This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Daniel Liberek (CN 385, T2) 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. In a very few cases, words were too unclear to be distinguished, so the word "[unclear]" was inserted. This is a transcription of spoken English, which of course follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
() Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Robert Shuster and completed in December 1996.
Collection 385, T2. Interview of Daniel Liberek by Robert Shuster, January 8, 1988.
SHUSTER: This is a continuation of the interview with Mr. Daniel Liberek. Dan, you were talking about this one family that the mother was a teacher of catechism.
LIBEREK: Yes well, her son started coming, he was attracted by all the young people and some of the nice girls that were on team. He was slightly handicapped, very slightly. He came and he saw that we played trumpets and gave testimonies and he came up to me and said, "I'd like to give a testimony tomorrow." I said, "Well...." I was the program leader so everything that went on stage had to go by me, that's why he came to me. I said, "Well, why don't you come tomorrow and we'll talk about it." I wasn't about to let him go up on stage and give a testimony about something I didn't know [laughs].
SHUSTER: You mean he was mentally handicapped??
LIBEREK: If it is mentally it is very light. Definitely it's motor skills, coordination. Nice fellow though. So he came up to the headquarters and we started talking and very quickly I was sure he didn't know the Lord personally. That was very clear. But he was intent on learning about God. I could perceive that as well and I...I probably took an hour, an hour and a half to share the gospel with him maybe two or three times. But it wasn't sinking through and I could feel that I wasn't making any headway. I tried. He still wanted to do something on stage, and I realized that if I didn't let him do something, we probably were going to lose him. And he played the trumpet, so I asked him to team up with one of our team members and to play something, to have a duet. Which they did very well. That satisfied his hunger for stage action. We kept on talking though, and it was a long time after that it finally clicked, and he accepted the Lord. He was baptized not too long ago, and he shared how the first time we talked, he...I was making no sense at all to him. But that's usually the way it is, as I was sharing before. He's...he went on to be at the Bible school now. He's training for I don't really know what yet, but he wants to be trained and to know more about God. In fact two of the young men of that church are already in Bible school. The church is two years old. It's amazing how...how fast things have been moving there. So that's some of the action that we've been experiencing.
SHUSTER: When you came to Columbia.... Now you were mentioning that you had worked with...somewhere in Wales before, so was that the first time you had lived for a long time outside of Belgium?
LIBEREK: I guess...well, if we don't take into account the time spent with Eric Hutchings' team when we were gone most of the time. We really had no fixed house. We had a.... Would you say pied a terre in English? No? We had a...a base...
LIBEREK: ...in Belgium, and we had sort of a base in England, but it was just a base [laughs]. We did travel quite a bit and after that my parents would have to come back on furlough (very short furlough though) and in '73 we accompanied them as a family. So we were for about....
LIBEREK: To the [United] States. We were for about three months in the States. But we didn't really live any place, we just kept on traveling. '76 was the first time I was really away from home. For three months. I was in Wales working as a waiter in a Christian guest house. Very interesting. I was trained to polish my English. Due to the long stay in Belgium, my English was very run down. When we came to Belgium, my English was better my French, but by then my French had taken the upper hand. So I was trying to polish up a little bit, in view of going to Bible school somewhere. '77, then, I went to Bible school. My English was still not up to par..to par and I struggled my first term. I was in a different country, experiencing a mild type of cultural shock. There is not much of a culture shock between Europe and the States. I have started to call it delayed culture shock. I can sit with someone and we can talk and I feel we are communicating. There isn't much difference in the way we dress, the way we...we eat. All of that is pretty much the same. But the difference are much more subtle. They are imbedded. That's why I call it delayed culture shock. It might be a month or two later, but suddenly I am going to realize, "No, they are not the way...they're not the same as I and they act differently than I do." Just in the way we greet, for example. I always put out my hand. It's...it's part of me. In Belgium we always shake hands. In the States you hardly ever do. In Belgium we kiss between family members. Not on the mouth, mind you. Always on the cheek. I have learned the reflex action of turning my cheek [laughs]. In the States.... Well, different things like that that might not hit you at first. The way we...we salute each other. In...in the...in Belgium a slight nod is very sufficient. I say, "Hi," and even as I am walking on the streets, I say "hi" to most everybody I cross. That's just being polite. In the States, a nod is almost offensive, I've discovered. It's...you have to sort of open your eyes wide, open your mouth and wave with the hand, somewhat like that. Now, I started nodding to people at Columbia and people figured I was a very cold person. That was part of me. Well, that is not an obvious part of culture. That is why I call it delayed culture shock. It takes a while for you to get hit by that. In the States a person will sit with you and you will get into very deep conversation very quickly. People are very open. And you can share your most intimate thoughts with someone who's almost a total stranger. And the next day that person is going to act very casually with you, he's moved away from stage five to stage one very quickly. It's hard to have long-lasting friends. That's my perception at least. I could very easily be wrong but that's the way I feel. And so all those things.... In Belgium you're going to move very slowly from stage one to two to three to four and its one in a million times you're going to sit to share you're deepest thoughts with someone, but that will have an impact upon all the days in the future. In the States it's very different. But all that was slow and I discovered it one...little by little.
SHUSTER: Did you notice any kind of similar cultural difference the time you were in Wales? Difference between Belgium and Wales?
LIBEREK: Wales is more of a Protestant county. So the majority of the people are Protestants. Nominally though. I...I took advantage of the time to visit different churches. I wanted to see different horizons. Being raised in the same church and knowing well my little world, I figured I needed to open windows. So we attended a Methodist church there. Shock to me. The church of Wesley. The preacher was in a robe, of course, but I wasn't used to that. And he preached while looking out the window. Why didn't he ever look at me? There were probably ten of us in the room. He could of looked at each of us but he kept his time...he spent his time looking out the window. He wasn't very enthused about what he had to say. I saw the way that people put in the offering plates, things like that. I didn't expect Protestants to act that way. I thought they should be much more devout. And so I saw nominal Protestants, too. We went to a Brethren church. I could tell tales about that one too. We went to a Baptist church. We visited around. And I discovered that Protestantism wasn't [unclear] for Evangelicals. There was more to it also.
SHUSTER: In the United States did you notice ways that Christians acted different than in Belgium and in the United States? Differences either cultural or attitudes?
LIBEREK: Yeah, there are differences. I think one of the main ones is the mental attitude. In the States, the Christians are...are on the winning side. They feel that way. "We're making headway, we're changing things. We're on the go." In Belgium, it's basically, "We're attacked, let's keep our own, let's protect ourselves, let's try not to lose." It's two different worlds. That's one thing. The second thing is the attitude toward the clergy. In the States, the clergy can be well paid. That is not a problem. The pastor of the church I go to has a Mercedes here (and a 300 mind you, it's not a small one). In Belgium, if you drive a nice car, there is probably something wrong with you. The spirituality is questioned. Just that whole attitude, the respect that is shown to the clergy. Now, I've heard Americans say, "We don't have respect for our clergy." I'm using clergy [pauses] for lack of a better word. I don't believe in that distinction, but still there is full-time and non full-time. In the States, there is a respect that is shown to people who are full-time, just in the little things like the Repeat Boutique and things like that. People try to help. If you go to some stores, you get a discount. I'm not saying it's...it's good, but people are trying to do things to show honor to the people who feed them. In Belgium, it's pretty much, "You owe it to us." For two and a half years, my wife and I went out of our way to pick up a couple, bring them to church, drive them back every Sunday. Rain, snow, hail. We endangered our cars, we got stuck. We went. It's normal. They don't owe us a thank you. We do it for the Lord. They never paid for the gas. Once. Once they gave ten dollars for three years of driving. Girls were sick. We kept on going. We owe it to them. That's normal. Catholic mentality. "You owe it to us."
SHUSTER: So Catholics would feel similarly toward the priest?
LIBEREK: Catholics and Socialists. You have to tie those two together. Socialism is, the state serves the people. The state gives hand...handouts. Work, worklessness compensation.
SHUSTER: Worker's compensation.
LIBEREK: Things like that. Socialized medicine. The state owes it. So it's the same thing in the church. It is brought over. "You owe it to us. Oh, you preached a good sermon. Great. You owed it to us." Whatever you do, it's never a...you never deserve a thank you, in that sense. My dad for years was the first one to get up, to get the fire going. He cleaned the church for years. If we have a worker's day, there are sure to be three people there: my father, myself and my father-in-law. We're going to be there to do work on the building. I can lay bricks. I was taught doing it on the church. Mainly everything electrical or wiring or plumbing. I was taught all that. I am quite sure in the States most of the pastors wouldn't know beans about that, because they have custodians and they have a work team, this and that. I know churches where the pastor refuses to shovel. I think that is pushing it too far, because we still have to be servants to the people. But there is a balance and I see almost Belgium and the States being two extremes in that area. Maybe a third area in the church, tying back to the first, is that whole aspect that we're small, small, small. And I...I think actually right now it is the main hindrance to growth in Belgium. We're so small that we don't think we can grow. We're going to talk about the national church later, but the way things are going, we are not growing, even though a few churches are growing like the one that I pastor, most of the churches are not growing. And our growth doesn't show on the overall picture, because the other churches are declining. So the whole situation is growthless and almost hopeless, in that people have lost hope of really growing and making a mark. And maybe Americans are too optimistic, usually. Some people call them naive. I like the optimism. In Europe we are slightly optimistic. In the States, you would probably say, "Why not?" In Europe you are going to say, "No way." Maybe I have been Americanized somewhat. My schooling in the States has had that impact on me. I am not fully European anymore. But I...I view those things that way.
SHUSTER: What about a typical church week in Europe and the United States? In the United States you would have Sunday school, morning service, evening service, Wednesday you have prayer service, maybe Saturday you would have a men's breakfast, etc. What things...?
LIBEREK: There are many similarities, of course. We have the service on Sunday morning. In our church in Hue, we have just moved to having Sunday school before the worship service. I know in the States, some churches are going away from that [chuckles]. We've just gone to it because we have discovered that many of our working people could not come on weekdays. On Tuesday night we have our Bible study and prayer meeting. They couldn't come, especially if they were on shifts. And people with young kids couldn't come either. 7:30 pm is late and the kids have to be in bed before nine o'clock. Go school the next day, of course. So we decided to shorten our Bible service and have another Bible study before it. It's not really your [emphasis on YOUR] Sunday school with electives and all that. We have one major session and we have (excuse me) [yawns] nursery for the young kids.
SHUSTER: And that's not common in Belgium?
LIBEREK: No, it is not common at all. Our church is non-traditional in many ways [chuckles]. We...we have tried different things. We've...we usually have a ladies' meeting. We had a ladies' meeting. We have youth meeting on Saturday night. Choir on Friday. Very typical, traditional. We probably do things different for festivities or the festival times, like Christmas. In the States you have your midnight service or you have your late service on the twenty-fourth. In our church we always have our service on the twenty-fifth, in the afternoon. And is more of a show...show time, that the kids sing songs and recite poetry and the young people will show a play. That's the kind of service we have. In the Catholic church, of course, they have the midnight service. That is traditional. Maybe that is why we don't have one [chuckles]. Because we don't want to be.... A lot of what we do can be tied up to that, that way back we had to be different. That's possible. Very possible. Over all, it is not very different. The difference is in the way people act. In many of our churches, the pastor is the only person that does anything. That distinction, clergy/laity, coming from the Roman Catholic church is so powerful. Then pastor is the minister. He does the ministry. He preaches, he leads the singing, he leads communion. He does it all. My father trained some of his elders to...to preach and to lead communion and to provide over the service. But the day he came, they told him, "You're never get me up behind the pulpit. No way. For anything." Today they do it on a regular basis. But it has taken many, many years to overcome these distinctions. In many churches, the pastor is the only one who will ever clean the sanctuary, who will ever do anything. But that is a major problem. Most of our pastors are employed teaching high school and then they have the church on the side. You can't expect much growth in that situation. He had no time to devote to his people. He works his forty hours, like everyone else. And then on top of it, he has to prepare sermons and Bible studies, visit the sick, do funerals and weddings. And then he ought to disciple people. He only has so many hours a week, like you and I. So that is the major hindrance to growth.
SHUSTER: But isn't that different from the Catholic church, where the priest does not clean...?
LIBEREK: No, the priest does not clean. He usually even has maid who cleans his house. The difference comes from the way we are funded. The Catholic Church is a state church. There's the Protestant state church. You have...and they are paid by the state. The priest is paid by the state. He gets a normal salary from the state. We are not a state church, we are a Free church, which means we don't take any money from the state. So we don't get those hands and we have to go...we have to find our salaries somewhere else. So that's a major difference. But as far as the mentality of the people, anything religious, the priest has to do it. Anything religious, the pastor has to do it. That basic distinction remains. And if...if I ever go to someone's house to eat a meal, I'm going to pray. The man of the house, I'd rather have pray when I'm visiting someone. No, I'm the pastor. I pray. My prayer is better or there is something more holy about it [tone of voice indicates that this previous sentence is something other people believe.] The distinction runs across the board. One of the things we have we have tried to do in our church to break some of that down is to do many social activities together. I...I...I like sports, so in Belgium I founded the Evangelical Sports League, which ran a championship for soccer. I think was good in breaking down some of the barriers with the people. I play with them, I get dirty with them, I get upset with them on the field. They know when...I never yell, but they know when I am upset [chuckles]. There's some look on my face, I guess. I get hurt, like they do. I hurt others, like they do. We all...if you play soccer, it is hard never to hurt anyone. I shower like they do. So suddenly, I bring...am being brought back t...I am a fellow like them. I was raised with them. So that has helped me break down some of the barriers. And we are getting, at least in our church, a lot more participation from the people. And maybe that's one of the reasons why the church is growing. But it's still a long ways...a long ways to go.
SHUSTER: Going back to the comparison to Belgium and the United States, what about the communion service. Is there any difference?
LIBEREK: There is a difference. We do it every week, every Sunday morning. It doesn't take a whole service, it's about, of I'd say about twelve minutes. That's how we've timed it now. It takes about twelve minutes. We have a short meditation and then straight into communion. Open communion distributed by the elders or by different men of the church. And...[pauses] and in that church we only...we ask for only baptized members to take communion, but everyone is free to take it. We wouldn't withhold it from anyone. But we will warn about it. In the States it is about every month. I remember times when my wife and I were doing deputation and we could go for four or five months without communion because we would hit the churches at the wrong time. We'd come when...this one had it on the first Sunday and this one on the second and so we would keep going. It was very tough for us. Now maybe that is also part of our Catholic inheritance in that Catholics put a lot more value than we do on communion. They draw a lot more from it, due to their theology, that it's actually the body of the Lord. Some of the old ladies...some of our elderly ladies in the church that accepted the Lord late in life, one of the main reasons they got baptized was that they wanted communion and we had made it very plain that unless they would fully.... There is a whole reasoning behind it...(I see you are nodding, so I guess you are accepting what I am saying) that we will not...that we ask them not to take communion unless they are baptized. We've had people who refused to be baptized and what we say is, "You're not fully committed. If you're not willing to obey the first command of the Lord, how you can tell Him by taking communion that you are in harmony with Him." It seems very plain. Some of these old ladies, like eighty years old, you almost think, "Well, forget about baptism." That's what you feel like saying in a way. But I remember one Tuesday, she's an old lady. She's sort of my adopted grandmother. She has no family left and I have no grandmother, so I sort of took her. We had never told her that she couldn't take communion. But she had heard the messages and she...she knew the standing of the church and one Tuesday night I went over and she said, "You win." I said, "I what?" "You win," she said. "I want to be baptized Sunday." [chuckles] Oh, an old lady.
SHUSTER: Well I see our time is almost up. I just wanted to ask you one more personal question. How do you think of yourself, as British or Belgian or is that important to you?
LIBEREK: It depends. [laughs] It depends where.... I...I guess the part of it that is decreasing in me is my Britishness. I can hardly consider myself British, really. I have never lived for an extended period of time in England. I love my queen and if I was called up I would go and die for my queen. I feel very strongly for my country and for my queen. Something that Americans can hardly understand. Having a president, it is a different ball game. But that's close to the end of it. I can sing my national anthem, but there's hardly anything left of my being British. I could become...I almost became Belgian when I married, but the law did not allow me to do so. I think it would have been easier to have been Belgian in Belgium. I love the States very much. Of course, my mission board is in the States and the people who enable us to work are in the States. I function very well in the States now. The culture is...in a sense has become my own in several areas. I eat hamburgers, I eat chili, I eat...whatever, pizza is one of my staples. Many things have become part of my own. I know I will never pass for an American. My accent will betray me. That's a fact. But still, something in me has changed, being in the States for several years, at least a composite of five years. That's just almost a sixth of my life. That's quite a bit. Belgium, now, I can be in Belgium. Nobody will be able to tell I am not a Belgian after about four weeks. because my french will be slightly tinted by English. But very soon I will pass for being a Belgian. There's no problem with that. So I can't really say I am tricultural. I could say I am bicultural, though in a sense I am acultural. I am not fully Belgian anymore. I know that. I don't react always like a...like a Belgian will do. I...my views, say, of a...of money has changed. In the States I will say that peole are much more generous than in Belgium. Over all. Christian people. They will...some say, "Well, they have more, so it's normal." And that's not the end of it. They are more generous. Maybe it's because they don't want to give time, they'll give money. I don't know. But as a whole American people are more generous. In Belgium there's...people are very tight, very, very tight. So money to me has become much less important. Housing. In the States, you sell a house like a shirt, almost. In Belgium, you buy a house for life. I mean, that's IT. You don't sell your house. People say that Belgians have a brick in place of a stomach. That's a proverb. It's almost true. My parents-in-law have lived in the same house since they were married and that used to be the house of my mother-in-law before she was married. It's been in the family for years. In the States, you move from New York and then to Texas and back and forth. That seems to be the way. So several things have changed in my life and I...I can't really say I belong to either of the countries. But I have a large part of my heart in both of them. I...I...if I had to come live on the States, I wouldn't mind it. I could become an American citizen. Sometimes I am very defensive of America in Belgium when people criticize President Reagan or the country or it's policies. But if I am here and people start criticizing Belgium (which hardly ever happens because most people don't even now where Belgium is at) I will become defensive also. Or of England, in that case. So I guess am more messed up than clear cut. [laughs]
SHUSTER: A man of the world.
LIBEREK: Oh, in a sense. A man of Europe at least. Or western man.
SHUSTER: Well, thank you very much. I appreicate your taking time to share [unclear]
LIBEREK: My pleasure.
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