Billy Graham Center
Collection 325 - Donald Berry. T2 Transcript
to listen to an audio file of this interview (45 minutes)
This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the second oral history
interview of Torrey Maynard Johnson (CN 285, T1) in the Archives of the Billy
Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English
phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which
are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were
too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure
of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or
phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]"
was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually
omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English
dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was
expressing. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English,
which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on
the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
[ ] Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcript, made by Robert Shuster and Timothy Gulsvig, was completed in
Collection 325, T2 Interview of Donald Berry by Bob Shuster, February 14, 1986.
Now, you were...were talking about feasibility studies...
...that you did in Honduras. And that’s...that’s an estimated three
hundred hours a year of flying. What were some of the kinds of flying tasks
that were in those three hundred hours?
In...in the beginning, practically all of our flying involved the...the missionary
and was for him. In fact, our first motto was “MAF, a Servant of Missions.”
And...and it really....“A Servant of the Missionary” would have
been more accurate. Most of the missionaries that we were serving...the missions
we were serving were post-war. And they had very small congregations or few
congregations. So they were in the developmental stage as well as MAF. So it
would be [pauses] shopping, gathering, having sent to our base supplies, or
the missionary coming to that base, getting in our airplane and perhaps being...having
hospitilde...hospitality for the night or nights, and then would go out and
let off at his station. We then would keep him supplied. Should they have a...an
emergency...a medical emergency among the missionary community or anybody in
the village and we...and there was money to pay for it, they would call us,
and we would go out and do that.
You would...in other words you would go back and forth to the hospital, fly
No, fly...fly the sick out.
Occasionally, some of these people were...were nurses, and they would want to
go to...from village to village and...and evangelize and to do basic medicine.
And that pretty much was...was the...the thrust the first ten years. After ten
years, the...there was more...more missions. There were more stations. There
were more people involved. Now, administrative things were...were needing to
happen. Doctors were wanting to visit other doctors, or...a missionary leader
would come down and would want to spend a week visiting the different out-stations,
and so we’d be flying him. Dr. Night or somebody would come by and want
to get out and visit these different places, and so.... Or, Dr. Walter Montano
or somebody would come down as a conference speaker, and then you’d get
him out to visit. Sometime in the second decade, the first national Christians’
pastors started to be in position to use the airplane to go out to evangelize.
Third decade, the...the whole growth of the missionary community, and the...and
its development of medical and farm and educational systems...education by extension
started involving now much more the use of...of the national. And by this time,
the...the first generation of missionaries were starting to get tired or ill
or retire, and...so whereas we began, you know, on a ratio of...of ten people...ten
missionaries to one national in our airplane, now it’s eight nationals
to two missionaries, something like that. The change is so drastic.
Were...are MAF services pro-rated to the different organizations without charge
or how is it...?
No, and that is another philosophic difference, I guess, with Wy...with JAARS
[Jungle Aviation and Radio Service, Wycliffe’s transportation and communication
division]. From the beginning, MAF has looked to the component of offering the
airplane to the missionary community at a cost basis, the cost of operating
that airplane. We’ve assumed the responsibility of financing that airplane
and getting it to the field, of getting the worker there as the pilot, mechanic,
and his family. And then, once it’s there, that pilot, with his support
and the back-up of MAF then is able to operate the service on funds generated
by flights charged...charged for the flights. So, if you look at our...our budget,
it’s remained pretty much constant through the...all the years, one third
is covered by the services rendered, one third is covered by the support factor
for the missionary, and one third is covered, then, by the deputational fund-raising
endeavor of the organization in...in the larger sense. And...and we found that
we could...could...could basically work that way, and.... But that meant that
we...we...we couldn’t...we couldn’t have more planes out there than
that were working. Otherwise our whole system would...would have broken down
early on. And...so that...that’s how it...how it operates. Should we fly,
for example, in Honduras? It was a very unique place.
In what way?
Well, it was...it was open, and we had pretty much a free hand to do...I had
a free hand to do what I wanted to do and...and to develop the system. And...so
it was easy for me to get permission and authorization, certification, from
the air department to have a three-rate structure. The no-cost rate for the
missionary. A cost-plus for ambulance flying. And a cost-double-plus for any
commercial person who would want to come up. And we just don’t do any
commercial flying, but the government would want to send an educator to...La
Mosquitia, this area under contest now between Nicaragua and...and Honduras.
And we could...we could charge him our cost plus double, which still was cheaper
than he could fly commercially any other way. And so we were able to establish
that, and...and that system still is in effect today, and it...it’s been
very, very effective. Other places, literally you cannot charge, because if
you have any sense that you’re charging, you’re in competition with
the local commercial operators and so....
Where are those places?
Well, Mexico. Philippines. Or like that. Zaire. Lot...lot of places. So you...you...you...you
kind of have to, you know, juggle as to how you...how you...you...you...you
How do you do it? What kind of [unclear]?
Well, in the Philippines, you...you did it just...just by going in and sitting
down to the director of aviation and...and frankly telling him what your problem
was. And, in fact....
The government director of aviation?
Yeah. Yeah. And...occasion...one occasion, I had a letter to go see the director,
and...and he questioned me, you know, that, “You could not charge for
any flight.” And I said...I explained to him a second time.... I’d
been operating for several years, when he called me in. And in the end, he says,
“Okay, just go out there do it, but don’t let anybody see you, you
know, ever receive you...receive your pay.” [chuckles] Now, when you’re
working the...the missions, it’s...it’s easier, because they all
have treasuries and...and transfer of funds between missions is...is no problem,
and you don’t have to be handing out money back and forth. And so, you
devise ways. In other words, you’ll...we’ll do a flying for a mission
for an ambulance patient, and then that...that person somehow, and we charge
the mission, and the mission then collects the money from the individual. Dif...different
ways. But...you have to be ingenious sometimes.
What were flying conditions like in Honduras?
Well, it...they were difficult. The country’s ninety percent mountainous.
And there’s just more little scattered villages down there than...than
you could believe. And...and...and just unlimited opportunity. If you could
only have a reason to get a missionary out there or a worker out there or get
a strip built, you could...you could just...could have all kinds of...of opportunities
to serve. But that meant you had to improvise uphill landings, side-hill landings,
pastures. I built seventy-five air strips in Honduras in the ten years I was
there. And you’d...many times would go in on a mule and get the people
to cut and fill [a primitive landing strip]. And...and it was very hard on the...on
the airplanes but was a way to get in and getting in, you could minister.
What did an airstrip consist of fundamentally?
Well, a thousand...at an elevation of three thousand feet or...or less, a thousand
foot level strip, with a...with at least one clear approach would suffice. That...that
would be pretty minimal at three thousand feet. Sea level, that would...you
could do quite well, ‘cause the air is thicker and...and...and it helps.
Was somebody always, then, maintaining it, or was it just...?
No. You’d...you...we...I appealed to the...to the pastors and the...and
the...the congregation. Usually, wherever we’d build our strips, mostly,
there was...there was a pastor and there was a church there, and the people
would...would be pretty good about keeping it maintained and walking over occasionally
just to make sure no rocks had gotten in there. Every time I landed, I would
always walk the strip and get somebody with me, just so I...I had that firsthand
knowledge of it. Then, we discovered that, if we could find a place where you
could land up a slope, for every two percent of slope, the strip could be a
hundred feet shorter.
‘Cause it’d slow down?
Because you’d land going up the hill, so we’ve...you know the Philippines,
we’ve got one airstrip there that was only six hundred feet long and,
you know, twelve percent slope, you know, from start to finish, and...and that
was scary, you know. It took a lot of experience to have the courage to go in
and...and to use something like that. But once you’ve done it, you...you
can do it. Now, your...your safety margins.... And...and the Lord really blessed
us in those early years, because we...we developed these things and operated
like this with no real fatalities. Many of times, we’d...would bust the
landing gear or go up on our nose and get our propeller and have some minor
damage to the airplane, but we had no...no...no fatalities. Then, suddenly,
in the late ‘60s, ‘68 through the early ‘70s, we had a...we
had a flock of fatalities, and....
Why was that then?
Well, nobody has really been able to...to say. Certainly, we were moving to...to
aircraft that were heavier. [pauses] But, you know, all I can say is, you know,
“It never happened to me.” [chuckles] But, you know, only by God’s
grace that it didn’t. I know so many times that I, you know, got in bed
at night and before I could go to sleep, you know, you’d...you’d
shut the light off, and say, “Lord, do I dare go back out there and try
that again?” And, ‘cause it’s just one thing. A sudden gust.
A...a miscalculation. A strip being wetter than you knew about. And things that
you couldn’t really determine. I always kinda had in my mind that I could
have at least one unknown factor. You know, it could...the strip could be wet
or the wind could be blowing that I didn’t know it about, but I couldn’t
have two things. You couldn’t have the wrong wind and...and the wet strip.
If you were in the air, and you had the wrong wind and the wet strip, what did
Not land, not land.
Did you usually have sufficient reserves so that you could...?
Well, Honduras was located...our center of operation was pretty much in the
center of the country, and so our...our average flight was no more than twenty
minutes. So, we would keep in one tank, routinely, always would have one hour’s
fuel. And then would have all the fuel that we needed to get out there and back.
So, we...we kind of judged it that way and were endeavoring always to land as
lightly as possible. And you wanted to land as lightly as possible, so you could
take off with as much weight as possible. So, fuel management is...is a problem.
People’s expectations. One of the reasons for MAF...rationale for the
MAF is the fact that...the pilot is less involved with the performance of the
mission or the reason for the mission. In other words, he’s more objective.
When he goes out there, and he’s ready to land, but he has a question,
he’ll say, “No, we shouldn’t land, because it’s not
safe.” Where if the missionary were the pilot, he’d say, “But,
they’re carrying on needing there. I’ve got to perform a wedding.
I’ve got to do a baptism,” you see. And, so we’ve had some
tough time with our passengers sometime when we go back when they think they
should be there. But, when our programs...probably, the accidents happened because
our programs were getting busier and busier and busier, and the pilot was thinking
if I don’t make this flight, it’s another flight I have to make
tomorrow, and tomorrow’s already loaded up. And he just...he gets out
there. He’s got to go through today, so tomorrow will be acceptable.
Has that changed now or has that been...?
...a little more distributed or...?
Yeah, well, we’re...we’re...we’re cutting back. We no longer
allow our pilots to fly as much as we did in those early days, and in the 70s.
You know, there were times I was flying a thousand hours a year and building
a hanger and, you know, developing ten airstrips in the country, you know, and
also doing the shopping and doing the bookkeeping and all the correspondence
and...and the mission relationships, as well as trying to be wife and a...a
father and a...and a husband. In one occasion, I flew over a year never having
a day off. You know, that wasn’t because I had...I wanted to...I was,
you know, I was really in it. And that probably was not wise to do that, but....
So, we have more people...we’re better staffed now. And we can approach
it more...more rationally.
Any particular flying experience in Honduras that stands out in your mind as
the most memorable or most dangerous or...?
Oh, you know, the probably most rewarding is the...the...one of the very first
flights that I made, I....1952. We had just been in and gotten our permission
and got the airplane and were checked out. [pauses] And were ready now to make
our first flight to the La Mosquita, which was three hundred miles away, twho
hundred fifty...three hundred miles away. And they knew that we were coming.
We had sent ahead letters months ahead, which went by boat, generally advising
them when we would come. And in our coming, we were bringing some old radios
that we hoped to install so we could have some kind of communication with them.
But on this occasion, we landed at Alwis [?] at about 4:30 in the afternoon,
only to find that the doctor’s baby, twelve...ten-month old baby or something,
was...was gastro dysentery. And was very very weak. And the doctor had just
started on him his last bottle of [unclear] liquid, whatever you call it. And
I was pressed to, you know, put the baby in the airplane right that minute and
make that long flight back, which I just couldn’t do because of darkness,
so I said, “No, we’ll...we’ll have to make the flight first
thing in the morning, and let’s pray.” So, we...we prayed through
that evening, took off before dawn, flew the three hours back to the hospital,
mission hospital, and ran [unclear] up to the hospital and just in time to...to
save his life. Now, he is back as...carrying on the medical work in Honduras
for his father. And, another occasion, just before I left. Now, in...in doing
the flying in Honduras, part of our reason was to fly with the Central American
Mission Hospital. Fly for them, and help them in outreach. They had hoped to
establish clinics around the hospital and have them established [pauses] with
nurses. And the doctor then periodically would go out and...and spend concentrated
time working with the nurses. Well, the doctor...we did this and we got a couple
of nurses started, established, only to find out that it wasn’t a very...it
was a very poor use of the doctor’s time because the...the people are
slow in coming. You say, “You...the doctor will be there on Tuesday.”
Well, people don’t really start coming ‘til they hear the airplane.
So they start arriving at 2:30 in the afternoon when the doctor’s getting
ready to go home. And he said, “Well, look, why should I leave tending
to forty people in my hospital to come out here to tend to two people. So, they...they
started shutting that program down. At this point, I...I saw the opportunity
for dental clinics, and I encouraged a...a dentist friend to come and to do
a survey. And out of that, we started a dental ministry and actually got a dentist
to come be a member of MAF and to go and do dentistry for us in...in outreaches.
And in one little villages [sic], I encouraged the people. I went in by mule
and told them if they would build me a simple little airstrip, I would come
back, and I could bring a dentist to do the dental care. And that really...that
really excited them. And almost overnight, they...they created this little airstrip.
So, we brought a dentist in, and with the dentist, brought a nurse. And she
did some evangelism in the evenings, and we all shared our faith as best we
could. Okay, that happened. I left. Went to the Philippines and Laos and New
Guinea and got involved in my administrative personnel things. I guess I left
there...this would have happened in 1961, ‘62. Last year, a delegation
of our Honduran board members, now that we have formed a Honduran MAF, as we
have in Brazil and several other places...but one of these men came to an international
meeting that was held in Canada, and on the way back, stopped off at our headquarters
to visit and asked to see me. And so I met with him, and he said, “You
probably don’t remember me,” he says, “but when you first
came to our little village, Concepción del Norte, I was just a boy. I
was one of those kids that bothered you because I always insisted on getting
behind the airplane in the prop wash when you wanted to take off,” and
you know, of course, you always worried about little kids around the airplane.
He said, “But your coming with the airplane and the...the nurses and the
doctor you brought, the dentist, encouraged me, and I became the first believer
in that village. And later on, after many difficult years, my...my parents became
Christians likewise, a church was formed, and there’s a strong church
in that town. I went on to school and went...and learned dentistry and am a
registered dentist, and now I’m setting aside my dentistry to pastor one
of the largest churches in Tegucigalpa.” And he said, “You know,
if...if you hadn’t....” And his question of me was a question his
father asked him. “Will you ever, when you go to the States, see Donaldo
and ask him why, why he came to Concepción del Norte?” And I said,
“Well, the reason I went to Concepción del Norte was that in flying
over all these little villages, so many of them that the missionary could never
get to, you know, I...I had real...real burdens for them, and it was...it was
that burden and the fact that there was an airstrip only a day away ride by
mule that...and I thought I...was there a p...place where we could build an
airstrip, but I just felt led of the Lord to...to send a telegram to the mayor
saying, “I’m coming.” and, “Would you welcome me?”
And they said, “Come.” So, you know, those...those...those sorts
You mentioned that one year you were working a thousand hours, you flew a thousand
hours, that you’re working every day. How did this effect your family?
Well, [pauses] in...in that situation, I was in and out. You know, the flights
were so short that I probably, even though I was gone so much, I had more time
with my family than...than lot of people do. I think both...at the time, and
much of our career, my wife has felt put upon...has felt, you know, has felt
abused by them being second to...to the work. Yet now, as we look back in perspective,
we both recognize, and my wife recognizes and...and will testify, that our goals
that we had for ourselves as Christians and as our...for our children were probably
better attained in the...the missionary experience and life that we lived as
MAF pilot family than had we stayed and I had been a pilot here or a doctor
or an educator or a coach.
Why do you think that is?
Well, just the fact that...that we were doing what we felt God wanted us to
do. We...we had...we loved each other. We were concerned...for each other. We
loved our kids. We had good communications with them. And today, they all love
the Lord, you know, and are...are vitally interested. I could send telegrams
to all my family, say, “Meet me Friday in San Francisco. We’re going
overseas,” and they’d all want to do that. You know, they’d...they’d...that
would be the...the...the thing they’d rather do. They’ve all benefitted
by...by their cross-cultural experience.
What are some of those benefits besides the ones you’ve mentioned?
Well, their view of the world. Their understanding and appreciation of...of
third-nation people. Their...their best friends, you know, are...are those kinds
of people. I have a daughter who gave twelve years to inter-city work with her
husband in Philadelphia, and in fact, they’re back there now. Another
daughter who, you know, is caring for and...a Honduran family that...little
girl that, when we left there, said to Lauri, “Someday, I’m going
to find you in the [United] States.” She did. She was here illegally.
But...well, they’ve just...they’ve just gotten their permissions,
in fact. But....but their view of the world, their...their application and understanding
of Scripture is...is...is more that of a...a world Christian than an American.
From your experience in many different fields, would you do anything different
as far as your family was concerned if you did it over?
No. I don’t think so.
What was your relationships with the Honduras government like?
It...it was...no, it’s...probably unique in all the annals of MAF history.
Their...the years of the ‘50s and of the ‘60s where we’re
just so totally favorable. The country was just wide open for...for evangelism.
There was no...they didn’t kowtow to you as an American, but they didn’t
discriminate against you. They...they...they were open. This had something to
do with how the country developed. It was a banana republic. Most of the...of
the people that were involved in the developing of Honduras in the ‘50s
and ‘60s are young people that trained in the States, had an appreciation
for education...their educational opportunity, what they were learning about
aviation or communications or engineering or...or whatever. And...they just
didn’t have some of the political religious biases that, you know, are
in fact obviously in other countries. And...and they were open to development
from America, though it didn’t develop that fast. Honduras always said
they’re seventy-five years behind, seventy-five percent illegitimate...illegitimate,
seventy-five percent illiterate, and seventy-five years behind everybody else.
And they were wanting to...to...to move ahead.
What were your relations with other missions like?
Oh, it was excellent. Because MAF was the facilitator for them. Missions, when
they go, whether they like it or not, they go with a theological distinctive,
whether its baptism or the...the Eucharist, or not Eucharist, or whatever. They’ve
got some theological distinctive. And so when they go down there, they might
interact with another mission but...but they still have to prot...kind of protect
their own theological distinctive. So for MAF to come in and to be serving all
of these people, and they respected us for doing it, because we were a technical
communication arm of the church. We weren’t out there preaching or teaching,
you see. But then, as they cooperated together in using the airplane, then they
found themselves relating to one another as brethers [sic]...brothers, and then
out of that had to begin to look at their theological distinctive a little bit
different, so they had a little more grace in...in...in the application of it.
Can you think of some examples of that happening.
Oh yeah. On one occasion, flying a Brethren missionary from the north coast,
La Cebia....[pauses] Well no, I was...I was flying a Moravian missionary back
to La Mosquitia, and the Moravian is liturgical and historical and...and creedal
and, very different, when you come to...to the other kinds of missionaries that
we were serving, basically, in Honduras. And we overflew La Cebia going out,
but couldn’t get out, because the weather, so came back and landed, and
so, for housing, it’s a simple thing for me to call up the Brethren that
I had been flying and welcomed into his home and say, “Hey, we’re
here overnight. A chance you can put us up?” “Yeah, come on over.”
So, sitting around the table eating, they met the Moravian missionary, and very
cordial and polite, you know, and most of the conversation going through me.
And then afterwards, sitting talking and the missionary in La Cebia said, “Well,
I got this building project.” You know, I said, “I really need some...some
mahogany wood. I just...just can’t get the wood I need.” And the
Moravian missionary said, “Well hey, out here, you know, the...the people
are cutting it down and burning it, you know. And if you want, I can make arrangements
for so many feet to be shipped to you.” The guy said, “Could you?”
You know. So he did something that was very easy for him to do, and in respe...in
talking, the guy from La Mosquitia said, “Boy, we’re really having
some problems. You know, we’re out...so far out there. We’re dependent
on this boat Siyapa [?], Captain Cooper [?] to come and bring us our stuff.
But, boy, sometimes things get sent to the post office, and they’re waiting
there in a bin, you know, for...to come, but they get lost and get stolen, and
we don’t know whatever happens to them.” And the guy said, “Well
hey, that’s no problem. Just have them send it to our address, and we’ve
got this extra space, and when the Siyapa [?] goes, we’ll put it on...we’ll
take the wood off the boat and put your things on, you see.” So, they
became friends and interdependent on one another, and so then, when they started
talking about their theologies, well hey, this brother is a brother in Christ.
That’s obvious. They...they have come to experience that. I can’t
understand how they baptize children, you see.
Was...did you have any contact with the U.S. government in Honduras?
A little bit. In those days, you know, we were proud to be Americans, and we
still are, but...[pauses] you know, if...if...if we were asked by the embassy
to...to gather information, we naively would...would...would have done that.
Today, you know, we would not do that sort of thing. But Honduras was...then,
was a very...very good place to be an American, you know. It was very, very
What kind of information would the embassy ask you to gather?
Oh, well, [pauses] you know, I...that’s...that’s kind of a hypothetical
question. I was never asked, personally, but I do know, you know, that missionaries
have been involved. And...and we’re seeing now that...that these elements
within a country...one of the first things that they...they...they accuse the
missionary of is being an agent of the CIA. So, it’s just...you just need
to...to guard against that. I think we all would run to the embassy and, in
case of evacuation, as we, you know, did in...in Zaire [Congo] when...during
the...the...not the Mau Mau. What was it? The Simbas of Zaire?
Do you mean before, when it was the Congo and they had the Congo civil war?
Yep. Want to be...yeah. And...and....
So then, you didn’t actually have any contacts with the U.S. government
when you were in Honduras.
Only to go to get...get our visas and register when we come in the country.
We flew for the U.S. government. U.S. Army had a corp of pilots and aircraft
helicopters there assisting in geo...the geo...geodetic surveying of the country.
But there were no implications or outfall of that...that was difficult, more
or less. I...I’ve...I’ve had no...I’ve had no good or bad...just,
you know, in...in my experience, the embassy could have been there or not have
been there. It didn’t...didn’t affect....
Is there anything about your...you want to add about your years in Honduras?
No. Well, I...I guess the only other significant thing, and that’s...that’s
personal, is...is my own pilgrimage as a Christian, you know, and that kind
of ties in to where I was at...the meaning of Wheaton to me. And I can’t
attribute directly to the fact that I...I attended Wheaton as compared to having
gone ahead to another college or university and getting my B.S. degree. Certainly,
I...I had the benefit of the Christian fellowship and encouragement. And a devotional
life. But, MAF started very much fundamental, middle-of-the-road Evangelical
in its theology. That’s where...where all of the people came from. And
that’s what Wheaton was. So we went out to serve those like us. We didn’t
go to serve the old-line denominational churches, and...and though we did that
in the Presbyterians in Mexico, it happened that the ones involved in asking
for the airplane were the Evangelical Presbyterians, the ones, you know, became
the USA Presbyterian Church. But...so, when we were flying, it was a question
then, do we fly for the Moravians, which are liturgical and...and...and not
Evangelical? Do we fly for the Evangelical Reformed, which was...had been quite
Evangelical historically but was very fast changing?
These were groups that would come in to you, and asking yopu...?
For service, yeah, you see. The...these were the missions in the country. The
question was do you fly for the Pentecostals? Well, we...we decided, yes,we
would fly for the Pentecostals, even though the Central American Mission didn’t
want to have anything to do [coughs] with the Pentecostals. But again, we could
get away with that because we weren’t in...in...in church work. But as
I flew for the Moravians, I come to find a real exchange. [coughs] We were their
first real contact with...with evangelical fundamental people, Christians, faith.
And [coughs] and we [coughs] and they benefitted by that, as we shared with
them in prayer and...and in other ways. And I personally and I’m sure
other pilots benefitted by...by their sense of devotion, by their...their sense
of worship, by their sense of, you know, of awe of God. The holiness of God.
The...the...the symbols that were important to them, which had, you know, no
importance to me. I was impoverished, you see. I...they...the symbols of the
church, as a Wheatonite, Wheaton grad, should have had a whole lot more meaning
to me than they did. And I just can’t say that was Wheaton’s fault.
But you don’t...didn’t see much of it, and....
Symbols you mean...?
Well, the...the cross. [pauses] The Lord’s Supper. The...the...the church
year. The...the sacraments. The...the...the accouterants...accouterments, you
know, that...that you find and you experience, and that are part of worship
and...and living in a...in a liturgical group. So, when I left Honduras in 1962
and asked to go the Philippines and to direct all our work in the Pacific, my...my...my...my
greatest meaning of my years in Honduras related to the Moravian mission, more
than the Central American Mission that I lived with and worked with and fought
with. [pauses] And...then, when I got to the Phillippines, and I was asked primarily
to...to begin service there for the Missouri Lutheran Church [Lutheran Church–Missouri
Synod], and these guys smoked cigars....
...and drank beer. And I...I...I said, “Okay, I’ll...I...I can do
that, you know, without, you know, being offended. I don’t like it, and
I’ll...I’ll do it temporary until somebody else can kind of come
online to tactfully take over.” But as I got involved, I found these people
with a whole dimension of worship that I had not experienced before. And none
of the missionaries...I had only found a...a...a likeness in the Moravians.
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
Missouri Synod Lutheran. And I can never forget the surprise when the first
night I was with two of these guys out in a village, and we were sleeping on
the bamboo floor, uncomfortable. They had gone in there just.... A lot like
my Christian and Missionary Alliance missionaries and other of that ilk would
have slept on the same kind of floors and put up with the same kind of hardship.
But well, we we’re out there, never before had I had anybody engage in
conversations as to, “Well, how are we going to be more effective in communicating
worship to these mountain people, these tribal people?” And we would spend
hours discussing things like this. The first flight I made, I...before we took
of in the airplane, I...we’re all belted in, and before I started the
airplane, I said, “I would like to just commit this flight to the Lord
in prayer.” You know, when I got out the airplane, and those guys said,
“Hey, we want to see you this afternoon. Would you come up and visit with
us?” “Yeah.” And they were all there, and they said, “Well,
sit down and look. The reason we want so see you. Why did you pray?” You
know. And they were satisfied with my answer, that it wasn’t something
mystical, that...that I was feeling that that prayer was going to be the difference
in the flight being accomplished or not, you know, but that I...I really wanted
to hold...trust that to the Lord. Well, but those kinds of things. You know,
they were reasoning. They...they...they were...they’re biblical. They...they
reflective. They meditated. They discussed. They taught in a...in a dimension
that...that I had not experienced before. So, coming back to the States and
getting back in my Free Church. ( I was a member of the...founder of...charter
member of the Evangelical Free Church there in...in the Fullerton [California],
one of the biggest ones) and couldn’t take that. Because my family just
couldn’t fit. They...they just wouldn’t...my kids would not go there.
Well, it was too...too...too ritzy. It...it...their feelings were...were Honduran
feelings...were Filipino feelings, and they just felt out of place there.
When you say too ritzy, you mean....
Well, yeah, the way that the kids’ lifestyle and their interests and concerns.
And they were...to...to my kids, it was so inconsistent. Can these people be
concerned about these things when here is the real wo...real world? And...and
they just said, “Well, hey, this church is...is missing what...what the
gospel is all about,” you know, to them.
In other words, they thought the church was too material or...?
Too material, yeah. Too...too...too...too upper level. Too much for themselves.
It wasn’t...wasn’t...they really weren’t meaning it [when
they said] that they’re trying to reach the world or other people. And...so,
anyway, I was finally, and...and I...I would say all of my life, I’ve
been looking for that fellowship, for that way of worship, where my...my whole
spirit and...and...is at rest. And I could say I never really found it until
ten years ago, we were told about a Episcopal Church, and we went over there,
that little church, and we’ve been there ever since. And...it has all
of the...it’s not high...high church at all. It’s renewed [an evangelical
Episcopal group]. It’s very much open to the Spirit of the Lord, but -
the...the...the...the meaning of...of the order of worship, the...the prayer
book, the...the confessions, the...the prayers, when you stop and let them get
into your mind and into your heart, they’re just so glorious, along with
the singing, along with the...the...the...the preaching and everything just
climaxes in that Eucharist for me, and in the “Wow!’. [sighs]
Maybe this would be a good point to stop the tape.
[laughs] Yeah. Probably would.
We didn’t get to lay out the Phillippines and your work in the administrative
MAF, but perhaps at some future date, we could....
END OF TAPE
Return to BGC
Archives Home Page
Last Revised: 03/11/10
© Wheaton College 2010