Billy Graham Center

Collection 479 - William Adam Stier. T1 Transcript

Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (114 minutes)

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of William Adam Stier (CN 479, 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 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. Foreign terms or phrases which may be unfamiliar appear in italics.
... 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 transcription was made by Katherine Graber and Bob Shuster, Katherine Graber and was completed in May 2014.

CN 479, T1. Interview with William Adam Stier by Paul Ericksen on January 19, 1993.
ERICKSEN: This in an oral history interview of William Adam Stier by Paul Ericksen for the Archives of Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. This interview took place at 8:50 AM on January19, 1993 [recording momentarily cuts out, Ericksen says the interview took place at the AIM Retirement Center in Media, Florida]....Well Mr. Stier, we’d like to get a little bit of information about your family history background and about your youth a little. When and where were you born?

Stier: I was born in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania on November the 13th, 1912.

ERICKSEN: And how many were there in your family?

STIER: They were three of us. I had two older sisters, and my folks were of German descent. All my grandparents come from Germany. My mother and father were both born in America, but they both spoke German. They did not speak in the home in German, we always spoke English, but really the only time they used the German was at Christmas time, and they didn’t want us to hear what they saying, and we children didn’t like that, right.

ERICKSEN: Now, what would your family’s church background have been?

STIER: My folks were Lutheran, and because of that I was baptized as a baby in the Lutheran Church, and I also was raised in a Lutheran Church. And that leads me up to say about my conversion. At twelve years of age I was confirmed in the Lutheran Church, went through the catechetical class and had questions at that time about sin and my relationship to the Lord, but I did not receive any satisfactory answers. I must confess that maybe I didn’t hear it, maybe he did, ut I don’t ever remember hearing the gospel clearly presented when I was in the Lutheran Church. But at that time when I was a young person, perhaps around...I am not sure of the dates now, but it could have been around when I was sixteen, a man came into the church who had been wonderfully saved, and he felt a responsibility of getting the gospel into churches where it really wasn’t being clearly proclaimed, and he come in and joined the youth group as sort of a leader of it, and through him I heard what my heart really was longing for, and that was a message of assurance before the Lord And at that time I did receive Christ as my savior, and in fact my whole family actually was saved. And we just praise the Lord for this man who come in and ....

ERICKSEN: What was his name?

STIER: His name was Mr. Haven [?]. I was trying to recall his first name. It may have been Corbett [?] Haven[?]. I am not sure. He was not a highly educated man, but he was marvelously saved, and he just felt the need of getting into churches where the gospel wasn’t being preached, and a number of young people in that young people’s group were saved at that time. Well, because of what took place we found it a little uncomfortable to remain there, and at that time, the Haddon Heights Baptist Church, which was in a town adjacent to Audubon where we lived, they we having tents meetings, and had a pastor there by the name of George Palmer. Pastor George Palmer is well known on the east coast, the founder of Sandy Cove Bible Conference [in Maryland]. He was pastor of the church there, and we began to attend those tents meetings up there and through that we joined the Haddon Height Baptist Church. I was baptized then with believers’ baptism, and we joined there at..around that time, my folks did too. My one sister, and my mother and father both joined, the whole family was really brought to the Lord through this man.

ERICKSEN: Now how did it...what was the sort of chain that the entire family was converted? You remember how that..?

STIER: Simply through the ministry of this man.

ERICKSEN: But what...I mean who was first and who was...?

STIER: Well, would be hard to say just who was first. It seemed it all happened at one time. He was a friend of my folks.


STIER: They become very friendly, and they were saved, and then we definitely as young people were saved.


STIER: Yeah, I don’t remember the continuity of how it took place, but I do know it took place

ERICKSEN: And what was the reaction in the church?

STIER: Well, that was the thing. The...the pastor was not pleased with what was taking place, and that’s why we felt the need to go elsewhere really, and so we did. And although that was the case, well, maybe that, yes, I think there was another pastor. After my first furlough I came back, I was asked to speak at the church, which was quite something, but I believe there was another pastor at that time, but I was able to go in there and have a service and share my testimony, and tell them about the work, and so many of the people remembered us as being there. Right.

ERICKSEN: Can you tell me a little about George Palmer?

STIER: Yes. Well, he was a great man of God, and when he came to Haddon Heights Baptist Church, he...a tremendous work was accomplished there through his ministry. He had a radio ministry, The Morning Cheer Hour which is even on till today, actually. And then he was a great evangelist. That’s what he was really, a tremendous evangelist. And he...he...he took us, us young people...we had a huge young peoples’ group there in that church that were really saved at that time, and we used to have prayer meetings every Saturday night and many times he would have us go with him out to meetings. A group of us did some singing, and it just was a tremendous blessing not only to the church but to the whole area in that section of New Jersey, because people came from many, many places to the nightly meetings. And we had great speakers there like Oswald Smith and others that really preached the gospel, and we were.... I was greatly, greatly blessed hearing the word of these men, and then of course I began to hear about the Philadelphia School of the Bible at that time, which is now Philadelphia College of Bible, and it’s another story. I met my wife there, and we both ended up then to...going up to School of Bible. I went actually...started two years before she did. But that’s how I came to go to the school.
ERICKSEN: What...what was George Palmer like to be around?

STIER: Just fine. Just fine. You were very, very comfortable in his presence. He was a very kind and gentle man, but he also was true to the Word of God and was fearless in his ministry. And I would say that one of the great emphases in his ministry along with his evangelistic work, was the matter of separation from the world, because there were so many worldly people and we as young people of course never knew anything about that, the fact of being separated from the world, and it was through his ministry that we really had our eyes opened to things as they were and we...we really grew tremendously under his ministry. And I was ordained at the Haddon Height Baptist Bible Church under his ministry. So actually as I say I was baptized, and my wife and I were married in that church, and I was ordained before we went out to Africa under Pastor Palmer. Then when we were on our field for our first term (I don’t know how many years it was) we received a letter saying that he was resigning from the church and it was really to take up full time in the conference ministry that he had at Sandy Cove and so the church asked us to make a decision whether we would go with him as missionaries supported by him or whether we would remain missionaries of the church. And we prayed about it a lot, and we choose to remain with the church. Not that we had anything whatever...


STIER:...against Pastor Palmer, but we did feel that we would prefer a local church being our supporters rather than just a particular person with another with what you might call a para-church ministry. And so we very happy that we did that and the church did support us and...partial support of us the whole forty years that we were in Africa, and even now they give us support in our retirement. So we were very happy with the arrangement, and we praise the Lord for the way the he led us. But George Palmer was a great man.

ERICKSEN: Now did...was the set-up such that you would ever have, you know, he would give you individual counsel of any kind?

STIER: No. I don’t ever recall having gone to him for counsel you know. No, no just was through his ministry in the church and participating with him in some ministries, in the radio broadcast, of course we always listened to that. He did broadcasted right from his home for quite a while and after that because to broadcast elsewhere.

ERICKSEN: You mentioned Oswald Smith.

STIER: Yeah, He come down....

ERICKSEN: What do you remember about him speaking?

STIER: Well, I just remember of course that he was a...a great missionary statesman...ERICKSEN: Uh-huh.

STIER:...from Canada, and he came down, and we were very impressed. And at this time we were beginning through attending the tent services and the school we began to feel the call of the Lord to missionary work. And we had...there was a couple there was supported by the church. They were sent out, I believe, at the time of Pastor Palmer too, George...Paul and Helen Whitlock. And they were friends of ours and incidentally when we first went out to Africa we went to their station and were with them and it was through them too that we heard more about Africa, and especially about Tanzania. That’s actually one of the reasons why we ended up in Tanzania. And when we went out on our first term of service, we were sent to their station, and we were with them for several years before they came home on furlough. And of course the war [World War II, in 1939] broke out and they were greatly delayed in coming back and when they come back they were on the China Clipper [an airplane] that crashed in Trinidad while the war was still on...and they had five boys, two boys were left home in school and the other three were with them and they all five of them died in the crash of the China clipper at Trinidad. And that was a very sad thing for us when we received the word on the field.

ERICKSEN: Now it sounds like you married at the time that you were thinking about going to Africa. I am getting to timing right?

STIER: Well my wife...well my wife was actually...felt the call even before. And I...I felt a call. So that when we did...when we were married we had no conflict there whatever. We were desirous of going out. We...I thought at first the possibility of South America. I had heard of some missionaries speaking about work down in South America but we didn’t pursue that too far. And then we applied to go under AIM [Africa Inland Mission]. That was when we were in New York actually studying at...taking a missionary medical course up there, for a year after we finished our Bible training in Philadelphia.

ERICKSEN: Now how did you actually come to attend the Philadelphia School of the Bible?

STIER: Through the man through whom we were saved. I mean, he instigated our salvation.

ERICKSEN: Okay, uh-huh.

STIER: He highly recommended it. And he was a great man with the Scofield Bible and as you know C. I. Scofield actually was the founder of Philadelphia School of the Bible. There were school several schools or Bible institute, no, well it was the BIOP (Bible Institute of Pennsylvania) and Philadelphia School of the Bible. Those two Bible schools were there in Philadelphia in the early days, separate schools but eventual they emerged [sic] and became...Philadelphia (how was it?) Pennsylvania Bible Institute, I think it was. Then it become Philadelphia College of Bible. But we went there because of the influence of the gentleman that is to led us to the Lord, really.

ERICKSEN: Now how mentioned your call to became a missionary. Can you describe how that came about?

STIER: Yes. I had a great desire to be a teacher of the word of the God. I.... That was a desire that was instilled into me after I was saved and began to be taught the Word at school. And the thing that actually clinched it for me and for my wife was, we read in the Inland Africa, which is African Inland Mission’ actually...their publication, a letter from a missionary out there by the name Charles Hess. I don’t whether you have heard of him or not. He’s a...was a graduate of Wheaton College. And he was the head of the Bible training school at the time out there. And in this letter he mentioned that there were [sic] great need for teachers to help out in the school. And that very definitely spoke to my heart. The Lord used that to speak to my heart, and I gave myself to go out to Africa really to teach the word of the God, to be a teacher. And...and I feel the Lord confirmed that call, because when we got out there we for the first four and half years we were in general missionary work and then from the rest of our forty years in Africa we were in Bible training schools, three of them, in fact: the one where Mr Hess was which was closed and we were asked to open that. And then we had to move the school up on to Lake Victoria, and we were there for twenty years and then we were asked to open another school out in the bush and we were there for twelve and half years. So our almost total ministry was in Bible training, training African evangelists and pastors.


STIER: Right. So that’s how we really had the call clinched. The Lord used speak the letter to speak to our hearts asking for teachers, and we were studying, and we had that desire to teach. Right.

ERICKSEN: Now when exactly did you meet your wife?

STIER: I met her after we went up to...when I began to go to Haddon Heights Baptist Church. My wife was also a...a young person there in that church. She had been attending Temple University in Philadelphia and had come to real knowledge of Christ. And we were attending young peoples’ meetings. They had meetings in different churches, where groups of young people met together. And it was at that time that we came to know each other and then that friendship developed at that time. And then know, it’s quite some times ago now. We were married fifty-seven years, and I don’t have all the details of the exact continuity of the story. But I do know that I had started [at] the school two years before she did. But she did not finish there at Temple but decided to go over to the School and join there. And so that’s where it sort of come together...


STIER: ...and we felt the call of God.


STIER: We were married after I graduated in ‘35; we were married, and she had two more years to go. Right.

ERICKSEN: And then in ‘38 you were up in...

STIER: New York.

ERICKSEN: New York, City.

STIER: That’s right. ‘37 ‘38 for that one year medical course, right.

ERICKSEN: And where was that again?
STIER: That was at the National Bible Institute. That later...that was founded by Dr. Sheldon [sic]. Have you heard of Sheldon...Shelton...Shelton College?

ERICKSEN: [He indicates no]

STIER: It’s on the East Coast there. And it became Shelton College [in Cape May, New Jersey, USA]. But they had the regular Bible school there, and then they also ran a one year’s medical...they called it a Christian service medical course. And people who have had...had had their Bible training were able to go in and take that one year course. And there were several of us from PSOB (Philadelphia College of Bible [sic]), and then from other schools also taking that course, preparing to go out to the mission field, most of them.

ERICKSEN: And what was covered in the course?

STIER: Well, primarily it was...they were all medical subjects.

STIER: But we were required to take four hours a week of Bible. Which we did. The first...our first term, within two terms, we took the Pentateuch and then the last term we took the Johannine writings. We had some conflict there because PSOB, naturally holds the futuristic view of Revelation, and the teacher that they had there (I remember this because it stood out of my mind) he took the historical view. And when I went to PSOB to get my transcript I was warned, as it were, by Dr. Jay Adams about this course that is taught up there in that school because others apparently had preceded us going there for the medical course. And so we were alert. But nonetheless we enjoyed getting the other view. And...but then, of course, we had all the medical subjects. They was a crash course, you might call it. Nothing to compare with a full medical course, but to enable us where we might have emergencies. The day was full. I mean they had doctors come in from the various hospitals and schools up there to teach the particular subjects. We had two days a week, we went to the the clinic at the Roosevelt Hospital and once a month we went to the emergency ward of the Roosevelt Hospital to work together with the doctors, more for observation actually than actually working there. But it was very helpful. But we did not use too much of it. My wife did help out in the dispensary in Africa at times. And I pulled a lot of teeth [Ericksen chuckles], which was helpful, having had the background of what I had there, because they taught us like dentistry and obstetrics, and just...neurology, just right down that whole list of subjects. But it was a very, very strenuous course.

ERICKSEN: Uh-huh, right. Let’s see. Then you left for Africa December ‘38? I think that’s right.

STIER: Yeah, that’s right, December ‘38.

ERICKSEN: And when had you finished the medical course?

STIER: We finished the medical course in June of that year.


STIER: And then we went to a...Pastor Palmer was having a camp for boys and girls (I guess it was a boys’ camp the first year) and he asked us to be the what you’d call the medical assistants at the camp because we had just finished that course. .

STIER: And we had our own tent and had things just to help them when they got scratches and things like that, nothing serious, of course. We’d have to turn all that over that to the doctor. And we enjoyed it very much, but it didn’t last too long. They had some trouble, and they thought the water was not right or something. And they had to close the school before...the camp before it had finished its year, but we enjoyed it very much. But that was an experience that we had during the summer months... .

STIER: ...and then in December we... I was ordained on the fifth at the church, and that was our farewell service, and then we sailed on the 9th, ‘38.

ERICKSEN: Now how much time did you spend in actual full-time deputation before leaving?

STIER: Well, only just a few months there. Our church...the church took on our full support.


STIER: But let me tell you it was different. [laughs]


STIER: When you hear the astronomical [laughs] cost of going out now. We both had to have sixty dollars a month. That was 120 dollars a month support, and we had to have 400 dollars for outgoing funds. That would never even get a person to New York today [laughs], let alone Africa.. Right. Yes, so they took on our full support at that time.

ERICKSEN: What did your family think about your heading across the ocean to be a missionary?

STIER: opposition whatever. .

STIER: They were perfectly...because by this time they were in the church there and as we were, and they just heard the Word, loved the Word, and they.... Both of our family were very, very helpful in the matter. That’s right. Uh-huh.

ERICKSEN: Do you remember your first impressions of...I guess at that time it was the...what was the official name of the country?

STIER: It was Tanganyika...

STIER: ...Tanganyika.

ERICKSEN: Yeah. Remember your first impressions?

STIER: Yes, I remember first impressions. We went out by ship, of course. There were no planes at that time, no flights. Took us six weeks to get there. We sailed from New York to London in a freighter. It carried fifty passengers. We had a tremendous storm practically all the way across. The first night I thought, “Boy look at this table, the dinner. We are going to have this all the way to England.” But I didn’t see the dinning room for days. We just hit almost a hurricane. They said it was one...the wind was one less than a hurricane and the waves were so high that sometimes even the propeller of the ship came out, and the whole the ship would just vibrate, you know. And then we took the Union Castle Line down through the Mediterranean, Suez Canal, Red Sea down in the Indian Ocean to Dar es Salaam, which is the capital of, now, Tanzania. And then we had to take a train up country, almost a thousand miles...well, yes it would be at least a thousand miles. Which was two nights on the train. Arriving early the second morning, and the Whitlocks...Mr. Whitlock was there to meet us in a truck. And our first impression was when we were arriving from the railroad station to the mission station, every village we came to we thought “Now is this the mission station? They have a lot of huts there.” Of course we had no idea where we were going to, but when we finally arrived at the mission station we were pleasantly surprised because the homes were better than just what you would see on the African villages. But it was quite primitive at that time, much different than when we left forty years later.

ERICKSEN: Now what was the name of the village you were in?

STIER: We were at Nyida. (N-Y-I-D-A) Nyida, the name of village. It would...on the map here it would be Lohumbo. Lohumbo. Lohumbo is the name of the railroad station. That’s like saying we’re in Clermont but we’re not, we’re here in Media [AIM Retirement Center], but our post office is Clermont here in...

ERICKSEN: Now how was it decided that you would be stationed there?

STIER: Well that’s...the decision was made by the mission. But I believe that we probably may have implied that we would like to be with the Whitlocks, that we knew them.


STIER: And I believe that also they were due for a furlough. I think they were almost due for furlough. So that worked out well, okay at the time. Right.

ERICKSEN: Now were they like sort of senior missionaries?

STIER: They were on their first term. They were they on their first term. And we were very glad to be with them. They very helpful in every way. They had a...they had their home which was almost like...we called it Noah’s ark; it was...all the rooms were just lined up, two bedrooms, dining room, living room, office, and bathroom, and everything, and then they had a porch all the way around with a grass roof. And then he had built a little place for us, which served as a bedroom and a bathroom. And we took our meals with them for quite some time when we got out. He was excellent at the language. The Africans...if he would talk out of their sight, they could hardly distinguish whether he was a white man or an African. He was really gifted linguistically. he helped us. The rule of the mission was, the first six months the missionary gives himself to language study. Now we were in the Sukuma tribe there, which is the largest tribe in Tanzania. Right now it’s about one and half to two million people. It runs all the way up to Lake Victoria. And so we studied the Sukuma language, and that meant we sat with our teacher who was Paul Whitlock in the morning, and then in the afternoon we would go out to the villages, and try to contact the people...

STIER: ...and say what we knew and use the words that we knew with them and then, of course, there is a time to study, and the for first six months we would do that. Then we take...we took an exam at the end of the first six months. After that then we were initiated into the work but still had to study for exam after one year and then after eighteen months you had to take a third exam. The mission had three exams in the Sukuma language. So we were...were very thankful. We had a good teacher. We had a very small book that had been printed up by the mission, giving some of the grammatical construction of the language; the...sort of get us to see visually how it was.

STIER: Very interesting language. It’s a Bantu language. I don’t know whether you are knowledgeable about the Bantu language. But there are a lot of them over there in Africa. They’re very very interesting. Their construction is interesting; they have what they call classes of nouns, and every noun is in a certain class and then according to the class of the noun your modifiers, such as your adjectives, have to take a different prefix to fit in with the class. And it’s difficult at the beginning, but you soon get into it, and we were very, very thankful that we took that. And we were very thankful that we studied the Sukuma language first, because that’s the tongue of the people. And that’s one thing that we’re a little sorry for the incoming missionaries these days because...well, we ourselves after studying Sukuma and I was in the Bible school right then, and I studied...started...we started studying Swahili. And I took the government exam in Swahili, the lower exam. And then I took the mission exam lower and higher exam in that. I didn’t try the government higher exam, because that was very hard. And it was quite technical. You see Tanzania when it was Tanganyika was a United Nations’ [actually, League of Nations] mandate, but it was governed by Britain. And therefore they had a lot of British people coming out for positions of governing. And the exam in Swahili would have a lot of technical terms that would be used in government work, and so I didn’t try...I didn’t try the upper in that. Nevertheless, what get back to what I was saying, now when missionaries go out, most of them learn the Swahili language, which is what we’d call the trade language,...

STIER: ...the national language. But you need need the mother tongue to get really to the people. And praise the Lord we had the whole Bible in Sukuma language as well as in Swahili. Because we had two missionaries, Mr. Sywulka, Emil Sywulka and Charles Hess whom I had mentioned, and they translated the whole Bible into the Sukuma language. And that become available while we were out there. We used that for many years in Bible School before we swung over to teaching in Swahili when independence come to the country.

ERICKSEN: Now how would you evaluate the language learning that you and your wife did? Who had an easier time of it and which one of you used it more proficiently?
STIER: Well, we’re different, my wife and I in this respect. I wouldn’t be able to evaluate too much on the matter of speaking. But my wife is very good in hearing it and speaking it. I have the mind, I have to see how it’s constructed, and if I can see how it’s constructed then I can get it, which I did. So I was more on the grammatical end of it, of understanding why and how they said the thing. My wife could hear and...and speak it, and that was very, very helpful that way for her. We just had two different mindsets on language. And as you know missionaries when they go out to the field, some are so gifted that they just pick it up, and it’s no problem at all.


STIER: And some just have a tremendous time trying to get it. And it’s just simply a matter of gift. There’s no doubt about that whatever. So.

ERICKSEN: How was the Sukuma language for conveying some of the complicated biblical ideas?

STIER: Well, we were blessed in as much as the Bible was translated in Sukuma.


STIER: So I said, I was four and a half years in general missionary work, and then got into the Bible teaching. So that your...all your theological terms they had fought through that when they were translating, such as “propitiation,” “redemption” and [laughs] all the others you know. And they did a very good job, very good job. So that in preaching and trying to get the concept of the Gospel over to the people, or truths from the word of God, you would have to explain, of course, you know what I mean? You have to not just use the word but you’d have to explain hat it meant actually.

ERICKSEN: As is the case here too.

STIER: Oh, sure. Yes, because these days you go to any church and talk about “propitiation,” you know, or some of those words that aren’t used too often. Many of the people in your congregation wouldn’t even know what you’re talking about, you know, unless you really explained what it means. Well, that would be true of the Africans because they...they...although they did...even ”justification,” it’s amazing how they got that. I remember hearing one of our very excellent preachers, African preachers, and he was well versed in the Scriptures, but here his definition of justification when in his preaching he’d use an illustration and the word...the word used “[unclear Sukuma word]” is “to do right.” “[unclear Sukuma word]” is to “be justified.” He says it’s like a boy with an arrow going to shot the target, he says, and then someone comes along and puts his arms around him and takes his hands and he makes the shot, say, and it hits the center.” He says that is “justification.” That’s [unclear Sukuma word], you’re just hitting the mark, but it’s somebody else that does it for you, you see. And I thought that was very excellent, the concept that he had of it. Yeah.

ERICKSEN: Now, I think you said you were in general missionary work for four years?

STIER: Four and half years. That was where...down where the Whiltlocks were. That was going around to the churches, going on weekends, taking in those days...when we went on...I had a motorcycle, let me start from there. I had three motorcycles actually before I ever got a car. But Paul Whitlock had a motorcycle, I had a motorcycle. It came out from England and he put it up for me, because he is very mechanical. I am not. I am completely void of that type of thing. But any how, if we would go out to visit a church we’d have to get our loads, tent, cot, and other material you want and get...hire Africans...


STIER: carry them to the point that you want them taken and usually if it wasn’t too far they could make it in a day. They could start the same day you would. Then we’d go out on a motorcycle, then set the tent up and be with the church and the church leader for the weekend, see, as a matter of encouragement and ministry of the Word. So we did that. And then also, on this particular station, Lohumbo, where we were first located, there was a small printing press. It was the only one that the mission had at the time. And I praise the Lord that I had a half year of printing in high school. So I was left completely in charge of that. We had about two or three employees, I believe, in the printing press. Everything was set up by hand and they had a press that had to be run by the foot, you know and everything. So I was taken...kept busy with that and with the general missionary work.
ERICKSEN: Now what were you printing?
STIER: Songbooks for the church...
STIER: ...and tracts, other books, even other missions would send in asking work to done and just...just general things that were needed to be printed work to carry on missionary work. Many times like the hospital would need invoices and things like that; well, they would print up those things. So at least that half year of printing in high school didn’t leave me to be just without any knowledge whatever of what to do in a printing shop. So....
ERICKSEN: What did you enjoy most about your first term, those four and half years?
STIER: Well, I think the...I think the greatest joy that I had was that after those four and half years in the general work as much as I enjoyed it, when I was asked to go and open the Bible school which had been running for years and it was closed for a year or two, because of something that happened, I was asked to go up and open it. That was my greatest...the last part I told the pastor when I got home, I said, “The first four and half years were the training ground for us for what the Lord had for us.” Because you know...and it was good. You don’t want to go into Africa to teach in any Bible school or theological school if you don’t have the background of the Africans and their church life, you know, and how things are running. To take just the American concept over there is not good. And I felt the first four and half years being in general work familiarized myself with...
STIER: ...the all the way things are done and so forth, so that when I began to teach these men who were going to go out and serve the Lord in churches, I did have that background. So that was to me the greatest joy, because that was my call...
STIER: teach and I felt that the Lord honored the call at that time.
ERICKSEN: Now, who the field director when you came to Tanganyika?
STIER: The field director was...Mr. Maynard. William Maynard and his wife was Dr. Nina Maynard. She was doctor at the Kola Ndoto hospital which was about fifty miles from Lohumbo. It’s on the map there, Kola Ndoto Hospital, and they were early ones in the work of the mission. He was field director. He come down the very day we arrived. He was the only one who had a car out there and he came out to see us after we arrived. There were about...I think there were five on the station at the time we arrived, the morning we arrived.
ERICKSEN: Now, what kind of field director was he?
STIER: He was very good, very, very good, yeah, yeah. Seemed to fulfill his job very well. He was good. Missionaries liked him very much. Africans liked him. And he was great with the Africans. Right.
ERICKSEN: Now what...I know that you were field director later.
STIER: Yeah, for six years.
ERICKSEN: What...and I don’t know your...whether his responsibilities and yours as field director were pretty much the same. What did the field director, what was his...?
STIER: The field...well, we had a field council too, you see.
STIER: .And the field council had meetings periodically when called. But the field director was sort of the one who executed the desires of the field council, who had to oversee things if any difficulties arose on mission stations. You had to go and try to settle them and so forth. And I enjoyed it. But I took it over in a very turbulent time [1958-1964] for the mission, because when we got to that area, it was a time when the Africans were very much taking over the whole work of the mission which has happened of course worldwide now, at least over in Africa it has. And it was to many a new concept and it was quite turbulent. I enjoyed it. I enjoy administrative work. I enjoyed tremendously being principal of these three schools I was in along with teaching, because we had to teach because there weren’t that many teachers. But that’s what the work was – it was the administrative end of...of the work.
ERICKSEN: Now, were you able to continue teaching while you were the field director?
STIER: I did, yes, except for one year. They said I must leave it and move over to Mwanza, but I only stayed a year there at Mwanza, and come back to the school again, because then I began realize that my call was from God to teach, and I did not...between the two I would not choose administration...
STIER: ...of the field to teaching in schools.
ERICKSEN: What year was that, that you were doing just the administration?
STIER: I don’t know that I really know. It would be around in the ‘50s or ‘60s, I think.
STIER: I just don’t recall now. Yeah.
ERICKSEN: You remember any of the situations that you had to out settle?
STIER: Well, sometimes a missionary might have some difficulty with the African leadership on the station, and one would have to go out and just see what could be done to sort of settle the problem. The thing...and that may be very rare [tape turned off and on] and it really was [laughs].
ERICKSEN: You say it was rare?
STIER: Yeah. That was rare. The other thing would be...(is it on now?)
STIER: The other thing would be just going out to visit the stations and to have a ministry as it were to the missionaries themselves to see that everything was okay. It’s oversight.
ERICKSEN: Uh-huh. Now when you went out to one of the stations, did you find...I’m wondering if you found that there were times when the missionary was in the right and there were times when the missionary was...needed to submit to the local leadership or how...?
STIER: Yes. Well, missionaries, of course, as you know, most of them are leaders themselves. I always remember Dr. Ferrin? Do you remember Dr. Ferrin? Providence Bible [Institute]?
STIER: Yeah. Harold Ferrin. He was a director of our mission for a long time. He came out to Africa to one of our conferences. And I remember he was with us when we were all working doing the dishes and things after one of our meals, and he said,“I marvel,” he said, “at how you missionaries all get along,” he said, “because you are all leaders [laughs] and then to get along as well as you do!” And I’m just making that as a preface of what I want to say. We’re all leaders and it doesn’t mean that every leader has the same idea as to how a thing should be done, you know. And sometimes, some things that some people do may get them into trouble, whereas others do not get into trouble. And...I wouldn’t develop that because it was was not a predominant...
STIER: ...situation but just occasionally you would have it, but a field director has to do that. He has to..he has to go out to and try to help out where there are difficulties between the Africans and the missionaries. Yeah.
ERICKSEN: Now from your own experience, did AIM missionaries tend to...when there was an issue where there was some disagreement, did they tend to lock horns over it and have sort of a knock down drag out fight or...?
STIER: No. No. No. Most of the issues would be more on a personal level rather than the organizational level. No. We really had excellent missionary conferences, had one once year, you know, when we would have our business meetings and everything. And there was very, very little, comparatively speaking, disagreement, let’s put it that way.
STIER: Yeah, and if there was, it was usually resolved. Yeah. Eventually you’re going to have difference of opinions, you know.
STIER: But that’s the way it goes.
ERICKSEN: What was it like having to resolve those things, as in doing your term, as you say things were changing...
STIER: Yeah.
ERICKSEN: ...and you were you probably were having to deal with the Africans as equals or as...were they your superiors yet?
STIER: No. No, they definitely wanted to take over the ministry of the work. You see, in the early days, it was naturally the mission was the top man and the Africans were working together with us but the decisions were made by the mission and the field council and then the Africans had their leader and their council, and they more and more wanted to take over the administration of the work, which was right, and I agreed with them at the time. But because it was a new thing, and actually Tanzania as far as I know is the first of our fields that gave the autonomy to the African church. But we had a somewhat difficult time even getting our brothers from the other fields to agree with what we wanted to do down in Tanzania, you see, and I hope...I can understand it, understand it absolutely because it was a new concept, and it was just coming in when that wave was going over these countries where the nationals wanted to take over, and it was rather difficult. Many times the home office didn’t understand it together nor with our fellow leaders in the other fields, they were probably fearful perhaps that if we did it then there would be a chain reaction, which there was of course – every field now is under the direction of the African nationals. We were the ones to give the autonomy to the Church, and we are now there in Tanzania to serve even under them actually...
STIER: ...rather than their serving under us. But it was a very difficult time, a very difficult time. But it really helped....
ERICKSEN: How long of a time period did it take from the time you approached the other field councils and the home council to where they actually all agreed and..?
STIER: Well, I was for the change but then I left the field directorship to go back to Bible school right before it was done and it was done very, very soon after I had laid it down, laid the work down to another man to take over the field directorship. But I would say it was several years while this was all brewing, as it were, among the...the fields, as it were,...
ERICKSEN: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
STIER: ...and giving them their independence. Kenya followed us after Tanzania and Zaire. I don’t know who was first there. I think Kenya probably and then Zaire and then, of course, it got out to the other fields too, you know.
ERICKSEN: Was there any one of the field councils or the home council that was most resistant to the idea?
STIER: No. I would not say so, except, as I say, it was such a new concept in mission work, you see...
ERICKSEN: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
STIER: ...and everyone wasn’t ready, as it were, to just turn everything over to the Africans. A tremendous decision like that takes time for it to sink in, to mull over, as it were, and then to really see the rightness of the decision. Because I remember sitting many times...we had an inter-field council and field directors and representatives from the field would attend and you could see them edging toward that, in the sense of, well, “We’ll be the driver of the car, and they sit beside us, and then you get to the place where they are driving the car, but you’re sitting beside, but you haven’t come to that complete decision of saying, ‘Look, this is all yours now, and we’re here to serve you and minister under you.’ It takes a while.” It took a while.
ERICKSEN: Do you remember where the idea started?
STIER: No. I don’t know. I only know it started...I know our field how it started with the Africans, but I can’t say that I know as far as the overall work of the mission is concerned whether it started in other places too, but they were ready for it too at the time. They wanted it. I am not too up on that actually.
STIER: Right.
ERICKSEN: Now when did the Africa Inland Church have its beginning in Tanzania?
STIER: I believe it was in 19...[pauses] it was in the 1960s, if I recall correctly or even before that. I am sorry I don’t have dates. I did not write the dates down. And I don’t have the dates, but it was quite a long time. It may have, it wasn’t ‘40s. I guess it was around in the ‘50s.
ERICKSEN: Uh-huh. So it preceded the transfer of leadership over to the Africans, sounds like?
STIER: It preceded? I don’t understand.
ERICKSEN: The Africa Inland Church was founded before...
STIER: Oh yes, oh yeah, oh yes.
ERICKSEN: ...authority was transferred?
STIER: Oh yes, yes. They had their constitution. Uh-huh. The constitution, you see, was made up mostly by the missionaries together collaboration with...
STIER: ...the African leadership but it was predominantly the thought of the missionaries as they formulated the constitution. That’s right.
ERICKSEN: Now once authority had been transferred to the Africans, what did the...what did the leadership look like in the church then?
STIER: It was alright, there really was no difficulty. We did...I don’t know how to answer that, except we...we really had no difficulty. They carried on.
STIER: They may not have done everything exactly as we would have done it, you see, but once again when you make a decision like that, then you have to learn to live with it and there were times when some missionaries perhaps really found it hard to go along with everything that was being done, but....
ERICKSEN: Can you think of any examples of things that were hard to live with?
STIER: Well, I don’t know. I do know one now that I hear of. In the sense that...of moving the pastors so much. that they had this leadership, they seemed to be doing a lot of the moving of pastors. Almost every year you have a great move from one place to another which I don’t think all the missionaries are too happy with. doesn’t seem to help the establishing of a...a solid work, here, there and everywhere, when you immediately move the leader and bring somebody else in, you see. It would be things like that. Right, right.
ERICKSEN: Now, your first term you started in thirty...
STIER: Nine. We arrived. Right.
ERICKSEN: Thirty-nine. You were four and half years doing general work. How much much time did you spend at the Bible school before you went on your first furlough? 
STIER: My first furlough was after...over seven and a half years we were out there, because we were there for the whole World War II. So we had, I would say, I guess about three and some months, years in the Bible school.
STIER: ... And during that time we went up to Kijabe...I’m sorry, [not] Kijabe...Kisumu, and to open the school. But we had such difficulty there getting water for the students that they would have to get up, some of students would have to get up in the middle of the night, 3:00 in the morning, go down to the water hole and just wait for the water to seep up to get enough water for the next day. So we finally decided the school had to be moved. And this was still our first term. We moved it up then to Lake Victoria, where we didn’t lack any water. Second largest fresh water lake in the world, you know. And so we moved it up there, the whole school. We had to move...we didn’t have too many students at that time, but families had to be all moved and everything, and we took it up there. So we were over seven and half years the first term.
ERICKSEN: Now what was the location that it was moved to on Lake Victoria?
STIER: It’s at Katungulu.
STIER: Yeah. Katungulu. That was across the Mwanza. You have to take a boat...yes, you have to take a boat across the mainland to get to Katungulu by a boat, a motor boat.
ERICKSEN: Now students are getting up at three o’clock to fetch water...
STIER: Yeah, and then they sleep on you in class [both laugh].
ERICKSEN: What was a typical day at the school like?
STIER: Typical day at the school [clears his throat] was we would start at eight o’clock in the morning. We’d have four hours in the morning, eight to twelve. They’d go home and get their...cook their meals. Their wives would of course be home, many of them cooking their meal. And when we had single workers at that time (got many more later) they would be assigned to a home, to have their meal so that they didn’t have to cook, and then we would have classes in the afternoon. I...It’s a little vague now how many classes we had in the afternoon but right now...when we left, of course, there was a full day. It was eight to twelve. We had a twenty minute break in the morning when we had some recreation, volleyball or something, and then they would come back at 1:30 and we were in there until 4:15, and they had classes all that time. Some may have a study period at that time, but they had a very heavy schedule, and then they would come at night from seven, I guess, to nine and have to study at school. We couldn’t leave them at home to study, they wouldn’t get any studying done. But they would come at night and then study
ERICKSEN: Now how many of you teachers were there?
STIER: We were very few in early days. There were just about three of us, actually [unclear]. We had a Miss Lucilda Newton. She was in the school actually when it closed down and then when I went there to open it she was very helpful and then she moved with us up to Katungulu. And then we began later on to take on African staff, when we had men who were trained to do that. Now the schools have large African...two schools in Katungulu we were in for twenty years and Majahida for twelve and half years, they have I would say four or five Africans on the staff together with the missionaries.
ERICKSEN: When did you get your first African teacher?
STIER: [Pauses] I don’t know if I would be able to say. First African teacher?
ERICKSEN: You remember who it was? 
STIER: Well, one of the very first...yes, it would have been Andrea Ngusa. He was a graduate of Katungulu School when we were there and he was brought back in the work, a very good teacher. I think it was Andrea Ngusa, the first one.
STIER: But we’ve gotten many now, and of course since then many who graduate from the Bible school get that four year course, because it’s four years now, they have gone up to Scott Theological College and taken the four years there. So that they...we have a number of graduates in the Theological College in our schools now, which is good. Then we’ve had several come over to Columbia Bible College [in South Carolina in the United States]. We’ve had at, two...I’ve had three at least visit me here for a number of days while they’ve been at Columbia. One who was here and took his course, he is now back at the Nassa Theological College teaching there. He’s a very good fellow, good teacher. So they, of course, progress. That’s over years, you see; it’s ten, twenty, thirty years, gradually getting better and better we hope [laughs].
ERICKSEN: Right. Where were...from how far away were your students coming?
STIER: Well, they were coming from all over the field. At the beginning...when we were in Katungulu up in Lake Victoria they come from all over our field. But when we went to Majahida, that was the second school then, so we weren’t...we didn’t draw from every place. We did draw from many places.
STIER: But at the beginning there at Majahida we had at least seven tribes in the school. Of course, there that was why it was beneficial to have the teaching in Swahili, which we swung over to after independence [1961]. We went to Swahili because we were getting it from other tribes. At Katungulu we were getting them from the island, Ukerewe Island, Ukata Island, and some down from the south. But they picked up Sukuma just like that. They’re amazing with languages, the Africans. They had very little difficulty with that. A lot of them were far superior to the missionaries. Well, he can pick up the languages. Of course there are similarities, but they’re distinct languages. But we did have seven languages at least in our school at Majahida when we first started. I don’t know how it is now actually.
ERICKSEN: What...what kind of relations were there among students from different tribes? How did that work?
STIER: Okay. We really had no, really no difficulty, as I know of. Very, very little difficulty, what we might call tribal difficulty.
STIER: And of course I think Tanzania is quite different from some of the other fields, like Kenya. In Kenya they do have very strong tribal groups that are...don’t always get along together...
STIER: ...with one another, but in Tanzania, our people, at least our Sukuma people were quite docile, and we had...I wouldn’t call them a fighting tribe by any means, and therefore I think that attributed to the fact that they got along with the others. Right.
ERICKSEN: What did you enjoy teaching the most?
STIER: Doctrine, that was my...doctrine and the New Testament was my speciality. I would take other things of course. I took the Old Testament Times and other subjects. My wife taught church history and non-Christian religions and then later at Majahida I also taught typing and bookkeeping and set up a book keeping course to try to help them to know how to keep their accounts in the the churches,...
STIER: ...because money is a big thing in the churches, and it needs to be carefully guarded. And we took about, I guess about six typewriters with us one term and we were teaching some of them to type. And even up til now I’ve been getting a letter a month from one fellow who types, and he does an excellent job at it, even in his own language. But...and we had everything that you would get...subjects you would get in any Bible school here at home.
ERICKSEN: Any courses you didn’t like teaching?
STIER: No. I don’t think so. No. No. Maybe I didn’t take them, that’s why [laughs]. No. I really don’t, but I did like the doctrine courses...
STIER: ...and the New Testament courses especially.
ERICKSEN: Now since you were in Tanganyika during World War II...
STIER: Uh-huh.
ERICKSEN: ...what was the impact of the war on life for you there?
STIER: Well, when war broke out, especially when America went in we of course had to be...I had to be registered, signed up for the war, but that is all done through the consulate in Nairobi, Kenya and I think got a 4-D rating, which...
ERICKSEN: This was your draft status?
STIER: The draft status, yes. The last one to be called up. The war is lost when you’re called up, you now, that status. And we also received word from the American consulate to have a food box ready in case we had to flee, because, you see, Italy had overrun Ethiopia [1936]...
STIER: ...and Kenya is right south of Ethiopia and Tanzania is south of Kenya, and they weren’t sure if the Italian army might come down to Kenya and to Tanzania. But we made up our minds that we were not going to go. So we just didn’t bother with that order. We just said we’ll wait and see, but we just couldn’t see any sense in trying to go any place, wherever we could anyhow. But, we did...I remember Paul Whitlock and I we both took our motorcycles and went over to the little shops there at the railroad station and both bought a great big gunny sack bag of...of sugar to bring back, so we wouldn’t lack that, because we were afraid that some of the foods would be rather scarce. Coming back the weight of the sugar on my motorcycle (because I didn’t weigh very much) threw me off, and I went down. He had to come and get me out from under the bag. My leg was caught with the bags; I couldn’t get out of it. But we managed to get home. But we had...we didn’t have too much effect, from it. When we moved up to open up the Bible school, we did not have a garden there. We got most of our “vegetables,” I call them vegetables, from Kijabe, Kenya, where one of the ladies, a Mrs. Curt [?] I believe it was, she had quite a garden up there, and she’d put them in a container and they’d come down the train to Kisumu, then on the boat to Mwanza and then by train to Malampaka and then we’d have a fellow walk for about thirty miles, thirty, thirty- five miles for that bag and by the time the...the beets and all those root vegetables [laughs] (which I said I never wanted to look a carrot in the face after the World War II), they got to us, they were pretty well dried up, but it was something to eat, you know [laughs] apart from some of the other things we were able to get. That’s the only thing I remember.
STIER: Well, yeah, we did lack gas. Running in a motorcycle, I had a motorcycle and when we got to place where we opened a school I had to order food for the school. And I’d made several trips of fifty miles by bicycle just into Mwanza to get the...a truck to bring food out. But I could hardly get gas many times, for even for a motorcycle, so I used a bicycle. Right.
ERICKSEN: Do you recall any sort remnants of the German administration?
STIER: No, because that passed quite a ways...
ERICKSEN: That was quite a bit earlier?
STIER:...that was World War I. Yes. I remember like Mr Maynard, they were there at that time, and they had some experiences to tell about. They really had difficulties with getting food and things.
ERICKSEN: They had been there during the First World War?
STIER: The First World War. Yeah. They said they had more difficulties than we did. We really didn’t have that much effect.
ERICKSEN: Any of those stories you recall him telling you?
STIER: The only thing I remember now is Dr. Maynard, was very, very sick, and she said if only I could have an egg. And she remembers...she told us several times I’m sure that...that just right at her doorstep somebody appeared with an egg or two, and it just was a complete answer to prayer. But they really had a rough time getting bread, I think flour, getting an egg and things like that. They were through it, but I don’t remember anything specifically.
ERICKSEN: Then after the war had ended then you went on your first furlough?
STIER: Yes. We had to wait a while, of course, to get out, and yes. When we finally decided we’d go home, we had to go down...we went down to Mombasa. You couldn’t make reservations at home with the coast. The best thing to do was to go down to the coast and sit there until a ship came along, see if you could get on. So we went wife and I and Miss Loveland [?] (she’s here now [at the Media Retirement Center]), we all went down to Mombasa. And we had to sit there a month, and we would go to the travel agent every day practically, see if any ship was coming in and finally a troop ship came in. It was put back into passenger service, Winchester Castle, but it was coming in and it so happens the missionaries from Kenya were waiting there. Linnell Davis, maybe you’ve met him.( He’s right next to the Buyses in that new...). He was down there with his son, and wife got off from one ship with some children. He was still waiting there. They were there before we were, but when this ship come in, we went down and they said, “Yes, the allocation for the people from Tanzania was not used up in Tanzania. There are couple places for you folks from Tanzania.” So we went out and said goodbye to Linnell, who had been down there before us, but the Kenya allocation was finished. But that hadn’t even been converted back into the dormitories. We were separated on our trip up. I was in the men’s dormitory and my wife was in the women’s dormitory. We got to Egypt, to Port Said and then we found out at Port Said, that there was a ship coming in to Alexandria, the Vulcania, and...that was an Italian ship. And we would be about to get passage on that, so we got off the ship even though we were booked through to London, took a train to Alexandria and then we managed to get on that. That was still a troop ship with dormitories, but they had a few cabins for two people and my wife and I got one of those. So we were together across the Atlantic going home. was hard to get home in those days, very difficult. We thought if we’d get to England we might then be able to get a plane home, but we didn’t have to go England. We did get a rebate on our tickets, so we were grateful for that.
ERICKSEN: Any changes that you noticed in the U.S. in general or in the church, churches as you visited them from the time...?
STIER: Seven and half years is a long time to be away. One thing that struck us so was nieces and nephews, leave them this way and they’re up that way, you know. It was quite a change. I would say though I don’t think the changes were as drastic in the earlier days as they were later on, even though the time was shorter being away. There are so many changes in the churches, you know, just the way things were run and done and everything [laughs]. Right.
ERICKSEN: Maybe this is a good place to stop for now?
STIER: Okay. You have to...that’s right, you have to go.


Return to BGC Archives Home Page
Last Revised: 5/1/2014
Expiration: indefinite

© 2016 Wheaton College. All rights reserved. This transcript may be reused with the following publication credit: Used by permission of the Billy Graham Center Archives, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL.2015