This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the conclusion of second oral history interview of Deborah J. Seymour (CN 316, T3) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. Nothing recorded has been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. 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. Readers should remember that this is a transcription of spoken English, which, of course, follows a different rhythm and rule than written English. Foreign words or phrases which are not commonly used in English are in italics.
... Three dots indicate what the 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 parenthesis are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments made by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Robert Shuster and Steven Gertz and was completed
Collection 316, Tape T3; Interview of Deborah J. Seymour by Robert Shuster, August 4, 1986
SHUSTER: This is a continuation of the interview with Deborah Seymour, taking place on the evening of October 4th, 1986. Okay, continuing what we were saying before, you were saying that you have seen some cultural differences in Evangelicals?
SHUSTER: What...what were they and what do you think brought them about?
SEYMOUR: Okay. I think we mentioned that...that the gospel gives people some new frameworks in which to think. And so the social changes are coming gradually. It's...it's seen in the way that women are...I think...their gifts in spiritual terms as well as their gifts in what they contribute to society are...are perhaps valued even more. And while.... It's interesting that [Marvin Keene] Mayers says, and [Eugene] Nida says that Latin American society is a woman-oriented society, and that without women you really can't get anything done. That is...7
that is really interesting.
SHUSTER: Do you agree with that from experience?
SEYMOUR: I do. I really do. I hadn't ever thought of it or put it in those terms, but hearing them say that and thinking about it a little bit, I...I think they are...they're really quite right. Because, especially in relationship to men who are taught to be irresponsible and who are encouraged to be irresponsible from the time they are small in terms of, like, especially relationships. When it comes to work, then they're supposed to be pretty, pretty much together. But what they do in...in relation to other important people, or people who should be important to them, many times is very irresponsible. And so the woman comes in to play as the vital emotional center for the rest of the family; even in society, women perform roles that [pauses]...that keep the...keep the machinery oiled and glued together. And so, that type of...of role that a woman fills, I think, is maybe even valued more and women are valued then, not only as, or beyond being some kind of person who is responsible, also beyond some kind of person who is, who is there to [pauses] to be the ground of being for this male chauvinism, or machismo. And there...certainly Latins do not lose the Latin sense of maleness and femaleness that is very marked in everything they do, even as Evangelical Christians. And that's...that's not wrong. That's good. That's very much them. But I think that...that women are much less exploited in a negative sense. And their...their...what they bring and have to offer is utilized in a much more positive way. There are women ministers in Honduras, a number of them, women pastors - and they are given real freedom to...to preach and teach and really fill spiritually nurturing roles that, when you think about how much nurturing the average woman does (especially in a Latin country where her...her identity revolves around being a nurturing type person), women are really fitted for a lot of this type of thing. However, I think the change comes, too, by seeing that men become more responsible, in terms...in relation to their...the way they relate to others. And with that kind of integrity becoming a part of the men's characters, men...you know, they're even...they're even better than what they were. [tape recorder turned off and turned back on]...very, very much in tune with other people's feelings.
SEYMOUR: It's not so much, I think, a selective type thing of, "I will befriend who I want to befriend." Although they have a real, a [pauses] companerismo.
SEYMOUR: A companionship-type feel with most....
SEYMOUR: Yeah, camaraderie, with most people. Yet, I think, they're much...probably more stable in terms of their character. And that kind of stability lends a stability in the church...in the church as well. Also, I think it helps to bring them off of having to be in authority. Maybe I'm projecting something on to what I'm seeing at that point.
SHUSTER: Do...how would...let me see. How would an average Honduran regard an Evangelical? Does the Honduran who becomes an Evangelical suffer kind of stigma or is there of change of status?
SEYMOUR: Apparently, in times past, or from what I understand in times past, there was a real stigma. And even the director of the high school, Mary Gomez, (who is my...my boss in Honduras) as the daughter of an Evangelical minister, remembers going home from school and being stoned by her schoolmates - having rocks thrown at her because she was an evanjelica (an Evangelical). That...that attitude has really changed a lot, especially since Vatican II [landmark Roman Catholic conference that met from 1962 to 1965 and which defined Protestants as "seperated brethern" rather than heretics]. And in Honduras today, just for instance, the Bishop of Comayagua which is [clears her throat] a town now, I think, in the state of Peace (La Paz, if I'm not mistaken, that's where Comayagua is)...anyway he is the...he asked the president of the American Bible Society, (who also happens to be the pastor of the church...my home church in Honduras) he asked that the Bible Society would come in for a week long seminar to teach his curates and lay people how to study the Bible. And Roman Catholics are the ones who are buying the Bibles, even more than the Evangelicals. So the attitude has really changed, and there's a desire for people...where people are wanting to learn the Word, etcetera.
SHUSTER: Would you say there are Evangelical Catholics?
SEYMOUR: I tell you, I heard a pretty Evangelical sermon at a Catholic wedding not too long before I left Honduras. They say that the minister is a North American priest, but he spoke Spanish so fluently that I didn't know he was North American except for a few words. I just thought, "Huh, he doesn't quite sound Honduran." And, anyway, there may be. But the majority of Roman Catholics in Honduras seem to be pretty much traditional or nominal Roman Catholics. And so they really, to varying degrees, follow the forms. But it's a...a sort of a vicariously mediated, [pauses] or a mediated type thing, something they experience vicariously. They go to church, the priest says the mass, the priest is the actor and is the player in the drama - they are audience, they are the spectators. Eugene Nida even...even would go so far as to say that, they're...it's like watching a spectator sport, as North Americans will do. And they go...they go to Mass, but they come away and their life isn't really changed. What happened was there, and their life outside the church is something different. And so there's a real dichotomy of faith and practice. And....
SHUSTER: What is the relationship between missionaries and the church in Honduras?
SEYMOUR: The relationship between missionaries and the church in times past was very much...the missionary was the leader who was in command, was the one who called the shots. That has changed largely today. With World Gospel Mission, we are actually known as an organization, an arm, a branch within the church, in the same way as the committee...the society for women...the women's society, the youth, you know, the people who are active in coordinating the youth. The missionary organization is seen as a resource organization that supplies staff and personnel to train Latin Americans, to be with Latin Americans and enable them to take on the roles that are increasingly being turned over to them. The church today has a...has a structure of its own. It is known as the Iglesia de Evanjelica de Santa de Honduras, the Evangelical Holiness Church of Honduras. And the specific church, the denomination to which I'm related, it has a central committee and a president as well as a number of other, you know...like over the Christian Education, the Committee on Women, the Committee for Youth, etcetera. And then there are a number, around a hundred churches and congregations across Honduras. Fourteen or fifteen of them are right in the capital city. And they have...there are a variety of ministries that are...that are being engaged in from Christian Education and VBS type things to Christian primary schools in some of the local churches. The mission has a ministry out in the state of Olancho. It's a farm school for underprivileged and orphaned boys, and it was founded by some missionaries, but it's...it's...it's run by Honduran administration today. And missionaries are there helping. The high school where I work was founded by missionaries. It's run by a Honduran education committee that oversees the Christian high schools and the Bible institutes and so forth. So, we really work under the auspices of the Honduran church today as support people. And I think that the missionaries who are present on the field, as a whole, feel very comfortable with that. And there was a time, and I think toward the late seventies (I only heard about it), but where it was pretty much, "Missionary, go home." Here the church was trying to redefine its own role, its own relationship to the mission and [laughs] by some kind of shaking and moving force get the mission's eyes opened and get the mission to redefine itself in terms of no longer being the Great White Father or paternalistic figure, but more of the enabler. And I...I feel that the (at least from all the evidences I've seen)...the transition has been made, and the...the hurts have pretty much been healed. And there aren't very many chips being carried on very many shoulders.
SEYMOUR: And that is really a wonderful thing. And missionaries...missionaries are asked to be present at the...at the national church's council...annual council meeting - the Junta Annual and also, when the mission has its convocation each year, and (I forget what we even call them) the field council-type thing for a period of three or four days there are representatives from the Honduran Church who sit in with us at given points, and who are made aware of what's going on. And so it's very much a working relationship, a team aspect.
SHUSTER: Is spiritualism still a very strong force in the country?
SEYMOUR: [Pauses] It's interesting [pauses again] that people like some Latin educators, particularly a man named Paulo Freire who has written Education for Critical Consciousness, and Pedagogy of the Oppressed (he's a Brazilian author and educator) and he would...he would say [brief portion of tape blank] by and large, are still operating on a magical mode of thinking about the world, a carryover from the Mayan religions, the ancient religions.
SHUSTER: Does your own experience suggest that?
SEYMOUR: I would say, from the limited experience that I have had with a few given individuals, that yes, that is really true, especially where people are not...not only less educated, but where their experience in the...in the Roman Catholic religion has been one...very much a spectator-type thing, where the, the faith has not been integrated in a personal way in their own lives. And they're looking for some kind of power, contact with a supernatural force that...that gives them a sense of being powerful in...in the midst of a context in which they're relatively powerless.
SHUSTER: Can you think of some examples of that?
SEYMOUR: In specific, yeah, from that abstract [laughs] point. I'm thinking especially of one of my students whose family I had a lot of dealings with. And for a long time I did not know that they were heavily involved in witchcraft. This girl was the first person that I was able to pray with, the first person to receive the Lord after I had been in Honduras. And what I didn't realize was the kind of context and the things that she was dealing with in her home life. A short time after she'd accepted the Lord, like just a couple of months, I knew something was wrong, and finally she told me that she had stopped, had just kind of given up in her spiritual walk with Christ. And bit by bit the story was pieced together, and I could see it, you know, on the surface. Her father was the president of the PTA for the Virginia Sapp Christian High School. He attended Roman Catholic mass faithfully (I think about...just about every morning at 6:00), and he rarely went himself, but he sent his wife and he knew that she went to this friend of theirs who was a witch. A man of uncertain origin to me, but who had...who was some kind of...he was a...I think (what do you call?) a transsexual had come up to the States and had a sex change, and so he was a woman now. But he would perform [pauses] sorcery rites and...and give advice to my friend, my student's mother, who was a friend of mine. Dunia [?], my...my student, told me about different things. I had seen sort of odd plants. I think it was something that looked really similar to a aloe vera plant, but was really big, hanging...a dried thing hanging from a high place on the ceiling or a wall. Sorry. And tiles under the threshold of the...the main entryway to the house that were a different, different color. And she told me that those had been taken up and special fetishes put underneath. The thing hanging on the wall was some kind of fetish. She told me that often her family would close up all the windows and the door of that little bungalow, and everybody had to stay inside (there were five kids and the two parents and this dog [laughs]...
SHUSTER: Even the dog.
SEYMOUR: ...and the dog). And they would burn this incense that was, apparently, a really cloying, powerful [sniffs] type of smell. And it would just about drive my...my student to distraction to have to be there and be through that of stuff. Sometimes she would leave anyway, even though she wasn't supposed. And her mother would take her brother or sisters to visit this witch if something needed to be done or if they were sick, or this and this. Also, her father really got into (I am uncertain what happened)...but he had worked with this company for twenty years and then there was some kind of scheme and he, by the employers...it appeared at least (and even my student wasn't sure if her father was telling the truth and these people really had perpetrated something against him and then fired him saying, you know, he had something, embezzled, I don't know what from the company, stolen from the company. And whether or not he actually had, she wasn't sure. But, she only knew two other people who had had twenty years and were getting close to, you know, the twenty-five years and being able to retire and get their benefits, had also been axed in some kind of similar manner. And so, here her dad had given all this time, he was a person of some prominence you know, with the Parent-Teacher Association, and he lost his job. And so there was all kinds of traffic at that point with this witch to try to, you know, decide what to do, to work (I think) some kind of magic against the...possibly let's say (I'm conjecturing) against the employers, advice on what kinds of new jobs to seek, etcetera, etcetera, what to do in the interim period. And [sighs]...and so while on the surface, all good Roman Catholic, but at the same time, the real...I mean people put their money where their mouth is. They put the real val...they put value and invest time and...and monetary whatever to what they think really is going to work. And this is what they were doing: giving money to this witch, spending time with this witch. So from all appearances it really was real. They were looking to him rather than...rather than to the Catholic church to be some kind of power to move and shape their lives. And so, from that very specific situation, I would say, "Yes." And...and I was also aware then that in her same barrio there were two women who lived right next door to this girl....
SHUSTER: The sambarrio [Not actually a word. Shuster had misunderstood what she said.] is an apartment building ?
SEYMOUR: The barrio?
SHUSTER: Oh, barrio.
SEYMOUR: Yeah the barrio is like a little...its is less than a colonia. Its some sort of suburb but a poorer one. And they apparently were some [pauses]...were into spiritism and would do strange things in their houses or in their house, that she knew about. And other people in that same barrio would call her mother La Bruja (the witch), would call her mother that. And...and from what I could see, there apparently was some kind of network that individuals like this who had influence, even in the city. And so it makes me think, after having read Paulo Freire and...and some of the anthropologists and so on to the limited degree I have, say, "Hey, these really guys are...are [pauses] articulating something that is a real phenomena." People are dealing in a magical mode. And they're not, while...you know, the're looking to explain the events of their lives in terms of some kind of powerful force that seems real, and...and the whole...the whole way of...of trying to help people to come to grips and to think beyond something...not...not to lose the (if you will)...the magicalness because, I think, the ability to see a miracle and to accept something more than just, "If it's not empirical, then we throw it out," type thinking that western...western thought has sort of culminated in...in our time, and I think that excludes any kind of supernatural power. But the ability to see as well that it's...it's not all...even small things in a person's life aren't all because the witch or whoever deemed to them to be, you know, made them to be this way. They're that way, but there is sort of the both/and, that some things are kind of cause and effect, other things are...are specific results of higher powers, whether they be evil powers or...or God's power. So there are some real, real needs in...in people's lives. I remember the last weekend I was in Honduras. I went to my student's house. It was just about five blocks from the apartment where I lived, and was learning to make corn tortillas that morning. Her mother was teaching me. And so I stood there at the kitchen sink and so I was patting out [smacks hands] this tortilla and getting it ready to lay over on the fire, and I looked up and on the white-washed adobe wall right there in front of the kitchen sink, it was a faint tracing and like a ocher color, three crosses...and I said...I turned to her mother and I said, "Donna [name unclear], what are those three crosses there?" And this guarded expression was on her face and finally she said, "Oh, that's to keep Satan out of the house." And I...and maybe it wasn't a good question, but the only thing I could think of, "Well, what does Satan want in your house for?" I...I don't know. But she just...right then she just kind of looked at me and then changed the subject and we talked about something else, and it was just another confirmation that this was another expression of the...the spiritist. And it's...it's an odd mixture of Christian symbols with...with occult...
SHUSTER: Like voodoo.
SHUSTER: Like voodoo.
SEYMOUR: Yeah, yeah, yeah, so....
SHUSTER: From your experience is...in Honduras and growing up on the mission field, what would you have to say about a concept like cultural shock?
SEYMOUR: First of all, I'd say its real.
SHUSTER: How did you experience it?
SEYMOUR: I found myself basically in...in coming from a non-western or a tribal culture into North America as an adolescent. I found myself at a loss to know how to think, to realize that...that what people valued here in the United States was very different from what the people with whom I had been surrounded valued. It didn't matter how many sweet potatoes you had in your garden or how many bean gardens ago such and such happened, or it didn't matter which weeds you pulled up in your garden and it didn't matter how all these different types of things.... It didn't matter how many pigs your dad had and it didn't matter who was the rich man down the road or he had six wives, that he might buy you, you know, if...if you didn't watch out or, you know, you were in...and I just...all these different types of things that were of importance. People didn't even think in terms of those things in the United States. And then there were all of these other things that were unknown quantities to me from how to use telephones to how to tell time on a clock ('cause we always looked at the sun), how to....
SHUSTER: Can you still tell time by the sun?
SEYMOUR: Well, I...it was...it was just a very general thing, you know. "Oh, it's, high noon," or "oh, it's this." Yeah, I guess it's sort of just by looking, you can.
SHUSTER: So you still can [?].
SEYMOUR: I can, yeah. Yeah, I...I...it's maybe not something that I consciously do anymore, but sort of the...the general idea is there. And other things, the...the...the way people drive. At that time, the speed limit was still seventy and seventy-five [miles per hour], and I was just terrified by these maniacs in North America [laughs] who were going all over the roads. And that...beyond that, the values that people placed in relationships and adolescent behaviors that become really important, I was a total stranger to. I just didn't know how to act. I didn't know the forms that were acceptable, and so I really felt like Mork from Ork [one of the characters on a then current televison program, Mork and Mindy. Mork was a spaceman from the planet Ork.] or somebody [laughs]. Anyway [pauses]....
SHUSTER: Then the Honduras experience, how did that...?
SEYMOUR: I really feel like having grown up in a non-Western culture, it prepared me in many, many ways to be able to...to say, "Oh, this is different," and to not really get all bent out of shape that it was different. But "So, its different. Well, it's different. But it's valid. It's different, but, you know, that's just the way they do it here." And I think, too, one of the biggest things that I perhaps sort of learned by assimilation as a child was that the North American way is not necessarily the best way, and bigger is not necessarily better, and, you know, some of these sort of unspoken presuppositions that many very ethnocentrically oriented North American compatriots of mine, that maybe we just operate and don't even think about it a lot of times, just an awareness that those presuppositions do need to be examined and identified for what they are, and to not...to not, you know, have them carry over in a sort of unexamined way at least. Maybe being able to say, "Well, I think this, but it's probably because I'm North American," you know. And...and so that tends to lessen the frustration level, the whole thing. You know, like about time. Down in...in Latin America (anyway, south of the [United States-Mexican] border, manana [tommorrow] is manana you know, [laughs] and...and you don't do today what can be done tomorrow. You just...the pace of life is so different, and...
SHUSTER: Sort of....
SEYMOUR: ...and time is...time is considered by events, not by minutes on a...on a clock somewhere. I've heard it said even...somebody said, "You sure can tell when you're in Latin America. You walk in the airport, and there are maybe three clocks on the wall and none of them is working. [Laughs] It's like it's immaterial. Just the...the different cultural patterns. North Americans tend to get right to the point, and with Latin Americans (as I said earlier) you...you just take time to be with people before you, you know, get to the point, if...if in fact, there is a point to get to. It's more that just being with people and experiencing life together. There is...it becomes valid and important, and a lot of other things vary too: dating patterns, the way...the way that you gain status, the way that you get around in...in the system. It's (as I said a bit earlier)...it's...it's through who you know. You...you develop important relationships or relationships that can serve you to get you.... I mean, it's not using people, because then people, you know, look to you for the same sorts of things. I think North Americans at some point aren't...become really liable because, you know, they're seen as the outsider, as the North American who has the mainline to all the riches and wealth of the USA which is, you know, missionaries' salary...
SEYMOUR: ...[laughs] and stuff. While it may seem very rich to a Latin American, it's...it's nothing to, you know, necessarily rave about, and...and it's not the limitless supply that is envisioned perhaps by people who just aren't thinking in terms of the fact that their entire nation is the size of one...one average state in the whole of the United States. And North Americans...common North...ordinary North Americans do not have a direct line to the White House and this...or to the Department of Immigration or even to the embassy in...in Honduras, you know, and so just different approaches culturally, I think.
SHUSTER: Was there anything else you wanted to say about your time in Honduras as a missionary there?
SEYMOUR: [Pause] Simply that's it...that it's a real opportunity, I think, for personal growth, and that's something, I think, is a high privilege to be. It's like, in our lives we choose development along given lines by the affinities that we have where specific areas of interest and so forth, and it's a line of development that...that I in one sense have chosen, and in another way, for which I've been chosen, and a current in which I'm moving along with...with a lot of joy and eagerness and anticipation of...of being able to make some kind of contribution that's going to count when the final count is taken. And hopefully when that count is taken, that...that...that the Lord will receive great praise and honor. [Pauses] Was it St. Francis of Assisi that...that said, "It is in giving that we receive" and in...in, I think it was, here....
SHUSTER: St. Augustine?
SEYMOUR: St. Augustine, yeah. Okay. "In...in giving that we receive." And not that I'm giving or in a position that's somehow seeking to find a position in which I can give so that I can get, it's just one of the most wonderful by-products. That is my blessing. So I look forward to going back and to [pauses] continuing to see how the...the threads of my life get woven into the patterns there. And...and the way that my...my personal story becomes colored by...by the vibrancy and the...the great challenges of...of Latin Americans.
SHUSTER: Very gracefully put and I thank you for giving us this interview.
SEYMOUR: Well, thank you.
SHUSTER: Why don't we end it on that note.
END OF TAPE