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Collection 470- Sadie Custer. T1 Transcript

Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview. (65 minutes)

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Sadie Custer (CN 470, T1) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center.  No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers.  Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics.  In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished.  If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question.  If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted.  Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted.  The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing. 

 

Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.

 

  ...       Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.

 

  ....      Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.

 

 (  )       Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.

 

 [ ]        Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.

 

This transcript was made by Noel Collins Pfeifer and was completed in February 2010.  

 



CUSTER: [unknown] ...me with

 

SHUSTER: Well, an evangelist needs that.

 

CUSTER: Well, here...even here I’ve done quite a bit of Bible class work in the Senior Citizens’ homes and they all say, “We enjoy you so much because we can hear you.” [chuckles] I have to say I’m the only one who can hear our prayer meetings over here.

 

SHUSTER: Well, “How can they believe if they have not heard?” [cf. Romans 10:17].  This is an interview with Miss Sadie Custer by Robert Shuster for the Archives of the Billy Graham Center.  This interview took place on December 12, 1992 at 9:20...what did I say?

 

CUSTER: December 10th...you said 12th.

 

SHUSTER: December 10th, 1992 at 9:20 am at 627 Brother Drive in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Ms. Custer, why don’t we start with some of your family background.  What were your parents’ names?

 

CUSTER: Benjamin and Sadie Custer.

 

SHUSTER: So, you’re named after you mother?

 

CUSTER: After my mom. 

 

SHUSTER: And what was her maiden name?

 

CUSTER: Disser...D-I-S-S-E-R.

 

SHUSTER: What were the earliest things you remember as a child?  What are your first...very first memories?

 

CUSTER: Well, I guess one of the earliest things I remember is when we had a terrible fire and lost everything when I was just a little girl.

 

SHUSTER: How did that happen?

 

CUSTER: My father’s a farmer and he had brought all the grain under an old fashioned threshing machine and the spot from the engine into the barn and he woke up at midnight and everything went. 

 

SHUSTER: So you lost the crop as well?

 

CUSTER: Our crop, our whole harvest, all our cows, all our pigs, all of the tools, the machinery, everything went.  Then the next morning my father sat at the table with his eight children and said, “The Lord hath given, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Nobody got hurt.  That’s my heritage.

 

SHUSTER: Your father was a Christian?

 

CUSTER: Yes.

 

SHUSTER: How would you describe him?  What words come to mind when you think of your father?

 

CUSTER: He was an...he never went to school, only until second grade, but he taught himself through reading the newspaper mostly, I think.  And was really well educated, he could talk on anything.  He loved the Lord, read the Bible, read it to us.  He embraced it.

 

SHUSTER: Were you close with him?

 

CUSTER: Yes. Yes and no.  I mean I daresay I don’t think that people weren’t quite the same as they are today.  But....

 

SHUSTER: In what way?

 

CUSTER: They were...we were whole a very close family..as a family.  In the busiest of times, in the middle of harvest, we’d still take time out after dinner for a ball game because we had enough kids to. [chuckles] And the neighbors all came.  And mother always sat down on the porch with a big basket of socks and darned socks and watched, even in harvest time.

 

SHUSTER: What...what was your mother like? How would you describe her?

 

CUSTER: Very content, very happy.  I never once heard her complain. 

 

SHUSTER: What about her other characteristics?

 

CUSTER: She wasn’t a real outgoing person.  I can say is that we were a very close family, everything done within the family.

 

SHUSTER: What was it...what were you like growing up in such a large, close....

 

CUSTER: [interrupts] Great.

 

SHUSTER: Farm family.  Great in what way?

 

CUSTER: I was just one of the....  The other...the....  We didn’t have anything, we were poor as church mice. We got an orange for Christmas, that was our Christmas present period.  And we never got...I never had a new dress until I was twelve years old, always hand me downs.  But we were a happy family, we had each other.  And I found close to coming home after being on the mission field forty years, I don’t find any contented people nowadays.

 

SHUSTER: Why do you think that is?

 

CUSTER: I don’t know.  They just all looking for food.  I think it was just that as a family, my father read the Bible to us three times a day and we did everything together as a family and very happy as a family.

 

SHUSTER: You mentioned you had eight brothers and sisters, is that right?

 

CUSTER: Seven brothers and sisters

 

SHUSTER: Seven.

 

CUSTER: Eight of us together.

 

SHUSTER: How many boys and how many girls? 

 

CUSTER: Four boys and four girls.  My father said every Sunday, “My [unclear] were tailor made; a boy and a girl and a boy and girl and a boy and a girl and a boy and a girl all two years apart.

 

SHUSTER: And where did you fit?

 

CUSTER: Number six.

 

SHUSTER: Number six, so you’re one of youngest.  What did you like to do as a child?  What were things that were important to you growing up?

 

CUSTER: I was my dad’s girl.  I was always out in the field with him.  My two older sisters that helped my mother in the house but I was always with my dad outside.  I liked being outside. 

 

SHUSTER: Did you want to be a farmer or what did you think of...?

 

CUSTER: [interrupts] I really wanted to be a bookkeeper, I love math.  But there was no high school where we lived so I never got to go to high school.  My father didn’t let us live away from home but the Lord was in that because if God had done that I probably never would have gone to the mission field. 

 

SHUSTER: Why do you say that?

CUSTER: Because I love math, I would have gone into business if I’d had a chance.

 

SHUSTER: So, where did you go to school? How...how...how did your schooling go?

 

 

CUSTER: Well, we had through the tenth grade where we were and we did that.  And after that [unclear], I went to Moody for three years then I went out to China.

 

SHUSTER: What did you think of school?  Was it important part of your life?

 

CUSTER: Yes, Moody was very definitely important part.

 

SHUSTER: But I mean the elementary and the high school.

 

CUSTER: It was just something we did.

 

SHUSTER: It was something where you didn’t care much one way or the other?

 

CUSTER: No.

 

SHUSTER: Where did you pick up your love of math then if not at the school?

 

CUSTER: I don’t know I guess I was just born with it, I guess.  My mom and dad (when I was in my early teens) my dad was a dairy farmer and my mother decided that she could make more money on chickens and dad didn’t believe it.  So, to prove it, he bought, I don’t remember now if it was five hundred or a thousand baby chicks.  Mom sold those and dad did and I kept the book for them.  And I was just in my early teens probably only eleven or twelve, but mom made more money than dad did. [laughs]

 

SHUSTER: How did he react to that?

 

CUSTER: He went in to chickens.  He was a wise man. 

 

SHUSTER: Did...how did you come to know the Lord?

 

CUSTER: Well, I was born and brought up in a Christian family who went to catechism and Sunday school and church regularly and it wasn’t until I was about seventeen, I think, or eighteen.  We all had to go to work because we were so poor and I was living in town with my sister

 

SHUSTER: And “town” would be?

 

CUSTER: Grand Rapids.

SHUSTER: Grand Rapids.

 

CUSTER:  And Dr. M.I. DeHaan had just started his work for Radio Bible Class.  And she took me to his church and I didn’t like it, I didn’t listen, it was noisy, I liked a nice reverent service, I just wanted to get out of there.  But on the way out, I got through the door and a lady said to me, “Sister, are you saved?”  Well, we don’t say “sister” in our church.  “Well, I don’t know”.  She said, “Well, are you born again?”  And I didn’t know that one either.  She didn’t have anything else to say except she says, “I’m going to call Dr. DeHaan to come and talk to you.”  I didn’t want Dr. DeHaan.  But she yelled out and Dr. DeHaan came and he led me to the Lord. 

 

SHUSTER: What did he...what did he say?  I mean....

 

CUSTER: I had a Bible in my hand because my sister took her Bible to church.

 

SHUSTER: Uh huh.

 

CUSTER:  In our church, we had Bibles in the pews so we didn’t have to take it.  He said, “Do you believe this is the Word of God?”  And I said, “Of course I do from Genesis to Revelations.”  He said, “Do you believe Jesus died for your sins?”  I said, “Of course I do.  He died for the sins of the whole world.” Being a proud old Dutchman I thought I’d let him know I knew a little something so I quoted John 3:16 to him.  He said, “That’s right and John 3:36 says, ‘He that looketh on the Son hath life, he that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth within him.’ Now, sister, do you have the Son of God or the wrath of God?” [unclear] me.

 

SHUSTER: You were stumped.

 

CUSTER:  He said, “You go home, alone with the Lord and just tell Him you want the Son of God and ask Him to come into your heart” and the Holy Spirit took over and that was it. 

 

SHUSTER: Did you...now you had grown up in the Reformed church?

 

CUSTER: Yes, Christian Reformed.

 

SHUSTER: Christian Reformed.

 

CUSTER: And I praise God for it, I really do, we had wonderful teaching.

 

SHUSTER: What...why do you think that you hadn’t come to a...a realizing your need for salvation?

 

CUSTER: Well, I just...I just thought, you know, in the church, you went through catechism and you joined church and you were...you were in.  And, of course the Covenant teaching that if you were baptized, you belong to the Covenant. 

 

SHUSTER: Uh huh.

 

CUSTER:  My...my family, my older brothers and sisters had already been saved and they were going to a little church that was started by retired workers of the China Inland Mission.

 

SHUSTER: Hmmm...An independent church?

 

CUSTER: Yes, Open Bible church.  I went there.  And at that time, Reverend John Mitchell from Multnomah [College] was our pastor, our very first pastor.  So, I had good teaching right from the beginning. 

 

SHUSTER: Had you thought very much about God as a child?

 

CUSTER: Oh yes, definitely.  We were brought up with it.  But I never knew Him personally.

 

SHUSTER: What...you mentioned you had gone to Grand Rapids to work, where were you working at?

 

CUSTER: [unclear]

 

SHUSTER: Cooking for a wealthy family? 

 

CUSTER: That was my goal in life, I felt the mission call for two years.  I wanted a house just like that with all the bone china and the sterling silver. [chuckles] I thought it cost too much to be a missionary.

 

SHUSTER: Cost in what way?

 

CUSTER: You couldn’t get married, you didn’t have a nice house, you didn’t have any bone china.

 

SHUSTER: What...how did you come to go to Moody Bible Institute?

 

CUSTER: Well, in our circles, young people all went.  We were all going to be missionaries.  At least this one other girl and I were like black sheep. Every time they had a missionary conference, everybody stood up except us.  We never stood up.  And it was just really...it was the only school at that time. 

 

SHUSTER: Uh huh.

CUSTER:  You know, there weren’t any choices.

 

SHUSTER: So....

 

CUSTER: But, I praise God for Moody, I really do. 

 

SHUSTER: Did you have the support of your parents and family when you were going?

 

CUSTER: Uh huh.

 

SHUSTER: What...you mentioned that you had sat in missionary class for two years, was that while you were still at Moody or did you...?

 

CUSTER: No, that was our stay at home.  I just...I didn’t want to give up my job and I didn’t want to give up that: “I wanted to be married, have a family and have a beautiful house.”

 

SHUSTER: What brought about the change?

 

CUSTER: Met the Lord.

 

SHUSTER: So, so, after you met the Lord, you went to Moody?

 

CUSTER: No, it was two years after I was saved before I finally gave in...

 

SHUSTER: Uh huh.

 

CUSTER: And then we were at a...we were having a missionary conference and the Lord...the pastor asked all those who had dedicated their lives to stand up and everybody stood up except me.  And my sister beside me stood up and he said, “If you haven’t stood up, if the Lord’s speaking to you, you stand up.”  And it was like the Lord put His hand under my elbows and lifted me up.  I don’t think I could have sat down.  And all that time, my older sister had begged me.  She was planning to go to Moody and she wanted to go to Africa and she wanted me to go with her and I said, “No way.”  You know, that wasn’t for me.  I wasn’t going to be a missionary.

 

SHUSTER: What was her name?

 

CUSTER: Julia.  And I...I swore I couldn’t eat rice.  At that time, I was sure it was going to be China.  But, she said, “Oh come on, go with me.”  And I said, “No, that’s not for me.”  Well, when I dedicated my life to the Lord, we went home to my brother’s home and all the young people always went there for a cup of coffee after church; it was a hangout.  And everybody was excited about the meeting and everybody dedicated their lives and my sister was saying, “Send in the application first thing tomorrow morning, get it in and we can go together.”  This is February, she was going in the fall.  The next day she took sick with a type of flu that they had in World War One and we rushed her to the hospital.

 

SHUSTER: [interrupts] The Chinese influenza?

 

CUSTER: I can’t tell you the name of it but they rushed her to the hospital, she died the next night.  I never saw her again.  I thought...and I’m sure it was an attempt of the Devil to stop me from going.  ‘Cause no way I was going to go to Moody if I couldn’t go with Julia.  And all summer, I battled it.  I didn’t want to not go because I had promised the Lord and my father had taught us, “If we make a promise, you keep it, no matter what.”  But I didn’t want to go.  And finally I went to my Sunday School teacher and I said, “Look, I just don’t know what to do.  I promised the Lord I’d go, but I don’t want to go.”  “Well,” he said, “it’s simple.”  He said, “You just send in the application and pray that if it’s not the Lord’s will, He’ll close the door.”  So, I did that and I prayed earnestly that the door would be shut but it was opened and I went. 

 

SHUSTER: And that was in 1932?

 

CUSTER: 1932.  

 

SHUSTER: How did your family react to you going to Moody?

 

CUSTER: Well, they were all behind me.  When I actually went to China, my father found it very difficult to have me go.

 

SHUSTER: Why was that?

 

CUSTER: Because we were very close and he just...he had an intuition.  He never cried when the train pulled out and we said goodbye.  But the family told me after I came home, that after the train pulled out, he broke down and wept.  He said, “I’m not going to see her again.”  And they said, “Oh, come on Pop.  She’s never been sick and you’ve never been sick.  She’ll get home in a few years.”  “No”, he said, “I’m not going to see her.”   And he died.

 

SHUSTER: When did he die?

 

CUSTER: He died of...in 19...let me think now...40, I think it was. 

 

SHUSTER: Was this your trip to Moody, your first large city that you’d gone to?

 

CUSTER: The first large city?  Yes.

 

SHUSTER: How did it strike you when you arrived there?

 

CUSTER: Scared skinny.  [chuckles]

SHUSTER: You went by train?

 

CUSTER: I think I did.  Or by bus probably.  We traveled in buses in those days.  By bus, definitely.  I never was on a train until I joined the mission and came to Philadelphia. 

 

SHUSTER: Did you walk from the train station to the Institute?

 

CUSTER: Can’t remember.

 

SHUSTER: What were...what were your first courses that you took at Moody?

 

CUSTER: I took Bible and I had to make up my English and Math and I forget what else, something else. 

 

SHUSTER: Making up because you hadn’t...?

 

CUSTER: [interrupts] Because I didn’t finish the high school.  But, praise the Lord I went when I did because I wouldn’t get in now. [chuckles] Either in Moody or OMF [China Inland Mission].

 

SHUSTER: Because you hadn’t finished high school?  What were your first impressions of Moody?  What was it like being there?

 

CUSTER: I enjoyed it right from the beginning.  I loved the fellowship, I loved studying the Bible.

 

SHUSTER: Do any teachers you had there stick out in your mind?

 

CUSTER:  Kenneth Wuest was the one to me more than...well, Dr. Gray was too, but Kenneth Wuest was the one.  Every time we went to class, you sensed the Lord was there.  And it didn’t matter what it was, whether it was geography or whatever.  The Lord was there and I found the secret when I graduated.  We had our junior/senior banquet.  Mister and Mrs. Wuest were at our table and I thanked him for the blessing he’d been in my life.  And he pointed to his wife and he said, “There is the cause.”  And he told us that when they were young, they had applied to the mission field but were turned down because of health reasons and she then dedicated her life to pray for her husband to train young people to go.  And he said, “Every time I go to a class, my hus...my wife goes to the ba...to the bedroom and prays me through the class, there’s the secret.”  And that’s...I think that’s one of the real things that taught me the importance of prayer.  That’s what I learned at Moody.

 

SHUSTER: The importance of prayer?

 

CUSTER: Can’t do without it. 

 

SHUSTER: What...what did he look like physically?  What was his appearance?

 

CUSTER: Did...who....?

 

SHUSTER: Professor Wuest, what did he look like?  What was his appearance?

 

CUSTER: He was just an ordinary man, very unassuming, not very loud. [chuckles]

 

SHUSTER: What class did he teach?

 

CUSTER: [yawns] He taught Bible Introductory, Bible Theology and I don’t know.  This is seventy years ago, I don’t remember all that. 

 

SHUSTER: But he was an effective teacher?

 

CUSTER: Yes.  He...he taught me to know the Lord.  My grace is.... He said, “It’s a gain to me, I count it loss for Christ.”  I count all things but loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, that I may know Him.  And it was really Doctor Wuest that taught me to know the Lord.

 

SHUSTER: How do you mean that?

 

CUSTER: Everyday life, it’s every part of your life.  It’s what Jack Mitchell did in a sense.  As soon as I was saved, he taught us young people “If He’s not Lord of all, He’s not Lord at all.”

 

SHUSTER: Who’s Jack Mitchell?

 

CUSTER: Doctor John Mitchell who was the president of Multnomah.  Died recently. 

 

SHUSTER: And how did you...?

 

CUSTER: He was pastor of my home church.

 

SHUSTER: Oh, I see.

 

CUSTER: And as young people that was his thing, Lordship of Christ.  And I had that instilled in me from the time I became a Christian.

 

SHUSTER: And how did Professor Wuest teach you to know the Lord?

 

CUSTER: It was his teaching, you felt the presence of the Lord.  Everything he taught, it came out.  He...he...he honored the Lord in everything.  He couldn’t show you a map without showing you what the Lord had done for him.

SHUSTER: Were there other teachers there who had an influence on you?

 

CUSTER: Oh, I think they all did in their own way.  But that...it was a spiritual relationship with the Lord.

 

SHUSTER: What about your fellow students?  Were there any who were particularly important to you?

 

CUSTER: Oh yes, there’s too many to tell.  I don’t know.  We were a group of us as in any...any school. 

 

SHUSTER: What...what about some of the evangelism activities you were involved in at Moody?

 

CUSTER: Well, I...we had different, in those days you had to have certain many hours of assignment to factory work and students work and mission work and jewish work before you could graduate.  And went to a lot of them.  It wasn’t...I wrote my diaries, I started when I went to Moody.  It wasn’t until I came here [OMF Retirement Home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania] and I was leaving my apartment; I only had two week to pack up and come.  I sat on the floor and I started looking at these diaries and I couldn’t believe what I had done at Moody.  You know, the....  It itself was a real joy.  I was going to read these diaries all out and I said, “No, I’m going to take them.  I’ll soon be to the rocking chair stage and then I’m going to enjoy reading it over.”

 

SHUSTER: What were some of the things you did at Moody?  I mean, you mentioned a few of them but you mention factory work, what was that like?

 

CUSTER: We just went during the noon hours and had meetings while they were on their lunch hours in that one. 

 

SHUSTER: How would you start meeting?

 

CUSTER: No, we went in groups.  We always had a leader and somebody spoke and we sang and we gave testimonies and so on.  

 

SHUSTER: What kind of response did you get?

 

CUSTER: I don’t remember the factory workers much.  Hospital visitation, I had a joy of leading a number to the Lord.  And I used to love to get out for mission.  My fellow worker had to go to a street mission right near Moody and I used to go with her Sunday nights because I loved it.  I remember going out once and we saw this drunk lady sitting out on the curb and so we hauled her into the mission.  And she didn’t want to go, so I said, “I think she needs a cup of coffee.”  I didn’t even have any money on me.  I said to my friend, my fellow worker, “Now, you sit down with her and I’ll run home and get a nickel or dime (whatever it was for a cup of coffee).”  And came back and we took her into the coffee shop there and had a cup of coffee.  She got so mad, the first time she hit me with her dirty hand right on my face.  I can still remember that.  I walked into the dormitory to get my nickel and my friend said, “What happened to you?”  And I said, “What?” And she said, “Take a look at your face.” [chuckles]  But, she listened to the Gospel and we gave her the Lord’s salvation.  I can’t say she was saved but we did our duty.  But I led a number to the Lord. 

 

SHUSTER: What...you mentioned...you said you loved going to the mission, what did you love about it?

 

CUSTER: Being with people, telling them about the Lord.  There’s no joy like leading a soul to the Lord. 

 

SHUSTER: And was at Moody the first time you did that?

 

CUSTER: Well, in our home church, we did a bit of that growing up.  Jim, my brother had worked for years in the jail meeting in Grand Rapids and we used to go with him to the women’s side. 

 

SHUSTER: What was that like?

 

CUSTER: Ordinary jail meeting. 

 

SHUSTER: What’s an ordinary jail meeting like?

 

CUSTER: Getting people out of their cells and into a room and preaching to the room with them, not wanting to listen for the most part.

 

SHUSTER: So what do you say to people who don’t want to listen?

 

CUSTER: Just tell them how great God is, “Best friend you ever had.”

 

SHUSTER: And what kind of response did you get?

 

CUSTER: They would listen usually.

 

SHUSTER: Did you have people come forward at the meeting?

 

CUSTER: Sometimes, not...usually one on one.  I never...I’ve never had meetings where great masses of people come forward.  Most have been one on one.  The best one led to the Lord...I felt China was the place but I wasn’t sure so for one term I decided to not go to any China prayer bands only go to South America and Africa and India and soak up as much of others as I could.  And then I asked the Lord after that, “Now, if...if you want me to really go to China, let me lead one Chinese to the Lord” and I never...I’d never had contact with them.  Without telling anybody, the next term I was sent to Chinatown to have Sunday School for the children and teach a mother English and I led her to the Lord.  That was nice.

 

SHUSTER: What did you say to her?  How did you lead her to the Lord?

 

CUSTER: Oh, just like you do anybody.  I don’t say, “What do you say...?”  You don’t say any one thing to anyb...I don’t at least.  I feel there aren’t two people the same and you have to trust the Holy Spirit to guide you just how to approach each one.  I don’t work by the Four Laws [the Four Spiritual Laws, a well known tract] or any other just this way, this step and that step.

 

SHUSTER: What were some of the other, you mentioned the mission, hospital work, what were some of the other evangelism work you did at Moody? 

 

CUSTER: Well, visitation, Jewish work and other things.  But get on to China.  That’s my....

 

SHUSTER: Well, first let me ask you about Jewish work, what was that like?

 

CUSTER: Well, that was just going into a Jewish home and as I recall, we had a Bible study...contact with a family as one person couldn’t have a Bible study but helped her with her English or something.  I don’t know, we got so many assignments.

 

SHUSTER: Did you talk with her about the Lord.

 

CUSTER: Oh, I can’t remember.  I’m sure I did; that’s what I went for.

 

SHUSTER: What was your social life at Moody like at that time?

 

CUSTER: Well, Mondays was our day off.  We usually could do things and we had a CIM prayer meeting and crowd of us used to go there every Monday night. 

 

SHUSTER: And that was the main activity of the week?

 

CUSTER: Uh huh.  I didn’t have much time; I worked.  I worked at Woolworth’s lunch counter.  I got out of class at twenty after eleven, I ran all the way downtown, changed my clothes, had a sandwich or something to eat and was on the floor by quarter to twelve everyday. 

 

SHUSTER: And how long did you work there?

 

CUSTER: I worked until a quarter after two.  And then ran all the way home and studied until five o’clock, went to Moody and ate early supper and then went to YWCA to work the dining room.  That was my regular schedule.

 

SHUSTER: How much did you make at Woolworth’s?

 

CUSTER: Twenty cents an hour, I think it was. 

 

SHUSTER: That was the beginning of what...?

 

CUSTER: [interrupts] I made enough just to pay for my food but nothing else.  But I had to trust the Lord for everything: clothing, spending money, everything.  And that’s why I learned to know the Lord.  CIM principle, not asking anyone for anything.  I did that for three years at Moody.  And I knew it worked.

 

SHUSTER: And so through all your years at Moody, you had this schedule of working and going to class? 

 

CUSTER: [interrupts] The beginning of the term I worked up a schedule, everyday I came home I knew exactly what I had to study the minute I came in the house so that I kept all my subjects up.  I never had to cram for any exam, I was ready for it when it came.

 

SHUSTER: Did you take the Missions courses they had at Moody?

 

CUSTER: Uh huh.

 

SHUSTER: What were they like? 

 

CUSTER: Good.

 

SHUSTER: Good in what way?

 

CUSTER: We learned a bit about the countries.

 

SHUSTER: Looking back at your years at Moody from your experience as a missionary, how would you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of what you learned there?

 

CUSTER: Well, the first thing is I learned to know the Lord and I learned to trust the Lord without a shadow of a doubt where any....  I’ll tell you one thing, one Sunday...I wrote to my mom every Sunday and one time I didn’t have a three cent stamp.  But I wrote the letter and I put it on the desk and I said, “Lord, if you want Mom to have this letter then give me money for a stamp.”  And I didn’t tell Him what to do but I might as well because I was pretty sure someone would give me a nickel, you know, that’s what I thought would happen.  There were two other girls and I, we used to work in the same place.  We ran downtown and running down Wells Street, Monday morning, there on the sidewalk were stamps.  I stopped, I picked them up and I held them before the Lord and I said, “Thank you, Lord, I’ll never doubt you again.  You can do it.” That...that’s what I learned at Moody, I learned to know the Lord.

SHUSTER: That wasn’t really so much from the curriculum of the school as it was from working and living.

 

CUSTER: Yes, but it was the teaching they gave you to trust the Lord and to obey Him.  It’s one thing to say, “I trust the Lord, I trust the Lord” and then never follow Him, go your own sweet way which I know a lot of people did. 

 

SHUSTER: Did...were there things that you wish you had learned at Moody or things that you think would have helped you in your preparation to be a missionary?

 

CUSTER: No, I don’t think so, not really.  Hard to judge, it’s so long ago,  I’ve forgotten most. [chuckles] When I...when I went out, my trunks on the way from Shanghai to Sian, my trunks got water logged, soaked and so all my loot, everything was gone.  So then I really wrote them all and went into Chinese by this time.  Then I came home and then the Japs were coming and they destroyed them all.  When I came home next time, I gave anybody that wanted anything Chinese could have it and I gave the rest away and burnt [?] it. My motto in life is “Lord, deliver me from stuff.” 

 

SHUSTER: Because...why is that?

 

CUSTER: Well, some people, I think, are so buried in stuff, they can’t find what they want. 

 

SHUSTER: Too tied down with things. 

 

CUSTER: Uh huh.

 

SHUSTER:  When did you receive your call to be a missionary?

 

CUSTER: Well, I...I knew it really from the...because of my background in the home church, in the Open Bible church.  All we got was missions.  Missionary speakers all the time and conferences and I just heard about it.  And it, I was given a book on Hudson Taylor [founder fo the China Inland Mission] where he said people are dying in China at the rate of a million a month without ever hearing the Gospel.  And the Lord really spoke, He said, “That’s not fair.  You hear the Gospel every day and every week and they don’t hear it once.” 

 

SHUSTER: You mentioned at one point you stopped going to China Band because you wanted to.....

 

CUSTER: [interrupts] Just for one term because I wanted to make sure it was China and then He confirmed it by letting me lead a Chinese lady to the Lord. 

 

SHUSTER: Did you know much about China at this time?

 

CUSTER: Everything I could.  I studied, I read a lot of books.

 

SHUSTER: Why did you go with the China Inland Mission?

 

CUSTER: Because I agreed with their principles. 

 

SHUSTER: Such as?

 

CUSTER: Well, trusting the Lord for one thing.  And going to the unreached was another, I wanted to be a pioneer missionary, I really wanted to be a pioneer mission...I wanted to get out where nobody ever went before.

 

SHUSTER: How do you mean “going to the unreached”?

 

CUSTER: Well, going to places where they hadn’t heard the Gospel.  My first term I was sent, the Lord sent me to a village where there were, well, the missionary had been there three years and there was one Christian.  There were five or six people, probably seven or eight at the most coming to church.  But, they had been there for two weeks [?] and then Mao Zedong made his great trip north [the Long March, 1934-1935], went through and they all had to evacuate and they were gone for eighteen months.  And then I went back when they went back but the work had all stopped and we started over again. 

 

SHUSTER: How...?

 

CUSTER: But, the Lord worked until one by one, we had sixty-five believers, two men could read.  We taught them all to read.  They built their own church and it was time to dedicate the church.  The week before the pastor said, “Now, you need pews.  Next week, everyone come with a bench.  Seven, eight feet long (I don’t remember what it was), three feet high and eight inches wide or something” and the next Sunday, every family came with a bench and that was it. 

 

SHUSTER: Very practical.

 

CUSTER: That’s what I like.  This idea here of going millions of dollars into debt to get a fancy church is not my line. 

 

SHUSTER: What...how were you accepted by CIM [China Inland Mission]? What’s process did you go through?

 

CUSTER: Well, I thougth I was going out right after I graduated and then I got a letter from...the secretary had changed, the candidate secretary changed and he said, “We’ve decided...I’ve read your letters and I’m not satisfied with your doctrinal paper.”  So, I studied doctrine like I’d never studied doctrine before, memorized Scripture [chuckles].  And then, anyway, the first one was...let’s back up a little.  The first letter was that they weren’t sending out any ladies because of the Communists.  John and Betty Stam had just been martyred [1934].  And....

 

SHUSTER: Who had also been at Moody.

 

CUSTER: Uh huh, yeah.  And so, the devil came in, “See, Sadie, you’re not going to go to China, the Lord doesn’t want you in China.”  And that night, I opened my Bible and my daily reading, “Behold I set before you an open door, no man can shut it.” [Revelation 3:8] I thank the Lord the door is still open, I’m just not going there this year.  And I waited a year.  Then they changed secretary and the secretary said he wasn’t happy with my doctrinal paper, said I could come [?].  So I studied doctrine like crazy.

 

SHUSTER: He said you could come, you mean you could come before that to...?

 

CUSTER: [interrupts] Candidate school.

 

SHUSTER: Candidate school, yeah. 

 

CUSTER: And during my weeks there, all the other gals were called in for interviews and whatnot.  I never got called in so I said, “Oh, they’re not even considering me.”  But I still...I guess it was inferiority complex, not having been to high school.  And all the others had education and I didn’t and I thought, “Well, I guess they’re not considering me.” Then before council, Dr. Glover [?] you would never have met him, great stateman.  He was the director of our mission. 

 

SHUSTER: Then, of course, [unclear]....

 

CUSTER: After him.  And his first question was, “Miss Custer, if you went to China and you met the bandits and they took all of your things, what would you do?”  I said, “Well, everything I have belongs to the Lord, I guess He can deal with it as He likes.”  I just wasn’t expecting that.  And then somebody else asked me, “Could I live with others?”  I said, “Well, I come from a family of eight children and we get along pretty good.”   And I, “Come on, to get out of it”, you know.

 

SHUSTER: Uh huh.

 

CUSTER: This Doctor...can’t think of the name now, from Philadelphia Bible College, the founder there.  And I had been told he was a crack on doctrine and he sat there with his paper, “Miss Custer, what do you believe on the inspiration of the Holy Scripture?”  I quoted my scriptures and “anybody else have any questions?”  “Miss Custer, what would you do if you didn’t have anything to eat?”  “Why”, I said, “I lived at Moody for three years and I trusted the Lord for everything and He hasn’t failed me yet, I don’t expect Him to fail me now.”  And I was accepted.  [chuckles] I couldn’t believe it. [pauses]

SHUSTER: This was in ‘35?

 

CUSTER: Yeah, ‘35.

 

SHUSTER: And when did you leave for China?

 

CUSTER: The next year then, we had to wait one year.

 

SHUSTER: What did you do in the meantime?

 

CUSTER: I got a job selling ladies dresses.

 

SHUSTER: In Philadelphia or...?

 

CUSTER: Grand Rapids.

 

SHUSTER: Grand Rapids, okay.

 

CUSTER: I ran a shop with a man who was very interested in China and in CIM and he came in one Monday morning brought me a pile of books because it was a little shop, it was in a big shopping mall and I had a lot of time.  So, I read books.

 

SHUSTER: On China?

 

CUSTER: Oh, anything I could get.  I like to read. 

 

SHUSTER: What are some of your favorite books?

 

CUSTER: Well, I like biographies and autobiographies but my favorite writer is F.B. Meyer, I just love him.  I like [J] Campbell Morgan, too but F.B. Meyer is....  I like [unclear].

 

SHUSTER: Before we close the chapter on Moody, do you have any other reflections or comments that you want to add about your years that you spent there?

 

CUSTER: No, I don’t think so.

 

SHUSTER: Okay.  Where did you sail for China from?  What...?

 

CUSTER: Seattle.

 

SHUSTER: Seattle.  You mentioned saying goodbye with your father, was that in Grand Rapids?

 

CUSTER: Grand Rapids.

SHUSTER: Uh huh.  What was the voyage to China like?

 

CUSTER: Oh, we had a couple stormy days but otherwise it was....  We were a large party.

 

SHUSTER: How large?

 

CUSTER: Twenty three...I think it was twenty six if I remember right.  Lady workers, men didn’t travel with women in those days.  We had our escort.

 

SHUSTER: Who was the escort?

 

CUSTER: The lady who later became Mrs. Griffin, she [unclear].

 

SHUSTER: Who were some of the other people who went out with you, do you recall?

 

CUSTER: Oh, nobody would know any of them by now, they’re nearly all with the Lord. [chuckles]

 

SHUSTER: Do you recall any of them or...?

 

CUSTER: Oh yes.  Winnie Rand who is staying right here with us is one from here [Lancaster, Pennsylvania].  Mavis Jones [?],  Alice Fischbacher...now, what was her maiden name?  I can’t remember her maiden name.  Marie Little [?] and Evangeline Cott [?] and Virginia Casper and Vera Dunn [?].

 

SHUSTER: When did you arrive in China?  What city did you land at?

 

CUSTER: Pardon?

 

SHUSTER: What city did you land at?  Where did you arrive at?

 

CUSTER: Shanghai.

 

SHUSTER: What were your first impressions of Shanghai?

 

CUSTER: Well, all I can remember is coolies all over the place, hauling everything away and the rest of the mission home.  And we only spent, we had dinner there and then were taken up to language school because the English party was coming in, we got in the morning and the English party was coming in the afternoon and they didn’t have room for us so they shipped us off.

 

SHUSTER: So, you were only there for a day?

 

CUSTER: Half a day, we had dinner there.

SHUSTER: And where was language school?

 

CUSTER: Lanchow.

 

SHUSTER: What...what was language school like?

 

CUSTER: Well, there were fifty six missionary workers and we studied language from morning till night every day.  I loved it.  Didn’t do well at it but.... [chuckles] We were there a couple weeks and they took two ladies out who were China born or very clever and they put them in a class by themselves.  And a couple weeks later, they took another group out and put them in a class by themselves.  Finally, it got down to two other girls and myself and my teacher said, “I don’t know what if you ever came to China but you’re never going to get the language.”  “Thank you very much.” [chuckles] 

 

SHUSTER: Not very encouraging. 

 

CUSTER: No.

 

SHUSTER:  Was this the first time you....

 

[tape cuts out]

 

SHUSTER: You were talking about the Chinese language and how the characters fascinated you. 

CUSTER: Everyone has a story. 

 

SHUSTER: What’s yours?

 

CUSTER: I can get into a public school.  I haven’t...just recently now but not on any furlough.  We’re not allowed to preach in public schools but I could get in and talk a little bit about the customs and some child will say, “Can you write Chinese language?”  “Well, a little bit.”  I’d write the word [unclear], the whole Crucifixion story a cross with the little man on each side and the big man on the cross.  “Happiness” put God first, one mouth, one man and your fear of possessions.  Put God first, put yourself and your possessions and that “happiness”.  And I’d just go on and on.  It’s fascinating.

 

SHUSTER: What...why do you think you had so much difficulty if you loved it so much?

 

CUSTER: Well, I don’t have an ear for music, it’s a tonal language and I couldn’t hear one tone from the other.  And, the dialect in that place is hopeless.  Actually, what we learned at language school, you couldn’t understand a word when we got to our centers.  It was completely different, a completely different dialect.  So, I started right from rock bottom again.  And we learned it from the people.

SHUSTER: But of course, the characters you had picked up you could use anywhere.

 

CUSTER: Oh yes, you learn those one at a time.

 

SHUSTER: Is Chinese a particularly good language for talking about religion or Christ?

CUSTER: Oh yes.

 

SHUSTER: Why is that?

 

CUSTER: Well, the...you just get the language itself.  You could go to an educated man and just have a conversation and talk about the languages.  The word for “ship”: it’s a word for boat with an eight mouth, eight people in a boat.  You ask that man, “When did that get tran...?”  “Well, that’s an ancient character” and I came back and I mean, he’d even tell you about the flood. [unclear] [chuckles] You could take the word “come”, you can...you know, their customs, I just loved it.  This is Old Testament all over again, and New Testament. 

 

SHUSTER: How do you mean that?

 

CUSTER: You get invited to it.  This is old China, now.  You get invited to a feast and you sit down at the door, you wait for them to tell you where to sit.  Their table, top one there gets the top seat.  You’re never going to sit in that.  And they invite you higher and higher until you get to the seat.  You get that when you sit down on the other side, you are not worthy.  I mean, it’s just everything the Bible says. [referring to similar story in Luke 14:7-11]

 

SHUSTER: So, so you found it congenial right from the beginning, you found it....?

 

CUSTER: I loved it and the fact that I was a farmer.  That was my training, I could have been a university professor and they never would have accepted me but the fact that I was uneducated just like they were and I was a farmer....  I remember going out real early one time, I’d only been out a year or so, and I used to do language study Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  Wednesday I went out with a Bible woman and all the new words I learned I put to practice and learned a few more.  We went into this farm home and a man was cutting up potatoes for planting and I said, “Oh, my father used to do that” and I pulled out a little pocket knife that I always used to carry with me and I started cutting the potatoes.  He thought I was wrecking them you know and I said, “No, I used to do this with my father when I was a little girl.”  “You have potatoes in America?”  “Yes.”  “Your father cut potatoes?”  “Yes.”  “So, how did he cut them?”  And I cut it.  “That’s just the way we do it.”  And we were in on the ground floor.

 

SHUSTER: So, that was a lot more helpful to you than....

 

CUSTER: [interrupts] I could go on and on just that sort of thing.  The fact that you’re the same background, you were accepted.

 

SHUSTER: Where did you go after language school, where were you sent?

 

CUSTER: Shensi [now “Shanxi”] province.  It’s spelled, it was S-H-E-N-S-I in those days, south of Sian. 

 

SHUSTER: And what city or village did you go to?

 

CUSTER: New Market, Shensi.  And here’s where the Lord was in control again because I really thought I was going to Gansu because that’s where Faith Lewinberg [?] was and she was from my home church.

 

SHUSTER: In Northwest China?

 

CUSTER: Yeah, and...Gansu.  And all I knew about China was where Faith was, she was the only missionary I wrote to.  And she was needing a new worker and when it came time for my designation, I had prayed and I promised the Lord, “Wherever they send me, I will accept it as your choice for me.”  And then....

 

SHUSTER: So, you didn’t request any particular location?

 

CUSTER: No, no, I ...I trusted the Lord was in control, He can’t make a mistake.  And when they sent me to Shensi, just for a few seconds, it floored me.  I couldn’t believe it.  I knew absolutely nothing about Shensi.  But, I said, “Thank you, Lord, I asked you to do it, I believe you did and I’ll go.” And you know, it was just exactly what I wanted.  If I went down to Gansu, I wouldn’t have lasted more than a couple years. 

 

SHUSTER: Why is that?

 

CUSTER: Well, it was an old center.  And...now I don’t criticize the missionary at all, he did what he felt the Lord wanted him to do it and that was right.  But, he was a very wealthy Englishman and he had spent all his money on that, building the place and providing things for them and giving them everything.  His wife worked all day Saturday baking cookies so that any child coming to Sunday School had a cookie on Sunday and that sort of thing. 

 

SHUSTER: What was his name?  What was their names?

 

CUSTER: Well, that...that was the old custom of course.  I went to this new place where there was nothing.  One Christian and right from...rock bottom.  We encouraged them, they trusted the Lord just like we did and they built their own church, three of the young men went to Bible school.  And at the beginning, I went out with a Bible woman, my fellow worker did the same.  We visited every house within a radius of five miles and then about that time, souls were being saved and they’d invite us into their home, we’d go and live in their home, for a week.  They’d get all their relatives in and we’d go this way.  And then for the last...the mission’s plan was rent a house for ten years and at the end of ten years, you’d have a self-supporting church. 

 

SHUSTER: When you went to New Market, you were the only missionary there?

 

CUSTER: No, Bertie Silversides [?], a Canadian gal was there.  I had a....

 

SHUSTER: [interrupts] And she was experienced [unclear]?

 

CUSTER: [interrupts] Yeah, and we had Chinese fellow workers.

 

SHUSTER: Uh huh.

 

CUSTER:  But then the last two years, the Chinese did all the evangelistic work and we just did the Bible teaching.  We’d go out Monday morning, we’d go north ten miles or so and have in that whole area.  And then Tuesday, we’d go south and east and west.  Wednesday they all came to us, Wednesday and Sunday. 

 

SHUSTER: When you first reached...started in New Market, as you were preaching to groups, talking to groups, helping to get the church started, how many Christians were there?

 

CUSTER: One.

 

SHUSTER: One and his name was or her name was?

 

CUSTER: Chin, Carpenter Chin.

 

SHUSTER: What was he like?

 

CUSTER: Well, he was an old man, uneducated.  He had tried to read but he had so completely changed that anywhere we went....  This is why I say it’s so important that your first Christians set a good example.  Everywhere we went, we’d tell about the Lord, they would say, “Oh, that’s the religion that’s Carpenter Chin’s.”  

 

SHUSTER: How had he changed?

 

CUSTER: Well, he gave up his smoking, drinking and he was...he was a very good carpenter and he would not work on Sundays.  And a family would come, “My son’s getting married, I got to have an addition put on my house.”  “Okay.”  “And it’s gotta be by such-and-such a date”.  “Okay, but I won’t work on Sunday.”  And after a week of this, “you’ve got to work on Sunday, you’re not going to get it done.”  “I will get it done but I do not work on Sunday.”  And they all knew his reputation.  But, it’s so good...one year we had a terrible drought, no rain at all, nothing to eat.  People were scraping the bark off trees.  And nothing was growing and one Sunday, Carpenter Chin, (by this time he had become Deacon Chin), came to church.  He said, “I want you all to come to my home Sunday afternoon.”  What did he want us to come for?  “I’m not telling you, I want everybody there.”  So, we all go traipsing over there in the afternoon and I walk in the courtyard and here’s a pile of tobacco leaves.  I said, “Mister Chin, what are these?”  He says, “I’m not telling you until everybody gets here.”  And when they all got there, he gave his testimony.  He said, “You all know that when you have no rain at all, the only thing that will grow is tobacco and I had no money for rice and the Devil tempted me and I planted tobacco, hoping to get a little money so I could buy rice for my family.  But the Holy Spirit has convicted me, I don’t smoke myself because it’s harmful for me but I grew the leaves for someone else and the Lord showed me it’s wrong.”  You could hear a pin drop.  He poured a little oil on the pile and lit a match and it all went up.  The whole...money for the whole year.

 

SHUSTER: And these people he was talking to were also farmers themselves....

 

CUSTER: [interrupts] Everybody’s farmers.

 

SHUSTER: And probably thinking the same thing. 

 

CUSTER: Well, you know, but most of them were doing it.  The thing is it was the only way they could have some money.  People walked days to get a bowl of rice, see.  But this is the kind of man that the first one was that....  But as new believers came, he set the goal. 

 

SHUSTER: Who became some of the Chinese evangelists in that church?

 

CUSTER: We had three young men who had gone out.

 

SHUSTER: What were there names?

 

CUSTER: Meng Ching Wuen was...he was the one who’d rose up to be the pastor at the church when we left.

 

SHUSTER: What was he like?

 

CUSTER: He was quite a young man.  The other two were brothers.  I can’t think of their surnames I guess now.  But this Meng Ching Wuen was the one who wasn’t tied down to the farm and he was the one they chose to be the pastor of the church when we left.

 

SHUSTER: Why wasn’t he tied down to a farm?  You mean, he didn’t have a farm? 

 

CUSTER: He was a younger man, his father and brothers ran it.  The others were older men who had their own children and their own land.  In fact, the one...the one was Yang, Yang Wan Chin who was the father...the son...no, I’m wrong on that.  Chin Yu Kuoh, Chin Yu Kuoh is the son of carpenter Chin.  I’ve got so many....  After I had my first term in this church, well not even my whole term, my first seven years was there.  Then, the last two years (because of war we couldn’t get out)....

 

SHUSTER: [interrupts] The war with Japan?

 

CUSTER: War with Japan.  Then the church... We had a South Shensi Church Association.  All of them...that’s the only churches there, there weren’t any others.

 

SHUSTER: All of the churches begun by CIM missionaries?

 

CUSTER: Yes.  I mean there weren’t Baptist or Presbyterians, they didn’t know that.  That was a blessing.  We had to try to sort this all out and explain the differences and so forth.  But anyway, they had their association and they asked me then to go down and have Bible classes in their churches.  So, there were twenty three churches. Chinese New Year’s time had a big annual conference.  Every church sent representatives and they came with the request of when they wanted classes and what they wanted me to teach. 

 

SHUSTER: And what did they want you to teach?  What were some of the things that they were interested in?

 

CUSTER: Well, the work of the Holy Spirit, Evangelism, Church Leadership, Church Planting, books of the Bible, you name it.  But, they had me come and at the end of the conference, they let me [unclear], two weeks in each church.  And I took off with a Chinese fellow worker and that was my work there.  And then when I went to Malaysia, I did that and then I went to Taiwan and did that.  So, that has been my main ministry, Bible teaching. 

 

SHUSTER: When...after the church had began and you had the Chinese evangelists and Chinese pastors, what was a typical sermon like?  I mean, what was a typical service like, was it in any way different from a worship service here in the U.S. or not?

 

CUSTER: [pauses] Basically, no.  I mean, the people came in the morning.  As soon as they came, they brought their reading books and we sat with them and we taught them to read until it was time for...morning service was after breakfast.  And they...I mean it might be done anytime, anytime from ten to twelve.  We didn’t have clocks, didn’t worry about that.  But we taught them to read, we put them on readers and then we put them on the New Testament.  This brings back memories.  I can still see some of these dear old ladies coming in with their Bibles.  They brought big print Bibles and....

 

SHUSTER: [interrupts] [unclear]

 

CUSTER: Oh yeah.  They...any gift you give you wrap up in red paper or a red envelope.  They would take a tiny little snippet of that red and they’d rub the tartar from their teeth on it and stick it next to the part that they didn’t know.  You’d sit down with them and they’d learn all these new characters and then they’d pull all these little bits off. [chuckles]  They couldn’t write but they could read the Bible. Everyone learned to read....  We didn’t set the rules, the evangelists set the rules.  They had to be able to read before they could be baptized.  If they’re not reading their Bible....  If they were too old and their eyesight, then they had to memorize certain verses.

 

SHUSTER: But the purpose of that was that they thought if they couldn’t read the Bible, then they couldn’t....

 

CUSTER: [interrupts] Feed themselves.  They were taught to feed them, they were taught to do evangelistic work.  As soon as they were saved, they would buy a poster or Bible picture that they liked and when they came in to the market to buy grain or sell grain or whatever, they would hang up their poster and they’d have a little preach wherever they were, they’d do evangelism.  They did all that before we left.

 

SHUSTER: What was typically on a Bible...on a preaching poster?

 

CUSTER: Well, it could be a poster drawn by one of our own artists, the Two Roads poster, the way to heaven, the way to hell or....  We had lots of posters in those days. 

 

SHUSTER: What were...what were some of the other pictures?

 

CUSTER: Oh, sin [unclear], going to hell, what you saw there.  Then the human heart with all these animals inside.  I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that one.  All the animals and every animal represents: the pig is greed and the tortoise is slow, putting off accepting the Lord and every animal was something different all the way around.  And you’d preach that.  And then the Holy Spirit comes in and these animals all run out.  The animals are all representing Satan with his sword and his spear, you know?  And then one by one they all go out and the Lord takes over.  But then a picture comes in and one sneaks back in again, temptation comes.  There’s about five or six in this one.

 

SHUSTER: All in this one picture?

 

CUSTER: Uh huh.

 

SHUSTER: What...you were talking about what happens during worship service after the reading lesson, what happens after?

 

CUSTER: Oh, they’d always have a good time of singing and prayer.

 

SHUSTER: Were these Chinese songs?

 

CUSTER: Oh yes, all Chinese.  I..my fellow worker went home on furlough after I’d been there only just over a year and I was the only one that spoke English.  I was the only English-speaking person, I mean, it was Chinese.

 

SHUSTER: So, where did the Chinese hymns come from?  Who had composed them or...? 

 

CUSTER: Mostly they had the hymnbooks, our own hymns translated and then later they had their Bible verses put to Chinese tunes, they have a lot of those.

 

SHUSTER: Sounds like the tonal system must have been sung to Western tunes too, I take it?

 

CUSTER: Yes. 

 

SHUSTER: And then what?

 

CUSTER: Well, they had worship service until around noon.  And then, they’d have some more singing. They...some of them, see some of them had walked a couple three hours to get there and then they’d have to go back home.  They’d take a...local...hot bread with them on the way, to eat on the way there and one to eat on the way home.  If you lived nearby, you stayed for the children’s meeting in the afternoon and they all enjoyed that. 

 

SHUSTER: When...when an evangelist was going out to speak to a group that didn’t know anything about Christianity, how would he start?  I mean, how would he begin making the Gospel real to...?

 

CUSTER: Mostly using the posters of some kind or an object lesson or...it depends.  We had one lady who was excellent, I learned so much from her.  She would go to a farmer in the field and he...he was digging up the ground and she’s start talking about his hole and turn it into an object lesson.  Or she’d talk about the seed or she would talk about the weather.  Something to get their attention that they understand.  You don’t just go out and started talking about God and I don’t start out with “You’re a sinner”.  I mean, they know that.  And I don’t start going talking about hell, they know all about that.  They...they got pictures of hell in their temples.

 

SHUSTER: What was this lady’s name that you mentioned that you learned so much from?

 

CUSTER: She was Liang.[?] [pauses]  But my favorite...my favorite Bible woman was Mrs. Ing [?].  She was the one who was there when I arrived and she was a mother to me. 

 

SHUSTER: In what way?

 

CUSTER: Well, when my fellow worker went home, she’d come in every night, “What did you eat tonight?”  Basically, we’d been out all day and I’d say, “Well, I just had a sandwich”.  “That’s no good” and she’d come in with a bowl of rice, you’s got to have a bowl of rice.  The very first day I was there, practically, I couldn’t speak any language at all and I thought, “Well, I can at least pour tea”, ya know?  So my fellow worker and this Bible woman were in the little preaching chapel, talking to the women and I decided to fill up their teapot.  So, I grabbed the teapot and I’m filling them up, you know.  When the lady leaves, she hauls me out the kitchen.  “You never, never pour tea with one hand, you don’t do anything with one hand, you don’t...you always use two hands.”  This...this is what I needed a mother to tell me the customs and the way they lived. 

 

SHUSTER: Do you know the purpose behind that custom? Of giving with...[unclear]

 

CUSTER: You doing it with your whole...whole self.  If you do it with one hand, you’re only half there.  You don’t really mean it, you’re just doing it so that it’s done.  What’s interesting, even when I went to Malaysia, now the Malays they don’t do it.  They put one hand here, the....

 

SHUSTER: For those on the tape, they put one hand on your elbow so you have your left hand on your right elbow.  And what did that represent?

 

CUSTER: It’s all the same.  All of the Asian culture’s just that. 

 

SHUSTER: All of the Asian culture’s what?

 

CUSTER: I think Malays, Indians, Chinese, they’re all...when it comes to giving, they’ve all got that sort of similar practice.  And I think the Philippines is that way, too. 

 

SHUSTER: Of involving both hands, you mean?

 

CUSTER: Uh huh.

 

SHUSTER: You men....

 

CUSTER: [interrupts] It’s the little things that mean an awful lot to the people. 

 

SHUSTER: In other words knowing their culture

 

CUSTER: Uh huh.

 

SHUSTER: Knowing the things that are courteous and accepted and important? 

 

CUSTER: Uh huh.

 

SHUSTER:  You mentioned how that really, very quickly, within a couple years after the church was functioning, the [tape cuts out] run by Chinese and you were more of an advisr and a teacher.  That’s different from the experience of missions in other parts of China where they remain for a long time, why do you think there was a difference between the church here?

 

CUSTER: [interrupts]  I....

 

END OF TAPE  

 


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