Billy Graham Center

Collection 471 - William Arthur Saunders. T2 Transcript

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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of William Arthur Saunders (CN 471, T2) 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 Jeffrey Dennison and was completed in September 2002.

Collection 471, T2. Interview of William Arthur Saunders by Robert Shuster, December 9, 1992.

SAUNDERS: [static] 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 would 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. We would go step-by-step through one of the gospels and introduce them to the Word of God. So it was [pauses]'s the way we did it.

SHUSTER: What attracted people in the city to the gospel? What was it that you found most effective in capturing their interest?

SAUNDERS: There's one.... The parable of the prodigal son [Luke 15:11-32] is always understood first go [the first time it is told] well by all Chinese.

SHUSTER: Why is that do you think?

SAUNDERS: Because it fits their culture.


SAUNDERS: Familial reverence is deep seeded in them. And for a boy to run off like that, that's disgraceful. For him to come back is wonderful. For the father to receive him is still more wonderful. It so fitted their culture.


SAUNDERS: Several times I've seen young men, wild young men, respond to that.

SHUSTER: So you often preached o...preached on that using that as a text?

SAUNDERS: Sure, yes.

SHUSTER: Were there other texts or stories too that were very effective?

SAUNDERS: I remember that one of the closest friends I had in Tsingshui was attracted by a sermon on the second coming of Jesus Christ. He knew the history of China: continual revolution, disasters one after another, warlords, emperors, changes of dynasty, famine, flood, all sorts of things. And he thought, "Is this going on for ever and ever and ever? Will it never end? And the second coming of Christ to set up His kingdom greatly attracted him and he became a very sound Christian. He grew. It was a delight to have him one just reading the Bible together. Very ingenuous, honest you...young man. But he was a highly...[pauses] highly unqualified medical man [Saunders laughs].

SHUSTER: do you mean that?

SAUNDERS: Well, there were so many in China who have a smattering of medicine. He had been in the army and had gathered a little information on medicines and medical care and so on. And like many others, he just opened a shop and sold medicines and treated people. law against it.

SHUSTER: No license required.

SAUNDERS: No. I...if they were honest and kind, they did some good.

SHUSTER: You mentioned some of the Chinese evangelists who came from the main church sometimes to preach in the city, do you recall any of their names?

SAUNDERS: Yes. All of this is ancient history, of course.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

SAUNDERS: I just mentioned two: Li Seng Fu, L-I S-E-N-G F-U. There was another man, Mr. Kang, K-A-N-G. He was very good. The...the one I got to know best was the elder of the church. Elder Chao, C-H-A-O, and he came and stayed with us for several weeks.

SHUSTER: He's no relation to Calvin Chao who was later...?

SAUNDERS: Same name,....

SHUSTER: But no relation?

SAUNDERS: ....but no relate....

SHUSTER: Common name.

SAUNDERS: Well, several of...common name.

SHUSTER: mentioned that you got to know him, Elder Chao, best. How would you describe his character?

SAUNDERS: Very, very interesting. Very slow speaking. Very simple speaking. The country people, ordinary people liked him because he...he was...wasn't a smart aleck. He was very considerate and he had a very.... I remember that I gave him the auto...the biography of the great evangelist Song to read in Chinese. He couldn't put it down. And I saw him there and he said (and I was within hearing), "I'm Samson grinding at the mill." [Judges 16:21] That he felt that compared with evangelist Yeng Song, he was just grinding away.

SHUSTER: With blinded eyes.


SHUSTER: With blinded eyes. Like Samson.

SAUNDERS: The reason was this (and...) that when he was a young man, a missionary and his wife thought, "Oh, this young man has great possibilities. I'll tell you what we'll do. We're going to Chefoo to see our children." (On the coast, you know, on northeast China.) "We'll take young Chao with us. He'll be great help on the road. And there a place where there are many educated young women. Perhaps, we can find a wife for him." Now that is entirely according to Chinese custom. You don't leave such an important matter for the young people themselves to decide. Their betters do it for them. So he went to Chefoo with these folk. And he was introduced to a young lady teacher. And there were sev...a couple of months, I guess. And they met from time to time. And so when they were beginning to think about returning to Gansu, they said to young Mr. Chao, "Well, what about it? You met this young lady several times. What about her?" "Oh, I'm sure a very fine young woman, yes." "Well, would you like us to arr...arrange a marriage for you and take her back to Gansu?" And he hummed and he hawed and didn't no where to look, didn't know what to say. And so they pressed him and pressed him, "Well, what's the matter?" [pauses] "She has natural feet."

SHUSTER: Unbound.

SAUNDERS: And to take a freak like that back to Gansu, a conservative place, he couldn't face it.


SAUNDERS: So he went back and he married one with suitably bound feet. I knew her. Not a bad woman at all. And her children were good children. But I always felt that Elder Chao was a defeated man. He did his duty. He was a solid, good character, but he felt that he had, in a way, failed. Very pitiful. And that's what brings me to another point. You know, many, many histories of pioneer work are being written in China, but I...he wrote the history of the Tienshui church. Would you like it for the Archives?

SHUSTER: Certainly.

SAUNDERS: I thought so.

SHUSTER: We'd like it for the library.

SAUNDERS: It was written in Chinese and I translated it into English. It's not very long, but it's very interesting {collection 471, Box 1, Folder 1].

SHUSTER: Sure. That would be great to...great to have that. What was a typical worship service like in the church after it got started?

SAUNDERS: Oh, very, like a [sic] usual non-episcopal service here.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh. There's nothing distinctly Chinese about it or different than a service you might have here?

SAUNDERS: Not at first, but there came a charismatic movement that swept...that came into China called the Jesus Family. And they came. They were Chinese from Shantung Province. And they would come to a church and be welcomed and they would start in by praising the missionaries for their pioneer work and so on, for their dedication and sacrifice, leaving their home and they damned with faint praise [Shuster laughs] because we had not emphasized the Holy Spirit. [pauses] And from then, of course, ignorant people, people who couldn't read...they Chinese, fluent Chinese, real Chinese, not foreign Chinese. They were, of course, were able to sweep the people into claiming the Holy Spirit with all its speaking in tongues and this that and the other. [pauses]

SHUSTER: Did...?

SAUNDERS: And Elder Chao and people like him, how could they oppose them? They stood on the sidelines. And gradually people began to think, "Now, these missionaries, they weren't so bad." They would come and inquire of Elder Chao and people like him, "What is all this? What about it?" And they by...were steadying influence. Now, there were two good things that came out of this charismatic movement. One was the singing of Scripture to pentatonic tunes, the Chinese five-note scale. To hear them sing. They really was dreadful to hear some of the singing of...

SHUSTER: Of a Western scale.

SAUNDERS: ...of our scale. What is it, eight notes? Anyway, pentatonic. Wonderful to hear them really singing and memorizing the Scriptures to a pentatonic tune. And the other thing was [unclear, Chinese term] all praying together, each praying their own prayer. Now, you say, "That's utter confusion." But no, it's Chinese culture because when they're in school, they're all shouting their own lessons, each shouting his lesson. You shouting your lesson. And they used to each concentrating on their own statement. And of course, when would a young Christian, a just-converted man stand up and pray alone? Of course not. But if he's in a crowd, they're all praying, away he goes praying.

SHUSTER: So that became the custom of the church.


SHUSTER: So did a separate church grow out of the Jesus Family or did it simply develop the church in the city?

SAUNDERS: Sometimes, but that didn't last.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh. But it did influence the surviving churches?

SAUNDERS: Yes. Gradually it faded away. It left a good influence in some places, sometimes split the church; but those who went off on the extreme business gradually died out. Because people could see the difference between honest Christians and those that put on an act.

SHUSTER: And were people from the Jesus Family putting on an act or were they...?

SAUNDERS: No, not the original founders of it. But of course, they...there were some characters who went along with them for the benefits they got out of it.

SHUSTER: What.... [pauses] At what point did the control of the church that you were pioneering pass to the Chinese? When soon was there a Chinese pastor or a Chinese elder ?

SAUNDERS: Oh, well, you see, people were poor. And there were no pastors, but there were men who were willing to take responsibility for organizing, leading and preaching.

SHUSTER: And these were elders?


SHUSTER: And at what point was the church self-sustaining or in...or...?

SAUNDERS: When we left Tsingshui, after the communists had come in, there were about sixty gathered with their own leaders. What happened after that I don't know.

SHUSTER: But at that point was the church pretty much discovering itself independent of you or...?


SHUSTER: Yeah. And you were serving as an evangelist?

SAUNDERS: I that time my wife and I had moved to the main center at Tienshui and I was doing Bible teaching in all the rural churches going from...spending a week here and a week there teaching the Bible.

SHUSTER: What...what about work among Muslims? Did you...did you do any work among Muslims?

SAUNDERS: Yes, there was a big Muslim market half-a-day's walk from Tsingshui. And I used to visit there sometimes, got to know some of the merchants and people, but I didn't do anything really solid. I was just interested in them, preached on the street. I gave out gospels in Chinese and Arabic. But [pauses]....

SHUSTER: What... what kind of sermons did you preach? How would you... how would you prepare a sermon for a Muslim audience?

SAUNDERS: Well, fortunately, we had a very learned missionary who had prepared teaching posters... preaching posters that were very, very clear. And I wish I had them now....

SHUSTER: What was his name?

SAUNDERS: G...George Harris. He really knew how to make.... He knew the Muslim mind and he was also an artist and his preaching posters were very effective.

SHUSTER: You mentioned before about preaching posters. How did you use them? How... how did you use a preaching poster?

SAUNDERS: Well, for instance, of the most popular ones was the... the two roads: one road going up to Heaven, one road going the other way. [Shuster interrupts]

SHUSTER: So there was a picture on the poster?

SAUNDERS: Yeah. And the bridge: Which... which way are you going? One leads to life and one leads to destruction.

SHUSTER: So a poster would just have a picture on it and then you would use that to begin your sermon?

SAUNDERS: Yeah. For the...on the street.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

SAUNDERS: That's for street preaching or tent meeting preaching.

SHUSTER: What is the advantage of a preaching poster?

SAUNDERS: Well, eye-gate {information entering through the eye]. I mean, it's a great help when people can see what you're talking about.

SHUSTER: Was it particularly effective among illiterate [unclear - Saunders interrupts]?

SAUNDERS: Yes, oh sure. Most of the people were illiterate [pauses] in those days.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh. So this poster got their attention?

SAUNDERS: Yes. After they became Christians, we encouraged them all to learn to read and rededicated...both men and women, they learned to read the Gospels.

SHUSTER: Who... who was Howard Knight?


SHUSTER: Who was Howard Knight?

SAUNDERS: Howard Knight was a New Zealander, and [pauses] a man with a good background of education. And he was a man of vision and he could see the need for linking together all these churches into a federation.

SHUSTER: All what churches?

SAUNDERS: Those part...churches founded by the China Inland Mission and founded by the Scandinavian Alliance Mission, which is now called TEAM [The Evangelical Alliance Mission], and the Christian Missionary Alliance. And so, in the course of time, there was a federation of churches in northwest China. That was largely his vision.

SHUSTER: Why did he feel these churches needed to be linked together?

SAUNDERS: Oh, for mutual edification and support so that their leaders could get together from time to time, compare notes, and found a Bible school. That was a great... really good accomplishment.

SHUSTER: And when was this federation founded?

SAUNDERS: Ummm.... Let me see... Forty-nine.... In the early forties.

SHUSTER: Was Knight a CM... a CIM [China Inland Mission] missionary?

SAUNDERS: Oh yes. I knew him very well. We were together in Tsingshui and worked out to the surrounding churches.

SHUSTER: What... how would you describe him personally? What was his personality like?

SAUNDERS: He was a man of vision and with organizing ability who commended himself to the Chinese.

SHUSTER: How did he do that?

SAUNDERS: Well, they could see that he had a bigger vision than they had, you see. They were not travel people...very difficult, you see. that province, if you wanted to go to the capital city, well you had to walk for a week.


SAUNDERS: See, communication, there was none. If you wanted to go anywhere you walked. Well, that discourages people from going very far.


SAUNDERS: Well, actually, of course, motor roads were made and communication became a little more easy.

SHUSTER: Did the federation continue to function throughout the war and up to the time the Communists took over?

SAUNDERS: Yes. [pauses] There's been a very great multiplication of Christians throughout northwest China, but I don't have any details. I only...I...I never felt it wise to keep up correspondence, though I could have done so. Because to receive a foreign letter in a remote city arouses suspicion. Now to write to Shanghai or Peking was quite different.


SAUNDERS: Foreign letters come in all the time. But to a remote place, "What's this?" It would embarrass the church. So, sad to say, after we left, we only have general news. However, I did get one letter from a pastor in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu. Very interesting. At that time I was living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I had a friend who was teaching in the engineering college, Professor Ludema [?], big Dutchman. And I said, "Oh, I hear you're back in China. Where are you going?" Well, he said, "The first place I'm going to is Lanzhou." "Oh," I said. "Lanzhou. Why I know the pastor there." So I wrote a letter in Chinese and gave it to him to deliver. It wasn't deliv.... He delivered it indirectly and the pastor wrote back [pauses] and described how he had spent so long in exile in central Asia because he was a Rightist [someone the Communist government considered a reactionary] and he was in a thought reform camp. But these thoughts had not been reformed because when (after Mao Zedong's death) he was allowed to return to the capital city and immediately reopened the church. Then he said, "Last Easter four hundred people were baptized."

SHUSTER: Hmmm. Praise the Lord.

SAUNDERS: Uh-huh. So, Hort Horan [?], pastor supernatural Hor [?]. He was a disciple of the present James Taylor's father. [original audio tape stopped and restarted]

SHUSTER: This is a continuation of the interview with Reverend W.A. Saunders....

SAUNDERS: Not Reverend.

SHUSTER: Mister W.A. Saunders by Robert Shuster on December 9, 1992. How did you meet your wife, Elizabeth? How did you meet your wife, Elizabeth?

SAUNDERS: I was living in... visiting a village on the banks of the Wei River in Gansu, and after the evening meal I went for a stroll along the river bank and I was so surprised to see approaching me, riding two horses, two foreign ladies. [sighs] One was Elizabeth Bane and the other Ann Blair. They had been for a week's journey by horseback to a C&MA missionary who was a dentist, a highly... an unqualified dentist, but a very clever man. Oh [laughs]....

SHUSTER: Who was that? Who was he?

SAUNDERS: His name was Ruhl. R-U-H-L. William Ruhl. And he... he was quite a good dentist. Self-taught after observing a friend doing his work and reading books, I suppose. He had.... But who would think during a week's journey on horseback to the dentist...?

SHUSTER: And they were also CIM missionaries?

SAUNDERS: Oh yes. And later when I moved to the city Tsingshui, I met them more often, and we became engaged and we were married in 1934.

SHUSTER: What... what was it like being a Westerner in a Chinese city? Were you the only Westerner in the city?

SAUNDERS: Yeah. Well, of course, in those days, we all wore Chinese clothes.

SHUSTER: So you did not live apart from Chinese?

SAUNDERS: Oh no. When we were pioneering, we just rented a courtyard. We didn't build. Even some of the older places, they bought Chinese houses. We didn't do much building in the pioneer days. So....

SHUSTER: Was your lifestyle different from Chinese?

SAUNDERS: Well, somewhat. I mean most Chinese ate two meals a day. We were more accustomed to three, of course.

SHUSTER: Were there other differences?

SAUNDERS: Well, it was a very simple lifestyle. You had to just simplify everything. The water was in the well and the fire was in the charcoal. If you wanted flour, you bought a sack of wheat in the [unclear] and took it to the mill and had it ground. In some ways, life was more complicated. But then, if you didn't have the servants, you couldn't function. Now, it's very interesting, the country boys liked to come and work for the missionaries so that they could learn the Bible too.


SAUNDERS: Because morning and evening prayers they would get the benefit of the Bible. That was a sort unseen ministry that was greatly valued by intelligent country boys.

SHUSTER: So how many would you have working for you at one time?

SAUNDERS: Oh, we had two because that was the time of the Long March when we were together in Tsingshui. And rumors flew backwards and forwards all the time, so we kept two horses.


SAUNDERS: So that when rumors were bad we could get on our horses and not delay in getting... hiring horses and so on. And we would just go off towards the east where it was safer.

SHUSTER: Did you ever have to do that?


SHUSTER: Did you ever have to evacuate?

SAUNDERS: Yes. Once or twice. So we had a horse boy and another one to do this, that, and the other. If we didn't have them, we wouldn't be doing anything else but working for ourselves and looking after ourselves.

SHUSTER: Did... did...? Of course, about the time you got married was also the time...was also the time that the Stams....


SHUSTER: About the time that you got married was about the time that the Stams were murdered.

SAUNDERS: Yeah. Yes.

SHUSTER: Do you recall how you heard about that or how that effected ...?

SAUNDERS: No. [unclear] news took a long time to reach remote parts of China. Of course we did hear sooner or later, but it didn't effect us.

SHUSTER: Did you have much contact with the government of the province or with the Kuomintang [also known as the National Party ion English; governing party of the country until driven off the mainlaind by the Communists]?

SAUNDERS: No, no. No.

SHUSTER: You were really on the periphery....

SAUNDERS: Yeah, we.... I suppose we saw the best side of the Kuomintang. For instance, when I first went to Gansu all the fertile valley land was a picture of opium, beautiful fields of opium. But by about 1934, there was none. The Nationalists had done...had done away with it.

SHUSTER: Did they... did the government, the province, the national government in any way support your work or oppose your work or affect it in any way?

SAUNDERS: No, absolutely neutral. Quite neutral.

SHUSTER: Well, you had... you had mentioned how you had to keep two horses saddled because of the Communist army, the Long March army. Did the civil war or the fighting between warlords affect you in other ways?

SAUNDERS: No. My wife had suffered that in earlier days. She was in... she was there before I was. And there was a Muslimrebellion and she had some scary experiences with... with Muslim bandits. But when they... the Nationalist government got in order there was no more of that. It was very peaceful indeed. As I think back, really we had a very, very peaceful time. Japanese never came near us. No Japanese bombings. Very peaceful.

SHUSTER: What.... I was at a conference earlier this year and they were talking about missions in China, and they gave some examples of some churches where very quickly after the church had been founded the missionaries became almost marginal figures because the Chinese were the main leaders within the church. Would you say that was true from your experience or was it not?

SAUNDERS: Well, you see [pauses] in the eastern parts of China where denominational missions were working, there were more educated people and, therefore, educated leaders sprang up in the churches. Where we lived, people were poor and... and it was a different system. For instance, in a country village, you may have a very good church of zealous Christians, but no paid pastors. [pauses] They looked after each other. And on the whole, it worked okay. Missionaries would visit and encourage them from time to time, but really it was quite encouraging to see how they took on the care of the church themselves.

SHUSTER: What about things such as the printing of Bibles or literature?

SAUNDERS: Well, that always had to be done in... in Shanghai or somewhere where there were facilities to do it. During the war with Japan, they were printing them in western China. Very inferior printing, but there was no lack. There were always Bibles around.

SHUSTER: You... you mentioned that you didn't... the Japanese did not get into your area. Jap... you mentioned the Japanese did not come into the area of northwest China.


SHUSTER: Did the war effect you in any way?

SAUNDERS: No. We were just cut off. But it was remarkable how the... how the mail got through. I remember the longest time it took for an airmail letter from the United States to where we lived was ten days. Sometimes a week.

SHUSTER: It takes almost that long now. [laughs]

SAUNDERS: I know [laughs]. Yes. We were cut off, but we were peaceful, which was great. So, we had one son who grew up there and he had a peaceful time - no alarms or excursions, except, of course, the last two years we were under the Communists.

SHUSTER: You mentioned while the tape was off that one time you attended a CMA conference in Gansu. Was there a lot of contact with other missions?

SAUNDERS: No, there wasn't. The other three missions there were the China Inland Mission, its associate, the Scandinavian Alliance Mission, which is now called TEAM, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance. There were a few Pentecostals, but we didn't have anything to do with them.

SHUSTER: Why was that?

SAUNDERS: One: because they were kind of troublemakers. It's a long story I won't go into, but they did not endure.

SHUSTER: These were apart from the Jesus Family Movement that you had mentioned?

SAUNDERS: Yeah. Yeah. Part of the American Pentecostals.

SHUSTER: Did you have much contact with the Scandinavian Alliance missionaries or the CMA missionaries?

SAUNDERS: Yes, because when we went to the coast we always had [heavy static]....

SHUSTER: I think [heavy static]....

SAUNDERS: ...the great cities, Xi'an [?]?

SHUSTER: Your microphone dropped out.

SAUNDERS: I'm sorry.

SHUSTER: It's okay. [more static] There we go. You were saying about contact with the CMA and the Scandinavian Alliance Mission?

SAUNDERS: Well, when we went to the coast we always had to pass through the great city of Xi'an [?], where the Scandinavian Alliance Mission had their... had their guest house, and we used their guest house, they used ours.

SHUSTER: What about CMA mission? What kind of contacts did you have...?

SAUNDERS: Well, they were more remote and [clears throat] still farther northwest. We did not have so much contact with them unless we saw them in the capital city of Lanzhou or unless we went directly into their territory for... well, for tapestry [laughs] or for a conference. But....

SHUSTER: You mentioned one conference that you attended. What was that like with the CMA missionaries?

SAUNDERS: Well, it was a... of course, it was a purely American mission and very startling in some ways. Some of their missionaries worked among the Tibetans, and in order to do so they felt it necessary to dress like the Tibetans. And I was quite surprised when I saw a missionary come riding along on a great big horse with a rifle across his back, a sword across his tummy, a revolver on one side, a dagger the other. [Shuster laughs] "Oh," I thought, "my. Strange indeed." But they said, "Well, if we didn't they would just rob us. If we're properly dressed, they won't rob us."


SAUNDERS: Now it's interesting you see that in the Christian Missionary Alliance were a few of Mennonite background. They wouldn't do that. So they were confined to Chinese work.

SHUSTER: Kind of avariation on the CIM's practice of wearing Chinese....


SHUSTER: A kind of variation on the CIM's missionaries practice of wearing Chinese clothing.

SAUNDERS: Yes. A very militant variation [laughs] . But good people. Scholarly, too.

SHUSTER: Did you notice differences in the way different missions did their work or different approaches to mission work?

SAUNDERS: Oh, yes.

SHUSTER: What were some of the differences?

SAUNDERS: Well, one doesn't like to criticize, of course. But I guess ours was always a more simple way of living. A more direct approach, less use of money.

SHUSTER: Why do you think there was that difference?

SAUNDERS: Well, because of our tradition. Scandinavian Alliance always seemed to have far more money than we did, and they did.... [pauses] In famine years they would build roads and generally help the people with public projects. Also, [clears throat] they were the first ones to use cars. And of course, there was a motor road from Lan...Xi'an [?] to Lanzhou. As soon as that road was made they got their cars. We still walked or rode horses.

SHUSTER: Do you think this was because of the influence of Hudson Taylor and the other founders of the mission?

SAUNDERS: Yes. We were just given to a simpler lifestyle.

SHUSTER: You mentioned about Pentecostal...some Pentecostal missionaries being troublemakers. What do you mean by that?

SAUNDERS: Did I say "troublemakers"? Well....

SHUSTER: Well, maybe that's my word, but something along those lines.

SAUNDERS: The interesting experience I had since I came here; you know, we....

SHUSTER: You mean here to Lancaster, PA?

SAUNDERS: Lancaster. We have Chinese from mainland China visiting us here. We're kind of a tourist attraction [laughter]. And through a contact, I got a letter from a Chinese who said, "Yes, I'm from Gansu province and my mother became a Christian through a missionary called Shim Pu Sung. Do you know anything about him? Do you know where he is now in this country or does he have any descendants?" And so on. Well, this is kind of embarrassing because this dear man's mother is evidently a true Christian and had been converted through Shim Pu Sung - Simpson!

SHUSTER: Ahhh. A.B. Simpson?

SAUNDERS: Not A.B. No. No. A minor Pentecostal missionary who was there. And originally he belonged to the Christian Missionary Alliance, but he was a loner. And he went off on an extreme Pentecostal angle, and after furlough came back Independent Pentecostal with the intention of splitting all CIM and C&MA churches. Well, I did not....

SHUSTER: Splitting them because he thought their doctrine was false? [Louder, because Mr. Saunders had not heard] Splitting them because he thought their doctrine was false?

SAUNDERS: Oh, insufficient.

SHUSTER: Insufficient, huh.

SAUNDERS: So this was embarrassing to get a letter asking about the man who through whom his mother had been converted. I could only write back and say, "Yes, I'm very glad your mother became a Christian through the influence of Mr. Simpson, but we've lost all track of Mr. Simpson." And I did not say that he had been a disturber of the peace. He...he had disturbed things for a while, but it was very sad. He had one son who was a good scholar in Chinese and Tibetan killed by Muslim bandits.

SHUSTER: Also a missionary?

SAUNDERS: Yes. And the Christian & Missionary Alliance knew him and almost accepted him as one of their own because they knew he was a good man, a good young man, and his father was a nuisance. [Shuster laughs] Very sad. So I wrote to this Chinese fellow and said, "Well, I can't trace your Shim Pu Sung except I'm glad your mother believed in Christ through his ministry, his early ministry."

SHUSTER: Well, like... like it says in the Bible about when some disciples and said that, "These people are preaching or baptizing in a way that's not the same way that you're baptizing. What do I care as long as Christ is preached?" [Apparently a rather distorted reference to Philippians 1: 15-18] You... you mentioned your... your sons. Were they sent to boarding school or did you raise them... teach them [unclear] in Gansu?

SAUNDERS: He went to boarding school. Of course it was trembulous times. The old Chefoo School in northeast China was already closed and the Episcopal mission...the American Episcopal Mission sold us their school for one dollar, and it was in central China in a hill resort called Kuling. And he was there, I think, for a couple of years. And then in 1951, he...1950, he came from the school up to our place and stayed with us 'til we left in the fall of 1951.

SHUSTER: So he went to boarding school from about six to eight... ages six to eight? Or....

SAUNDERS: Yeah, he was there about a couple of years. Not long.

SHUSTER: What was it like raising a child in China? What was it like?

SAUNDERS: Well, [pauses] he didn't know anything else. He naturally learned Chinese, couldn't help it. Well, he was a bit lonely, I think, when we lived together in Tsingshui, but when we moved to Tienshui, he had the other missionary's kids to play with and I was very happy.

SHUSTER: Was it difficult to send him to boarding school?

SAUNDERS: Well, I suppose it always is. And it differs from child to child. Some children are glad to get to a big group of other children. [pauses]

SHUSTER: What was it like in his case?

SAUNDERS: He's never tal... really talked much about it

SHUSTER: Of course he wasn't there very long.


SHUSTER: How many furloughs did you go on on your time in China?

SAUNDERS: Oh, because my first term was too long (it was eight years) because I married in between and my wife had a...she came to China in 1926 and went on a furlough and came back and married and.... So, it was a long time. I was a bit worn out by that time, so we had a rather longer furlough when we came back to England and then the United States. My wife's home is in...was in Detroit.

SHUSTER: And that was in 1940 on your furlough? [pauses]

SAUNDERS: No, 1938.

SHUSTER: 1938. And was that your only furlough?

SAUNDERS: From China? No, we had another furlough after the Japanese surrender.

SHUSTER: In 1945.

SAUNDERS: 19.... Yeah.

SHUSTER: You mentioned that your area was, of course, taken over by the Communists in 1949 and there are....

SAUNDERS: Yeah. Fall of 1949.

SHUSTER: What was that like? Can you describe that experience?

SAUNDERS: Nothing. Just went to bed one night, woke up the next morning, Communists in charge.

SHUSTER: How did you know? I mean, how... what signs were there with Communists in charge?

SAUNDERS: Well, it's very interesting. They came in during the night through the main streets. I said, "Why didn't the dogs bark?" "Oh," they said. "The dogs never bark when there are demons around." They don't bark when there are demons nor when there are Communists around. Very interesting. [Shuster chuckles] You can... whether there's a connection, I don't know, but the dogs did not bark.

SHUSTER: What was the first contact you had with any Communist soldier or official?

SAUNDERS: Well, of...officials just came to reassure us that everything was okay. We just carried on as usual, "Please, and don't be alarmed, everything's in order."

SHUSTER: Did life change any over the next couple years?

SAUNDERS: No. Of course, gradually. We began...we attended church at first, but then they began...they.... Well, you see, the church elders said, "Well, our church now is self-supporting and we run everything ourselves. So what are all you missionaries doing here?" Difficult for them to answer... for the Chinese to answer. Of course, we were [unclear - crosstalk]....

SHUSTER: Who was... who was... who said this?

SAUNDERS: Well, the Communist officials, you see... [Shuster interrupts]

SHUSTER: I see, so this [crosstalk - unclear] the church elders.

SAUNDERS: ...trying to keep everybody calm, and saying on the one hand, "Missionaries, yes, you carry on as usual," and then asked the church elders, "Well, what are these foreigners doing here, seeing you're an independent church?" Embarrassing situation. So that gradually meant that we had to leave.

SHUSTER: Was there restrictions on your movement or on your activities? Direct restrictions?

SAUNDERS: Well, I did stop.... I went to visit some country churches but then they got nervous about my presence so I had to stop doing that.

SHUSTER: Did you have contact with anyone... any of the leaders of the Three-Self Movement [Christian churches recognized by the Communist government that were self-supporting, self governing, self-propagating] in Gansu or...?

SAUNDERS: That was too early. The Three-Self Church developed later. But of course, Lanzhou, I know, is in that Three-Self movement. But of course, it all depends on the nature of the pastor and elders. Some of those Three-Self Churches are evangelical, preaching the truth. Others, I regret to say, following more the Communist line.

SHUSTER: Did... was there any persecution of Christians at the time that you were there?

SAUNDERS: Not while we were there. Nothing that I know of. I don't know what happened to the church in Tsingshui which was in a more remote place and.... Couldn't say.

SHUSTER: How did did you come to leave China?

SAUNDERS: Well, you had to.... One, the order to leave China was given by the China Inland Mission in January 1951. Some had already left, but the great exodus was in 1951. We did not get permission from the Gansu authorities to leave 'til the fall of 1951. So we were in a state of limbo for many, many months. Finally we did leave in October 1951.

SHUSTER: Why do you think they delayed in giving you permission?

SAUNDERS: [laughs] The bureaucrats lost our files or something. I don't know.

SHUSTER: Was the decision of the CIM to leave China controversial within the mission? Were there missionaries with different feelings about it?

SAUNDERS: A few left before, as they saw things and financed their own way to leave. But the ma...majority waited for the official order to leave. [pauses]

SHUSTER: Do you.... do you feel about the way the mission responded to the crisis?

SAUNDERS: [pauses] Very embarrassing question. With hindsight, of course, we should've begun to leave earlier. The Chinese pastors and elders would have thought it wiser to leave earlier. Not to embarrassed them by staying so long.

SHUSTER: How many CIM workers were there in the city where you were? How many CIM workers...?

SAUNDERS: Well, in the city, oh, half a dozen. The ladies went first and then married couples. My wife and I and our son were the last to leave that city.

SHUSTER: How did you feel at that time when you were leaving?

SAUNDERS: Very isolated. [pauses]

SHUSTER: How long did it take you to actually get from there...? Did you leave from Shanghai? Did you go through Shanghai or how did you...?

SAUNDERS: No. First we had to go from Tienshui to Lanzhou to receive our pass to leave China. Lanzhou to Xi'an [?] by truck, then by train to Hengzhou [?]... to central China and on to Canton and Hong Kong. Boat to England.

SHUSTER: Looking back on your years on China, are there...are there things which you wished you had known ahead of time, or preparations you had had before you went?

SAUNDERS: [laughs] No, you can't.... That's useless. Things were as they were. Today, of course, there'd be advance in linguistic science and so on and so on. You can learn Chinese in this country [United States] very well, but not now [then?]. See, many of us are very dissatisfied with the language-learning methods. And when I came back to this country, we were living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where was the University of Michigan. And there was Kenneth Pike, head of the department of linguistics. Oh, I signed up and spent four years studying. And....

SHUSTER: You were studying Chi...?


SHUSTER: You were studying Chinese or linguistics?

SAUNDERS: Linguistics, the basis of all languages, the principles that govern all languages. And then J. O. Sanders came through Ann Arbor just as I was finishing my course work. And he said, "Well, what about going to Singapore? There's a Chinese university there that needs teachers." So my wife and I, we went off to Singapore. [movement in background]

SHUSTER: Now from the time you'd left China and were at Michigan studying linguistics, had you continued on the CIM staff at this time or had...had you left briefly?

SAUNDERS: [pauses] Ah, that was interesting. Yes, the first year, I guess, we were supported by the CIM. But my wife's church encouraged us to go to Ann Arbor and they supported us for four years before we went back to Singapore. My wife's church in Detroit, Michigan has been faithful to her since 1926 and still is.

SHUSTER: What is the name of the church?

SAUNDERS: It used to be called Highland Park Baptist Church. Of course, it isn't there. The Highland Park is a little enclave in Detroit. But they moved out to a suburb. However....

SHUSTER: What's it called now?

SAUNDERS: [pauses] It's still called Highland Park Church, but it's not in Highland Park. It's in Southfield. Very faithful.

SHUSTER: So you were going to...for the four years at the University of Michigan with the intention of going back to Southeast Asia again?

SAUNDERS: Yes. I didn't know just what or when, but the way opened up so clearly. [pauses] I spent four years studying.

SHUSTER: Now, had you continued on the CIM staff all this time? Because I know the mission, about this time, was just debating whether to continue or what new form it should take after it left China.

SAUNDERS: [pauses] I was in kind of a state of limbo. Not knowing what the future held. Only knowing here's a great opportunity to learn something that might be useful.

SHUSTER: What is it that attracts you in linguistics?

SAUNDERS: To get to the root of things. All human beings have language. Surely, there are some underlining principles that govern the production of language. And of course that is what Kenneth Pike and Wycliffe Bible Translators have examined in great detail. And so...that now language-learning methods, language-learning and teaching methods in all the countries we're in is greatly improved.

SHUSTER: You mentioned Kenneth Pike. How would you describe him? What kind of words come to mind when you think about Kenneth Pike?

SAUNDERS: Inspiring.

SHUSTER: What was inspiring about him?

SAUNDERS: He gets you fascinated with the subject. The spade work, the dream[sic] in linguistics was done by his teaching fellows. He [laughs] really inspired and the others did the spade work.

SHUSTER: How did he get you involved? I mean, how would he...can you think of an example of how he would help get you involved?

SAUNDERS: Well, he didn't himself, but all the real solid learning was done under the guidance of teaching fellows. He lectured and went off in theoretical spaceships and [Shuster laughs] lost the science sometimes. He was an inspiring man.

SHUSTER: What kind was he like personally?

SAUNDERS: Very friendly. [pauses] Very humble man. When we went to Singapore, he used to invite David every Wednesday to dinner, he and his wife.

SHUSTER: [pauses] When you went back to Singapore, what was your assignment when you returned to Singapore?

SAUNDERS: In Singapore I taught in a Chinese university called Nangyang University. And I taught elementary linguistics and English and a bit of literature and so on. But it was a very leftist-leaning university. And, of course, they were all southern Chinese, so different than Gansu peasants.

SHUSTER: Different in what way?

SAUNDERS: Entirely different. They're all from business, scholastic backgrounds.

SHUSTER: They're more...?

SAUNDERS: Not friendly.

SHUSTER: They're more urban as opposed to...?

SAUNDERS: Urban, yes. Although, I tried to do my duty by them.

SHUSTER: Now why...?

SAUNDERS: I also was, of course,...the...there was a Chinese Christian Fellowship in the university that was very steady and attracted students who didn't want anything to do with the Communists. And it was a steadying influence, I'm glad to say.

SHUSTER: Now, why did the mission send you to this school? I mean, why...why did they need a Westerner to teach languages at this school?

SAUNDERS: Because the university was an independent university and needed cheap teachers.

SHUSTER: [pauses] Were you able to present the Gospel in any way in your classes or...?

SAUNDERS: Not in the classes, no.

SHUSTER: So what...I mean, what was your daily activity like? How did you...?

SAUNDERS: Well, I... I lectured and sometimes taught a Bible class on Sunday because the university was a long way from the center of the city, a long way from churches. We organized worship service for faculty and senior students and invited evangelical speakers to come on Sunday morning to speak to the Christians among the staff and the senior students. And it was very interesting. There was a very good man of Methodist background who became quite clear in his (he was sort of muddled Methodist, if you know what I mean).... But he noticed that the emphasis on each speaker, though he came from a different denomination, was on Jesus Christ. And Mr. Ling himself came into the light and became a really intelligent Christian and still is. And that was very encouraging because I'm still in touch with his son and daughters.

SHUSTER: Now what was his name?


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