This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Merle Steely (CN 290, T2) 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 or phrases 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 transcription was made by Timothy Harder and Janyce Nasgowitz and was completed in December 1995.
Collection 290, T1. Continuation of the interview of Merle Steely by Kimberly Smith on November 20, 1984.
SMITH: You were describing the difference in cultural changes when you came here?
STEELY: Yes. There is this matter of a cultural shock going from one culture to another, and I just made note of the fact that it was much worse going into the African culture for us. But coming back here, a lot of changes took place in America that we lost out on, like all those space shots, and all those things going on. We were overseas during all th...we missed all of that. And the rebellion in the sixties that occurred so many places and the aftermath of the Vietnam war and what that did among young people. That kind of thing we only read about, we didn't experience it. So when we came back in '77 and settled down here in America again, there were things that we...that we just missed out on and there is adjusting to make, but wasn't as severe as the adjusting out in Africa in the beginning.
SMITH: How did your children feel? That must have been different for them, not knowing all about what was going on?
STEELY: It...it...it was a problem they had to face, too, but there again, that furlough one year out of every five was a help, so the gap didn't get as wide as it otherwise might have been. And I'm sure that our African students coming over here experience this same shock even more so than we do when we come home on a furlough or come home to retire. And I've talked with some of them about this and seen some of their problems and one thing that has been helpful is usually there is a continuity. Some students will be here for two or three years. Well, before they're gone, another student comes and they can sort of break him in and help him out. And when the next person comes, this person can help them, so there is that continuity that helps them. And they find places where they can buy food that is African type food and so they pass that information on. And they know where to go and what to look for and it's interesting to see how they do that.
SMITH: Did you see a difference in Wheaton from when you'd been there to get your undergrad degree and when you'd been there to get your grad degree, the upper grad?
STEELY: That was about a seven year gap and I didn't notice as much of a change then as I have now coming back and being a staff member here at the College.
SMITH: And what are the changes that you see now, looking back?
STEELY: Well, when I was a student here, the boys sat on one side of the chapel, the girls on the other, no intermixing. And they had the old lit [literary] societies there and there was no drama of any kind. They felt that...that making the person act a part of someone and to try to live the part so they could really do it, well, if you make them be the villain, that you're really doing wrong. And, of course, you know, no movies. Now they show movies on campus and square dancing. That would never have been tolerated before. I mean, there's a lot of changes. There's changes in the attitudes of students...the...well, in their...of course, the divorces. The havoc that's been wrought in American homes is bound to produce some changes in the students coming now from when my time. I know only one teacher who had been divorced when we were here before, and I suppose it's far more common now. And so the change in the culture is going to produce a different student. I think perhaps academically things are sharper now then they were, so the changes are not all bad. There are some changes for good and I like to see teachers teaching without having to wear coat and tie and that...that change came, I think, of the rebellion of the sixties and I think that was a good change. So it does go both ways.
SMITH: You were telling me earlier about the changes in the strictness of the Bible teaching, and things like that, the Fundamentalist view. Could you describe that?
STEELY: Yes. Wheaton is a...a liberal arts college, so you don't expect it to have the same rules and so...standards that a Bible college or a Bible school would have or a Bible institute would have. I mean, other liberal arts colleges, too, as well, are different from the institutes and Bible schools. And I made the comment about Wheaton being a new Evangelical school, the new Evangelical spirit that permeates through this city and through the institutions of different kinds, Christian organizations that are here, and noting how that does differ from the Fundamentalist. And then pointed out how that I appreciate the sound doctrine of the Fundamentalists. I, too, am not real happy with the polemics and with the criticism and in fighting toward people who don't agree the same way. And then this blind prejudice to think that the King James Version of the Bible is the only thing that you can read, and not paying any attention to scholarship which would seek to press back and get an earlier Greek and Hebrew text, and then translate it into a language which fits our day, instead of going back to a language that is several hundred years old. And so the fundamental position of many people which would incorporate those things is something that isn't really pleasing to me. So I do appreciate the sound doctrine of the Fundamentalist, but I don't appreciate the legalism and the blind prejudice that I find there. And I can appreciate some of the openness, at least, that the new Evangelicals have in being open to scholarship and open to advancements, so there again there is good and bad both ways.
SMITH: Do you see any other changes in Wheaton, any major changes?
STEELY: Of course, facilities. We have so much more in physical facilities, buildings, and things now. I worked as electrician while I was a student, and our equipment was very limited. And then I was just commenting with someone today about the tremendous equipment. We have this lift truck. You get in that basket, lift yourself up to the fourth floor of the building, and fix things you have up there, change bulbs that are high up, and all those things. And then the equipment that we have down in the plant there, and our shops to do the work, and the jeeps we have so we can transport our tools and our men around everyplace, or other vehicles, some vans and jeeps and things like that. There's just so much improvement of what we had in the old days. I had an old Willis [?] car, the first car that I ever had, a 1937 Willis [?]. And the College bought that from me and worked on it, made a tractor out of it and used it for pulling things. Well, now they have decent John Deere tractors, they have grass cutters and things, and so the physical [clears throat] layout of the school now is so much better than it was in the old days. I'm sure the laboratory equipment is much better. Then the laboratory was in the west end of Blanchard, history and philosophy and those things were in the east end. Now, we got all those very special buildings and equipment they have. And so there's bound to be an upgrading in your education when you have the proper equipment to go at it and all the proper trained teachers to utilize all of those things.
SMITH: Have you been to visit WETN yet, the radio station we have?
STEELY: [clears throat] Yes. Mr. Johnson is a friend of mine. I go by and talk to him. I go in there to work different times. And, of course, when they had their membership drive I took out.... What is that? "WETN First," or whatever it is. You pay your twenty dollars and become a supporting member of the station. Since I'm interested in radio, and interested in the good classical music that WETN has, I wanted to have a part in it and help out.
SMITH: You were telling me earlier about ELWA or....
STEELY: Yes. ELWA, the radio station. When we first started the ELWA to...here in America before we were able to go out to Africa, we shared an office with HCJB down in the Liberty building in downtown Wheaton on the south side of the tracks. And then later HCJB moved out, so we took the whole office and that was our headquarters for ELWA, promoting it. So we got a lot of help from them, HCJB being the first pioneer missionary radio station. And today the ELWA is really holding forth. It's one of the major missionary radio stations of the world. Close to a hundred missionaries and I don't know how many national workers. They broadcast the gospel in forty-two different languages over seven different transmitters, reaching all across Africa and into Europe and even into the Middle East. And they have...have a studio in Beirut, Lebanon, where they make the Arabic programs to preach the gospel in the Arabic language. And then, of course, at Igbaja, where we were stationed at the seminary, they have a studio to make the programs in Yoruba and in English. Using the seminary teachers and students for their English broadcast and in Yoruba. Jos had one to do the Hausa work. So there is a number of broadcast studios and other places of the world making programs sending them back to ELWA to be aired over the station. So those stations had a tremendous outreach. The number of people who have written in and expressed that they received Christ as Savior through the ministry of ELWA is in the thousands. So it's done its...its job and it's been.... Just like HCJB has a...a good reputation among the people of Ecuador, so the people in Liberia respect ELWA. And if you're from there, they accept you a lot more readily than if you were there for some other function.
SMITH: And what do the letters stand for again?
STEELY: ELWA? Well, it started out, "EL" is the prefix for Liberia because of the international radio agreement. Each country has their prefix, like Mexico has "X" and the United States has "W" and "K." And so "EL" was the prefix for Liberia and the "WA" was for West Africa, so the ELWA was Liberia West Africa. And then we had a contest and let people suggest a name and they gave a radio surprise to whoever won. And a Liberian boy won with the words "Eternal Love Winning Africa." So they gave that meaning to our call sign.
SMITH: Well, thank you for sharing tonight and we'll pick this up again.
STEELY: Thank you.
END OF TAPE