Billy Graham Center

Collection 446 - Jack Wyrtzen. T3 Transcript

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of John Von Casper "Jack" Wyrtzen (CN 446, T3) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. Any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers have been omitted. Foreign terms 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. 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.

Some portions of the interview that involving living persons have been removed from this transcript and from any copies made of the tape of this interview. The removals have been indicated in the text. This restriction will expire on December 31, 2030.

... 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 Robert Shuster and Arnila Santoso was completed in October, 2002.


Collection 446, T3. Interview of John Von Casper "Jack"Wyrtzen by Robert Shuster, October 5, 1991.

SHUSTER: This is a continuation of the interview with Dr. Wyrtzen on October 5, 1991.

WYRTZEN: Cam Townsend [William Cameron Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators] asked me if I'd go down and review the work of the Wycliffe Translators and we spent a lot of time down there. When I got back [pauses] my wife had a lot of friends in the house and the house was owned by Dr. Smith. He had died and his wife had died. And we were quite sure he willed the house to us and a lot of other things. And after all the company had gone, Marge said, "Well, I got news for you. The house is being sold and we're not getting anything out of it." [Portion of interview omitted] We said, "Life is too short." Well, that night we were reading the 89th Psalm: "No good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly." And that night we told the Lord..... And I had meetings every night. I said, "Lord, we don't know where we are going to move," but we had to be out of the house in June and we had a baby girl at the time. I was invited by Charles Ballinger, who was this business executive, to lead the singing for General Dobbie at the banquet. And we got to know the general. He said, "Where're you living?" I said, Well, we're still living in Woodhaven, but," I said, "I guess we'll have to be moving soon." And I told him what happened. He said, "Why don't you move to Maplewood, New Jersey, where I live. I said, "Mr. Ballinger, I couldn't afford a second hand leaky old garage in Maplewood." [Shuster laughs] He said, "Well, would you live there and come to our chapel?" And then...oh, I was telling you about my problems with Bethany Chapel...

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

WYRTZEN: ...down in Panama Street in Brooklyn. And he said, "That's ridiculous. You should be able to go wherever the Holy Spirt leads you without being dictated to." So, he said, "We would never do anything like that to you." So I said, "Well, Mr Ballinger, I'd live anywhere if I had a house." He said, "Look, you go and buy a house and I'll own it and you can live in it rent free as long as you want." I said, "You're kidding!" The next morning at 7 am we were heading for Maplewood, New Jersey. [Shuster laughs] All we knew, we wanted a house with a fireplace in it. (We have four of them in this house, two downstairs and two upstairs.) And the first house we looked at, at 41 North Terrace, Maplewood, New Jersey.... And I said,"This is the house." And I called Mr. Ballinger and I said, "I think we've found the house. And he said, "Call my lawyer. Here's his phone number. And you just tell him." So I called the lawyer. And I said to him, "Aren't you going to come out and look at it?" He said, "No, if I didn't trust you.... I'm too busy." So he bought the house and we lived in it twenty-five years, I guess. And he died but he willed the house to us. And so when we moved up here in Adirondacks, with that money we were able to build this house. So I never bought a house in life that I paid for. [laughs] Interesting how these things can change, huh? And so I was with the Brethren with him until twenty-five years. And I just spoke at the fiftieth anniversary of Bethany Chapel...I mean of Maplewood gospel Chapel. And good friends there. But now we go to Mountainside Bible Chapel up here, an independent Bible church.

SHUSTER: Do you think that Plymouth Brethren have had influence on you and your work in your ministry?

WYRTZEN: Yeah. And I noticed that my son Don, who has written a book that has just gotten an award, Emmy [sic] award I think, it had an effect on him too. And he mentioned being at a Saturday night rally with choruses and lots of fun and a three hour gospel hour, radio and all and then Sunday morning to go to a quiet worship service with the old hymns of the Brethren, you know. Yeah, I think it had quite an effect on me. It gave us a real love for the Word of God [the Bible] and also it took all commercialism out of us, because they don't have any paid preachers.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

WYRTZEN: And for nine years I was determined I was going to spend the rest of my life in the insurance business and preach as a layman. I had to tear up a lot of good sermons when I went into what some call "full-time service." [laughs]

SHUSTER: Was that...I mean, was that partly because of the Brethren influence?


SHUSTER: When you worked as an insurance salesman, you often preached at lunch hour in City Hall Park, is that true?

WYRTZEN: Yeah. We used to sort of work on our schedule. I'd take an early lunch and start the street meeting. I'd leave my office...I had thirty-five minutes for lunch. So it would take me five minutes to get to City Hall. So I'd start the street meeting, in front of the Benjamin Franklin monument and then Brandt Reed, who I'd got a job in our company, he would take his lunch hour at twelve and he'd relieve me and take over. Then Ray Studling, who was of the heads of Thomas Bread Company, he came in next, one after the other. And we'd go 'til three o'clock. And oftentimes we'd have seventy-five, hundred, sometimes two hundred people listen to us.

SHUSTER: Who came? Who were the types of people who were at the meetings?

WYRTZEN: Well, it was amazing. We had a lot of people from Wall Street [the financial district in New York City] and executives would stop and listen. We'd have drunkards off the Bowery [the area of homeless people], which wasn't too far. A mixed audience. And I can remember how we'd try different techniques. And one day I started telling a story and the crowd kept building and building, listening to the story I'm telling. I said, "Now I'm going to mention one name. And as soon as I mention this name, half of you at least, maybe ninety percent of you are going to walk away." I said, "Because this name is so powerful that you are going to spurn it. We are here because we represent the Lord Jesus Christ, God's son." And people are starting walking away. I said, "See them go, what did I tell you? They are rejecting the Son of God." Many of them even turned around and came back [Shuster laughs] because they were afraid of that. We had all kinds of conversions out of that. Sophie Muller who has written several great books. She was then a writer for Harper and Row [Publishers] and she was one of their artists. And she was a few years older than us. She came by one of those meetings. And she recognized me from leading a dance ban...from playing the trombone solo in a minstrel show in the Reformed Church. And recognized Marge as playing the folding organ, my wife, because her father was her doctor. And she thought, "What are these two nuts doing on the street corner? [Shuster laughs] Must be off on some kind of religious binge." She hung around the street and the street meetings, you know, went on for two or three hours. And the next time I saw her...we didn't think then that you could get converted unless you knelt down, it didn't make any difference where. Marge was down on her knees and Marge was a society girl, and there she was on her knees with Sophie Muller and she got saved at that street meeting. She came over Tuesday and she said she didn't believe in hell and she believed in the incarnation and Marge discipled her for three months. She went off to Bible school with New Tribes [Mission], went to Colombia and the last time I was with her in Colombia (we handle all of her finances) she speaks twelve languages, I think, now. She's translated the Bible into nine of those languages. She's led thirty-five thousand Indians to the Lord and started three hundred and fifty churches and just last August she found two tribes that nobody even knew existed. And she's eighty-one years of age and still trekking the jungle.

SHUSTER: Incredible.


SHUSTER: Sounds like Malla Moe over in South Africa.

WYRTZEN: Yeah. That's really something.

SHUSTER: Did...did you ever get any opposition or heckling at these afternoon...or lunch hour...

WYRTZEN: Well...

SHUSTER: ...meetings?

WYRTZEN: ...I remember one night we were having a meeting in Brownsville. And we used to use the same stand I used to lead my dance band with. We would take it on street corners. And one night we were preaching and a Jewish girl came by, who was a Communist and an atheist and had renounced Judaism. And she had been there a couple of times before. And I remember her cupping her hands and hollering out, "Ah, go tell that stuff to Sweeney." And she turned around and stepped off the curb in front of the taxi cab and she was gone. And my one thought, "She died with the gospel ringing in her ears." But she had heard the gospel over and over again. Yeah, once in a while we...more still so South America I can remember a Catholic priest hired a bunch of drunken Indians to throw rocks at us. And we had four or five thousand people out on a big open air park meeting on a satellite [city] to Brasilia [capital city of Brazil]. And the rock was headed for Harry Bollback. He ducked and it hit a Nazarene preacher in back of him. Split his head open. That preacher was in the hospital for six months after that. So here and there, there was some of that.

SHUSTER: When you were...when you were first preaching, at the afternoon lunch meetings and street meetings, what were some of the typical reactions of people? How did they respond?

WYRTZEN: Some would mock, some would listen, some would put it off to another time. But an awful lot of people...I still meet people who say, "Remember when you preached in that street meeting? I got converted." And I think street meetings are coming back right now. I think tent meetings are coming back too. A friend of mine put up a tent and had five thousand people packing the place night after night.

SHUSTER: Who was that?

WYRTZEN: That was John MacArthur out at...near LA [Los Angeles], I've forgotten the name of the town. [Portion of interview omitted.]

SHUSTER: That's right. At the street meetings or at the afternoon meetings, meetings where you don't have a congregation to speak of, just people passing by? How did you start? How did you start...what was your typical opening to begin getting a crowd.

WYRTZEN: Well if we had a group of us, we learned all the tricks of what to do. [Shuster laughs]

WYRTZEN: First thing we'd block the sidewalk so the people coming.... And you never give a tract to someone as they are coming to the meeting, you give it to them as they leave, we learned that. And just talk know, talk about some experience or talk about somebody in history, you know, until get a crowd and then you'd gradually work into the gospel.

SHUSTER: How long would that be? I mean, how long before you would be preaching the gospel?

WYRTZEN: Well, at our street meetings in New York City when I was in the insurance business, that would go on for...well, I would take the first half hour and Brent and Ray and so on. Maybe two or three hours.


WYRTZEN: But I would only be there twenty minutes.


WYRTZEN: Maybe a full half hour. Then I would be back...we would never bother with lunch because we didn't have time for that. And those...that still goes on to this day by the way, we send thirty of our students [from Word of Life] every ten days. Right now from one of our Bible institute's at Schroon Lake we have thirty in Wall Street, riding the subways, of Time Square. And we have another....

SHUSTER: You do that every day?

WYRTZEN: No we do that every ten days

SHUSTER: Ten days, yeah.

WYRTZEN: And we send them down, they have to make up all their [pauses] schoolwork when they get back. [unclear] And then we have another team in Boston, another in Philadelphia, and we sent them to Chicago. One of our girls one night, she was right in the middle of...she got caught in the middle of a gang fight in Chicago, and one of these gangsters pulled a gun right in front of her to shoot her, and the other gangster who had [slapping sound] knocked the gun out took his arm, he said, "These people are good people, they're...leave them...leave them alone." The guy that was going to fire the shots at one of our girls [unclear] she saw him a couple nights later and got him to come in to the Pacific Garden Mission and he got saved. Sometimes love, work on...well, one of our girls picked up a twelve year old little girl who's a prostitute, and led her to the Lord midnight, Time Square on a Saturday night. So it's where the people are and that's were we'd better be, in the city....

SHUSTER: You were also leading missions to prison, in the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corp, a government agency in the 1930s and 40s] camps. How did your work in CCC camps begin?

WYRTZEN: [several words unclear] had a real effect on us in the early days that were started by Charles Alexander and Reuben Torrey, you know? We'd go well along the Skyline Drive [a 105 mile long road in Shenandoah National Park in the southeast United States] where they were building that in Virginia. [pauses] This was when I was on vacation, still in the business. And we'd pull up and meet the captain who'd be in charge, and I think that was the highest ranking officer they had.

SHUSTER: This would be an army captain?

WYRTZEN: Yeah [pauses] and that was a great idea, that was one good thing that Franklin Roosevelt did, [pauses] put people to work and [pauses] give them things to do. And then we'd tell them we'd like to have a meeting, and we'd play and sing and preach, and give out Gospels and [pauses] they'd all listen.

SHUSTER: What kind of people were in the camp?

WYRTZEN: Teenagers out of work, or dropouts from school. [pauses] And we had a lot of conversions, and that kind of helped us get going in the army camps when war came [sic] out. [pauses] Because.... I remember Camp Lee, Virginia, we had...we had a meeting in the...where the army would start out with a chapel. That packed out. We were there for a week and moved into a theater, and we were supposed to end on Thursday so that we could get back to New York for our broadcast on Mutual [Broadcasting Network] on Saturday night, and...the colonel who was in charge of the division called us in and he said, "Well, Christians," he said, "I'm going to share something with you [unclear] that nobody knows," he said, "we're shipping out Saturday morning." And they were in the Battle of the Bulge and I think half of them, about, were killed. He said, "If you stay over, we' ll have it in the boxing ring [?] and I'll bring the entire division." [pauses] And we stayed over. It was a beautiful moonlight night, and thousands of men there, hundreds of them made decisions, but our problem was how to get back to New York for Saturday night. It was during the war. We couldn't get a bus, we couldn't get a train, we couldn't get a plane, so Harry and I jumped the freight. [Shuster laughs] And we actually got all the way back to New York...

SHUSTER: A couple of hobos.

WYRTZEN: a freight car [laughs]. But we had a...crazy.

SHUSTER: What was that general's name?

WYRTZEN: I don't remember.

SHUSTER: Did...?

WYRTZEN: That was the colonel...

SHUSTER: The colonel. Sorry.

WYRTZEN: charge of the division.

SHUSTER: When did you begin visiting prison?

WYRTZEN: Back in the '30s. Bill Wiley, the first one I led to the Lord, he went to see the commissioners of prisons in New York City.

SHUSTER: Who was that?

WYRTZEN: I don't recall, and he gave us permission to do that, and so we cov...covered all seventeen prisons once a month, Saturdays and Sundays, among us, the group.

SHUSTER: Did you do seventeen prisons in the city or in the...?

WYRTZEN: New York and up at Middletown, New York at the New York City Reformatory and at Sing Sing. I remember Sing Sing...Warden [Lewis] Laws [warden at Sing Sing from 1920-1941] I think was in charge and he told us one Sunday morning when we got through, he said. "You had quite an audience this morning," he said, "You know," I think he said, "We have thirty-eight universities represented here, grads, people with Ph.Ds and M.A.s B.As and so on." And Whitney was there who was then the former president of the stock exchange and he got arrested and went there, [pauses] and that was quite a [pauses] fact, it was interesting (that was the last time I've been at Sing Sing by the way) and the next Sunday I was...or the next Friday night I was to be at Yale University sponsored by the Christian Businessmen's Committee, but we had to have a religious group on the campus sponsor, and there was some kind of religious group on the campus they told the...the businessmen that they didn't want me on the campus, they didn't think I was intellectual enough to be speaking at a university. Well, these men, Bill Somebody headed that up, they were so upset they said, "Well, we'll go ahead and have the meeting anyway." They couldn't have it on the campus but they had a great big (I think it was a Reformed) church right across the street from the campus. It must have seated twelve, thirteen hundred. These businessmen, many of them were CPAs, and executives and Yale graduates even, they put an announcement in every student's mailbox and every professor's mailbox. Well, because there was some opposition they packed the place. [Shuster laughs] And we got there to set the quartet night up. And the sexton said, "How many are expecting?" and I said, "Well, from what I'm hearing it's just going to be full." He said "Well, I hope not upstairs, nobody's been upstairs in thirty, forty years [Shuster laughs], there's thirty, forty years of dust up there." And I said, "Well you better get ready." [The sexton replied,] "Ah, forget it." It was raining, fortunately. People bring rain coats, and they had to go upstairs, but there was all this dust, and I remember putting the raincoats and you'd see some of the dust even coming off of those...[Shuster laughs] the balcony, and a lot of the professors and a lot of the students sat there with arms folded, with a chip on their shoulders, you know, and they'd [indicate] "Go ahead, show us.". And they didn't laugh at the quartets jokes or anything. So when I got up I said, "I wish you people would relax and [Shuster laughs] enjoy [unclear]", and I said "You know, you might have some people here who would be scared of a Yale University across the street." But I said, "last Sunday I spoke to a delegation of thirty-four or thirty-eight (what ever it was) university grads from the most prestigious schools across the country," I said, "even the president of the New York Stock Exchange was there," and so I said, "you know, when you've spoken to all of these, you're not scared of one." [Shuster laughs] I said, "Oh, by the way that was at Sing Sing last Sunday morning." [Shuster laughs] From now on they listened. I guess we had over a hundred come forward to get saved that night.

SHUSTER: When you went to preach in prison did you [pauses] use different texts, or how did you, how was your approach to talking to prisoners?

WYRTZEN: You just talked...brought up the Lord for them. You didn't have to talk much about sin, they knew they were sinners. Although most of them until they got saved they were sure they weren't...they were framed or something else. So you have to break through all that hypocrisy. We saw cutthroats we had...I remember Albert Dodd, he was a murderer from New Jersey. He got saved, became president of the prison Bible class, and for good behavior he got let out, and he asked to stay in another year to keep his Bible work going and he did. And then he didn't have any place to go and he came lived in our house, and [pauses] it was interesting. I said to him one day at our dinner table, with all of our kids there and our kids heard all our stuff, I said, "Albert, how did you ever commit murder? You seem like such a wonderful guy." He said, "Well my father and mother were bartenders and I was brought up in a bar, and one night I came home in August, about three or four in the morning, it was hot, and we didn't have air conditioning in the house," and he said, "I took my shot gun and went out and fell asleep on the lawn." I remember saying, "If anybody wakes me up, I'm going to kill him." And the next morning about eight o'clock their neighbor was mowing the lawn and woke him up. He took his shotgun, and killed him. [pauses] We run into so much of this, the beer gardens and the liquor people that give them the firewater make him do these things, they go scot free, like a fellow that hit us in Florida. when he was drunk....

SHUSTER: Did he hit you with the car or...?

WYRTZEN: In the car, yeah. [pauses] Wrecked the front of the car. And he tried to run away but he got caught by the police and they brought him back, [pauses] and he...he said they had a baby in the car ( a friend of mine). And he said, "Oh I hope I didn't hurt ya, I didn't mean it." Awfully nice kid. But the police arrested him, the guy that gave him the beer and the liquor that caused him to do it, [pauses] he went free. I tried to get to see him in the trial but by the time I got to the trial, he had been released, and I didn't know if...they wouldn't give me his address, so I didn't know what happened to him. But we witnessed to him that night. A lot of kids like this boy. We have every year several in our Bible school who were in jail the year before and got converted through the jail work and some of them are marvelous, marvelous people.

SHUSTER: Do you have favorite texts that you use in street preaching or in going to prisons [unclear]...?

WYRTZEN: I have four great script writers, [Shuster laughs] Matthew, Mark, Luke and John [laughs]. No, I preach all over the Bible [pauses] whatever the Holy Spirit leads. Once in a while I'll have a message that I just feel this is the message to give at the time, and I'll give it over and over again and all of a sudden it drops. [pauses] God gives me something else to preach. Like last week I spoke to twelve hundred and fifty highschool kids from a very prestigious highschool and everybody told me these kids were going to give me a hard time, and maybe that's good to know because you pray more. [Shuster laughs] You could hear a pin drop. I said to principal, "What happened?" He said, "I don't know." He said, [laughs] "I never saw these kids so quiet." But they were really right with me all the way through. So I thought, "Well, when I get a group like that, I'll use that same message. "

SHUSTER: What was the message...what was the text from?

WYRTZEN: I preached from Matthew 7 and Matthew 9, preached on the broad way to hell and the narrow way to Heaven. I said "The majority are on the broad way to hell. Jesus says there are many...only a handful, a little minority, are on the narrow way to Heaven. But then you go to the ninth chapter of John and Jesus said the laborers are few, so that's a few of the few." And then I remember telling about...oh, I told them the story about Lale [?], who was a professional athlete in Buenos Aires. He was engaged to marry the beauty queen, he was a professional stock car racer, and Joe Jordan (who headed up our work in Argentina), he led him to the Lord. He went and he got a hold of his sprinting companion and led him to the Lord. He now is co-director of our work in Chile. They got a hold of another fellow who was a clown in the Barnum and Bailey Circus and he had a master's degree and they led him to the Lord. He's co-director of our work in Chile now. Told them about Manolo [?]. When we raided all the night clubs in Buenos Aires a city of millions of people, Manolo [?] was running a night club called the...[pauses] (what did they call it?) Devil's Cave. And he ran the psychedelic lights and all the rock music and all, and he got converted, Joe Jordan gave him a New Testament. Four days later he came, "Man," he said, "this is a great book. I finished it. Do you got any more?" Joe said, "Well, I got an Old Testament." He said, "Good I don't care how old it is!" [Shuster laughs] I mean... Then in about three or four months, he finished that, came to our Bible school. He heads up our work in Colombia. He got a hold of a fellow named Rieves [?] and came and worked with him, and Rieves [?] got converted and went to our Bible school, and he was killed by the terrorists in our Bible school in Colombia. The kids just listened. And then I told them about Lale [?] and Hermitch [?]. She was a witch and they got converted to our work and now heads up all of our work, and he had hair down below his hips and he was into all kinds of drugs and so on. But from a rather well to do home. She heads up all of our work in Mexico today. I just told about how if one gets saved it leads to another, another, another, and the exploits that they do.

SHUSTER: The stories of people and the way God uses them.

WYRTZEN: Yeah, I told him...I said, "Here's a few of the many that gets saved, " and I said, "God, I want to be a few of the few that laboreth." They gave me forty-five minutes to preach to them and the kids liked it. And responded. Boy, we had a lot of decisions!

SHUSTER: You mentioned a while ago how when you were...when Word of Life had a radio program, there were maybe four or five Christians, four or five evangelists being heard nationwide...


SHUSTER: ...yourself and Charles Fuller and some others. What in general was this atmosphere like in New York and New England, about that time in the '30s and '40s. What kind of environment were you working in?

WYRTZEN: [pauses] Well, a rough and tumble world, a lot like today, a lot of crookedness on Wall Street, Whitney being arrested and a lot of others. But from one of our street meetings came a Mortimer Bowen [?] who was then the executive vice president of Standard Oil and he liked what I said and he came one day to me and he said, "How about speaking to the Christian Businessman's Committee?" They were just starting CBMC. The present chairman of the board was saved on The Word of Life Hour, and also the chairman of the board and the president... were saved on The Hour and I was just with him last week. And Mortimer Bowen had me speak twice for CBMC, and the third time he invited me I said, I can't come." I said, "I only got two sermons." [Shuster laughs] I said, "I'm a business man," and I said, "You've heard both of them." So he said, "I want to have lunch with you." So I had lunch up in his executive offices, and he said, "You've got the gift of an evangelist." I said, "I got what?" [Shuster laughs] He said, "You're going to be on radio." I said, "Mr. Bowen [?] the only evangelist I've ever heard of was Moody, and Billy Sunday. I'm sure not one of those fellows, so I'm not an evangelist. I'm a business man. I'm going to stay on the insurance business." (This was after about eight years in the insurance business.) "And I don't have any money to buy radio time. And I've never been in a radio studio in my life. I wouldn't know how to run one, so I don't want to do that." About a week later, he said, "Hey, you're beginning on radio [Shuster laughs] next week, the morning 8:00-8:30." I said, "Well, I don't have any money." He said, "I'm paying for it the whole year." "Oh," I said, "that's a dirty trick. [Shuster laughs] I wouldn't know what.... Mr Bowen [?], I don't know what I'd do." He said, "Well, God'll help you." We called our gang together. We had a lot of prayer about that. And we had brass quartet. Ruth Eliot (who is now Ruth Narramore, Clyde Narramore's wife) she was in that group and [unclear] was our soloist, and we had a girls' trio and Ruth Narramore sang in that too and somehow caught on, I don't know how or why, but it did. But a year later the station went bankrupt. And I remember one day we made several mistakes, it was terrible. I went in to see the manager. He said, "Well, don't worry about it," he said, " it keeps you humble when you make mistakes." [Shuster laughs] "And it shows the audience we're human," and said, "Furthermore nobody listens to this station anyways, so what's the difference." [Shuster laughs] So we went off to the end of that year. In the meantime, I had quit my job at the insurance business. And I was not without a radio broadcast, [pauses] so we got the bright idea we'd go on WHN, which was the sports station in New York City, and I went in to see Mr. Petty and Mr. Petty said..."Forget it," he said, "We don't have any...we don't want any religion." This was a station formerly owned by Calvary Baptist in New York City. They were the only ones on because they sold it with the understanding they'd get for ten years one hour on Sunday mornings. It's worth millions of dollars now, but they didn't know it then. [laughs] And, well, I had written a letter in, and I didn't get any answers so I went to see him. In the meantime Marty Glickman, who was a football player at Syracuse University, he came to be one of the sports announcers. And he was selling time for our station, and he found my letter, not knowing that Mr. Petty, the president of the station, had turned me down, and he was working for Burt Lee who was the sports manager and sales manager. Then he showed him the letter, and he said, "Well, why don't you go after him?" So he took me off to Walgreens and we had a malted together. He gave me a contract for thirteen weeks on Saturday nights on WHN to broadcast live from Time Square. Well, Mr. Petty heard about it. He was furious. And he called me up and he said, "How dare you?" And I said, "No, I didn't...I didn't undercut you, but he came to me." "Well," he said, "I'm putting a clause in the contract. You've got to have half the money," (that was three or four hundred dollars a week) "before the first broadcast for half of thirteen weeks." Wow, we just...I don't know how that money ever came in, but our guys, we got it all together, and we paid for it, then we went on in Time Square. And maybe had two or three hundred the first night. In four months time we had over a thousand, and Billy Graham used to come and speak often at those rallies, and he was with Youth For Christ, which was just on the up then. Then we moved into Carnegie Hall and we had three thousand inside and three thousand outside. We moved into Madison Square Garden where we've been many times, and we had twenty thousand inside and ten thousand in the street, according to the New York Times. Then we went to, on the rainy day, in the Yankee Stadium, we had forty thousand on a rainy day. Then it was Boston Garden, filled that and the Convention Hall. And that went around the world, so now we're on all six continents.

SHUSTER: Now the people who came to the meetings, did you have some kind of system from bringing people in from churches? Were they just people off the street? Where did the crowds come from?

WYRTZEN: Well, we had a boat ride on the Hudson River Day Line, we had over three thousand on that boat [pauses] and we just announced that we were going to have rallies in Time Square. We didn't have any committees, [pauses] or anything. We just started out. Bob, after that first rally at Madison Square Garden, we met Dawson Trotman of the Navigators and he wasn't impressed at all. He was a man's man. He came to live at my house a couple weeks, "What are you doing for follow-up?" We weren't doing anything, we didn't know anything about that, and he spent a couple weeks just showing us how to do follow-up work and he was a great blessing and of course with the Navigators we're very close even to this day.

SHUSTER: Were you working with pastors of believing churches at all to...?

WYRTZEN: Yeah, I was preaching at a lot of the churches, and during the war some of the pastors became chaplains, and I'd fill in for them and.... So we had a lot of friends.

SHUSTER: So did their young people come in then....


SHUSTER: ...for these Saturday night rallies?

WYRTZEN: I guess a lot of young people, that was their date Saturday night. And we started a Bible institute. One o'clock in the afternoon, those kids would be there from one o'clock Saturday afternoon till ten-thirty, eleven o'clock Saturday night. We had eight hundred kids in the Bible institute. That would go till five, five-thirty, then we'd load them up, with tickets to go into Time Square and invite people in. They'd grab a sandwich at the Horn and Hardart [an automated restaurant], five-and-dime restaurant and give out the tickets. And we'd have two hundred and fifty seats that were just for servicemen and we'd fill it with [coughs] a thousand guys in uniform, and the place would be packed. And Clyde Narramore, he was then in the Navy, and he...he conducted inquiry room [where people who came forward to learn more about Christ were counseled]. Then the Navs who were in New York and [name unclear] of the Navigators, he did a lot of work with us. And I remember one January, bitter cold night, after the broadcast, I'd speak on the program, and then Paul Fleming who was then New Tribes [Mission] was speaker. And I walked in to get my overcoat on in the closet, and here were these three naval officers - Jim Truxton, Jim Bayers [?], and Clarence Soderburg. They were getting into their uniforms. They were at [unclear] airport. I overheard one of them say, "I made up my mind tonight, that if God keeps me alive, I'm going to fly missionaries to the ends of the earth." So I looked at Soderburg, and I said, "So what about you, Sodi?" (I had known him because they were in every Saturday night that they were in port) and he said, "Yeah it's alright for them, but I'm married, and I don't think my wife as a nurse would like that idea." So the four of us got down on our knees [pauses] and you know there were so many being shot down that the odds were that they wouldn't even live through the war. But they all promised the Lord, that they would. We didn't know that that night we started Mission Aviation Fellowship. It was just a prayer meeting. But then the war ended about a year later. And they have flown me all over the world.

SHUSTER: Now Jim Truxton was the one who gave us [the Billy Graham Center Archives] MAF's records and is our contact person....

WYRTZEN: Yeah, great guy. Old Trux. And Sodi, he went to Africa. And Trux went to Brazil and Bayers [?] went to Brazil. And I think Jim Bayers was the first one to fly for the independent Presbyterian Churches of Brazil. They were a great bunch, still are.

SHUSTER: you were saying there wasn't any organization for bringing people into a meeting...


SHUSTER: just announced it....

WYRTZEN: And the pastors would come with their kids, and they would go in the inquiry room and follow them.

SHUSTER: Did it ever create problems because you're not knowing whether you'd have a large crowd or a small crowd, or how much space you were going to need?

WYRTZEN: We never even thought of it. [Shuster laughs] The kids just piled in. I mean, there must have been night, I am sure there were, but most of the time they were standing along the sides, we even got permission from the gospel Tabernacle to put the chairs in the baptistry on the side and to put some lights in there. And then there was a side room, and they put some doors in there, and that could open up into the auditorium.

SHUSTER: Did you preach differently to a crowd of twenty thousand than you would on a street corner? I mean were there...was your sermon different or your approach different?

WYRTZEN: No, the only thing different then was the radio. Every word had to be written out ahead, and sent to the Mutual Network or WHN. Everything had to be in script. Now....

SHUSTER: They censored everything?

WYRTZEN: Oh yeah, [pauses] yeah. I remember one night we referred to homosexuality and they made me take that out of the script. I remember one time saying, "Wine, women and song, eat, drink, and be merry,"and they made me take them out of the script.

SHUSTER: And why did they make you take that out?

WYRTZEN: They thought that wasn't nice to say on the air. Now, [laughs] wow, what a difference. Now we don't have to use script either. In fact, I remember one of our board members when we went into the first Madison Square Garden, who took me out to lunch. His name was Hank Willis [?] and he was with Western Electric. He said, "As you plan for Madison Square Garden, do the same thing you do at the tabernacle with a thousand teenagers. Don't change it, just...just keep it simple." And we had all these...we always had a lot of testimonies, and the war was on and we had a lot of military personnel. [pauses] Now the head of the Navigators, was then a lieutenant in the Navy...Jim...something or other. He gave his testimony, that was all written out, they had a colonel. We had a lot of war heros. And then two days before they hear from the War Department that they would not allow any of these Army, or Navy, or Air Force personnel to appear. Wow, that really upset us...and then my....

SHUSTER: Why wouldn't they allow it?

WYRTZEN: Well, just for starters they didn't want to get into anything religious. And Phil Benson [?], who was then the president of the [unclear] Savings Bank, called me up, and wanted to know how everything was going, and I said, "Everything's going in reverse," I said. [Shuster laughs] My daughter Betsy (who became my daughter Betsy), she was two weeks overdue and we were concerned about that. Don Mortson [?] was a little boy then, he had a hundred and four fever, "And now," I said, "Phil, everything is...." I said, "William Ward Ayer last Sunday preached this sermon against the rally." He later became one of my very close friends. He said, "Everything's going to be alright." [scraping noises in the background] He said, "Well, don't you know anyone in Washington?" I said, "I don't know a soul in Washington." [shuffling noises in background] He said, "Well, if God be for us, what do we care who's against us, God will work it out." I said, "But it's all in script, it's all been cleared." So a couple hours later he called me up. He said, "Well I remembered an admiral friend of mine who's a Christian and I called him. You'll be hearing from somebody. Couple hours later we heard from some major or colonel and he said, "There was a mistake made yesterday, and all the military personnel will be able to come." Oh, [Shuster laughs] we got down on our knees the whole bunch of us, and we said, "Lord we've had enough opposition," and William Ward Ayer had said nobody would be there and it would be a disgrace, and there were twenty thousand who came, and ten thousand in the street. It was funny, when the bar saw these ten thousand people, they were calling more bartenders [Shuster laughs] to help relieve them. The New York Times remarked on that, "Bartenders Out of Work." [laughs]. But we had hundreds and hundreds saved that night, I think there were over a thousand, in Yankee Stadium alone.

SHUSTER: Now it's interesting what you said about William Ward Ayer because in the books you lent me, it mentioned they were some seasoned...what were called "some seasoned churchmen" that were opposed to the rallies.

WYRTZEN: He was one of them.

SHUSTER: Why was that?

WYRTZEN: He was saved through Billy Sunday. He thought the day of mass evangelism was over with. And I wasn't feeling well the Sunday before, and I listened to him, and he was so good and was so factual on why this wouldn't work that I called Carlton Booth, who was then our soloist up in Providence Bible Institute, and I said, "Carl, we're into this. I don't see how we're going to get out of this, but I think Dr. Ayer's right, this thing's going to be a disgrace. And [Shuster laughs] Carl said, "I want to give you a verse." And he gave me Jeremiah 29:11 from the Rotham translation: "I know the plans I'm planning for you, they're plans of blessing and not of calamity to give you a future and a hope." He said, "Let's claim it." And he said, "We can't go back, and we've already paid our deposit on the Garden." So...okay, and that night so many wonderful things happened.

SHUSTER: What were the reasons why he thought mass evangelism was over?

WYRTZEN: [pauses] Well, young people's meetings up until Percy Crawford came along, they were usually, well a little off room in the side of the church. And...I remember all...all he did say it but.... And then of course the liberals, [Harry Emerson] Fosdick was against it and Darnell [?], the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church was against it, and they all thought... I mean, Norman Vincent Peale was against it.

SHUSTER: What reasons did they give for being against it?

WYRTZEN: Well, Norman Vincent Peale, I led two of his youth leaders to Christ. And I lead his song leader to the Lord, and they all left him. And they all said we were dividing churches. Kids would get saved and get out of their liberal churches like I did, and so they [pauses]...they didn't like it at all. But then afterward William Ward Ayer apologized and he was thrilled that he was wrong, as I've had to do to people too [Shuster laughs] and say, "Hey you were right, buddy."

SHUSTER: Have you seen changes in the way that youth rallies run from the 1940s to the present? I mean are there different methods or philosophies that you've observed or are they still very similar?

WYRTZEN: Well, I think the old Youth for Christ Rallies (and that's what we would call ours in the beginning, "Youth for Christ"), it was strange. We started Young Men for Christ, Chi Beta Alpha fraternity, Christians born again. And it was Young Men for Christ. I'll take you up for dinner at the dining room today and I'll show you a picture, and it says, "Young Men for Christ, winning young people, something like that. Well, then when the girls came along.... We were very anti-women. We had to be all men, we thought [Shuster laughs]. Then when we all fell in love. When the girls came along, it was clear that we had to get a better name, so we called it Youth for Christ, and that's how the name Youth for Christ started. But, yeah, I think those rallies would go just as well today. It was a shame they quit. They didn't all quit. Fellow out in Kansas City, he still has a great Youth for Christ rally going. It's independent. I think Youth for Christ have had some splits. A fellow up in Buffalo started Youth Time, I think. Allan Forbes. John DeForbes [?] started Youthcast or something like that up in Boston. So there's still a lot of that type of rally pretty going and it's still going well.

SHUSTER: And are there similar to meetings back then or have they changed in some way?

WYRTZEN: No, I don't think they've changed any. Now I think there's some of our...our meetings, I think that there were some youth leaders who used to criticize and say, "Hey, Wyrtzen, you got up there and preached for one hour on hell. That goes back to Moody and Billy Sunday's day." But maybe we came up with something unique, because we were getting.... [Brief gap in tape] I guess because we didn't go into the new Christian rock music and this sort of thing, we got a lot of criticism and the fact that I would stand up and preach for an hour on maybe on hell, one night, heaven another night, second coming of Christ another night. And we were getting huge crowds, so we decided, "Why change? We...we get the crowds you know." And then I went out all over the country speaking at Youth for Christ rallies, from one end of the land to the other.

SHUSTER: Now when Youth for Christ started, were you very closely associated with the beginnings of YFC, of... the organization of Youth for Christ?

WYRTZEN: You see, Bev Shea, Percy Crawford and I recommended to Will Houghton, who was then the president of Moody Bible Institute, that.... George Beverly Shea had a beautiful voice, and he would make a great announcer. He used to announce for us and sing and so Bill Houghton got Bev Shea to come to WMBI in Chicago and then Bev would come in maybe once a month and bring out Bev Shea...and, well, we can look back and laugh about this now but Bev Shea, he used to go to some prisons with us and I remember when he played the trombone, and I preached at the Wesley Methodist Church for his father. And it was a country church and he got a fire engine gong [?] and he hit that for a bell and...and he'd go to the street meetings with me and rescue missions, county jails a couple times. And he sang at my first wedding, and again, Uncle Chester, he said, "Like some street singer?" [Shuster laughs]. Then when Bev Shea was out in Chicago and he came in and we were talking about Madison Square Garden. In fact I think he sang at the first Madison Square Garden rally. And...Carlton Booth could lead sing, preach, and had a beautiful voice, tenor. And he and Bev were very close friends, both of them worked with us, and.... But we recommended Bev to go to WMBI. Then he came in he talked about the rallies, and then he got ready to do this in Chicago. And he got a hold of Torrey Johnson, and I think Torrey got a hold of Billy Graham and Bob Cook and those guys. And then Billy was pastoring, I think it was Western Springs church was it? Baptist church was it? Anyway it was in Western Springs. And there used to be a very nice restaurant called the Spinning Wheel in Western Springs. And I went out two or three times at men's banquets that Billy would have and then I got the idea....

SHUSTER: Now is this the first time you met Graham when you were going out to his meetings in '44 or '43, '44?

WYRTZEN: I don't remember. I think Billy came in and spoke at some of the early rallies at the Tabernacle in Time Square. But I think it was mainly for Bev Shea. Bev got to know him and they started Songs in the Night [a radio program], and Bev was the soloist, and [coughs] I think Billy started that or Torrey Johnson wanted to and got Billy to do it. And so that was our association there. And then when they started Youth for Christ, they wanted me to be the president of it. But they were not willing to take a strong doctrinal...again my Plymouth background. [laughs] And we wanted the "security of the believer" and tongues [speaking in tongues or Pentecostalism] out, and "coming to the Lord," pre-trib rapture position, real old fashioned stuff.

SHUSTER: Now when you say "tongues out," you mean....

WYRTZEN: We mean....

SHUSTER: Non-charismatic or non- Pentecostal?

WYRTZEN: Yes. They wanted to broaden out. They didn't have the word ecumenical then, but that's what it was.

SHUSTER: So you wanted a definite doctrinal statement....


SHUSTER: For all the clubs.

WYRTZEN: Real strong one as we have even today. [pauses] So then when there was a lot of discussion on this after Youth for Christ got rolling, in fact they invited me to come out to Soldier Field [stadium in Chicago, where one of the first large YFC rallies was held] and speak, and all but, I never left our Saturday night rally in New York. I was invited by Youth for Christ to the Orange Bowl [stadium in Miami, Florida], but during the week I'd go out and speak for them. For the first big rally they had it in Orchestra Hall or maybe Soldier Field, one of them (Torrey Johnson would know, he's still alive out in Wheaton)...I sent them [pauses] Bill Benson, president of the [unclear] Savings Bank in...and several other executives that I worked with to give testimony and I could remember saying to them, "Be very careful of your timing because it's in script and you can get loused up and you'll be on the radio," and they were but I didn't go. [pauses] But that's how...the way it started with Youth for Christ. And I could remember when CBMC they were having an international convention in New York City. And they wanted Torrey Johnson to present his side of what we call "ecumenical evangelism" today, and I would present my side.

SHUSTER: Approximately when was...when was that?

WYRTZEN: About '46 maybe. And Billy Graham was in the audience that morning, and the [pauses]...the three of us went out to Barnum and Bailey circus that afternoon. I don't think we saw one act. [Shuster laughs] I think all we did was discuss, for three hours, how to do evangelism. I guess Torrey was a better debater, because Billy went with him. [laughs]

SHUSTER: it you felt that...[pauses] you were against starting an organization or you were against starting an organization that didn't have a strong doctrinal stand?

WYRTZEN: Yeah, that was the main thing.

SHUSTER: Let me read you something. This is a quote from the...


SHUSTER: you sent me, God Hath Chosen by Forest Forbes, which is about the early Word of Life and it's talking about you. It says, "He sincerely feels that an extra-scriptural national youth organization, like an overall [unclear] church federation, carries more liabilities than its well argued advantages. He feels the youth revival that has swept across the nation, primarily because it has from the beginning transcended denominational lines. He says the gospel message should not be hampered by any human administrative barriers, and places complete confidence in the administration and leadership of the Holy Spirit." Now it sounded to me a little bit like that might be referring to Youth for Christ movement. Is that...

WYRTZEN: Yeah...

SHUSTER: ...correct or....

WYRTZEN: I had made quite a study around that time of the Student Volunteers Movement. You know, and saw how they started compromising and broadening out. And I warned them in fact the second year they invited me....

SHUSTER: You warned the Youth for Christ people?

WYRTZEN: Yeah, that...not to get too hidebound, and I...I really I don't think they ever did. I think they were rather loosely organization...knit organization[sic]. Every area was separate, by themselves. But we've seen Christian Endeavor [a youth movement] come and go, we've seen the Student Volunteer Movement that went before we were even alive, but they were a huge movements. I mean...I think Youth for...[pauses] Student Volunteers...I think there were three thousand missionaries at one time. Now it's extinct. Yeah, I just warned InterVarsity Fellowship that they ought to rethink Student Volunteer movement, lest they go that way.

SHUSTER: And you think the main reason for them becoming extinct is, what?

WYRTZEN: Well, Dave Howard wrote a book about this and he shows how when they started compromising and broadening out, broadening out, broadening out, 'til they got more and more...them playing back there even with the Catholics and the liberals and so on.

SHUSTER: mentioned that they had, Youth for Christ had offered you the presidency...


SHUSTER: ...of YFC. When was...when was that?

WYRTZEN: The first year that they organized at Winona Lake [1944].

SHUSTER: At the conference grounds there.

WYRTZEN: Uh-huh.

SHUSTER: But you hadn't been at that meeting?

WYRTZEN: Nope, I didn't go. [Shuster laughs] Quite independent. I mean there's a lot of my very good friends [clears throat] but I just felt that we had enough to do.

SHUSTER: Let me ask you about that...that's something else that I wonder about you have often taken a different position as far as ecumenical evangelism...

WYRTZEN: Uh-huh.

SHUSTER: ...than other people like Graham and Youth for Christ and others, but...your personal relations remain very good...

WYRTZEN: Uh-huh.

SHUSTER: ...and you're often able to cooperate on various projects or activities. In other cases [pauses] with Graham, with fundamentalists, and with...there's strong criticism there also seems to be...splits in personal relations and almost hostility developing. Why do you think that you have been more able to maintain fellowship with people who...disagree with you?

WYRTZEN: Well, in the first place the Lord said, "Hereby shall all men know that you are my disciples, you have love one to another." [John 12:35] And two years ago when Bev Shea had his eighty-eighth birthday I was of the surprise guests and Billy was there and Bev and all. And often...every so often I'd run into Billy and he'd throw his arms around me and we'd hug one another. And I think you can have strong differences when it comes to cooperation and still have strong love for one another. I mean, I prayed for Billy regularly and I correspond often with Cliff Barrows. By the way do you know how his wife is now, she has cancer you know.

SHUSTER: I hadn't heard of that until recently.

WYRTZEN: And he's had some real physical problems. And we keep in touch with one another. When my son David gave some messages on the book of Proverbs on the air, Cliff Barrows heard him and he wrote me and said he needed copies so he could send them to all his kids. And...Bev Shea and I spent a whole....I remember one morning out in Western Springs spending a whole morning together and just having a good time of fellowship and the day after his birthday celebration we spent most of the day in Washington together with his wife and my wife, talking of old times. And I think you can...can have strong differences and yet have strong love for people.

SHUSTER: Another group that I read about in some of the material that had criticized you and that was particularly opposed to the Time Square rallies and the Madison Square Garden rallies etc. was the communist party in New York. They picketed your meetings and accused you of ties with Gerald Smith. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

WYRTZEN: Yeah, I remember they did, but the Lord just took care of it.

SHUSTER: Why were they picketing you? What were their...what was their stated basis of opposition?

WYRTZEN: Yeah, it was just because I was very anti-communist. And then I could remember also when Elvis Presley's booking agent...he wanted to bring Presley in to one of our rallies and have him sit there in Time Square with a hymn book in his hand for publicity's sake. I said, "Hey, I'll come and meet with him alone anyways and talk about the Lord." As we did with Elvis like that...Tiny Tim. Remember that he accepted the Lord. I believe that Tiny really got saved too. But Elvis Presley, that was just the publicity, and we refused to let him do that.

SHUSTER: In '56 or '57 that was?


SHUSTER: With the communist opposition now...had anti-communism been a theme in of your sermons or...?

WYRTZEN: Yeah, you see...when Graham had his first crusade out on the west coast in California.

SHUSTER: In 1949.

WYRTZEN: First they [the Christ for Greater Los Angeles committee] invited Percy Crawford to do that meeting and Percy couldn't do it and he suggested me. I was too busy to do it, and then Graham who was just starting in, I think, as a Youth for Christ evangelist, and they got him. And then when Stuart Hamblen and some of those guys got converted, they sent out the word, [William Randolph] Hearst did, "Puff Graham." And also "Puff Youth for Christ" Well, we were Youth for Christ in New York City. The next thing I know, the Hearst paper the Journal American was sending every Saturday night to the rallies. And then I was really glad we had to give it in script, because they would take my script for the Mutual Broadcasting Network and they would publish it Sunday in the newspaper. And they would come, they would take pictures of Carnegie Hall rallies, of Madison Square Garden rallies. And we got along fine, oh, for a long while, with Hearst until they wanted me to preach a sermon a lot of the newspapers - New York Post, New York News - and some of the pornography on the newsstands. So I said....

SHUSTER: You said, "they." Who wanted you to...?

WYRTZEN: Hearst papers, New York Journal American.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

WYRTZEN: I said, "Now wait a minute. We'll have to start.... Are you going to clean up your paper?" I said, "Good night, the Journal American, you have girlie pictures all over the thing and I am not going to have you publishing my sermons in Journal American against this. I'd be a hypocrite if I left your newspaper out and started talking about the other newspapers." Well, they cut me off like that. They're out of business now anyway, so.... [laughs]

SHUSTER: But it was because of Hearst publishing your sermons that the Communists picketed you?

WYRTZEN: Yeah, uh-huh. You know communism was very, very bad. That was back in Stalin's regime. But I just hear now from Dr. James Dobson that he was with a lady who was terribly persecuted under Gubachev...or....

SHUSTER: [Former head of the communist part in the former Soviet Union Mikhail] Gorbachev.

WYRTZEN: Gorbachev. And she thinks that he was very bad. Did you read that in his latest letter?


WYRTZEN: They even tried to see how much pain she could take by drilling her teeth without any novocaine. And that was when he was head of the KGB. She went on to tell about some of the terrible things. And of course the other night on television, he said, "I am an atheist." And I think he's still a devoted Communist, playing us for all he can. And that's what Dobson mentioned too. And then [Russian president Boris] Yeltsin said he goes to church once a month, which gives him a good feeling.

SHUSTER: Nothing very definite.

WYRTZEN: No, nothing very definite. So, we don't know. We just sent thirty-five tons of Bibles into Russia. We're building a camp over there, we're building a Bible institute there right now. We're sending a lot of money behind the Iron Curtain [phrase indicating the border Western and Communist countries]. Paul said, "When they say peace and safety, then cometh sudden destruction." [I Thessalonians 5:3] And so we're aware of the fact...I was running down this morning some of the places that we needed leadership in right now in Russia. And we just had sixteen Russians graduate from our Bible institute. They're working with us. Hungary - we have a big castle in Hungary and this is our second year at [unclear] castle and that is going very well. We have just been invited into Bulgaria. And Romania, a big [unclear], we have two castles in Germany. We're in Italy. It looks like we will be in every country in Europe within the next couple of years. So we're asking the Lord to give us eleven...give us a hundred top notch youth specialists that have our wavelength.

SHUSTER: So there will be camps in all of these countries?

WYRTZEN: Conference centers, yeah. And Bible institute. It looks like Hungary will be our sixteenth and Russia will be our seventeenth.


WYRTZEN: One of our guys has just been over and he preached eight nights to ten thousand people a night in the open air. That was Earl Poysti. Then up in Siberia where his sister died of starvation years ago, his mother was taken. And he went into the very jails where [Russian Evangelical leader] Georgi Vins had been taken captive. And now the general invited Georgi Vins to come back and preach.

SHUSTER: How do you spell his name? Not Georgi Vins but the other man you mentioned just now?

WYRTZEN: Earl Poysti. He and I went in in 1962. We tried to smuggle a few Bibles in and got caught. Big fuss about that.

SHUSTER: That was into the Soviet Union?

WYRTZEN: Yeah. Now, imagine, we take thirty-five tons at once in. [When we] Get at the border, [the guards say]: "Yeah, sure, come in. May we have a Bible?"

SHUSTER: Amazing. How do you spell his last name?

WYRTZEN: Poysti. Earl Poysti. And he went with me on '62. And he has been on the radio. Word of Life is called [Russian term] in the Russian. And he said to ten thousand people one night in Kiev, "How many people listen to [Word of Life]?" Ten thousand hands went up. I couldn't believe it. All these years, no mail. Now he's got so much mail he doesn't know where to go with it. Can't get enough workers to work with him.

SHUSTER: Yeah, it's like Elisha being hidden for so many and then preaching to thousands.


SHUSTER: What do you...we talked a little bit about the picketing of the communists. Now why had they accused you of this tie to Gerald Smith?

WYRTZEN: I don't remember.

SHUSTER: It was just an accusation they made?

WYRTZEN: After I went to Russia and Hungary and Poland, these places.... For instance, in Poland, some of the old pastors in '62 told me that they would have more liberty under the Communists than they would under the Catholics. And they call Catholicism there the cult of Mary. And they would not even allow the Evangelicals to bury their dead. They had to sneak out at night and bury them in the yard. And so I thought, "Well, I don't have time to fight any of these things. You know if it comes up, I would mention Catholicism or Communism. But we had a bigger job than that, proclaiming the gospel. While we never went along with Communism by any means.


WYRTZEN: And when we moved in strongly into Hungary, they accused us of being KGB...I mean CIA [Central intelligence Agency, a US government agency]


WYRTZEN: All kind of connections. Then a lot of the Brethren in America said we were compromising with the Communists. Well, we weren't compromising with them at all. I mean, they didn't like us.


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