that [pauses] has lost face, then you...then you ceased to be an influence upon him. I mean this is something that westerners have to learn, and I'm sure in political [laughs] avenues today in different countries, that they've been well schooled in these things.
SHUSTER: After your time at Nyack, what was the selection process or the screening process for going into the mission?
SAWYER: It's similar today. Today, of course, we have better preparation. And...and for the Christian Missionary Alliance we have to go through a grad school before we are appointed...approved grad-school.
SHUSTER: But when you were going as a missionary, what was the process?
SAWYER: They all had to go through Nyack [laughs]. Even from our other schools, same as in St. Paul, and Simpson, and Seattle College and so forth. And the final prepara...prepera...prep... preptory...preparatory school, as far as for overseas work was Nyack for one year. They had to go there, and had to be observed, and had to take these different courses in missions and so forth.
SHUSTER: What kind of things were the observers looking for?
SAWYER: They wanted to know as far as your temperament [laughs] how you got along with people...how you...how you associate with the opposite sex [laughs], all like that. Your attendance at services and...and how you participated in services. Your general attitude was the strong thing. As far as your ability in...in your course work.... All these things were...I would say that the general attitude was part of...part of our training too. They want to observe that.
SHUSTER: So the only people taking this final year course were those who had applied...
SAWYER: Right, right...
SHUSTER: ...to be missionaries?
SAWYER: ...right, right, right.
SHUSTER: And after you'd finished a year, was there any further schooling?
SAWYER: Yes. Now you had to...you had to go two years as a pastor. And I had my two years in Dixon, Illinois.
SAWYER: That's out in this area. So [clock strikes ten times] that's why...one reason maybe I'm still around here [laughs]. So at the...it was in 1947 and the war was over. That was unique too. I was having a missionary conference. That's a requirement of all Christian Missionary Alliance churches, that they have a missionary conference every year. And anybody who associates themselves with the Christian Missionary Alliance Independent Churches, that is one thing that they have to agree to: is to have a missionary conference. And in the midst of the missionary conference [pauses] I was actually in my study...praying. And the Lord said, "Now!" as I was on my knees, "Now is the time to go to China [laughs]!" And...well, I thought that was quite strange. And I said, " Well, you know, since those days you called me in...in Old Orchard, Maine, I've acqu...[unclear, tape stopped]. And it's necessary, Lord." I've learned to talk to the Lord and he use to answer me in prayer [laughs], and I said, "I've acquired a wife and I ought to talk to her." So I learned two days later that while she was doing the wash, like all good wives in the basement, at that very hour, she started to weep and cry. No one was there, and the Lord talked to her about going to the field immediately. So we immediately wrote to Nyack and said, "Now we're ready to go, and for further screening and so forth." And so after that we went to Montreat, North Carolina, a couple of months later. And by fall we were on our way out of San Francisco by ship to China by way of Tokyo and...and...Hong Kong, and up to Shanghai and then flying across after a month to west China.
SHUSTER: What was the Montreat school like?
SAWYER: That was a...that was like a preparation of language, mainly, and culture.
SHUSTER: There was some cultural training then?
SAWYER: Right, cultural training at that time...like they have for six weeks now in Toronto, Canada...the Institute of Lingui...Linguistics that they have up there. They...they study [pauses] different.... For instance, while we were at Montreat, they had a Chinese there. We took a little Chinese during the time. Also we had phonetics course [unclear]...how to get...you know, how to learn different languages and so forth. And they have a similar preparation now in Toronto which is much farther advanced.
SHUSTER: What was your cultural course like at Montreat?
SAWYER: Well, mainly phonetics. They had...that was one of the main things. And also culture. They had Chinese there. For instance, preparing us for...it...the language. Also...also the different cultural aspects of Chinese, how they react and so forth, and how cool they are as far, as not the west, you know. So...so we learned much of their ways, their food and so forth.
SHUSTER: Who taught these courses?
SAWYER: There was a phonetics teacher by Miss Cummings out of Nyack, who taught there, and...I forget the name of the Chinese people who were there. But it was only a period of...of a couple weeks or so...about ten days, so we didn't get lost.
SHUSTER: Did you have any...you were planning to go to Tibet...
SAWYER: Right, right.
SHUSTER: ...rather than China? Did you have any Tibetan?
SAWYER: No. There was no Tibetan. We had to learn that. There was no Tibetan anywhere. They had Chinese, in those days, at Yale University. And some of the people that went out in 1946, right after the war, took a course of a year at Yale in Chinese. But there was a conflict when we went. They thought that the language...that when the language we've used should be our first language. And so they changed from Chinese, because we were going to work mainly among the Tibetans, and so we...we were.... As far as the mission, they recommended that we come immediately to the field, and we go right into Tibetan study. So we arrived at Labrang, west China, in early 1948.
SHUSTER: Where did you first land in China?
SAWYER: We landed in Shanghai. We first went to Hong Kong by ship. We went by ship in those days. Ships docked at Yokohama, and then to Hong Kong and then went up to Shanghai and the Wang Pu river to...Shanghai...you know the Yangtze and the Wang Pu. And then we...
SHUSTER: Do you remember very much about your voyage?
SAWYER: Oh yeah. It was a rough one. We were on the Marine ships. You remember those built during the last World War. And they went the northern Pacific, and the gales were tremendous in November. It was pretty rough. It blew off the front of the ship...all the rails way down to the...where they made about six feet of steel in the front. Many of the folks were sick because of the terrible gales. In fact, I pride myself; I was never sick. I sat up there, (only a few of us in the dining room). And the breakers would go over the windows outside. Sometimes the chairs would go flying across the room [laughs]. Our dishes were set in...in...on...with wet cloths on the table [laughs]. So it was different.
SHUSTER: Were most of the folks on the ship other missionaries or was it...?
SAWYER: There was a lot of missionaries, but there were all kinds of missionaries. Catholic missonaries, there was a Catholic priest and everything else. Oh, many different types of people, buisness people going to the Orient. So we had many different types of people.
SHUSTER: Did you get off the ship at all at Yoko...Yokohama?
SAWYER: Right. We got off the ship in Yokohama and went to Tokyo. It was flat in those days. Wasn't a building there because it was where the bomb...you know, they bombed it out...not...not for the, not with the...like Hiroshi...
SHUSTER: The atom bomb.
SAWYER: No, it wasn't the atom bomb. It was regular bombs. But there was no building standing from Yokohama to Tokyo. I remember that very plainly. And so it was a great experience. We didn't...I was only there for one day. And all we did...we went up to the moat around...the...where the emperor lives and all like that, And I...we don't remember a great deal about.... It was cold and dreary in those days.
SHUSTER: And I guess occupation forces were...
SAWYER: They were still there.
SAWYER: Yeah. In fact, I got off the ship and I...I met a...a graduate of...I mean, one of my...fellows I graduated from Nyack. He was a chaplain [laughs], and he'd just got off the ship. He's a fellow that I went to school with in Nyack. (...graduated in the same year. In fact today, he's a pastor in New York City.)
SHUSTER: What was your first impressions in landing in Shanghai?
SAWYER: We were all eyes, let me tell you. The people were like ants. They held 'em back with ropes on the...on the...on the wharf of the...where we got off. And we...it was really something. I never seen so many people as I...as we saw in Shanghai in those days. And we went down the street.... See, we got on the...got on the truck [laughs]...rode to the place where we were going to stay. Then we went out into the street...
SHUSTER: This was an Alliance hostel?
SAWYER: An Alliance hostel. There's another story concerning that I can tell. Recently, of course, we went into China in 1980. But, I remember the first thing, my friend...one of close friends, he was walking down the street and he had a Parker '51 in his lapel of his coat and he lost that immediately, [laughs] for somebody came up and stole it [laughs]. Then next we were out on the street in...in a rickshaw and another missionary friend...he lost his hat. [Laughs] They stole his hat [laughs]. So, I mean, there were clever thieves in those days in Shanghai. Something we remember about Shanghai.
SHUSTER: And you say you visited the hostel again in 1980?
SAWYER: Yeah. There was a church there and a...and a school where we stayed for a month. It took us a month to get our things through customs. Very slow. And we stayed in this three-storey school behind, and it had a nice brick church in the front. And they...it was during Christmas. The...the place was full of Chinese people. We had the opportunity of testifying in that church and other churches in Shanghai at that time. It was really a great impression. There wasn't any heat hardly in the building. We had a little bit of charcoal burners. And it was a different experience. The coolness of the climate. It wasn't snowy but it was cold, and without central heat. And [pauses] we slept on the...
SHUSTER: Weren't you used to that from New Hampshire?
SAWYER: Yeah, but not quite like that. We had a fire.... For instance, we slept in the room where there was no fire. We just had blankets over us. I had terrible attack of...[pauses]...of...not asthma but...[pauses]...ton...not...of something in my nose, at that time. I know I had a sense but I was quite ill at the time. But then after a month or so we got over it. That was a real experience. We went out eating Chinese food; we never had Chinese food like that. It was all cold. We weren't used to using chopsticks. We learned in a hurry. They used to say after the second meal you're able to get so hungry you could learn to use 'em in a hurry. [Laughs] We...we lived in Hong Kong from '77 to '81. And in 1980.... Our mission runs tours into China. We have a...we have a China office in Hong Kong. And incidently, right now, Dr. Armerding is in there with our mission representative in Hong Kong...is in China. And so in 1980 we were passing through Shanghai. And the tours all have to stay in hotels. There's no other place. But we were interested in seeing the place where we'd lived back in 1947 in early '48. Missionaries had been on these tours before. We run a couple a year. But they weren't able to find this place. So I thought, "Well, I'll be able to find it." So we went down one night at eight o'clock...(about for our five of us)...and walked up and down the street in that vicinity, trying to find the church. It wa...we were just crowded out with people and there was no foreigners in [laughs] that area so we were quite an attraction. So, my wife was engulfed and other people could hardly see in because of crowds. So I got on the other side of the street and started to pray. And just about that time someone came up beside my wife and...(in English)...and said, "Can I help you? (A man, shorter than her.) And she said, "Yes." (She was really startled.) [Shuster laughs] And said, "We're looking for a church." And he said, "The Alliance church?" She was really star...startled now. She says, "How do you know about that?" He said, "I was raised there as a young boy." (He was a man in his late fifties.) And...so [pauses] he said, "Just down the street. Don't stop." (He was nervous.) So we walked up the street and by that time I'd caught up with her and...and started talking to someone. And...so we walked down the street and lo and behold, we looked up and there it was...the...the.... It changed somewhat to the side and [pauses] then we looked up and lo and behold, there it was. So we took a picture. I have a picture right on the stairs of that occasion. And he said, "I want to talk to you." We said, "Yes, we want to talk to you. But where, where, where? Can you come to our hotel?" "No, because that's guarded by the secret police." So [pounding noise] he said, "I think we...it's under the shroud of darkness, you can come to my house only...just a little ways away." So, another man and I...we said to our wives...said, "Stay by the taxi." (We had a taxi there.) And we took off with this man...went down an alley...back in probably quarter of a mile and went to a house. And there it was. His brother and his family lived in this narrow place. And we sat down. And he said, "Oh, this is...shouldn't be near this window. There's a hospital out there. They'll see us." So we went to another section. And I was sitting there and...talking to him...said, "Now, where have you been during the Cultural Revolution?" He said, "I was put away in prison up country for twenty-one years. I'm not supposed to be here. But I've gotten out again. I'm down here. How grateful I am. I never expected to see my family again. In fact, I gave my son, who is now in his late twenties, away to my brother, who is here, never expecting to return. But the Lord in his mercy has allowed me to return." I said, "How did you meet us tonight?" He said, "I was reading a small booklet from my sister in Lexington, Massachusetts, whom I haven't seen for fifty years. (She's been able to get some literature in. He reads English well. And he was reading a book. And something inside of him said, "Please, get up and go out on the street." The Lord called. Because we prayed before we went in, "Lord, send us to people and send people to us." That was our prayer [pauses] when we went into China. And so the Lord definitely sent this man. And we started to talk to him. We almost wept. And he said, "Twenty-one years in jail." Then I thought about my wife and friends out there in the taxi, who didn't know where we were. So I said to a man next to him, "Well, maybe we better write a note." So I wrote a note quickly and I said to someone in the household...someone that could take this note out to the taxi on the street...'cause there wasn't any vehicles out there, only this taxi. So the wife of this man ran out and gave 'em the note. The taxi driver was really disturbed because the people just started to rock the...the vehicle. He said, "Get inside here! And don't turn up or don't let down a window," because he said, "We're likely to start a riot." Well, the woman was able to get the note inside and realized I'd told them to go back to the hotel, and we'd walk back. So we talked to him at great length...all that happened during his life. And he said, "I really got to learn...to know the Lord tremendously up in that army camp, putting away...(I mean that concentration camp) all those years. And this was the...was the attitude of all Christians. They're beautiful people. They'd gone through the fire. Of course, many thousands had lost their lives. But they never talk about the past. They're always talking about the future...and as far as meeting the Lord! But they're beautiful, beautiful Christians. I looked down on his table there as he was talking back and forth, and I said, "Who is this picture?" And he said, "That's my family. My sister's family in Lexington, Mass." And I recognized one young man...Dr. Timothy Wong, who I went to the Alliance church here for two, three years, here in Wheaton, who now lives in St. Charles. He's a heart specialist. Unique! Tremendous! I've corresponded with that man some [pauses] since then. But since then he's come in disrepute with the police. They've learned [pauses] all this. And so they've threatened him again. So I...we don't write to him.
SHUSTER: Is it because he is Christian or just because of contact with foreigners?
SAWYER: They...they do not want any contact with the outside world...with their people. That is one of the strong things. We had contacts with others in West China, and the same thing everywhere. When people go in today as teachers, or engineers or anything, they want them separated from their population. Teachers anywhere in universities today cannot fraternize with the population. They don't want that at all because they learn too much.
SHUSTER: Back in 1947, when you were traveling form Shanghai to [pauses] Labrang...?
SHUSTER: ...what were your impressions of Chinese countryside as you traveled?
SAWYER: Phew! I'm telling you, it was something. Unique. I mean the masses of...of Shanghai.... The...the sickness...the people with open sores in the street with syphilis, and all like that. Babies in the ash cans in the morning...you know....
SAWYER: Yeah, yeah. Dead. They'd throw away, you know, girls. Well that was something. I mean we'd never, never expected...we never learned that here...in this country. So these were tremendous impressions.
SHUSTER: And then outside of Shanghai, what did...?
SAWYER: Well we flew across China, and there was no trees whatsoever. No trees anywhere. Just brown, brown dirt everywhere in central China. And as we went farther inland, all the mountains are terraced right to the top. Came down in Wuchang part way for refueling. There wasn't a house in sight anywhere on this...on this grass runway. And [pauses] then the mountains got higher and higher as we looked out. We went in bucket seats on a...on the army transport by Chennault, you know he started...
SHUSTER: Flying Tigers.
SAWYER: The a...they had the Flying Tigers as they were named afterwards. But he ran the...the...the commercial [pauses] air line in China in those days from planes from the Second World War. So they got to Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province. We came down, and when they touched down...what a swirl of dust. Dust was that deep. There was no rain up there for months. And so you couldn't see. I had no idea how the pilots saw to land. And incidently, again, at that time, Robert Ekvall was there with the plane because of his friends. He wasn't a missionary in those days, but he was working for the American Army in intelligence. And he'd remarried. (His first wife had died in west China. We'd been to her grave.) [Door slams] He married another lady. And she was with him in an open jeep with a...with a big machine gun on the front [laughs] so he came...
SHUSTER: So this was in Tibet?
SAWYER: This was in Lanzhou, Gansu...Gansu.
SAWYER: He...he was in a...in a military service in west China back in those days, working for the US military, in the...in the intelligence [clears throat]. That was his work. He didn't get back to the south Gansu Province in those days. He worked farther to the north and north...northwest. He never came back to where he was raised in those days, where his first wife was buried. He never came back to that area. But [pauses] he was impressive. I was impressed by him back in those days. And then.... That was a great impression upon my life. And then in 1980, he was on the same tour into China, and what an impression. My brother-in-law slept with him and he said...I just...he just talked night and day...as you know [laughs]. He's...[pauses] that was a mistake. And...but he...he knows Chinese so well. Everywhere he went he spoke Chinese, and the crowds would just gather around him. We went to...we didn't have a place in Peking at that time. It was mainly through him and his...his closeness to the foreign ministry or the present government...Huang Hua...he knows him personally [laughs]. So he sent him a telegram from Shanghai, I think. Yeah. And they were able to...to...to stop in Tientsen and go by train up to Peking. We didn't s...and were able to get into a hotel space in Peking. And then they took him out, as you've heard, to a big feast, a feed [laughs] in...in Peking. So those tremendous days.
SHUSTER: And when you arrived in Gansu, what was the Alliance mission there? What was the size of it? What were the acti...its activities?
SAWYER: Now, in those days we had...we had many missions in Gansu. There was the Swedish Alliance, which is called TEAM. It had the Overseas Missionaries [sic] Fellowship called China Inland Mission. China Inland Mission had a big hospital in Lanzhou. They had other work with churches. They had a home where missionaries...all transit missionaries came to. So we went to their home and stayed there. The Alliance work as far as their section of the...of the breakdown was in southern Gansu, and the Tibetan work to the west. And so we had to travel by vehicle to southern Gansu. Lanzhou was in the central section. Gansu was a...has a long neck up towards China, or rather Russia, and then to the south towards Chungking in Szechuan Province. That's where we had our work. Now in that section...southern Gansu is divided from Szechuan by twenty thousand foot mountains...a range in there. That's the demarcation...also in Gansu and northern Szechuan. Then the mountains get higher to the west. And so the Chinese work is in the southeastern section towards Szechuan. And to the west is all Ti...open Tibetan country. I'm sure there's change now because of the Chinese being going...back in Tibet. But we lived in Labrang. It was called Siaho [phonetic approximation] in Chinese...Summer River. Siaho is Summer River. And [pauses] they had a big monastery to the south. But on the north side was a city of Chinese, of Tibetans, and Moslem Chinese. In that section to the northeast, Ningsia...down even...was all Moslem country. Moslems come from central Asia over the last several hundred years. And they were distinguished by their black hats, otherwise dressed like the Chinese, and also their...their temples or where they went for their worship and so forth was different. And they ate no pork [laughs]...the Moslems. So we arrived there by...by truck...different stations. Now the Alliance had been working in southern Gansu, (as you have learned from Robert Ekvall), since the turn of the century. Before then, his father and so forth went there. We went through the station where his father built [pauses] in Minzhou [phonetic approximation] (or Min Xian today). And then he opened Titao or Lintao (as it is called today), and Hozhou [phonetic approximation] is another place where the Moslems are. They were o...opened by his father and his brother in those early days. And in our day there were...see...probably twenty-five missionaries, I would say, (I can't remember right now), working on about five or six different stations. Most of them were Chinese; one was Moslem. There were two stations that were Tibetan for the most part. There was a Chinese church in one section, but they were Tibetan people. Well we lived in Labrang. We had a Chinese church, but there was nothing as far as Christians among the Tibetans. If people became Christians from among the Tibetans in that area in that day, they would be probably killed. In fact, we would invite Tibetans to evening services in the Chinese church, where we had slides and so forth. There would be police from the monastery (seven thousand priests there and they had their own police force). And they would come at the gate and say, "Is there any Tibetans inside?" you know. And the Tibetans who would come would be scared to death and they would have to run out the back in order to leave. We had a property surrounded by a wall in those days. So they...
SHUSTER: Was it legal to become a Christian or was it illegal to...?
SAWYER: Well, see, the monastery...I mean, where in a Tibetan country, the...the monastery was the government. And so what I mean, there was no other government besides that. And so they controlled everything. And...and that day, they...they...if anybody became a Christian.... They could be friendly with us. People came to the missionary all day for many many things. For instance, he had medical help. There wasn't proper hospital services in that area. So he treated people all day long, as far as Tibetans and Chinese. And they came, and he always witnessed to them. He had long times of talking to the priests and all. They came and talked and talked in those days. We were studying language upstairs, and downstairs was a constant stream of Tibetans and Chinese that came to the older missionary. And he talked to them, and his wife was out with the women all day long. There were services three times a week (night services), in that Chinese church...inside the compound. They had the Chinese pastor. They would preach for an hour and a half [laughs] sitting on little stools and stuff...narrow...narrow things in the church. But they were very earnest (the Chinese population). They really loved God. We had Chinese prayers every morning at 6:30 for all the people living on the property. (We had people that rented, people that helped out in the church and so forth). So we had a regular service every morning of reading Scripture. I never studied Chinese in those days. I studied Tibetan. But I got Chinese every morning [chuckles]. So I could read...I could know...pick out from these Scriptures where Matthew, Mark and [unclear, laughs] very easily, and many words came to us because a lot of our conversation in the marketplace was Chinese. So we're actually confusion [laughs], as far as language: learning Tibetan all day, listening to Chinese....
SHUSTER: It must have been...it sounds like a great school.
SAWYER: It was a great experience...a tremendous experience. We went out among the nomads to the west riding horseback. We had our own horses. That was something. I mean if you...as young people we really loved horses. We bought our first horse; it could run like the wind, you know [laughs]. And we used to go out every afternoon. We could...we went hunting too. They had an abundance of...of [pauses] wild turkey, rabbits, and stuff like that. So...
SHUSTER: You hunted them from horshba...horseback?
SAWYER: We'd...yeah, we'd shoot from the horse and.... Pheasants in the fall. We'd come out every afternoon or two. We'd bring back ten or fifteen pheasants and eat them.
SHUSTER: Was that necessary for the provisioning of the mission or was that just...?
SAWYER: Right, because we...we didn't take in much food. We lived off the land. We had gardens. We had potatoes. We bought...they had mutton...a lot of mutton. And so we...we ate a lot of mutton. We had Chinese food about half the time. And the head of our mission there was a German, so we had a lot of garlic and onions on our eggs [laughs], although he was from Minnesota [laughs] ...originally. But [laughs] it was..it was really a tremendous experience. Then among the Tibetan nomads. Boy, were they something. They...their food, you know, is...is barley flour and tea (and they're ve...not very clean), and rancid butter. So you have hot tea and then they would put in some hard cheese in the bottom. And then you would blow it back 'cause it wasn't clean; it had no strainers for their milk and stuff. And so you'd put in the butter and the butter would have chips and maybe little manure in it, and stuff like that [laughs]. So you kind of blew it back from the top of the tea and sipped and so forth. And they had meat that they didn't use too much. But it was green. It didn't deteriorate up there because of the altitude. So you...when you went among the Tibetans, then you kind of ate their stuff. You were glad to come back to [continuous laughs while talking] your own quarters after a day or two of that.
SHUSTER: Did you ever get sick from anything you ate?
SAWYER: Yeah. We...we had dysentery constantly and...in those days. And even all the way into Laos. I've been so ill with dysentery. We learned to use guanidine and stuff like that. We...see, we had medicine. In Laos we used a lot of medicine ourselves. I treated a lot of people because there wasn't adequate hospitals. There's no doctors in the countryside. People were dying of malaria. People were dying with typhoid and typhus and all like that. And had tremendous sores. We had very little training but we picked up a lot. And I think that I learned a lot from that fella in west China, who treated these people all the time. He had very little training.
SHUSTER: What was his name?
SAWYER: His name was Griebenow. He's had a couple sons graduate from Wheaton [laughs] over the years. He's now passed on, but the sons are still living. One is...he's up in his...up near forties, I would say now. One is in Michigan, then [unclear]. But he was raised in Minnesota and when I was a missionary, met at Nyack. His wife...(and she's from Wilmington, Delaware), she's still living in Michigan; she's up in her eighties. But he died rec...last ten or fifteen years out in Iowa. But he was one of the early missionaries contemporary to Robert Ekvall. Marion Griebenow.
SHUSTER: And he was the German fellow who you say was head of the mission?
SAWYER: He was head of that station. The head of the mission in that time was C.E. Carlson, whose home was here in Wheaton. And he was supported through the Alliance by the College Church. His wife died last year. Mrs. Carol Carlson [simultaneous with Shuster] was his wife.
SHUSTER: We have an interview with her in the Archives as well.
SAWYER: Right. She's a tremendous woman. And her son, Robert Carlson...know him?
SHUSTER: Yes, I've interviewed him for...
SHUSTER: the Archives as well.
SAWYER: And he is now on that tour in China with Dr. Armerding and his wife. He and his wife. And Robert Carlson hopes to return to China with some teaching in the future. He wants to resign. He has...he's worked all these years. Although he started as a missionary...
SAWYER: ...some years ago in Hong Kong.
SHUSTER: Right. We have that...I...we've done an interview with him.
SAWYER: Right. And he's...
SHUSTER: That was about his childhood in Tibet.
SAWYER: That's right. Did he tell you about being shot and his father couldn't stop the vehicle and he laid across the hood of the car. The father didn't know whether he was dead or alive. He was almost unconscious? Do you have that story?
SHUSTER: [Unclear phrase].
SAWYER: [Laughs] Yes, that's tremendous. He's a very very keen gentleman [clears throat].
SHUSTER: You mentioned [pauses] how at some of the services you had at the station the police would come and ask are there any Tibetans there. There's obviously a lot of...it was very difficult for them to worship in service. What attracted them to the services?
SAWYER: Well, see...
SHUSTER: Why...? Why did they come?
SAWYER: See, we were goi...the...the people'd come for treatment of...for medicine and stuff and many things. And so the...the missionary'd invite them to come. And he wanted to...wanted them to come. He talked to them a...about Christianity all the time they were being helped and treated for hours upon end. And then he would come and he'd want to explain more vividly through slides of the life of Christ. And so he'd have them come in the evening. And then, that's when the police would hear about this and they would come bang on the big gate in front which was locked. Wouldn't let 'em in.
SHUSTER: Were the slides effective?
SAWYER: I think so, but no one made a profession of faith from that group [pauses] in those days. They were all...there was no one in that.... There were some secret believers according to Mr. Griebenow, but [clock strikes once] some of them were very close to the kingdom. But [pauses] I think afterwards we heard from the Ch...the India border, Darjeeling, some of those people got over there and they...they...they said that they were Christian and they wanted to be Christian. So it was a very difficult thing. Ekvall had the same experience, as you know. He was in Lhamo, which is two...three hundred miles to the south on the border of Szechuan and Gansu at the headwaters of the Yellow River and [laughs] all those rivers of Asia.
SHUSTER: Yes. He talks on his tape a little bit about his and his wife's experiences in Tibet, and...
SAWYER: Did he tell you how his wife died? How he...
SHUSTER: No he didn't.
SAWYER: His wife died....(I forget. Was it typhus or typhoid or something?)...and he brought the body out on the back of a horse. He sent...sent a cable (we could send wires in those days) to his friend Car...Carlson...C.E. Carlson, who was in the station to the northeast, Taozhou City. And so if Carlson'd start out by horseback, he met him halfway there and they...as he had the corpse on the back of another horse and he was riding out with her. We went and viewed the grave of her...Betty Ekvall. I was actually back to Nyack on that day that she died, back in the 50's. And [pauses] we...(another missionary and I, a young fellow), wanted to see where she was buried. And so we went to the place where she was buried there in Gansu. We couldn't talk at that time [laughs]...couldn't talk Chinese. We'd studied Tibetan. So we rode out in this Taozhou City down to the Tao River...crossed in the...found another [unclear] bottom place. And Chinese were there in the church. They had a Chinese church there...Chinese Christians. So we asked...couldn't make ourselves understood [laughs]. So I could...you know, I could say, "Musa, musa [phonetic approximation]." That's...you know. And then I get on the ground and shut my eyes and...you know, like...I try and explain when it went in the grave and went, "Uh, uh, uh, uh!"...'cause I used to talk like that. So they led us back up into a pine grove. And we saw Betty Ekvall. Robert Ekvall's first wife, was buried along with a fellow with the name of Al Fesmire, who was a missionary, (older than Ekvall), whose wife is still living in Lakely [phonetic approximation, or Lake Lee or Blakely], New York. So we saw the graves of these two great missionaries. These people had made a great impression upon me [laughs].
SHUSTER: You mentioned that you were for a while among the Tibetan nomads?
SAWYER: We went out...we...we would go...excursions out...just.... The...missionaries...(we studied the language)...wanted us to see how the Tibetan nomads lived, because that would be the...be our work in the future after we'd learned the language. We'd be traveling constantly among the nomads, because that's the way the majority of the people live. We were in a Chinese-Tibetan town, but we never expected to stay there afterwards. We expected to travel a lot among the Tibetans.
SHUSTER: But your [pauses]...but you had to leave China before the...you were able to...
SAWYER: That's right.
SAWYER: That's right. We...we were only there for a little over a year. Then we...we...we had two...three months in south China expecting Chiang Kai-shek to take the...the country back [laughs]. But that never materialized.
SHUSTER: When you were in [pauses]...on the Tibetan border, did you see any evidences of the Chinese civil war going on at that time?
SAWYER: No, no. Not back there. No. We just heard about it. It was...the [pauses].... Mao Tse Tung was in Shensi and Shansi mountains or hills, which was farther to the northeast of Gansu. Gansu was not affected in any way. We had a big Moslem group in the area at that time who defended the country and fought against the...the Reds. There was no danger at that time. The only danger was...(we were advised to leave)...as to being cut off and not being able to get out in the future. And so the American consulate knew that because the forces had...were going back towards Peking...(the communist forces)...and taking one great city after another. We heard that by radio. And so more and more of north China was falling to the Reds. And everything above the Yangtze was eventually taken. Then they went south of the Yangtze and started...you know...to take over there. Finally took over the whole country. But they took...took it by piecemeal. So Gansu was...west China was back in there a thousand miles or more.
SHUSTER: So you were gone before the Red army...?
SAWYER: That's right. We left...we left before the Red army came up there. And then they...of course the Red army...I'm sure they don't...we'd never heard their admiring...a lot of those Moslem soldiers. There was a big strong army of three hundred thousand Moslems. And if they had enough people, the communists had never taken over. It was just like [pauses] the Meo or Hmong tribesmen. If there was enough of them, the Viet...Vietcong would never have taken over Laos. Never, never. But they were a minority. And that's why...I'm sure that the Moslems died by the m...thousands. Thousands were killed. No one knows. It was terrible slaughter by the communists.
SHUSTER: What [pauses] was the church like...the Chinese church that you saw when you were there?
SAWYER: The Chinese church had been going since before the turn of the century. And one of the great things, I believe, that has helped the church as far as us leaving there is that we had a program in China...it wasn't in effect throughout the world [clears throat] that they should be self-supporting and self-governing and self-propagating. There's the name of the new Three Self Movement Church of China. They took on the name [laughs] of missions. They don't...I'm sure they don't realize that, but that is the name of the church in China today. And so we taught that and practiced that. And before we left there, the churches were all independent in their own right. Missionaries were helping them. They were self-supporting. They were not be supported by funds from the...from the West. They were...they had their own organization. They had their own leaders. And they were also propagating their own message. And there were strong, strong churches. There were several hundred in every church. Beautiful, wonderful Christians, as I remember them. Very, very wonderful people.
SHUSTER: You say that the missionaries were helping out. What kind of things were they doing?
SAWYER: They were teaching in the Bible school. They were in the church services. But then they would...they would go farther out visiting people on the perimeter. See now, for instance, in all of our work today, we do not stay in the centers. For instance, we are helping out with big city evangelism in Bangkok, Manila and so forth. In...in Hong Kong is a good example. The Hong Kong church is strong as far as Christian Missionary Alliance. It's advancing every...every few months. New places are being opened. It has a strong organization. Dr. Philip Teng...you've heard of him. He's been here as a...as a speaker. He travels the world [clears throat]. The seminary is run by the Chinese. We...if they ask us, then we go in there and teach. Maybe one or two people are teachers. Robert Carlson was a teacher in the seminary in...when he was in Hong Kong. We still have people there teaching. But they invite us. They run their own organization. But our main job in Hong Kong is to help to establish new churches. And so [pauses] they rent in a new area [pauses] of Hong Kong. It has a Chinese pastor. We go in and assist the Chinese pastor. And our agreement with the church is: we'll only stay there for two years at the most as a missionary and then we'll pull out. And the church is running and then we go a new place. So, actually, it's church planning...is our strong work throughout the world.
SHUSTER: And that was also true back in '49 and...?
SAWYER: In '49 that same principal was in...in...in affect in China. Christian Missionary Alliance instituted that thing and it was carried out. And that's one reason we believe that the church was not annihilated in one way, because it could never pin on it [pauses] that it...there was...there was [pauses] control by the western missionary. Although they...they made a lot of to do about it and talked many ways. Now an interesting thing is this: we were...our tour took us through Sian...X-I-A-N or S-I-A-N, the capital of Shensi Province in...in central west China. We went...our tour went through there. And we had the opportunity of going to a English school, where they were teaching English. We used to come to these cities...[pauses].... Bill Kerr, who's our leader now...who's in China now with his group, would often deviate from the tour and said, "Can we take off this afternoon and maybe go through a school?" And so they said, "Yes, there's an English school in...in Sian." And we found out that that was one of the schools of English for all the northwest. They're teaching teachers there [pauses] to go back to the universities in all the different provinces [pauses] to teach English. They had a few Americans there inside [pauses] and Canadians, teaching English. And so [pauses] we went to that place that day and there wasn't any foreigners there; they were off in the afternoon. But, we met the Chinese. And the Chinese divided up our group into twos and we went to classrooms...all around...two by twos. And so I went into a room, and...talking to these students, (they were older students), I asked them what they were before they came to school. Some said they were Red Guard...they always covered their face. All Red Guards are ashamed of what happened during the Cultural Revolution in China. And one fella said...and then I asked them where they were from, and one said, "I'm from Gansu, to the...to the west." And so I said, "Whereabouts in Gansu?" And he said, "Lintao." You know that place. I said, "Did you ever hear of a Xuan Dao Hui?" (That is the name of the national church of China.) "Yeah, yeah, yes, yes!" I said, "Are you still...still going there?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah, still going!" At that time we met a Christian in a house church in Sian...(an older man), and talked to him at great length. Ekvall went to see him along with this fellow, Bill Kerr. And he said, "I know every Christian in the northwest. I know all of them." He said, "There're seven thousand strong in northwest China that are Christian today." You'd ask the interpreter...the...leading the tour, "Is there any Christians?" "No. I haven't heard of any." [Laughs] You know. We got into contact with this [Christian?].... So we said, "Do you know anything about the church in southern Gansu?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah!" He said, "I'll get information out [pauses] from...from the southern Gansu." And so about a month later we got a letter from a daughter of a pastor that we knew back in those days in...in southern Gansu. And she gave us a short history of what happened. She said, "Where none that were...are meeting today in the church buildings," she said, "the church is twice as large as it was when you were here...back." And so we really felt wonderful of how God has preserved His people. She said the church has suffered tremendously. People have been put away. People have been killed. And people have been sent to communes. They've never, never seen them since. But she said, "We're still strong." And they're increasing all the time. I mean that was a little glimpse of [pauses]...of the work that...that we left in...in southern Gansu.
SHUSTER: Were...what were the relations between the missionaries and the church leaders like then?
SAWYER: It was very close, very close. A mutual love, mutual love.
SHUSTER: Do you recall any incidents or stories that illustrate that relationship?
SAWYER: Well, I meant we were close to the small church in Labrang, where we lived...the Chinese church, and I remember all those men and their closeness to the missionary. I mean, I couldn't converse with them too much because those Chinese...they didn't know English. But there was a deep appreciation, a deep love, for one another, and great respect. And I think it was just like...you know...like true Christians, who are really true Christians. I mean the early missionaries did an tremendous job, actually. The Ekvalls, the father and the uncle, and the Ruhls, all those other men...I mean they were...they were strong Christian men. They really believed what they...you know...what they...what they...they...what they taught. And it...and it...I mean the Christian church was the same caliber of people, same caliber of people. They knew God. They knew how to get things from God. They knew how to pray.
SHUSTER: How were the Chinese Christians regarded by the other Chinese?
SAWYER: Well, I mean, you...you have...you have anywhere throughout the world...I mean...there's...there is...there is a defence against them. And of course the...they're Buddhist. I mean, they're Buddhist for the most part. And...and "you have forsaken our ancestors," and all like that...I mean. There is that attitude through out the world, even in Buddhist circles, even in China. I mean it was...there was [pauses] people that would...you know...that would almost fight against...like Paul of Tarsus [laughs] against...against the Christian community. And there was persecution in that way amo...against the Christians. But they'd been around.
SHUSTER: Is this the Chinese Christians?
SAWYER: Yeah, against the Chinese Christians. But the Chinese Christians, of course, are a...a...a minority in every way. But they've been around. When we went up there to see the...we were...went there in '47, so the church got started fifty years before. It wasn't a new thing to the community. I mean, they had their own buildings. They'd been there for years. And so they...they were...they were well known. I mean, we didn't have the opportunity of talking to non-Christians too much because we didn't know the language. We'd been there for twenty years or twenty-five years and you could...you could of had the feel from the outside how...how they felt against the Christian community.
SHUSTER: You mentioned that there was persecution. What...what kind of things?
SAWYER: Well, I don't think there was great persecution as far as the Chinese against the Chinese. See, there was...in...in west China you had the jealousy and...and the terrible [pauses] hatred of races. The Tibetans hated the Chinese and the Moslems hated the Chinese, the Chinese hated the Moslems, and the...and the Chinese hated the Tibetans and there was rebellion from time to time. There was terrible massacres, terrible massacres. I mean, twenty years before the Tibetans might have come and massacred people in a...in a...in a city or something. And then twenty years later the children of those Chinese said, "Our fathers were killed and so we've got to get even with those Tibetans." So there'd been...be another day and there'd be another slaughter against the Tibetans. And that's...that went on for, well, hundreds of years...you know...back and forth against the races. Races didn't...didn't get along with the Chinese, Moslems and Tibetans. There was terrible competition.
SHUSTER: What [pauses]...what was the weekly activities of the Chinese church like? What did Christians do during the week besides their Sunday worship?
SAWYER: OK. Now, one man in the...in the church in...in Labrang was a doctor. (He had an office downtown. It wasn't anything like here. [laughs] But...
SHUSTER: I mean what were the activities of the church? For example, here in Wheaton we might have, you know, Wednesday prayer meeting, Sunday school, other activities during the week. What were the activities of the church?
SAWYER: They had Sunday school Sunday morning. They had Sunday morning worship. They had another Sunday evening worship. They had...I can't remember the days, but they had three services...evenings, during the week, where they went on for an hour and a half...the preacher preached.
SHUSTER: Were those primarily worship services...
SAWYER: Worship services.
SHUSTER: or instruction or...?
SAWYER: ...instruction. They were teaching, and during the week they were teaching God's Word. Teach...quoting all the Bible...they really knew their Bible, really knew their Bible. I mean, it was used, and the...all the time, so that I could even catch on with even I was out [unclear]...without studying it too much 'cause I went to all the services. And...and I mean, I got use to the characters and the different words by just looking, because they just poured over the Scriptures.
SHUSTER: Were there any kind of activities for women or children or...?
SAWYER: Yes. Now the missionary had...had...had a women's meeting once a week. The children...can't remember them. They...I remember they came on New Years and danced in the yard at their festival. I remember them being dressed up and so forth. I think there they had a Sunday school for them. But as far as...they couldn't get out much evenings. I mean, everything closed in. (There was no electricity in town.) And so as far as the town itself, it all closed down. There was danger too. There was murder and...and holdups and stuff constantly in the area, so.... But some of the people who lived nearby...(for instance, there were a number of people who lived on the property)...they would come. The...the...one man was the head of the post office...(Christian young fellow), and he lived on the property, [laughs] and he and his wife and his children. [Pounding noise.] So they would be there at services [pounding noise]. We had a number [pounding noise] of servants to and they lived on the property.
SHUSTER: What was a typical service like?
SAWYER: It was singing and praying and reading God's Scripture, and the preaching, just like we have here.
SHUSTER: Chinese songs or west...adapted them from Western songs?
SAWYER: As well...they...they used a lot of Scripture. I can't remember how the hymnals were set up. I...I think it was a combination of...of CIM. (We usually cooperate together in printing. [Clears throat.] And so I think the CIM had songs in there as well as the Evangelical Free, the TEAM people. And so we used...we used a combination of different songs. Then they also added some of their own from Scripture. I remember one particularly that they sang there: the 150th Psalm. "Praise to the Father, praise to the Son, and praise to the Holy Spirit." Then you...then you a added to it, see. I remember that very, very plainly. And I remember singing the doxology: "Shenzi, shenzi, shenzi [singing]." [Laughs] I have...it stick...stuck in my mind.
SHUSTER: So there were Chinese words adapted to Western tunes.
SAWYER: Right, Western tunes. But then they had...as far as their Scriptural songs...I mean, of course, it's just Chinese Scripture [pounding noise].
SHUSTER: The sermons themselves...did there seem to be different emphases or different approaches from the Chinese pastors than what you might hear in a Western church?
SAWYER: No. I think they're...I think they're similar. I mean, people [pauses] just learn what they've been taught. And so throughout the world, all our mission's churches have a definite Alliance mark [laughs]. For instance, the Hmong came here [pauses] and were sponsored by the Lutherans and by the Methodists and many different groups here in the States. And they never felt at home because they were taught a definite way...I mean, like the Alliance has. I mean they...they have doxology, the first song and...and, I think on the mission field we...yeah, we have the offering sometimes at the end or some'n like that. There's a kind of definite mark that they get into. And so they're immediately at home in [laughs] Alliance culture [laughs], you might say. So you might say that, for the most part.... Ah, there's not a great difference between church programs, actually [laughs]. But, the people in Gansu, they...they were taught by the missionaries. So, the missionaries were Christian Missionary Alliance, and...and we...we had different...varied programs, but more or less the same [laughs] towards the order of worship.
SHUSTER: I know Robert Ekvall was saying how in Tibet they...when approaching Tibetans he found them...(all Tibetans from priests to sheep herders), were very interested in theology and philosophy.
SAWYER: Hm. That's right.
SHUSTER: So that would be an approach that he would use. And with Chinese he'd be much more practical.
SHUSTER: More concerned with sin...
SHUSTER: ...and what it meant for their lives.
SHUSTER: Did you find that kind of...?
SAWYER: Well, see the thing is, we were in language study. And we left before we got into the work.
SAWYER: And so I can't talk from experience like Ekvall. Because Ekvall preached to the Tibetans, he preached to the Chinese. But I never became fluent in Tibetan, and I hardly knew any Chinese when I was there [laughs]. So I can't s...talk from experience as far as the content of their messages. What he has said is true. I mean, the Tibetans are interested in philosophy, and so forth. As far as their Buddhist background, Buddhist teaching and so forth. If you know anything about Buddhism, they really split hairs. For instance, I have a man right here now who's a pastor. And one of the approaches that he takes is some of the teachings of Buddhism, because to...to prove Christianity. It talks about the...the unknown God or the gods beyond that they can't understand...paeen [phonetic approximation] as far as that. And so they...he likes to refer to that as Jesus Christ, whom they didn't know anything [pounding noise] about but somebody was coming as far as Buddhist teaching [pounding noise]. So that type of philosophy [pounding noise].
SHUSTER: Similar to Paul in Athens.
SAWYER: Right, right. Reasoning, reasoning.
SHUSTER: How was the mission station governed? Who [pauses]...was it....?
SAWYER: Well, in our...in our day, the mission station where we lived had a big house made out of [pauses, tongue clicking noise] dirt...walls that are pounded and a flat roof...but they put a roof on afterwards with tile. We had...the Griebenows lived downstairs [coughs]. They had the big front room, and they had a kitchen, and they had their bedroom. And they had a guest room. Upstairs, there were...see...there were rooms. We lived in two rooms. We had a front room, where we studied Tibetan, and then we had a sleeping room. And the other missionary across the hall had it.... And then we also had two rooms behind us. So there's room enough for three missionaries. And while we were there it was constant language study. The teacher came every...every morning and throughout the afternoon. We studied six hours a day, and...with a teacher. And so we would come down in the morning for coffee. That's good old British way. (We learned that from the CIMers and many were British missionaries.) So we had coffee in the morning maybe for ten...fifteen minutes. Teacher came down and then back to study. In the afternoon we had tea [laughs]. And so...also sometimes some Chinese cakes and stuff that we had. So, the older missionary was busy supervising three couples in language study as well as.... Tibetans are constantly coming through the day for medical help and also for witnessing. They also preached sometimes in the services. They were also...they visited with the Chinese...to the people who were sick and people who are farther away...Christians who didn't come regularly. They went off. So we...we often went with them [pauses] sometimes to the Chinese homes. We had a Chinese meal. Tibetan homes, Tibetan meal. This is all the culture, see. The missionary believed that we should...we should get into the culture of the people, go into their homes, eat with them, and listen to them, and learn about their culture. For instance, I learned the harshly one day about...about the Tibetan culture...reincarnation. I didn't realize it but the.... They had a Tibetan gatekee...I had a Chinese gatekeeper who had a family. And the Tibetans are great on big dogs...big dogs are tremendous mascots.
SHUSTER: As pets or...?
SAWYER: Right. And they had the...the neighbor was a Tibetan. And he had I don't know how many dogs...big things. Well, the Chinese used to like to tease dogs. Chinese or orientals love to tease animals, and tease other people 'til they...you know, they they get 'em mad. So they shoved a big Tibetan dog in our property. They got him inside somehow, and they shut the great big wooden gate. And about five o'clock in the afternoon we wanted to go out, ride our horses. I couldn't get out the gate because there was a great big Tibetan dog [laughs]. I went after him with a pole to try to get him out of there. And I had another missionary...a younger missionary...and we couldn't get him out of there. So what in the world are you going to do? Well, we all had guns up there, because you rode with guns on your back. That's the only way you could get through the country. Terrible, you know. So, I got my shotgun out and shot 'em [laughs] to get him out of there. Well, that was the wrong thing to do, because of the doctrine of reincarnation. That's one thing I wasn't schooled on, when I should have had that teaching before I went there. But I didn't know that. I just...upset because I couldn't get my gate...a great big dog are over here. You know, you can't get out the gate...your own gate inside your own property. But it belonged to the neighbor. And the neighbor...oh, it was like killing one of his children. So it [pauses, tongue clicking noise]...it was awful, terrible. It went on for weeks.
SHUSTER: Did he take any legal action or...?
SAWYER: No, no, no. They didn't take anything. But we...we took gifts all the time there and took meat and we took candy to them. We sat down and told 'em how sorry I was because I didn't know about the culture. "Please forgive us" and all like that. Griebenow wasn't there; he was away [unclear]. Either was Mrs. Griebenow, and all like that, so.... Didn't anything come out of it, because we were actually the big people in [laughs] town, 'cause of being the only foreigners. But I didn't realize then that...never should have done anything like that. But that was...I didn't realize that the young people or the children of the gatekeeper had done that to play a trick on the dog and upon us [laughs].
SHUSTER: Did you finally placate the...?
SAWYER: I think so. It was near our leaving, so I think maybe that was...that was alright. So I don't know.
SHUSTER: How was the head of that mission station chosen? Was he elected or...?
SAWYER: They had a missionary...had a mission conference once a year, where they assigned missionaries. Junior missionaries like us had no...nothing to say for the first two years. We sat in conferences and had...had no voting privileges, or anything like that. But the mission had a conference once a year. We went to a conference and we sat there, (had a good time and all), but had nothing to say. The older missionaries had their allocation committee. They allocated people according to where that they thought they would best serve. For instance, Griebenow was a man that could teach...could speak Tibetan very well. So, what I mean, that was...that was only one of...the truly Tibetan station we had. And he'd...he'd opened this station so he...they more or less stayed where they...where they began their work in those days and shift too much. They would have people come in...take their place on furlough. Another man was in...in Moslem work. He'd done a lot of...lot of [pauses] learning concerning the Moslem background. And so he was...so he always stayed in that station, when he.... And so he worked there. Now, C.E. Carlson was the chairman for the most part [coughs]...man who was out of this church here...Bob's father. So he was the chairman who was there, and he.... But he was going home on furlough. His daughter had contracted leprosy. I don't know if you remember that. Bob's sister, who was a missionary to Africa (her first husband died), she's married to a doctor. (I forget their names...I've met 'em in Africa.) But Mrs. Carol Carlson lived here back in 1947 with her daughter. Not many people knew about it. She'd contracted leprosy somehow. She got...got over that. But that was a real, real problem. And so her husband was out there...opened up after the war in west China. So he was out there by himself. And so he came home that year that we were there. So another man had to take his place there as far as the.... Now the way of...of government was we nominate and Nyack appoints, or rather they endorse our...our nomination. So that's how the mission is run. They usually have executive committee meetings four times a year. They would come to a center and deliberate concerning how the missionaries...younger missionaries were doing, where possibly they might go in the future and so forth right then. Concerning finances...they had a budget they worked on every month...and transmitting of money. Money was a problem because of inflation in China and all like that. Many many problems like that. So....
SHUSTER: Was your mission station self-supporting or was there support mainly from the outside?
SAWYER: [O]K, well as far as our building and stuff, it was...it was supported from the outside. See, we have our own allowances, and we have so much...I forget if the place had been rented. I think that place had been bought or something or given money for. So it belonged to the mission. There was upkeep. For instance, the roof was leaking [laughs]. And things like that. Now we had money every month that came for our own livelihood to live on. We didn't require a lot, but we had to buy food from the market and stuff. They raised vegetables in the garden, put them away in the winter. They'd buy meat, big carcass of mutton, and stuff like that. So there was the daily preparation. We had servants we'd pay. For instance, one servant took care of the horses. We all had horses. And so they took care of the horses while we studied. The...there were chea...you didn't pay much, you know, for servants. Everybody had a lot of servants around in those days. Different today. Different when we were in Laos. When we first went to Laos, we had three servants [laughs]. They were cheap [clock strikes eleven times]. Had a fella in the kitchen...went to the market because everything in the market was...wasn't prepared food. It was...you had to prepare the meat. You get a hunk of meat; you have to cut off the gristle, cut off the fat and all like that. Then you'd have to make your own grease and stuff from pork fat and all like that. So this...the...the cook stayed and worked all day preparing the food. Then we had another man that served us our table and kept the house clean. We had no water on the property; a man had to bring the water. He had to scrub the clothes by hand. Stuff like that. Hang them up. So, [pauses] it was a lot different living.
SHUSTER: Do you recall what the cost of living was for a year? What...?
SAWYER: I think, probably sixty to seventy dollars a month, in the beginning. Not over that. But then it increased through the years. In Hong Kong, let's see, what we were getting back in 1980? Maybe a hundred, hundred and twenty, plus our rent. The rent was on top of that. We didn't get that. [Unclear phrase, chuckles]. Missionaries don't get rich. They get sufficient money, but [pauses] they have enough...have enough.
SHUSTER: What was...what were relationships like between missionaries within the Alliance mission...
SHUSTER: ...on your station?
SAWYER: I think our greatest problem, and we have to be careful [chuckles] is in the personal relationships. That is the greatest problem of missions throughout the world. And this is a cause for many missionaries to return to the States. But you don't get that on this end.
SHUSTER: What do you think causes that problem? Why is that...why is that so?
SAWYER: You have to have tolerance for one another. And often you live very closely...close together. And, for instance, you send out single people...single women, and we often have them living together. But they never asked to live together, but they have to live together because of the economy's sake. But they might be just the opposite of people. For instance, in...one time in Vientiane, we had four single ladies arrived at the same time. One was a nurse. Another one was a secretary for the office. And, let's see, the other one...the other two were regular missionaries. Well they had a dert...difficult time because one was from Holland. She ate cheese three times a day, see. So they had...one week they had one girl, she t...she was the head...made the menus up, so you get all the cheese in the dishes in one week and you were used to that, see. And the next week you might, you know, you might get a lot of fish or something, you know, whatever they liked. So then, you know as far as sleeping and as far as eating, and...and all like that, it's...it's a...it's a lot of.... Maybe some had a bicycle, some didn't. And when they wanted to go here and the other didn't want to go there. You know, maybe they forgot their key, and.... You know, I mean it's...it's a...it's a...it's a real big problem [squeaking sound], big problem.
SHUSTER: Were those problems mainly with the younger and newer missionaries?
SAWYER: Yeah, you have the s...you have the same problems. For instance [pauses], as I say, the greatest thing is.... Also, we require, as far as Christian Missionary Alliance, the day that you arrive [intermittent wrapping noise] on...on the mission field, you do not listen to English services anymore, as far as going to...if you have an English service in the area. You go to th...the language church, immediately, to listen to the language, to adapt yourself with their culture. Now this is hard. In Hong Kong we have a great big church, (English speaking church, seventy-five percent Chinese). You've got about seven or eight of those from that church right here in Wheaton College this year [laughs]. All kinds of money. The new missionaries come there...they've been in an American culture, they've been used to singing beautifully and all things like that. They might have abilities in singing and all like that. But as soon as they arrive in Hong Kong, we have a church over here [intermittent wrapping noise, perhaps drumming fingers]. You go over there with your family and your children as soon as you arrive. You can't go t' that English service, see, because you've got...you're gonna be with Chinese, you're going to minister to Chinese. And how can you do any better but be with [pounds table] the Chinese [laughs]. You're now Chinese [pounding noise], although your face is American or Western [pounding noise]. And that [repeated pounding noise] is...that's a hard thing for many young mothers and young people to...to [pounding noise] do. They don't get that...maybe that teaching when they're over here before they get there. Also, it...it's...it's...it's a lot of hard work. For instance, Hong Kong, they go to university every s...every morning...language. Study...study, Cantonese, guangdung [phonetic approximation] [pounding noises]. It's difficult, let me tell ya. Eight hours a day, and then they give you lessons. It's a tough course. And if you [pounding noise] don't keep up, and if you don't [pounding noise]...and we...it's [continuous pounding] right in their contract: if you don't get through and get your exams over, then you are responsible...all the funds of transportation, even your allowance to return to the States.
SHUSTER: And that's still true today?
SAWYER: That's...that's still today, still today. That's the only way to make a missionary...to really make him work, see. I mean, we have to work as missionaries. There's nobody's...it's [pounding noise] not a...not a ball game at all. And so it's...that's what they have to do. And they must be emersed immediately in the Chinese culture. They have opportunities to get together. We have prayer meetings together. We have special occasions even at that church to get together. But they don't...they don't anticipate that when they arrive [laughs] on the field. We get them all set up so that they can go into their apartment as...as so as they arrive. The second or third day there, they're in language study and they continue it [pounding noise]. We provide amahs to [repeated pounding noise] take care of their little children.
SAWYER: Yeah, nannies. [Intermittent pounding noise] Even in Hong Kong today, the mission pays for it. We can't afford one otherwise after they...after we get out of language study. But that is the provision [repeated pounding noise] problem so that they can get...get the language. Because you can't get the language, and you can't communicate, then what good are you.
SHUSTER: When these kind of personal differences you mentioned arise between missionaries, how is it handled?
SAWYER: Well the leader of the...of the mission has to...has to deal with these things in a...in a firm and a loving way, but very firmly. And also, we have an area man, that floats among the different missions or the different countries, at least twice a year so that they can be.... Also....
SHUSTER: And that's pretty much all that he does is handle...?
SAWYER: Right. He...he's actually.... We...we...we kid one another. We don't...we don't say on the outside. We..."he's the man who puts out brushfires [laughs] of the missions throughout the world [laughs]. That's his job. It is to make things run smoothly.
SHUSTER: I...I see we're almost out of tape. Did...did you have any final reflections on your time in Tibet and China, and on your early missionary training?
SAWYER: I might say this. I've never doubted my call. I believe God called me, and my wife too, to be missionaries in the Orient. It was first among the Tibetans, and then among the...even in Vietnam we had an opportunity of ministry as we studied French, and also in Laos. I believe God called us. I believe the call of God is necessary for any missionary to stay on the mission field [pauses] over the years, and interpersonal relationships will not be large in their...in their thinking. They'll be able to solve them. I can't...I've...I've had some bad confrontations over the years. I'll have to admit that. I'm a...I'm...I'm not an angel [laughs]. But God has given us grace and help, and he'll give every missionary grace and help to get his work done, and have.... The foremost thing is to see lost souls, men dying without Jesus Christ. And as you have that vision before you all the time, you can do any type of work, whatever you're...whatever you're adapted to. Usually missions try to have you do the thing that you are best qualified to do. And I appreciate the leadership of Christian Missionary Alliance as far as what they've...I've been under all these years.
SHUSTER: Well, thank you.
END OF TAPE