This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Vincent Leroy Crossett (CN 288 T5) 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, made by Arnila Santoso and Paul Ericksen, was completed in August 2002.
Collection 288, T5. Interview of Vincent Leroy Crossett by Paul Ericksen, April 7, 1986.
ERICKSEN: This is an oral history interview with Vincent Leroy Crossett by Paul Ericksen for the Missionary Sources Collection of Wheaton College. This interview took place at the office of the Billy Graham Center Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, on April 7, 1986, at 10:30 A.M. [recorder stopped and restarted] When we were talking last time we talked about a lot of situations that you were involved in in Zhengyangguang and Hoqiu [both in Anhui Province]. [Pauses] Where did you like working more? Did you like working in the city or out in the countryside?
CROSSETT: Well, wherever we were it involved both, because we went out in the country. The...the...we were in the city in Hoqiu and we were in the city in Zhengyangguang. That's where we lived. But we made the...in the spring and fall particularly we made extended visits through the country, visiting the marketplaces and so forth with gospel, selling Gospels and giving out tracts, and so forth. We went...we'd go out for...for four or five days. We'd have a wheelbarrow load of these tracts of Gospels and so forth, and we'd go out. See every...every...these marketplaces were situated about anywhere from three to five, six miles apart all through the country, and every other one had a market day on one day and then the...the others had a market day in between. So we went out to one...one market town and set up. We'd go out in the afternoon and set up, and then by daybreak in the morning, we'd...we'd spend the time in the...in the inn, of course. And then we'd set up by daybreak in the morning, get a place where we could put up a poster and preach from. But...we...we decided the...the place, but we went out and stood at the gates. See all market towns were...had...had a wall. And we stay at the gates and as farmers came in we'd pass out tracts and try to sell Gospels, and asked after they got in. They were doing business. We'd wait and go to a place, put up a poster and start preaching. Gather a crowd. Sometimes you had to run away from the crowd because of a mob, what would happen in case of a mob got going. And so [clears throat]...but we'd...we'd preach and then...then by...by noon, they're all fill...full...finished with their work and they'd go back home, and we'd go and have our lunch, and we'd...we'd pack up and go on in the afternoon and go to the next market town and do the same thing. And do that until our stuff was gone, our...our Gospels and...we... we just sold.... We didn't have the...we didn't even try to take out New Testaments and Bibles and so forth, but we would...it's all pioneer work. And so we would...we'd just take the Gospels, sell them for a copper apiece. It's a very...everybody has coppers [laughs] and then give out the tracts and so forth, and then just.... Then in the afternoon we'd have a change to talk to people and we can make that three to...three to five or six miles in late afternoon, get in, time to settle down, and lay our plan for the next one. We'd do that until our material was gone. Then we'd go back to the city and rest a little while and get ready to start out again. Summer it was too hot, winter it was...was not good, and so spring and fall we'd did that. And....
ERICKSEN: And then the two other seasons you would stay...?
CROSSETT: We...we'd be in...in the city, in the...in the so-called city compared to a big city...
CROSSETT: ...here, it's just a little...little place. But Hoqiu had thirty thousand people. But it was in a very small area, and, of course, the out...outside the north, south, east, west gates they had a lot of people live, but within the city wall there were a tremendous number of people. [laughs] They were pretty crowded.
ERICKSEN: What things did you enjoy doing most?
CROSSETT: Well, I don't know. It's...it's...it's fun to do pioneer work and just get people, tell the the gospel the first time. And then, of course, if someone's interested we spent time with them, and invited them into the city. And, of course, we could...had a place where they could stay if they wanted to. But counseling and...and preaching was main thing. Follow-up work was interesting [laughs], to see the response of different people.
ERICKSEN: Mrs. Crossett was telling me about, I guess, when you went to Hoqiu and your Chine...you were still working on....
CROSSETT: Repairing the house?
ERICKSEN: No, she was talking about how you were still working on your Chinese...
CROSSETT: Ah, yes, yes.
ERICKSEN: ...after getting it up to speed. And you would put up a poster, how you would...could you talk about how you would start a meeting?
CROSSETT: Well, all those meetings, we usually used posters, because they illustrate and my language was so poor in those days. I'd only been out...I'd only been out a little over two years, and they allow you five years to get the language. So, Hudson Taylor said you could start preaching after two years, but most missionaries I know of say, "No, you're not very adequate at that time." But we'd put up a poster, just to try to explain things and then...and then if someone showed an interest we'd try to get somebody to come up and explain what he understood we said, and then sort of check up on what we...how we're getting through and so forth, and that made them ready to...to witness too. Soon...soon as anybody was saved we'd put them up...give their testimony to witness.
ERICKSEN: Now how would you find somebody to do the explaining?
CROSSETT: Well, we had a...we had a couple of workmen with us that were very, very fine Christians and they were very very happy to...to help out. Of course, Chinese know how to talk. They...they never get stuck for words. So they...they could give their testimony and preach and go along, say a lot of things that we never would be able to...be able to say. But we...and often, any Christian going through we'd...we'd rope him in and get him to give his testimony and explain Scriptures and explain the posters. We had a lot of posters...gospel posters that we'd use, different ones different times. And if like an occasion came up where we knew that the...the theme on one poster was appropriate we'd just put it out.
ERICKSEN: Mrs. Crossett talked about how she had a discipleship program for the women.
CROSSETT: Yes that....
ERICKSEN: Did you do something like that for the men?
CROSSETT: Yes, we had...we had...well, when we first started there in Hoqiu we didn't go in the country, but we...we evangel...we were doing evangelistic work in our street chapel. See, that was right on the street. You stepped right out of the street chapel, you're right on the street. There's no sidewalks or anything, and...and the streets are not very wide. The main street of town was...was, I would say, less than twenty feet wide. And all the wheelbarrows and all the...all the traffic goes there and that's pretty heavy in the morning when all the farmers are coming in for their business. But we [clears throat]...in the beginning we just started having evangelistic services. Preaching services all morning, all afternoon and all evening. We did that for nearly six months. But in the meantime there was an old man and his son and others showed interest, and so we started one day a week, not having the open...I mean, one evening a week not having the street chapel open...the door open but not take out all the doors. But we...and we'd have a Bible study then. We started a Bible study just as soon as we had a few people that showed interest in believing. And old Mr. Jiang [?] and his son were...they had already said that if anybody comes over there into town to preach to...with the...with the gospel they would...they would attend. They wanted to be [claps] in on the...on the...to give their testimony. They had heard in another place the gospel. Of course, their shop, it was a condiments shop and they sold incense and they sold candles, everything to do with the...with the Buddhist heathen worship. But they showed signs of interest right away and we started a Bible class not too...not too long afterwards. And so we...that was the beginning and then later when we had more, we would have a Sunday morning service, but that...that came months after we had moved over there. [pauses] Of course, in the daytime we were preaching to country people that were coming in. See, the town is just like a great big market town. So they all come in the morning, and sell their wares. By noon they're ready to go home. Well, in the afternoon they're still around. It's a city and so it's not like a marketplace. But in the evening the doors, the gates of the city were closed. All the farmers were gone. That's when we opened our doors to the street people. Their business was over. They'd...they'd close shop, have supper. Then they're free to come. And so we had the local in...city dwellers, the people in the city that came at night during those six months we had it open all the time.
ERICKSEN: How did the two groups of people feel about each other?
CROSSETT: I didn't see...of course...of course, there is the feeling just like here, "Oh, he's...he's a farmer. He's a country...country guy," and sort of a little bit looking down on them, but that's where their business was. They [laughs]...they...there wasn't much feeling about it. They just took for granted, well, the country people were sort of...sort of not quite as bright as the others and [laughs]...and not...not that. It just worked...didn't have the advantage of the others, and so they...a slight, slight feeling but I didn't feel it was a big...big thing at all and I don't think they did. They were, oh, [laughs] even the city...city people to us seemed like sort of just ordinary plain people. Of course, you did have some scholars. You had the teachers and you had the officials that felt themselves bigger, and they would want special...special attention, and we'd...we'd give them special attention sometimes. Not just because we were keen on winning them to the Lord [electrical line static]. But I don't think there was any...any animosity at all.
ERICKSEN: Did you feel any affinity toward the rural people having grown up...spend time in....
CROSSETT: Not particularly, not particularly.
ERICKSEN: How long would your period of discipleship take, let's say from the time a person was converted until he would be...?
CROSSETT: Well, we were there...we were there eighteen months when we had our first baptismal service. And when we thought a person was...was prepared...it...it all depended on the individual and on the circumstances, when...when we thought he was ready we'd recommend he be baptized. However we didn't rush them through and we wanted to...at that time, that particular place was immersion. See we were on the line between the Baptists and Presbyterians, and we were on the south of the line, and the Presbyterians were on the north. So we...we...the star...the church was started as a...as an immersion. And we had to make them...well, they had these big tubs that they'd butcher hogs in, I mean scald hogs when they're butchered to get their hair off and so forth. Well, we had one made which was a little bit bigger than that. It was about two and half, three feet high, and it was six feet long and wide. A regular wooden...wooden tub. And it would dry out, it would all fall apart, but you'd soak it up and.... But we had one of those made. We put that up in our..in the courtyard of the compound there, and that's where we had the baptisms. It was interesting. But...but we...they all had to be...go through quite a...quite a session of questions to know that they really believed on the Lord, really were Christians. But it was interesting because they...the Chinese culture sort of requires that they be sort of modest. And so the men...we'd baptize the men first and they'd go out. And then I was the only man in there when the women were baptized because they...they'd have robes...special robes. As soon as you're wet, you know, they cling to your body, and ah, that was contrary. No man should look on a women with her [laughs] clothes clinging to her after being in there, so that they...they just evacuated then and the women were baptized there. After we were there for a year and a half then we did have baptisms that were...eighteen baptized on that first...first time. And immediately we started...I...I said, "Now you're...you're here. You need...we're...we're starting a church and you need to feel the responsibility." I talked to them and I said, "We're going to elect officers, but none of you are...are qualified to be regular officers of the church simply because you're novices." "Don't pick a novice," [paraphrase of 1 Timothy 3:6] it says in there. And I said, "We'll...we will have three officers. One will be a secretary to tee...keep...keep track what we do, and we'll have a [pauses] treasurer and assistant treasurer. But you...you...." We...we did...we did have one or two others that were to be leaders, but I said, "You can't be deacons or elders until you have had more experience. And when...and after we got organized.... See we...we had our baptism in December. In January I got them together and told them, "Now," I said, "You...you take the money and you spend the money. But if you want me to be the bank, I'll be the bank for you. But you...you keep all the records and everything." And so we started out with an indigenous organization to start with. And then another year or so we...we got them together after training as to what a deacon is and what a...what an elder is and what the responsibilities are. I was teaching them right though. Then we got organized as a regular church. So it...however, I know some of those questions talking about how we got...made them indigenous and so forth, well [clears throat], we never had the transfer because we got them indigenous right from the beginning. They took the responsibility. When we were gone, things went on. And...and even the...these first converts, the men we taught them to give their testimonies and to explain with Scripture and tell them what we've been teaching them, you know. And so that they...even though we were gone they'd go on ahead with services. They were able to carry on. So that it was indigenous from the beginning. They came up and said, "Well, this...." See, went in and leased a property. The mission went in and leased a property for ten years. This Mohammedan.... (It was an old...originally a mosque [laughs] and the door on the back where Jesus was supposed to slip out, you know. He wasn't dead but he merely slipped out the back.) Anyway, at the end of ten years, he would give our money back. See, that's the way it was. We gave him the money and he used the interest of that for the payment all the time. And then we got the property. At the end of that time we just switched back. And the...the mission wasn't prepared to lease more for the.... So before the end of that time they came to use and said, "We...we need a church. What are you going to do about it?" And we asked him, "Is this...whose church is it?" They said, "It's ours." We said, "Okay, then you...you arrange." They...they were poor, but they got together, they...they thought and they...they got together and before the end of ten years they had bought property outside the south gate with buildings on it that could be renovated and easily without too much expense, easily used for a church. And that's...that's where they got their church. And we were there only there that year-and-a-half, no about two years before furlough time, and then George Steed and Ruth were...were sent over there to carry on. Their policies were the same as ours, and at the end of ten years they moved right out into the prop...their own property at the south gate. And just about that time they invited me to come back. We weren't over there for much extended period after that first time, and they invited me to come back for conference [Bible teaching conference for the area]. They...during that time they had established five branch churches out in the country. They had them all come in. They [laughs]...oh, we had a great time. All of them came in and we had two or three days of...of conference. And they were so proud of their church. Actually, rather than our supporting them, there was a little...just a small compound over there that they prepared for the missionary to live in. They wanted the missionary to be there and so they said, "We've got the place done. Now you send us a missionary." That's what they told the mission. And so the Steeds were...the Steeds were sent back over there. They had been...they followed us and then furlough time and so forth, and then they had sent back over there. But I think that was a sort of an ideal situation: starting an indigenous church. It became indigenous right from the beginning and sort of a Nevius [laughs]...a Nevius method [named for John Nevius who formulated the three-self concept with emphasis on an indigenous church being self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-governing], and then the missionary moved away, they carried on. No, no...their local people, or two or three of them that would...could carry on the preaching service. It's not...it wasn't Presbyterian and it wouldn't fit into the OPC [Orthodox Presbyterian Church] but it certainly...it certainly...as the church started, people were being saved. Oh, well, the church was quite big. We had two or three hundred at that...at that conference we had after the ten years.
ERICKSEN: I'm curious what the...the Bible studies are alike. When we think of Bible studies here, you...sometimes you think of an inductive Bible study or somebody sort of lecturing. What was [unclear]...like?
CROSSETT: Oh, this was.... Well, sometimes it was lecture, but it was...a lot of it was...was inductive. I 'd....I'd explain things to them. And, of course, when we had visitors we always [laughs] drafted them into the service too. We had some good fellowship with some of the neighboring pastors thirty miles away. And there were two churches about ten li [Chinese unit of measuring distance], three or four miles apart. And both of them had outstanding Christian leaders. One was a...was really known as an evangelist and the other was known as a pastor. And both of them, they'd come over sometimes. We'd make use of them any time they came. And then the big church was sixty miles away up in Fowyand; that's where the [Herbert and Winifred] Kanes were. And we [clears throat]...the...sometimes, he'd come down, Pastor Wu. And he was an outstanding pastor and teacher. And we'd have them...them teach. But generally we had...well, it was sort of mixture between lecture and...and inductive. We had a lot of questions and...and...I don't know as it fit into any particular Bible study over here. We just adapted it to different methods as we saw they needed it. When...when you're starting with a Christian who's just new and hasn't had any Christian influen...background much, you've got to get through the beginning, you see, so I had to...simple as it could be.
ERICKSEN: Something that came to mind as you were talking about the Steeds. When, for whatever reason, missionaries are moved from one station to another and new missionaries come to the vacated station, how is the transition handled? Is there an overlap time?
CROSSETT: Generally not. Generally the station is vacant and the new missionary goes in...goes in and picks up where...where he...where he can. Generally not. See, we're...our mission usually sends them out two by two and you're there and you don't have much fellowship with other foreigners at all and so it's...it's usually.... Sometimes there is a little overlap, but generally...in...in those days. Now it may be a little different. [coughs] I did not...I had no overlap in Taiwan when I [went] out there. That's much later, but that was necessary, because I was taking over a treasurer's job and I didn't have any training or experience [laughs] but I had to be worked in. So...but generally no. The missionary goes on furlough. They fi...they try to find somebody else to take it up, take up the work. But we were mostly working in...in sort of lonely (if...if you think of fellowship with foreigners and other missionaries concerned)... and sort of lonely. But we had plenty of fellowship with the Chinese. [laughs]
ERICKSEN: Did you ever feel lonely for contacts with Western...?
CROSSETT: Not much, not much, no. We were busy. We were so busy. We'd appreciated it when we'd get together for conference. The mission has a provincial conference every year of two or three...two or three days, and we appreciated those. Then, of course, we'd change ideas, thoughts and so forth at...at that time, but sometimes you get a little lonely but you're so busy you don't [laughs].... You know, I was in language study most all...well, the first...my first five years out there which was my first term.
CROSSETT: The term was seven years, but Margaret had been out before and she had to lengthen hers, so she was out ten and I was five and that made fifteen years which was seven...seven-and-a-half for each of us. Now it's only four years so it...it's a little different.
ERICKSEN: How did having Ginny [first daughter born in 1937] change things as far as [Crossett coughs] all your work was concerned?
CROSSETT: Well, it was a real boon, because all the Chinese wanted to see her. [laughs] They wanted to come in [laughs] and then they...they.... Our home was just open and it was...it was not...not quite as easy as it might be having a baby over here when you don't have all these visitors all the time. But it...it...it helped the work. And oh, do they love kids. They love children. And all kinds of comments you get from [laughs] white...white skin and the different.... Of course, we tried to keep her pretty much on schedule. Their [Chinese] kids do the dictating. They're free and they...they do all...for several years. They rule the house [laughs]. But it did open up. People more free to come in. The women come in and they're interested in...in the baby. When we'd go out walking sometimes. We'd go out walking and take her along, and people were interested. It was a help to the work. They knew we were people, family and as well as their curiosity over foreigners.
ERICKSEN: Then 1939 you had your first furlough. Did you feel ready for a furlough?
CROSSETT: Yeah [yawns], I think so. I think we were ready [laughs] for the furlough. Quite a shock coming back over here and seeing what...how people lived.
ERICKSEN: What struck you?
CROSSETT: Well, when we went out, it was...we were more conservative. I mean, the people were more conservative. But when we came back, even some of our finest prayer partners, oh, painted up, you know, with all the makeup and everything. And that hit us because out there, only the prostitutes use makeup. I mean, probably, but it's not visible on...on anybody else. But the...but when you see a person painted up that's a prostitute, and here our fine prayer partners come up and meet us. Boy, it was a real shock, especially to Margaret. She'd been away for so long, and...and just getting back into the...into our own culture was quite a....quite a job [laughs].
ERICKSEN: Do you think you were able to do...to adjust back?
CROSSETT: I think so pretty...pretty much. Of course, we were missionaries and missionaries were old fogies anyway, and get back over here you're just taken as a [laughs]...sort of a country person.
ERICKSEN: Yeah. How did...how did the church respond to you?
CROSSETT: You mean the churches that we were....
CROSSETT: Well, they responded fine. I mean the churches we were connected with and that we went into we got a good...good response. Sort of a glorified position of being a missionary and, you know, going overseas and everything, it was.... We...of course, we did a lot of deputation work, not to raise money, but just tell the work in the mission, because the OMF doesn't go out to raise money that way [laughs]. But anyway the...we had good reception. Took us a little time to get...not too long to get acquainted with living in other people's houses all the time and traveling.
ERICKSEN: Can you think of anything other than makeup that really stunned you about American life?
ERICKSEN: Among Christians or American culture in general?
CROSSETT: Well, I don't [pauses] think too much. Of course, in some of the places you get there's a frivolity that is a little different. [laughs] Of course, the Chinese are very...they appreciate humor, and they.... No, I think it was that the main thing that...that hit us as far as culture is concerned. I don't know if you asked Margaret that question or not. She's go...being out for ten years and China being her original culture anyway, it hit her in different ways. She...but I was...that was the main thing that struck me.
ERICKSEN: When you returned to China in 1941, you went back to Zhengyangguang.
CROSSETT: Zhengyangguang, yes.
ERICKSEN: What changes did you see had taken place?
CROSSETT: Complete change. The original congregation was practically gone because the Japanese had come in and the people had fled, and...and the leadership was gone, the pastor was...was dead, and...and the...the leadership, it was just like starting from scratch to start a new church. The Christians had been scattered all over. There...there were sort of carried...of course, the place was the headquarters for the Japanese when they were there. The Japanese army made their headquarters in our house. And a lot of...it was just almost like starting a new work right there in Zhengyangguang. And of course, with no pastor, no leaders, we just had the responsibility again. It was a big, big change. But it's...the...the...the war just scattered the Christians all over, and it just demolished the church as far as...as far as the organization was concerned. So we were ready to [laughs] start...start a new work, and it was a new work.
ERICKSEN: Now what...it seems to me that Mrs. Crossett had said that the [Harry and Marguerite] Owens had been there.
CROSSETT: Yes, the Owens came there when...hmm...I'm not sure exactly, but when we left the Owens were sent to be there. Just what the time...
CROSSETT: ...was.... Anyway they were there and he had [pauses]...they...they were very very energetic and active, and started....I don't remember all the details there but they were sent to be there and they took over the work.
ERICKSEN: And so what...what sort of groundwork had been laid by them that was there when you got there?
CROSSETT: Well, that was....
ERICKSEN: Go ahea...go ahead.
CROSSETT: We weren't the first ones back there after the war, I think. Of course, we kept in touch with that all time from...we were only sixty li, twenty miles away, when...Hoqiu was only twenty miles away. And reports came all the time while we were over there, and...and the church was [laughs]...organizationally was demolished. And they came back. They...I think they were the first ones back, that came here and set up. So that when we went back they were...where they went I don't know, whether to...back to Yunnan where he was originally stationed or whether it was.... They lived...I think they went there after their wedding and then later they were sent on to other...other place. But he was sent to Yunnan originally, out of language school. We were together in language school. And he was sent to Yunnan and then it was quite a come-down to come back to [laughs]...to Anh...to come to Anhui, but Marguerite was...his wife was very, very active, very...really got things going there. But he...he was...he was quieter, and she was very active and very expressive. So they laid a foundation for us to go to when we came back. Sort of thinking over again the...the sequence of...time sequence...
CROSSETT: ...is sort of vague in my mind. Margaret would remember more.
ERICKSEN: What...what kind of contact did you have with the Kanes [James Herbert and Winnifred]?
CROSSETT: Well, he was stationed at Fowyang and we were down at Zhengyangguang sixty miles south. But he was the...what you call the local sec [?], I think. He...he handled all the accounts for the...for the province. He was...oh, he was a very effective, very...very greatly loved among the church. And he was in Fowyang. Fowyang they were adding about twelve new churches every year, and that Fowyang church had about two hundred out-stations all around through the country and he would sort of...counseling, giving very good counsel to the pastors and other leaders there. And when he left, I...of course, I got his whole responsibility. That's when we went up to...we moved up there to...to Fowyang, and I took over the...he just dumped them in my lap. The accounts for the [laughs]...for north Anhui missionaries and so forth and....
ERICKSEN: Now when he left when?
CROSSETT: He left [pauses] '43. And we...when he went out he took two or three...(two, I guess it was) missionaries with him. But he went across the Japanese lines. He went over land. And they had to cross the lines secretly. They weren't caught but then on both sides of the lines, not only did they have the Chinese but they also had bandits because it was no man's land sort of. And he...he had a thrilling experience coming out. But he got out and then we decided that it was...it...it just wasn't possible after that to go over land. That's...that's why. He...he must have gone out about a year or so before the rest of us went out, crossed the lines and at least several months. And then that's when...after that that's when they sent John Birch [a Baptist missionary in China who assisted downed American pilots, was enlisted in the US Army as an intelligence officer, and was murdered by the Chinese communists following the end of World War II; Robert Welch named his anti-communist John Birch Society after Birch because he was supposed to have been the first casualty of the Cold War] and Lieutenant Drummond in there to...to...for this demolition...teaching the Chinese for demolition and communications. And then after that John Birch got in touch with me, and I was able to send out all the other missionaries who were...nineteen of us working in there for...for all those months. We were able to carry on our work just fine with a fifty-mile-wide pocket, and [laughs] nearly a hundred miles long, I think. It was quite a pocket, but we could carry on our work just fine, except the soldiers. They had...we had orders for every church, every church, every station from Chiang Kai-Shek that soldiers are not supposed to occupy the churches. But they were cut off from contact with Chiang Kai-Shek, so they'd go in and tear these things down and live there. So the last two or three months I was in there I just had to go from church to church to get the pastors out so the church...I mean get the...get the soldiers out so they...they.... America had quite a name in those days [laughs] and influence too so I...after I sent all the other missionaries out then I could carry on the work but I had to do a lot of just running around getting the soldiers out. Then we had new...new posters, orders from Chiang Kai-Shek to stay out. They could...respecting...the America and also knowing what might happen if they [laughs] were too strict, but if I wasn't there, they'd...they'd go right back in, you see. So I just ran around and I'd have some ministry too, speaking and comforting at the same time.
ERICKSEN: Do recall the...what was involved in your decision to send your wife and the girls out?
CROSSETT: Virginia was school age, and our school had moved from Chefoo on the east coast to...to Sichuan on the west...the west of the country. And she was taking them out, and I was going to follow shortly after. They...she took them out and then when she got up to north...northwest there were other missionaries going out. One of the missionaries was to teach in the school and so Virginia went on out with...with them. That was...that was quite a strange.... We were telling her all the time that she was going to be going to school and leaving. And when the time came the bus pulled off with Frances Williamson and...and [coughs] Mabel. And she was with them, come into their care. And then when her mother didn't get on, boy, that just... [laughs] she just wept and wept to start with. She quieted down soon, but that just tears your heart out when you [laughs] see your child like that. But you just couldn't prepare her ahead of time. She...we did our best, told her what was going to happen. But that...she wa...she took the children out, and I was supposed to wind up things and come later, and it didn't work that way. There were so many...much responsibility with these other missionaries there, and Bert Kane had...he soon went out too with Ella Blott [sneezes]. Pardon. And then the rest of us had decided to stay until we felt that it was no...no longer feasible. And then...then we had this offer from...from John Birch and....
ERICKSEN: Now how did he first get in touch with you?
CROSSETT: He came in contact...he came into Fowyang and...and said, "I'm in here now and we've...we if we can help you any way, just...just let us know." He came to the church. He came to our...our place. And then we had contact with him. He'd...for the...give diff...some rations. You know, they'd bring in some things and...that they, the servicemen, would share. And then...then when it came time to go out, after several months it came time for all of us to go out, advisable for...for us all to go out, all nineteen of us, that is when they...he just..."You just stay at...." It eventually...he said...because we missed a plane or two...because they don't know about it ahead of time. The Jap...they were...Japanese were sending fighters over and they were trying to shoot down these planes and it was too far a trip for these...these transports to come escorted. They'd be escorted for halfway, and then the fighters had to go back. They couldn't come all the way. And so they had to come in secretly in si...[laughs] the rest of the way and get out before the Japanese got there. And so they'd come in, they'd land, they'd unload and they'd be gone in inside half an hour after they came. And you can't see the airfields from the...from the air. They had to be directed in. Of course, that was always open to the Japanese. They could hear that. But if it's only a half an hour or an hour altogether, they couldn't get there in that time. But then...then [pauses] we missed...then John Birch said, "Well, you come over and live with us." Whole eighteen, nineteen of us. Ruth Nowack was cook and, oh, they fared well. And...and they were getting more flyers shot down that were in Chinese territory and they'd...they'd gather them together there, and...and send them all out at the same...when the plane goes back. We were...we were there waiting, and...and the plane was coming in. We knew we had a half an hour notice to get all packed up and ready to get on the plane. And, of course, it was just a short...the airstrip was just a short way from where we were staying. Got on. We all g...everybody got on and...and ready to go. Of course, there were some Chinese officers and others the plane was big enough to hold. And the pilot came to me and he said, "We're one parachute short." It's required. The rule was everybody had a parachute. So I jumped off and I was in there for another three months.
ERICKSEN: Now who was behind with you?
CROSSETT: Well, there were the Costeruses, Ruth Nowack, and Emma Blott, and [pauses].... I don't remember who all the nineteen were. I don't know if the Sutties [Melvin and Mary] were in there then. [pauses] The Costeruses, they came up from Lu'an sixty miles south. And he was...he was older then. He was in his sixties. And they were ready to retire. And so he was going to stay back, but he was...he was with his wife. I was already separated, had been separated from Margaret for several months, and I didn't feel it was wise for him to stay. So when they said, "One's got to stay," I grabbed my stuff, got off the plane, they closed the door and it was gone before he [laughs] hardly knew what was happening. And then...then I carried on then. But he said, "Now, we'll have other planes come in. We usually have one a month." Well, I missed two or three, and just.... One, I was...I was on the way of coming. I was just within a block or so of the...and the...it just took off, went out. They can't wait. They're...and so.... And then...then [pauses] Lieutenant Drummond was in charge. Birch had gone out, not permanently but he had gone out for a time. And Drummond said, "Well, you just come and stay with us. We've got a major that's been shot down and we need somebody to interpret for us." So I did that. I just went over there. And then this next plane, cargo, was coming in for them, supplies. That was coming...they finally heard it was coming on the south...south landing strip, which was way down. It was up in the mountains on the river...river bed. And so we took...it took us two...two days on horseback to ride down [laughs] there. And we got there. We hardly got off our horses, planes came in, three of them. [laughs] Three of these planes came in. We all got on. Then several Chinese and American citizens shot down, including this major. And they got on and one, two of them went back empty, of course. And then they...that took us. They flew us out. They flew us out to where they stopped, to their base. And that was a long way from where Margaret was. And so the next day they put me on a plane, took me up to where I thought Margaret was. But she'd already gone down to Chungqing. And so then the following day they put me on another plane, took me down to Chungqing. It took three days to get out. [laughs] But it was...she was waiting down there. And then...then we were...I had to get the books wound up first, finish the books I had for all the missionaries there. I had them...not being an accountant or anything it took me a little time. Finally they just said, "Here, you give them to us." In a few hours we the...the bookkeeper there had them lined up and then we were assigned to go into the station in Sichuan.
ERICKSEN: Which was?
CROSSETT: Lusian. Lusian. I think that's the name of it, Lusian. And we went out there for just a year.
ERICKSEN: And how did that compare with the situation that you had been in in Anhui.
CROSSETT: Anhui is flat. I mean, north Anhui is flat. And out there is just mountains. And it was an established church. And it was a different dialect. I mean, different...Sichuanese is totally different from...from what we were...the Mandarin we were using in...in Anhui. And so it was an established church and we...we just were...fit right in with the church. And, of course, with a lot of activities, a lot of servicemen, around there right in the...in Lusian it was a....
ERICKSEN: Chinese servicemen?
CROSSETT: Chinese servicemen, yeah. We had the elite [pauses]...the elite army, college graduates and so forth, the elite army. And they were right near there. And though that was quite...quite fine, but then they were called up to go out...to go to the front. They refused to go, absolutely refused to go. [laughs] "Oh, we're the...we're the best, you know. Now, let's get killed." [laughs] So it was...it was interesting. But we had contact with that and there we got in touch with...with Harry Liu, a Chinese fellow who later joined the Pocket Testament League and he was working with these...with these student soldiers [laughs], and we got where he was at too. And while I was out there, I was asked by the, by the...by the US if I would stand in for chaplain on the base, just go out for service on Sunday. And so I did that for a while. It wasn't a contract chaplain at all, and...but it was just meeting a need at that time preaching to the men.
ERICKSEN: How would you compare the...the church life in Lusian as compared with, let's say, Hoqiu?
CROSSETT: Well, Sichuan is very progressive. Hoqiu is probably...I mean, not Hoqiu but Anhui Province even today, it's probably the most backward province of all China. Out there they had electricity, they had running water, they had a lot of things. Anhui had none of these things. And so it was much more primitive as far as...as far as living and as far as the people's way of thinking of things, too. They're thinking on that more primitive level. But the...the...the church was a little more sophisticated too. They had a Bible woman. They had...they didn't have a pastor. I had to do the preaching for them. And going out in the country...well, we didn't get out in the country too much. It was mostly streets and home-to-home so forth.
ERICKSEN: Why was that?
CROSSETT: Well, partly because of the disturbance and unrest there and partly...partly because there...there was a newer man up there too, as well as in Anhui. But I did make a trip to the country once, went to a town four hundred-and-forty li, about thirty, thirty-five miles away. [train passes in background] I went out and walked the whole thing by myself that day and made it through without any incidents. But as soon as it seemed dark, of course, it's very very dangerous. But it wasn't...they weren't used to doing that out there and so it was a different situation.
ERICKSEN: Then I see that you were transferred back to Fowyang.
CROSSETT: Fowyang, yes, we got back to Fowyang. We came right back after the war. We were out there six months before the war effort, [laughs] and so forth. So Margaret stayed out. I came...came back on a military plane. This...this I had to pay for. The other I didn't [laughs]. And I got back and went right in there and then when she came back she came back with George Steed. Oh no, she came back and George Steed was in Shanghai and...and he...he brought her in and that was a month I guess after I came back. But I went right into Fowyang and tried to pick up the...pick up the pieces. Everything was different since the war. Pastor Wu was there though. Pastor Wu was there.
ERICKSEN: But now is he the fellow you had mentioned earlier who was the good....
CROSSETT: Good pastor...
ERICKSEN: ...pastor in this church?
CROSSETT: ...yes. He was a very very fine pastor teacher. A very good sound leader for the church, good counsel, and so forth.
ERICKSEN: Had the church remained intact since you had left?
CROSSETT: I'm trying to think what...what the situation was. [pauses, laughs] I know they...there was disturbance up there, but I don't know just what happened to the church. Now, I know it was destroyed aft...not destroyed, but it was taken over by the Communists later. But I don' think the Japanese bothered the church. They were able to carry on.
ERICKSEN: What did you find when you returned to Zhengyangguang later?.
CROSSETT: Well, we found the premises in pretty poor condition. We had to do repairs and so forth on the premises, because it was the headquarters for the Japanese. And, of course, the people were all scattered. We found very few of any Christians. Gradually some of them came back. But some of them, of course, were killed and...and moved away permanently. But we were able to carry on church routine [laughs] and, of course, we started evangelism work again too. We hadn't don't that before so much. Pastor was there, that is before the war, but after the war he was gone, he was...he was dead. And most of the people were scattered around. But we just would...we had to make repairs on the place and try to get back some of the...we did get back some of the furniture and some of the stuff that had.... A lot of...see the...the Chinese, there are two kinds of Chinese. I mean there's Christians and there are non-Christians, and some of the...some of the non-Christians had the idea of...of making money, you know, getting...getting something. But a lot of Christians, they'd take the stuff and keep it for us, which we appreciated very much [laughs]. And they'd...so we got some back, some of my furniture. I got back some of my books. My whole library was there when they took over, because we'd fled practically empty-handed, just took some...some of our bedding and clothing and so forth. And everything else was...was scattered abroad. And...and Christians...some of the Christians [pauses] they'd collate...sort of kept some of the things that they could get, and brought them back to us when they were finished. So there were a few Christians there. Although most of them were scattered.
ERICKSEN: So you pulled those few together and started over again.
CROSSETT: Yeah, yeah, we started...we started a serv...service right away.
ERICKSEN: And you were there about a year, is that right?
CROSSETT: I think so. Maybe it wasn't.... I can't remember the details. We came back and I think we went to Fowyang when we came in and that was in 1945 after the war was over. And I remember moving back into Zhengyangguang but I don't exactly just [pauses]...I don't re...know exactly just the details, you know. [laughs] That's.... I'd have to get into some of our old letters and see what happened [laughs]. Margaret trying to go over it now, but she can't find time to do it very much. Oh, we've got stacks and stacks of letters that we wrote...wrote home and the girls wrote to us, and family and so forth. Apparently a lot of them were saved.
ERICKSEN: Then in 1947 you had your next furlough?
CROSSETT: Yes, we came home on furlough in...in '47. And we ca...left...left from...we left from Zhengyangguang. But in the meantime the Communists were taking more and more of the country, and we got out. I think we tried to...started to go out and then I had to send Margaret or I think I took her out I guess, and then I came back. We had a conference of...of Chinese leaders there in Zhengyangguang at that time and they came in and I was...saw that conference through and then right after the conference I left. And within a week the Communists came in and took over. So that was...what all we left here, that...that was the end. And we...we...we just finished a sort of a weeks' conference for the church leaders, pastors. Pastor Wu, Pastor Shing, Pastor Lee were (these men that I talked to you about)...they were...they were there and other evangelists and so forth came in. And then we just finished that. Then I left and the Communists were there within a. little....
ERICKSEN: Did you have any contact with the Communists?
CROSSETT: No, no, not...this...it's.... I don't remember any contact with the Communists. I didn't want to. [laughs]
ERICKSEN: Now I know...I don't recall the exact date, but I know that the Kanes had...their feelings were fairly strong about the advisability of the mission staying and I...probably it was a little bit later after the...
CROSSETT: May have been.
ERICKSEN: ...Communists had taken over.
CROSSETT: I don't...I don't know about that. He wasn't with the mission at that time, was he? Was he? Let me see. When did he go to Barrington [Providence Bible Institute in Providence, Rhode Island, later Barrington College in Barrington, Rhode Island]? He left the mission. He came home....
ERICKSEN: Right around '50 they left the mission.
CROSSETT: Huh. And he went to Barrington. Barrington College, isn't it out east. From there he went to Lancaster Bible College [in Lancaster, Pennsylvania]. And then from there he came up to Trinity [Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois]. I [pauses]...I don't know...I don't know too much about what...what he thought then but...whether he was in on the final decision. I know Dr. or Bishop [Frank] Houghton, who was a general director at that time, he was very much in favor in staying, and...and then later on it was found that that decision was not good at all, because that.... [clears throat] We did have...people stayed and...while the [pauses]...one family stayed up in Sichuan in house arrest for some time, for a year or so, I think, Arthur Matthews. And he's got...there's a book written about those experiences. And...and he's...but he was...that...that's after everybody else had gone. He couldn't get out. Finally he was...he was let out. But it was certainly a wise move to get out. And I imagine Bert Kane would have felt strongly about staying just like Bishop Houghton did. But it's impossible. [laughs]
ERICKSEN: What were the general sentiments of the missionaries at the time that you left, as far as what was going to...what the Communists were going to do?
CROSSETT: I know I felt very uncertain as to...as to whether we should go back or not. And that was a big question. Our girls decided for...for us, because we couldn't take them back there. And we were...we were planning to go back, but we couldn't take our girls back. They only knew were [sic] all their lives, and...and were sort of emotionally unstable, and to leave them with somebody over here was not right and to take them back them back was not. And that's why I resigned from the mission, we...to make a home for our girls. To...the many, many of the missionaries left at that time too. See, we had a total constituency of about...I mean, of membership of about fourteen hundred. That included the associate mission missionaries, and it went right down very, very low after that. Then we'd build up again afterwards. But we don't have that kind associate workers with us anymore, where whole missions would use our facilities and that's when we all have...just...just like one mission as far as the field is concerned with our own areas. But that never came back, but....
ERICKSEN: I take it the girls had a hard time coping with the strain?
CROSSETT: Well, bombings and things like that were really hard on them and uncertainty, although [laughs] afterwards it was interesting that Virginia was...we were...we were living over here, you know, and sort of...I don't know what the situation was, but anyway, "Why can't we have...be peaceful like we were in China?" [laughs] She made that statement once. [laughs] I don't know what the situation was over here, but at least it was something that made her feel un...insecure.
ERICKSEN: What...you explained why you needed to...to stay here and why you resigned. What was the feeling among missionaries as far as what was going to happen in China?
CROSSETT: I don't know, but I think probably many of them thought that with the Communists taking over, that would be the...that would be the end, and we wouldn't be able to.... And...and, of course, that was a question that the mission faced. We either lose our field and close up or else we just change our area where we're working and...and carry on. And they decided to do that, to.... See all of us working in China with the Chinese, and most...practically all with Mandarin. We weren't in south China. We were in north and central China and west China. And...and the...with the Communists taking over, we...we decided to follow the Chinese as they refugeed. We could still work with Chinese wherever they went so we opened fields. Eleven fields we opened: Korean and Japan and Taiwan and Indonesia and Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Thai...Thailand, well we [pauses]...Singapore, which is a separate country, Singapore and Hong Kong. We had eleven fields. Two of those are taken away now so we [laughs] only have nine. But they...then they changed the name to the Overseas Missionary Fellowship of the China Inland Mission and then later they dropped that, except that "founded by Hudson Taylor as the China Inland Mission." Same policies, same policies hold right through. They haven't changed from Hudson Taylor's time. There have been certain things that have changed like the care of our children and so forth...
CROSSETT: ...and things like that have changed. The basic policies are the same.
ERICKSEN: What parts of Chinese culture did you enjoy the most as you look back on your years in China?
CROSSETT: Well, as I wrote down on this thing, food. [laughs] I like Chinese food. But the...the...the courtesy. They're...they're very courteous. Of course, they can...if they don't know you and they know...chance to slap back, they can really take advantage of you. But they're...they're courteous and they're a fun loving people. They...they really...if you can get them to laugh you can do almost anything you want with them. And they...they appreciate a joke. You get serious with them, and, boy, you've run up...run up against a rock. But it's a...they...the friendliness and the joviality and...it's...I enjoy that very much.
ERICKSEN: What did you like the least?
CROSSETT: The least? Well, I didn't appreciate the [pauses]...well, everything they say is like this, it's yes and no. I mean, it's...it's up and open and it's...it's closed. They have...there...there are too many...double interpretation to anything they say. Practically everything is. You accuse them...I mean, you face them up with this. They said this, "Oh no, I didn't mean that. This was...this was it." And it's...it's...they could always wiggle out of it. [laughs] But once you've made a friendship, I mean, they're frien...they are friends. They are...they stick close. They're...they're very, very loyal. Oh, I like the Chinese very much. I know there are other things I could...if I could think of them [laughs], I like about them too. But they're friendly, they're...they're jovial, they're straightforward. I mean, unless you give them a chance to [unclear] [laughs], that is non-Christians and people and sometimes Christians too, or if they haven't really been fully committed. But nevertheless it's...they're...they're lovable people.
ERICKSEN: What kind of theologians were the Chinese?
CROSSETT: I never thought of that, but [pauses] they're good thinkers, they're deep thinkers. They can...they know how to meditate. You know, we talk about meditating. Well, we don't have time over here. But they...they take time. They...they do, even the...even the coolies and people that are...no education at all. Thinking is one thing they can do. And so they're...I don't know whether you know John Lee Sung or not, but he is one...he's an outstanding scholar. And...and I think he exemplifies their...well, their...as philosophers. He's...went to the depths of Buddhism. I mean he just studied thoroughly. He went to the depths of Taoism and Confucianism and then he was saved. And he's all out ever since, a hundred percent all out for...for Christianity. He's one of the...well he was...he was...when he was taking courses in Gordon Conwell he was asked to...to...to lecture and take over professorship there. He hadn't even been through. He'd gotten the basics. I mean, he'd gotten the content but he hadn't been listening [?] through it. And...but he's...and...and they are philosophers. They are thinkers, and.... It's....
END OF TAPE