This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Merle Steely (CN 290, 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 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, T4. Continuation of the interview of Merle Steely by Kimberly Smith on November 20, 1984.
SMITH: Continuing with the boarding schools, what were the different things that your son found out or wrote you about?
STEELY: The...the...part of the problem stemmed from they didn't have enough staff, and so the staff were overworked and couldn't give the care to the students that they should. Another problem, they had people there who didn't want to be there. And then a whole bunch of children can...can.... I mean, you have to look after the boarding home people. There's teachers.... See, you had two staffs. You had the boarding home staff who looked after the child, where he slept, and fed him and so on. And then you had the teachers who taught in the school. And the teachers didn't...weren't a part of the boarding home and the boarding home weren't a part of the teaching staff. And you have those kids there, and you're responsible for a whole bunch of them, twenty-four hours a day, day after day. And kids can get provoking anywhere. Any parent can tell you that, and then you have children not your own. Its harder to put up with them than it would be your own children. So there's a...one thing I remember my son talked about. They assigned jobs, the kids had work to do, and some boy in the room didn't do his job, then the whole room would be punished, penalized, instead of finding the one. So if you decided to go do the other boy's job, and they caught you doing his job so you didn't get punished, then you got punished for that. And so when the room should be punished...he would be told many different Saturdays, "You're going to get your spanking," for something he hadn't done, someone else in the room had done. So you got all day Saturday to look forward to sometime in the afternoon going down there and getting your spanking. And so.... Another time, my son came out of the chapel, and he walked out of chapel and he walked through a line of the smaller children there that...some of them had straggled back and...and they weren't keeping up. And so he walked through an empty space. He didn't bother anyone. He wasn't...he was, I guess eighteen, old enough to vote and just...just shortly before he left Nigeria and came back to Wheaton college. He had turned eighteen. And so the teacher come, grabbed him by the ear and twisted his ear there in front of everybody and...and denounced him very severely for breaking through the line. And so some of those cruelties and unkind things that were done...over periods of years, the kids went through them, really left some scars on the kids. And so they never told us at the time. The teachers would say, "Now, your parents are serving the Lord out here and working. Don't go and bother them with a trivial thing that happened here." And so the kids would come home in the summer and never tell you these things. And so this had been going on for a long time and you didn't know about it until the kid gets back here in college and starts unleashing these penned up problems that had troubled him for...for years. Had we known what was going on, I'm sure we would have left the field and come home with our kids rather than put them through that ordeal. As I said, my youngest daughter is still bitter to this day and has adjustment problems. The other kids have all gotten over them. My youngest son is phlegmatic temperament so it didn't ruffle him much. He just...he took all that kind of stuff more smoothly than the...than the others. I know my oldest daughter had a real hard time, too, when they came back. And with our children, this problem showed up after they got back here in college or...whereas, a lot of the kids, the problems showed up out there. And so then they got extra discipline on...on the field there for their problems. Now my...my children were regarded as "goody goodies" and called "holy mollies" and my son got the award, my oldest son, for being the boy of the year at the school because of his conduct. He was very good in all of his grades and any other activities he was in. He was chief runner, set a running record that still stood ten years later. When I came home, no one had beaten his mile record, and he took second in the nation, so did well in...in all those things. In the science fair they had, he'd had the grand prize as well as the leading of his division. So, he also would go downtown, find a...a shop that had empty shelf spaces, "How about selling some books. You get a certain per cent on these." So he got a lot of Christian books that he would provide for them, and they'd sell, and they'd get a commission. And he had.... So while he was sitting there in high school class he had several men downtown selling Christian literature for him. He would take and go out to a factory on payday and have Bibles and Christian books and sell those. And I...he did a lot of Christian work, things of that nature, and everybody respected him. And the African people, the African leaders of the church, knew him, knew what he was doing, all these. And yet when he got back here and started unloading, and we begin to see some of the problems that we never dreamed, it was a real shocker to us. And...well, then we started talking with the younger ones, "Hey, is there problems troubling you now?" And the...they were having a different situation, things had changed. And, as far as we could tell, the younger ones were not going through the problems that the older ones did. And yet our youngest daughter came out perhaps with the most serious scars of all. And just...we weren't able to detect, try as best we could to talk with them and find out, so that we could see if there was anything we could do. It just didn't show up until later for us.
SMITH: What were the things that came out when they reached the States that you could see?
STEELY: Well, just the things I've mentioned now [unclear]....
SMITH: No, I mean the things that you could see, the change in their behavior type thing. Is that...is that what you...?
STEELY: We got letters of reaction to what.... Al Clauson, [Clawson, spelling?] who's a teacher at Moody, had been the principal of the seminary where I'd taught and his wife works over here in the gym, the phys ed department, had my son to...to give a testimony, an extended testimony about the missionary...life as a missionary kid, MK. And so then my son sent a copy of what he said to us and that was the.... Oh, he must have been second year at Wheaton College then when this came out into the open and...and we became aware of it for the first time. That is, I think, the hardest thing about mission work, as far as we're concerned, is the...the problems that our children face. And the difficulties that they went through would be harder than adjusting to the climate, to the people, to the culture, and all the other things. I mean, the other things were.... You do as best you can, but it doesn't really reach inside and hurt like these things do.
SMITH: And you had no choice? You had to send the kids to boarding school, right?
STEELY: [Pauses.] Well, theoretically there's a choice. You could keep them at home and teach them, but that would interfere with your mission work that you were doing. And the school had been set up for this very purpose. And before the school was set up, they'd have to send their children home when they was four, five, six years of age, back to the home country. So by bringing the school out, they could keep their children longer, until they got to be eighteen, until they got college age. They could keep them out there and have them for the three months of the summer, so they considered the school a good thing and everybody was very happy when the school was set up. But the older missionaries, the pioneer missionaries, didn't have that advantage. And so until these problems really came out in the open.... Well, now, since they did, the mission did move, and make what changes they could, and I'm sure they've improved it a lot. Our children would go through grade nine at Kent Academy, our own school, and then for grades ten, eleven, twelve, they'd go in to Jos, the capital of that state, which was twenty-five miles from Kent Academy, and to a school that was operated and run by about six or eight different missions, would operate it. And so there'd be that change from our own school to the other one. At the other school, our mission was considered the most strict and the most old-fashioned in all the rules and things they had. Each mission would have its own hostel, board its own students, and the students would go over to the school together. So at the school you're with the other children; when you come to the hostel, you're with only your own mission kids. And so we had the...the reputation of being the most fundamental, the most old-fashioned, and the most strict of all the schools. And yet the hostel eased up on the children; they weren't nearly as regimented as they had been at Kent Academy, our own school. So that was the first step they had of getting out of the severe regimentation they had at Kent Academy. The hostel was easier and the school was easier in that regard. Then they'd come home and go to school here and their parents are on the field. Then they really were on their own. So it was a good step...first step for them. And though I am telling you some of the difficulties, there were many good things. The school tried its best to have music, to have games, have game nights, and to do things for them, and they...they did a...an awful lot for the kids, and tried their best. It's just that, if they'd had more personnel so that they could have been a little freer to handle the work, and have people who wanted to be there, rather than people who were forced to be there, the situation would have been better. Now my son...oh, they brought in one missionary lady to teach math there, and she just wasn't up to it and had had no modern math, what they call the new math, and so on. And my son then, when he came here, was trying to go to be a doctor and he just did not have the background to take calculus and things here at Wheaton College, and he had to give it up. And he went then into psychology, and so there they did suffer academically. But, in general, our mission school there academically was better than the schools here in the homeland, so our kids were not at a disadvantage when they'd [knocks microphone?] come home. They'd be ahead of their class. If they stayed in the homeland two years, they'd have to struggle when they got back to the field to get back. So the education quality was good and not much in...in the way of problems with the teachers. It was really the dorm staff, the home staff, is where the problem came.
SMITH: [Pauses.] And then you were telling me about that...you were saying about the climate. Was that difficult for your health situation and stuff like that, health problems that caused...?
STEELY: The heavy rain...like in Liberia we had two-hundred and thirty-four inches of rain in one year. You could measure it in feet, it would be about twenty feet, I think, of rain. And if you're in Illinois where we get about twenty to thirty inches, well, you can see the difference. Yes, that...you have a lot more trouble with fungus, I mean, athlete's foot and problems like that would just...would really be a...a problem. And then your clothes and things would mold, your leather would mold. And so in...in that way it did produce some problems, the high humidity.
SMITH: Did you have problems with malaria or anything like that?
STEELY: Malaria was a very bad problem. We almost lost our oldest son. We took him in to the hospital. They...when they want to check, they take your blood and stick it under the microscope, and if they could count ten malaria parasites in ten minutes, that was called...or if you had gotten more than ten within ten minutes, or less than ten minutes you'd reached ten, that was called ten plus. And so ten plus was a bad case of malaria. You had a lot of parasites in your blood. Well, he had ten plus and I had ten plus, and we were both hospitalized at the same time. And then he was kind of dehydrated, started choking up, and the doctor and nurse really got scared. They worked hard and pulled him through and within six months, he was about two years old then, two little missionary kids around two years of age died at that very hospital from malaria. And then the mission closed down the language school where it was. It wasn't the healthiest spot, and got the people out of there, and brought them into the city of Kano, a large city, and had language school there. So there was three very sick kids, two of which died and our son, very near and yet they did pull him through. So malaria was a real problem. When I was on the first term, building with schools in all directions, go out to Kafanchan on my bicycle, twenty, thirty miles in the day, and work on the school buildings, and go on to the next school and work just a few days that. And when I'd come back I'd be down with malaria, and high fever, and have to go through courses of anti-malarial drug, and get better, and then go out again. And just time after time that I went through that in that first term. I never had malaria that bad afterward. They got a better medication in the later terms, but we had malaria many times. Even had attack after I got home here one time on furlough.
SMITH: How were the hospitals run? Did they have a lot of...were they understaffed or did they have a lot of surgeons and doctors and, you know...?
STEELY: Well, Bingham Memorial Nursing Home was called a nursing home and not a hospital because they only had one or two resident doctors. I think you had to have three of four to be called a hospital and so it's a struggle keeping just those...they didn't have enough to call it a hospital. It was a struggle to keep them there. We have doctors [clears throat] scattered at different hospitals throughout Nigeria. A lot of them were in leprosariums, leprosy hospital, and then eventually we had to start closing those down. A doctor...well, keep it open to an extent the doctor would come, a visiting doctor, no resident doctor. And we were stationed near two of those leprosarium, the one at Katsina and the one at Niger Leprosarium, with the language school at Minna. And both of those had to have...take the resident doctor away, and put them in a more essential spot, and then let them come from time to time to perform surgery. So they were short of staff as a rule. At times they'd be fully staffed, but a lot of times they just couldn't keep all the hospitals open that they had. You didn't have the facilities. I mean, they had the best they could. Like the X-ray machine they had wasn't anywhere near the good equipment we'd have here. I worked hard to keep a generator going to...so they could take X-ray pictures. One time there was an old army X-ray unit that they used to...I think, dropped by parachute, that type that they would use in advance landings, and the doctor got it, brought it out. We...we had our problems getting the best out of that.
SMITH: You were telling me before about the different experiences you had with hunting. Could you tell me about that again?
STEELY: I have an African name which I earned out there and it's, of all things, a Yoruba name, not a Hausa. Yet I spent most of my time in Hausa area and its the word Odeh [?], and that's the Yoruba word for hunter. So if any of these students ever see me here that's what they'll call me even yet, even years after I've come out of Africa. I had almost a thousand two hundred kills of birds and animals while I was there, which is quite a...a lot. And we used to go sometimes three and four months at a time without buying any meat in the market. Just live off of what we bring in with the gun, animals and birds. And we killed three cape buffalo, killed a number of antelopes and wild pig, and then, of course, the guinea and the wild turkey, which is the greater bustard. There is the lesser bustard, the partridge. So this was a...a means of providing meat for us, and then some we gave to the nationals, and they were very glad for it. Protein is a real shortage in their diet at best. They have goats, they have chickens, and that's about all. Rarely did you find anyone with ducks, and they couldn't keep cattle. Only the Fulani people had cattle that moved through, so the local farmer wouldn't have any of them. So if he wanted to bu...eat any cow meat, he'd have to go to the market and buy it. And the price of it wasn't too bad for us but it would be real severe for them. And so goat meat and chicken meat would be the most common that they would have. Of course, they ate rats and mice, too, and boys would go out when the...in the...in the...what would be our winter here. When the rain stopped and everything got dry, they'd burn off the grass and they'd catch them. I've come by and they'd be roasting over a little fire that they'd caught to eat. I guess the protein in the mouse is as good as protein in anything else. It's just our culture, we don't care for it. And they'd offer me some. I'd decline, tell them I thought they needed it more than I did. And, of course, they'd eat all kinds of birds. They would go and plunder birds nests, take the eggs and eat them, or if they'd catch little birds, they'd eat them. And things that would be strange to us in our culture. It's a...we would never bother a songbird or its eggs, but not so with them. And they weren't wasting them. They were actually eating them and consuming them, so.... And then the white ant would be about the size.... They'd come out when the rains would first start. They'd come out of the ground. They'd be about the size of a grasshopper here, and they'd fly around, and when they'd light they'd lose their wings. Then they'd start crawling and go into the ground and then start laying eggs and build up another colony. Well, they'd catch those ants and fry them and eat them and that was a delicacy for them. I never had the courage to try it. I know a lot of missionaries did try it, but it didn't appeal to me.
SMITH: But, in general, there wasn't much other wild animal life that you saw that often, like lions...?
STEELY: No, the...the...the lions would be very rare. Only once that I ever...well, twice did I ever have experience with lions, and I was really in remote areas and was looking for them. But in your normal going about, you might see a pig or an antelope. You'd really have to be a remote place to ever see a buffalo, and a lion would be extremely rare. By the time I was there...there would have been more of those animals earlier. And then, by the time I left the field, there would be very...much more difficulty finding those animals. They were hunted out. More guns had been brought in and the game laws that the British had set up after independence were just ignored and discarded. And people would hunt at night, and trap, and use poison arrows, and so the game situation in Nigeria is...there's just not much there. It's not a place a person would want to go to hunt, for big game hunting, like people do in South Africa, East Africa, or Sudan. I think while Kennedy was president, his wife gave a...a Wetherby [?] rifle to the leader of the Sudan, and he remarked how appropriate that gift was. His was a country of three million people and a hundred million animals, so for the Sudan, the hunting would be good there, but not in Nigeria.
SMITH: So when you say people are hunters as their subsistence, they catch for meat and then also for the pelt of the animal or...?
STEELY: For the pelt, but mostly for the meat, and meat to eat themselves and then meat to sell to get money to buy the things they needed. And then any man who is a hunter still has to do some farming. And then, when the dry season comes, every farmer will turn into a hunter, and the pastor will turn into a hunter. And everybody will go out and...and set fire to the grass and then drive through, get ground hogs, or rats, or mice, or birds, or rabbits, or anything they can. So for a few days there everybody becomes a hunter and then most everybody had to do some farming.
SMITH: How do you control a fire like that?
STEELY: Well, you don't. You just set it on fire and just let it sweep through an area and then follow behind the fire and pick up things. That way you're not endangering yourself. Now I've never heard of anyone being hurt by those fires sweeping through. I mean, I never knew anyone to do it. But I've heard some of the older missionaries talk about people being actually caught with that grass fire coming and burnt and killed. But I...I never saw a problem like that in our time. Once the wind was high. They set the fire and it came fast. We would usually burn back a little fire break around our houses, and our buildings, and our yard, burn around all sides, so that, when the grass fire did come, it wouldn't touch our buildings or any of our things. Many people had thatch roof...grass-thatched roofs. So when the dry season would come, they'd go take that roof off, because there's no rain for all those months. Take that roof off and store it away, so that...because, you see, if there's any kind of a wind and one house catches on fire, close as they are in those villages, they sweep through and burn everybody's roof. And then, of course, they like to get metal roof like the mission stations had, or most of the mission stations had a metal roof like we use on barns and machine sheds in this country. That's the roof for our houses there, because that wouldn't burn and they like that. And they're very careful when they cook in their houses with the grass roof. They've got to be very careful. When I was there one night after elders meeting, a bunch of pastors and elders met together, and we were talking and something flared up on the fire inside this house and just caught the ceiling a little bit. Boy, those men rushed in there and tore that thing out of there in a hurry and threw water on. They had it out, because, if it once caught, it would burn the whole thing down. And so that was something they were extremely careful about. But you'd hear of fires like that sweeping through and the damage that it would do.
SMITH: And they had illegal methods, too, right, of trapping the...?
STEELY: Yes. Of game, they'd use traps and, for the animals, they'd use the carbide light and blind them at night and shoot them, both of which were illegal. They'd use the poisoned arrows, which was illegal. And for fish, they would get chemical from the cocoa plantations down in the southern part of Nigeria and put that in the stream. And so the fish couldn't breath and the fish would die. And then they'd go gather baskets of fish. They'd just destroy all living things in the water and...anything to get...get the food and to get something to sell, make some money.
SMITH: And even those who are involved in the government and enforcing these laws still broke them [unclear]...?
STEELY: The game laws.... You couldn't get any real support from the people. This is a...British come from the outside and imposed these laws. The laws were good, but the people just didn't respect them, and they said, "This is our game. They have no right to do this." So when independence came, why, there was...just wasn't even a pretense at keeping the laws that were on the books that the British had brought for good conservation reasons. Now, from Igbaja, about a hundred miles or a little over a hundred miles, was the big dam they built on the Niger River to generate electric power for Nigeria. Most of it comes from that dam, all over the country, and then nearby is the game reserve that they have. This game reserve was not very popular. Not a lot of people came. We went there twice to have a look, and the second time we were there we met a British man who was out studying for his degree in game management at the University of Ibadan, the oldest university in Nigeria, working for a Ph.D. in game management. And so he'd come up from the university and spend a lot of time at this game area studying, surveying, and making reports and things for his thesis. And he told me he had flown over that area and he had counted seven different camps of poachers inside the game reserve, killing the animals, drying the meat, carrying it out, selling it. Poaching...and the poachers would be armed and the game personnel, game guards, would not be. They had some guns back at their...at the...on the road at their headquarters, but not with them. You might be thirty miles in the reserve. So one night we came down and ran on to...my wife and I, and the guard, and my nephew who had come out to visit me, we ran onto some poachers who had been poaching there in the stream. And the guard had us to get out of there as fast as we could, because those men would be armed. He had nothing. He couldn't get back to that place until the next day, to get any men and guns to come back. By that time they'd long since be gone. And so there is the problem, there is the law, there is the desire to do something to have a game preserve. There were hardly any buffalo left. They'd set the trap, buffalo get in the trap, and it would drag this log around the woods until it gets so weak it couldn't go, and then hopefully they'd find it. And...and...and...and it was a very cruel way to kill them, but there were very little buffalo left in that one reserve.
SMITH: And you were telling me the story about the police officer who killed the alligator?
STEELY: Yes. This inspector was a friend of mine and we would go hunting together. And one of the times we were going, I had the vehicle, the bus that we'd use and he had a borrowed gun, which was illegal, and he had the light so he could hunt at night, which was illegal. And I refused him to use the light but I couldn't say anything about the borrowed gun. He did buy the gun later and then killed an elephant not to far from Kaduna, the last one that was left in that area. And then he killed a big alligator right there in the Kaduna river, ran right through the city of Kaduna. Kaduna is the capital of the north. And they drug the alligator out of the river right up on to the parade ground of the police college and took pictures of it. I got one of those pictures of this man with his big alligator.
SMITH: Now, you were saying about there are two different kinds of policemen?
STEELY: The Dandoki was the N.A. police, Native Authority police. After the British took over in Nigeria, you had your federal government, but you didn't want to interfere with the native set-up, so you left the native [clears throat] administration going, the local chief, and he had his native police. Usually they would not be able to speak English. And they had a sort of reddish purple on their uniforms. Then there was the Dansanda, and that was the federal police trained at the two police colleges, one in Lagos and one at Kaduna. Those men would all have to speak English. They'd take their training in English. They'd be much more educated. And they had brown uniforms, very similar to a military uniform, and so there was the two police forces until right near the end. Before we came home, they blended them into one and sort of got away from the Native Authority. They had those two phases of government, and then, when the British were there, you'd have your British district officer throughout each area, and he had judicial, and executive, and legislative powers. He was a powerful man. Then over all the district officers would be a resident. The resident would be over an area like a state, the district officer would be over like a county. So all the district officers would be under the resident. Then, in addition to that would be the native administration. That would be the emir. The emir is a super chief. He's the chief over many chiefs. He's the chief over an area, a whole state. The emir would be the head native person over a whole state, so he would be on a par with the British resident. And on New Years Day the emir and all of his people would have to come and go to the residents house and pay homage to him, acknowledging his authority. Because the...the British resident would have the final authority. But he would not interfere in local things, let the chiefs and the emirs handle those. So you had two separate government wheels but they merged together and worked very well. Then you had the Fulani people with their government and their chiefs and they were just roaming about inside these other two. And so it was a...a very interesting setup and it worked quite well. Now with independence, they've gotten rid of the residents, they've gotten rid of the district officer, and they've got only one administration, and it's setup altogether different, and one police force. So the country is...is more organized and it's...it's progressing as time goes on.
SMITH: How does that fit in with the people's customs? Does that...does that really disrupt their way of life and their...their internal governmental setup?
STEELY: You see a...a man in quite a high position during the day, dressed in his suit and tie, and leather shoes on. And then he goes home at night, off goes all those things, and he puts on a lapper [?], like a skirt would be for a woman and no shirt or undershirt. With just the lapper [?] on and he just lounges around his house that way. And his wife maybe cooking out there on three stones and this man and his men friends will eat together. They'll si...sit around the pot of food and eat, and then the women and children will eat later, separately. He wouldn't eat with his wife, wouldn't be talking with her, she wouldn't...she wouldn't really count much, but his friends are very important. So...so, yes, he's learned western ways, he's got a big position and all, but when he goes home he drops back into his tribal ways exceedingly much. And so you've got that two worlds that they're in everyday. And you...I guess it works out all right. That's just...just the way they do.
SMITH: Do others who don't...aren't so involved in western culture, how do they feel about that? The other tribal members, say.
STEELY: Well, everyone wants to advance, move up, and so those things this man is doing that way are to be desired. And you have your extended family out there. You don't have your individualism like we have here. So a person, if he buys a bicycle, it's not really his. It's his, and his brother, and his father, and his uncle's, and everybody who lives there in the same compound. And about the only thing that's really his is his wife, and the...the...they don't infringe on that. But then an older brother, if he comes back from a trip late at night and he's hungry, he can require this...his other brother's wife to get up and cook for him. If he doesn't have a wife or she's not there, she's [younger brother's wife] going to have to get up and prepare him a meal. Now, preparing a meal out there, you start from scratch. You start with the chicken that's still got the feathers on, you start with the grain that's in the husk. You've got to pound, you've got to grind, and cook on your three stones, so it's...it's a long, laborious process. And the women there...it's hard work, the life they go through, bearing children and all the work for food, for clothing, and all they do is...and they're not very much appreciated at all. And, of course, the man who can get two, three, and four wives, he's got that many more horses to do the work on the farm and do the other things. And...and so it's...he's looked up...blatantly, it was just a great thing. And their desire was to be able to have many wives and many children. So many of the children died, of course. Though you might have a wife and have many children, you might not have too many to survive. One of our men had four wives. He later got saved and became a pastor. Well, of course, he had to get rid of three but he kept all the children, so he had the right to the children. The man who was the head of ECWA for several years...he just stepped down earlier this year. He came to Wheaton, got his master's degree here. He taught with me at Kagoro Bible College. He used to go hunting with me. One of the cape buffalo I killed, he was me and skinned it out. And then he was the head of ECWA church. And our mission in recent years has become a part of ECWA church, just one branch under ECWA church. So he was the head over all the missionaries, over all of our mission leaders, and everything would be under him. Well, this man, he was afraid. His younger brother was unsaved. And so he was afraid, when he had four children, that if he should die, his younger brother would take those children from his wife, and marry them off to some pagan, and get the dowry money for himself. And that was a fear that he always had. And so the wives just have no rights, and no privileges, and a lot of hard work, and are looked down upon, and very little education. Their lot is a...in...in the...in the tribal setting that we experienced when we first went out there was pretty bad. Now, it's improving now. Nigeria now has universal primary education, government education. They've taken over all the mission schools, the mission no longer has the lower schools, at least. We did have the higher ones when I came home. I don't know, we may have lost them by now. They have lost a lot of them, yes. So they're trying to educate everybody, boy and girl. Now the ear...early days when I built schools, we'd get maybe thirty-one or two boys and three or four girls in a class. But now it's changing and they're all getting in there and the girls are getting educated. And some of the three...two or three Nigerian girls that are here on campus now all speak quite good English. Oh, some of them better than others, and they've had a good deal of education. One of the wives is going to College of DuPage while her husband is getting his master's here. And it's good to see, this leveling off and more equality among them. But as my wife was teaching the women with the women's school that she started, she was talking to them and the women say that the husband would give them a little money to go to the market and buy things each time the market came. And she was sort of surprised that they didn't have their own money, and they said. "Oh, if we had money, we would waste it." And so the husband has to take care of that and not trust them with it. Tell them how many pennies they can spend for tomatoes, how many for pepper, how much for meat, and its a strange, to us, situation. Now that could backfire. In Liberia, we went out to preach at a certain village, and they placed the offering plate, and so I put in a dollar. It was in my...in Liberia, we used American money. And then they wanted my wife to give some money. Well, she had no money because we have one purse between us. So I had to give her a dollar so she could put it in, and that offended them. And this guy turned loose a tirade, "I give my money to God. I don't give my money to some woman." And he was offended by that, because that isn't the way they would have done it. So the African women would try to sell a little something off of their produce, or do a little knitting, or something...sell something, get a little money on their own. It was separate from what their husband gave them. They would try and would succeed. Some of them would get a little bit of money and start their little canteen, their little shop, and sell things, and have some money on their own that was not from their husbands. But that was more the Yoruba women who did that than the northern people where we were.
SMITH: Did you see...what were the judicial systems like there? Did you see a big change in the way the government...?
STEELY: I never really had much contact with their judicial system. I did go by a court one day. The...the head man, Hakami, that would be the fellow who is a district head, over a whole district, and all the chiefs in that area would be under him, then he in turn would be under the emir who's over a whole state or province. The Hakami there at that area was a hundred and three years old, very tall man. His father had been the emir at Katsina but Lord Lugard had deposed his father. And now...so he would have been in line, and from the best I could find from the other sources available, his father had been a very cruel man, and Lord Lugard, who was the conqueror of northern Nigeria, had been very just and very right in disposing of his father and putting in the family who is in now. And so I stopped and visited this man, and I didn't have an interpreter, and I couldn't speak good enough Hausa to converse with him. So they called the judge out of the court. He just...just adjourned the court for a little while so he could come over and be interpreter. I had my polaroid camera along, and so I took a picture of the judge and of this hundred and three year old man and some of his other sons, and then gave them polaroid pictures, and they were very impressed. So I never had that much contact with their judicial setup. They had their regular courts. The [unclear] would hold courts in the earlier days and then the judges. And now, in some of the higher courts in the big cities, the higher courts, they wou...there was a Pakistani judge one place, there was some British judges who were there in Nigeria on...in the judicial system, who'd been appointed, and other places.
SMITH: What did you do when you came back to the United States, what did you do after that, when you finally finished your missionary work?
STEELY: When I terminated the missionary work?
STEELY: I came to Wheaton, and got a missionary home, and...so that four of my...our adult children could live with us, so that we could have a family life again, for making up for some of the things we had missed in the earlier days when they were away at school, and got a job here at Wheaton College. I didn't want a preaching job or a teaching job that would take my time at night. I wanted to be free with the children, even though they were grown up and adults. And so I got...my other trade, as well as being a teacher and preacher, is an electrician, an electronic technician, so I had that job here at the College for two years. And then our last two children finished college in that time and they wanted to get out on their own. So then I went away to take an interim pastorate for a year in Wisconsin. And they felt there that I was...they wanted a younger man. And they felt that I was more of a teacher than a preacher and they wanted a...a fireball of a preacher. It was a Fundamental church who liked that fireballing preaching, and so my quiet teacherly ways just didn't satisfy them. So after the time period was up...my interim period was up, well, then I came back here to the College again. Have my old job back at the electric shop and electronics. I did all of the P.A. systems before, the electronic work, and now I'm doing all of the telephones here at the College. So we...we're still in areas that we trained for and have done work in, though we're not in our primary area of teaching and preaching to a great extent, although we do teach Bible classes. I do have a Greek class at night with some people, teaching a new tech...well, a technique that I've developed, which I think is helpful for people who haven't got the time to spend years studying Greek. There's something else we can do to learn how to use the tools that are available, so they can get some real good, real value, out the Greek New Testament, the Greek language, without actually going to all the problem of learning Greek. It would be better to learn Greek, but if you can't do it, this other method is better than just depending on English. There's a lot of help that you can get. So we teach that in sessions at night. I've done it about six times now.
SMITH: Do you ever want to go back to Africa, do you think?
STEELY: No, I have no real desire. We...we felt satisfied when we came home. We were replaced by trained personnel, indigenous personnel, that were trained to take our place. We felt that our time was up, that we'd accomplished our purpose there. So I've no real desire to go there. I do have a desire to get back into a full time Bible teaching ministry, if it ever would open up, someway. I'd like to do that. Well, I think I've learned now, with three interim pastorates, that I'm not really a pastor. I don't have the gifts or the calling, and I...I'm not interested in trying that. But I would like a Bible teaching job if one opened. It's difficult. I only have an M.A. degree and, to get a Bible teaching job in a col...Bible college or Bible school in this country, I would be competing with men with Th.M.s and Th.D.s. And there's a lot of them that graduated with those degrees in the twenty-five years while I was overseas. And so to compete with them, the American Association of Bible College told me that it really wasn't very likely that I could...could...could manage. I made one attempt and didn't even get an offer of any kind, and so.... Now, if I really put a lot of energy and kept struggling, working, I might find some little school way off somewhere that would...would take me. But I don't know that I'm interested in that. And, besides, we have a ministry here at the College in...in the work that we're doing, and in the church, and in our Greek classes. And we have a good medical and a good retirement program. And then the Christian people that we're working with, who are always here at the school, I think, is...is the finest that I have ever had in the different Christian organizations I've been in. I think that the...the...the personnel we have here, in their treatment of us and their concern and their outlook for us, the personnel department here is.... Just a tremendous job that they're doing over the personnel here and so it's.... Well, in the twenty-five years we were on the field, we never had enough income to pay federal income tax, and so you don't build up much retirement and social security. And the mission doesn't have much of a retirement, so we're hoping to put in ten years here with the College, with a good retirement program. And we have an excellent medical setup, so, as we get older and these infirmities come up, it's awful good to have that. And so the College has really met a real need in our own life and we're...we're grateful for it. When we left, they didn't want to see us go, and after we...while we were at the pastorate in New Glarus and we saw that it wasn't going to open up for another pastorate, we contacted them. They said they'd be very glad to have us back. And they made a job for me. There was none open, but they made one. And so it's a mutual agreement. We feel we're helpful to them and...and we certainly know they're helpful to us.
SMITH: Well, just in concluding here, there's a few words that I'd like you to spell (knocks microphone), just...just in case I haven't gotten it written on the sheet already. I'm not sure if I'll pronounce these right, but how about Kaji?
STEELY: Kaji is K-A-J-I, a tribe of about thirty-three thousand people, formerly pagan but a lot of Christians there now.
SMITH: Okay. And emir or em...?
STEELY: Emir? E-M-I-E-R [emir or emeer, according to The American Heritage Dictionary]. That's the nearest I can get to it.
SMITH: Okay. And then the...the two police...different types of...?
STEELY: Okay. Dan, D-A-N, and that means son, D-O-K-I is horse, doki, Dandoki, so that's "son of horse" or "owner of the horse. And then Dansanda, sanda is a stick, and the British general, the army men, would always carry their little, what do you call those, swagger sticks. And so Dansanda, cause the police will always have their club. And that's D-A-N and S-A-N-D-I, Dansanda, S-A-N-D-A, dansanda.
SMITH: Okay. And the Sar...Sardauna?
STEELY: That would be a capital S-A-R-D-O-N-A, Sardona [The Encyclopedia Britannica spells it as it has been spelled in the guide and throughout this transcript, i.e., Sardauna]. And then another word you want is Hakami, H-A-K-A-M-I, Hakami, and that's a district head, a man who's over a number of other chiefs in an area, bigger than just a local area, but several local areas put together.
SMITH: And what's the Sardauna job again?
STEELY: Well, that was the name...I'm not sure whether that's a name or a title. I guess it would have to be a title for the man who was premier of the northern region. Amadu Bello was the Sardauna. I'm not too sure I kno...what just that signified, whether someone else in that position would have had that name or whether that was his. I mean, Amadu Bello was his name, premier, and the Sardauna. So I'm a little bit fuzzy on that.
SMITH: How would you spell his name? Do you know how to spell that?
STEELY: Capital A-M-A-D-U and Bello, B-E-L-L-O, Amadu Bello.
STEELY: The university in northern Nigeria is named after him, in Zaria, Amadu Bello University.
SMITH: Okay. And then the name of the tribe that you stayed with? I can't remember how to pronounce it.
STEELY: Kagoro? The Kafanchan?
SMITH: U...Un...Unge... [laughs]?
STEELY: Oh, the...the town there. Ungwar, U-N-G-W-A-R, and Yuli, Y-U-L-I, Ungwar Yuli.
STEELY: That was just a small village, a very remote village...
STEELY: ...off in the bush.
SMITH: Well, that's all I have for you. Is there anything that you would like to say?
STEELY: [Bumps microphone] As we look back on our life, I got saved in the military, in the army, in 1945, in August. In December I was discharged from the army by mistake. And then in 1948 I was admitted to Wheaton College by an oversight. And when I look at those things, I see God's hand working and [bumps microphone] directing. And even after I got saved, while I was still in the Army, I felt the calling and directing of the Lord to become a teacher, a Bible teacher. Even before I got out of the service, in the three months that I was in the service, I was directed in that direction. And then for the revival to come here as it did and to stir up our hearts so that we responded to the Lord and started the radio station when we did. And we see God's hand in that, as Dr. Edman has written it up in his book, Not Somehow But Triumphantly. He shows how small a beginning the radio station had and how out of that has grown the big radio station we have there today. So in all these things, I see the Lord's hand very definitely in directing us along the way. I don't really know why I'm back at Wheaton. I mean, there are so many missionaries, retired missionaries, and Christian workers, and Christian college teachers here that we were willing to get out of here after our children were out on their own. We were free, and we went off to Wisconsin, and we'd have moved on, but the Lord brought us back. We looked for work, we looked for churches, in different areas over a period of time and in five different states. Traveled some thirteen thousand miles looking...excuse me, thir...[pauses] five thousand miles, I guess it was. And we went through a number of states trying to find work. Work was hard to get at that time, and the...the job opened up back here at the College. We came back. I don't know, really, why we're here, other than we do have a good medical, which is helping us, and a good...good retirement program, which is to our advantage here. But we would like to move back into the Lord's work full time somewhere if the Lord opens. But if he doesn't, why, we'll just rest content and stay on here. But I don't see any necessity, any real reason. This is not our original home area. It's been the area that we've made our home pretty much since we've been married, when we weren't in Africa. But there's no reason we couldn't, if the Lord opens a door, be gone within a few months to any part of the world or this country, anything that He would open to us. We're certainly willing to make such a move if He...if He opens it. Now, of course, my wife had cancer and had to go through chemotherapy and all, and it was good to be here and to have the medical that we did. So the Lord has provided, He has led very definitely in the past. At the moment, I don't see as clearly. I suppose in time I'll look back, I'll see, just like when we look back here. Now, when we were moved from Kagoro, from a mission station with thirty missionaries and thirty children to go to Kaduna, where we'd be with only one other mission family and living in the big town and that would.... My wife was really upset and didn't want to make that move. But as we look back now, we see that it was very good for us and we got one of our greatest ministries. The greatest ministry, perhaps, I had in Africa was those two years in Kaduna. So one has to learn to really trust and commit himself to the Lord, and take those things that come as coming from His hand, and coming through His hand of love. And doing that, one can be content and rest in a situation that might not be the ideal we would choose, but would be, we know, best for us because He has chosen it.
SMITH: Well, I really appreciate you sharing all of this and thank you very much...
STEELY: Thank you.
SMITH: ...for doing the interview.
END OF TAPE