This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the second oral history interview of Vincent Leroy Crossett (CN 288, T4) 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. Chinese place names 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," if that is how the interviewee pronounced it. Chinese terms and phrases which would be understood were spelled as they were pronounced with some attempt made to identify the accepted transliteration form to which it corresponds. 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 was made by Paul Ericksen and Jeffrey Dennison and was completed in July 2002.
Collection 288, T4. Interview (30 minutes) of Vincent Leroy Crossett by Paul Ericksen, Friday, November 16, 1984, 2:45 P.M.
ERICKSEN: We were talking about your honeymoon at Westlake. I suppose it was nice for both of you to get a little bit of a break, too, from the work.
CROSSETT: Yes. I hadn't gotten much into the work because I had only been out a year. It was a year and five days from the time I landed in Shanghai till we were married. The mission had a rule that you had to wait a year, and that was a very exceptional rule. Normally it's two years. You had to wait two years after you got to the field. But because of the...of the unrest in the war (you know '27, '28, '29, along there) and they had changed the rule to one year, and they...it still was holding in 1930 [laughs]...beginning of '35 so that...they...they felt the adjustment was too much to become adjusted and be in missionary language study and then to marriage at the same time. That's mainly for the woman's part, but, of course, Margaret had been there so that wasn't a big thing. But it was a rule, and so we waited a year. Just a year and five days [laughs] we got married. That took care of my senior citizenship and senior...senior missionary [laughs] requirement. And....
ERICKSEN: And then you...you af...you went from to Westlake back up to [unclear]....
CROSSETT: We went up to...up to...up to...up to Shanghai to the mission home and spent a few days there. And there is when...I think that's when they...they...apport...appointed us to Zhengyangguang. They appointed us to Hoqiu, but to Zhengyangguang until we could get a place over there. And it took us a year to do that. Now Zhengyang...Zhengyangguang was an old station. It was sixty years old when we went there. Mr. [Henry] Ferguson had been there and he had been taken by the Communists. Until this day no word has co...been heard from him. He was getting close to retirement. His...his...oh, he was sixty or so, and his wife had died not too long before. He says, "I don't have anything else to live for. I'd like to go and witness to the Communists." But no word was heard from him since. He had been seen in...somewhere around there for the first weeks or so by the Chinese, but they would never tell us anything. We never could get it out. They'd clam up right away as...clam up just as soon as they...they felt we were...we were interested or having any...any questions about it. But he was taken and the house was.... Well, a single missionary had lived there a little bit after Mr. Ferguson was there, and he was the kind that...he'd open a can and...of food and eat part of it, leave it there, and never cleaned up. It was one of the dirtiest places I had ever seen. And it was a foreign hou...I mean a foreign-style house, two-story. And, boy, Mr. Ferguson had...just before he was taken, was...his wife had died, and they had all these paper streamers that everybody gave him at the funeral. Those were all stacked in there. The rats had had a great big time, and oh, it was the filthiest place! We worked there for a month before we got it down to the basis so we could start really building up a little bit and cleaning it. That was our experience when we were first married, cleaning that house up! [laughs] That was really, really a mess. But the...the...the windows, some had been broken. Birds had been living inside. Rats were just...just taken over. And it was...it was really a mess. But the Communists had already left that area, and so we felt very safe apart from the bandits. They're everywhere anyway. But we felt fairly safe and just settled down. That was our work. We could work with the church. They had a pastor, Pastor Tsue [?], who was in charge of the local church. He said we could do whatever we wanted to [clears throat], especially in the street chapel. But I was in language study so we didn't do that very much. I couldn't speak very well at all [clears throat] and so we just sort of did...Margaret did woman's work and children's work and hel...we helped out in the church a little bit. But all the time we were looking for a...a place over in Hoqiu. And the Chinese felt we were wealthy and so they just felt that they could just gouge us for everything, and we just couldn't do that. So that we went over there and would spend a day and come back. It's just twenty miles away. We'll spend a...we'd...we'd have...we'd have...maybe go over and spend the night and then come back the next day. Spent not too much time over there, just looking for a place. And finally this Mohammedan said, "I'll...I'll lease this place to you." The dong [?] is what they call it. We call it a lease. But anyway, the arrangement is we gave him five thousand dollars Chinese, and he kept that money for ten years, and we kept his house for ten years. At the end we swapped back. He gave us our five thousand and he took the house. Well, it was a good deal for him because it was a medicine shop in there before what...before. And when they moved out they took the window sills and the door frames and everything. It was just an empty shell with.... And of course we wanted to fix it up for our living any...anyway so it took quite a while for that to be fixed up. Mr. [H.] Costerus came up from Lu'an, and he oversaw the...the work and...and.... Of course, he's a very energetic evangelist, and first thing we did was to fix up the chapel, the...the street chapel. Their streets are about twice as wide as this room, less than that, and a big stone paving in the center and then smaller stones and bricks on the side. The...the center was for wheelbarrows to go by. And we just took one, two steps from the street right into our street chapel. The street chapel was a...was a fairly good size, so while we were getting that ready we went...we arranged for the carpenter to make some sawhorses. We got twenty sawhorses at a dollar a piece which we thought was cheap, but it was...it was a good price for them. It was six feet long, about this wide, and those were the pews. We got a little table, and as soon as that was ready, while the work was going on behind, we opened the street chapel. Every...every night we had that street chapel open, and, boy, we filled it every time. And of course the workers...Mr. Costerus was...could speak quite well, and...and he was an older...older...older man. And the workers were Christians and so we just held meeting, had the workers preach until he preached, and then we had...we had a great time there for [laughs]...every night. We...we did that.... Then once...once we moved in there we not only had it at night, we started having it...we started fill.... When we moved in the...the work was finished. And...and so we opened the chaped all morning, all afternoon, and all evening. We did that for six months. But during that six months there were some that came to know the Lord, espec...especially John Shuechung [?] and John Xibe [?], father and son, and we started having Bible classes, teaching them...I think it was, I'm not sure, Wednesday night, Sunday night, Saturday night...somethi...a time we'd...we'd have...teaching them not only the Bible, but teaching them also, encouraging them to speak in the meetings. Chinese know how to speak. [laughs] They're not lost for words. So we were training leaders at the time...the same time we were teaching them the Word. And after the six months were over then we started...we started planning for country trips in the spring and in the fall when the weather was...was all right. Summer's too hot, winter is...is too cold. So in the su...spring and fall we'd plan trips. We'd just go out in the country. See, they...they have (I don't know whether I'm jumping the gun on this thing or not)...but they have market towns. Market towns are anywhere from three to five miles apart out in the country, and they have market day in these towns every other day. And this one is today, that one is...is quiet to...today, and...but it's open tomorrow. And so we'd have a whole wheelbarrow load of gospels to sell (a copper a piece) and of tracts. Oh, we had thousands of tracts that we'd go out.... And then we'd...we'd go into a market town in the afternoon the day before the market, and we'd get...get into the inn and we'd...we'd look over the place and see where we were going to set up and...and then...then spend the night. Then early in the morning, before daylight, people would start coming in so we'd...the innkeeper would have breakfast for us and we'd...then we'd get up and we'd....we'd try to get to the gates and give out tracts and sell gospels as people were coming.
ERICKSEN: For the day?
CROSSETT: Coming for the...for the morning. It's over by...by noon. And then...then...then after they were there, and they were all doing their trading and mostly...well, it's trading. Sometimes they'd swap and sometimes they'd pay, but they'd [clears throat].... We'd find a place which was not too crowded, open place, and we'd...we'd put up our posters and so forth and we'd start preaching. Then we'd do that and usually until they started going home. Everybody would...they leave by noon, go back home. And we'd fold up and go back to the inn, have dinner, and then we'd go to the next place. And we'd do the same thing. So we...we'd make a market town a day, and they were every other day so it just fit right. And then when our...after about eight, ten days all of our stuff is gone so we'd go back home, rest for a few days, then we'd go out again to another part of the...of the place. And we did that in the spring and fall every year. But in the winter and summer, we were in the...in town. And they didn't even want us to go visiting in the summertime because it was so hot they...they didn't feel they could [laughs] entertain us. But in the wintertime we went...we'd go around and visit in the homes and so forth. But after...after eighteen months [clears throat], we had twenty-four that had asked for baptism and we put them through their paces, and then on eighteenth of December [clears throat] (When was it? '35, '36, '37, I think it was. No. '36 it must have been. I don't remember.).... Anyway, eighteenth of December of that year we had baptisms, and that time we immersed. But there was no place except the lake, and of course that was in...out of the...out of the weather...out of the way in December, so we made a...a tub which was about that deep [apparently indicates depth with hands], it was about that wide and it was a little over six feet long just like the.... They make them a little smaller for the scalding of the pigs when they butcher them. But they made this big one and of course we filled it up and...it had to go in the courtyard. We filled it up and put water in it so it was nice...I mean warm water in it so it was nice. And then we baptized these eighteen...these twenty-four people, the men...men first. Then all the men disappeared. I was the only man that could stay around. They didn't want anybody to see women in their...in their clothes that were hanging to their body [laughs], you know. That was...that wasn't Chinese [laughs]. So that we...we had steps outside and steps inside to go down in the water. We baptized twenty-four. And then in January I called them together and I said, "We want to start a...start a church." We'd been teaching right along and says, "You're all novices and you're not qualified to be leaders. But we do need a secretary to keep track of what we do, and we do need a treasurer and an assistant treasurer to tee...keep track of monies. And if you want me to, I'll be the banker. I'll hold it and you say whether to spend it and tell me what you're giving and so forth." And so we organized it that way and du...during the year we kept on teaching and second year organized into a church, got our deacons and so forth together and organized a church. We were sent home after that, and...I mean, we came on furlough, and then...then George Steed and Ruth Steed (I don't know whether you know them or not, but they're...they're known around here. Ruth Lewis...the Lewises went through Wheaton and Steed is a Canadian.). But anyway, they took over and they carried on exactly the same policy we did, purely indigenous. We...we started the thing, got people saved, but we didn't take any financial responsibility for the church. They came to us and wanted to know, "Well, we need a building. We need a church here." See, we leased that property for ten years. The Steeds were there for some time. They [the Chinese congregation] came to us and said, "What are we going to do? We need property. Will the mission help us?" We just said, "Whose church is it?" They said, "It's ours." "Okay, you buy it." [laughs] And they...and they...they got under it and they said, "Okay, we'll do it." And...and by the end...before the end of ten years, well before the end of the ten years they got property outside the south gate. It had buildings on it, and they improvised...I mean, fixed it up so that is was very good for meeting place. And there was a little sort of a courtyard on one side, and the door was here and you came in and the big building's here, then a little building's over here. They fixed that up for the missionary and said, "Now will you send us a missionary?" because for a while they didn't have [laughs] one. And then George Steed...the Steeds were sent and they lived in that place. Boy that...it was truly an indigenous work and it was.... They were thrilled and we were thrilled. We had...they asked me to speak in a conference just at the end of the ten years the Steeds were there. They asked me to speak at the conference. They had these outstations which they had been...they had been witnessing from the very first time they started. We had been sending them out into the country witnessing, and so they had five outside branch churches, and they had four hundred that gathered together for these conf...for this conference. I spoke. It was about three days, I think. It was thrilling to see what the Lord had done. We couldn't take the credit all entirely because of these...this movement that was out in these other conf...consulates...counties. But the Lord was [unclear] really working. The...the name of the mission...I mean, the name of Christianity was looked up to. It was...it was respected. And so that encouraged them, too. Then, of course, missionaries were active in giving relief, and so that gave another good name. We didn't do much relief work until later on while Japanese came in and we...we...the refugees were going through there just by the thousands. And we were...we got some Red...Red Cross money, I think it was, three thousand U.S., which made a lot of Chinese money. And we were...for a while we were (this time bracket...I'm not getting these in sequence necessarily).... But during...during that time, they...refugees were coming through there by the thousands, and we would go out, got this money, and then we would buy up rice one day and just put it in great big piles in...in the compound. And when we bought the rice then people were going out to examine these refugees if they'd...if they had a regular refugee.... See, where they came from, the...the government there was supposed to give them a refugee...an authentic refugee ticket, and we'd go out and examine them and...and have a record of those and then the next day we'd give out so much rice for each one. And it didn't matter the num...the number of people in the family. It wasn't just for one...one scoop for a family, but for the number of people in the family. And then...then they would go on and the next day and all the more would come in. They...they weren't stay...staying there, they just kept going through. We did that for quite a while, and oh, that...that was a lot of work [laughs, clears throat].
ERICKSEN: Sounds like you were administering a whole additional program.
CROSSETT: It was, for during that time.
ERICKSEN: How did...how did that affect your...affect the mission work?
CROSSETT: Well, we only kept on the worship services and...and the prayer meetings and things like that during that time. It affected the work. It affected the work. The Christians were active in this work, very, very much active in the work. It was.... Well, I think it was fruitful, too, in bringing people to the Lord. Of course, the refugees, they just came and went, but it affected the local people quite a bit, too. So it was real busy [laughs].
ERICKSEN: You mentioned outstations a couple of times. What...what is an outstation?
CROSSETT: Well, it's where you started work in one of the outlying villages. We...we had people, they would go out in groups of people. Some of them had bicycles. They'd go farther. They'd go out as far as twenty, sometimes almost thirty miles on a Sunday. The women with their bound feet, they'd walk out about three...three miles or so to their villages. We'd have a witness there for some time, and then when we got a group of Christians we'd start regular...regular Bible studies and so forth and it developed into a...it developed into a...into a church. It's a sort of a branch church with missions and.... That...that's what I meant by outstations. Really, an outstation is a...is another...well, it's a little more elaborate than that. But these were...and they...they were...they were started by the Christians from this town. That's what I meant there with these...one of these branch...first preaching places and then organizing the church so they had...they had five branch churches when we were there. That's what I call outstations [clears nose].
ERICKSEN: And is each outstation independent from the others and the originating church?
CROSSETT: Well, it's sort of a family. These are sis...these are daughter churches, and they do look for leadership to the main church. They're not organized to the extent that they...they're independent, by any means, financially and...I mean, that they take up their own offerings there and...and have their own officers. Later on they did, but that was after our time as far as I remember. But they were just...just what you might call missions. But they did have worship services. People went out there and had a worship service and.... Just how it was arranged, now I don't remember the details of that. George Steed was there much of the time. We were sent back after...after furlough we were sent back to Zhengyangguang and the Steeds were over there. And, of course, we watched it quite a bit, but we...he was...he was really in charge.
ERICKSEN: How...of course you baptized those...those first twenty-four. How was the Lord's Supper administered?
ERICKSEN: Was it done immediately or...?
CROSSETT: Yes. Yes it was. Quite...quite soon it was begun. I'm...I'm not sure just how soon it was after the baptisms. Then, of course, they're qualified and...and we had communion every month. I officiated at that. I felt that unless I was a pastor.... Pastor Shing from...from Sanhohsien [?], which was thirty miles away, and Pastor Lee from Linhua...Linxiochi [?], which is only four miles from Sanhohsien [?], but they were outstanding pastors. Pastor Lee was a real pastor. Pastor Shing was an outstanding evangelist. But both of them were...they had strong churches and very...they knew their Bibles. They really were good. And whenever they were there I always invited them to...to officiate. Otherwise I did it. And we made [clears throat]...we made our own [pauses] leavenless bread [laughs], just water and flour, you know, and fried and...and cut up in little pieces. And then we bought raisins on the street and boiled them up. We couldn't get grape juice, so we bought raisins on the street and boiled them up and used that juice [laughs]. Sometimes they would make up something. They...they said to have something sweet and something sour and something bitter and so forth. They'd put vinegar in, they'd put some...some sugar in, they'd then mix it...oh, marvelous concoction. That's in other places. We didn't do that. We.... But we did have one of our young men who was quite an...quite an earnest Christian, and he said, "You buy these raisins on the street. How do you know they're raisins? How do you know they're not currants?" He was challenging whether we were doing it biblically or not [laughs] Well, I hadn't even expressed the point of it had to be...it had to be grape juice. But, as Mr. Costerus used to say, they used the drink of the...of the...of the area. And he said, "In China we could use tea." That was his argument. We always got the grape juice boiled...I mean, the raisins and boiled them up and they'd...for the wine.
ERICKSEN: Did Mr. Costerus use tea?
CROSSETT: I don't think he did. I don't think he did [laughs].
ERICKSEN: Do you think he could have gotten away with it?
CROSSETT: I don't know. [laughs] I don't know. Well, he ran his own station. He might...might there without...if he didn't publicize it to the mission too much. If the mission knew it he'd probably get it from all sides [laughs]. Not from the heads of the mission particularly but from the other missionaries who have very strong.... We were on the...the south side of the river (talking about baptism now).... We were on the south side of the river. Now all north of us was Presbyterian territory and the churches up there sprinkled. All south was Baptist territory, so they immersed, and we were south of the...south of the river so that's why we set up immersion. In Zhengyangguang it was different. They were right on the river, and so the men were immersed and the women were sprinkled. See it's the same idea. It's a shame to see a woman with her clothes clinging to her. And so they had a baptistry, but only the men were bap...were immersed and the women were sprinkled. [laughs] When we'd go into an area, if the area...area is Presbyterian, well, it's against the mission policy to...to talk about it and try to change it. If you're in a Baptist territory you immerse, if you're in a Presbyterian territory you sprinkle. And that was George Steed's big problem. See, Sanhohsien [?] and Linxiochi [?] were both north of the river [coughs] and they were in Presbyterian territory, and they...and he and I were asked to have special meetings over there. So we did. We changed off speaking and so forth. But Pastor Shing insisted that...that George officiate at the com...communion. George was a Baptist and he...oh, it was a real principle with him. But Pastor Shing wanted to...to...he wanted to force the issue. I think he did. Oh, he was a wonderful fellow, but he...he wanted to force the issue and so he insisted [laughs]. I think George did it but, boy, it was sort of contrary to his way of things. But he said, "What would the end...what would the result be? Here we consider those who are sprinkled as second-class Christians, not worthy to fellowship together. He...he...he weighed the thing pretty thoroughly. Finally he did but it was [laughs].... He...we talked it over, we prayed about it quite a bit, but he finally did 'cause it meant a lot. To them the sprinkling was...was biblical, it was alright. Not that...not that immersion wasn't, but sprinkling was alright and.... Oh, you face a lot of these questions [laughs] The mission field is.... But when you're in a territory you have to stick to that...according to mission policy. Now if we set up our own in an area...area where there are no other...there's...there's no policy been set up, if we go into a totally...totally new area, virgin area, where their surrounding counties don't have any policy either, then you set up what you want, what you believe is....
ERICKSEN: And then does what you set up constitute that policy in the area?
CROSSETT: That's supposed to carry. See, we have.... There is a...the Church of England, Episcopal area in...out in east Sichuan. And everyone who goes into that area, we try to only send the Episcopalians in...into that area. They try to send you into the...where it's congenial with you. But sometimes it's necessary to cross lines. But those who go out there they...they have to fit into the Episcopal form and plan for all this.
ERICKSEN: How did you feel being in the Baptist area....
ERICKSEN: ...with your Presbyterian background?
CROSSETT: I think...I think immersion is thoroughly...thoroughly biblical. But I do also believe that com...sprinkling is biblical. I...I do. I don't have any...any qualms at all. I've done both. And...and in the OPC [Orthodox Presbyterian Church], generally we...we immer...we sprinkle. But if a person wants to be immersed we'll immerse them. There's no...there's no conflict there really, but we do believe that...we practice sprinkling.
ERICKSEN: How did you handle the issue of infant baptism then in China?
CROSSETT: Well, actually, it didn't come up because we were working largely in a Baptist area and the Presbyterians did.... I...I...it didn't come up. As far as I was concerned, I didn't have to face the question, but other places they did. Of course, I can...I can be...being a...believing in covenant theology, I can [laughs]...I can baptize infants. But if in a...in a Baptist area it's not the same significance, but outwardly it's the same for babies to be dedicated. It doesn't reckon. They...they have to be baptized later on, but the...the cer...the...the ceremony...I mean, the...the...the thing is about the same. Instead of saying, "I baptize you now" that we dedicate...dedicate the sin...the parents take the...take the vow just like they do under the...under the...what is baptism. They take the responsibility of raising and training him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It's not a big issue with me. I...I...I do agree with the covenant theology. I...I...I do, but.... And of course, that means that baptism is New Testament counterpart of circumcision, and they were circumcised when they were eight days old. They didn't know anything about what it meant. And of course [clears throat], the Lord's Supper is the New Testament [pauses] Passover. That's when it was started, the Passover feast. I've heard preachers say that this was [laughs]...they disregard that altogether. "This is...the Lord instituted the Lord's Supper and that was it," passing over the Passover altogether. But I...I do, I...I...I believe in covenant theology and that's...those are issues basic with covenant theology. But I....
ERICKSEN: I was just curious to see how that worked out in actual practice on the field.
CROSSETT: Well, I...I dedicate children. If people want them dedicated I will dedicate them. I've done that with my own cousins and...and relatives and so forth. They want them dedicated and some of them want them baptized. Like out here in [pauses] the other side of Aurora.... Ah-ha. Anyway, I've got a...got a cousin living out there and when we were home on furlough one time, I...I baptized a couple of their children. They asked for baptism and I...I...I baptized them and they still remember that [laughs]. They're...they're adults now but....[laughs]
ERICKSEN: Well, I hate to stop....
ERICKSEN: ...but we're at the end of our hour and a half, so let's stop.
CROSSETT: [laughs] Yes, we are.
CROSSETT: More than that [laughs].
END OF TAPE