This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Armin Richard Gesswein (CN 517, 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.
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 Wayne D. Weber and was completed in May 2007.
Collection 517, T3. Interview of Armin Richard Gesswein by Robert D. Shuster, April 24, 1998.
SHUSTER: You were saying about Victor Nelson and Paul Rees. And you and what he...?
GESSWEIN: Yea, they called the...the.... They called it the spiritual advance what it was called. It was a big meeting. They arranged it, set it up and asked me to come. We had a lot of ministries there in the Paul Rees’s church, the Covenant Church downtown in Minneapolis. And in that, I...it was before that, I said, “Let’s invite Edwin Orr into this. I’d like to get him back on track on this thing. He’s just finished all his education work. Now, he’s had some meetings, but not like he used to, and....” So, we invited him, and he came and after that he began to move on and on in that combination.
SHUSTER: Combination being teaching and...teaching and...combination being teaching and preaching.
GESSWEIN: Well, he had meetings around mostly, and in colleges too, and God used him. But we were together, and we had our own conferences out here in the West. And we worked together. We...I’d always bring Edwin in whenever I could. It was a part of our set-up. And his wife’s name is Carol, and she’s a Norwegian from South Africa. And we’re close, and we named our daughter Carol, third of our children, after Carol his wife. So we’re very close, and when he passed away, I had the...I had a big part in his funeral in a...Baptist church in Camarillo [California]. And his grave’s out there, and Carol lives out there near there, and we’re together a lot. We hear from her. She helps us in our work. Edwin was a big part of our whole ministry, and we were like two peas in a pod in many...many ways.
SHUSTER: How would you describe his personality?
GESSWEIN: Well, [laughs] he was different. You wouldn’t expect him to be the great revival-burdened man that he was, and in a sense. And to stress prayer like he did as the great feature. But he preached repentance in his...strong...suit, if I may use that expression, when he preached was “Repent. Confess your sins. Get right.”
SHUSTER: You say you wouldn’t expect him. Why...why wouldn’t you expect him?
GESSWEIN: While, he wasn’t the big personality figure like Billy Graham was. He was a...he was a...you know, he didn’t have a powerful voice, and he got across though, and he was his own man and his own.... He was very firm and clear, and we knew what he was saying, and...he went ahead, and he...he couldn’t be bullied and he couldn’t be beaten. He was for real, but he was a...an instrument in God’s hand that was...if you expected it, when you read his writing and meet him, you wouldn’t know that this was the man, in a way. But after you heard him awhile, you knew it was.
SHUSTER: Can you think...?
GESSWEIN: [unclear] He lived the George Müller [1805-1898] faith life in a way. He really did.
SHUSTER: You mean by that praying for his needs and depending on God?
GESSWEIN: Yes, I do. We did. For years, I haven’t salary for years, except when I was with Fuller and with Gordon, but we just trusted God as we went on. But after all, everybody lives by faith, whether it’s the George Müller type or if he’s “Call of God.” It’s the George Müller type that says I’ll trust God entirely for the finances, won’t say anything to anybody.” And there’s...there’s the D.L. Moody type faith also. Müller would say, “God, you send the money.” Moody would say, “Show me the person that has the money, and I’ll have the faith to talk to them about it,” but he works by faith. Yeah. Billy Graham does that. He talks about money, but he...he relies on the Lord. It’s more the George...the Moody approach, but he relies on the Lord to do it. It’s a faith work. They...you can’t live the Christian life apart from faith.
SHUSTER: Without faith, it’s impossible to please God.
GESSWEIN: You can go from faith to faith, but just to live by faith, not just get saved by faith, live by faith.
SHUSTER: Can you think of any examples, or stories, or anecdotes about Dr. Orr that help illustrate the kind of man he was, or things that...?
GESSWEIN: Oh yeah. He went to...he went to Africa. Prepared to get his wife down there, and she didn’t know that. Probably like I did when I went to Oslo, Norway, and I went to the consul...consulate in Oslo. “What do you do to take a wife back to America?” Before we were ever even engaged or anything. And my wife...you should hear her tell that story, her side on that thing. He has many stories, and they had little. They had...we had little, and they had less, as I told you. Live by faith. When we did that on Long Island, he was good-hearted, and...he went and bought a special, beautiful waffle iron to give us for Christmas. And they didn’t...they hardly had the money. Gave us that. And we...in those days, five dollars was a big sum of money for us. Yeah, he lived by faith. He trusted God. He had a prayer life that was his own. He started these Oxford prayer retreats for professors to come together. That was blessed. I don’t recall Edwin Orr ever leading a prayer meeting. But that was his heart desire, to pray and to have prayer meetings. God gave me the leadership of prayer meetings as well as the message. I mean we’re different. Now, I don’t recall even having Billy Graham lead a prayer meeting, or any other kind. Not a miracle meeting. I mean, he was a preacher. “Let me preach. Preach to the cows or to the audiences.” And he became preacher. That’s his main thing. He has other wonderful gifts, but that’s his major gift. And Edwin Orr was a good speaker. He was a conference speaker and a leader and became a professor, and a good one.
SHUSTER: He taught at Fuller.
GESSWEIN: And the Fuller School of Missions. There are three schools at Fuller, the mission school, with [Donald] McGavran and all that was.... And Edwin Orr. They had asked me to...to...I...for advice, and I gave them Edwin Orr’s name. “Call him. Let him get that chair.” I don’t know if that’s widely known. It doesn’t need to be, but...I encouraged them to get...him...get a hold of him for that. And he just fit for that, beautifully. And he died in the harness. And that thing of having some meetings as well, around. Here at....
SHUSTER: A preacher and a teacher and a scholar and....
GESSWEIN: He...he must if, he knows what’s going on, then he knows that we’re pursuing what was on his heart.
SHUSTER: Now he can see God face to face.
SHUSTER: Amen. Well, I want to thank you for spending all this time with me this morning and sharing this and....
GESSWEIN: Oh, it’s a privilege. Thank you so much.
SHUSTER: And it might be appropriate to conclude with a prayer that this tape would be used.
GESSWEIN: [clears throat] Heaven.... [clears throat] Heavenly Father, we thank You profoundly. We are in profound things, the things that are not only on Your heart, but foremost and uppermost we believe on your heart, to rekindle your own great life in your people. Thank you for Billy Graham and all his mighty work under you. Prosper it as never before. Use him in these years more and more. May his life be that of a shining light, shining not less and less but more and more, unto the perfect day. Do this for the whole school year and for this wonderful institute in Wheaton, where they’re seeking to further the work of God, the unique thing. Lord, bless the whole ministry here. The archives. Everything about this center, Billy Graham Center, that it may be used of you to further the work of the Lord Jesus Christ himself on this earth. To the glory of the Lord, we pray, and in his name, amen.
SHUSTER: Amen. Well, thank you.
END OF TAPE