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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Gladys Lyle Wright (CN 284, T3) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing.
Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
[ ] Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcript, made by Matt Thompson, Jeremy Wells, and Paul Ericksen, was completed in April 2005.
Collection 284, T3. Interview of Gladys Lyle Wright by Sheryl O’Bryan, November 28, 1984.
[First five to ten minutes of tape is blank, possibly due to recorder malfunction. After this, there is intermittent bumping of microphone and the furniture on which the microphone rested throughout the interview.]
WRIGHT: They may have come to inspect the hospital and get some reports at times, but I wouldn’t necessarily have known of it.
O’BRYAN: How did communication, like letters and things like that, travel between the United States and you?
WRIGHT: The...the letters that we would write would be taken by one of our members to that central...central part. It wasn’t the city, but it was a pretty good size town. And there it was put on trucks and was taken to an area where it was picked up on a boat...on the boats that traveled on the Nile. And we didn’t have airplane service until about the last year that I was there, and then they began to use the airplane service. But we usually didn’t get our mail except sometimes every two weeks, sometimes it would be three. Then during a certain season of the year when the Nile River flooded it was impossible for the boats to go and we sometimes wouldn’t get mail for four or five weeks, and it would come in. That was before the airplane service. What happened was that all along the banks of the Nile River papyrus grew, and its large, high plants with heavy, heavy heads. And the soil in which it grows is all sopping wet with the...with the river. And as the river rose to flood stage large chunks of that earth would break off and float out into the river. And there would be so much of it that it would block the possibility of the boats going through. So then you just didn’t get mail and you didn’t get some of [laughs] your food, and it was just a long time of waiting, but it didn’t seem too difficult.
O’BRYAN: What were more of your feelings about returning back to the United States? Could you...?
WRIGHT: Well, I did not have a good church home to come to. I had nothing to make me want to come to the little town where I lived. The only thing that would make me want to go back was my mother. We were just like sisters. We were very dear, we were very close. And I knew that she missed me very much. But she never murmured, never...never a moment did nothing to hinder my going, was very brave. And the Lord rewarded her, because afterward I was able to have her here with me in Wheaton for twelve years, which she said were some of the happiest years of her life. And she had Christian fellowship here and Bible teaching she never, never would have had with that.... And she just grew like a rose to the sun. And, of course, that was a great joy to me. But that’s the way the Lord repaid her for giving her child completely into his service. But I had no...no friends. I didn’t know anyone in the town praying for me except my mother. The church was not a live church. It was a Baptist church, but it was very cool spiritually. They didn’t care that a child who was born and had grown up in the church, who had taught Sunday school, who started a fine youth group, didn’t care one cent about that. So I had nothing that made me want to go.
O’BRYAN: Right. Did you get most...where did you get most of your prayer support from?
WRIGHT: I didn’t have much. I had none when I first went out. They were taking us in...in what they called the general fund, which they did for a few like myself who just didn’t have churches back of them. [clears throat] There was a couple who had at some summer conference place, I think in California it was, they had attended where there was a missions program there. And representatives of the Africa Inland Mission were at that and talked about their work. And that couple were very deeply impressed with the work and became interested. They had a little girl, and that little girl, the next summer at that conference, was swinging and she fell from the swing and it caused something in her brain, I think...I know that she died very shortly after that. And she sent something to the mission and wanted to do it as a regular support for som...for anyone that the mission wanted to assign that money to. And because I didn’t have support, and because I was working with children, they suggested she send that to me. She and her husband each taught school, so during the school teaching months they could give the money, so...except for the summer months they gave money which was very helpful. It wouldn’t seem like much to us now, but in proportion it was very helpful. And they continued to give that to me for about pretty close to a whole year the first of my being at home. And then because I didn’t seem to be returning and I still wasn’t getting well enough to go back, they stopped. And I felt that was right, but they were very kind.
O’BRYAN: When you were on the mission field did you use a prayer letter or anything of that sort to...?
WRIGHT: What I did would be to type out a letter [clears throat], maybe make three copies, three or four carbon copies, send them to my mother, and my mother would re-type them making carbon copies. And she’d send one letter to three different people. Send it to one person and that person would mail it to just one other person, and about three different people would get that one copy. But I didn’t have hundreds to send it to. But a good many of my Wheaton friends and other friends that I had known, and some of the young people that had been in my Sunday school class and youth, and they were, you know...they wanted copies and my mother would see that they got them.
O’BRYAN: What were you feeling in your attitudes about coming back when you did come back?
WRIGHT: It was mainly that I was sure that my mother needed a time with me and I wanted it with her. I felt the need of rest. I felt the need of medical help, and did seek it from a very fine local doctor. But he couldn’t find anything that was causing my difficulty.
O’BRYAN: About how long did it take you to finally get back on your feet and...?
WRIGHT: Well, the problem was very, very poor circulation and low blood pressure, but it wasn’t what the medical profession recognized and they gave no suggestions, no help. I got no help when I was going from...well...very on...well into the second year. And I was still having a great deal of pain in my head and other areas of my body. And then the Lord directed me to a very fine Christian woman in Wayne, Pennsylvania, who was a medical doctor, an opti...an...an...an...was it..?[laughs]...this is the kind...not a chiropract...oh, [pauses]...architect [?], yes. She...I couldn’t get the word. She was both. And she specialized in a circulation treatment that was originated by a very fine Christian medical man. And it was something that began to get me corrected. I had to go Pennsylvania to her for help, and I’d go home in Connecticut, try to keep up the regulations and treatments that she gave me to do, and it began to get...give me some help. But I was home for four years before I really was well enough to do anything. Then the way opened for me to go and teach in a school for missionary children in South Carolina. Quite a number of our young people from the Africa Inland Mission, and especially in the Belgian Congo area, had come home and were attending that school. So I knew a good number of the young people. But they came from missions in many different countries in the world.
O’BRYAN: Before we go back to the school (I want to go back to that) [laughs], but what were your first impressions of the United States on your return?
WRIGHT: Well, I drove...I rode from New York up to our hometown on the trains. And they came very close to the Atlantic Ocean shoreline. Oh, it’s a beautiful, beautiful trip. And then from one particular town I got into a little line, steam engine line, that went right up through our town, which was right along the Connecticut River. And I knew that well. And the train would go right through great masses of rock that had to be blasted out to let the train through. And I was so thrilled. All the way up on that little train I was thinking, “I love thy rocks and hills, thy woods and templed hills.” [from second verse of the song “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”] It’s a tremendous thing to come back to America after five-and-a-half years. Beautiful, beautiful country. [airplane noise in background] And then the next morning I remember stepping out onto our back porch, and I felt as if I had breathed air that had vitality in it. It was so different than the tropical air. It was fresh air, it was healthy air. And then a very funny little thing that happened. I didn’t have any tears or any emotional upset when I met my mother, even though it [laughs] really was emotional. But we both were very calm about it and awfully, awfully happy. But the next morning I was going from my bedroom into our bathroom, and to hold the door, so it wouldn’t go slam at night or anything, we had a little old, old jug, a little clay jug. And we’d go in there and we’d just shove that with our feet. When I shoved that little jug with my foot, I knew I was home and the tears just came [laughs]. And I’ve laughed and laughed so many times. It took a little jug to make my emotions spill out. [laughs]
O’BRYAN: Did you see any major changes in anything when you came home?
WRIGHT: There were things that were very distressing that I remember very keenly. In the first place, most of the people from my church who greeted me would say, “Well, you aren’t going back are you?” in such an unlovely tone. I’m sure they judged me very harshly for having left my widowed mother, but my mother wasn’t that kind of person. And so I had no desire to go to the church, you see. And then I would go up to the post office, which was only about a couple of blocks from our house, and by that time it was summer, it June, and the young girls were riding around on their bicycles with nothing on the top except bandana handkerchiefs, and most of their bodies very uncovered. And it was an awful shock, because it was a strange, very different thing. My African girls had been so glad to have clothing. Once they had clothing they didn’t want to be naked. But our people were working toward nakedness. When I’d go in to mail some mail and the little children would be coming home from school, and I heard them saying, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Just using the name of Jesus, little children. It nearly broke my heart. I had been out to teach little children to love and know Jesus Christ. And here our children here were learning to use his name in vain. I just didn’t want to go to the post office. I didn’t want to be seeing. It was suffering. And I used to avoid going to town. I’d instead that I’d go around the [unclear] out in the woods and out by the rivers, out by a pond that was within sight from our house and enjoy the quietness. There was a lot of heartache in those days, longing to be back in Africa.
O’BRYAN: About what year was that? What year was that?
WRIGHT: That would have been about 1935 and ‘36 and ‘7.
O’BRYAN: Okay. What were your thoughts on Africa Inland Mission after your return to the United States?
WRIGHT: I had had the highest respect for it, had nothing but kindness shown me. Men and women of a high spiritual life. We had there at the station...we had more than most people ever have on one station because we had so many different areas and we had...at some of the time we had as many as eighteen. Every day at noontime was a time of prayer, an hour for prayer, not just for our station but for the stations all around us. One day a month was a whole day of prayer from morning until dark. You’d go and you’d stay as long as you could. If you had some duties at your home you had to go back for, like I had to go and do something with the children, right away back again. Prayer all day long for every station and all the missionaries in our whole area in Kenya, Tanzania, and all the areas that the mission was working in. And those were marvelous days of spiritual growth for me, because I had never lived where there was that much prayer and that much lovely fellowship with others. And all of the other people on that station were quite a bit older than I and were so kind to me, doctor and his wife, and nurses, and the ones who were at the head of the Bible school. And then I had a very dear friend living with me. And it was very, very happy.
O’BRYAN: After your return and your recovery, you went to the Westervelt School?
O’BRYAN: In South Carolina. Could you tell us about that, and what you did there, and what the school was like a little more?
WRIGHT: Their children were from many different countries. The work was begun by a man and woman, Mr. [Theodore] and Mrs. [Josephine] Westervelt, who had been with the Africa Inland Mission in Kenya, and had done work in the very first of the school that is now known as Rift Valley Academy, a very large school that had some three hundred to four hundred children from many different areas. The school there where...where...near where I was at Rethy was begun during the first year that I arrived. And there were some of the children from that home that had come...become high school age and couldn’t have high school there and had to come home. So this Mr. and Mrs. Westervelt had started a home for these children at Columbia Bible College [in Columbia, South Carolina] where they were teachers. But they accepted only boys. The lady...lady, who really ran the school more than the husband, just didn’t like girls. And she had a son of her own and understood boys. And they had a number of them. I don’t know how many they had a first, but it got to be perhaps as many as a dozen. And the boys were taught to play musical instruments and they would go on tour every year during the summer to different churches and support was raised for the home, and the children were given an educational trip in parts of the country here. And I had known of the school. A friend of mine had come home, this was after I had been home for nearly four years, and she had brought two girls from the Congo that had come where they needed the high school schooling. And she had taken them there to the home in South Carolina. And she wrote to me and she said, “I wish you could come here and help. They desperately need someone for piano and teaching Bible and French.” Well, I had been trying very hard to get work in my home area. I had tried to get piano pupils, and several mothers had said, well, they were so sorry, they would love to send their children to me, because they knew my work, but they just made arrangements for their child. And everything was a “no” that I tried to get into. And I was getting very, very discouraged, and her letter came. So I wrote down and immediately the Westervelts said, “Do come.” And I did. And I had many, many different musical instruments to teach, and I taught French and Bible. And the young people were very, very dear, lovely young people. I loved the work there very much. I was still a very sick person. [airplane sound in the background] I couldn’t go up two flights of stairs. I’d have to rest. So like on the second flight I had to lie in my bed for a while to get strength to go on. But I had all that to prepare different lessons. And every program they had, whether it was a Thanksgiving program, a graduation program, or a Christmas program, it was my responsibility to find the different poetry to be recited, other kinds of recitation to be recited, all of the music. The only music that I didn’t direct was the orchestra. And Mrs. Westervelt’s son, who was a very good trumpeter, he directed the orchestra, and did it nicely. Then they needed a pianist for the orchestra, and I did that, so that one of the students, who was a good pianist and would have loved to have played that, but also she played, I think it was the flute, and she wanted to be in the orchestra. So, of course, I gladly played for that. But I had a vocal group, and I taught Tonic Sol-Fa system [method developed in the 1800s by Rev. John Curwen to teach sight reading of music] for those that were high school age to sing, the Sol-Fa system. So I was very, very busy and very, very happy, and I loved my work. And there were nice fellow workers there too.
O’BRYAN: A while back you mentioned the Rift Valley Academy, only I don’t remember the other name of...I don’t....
WRIGHT: Rift Valley Academy, that’s right.
O’BRYAN: Right. Did most of the missionaries keep their children with them and school...and educate them themselves or...?
WRIGHT: Not very many. Usually by the time they were seven or eight they really needed companionship of other white children. They needed schooling that wasn’t available, unless it meant that their mother spent all of her time, and maybe wasn’t a capable teacher, didn’t like teaching, didn’t know how to teach well. And then they would have to go to one of these schools. At that time transportation wasn’t as easy as it is now with the airplane, so that children didn’t always get home as often through the year as they do now. But they went there and they had very loving care. They had very very fine teachers, very well-qualified teachers. The one that was where I was in that area of the Belgian Congo, Mr. Earl Winsor, of whom you knew down there at the Graham Center. They have a very full account of his very rich life [see BGC Archives Collection 93, Interviews of Earl Austin Winsor]. And so he and his wife were the directors of the...of the school at Rethy [Academy, Belgian Congo (more recently Zaire and Congo)]. They didn’t have a lot of students at first. I think there were only maybe six children that were of the age that needed it. That would be anywhere from grade one up to about six or seven probably. Then after that they had to come home for high school. That’s why they were coming to many different places in this country, but there at the Westervelt home there were a number at that I knew.
O’BRYAN: What were the circumstances surrounding your return to Wheaton, in 1942, I believe?
WRIGHT: I came here, first of all, as a guest of a very very...my very dear friend and..and companion Alice Winsor, and [sic] sister of Mr. Earl Winsor, of whom they have so much report of his work there [at the Billy Graham Center]. And I had a very happy visit with her. And then I was home for a while. And then I went to teach at the Westervelt home. There was some things that were carried on by the directors of the...of the work there that were very distressing, some treatment of the...the children there. But she did not like girls and didn’t want girls, but the parents begged her so. Here they were putting their sons and they’re going to have the brothers and sisters separated. It was bad enough to be separated from parents. So she finally consented to that and had a woman who was a house mother for the girls. And...but I saw some things done to the children that hurt so. I just felt I couldn’t give my life to substantiate that sort of thing. So that with much distress I just really didn’t know what to do. But I knew that they had the Christian Grammar School here. So I had written to my friend Alice Winsor to ask here if possibly the principal would have an opening for me to teach here in the high school. But she replied and said that, no, they had all the staff, but they were very very much needing some helpers in the admissions office [of Wheaton College] and that the president’s office had a mimeograph machine, but only the president’s secretary could take time to work, and they were wanting a full-time worker for that in order to develop it into a department. Well, I didn’t know anything about that kind of work, but she said, “Well, there are some of the college students who have worked with me at it and they will help you.” And she said, “I think that many of the things are detailed [detail-oriented] that you would enjoy, so don’t be hesitant about coming.” And she said I could live with her. So that made a very easy and happy opening for me and I loved it. From the very first I just loved the work. It was so interesting, and we had, oh, four or five girls were coming and helping us in the work at different times. They knew how to operate the machine and so that sort of thing students taught me.
O’BRYAN: What kind of work did you do there? What kind of thing...?
WRIGHT: Well, like the Broadcaster [weekly list of campus announcements] (they still call it the Broadcaster)...that was put out, of course. We did it three times a week, and that had to be done. But then we did all of the exam material. It came to us. The teachers would bring in handwritten or typed, and we had to retype it, we had to proofread it, we had to run it, gather it, and staple it. We did some of the textbooks. There was a big book on theology that was done by a professor here then, oh, probably a two, three hundred page book. We had to do that...all of that running. That was typed, presented to us typed by a very good secretary, but we had to do the running of it. And then in the summer, after summer school when there was room [laughs] in the library to spread that work all out, we spread it on tables and we walked probably miles around gathering it and then stapling it...because we didn’t have any of the more elaborate equipment that they have now. So we did that for quite a little while. And after a time they had a man come as business manager, who had had a place in a very little business where money just evidently flowed in easily to his office and he had had a beautiful office. Well, he didn’t particularly like the [laughs] office here at Wheaton and he wanted a bigger one. So our equipment was boosted upstairs to the fourth floor [of Blanchard Hall], if you please. And everybody that wanted a job done had to climb flights of stairs, leave it for us and go down, wait until we got it done maybe the next afternoon, then all the way up and back again. Well, that went on for two years. And it was fiercely hot up there in the summer. Then they bought their first offset machine, offset print. And just about that time my dear friend, who was in the front room, Betty Terry, came to help me in the work, the first time I’d had a full time worker. And she was very very capable with machinery and any kind of equipment. She was very gifted in mechanical things. And she was so delighted. And they had to move that...they couldn’t put that up on the fourth floor, so we were given a very nice area in...where data processing is on the first floor. And that was so ideal for all of the customers, faculty and staff and everyone. We were right on the line of going in and out of Blanchard Hall. It was [unclear] material out. We also had a small room on the other side that was a...that was a classroom, but it wasn’t needed and we had to have more space. We had four or five students working for us most of the time in that room. Then they moved us over to what was known as the “bookstore building” [Adams Hall] for a long time. And we had a very very fine office there at the left-hand side of the entrance...of the main entrance. We had big big rooms. We got two offset presses. We had ditto machines. We had a Veritype typewriter machine, which you could do many different styles and sizes. We did many many forms for...at the business office. We did all kinds of forms for them. We did programs for many many recitals, things of that kind. We did some little artwork things with them. It was a fascinating work. Lots of proofing work. We learned a lot from classroom work that would come to us and we’d proofread it, and we had student workers. Many times a missionary child who knew of me would come to see, “Was possible to have work in that office?” And we often could do it. And they felt, “Here was someone who understood them, who understood the missionary child.” So the Lord gave me a very precious ministry in the lives of those young people who needed me, as well as the joy of working there. Our goal for the work there was to be helpers to all these busy people. If it was somebody from the business office who needed this form done soon, we’d try so hard to work that in and meet that need. Or the [unclear] would come over and something they needed fast. We’d always tried to get it as fast as we could. Teachers would come in with their exams, “I’ve got to give this exam on Tuesday morning.” We’d work hard to get it. And so our idea was to be of service to the people on campus, [unclear] the work that we did.
O’BRYAN: A number of the students who worked for you over the years went on to become missionaries. Could you comment on that?
WRIGHT: Well, one in particular wrote back that she had grown up in Africa, she married a young man whose parents had grown up in South Africa, and they went back to the field to Johannesburg in...in Kenya [sic]. And when she wrote back, “One...” she... “One of the first things that I was given to do was to do mimeograph work for the schools.” And we had more than one who had said that, so that we felt that we’d given them help that they really put right into Christian work very promptly. Then, of course, we’ve kept touch...in touch with many many of those. There was a young man who came and helped us very very nicely with the offset work, and he went to...out with Operation Mobilization into [pauses]...I think it was mostly southern European countries. And then he felt led to work with Muslim people, and he found it very very difficult. The rules and regulations of those governments are very very strict. He came home and he stayed for a year in schooling learning how to use solar light, heat, and that sort of thing. And he worked a very peculiar, separate kind of business that could be started in any country, a Muslim country. He could get people using that for practicality, and get favor with the government in that way. [airplane noise in background] In his home quietly he could talk to individuals about the Lord, and win them to the Lord. Then maybe after a time get as many...maybe two or three couples that would be saved. And he’s still doing that. And he’s a very choice young man. But he’s asked by government people to set up a solar operation in their country, a business for them.
O’BRYAN: And did he work for you?
WRIGHT: He worked for us, yes. I think at least three years, two or three years in the least.
O’BRYAN: I read something in your file about...you participated in an SMP, Student...the Student Missionary Project on campus. Could you talk a little about that?
WRIGHT: Well, it was...we met once a week, I think it was. I can’t remember exactly about that. [clears throat] But it was the young people on campus who themselves were either children of missionaries and had the look for...looking ahead to it, wanting to go back to the country they came to or at least wherever the Lord wanted them. They were those who had their lives yielded to the Lord. And mine was yielded to the Lord before I came here to Wheaton. And that group was just what I enjoyed very much. We learned more about the different countries from what people tell us, but it was very much a prayer ministry. And then helping them to know what to do to apply to a mission, how to get the help of a mission, to encourage them and that sort of thing. It wasn’t as developed as what you have now in the Missions Project.
O’BRYAN: Did you participate in any literary societies when you were here?
WRIGHT: Yes, we had the different literate societies and I was an Aelioian.
O’BRYAN: And what did that involve?
WRIGHT: Well, you had debates and you had...you learned quite a little bit about the proper procedure of...of directing a meeting, how to call a meeting to order and directing it and that sort of thing. And then there was always a stunt, so everybody...there had to be a stunt. Somebody had to plan a stunt and carry it each month. But it was a different...you know, just for originality and fun. I was secretary for it for a while, nothing more important [laughs] than that. But we had very few officers. The...a lot of the fun of it was very good, because you learned how to conduct this...a meeting too, as well as...as how somebody else did it. And it came in very handy for a number of different things. But then there was the lovely competition between the...with the Aelioians and the...and the Philaletheans. No, [unclear, repeated twice], I think it was. And they were our enemies, of course [laughs]. We’d try to compete with them.
O’BRYAN: Was that while you were a student?
WRIGHT: Yes. Uh-huh.
O’BRYAN: Okay. Did that help you, do you think?
WRIGHT: Yes, I think it did because you had to learn to stand up before a group and express yourself. Maybe you had a...a subject you had to...to give a lecture on, short lecture, or you had to debate with somebody else on it. You had to...you learned to think on your feet.
O’BRYAN: Okay. What other things were you involved in?
WRIGHT: Always music.
O’BRYAN: Did you teach at the Conservatory?
WRIGHT: But I had the privilege of being an accompanist for a very, very fine violinist, who’s gone on and made quite a fine reputation for himself in his violin work. And [clears throat] I did accompaniment work for a Mrs. Weaver who was well known over at the College Church. She had a very beautiful solo voice, soprano. We had many happy times together. And a very dear friend and I played two piano duets for different occasions. The literary society has always had one annual meeting which all the societies make some contribution to the program in the evening. So this friend and I were supposed to play. She was going to play organ and I the piano. And we got up on the platform and all the lights in the chapel went out. So somebody turned to me and they said, “Gladys, you’ve got to play something.” So, well what could I play that I was sure I could play without any hesitation? [laughs] Without anything I thought of a piece that I knew real well, and I liked, “Hymn to the Rising Sun.” And it was pitch dark [unclear] and they howled. And they never got through teasing me about that when the lights went out. [laughs] So happy memories, those times.
O’BRYAN: What stands out in your mind about Dr. [V. Raymond] Edman and his administration?
WRIGHT: He was...he had just became the president of the college when I came from South Carolina, and came here. And he is such a very friendly person. He...he...he loved the students and he loved the staff. And he never made any difference between the staff and the faculty, that...that...that the faculty were much superior people. He always made you feel as if you were a very important, needed and welcome part in the ongoing of the...of the college. And it was during his administration that they first gave an honor award in the springtime to those who had given outstanding service to the school.
O’BRYAN: And you received that award?
O’BRYAN: I read that you received that award?
WRIGHT: [whispers] I got it twice. [laughs] That second time they didn’t remember they had already given the first [laughs]. There was one lady that got it first, and old person quite a lot older than I, and then I was the second one. Well, I had gone on a trip to check up with my doctor in Pennsylvania and a friend from here had gone with me. Then we the heard the word of it. I didn’t know what it meant. And she was so amazed. She thought it was wonderful. I did not know what it was. And here I was just laughing about it, you know. But I appreciated it afterwards. [airplane noise in background] Well, like, what had I done? I just did what was my duty to do.
O’BRYAN: And then when did you get it the second time?
WRIGHT: It was about four years after that...three, four years after that. But they did a little [laughs, unclear] first. I’m sure they wouldn’t have given it a second time [laughs].
O’BRYAN: What things stand out in your mind about Dr. [Hudson] Armerding [Edman’s successor as Wheaton College’s president] and his administration?
WRIGHT: Well, I am very, very fond of Dr. [Hudson] Armerding and his wife. I know what a strong, deep spiritual man he is. And while his personality and his ways were vastly different than Dr. Edman. Dr. Edman was well met, you know friendly, open, jolly. Dr. Armerding has got just as much jolliness in him but it is different. His humor is brainy humor and the students have always loved it. And he loved the students just as much as Dr. Edman, but it took quite a long time for the students to really understand and accept Dr. Armerding. But I saw it grow and grow and grow. And I know something of the feeling when he left a year ago. And I know what I felt when he left [laughs] a year ago, too. Of course, I think very highly of...of Dr. [Richard] Chase [Armerding’s successor as Wheaton College’s president]. But Miss Terry and I had become very close friends of Mrs. Armerding too. And through that we often would see him in the normal way. That was a privilege to us.
O’BRYAN: What changes did you see in Wheaton itself over the years?
WRIGHT: Much more attention to really high [pauses] scholastic work, and professors with very, very fine qualifications. Some, a little tendency to...to much more worldliness that sometimes is a...is a concern to me. At the same time, many, many young people coming with a deep commitment to Jesus Christ and giving themselves. Maybe it’s some of this that I...I don’t enjoy because I feel it’s of the world, but I see the other side, and so I know that we have very, very choice young people on campus, and many of them who really, really love the Lord, and are preparing their lives for service. And as you see it going out year after year, like down to Honduras and other places and looking at missionary as summer work all over the world. And look at the hundreds going down to Urbana. Here they report they expect something like twenty thousand young people down there. If you feel that the...that our country is going to hash, just think about that and you can rejoice in the Lord that He’s got thousands of young people who are looking for His will for their lives. And it makes you happy. And they are getting encouragement and [unclear].
O’BRYAN: Okay, just little summary statement. [pauses] What was the general attitude of Africa Inland Mission towards the Congo at the time you were there?
WRIGHT: I never saw any animosity. They had been brought to a condition of peace throughout their country. The Belgians stopped inter-tribal warfare. They provided medical assistance and help to them. They taught them better conditions from their agriculture. And schools were divided. The government had nothing to do with the schools. They gave free reign to the Protestants and the Catholics with their own teaching as they wanted. So the government was not involved in the schools. And I never saw any attitude on the part of nationals that I was with of...of animosity to the Belgians. The trouble arose later, much later, when so many of the countries that were under some other government were beginning to get their independence. Then those in the Belgian Congo thought they wanted to be independent. And they had asked it of Belgium and Belgium said, “Yes, we will give you your independence, but let us train you for the work, for two or three years.” They would have nothing to do with it. And they lost. They don’t know how to do it. The country has gone way, way, way down because they wouldn’t talk through. Now they are ruling as Africans rule Africans and it isn’t efficient. But I never saw anything of that. It hadn’t occurred at the time.
O’BRYAN: What was the general attitude of the Congolese to the mission work during your term?
WRIGHT: It seems they appreciated what was done for the national people.
O’BRYAN: Okay. What were your expectations for the nationals who became Christians while you were working there?
WRIGHT: Well, I expected someone to go and take over my work, and they would take care of the children and the girls. The girls came from three different tribes in the area. And they got their schooling there. And they had Christian help day by day. And they grew nicely. But they did stop having those homes for girls. It took too much time from a single worker. And the purpose of the home at that time was preparing girls to be Christian women, to be wives of the ones who were being trained in the evangelist school to be evangelists and pastors. But that grew as the girls in an area went to schools right on their...within their own walking distances. They didn’t have to have a dormitory life such as I had for them. And it’s better, because they...they learned right there in their own area.
O’BRYAN: Did you have any expectations for them though, after you left? How did you expect them to continually grow?
WRIGHT: It...just exactly as I had. There would be those there who would be teaching them, living amongst them, loving them, caring for them, being like a mother to them. And the...the young men would come to me and ask permission to ask a girl to be his wife. And he had to have [unclear] encouragement and helpfulness in that way too. And others would do the same thing after I had gone. But now they don’t have the homes for girls anymore. Girls are cared for by a single worker, probably, on a station where there is a school and they can go to school there.
O’BRYAN: What...did you...did they have a vision for...for the state of the Congolese church when you left? And what was it?
WRIGHT: Not necessarily, because I was not involved actually in church work.
WRIGHT: My work was with children and girls. And that was...of course, it was part of the church. Our little folks went to the church, the girls went to the church. They were baptized and became members of the church there.
O’BRYAN: Obviously, you have kept in contact with many of these people. How have you seen them grow and what changes have you seen in their lives since?
WRIGHT: The girls, at the time that I was with them, they learned to write some. But they had never had any experience in writing letters to people. They could write a little bit to me. And I got letters for a little while from some of them. But then it kind of dropped away. And all I have been able to know about them is occasionally a missionary would be able to give me a little information about one. But they scattered because there was no one to be in charge of the home such as I had for a while. And then they had the...the Rebellion [Simba Rebellion in 1964] when people just fled for their lives to all different areas. And some of those that were very dear to me, the little orphan children, I didn’t know whether the were...where they were or whether they had been killed at that time or not. But little by little word has been coming back. And now I know that every one of those little orphan children who lived (many of them died from some of the sicknesses there and didn’t get strong), I know that many of them are women now who are leaders of women, and using the teaching of the Bible in areas where they are teaching other women. So they are living lovely Christian lives. And I have had pictures sent to me of them, which were nice.
O’BRYAN: Would you like to make any concluding comments or relate any more anecdotes or stories about either your life as a missionary, your return, anything?
WRIGHT: One of the rich things that I believe that has come out of it is maintaining the correspondence with many different missionary friends. Many of those [clears throat] who were older than I on that station at Aba, some of them that were fellow workers on different stations, but my own age. Now we have kept in...kept...been friendly there. But more than that, the young people that I had as pupils there in school for missionary children in South Carolina became very dear to me and I to them because I cared for them, they knew that I loved them. And the music teaching is the personal, one to one, and sometimes they would tell me some of the things that were just causing them sorrow, difficulties, problems. And I could quietly give them a word of comfort, a help. And as in many schools boys and girls found their mates and married. And many of those have gone back to mission fields or gone to a different one. One couple had grown up in Venezuela, gone to a school for missionary children down there, but at the Westervelt Home they decided that they loved each other and they wanted go back to Venezuela. They are back in Venezuela. He’s doing tremendous translation work, fixed [?] dictionaries and encyclopedias and other things, advanced Spanish work. And she has been teaching advanced.... [phone rings, recorder stopped and restarted] Another couple, one from Central America and another from South America, married and they have been missionaries in Central America doing very fine translation work, doing radio work and starting a little broadcasting station, and doing work on computer now, very, very fine work. Another couple went to Maracaibo in Venezuela and then after a time went to the radio station HCJB in Quito, Equador. And he does a lot of the secretarial work there. She helps to entertain the many, many guests that come down or the tourists to see all of the work of that vast radio work. And all those young people are almost like my own children. We write back and forth. I began most of my missionary giving to those, because I knew as missionary young people they find it much harder to get support than a child that’s had a good church home here. And so I have felt that they have needed my help and because I not only sent them money, but because I write and they know how much I care, they know that I pray, that that has been the biggest ministry of my life, I think, in the last few years here, except the life that I teach and my children that I teach here, the piano, and by having children from Christian homes I can make much of the hymn work and get them so that...I don’t preach to them because I am here to teach them, but sometimes taking a hymn and showing the real meaning of the words, getting to them to play that hymn, not to show off what they can do but to play that message and be used of the Lord, has been my ministry with the children here. And sometimes children coming home with their parents from the mission field, staying up at our missionary fellowship homes, will ask me could I take their children for the year, and I am happy to do it. And then I will say, “Well, if you will be sure that the children do the practicing as I require it, I will be glad give them the lessons this year as missionary children.” So another little avenue in which I can serve the Lord happily in that way.
O’BRYAN: Is there anything else you would like to add?
WRIGHT: That is enough. Thank you.
O’BRYAN: Okay, good, thank you.
END OF TAPE