Billy Graham Center
Collection 534 - Marguerite Elizabeth (Goodner) Owen. T3 Transcript
This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Marguerite
Elizabeth (Goodner) Owen (CN 534, 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.
Chinese place names are spelled in the transcript in the old or new transliteration form according to how the speaker pronounced them. Thus, "Peking" is used instead of "Beijing," if that is how the interviewee pronounced it. Chinese terms and phrases which would be understood were spelled as they were pronounced with some attempt made to identify the accepted transliteration form to which it corresponds.
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, made by Bob Shuster and Jeff Aernie, was completed in September 2005.
Collection 534, T3. Interview of Marguerite Owen by Bob Shuster, June 6, 1997.
SHUSTER: ...interview by Robert Shuster for the Archives of the Billy Graham Center and this
interview took place on June 7...6th, 1997 at 9 a.m. at...at...in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Mrs.
Owen last time...we...I interviewed you we were talking about traveling to China and arriving
there. And I was wondering if you could say a few words if you recall about your first
impressions in China.
OWEN: I think probably I put this on the last interview but I don't mind repeating it. I
was...everything was just as I expected it to be. I had read so many articles about China and
so...seen so many pictures that it was just what I expected it to be but I didn't know how thrilled I
would be at the sounds and the smells and the sights. We arrived at night at our mission home
and then I went out and about and looked out over the street. And there was all these people
calling...calling out words that they were selling and all the people talking on the street which, of
course, I didn't understand. But I at last was in China and I felt it so much that I wanted to stay
there all my life but the Lord saw better that he had another purpose for me. And I...
SHUSTER: And this was in Shanghai where you first arrived?
OWEN: Shanghai...I arrived in Shanghai and the old mission home which is today a government
hospital. It was taken over when the Communists took over. And the people I met from the very
beginning were so friendly even when we couldn't talk we were felt...felt like we were together.
I'm not even talking about the Christians. I'm just talking about people who seemed glad to
welcome me there and I was just so glad to be there. So it was a very happy entrance.
SHUSTER: As far as the missions staff, what were...what did you do when your arrival...your
first assignments or first work?
OWEN: The first thing there we were met by our missions travel advisor. He comes to the boat
to meet us and handles all our baggage and takes us out. And we're taken into the big dining
room where we have two mission's hostesses. That...'cause the dining room was very big and a
lot of people were there. After all, I came in party of five and a party of seven had arrived two
days before. So...and there were always people coming and going. And then we were
interviewed all 'cause we were new workers. Each one of us was interviewed by three mission
executives. The secretary...and I don't know what their official titles were. The director, I know,
was one and the secretary of the mission and another executive. And they had interviews with
each one of us individually.
SHUSTER: Do you recall who the individuals were?
OWEN: Yes, Mr. [D. E.] Hoste was the director. And the secretary was Mr. James...what's
his...can't think of his...daughter...[probably James Stark] and Mr. [William H.] Warren, I know,
and...the secretary was Beatrice...I'm thinking of his daughter's name 'cause he had two
daughters in the mission. And I can't for the moment recall it but it was very interesting.
SHUSTER: How man people were at the headquarters all together?
OWEN: I would say there must be twenty-five or thirty. Because in addition...there was at least
six secretaries in the...one for the financial secretary...one for each of them. There was the
business manager who handled orders that came from up above. There was the manager of the
home...the great big home and two hostesses there, because the home would seat...would hold
two-hundred people...three stories. And there were always people coming and going because
such.... At that point when I went in the mission there were thirteen hundred members and there
was always a couple of hundred coming or going on furlough. That's where you met lots of
people. Lots of fun to be at Shanghai.
SHUSTER: Sure. After you had...now the headquarters was in what was called the foreign
compound, right? At Shanghai?
OWEN: Yes, oh yes.
SHUSTER: Did you have much chance to observe that area of the city at all?
OWEN: Well, a little bit, but very little really. It was a part of China that was...of Shanghai that
was very lovely. I mean it was in a residential area. And you did have these hawking salesmen
going up and down the main streets. But I mean the shops and all were further downtown. And
we did go downtown on the street cars that were running in and we went to the chocolate shop.
Every American went to the chocolate shop. And then we went to the Yates Road [currently, in
2oo5, called Shimen Road] which is the market road where the ladies all went to get dresses and
the nice thing about this was you could go into a store and see a dress that you liked and it might
not be all your size. That didn't matter. You just said you liked this dress and the tailors would
make another one...they'd get your measurements and two days later you'd get the same dress,
only your size. And it was...I didn't use it much that visit but my later visit when I was on my
way to get married I got my trousseau all there for less than seventy dollars [both chuckle].
SHUSTER: And in just a couple of days.
SHUSTER: How long were you in Shanghai this first time?
OWEN: The first time it was only about six days. They...after being interviewed with all the
various people, the various headquarters, then we had to be taken out to buy the things that we
couldn't get at home. Long johns [long underwear] they didn't - we didn't have those in
California and you have...you need them upcountry. And various other things like wash basins
and pitchers which you wouldn't bring from home but you would have to upcountry. So we were
there from...I think from about Friday until Wednesday. I know we were there on a Sunday.
SHUSTER: And then where did you go?
OWEN: Then we went by...by train up to Yangzhou which is the big language school for the
ladies. Now in those days, they didn't have the men and the women in the same language school.
The men went up river to Anking and the ladies went on by train over to Yangzhou which
were...several days journey through between us. And this Yangzhou was quite a huge building.
At one time there was as many fifty newcomers there. There weren't our year. Excuse me. We
were only thirty-one. And we had four on the staff. There was the matron, the head, the director,
the woman who was in charge of the whole thing.
SHUSTER: Do you recall who that was?
OWEN: She was older. She was Mrs. [J. (Henry)] McFarlane. She was from
Australia...Tasmania. And then there was Miss [E. B.] Griffith who was the English...I mean the
teacher who explained the grammar to us and then there was the assistant to the teacher and there
was a housekeeper, a foreign housekeeper and lots of servants. I don't remember how many
there were of those. And we was thirt...we were thirty-one. From England and Australia and
New Zealand and Norway and Sweden and Germany and America, of course. There were....
And it was a wonderful introduction. 'Cause you just got to know each other very, very well.
The Norwegian girl who had come out to teach the children of the Norwegian missionaries had
never heard English spoken by a normally speaking English person. In other words she had
heard only those who had learned English. So therefore she said to Mrs. McFarlane "I want to
room with somebody whose a...I don't want to room with a Scandinavian...I want to room with
an American or English." I guess they decided I talked to most, so they put her with me. [Shuster
SHUSTER: What was her name?
OWEN: Enita Engen. We've been in correspondence all these years. I didn't hear this year and
I'm afraid she's gone to be with the Lord. She was getting up to over ninety. I'm eighty-seven
so...and I was younger than she was then. So she was probably about ninety-three and I haven't
heard this year, the first time in all of these sixty-four years...
OWEN: ...and we kept in touch all this time.
SHUSTER: How long were you at language school?
OWEN: We got there in October...late October and I left in March. You were in language
school until you had...until you passed your exams, your first exam. And until you had an escort
to the place you were going because we were designated all over China. And I had enjoyed
language school so much I hoped I could stay there. But I was the first one to go. [chuckles]
SHUSTER: So you were there about six months?
OWEN: Just less...less than six months, but about six months.
SHUSTER: What was a typical week like when you were...?
OWEN: They were...on Sundays we were taken in groups of three to various Chinese churches
so we could hear this...of course, we couldn't understand it and we all had to be escorted by one
of the staff, you know, they would take us.
SHUSTER: Why was that?
OWEN: Well, I mean, the things is if anything happened on the street we wouldn't know how to
answer. We wouldn't...if we were accosted or something, we needed to be escorted. They did
let me go shopping one day in a rickshaw so that I could buy something and I wanted to buy a
small box, but the word in Chinese for this kind of a box....
SHUSTER: You're showing with your fingers first a small box....
OWEN: Yes, and a big box are entirely different words. And I used the word for the big box.
And they looked at me very blankly, 'cause I was...and then so I showed them...and they gave me
the right Chinese name.
SHUSTER: So then you showed them with your fingers a small box...
SHUSTER: ...and they gave you one.
OWEN: Yes. It was the [word in Chinese] in mother of pearl that was so popular. I got it to go
home. But on this...on...that was Sunday and we had breakfast at the same time every day and
dinner and supper. And we had prayers after breakfast.
SHUSTER: Were these all in Chinese, or...?
OWEN: No, this was all in English. This was inside the home and it was all in English and we
all...then we had an evening sort of testimony meeting. And each girl had to give her testimony
and a sort of devotion from it. And we had an organ and piano. We both played that. No, I
guess we just had an organ there. And the different ones could play [unclear]. And a lot of us
found out that we could sing together and we organized a quartet and a trio and various things to
SHUSTER: Did each girl give her testimony each night or was it a different girl each night?
OWEN: No, No. Each one...one each night. And some nights, there weren't enough of us for
all the nights...so there were different ones in between a faculty member would give a devotion
or maybe a visiting missionary. I remember when Mrs.... [pauses] This is my weakness, I can't
remember. I can see her face and all. She was the widow...she was the wife, then, of the man
who was under the Communists who at that time was being.... Hammon[sp?] and what was the
other one that was there? I know him so well. I know his name so well. Anyway, she was...her
husband was in the hand of the Communists. She came and talked to us and it was very inspiring
because of her faith and all. And then from Monday to Friday, we had a very set schedule. We
had to study on our own from nine until. Well, we had six hours...five hours of definite...no, six
hours. Two hours that we studied by ourselves one hour each we each had with an individual
teacher, different ones and one hour with a group of us with a teacher and another hour with our
English [teacher] who explained what...cause the Chinese teacher didn't speak English and we
had to just learn by the imitation, repeating it all. And then.... But she would explain the
grammar. We had a grammar book. And then we had another hour to study after that. And
then...at noon we had to get out...the hour before dinner we had to go outside and exercise. If we
just wanted to walk, that's all right but if we wanted to play volleyball or...or throw horseshoes or
something like that we could do that. But we had to be outside in the air unless it was pouring
rain. And then we walked down the big corridors because they...they knew we needed to get
exercise and we were young. What amazed me was the German sisters, they would...chose to
walked but they knit while they walk. And they'd walk as fast and knit as fast. And I looked at
them in amazement. [Shuster chuckles] I couldn't knit even I was sitting slowly. And they
would just knit. It was very interesting.
SHUSTER: Of course, all of you, I guess, this was your first time in China and maybe in many
cases your first time in a foreign culture. Was there different ways of people had of adapting or
OWEN: Yes, very much so. You see we were all very...we were very different in our own
persons. We only had three Americans, no four Americans and there were several Canadians.
And there were seven or eight British and Scots. And there were four Swedes and one
Norwegian and five...three Germans. So we were quite a mixed group. And just getting to know
each of their cultures and all. For instance, I had mentioned that I had been at this...I was candle
bearer at a wedding. And one of the girls from Scotland said, "You were carrying candles at
wedding. Why was that?" And I said, "'Cause that's just because that was the way we lighted."
"Well, what was time what the wedding?" I said, "Seven o'clock...eight o'clock at night." "Oh,"
she said "You wouldn't be legal in England. You have to be married before three o'clock." I
mean just that sort of thing. And also I had several young men friends. I don't...one of them I'd
gone with a long time and another one was one of the other missionaries...two others were
missionaries in China that I knew. And each one of them had sent me a little snapshot and I had
put them all in little frames and had them all out. And the English girl, "What are you doing with
three men's pictures?" I said, "[unclear]." "Oh no," she said "you mustn't...you must put them
away." And so I did. I wasn't going to offend just for having pictures out. And there were
things like that but it was not...it wasn't unpleasant, it was just interesting. And that's where I
first learned again and again it's not wrong it's just different, in other words. And then on
Saturdays we were free to write letters or...or just talk together you know, about things, and we
had a break in the...between 10 and 10:30 every morning between some of our studies and I
instituted the giving of showers. They had never heard...when I was telling the British girls that
most of my outfit came from showers. They said...they thought of rain showers. And I was
telling them this idea of American.... So since they didn't do it, I started it and, of course, we
didn't have things to buy. So I...the first shower I had was everybody brought one of their
cookies or biscuits. And each one brought a different one wrapped up or done any one they
wanted. And then I had one for peanuts and then I had one of stamps, just Chinese stamps.
Those showers are still remembered by some of the girls. It was fun.
SHUSTER: Now were these showers each for one person or were they?
OWEN: Yes...no, for each one as we had a birthday. When they had a birthday. On their
birthday, I'd try to think up a new kind to have. 'Cause we had to do some of them more than
once because...the same kind. But even then it was fun.
SHUSTER: How long...you mentioned you were at language school for six months and then
where were you assigned?
OWEN: I was sent to Fowyang, Anwhei. The amazing thing was this, I had wanted to go to the
most remote place and to a primitive place.
SHUSTER: Why was that?
OWEN: Because I just thought it would be more...I was very career minded. Very, you know.
And instead I was sent to the nearest place above all and to the most established church, in fact
the biggest church. But there was a school there and I was teacher and so I was sent primarily to
teach in the church school when I got my language. I had to go down by boat to Chengyang
spend the night there and then take a train escorted by my superintendent up to [unclear name of
place] then we had to take a bus...we spent a night with a missions station...then we took a bus to
my...to my final destination.
SHUSTER: Now, How...how were you chosen for this? Did you have any say?
OWEN: I don't have any idea. I mean....
SHUSTER: They just called you in one day and said....
OWEN: Yes. "This is it." If you really felt you didn't want to go you, could protest and some
people did...I didn't. Even though...the funny thing was in spite of the fact of what I'd asked
for...thought I wanted...I...when...what they gave me was just what I wanted. I didn't, you
know...I was perfectly happy and I went off very joyfully. And the whole school course came to
see me off 'cause I was the first one to leave. Fortunately I had finished my exams...my exams,
so I was free to go.
SHUSTER: Now you arrived in October '33, is that right?
OWEN: Yes, in...in Shanghai. This was the next March.
SHUSTER: And this was in March. And so this was in '34. You were in Anwhei then when
you heard about the death of Betty and John Stam?
OWEN: When they died I didn't hear about it till two days after 'cause I was only about one-hundred miles from where they were by myself.
SHUSTER: Right. But you were in Anhwei, you were at the school?
OWEN: I was in that area. Oh yes, oh yes.
SHUSTER: How did you hear about it?
OWEN: Well, when I got back.... See, I had been sent down to escort one of our sick
missionaries to a place very close to where they were martyred and I had to spend the night in an
inn. And the night they were murdered, I was alone in an inn less than a hundred miles away. Of
course, the Yangtze [River] was between us. So in a sense I wasn't really in danger. And then
when I got back, one of the first things they told me, "Have you heard the news?" "No." Of
course, I hadn't heard anything. And the person who brought the news was Katie Dodd
Schoerner [see Billy Graham Center Archives Collection 51] whose...had been Betty Scott's
[Stam] best friend and her bridesmaid...
OWEN: ...and, of course,...they had...that would have been the year before 'cause they had been
married already a year or two. And when she heard the news, she was standing at the foot of the
bed and the letter...a letter came from headquarters saying that they had been martyred. She
fainted. She just went...the shock was so great. And see Betty had worked in that station that I
was in for two years.
SHUSTER: In Fowyang?
OWEN: In Yo...Fowyang. And Katie was now my coworker. And she had been Betty's. So it
made a big impact on us.
SHUSTER: How did you react?
OWEN: I just felt grieved. I mean...I...the horror of it I don't think hit me till later. But I
just...here was.... The thing was I knew John better than I knew Betty. I was at Moody with John
and he was a very good friend. And to think of him being beheaded just the...it was shattering.
But at the same time, I wasn't...it didn't make me afraid. And it didn't make Katie afraid. We
were just sorry at the loss and shocked at the way.... I mean, it...that's...death is not so horrifying
as the way you die.
SHUSTER: How did other missionaries in the mission react? What was the general...the
OWEN: The general feeling was the same, of real sadness. But I don't think anybody had any
thoughts of going home or leaving. That didn't occur to any of them. At least I never heard...all
of them were still there. I don't know anybody that left because of that.
SHUSTER: Of course, there had been conflict going on in China for some time...for decades.
OWEN: O well, Yes, this was...this...these were roaming Communists and....In fact later on the
very station that my husband and I sent the...at the same period of time that John and Betty were
taken by one roving band, another roving ban of Communists took Mr. [Henry] Ferguson and
nobody ever heard of him again. He was just gone. He was a Britisher. But, I.... And then later
we went to be in that same station. But....
SHUSTER: So, I mean there had been conflict going on for some time, so had missionaries had
it in the back of their mind that this might happen?
OWEN: Yes. If you...yes...you...you all knew that it could happen. And I mean, way back a
wonderful poem was written by a Presbyterian missionary about what death road [?] going to
heaven, I mean, that's the very fact.... Torture is a different thing. That's the thing that we fear, I
think, more than death. That's what I was always afraid of. I didn't mind if they killed me.
"Okay. I'll go to heaven." To prolong agony of pain...
OWEN: ...that's something very hard to face.
SHUSTER: [Pauses] Now when you were...you...in the place that you were at how many other
missionaries were there? Would you say that you were only one there?
OWEN: No, no.
SHUSTER: Katharine was there.
OWEN: They never send a new person.... In fact my station was an unusually big station 'cause
it had a school and big church and it had country work as well. There was Mr. And Mrs. [C. J.]
Glittenberg. He was the station master in charge. And they were sort of over the single ladies
that were there. We had two houses. One with single ladies and one was a couple. And when I
went, there was Katie...Dodd Schoerner and there was...
SHUSTER: Who was Katie Dodd then.
OWEN: And she became Otto...Mrs. Otto Schoerner. You probably know them or know of
SHUSTER: Sure. They live in Wheaton.
OWEN: Yes, I know. I get...I keep.... Katie's lost her mind. She's Alzheimers. But Otto still
writes to me. I mean once a year or so he writes to keep me in touch. And then there was Nancy
Rogers Golson [sp?], who's now with the Lord. And [unclear] with the Lord. And Nancy was
directly over me because she was principle of the girls' school, which was right next door to the
main building, main home. And I was to be understudy to her...of course, I.... And when I got
there...the second day after I got there they said, "Now we going to want you to teach the music
OWEN: But I said, "I don't know any Chinese." They said, "That doesn't matter. You
memorize the hymn that you're going to teach and then you sing it to them in English and they
say it back to you." But I said, "What if they ask me a question?" They said "Go and send for
the teacher next door." [chuckles] Which I had to do.
SHUSTER: So your language skills were not sufficient at that time to converse?
OWEN: Yes, I mean I could quote...talk a little bit. We'd already had that much but that's all I
could do. To really give a..... The first I had to...was called on was servants prayers...we had to
go to servants' prayers. That's when all the servants in all the compounds...the school servants
and the house servants they all met every morning after our prayers and breakfast. And I hadn't
been there nine months I don't think before I was called on to lead in prayer. And I was
absolutely flabbergasted. Praying is much harder in any other language. But I...fortunately I
remember the Lord's Prayer which I memorized and I started off with part of that and then I
remembered a few other things and I probably prayed about this much [indicates a short distance
between two fingers] but anyway. [Shuster chuckles]
SHUSTER: What was the purpose of the girls' school? What was the intention of it?
OWEN: The intention was to give the children of the church an education because at that time in
Fowyang there were no schools for girls. There were only schools for boys and they were the old
Chinese classical schools where where they read there things over and over and over. And this
was to teach the girls so they could read the Bible and so they could be educated in, anyway.
And we had a couple of Chinese teachers that were very good.
SHUSTER: What were there names?
OWEN: I mean they were Christians. Second generation Christians.
SHUSTER: What were their names?
OWEN: Oh, Pung Wei Fong [?] was one. And two Lu [sp?] sisters. I don't remember their first
names. They were just Mrs. Lu [sp?] to me. I knew Pung Wei Fong [?] really well.
SHUSTER: So the purpose of the school was to teach girls to read and write so they could read
the Bible and were you educating them for something else?
OWEN: No, no. I mean, I think they had other subjects...I don't know. I only taught Bible and
music. Those were the only two things I taught. And it was a great help to me because I had to
learn fast, you know. But, of course,I didn't do anything with music that first spring...till the end
of summer and then we had a big break at summer. And then when the fall...By the time the fall
came and I had been studying half days...yeah I had study half day on language...I could begin to
teach the third grade Bible. I mean, I did it very simply. But I could...I could read the chapters
so well that I could ask questions on it. And I could explain things. I mean, I almost had to
prepare everything beforehand. And I...when I went on to teach next year to teach fourth grade.
And I was that year...this I remember so vividly...because one of the little girls that was very
bright was listening to the story of...I mean, not, the story but the fact of the Lord's coming and
taking us off to heaven. And there were two reactions that one little girl was sitting there and
they said, "Are you going to leave everything that's here?" I said , "Oh yes." And one little girl
says, "What happens to your hair pins." [both laugh]. And I could see one little girl's mind just
working... "Would I rather go up there where I don't know or stay here and get in all the loot."
[Shuster laughs]. But this one little girl was sitting there and suddenly she began to sob very
loudly. And I said...so I...she couldn't understand so I sent the rest of the children into the next
grade. I sent a little note, "Tell Mrs. Lu [sp?] that you're..." They're to have you stay with her.
And I finally I got her to talk to her. And I said, "What's the matter?" She said, "Everybody's
going to heaven but me." I said, "Well, you can go too." But I've always said I wasn't going to
believe. "Well," I said, "you can change your mind." And she there...there on her school desk
she accepted the Lord and she went on to be a real testimony. She had a hard time at home
because she was real smart and her...now there was case when a family sent three daughters to
our school and they said, "You get all the education but don't you believe their doctrine." In
other words, we had a reputation for training...training to know...to read these things. But they
didn't.... And her sisters had not sort of professed but they knew.... She was different she really
believed. And she had a bad time but as far as I know during the next two years she had to flee
to the Japanese. So I don't know that...I never heard from her again.
SHUSTER: How...how old were the girls at the school? What were the ages at the school?
OWEN: I would say mostly from about ten to about sixteen, maybe.
SHUSTER: So there were several...I mean, there must have been things taught besides Bible and
OWEN: Oh yes, I'm sure they did. I know they had...they had history and Chinese literature and
I think they had math and the Chinese teachers taught those. There was no need for us to teach
that. I mean, they could teach those. And we...they could probably...later on they taught
everything because we foreigners were all removed.
SHUSTER: Sure. And what happens when a girl...what happened when a girl graduates? Does
she go on to further education?
OWEN: Very few of them did. I think one or two did. Most of them were gonna get married
and they were kept at home to get...learn how to sew better...do things [unclear]. I know that I
had reports two of my girls' marriage after I left. They were all still...when I left they were all
still in school.
SHUSTER: I know that in African missionary I interviewed had said that one purpose of the
school was to train Christian girls so that they could marry Christian men.
SHUSTER: Was that also in the intents here?
OWEN: That was always mind too, but then I mean...but, I mean, the main thing was just to
have them trained and have the read the Bible and be good Christians, I mean. So that part as
far...I don't know...we had a Christian boys' school also.
SHUSTER: Oh, you did.
OWEN: As well as they...I mean, otherwise...the classical school, they wouldn't learn anything
but just the classics and this was to train them in other things. And a lot of those boys went on to
high school in a...in a Presbyterian high school about a six hours journey away. And one of them
whom I tutored in English in one of his summers at home has become a very fine doctor. Shing
Wong Wei [sp?] and he'...he's...he has been over to America and he says, "How...." He was
persecuted during the...he's kept...maintained his testimony and his first wife who was also a
doctor suffered so much from the Communist treatment that she died and then he's since married
again. But his children all by his first wife probably before the Communists took over are now in
Scotland and in America. Doctors. He was...he was...his father, of course, was one of our
SHUSTER: What was his name?
OWEN: Shing [sp?].
SHUSTER: That was his father's name?
OWEN: That was Shing [sp?]. That's the last name. Pastor Shing [sp?]. Elder Shing [sp?]. I
don't know his first name. I know Shing Wong Wei [sp?] 'cause he was a boy you know. But I
didn't know...we called elders and pastors. There was [Chinese word] and [Chinese word] and
SHUSTER: [Chinese word] meaning elder?
OWEN: Or elder. [Chinese word] or [Chinese word] was the elder.
SHUSTER: And how many girls were at the school?
OWEN: I don't know exactly. Let me see...there were four rooms. Some of the grades were
duplicated. I don't think we had the tiny ones. I would say there were about thirty to forty of
them. Maybe a few more, a few less. I mean...it varied. One years there would be new and
another would finish, you know.
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. How would you compare teaching in China with teaching in the United
OWEN: Oh, very different. I mean, I don't know...teaching people that could read. I mean, we
were teaching people who were just learning to read and that didn't have any background. And
our main...my main de...thing was to teach them in the Bible was to give them the background. I
was teaching Genesis. Giving the var..., "This is the stories of Genesis," all the way through.
And the...teaching at home is...I haven't taught in a public school. Yes, I did teach some in a
public school after I came home. I never did before I went out. You have a much bigger
background to pull on. You can say, "Remember this," or, "This is like this," but you don't have
that there. You've got to tell everything which it is. "This was the son of such-and-so and he
was this way and he was that way," and you have to explain everything. You can't just throw in
to say you remember Job or remember Lot or remember somebody like that. They don't know
OWEN: So it's much...and it's much simpler. And you can't...well, when...I mean...I
don't...teaching women even slightly...'cause I spent most of my time teaching women later.
SHUSTER: So your students didn't have much of a biblical background to draw from.
OWEN: Oh no very little, very little.
SHUSTER: Even though as you say some of them are second or third generation.
OWEN: Yes, but they didn't...they hadn't...unless they had been in school, they wouldn't have
gotten much. Preachers, I mean, preached really good sermons but they were all at a high
spiritual level, not for children. Children had to go and listen but they didn't...you know, like
children here at home. How much do they get from a sermon on Sunday?
SHUSTER: And, of course, there wasn't as much common culture between you....
OWEN: No, but that didn't...that didn't...that didn't seem to bother us at all.
SHUSTER: What about [pauses] what about the students themselves, the children. How did
they compare with a class of children, say, in the United States as far as there attitude toward the
school or their relation with you?
OWEN: Well, they...they...all of them enjoyed schoolwork 'cause they knew it was a very great
privilege. There was no...I mean, nobody...nobody came to that school just because they had to
come...I mean.... And their parents had to pay for them to come. It's a little bit like teaching in a
Christian school here. Where...I mean...and they had a great deal of love and respect for the
teachers. In fact before I left there were a group...probably were mostly in the fourth and fifth
grades. There were a group of six students who somehow...this is queer lot that were together...I
mean, I don't know how...they didn't organize or anything and they all became attached to me
and they were, "Second little sister," "Third little sister," "Fourth little sister." They didn't call....
I said, Outside of school...in school you have to me [unclear name]," which is a proper name.
"But you can call me [Chinese word]," that's big sister, "outside of school." And I went places
and did things with them.
SHUSTER: What kind of places did they take you?
OWEN: Well, to the park. There was a park there. Or to walk on the wall. They took me to
walk on the wall one day. And I saw a bundle and I started to [and they] go, "Don't touch that."
And I said, "Why not." "It's a dead baby that's been thrown away." Baby girl they didn't want.
SHUSTER: This was on the city wall?
OWEN: And they didn't want me to touch it. Which I didn't, I didn't. And then another day we
were walking out in the country three or four...and not all at the same time but different ones and
they said, "What is this?"...what kind of a bean is it? And I said, "I don't know." And they said,
"What's this?" And I said, "I don't know." "You mean you don't know beans?" You know.
And they instructed me on the...soy bean and the long bean and this bean the leaves of them and
also the difference between wheat and barley. I couldn't tell...at the beginning I didn't know. I
grew up in the city.
OWEN: So they...and it's very...it's very funny when you've graduated from college and you go
out and people think you're ignorant, 'cause you don't know what they know. And I heard one
old lady saying when I was still a very limited in my language, saying, "She's that old and she
still doesn't know how to talk." [both chuckle].
SHUSTER: This was a Chinese woman?
OWEN: Yes, she was some country woman that didn't know the difference.
SHUSTER: What was the city of Anhwei like?
OWEN: The city...Anhwei is a province.
SHUSTER: Right, right, right.
SHUSTER: What was the city of Fowyang like?
OWEN: It was a provincial capital and it was a city of about seventy-five thousand, but it had...it
had no paved streets at that time only cobblestone. There were no cars...no road...no street in the
city that you could drive a car in. The cars...the motors...the old motors that they went down and
they had to wait outside the city and there was sort of a station outside there. It had lots of shops.
Silk shops and shops of different kinds of foods and different kinds of things that...a whole shop
of pans that they cook with and a whole shop of baskets and you know all these things. There
were no bookstores, of course. There might have been a few stalls that had a few classic books.
I don't even remember those [sound is lost for a few seconds] the church...the big church in the
city was on the main street. And there was...there side streets that came over. And another...a
cross street and on this street was where the mission home was. The church was here and the
mission was here. And the main government of that province was the [unclear Chinese words]
was on that...you had to pass that office.
SHUSTER: Government headquarters.
OWEN: Government headquarters. There were always two soldiers standing there. But they
were very polite to us. Because later the [Chinese word] who came had a Christian wife. She
had believed somewhere else. He wouldn't let her come to church 'cause he was too afraid that
somebody would hurt her or attack her something. But she could be under escort to our mission
home and we could have a Bible class with her. And she was [Chinese name]...she was a very
lar...lovely woman. And then we were under...we were always...not always but several times we
were sent over in escort to bring us...to get her at the main...we had to go through all these
different government...you know you the farther in the more you to the back compound.
SHUSTER: You go through various checkpoints to get into....
OWEN: Yeah, checkpoints.
SHUSTER: You mentioned about her...his not wanting her to come to Church because she
might be attacked.
SHUSTER: Was that something related particularly to the governor or was that because violence
was so high in the city?
OWEN: No, no. It was because he was governor. I mean, they were always...I mean, politics
was always a thing in China. I mean, there was always somebody who was after that the.... The
governor may have put somebody in prison. His revenge...wanted to get rid of him it was
something like that. I don't know anyway...he...he wouldn't let her go to church 'cause it was
such a crowd. It was a big church with a lot of people.
SHUSTER: About how many Christians were there in the city?
OWEN: Well, we figured at that time there was about one thousand in the area. And the church
itself was probably...it was just a big barn. Just... No glass windows. Nothing. Just a huge big
stone barn...I mean, a brick barn, with just...with just benches. Nothing...no pews. And
no...nothing...and a very small platform and no choir or anything like that. But there were...every
Sunday it was packed. I would say four or five hundred people and then we had a whole lot of
outstations. Now, today that place has hundreds of thousands of Christians. I mean....
OWEN: Yeah, Fowyang, the whole area. It's just become a real center. That's where so much
of the persecution is because there's so many Christians there. Honan...you see, it's right over
the border to Honan and Honan and Anwhei are the two most...not the most persecuted but the
most flourishing of the underground churches or the top crowd churches. But this wasn't...of
course, this was right open and anyone could come. But...when the amazing thing was when the
city was bombed and...
SHUSTER: When was that?
OWEN: That was in 194...
SHUSTER: Oh, so it was after you left?
OWEN: After I...no I was in China but I wasn't....
SHUSTER: After you'd left Anwhei?
OWEN: Yes. The Japanese were advancing and they were bomb...Bert Kane...you may have
heard of him...J. Herbert Kane [see Billy Graham Center Archives Collection 182], well, he was
a junior missionary to me. He was not my junior missionary but he was on the same station.
And when the Japanese were advancing, they made all of us women go. And just Mr.
Glittenberg who was the senior missionary and Mr. Kane who was the junior missionary were
left there. And then Mr. Glittenberg had to go for his health sake or his wife's sake or some
reason. And Bert Kane was the only foreigner left there.
SHUSTER: Now were you still in Anwhei at this time?
OWEN: Still in Anwhei. This is in Fowyang.
SHUSTER: In 1940.
OWEN: In 1940 or '41. Let's see. Or maybe earlier than that. Let's see. We all had to
leave...we all left in '41 and the Communist...I mean, the Japanese were still there. I mean, I
left...let's see...I married in...this is maybe even be in '38...'38 or '39 when the Japanese were
advancing over. I don't remember exactly the year. I could look in my book and find out. But
I'm pretty sure it was...let's see...when I...when did I go...it was the end of '37.
OWEN: That's when I had to leave....I got there...I got there to north Anwhei in '34. And I left
north Anwhei in '37 and I never lived there again. I came back but just briefly before I got
married and then.... Oh, then I came back to Anwhei again but not to Fowyang. But I was in
SHUSTER: But this evacuation took place during your first...this first time?
OWEN: Yes. The first...oh yes. We were all ordered to evacuate.
SHUSTER: By the Japanese or the mission?
OWEN: No, the mission ordered because they thought the Japanese...and as a matter of fact,
they did bomb that whole thing. And...actually they didn't bomb it...they were advancing, but
they didn't actually bomb that city until the next summer. '38. That I can remember. But we
left all our stuff there. I lost...that was the first loss I had, everything I had except a box of
clothes and my bedding. That's all I took out when I went.
SHUSTER: Did you ever go back to the city?
OWEN: Yes, I went back.
SHUSTER: When you...what I mean, is part of this...during this first stay did you ever go back
or where you just assigned some place after you were evacuated?
OWEN: After I was evacuated I was assigned somewhere else. I was assigned to [unclear] then
I marred I went to Chengyangkwan. No I never was stationed there again. But when Bert Kane
and Pastor Wu were leaving the city...everybody got out of the city for the actual bombing...they
didn't evacuate, they just moved out, there was mission home and a little small compound for the
single ladies right next to the church and then this big church. And as the pastor went out of the
church door, he said, "Lord, this is your building. There's no way I can protect it." And of all
the buildings around, the only that wasn't damaged was the church. It was too... And it was still
standing when Bert Kane went back to visit...no...yes, Bert Kane and George Steed went back to
visit in 1988 or something like that. Way...after the whole thing...the Communists and all. Still
standing. Same old church.
SHUSTER: You mentioned, of course, going to parks and things with you students. Did you
have much contact with other Chinese people?
OWEN: The church people yes, I visited in their homes. And I was invited to meals with them.
But with non-Christians except those that the Christians invited to be with them, I didn't...at that
stage I didn't go door-to-door like I did later. But this...I was a teacher and I was invited to the
childrens' homes and the church people all knew me. But I didn't...I didn't have a...I didn't have
any opportunity to say...to sort of preach to people at that stage. I was...for one thing my
language was still very limited. That was the first two years, you see. And after I'd been there a
year and a half.... I got there in March '34. I was there all of '35 except I went out for a holiday
and then into '36. I was thought to be having TB [tuberculous] and I was ordered to Kaifeng to
the hospital. It turned out not to be TB.
SHUSTER: Where was the hospital?
OWEN: Kaifeng, Honan. I went by boat up the river, escorting also the pastor's daughter and
another girl to go train as nurses in this same big hospital, our CIM hospital in Kaifeng, Honan.
And I was there for a month or so. And then I...I went down...they still thought I had spots on my
lung. And so they sent me down to Shanghai in the spring of '37...'36...yes. And then I...but
when I got back to Honan...I got back to Anhwei but by that time I was designated to Taiho, a
little station just thirty miles north.
SHUSTER: Also to teach?
OWEN: No, this was to do country work. And that's when I started doing country work. I
never...I never went back to the school.
SHUSTER: What was country work?
OWEN: You went from village to village and took tracts and took posters and you preached in
them and you had a contact maybe. One Christian from this village or two Christians from that
village. And you went and they...they had you for tea and you preached all afternoon and all then
walked back. If you were far away you went by bicycle. And....
SHUSTER: Did you go by yourself or were you going in teams?
OWEN: No, I had....
SHUSTER: [This comment was added after the interview] Archivist note: This interview was
originally on a cassette tape recorder. At this point Side A of the cassette tape ended. And the
next portion you'll hear would be conti....continuation of the interview on Side B.
SHUSTER: You were saying Mabel Williamson was your co-worker.
OWEN: She was my co-worker and we were...we were both very young and I was in charge of a
station. And I thought it so important that we had our work all planned out what we were going
to do. And one of the most exciting things that happened was that we were invited to dedicate a
new church in a place we didn't have any idea there were any Christians even. And it was called
SHUSTER: Who invited you?
OWEN: A Christian there that we didn't even know was a Christian but they had this letter and
all this. And so we went on our bicycles. They were going to have this weekend of meetings and
when we got there to our amazement we met found this very dedicated Christian woman who'd
been at church and we'd met her but we hadn't realized how much she believed. And she...her
husband...she was half blind, but her husband was a very kind husband and a very generous
husband and they were quite well to do. He had built her a new little one... (what they call a
[Chinese words] one room house) for her to spread out and have more room. And she said, "I
don't really need that. I'm going to put that into a church." But she said, "I'll have to have it
dedicated." So she wrote to us. And so we...here we come...and this little clean...she brought
posters and put them up all around. And she bought hymn sheets that I don't think anybody
could read. But I mean...she....
SHUSTER: Because they were in English?
OWEN: No, no, because they didn't read Chinese...they were...there were not ay...they didn't
SHUSTER: Who didn't know Chinese?
OWEN: The Chinese women.
SHUSTER: You mean they couldn't read?
OWEN: They couldn't read. Excuse me. I should have said that. They couldn't read. And
that...so everything was read a line and then they said a line and a line and a line. And we were
there for three days. And out of that three days came a young woman that we thought was just
the silliest girl and we didn't think she'd paid any attention to our message. She's one of the....
The Chinese are very polite and won't laugh at you when you make mistakes...but she just
giggled every time we'd say the wrong word. And we were still very young. Mabel had only
come out in '34 and I'd come out in '33 and this was '36. And...so, anyway, she...she came to
the Christmas...every Christmas we had an all-day special meeting. We had a potluck dinner, a
real potluck. I mean, everything put it in the pot. And we also had some games and we had
special music. We had the phonograph out and played it and that sort of stuff. She came to the
SHUSTER: This was the girl who was at the church?
OWEN: This was the girl who was at the Yuan [sp?] Fort...Fort Yuan [sp?].
SHUSTER: Do you recall her name?
OWEN: [name of Chinese town].
SHUSTER: Do you recall her name?
OWEN: Yes, oh yes. [Name of girl]. Very well. Go to know her very well. She...you almost
have to see her to...she thought she was very stylish. She had very bright blue trousers and a
purple jacket, a purple top. And she had a...her hair was tied back with shocking pink ribbons
and bows on each side there. And I...I thought she was just a giddy girl. I knew she was...one
thing, I knew she was very spoiled. Because very few girls had that. So I knew she was wealthy.
SHUSTER: Very...had what?
OWEN: Had...very few girls had that kind of clothes and that kind of freedom to come to
meetings. Most other girls her age were already either married or else they were going to be
married and they couldn't come out or something.
SHUSTER: How old was she?
OWEN: About seventeen or eighteen. And she was still single and she was still free. And she
had this long, long braid down her back with red...red cords written [sic] into it. And she came at
Christmas and...she came and she said I want to buy a Bible. And so I got out the smallest one,
which was fifty cents. "Oh no," she said. She didn't even look at it. "I want the big one." And I
said, "But that cost a dollar." And she said, "I know." And I said, "Where'd you get a dollar?"
Now you know that sounds very rude, but in China to have a whole dollar.... She said, "My
uncle gave it to me because I made him two pairs of shoes. He gave it to me to buy a new
[Chinese word]" But she said, "I'd rather have a Bible."
SHUSTER: [Chinese word] is a...?
OWEN: [Chinese word] is a little jacket. It's a little top jacket. And she said, " But I'd rather
have a Bible." And I thought, "Here's this girl who's so stylish and yet she'd rather have a
Bible." And she couldn't read it. She couldn't read it. I said, "Why do you want the Bible?" "I
want to learn more about my Lord." I said, "Your Lord? When did you ask the Savior to be your
Lord?" "At the meeting, don't you remember?" I said.... You ask everybody who wanted to
have Jesus come into their heart to ask them. And I said, "I didn't know," She said, "Did I have
to tell you?" [Shuster laughs] I said, "No, you didn't have to tell us." But we...we had given an
invitation. But they...you know...she hadn't made any response. So...and then she floored us.
She said, "My mother has said...has given me some food and I can stay a week to learn to read."
SHUSTER: A week with you or a week with the school?
OWEN: No, there wasn't a school there. This is Taiho.
SHUSTER: That's what I meant.
OWEN: No, there's no school there. She said, "A week to learn the Bible." I blink my eyes, I
mean. [chuckles] Fortunately, just at that time a third person came who was very experienced,
OWEN: You may know some of the Nowack family.
SHUSTER: Experienced in?
OWEN: In Chinese. She was not only...this was her second term. She'd just come back from
her first furlough. And to my dismay, at the first I was assigned to go with her and leave Taiho
which I had just come to love. I only had three months there. But she was with us during those
three or four weeks before Christmas and she was an experienced teacher. But I've never seen
anyone who could learn as fast. She would...and we ask the woman....
SHUSTER: This was the young girl who could learn as fast?
OWEN: That girl . She just learned so quickly the characters. And we asked the women who
stay at that guest house and they all slept there on a big bed there together. We said, "How did
[name of girl] learn to read so fast?" They said, "Every night"...'course, they prayed out
loud...most of them do... she said, "Lord don't let me forget one word that I learned today so that
I can learn new ones tomorrow." And she just...Ruth said every day she came back...we all took
turns teaching her, I mean, but Ruth did most of it. And lo and behold, when she went home
with this big Bible so carefully wrapped as they do under her arm and so pleased she could...she
had read a small Gospel primer and a chapter of John which had the most repetitive words and
another tract which was very simple for reading. She came back in June to a conference and she
was reading almost everything. And I said, "Where did you learn to read?" She said, "I...after I
did my work at home, I'd go and sit on the roadside and then...if I'd come to a character I didn't
know I'd put a little piece of litmus paper right beside it and a man would come along and
he...I'd say, "Do you recognize characters?" [Chinese phrase]... "Do you recognize
characters?"...if they said...so that's how..that's how someone says, "This is what character?"
"And they would tell me and I'd say it over and over and over. And I wouldn't take the litmus
paper over until I could come back and say it again." But she had everybody going down the
streets telling her the characters. And she had learned to read. And then....
SHUSTER: Do you know what finally happened to her?
OWEN: Oh yes. As I far as I know she's still in [unclear name of town] preaching the gospel.
She's a Bible woman. But it wasn't without great tribulation. As I said she was...her mother was
a widow but she was of a family that had lots of money and the uncles were very fond of [name
of girl]. They didn't mind her being a...a Christian as long as...and...as long as she didn't do
anything about it. But...but they had...she'd been engaged for years as a child to a man. And
when she became really saved, she wrote to this...I mean, she had a letter writer write to...that she
was Christian and she hoped he would...she'd like to send him a Bible and things like that. And
he wrote back, "You can throw that all away. You'll never be a Christian in this home. You
just...." So she was very distressed. And they...the groom decides when the wedding is to be.
Whenever he wants the wife he sends for her. And we all prayed. We didn't know what...I said
to Elder Hu, I said, "is there nothing we can do to break it?" "No," he said "If she broke this
engagement her testimony would not be worth anything 'cause she didn't keep her promise."
Now a man can break it but not the woman. And as...as it would happen...and I believe again
this is one of the all things [sic]. He got into financial difficulties, her husband to be, in some
little thing and so his father...folks sent him down to Shanghai. And when he was down there he
met somebody else he liked better. So he wrote and said he divorced her or he didn't want her
and married down there and never came back. So she was free. So then she said, "I want to go
to Bible school." There was a Bible school in Chowkiakow, Honan, about two days journey.
Not very far really. Quite close. Today it'd be just several hours but then it was about two days
by boat. And her uncle said, "How much does it cost?" Twenty dollars a year. Twenty Chinese
dollars a year or a semester. "Oh, no we'll never pay that money. You can just forget it." But her
mother who was a widow had some money that was not from the father's family but from...but
from the mother's family and their home. And she could use that money any way she wanted.
And she...she said, "I'm gonna give it." She sold a piece of land, that's what she had. And she
said, "I'm going to give it to you so you can go to school."
SHUSTER: Now was her mother also a Christian?
OWEN: Had become a Christian during that...that year. Although that was later on...that's
another aspect when she really had to come to trust the Lord. So [name of girl] went off to
ChowChowkiakowow to the Bible school and in two years there she graduated at the top of her
class. And there were two high school graduates in that same class. And I said to one of them...I
visited her there...I saw her again there...and I said, "How...?" I asked one of the high school
girls, "How does she get so...?" They said...she said, "She prays. She prays over every lesson so
she's always better than we are." And here she who had always loved good clothes was now
wearing cast-offs of missionaries or anybody else. I mean, she just...her whole life was...I never
saw...such a positive example [of] "If a man be in Christ, he's a new creature. Old things have
passed away all things have become new. [2 Corinthians, 5:17]"
SHUSTER: And she became a Bible teacher and taught....
OWEN: And she became a Bible teacher and then when she was going to graduate, the uncles
said, "You can't come home."
SHUSTER: Who said, "You can't come home?"
OWEN: The uncles.
SHUSTER: The uncles.
OWEN: "You can't come home. You've done this. We're not going to...." And she didn't
know what she was gonna do but she prayed and just that time a church in mid-Anwhei not in
North Anhwei where she was but mid-Anhwei, where a small church said, "We need somebody
to teach the women and children. We can't pay them salary but we'll give them a room and two
sets of clothing a year and their food." And so they wrote to the Bible school. And they
presented it to [name of girl]. And she said, "Yes, I'll take it." She said, "It won't be a burden
on...my mothe can still stay with her uncles." They weren't going to throw her out but they
didn't want the daughter. So then she wouldn't see much of her mother. She did see her
mother...she went from Bible school to Taiho down to the other city. But on the way down..this
was, of course,several years later...I was married and in Chengyangkwen, still south of Taiho.
[Unclear]...so she came through my...my town and I heard about it. I mean, she wrote me and I
had her stay there for two days before she got the next...she came by boat there and then she had
to go by rickshaw or wheel barrow the next...the next time. And when I saw I remembered the
first time I'd seen her and I could not believe it was the same person. She was dressed as a
teacher in a long blue gown and her long hair was done in a beautiful knot in the back. And her
face was radiant and all of the gaudy things she'd had on before, none of them were around. She
didn't even want them or care for them. And she...that's how I knew so much of this story,
'cause she told...we went over all things that she had done. And she went down to this little town
of [name of town]...no it wasn't [name of town]...[name of another town]... anyway it was little
town south of us and she had a blessed time but she didn't have enough money or room to ask for
her mother to come.
SHUSTER: And she was there as a Bible teacher?
OWEN: As a Bible teacher.
SHUSTER: And who was she teaching Bible?
OWEN: She was teaching the women in the church and then going out and visiting in the homes
and teaching the children and all that, what they...what the Bible women do in all the churches.
And then she was apparently so good that somebody heard about it and she was called to a big
church in Wuhu which is farther south yet on the river, the Yangtze, which here where she had a
little room and a house...I mean, she had more room and she had a salary so she sent for her
mother. And her mother came and joined her and stayed with her until mother died. And then
when the Communists came in and they were making all the churches quit supporting their
church...you know...they couldn't support their pastors or anything. One of the missionaries gave
her a sewing machine and so she opened a little shop on the street front with a house behind it.
And she could sit there sewing and while she was stitching up their things, she could preach to
them and...the last we heard that's what she still was doing. And meanwhile Pung Wei Fong [?],
the very good teacher in Fowyang had also been driven out and she came down and joined...the
last I heard the two of them were living together and working...meanwhile [name of girl]'s
mother had died. So those two women, both of whom I knew intimately...the last I heard of them
they were in this big church in...well, the church was no longer big...but I mean, they were in this
big city, Wuhu, still witnessing and still praising. And still working and supporting themselves.
As well...those two of things that I just praise the Lord for most.
SHUSTER: That's...yes that's...that's a great story.
OWEN: Oh yes. There's so many but there...so many like...like the little girl that was so pretty.
I don't know what happened to her later. I lost track of her but you see those two I somewhat....
SHUSTER: Kept track of.
OWEN: I've kept track of.
SHUSTER: You mentioned originally you had met her when you had gone to this little church
that had been started by a woman and...
OWEN: Oh, yes!
SHUSTER: ...you had gone there for a dedication. Was there also a pastor there?
OWEN: Oh no. There never was far as I know. They just had....
SHUSTER: So what kind of service did they have there?
OWEN: Well, they'd have...if there was nobody there, they would all sing some of these
choruses they'd learned. They memorized the thing. And then someone would read...and they
had...get someone to read part of the Bible. They...some of them had learned to read and read.
And then a lot of them would give testimonies. Answers to prayer. If anybody had an answers to
prayer. And sometimes they would have just a prayer meeting. Once...and then every time a
missionary came along or a Chinese pastor, they would invite them to preach. But it was very
SHUSTER: Now was this group just women or was it women and men?
OWEN: Well, when I went there, there were only women. There might have been some men
that were saved later. The husband of the woman who gave the building, I think, was quite
interested and he...but he didn't...but if he made a profession he didn't say to us.... And of
course, we were just two women working with women at that time. Now later on, I don't
know...that's another thing I don't know... Yuan...Fort Yuan [?], that's what it's called...I don't
know how it fared later. I know that it was a scene of blessing. I know that Mrs...of course,
everybody in the town was named Wong, so she was Mrs. Wong to us...all to us. I know that she
really loved the Lord and she gave generously in lots of ways. The amazing thing is how she was
saved. She had a half brother who was...had been in a city and was a professing Christian. But
we all thought of him as not being a very trustworthy Christian. I mean, we thought it was just a
matter of profession....
SHUSTER: A rice Christian?
OWEN: A rice Christian sort of idea. But he loved music. And every time he came to our
town...well, he was a traveling...every time he came to our town he came to listen to the music on
Sunday. And he memorized...you know the Chinese are very good at memory. And with the
musical trade anyway he learned all these choruses so whenever he went out to his sister, he
would sing them all to her. And so, one day she said to her husband, who was an unusual
husband I must say, 'cause she said, "I want to go to that city and hear that church myself." So
for several months he had pushed her in on a wheelbarrow a good ten miles...eight miles I guess.
But even that on a wheelbarrow, that's a way. And she...it was there...through there that Lord
touched her heart. She never told anybody or said anything to us and there was such a
crowd...those days there was such a crowd that came on Sundays. We wouldn't...unless
somebody came up to us it was hard for us to get to meet them. I don't think even the Chinese
pastor, Elder Hu, would have known. But anyway that's how the church came to be.
SHUSTER: And she became a Christian at those meetings?
SHUSTER: That's neat.
OWEN: She definitely...I mean, the fact that she was...said, "I want to worship the Lord and I
want to...." And it was all through a man we didn't think was a very good Christian. But of
course, he wasn't witnessing, he was just singing.
SHUSTER: You talked about how you would go to different towns and you would preach or
speak or teach to crowds.
OWEN: Uh huh.
SHUSTER: What were some of the different kinds of reactions you got when you did that?
OWEN: Mostly very interested. I mean, there was no hostility in those days at all. Not a bit. In
fact, if we'd give out tracts they all came more eagerly for them, but we knew that a lot of them
just wanted to make soles for their shoes. You know...paper...I mean...we didn't take...have any
false assumptions. We just didn't throw them broadsided. If they came and asked for them,
we'd ask if they could read. And if somebody could read it to them then we would give it to
them, although we couldn't guarantee that it would be done that way. We would go to a place
where there was a wide...a lot of women sitting around talking and we would say, "Would you
like to hear about...about how you can everlasting life?" or, "Would you like to hear about
heaven? or God?" or whatever? And we'd put up a poster. Most commonly, it was a "Two
Roads" poster, a road leading to hell and a road leading to heaven and a cross in the middle. It's
a very familiar Chinese poster. I'm sure you have it archives somewhere. [There is one of these
posters in Collection 231.] And I was with Ruth. I started with Ruth Nowack. You see, that's
where I really started doing this. She said...after listening to me preach she said, "I can just hear
myself." Because I would...I learned...I mean....
SHUSTER: You learned from her.
OWEN: Yes, I learned from her. But sometime we'd have people who'd listen very carefully
and they'd say, "[unclear Chinese phrase]...It's good...very good." But they would, you know...
SHUSTER: They'd just nod their head?
OWEN: Not really...but once and while we'd have...we'd have some who really came after us
and wanted to know more. But the most amazing, and this is what I really praise the Lord for
seeing, there was a woman sitting on this stone step across from this group. And when she heard
Ruth she kept moving closer and closer and I began praying, because I could tell she was really
interested in what was going on. And when she got up she said to Ruth, "Is this the way really to
have your sins forgiven?" And Ruth said, "Yes." And she said, "[Chinese phrase]...I've found
the road...I've found the road." We were so amazed and so we said, "Come on with us." So she
did. We said, "And we'll talk to you some more." So she came home and she said that for years
she'd been a stricter and stricter vegetarian. Trying to get...she said, "I have a whole love of sin
in my stomach." That's what they...that's where everything is. And she said, "It never...I quit
eating meat and I quit eating chicken and I quit eating...just except vegetables and...and noodles."
They didn't eat rice in that area.
SHUSTER: And she was doing this to get rid of her sense of guilt or...?
OWEN: Yes, they said, "If you're a vegetarian, that all...." She said, "No matter how little I ate I
never got rid of the lump." And she said, "This sounds like it is. Is it really?" And so we told
her more and she said, "Oh, I want to believe." Ruth said, "Now listen, if you really want to
believe you'll eat a bowl of [unclear] and all these in it."
SHUSTER: And what's a bowl of [unclear].
OWEN: A bowl of ro...noodles. I used...I dropped into Chinese. "You'll eat a bowl of noodles
with meat and vegetables and things in it to show that you're not trusting in that, that you're
trusting in...." "Oh," she said, "yes." And so we bought...we ordered from the street three bowls
of noodles and we ate there together and said the blessing. And she ate it. "Oh," she said, "I feel
like its...the lump is going." And...but she said, "I've got to go home." She said, "This is the
first I've been in town in months and I came for a...a lawsuit that I had to be a witness to." And
she said, "I was so tired I sat down on that stone and I heard you." And she said, "Oh I want to
hear more." And we took the name of her village and her...where she was...and we were gonna
go out and visit her. But the next week....
SHUSTER: Okay, turned off the tape recorder there for a second but you were talking about
how you gave her some literature and you were trying to....
OWEN: Yes, and go visit her. And then we never got back because we were ordered to
evacuate. So then we went back to Fowyang which was the central station and were there for just
two months and then came the order from Shanghai, "Move west." So the five single ladies and
Mr. Bert Kane to escort us started moving west.
SHUSTER: And the reason...what was the reason for that?
OWEN: The Japanese army was advancing very rapidly. And at that time they didn't want to
have any foreigners taken over by the Japanese.
SHUSTER: The mission did not want.
OWEN: Didn't want to. They wanted us not to...no confrontation. When we got to
Chowkiakow, two of the missionaries...the Williamson sisters...Mabel and Francis...her big sister
were invited to another place in Honan where their sister, another sister, was working. Then one
of the...Katie was invited...Katie Dodd was one of them. She was invited to a friends in well...it
was Honan that had known her very well long back. And Ruth Novak had a sister in west
Hunan, so she went there. Nobody asked for me. I just was left. So I was in Chowkiakow for
the next six months. But it was a very profitable and blessed six months.
SHUSTER: What were you doing there?
OWEN: I went...at first I didn't know what I was going to do, because I wasn't assigned. So I
went to the pastor of the church there and I said, "I'm free." And by that time I had finished all
four exams and I was virtually a senior missionary but I didn't...that wasn't important to him, but
that I could use the language. So he said....
SHUSTER: This is a Chinese pastor?
OWEN: Chinese pastor. And I said, "If you have any need, I'd be so glad." He said, "Miss
Wong wants to visit some places in China where they've never had a woman missionary or a
woman...Bible woman, just men have gone out. And she doesn't want to go alone. But she
doesn't want to go alone but she'd be so glad. I said, "Oh, that's fine." And so I went out for the
next four weeks with...just traveling all the time from one little village to the other. And again I
had some of the most exciting experiences. I had another chance to dedicate another church that
was entirely built by women. And was only occup...but they had gotten...had gotten their
husbands to put the four big corners of poles. Then they put all the rest up. The sidings and the
roof and all. And they wanted to dedicate it to the Lord and it was very thrilling.
SHUSTER: Where was that?
OWEN: That was just outside of [unclear, name of Chinese area] in a small....
SHUSTER: That was in Anwhei?
OWEN: That was in Honan. See, I was in Honan all that time. And then I went to another place
[name of Chinese village] where I taught for whole week. I taught them to read and then
gave...spoke at night. And it stands very vividly in my mind because it was the first time that I
had been in a whole weeks meeting with just one Bible woman. And she did...she did the
individual work of...she didn't do the speaking. I did all the speaking.
SHUSTER: What do you mean individual work?
OWEN: She would taught...help them to read or talk or deal with them one to one or talk to
them about their problems. I did too but she did also that. But the thing is she was with me, she
could tell me what I could do or couldn't do.
SHUSTER: This was Miss. Wong?
OWEN: Ms. Wong. She was in her forties I think. I was by this time....
END OF TAPE
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Last Revised: 9/27/05