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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Paul Frederick Hurlburt, Jr. (CN 438, T2). 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.
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... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
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This transcript was completed by Christian Sawyer and Evan Kuehn in March 2005.
Collection 438, T2. Interview of Paul Frederick Hurlburt, Jr. by Bob Shuster on November 8, 1990.
SHUSTER: This is a continuation of the interview with Reverend Paul Hurlburt by Robert Shuster. We were talking a little bit about your father’s [Paul F. Hurlburt, Sr.] work in the area [eastern Belgian Congo] and some of the church services. How common was Christianity in this area when you were growing up?
HURLBURT: Well, when my dad came there , it was really just where the area was being opened up. It had been sort of savage area. The Belgians had just come in and pacified the people. We heard stories of how they had to put down certain sort of uprisings at first and they had just come into the area. You had big financial economic interests in Europe, coming in for mining. And the area basically opened up because these big mining companies wanted to mine big...gold mainly, though they went on from there to tin and...and Wolframite ore and other things like that.
SHUSTER: What was the name of this area? Was it a province?
HURLBURT: It’s called Kivu...Kivu province [later Nord-Kivu province]. Just south of the Orientale province, which is where the AIM [Africa Inland Mission] was working. And the Catholics had just come in, too, within just a few years during that time. So there was an area that was coming in where there had been no real teachings of Christianity at all. And so, in a sense, there was an open competition between the Catholics trying to take over the whole area and the Protestants. And with the government favoring the Catholics, but official policy was there’d be freedom for Protestants, too. And so it was sort of just at the roots of the...just the time that God just opened up that whole area to Christianity. Before there was animistic beliefs, beliefs in the spirits, and all this kind of a thing and...so along with coming in and bringing in...bringing in economic development, bringing in of reading and writing was the bringing in of Christianity. And you might say it was looked at to a certain extent by, “Hey, this is the whole European way of life which is more valuable than ours.” And then with the....
SHUSTER: The Africans looked at it that way?
HURLBURT: Yeah, that’s right. “This is advancement.” And then with the whole picture of medical coming in and helping people medically (they’d never been able to be helped before) was very convincing. It brought in credibility. In other words, you were helping people in their medical needs, you were helping people to get ahead, and could actually learn to read and write and advancement, and so on. And so they said these things were good, “We’re interested.” And then...so, there weren’t any real...strong...much strong opposition to Christianity. There was from the witch doctors and they tried to put curses against the missionaries and so on, but they didn’t work. And the people began to see that and say, “Hey, what’s the use of this anyway?” And so it was a time when people were opening up in a tremendous way to anything new, including Christianity. But also, there was an interesting key, I think, to reaching the people, was because in their background.... You always hear about the Peace Child and the keys to how you bridge across to a new culture and so on. There was a picture that they believed....
SHUSTER: Peace Child being the book by [Don] Richardson?
HURLBURT: Yeah, by Richardson, Peace Child, where he found the key was the peace child. In other words, they found that when two groups wanted to make peace together they would bring a child from one village and bring it over to the other village, and the other village would take care of it, and as long as they.... This was a child which brought peace between the two tribes and there would be peace among them as long as the child lived and so on.
SHUSTER: This was an area in New Guinea, I think.
HURLBURT: This was Iria...Irian Jaya, New Guinea. I guess, you’d call Irian Jaya. And which he...he built on to point out that God had seen people far away from Him and He’d sent His child, born as [unclear] to bring peace to them, and to bring a relationship between God, who the people were at enmity with God, how the peace child Jesus came to bring peace between God and people and how they could have a relationship one with another. Yeah, that was the bridge there. Okay, in our area, the bridge was probably more the thinking of the Africans and their history. They had the picture of a great God. They had several gods, the gods of the river, the gods of war and so on. But behind it all was a great god called Nyamuhanga. And he was a good god, who had originally created the earth and created all the people and so on and he had a good relationship with people. But then something came up and people angered god and so he went away and left them. And even though he’s a good god and so on, he’s way off there far away. He doesn’t have much relationship with us and so we have to struggle with the spirits and the god of the rivers and the gods of these other people and so on. They have these different names and things and we have to struggle with this all the time. Well, the key came to the fact that first half of that story’s true. There is a great God who made you and who created you and who had a relationship with people. And it is true that people broke with God and disobeyed God and, therefore, Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden and, therefore, they had no relationship with God because of sin. But to say that, therefore, God went far away and no longer was concerned with people, that’s not true. And the reason...the proof.... He looked at people and their needs far away and He said, “I’m going to send my son to them to go live amongst them, to be with them, to show them what my standards are and the fact that I love them.” And so He sent Jesus Christ, His own son, from heaven to come down to us where we were in our despair and way off in living in fear of Satan and all these spirits. And He sent Jesus Christ into the world to show us how we could know Him. And He was born to become a man so He could understand us and explain to us in our own culture and everything else what we are and then He taught us God’s way. And then because sin separates people and sin has to be paid for, He came and He actually paid for our sins, just like you sacrifice your chickens and so on for the spirits to bring peace. And so Jesus was brought as the ultimate sacrifice to pay for the penalties of our sins so then God accepts us and we can be His children. And so that was sort of the...I would say that’s the sort of bridge that works into the animistic groups of our area. And it worked very effectively.
SHUSTER: What are some of the examples of animistic practices that you might see as a child growing up in the area?
HURLBURT: Well, one was the witch doctors. The witch doctors had a tremendous power and influence. Not only over sickness, but if people wanted to get even with other people, they would ask...go to the witch doctors and give them money and offer to ask them for powerful medicine that would effect other people. And so, therefore, they would bring this medicine and plant it around through the villages and it zaps people and people would get sick and die and the curse would be on them. In other words, he would be able...present curses that would effect these people so you could overcome the enemies and so on. I’ll give an illustration. There was a man who was a powerful witch doctor in the area, who became a Christian. And in a sense, he was one of the keys to opening a lot of the area. And even though he had all the power over all the people, he was not happy in his own heart. And so one day he heard a national evangelist, a national Christian, telling him how he could become a Christian. And he became a Christian and he came to work with my dad. He came to learn to read and write and so on. He learned to leave up his own ways and became a tremendous influence. And he’d get up and preach. He’d say, “I was one of the great witch doctors.” and he says, “Let me give examples of how they’ve been deceiving you. He says...he says, “You remember, for instance,” he says, “somebody would come with a child that was gasping, probably of pneumonia. And so they’d bring him to the witch doctor. He says, “And so the witch doctor, the way we used to do it...,” he says, “you would cut on the...where the pain was here, you would cut the skin of the child. The witch doctor would bend over [sucking noise] and suck out the blood, and spit it out in his hand. And there within the blood he spit out would be charcoal and other things like that he’d already put inside his mouth.” He said...he’d say, “You see, that’s the dirty stuff that’s in your child that’s affecting him. [Shuster laughs] Now I’m sucking it out and your child’s going to get well.” He said, “That’s the way they did it. We just, we’d put this stuff in our mouths.” Or he says...another example, he says, “You remember when we used to say we talked to the spirits and you could hear this voice [makes noises] sound? He said, “Let me show you how it was done.” And he took a little sort of bean with a hole and put it up in his nose [makes noises] and blow through it. “Isn’t that the way the spirit sounded?” [Shuster laughs] “That’s right,” he said. “Well, this is all they do. They just fool you.” He says...and then, he says, “Remember the...,” he says, for instance, a man would come in a certain village and...and he would say, “There’s sickness in our village, there’s a curse on our village. We want you to come and take the curse away.” And so the witch doctor said, “Okay, I’ll come. I’ll come tomorrow,” he says. But, actually, that night the witch doctor went and he took along some...he took along with him some sacks of medicine. And he buried one by one hut here and another bit by a tree over there and another bit somewhere else and he snuck home, nobody knew he had visited the village. So the next day he came back and made his official visit. And he came in the village and he looked it over and he saw there was sickness and people had been dying and were sick and so on. And he says, “The problem is, you see, you’ve got an enemy who’s put a curse on you and he’s planted strong medicine on this village that’s causing all these things.” He said, “So I’ll help you and let’s find out where this is and get rid of all this medicine and then you’ll no longer have the curse on your village and you’ll be alright.” And so he started to direct them and he said, “Why don’t we look over by that tree over there?” And so they go and they dig down and they pull out a sack of medicine. “Aha,” he says, “just like I told you, there it is! Now let’s find it. Let’s dig it out anywhere it is.” And so he sort of directed them and he pointed by the hut and so on, and he says, and so they take all the med...all this powerful medicine away and they give him a chicken or a goat for...to clean the village up. He says...he says, “Well, that’s what happened,” he says. “It wa...wasn’t.... He’d done the whole thing himself. He’s fooling you.” And he says, “And this is what I used to do ‘cause I was a witch doctor. We talked to the spirits.” He says, “But now that I’ve become a Christian,” he says...he says, “I can just tell you that it was just farce. The reality is knowing God and God can heal us and God can work.” And he became a tremendous evangelist. He went and started a group of churches somewhere else, and he was one of the things that sort of broke the back of...of the power of the sorcerers and so on. Because as one amongst them he explained what they did and what it was and how Christ changed peoples’ lives. And there were examples like this that God gave His people that were willing to stand out.
SHUSTER: What was his name?
HURLBURT: Apollo Kyabwangana. Kyabwangana was the name and Apollo was the Christian name he took.
SHUSTER: Did he...did this arouse a lot of opposition, or...from people where he was speaking?
HURLBURT: There was opposition, but not too much, and when they were...as I said, when medicine came in and showed credibility and healed people that the witch doctors couldn’t heal and then they were exposed, and people were saying, “Hey, these things are changing. These things aren’t what we want. We don’t want to always live in fear and superstition,” that a lot of their power was really curbed, and then when they would try to put curse on missionaries, and put things where if you came by here the missionaries were going to get sick...get sick and die, and the missionary never did and it didn’t affect him, and they became discredited. Today, though, there is a resurgence of witchcraft. There’s quite a bit of this thing coming back in many areas.
SHUSTER: Why is that?
HURLBURT: Well, part of it is connected with the fact that people were saying, “Hey, this is all Western stuff. What’s wrong with our authentic way of life? And so let’s go back to our own authentic way of life which included our relationship to the spirits and how we could overcome them,” and so on. Authenticity that came in. That’s part of it. Part of it was the fact that the nationalism that came along with it. “We wanted our own way of life and maybe some of these things aren’t so great as we thought they were.” I would say part of it’s Satanic opposition. Because people were...some of the people were following Christianity and civili...what...the culture the Belgians brought in which advantages from a social perspective rather than necessarily from a change in their...their own lives. And a lot of people didn’t want to change to some of these things. One of the big problems we face today is their belief in witches. They talk about a group of women they call...they mainly call the Valeez [?] which means “the eaters” in sort of sense, cannibals. And they talk about these women, especially amongst the Minandi [Kinandi ?] tribe, who may be in their huts at night, by their campfires (because they usually have a separate little house where they do their cooking) and they’re cooking their food and then the spirit of this women leaves her body, along with the spirit of several other women, and it goes down along the trails over the certain village where they’re going to go zap somebody. And as you go along, you may be along that trail and you here little voices and you see little lights and you get off the trail and you hear these voices go by and the lights and these women go over to that village and they zap that woman or that person in that hut. And that person gets sick, but they ate them. In other words, they ate out their vital organs inside in a spiritual way and not that they ate them physically. But they would say they ate them, they destroyed their organs and so they got sick and they died. And those were the Valeez [?], those were the cannibals, those were the witches. And they accused women of that...of witchcraft. And it’s been a...and this was a very, very real thing we face today. They blame certain people as witches and so on because...there’s always a cause and effect. Why do people get sick? Because of curses. Because of witches. Because of evils like this. And so they’ve hooked into this kind of a situation in their lives. Of course, as you look at it from the American perspective we have some of this in our history too, don’t we? From the New England days, you think of the witches of Salem, Cotton Mather, and how they officially condemned and burned women and others on the stake as witches, even though the women themselves didn’t know it because they were supposed to have that power even if they didn’t know it. And we...so we...we have some of that background in American life so let’s not say the people are that different. But anyway, some of this is a real reality. I think in America we’ve gotten over it. And...and Christianity has pointed out that this is not real, this is wrong. While out there, where people...where you have the prevalence of maybe 30-40% of people...of children die in childbirth. And...not in childbirth, I mean in childhood. And women die, there’s...death is around you all the time. And you want to explain why it happens and how it happens. And people put much more power in the idea of curses and evil spirits that cause these things. To the point that they don’t...they fear Satan and witchcraft more than they...than they fear God. And it’s a real problem because they say, “Well, God’s a good God. You say He loves us. He sent Jesus to help us. He wouldn’t zap us. He wouldn’t hurt us so we don’t have to worry about Him. What we got to worry about is those evil spirits over there and these Satanic forces. And so if we appease them, then we’ll live along the way.” And here’s where, of course, you have to point out that Christ has overcome Satan. That you, as a Christian, you put your confidence in God to protect you from all the powers of Satan. Satan is a defeated foe and you don’t have to fear him. He may be very real, there may be evil spirits, but you don’t have to fear them and worship them in the sense of appeasing them. All you do is put your confidence in God and pray to God to help you and protect you along the way. This is real Christianity. Well, we’re facing this in a very, very practical way in amongst our churches, where people will say, there, this is what happened, and this particular fellow died because this woman cursed him and said he was going to die. And we had a very, very practical example of that in our churches out amongst the tribe of the deep forest, called the Bapedis [?]. There’s a pastor that had good training, but he had a couple of wayward sons. And these sons, instead of following his teaching, were drinking and going off on the Sundays and, instead of being in church, they were off drinking and in drunkenness and, sometimes, immorality and they were...they were a shame to their father.
SHUSTER: Like the sons of Eli in Samuel [I Samuel 2].
HURLBURT: That’s right, like the sons of Eli or like the sons of Samuel later on [I Samuel 8:3]. Okay. So one day they were out there doing this carousing and as they were going through the forest there, they found and killed a pit viper. Now a pit viper is a snake, what, maybe four feet long...three to four feet long. But real thick, big, almost the size of a python in size and slow and sluggish, but a pit viper, like the mambas of Africa, green and black mambas, are deadly poisonous. They bite you and you’re gone. In America, we talk about rattlesnakes, but how many Americans actually die of a rattlesnake bite? They can be bitten, but there’s antidotes and everything else. But you get bitten by a mamba out there or a pit viper and you don’t have very much chance. Anyway, these...these two young fellows, I guess one was probably about sixteen, the other was probably eighteen, they caught...they caught this pit viper and they killed it. And the procedure out there as they tell it is you cut the head of the snake off and you bury the head. Then you take the body home and eat it ‘cause it’s good meat. Well, anyway, these kids...I guess they cut the head off, but this kid sort of foolishly, maybe half drunk, tied it to a string. And so they were carrying the pit viper home, they were going to eat and they had the string and he would sort of swing it along as he went through the forest, you know, you bump things in there and lo and behold it swung and it came over against his leg. And...and the snakes, they would convulse, even though they were dead, they could tighten in. And so the thing, the head of the snake went [makes noise] and just...and just hooked onto him and shot the poison into him. And he died. Okay, now, the father, instead of saying, “Okay, maybe this is judgement on my son that he’s away from God.” Well, the boy (before he died) or his brother said, “We just had a dream the day or two before about this witch that lives over in this other village here that was going to try to zap us.” So the father says, “There you are, this person died because of the curse of this woman over there.” And here, they routed out this woman. She was a woman who maybe had witchcraft in her background, but was wanting to become a Christian, who was attending the services. And she was condemned as a witch and she was driven out of that area completely because she was responsible for the death of his son because one of the sons had dreamed some dream that he had seen this woman coming around. So this is the kind of a thing we fixed. And so your...the witchcraft is real...is a real question you have to face in their...in their thinking today.
SHUSTER: We’re almost at the time we said we’d allot for the interview, but, before we close, I wanted to ask about how you came to know the Lord, how did you become a Christian?
HURLBURT: I think I’ve already told you that pretty well.
SHUSTER: Well, you talked about growing up, and talking to God about...talking with your father about knowing, about knowing you’re saved, and was that your....
HURLBURT: Well, just before that I could have added (I should have added) a little bit earlier, I’d heard about Christ and how He died for me and I....I thanked God for who He was and I accepted Christ as my Savior. I can’t give you any particular date, I was so young. But I’d accepted the fact that Jesus had died for me, and that I wanted to know Him and I wanted to serve Him. So I accepted Christ at an early age. But as I said, I went through a period of time there when I didn’t know whether I was accepted by God or not or whether I really was a Christian or not. And I was basing that on how I felt and the fact that maybe God would reject me and I never...didn’t really know Him. And it was through this experience and it was based on God’s Word that by faith I’d based my salvation not on how I felt, but on the fact that I had asked Christ into my life. And God was faithful and He accepted me on the basis of His promises and I was His child. That was my basis and I just knew from there on that I was Chr...I was a child of God. And that’s how it came. But it’s...actually the first time I had ever heard of Christ and accepted Him, I learned of Him on my mother’s knee. And from that time when I was a child I knew that this was real and that God was real and that Christ had died for my sins. So it was a childhood conversion, but it came to the point of real conviction and reality in my life through this experience so basically by faith in what God had said because I had asked Christ into my life, therefore God who promised...who loved me had accepted me and I was His child. And that was the basis that I’ve had...my assurance ever since. Based on God’s promises.
SHUSTER: That’d be a good point to stop for today.
END OF TAPE