Billy Graham Center


Collection 363 – Ruth Margaret Mellis. T4 Transcript

Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (45 minutes)

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Ruth Margaret Mellis (CN 363, T4) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms 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 was made by Noel Collins Pfeifer and was completed in October 2009.


SHUSTER: This is a continuation of the interview with Ruth Mellis which took place on June 22nd, 1987. Ms. Mellis, you were telling about...talking about the clothes you brought over to Greece and your interest in combing that with witnessing.

MELLIS: Yes, in danger of it being counted as proselyting. But actually the...the situation was that at that time, there were...if you were going to the villages.... And I found out from the...from the ones that I knew, the Athens folks that I had kept up with. I had lost contact during the war [World War II] but when I came down from Ethiopia to visit, I found a lot of them. And when I found them, they’d tell me about ones that “we have somebody out in this village” or “we have someone in that village”. Most of them were in Macedonia so I began going up there and taking clothing, take just a little bit of something to everybody that I was going to. I remember I had about...oh, maybe three or four suitcases that had to go on the bus when I’d be going...on the main bus. But when you’d go to a village, the bus would go up at night, the late evening, late afternoon rather. It would stay up there overnight because the villagers were going in the morning with their produce and so forth and they’d come back with things that they’d bought in the town in the late afternoon. So, you had to stay overnight and there were no hotels. But I’d go to a village where there was one by refugees that I was going to. I’d go to them and of course, they’d put me up overnight and everybody of course, there’s a foreigner in town, an American. I would...went at a time when America was popular in Greece and so it was a real advantage to be an American. “Here’s an American,” oh they’d all find a reason to come over. The house would be over-flowing sometimes and people outside. And Greeks love a good discussion and so all you have start discussing and it’s not too hard for the Lord to let the discussion go where He wants it to go and I was able to get the Gospel to lots of people that way. You start a discussion and then they go off and pretty soon you’re talking about the Lord and what He’s done. And the thing I used so often, I think I mentioned to you yesterday, was that Dave Hoagland had been such a wonderful Christian and had given them New Testaments when they were leaving. And I would usually...they and they’d say something.... We’d talk about the orphans, we’d talk about “Papa” as they called him and I would say, “You remember? But you know why Papa was so wonderful and so different from the rest of us? All of you loved him more than you loved anybody else, I think. Because he knew the Lord and loved the Lord and that’s one reason why he loved you and so forth.” And then I’d go on to tell them that I loved them too and I was religious, but I didn’t know the Lord personally yet as my Savior. And then I’d get to give them my testimony and then they ask questions and would go on from there. And so, going to.... But, I soon...I learned right away that taking the clothing was dangerous. But when I went looking for their lost relatives, that was not as dangerous. Though there was danger still but the government would say I was using that, that kind of service. However, I didn’t ever...I didn’t get called in ever about that. And then....

SHUSTER: Who would have called you in?

MELLIS: Well, the government. I was called in one time and they asked some questions but....

SHUSTER: [interrupts] Would it have been the police?

MELLIS: Yeah, the area police. In fact, the area police showed up one time when I was helping with the...what do you call it? Vacation Bible schools in one of the villages. They were checking on me, there was a foreigner here. What was I doing? Why was I there? And, I...I...there was some sort of like information might be a spy. I laughed at him and said, “A woman, a spy?” And he said, “They’re the worst ones.” [chuckles] Yes, they did watch foreigners carefully in the villages often times. But what I did when I went in the beginning, I would go up to the village at night and I’d leave the next morning. I didn’t stay too long. The priests, of course, the ones that would likely report you to if he heard you talking to folks about the Lord. I knew that there was a law in Greece that you were not supposed could not be witnessing if there were a certain number of Greek Orthodox in the group. I think that was part of a law. I purposefully did not learn how many, I didn’t want to know. Being ignorant of the law is no excuse, I know, but for a foreigner and for a foreigner who is from a country that is in favor, it would probably stand me in good stead if I was ever called on the carpet for it.

SHUSTER: Why was there such strong laws against witnessing?

MELLIS: Well, it’s still there.

SHUSTER: Why are there...?

MELLIS: Well, because Greek Orthodoxy has been protected all the time in Greece. And it was much worse then than it is now. You know the Athens Three deal?

SHUSTER: Why don’t you describe it for the people listening?

MELLIS: Oh boy, the Youth with a Mission had the...the ship in harbor, having it fixed.

SHUSTER: The ship being...?

MELLIS: I forget which one of their ships.

SHUSTER: But it was a ship that they traveled around in....

MELLIS: A ship that they traveled around doing evangelistic work with and it was.... Of course, Greece was a good place to have it fixed. And they were on shore a good bit then and they came in contact with this young man. Of course, the people who were on the ship, their whole families all the time, their...the kids travel and the teachers and everything. And the young people came in contact with this young fellow and he and his father were in the Athens area. They lived just outside of it and he got friendly with them and he even went on the ship with them sometimes to eat. And as they...his contacts with them, he came to the Lord. When they were leaving, he wanted to know where he could find fellowship and they directed him to Costas Macris’s home. You ought to have the information about Costas Macris really. It was his son’s wedding that I went to yesterday. His son is an American citizen, he was born in the United States. Costas Macris is...was, they gave him a Bible and the boy told him about his problems. The mother and father were separated and the boy was concerned there was not a home life. If I remember correctly, Costas told him to read God’s word, to go back home and trust the Lord to help him. But the mother was furious because he started going to...he still went to Greek Orthodox services but he started going to some evangelical services, too. The mother was furious and she had some contacts with television people and so forth and the whole mess got on television. But, it was wonderful because Costas got a chance to really give some testimonies on television that never would have been possible otherwise. But then it went into a court case, which became known as the Athens Three which just was settled was it last year? ‘86 or ‘85? I don’t remember, ‘86 I guess. Finally settled yes. First they were...they were condemned to prison, the three...the two fellows from Youth With a Mission and Costas Macris were to go to prison but they appealed it. Thousands of petitions came in from all over the world about this and when the Greek government realized what was being done to the name of Greece, I think this is really.... The Lord really used that to and but much greater, to save these people from going to prison because they had witnessed to this guy and given him a New Testament, a Bible and talked to him about the Lord. But it’s called proselyting because he started going to a Protestant church. Now this has always been on the books but they have not always been as fanatic about it, but they were much more fanatic about it when I was there that many years ago, back in ‘51. In fact, it was in ‘51 or ‘52, when this young pastor, the one who was director of the camp, was asked to go over to the island of [pauses] Crete - not Crete, not Cyprus, the other one - Corfu. There was a church there but they didn’t have a regular pastor.

SHUSTER: An Evangelical church? [?]

MELLIS: Evangelical group in Corfu didn’t have a regular pastor and their ruling.... No, it was to go over for Communion, to have the Communion service. And one got over there, the ruling elder died (I think it was on Saturday), they could not get a permit to bury him because...well, because in that area, Corfu wasn’t going to give it to him. He had to tell....

SHUSTER: [interrupts] They didn’t give it to him beacuse...?

MELLIS: He was evangelical. They weren’t going to have him, let them bury him. This was an evangelical pastor, I don’t know what they were expecting him to do. They wanted him buried by the Orthodox priest maybe. Because that’s what happened in one of the villages north, I know. At any rate, I know that the young pastor and he was just new, he was a convert from Orthodox himself, had to telegraph back to the [unclear] engineer who was the head in Athens and had him contact the head of the Greek Orthodox church in Athens to have him send a telegram over there to give them a permit to bury this guy. And then, in this little village up north, near the Turkish border, a...the father who was an evangelical died and his two sons, went into the nearby town to get a permit and they wouldn’t give him a permit unless.... For one thing, there wasn’t any section that was evangelical of the cemetery to put him in because in Athens, they have the evangelical section and the Orthodox section. And so, they wouldn’t give him a permit. They didn’t know what to do so they buried him on the farm. There was real fanaticism. It was really and there still is but it’s not as bad as it was at one time.

SHUSTER: Did you mentioned that at one time the chief of police came to talk to you, did that happen to you often?

MELLIS: No. The chief of police came to talk to me that time, I don’t remember he’s chief, but
one of the police came when I was.... I was helping.... I had been teaching in Macedonian Bible Institute and Argos Serviakas [?] asked me to go with the students in the summer and organize and direct vacation bible schools in each of the villages which these kids came from. And so I spent a week or two in each of these villages and I was in the village with one of the students who was not capable of doing much herself so I had been practically running the bible...the bible school. In the other cases, I was organizing and directing, but in her case I was almost running it. But how gracious the Lord was. I felt that she had to do it one day and I was training her to do it. And the very day that she was up in front and I was sitting in the back was the day the guy came.

SHUSTER: But did you have that kind of contact with the police often or was that the only time?

MELLIS: No, just twice. One other time I was called in, I don’t even remember if it was Athens or where and they were asking me some questions about what I was doing. And actually, the Lord let me be foggy enough about what they were aiming at that I answered right without even knowing why I answered right and I didn’t get in trouble.

SHUSTER: What were they asking about, do you remember?

MELLIS: Well, what I was there for. Of course, I was always told that I was looking for lost persons. I could tell them this but where I was doing some work with the evangelicals, I had to be careful just how much I was telling them. I declare, I’ve forgotten what they asked me. [Pauses] Oh, for a time, I had a teaching permit, too. I got it for one year because I was going to try to teach English to supplement income. And I think he was trying to find out if I was teaching and I didn’t have the permit anymore. I think that was part of it. Oh, and then another time they came to the house where I lived and asked the woman about me, who these people were that came to my house, my room and why they came. Because I received once a week, in Athens always or wherever I was. There was one day that I was at home.... They do this so much [?] in that part of the world - you have a reception day then people can drop in. You don’t have telephones, they don’t have telephones but they know you’ll find your home and that’s the time to come. And this was a great way to have them come. They met each other or they came alone. I had that much better chance to talk with them. I had Christian...I had the Gospel Recording records and I put those on and that opened the way for discussions all the time. What else did I have? Of course, I had literature galore that I gave them and I didn’t dare give it out on the streets because that is proselyting, too. It has to be...on the front of it it has to state what it is. If it’s on the back or on the inside, it’s’s illegal. You have to have it on front if it’s evangelical. Not only for evangelical, for anything. It was the law. And so, this was one way of getting them to my house and your house is your castle - you can do what you want, pretty much within it. And I didn’t know exactly how many people...I was supposed to shut up when there were so many people. And so it didn’t...that didn’t worry me so.... And then I...always had an English group going, I always used English as a means to reach others and I usually tried to have there and Mexico, every place, I tried to have believing English speakers along with unbelievers so that they establish contacts so that it was not only I who was working with them but others, too. So that was another day that people were coming to my house. And then they asked whether I was teaching and this time, she told them I was. And I said, “Oh Victoria, that may cause some trouble.” Well, then I think I got in touch with them and let them.... I think they asked me about the teaching. I said, “Well, what I do is I do help some of the children of my friends when I eat with them and I help them.” Well, I didn’t have to get a permit for that. And so I was safe. I did not get in trouble, I stayed within the letter of the law. But you couldn’t stay within the spirit of the law and do the job.

SHUSTER: You mentioned too a couple times that you were helping to locate lost relatives. What did that involve? How did you get involved in that?

MELLIS: The first year I was there in Athens, an old man....

SHUSTER: [interrupts] That was 1950?

MELLIS: 1951, when I went out to this little house, the Macrises’ relative. old man came to me from the old folks home in Athens and he said, “I have heard that you were teaching in the orphanage in Syros and I’ve heard that I...I lost my family, I heard that my wife and children were in that orphanage. Can you tell me where they are?” Well, I kept in touch with Near East foundation, had some of the records of Near East Relief. Near East Relief had been disbanded in 1931 but Near East foundation was not doing the same kind of work. They were doing agricultural work and teaching mothers and children to take care of things and so forth. But they had the records of Near East Relief because a lot of the same personnel were working in the office and so, I had gone to Near East foundation in the very being to get.... In fact, through Near East foundation I had clothing brought in to Greece because you were having to pay duty on it. And the first batch that I brought I got through the contact of a Christian in the right office, got permission to bring that in. But after that, Near East foundation brought it in for them to give out. And because they had a lot of the records, I went to them and asked whether I could have these records and they gave me what they had. Unfortunately, the good records had been burned I discovered, after fifteen years.

SHUSTER: By accident or...?

MELLIS: I thought by accident at first but later when I said, “What a shame,” the lawyer spoke up and said, “Well, you don’t have to keep them after fifteen years.” And then I realized that he was the guy that had probably recommended that they be burned and later I knew why because I heard of the house that had been given, I mean property that had been given in the name of an orphan and the orphan never did get it and so forth. There was a lot hanky panky going on.

SHUSTER: So that’s why the records were destroyed?

MELLIS: I think so. So, the smart ones could manage to get see what the other...what some of the kids should have gotten. When this exchange of population took place, according to the terms of the League of Nations, Greece was...the Greeks had property of greater value in Turkey than the Turks had in Greece and therefore, the property the Greeks left behind was...the Turks went in and took went from Greece to Turkey. And the Turkish government paid the Greek government the difference which was to go to the people who had come, the Greeks who had come from Turkey. And that had not been taken care of before the orphans left the orphanage in many cases. There was an attempt to do it. They would ask the kids how many rooms did they have and did they have chickens and did they have horses and so forth. And you know, kids have ideas, it all looks big to them. It was very hard to know what was what. But the older people, the adults and the smart ones managed to get two and three portions while others got nothing. And then Greece had never even done...they had so many changes of government during that period, it was impossible. It wasn’t was during the time of Karamanlis [Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis, 1955-1963 & 1974-1980] when I was there that they finally decided that they were going to find property for these people. And they found this.... In my letters, you’ll see, I talk about the property up in [unclear], wondering if it’s been settled yet. This was a section outside of Athens where it had belonged to Bayku [?], some big, wealthy man years ago. He was dead over a hundred years, I think and they were going to divide this into plots and the orphans were each to be able to get a section of this to be able to have a house. Then the heirs of Bayku [?] came forward and claimed they had no right to give this away, that it should go to them. It was a big deal, I tell you. I got mixed up in all kinds of things, I went into places that I had never been before. The ministry, the ministry of house I went all the time. One of the evangelicals was the head of it and I had carte blanche to see him anytime I wanted to. And he also told me what his...what his coffee house was because people went and sat in coffee houses you know and drank their coffee and had their sweets and so forth. His coffee house was up in “Zapian” [?]. It was a lovely place and he told me to meet him up their sometimes, to talk to him up there. So I got in on some nice things sometimes, some difficult things.

SHUSTER: How did you go about finding lost relatives?

MELLIS: Well, I went to this, who was the minister I was going to tell you about, oh about the housing bill, let me finish telling about that because it’s so important. It was such an important service to them and one of the things that gave me an in with them because I worked very hard on that. I was told the right man in the supreme court to go to, the man who looked at all the records for the recommend things to the supreme court what they should do in this case. And some of the evangelicals told me who he was and where I would go. But I had to go into this building, the old...which had been the old palace. And I had to pass this...the army floor where you usually have to present your credentials but many of them were praying for me. I put on heels and a hat.

SHUSTER: Many of who were praying for you?

MELLIS: I put on heels and a hat and gloves so I’d look as if I belonged and I walked as if I knew where I was going asking the Lord all the time to show me where to go. I knew I had to go to the top floor but I didn’t know where to turn left or right. The Lord led me to turn left...right and sure enough, there was the big door with this guy’s name on it. I went to the door and knocked, waited, his secretary was there, she was sorry he wasn’t in. Lord, did you let me get all the way to the end, to his office and I’m not going to see him? Then, he walked in. Took me to his inner office and wanted to know what I was there for and I told him that I was there to plead for them to give the...this property to these orphans and not to these heirs from a hundred years ago, that were claiming something from a hundred years back. I said, “I know you can’t do something illegal but I do know that usually there is some kind of a door that can be opened if one looks hard enough for it.” He said, “Yes in this case there is a [term in Greek] in this case there is a little window but it’s’s such a big thing to go through such a small window that I don’t know whether we can pull it through.” And I said, “Well, if it were illegal and wrong I wouldn’t ask you to do it but there are a lot of us that are praying that the Lord will show you the way to pull it through that little window.” Well, I’m not the only one that went to him, I heard somebody else helped him and anyway, we did get the property for the orphans and so we were able to get them, a lot of them up there and that’s where I go and visit them now. And...but at the same time I was doing that, I had started with this old man had asked me to find his family and when I went to Near East Relief and got all these records, I found that we did not have his family there. But I told the...when they came to me on Tuesdays when I received.

SHUSTER: Who came to you?

MELLIS: All these refugees that I was receiving. I’d ask them whether they knew about this family, did they know about it? And they didn’t but they’d say, “Oh, I wish you’d find my sister” or “I wish you’d find so and so”. And I’d make a notation of it. I began to collect and then I’d go to the villages and then I’d ask about this family or about somebody, “oh, I need to find so and so.” And finally I thought, “Well, this is getting impossible, I’ve gotta do something. Just a bunch of notes.” And so I went to Red Cross to see what they did and I made out cards and I think I put some maybe in that first pile that I sent to you that were seeking, what you fill out. And I asked the Red Cross for advice. Well, as a result, after I started doing this, I got acquainted with Red Cross and what they were doing and they had on tele...on radio, daily, they would ask for, ask about lost persons. And a lot of them were people from that area...era. And so I went to...they had that lost persons department and I said, “I wonder whether we couldn’t cooperate.” Oh, in the meantime, when I got all my papers in order and everything and I...and then the Lord let me have one of my orphans who could read and who could write Greek, I can read it and speak it but I don’t write it.

SHUSTER: Could all the orphans read and write Greek?

MELLIS: Yes, but I...she could write for me, she was a typist too. And...and, well, that’s a story but it’s written in my things, I won’t go into it. “A week on fifteen cents,” and the Lord sent the money then, finally, and I took on this...this helper. But, at any rate, with...with Sophia to be able to do the driving and so forth, I went to the Red Cross woman and said, “Could we not cooperate? I see that you’re asking for some of these people and I’m looking for some of these people.” Oh, she would be so thankful to have help, she said, “We have radio but we don’t have anyone to run to the villages the way you’re doing.” And I said, “I don’t have a radio.” And so we decided to cooperate on this, and we checked when they had a request, they checked with me, when I had a request I checked with them. And I did it through my helper. And when I was in the States, I came home, I don’t even remember what I came home for that time, while I was there, a request came from France. And they had, Red Cross had had it from the French Red Cross, it was the third time they had had this request for this brother. And she turned it over to Sophia and here we had just received the paper because the villages where I went, I gave these papers that said, “I was an orphan in the orphanage and my name now is...and my name then was...and I was from such and such a place.” And here this boy, up there in Philippi, was the one that the brother in France had been searching for...for years, this was the third request and so they got them together.

SHUSTER: With the brother?

MELLIS: It was the brother. They had lost each other back when they were teenagers. The one who was in Philippi had been sent to the island where they sent the kids who were in danger of TB. And while he was there, the older brother was sent to France to work on farms because Near East Relief sent a lot of the older boys to France. There was a....Greece had accepted twenty five percent increase in population when she accepted the refugees from Turkey and there just wasn’t work enough for everybody. And France had need for many on the farms and so they had a better future there, and so they had sent him there and this boy had gone there and being a teenager, he hadn’t bothered, he had lost track of his brother. They hadn’t corresponded. As he got older, he wanted to find his brother and he tried three times and third time, he found him. And that was all written up in the newspapers in Macedonia particularly where this took place, when he came over to visit his brother for Christmas. And so, the...a mother in that area read it and she wrote to me and wanted me to find her baby daughter, she had lost as a baby in arms and that was the most thrilling of all at the time. I had four hundred applications about and I found only forty of them. Red Cross told me they only found about ten percent and they had a whole office force working on it and a radio. So, the Lord was doing the work for us letting me find them. I had to go to France, to Turkey and Greece looking for them. But this mother when she wrote, she wanted to find Basiliki. She had her son, she was living with him, he was the mayor or a small little town up in northern Greece. And her daughter lived not too far away and the daughter knew that she had had her baby sister in the Syros orphanage with her and that she didn’t know what had happened. And this was unusual because usually they did not separate the children but for some reason or other, that baby had been given to a woman not far from Athens to adopt. And I found it in the records that I had received from Near East foundation. I looked for it and there it was, Basiliki was sent over to...Pyrgos Ilias. So I wrote to the mother, to the woman in Pyrgos Ilias and the letter was sent back from the...from the city office saying that this woman was dead. But, the girl she had adopted was now Mrs. So and so living in that area. So, I wrote to Basiliki to see if she wanted to be found. I learned that you had to be careful because some of them didn’t want this connection at all. And besides, there were people trying to get children, because Greeks, they have a word for it, “old folks home them”, they want children so that they have someone to old folks home them.

SHUSTER: Which means?

MELLIS: Someone to take care of them in their old age. Therefore, some of these people were trying to find somebody and they were not always their children so I wrote Basiliki and asked if she would be interested in finding her mother and sister and she was, so I gave her their address and I gave them her address and they got together. And I had the privilege of being up in Macedonia when she was up there one time visiting. The Lord let me see them together. The mother had been asking God...she was Greek Orthodox, I don’t know whether she was saved or not, got a chance to witness very much in that home to many people. Because, I think I told you, when you go into a village, the people come and especially in that case where they had heard about this miracle of finding her daughter; she had been lost thirty eight years, to find her daughter and her grandchildren. She had been asking God, she had a heart condition and she didn’t think she’d live long, could she just find her daughter before she died? He let her find her and that was the most thrilling of all of them. But there were a lot that were happy deals to find them. And it gave wonderful opportunities to give out the Gospel and an excuse to be every place, an excuse to go any place the Lord led me in Greece. And, an excuse to go here in America, and I was traveling on the passes to get off and ask if there was a Greek restaurant, and from the Greek restaurant find the Greeks and ask them if they had anybody who was lost and take the records from them and give them the tracts. And one time, I got in to, some place, I don’t even know where I was, over on the East coast, in a little town. And I got there and this woman, it was as if I were a long-lost friend, she invited me in, two other women came in and for an hour or two with three women and I was able to present the Gospel. I don’t know what’s happened to them but I hope I’m going to meet some of them in Heaven.

SHUSTER: often did you come back to the United States from Greece?

MELLIS: Quite a few times because....

SHUSTER: Like every other year or...?

MELLIS: Oh no, no but I got...I got a telegram from my brother-in-laws that Mother was...had had this...a cerebral hemorrhage and might not live and they would pay my way was paid back on TWA if I could come. That...and I had only been there two years then. And I came home for that. And I stayed home with mother for a while until she came out of the hospital, until she was okay and then I went back. But then Dad got cancer and I didn’t come home at first but when it...when he came out fo the hospital the one time and it looked like there was, there was not going to be any hope, they were really sending him home to die, well I went home for that Christmas and then I stayed until he died in August. Well, until longer, because I took Mother out to Charles in California then and I really didn’t leave until.... I started out and then they found out Mother had cancer. And so I was home almost a year that time and then after she died, I...I got this duplex that I was going to rent one side to have some income, keep the other side for when I was home and as a mission home for others while I was away. And that...that was not working out too well. My brother-in-laws wrote and said, “For the little it’s being used while you’re here, while you’re away, you could better pay for them in a motel” and so forth. “And they’re building some new duplexes near the church where you were wanting to be and it’d be wiser to do this.” I came home to take care of that transaction because I....

SHUSTER: When was that?

MELLIS: Pardon?

SHUSTER: When was that?

MELLIS: Let me think. Let’s see, Dad died the year of the Auca incident. When was that?



SHUSTER: 1956?

MELLIS: Was that the Auca incident? I thought it was in the ‘60. Maybe it was ‘56. Oh yes, let’s see. Mother died when I was fifty and that was ‘57, Dad died in ‘56, yeah, in the fall of ‘56. And Mother went in ‘57. And...and then I had bought this duplex with what they had left and I...but that was not working too well, so I guess it was about ‘59 or ‘60...’60 when I came back because then I...I got caught here. I did substitute teaching to get more money to get back and then I was asked to be the dean of women at Midwest Bible Institute to fill out somebody’s term from December to June and I did that. And, and then I got back to Greece. In the meantime, though I was able to entertain some of the Greek there. The Lord kept me...and then gave me this other house over near the church and I was able to have some of the Greek students that had come over in the meantime and were was at Moody, one was at the Bible school up north and one was in a non-Christian school not far from St. Louis. Put them all in for Christmas and for Easter and so forth. So, I was their home away from home for...for a couple years.

SHUSTER: Let me ask you one more thing then we’ll wrap up the interview for today. You mentioned in one of your letters in 1957 while you were waiting to go back to Greece, you were helping interest Greeks [?] in Billy Graham’s New York crusade in you recall that? How did you get involved in that?

MELLIS: Well, I...because I was going back I thought, “I’m going to be in New York.” First time I’d been to a Billy Graham crusade, but I wanted...volunteered to be a counselor, in Greek.

SHUSTER: [interrupts] Who did you volunteer to?

MELLIS: I went to the Crusade and volunteered and talk to...who was it? Piatt was in charge, I think.

SHUSTER: Dan Piatt?

MELLIS: Yeah, I talked to Dan Piatt. They investigated me, I had been told about.... I had credentials from somebody that they knew.

SHUSTER: Do you recall who that was?

MELLIS: Forgotten who now. Somebody with Youth for Christ, I think. No, it wasn’t. Foster, Bob Foster [?] I think it was. I believe that was it. At any rate, I was impressed with the fact that they didn’t take just anybody for counseling, they were careful what they did. And I was only there for about a week or so but I had the joy of counseling Greeks but mostly I counseled Puerto Ricans actually. But then I went back to Greece. Of course, then, I couldn’t go back to Greece, did you read about the court trial? Perjurance.

SHUSTER: But let me ask you about the Crusade, do you recall anything about the Crusade or the kinds of questions people had when you were counseling them?

MELLIS: I...I was thrilled with the Crusade, that’s a sure thing.

SHUSTER: Why were you thrilled?

MELLIS: Well, it was such a wonderful approach, the whole thing. And I was thrilled with the opportunity of meeting with these people. One thing I could not find out who this one woman was that I counseled though. She was from the choir and she did not want to give me her name. She said, “I should be in the position you’re in.”

SHUSTER: What did she mean by that?

MELLIS: She should have been the counselor, she should have been counseling. She apparently was a Christian but there was trouble between her and her daughter, there was some things that were wrong and I could not...she wasn’t willing to admit all of it. She was from one of the big churches in New York City and she was singing in the choir. But she was needing help and I think the Lord led me to help her from the things she said, she was being helped. But I...I, as far as I could tell, it was her difficulty between herself and her daughter which was part of her...her problem that kept her from being a counselor and needing counseling.

SHUSTER: Did you...?

MELLIS: That was one of the most interesting ones.

SHUSTER: Did you ever get to counsel any Greeks when you were there?

MELLIS: Yes. I counseled them there but I did not have further.... Well, yes, I got their addresses and I wrote to them for a while and I...when I came through New York City each time, I would try to tell them and keep contact. The one woman was still getting Decision magazine as far as I could tell, I didn’t know if she was saved though. The one young fellow, the American, I...I kept touch with and with his family every time I was in the New York area for some time. I thought about getting in touch with Billy Graham’s office to see if they’re still on his list. I would like to know. And let’s see, who was the other one? There was somebody else that was very.... It’s gone now, somebody else that I was interested in. I tried to keep in touch every time I went through New York.

SHUSTER: Were they...were the people you stayed in touch with still interested in the Gospel or...?

MELLIS: Yes, the ones that I.... Well, the one died...I found from her sister that she had died. Oh, I contacted her though, over in the Park, telling her about the Billy Graham...that’s one, that’s right, she hadn’t been at the actual meeting.

SHUSTER: What park? Central Park, you mean?

MELLIS: I think it was Central Park, yeah. And I had contacted her about the meeting and I kept in touch with her. But if I write a book, it’s going to’s either going to be “Street walking for the Lord” or what’s the other? I’ve forgotten the other title I thought of. The fact that I’ve never owned a car has put me out on the street and that’s where you meet people and that’s where you have the contacts. Down in Mexico, Christina [?] who came to the Lord because I didn’t have a car and because I had to wait for the bus and I got on the same bus with her. It’s...there are advantages in not having all of the gadgets.

SHUSTER: Maybe this would be a good point to stop for the day. Once again, I appreciate you’re willingness to come in and talk and maybe, if you’re in Wheaton again, we can start where we left off.

MELLIS: May I tell you it was a real privilege to work with CAM International in Mexico?

SHUSTER: Certainly.

MELLIS: I went down as a short-termer. And I came...I was to stay...I was just going for one year to teach their MKs. Finally, I was going to teach MKs or did I tell you that the other day? And then I...after two years of doing MKs I had so many international contacts that they put me in church planting and I had opportunity of working with that. And it was wonderful at last to be able to work with a mission, having been a non-prof [working for a non-profit organization] in Ethiopia and an independent in Greece, at last the Lord let me be with a mission. And I appreciated the services of the office. I always said to them when I went in to Dallas, “I bet no missionary in your mission appreciates you more than I do.” When you’ve had to take care of everything yourself to have a mission that’s behind you, that’s taking care of these things that’s...for you and that’s guiding you and giving you advice and so forth, it’s so wonderful. I really appreciated the opportunity come up with that. And I would not have had the opportunity if that wicked lawyer in Greece had not sued me for perjury. And I didn’t perjure myself. I only tried to save those Greek girls from them.

SHUSTER: Well, once again, thank you and....


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Last Revised: 10/16/09
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© 2016 Wheaton College. All rights reserved. This transcript may be reused with the following publication credit: Used by permission of the Billy Graham Center Archives, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL.2009