This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Martha Henrietta Philips (Collection 314, T1) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words which were recorded is omitted. In a very few cases, the transcribers could not understand what was said, in which case "[unclear]' was inserted. Also, grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers of this transcript should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and even rule than written English. Place-name in non-Western alphabets 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, because that is how the interviewee pronounced it.
. . . Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the
sentence of the speaker.
. . . . Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete
( ) Word in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
[ ] Words in brackets are comments made by the transcriber.
This transcript was completed by Wayne D. Weber in March 1999.
Collection 314, T1. Interview of Martha Henrietta Philips by Paul Ericksen, September 26, 1985.
PHILIPS: Now is that one working alright? Can you see there?
ERICKSEN: The needle is running, so....
ERICKSEN: This is an interview with Martha Henrietta Philips by Paul Ericksen for the Missionary Sources Collection of Wheaton College. This interview took place at the offices of the Billy Graham Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, on September 26, 1985, at 10:00 a.m. [recorder stopped and restarted]
PHILIPS: Perfectly all right. [clears throat]
ERICKSEN: Well, Miss Philips we'd...I like to start by just getting a little bit of information on your early years. Can you tell me about where you were born?
PHILIPS: In Washington State near the town of Pullman, which is now...Pullman is the center of Washington State University.
ERICKSEN: You lived out in the country?
PHILIPS: Yes. My parents had gone to the university and then were...we were on a farm at that time.
ERICKSEN: Was you father a farmer?
PHILIPS: He farmed most of his life. Uh-hmm.
ERICKSEN: What kind of a farm was it?
PHILIPS: Depended on the different section of the country. Wheat farm I would say there.
ERICKSEN: What can you tell me about the religious background of your family?
PHILIPS: My parents both knew and loved the Lord. And my father's family had gone west from Kansas a hundred years ago, 1885. They got out to Washington Territory, no schools so the church started an academy out there. And many, well, really-noted people from our country had that Christian background in the academy at Waitsburg. That was under the United Presbyterian Church before it united with everything else.
ERICKSEN: So you grew up in a Christian home?
PHILIPS: In a truly Christian home.
ERICKSEN: And how would you describe the beginnings of your own spiritual pilgrimage?
PHILIPS: Oh, just as a tiny child I came to know the Lord and loved the Word and when He said, "If you love me, keep my commandments," [John 14:15] (that's our proof of our love for Him), it was just going...growing step by step. You asked about my father. People often ask if he was a missionary and I would say, "No." But maybe he should have been called that because every time we went to another place where there was no church, no school, he always started one, got it going and then we would go to another place. So we really served as a missionary though he didn't have the title.
ERICKSEN: What kind of church would he...what would it [unclear]...?
PHILIPS: Well, what he would start would be an interdenominational based on the Word . His background was the United Presbyterian and they were very sound doctrinally. And so the....
ERICKSEN: So how did it come about that he would start interdenominational churches?
PHILIPS: Well, other people might have had a...he...it didn't have a title. I called it interdenominational. Other people might have had some sort of church background and if, for instance, they were Methodists or Baptists or something they might hesitate to join one with a denominational title. But he wasn't out starting...particularly starting interdenominational churches. He was just starting getting the Word of the Lord to people.
ERICKSEN: Do you recall the circumstances of your conversion? You referred to it.
PHILIPS: No. I think it was between four and five and I'm not sure. At that time they didn't pay too much attention to the circumstances. It was the fact that you were saved and I don't recall exactly.
ERICKSEN: What do you recall of the first missionary you ever met?
PHILIPS: I'll say one thing before I answer that. Always if a missionary came to the area they came to our home, a farm home. But you know we got to know the missionaries and that made a difference. And today the big change has taken place. They're very kind to missionaries and they invite them out to a meal at a lovely restaurant and you never meet the children and the children never meet the missionaries. Well, I think the first one that I really know of was...that was a missionary was a...a cousin of my father's who had been a missionary in China. But, of course, we had letters from them. We were living way out in the country at that time but we were...we were in touch with them and we were interested in them all the way along. And, of course, when we met them they were human beings and we thoroughly enjoyed them. And then there have been missionaries down through the years.
ERICKSEN: So even as a child you heard and learned about China?
PHILIPS: Somewhat yes. In the beginning as a child just from letters. During those days, oh, when I was about ten or eleven now, they had a good many famines in China. And the...the missionaries at that time (now those were missionaries under the Presbyterian board)...those missionaries would buy cloth, give it to the people, they would do beautiful handwork... embroidery work on it and sell it to this country to be sold and I sold some of them. And when I was back in that little town, oh, it must be twenty years ago now, a friend of mine who died just recently at ninety-three, this friend of mine said, "Years ago you sold this bed spread to Aunt Lucy. I think it would mean more to you than would to anyone else." So now I have that bed spread with the applique design on it, from way back there as a youngster. But it was...they were doing something. They would sell it to this country to be sold and they'd get it back and they'd have money to buy food.
PHILIPS: It was a real forward step. They were doing something for themselves.
ERICKSEN: Do you recall hearing anything about the Boxer troubles?
PHILIPS: Yes. Of course, those were past. They...those were past. I...I heard about them and then I've read about them a lot. Now...and it's easy to confuse what you've read with...read relatively recently and what you heard a way back there.
PHILIPS: But I was very well acquainted with the Boxer setup.
ERICKSEN: When did you first start thinking about becoming a missionary yourself?
PHILIPS: As a tiny child. "If you love Me, keep my commandments." [John 14:15] One of the commandments is, "All the world." [paraphrase from Matthew 28:19?] And so really from a way back there, I was looking forward to being a missionary. And all the days in school whenever there was a...a choice of subjects...would that help for China? So it was...it was working right along that line all through the years. So going to China was just a culmination of what I had felt was my duty for years.
ERICKSEN: What would say were the primary influences in your...
PHILIPS: To go to China?
ERICKSEN: ...developing that determination?
PHILIPS: Well, I think possibly this cousin of my father's visiting us. And at that time there was a tremendous need for women doctors in China, so I was going to go as a M.D. And I finished my pre-med, got everything ready at the peak of the Depression, no money go to on to medical school so I taught for a few years to earn money. And in those days they didn't pay the teachers. They'd give us what they called a warrant. And if we could hold it until it was called we'd get it at face value. If not we had to sell it at reduced rate to live. [laughs] I had an experience one year, I succeeded in saving one of those warrants and got it at face value, took it right down to the bank that night and put in a full one hundred dollars. And that was a hundred dollars in those days. I put it into the bank and the next morning the bank didn't open. [slaps hand] I knew something of how the Wall Street brokers felt when their banks closed. They lost everything. I lost everything, only I had the Lord and that made a difference. But it was...it was quite an experience. We didn't get ahead very fast to go ahead...money for medical school. And I was counting, "Now it'll take at least four years of medical school and one or two years of internship and there's no use in going to the mission field without Bible training and that would take at least three or four years." I felt I already had one foot in the grave and the other one on a banana peel. [laughs] And I felt I had to get going. So after five years of teaching, I gave up my teaching job and went to Bible school.
PHILIPS: At Prairie Bible Institute in Canada. I'd always liked a mild climate and I thought surely the Lord would send me to Biola [Bible Institute of Los Angeles], where it was mild and warm. But He sent me up to Canada and that winter the temperature got down to fifty below zero. And we didn't know anything about the chill factor in those days, but we had high winds so [laughs] I don't know what it was. It was cold but I've never regretted having gone there. A good school and we really learned to know the Lord and to trust Him.
ERICKSEN: How did you decide to go to Prairie?
PHILIPS: Well, I [laughs]...when I was teaching a team from Prairie came to the school, spoke to us and it was very interesting. And afterward I said, "Well, that sounds interesting but that's not for me." [recording stops, then begins slowly before resuming normal speed] I just was assured that it was for me and that's where the Lord took me.
ERICKSEN: Where were you teaching?
PHILIPS: Where? Spokane, Washington, West Valley High School teaching science. But I...I was back last year. You see in 1934, I quit teaching. I was back at '74, I mean '84, fifty years later. And these old, gray-headed, bald-headed retired people were my kids of fifty years ago. And they had a get together for us. We had such an interesting time.
ERICKSEN: Going back into your [pauses]...your childhood again, what was the emphasis on missions in your church?
PHILIPS: Not much. It was through the home. So it...and by this time we were living just in a small town and any missionaries that came, of course, came to us...
PHILIPS: ...and went to the church. But the missionary emphasis, it was...it was through the home.
ERICKSEN: Okay. Can you tell me a little bit about Prairie Bible Institute?
PHILIPS: In those days it was a very small school. We had no wells. We carried water, had running water. It ran up and down the stairs as we went up to our rooms and back. And we did our washing up there and "canary baths" and such as that. We didn't have any running water. Now they do have. And they had board walks. Now they have cement walks. And our buildings were wooden frame buildings. But, oh, what teaching. It was really right down in the Word. I remember...one thing I was thinking of just now, the Bible teacher...one of the Bible teachers, the dean of women, in teaching about the woman who touched the hem of the Lord's garment. When He said, "Who touched Me?" And they said, "Why, how could you ask that, they're crowding everywhere." "I perceive that virtue has gone out of Me." [Luke 8:45-46] And she said, "Young folks, if you take a meeting, if you do something, if you're not tired it hasn't cost you anything. But if...if you really touch somebody you're going to find it takes it out of you. You'll really be weary, worn down." And it's been such an encouragement. So often you wonder why you're tired out. Why, somebody much have been touched. But it's...it's a very interesting thing. But the teaching all the way through was practical, it was really trusting the Lord. A group of us who were graduating that year were going out...planning to go to various mission fields. And we were meeting every week to pray and one day one of the teachers came in. He said, "Young folks, when you look at this congregation don't think, 'Hmm. Wonder how much of my support they're good for.' But if as lo...if as you look at them you say, 'I wonder how much of the Word of God I can give to these people,' if that's your attitude God will take care of your support." And you know that was a very good word, too. It so often hits us today. If we're...there's pressure to get money. But wait. The greatest pressure if to get the Word of God out. And so it's...the...the teaching all the way along has been very precious background. I....
ERICKSEN: Was there any....
PHILIPS: Go ahead. I swallowed the course in two years, swallowed it whole. It took a long time to digest it, but I'm still digesting it and still enjoying it.
ERICKSEN: Now was it a two-year course?
PHILIPS: No, it was a four-year course.
ERICKSEN: So you did two years in four years.
PHILIPS: Well, it was a four-year course or a three-year course, but I took the...I took the basics of the four years in two...two years and went right on out. I was getting past the age when I went to China. At that time they were discouraging people of twenty-eight. They were too old to learn a language, and I was thirty at that time and thirty-one right after I got to China. I was grateful that the Lord who had been urging me to go pushed me right on out.
ERICKSEN: What did the cur...the curriculum consist of in the course you took?
PHILIPS: At the...at the Bible School?
ERICKSEN: At the Bible School.
PHILIPS: I can't tell you which books now. Each one...we took Genesis, we took the book of Jeremiah, we went...we really went right straight through the book but we took whole books. And the method of teaching there, they would give us search questions and you'd write them...look them up and write out the answers. When you got to class you'd be called on to read your answers right or wrong. Of course, you were graded those. After two or three answers been read, then would come the lecture. So we didn't go out saying, "Mr. So and So says it's this," but you were finding from the Word what it said. And then, of course, if we were off on the wrong track we'd get corrected through the lectures.
ERICKSEN: Do you recall any wrong answers that you prepared?
PHILIPS: [laughs] I don't recall any wrongs that I prepared. Once awhile I call a wrong which somebody else prepared, [laughs] something that...that was just...it looked like it might be that and it was really a twist from the Scriptures but in hurrying through she had prepared it, but better not repeat it. But it was...it was interesting and it was certainly...you really worked to get those. And we didn't have the advantage of...we did have concordances...but we didn't have various commentaries. We were to get our information from the Word. Oh yes, we used commentaries after we got through with it but they wanted us to get to the point we could find that facts from the Word. And sometimes, of course, you don't have commentaries and all you have is what you find. But it was good and it was practical and I've appreciated it so much.
ERICKSEN: Were there other courses than the...the Bible...the Bible courses that you had?
PHILIPS: Oh, we had Bible, we had church history, we had missions. But it was all based on the Word. They have a great many more now and a great deal larger school and many more buildings that's quite...but their basic teaching is still the same.
ERICKSEN: Now you said it was a small school when you were there. How many students were there?
PHILIPS: About a hundred and thirty I think. After all it's fifty years. I'm not too sure that I remember exactly but it think that was about it.
ERICKSEN: What...what sort of activities were there aside from the classes that were there for students to be involved in?
PHILIPS: Not very much. At that time...oh yes, we did walking to keep ourselves up and they finally were bringing in a little bit of ball. We didn't have a gym at that time. They do now. But we...we were trying to keep ourselves in health. And the course at that time instead of being a full year was six months course and then people would be out and work for six months to earn money for the next six months. So it was very concentrated.
ERICKSEN: How did you...what work did you on the...the other half of each year?
PHILIPS: [laughs] The one year in between those two years I worked with Canadian Sunday School Mission up on the prairies area where they said...areas where they said, "We haven't had a gospel witness for thirty, forty years." And we would go out to those places. I had driven the little Ford up to Canada that year, got the car in duty free for six months. Then I wanted to work with Sunday School Mission. We wrote back and forth to see about getting it. Wrote to Ottawa. They said, "We want to let you have it duty free but there's never been a precedent, nobody's ever done such a thing before." And I don't know, I was there I guess a couple of weeks waiting at the school and doing whatever and finally they decided to call Canadian Sunday School Mission "matters of health and pleasure." [Ericksen laughs] And we were...and I was allowed to work duty free on matters of health and pleasure. But it was very interesting getting out into that country. Then I had to get home a little while before I came back for the fall term. And then the next year I headed to China.
ERICKSEN: Can you describe what you would do when you were working with the...
PHILIPS: Sunday...with the Sunday School Mission?
ERICKSEN: Sunday School...yeah.
PHILIPS: Whatever. But first of all we...we would call homes and often maybe...maybe the children would be there, maybe they wouldn't maybe it would just be parents. But they...they were hungry and may of them had never heard the Word or had heard very little way back when they were children but sometimes the children were [laughs]...were there. I remember one time my partner and I went into this home. We had with us an autoharp, you know those you can play a bit and sing with it. We were neither one of us singers but we could sing for the joy in the Lord. And we hadn't taken the harp in that day but we talked to them a while and the lady wanted to hear us. So the children ran out and were playing and we went out and stood by the car and played and sang for her...she was enjoying. All of a sudden one little youngster come and said, "Hey." She called her brother's name I forgotten what it was, "Come listen to the pretty noise." That was our singing, the pretty noise [laughs] but they enjoyed it. And we...we went from place to place singing and playing in homes and giving the gospel and then we'd have Sunday services. This one day [clears throat] we had a Sunday service, it was raining and this was that sticky, I've forgotten what they called it, the gumbo that...that you get stuck in the mud up there. But we...my hostess said, "Oh you wouldn't go today. Nobody would come." But we went anyway. Nobody was there and after a little bit a wagon with fifteen or twenty came and if we hadn't gone they'd have come for nothing. We were never sorry that we fa...that we had gone. If we had failed, think of how many we would have failed and we had a good time in the service. But it just doesn't pay to give up when it rains or anything else. But we had a...we had a really good time. So we had services and then...then they would have a vacation Bible school and then not that year but other years I've been...been with them in their summer camps, always teaching the Word.
ERICKSEN: What would...let's go back to the service a minute...what would that be like?
PHILIPS: Well, there were just the two of us girls and we...we read the Word and one of us gave a message from the Word and we just had a...a nice time in the Word. We're not preachers, but...that was...that was the only opportunity they had of getting the Word.
ERICKSEN: Now this was for adults as well as children?
PHILIPS: Oh yes, the whole crowd, whole family would come. And sometimes there were very small children. One thing I'm thinking of at the moment, the next year as I was going to China a group of us traveled, five of us traveled together, I guess you'd say as a gospel team. We were all going out to the coast. And two of the girls did all of the singing, one of the girls said she would teach the young...youngsters, and the other girl said, well, she'd preach the sermons. So that left me to take care of the car, which worked fine. And we got to this particular area in Idaho and they'd had snow or they'd had rain and it was just no...you couldn't get to some of these places. So we stayed in that town over Sunday, went to a neighboring town and arranged to go out the next evening to a school just to have a meeting for them to come in. And when they came, [laughs] oh yes, the girl that was going to do all the preaching came to me middle of the afternoon, she said, "You're going to have to preach. The Lord hasn't given me a message." Well, He hadn't [laughs] given me one either, but I hurried and worked up one. I should have worked it down. And I got out there and what came was the school, all these school children. Nothing...I had...was speaking a little bit above that level. Well, I simply laid it aside and just gave them the plain way of salvation, simple...simple message and gave them an opportunity to come forward. And I think twenty-five or thirty kids came forward to be dealt with. Well, it wasn't what I had given them. We wondered how it could be. The next day we were still in that town and we met a lady who had been in the bed, an invalid for many years and she'd been praying that somebody would send...would come there to give the gospel. And it was the result of her prayers that all these children came. But it was a thrilling experience, didn't get me puffed up that I preached so much. I knew I hadn't, but how good to get that response and what it meant to her to see the value of...of praying and seeing the Lord really answering prayers. It would have taken years but it was a...it was an interesting experience.
ERICKSEN: How did you...going back to the Canadian Sunday School Mission, how did you get connected with them?
PHILIPS: Well, some of the representatives were on the staff there at Prairie.
PHILIPS: And so we heard about it and we applied to it and went right through the procedures of applying and being accepted and so on.
ERICKSEN: Were there chapels on...
PHILIPS: Oh yes.
ERICKSEN: ...at the school...
PHILIPS: Oh yes.
ERICKSEN: ...that sort of thing?
PHILIPS: Yes, we had chapels and excellent messages.
ERICKSEN: Who would lead those?
PHILIPS: Sometimes we'd have missionary speakers. Don't know if I dare go out of...out of line and tell you about one.
ERICKSEN: Sure go ahead.
PHILIPS: [laughs] You may laugh with me. Really there's much to laugh at in the Lord's work, but sometimes is takes you by surprise, too. But the Lord makes no mistakes. But this woman came and she talked about...she'd been in China somewhere, I don't know where or what the connection was. But she said, "Then she heard the Lord say, 'Alaska...Alaska!'" And just such...so thrilled with Alaska and she'd been with...she was trying to get missionary candidates for Alaska. Well, it was interesting but I was going to China. I didn't pay much attention to it. But someway she found out that I had a car and that I was a teacher. Well, she wanted me to come and talk to her and I didn't and she finally send and asked me to come and see her at such a time. So I went. And she asked me if I ever thought of Alaska and I said, "Well, I know it's a needy field." "Well, have you ever thought of going." "Well, no I'm going to China." "Well, would you go to China [Alaska ?] if the Lord called you." Well I said, "Of course, He called me I'd go, but I'm going to China." When I went...went to leave her that evening she said, "Would you pray about it?" I laughed and I said, "Well, yes I'll pray about it." The next morning I didn't go to breakfast. I was washing my hair and the girls brought me some toast...didn't go to breakfast. But they came in, "Martha, why didn't you tell us." I said, "Tell you what?" "Tell us you're going to...to Alaska." I said, "Where did you get that?" This missionary had got up. She had real faith in her prayers getting what she wanted. She got up and announced that I was going to Alaska because I had said, "Oh yes, I'll pray about going." I didn't pray about it expecting to go or anything. Well, I was flabbergasted. As soon as I could I went down to see the principal and I said, "Will you tell me what this means?" He said, "I'd like to know what it means." And I said, "Well, I didn't know anything about it." "Well," he said, "I'm glad you came to see me. Today we were going to vote on the people for Sunday School Mission and I thought if you were as changeable as that you wouldn't even get into Sunday School Mission." So it is awfully easy to say something and jump at conclusions and think that God's going to say it because it's my will. But it didn't work and I didn't have to go, but she never went back to the school either. [Ericksen laughs] But there...it's so easy for us if we're anxious for something to step out of line and push for that and mislead somebody. That's enough.
ERICKSEN: What about devotional groups on campus or prayer groups, that sort of thing?
PHILIPS: Oh yes, we had prayer groups. We had, actually, missionary prayer groups. We had a Latin American prayer group, European prayer group, African prayer group, various ones. And then I mentioned the prayer group for those planning to go up to the mission field praying for...regarding deputation. And you know people have gotten to mistake deputation and think it means, "Come on. How much are you going to support me?" And deputation really isn't that. You know, it's presenting the work, telling people what is to be done, really inviting them to pray. And actually if they begin to pray, if they're really interested the Lord is going to direct them to send funds if they should. But it's not our...our job to go out and ask for it. Now wait, I'm treading on somebody's toes. Some do. That's not the way the Lord's led me. But deputation is presenting the work. People don't know what's going on. People haven't any idea know how many people have nothing. And you'd be surprised how many people say, "Well, everybody has a much as we have." And you know they don't. And we need to get the gospel to them, not get them acquainted just with the mission but get the gospel to them so they'd come to know the Lord first and then they're ready to listen and think what they should do. That's enough.
ERICKSEN: Were there missionaries back in the time when you were preparing to go out who would go from church to church pretty straight forwardly asking for money?
PHILIPS: Oh yes, there always have. This little woman who said I was going to Alaska was asking for tremendous sums. I've forgotten what. And there were two girls decided to go with them. Well, they must have two fur coats and, oh, I don't know what all. But such requirements were amazing. That's enough.
ERICKSEN: All right. How did...how did you decided to go with China Inland Mission?
PHILIPS: Well, I was going to China. I was reading books and I read Hudson Taylor's, Spiritual Secret, and the various Hudson Taylor books. And it just right down the line was exactly what I wanted. And then [laughs]...maybe I should go ahead. My folks were perfectly happy for me to go to China, but some friend said, "Well, let her go to China but don't let her go with a faith mission. They never have enough of anything. Just let her go with someone that gives them a real salary." Well, that year just before I left, I...I wouldn't go without their approval; not that they were demanding it but I wanted them to be happy with it. Just at that time John and Isobel Kuhn came on furlough, their first furlough. I don't know if you've read any of their books but they were good friends of mine from there on. But they were able to tell the folks. They had been out on faith. They never lacked anything. God is always faithful and supplies their needs. I thought what an awful indictment to say that God never gets...gives His children enough. They're always hungry, always lacking. But after my folks talked with them they were perfectly content and I went with the China Inland Mission and they were happy to have me with it.
ERICKSEN: Did you have any brothers and sisters?
PHILIPS: Two brothers and two sisters.
ERICKSEN: And how did they feel about their sister going off to be a missionary in China?
PHILIPS: Yes and no both. They didn't exactly feel the same way. Now my little brother, the youngest brother, also went to the mission field and he went to Africa. The other three didn't go. Older brother is a doctor, the sister just younger that I was first a teacher and then a business-woman, and the second sister was a nurse. But none of them went to the mission field except my little brother and me. [sound of passing train]
ERICKSEN: So you decided to go with CIM. Do you recall the process of applying to the mission that you went through?
PHILIPS: Not too definitely. [laughs] It's just like any other application. They want to find all about you and your...your conversion experience and your desire to go to the field and how...how much you really know and trust the Lord. We went through all of that a step at a time. They'd get this application back, they'd return it with the next papers and so on. They didn't want to lead you on as though you were going and then just drop you but accepted along the way. And then we had a...a period, (what do they call it?)...well I would now call it an orientation period. It was a...a period of...I think it was only three weeks at that time. We went to the home in Vancouver. I may be wrong in the time. But we were there living together, getting acquainted and they were...a chance you know to brush off all the sharp corners. It was a chance of really getting acquainted with them and then we were finally accepted.
ERICKSEN: Were there missionaries...CIM missionaries there...
PHILIPS: Oh yes.
ERICKSEN: ...as well or...?
PHILIPS: There were those in charge. There were those in charge.
ERICKSEN: Do you recall any of them?
PHILIPS: I do. This one couple, I can't think of the last name, very British. She was [laughs] rather a nervous type and her husband's first name was Walker. And if she wanted to stop him or something, "Oh Walker, Walker, Walker." [laughs] And then...and I can't remember the other part of the name. But she was just excitable but a very lovely person. One day she came home. She had learned a new word. And we...she was going to tell us. Well, it was way walking. It was jay walking, but it...she just got it twisted up. But it was just...it was so interesting to see these things. We weren't just laughing at her, we were laughing with her and that makes a difference. They were lovely people. And then there was a couple came up from California. His first name was Ford and her's was Carolyn. She was an artist, and I can't think of the last name, but they're long since gone too. But they very much interested in us and they interviewed each of us, talked with us. They were teaching us a few words of Chinese to see if we could hear them and pick them up. And this artist was a very helpful soul. Oh yes one other thing she said. I hope this doesn't tread on anybody's toes. She said, "Young folks, when you get out there to the field be careful. You're going to mistake kindness and helpfulness for love. Be sure that you think carefully and...and see." She said, "It takes the very same things for married happiness on the mission field that it does at home." Most of them listened. One girl didn't. She married. After not too long a time there was a divorce and they have been separated for many years. He has since died. I saw her just last year. But you know, it is so easy when you...
ERICKSEN: These were folks on the field?
PHILIPS: Beg your pardon.
ERICKSEN: These were missionaries?
PHILIPS: They were on the field, yes. That's the reason I'm emphasizing it, it fits right there just like it does at home. And it was...it was in a sense a shocking thing. And we though better of her and we thought better of him, but you know when you're lonely and somebody is kind, it's awfully easy to slip into thinking you love them and not to really seek the Lord to know what's His will. Now I can't speak for her how she feels about it. I saw her last year, but I asked her no questions. I thought well, it...it would be just a sore spot and why bring it up. But it is...that's one of the things.... I think one thing we need to get out young people to know before they go to any mission field, they need to face the facts and say, "I am satisfied with what the Lord has for me, whether it's married life or a single life." And he has work for single people to do on the field that married ones can't. They're tied down they can't go. He has work for married people to do on the field; the single ones can't go. And God has a perfect plan for our lives whichever He wants. And if we fact those facts before we go to the field then when we get there we won't be going fishing and grab the wrong fish. And there are...as I've gone around the world, folks talk with gray hair, you know. And some of the girls are so frustrated. People have said, "Well, they told us to come on out and maybe there's waiting for us out there." Maybe there is but when there's seven women to one man what chance is it that it's yours. And then the fellows have talked to me. "How can we decide who we want. These girls are throwing themselves at us." Everyone needs to face even before they leave Bible school, certainly before they leave our shores, "Am I content with either married life or single life whichever the Lord has for me." Now sorry I've got clear off the beam of what you were talking about.
ERICKSEN: No, that's all right. Had you consciously come to a conclusion about that for yourself before you left or is that something you sort of....
PHILIPS: No, I had come to a conclusion. I wore a diamond ring for three years. We were both going to China in medical work and then he got his eyes on a practice at home. Fine Christian man, but was it the Lord's will or was it my choice? And our separation came on that line. But I had faced it. I hadn't stopped to say it that way as I've said it just now. But we do have to face it one way or another and if we don't face it there we may have to face it on the field as some do. Now [laughs] people are not supposed to talk on that subject but maybe [laughs] you'll forgive me.
ERICKSEN: Did you have to meet with some sort of council to be accepted by the mission during your orientation?
PHILIPS: Oh yes. Yes, we met with the council. Each of us met individually with the council not knowing whether we were accepted or not until after the whole thing was done.
ERICKSEN: Do you recall that meeting?
PHILIPS: Yes, I do, but I can't tell you who they were now. I can see some of the faces but to call the names, I can't. But some of them were...this...this orientation period was in Vancouver, B.C. [British Columbia] Some of them were Canadians, some of them [clears throat]...what is his name? Used to be at Moody Bible Institute here. [pauses] Well, I can't think of it now. But he came clear out there. Various ones came out of the...of the national council came out and interviewed us and asked us whatever questions they felt like. I don't remember any of the questions now, but I'm sure they were heart-searching questions. And then we were accepted or rejected. I think everyone was accepted. Perhaps you've read the book The Triumph of John and Betty Stam, and they were a young couple captured by bandits and slain in 1934. Nobody went out in '35. China was too turbulent. And then I was a part of the group that went out in '36. Now there were over fifty of us that year, a great group. And a large percentage of those, of the fifty that I'm referring to, were single people. They came over from England and came right across the U.S., but there were some married couples who went to another language school and so on. But there was quite a group that went that year after a whole year of no one going. But when we went out we had to face the fact we were walking right into that China. Anything could happen to us. But wait. Nothing can happen to us without God's permission. And if our life is taken, "Absence from the body, present with the Lord." [2 Corinthians 5:8] We've got nothing to fear. And it was...it took away the fear from us. None of us were called on to pay a price like that but we didn't know and we had to go and be willing. And the Lord really blessed that group. And I had only [laughs]...only two or three weeks in medical...in language school when here came a letter from the mission. "Would I prayerfully consider Chefoo?" [laughs, pauses] And that meant teaching school again. But I had faced that face before I left home I'd go wherever the Lord wanted me and so I went right to Chefoo.
ERICKSEN: So I take it that when you went to China you [pauses] were anticipating regular field work.
PHILIPS: Hoping to get right out into the field, give the gospel where it had never been heard.
ERICKSEN: Did you have any preference as to where that was?
PHILIPS: I was interested in the tribal work way down in Yunnan Province, but I was sent...well, when I was sent to the school I had children that came from that section, children of missionaries from all over China.
ERICKSEN: Was there...going back to your travel over to China, was there anything [pauses] that you can recall about your trip that was eventful? Fifty missionaries on a ship....
PHILIPS: Well, we were...several things. We were three weeks going from Vancouver, B.C., to Shanghai. And that was a quite an eventful trip, with carrying a carload of flour and railroad irons. You know, we sent all our railroad irons to them, which they sent back to us during the war years. We supplied them with the sh...the ammunition that they needed. But we had a cargo of flour and they couldn't unload it because it rained. And so we were in Tokyo for, I think, for a full week and they took us around to see the sights and introduce us to everything. And they would say, "Now you may take a picture here. Now put your camera away." This was 1936. The war didn't start till '41. But we had all of that and finally they still couldn't unload the cargo of flour and we had to get to Kobe for our next boat to get on to Shanghai. And so they put us on the train and took us on their electric trains, the railroad right down through Japan or across Japan. And it was a....had a very interesting travel book, a picture of where the railroad went they advertised you could set your watches by their trains. And right here there would be a picture of cormorant fishing and just as we got there the cormorants were sitting there just ready to dive off the boat. It really was an attractive and...and amusing to think the cormorants [laughs] responded at the right moment. But we saw all of that as we went down through the...across the country down that railroad map. And then we got to Kobe and they were loading the coal and every...it was largely women doing it and they had a bag...bag on their back and they'd just climb right up the wall of the ship and dump their coal in and come back down. It just looked like so many mice or rats climbing up a wall, but to...to think of that all being done by hand by women. It was awfully hard for us to see. Well then we got to Shanghai and then we went to language school and we went up the canal on a canal boat. It was...it was interesting, it was slow, but everything was so interesting. Well, then I was there two or three weeks and sent away to go to Chefoo. So I went on the train from the town down here down to...to Shanghai and then went by coastal boat up to Chefoo. Now Shanghai...of course, Chefoo is two days north of Shanghai and one day south of Peking. But there was...oh, there was tremendous tension between Japan and China at time. They hadn't yet invaded China but tension. We finally got to Wei hai wei [now Weihai] and every passenger got off the boat but me. They were afraid of the Japanese setup. So I was queen for the day, the only passenger on the boat. Everyone of the stewards waited [laughs] on me for my next meal and then I got to Chefoo. But it was a trip to remember and to laugh about. I've been on some of those trips since and never like that.
ERICKSEN: What...what were you first impressions of Chefoo?
PHILIPS: I had been somewhat prepared. It was a British school. I was the American teacher to take...at that time the Ame...the one American teacher to take...to take care of our American children's requirements. We needed to get them ready to enter universities here and there wasn't a lot for me to do but just to be there and represent them. But I throughly enjoyed it. It was a British system. It was very different than ours and I had to learn when I gave an assignment it had to be just so long because they had just say ten minutes or fifteen minutes to prepare. I had a lot to learn on those things but it was very...very interesting.
ERICKSEN: Were you teaching just high school?
PHILIPS: The division from upper and lower school is ten years. So in the prep school they were through nine. At ten years they came to the upper school. And so I had to teach from there right on through high school. I didn't teach the same thing every semester but I taught the...the ten year olds upward. I had to learn how to...to work with the little folks as well as the high school because I'd been in high school before. I tau...taught...oh, I taught science, I taught math, I taught history, algebra, geometry, a little of everything. I didn't teach English language. It was an English school. I didn't teach French or Latin, and didn't teach art or music, but I had any of the other things along the way.
ERICKSEN: Anything you [pauses] very much liked teaching that you can recall?
PHILIPS: Oh, I...another thing I did not mention that I taught. I taught sewing, all the sewing classes. And we helped the children make garments and learn to use a pattern and make things. To begin with they had this hand-crank sewing machine, they had nothing else. They finally got one or two of the treadle machines. And they had an awful time getting their...their feet to work on the treadle and getting their hands to get their seams straight but they learned to do it. Yes, I enjoyed that. I enjoyed history, I enjoyed science. I guess I enjoyed most of it.
ERICKSEN: Anything you didn't like?
ERICKSEN: Was there anything you didn't like teaching?
PHILIPS: No, I don't think so. Oh, another thing I taught. They decided one year they were going to put in a business course and nobody knew shorthand but me, so I taught shorthand. And nobody knew bookkeeping period, so I had to study the bookkeeping just ahead of the kids. And that was kind of a job. I had a letter from one of our British boys who was in Africa some years ago thanking me for having taught him bookkeeping. And I didn't [laughs]...I was learning it just ahead of them. And we didn't have typewriters but we did have that...well we had...oh, I'm going to just ahead of us here and tell you about concentration camp. But when we got into concentra-tion camp we didn't have desks and chairs, We sat on our little thin cotton mattresses on the floor. You can imagine sitting there with your knee in the air and our notebook on our knee taking shorthand dictation but that's the way we had to do it. Well, years later...see we came out then with the exchange of prisoners so there was nobody to teach it from then on. Sometime later I was up in Toronto and one of the girls had come home and she went to a business school to see what she should...what she should study if she'd start in there or what. "Well let's take a test." So they gave her dictation test and when she got through he said, "You don't need any more. Just get...go out and get a job." After she'd had no teaching for three years. Well, she must have kept practicing. But it's interesting to see something like that because our youngsters really learn to study and they did and we had some good students. Oh, another thing in teaching that shorthand I had one boy who was left-handed. Well, shorthand is generally written with the right hand and how to tell him to take it here. I had to work on it and get to the point that I could write shorthand with my left hand. I can't do it now but when I got to the point that I could then he could...he could learn it. He knew how to get hold of...otherwise he didn't know. Just a lot of things you have to...hurdles that you have to cross [laughs] that you wouldn't think of.
ERICKSEN: What would an average day at the school be like?
PHILIPS: An average day? Well, of course, now we had three housings units. The...the prep school, the under nine or the under ten were over there. The boys school. Originally they were separate schools, boy's school and girl's school. Now they were having coeducation. They had a...a fireproof cement building there for that. But the boys were over here, the girls were over here, so I can tell you about this. Well, they started, of course, breakfast together and then a...a devotional time and then they'd go down to school. And their various classes...I rather think if I remember there were four classes in the morning. Two classes and then a...a break, a little recess period when they'd have some peanut butter and bread. They had some refreshments, you know, about ten o'clock in the morning. Then they go home to lunch and I guess probably a lunch hour, I don't remember how long it was. And then in the afternoon more classes and another afternoon break with bread and peanut butter. That was almost our living there. We didn't have butter and things like that. We no refrigeration. We could keep peanut butter even in the summer time. We could have margarine in the winter time but not in summer. But our day then, sometimes there was a...a meeting in the evening. But they had regular study hall and they expected to study together in the evening. Then they had evening devotions and then getting ready for bed. We had a special [laughs]...a special for the girls. They may have had something like that. But the girls had what they called spy and try. They'd get ready for bed and then they'd come to one on duty to have him look and see if the neck and ears were clean. That was spying. If they weren't they had to go back and wash again. Next they would run the comb through their hair and if it caught they had to go back and brush their hair some more. That was the try. So they'd have to be spied and tried before they could go to bed. And then there was a very special...oh, there's one evening a week that they had their home room and you'd go to your form [grade] mistress and they wou...she'd read a book to you or something of that sort. But if they wanted to talk to somebody to say good night, they'd ask the teacher on duty if they might say good night to so-in-so. And then they were supposed to leave when the bell rang but sometimes they'd see to it that they were talking about a very important subject [Ericksen laughs] and so they didn't have to go right at that time. But those evening times were the precious times when the kids would really open their hearts and talk. And remember the kids were away from their parents for several months out of the year. And so we had to serve as teachers, parents, everything. But those evening good night times with the youngsters were precious times. [whispers something undiscernible]
ERICKSEN: So were...were the teachers also the house parents?
PHILIPS: Yes. We didn't...see in...in the schools today they have a house parent on a small school. But here they have the teachers from the girl's school living in the same dormitory, the same building, the single teachers as the children. And so they would come to our room. We had just a room not an apartment or anything. But they would come to our room to see us. We were sort of serving as parents all the way along but we were just...we were just teachers. And then there were some married teachers (more...most of them in the girl's school were single teachers), but the married ones had an apartment and they might go there too. But the time when the kids just opened their hearts and talked were...were precious times.
ERICKSEN: Do you remember any of the things that they would share with you, struggles they were having and...?
PHILIPS: Oh yes, I can remember them some of them definitely. Remember this person and this particular struggle and then seeing the Lord work it out. Those things were really thrilling as we could see...it wasn't our talking with them it was just talking with them and their thinking of the Lord and...and working it out.
ERICKSEN: Without naming any names, can you think of a particular struggle that a child was wrestling with?
PHILIPS: [pauses] Not that I want to broadcast. She might hear it and I would be disclosing what she had discussed. But there would be, "Is this right? Is that right?" And sometimes it was relationships with others and this particular one, [pauses] well, she was struggling over jewelry and knowing what to do about wearing this or that. And again I'd rather not disclose it.
ERICKSEN: Sure, that's fine. How many months in the year were the children at school?
PHILIPS: They were there quote all year. They'd have two months off in the winter, December and January. And they would have [pauses] three weeks in the spring and I think two weeks in the...in the autumn. But the long vacation was...was in December and January. A little safer travel , few less germs hopping about. And so one of the teachers would take a group of students from this particular section and they'd go to a city there and the parents from all around would come and get the children and take them home. Now for our children going way down to Yunnan Province when they had two months vacation they would travel for three weeks to get home. Have two weeks at home with Mom and Dad and three weeks to get back to school. I've said that a number of times and I began to wonder, "Is it possible that that could be an exaggeration?" I was up in Seattle a few years ago. One of my little boys from those days was now a professor at the university. I was talking with him. I said, "Joe, how long did it take you to get home?" He said, "Three weeks." Now I say it with a clear conscience. Three weeks traveling. You say, "How could they?" Well, we didn't fly and we had to go by boat a good bit of the way and sometimes they would travel even by wheel barrow, by bicycle, on foot, all sorts of methods to get there and so it took much time. But think of those precious two weeks, how much that meant to them.
PHILIPS: Of course, other kids might have two months at home.
ERICKSEN: Did you notice any difference between the children who had a longer period of time with their...their parents?
PHILIPS: Oh no...no correlated difference. You know, when the kids are away for awhile and they go home parents are likely to indulge them, give them a lot of things that they wouldn't have and then they come back to school. Now you see in the girl's school we had eighty-seven girls part of the time. Well, you had to treat them all alike. You couldn't give all these special exceptions. And so it was a little hard on some of those when they came back to find that they had to step into the regular rules. They did it pretty quickly and did it very well. And there weren't many breakovers. Once in awhile there was and it had to be dealt with. But it was...the results were good.
ERICKSEN: What was discipline like at the school?
PHILIPS: Firm and gentle. It was very firm, very rigid and yet they're handled with gentleness. I [pauses]...once in a while you'd find somebody rebelling for a little bit. I think of one. I don't remember what the situation was, but she rebelled and she didn't respond and so she was put into isolation for a time. Oh, I don't mean completely. She...she couldn't do this and she couldn't do that but she was shut away from the others. And when she came out she was...a verse of Scripture had meant so much to her, "This is the way, walk ye in it. Thou shalt hear a voice behind thee saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, when ye turn to the left." [Isaiah 30:21]
ERICKSEN: Who handled the discipline?
PHILIPS: Well, it would generally be taken right to the headmaster or the headmistress and be handled from there. Only would I handle anything if it happened in my class. And if it needed to go beyond that then I'd have to turn it over to [pauses] the headmistress.
ERICKSEN: Was there corporal punishment?
PHILIPS: No, I don't think they ever [pauses].... They didn't in the girl's school. They might have in the boy's school. Sometimes it's a very effective method, but I don't know. I can't answer that.
END OF TAPE