to listen to an audio file of this interview (68 minutes)
This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview with Marguerite Elizabeth (Goodner) Owen (CN 534, T7) 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.
There is intermittent bumping of microphone and the furniture on which the microphone rested throughout 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, made by Bob Shuster, Jeff Aernie, Hannah Parish, and Wayne Weber and was completed in May 2011.
Collection 534, T7. Interview of Marguerite Owen by Bob Shuster, June 14, 1999.
SHUSTER: This is an interview with Mrs. Marguerite Elizabeth Owen by Robert Shuster for the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. This interview took place on June 14th Flag Day, 1999 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. [pauses] Mrs. Owen why don’t we start by talking some about your work in Yunnan.
OWEN: We were....
SHUSTER: You were there from 1947 to 1951 is...
SHUSTER: ...that correct?
OWEN: That’s right.
OWEN: We went...we were...we had been at home because of the Japanese war and during that time we were in charge of the Los Angeles mission home. And we loved it and the mission said “if you’d like to you could stay there.” But we said, “We’d rather go back to China,” because there were people that couldn’t go back and at that time we were still young. I said that once in a meet...in a meeting with young people. “Young.” [both laugh]. Now I think it’s younger than ever. But we went back and our work there was under the church but it was...they...the church wanted someone in the [China Inland Mission] home [in Kunming, Yunnan] there to teach English to university students. There were hundreds of them that had fled from the coast during the war and were still there.
SHUSTER: Now your husband had been in Yunnan...Yunnan before...
SHUSTER: ...is that correct?
SHUSTER: Was this the same town, returning to?
OWEN: No he’d been way out in Tali and then before that he was in...right on the border, the Burma border. And...and....
SHUSTER: And where were you now? Where were you?
OWEN: Now we were in Kunming in the capital city of Yunnan. And it was filled with students. Because the universities had fled from the east coast in the Japanese war. And they just were...and they wanted to learn English. And we had English Bible classes every night except Saturday and Sunday. And Harry would take them one night and I’d take them one night. And the night we were taking...that I was taking English, he would teach a Chinese Bible class or I would or vice versa. So we were teaching in the...a small classes of our church members in just a Bible study and then teaching English with the Bible as a textbook in the...in those...in the big crowd. And we had a great response. In addition, the church asked Harry to preach every once and a while on Sunday mornings. And also they asked me to play the organ, which I was glad to do. And also they asked me to supervise their Christian Endeavor their young people’s [group]. So I sort of ran the choir and the Christian Endeavor I didn’t run them but I was helping them with it. And it was a very profitable time. It was mentioned here [perhaps referring to a list of interview topics Shuster had given her] visitation there. We...we did very little visitation. For one reason...for one thing we were quite busy with all the things they had given us to do. I did go when they asked me for with a woman one...they would...some...they...I would go to anybody that asked me. We just didn’t go house to house, because...not that kind of work we were doing then. And then Harry though had a tremendous ministry in...in a political prison. There were people who were in prison just because they were on the wrong side of the fence. And that was...those were people su...supposed to be Communist at that time. And then alter on there...it was the Nationalists they...they came in and the Nationalists [Kuomintang] were in. And he had some...some wonderful...I mean he didn’t have. The Lord did a wonderful thing because about half of them bought Bibles. They bought them...I mean...Harry...they’d get them from Harry and studied the Bible. And after they came out several of them were baptized in our church. And that prison ministry was something we hadn’t anticipated but it was...it was very blessed. And meanwhile I...I would have groups of girls and have...teaching them.
SHUSTER: Was this Christian Endeavor or apart from...?
OWEN: No this is apart from Christian Endeavor. This was just girls having an afternoon meeting and mostly learning to sing or...and having to sing Christian songs. And then...but also have a little Bible study with it.
SHUSTER: So you both taught Bible classes.
SHUSTER: You both taught English classes...
SHUSTER: ...using the Bible as a text. Harry also visited people in the political prison. And preached on Sundays and you had also a Christian Endeavor group and you also had a girls’ Bible study or?
OWEN: It was a very good time, very blessed time. And it was very difficult when the Communists marched in.
SHUSTER: Now, let’s see, how large was the church itself in the city?
OWEN: I would say there were about 200 members. I don’t know exactly the membership but it was a good size building. It’d been there a long time. It was an old work. And they had had a man there Pastor Li [?] had been there for years and he was old and not what you’d call really very inspiring. But they called while we there...they called Li Rang[?]. Now Li Rang[?] was from the north, Shensi. And he...he was a very good preacher and a very fine man. Very...very loving and very caring. He was a real pastor to the people there. And he was...he also baptized our baby who was born while we were there, our third [Stephen Henry Owen]...and he held him in his arms and he said...and he said “Mr. Owen should have carried...held me in my [sic] arms when he....” [laughs] But we enjoyed fellowship with him very much.
SHUSTER: Now when you say that they called him you mean the...
OWEN: ...the church...
SHUSTER: ...the members of the church?
OWEN: Members of the church.
SHUSTER: Was this a...what denomination or what...
OWEN: It was just an OMF...independent CIMchurch.
SHUSTER: It was a CIM independent bible church. So when they called...so when they would call somebody, they would usually call somebody from another CIM church is that...
OWEN: ...I don’t know...
SHUSTER: ...how it worked?
OWEN: That’s something I don’t remember. I...I...I...whether he was...had been a student and they got to know. I don’t know. Or whether he had been...maybe he was one that fled and came back there and they saw him and they just invited him to...to stay on as his wi...with his wife there. His children...he was...he was a...past middle aged or just past middle aged. And he was...he didn’t...they didn’t have any children with them. If they had children I...that’s another thing I don’t remember at all.
OWEN: Because he was just Pastor Li Rang[?] and a very dear friend and they and the first....I...I started a new guest book that time. And the very first....
SHUSTER: You mean when you went to Yunnan you started a new guest book?
OWEN: When I went to Yunnan, a new guest book. And which I don’t...which I have here. I’ll show you later. The...the first three people to sign were Li Rang[?] the pastor and an assistant pastor that we had and the Bible woman Pon Ji En [?]. Those three were all there. They were the first three guests we had in our home. And they were all three dear friends whom we liked very much.
SHUSTER: You mentioned too the classes you were...were teaching. The English class was that through the church or was that through a university?
OWEN: That was in...in the church. And we advertised that it...I mean I don’t...by word of mouth. I don’t really know how they knew about it but they did. It was in the upstairs and we had sort of a big lo [unclear]...that’s a balcony I go back to Chinese). We had a balcony there that could seat, oh, one hundred people, I guess. And it was usually filled at night.
SHUSTER: Did you and Harry teach that together? Or did you each teach a class?
OWEN: No we each taught separately. Our ways of teaching were so different. [both laugh].
SHUSTER: What was your way of teaching?
OWEN: Well, I mean, I speak more rapidly for one thing. I cover ground faster. And also I would probably emphasize more details than he would. He would be...deal...he would teach more the theology. The main thing, we were trying to use simple English that they could understand. In fact, it was so simple and I had to speak so slowly at times that right after my baby was born (and I was out for a whole month, Harry had to take them all that month) when I came back I was teaching and I had to read so slowly and of course I had to be awake with the baby at night. I went to sleep preaching. [Shuster laughs] I stood there and read a verse and all the sudden I realized.... And I very quickly said “Would someone read the last verse again?” [Shuster laughs]. So I knew where I was. But it was...it was not what you call exposition. It was just explaining what the words said. And of course the Gospel came in all the time. We...I remember which...whichever we were teaching. I don’t even remember at this time. But we taught over the three and a half years that we taught, we taught quite a few books. You know, just going through them and always trying to emphasize the Gospel aspect.
OWEN: And some of them were saved, I know. And we had the joy of...I had the joy of meeting one of those students in 199...88, when I went out to see my son in Hong Kong. He took me to...to Yunnan.
OWEN: To Kunming. And I said “The only thing I want to see. I want to be at Kunming on the day of Sunday. I want to be at...I want to be at Yunnan...Kunming on Sunday so I could see the people.” Because I couldn’t find them if I didn’t, you know...their houses...
SHUSTER: In church.
OWEN: So they...they arranged their whole schedule...that they were taking me down the river...down the Yangtze and so forth. But that Sunday I was in Kunming and I saw at least three of the students. Most of them were scattered. Most of them had gone back. But these were Yunnan students that I’d had. It was lovely to see them.
SHUSTER: Who were most...where did...what was the makeup of the students you were teaching? Where they Christians?
OWEN: No, most of them weren’t. I mean most of were just university students. There were quite a few Christians in among them. It was just a university...here was a class to get English free and that was what they wanted more than anything.
OWEN: And they came. And some of them listened and heard, and some didn’t, and some took it in. But the main thing was they came and heard the Gospel so....
SHUSTER: Did they ask many questions?
OWEN: Once in a while they did, and if they did we answered in Chinese. So they would be sure and understand it. And oftentimes, when I would see on their faces, you know, a look of not understanding I would switch to Chinese. And so that would help.
SHUSTER: What kind of things did they ask questions about? Or what kind of things did they seem not to understand?
OWEN: I don’t remember, I’m sorry to say [laughs].
SHUSTER: That’s okay. Did you have....So, you were teaching this class. How long did you have...did the class last?
OWEN: Just about an hour.
SHUSTER: But it wasn’t just...but it was different students every week or....?
OWEN: No, usually it’s the same ones for...for a period of time. Then they would go off and then another group would come in from someplace else. No, but the were mostly the same, a lot of the same ones. That’s how we got to know some of them. Otherwise we would have hardly had enough time to get acquainted.
SHUSTER: And you were also teaching a Bible class besides this class of English, is that true?
OWEN: Yes, that...those were church members, all Christians. That was the understanding more of the Bible I was talking about. It was mostly...I think Harry taught more of those, and I...although I taught some, because I know I was teaching the night that I said, “I’ll have to close, I have to go to the hospital.”
SHUSTER: When you were having your baby?
OWEN: Yes. [both laugh]
SHUSTER: And what were those classes like?
OWEN: Well they were very lovely because they were... they were not well-educated people, mostly, although there were some. They were a mixture of people from shopkeepers, the people that hold a little house...housewives nearby, and all. But they were...they wanted to know what things meant more than....not just what the words meant, but what the teaching was. And sometimes they didn’t ask questions. Sometimes you just talked with them. There are times when you are teaching that they’re thinking you are just not understanding anything. And then later you’ll find they did. But they were responsive and sometimes they were not. It depends on whether the particular subject is of interest to them or not, you know.
SHUSTER: Can you recall at all some of the subjects that were of interest to the Chinese Christians?
OWEN: [pauses]The future. Heaven. The “how to get to heaven,” I mean. But “what’s heaven going to be like.” And a lot of details about the Lord’s life. There were a lot of things they wanted to know which we don’t know.
SHUSTER: Like what?
OWEN: Well, like the “what did He do as a child?” Well, we don’t know what He did as a child, except the one time that we got that in Luke [Luke 2:42-52]. But we...they also wanted to know, “Did He work as a carpenter?” Well, we thought...we presume He did although.... [knock on the door]. Come in?
[Tape recorder is turned off and back on]
SHUSTER: Okay, we’re continuing with the interview now. We were talking about some of the things that people...Chinese Christians want to know such as, “Was Christ...did He ever practice as a carpenter?”
OWEN: Yes, I mean they were...they wanted to know practical details that we’re not told in the Scriptures. We said we imagine He did because He was sup...He was working with His father, when His father was alive. [several people talking in the background] But we said there are a lot of things the Lord just doesn’t tell us and we just have to presume that’s what He did. But that’s just what He did. But we could tell them a lot about heaven and about how to get there and what the...that sort of thing. And to me, teaching this stuff, although not so much in that class, although in my women’s classes elsewhere before, the things they thought about heaven were marvelous. No pain, no sorrow, no crying, no dirt. And Vincent Crossett asked me [another CIM missionary] “How do you know there is no dirt?” I said, “On streets of gold you don’t have dirt.” [both laugh] Anyway, I said, “We presume there wouldn’t be any.” And...but you...you just...I mean, to people whose lives were drab and they’re not so much in the city classes in the country classes. But even the city classes love to hear about how...and how we’re going up, and I remember one little girl in this one said, “When you go up to heaven, what’s going to happen to your hairpins?” You know, we had.... [laughs]
SHUSTER: She asked you this or....? [laughs]
OWEN: Yes! No she asked me that. “I don’t know,” I said I’d imagine they would fall out or, “What happens to your clothes?” “I don’t know.”That’s...they’re curious. They’re very interested in the practical details of that sort of thing. Sometimes it wasn’t very spiritual, but nevertheless they were interested at least.
SHUSTER: You mentioned that they were interested in the future...do you mean they were interested in prophecy?
OWEN: No, they didn’t know prophecy. Just what’s going to happen to them. That’s the main thing. They didn’t know where to...they didn’t care anything about millenniums, or pre or post or anything like that. They just wanted to know....
SHUSTER: Their own future.
OWEN: Yes, their own future.
SHUSTER: You mentioned there you had cities [sic] th in the city and the country?
OWEN: Well, yeah, I had the city...the country was when I was in Anhwei.
SHUSTER: Oh, oh not Yunnan was more country.
OWEN: Yeah, yeah, this Yunnan. There’s lots of country around but we didn’t have much to do with it, because Kunming is a huge city. And I don’t know...I don’t remember going out into the country except for picnics, or you know on our own. And we certainly didn’t do any country work there.
SHUSTER: Did you notice a great difference between city Christians and the country Christians?
SHUSTER: What were some of those differences?
OWEN: Well, the differences...the Christ...the Christians in the cities were mostly more educated, and also they were more sophisticated in some ways. Just...I mean, they weren’t so curious about such things as electricity, because they have it there. But they didn’t in the country. When I was in the country, I was in a rural part that had never seen electricity, they’d never seen gas, they’d never seen electric lights. And when I told them about pushing a button and light going on over there that was just marvelous. Or striking a match and a flame came up, that was some.... I mean, they were completely without any modern things. But Kunming was a modern city.
SHUSTER: What about...as far as this contrast between country and city Christians as far as their understanding of their faith, their living of their faith, was there a difference that you observed?
OWEN: No, I don’t think...it depends on the individual there. I mean, I had...there were people in the country you know that were absolutely wonderful Christians. And they were trying to do everything that the Lord wanted them to do. And there were some in the ki...in the city likewise. So just...I think of one, my Bible woman [teacher of Bible stories]. She was just wonderful. I mean her devotion to the Lord, her desire to do what the Lord wanted her to do, was just...“Would this be right, would this be right?” You know, that sort of thing. There were a lot of...some that came that I believe were saved but they’re like Christians over here, you know. They just belong and they’re saved and that’s enough. They don’t care to grow in grace or conduct. But you know, you find that everywhere. But it was not so city and country as it was because sophistication and unsophistication or modern and unmodern, that’s the main thing.
SHUSTER: How active were the Christians in Yunnan as far as witnessing or evangelizing, talking of their faith?
OWEN: Some were very evan...were very keen. We had some that went out in the country that...well, Harry had a group of people that went out to other villages, not into the...not in. And....
SHUSTER: Not in Yunnan?
OWEN: Not.... In Yunnan, but not in our environment of Kunming. He and Arthur Glasser went by bicycle out into the villages and preached. And once or twice I went out to also...on a separate day to teach the women and then give them sort of a women’s bible school in a little village that was not too far away.
SHUSTER: Why go to the village? Why not in Kunming?
OWEN: Well, we had those in Kunming too. We had a Vacation Bible School. But I didn’t do that. We had several other missionaries. And Mrs. Etella Kirkman [a CIM missionary] was the one who had children’s meetings. She had regular children’s meetings and she Child Evangelism Fellowship meetings and she had, she had the Sunday school. I...since she was there, and since there was another missionary there, other missionaries came and went they could help with that. I didn’t...I....
SHUSTER: You weren’t that involved.
OWEN: I wasn’t that involved with that.
SHUSTER: What about the girls’ class that you mentioned that you taught? How did that come about?
OWEN: Well, they were just some of the girls in the choir. They wanted to have singing some more... they wanted... and I used it as a chance to teach a little bit of Bible. It wasn’t really a deep Bible study at all, but they’re just. Telling....I was trying to tell the...teach them how a Christian woman should act and how a Christian person should act, not just a woman but.... I mean...things of courtesy, and love, and kindness, and caring, and that sort of thing. And it wasn’t...it didn’t go the whole time. I only had it about the last...well, I had it the middle two years, because the first two years there were no Communists. The last two years were under communism. And so a lot of things were curtailed. Although they didn’t curtail the English classes because they were wanting to have English as well. So that was alright as long as...I don’t.... But when we wanted to get our exit permits, every individual had to be examined, had to be interviewed. And they wouldn’t interview husband and wife together, thinking we might trip each other up, you see. So Harry had a terrible memory for practical details. I mean he...so he was going around the house, “Well, we married and ‘39, we went home in....” you know [Shuster laughs] That all...in my mind, I just didn’t have any trouble with it. But he went first, and then about a week later I was called. So he asked where I was born and where I went to school, and what my father did, blah blah blah...all those things. And then he said, “Well, what did you do here?” And I said, “I taught English Bible classes.” He said, “Your husband said you taught Chinese Bible classes.” I said, “We taught both.” I said, “I...we have two rooms in a church out of ten.” I was being sarcastic, but they didn’t know enough to know I was being sarcastic. I said, “We had two rooms in the church. And while he was teaching an English class upstairs, I was teaching a Chinese class downstairs, and vice versa.” “Oh.”[laughs]
SHUSTER: With the girls’ class though, it originally started because they wanted more practice in singing, and then it developed into a bible class.
OWEN: [Mutters throughout] Yes.
SHUSTER: What kind of questions, what kind of things were the girls interested in as far as Christian life?
OWEN: I don’t think they were really interested much at all. They just were interested... they were interested more in Americans did. But I managed to tell them other things, to tell them why we did it, because we Christians, you know, and so forth.
SHUSTER: How old were most...were the girls, what were their ages?
OWEN: Just 13, 14, 15, along that age. Just teenagers. I wouldn’t call it very...my most spiritual work. But at least we got...it got some little Scripture they would learn. And I’d give them prizes, or small prizes, something that they liked for memorizing some. Memorizing Scripture. But it...that had to stop when the Communists came, because they were allowed to come in just in anytime my house you see. This...that was held in my home.
SHUSTER: Because you were a foreigner?
OWEN: Yes, yes, and I was a missionary too. See, I was...we were suspect from two angles. We were missionaries and we were foreigners, either way.
SHUSTER: What was it like...you brought your children with you when you came to China, right?
OWEN: Yes. Well the first time when I wasn’t married you see.... I didn’t marry ‘til my six years were over.
SHUSTER: But I mean on this, on 1947 you came over with two....
OWEN: Yes, we brought...we had two children with us when we came. They were 4 and 5.
SHUSTER: And their names again were?
OWEN: Were Elizabeth and Norman. Elizabeth is now a Doctor of Ministry, she’s Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Norquist. I can’t believe it.
SHUSTER: You must be very proud, yeah.
OWEN: Yes and then...she’s teaching in a seminary. San Francisco Theological Seminary. And then Norman is a professor of history in Hong Kong. And then while we were there, Stephen was born. He used to tell people when he was little, “I was born on China.” He sounded like he was born on a platter. [both laugh]. But he...he got to go back and see his birthplace, to his great joy. Although the place in which he was born was gone, but the spot he could find. It was a French hospital.
SHUSTER: So what were some of things...what was it like to raise kids as a missionary in China? What were some of the considerations involved?
OWEN: Well, my experiences were quite different than most peoples because we had living with us Estella Kirkman and the Glasser family. And they had someone to play with and also we...I taught them.
SHUSTER: You homeschooled them the whole time?
OWEN: Not the whole time, because when I went they were’t more than 4 or 5. But they opened a...in Kunming, the Pentecostals opened a little American school. When we’d been there, about our third year there, or maybe our second the last half of our second year. And there we...actually, we let Elizabeth go to that. ‘Cause she was already reading and just...she loved school. And there was a German missionary boy who could take her everyday. It was quite across town but he took her on his bicycle.
SHUSTER: And there was a school for missionary kids or for foriegn kids?
OWEN: It was foreignkids...for farming kids. Although there weren’t any foriegners except missionaries there, excuse me.
OWEN: There weren’t any missionaries there but farmers there but missionaries at the... Oh yeah, there were a few like at the consulate and all that but not too many. But when they closed up, as soon as the Com...well, before the Communists got in they closed up.
SHUSTER: That was about ‘49 or something?
OWEN: That...yes, in ‘49. We went in ‘47. This was either early ‘49 or late ‘48, I don’t remember exactly. But they caught...the school and very kindly said to anyone who’d had any foreign missionaries stay behind who wanted to buy any of their equipment, they could. So I bought two school desks. That makes it so much easier to have a proper desk.
OWEN: And I also bought the essential books up to the sixth grade. I didn’t know how long we were going to stay there, you know? So I wanted to have them all. Then I also found that some YMCA workers had left behind the Calvert...the Calvert, very wonderful.
SHUSTER: Which is a mail-order sys...or another, but mail system?
OWEN: Yes, it was a mail system, yes.
SHUSTER: A mail as M-A-I-L.
OWEN: Yeah, yes. And it was a...but they didn’t have the whole...I didn’t have the teacher’s book or the whole curriculum. But several of their books they were left behind. One was a child’s history of the world, and one was a child’s history of art, and one was a child’s history of [pauses] history and of the world and of...something about animals. I’ve forgotten what the name of it was cause I left it behind. But I brought the other two, they were so good. They were excellent. And I loved it. I had...I had it all organized so it didn’t interfere with my work at all. You didn’t do anything in...in missions in the morning, and nobody went early in the morning. It wasn’t a country place, it was a city place. You had your evening meetings and your afternoon meetings but your mornings were free. So it was very convenient for me to teach my children in the morning. I had...I had to give them a recess between 10 and 10:30 to feed my baby who was across the hall [both laugh] in the room. Fortunately he was very good, and so it didn’t make any difference. And I...I had a regular schedule. They knew when they were going to have everything, and I had a clock. And I had a map of America up. And they...their writing lessons was to write letters to the grandparents. And that...then I... that gave them something to do and also... And then we...they had, my second...my son, my oldest son...
OWEN: ...Norman is really a genius. He’s just got a brain that just retains things like nothing on earth. And he was...I started...see, Elizabeth had had about a half a year in the...this school, she could read.
SHUSTER: In the United States, she did.
OWEN: No, in that...that....
SHUSTER: Oh, in the Pentecostal school.
OWEN: In that Pentecostal school. So she was already reading, so I put her in the second grade. And I started but I said, “Now I’ll have to teach you to read.” But I have to back up a bit. At Christmastime, one of the teachers from our mission school had brought some of the other children of other families home for the holidays. And she came to me and said, “Do both of your children read?” I said, “No, my son doesn’t read yet.” He was just 5 and a half. And she said, “Could...do you mind if I teach him?” I said, “Oh, I’d be thrilled.” So anyway, she said...she didn’t feel that one of the teachers was giving the right start in reading. So she taught him every morning. And Sammy Glasser, who was only 3 or 4, he wanted to listen in too. [Shuster laughs] I don’t remember how... but they had fun with it. And anyway...so it was a...and she went home at Christmas. And this was the next July when we knew we weren’t...we couldn’t send our...see, I had already sent her bedding to Chefoo [School in Kuling, China] already. I thought she was going to school. I thought....
SHUSTER: You had already sent her there?
OWEN: Not yet.
SHUSTER: Or you had made arrangements to send her there?
OWEN: I had made arrangements and had already sent her [pronounced distinctly] bedding.
SHUSTER: Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.
OWEN: And, but I had...we were going to take her the next summer. But of course, that was cut off and we saw we couldn’t be cut off. So we decided this. That’s when I decided to buy those things from the Pentecostals. That’s decided... and it started in the summer of ‘49, ‘50. We went in...yes, ‘49. And we taught them until ‘51.
SHUSTER: Now you mentioned that in the mornings you had your classes. What did your children do in the afternoons?
OWEN: They, they played in the little yard which was overlooked by this class where I could look down and watch them. And I would stop in the class and say, “Now, don’t do that!” [Shuster laughs] And the Chinese all understood that, they had children too. Or, or.... [Knock on door] Come in?
[tape recorder turned off and on again]
SHUSTER: [People talking in the background] Starting up here again. You were talking about when you were teaching classes, your kids were in the front yards and you could keep an eye on them.
OWEN: Yes, beside that we had...they were old enough by this time that anybody could take care of them. I mean because...and we always had missionaries around that would, you know. They....they weren’t... they couldn’t go anywhere. We had walls, big walls. They couldn’t get out of the yard. The only time they got out of the yard was when Harry took them for walks. He would take them...we had a lake about a quarter of a mile down that was very lovely. Green Lake, it was called. And it had bridges and things, you know, Chinese style. And he would take them for a walk. And also he...he also did part of the teaching. Right after lunch when I....
SHUSTER: Teaching of his...of his kids?
OWEN: His kids. He read to them classic books which they loved.
SHUSTER: Like what...do you remember some of the titles?
OWEN: They were...he read them the [pauses] I should know them, I know them real well but I can’t think of them right now.
SHUSTER: Things like Gulliver’s Travels, or....?
OWEN: Yes. I don’t think Gulliver’s Travels happened to be one of them, but that type. He read them Robin Hood stories, or classical mythical tales, you know, of Greece and Rome, and he read them these...
SHUSTER: Treasure Island?
OWEN: Yeah, Treasure Island, that’s one. A lot of really good classical books. Some of them, I thought, were even big for their age, but they loved it anyway. So that was their literature class. They did that and I did reading, and writing, and arithmetic, which I learned more than they did because I’m not very good at arithmetic. I finally learned how to add nines. [both laugh] And then...then I also read to them in the morning. That child’s history of the world. And we...going back to what I said, I said, “Norman, I’ll have to teach you to read.” And he said, “Oh, I can read.” I said, “Where did you learn?” And he said, “Miss Stark taught me.” I said, “But she didn’t finish teaching you. She told me she left. She’d only....” (She was teaching him phonetically, she’d only got half the alphabet). And he said, “But I can read.” I said, “Alright, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you a first grade primer and if on the first page you miss two words, we’ll start there. Oh he thought it was fair. So he started and read. He read all through the first grammar and half of the second before he... He’d heard her read it! I just...and he just memorized things so quickly and everything. That was one of the reasons I’d never bother to teach him, because he’d see a page and he’d say the next page without anybody telling him. So then when he was...when I was reading him the Child’s History of the World, I read about the battle of...in Greece. I’ve forgotten the name of it, I’m not just....
SHUSTER: Of Thermopylae?
OWEN: No. That’s when the...this is when the...down between Pompey and...
SHUSTER: Oh, and Caesar?
OWEN: Caesar, yes. And I took the name of the battles....
SHUSTER: Phalaus or Phelssis [actual name Pharsalus]? Something like that? Anyways...
OWEN: Anyways.... And he said, “Do you want me to tell you about it?” [Shuster laugh] I said, “Yes.” I thought....
SHUSTER: He already knew about it.
OWEN: He already knew about it! And he said, “And they had...and Pompey...but Caesar was real smart. He had the cohorts- is that the right word, cohorts?” I said, “Yes!” “They went this way, and they went that way.” And I started to believe him. I said, “Where did you learn this?” “In one of Daddy’s books.” I said, “Go bring it to me.” It was [James Henry] Breasted’s Ancient History. And the thing was it was written in paragraphs, you know.
SHUSTER: Sure, it was a textbook.
OWEN: Textbook fashion. And it had a picture of every battle.
SHUSTER: Well, let me ask you this. Your son was obviously learning very quickly, and homeschooling was good for them. What...thinking back on it, what would you say would be the advantages and disadvantages of raising children on a missionary field?
OWEN: The main disadvantage is if they have...if they’re not intellectually inclined, if they don’t like reading and they don’t like school, it’s very difficult. Also, if you’re right down one of those people who curse and swear, and they hear that language, that’s bad. Mine weren’t in that situation at all. In fact, one of the main things that my daughter missed...she didn’t have any girls to play with. All the missionary children that were around there were boys. And they wanted to play board...unions and things, and she wanted to play house. And when she came home, she was going to play dolls and they.... And she was already almost nine. And girls that age over here weren’t playing that anymore. They’d quit and none of them wanted with her. And she said, “I never got to be... play girl... to play dolls.” [Shuster laughs] But she’s the one who’s now Reverend Doctor. But anyway, this was when she was eight. The dis...the advantage that I had was first place, that I was in a protected environment. And the second thing...and, I mean, I know that my sister who did some schooling of her children on the field in Mexico, and they were in a tribe. People kept coming in all the time. Well, people didn’t come drop in on us. And it wasn’t as...except in the evening, they didn’t. Mornings were quite free. So I didn’t ever have any interruptions. And another thing was that they...they had...they were enough...all of them, they were...they liked things to do by themselves, so they were sufficient unto themselves. My daughter missed playing dolls with girls, but that’s the only...but my son never missed anything. He just....
SHUSTER: Besides the education, I mean just in general the idea of raising your kids in a foreign country, any reflections on that?
OWEN: Well, it depends on the children and it depends on the place. I mean, if they...I mean, like I said, my sister, finally she just had to send her’s away. The one thing....Her oldest two didn’t care about studying at all. I mean they were...they were...she couldn’t....Then another thing, she wasn’t a teacher. And another thing, they were in a tribe where people would just drop in, you know, all the time. And it’s just very disturbing and distracting. And also, language. Henry...now one of our missionaries who lived in a compound that was in...that was up in North Anhwei, but their children played near some Chinese children all the time, and that’s alright. I think they’re children of the workmen there, or of the servants, I don’t remember that. But I do remember one day Milton was quite disturbed about something, Milton Glittenberg [son of a CIM missionary] and he ripped out some words in Chinese, and his father started up, “Where did you learn that?” He was swearing. And of course, I didn’t know he was swearing because I never did learn how to swear in Chinese. [Shuster laughs] Ruth Nowack [CIM missionary] did because she grew up as a child in China and you hear...you learn that way. But anyway, you got...and then also they got bad habits too of doing things that we wouldn’t consider proper.
SHUSTER: Such as?
OWEN: Such as...well, such as sexual touching and that sort of thing.
OWEN: Or examining and looking at it or things like that. And I was very...I didn’t have any of that to deal with. The only children that I saw...they saw [were] Chinese children that they saw were on Sundays at Sunday school. And of course they were child...Christian children and they were there for Sunday school. And so...and they were there under.... I had that and another thing on Sunday. I had a Sunday school for, just for the missionary children. They were about ten. But we had a regular Sunday school hour out on our porch. We had a big wide veranda, a flat-type porch, and that’s where we had it. But this...but going back to this, so I said, “Go get the book,” and he got the book and I saw it. But that’s the way he was. So then...that was...I just finished telling you about this battle and he knew that. And when he’d learn anything, I mean when he read anything he’d just remember it. Once when he was eighteen, nineteen, I was teaching him to drive and...in California and I said, “I never can remember the difference between Baroque and Romance periods. And he said, “It’s like this, Mother.” And mind you, we were driving. But going on, he gave me a whole history of Bach and Brahms and all the rest of them. And I said, “Where’d you learn all that?” And he said, “Mother, you can’t live with three music majors and not learn what you can.” [Shuster laughs] But that...that’s my son.
SHUSTER: So a natural scholar, huh?
SHUSTER: When you came back in ‘47, had you noticed any difference in the mission? In the way that it did things or its organization?
OWEN: No, not then, not at all. It had started before we left, long before we left. It started when I was the....
SHUSTER: What started?
OWEN: Started turning things over to the Chinese. More and more and more.
SHUSTER: But I mean the mission itself, and the way the people or the organization or the....
OWEN: Not that I noticed at all when I went back. I mean, there was an increasing number of women involved in things. But that was gradual and not anything startling. The most...the biggest thing was that we didn’t give money to the Chinese at all. I mean, we had before in some measure. We never...we never actually subsidized them completely. But we gave... Now when Nancy Godson Rogers [?] was the...Nancy Rogers Godson [?] then, she was super...principal of the little grade school that I became principal of.
SHUSTER: Where...that was in Anhwei?
OWEN: Anhwei, Anhwei, later on. And she...she could give them...they’d want an eraser, or some new chalk, or this or that, she’d go in the store and get it. And when I took over they said, “Now, don’t give them anything. This is the church’s school now, go send them to the...one of the church leaders.” So they all thought I was a skinflint. [Shuster laughs] But it wasn’t...it was.... But that had begun to change every...they were trying to get the churches to be really ind...self-propagating, self- supporting and self....[governing]
SHUSTER: The Three Selfs [the Three-Self Movement, the polocy for the Christian church created by the Communist government after 1949].
OWEN: And they were. The Three Selfs. And they were, very much so.
SHUSTER: You had mentioned too, in your previous interview, how when you and your husband went to a station in Anhwei, the previous missionaries at Christmastime had given out peanuts, and candy, and things.
OWEN: Uh-huh. And in [unclear], we just felt that people just came for that, became rice Christians. And so, if the church wanted...
SHUSTER: Or peanut Christians.
OWEN: Yes. And so we didn’t give anything. We might have...now we might give them privately at some...like the deacons or certain like it in Kumning we had...every six months or so we had a party for the deacons and...or the elders or whoever the officers were. They’re all in my guest book too, their names. And we gave them all a thing to take home to their children. But that was in the church and it was not something to draw people in. See that’s...this other...when we first were there, they just mobbed us with wanting peanuts. And we hadn’t...we didn’t know that it was done, you see. But that’s the sort of thing that can become just a snare.
SHUSTER: So it was a strict mission policy now, no kind of financial gifts through/to the church.
OWEN: No financial...no, yes, no. Unless there was some very obvious reason that we should do it. If the Chinese were giving and we came to them afterwards, and somebody had a real loss, and the Chinese were giving things, they could also...we could add to the sum. But it wasn’t us, it was the whole church doing it.
SHUSTER: You mentioned also in your last interview, how when you were in the United States during the wartime in California, I mean. One of the interview...one of the missionary candidates you interviewed was Art Glasser.
SHUSTER: And later he and his wife were junior missionaries to you.
SHUSTER: Why don’t...can you describe him a little bit? What was his personality like?
OWEN: He is exceptionally wonderful. He really is. His personality just exudes all over him, and he’s just such a joy to have around. We had him here this spring for a time....
SHUSTER: Here at the Landamier House in Lancaster.
OWEN: Yeah, he came out. And we’re trying to get him to come for our 35th anniversary....
SHUSTER: He was a speaker?
SHUSTER: He was a speaker or....?
OWEN: Well, no he came with...as the speaker at another, at a World Missions Associate banquet. But it was in this area and he came over for dinner and just talked to us. And we got a lot of pictures. His...that lady who was just here was his secretary. Dorcas Simpson. She was his...for all the years he was general director....
SHUSTER: At Fuller. Oh, at OMF, yeah. What was he like as a missionary on the field?
OWEN: Excellent. He just did...he jumped into everything feet first. Every...the people like him and we loved him.
SHUSTER: What were some of his responsibilities when he was there?
OWEN: Well of course, while he was with us he was just learning language. Except he went on and handed out tracts, and anything he could, he did. When they left us, they went and ook a station of their own. I didn’t seem them there, of course, for that time. And then for that time we were almost all out. They had to go out first. I mean, we had to go out first. We met Arthur and Alice as prospective candidates way back, and they came and spent two or three days with us in a mission home. They said they were thinking about it, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. And then we had the...then we had the...then when they were candidates, we had them as a whole week there. And that was delightful. Alice is just charming as he is. Just a delightful couple in every way. And he is...I always thought he was a swan among ducks.
SHUSTER: [laughs] How do you mean that?
OWEN: Well, I mean he is...he has so much more personality and so much more gifts than most of us just ordinary people. But he was...he....
SHUSTER: What were some of his gifts? Were some of his gifts?
OWEN: Well, he could speak wonderfully, and he could meet people. And he had a, had a...it was just part of his personality and it was there. And when we were...they were just as thrilled to be with us as we were to be with them. Because Alice wrote me and said, “We just heard that we’re going to be your junior missionaries. And we’re just...” He said, “I haven’t stopped grinning since.”
SHUSTER: Haven’t stopped winnowing?
SHUSTER: Grinning! Oh. Grinning.
OWEN: Grinning since. Because she said, “I just think, we couldn’t have....” And it was wonderful for us too. The...we had this big old house in Kunming, a mission home. That had...was divided in the middle with a great wide hall, both downstairs and upstairs. And there were four rooms, bedrooms upstairs four rooms downstairs. And we had one side and they had the other side, and it was very nice. And Sammy was just....
SHUSTER: That’s their son?
OWEN: That’s their son. He was just a year old when they came to us. And she had had a very bad time at language school, because she had to turn him over to a Chinese amah while she went into classes.
SHUSTER: An amah, of course, being a nursemaid.
OWEN: Yes. A nursemaid. And the thing is, they would never punish a boy, you know. They let him do anything he wanted. She said, “He’s just getting terribly spoiled.” And I said, “Well, I won’t spoil him. But on the other hand, I won’t punish him.” I said, “You let him come over and play with my children, or let him sit and play with something while I’m teaching. And then if he’s naughty I’ll send him right on over to you. And you can do that to him. So it doesn’t...it doesn’t, you know....” And it worked out fine.
SHUSTER: Doesn’t...doesn’t what?
OWEN: It doesn’t make them feel that I’m being hard.
OWEN: It makes them realize that discipline comes from Mamma, or Daddy. And they worked...they really do very well with the language. And then she became pregnant with her second child, Anne, while we were there. I took off my maternity clothes in March, and in June Anne was born. And she borrowed my maternity clothes.
SHUSTER: [Laughs] Worked out great!
OWEN: Worked out great. And we...we went on...we went on a birthday picnic for her, she’s March 31st, and we went on a birthday picnic. Oh I guess it was...I guess I left my...I don’t know. Anyways, whatever it was, we came...we went...we came home from the birthday picnic for her to go to the hospital in a hurry. [Shuster laughs]. But it was...but we had a wonderful time. Also, he really had a real sense of call and a sense of mission.
SHUSTER: How...how could you tell that?
OWEN: Well, you can tell when people are... that’s the most interesting thing in them. If they’re not...if they don’t have a sense of call, its more duty, or more discerning as what I ought to do. You sense it. I don’t know how you do it in particular except you know it.
SHUSTER: What he wanted to do?
OWEN: Yes, its what he wanted to do. I don’t know [tape recorder turned off and turned on.]
SHUSTER: Continuing what you were saying he...Arthur Glasser was an engineer?
OWEN: Yes. And he had just built his first bridge in...near the Philadelphia area somewhere. And he went on the next morning and it was rusted, it water run in it. It was just...oh. And then he said...that quickly, you know, maybe not the next morning but the next week or something. And he said, “The Lord gave us out...I have chosen you that you should go forth and bring forth fruit and your fruit shall remain.” And he said, “These bridges won’t remain, but if I save a soul he’ll remain.” And that was his call, and that’s what he felt very keenly. Right now, you know, he’s very much involved with Jewish work. He’s gotten very involved with the Jews for Jesus and he’s really very keen on that. But he was always keen on anything. I mean, he just has a...he just has a keenness about him that...
SHUSTER: An enthusiasm.
OWEN: Enthusiasm. And a real...he’s...he’s very easy to work with, very easy. The funniest thing was, he was our junior missionary for two and a half years. And then we came home and a few years later, he was our superintendent! [Shuster laughs]
SHUSTER: He was the U.S. director to the U.S. Home Field Council.
OWEN: Yes, but they’ve always been very.... We haven’t kept in touch as much as we should. I do still, and so did Harry up until he died. But I know Arthur was one of the last people to come and see him before he...his last illness. So we...but he’s...he’s a tremendous person. And I just love him. He loves any color, as long as its blue. [both laugh]. And I.... [tape cuts off; resumes] And also, he...he’s very interested in all kinds of....I mean he’s very intelligent.
SHUSTER: Wide interests?
OWEN: Wide interest in things, and reading about things and all. And....
SHUSTER: How did he relate with the Chinese Christians?
OWEN: He got along beautifully with them. They all thought that Gaiye [?] (that, I think is his Chinese name... was Guhl [?] I think)
OWEN: I forget what it was now. But anyway, they were... they always loved to have him there. He was very busy. He couldn’t speak much Chinese when he left us, he still couldn’t preach a whole sermon because he had...had....Naturally, he’d only been out two years and it takes time. But he managed to talk enough so that he could converse with people individually and he could tell...witness that way. And I think he did. I mean, I was never standing right close to him when he was talking to you. But I saw him go up to people and I know he very much loved them. I took Alice and she did very well in her exams.
SHUSTER: You say you took...you mean you gave her the exam?
OWEN: Well, I took her visiting. That’s why.
OWEN: I [unclear] and introduced her to the Chinese. And she was...she really got to know the Chinese home more than he did. But I...I did more visiting with her than I had done before because I hadn’t needed to. Because this was to give her...cause I had had the chance in Anhwei and then what so I just....We went to visit the Christians just to get....
SHUSTER: So she could get to know the culture and the people.
OWEN: Yes, and all that sort of thing.
SHUSTER: How would you describe Alice Glasser?
OWEN: She’s beautiful, she’s intelligent, she’s lovable, she’s spiritual. I said to her one day, “It’s not fair. You’ve got all the advantages. You’ve got your...you have beauty. And I thought I could say about some people that have beauty but I have spiritual. But you have too!”[Shuster laughs]. No, she really is a very charming person. And they were a lovely couple to have around. And they have three...I don’t know the youngest children, the youngest child, Carol. I met her but I don’t really know her, because she was born after they came home. But I knew both Anne and Sammy. And they’re very delightful children.
SHUSTER: And you obviously had a very good relationship with your junior missionaries there.
OWEN: Oh yeah.
SHUSTER: Was that usually the case? Senior missionaries and junior missionaries....
OWEN: Sometimes. Some senior missionaries and junior missionaries were just like that, just close. Others were very much...they just didn’t get along at all. I know of one case where they actually...the junior missionary left the mission. They just could not stand the policies of the...and the mission stood behind the senior missionary.
SHUSTER: Is that usually the case?
OWEN: No, it was very unusual.
SHUSTER: No, I mean the mission usually standing behind the senior missionary.
OWEN: Oh most, oh yes. They mostly would. Unless it was so very... In this case, it was the matter of selling things on the church premises. The senior missionary felt that was all right if people wanted to sell there. I mean, it wasn’t...and the junior missionary thought it wasn’t....it was wrong. And the senior missionary went home on furlough. So he burst the policy while he was in charge.
SHUSTER: The junior missionary changed it.
OWEN: The junior changed it, thinking they weren’t coming back. They were old and went home. And they came back and insisted on having it back again. And he wrote to the mission and the mission very kindly offered him any other station. He could have a station of his own. No, “He admits he was wrong.” He wanted to be vindicated. So he left the mission and got a real posh job because he had such good Chinese with an oil company. He never lost his faith, I know that, but he just wasn’t going to be with...it was the saddest...but....
SHUSTER: What kind of things were they selling in the church?
OWEN: Oh, just food and stuff. It was just...just...it wasn’t any....
SHUSTER: Oh, oh. A market.
OWEN: Just market. But it mean they had...they had...it was so convenient than going way downtown, and people were coming to church, they could buy it there. Sort of the same thing as a...as [unclear], you know. And I don’t know why they seemed to...but they said, “Well, I think they gave something to the church for doing it or something.” And the senior missionary thought that was good to have something for the mission. I don’t...it was too far away for me and too far along, so I don’t know.
SHUSTER: You mentioned Li Rang[?], Li Rang[?]...
OWEN: Yes, Li Rang[?].
SHUSTER: Who was the pastor. What was his personality like, what was his character?
OWEN: He was also a very outgoing and effervescent person, and very strong and all. He left before the Communists got in.
SHUSTER: Left China or left Yunnan?
OWEN: Left Yunnan. He went back to.... You see, if you were in your own home state where all your relatives and things were, you had a little bit of clout. I mean, he came from Shansi [?]and that’s why I don’t know how he was down by this, I never got that out, I never thought about it. But when the Communists were coming in and we knew they were going to take over, he left. A whole bunch of people left too, to go back to their [Chinese term], their old ho... their old family. And he left then. But I’m sure he was a very fine Christian, and a very fine man. But he didn’t want to figh over the Communists. I think he would have been arrested, I’m sure. But in his own [unclear] country...if he just goes back and is just a member of the family, he’s not a pastor. He’s not anything.
SHUSTER: Oh, so he’s no longer a pastor then when he returned?
OWEN: No, no, yeah. He wouldn’t be the pastor anywhere else. I don’t know what he did after this, I never heard.
SHUSTER: But it Yunnan, what kind of preacher was he? What was his....?
OWEN: Oh, he was quite good.
SHUSTER: How would you describe his preaching?
OWEN: Well, exhorting more than actually expositing. But a very good exhorter and....
SHUSTER: Rather than explaining a Bible passage he was telling how you should live and....?
OWEN: Yes, yes. How you should live, how you should believe, and what you should do as a Christian, that sort of thing. That’s what I call exhorting. But it’s not...instead of saying now this passage means this and this....But you use a passage in a way but you don’t use them the same way. I mean, you use them as a background. And he was that. And also he was a very good pastor. I mean, not a....
SHUSTER: How did that show itself?
OWEN: Well, in his interest in people. I mean, I don’t know that he visited in their homes, cause that’s not a Chinese trait. But he...I could see...all I could see was his attitude to people on Sundays. The way he greeted people, and old people, and young people. And like when he was baptizing people you know, just...just....Our church had a strange thing that you, no that in Chengyangkwan ...in Chengyangkwan the men were immersed and the women were....[sprinkled]
SHUSTER: Yes, you’d mentioned that in the old interview...in the last interview, yeah.
OWEN: Well this wasn’t....
SHUSTER: You mentioned there it was not a Chinese thing for the pastor to visit in people’s homes?
OWEN: I don’t know that they did, I don’t ever....
SHUSTER: But the missionaries you met, I mean, you visited in people’s homes.
OWEN: Well yes, yes. And I....
SHUSTER: So why the difference?
OWEN: I don’t know why they didn’t. And maybe...I don’t remember them visiting. Certainly they never visited our home but, of course, naturally they wouldn’t. We were the missionaries. I don’t remember them making just pastoral calls. I never...in any pastor, all the pastors I knew....Pastor Wu[?], Pastor Lee[?], Pastor...Pastor Hu[?], and Pastor Li Rang[?]. I don’t remember any of them just going around making....maybe, if anybody was sick they might call upon them, you know. Or if they had some special call they wanted to pray for them, they would go then. But I don’t remember just going around like they do here. Pastors sort of make a routine call around their...their flock.
OWEN: Some...some don’t. Its gone out of style, more or less.
SHUSTER: What was the relationship between the missionaries and the church? Were you under the authority of the church or were you....?
OWEN: We were under the authority of the church. At least the...we would....they were that understanding. And whatever the church board asked us to do, we did.
SHUSTER: So they provided your assignments so....
OWEN: Yes, they told...they...I mean...they were...they were saying, “You do this.” They were saying, “We need someone to do that.” And we’d say, “You want us to help?” “Well yes, you....” Then, you know, it was a mutual sort of thing. We had very good relations in Kumning. And very good relations in Anwhei too, with the pastor there. Especially with Li Rang[?], because we were...he was...the old pastor that was there, was...I think...I don’t think he was very spiritual, for one thing. He was pastor in the old sense of the word, that it was a job, it was something you did. I don’t know. But I didn’t really get to know him at all, very well. Because he was out...I mean, he still was around. But he was.... And I know he....That’s pretty....
SHUSTER: No longer a pastor?
OWEN: No pastor. I don’t think he even came to church anymore. I think he went back to his ancestral home, which was near there but it was...he was a...he was a Yunnanese, but I don’t know. I just don’t remember much about him, Li Chinwei [?]. But Li Rang[?] was very...very good. And most places, I’ve found that the Chinese and the [pauses] missionaries were on very good terms. Very seldom there was conflict. Unless the missionary criticized something they did. I mean it may have been that in that case I mentioned about in the North where they sold it there may have been relations with some part of the church but not all of it. I don’t know I wasn’t there.
SHUSTER: So missionaries usually, its not their job to oversee the church or to critique the church?
OWEN: Yes, well now the thing is at...in the old days, and I mean this was in the ‘20s and the ‘10s, 1920...1910ss and 1920s when the church...the mission had become quite large at that time and very British at that time. There haven’t...weren’t nearly as many other nations in. And no others were English speaking. Now we’re everything. We’ve got Korean missionaries and our...full members of our mission. Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Indonesian...they’re all...we’re very international. But we weren’t in those days. And one of the Chinese pastors, with whom I was very close and when I was in Taiho Pastor Wal [?], he told me that at one stage...this was even before my days, see I was there in the ‘30s. There were five CIM missionaries....
SHUSTER: Oh yes, the five kings.
OWEN: The five kings, yes.
SHUSTER: Yes, you mentioned that in your interview, yeah. [Tape T4 in Collection 534]
OWEN: And they ruled the church. They said what they did. They sent out the missionaries. They did everything. But by that...by this time this wasn’t the case at all. Not in our mission. It may have been in some places but not in our mission. We were not...I mean, we never made a single move about church activities unless it was started by the Chinese. And we didn’t want to, I mean, it was very...much more convenient to do what they wanted us to do. And the day I sat down, once in a while they’d have some special meeting and they’d want [Chinese term] (that’s my husband) to do...to speak at this. All right, we’re glad to do that you know. And they were the ones that suggested that he go to these outlying stations. And he took Arthur with him. And that’s how I know that Arthur would get among the people and talk to them in the little Chinese that he had. And he would...they would take bicycles. And they had to cross one trestle. And you had to carry your bicycle across and over. And my husband has a terrible fear of heights. And so, Arthur would say, “Wait just a minute. I’ll take mine across and get yours.” So that shows you the kind of man that Arthur was.
SHUSTER: Yeah. Very nice.
OWEN: Very nice.
SHUSTER: Of course, as you mentioned several times, while you were there was the period towards the end of the conflict between the Kuomintang and the Communists.
OWEN: Yes, yes.
SHUSTER: And the takeover of the Communists of the whole country. How did that happen in Kunming? I mean, how did you experience the Communist takeover there?
OWEN: Oh, oh it was quite definite. They had...see, we were seeing them advancing. They started way up in the North and hear them come every day.
SHUSTER: And you were seeing on the map.
OWEN: Well, well yes. Or hearing it over the radio. Or hearing it in Chinese newspapers. They were here, and they were here and they were here. And everyone knew that they were going to get there. There was nothing to stop them.
SHUSTER: How did people feel about that?
OWEN: Well, Chinese are very pragmatic. They really didn’t care who ruled as long as they were left to eat their own meals. I mean that was....
SHUSTER: They didn’t see it as a conflict involving them except indirectly.
OWEN: No, no, indirectly. They just...unless the taxes went up or unless they couldn’t get food, those were the things that mattered. I mean, the Christians were a little bit fearful, but....
SHUSTER: Why was that?
OWEN: Well, because they knew that Communism didn’t believe in God. And they...they had heard of Communist pressure on other Christians. Those...those things perco...percolated down. People came through and say, “Well, they shut some churches, you know. And they burned some Bibles.” And they didn’t do much of that until the Cultural Revolution after we had gone. That was in ‘68 after Mao Zedong really took control. But it was...it was a little difficult for Christians. And that’s why we tried to be as low profile as possible. Because...now one of the things, when they...among the things they asked us when we were interviewed of....
SHUSTER: So when you were interviewed to leave?
OWEN: Yeah. No, this was before we were interviewed to leave. This was interview when they [the Communist forces] came in.
SHUSTER: When they came in they interviewed you?
OWEN: They, they were... “How much money do you pay the Chinese?” “We don’t pay them anything.” “How much money do they pay you?” “They don’t pay us anything.” “How do you get your money?” “We get it from America. And its given to us for our living. And we don’t charge anything. The church doesn’t give us anything. The church belongs to the church.” In fact, I have a picture of Harry signing the...turning over all the property....
SHUSTER: The mortgage?
OWEN: The mortgage. There wasn’t a.....
SHUSTER: The property deed.
OWEN: The property deed. [coughs]
SHUSTER: So, when you first arrived in Yunnan, the mission still owned the property....
OWEN: Oh yes, yes.
SHUSTER: The church property.
OWEN: Well, and it had been owned there for so many years nobody thought anything about it until the Communists came in, you know?
SHUSTER: So you transferred...before they arrived, you transferred the property?
OWEN: Yes, it was all transferred to the Chinese church.
SHUSTER: And that was a general mission policy or just...?
OWEN: Yes. Well, that was everywhere. There were...they were all told to turn over their properties. If it was a viable church. Some places there was property that was...there was nobody to turn it over to. But we had a pastor and deacons and elders and everything so it would be easy to turn it over.
SHUSTER: So how did the change actually occur in Kunming? I mean, how do we call the days and....?
OWEN: Well, see the property was turned over before they ever got there.
SHUSTER: I don’t mean that. But I mean the change from the Kuomintang government to the Communist government. Was there a battle or conflict, or did they....?
OWEN: No, no. The Comm... the National armies just left. They did...there weren’t enough of them and the Communist army are too big. They marched in one day. We went and somebody ran and knocked on our door and said, “The [Chinese turn]...the Red Army, the [Chinese term], they’ve come. And so don’t...and the pragmatic Chinese, in some places where they didn’t come over..where they didn't just go over it in one day, every family had two flags. A Nationalist flag and a Communist flag. [Shuster laughs]. They said, "Which one of the flags do we fly today?" They didn't care. But in our...in this case, they marched in all in one day. And we didn't know whether we should go out or not. Pretty soon we heard that people were walking down the street they didn't mind. They were very cautious about taking over. They'd take over this and then they'd take over that. And then you weren't allowed to do this and then you weren't allowed to do that. And it just...one, one step after another. But you didn't...there was no riot or any. And then of course they called in every foreigner to be questioned.
SHUSTER: Who specifically would call you in? Who were you going to see?
OWEN: Some Red Army officer, don't ask me who he was, ow high up or who he was.
SHUSTER: It wasn't the city government or someone....?
OWEN: No, No, no. The city government...the city government were all dismissed. One of our...one of our deacons...one of our elders was a city officer and he was grilled terribly. Later on I think he was imprisoned when they got harsher. He was not only a Christian but he’d been in the Nationalist...in the city government. But not while we were there. But they took people out of jobs almost right away.
SHUSTER: So what kind of thing.... do you remember your interview? What...you talked a little bit about it, how they asked you who paid you. Was there other things they wanted to know about?
OWEN: Yes, they didn't ask me that. They asked the church people, they asked that. And yeah. Well, they started to ask you...me in my case and all, and Harry's said the same. "Where were you born, and who was your father, and what did he do?" Well if he was a farmer, they'd think, "Oh, you're a great big ranch farmer." That was...that was, you know, productive. Or if you were somebody.... But you had more prestige, you're a little more. But if he were the minister, and you were a minister even, you're just in a non-productive person. And they...they asked...they asked when you started school, what school you went to and all. And one of the funniest things was they said....
END OF TAPE