This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of William
Arthur Saunders (CN 471, 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. 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 Christian Sawyer and was completed in May 2002.
[Tape recorder hums loudly] [Television plays in background]
SHUSTER: Testing. One, two, three. Testing. [Pauses] This is a....
SAUNDERS: Is this in...?
SHUSTER: Go ahead.
SAUNDERS: Does it have to be in historical order?
SHUSTER: Well, I'll...I'll just ask you some questions to help you...help you...guide you along as we're going.
SHUSTER: This is an interview with Mr. W. A. Saunders by Robert Shuster for the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. This interview took place on December 9, 1992 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Rev. Saunders, why don't we start with some of your family background. Who are your parents?
SAUNDERS: My father was William Raymond Saunders. He was a primary school teacher all his life. Of course, I was born in England and educated in England.
SHUSTER: Where in England?
SAUNDERS: In the town of Watford which is about twenty or so miles northwest of London.
SHUSTER: And how did you come to emigrate to New Zealand?
SAUNDERS: Well, after I had finished public school, which of course is private school, I got a scholarship to a very good school called Berkhamsted [?] School and had to commute there twelve miles six days a week for eight years. So I really had a solid education. And, but in those days there was a depression. That was in the 19..., after World War I. And so what really [?] was...was one to do? And my father would like...was arranging for me to go into a railway office to do surveying and drafting though I could not stand the thought of more years indoors.
SAUNDERS: So I just went and worked on a farm ten minutes away from my home and for two years built up my physical strength and then went to the British Empire Exposition in Wembley [stadium in London], collected all the pamphlets relating to the...what was then the British Empire and reduced my selection to two places: New Brunswick and New Zealand.
SHUSTER: What attracted you to those two places?
SAUNDERS: Why, reading the pamphlets.
SHUSTER: What in the pamphlets...?
SAUNDERS: I forget. Well, anyway, I chose New Zealand because you could go to New Zealand for five pounds. Actually, the New Zealand government wanted young people and they were subsidizing them to go there. The only proviso was that you stayed five years.
SHUSTER: When you were growing up in England was yours a close family?
SAUNDERS: My family was...yes. My father, my mother, my two sisters. My older sister followed me after a year to New Zealand.
SHUSTER: What was her name?
SAUNDERS: Her name was Molly.
SHUSTER: And your other sister was...?
SAUNDERS: She's still there, alive, very old.
SHUSTER: In New Zealand?
SAUNDERS: In England. One stayed in England and cared for my father and mother.
SHUSTER: What was your mother's name?
SAUNDERS: My mother was mar...was born [pauses].... You know, we never used first names. Her maiden name was McKinnell [?], Scottish. My father was Saunders.
SHUSTER: How would you describe your parents? What kind of...what kind of words...?
SAUNDERS: Difficult to describe. My mother was a nurse by profession. Of a big family of sisters. My father was brought up in Luton in Bedfordshire. I don't think he had a very happy life as a child. But he became a teacher and he taught primary school all his life. I am sure that he was a Christian, but, like many Englishmen, he was a private Christian. So when I was very small we attended church, but after that we never attended church regularly, neither was there any prayer at home. But my father was a very upright man.
SHUSTER: How would you describe your mother?
SAUNDERS: She was an organizer, manager.
SHUSTER: How do you mean that?
SAUNDERS: Well, during World War I for instance, things were...a very difficult time to bring up three children on a low salary so she organized the garden; she bought chickens and kept hens and raised eggs. Now that kind of thing. She was very practical. And after World War I, we moved from the cit...from the town out into the country. We built a house with a big garden and carried on there.
SHUSTER: What are your earliest memories as a child? What are the first things you recall?
SAUNDERS: I have to think what to say. [pauses] Usually pleasant memories. I don't re...recall anything horrific. Now, I remember going to school, of course, five minutes walk to inf...what they used to call a infant's school and primary school and then a scholarship to BerkhamstedSchool.
SHUSTER: As you were growing up as a young man what were your ambitions? What did you want to be?
SAUNDERS: I hadn't no ambitions except I was interested in farming. I still am.
SHUSTER: What attracted you to farming?
SAUNDERS: Open air! Out in the open air. [laughs] I was tired of being cooped up in school.
SHUSTER: Had you thought at all about God as you were growing up? Had...?
SAUNDERS: Well, you see, schools at that time were all-contained r...had religious courses. In...in primary school you learned the ten commandments and you had Bible lessons. In secondary school...I was looking up my records. I see I passed in Divinity, it was called, but I can not remember anything that...that was really spiritually oriented. It was a little academic.
SHUSTER: Apart from these academics, did you personally have any thought about God or had you any interest in Christianity?
SAUNDERS: Well, it was kind of a vague background.
SAUNDERS: Every morning when we entered school, we entered...went into the great hall and we had prayers. We always sang Psalm 121, "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, From whence cometh my help." And the chaplain read a suitable collect [a brief formal prayer]. And we sang a.... They introduced hymn singing too. And one of the favorites was John Bunyan's hymn. "To be a pilgrim" ["He Who Would Valiant Be" - hymn lyrics by Bunyan], we used to shout out that [Shuster chuckles]. But there was nothing personal. I do remember that one science master, Major Coombs [?].... It was the habit at that time to end the afternoon session of classes with a collect. And I always remember the reverential tone of his voice as he prayed.
SHUSTER: When you went to New Zealand in 1925, wasn't it? It was....
SHUSTER: 1924. That was certainly a long...long distance to travel. Was the only reason because there was no work in England?
SAUNDERS: Well, I wouldn't say there was no work, but [pauses] no possibility of...you would be a farm laborer. See my father is not very practical. He never thought of sending me to an agricultural school. My sister did go to a very good agricultural school. So I...so I just went to New Zealand.
SHUSTER: What were your first impressions of New Zealand when you arrived there?
SAUNDERS: Well, it's a beautiful country. And the thing that impressed me most was the hospitality of the people.
SHUSTER: Did you land in Auckland?
SHUSTER: Did you arrive in Auckland?
SAUNDERS: Yes. The scheme I went under was what was called the public school. You know that in England the public school is a private school? You know that, yes? And they had a...they...you went up to London and were interviewed to see if you were suitable. And then shipped off to New Zealand and there in New Zealand was a job already set up for you. So I went. I was sent up to the very far north of New Zealand. And...
SHUSTER: Bay of the Islands?
SHUSTER: Bay of the Islands?
SAUNDERS: No, very far north, north of...North Auckland.
SHUSTER: Oh, North Auckland?
SHUSTER: What was your job? What job were you sent to?
SAUNDERS: Milking cows. [Shuster chuckles] On a hill farm. It was.... However, it was good for my health.
SHUSTER: And how long did you work there?
SAUNDERS: About a year because there was...I attended a school, a short-term farm school, called Ruakura, because I wanted to see other parts of New Zealand and meet other people. North Auckland was very remote and I wanted to be more in the center of things. So I went down there and I met other farmers. And I said, "Any possibility of a job in your area?" I found two men who were friendly and when they returned they inquired around and got me a job there.
SHUSTER: A job where?
SAUNDERS: In Bombay.
SHUSTER: Bombay? Huh, yeah.
SAUNDERS: Which is thirty miles south of Auckland.
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. And what was your job...what was your job there?
SAUNDERS: Milking cows. [Shuster laughs]
SHUSTER: You were a specialist.
SAUNDERS: Well, that was [Shuster laughs] the great thing. Still is. Dairy farming on the north island in New Zealand is a very well-developed industry.
SHUSTER: Did you have any contact with Maori people while you were...?
SAUNDERS: Not much.
SAUNDERS: In the far north of New Zealand, there were quite a lot, but I didn't have any personal contact with them. I saw them coming and going.
SAUNDERS: Farther south they...they used to dig potatoes and do...do this work and that work. But I...I didn't have any personal contacts with them.
SHUSTER: How did you come to attend the New Zealand Bible Institute?
SAUNDERS: Well, my boss took me to Bombay Methodist Church. And he said...he told me on evening, "They're expecting some young people to be converted this...at this week's gospel meetings." So said my boss to me. I thought, "How strange. Isn't that an experience that heathen Africans need? Not people like us born and brought up in a Christian country." However, after we had milked the sixty cows, we got into the Model T Ford and drove up to the wooden church on the hilltop. As I heard the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ clearly presented for the first time, I knew that the Son of God loved me and had given himself for me. So I found out what it meant to be converted; the only one that evening, August the 23rd, 1925.
SHUSTER: And you're reading that from an article you wrote or...?
SAUNDERS: Well, yes.
SHUSTER: Or a letter you wrote?
SAUNDERS: This [laughs] actually was broadcast and translated into Russian.
SHUSTER: That was for something...that was your testimony which you gave forfor...?
SAUNDERS: Far Eastern...Far Eastern Broadcasting Company wanted different kinds of testimonies....
SHUSTER: So this is a summary of your conversion which you wrote for the Far East Broadcasting Company in...
SHUSTER ...1989. You mentioned there that's the first time you'd really heard the gospel presented in your life.
SAUNDERS: Yes, clearly...
SAUNDERS: ...and personally.
SHUSTER: And what was it that moved you?
SAUNDERS: [pauses] Well, while the man was preaching, I was remembering that at home we had The Gospel in Art [written in 1916 by Albert Edward Bailey], a big book full of religious pictures. And there flashed before my mind's eye "The Head of Christ" by Guido Reni [an Italian Baroque era painter, 1575-1642], a very moving [pauses] picture of Christ in His suffering. So....
SHUSTER: So the idea He was suffering for you...
SHUSTER: ...is what moved you? Huh. And what happened next after you were converted? How did...how did your conversion affect your life?
SAUNDERS: Well, you see, i...i...in that church was a retired lady school teacher who from the time she [volume fades] met me I'm quite sure prayed for me. She regarded all her ex-students [volume returns] that were in the countryside as her flock. And she used to go around on a black pony visiting them and en...and encouraging them. And she took special interest in me cause I was a stranger.
SHUSTER: What was her name?
SAUNDER: Her name is Constance Wootten.
SAUNDERS: Yes. It's a [tape static]...it was one of the pioneer families in Bombay. And I'm still in touch with some of the Woottens. Constance Wootten; W-O-O-T-T-E-N. For a short time, I worked on her brother's farm. She and her brother had a small farm and I worked there.
SAUNDERS: She was an unofficial minister. She had no official position, but, oh, the number of young people she influenced.
SHUSTER: What would you do when she visited you? What would you talk about? When she visited you, what you would you talk about? What...?
SAUNDERS: Well, I lived with them...
SAUNDERS: ...for s...about six months, I think. They only had a small farm.
SHUSTER: And how did you come to attend the New Zealand Bible Institute?
SAUNDERS: That's interesting because she encouraged me to go to an Easter convention. And...at a place called Ngaruawahia. And there I heard missionaries for the first time. They were Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor. Rowland Bingham of the Sudan Interior Mission. And I remember another man of the Bolivian Indian Mission who came to Bombay. So I heard missionaries for the first time...never met...never met them before.
SHUSTER: What impression did they make on you?
SAUNDERS: Well, it diverted my thoughts, "Should I remain milking cows all my life...." I also met a minister there at this Easter convention who encouraged me and then wrote and said, "The Bible institute is going to open at such-and-such a date. Are you going to enter?" So I entered.
SHUSTER: What was his name?
SAUNDERS: He was a weird bird called Russell Cameron. [clears throat] Russell Cameron. You don't need to record it because he had kind a murky history after that. Anyway, you know, God uses people even when they're imperfect.
SHUSTER: Sure, sure. [Saunders laughs] But he was...he was a missionary as well?
SAUNDERS: No, no. He was a...he was a Presbyterian minister turned Plymouth Brethren and then Independent. He was a g...Highlander [of Scottish descent], one of these Gaelic people. Not very stable.
SHUSTER: So he moved around a lot?
SAUNDERS: I don't know all his history. I know...weird bird.
SHUSTER: Why...you mentioned that you went because he told you the doo...school was opening, but why were you going to the institute? What did you hope to...what did you hope to achieve by going to the institute?
SAUNDERS: Well, you see, I [pauses] I felt that I was not going to milk cows all my life and this might be a way that God was guiding me.
SHUSTER: To...to what?
SAUNDERS: Well, missionary work certainly was emphasized a great deal at that Easter convention. And also missionaries used to come to Bombay Methodist Church and speak. So I was exposed.
SHUSTER: So it was in your mind that you wanted to be a missionary? You were...you had wanted...by this time you had wanted to become a missionary?
SAUNDERS: Yes, I was willing to be one, uh-huh.
SHUSTER: Where was the institute?
SAUNDERS: In Auckland.
SHUSTER: In Auckland. Was this...was this its first...had it just opened? Was it brand new or...?
SAUNDERS: Yes, it had only been open a few years. And looking back, it's extraordinary that, though I wouldn't say the teaching was very good, the number of missionaries that went out was very many. Now it is a Bible college. And a very thorough course. It doesn't send out so many missionaries. [Shuster laughs]
SHUSTER: What...what did the campus look like?
SAUNDERS: There wasn't any. First of al...we met in a...a...a converted dwelling at first.
SHUSTER: In a private home?
SAUNDERS: And then...then later they built...they built a [sic] institute behind the main Baptist church...
SAUNDERS: ...in the center of the city.
SHUSTER: Was it a...what kind of building was it?
SAUNDERS: Well, just a dormitory and lecture rooms.
SHUSTER: About how many people lived there?
SAUNDERS: I would say [pauses]...oh, I suppose there was a student body of forty or fifty.
SHUSTER: And how many teachers, how many faculty?
SAUNDERS: Well, that was the bother. Most of them were ministers who came in to give their lectures, say once or twice a week. Permanent staff: there was a missionary from South India called Rolls. And he was addicted to alliteration; belonged to the Plymouth Brethren. You were attracted to him, but you didn't get much real solid Bible teaching from him. And they were so interested in the minutiae of the tabernacle and the sacrifices and so on.
SHUSTER: As opposed to talking about theology or about...?
SAUNDERS: One of the most useful ministers was an old Presbyterian minister who lectured on the Book of Hebrews and the Holy Spirit. He...you really got something from him.
SHUSTER: What was his name?
SAUNDERS: The Reverend Evan Harrys from Wales.
SHUSTER: And what was it that you got from him?
SHUSTER: You said...you said you really got something from him. What did you get from him?
SAUNDERS: Well, the...his manner of teaching. And also he was...he allowed students to ask him questions. And...so you got a lot of fa...a lot of [pauses] interesting to-and-fro discussion.
SHUSTER: So you mean you got a deeper understanding of the Book of Hebrews...
SHUSTER: ...from his teaching? You mentioned his manner of teaching. What was his manner?
SAUNDERS: [pauses] Well, he read his lectures, but in a very interesting way and always open to questions and discussion. He wasn't just a dead, formal lecturer.
SHUSTER: Do you think his style later influenced you?
SAUNDERS: Why, but was...there was an unconscious influence, yes.
SHUSTER: You also mentioned a teacher. Rose was his name? Or...?
SAUNDERS: C. J. Rolls.
SAUNDERS: R-O-L-L-S. A Plymouth Brother who had worked in South India.
SHUSTER: Was J. O. Sanders associated with the school?
SAUNDERS: He...I know him very well. And he was the f...he was invited to be the secretary in the Bible Institute. So I knew...I've known him from the very beginning.
SHUSTER: What did the secretary do?
SAUNDERS: Well, he was so to speak the office manager and general...and general... [pauses] what shall I say...general...
SAUNDERS: ...keeper of the records and also he was...kept his eye on the students and so on. Very helpful.
SHUSTER: [talks over Saunders] Did he teach as well?
SHUSTER: Did he teach as well?
SAUNDERS: Not at that time, but gradually, of course, he became a very good teacher. I think all his theology and Bible was self-taught.
SHUSTER: How would you describe him as a man? What was he...what was his personality like?
SAUNDERS: His personality...very pleasant, very friendly, very forthright sometimes. So we became quite intimate later on of course. Got to know him still better when he was in Singapore.
SHUSTER: You mentioned "very forthright." Can you think of an example of that?
SAUNDERS: Well, if he saw a student whose manners or way of life was not...needed correction, he would correct them. Some of them needed it.
SHUSTER: Was he a New Zealander?
SAUNDERS: Yes. He had legal training. He was first of all a lawyer. And he worked for a Christian lawyer in the southern city of Dunedin.
SHUSTER: The South Island?
SAUNDERS: In the South Island. And his boss (I've forgotten his name) used to go to the main square of Dunedin, take off his top hat and preach in the open air with J. O. Sanders by his side.
SHUSTER: What were...looking back on your...your career as a missionary, what would you say were the in...was the influence of the Bible Institute on you? What were the strengths and the weaknesses of the courses that they taught you there?
SAUNDERS: Well, looking back on it, I [pauses] certainly.... [pauses] The courses, [pauses] you just got an introduction to the Bible, and interest in the Bible. And as you know very often in a school like that, it isn't the teachers that influence you so much as the students. And there one other student with whom I became quite intimate who was from south India, his father was a Prussian missionary of the Plymouth Brethren. His mother was Indian. And so he was olive skinned. And he wanted to enter the Indian civil service, but because of his father's and mother's background, the British wouldn't have him.
SHUSTER: What was...?
SAUNDERS: But he was very clever.
SHUSTER: What was his name?
SAUNDERS: Gottley Nagel G-O-T-T-L-E-Y, N-A, Nagel, N-A-G-E-L. "Gott" that was the short for the German "Gottlieb." And we became quite intimate. [pause] He was a very good...he [laughs] he was well versed in the Bible already. And it was through Brethren connections that he came to New Zealand, and he worked on a farm in the South Island for good Christian people. And of course, he wasn't exactly cut out for farm work, they found that he was better with his hands than at driving horses, so they often asked him to do the carpentry work and that sort of thing. But they admired him very much, and so he came to the Bible school, but it was really for him a time of, concentrated, studying the Bible, he didn't bother much with the lectures. [laughs] I mean he sat there, but [laughs] he...he knew it was primitive.
SHUSTER: You mentioned he had a great influence on you, what was his influence on you?
SAUNDERS: I can't say what directly, but just himself.
SHUSTER: Just as an example of a Christian life?
SAUNDERS: Yes. He had a...he was a beautiful singer too. And a very good preacher.
SHUSTER: Who were some of the other students at the school that you remember?
SAUNDERS: Oh there was one called JackMuir who came...who also went to China with me. And went to the same part of China.
SHUSTER: What was he like?
SAUNDERS: I was surprised that they accepted him because he had a stutter, but it was the stutter that he conquered and a very good...good Christian young man.
SHUSTER: What were some of the activities at the institute besides the classes? Were there...?
SAUNDERS: Oh Friday evening always, an open air meeting. Very often the Principal Joseph Kemp would march along the street with his students behind him like a general with his troops. [Shuster chuckles] and formed a circle. We always had open air preaching. And I think that was, I think that's what people here miss. [loud beep] Voice training people now rely on gadgets and there we learned to project our voices.
SHUSTER: Do you recall the first time you preached in one of those open air meetings?
SHUSTER: What was...what was it like?
SAUNDERS: Oh, I forget. I wasn't...I was a hesitant speaker in the early days, very.
SHUSTER: What kind of reactions did you get at these meetings? How did people react when you started preaching?
SAUNDERS: Well, there was always a circle of people, some interested and some old-time atheists, always there to encourage us [Shuster laughs] by teasing us and so on. It was an interesting experience. And sometimes we went to old folks' homes and sang.
SHUSTER: [pauses] Did people come forward at these meetings, convert at the meetings?
SAUNDERS: Why, I can't say that. It was more for our benefit than theirs. [coughs]
SHUSTER: When you were preaching at these meetings, how did you start? What kind of text did you use? How did you begin to get the crowd's attention?
SAUNDERS: I can't remember. I really can't.
SHUSTER: Were there other [pauses] important weekly activities at the institute? Prayer meetings or social activities or outings of any kind?
SAUNDERS: [pauses] Well, not much. We were...we would go to a prayer meeting of whatever we were attending. First year I was there, I went to the church of Russell Cameron, the Highlander. And went to his prayer meeting. The second year I went with Gottley Nagel in the Brethren Assembly and profited from that because it's very worshipful. You sit there, meditate, pray, wait for somebody to announce a hymn, sing, somebody stands up and gives an exhortation or an exposition. Quite quiet and worshipful. I liked it. In fact, when I...when I left two years.... I still had one year to fill out my five years in New Zealand. You have to fill out five years to earn your five pounds. And I had been to a convention in the far south of the south island. And there I met some Christian farmers who invited me to come and work on their farm in Canterbury. And so I went down there and that was a very useful experience. They were mature Christian people with big sheep and wheat farm. And I drove six-horse team plowing and doing this, that and the other. Gottley Nagel had worked for them too in former years. So it was a very happy year.
SHUSTER: So you got in what kind of work for them?
SAUNDERS: Driving a six-horse team in the good old days before tractors.
SHUSTER: And how long were you at the institute onl...?
SHUSTER: Two years.
SAUNDERS: Only two years.
SHUSTER: Two years.
SAUNDERS: It was a two-year course.
SHUSTER: Do you have any concluding reflections on your years there?
SAUNDERS: [pauses] No, I wouldn't say so. [pauses] I do know that they brought in a very good teacher who had an analytic mind, actually, through self-study largely. He was a wool sorter by profession. [Shuster laughs] But an Anglican who had become an enlightened Christian through the Plymouth Brethren and had devoted himself to really study theology. He had a great library and he had really studied. And he would show the structure of Scripture in a very interesting way. It wasn't the amount that he taught, but the method, which I found most useful, a method of Bible study.
SHUSTER: And what was his name?
SAUNDERS: His name was Yolland. I...I think it was Harry, but Y-O-L-L-A-N-D. And he stayed on and became a very useful Bible teacher.
SHUSTER: Was there a library at the institute?
SAUNDERS: Not much at the beginning. Of course it was added to.
SHUSTER: How did you hear about the CIM...China Inland Mission's call for two hundred missionaries?
SAUNDERS: [laughs] That's fascinating. One Sunday morning while I was working on this sheep and wheat farm, I had fed the horses and I changed my clothes and I was sitting in the sitting room, awaiting to go to the worship, and on the table were all kinds of missionary magazines. So I picked up one and skimmed through it and there was the call of the China Inland Mission for two hundred new missionaries. [pauses] I put it down and I picked up another one, quite a different society, and yet there was the call of the China Inland Mission for two hundred new missionaries.
SHUSTER: In that...in the second magazine?
SAUNDERS: Yes. And I...and I thought, "Oh, really." And I put it down and I picked up a third, a different magazine. And still the [Shuster laughs] China Inland Mission was calling for two hundred new missionaries. Well, when you have a threefold call in about [Shuster laughs] twenty minutes, what do you do?
SHUSTER: And so how did you go about joining...how did you...?
SAUNDERS: [interrupts Shuster] Well, I wrote to their [pauses] office in Auckland and corresponded. And they called me up to see me personally. And I went before their committee. And J. O. Sanders was on the committee. And they accepted me.
SHUSTER: What kind of things did they ask you?
SAUNDERS: Oh dear, I can't remember [Shuster laughs]...can't remember. Evidently, J. O. Sanders said something good about me [Shuster laughs]. And I think at that time funds must have been quite abundant because they said, "Oh, well, you've been away from your family for five years. I think you'd better go back and farewell...say farewell to your family in England before you go to China." So I got on a ship and went by Australia back to England.
SHUSTER: And How...?
SAUNDERS: Went and spent the summer there in their training school in London, the CIM training school in London.
SHUSTER: This was in 1930?
SAUNDERS: In 1930. I sailed in the summer of 1930 with the English party.
SHUSTER: What...what did you learn at the training school in London? What did they teach you?
SAUNDERS: Homiletics. Mr. Hogben, the teacher, was very good at homiletics. That's what they....
SHUSTER: What...but there was no Chinese language or culture?
SAUNDERS: Oh, yeah, there was a bit. [voices in background] But...you know, you don't learn it outside of China in those days. You can now, but not than.
SHUSTER: Where did you...so in the fall of 1930 you went to China. How did your parents react when you told them?
SAUNDERS: My father was very sympathetic. He knew what conversion meant. And he knew what a call of God was. My mother was quite dim about it.
SHUSTER: Why was that?
SAUNDERS: [voices in background] Huh?
SHUSTER: Why was that?
SAUNDERS: I don't know. [pauses] Yeah, my father was very interested.
SHUSTER: How did your other families and friends react to the idea of your being a missionary?
SAUNDERS: Well, it gets complicated now [sounds of papers being moved] because a year after I went to New Zealand, my sister Molly joined me. She had done...she had been to agricultural school in England and she came and began the same way I did, milking cows and so on and so on. But she married a ma...an Englishman, on a dairy farm and they married and had children and that was her life.
SHUSTER: How did your other families and friends act...react to you becoming a missionary to China?
SAUNDERS: Well, they didn't.... Those I knew in New Zealand, of course, were sympathetic. I didn't have any connections in England. Our social life in England was very restricted. Because I was commuting away, I didn't have any intimate friends near by. I had one school friend who also came out to New Zealand because there were...he couldn't find a job and he's still there.
SHUSTER: In New Zealand?
SHUSTER: How many...how many missionaries...how many CIM missionaries came from New Zealand? Were there a lot of CIM workers from New Zealand?
SAUNDERS: New Zealand at that time sent out lots of missionaries [pauses] to different parts, especially to E.... [sound stops for several seconds]
SHUSTER: Approximately, how many New Zealanders were in CIM? Do you have any...any idea...any feel...?
SAUNDERS: I couldn't say...I couldn't say offhand. No.
SHUSTER: Where did you arrive in China when you arrived in 1930?
SAUNDERS: Well, we all went to Shanghai, which was our base, where our headquarters was in Shanghai.
SHUSTER: Did you...?
SAUNDERS: The distinctive of the China Inland Mission was that the headquarters was on the field, not in New York, remote from action.
SHUSTER: And how did that affect the work of the mission?
SAUNDERS: Well, it meant, one, that the directors were all missionaries and knew China. It wasn't remote control by people who had never been in China, like some big denominations, you know.
SAUNDERS: Their headquarters is at their home base.
SHUSTER: Do you recall your first impressions when you got in China? What struck you most...struck you first about the country?
SAUNDERS: I can't say that...well, we went to China, expected everything to be different and went to language school for six months and started learning Chinese with very inefficient methods of that time.
SHUSTER: What were the methods?
SAUNDERS: One you did have...there was one Chinese teacher who could put limited vocabulary and make it interested [sic] because he had a very lively mind and he could make you follow along very graphically. He was a real teacher.
SAUNDERS: Then, of course, you sat down and read from the Chinese characters, the teacher saying a sentence and you trying to follow him and so on. All this was in the days before modern linguistic methods and efficient language teaching.
SHUSTER: What was the Chinese teacher's name? The one you mentioned who was so....
SAUNDERS: Oh, Yen-song-pu. There was two little scrolls that were painted by him.
SHUSTER: The scrolls that you have on your wall in Chinese.
SAUNDERS: [interupts] The little ones, uh-huh.
SHUSTER: For the tape, I'm explaining the scrolls that you have on the wall of Chinese...Chinese flowers that were painted by him.
SAUNDERS: Yen-song-pu did those.
SHUSTER: That's Y-a-n...?
SAUNDERS: Y-e-n s-o-n-g p-u. He was a natural teacher: lively, knew what he was doing, interesting.
SHUSTER: Was this language school in Lanchow [Lanzhou] or...?
SAUNDERS: No, no. It was up the Yang...up the Yang tze River to a place called Anking [Anqing], [pauses] overnight journey on a steamer, not very far.
SHUSTER: How many of you were in language school?
SAUNDERS: [pauses] I suppose twenty or thirty.
SHUSTER: Do you recall any of the people who were with you there?
SAUNDERS: Oh, yes, of course. I knew them all. I came and there was our English party and one other New Zealander, Jack Muir, and there were two Germans and there were two Canadians, two Americans.
SHUSTER: Who were the Canadians and the Americans...who were the Canadians and the Americans?
SAUNDERS: Herb Hess was one; and Ernie Zentgraf who didn't last long because he had a hearing disability, but he was a faithful friend of the mission all his life. He re...he passed away recently. Canada: there was SamJeffery. Who else? Anyway, we were a...a happy company.
SHUSTER: Were these...?
SAUNDERS: There were several from Australia. There was one lady.
SHUSTER: And what was her name?
SAUNDERS: She was married. She was...she was a Jewess, who had been converted in university and [pauses] married a Gentile.
SHUSTER: What was her name?
SAUNDERS: Now I'm getting.... Oh, and the names elude me sometimes. [pauses]
SHUSTER: Were these...were these people all part of the two-hundred that were...?
SAUNDERS: Yes, yes. [sound of taps on a hollow surface]
SHUSTER: Do you think that the...the people that came out then were part of this two-hundred had any special characteristics that ch...differed from later missionaries?
SAUNDERS: Well, it was a [sound of taps on hollow surface] forward movement. You did not need scholars rather than evangelists. And at that time, you see, the main cities of China all had missionaries and churches already founded. But there were many smaller cities that had nothing. And so we were reaching out to these smaller cities and...to do pioneer work, evangelistic work.
SHUSTER: Such as the city....
SAUNDERS: So it was kind of.... You needed zeal and language rather than theology. You had preaching posters and you preached from those. People could see them and you used eye-gate as well as ear-gate.
SHUSTER: From John Bunyan's Holy War, the eye-gate and the ear -gate.
SHUSTER: That's a line....
SAUNDERS: So really there was a.... We did do pioneer work and the churches were founded in the...in the [clears throat] smaller cities.
SHUSTER: So you would say that one characteristic of missionaries in this group was the zeal and determination?
SAUNDERS: Yes. [pauses] They didn't go expecting to be pastors or teachers. They went expecting to be evangelists.
SAUNDERS: It's very important that a man like David Adeney, with the university behind him, he was sent first to country places in Henan province. Why? Because university students came from the country places. And people don't realize that. Tha....
SHUSTER: Why was that important then? What was the connection between his work and the fact that university students came from there?
SAUNDERS: That this...that he knew when he began u...doing university work that the background of the university students was in the country. [pauses] Because, you see, landlords or officials...officials, when they retired, retired to their country villages. And so the country villages always had some educated men in their midst. And if they were converted, then the church had educated elders. People don't...see, here people, when they retire, they don't retire to their home village. [laughs]
SHUSTER: And educated people were respected in China?
SAUNDERS: Oh, absolutely. Th...th...the four grades: shì [?] , nóng [?] , jìang [?], chung [?]...jìang [?], chung [?]. Shì [?], scholars; nóng [?], farmers; jìang [?], artisans; [whispers] nóng [?]jìang [?]; chung [?], [normal voice] merchants.
SHUSTER: Those are the four classes of society?
SAUNDERS: Yes. And way down, not included in the four, were the soldiers.
SHUSTER: What about the governors, the administrators, the rulers? Where did they fit in?
SAUNDERS: People just endured them. [Shuster laughs]
SHUSTER: Was...was this language school your first experience of learning a foreign language?
SAUNDERS: Oh, no.
SHUSTER: What were some of the other languages you'd studied?
SAUNDERS: Why I had eight years of Latin, eight years of French, two years of German in school.
SHUSTER: Is the study of languages something that you enjoy, something that your...?
SAUNDERS: Yes. I...I still...I...I keep my eye on language. I'm horrified at the Lancaster Intelligencer paper.
SHUSTER: Why is that?
SAUNDERS: [laughs] The way they mangle English. [Shuster laughs]
SHUSTER: What is it that you enjoy about studying language?
SAUNDERS: Let's just.... I don't know, ust interested in it.
SHUSTER: How would you describe the Chinese language? What is...what is special or particular about it as compared to other languages?
SAUNDERS: The Chinese language, the spoken language, is grammatically easy. That is the word order is very logical; no difficulty there. We were never...the...the tones were never emphasized in teaching us. That was a great defect. And then no Chinese child ever starts learning the characters first.
SHUSTER: Which is what you did?
SAUNDERS: Yes. You tried to link the characters together in a meaningful sentence. No child does that.
SHUSTER: How does a Chinese child learn?
SHUSTER: [raises voice] How does a Chinese child learn?
SAUNDERS: Well, of course, he doesn't know he's learning. He just learns from hearing people, his father, mother siblings, whatnot. And, of course, you can do the same now, of course. With tape recorders and all modern equipment modern missionaries learn how to speak first and then they put the written language on top of it.
SHUSTER: But you studied the written language first and then...?
SAUNDERS: Yes. The two together which is not efficient.
SHUSTER: Are there ideas or topics which can be better expressed in Chinese than, say, English or other languages.
SAUNDERS: Well.... [pauses] Say that again.
SHUSTER: I was wondering if Chinese is...is a...has more...has an advantage in expressing certain types of topics or themes as opposed to other languages. I remember one missionary I talked to said that Tibetan was a very good language for discussing theology because there were so many terms and such great interest in Tibetan.
SAUNDERS: Ah, he...he'd delved into Buddhism, you see. Yes. No. I would say that the Chinese language is so integrated with the life of the people and.... For instance, because I was interested in farming, I loved going to the country villages. And I enjoyed going to the country churches and talking with the young men and comparing things. I learned an awful lot. And they...they...they appreciated the fact that I was interested in what they were doing.
SHUSTER: As far as farm methods and farm...
SHUSTER: ...work? What is some of the things you learned?
SAUNDERS: One very interesting thing I said we were going through the fields and I noticed that somebody had planted cotton. And they planted it so thickly I said, "What a waste. Wh...why did they plant it so thickly? What a waste."
SHUSTER: Because they would choke each other or...?
SAUNDERS: They said, "That's deliberate." Because the soil there, when it rains hard, forms a crust.
SAUNDERS: And unless you plant it thickly the seedlings can't push up.
SAUNDERS: So we planted thickly, the seedlings all push up together and break the crust to break through. [Shuster chuckles] And then we thinned them out. [chuckles] I've used that as an illustration of everybody getting their shoulders to the work and breaking through. So I enjoyed the country, young men and older men too.
SHUSTER: After language school, where did you go?
SAUNDERS: I went to northwestern province of Gansu [Kansu].
SHUSTER: Where in Gansu [Kansu]? Where in Gansu [Kansu]?
SAUNDERS: Northwest China.
SHUSTER: I mean where in Gansu [Kansu] did you go?
SAUNDERS: Oh, the southern part of Gansu [Kansu].
SHUSTER: Was that Tsing-wui...Tsing-hu? What was the name of the city you went to?
SAUNDERS: Uh-huh. Heavenly...heaven water.
SHUSTER: What...what did that city look like?
SAUNDERS: It was a...the whole...the first one I lived in, the place called Gangu, they're all little walled cities. And, of course, you first went to a city where there was a church. And gradually set to and did your course work in Chinese.
SHUSTER: And there was a church in the city?
SHUSTER: What were...?
SAUNDERS: And a senior missionary. G....
SHUSTER: Who was that?
SAUNDERS: My first senior missionary was a man from Oregon. A very pious man. A carpenter by trade. Very devout. The Chinese admired him very much. Although, his Chinese language was very limited. But they admired his character.
SHUSTER: What was his name?
SAUNDERS: Taylor. He died here.
SHUSTER: In...in Lancaster [Pennsylvania]?
SAUNDERS: Right, here.
SHUSTER: Was his...his first name?
SAUNDERS: Edward Taylor.
SHUSTER: Edward Taylor. After you arrived, how did you start your work? What were the first things that you did?
SAUNDERS: Well, you studied with a...you had a teacher come in to read and you followed him in his reading. You tried to talk with him. Occasionally, went out with an evangelist to a country village and watched him and heard him preaching. You got a gentle introduction to pioneer missionary work.
SHUSTER: About how long did that take?
SAUNDERS: Oh, oh, [pauses] I was there, I suppose, for a year. Then I went to a bigger center called Tienshui. And then, later on, to an unevangelized little city called Tsingshui. Very often cities were founded where there was good water. Shui is water.
SHUSTER: Heavenly water?
SAUNDERS: Heavenly water, clear water, Tsingshui.
SHUSTER: And when you.... So in Tsingshui there was no church there?
SAUNDERS: In Tsingshui, there was no church.
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. After we...I started in there and then I married and we went together at...to...and lived in Tsingshui.
SHUSTER: As a pioneer evangelist how did you begin? How did you start?
SAUNDERS: Well, preached on the market. Gathered a few people sometimes in the evening. But we were.... Some of the real pioneer preaching was done by Chinese evangelists that came from the main church. They would stay for a week or two. Sometimes we put up a tent and had a real course of preaching. And folk would be...some would be interested and so in the evening you would be teaching these who had professed belief or were interested in what they had heard from the Chinese evangelists.
END OF TAPE