Billy Graham Center

Collection 481 - Laura Isabelle "Belle" Barr. T3 Transcript

Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (42 minutes).

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Laura Isabelle “Belle” Barr (CN 481, T3) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing. Throughout the recording the interviewer acknowledged Ms. Barr’s comments with variations of “uh-huh” – because of the frequency of these, they have not been reproduced in the interview.

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 Timothy Gulsvig and Paul Ericksen, and was completed in March 2008.

Collection 481, tape T3. Interview of Laura Isabelle “Belle” Barr by Paul Ericksen, January 20, 1993.

[On 481 tape T2 Barr was discussing her experience, ca. 1961, of being dislocated by the fighting between the Ugandan army and guerillas in northwestern Uganda along the border with Congo.]

BARR: We got the wounded over to Kuluva where there was a...a British nurse and the African medical workers. There was no doctor there. Dr. Williams and Nero [?] had left. And we left them spread out on the floor, I remember, there, and then I went up Joy’s house. And I...I...I was sort of speechless. I could hardly talk to her when she came to the door. I spent the night there and then went back the next morning because I felt that I...I needed be over there, or at least get more things, you know, get my manuscripts and things that...over. And so I went back, and I spent the night alone, there, the second night.

ERICKSEN: Were you able to get all your manuscripts out?

BARR: I was able to get them over Kuluva, yeah. I was able to get them over. And that’s...that’s what I did. I spent the night, and I expected to stay, but I...the water situation was difficult, and I couldn’t get water, and no one was around, and I decided to take what I could, you know, and...and go over to Kuluva and...and live with the girls over there. And so I went into Maureen Moore’s guest house there and stayed there that...during all those weeks. And a few days later, I came back over...we came back...I came back with the women early in the morning. They wanted...because they were going back and forth, you see, living over at Kuluva in the ward, I believe, which happened to be...there was room for them. And they would get food and bring it over and all, and I went over and found that my house had been burned, you know, in the roof. They had.... It wasn’t completely burnt, but most...half of it was...was gone completely, and...and everything was a mess, of course.

ERICKSEN: How aware were you of what was going on elsewhere in the country.

BARR: Well, we...we really didn’t know because we had no contact while we were there for those...from the...for a month or more, you see. We were...we didn’t dare go out in the road, even. We just stayed there, and...and soldiers kept sweeping in on us, and we never knew what was...and the Africans would sort of warn us, you know, that, and bunches of them or...or single soldiers with guns or.... They just kept coming in all the time, sweeping in on us. And we...we felt it was best just to stay there probably. See, the message got out that we were held captive and....

ERICKSEN: Yeah, I...yeah, I remember you mentioning that.

BARR: I heard myself spoken of from BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] in London [laughs], you know, that they would...ourselves, the situation we were in and all. We listened. And then the...then the Catholic father came through with...with some nuns. He was on the way to Kampala. He had come up...he was taking the nuns from Arua, I believe, and he got the message back to the embassy that we were alive, you see. But got out that I was taken captive and...but I wasn’t held captive long. It was only that March up there, and then...after...after they left, you see, I was free, and.... But it got out that I was...yeah.

ERICKSEN: And then you left the country, you came back here....

BARR: We...we set the time ahead of time. We set a day...that we would leave on such and such a day. It was about a little over...about a month or more over...afterwards, you know. And that Paul Dean, the worker from Eng...the English fellow that was there only a few months, that he would drive me and an Australian girl at Arua. You see, we didn’t know what was happening to our fellow workers at Arua either, but they’d had a diff...very difficult time. And Seton and Peggy Maclure wanted her to be taken out. And so Paul Dean was going to drive...(oh, I can’t even think of her name. Isn’t it awful. Honestly, I know it perfectly well.)...he was going to drive her and me out. And we decided rather than going across to Zaire, that we would try to get through Kampala and down to East Africa. My sister was down in East Nairobi, you see. So, we set the date and before the date came, the night before the date came for us to leave (we had set it about a week before), the UN [United Nations] came in. Four...about four Land Rovers [British all-terrain vehicles] full of UN people came in, headed by Miss...Mrs. or Miss, I’m not sure...Melissa Wells of the UN. She’s from the United States. And they [unclear phrase]. And they came in and wanted...they had heard something was happening up there, and they wanted to know what had happened, so.... But that was the night before we were to leave the next morning, they came on. And they came in, and we talked for about an hour-and-a-half telling them all that happened. And I had the records of what was...what had happened and David then told them. And they were going to go on to the Catholics at Oambatsi [?]. And they said, “We’re leaving at 7:00 tomorrow morning. Come with us in convoy.” And we had wondered how we’d ever get out, you know. And I think we had a letter from somebody, but we didn’t think the letter would work, really. And it was wonderful, because it was just the time that we had planned to go a week before, you see. So we went out with UN Land Rovers in front and back of us. And my heavily...heavily packed car, because Seton was sending his books out. He was afraid he’d lose his books. And my car was pretty heavily packed, my Peugot station wagon. And Paul was there to help drive, and it was a good thing. The...the...the car wasn’t too dependable. I...I didn’t know whether...when it would go and when it wouldn’t, you know. And so we got out un...with the...under UN [pauses] accompanying.

ERICKSEN: And when did you arrive back...back in this country?

BARR: Then I spent about three weeks with my sister Nairobi.


BARR: And then I came home in December...about the 11th or 12th of December.


BARR: And that had happened. The thing had happened mid-October, you see.

ERICKSEN: Yes, okay. And how soon after that did you come down here to Media [Africa Inland Mission’s retirement center in Clermont, Florida]?

BARR: Well, then I spent....I spent a year with my brother. Her...his wife was dying of cancer in Baltimore.

ERICKSEN: Okay. This was [unclear].

BARR: He’s a...he’s a minister. And Evelyn had this cancer a year or so, and she was getting worse, and was just a matter of time. And I spent a year with them helping in Baltimore.

ERICKSEN: Is this the same brother that had been in Kentucky?

BARR: Yes.


BARR: He’s my only brother. There are just the three of us.


BARR: And...and then I...yes, so I spent a year with them, and then I came down here.

ERICKSEN: So that would have been ‘81?

BARR: ‘81. In December...early in December ‘81, I came down.

ERICKSEN: Oh, good time to come to Florida!

BARR: Yeah [laughs]. So, I left Winn and...and Evelyn then, and she died. Then I went up in February, she died in February. And she died at her daughter’s house in Maryland. And I went up at that time, and stayed in their apartment and was there for the funeral and all. Then I came back.

ERICKSEN: Now she actually is one of the people on the tape [tapes T5 and T6 in interview conducted by Barr’s nephew David Rowland], isn’t she?

BARR: Evelyn. Evelyn is on the tape, yeah. Evelyn and [pauses]...and Martha’s husband are on the tape.

ERICKSEN: Yeah. As you look back on both your experience in Congo/Zaire and in Uganda, where do you think the process of turning authority of...for the church and the work over to the Africans worked more effectively?

BARR: In which country do you mean?

ERICKSEN: Compare between the two. Did it work better...?

BARR: Well, I think..I think it was more organized in Uganda, probably. It was was under the Church of Uganda, you know what I mean? And the Church of Uganda’s sort of quite inclusive, you know, really, [laughs]. So, our s...our section there is known as a sort of Evangelical section, I guess, of it, but it’s not that way all over Uganda, by any means. But was more organized perhaps over there. And...but [pauses] Congo, they...they’ve gone more and more...put more and more power into the hands of the Africans at just about that time, you know. I mean, it’’s pretty well managed by the Africans now.

ERICKSEN: Now how did you feel about that as it was happening? Good thing? Bad thing?

BARR: Good thing, good thing, yeah. We got...we had some wonderful leaders, really, in the church, you know, African leaders.

ERICKSEN: What was the typical worship service like among the Lugbara?

BARR: Well, it was very different Congo than in Uganda. Of course, the Uganda is the Church of Uganda and it has all of the form of the Church of Uganda.

ERICKSEN: Oh, right, right.

BARR: And we had our own prayer book...prayer book in Lugbara, and everything. So I got quite used to that. And....

ERICKSEN: So it was a more liturgical service?

BARR: Yes. Oh, much more, yes. Yeah, see Congo more like a know, I mean, it’s more...


BARR: Free, and....

ERICKSEN: Which of the two did you prefer?

BARR: Well, I was brought up more in...well, I was brought up in the Presbyterian, which would be sort of half way in-between.


BARR: Presbyterian has a little more form, you know, than.... And I...I sort of like a happy medium, myself. I think that we could have a little more form, maybe, in some of the churches, and maybe not be quite so informal, you know, but [pauses] halfway between sort of [laughs], I guess. [unclear]

ERICKSEN: What would a...what would a typical service run in time?

BARR: Where?

ERICKSEN: How long would it be? Both. How long would the Anglican service be [pauses] or Church of Uganda?

BARR: Well, they would keep it pretty...they would keep it pretty much to...they would keep it pretty much to time, I think...

ERICKSEN: An hour?

BARR: An hour-and-a-half or so, or something like that, I should think.

ERICKSEN: What about in Zaire? Same?

BARR: I would say it would be about the same, but sometimes it could be longer, I think, in Zaire, you know.

ERICKSEN: How much music was incorporated into the worship?

BARR: Well, they always liked music. They always liked singing and music. [electronic sound, perhaps stopping and restarting the recording]

ERICKSEN: Was there much use of drums?

BARR: Not an awful lot of drums. Not in...not in the church services, I wouldn’t say too much.

ERICKSEN: Were drums used in tribal activities otherwise [pauses] among the Lugbara?

BARR: Oh, I don’t.... Well, of course, they had certain kinds of drum beats for the dances and

all. Yeah, they...they would be used.

ERICKSEN: Was there much problem of...with polygamy among the Lugbara?

BARR: Well, yeah. Po...polygamy’s always a problem, to know what to do with the extra wives, you know. And even white people disagree on that, you know, sometimes [laughs], whether they should disown all their wives and...and leave them to fend for themselves or not. That’s not very Christian, either, you know, and....

ERICKSEN: So how did...?

BARR: People...people sort of disagreed on that, I think, sometimes.

ERICKSEN: Did the...?

BARR: But the church demanded only wife, of course. I can’t think what did they do about the...? [pauses] I’ll say I don’t know that, I guess, but I don’t know what did they.... They...they couldn’t be officer in the church, I don’t think, or a...or a prominent person with more than one wife.

ERICKSEN: And was that the same for both sides of the border?

BARR: I would...I would think so, yeah.


BARR: It’s’s a real problem. If...if a person’s been a heathen before they were converted, you know. To turn the women out is, really...


BARR: ...kind of hard.

ERICKSEN: Were there church situations where that became a divisive issue?

BARR: [pauses] Well, I ‘m sure...I’m sure that people disagreed on it, you know, but...missionaries, even, would...would disagree maybe on it, and somewhat. seems a terrible thing to chase out a woman, you know...


BARR: ...with no...unless she had some means of support or family to take her in, or something, I don’t know. It’’s really a problem.

ERICKSEN: Church discipline: how did the Africans handle church discipline?

BARR: Well, the elders would meet with the...with the missionaries, I guess, as far as my time over in Congo was concerned, still, anyway, and.... [pauses] They were pretty strict, I think, pretty....

ERICKSEN: As strict as the missionaries?

BARR: Well, it’s hard to say, you know.

ERICKSEN: What would be typical...well, typical’s the wrong word...what would be...what would be an example of the kind of discipline that would be applied to a church member?

BARR: Oh dear, this is hard. I know they were...they were pretty strict, really.

ERICKSEN: Were they tossed out of the church?

BARR: Tossed out of fellowship, yeah. They could be.

ERICKSEN: For a period of time or how did...?

BARR: Yeah, I think so. I think it’d be for a period of time, really.


BARR: Then they would prove themselves and be allowed to come in again, I guess.

ERICKSEN: Do you remember times when, you, as a missionary, thought that the church was being to lenient in a situation?

BARR: No, I can’t remember individual times too much.

ERICKSEN: Okay. How about the problem of idols and animism?

BARR: Oh, that’s...that’s constantly a problem, yeah.

ERICKSEN: Among church people too?

BARR: Sometimes, people that con...confess Christ still are afraid, you know. It’s’s a terrific thing for them to gi...for them to give up, really, you know.

ERICKSEN: What would they do with all...?

BARR: But the church takes a stand against it, very definitely, and....

ERICKSEN: What would a new convert do with all of his articles.

BARR: Well, he...some of them...some of them would bring them all and burn them, you know. That ha...that’s what Aroma did. I’ve got the story of Aroma, who was a witch doctor, and he brought all his things.

ERICKSEN: Now, from what I’ve heard, it’s not typical for a witch doctor to convert.

BARR: Well, it’s unusual, but it happens. He brought all his things together at once and burned them, I think, Aroma did. He was one of the old witch doctors that was converted before I left. There was quite a....

ERICKSEN: This was in Zaire?

BARR: In Zaire. It was quite a...a movement among the...of the gospel among the old people before I left. It had had taken a long time, sort of, you know, to get a hold, but I have the testimony of several of them: Aroma and....

ERICKSEN: Who...who were the field directors that you worked under?

BARR: Mr. [George C.] Van Dusen was, mostly. Mr. Van Dusen. John Buyse he’s he’s uncle of this...

ERICKSEN: Paul Buyse.

BARR: ...of Paul Buyse, but they s...pronounce their name different. It’s a Dutch name.

ERICKSEN: Oh, interesting.

BARR: Bow...Boush, or something like that [laughs]. So one was Buyse [pronounced as in mice] and one was Buyse [pronounced differently]. Buyse [pronounced as in mice] and one was....

ERICKSEN: Buyse [pronounced as in Boice].

BARR: Buyse [pronounced as in Boice], yeah. John...John chose Buyse [pronounced as in mice]. And he and...and Mabel Buyse were veteran missionaries, and they [pauses]...they went up into Sudan, I’m sure, didn’t they? Dear me. Am I forgetting? Anyway, he was field council while Mr. Van Dusen was gone for a while, and a....

ERICKSEN: What were they like as field directors?

BARR: Oh, they were good, uh-huh.

ERICKSEN: What kind of oversight would they give you?

BARR: Well, they...they had the...the field council, of course, met at regular intervals. How often was it? Any...anything could come up to the field council, of course, and in the early days, there were all white men, but towards the end, the Africans were included, and I’m sure now, they have a big part.

ERICKSEN: Did you have regular sort-of staff conferences.

BARR: Yeah, you mean mission conf...?


BARR: We had every...every two years, I think it was, we had our general conference, usually at Rethy [in Congo and site of AIM’s Rethy Academy], and....

ERICKSEN: I think it was....

BARR: E...everybody was supposed to come, you know. It was a great time, really.

ERICKSEN: Now, it was...oh, I’m not sure who it was that was saying it yesterday, but that speakers would be invited in...

BARR: Yeah.

ERICKSEN: ...from...?

BARR: England or America or...or any...or other places.

ERICKSEN: Remember any...any...any of the folks that had a particular impact on you?

BARR: I remember one of our missionaries. Oh dear. Now see, I can’t think of his name. I can’t remember names, it’s just my memory that’s...that’s going. But he...he was held by the...he was one of those men that was h.... What was his name? Held by the...during the war, [pauses] and he was...a great blessing, really, conference.

ERICKSEN: This was one of the missionaries in...?

BARR: Yeah, one of the missionaries.

ERICKSEN: From Zaire or...?

BARR: Kenya, I think he was.


BARR: Dear, where...? My memory is poor, really.

ERICKSEN: What do you remember about...?

BARR: And we had people...leaders from the mission come out, you know, too. Ralph Davis and....

ERICKSEN: What was he like?

BARR: Well, he was...he was director here in the US, you know, for a long time. He was good. I can’t...I can’t remember. I don’t know enough to really say. He directed the work for a long time here as US director.

ERICKSEN: Do you remember anything about the business meetings that you would have at your conferences?

BARR: Well, I remember we had business meetings. You mean topics that we would discuss or something?


BARR: Oh dear. I’m not very good...I haven’t too good a memory, really.

ERICKSEN: Well, they’re certain....

BARR: It was always very interesting. It’s very interesting.

ERICKSEN: [laughs] There’re certain little things you’ve forgotten, but you’ve certainly remembered the lion’s share of what was going on, so that’s.... Where would you say...what station would you say you enjoyed working at the most? Where did you feel the most fulfilled?

BARR: Well, of course, it was a great fulfillment to see the Word of God come, and...and...and when we were over in Uganda, you see. That was a...a wonderful thing. I enjoyed working at Aru too, and...and und...under a different sort of a program. But...but I was very busy at Aru, you see, with both girl’s work and translation work most of the time. Except for the first term, I wasn’t doing translation work, but after that I was, and I sort of had to divide my time between the two, and....

ERICKSEN: Now, with the process of transition of authority going from missionaries to....

BARR: Africans.

ERICKSEN: ...the Africans, when did you begin to feel like you weren’t so much at the center of the action but were more on the side, when you were more responsible to the Africans? Do you recall?

BARR: [pauses] Well, maybe...maybe when I was over in Uganda, you know. [pauses] Well, I felt responsible to the Africans in Congo too, you know, and especially after our...our rebellion [probably in 1954], when they came back. We had wonderful fellowship, but we were very confident in their leadership and all, and felt good about it. We felt that the church had really been purified by that ca...thing that happened to us, you know, in the ‘50s the Congo.

ERICKSEN: Did you, I guess, short-term...?

BARR: I...I was probably a little closer perhaps to the people in Congo than I did Uganda, but it was very good in Uganda, too, really, but it was completely different set-up, you know,...


BARR: ...and sort of and Episcopalian setup and everything. And I got quite used to the prayer book [Book of Common Prayer used by the Anglican Church for worship, communion, prayers, and personal and public reading of Scripture] and all that.

ERICKSEN: Short-term missionaries were kind of a thing that started, I guess, in the...

BARR: Yeah, it was....

ERICKSEN: Maybe the late-‘60s or the early-‘70s.

BARR: Yeah.

ERICKSEN: Did you...did you have short term workers working with you?

BARR: We didn’t have them in Aru, and we [pauses]...we had some British short-termers, I think, West Nile [District in northwestern Uganda]. They would come out for short terms. I don’t think we had American short-termers my part of West Nile, in West Nile, that is.

ERICKSEN: How did they work out?

BARR: Alright, yeah.

ERICKSEN: did you feel about...?

BARR: You mean, the British?

ERICKSEN: No, just the short-term workers, kind of coming for a brief period and then leaving again.

BARR: Yeah, well, they...they all fit into the work well, and we...we enjoyed them.

ERICKSEN: did do you feel...? I mean, I think, not necessarily short-term in term terms of a summer or even a couple of years, but, I mean, there’s more of a trend now toward....

BARR: Toward short terms.

ERICKSEN: ...a term or two.

BARR: Oh yes. I know. I...I was still....

ERICKSEN: And when you...when you went, it was for...

BARR: For life.

ERICKSEN: ...for life. do you fell about that?

BARR: Well, I think it’’s a good thing for...the way things are now. It’’s a good thing for the young people to be able to get a taste of it, I guess, first. But we just went out on faith [pauses], you know, and took it as the call of the Lord, and.... I don’t know. one year, you don’t really get into it, you know, that much. seems to me you need longer to [laughs].... [pauses] And it takes a long time even to be at home in the language, you know. I mean, the whole first term is sort’re not fluent, you know, and...and it takes a couple of terms really Lugbara to be fluent. Still, the Lord can use you, you know, and have work to do with.... But there’s a lot more emphasis on short-term now, of course.

ERICKSEN: As you compare 1944 when you went out, and 1980 when you came home or even...even now in 1993, how has missions changed?

BARR: Well, it’s more, much more in the hands of the Africans, I’d say, you know, much more. Even in Congo. I mean, it’s...of course, it’s different now even than when I left, I’m sure. But’s much more directed by the Africans than it used to be, though they used to have a say, of course. And we always...we had a say and they had a say, really, but.... And then in Uganda, of course, it’s all under the Church of Uganda plan, so it’s’s a little different there than.... But we’ve had bishops West Nile, or course, under the Church of Uganda. Some of them have been touched by the revival, you see, too, in there. So they’re...they’re....

ERICKSEN: The revival that’s...?

BARR: East African Revival. Uh-huh.

ERICKSEN: Now, did [Festo] Kivengere...? We had talked about him a lot earlier. Did he ever come into the area where you were, into the West Nile area?

BARR: What was his other name?


BARR: Festo. [pauses] I don’t think I, I don’t think I saw...ever saw Festo.

ERICKSEN: What kind of reputation did he have?

BARR: Where was he from? I can’t remember. [pause] From down-country was he?

ERICKSEN: I don’t....

BARR: I forget.

ERICKSEN: I don’t know. What kind of reputation did he have among...?

BARR: Oh, he had a very good reputation among.... A lot of those leaders were...were fine men, you know. I mean, I think it got off track a little up...up country. Then...then they even had to split in West Nile between the “strivers” and those that weren’t “strivers” [nickname attributed to those thought to be relying on good works and or seeking the Baptism of the Holy Spirit]. The revival had to split. Somewhere in the middle there where I...where all...while I was there, it had to split, because there were...the strivers were...they would dance all night and jump in the air all night, you know, and things like that, and.... They were a bit more extreme than the...the regular Abalokole [or Balokole; in the Luganda language it means “the saved ones” or “chosen ones”] were, which Margaret Lloyd was in, of course. Our mission...a couple of our missionaries were in the Abalokole, and....

ERICKSEN: Go ahead.

BARR: Yeah.

ERICKSEN: What...we...we talked about what changes have occurred in missions in Africa over the course of your career. What changes have you seen in the...the kinds of people who are becoming missionaries, those that you went out with and those you see just starting out in missions now?

BARR: Well, we...we went out for a l...for a...we...we committed ourselves for a lifetime, really, when we went out, unless something happened, of course, you know. But now they don’t, really. They go out for...for short terms to see whether they like it, you know, and...see how it goes, and.... A lot of them go back again, you know. In Kenya, you see that all the time. People wanting to come back in after they’ve done a short term.

ERICKSEN: What about level of training?

BARR: Well, there’s a lot.... People that go Zaire now, they...they know French a lot better than we did, of course. We weren’t required, really. We should have been, I suppose. To know it better. I mean, I had it in high school, and we took French classes and institutes and things, but then when you talk a tribe language all the time, you know, it’ sorta goes, yeah. A lot of us form the early days weren’t good in French, and yet we had to make out, you see, [laughs] with officials and everything, so...and....

ERICKSEN: Now would...would a missionary working in a Lugbara area today learn Lugbara?

BARR: Well, if they were assigned to it. But they probably...may...maybe wouldn’t...wouldn’t be. I don’t know. Fortunately, I was assigned to it. And it wasn’t easy, you know, because it was much easier to learn another language than a tribe language. But I was just...I’m just glad the way the Lord lead, really, because he led so definitely.

ERICKSEN: Now what was the trade language among the that area?

BARR: Bangala.


BARR: Yeah. And most of the missionaries talked Bangala, and I could go to church and enjoy a Bangala service, but I...I wasn’t fluent in talking it. I couldn’t really talk it. And we had a Lugbara service, too, and...and a Bangala service, you see, so....

ERICKSEN: As you look back on your education at Columbia [Bible College], as it prepared you for what you [Barr sneezes] went on to do, how would you evaluate the training you got? And...and at Wycliffe too?

BARR: I think it’s very good. Uh-huh.

ERICKSEN: Anything you wished you had studied or had more training in?

BARR: Well, I...I...of course, I only took the two year course. I’m not sure whether they’re just been doing the two year course anymore or not, really. It’s progressed a lot, you know, and they’ve got a seminary now and everything at Columbia, but...but [pauses] I think it trained me while for it, you know, and.... [pauses] And certainly Wycliffe was a help. I went three times to Wycliffe. I went twice before I went to the field, and then I went once on my first furlough at...where I...when I had be...begun to get it, you know, and...and I got help there.

ERICKSEN: Yeah, I remember you mentioning that.

BARR: I got help there. And then...then I went back after that, you see, to really start in on...on the translation committee after the first term.

ERICKSEN: What kind of changes did you see take place in the American church over the course of your career?

BARR: In the my church, huh? Oh dear, I hadn’t thought about that especially.

ERICKSEN: Maybe in the things that were important to the church or church members.

BARR: It’s hard to say. They were always very faithful in supporting me. There was a mixup at first, and I didn’t get my money. The got stuck in a checkbook somewhere, and...and I really was beginning to sell my wares out there, my belongings, and all that was difficult. But it was just a mistake. Somebody forgot to send a check or something and...and.... But the church has always supported me well, but every time I’ve come home, it’s been a different pastor, practically, now. And we’ve had two or three splits in the church [Church of the Open Door, Philadelphia], you know. Started out with a bang there in ‘36, but by ‘48 there was a split, when all...a lot of the people that founded the church left, and....

ERICKSEN: What was that over?

BARR: Over the pastor. Pastor had a hemorrhage in the brain or something and then...and they were pushing him in still, and was splitting up over that. It was really a terrible...

ERICKSEN: This...this was [Merrill T.] MacPherson?

BARR: ...terrible...MacPherson...terrible situation there. And then, after that, there were several splits, yeah, in our church.

ERICKSEN: How would you...would you say that [pauses] the church members were more informed or less informed back in the ‘30s and ‘40s?

BARR: I think they were more informed. Well, I...I’ve had more...I’ve had more contact with them now. The people in my church now, I just hardly know any of them, you see. And the pastors have changed so many times that I really don’t know how to size them up, but I know they gave me a wonderful welcome when I came back, you know, when I appeared after this...

ERICKSEN: Harrowing event, yeah.

BARR: ...this thing happened. Yeah. They were...they were quite welcoming and wonderful, really.

ERICKSEN: Yeah. Now we talked about what your support level was when you went out. It was like fifty or....

BARR: Sixty, I can’t remember what it was. Sixty.

ERICKSEN: Sixty dollars? What was it when you came home?

BARR: Five hundred something.

ERICKSEN: Huh, interesting.

BARR: Just what it is now. They just...left it like it is now, you see. They hasn’t gone up any since I’ve gone home...come home, but it’s just stayed the same.

ERICKSEN: Tell me what you enjoyed most about working for Africa Inland Mission.

BARR: Well, the wonderful opportunity I had, really, and.... [pauses] Wonderful opportunity. I just appreciated the mission, really.

ERICKSEN: Did you have good...?

BARR: And the work, and the opportunities. They were...they were great, really.

ERICKSEN: Did you have good communication from headquarters in Pearl River?

BARR: Yes, uh-huh. I think so.

ERICKSEN: Good support?

BARR: [pauses] Yes, I think so. Very good. [pauses] The field councils were always a great blessing, when we got together every two years, and...and the inspiration and a blessing, of course.

ERICKSEN: Is your experiences working as a missionary, was there a kind of a spiritual toll to your work?

BARR: Hmm. It’s not easy, no. But it’s very rewarding. I loved the girls, and they were all...they were very difficult things, of course, sometimes, but I loved the girls work, and [pauses]....

ERICKSEN: Were there time...?

BARR: ...and I...and I appreciated so getting in...being able to start in on the Bible, you see, because first, I thought that it was because I didn’t know Lugbara, you see, and...


BARR: ...but then dawned on me that there must be s...difficulties, you know, and...and that worked out very well, really, for us to get into the translation work. But then I...we...then I tried to carry them both on, of course, which wasn’t easy.

ERICKSEN: Wa...was there a time when it felt to you like the spiritual battle was overwhelming.

BARR: Oh yes. Of course, I mean....

ERICKSEN: Can you think of a...?

BARR: Those time...those times Uganda, of course, when I [laughs].... It’s strange how different an atmosphere there can be when there’s.... I can remember that trip into Arua from when they...when the soldier came to get me (Seton came with him that time), and take me in to be in their guesthouse there, you see, before...that was a...a week or so before I came over into Zaire, and [pauses] my, that was really something. It was so dark and so oppressive, and you didn’t see anybody, you know. Everybody was off the roads. It was just absolutely unnatural, you know, in those days of danger.

ERICKSEN: Did you ever have feelings of just being burned out during your...your ter...your years on the field?

BARR: Oh, I think...I...I’m sure I did, yeah.

ERICKSEN: Recall any?

BARR: Well, these times when...times of difficulty when you just didn’t know what was going to happen, you know. I mean, I...when I was going to go to prison and everything, that was diffi...that was a very difficult time.

ERICKSEN: Now that was ri...right at...

BARR: That was....

ERICKSEN: ...the time before you left...

BARR: That was...

ERICKSEN: ...the Congo.

BARR: Yeah, yeah. I thought, “What will I take with me? I’ll take a toothbrush and a Bible.” Didn’t want to take too much as though I was going to stay there, you know. [both laugh] And....

ERICKSEN: Stay in Uganda, you mean?

BARR: No, I mean in prison...

ERICKSEN: In prison. I see.

BARR: In Congo, you see. I didn’t want to set... it to look as though I thought I was going to stay. [laughs]

ERICKSEN: Now, were you actually imprisoned?

BARR: No, I wasn’t. You see I waited and waited for them to come for me. They weren’t going to let me go down in the car even. I was going to walk down to town, which is a couple of miles, several miles, and I waited and waited, and no one came, and then, in the middle of the next day, a relative of the chief came and wanted some (did he want gasoline or something?)...he wanted something from me. I can’t remember what it...what it was. Maybe it was gasoline or something, and he said he had kept them from coming for me.

ERICKSEN: Huh, huh.

BARR: And I said, “Are they coming? I’ve been waiting for them.” So it was.... Well, then, of course, in those times Uganda, that...that knocked you for a loop really, you know.


BARR: I was sort of speechless for a while, I guess. I went to Joy Grindey as I couldn’t talk after the shooting, you know, and all. It was a.... I spent the night with her one night, and then I went home, and I had no light. I had flashlight wasn’t working. I left it with Paul to fix, and I guess I had lamps, you know, that I could put on, but I had flashlight or anything, and.... I didn’t know when the soldiers would come for us. I was all alone in that area...that whole area. All...all the Africans had gone to Kuluva, you see. That was some night, but I...the Lord was with me. And all those...those occasions He was with me, certainly.

ERICKSEN: Now, you went out to the mission field a single missionary, and you’re...

BARR: Still a single.

ERICKSEN:’re still a single...missionary. Was that ever hard for you?

BARR: Well....

ERICKSEN: Do you ever wish you’d been married?

BARR: Oh, sometimes I have, of course, but that was sort of settled even before I went. I decided to go, you know, and....

ERICKSEN: Uh-huh. What was settling it like for you? Was that...?

BARR: Well, I’d...I’d always told the Lord I would go alone if...if I needed to. My sister was happily married. “If thou wilst have me go alone, I’ll go. Yet should I say alone with thee, my precious Lord, close by me all the way.?” [unidentified hymn or poem] I went. I think I decided that, you know, before I went, really.

ERICKSEN: We are...we’re almost out of tape. Is there anything you’d like to add before we shut the machine off?

BARR: Well, I just thank the Lord with all my heart for the opportunities he gave me. Even though there were such difficulties, maybe more crises than most people meet there, He was with me and gave me great joy in the work. And I...I wouldn’t have done anything else. I’m just glad that I chose His service and went for Him. He was certainly faithful through it all. And it’s a wonderful thing to know now that thousands of Lugbara Bibles are scattered around in the tribe. It was one of the best-selling Bibles there was, and I hope it still is. I imagine it still is. I couldn’t have had a higher privilege, really. In spite of difficulties, it was a great joy to serve the Lord there.

ERICKSEN: Well, I can tell. Well, Miss Barr, thank you very, very much.

BARR: You’re welcome.


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© 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.2008