to listen to an audio file of this interview (70 minutes)
This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview with Marguerite Elizabeth (Goodner) Owen (CN 534, T8) 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 Wayne Weber and Hannah Parish and was completed in 2011.
Collection 534, T8. Interview of Marguerite Owen by Bob Shuster, June 14, 1999.
OWEN: They asked...they asked when you started school...what school you went to. But if you were the minister and you were a minister you’re just a non-productive case. And they...they asked...they asked when you started school and what school you went to and all. And of the one the funniest things was they said “What did you major in?” They had people who knew quite good English to interview you. I said I was a major in Latin. “Oh yes. Dante’s Inferno.” [Shuster laughs]. I said, “that was”...I said, “that was in Italian.” “Oh.” They didn’t...I was...that was wrong. Because they just didn’t know things but they thought they did, you know. And...
SHUSTER: How would they react if you embarrassed them right away?
OWEN: They...they’d be sort of curtain. The next question would be sort of stiff. And then one of the things they asked people “Why did you come to China?” And if you say “because the Lord sent me.” “How did he send you?” “He put it in my heart you know that I...” But they asked one dear old English Methodist saint and he was saint. He’d been in China for years.
SHUSTER: What was his name do you recall?
OWEN: I don’t remember. I didn’t know him at all. I just heard the story. I mean I’d met him but I didn’t really know him. But he said “It’s a long story.” And they said “that’s alright.” But I said...he said “I don’t want to be interrupted.” He gave his whole story of his conversion. And his call to the field.
SHUSTER: His whole testimony?
OWEN: Whole testimony. And they couldn’t...they’d said...and the funny thing is if they say they’ll do something they’ll do it. Now one of things they were...they were confiscating books. And things that they didn’t understand. And someone said to me “you better not try to take any photo albums out.” They will you know destroy them. So I took all my photos out of all my albums and put em...I had a shoe...one of Harry’s big shoe boxes...about this big...and piled em all in that. And I took em...I said “here you can look all through these.” And he said and then I said “if you”...and they said “if you put em in a box and we can seal them so that you can’t put any more in. Well then...we’ll...you can take em with you. They’ll be sealed to go past every customs with our seal on it.” So I took these all in several weeks before. And they said “you sure took a lot of pictures of your children.” [Shuster laughs]. I said...he said “how many are there?” I said “I don’t know can’t you...can I trust you?” “Oh, yes!” And he...and then they came back and I said “How many did you take out?” They said “Eleven.” “Could I see them” I said. “I just want to see what’s missing.” They had taken out all scenes that actually were of Yosemite [park in the United States] but they looked like Yunnan. And they thought there was...places that we had seen in Yunnan.
SHUSTER: Some kind of military things?
OWEN: Yeah military things. And another thing if there were groups that they couldn’t identify. Now all the church groups in Kunming they knew...I mean Yunnan...and Kunming. They knew those. But there were...we had several pictures of tribe groups where we’d been out to visit.... And they didn’t know them so they had taken them out. So they said, “You can have them, but you can’t seal them and put them in that box.” I said, “That’s alright.” I send them home in envelopes, so I have them at home. [both laugh]
SHUSTER: With initial interview- was the atmosphere hostile, or indifferent, or official?
OWEN: It was severe. They didn’t smile. They might almost smile if you said something that they thought was a bit funny, or funny, amusing or....But they had....well, they had to be very...very...very, you know, magisterial and sterial [sic]. And they...one of the things they...I told you about that Latin and Dante’s Inferno. But they ask about when you...how did you go school. I said, “I walked.” “How far?” I said, “About a mile [Owen saids a term in Chinese that sounds like san li].” That was kind of commendable, you know. Anything that you had commendable, they saw as yes, yes that’s okay. And see my father was a wholesale grocer. He later was a real estate man but he was a wholesale grocer most of the time. And oh they....I said, “He sold food.” What was they...of course, they didn’t know..... [Laughs] But anyway, they...it was a...they were not hostile. And the thing is when I started my personal interview. I only answered about three questions and he said, “Where did you learn your Chinese?” And I said, “In Bayban [?], in the North...in the North part.” He said, “Oh, in Hunan?” And I said yes. “Did you ever go to Loyang [Liuyang]?” I said, “Oh yes, it’s a beautiful city.” He just barely lighted up and... “That’s my hometown.” [Shuster laughs].
SHUSTER: He recognized your accent.
OWEN: Yes. Oh and...but I...down there they call me a [says a Chinese term, sounds like kwanza], that’s the...see, my husband [Shuster laughs] had a....
SHUSTER: It means a northerner?
OWEN: A northerner. Sort of a barbarian, really, is what it means. [Shuster laughs] But anyways....
SHUSTER: Was that....so you had that interview. And you had the interview and you left. Those were the only close contact you had with Communists officals during the time?
OWEN: Yes, all we had. Part of the interview we did with....They went...they had....we knew they had spies. And one of them we...my husband was smart enough to recognize. It made....
SHUSTER: You mean spies among the Christian community?
OWEN: No, no. Not among the Christians. But among just ordinary people that we saw. The Americans had opened an American library there. The American consul had. And my husband loved to go there and see a recent magazine. And so...and he’d gotten quite well acquainted with the librarian, who was very friendly.
SHUSTER: Was it Chinese?
OWEN: Chinese, Chinese. They were all...So he came to see us one night. And he was just running down the Communists like nothing on earth. And Harry didn’t agree with him, didn’t say anything. He said, “I...I knew it was a trick.” He was...if he’d gotten Harry to say anything derogatory or run down, then he would say, “He’s talking against you.” But Harry said, he said, “Is that so?” or you know, he just didn’t...he didn’t deny or didn’t confirm. He just....And he said he was so glad afterwards because he found out afterwards that he was definitely...this guy was a middleman. That they put him in the...long before, in the library to...to.... But what he said then didn’t count, because he wasn’t all about Communism then, you see.
SHUSTER: What...what effect did this change have on the church, on the Chinese Christians?
OWEN: It didn’t seem to make any great effect at first. At first it did. A lot of them didn’t come in from the country. They were afraid to, and they were...some people...and they were very cautious about what they did. But when they saw nothing was happening, they began to come back. And we had quite good crowds, and then we had...always had Communist soldiers dropping in at the back. Just to....we knew they didn’t come to worship, they came to see who was there.
SHUSTER: They came in uniform or....?
OWEN: Yes, in uniform. Just came and stood at the back, “We here,” you know, sort of idea. We had a most...one of my most interesting things that happened was what I call a string-bound Bible. There was a young man who was really a fine Christian who was down in someplace in the central part of China. (I don’t know whether it was Hunan or Yunan or where) and his parents had died and the missionaries had taken him in. Well they had to leave, of course, before the Communists came in. So he...and he heard...and he had a lot of propaganda put on him, he was strong and good looking, to join the Communist Army. They said, “They have religious belief. They have freedom. You can preach at...you can believe anything you want to believe. And he followed, fell for the line. And he joined. And as soon as he joined, they took his Bible and they tore it up. And he bought another one and they tore that up or burnt it up. And he was...he was...he kept watch on it, he wouldn’t go to....When he went through towns, they would see...try to see if he went to a church there while he was there. But he never lost his faith. But he just knew he had to keep it quiet. But he got to Kunming and by that time they were quite...they didn’t care who went where, I mean. He could even go in the guise of just watching go to church. And so he came to our church one Sunday morning at church time. And he...when he came in, dear Ms. Pong, that’s what I said was such a godly Christian. She took a cup of tea with two hands and handed it to him and said, “[says phrase in Chinese, sounds like Quan ming], very welcome.”He took it and he just stood there. And he said, “That’s the first cup of tea I’ve been offered in a proper way since I joined the Army. And it’s the first time anybody’s told me ‘Welcome.’” She said, close to him “Are you a Christian?” “Well, yes I am. And he said, “I’m having a terrible time trying to maintain my faith.” He said, “ I go and pray when we have a...I go pray behind a...,” And he said....
SHUSTER: Go pray behind a wall or....?
OWEN: Walls or behind a grave or something, he’s out in the country. But he said, “I just wanted a Bible so bad, and they tore up two. And then he said, “The Lord gave me a wonderful chance in the city of Wonjo. The Communist Army went in and they tore up everything in this building. And then they said, ‘Oh, the Nationalists tore up, they probably tear up everything. And they....
SHUSTER: They tore what?
OWEN: Tore up the books, everything. And so he was appointed with the one other boy to clean out one of the rooms. And as he was picking up the papers he saw the pages of the Bible. So he sends the other boy out of the... “I don’t want to do anything this afternoon, I’m going to do it all. You can go on out.” Oh, the boy was glad to go and went. And he went through all that and picked up page after page after page of the Bible. Most of them weren’t torn this way, they were partly torn this way, you see.
SHUSTER: And you’re indicating that they were torn not in half...
OWEN: Not in half but the binding was torn...
SHUSTER: ...but the pages were just torn out whole from the Bible....
OWEN: Yeah, exactly, yes. And so then...when he...the first time he had a little, he got behind a grave he said, started to put them together.” Fortunately he knew the Bible, so he knew how to put them...where they belong. Most...I mean, he may have gotten a few pages wrong, who knows. But he’d gotten.... And then he, well he was so afraid, he kept the pages inside his blouse, you know. And then he went to the shoemaker...or shoe repairman, and said, “Will you give me some...I need to mend some shoes.” And so he gave him, you know, this long string and a needle to take. And he went out again and sewed it all together. Just like this, you know, the pages all together. And it was quite thick. But he said, “I kept...for one thing, it didn’t look like a Bible. You know, it just looked like pages of something.” And I...but he said, “I...I was careful never to let anybody see it. And I was so glad to have it, and I could read it when I went out into the fields” And he produced it to show us. And meanwhile, he had come and called. He said, “[Unclear name], come, come. He’s a Communist soldier that’s a Christian.” And then, that’s how he told us this story. And he said, “I tried singing in prison, and they just...they couldn’t stop me because I...they didn’t....”
SHUSTER: He was...had been imprisoned?
OWEN: He was put in prison for going to church. And he was at senior covenant church, he was put in prison. Then he tried singing. Then...I guess that was in another place, because he started coming...they hadn’t put him in prison here. But he was being watched, and he was aware of that because he was coming quite frequently and he was a very good friend of this Ms. Pong[?] and her niece, which is part of the story later. And he had a lovely tenor voice. His name was Chow. That’s not the J-O-E that’s the C-H-O-W-T-H-A-O. And he came to our Christian [unlcear] meetings, and they didn’t suspect that, that was upstairs and they didn’t....He came to that, and he came to....
SHUSTER: When you say they didn’t expect it, you....suspect it?
OWEN: They didn’t...they didn’t...they didn’t suspect there was a Christian group up there. They didn’t know there was another meeting upstairs. And he’d go to that quite inconspicuously. And...but he was conspicuous at church, but he’d try to sit in a place where he couldn’t be seen from the door. But after a while he got careless, and he wanted to join the choir. And the choir...but they wore white robes over...we had white robes to give him. He wanted to sing, and so we let him. We needed the voice. And one day I was playing the organ facing the outside door. And I could see... I saw this soldier come in, and I saw him suddenly recognize Chowthao. And I was just...I said...too bad he was in the choir. And of course, he had on this white. He didn’t have on a uniform, you couldn’t see that. But he recognized it was a person. And sure enough, he was arrested., put in prison, and that’s where he sang.
SHUSTER: It was a crime to go to the church? What was he arrested for?
OWEN: Oh no, yes. Well, he was arrested for working at a church. He was singing in a church! Oh, it was a crime to go to church...for a Communist to go to church, yes. And if anybody was known to be a Christian, they were...they were in the ranks, you know? They’re not just an ordinary person. He was a Communist, supposedly. And so, then after a while he...they couldn’t stop him from singing so they let him out. But he could not get a job anywhere. He was dismissed from the army, and of course a dismissed servant...nobody wanted to hire a dismissed....And we were all praying that the Lord would open a door for him. Well Ms. Pong’s niece, who had gotten to know him better than most Chinese get to know others, because her aunt was right there the whole time, said, “You know, I have a little piece of land of my own. And I don’t have a husband.” And, so it was arranged that he’d marry her. And of course, the Communists didn’t pay any attention to that, she was just a....And so he continued being a Christian, and with his wife and had a little piece of land they could farm, and I suppose they got on alright. The last I heard they were doing fine. So that’s the way He took care of Chawthao.
SHUSTER: Did you see the three-self movement have any impact of the church in Kunming during the time you were there?
OWEN: I doubt it. I don’t remember anything...while I was...while we were there. There were three big churches. There was our church, [Chinese term] The Holy Trinity Church, there was the Methodist church, a big Methodist church, and there was a good-sized Anglican church. Those were the three big churches. And all the time we were there, there was still pretty much people going. They just...they realized, that...actually, the Chinese didn’t bother with just ordinary church going unless there was some political person they knew or some...at least, I did not while we were there.
SHUSTER: There was no sign of the development of the house church movement or anything....
OWEN: No, no, not at all. Everybody was in regular churches then. That came in the Cultural Revolution. That’s when the real...well you see, they worked on first on the business. Political, political was first. Then the business. And when they got that all consolidated, then they started on the religious, you see?
SHUSTER: What about within the missionaries themselves? I know that OMF [Overseas Missionary Fellowship] was starting in the ‘49,‘50 years, trying to debate if it should stay or if it should go. Was this debate going on in...among the missionaries in Yunnan?
OWEN: Yes, yes. But it was not among us, it was among the high-ups. And the thing is, as we wrote in what we thought about things. Our people were being questioned and harassed because we were there.
SHUSTER: When you say our people, do you mean the Chinese Christians?
OWEN: The Chinese Christians. Our people. They...they were being...like I said, “Who pays you, and how do you pay them? What are they doing here for?” And they were always having hassles. And we were a foreign organization. It was not so much we were Christian, we were foreign. I mean the Christian part came later, but the foreign part came first. And they...the mission decided after much prayer, that it was not to the advantage of the Chinese church for us to hang on. We weren’t...for one thing, they wouldn’t allow us to go out on the street preaching. That was out, completely they said. “None of that.” We couldn’t go from...you couldn’t even go to birthday.... But the first thing that was cut off with us was that Harry couldn’t go to the prison anymore. He wasn’t allowed. That was pushed out...right out. And then you couldn’t...you couldn’t go out on the...and you couldn’t open a street chapel anymore.
SHUSTER: You couldn’t go to a street chapel?
OWEN: No, because that was on the street and everybody could see that. The Christians wanted to go in the church, that was another thing. But they weren’t going to have anyone else influenced. They didn’t want the gospel to be spread.
SHUSTER: A street chapel was what, like a lean-to that you stood in and preached in?
OWEN: Right. We had a...no. The front of almost every church had an open big room with a...with these doors that shut.
SHUSTER: With three walls, and the fourth open to the....?
OWEN: Yes. The fourth wall opened into the street...
OWEN: And the inside wall opened into the church. And if we got a crowd would get open all that sides and sit all before. But you see, we weren’t allowed to open these outside walls and preach. That would be subversive, you know. People might hear. If the...if the people wanted to hear, they could go inside. That was their idea. And they didn’t want anybody to hear that they didn’t want to hear. And so we got...the whole mission, everybody in the mission got a telegram on the last day of 1950. “Our...our position here is untenable. We are not able to do what we’ve come to do, and we’re an embarrassment to the Chinese. We must withdraw.” And so in 1951, I think the last one went out in June. But now, as much as they wanted to get rid of us, they made it as difficult as possible to get rid of us, you know. You had to go through...that’s where I got my personal interview, where...to get my exit visa.
SHUSTER: Why do you think that was?
OWEN: Because they wanted to make it as difficult as possible.
SHUSTER: Why was that?
OWEN: I don’t know. But that’s...that’s...that’s their policy. They wanted to prove...they kept trying to prove that we were spies. Now for instance, when they...when they asked me, “When did you decide to go to China?” I said, “When I was three years old.” They couldn’t accuse a CIA [Shusters laughs] of...of...enlisting me then. And so...its just one of those things. They made it...they made everything as difficult as possible.
SHUSTER: Do you think the mission stayed too long or....?
OWEN: No, I think we left just at the right time. We stayed as long as we could without making them too bad. There were a few people who stayed on because they had...they had some responsible job that they wanted them to keep, I don’t know. Or they had some reason that they were allowed to stay of our mission. But the ordinary missionaries all left, that were just missionaries. If you were something else, you know, like the...like the tentmakers today. Usually they can go in if there’s not missionaries. And if one of our...some of our missionaries had some skill that they were using, they wanted to keep, well that....
SHUSTER: Such as an engineer or something like that?
OWEN: Yes, something like that. Or they had a position in a...in a...a certain job somewhere, you know, that they wanted...they needed them. I can’t think of anyone that I know, because I don’t know who are the ones that stayed. No one in our...nobody in our place stayed.
SHUSTER: Before we talk about your leaving, let me ask you a little about Mr. Owen’s work at the prison. Was that something that he started doing, or had that been done before he came?
OWEN: No, it hadn’t been done before he came. But somebody...someone who was imprisoned for political reasons. But they said this...”We’d like to”...I think they wanted to learn English too, but I don’t think that was it. They told...told the Christian authorities that they should have some...not entertainment, but something to educate them. And they suggested that Mr. Owen, because they had heard him. And so....
SHUSTER: They had heard him before they were imprisoned?
OWEN: Yes, before they were imprisoned.
SHUSTER: They heard him teaching the Bible?
OWEN: Yes, he was already teaching English. So they thought that, anyway. So he was invited in. And he found...he went...right taking it. It wouldn’t be much of anything, he didn’t think, but a few people....And just half the group...the whole room come. And I guess he had different rooms. I don’t know, I never was in because I was a woman. But they just said, “Oh, this is...that book is excellent! Can we get some?” “Yes,” he said.
SHUSTER: That book being the Bible?
OWEN: Yes! That’s what he read, probably. The only book he took in. And so, he said, “Well I can get them for you. But do you have any money?” “Oh yes, we’ve got money.” They, you know, they all had money from somewhere or another. So he sold, I don’t know, maybe twenty or thirty Bibles in the time he was there. Different ones. And they were really...and when he’d come back, they’d have all kinds of questions. Oh this...and what about...and what about. And he would be glad to explain it to them, you know and give them the Gospel.
SHUSTER: Do you recall what kind of things they asked him about?
OWEN: No, I don’t because I wasn’t there. He just said I ask questions. He just said I answer them. And he said [pauses] they wanted to know what this meant or what that meant, you know. And or...there were quite a few conversions and some of them he...he baptized after they...after they came out of prison. One of them had been a most ardent anti-Communist. And of course...no, it was the anti....
SHUSTER: He’d been anti-Communist and the Kuomintang put him in jail?
OWEN: No, I don’t know that he was...well he was a...he wasn’t a...he wasn’t a Nationalist, he was a....
SHUSTER: He was a pro-Communist?
OWEN: No, he wasn’t a Communist either. He was a...he was all for a revolutionary thing. He was...I don’t know what he was....
SHUSTER: He was a revolutionary but not a Communist.
OWEN: He was no...he was against everybody I think [Shuster laughs] But anyways, he was...
SHUSTER: An anarchist or....?
OWEN: But he wasn’t that way. He was...but he just felt that the whole government was wrong. I don’t what he...I don’t remember that part of it. I just know he came to our house several times for meals after he got out of prison...after he was let out. And also that he was a very tall, big...oh, he had been...now I remember, he had been an ambassador to Germany.
OWEN: For the Nationalist government. And that’s why he was imprisoned. Because he....
SHUSTER: By the Nationalists?
OWEN: Well, it was...it was before the Communists because the Communists shut the....I don’t know how....
SHUSTER: Well it might of course, if he was an ambassador to Germany, maybe he’d been too pro-German.
OWEN: Yes, or something. It could be that. I don’t know what it was. But anyway, I don’t know why he was in prison but I know that he had been an ambassador to Germany. And he was a big, tall fellow and very good Chinese.
SHUSTER: You don’t happen to recall his name?
OWEN: No, not now. I used to know it but I don’t now. But he was a very, very likable man. He was the one when he was baptized he said “Mr....” and he saw Lee Ron take our Stephen in his arms, he said, “Mr. Owen should have taken me in his arms.” [Shuster laughs] And he was huge! Would have swallowed....but anyway, he was wonderfully saved. And then when the Communists were coming, then he escaped for sure. But he was caught later and killed, we heard that. He was...it was starting something. He wasn’t a Nationalist, and he wasn’t a Communist. He was something in... something that was aganst people. But anyway, he was...he became a fine Christian and led a lot of people to Christ before he died.
SHUSTER: Did...were there Christians already in the prison? Or were these mainly people who had been converted when Harry....?
OWEN: I...I think there was one in there that told them about Harry, I’m not sure. That he did...that he’d done some minor thing. That all of...they’re mostly political things. And so I don’t know...I don’t know how they got in there or how they knew about him. But he was asked to come. And he went every week for months and months.
SHUSTER: Did the Kuomintang make any difficulty about him going in and preaching?
OWEN: No, no, the Kuomintang they knew...said that people...Christians kept, you know, they didn’t as long as they weren’t Communists they weren’t...they weren’t subversive like the Big Man was. I don’t know. But anyway, he went and then they...I know that they....he never got to go back. But of course all the prea.....
SHUSTER: He never got to go back once the Communists came in?
OWEN: Once the Communists came in, no. He said they said, “We have our own education progran.”
SHUSTER: Anything else that you want to say about your years in Yunnan?
OWEN: Any [pauses] the war affected us. We were so far from the center of things.
SHUSTER: The war between the Communists and the Kuomintang?
OWEN: Yeah...that...and the Kuomintang. I mean and the Kuomintang was retreating so fast, that there really wasn’t much conflict back then. They went out the back door, a lot of them went over to Taiwan, some went into Burma, some just disappeared into the woods. I mean its...there wasn’t a...One thing we saw the difference. The difference between the equipment of the Kuomintang as they marched out and the...or as they leaked out. They didn’t march out, they just went out quietly. And the Communists as they marched in, they had so much better clothes and....
SHUSTER: The Communists did?
OWEN: Yes. And they were much better disciplined, there’s no doubt about it. They’re a much better disciplined army. One thing we heard from several people that when the Kuomintang came in, people could be looted or.... [tape recorder turned off and on again]
SHUSTER: You were saying the discipline among the Communists was very good.
OWEN: Yes. In the army was very good. They had a...they were very disciplined army. You saw them anywhere they...they...you never saw them drunken on the street or rousing or doing anything like that. That’s one thing, of course, the Communists were strong on is that they were...they were morally strict and all, and that sort of thing. Now then the...what else about that?
SHUSTER: What about your trip in which you left Yunnan? Can you describe that? When you left Kunming and went to....?
OWEN: Oh, it was ghastly. Although my hus...son who was seven years old at that time said, “Oh it was wonderful, we didn’t take off our clothes for two weeks.” [Shuster laughs] But anyway.....
SHUSTER: How did you travel? By train or by....?
OWEN: Oh, by plane, by boat, by train. And just...oh, it was a ghastly trip as far as I’m concerned. I told...this is one of the things I told you about. People wanted to know all about it and I.... We went, we were told supposedly ten days before we were to leave, to be ready to leave, we could take just ten pieces of clothing...of baggage. And meanwhile, we had already... my husband had already set out with the last mission plane that went out with a footlocker of his best theological books. They sent them to the mission in Vancouver, and the ship was going to Vancouver. But he sent the plane to Hong Kong and Hong Kong to Vancouver, and we got a break on.... We also mailed out the children’s best books. We could mail out small books, up to...so about...but my books were neither theological nor children’s, so they were just left there. I don’t know how they aged. [Shuster laughs] But, anyway, we also had sent...we had disposed of...we had all kinds of...even when we knew they were coming, even before we knew we would have to go toward the last. When they knew we were going to be sent out. It was common knowledge, as we were already being told by different ones. We gave..and we gave...the Chinese women said to me, “Don’t give things. Everybody will say, ‘You gave her that,’ and you can...but, sell them real cheap.” So I sell all my children’s clothes at that they outgrown for a nickel or five cents in Yunnan, or twenty cents. I didn’t want tosell them at all but this way, nobody could say that I gave it to them. I didn’t show favoritism. That was the thing. They didn’t want to be....
SHUSTER: Was that because it would cause dissension in the church, or it would look bad to the Communists?
OWEN: Yes, yes. No, it was because of dissension in the church was the thing. I mean...”you didn’t give it to me, why did you give it to her.” This way I didn’t give it to anybody. We did give to the church. We gave our organ to the Prago [?] Church and they carried it up country. And we gave our [pauses] electrical things to people in...to the church generally. To groups, I mean, not just to individuals. And we disposed of a whole lot of things. And then there were a whole lot of things that nobody wanted to buy: hats and underwear and kind of dresses that nobody wanted to wear. And I put them all in the trunk upstairs and when three of my deaconesses came I said, “There’s a trunk upstairs that’s full of stuff. If you can find anything in there to use, use it. And take it.” And it was empty. Everything...they could use the material, even you know, and that.
OWEN: So I was glad of that. And then...I had...originally, I had thought of ten pieces to fill, and I realized I had to have some bigger. So I hadn’t said what size of pieces, just ten pieces. So I traded up a small suitcase for a big one so I could put more in. And we packed everything that we could take. I didn’t take any of my clothes. There was no point in me to. It was out of style. I just had something to wear down the thing and like...I was...and a suit to wear when I got on the board ship. And I could buy it in Hong Kong, whatever. And we took the children’s clothes for enough for a month. We got new when we got there. And Harry of course just wore his suit and had another suit, that was all we took. But the books we’d gotten rid of. Now we tried to take up everything that would be suspicious and one of the things that’s suspicious is writing. And Harry had a prayer list in his Bible of the people that he prayed for everyday. And that was examined four times, and they looked, “What is this?” “These are the people I pray for.” “Where are they?” “All over the world.” Well, they...they didn’t know that so they said....they gave it back. But anyway, finally he tore the list. He said, “I can remember that.” He said...no...but I had a one dollar bill overstamped “Hawaii.” Great big letters. And they couldn’t figure it out. Everytime we had to show what money we had. And we didn’t take any money. That’s the only dollar bill that we had.
SHUSTER: And you had that as a souvenir, or....?
OWEN: Well, we got it when we came through Hawaii. Just one of those things that was still there, hadn’t had any chance to use it. Everytime they gave it back, “That’s no good!” [Shuster laughs]. And I used it in Hong Kong when we got there. [Shuster laughs]. And then...when we’d go...went to the airport, they confiscated my husband’s typewriter. And they opened all our bags. Our baggage was inspected thirteen times between Kunming and Hong Kong, before it got to Hong Kong. I think Canton was the last. We had...they took out my...one place, I don’t know which it was but they took out my old-fashioned fountain pen (that had the little rubber tube?)
OWEN: Unscrewed it, and squeezed it. [Shuster laughs] I said, “What are you looking for?” “Gold nuggets, as if you didn’t know.” I thought, “Gold nuggets in ink!” But anyway...and they took...but they took my husband’s typewriter. And he said, “But I have a permit to take it,” which he did. But it was from somebody else and they didn’t...they said, “Well, you...you...somebody will collect it for you.” But they never got it. And they also took one...two things he was really sad about. He had picked up in his many walks around various places in the country two broken pieces of metal that he was sure were quite historic, you know. They were...some had printing and stuff on it. And he was going to give it to the British Museum. And he thought, “Oh, it would be so fun to have something, you know...[in the British Musuem]? They wouldn’t let him take it. And they collected all that. So....
SHUSTER: Did they consider them Chinese antiquities to be kept in the country or were they just....?
OWEN: No, no, they wanted it for making...melt-down...and anything met...metal they took. So maybe they even took the typewriter apart, I don’t know. But anyway they collected that. And onetime we were on a...on a river dock at.... And they dumped all our stuff on the ground, on the dock and I had to repack it. It was 9:30 at or 10 o’ clock at night. Oh, I tell you it was the most tiring voyage. We went by airplane to Chungking and we didn’t get near our baggage but it had to be...happened again there. And then we had to wait for days to get a ship down to Yangtze [River]. And we had fifth–class only. That’s the...the Communist soldiers and citizen members got first class, and the mercantile lot they got second class, and farmers got third class, and fourth class was just any ordinary workers. Astrologers and missionaries and superstitious people got fifth class. And they gave...you got on the deck, and you had to find a place....We got a place long enough for my husband and me to lie down. And over to the deck, that little space. And we put the two children in the mid...inside, and then I had all three children between us. And I was on the out...no, Harry was on the outside and I was on the inside. So at night we would be protected. Cause they...and they didn’t have proper railings, they just had a bar here and a bar there. And we had a two-year old. And so we had a long privo belt that we tied around his waist and... with two handles. And one of us, either Harry or I, held on to that all the time. Because we didn’t have to be walking. We would just sit down and wait here to sleep. But we kept...we didn’t let him loose because he could have gone under that...
OWEN: ...just as quick as anything.
SHUSTER: Sure. So what was the date you actually left China? Do you recall?
OWEN: We left on the 23rd of January.
SHUSTER: That’s when you left Yunnan? Or....
OWEN: Yes, yes. And....
SHUSTER: And when did you....?
OWEN: And we got to Hong Kong in March. We left March in...we left...I think we left March 23rd there. I think it was just about two...two months. I don’t remember...the reason I remember we left on Norman’s birthday [Shuster laughs] That’s how I remember that. And we...the...but the...now, that’s part of the trip is Norman said, “Did you have an awful trip?” He said, “Oh, no. It was wonderful. We didn’t have to take off our clothes for two weeks.” [Shuster laughs] That’s a seven year old’s idea.
SHUSTER: When you got back, you arrived in Vancouver? Is that right?
OWEN: No, we arrived...our stuff went to Vancouver but we arrived in San Francisco.
SHUSTER: San Francisco.
OWEN: And our...my parents met me with a car to take us back to California.
SHUSTER: Now the mission was kind of in limbo for a period.
OWEN: Yes, yes.
SHUSTER: What...what did you do when you came back?
OWEN: Well, the thing is we first started...we said, “Harry’s an ordained minister.” And I thought we could take a church. But before we had...the mission said, “You have three months furlough. But if you don’t....we’ll pay, you know, you’ll get your regular pay.” But they...they apologized and said, “We can’t support the whole mission, you know, at home.” And we said we all understood that. And so we were...we had seen several advertisements about churches. But before we had a chance to do anything, Wycliffe Bible translators came to Harry and said, “We’d like you to be our...our executive here in Glendale.” They wanted an administrative officer and they knew he had been. So he had been in before, and he had been in China. And they knew he also had been in mission business. So he went in as an executive secretary and a Wycliffe Bible translator. And they asked me to edit the translation magazine. I did that for a year and a half. And we moved to Glendale from my folk’s home in Santa Ana. And they had...we got a mission home in the mission colony there. And we went to...we still went to my church in...my...it wasn’t Harry’s church, because he had become a pastor and had never joined a church. It was Montecito Park Union Church, and that was close enough so we could go there. And I resumed my Bible class that I had for years. And it was very nice. And the children went to school, a little school within walking distance, we were in a mission colony. We got... became very good friends with Nathan Saint and his wife.
SHUSTER: Oh, who was with Mission Aviation Fellowship.
OWEN: Mission Aviation Fellowship and the Ruhls from China.
SHUSTER: And the who’s from China?
OWEN: Ruhls. R-U-H-L. They were CMA missionaries from China. And other missionaries came and went, but those were the ones that stayed as long as we did. And then, to our surprise the mission said....
SHUSTER: This was CIM?
OWEN: Yeah. Said, “We need Harry. We’ve got to...we need somebody to...that could speak to represent, to all this to people, you know.”
SHUSTER: This was after the mission was reorganized.
OWEN: No, it hadn’t been.
OWEN: But it was in the process of being. We were still going to be...and then, maybe part of it...yes, I think maybe it was. I think it was after we were reorganized and they wanted to.... So anyway, and meanwhile we couldn’t stay there, where we were. But my mother had died in ‘53. And see we were in, in Glendale from ‘51 to ‘53.
SHUSTER: On that the staff of Wycliffe?
OWEN: On the staff of Wycliffe. And then in ‘53 in September, we moved back to Santa Ana to live with my father. See my father said, “I’ll give you a home and they won’t...you won’t have to have any rent.” So that was nice, you see, and it would help. And then another thing, Harry was going to be gone all the time and it would be nice....
SHUSTER: So you would become the representative...the far west representatives of the mission?
OWEN: No, they were still in Los Angeles. We were just going to represent Orange County. And Harry was going to travel. He wasn’t home but a week at a time, or a month at a time. He went across the continent four times in those years. He was in conferences in Minneapolis and Minnesota, and in Winnipeg, and in everywhere. Anywhere they needed a speaker.
SHUSTER: So he was...and he was speaking about the mission?
OWEN: About the...about the...he was...he...he.....
SHUSTER: And recruiting people?
OWEN: And...and yes, and also he was giving a recount of the last days of China. And also giving a recount of what we were hoping to do. And also giving a Bible messages, I mean, just preaching. Lots of places wanted a convention speaker that could do both. He spoke...oh, all over. And I had a lot of that time. Of course, everyone wanted to hear about China. So...
SHUSTER: You had speaking engagements too.
OWEN: I had....oh, yes.
SHUSTER: What kind of groups did you speak to?
OWEN: Oh, mostly missionary societies. Women’s missionary societies. Although I did speak to PTAs [Parent-Teacher Associations], guite a few PTAs. And the...they came about because I had children in elementary, in junior high, and high school. I had three children in school there. And I went to the PTA meetings, and because they saw I was interested, I was elected an officer at all of them. And the office I was given was what they call in PTA character education. Its what you call a devotional, really. But I mean its something that’s inspiring and lifting. Of course I used a lot of my China illustrations. And then out of that....
SHUSTER: And would be speaking to parents mainly?
OWEN: Yes, just to women mostly. Hardly ever a man that came to a PTA meeting. But...the...the women in the...from various churches, who, of course, were mostly Christians. But I had many times which I had a real good opportunity, of course, without preaching, just to give a testimony about the Lord’s goodness of this and that. And they would said, “Will you come and speak to our women’s ministry?” And I said, “Gladly.” So I had just loads of invitations. And it was really good, because....and then I...because I was...in fact, one of the best invitations I had was the president of the elementary PTA became my very good friend. And she said, “I want you to come to our Christmas meeting, our December meeting, and give the true meaning of Christmas.” Which was wonderful. I preached the Gospel, nothing else I could do. And she was very pleased that I did. And actually though, I couldn’t have gotten away with it I don’t think today. But in that day they weren’t quite so anti-Christian. And they also...Santa Ana was not too bad of a town, you know. And then I...when junior high that I was doing it, I was...our children all went to high school, were in high school. And at the high school, I spoke...I had lots of opportunity. They asked me... They asked the questions right there, while I was speaking sometimes. And because I was on the high school PTA, I meant, not the high school, the city PTA, that was city PTA. Then I was invited to be president of the high school PTA. Which I didn’t have much chance to talk, but at least I was there.
OWEN: And people would know about it, and I’d have opportunities. So really I had a real good time of witnessing in all kinds of places and giving missionary messages. And then besides that I led three monthly Chinese...China OMF. Now by that I meant OMF prayer meetings. One in each.
SHUSTER: In Chinese?
OWEN: No, no. And for the prayer meetings...we have OMF prayer meetings all over for prayer....
SHUSTER: For China missionaries?
OWEN: For...for China missionaries...for...for the people who pray for China missionaries.
SHUSTER: Oh, for...for supporters of missionaries.
OWEN: Yes, that’s right. We had one in Long Beach, we had one in Santa Ana, we had one in where was the third one it was in Orange County. Oh, and in....
OWEN: No, Irving. It was a little town, there’s somebody there. But we had really good opportunities. I felt very...I was very...of course, I had three children. And I had no servants. And I had to cook meals and do this. And I had some very interesting experiences during that time too. It was very weird. And my father was very lonely after my mother died. She died in September, in ‘23....in May, May of ‘53. And we moved in September ‘53. My sister was there during the summer, but she had to go back to Mexico. And then [pauses] he was...he got very ill and was very depressed. And I said, “Dad, you should go across the continent and see our sister who’s in Washington D.C.” So he said, “Oh, that would be a good idea.” So he planned out an itinerary to see old friends of the families. I realized later he went to see five widows among the lot [Shuster laughs]. I mean, I didn’t think about that. But one of the widows he stayed three days long than he planned to. And when he came back he said, “You know, Mabel has never seen California.” She was Mother’s dearest friend. And her...she’d been a widow for ten years or so. And so he said, “Don’t you think you should invite her out here?” I said, “Yes, I should.” [Shuster laughs] So I invited them, watched them court, and they married and that was fine.
SHUSTER: Now how long were you...were you not then the OMF representatives in California really but....?
OWEN: No, we were just members of the OMF. With a....
SHUSTER: And Harry was speaking around the country?
OWEN: Yeah, he was the....I was the unofficial or official representative in Orange County, I did.
SHUSTER: Now at what point did you move to Chicago?
OWEN: Oh, that was a long time after that. Because in 1958, after the...my father had already died. And the...my stepmother had gone back to Texas. He had married again in ‘55, and then he died in ‘58 and he went back to...she went back to Texas. Then they asked us if we could go back and take the Los Angeles home again.
SHUSTER: Oh, the Los Angeles guest home.
OWEN: Yes, we were there from, let’s see, ‘42 to ‘46 and then again from ‘58 to ‘64. And that was like coming home because we had so many friends there. And we loved it. We thought we were there for life. And when Harry came home from the officers’ meeting, I knew by his face we were going. I said, “Where are we going?” He said, “Chicago.” I said, “I’d rather go to Timbuktu.” [Shuster laughs] But that eight years were wonderful. They really were.
SHUSTER: What...what made them wonderful?
OWEN: One thing made them wonderful was that we had so many opportunities that we hadn’t thought we could possibly have in Chicago. The doors just opened up one after another.
SHUSTER: Such as?
OWEN: Well, one thing we went to prayer meetings. All the OMF prayer meetings. We had seven in that area, from Indiana to Wisconsin.
SHUSTER: No, I was talking about I guess the L.A. home?
OWEN: In L.A....in L.A.... oh, in L.A. we had prayer all...he just...Harry would just have a...hardly ever have a Sunday home and free.
SHUSTER: Was he continuing to speak around the country or was he in the L.A. area?
OWEN: No, no, he was the L.A. area. Well the whole...he had the whole southern district which is New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
SHUSTER: A large area.
OWEN: And he...yeah, that’s a large area even then. And then occasionally he would be called to some big conference. Some part like over in Texas. But he loved that too.
SHUSTER: So you both managed the home or....?
OWEN: I...I managed the home. He did...he’d just...he’d take care of the business part of it, but I managed the home. I mean, he’d take care of the business part of it, but I did the....
SHUSTER: What were some of the responsibilities involved in that, you know?
OWEN: Well, to that...to meet all the ingoing and outgoing missionaries, and put them up. And chaperone them, and take them shopping, and tell them where to get thing...clothes when they just came home, and tell them where to get their tickets and that sort of thing. Although, Harry did that, usually. I went to...if he was there, otherwise I did it. But also we had a...about six regular prayer meetings that I led from Pasadena to San Diego. So....
SHUSTER: And San Diego’s what, about three hundred... about a three hour drive, now.
OWEN: Yes, but I only went there about once every six months, they had a special meeting. But I went to Pasadena every month, to Glendale every month, to Hollywood every month, to (let’s see where the others were) out in the valley once...once a month. They were all monthly prayers meetings that I went to. And I would lead them and take the letters. We...any of these OMF prayer meetings we had a standard procedure, like we have out here. You take a bunch of letters of the thing you’re going to pray for that day. And you have a devotional at the first or read your Bible and pray. And then you read a letter, and someone prays for it, and you read a letter, and someone prays for it.
SHUSTER: Letter for a missionary about their work.
OWEN: Yeah, about their work. And we had one in our home after we retired in [unclear]. We still had one. Just a....
SHUSTER: You had a prayer meeting?
OWEN: We had a prayer meeting. We had a different one. We still went to two others but we still had one of our own. And Harry led them until one day he read a letter and I knew that he’d....when he had Parkinson’s so bad, I knew they weren’t understanding it because his crisp speech had just slurred and slurred like Parkinson’s does. And he always moved before everybody else, as soon as everybody else. And when I prayed for that letter because I knew nobody else could understand it. But I thought to myself even as I prayed. I thought, “I can’t pray for all of them.” I knew that one because I read it myself. But he handled me the letters. He could just say a few words of them. And he never lead a prayer meeting. And he never prayed aloud after that except just the two of us. He...he wouldn’t say the blessing if we had company there. But we would sit and pray, the two of us. And suddenly he’d reach over and touch me. Speech wouldn’t come. He’d lost....I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t even understand him at the last at all. It was very, very.... But it was peaceful. He didn’t suffer pain, I’m glad to say. And he kept on praying. I could see him sitting in his wheelchair. And he walked until the last month, but he died of cancer.
SHUSTER: How...how long did he have Parkinson’s?
OWEN: Eight or nine years. He just wasted for the last eight years, and that’s the only complaint he ever made. [whispers] “I can’t talk, I can’t talk.”.
SHUSTER: When did he die?
OWEN: He died in ‘84.
SHUSTER: When you were managing the guest home in Los Angeles, how many people would come through during a year? How many people would you....?
OWEN: Oh my, sometimes we had as many....One night, seventeen people arrived on our doorstep at 7:37 at night....
SHUSTER: I remember you told me that, yeah, I remember you mentioning that in the last interview.
OWEN: But we’d have...sometimes we’d have a whole lot and sometime we wouldn’t have any at all, I mean it depends.
SHUSTER: Over the course of a year, would you say that a hundred or two hundred....?
OWEN: No, we wouldn’t have two hundred. We might...between fifty and a hundred.
SHUSTER: Over the course of a year?
OWEN: Yeah, a year.
SHUSTER: And they were always coming and going, right? They weren’t....
OWEN: Yeah. They...they’d stay there maybe a week or....The group that came in seventeen, they stayed over Thanksgiving. That was ten days. And that was a job. I was doing all the cooking.
SHUSTER: So you always had to be ready for someone.
OWEN: Yes. We had stores on hand. During the summer of 1944, the year they came, I had canned two hundred quarts of pears [Shuster laughs] that were given to us. I had very good help in a retired missionary who retired three times. She retired as treasurer...assistant treasurer way back. Mary Brighton, she’s a remarkable character. About four feet two, and she had wanted to go to the mission, they said, “We need you more at the home.” And she was a whiz at math. Whiz at.... she did all our house accounts. So I didn’t have to do them at all until after she died. But she...she wouldn’t retire. She’d retire and then...she wasn’t living in the home anymore. She lived around the corner but she came over every day. And she looked after my sheets to be sure they were all mended and she looked after my accounts. And she loved to help me can. And so we would...and a lot of other....
SHUSTER: Loved to help you....?
OWEN: Can fruit. So that was one of our big things.
SHUSTER: And how did you come then to go to Chicago? I mean, why...why did that change come about?
OWEN: Well, the [Aden C.] Whipples who had been in charge of....It wasn’t that we weren’t as satisfactory as they are. But the Whipples didn’t want to be candidates secretary anymore.
SHUSTER: They’d been in Chicago.
OWEN: No, they were in Philadelphia.
OWEN: But they...they...they wanted the [R. Arthur] Matthews to be the candidates secretary.
OWEN: And Harry said that was a good thing. He said, “ I never would accept anybody.” He was so.... he said, “I’d be so strict there would never be any missionaries.” He didn’t want to be a candidate secretary. In fact, we were asked once before...long before that if we would be and he said, “I don’t think so. I’m a very....” He said, “I’d be...I’d have to fight with my conscience about that, you know.” He said. But it was different [unclear] the mission. That but....So anyways, if they’d moved up that....if they moved the Whipples...The Whipples didn’t want to go to Chicago.
OWEN: They wanted to go to California.
OWEN: And if they came to California, the Matthews would go to Philadelphia, and we were to go to Chicago.
SHUSTER: Where were the Matthews?
OWEN: They were in Chicago home.
SHUSTER: Oh I see.
OWEN: See, they were from...it was....
SHUSTER: The Whipples came to California, you went to Chicago, and the Matthews went to the office in Pennsylvania.
OWEN: Yes. And it was like a basket upset. And Harry was really a little bit dubious about it, accepting it. Although we’d always accepted whatever the mission had asked us. Because he said the suggestion came from Bill Todd [?] who was a Canadian. He didn’t know anything about it, why did this....But he just said that would be a good suggestion. But we decided that we’d always done what the mission asked us to do. And afterwards we were very glad. One thing....two of our children had already left home. Norman had...he hadn’t left but he was going. He had a Marshall Fellowship to England and he was going...he had graduated from college. And our daughter was already teaching and had moved into her own apartment. So they weren’t at home anyway. And we just had Steven. It was a terrible move for him, because he was going to be a senior...a junior in high school and....All his friends and he was very ardent in the church. And his church and his girlfriend, he’d always done lots of.... [Both laugh] So....Well, the two of them came and wept when we....Anyway, we moved and it proved to be a very, very wonderful move for all of us. I had a new kind of ministry. For one thing, we had...when I first went there we had a cleaning woman who did lots of work that I didn’t have quite such heavy work. And there weren’t nearly so many....
SHUSTER: Well you also had a guest home, though that you were in charge of?
OWEN: Yes, just a guest home. That’s what it was. The original center, the office....the manager is an office director and the woman is the hostess.
SHUSTER: And it was in Chicago?
OWEN: It was in Chicago. It was on Maplewood Avenue in the north. And we had...we had...every Monday night. (Not every Monday night) Every fourth Monday or first Monday night. No, first Monday night. We had a Moody private prayer meeting of student interested in Moody [Bible Institute]. That was started by the...by the Matthews. And then we had a prayer meeting on the second Monday night, a dinner meeting. Both of them were dinner meetings. And we had a dinner meeting for prayer partners, just a regular one. A prayer, only we had dinner because people came so late. The [Otto] Schoerner’s came to that [pauses] meeting. The... (Oh, who else was around then?) They...they were living in Chicago but they came from way down south Chicago to north Chicago. And we had very good meetings, very good meetings.
SHUSTER: You said you had a....a new ministry when you came to Chicago.
OWEN: I hadn’t had many of those. But I don’t know how I got started but...well I guess I do. We were speaking at...we were...Harry and I were both on this...on a program at Gull Lake Conference.
SHUSTER: At which conference?
OWEN: [Speaks slowly and loudly] Gull Lake.
SHUSTER: Gull Lake.
OWEN: In Michigan. And the speaker that week was Bruce (what’s his name)the pastor...
OWEN: Yes. And anyway, we went...I happened to lead the prayers at one of the staff meetings. And I don’t know what I talked about now but anyway, he went back to his women and said, “You know, you could get that Mrs. Owen.” And that was in Peoria, Illinois. So I was invited down there and then they invited me to another one. I went to five and preached in the first couple of years...second couple of years that I was there. And also I had....
SHUSTER: These were retreats for women?
OWEN: Women. Women’s retreat. One of the funniest things was that I went to one retreat as a speaker and we all...I slept in the same dormitory with all the ladies. But I had the lower berth nearest to the door. And that was just a courtesy to me. But the woman who was managing it had...had learned her way. And she realized she’d...she’d gotten up on her bed and the door wasn’t shut and the lights weren’t off. And she called down, “Mrs. Owen, would you turn off the lights and shut the door please?” And I said, “Oh sure.” and I got out of bed. And the next day a non-Christian woman who had just come and I was the speaker. “You asked the speaker just to get up and shut...?” She said, “Why not? Oh I didn’t think anything of it.” We laughed about it, Jean and I. She thought it was so funny. I went to that retreat twice in the five years...the eight years we were there. And then I went to several others. And then that was different role I had. And that was very nice. I liked that. I have...I’d have the Friday night, the Saturday morning, the Saturday evening, and Sunday morning. And you’d go home Sunday afternoon. And you would be....And you got to know people and got to....And then, of course, had lots of personal interviews too which was lovely.
SHUSTER: These were mission candidates?
OWEN: No. These were just members of the church. I mean, oh no. These were missionary society retreats. Women’s retreats.
SHUSTER: Oh, when you say personal interviews you mean just talking with them about prayer....
OWEN: Yeah. About prayer and about their life and about their problems and...oh, I...I can...and....
SHUSTER: So you were counseling them or....?
OWEN: Yes. Yes, yes. There were so many of them that hadn’t had the wonderful background that I had and didn’t know what it was like to have a...a Christian childhood, you know? And...or a Christian marriage. [Someone knocks on the door] Come in!
[Tape recorder turned off and on]
SHUSTER: So you were talking about the people that you were counseling at the retreat?
OWEN: Yes. And a...and you...and in a church service or even in a missionary society meeting, you don’t have much time to do that. On a retreat when you...when you have a....now since I’ve retired, I’ve had some more retreats out in California. And one of them was in a sense so sad. It was a retreat for GRB pastor’s wives.
SHUSTER: And GRB?
OWEN: General Association of Regular Baptists. They’re small churches, they’re narrow, they’re very de....and....
SHUSTER: Very strict.
OWEN: Very strict. And the stories that poured out to me till twelve o’ clock at night.... Parents...godly men probably, but they didn’t pay any attention to their family. They didn’t give any consideration to them and they were just.... And they respected their parents but their families...their wives had to do everything and all. And they...what to do about all this was just really hard., to comfort them and show them that the Lord could use them greatly even though...in that way and how it could be. But anyway, be that as it may....
SHUSTER: Could you...would you say that within OMF, for example, there was a different pattern for marriages?
OWEN: Yes. I didn’t find it...I don’t...I only remember one, and that was my senior missionary in.... And she wasn’t...and she was the kind that invited it. I mean, she was one of these wives that, “Oh, I have to ask Carl.” Everything she had to do...she had to...she couldn’t borrow a napkin without asking Carl. Oh I mean, that....
SHUSTER: There was more...but...but in CIM and OMF it was more of a partnership?
OWEN: Oh, oh yes. Very much so. ‘Cause most of us are both working.... well, for one thing, we both have to be accepted as missionaries. There’s nobody accepted as a wife. They have to pass as a candidate as a missionary before they could be married. In fact, in the old days you had to wait two years before you could be married. And so that was...So I had, I mean I had known a lot of that. But I had also seen a lot of small churches. It’s the narrow little churches that don’t have. And it’s the lack of money and you know, its just really hard. So anyway, when I left the leader of this Baptist church out in Hermit said, “Oh, it was so good. Will you come back next year?” I said, “I’d love to!” I was thrilled. I got a letter about a month later. “Mrs. Owen, I’m very sorry. But because you’re not a member of a Baptist church, we can’t have you.”
SHUSTER: Too bad.
OWEN: And I wrote her and I said, “I understand perfectly.” but I said, “My husband is a Baptist...ordained Baptist minister. But we don’t happen to belong to a Baptist...” [both laugh] But I mean, its that...its that narrowness of church that I think is one of the worst hindrances to the evangelical movement in America. Because there...and its not only Baptist, it’s the old Bible Presbyterians. My brother-in-law, Clyde Kennedy, was criticized severely by that denomination because he sent his children to Wheaton instead of to some Presbyterian college. I mean, Wheaton was out...and BIOLA. No you should send them to some Presbyterian. Well, of course, when I went out to China the church wouldn’t support me because I wasn’t going with....
SHUSTER: To be a Presbyterian missionary.
OWEN: Presbyterian missionary. And my husband wasn’t supported because he wasn’t a Baptist missionary. So we were unsupported all our time.
SHUSTER: Now, let’s see. You were in Chicago from ‘64 to ‘72, is that right?
OWEN: Yes, that’s right. Eight years.
SHUSTER: Eight years. And then how did you come to retire in ‘72?
OWEN: Well, because my husband was sixty-six. He could retire at sixty-five and they let him go one year extra. That was...we didn’t want to retire at all. We would have gladly stayed on. We were loving it. And they said, “You’re fine. But the rule is if you have an administrative position...” You see, we dealt with candidates. We dealt with a whole lot of...you were on the executive board of the United States OMF. I wasn’t but my husband was. And so when you’re sixty-five, you have to retire. And I think they’re relaxing that a bit now. But it wasn’t...at that time it wasn’t. And so they said, “We’re sorry, but you’ll have to go.” And so a couple from the field were brought in a [unclear] to take the place. Gerald and Helen Haynes, they took over from us. And we...we said, “Have you got another place where you was...” Now if you’re on the field, you don’t have to retire at sixty-five.
OWEN: Or if you’re not in an executive position. But in an administrative position you have to retire at sixty-five. The funny joke about that is when that rule was passed, both Robert Glover [director of the United States branch] and Aldis...Warren Aldis [director of the British branch] were over sixty-five, and they helped pass the rule. And then when people said well now they will have to, “Oh, it doesn’t mean to us!” But it was really put in there for them because they were getting a little, you know, set in their ways and things. [Shuster laughs] So anyway, we said, “Have you got any place that you can use us? It just a...in just a leading prayer meetings or something.” They said, “right now, every place is filled. You don’t kick somebody out and put somebody in.” They said, “You go wherever you want, but represent the mission just as you always did...just as you....” Well, we went back to California. It was a nice....For one thing, our daughter was there teaching school. My two widowed sisters were there. And we had a lot of contacts with churches that would invite us to preach and they did. Harry filled two pulpits for nine months. Just the morning, you know, just to fill the pulpit. But at different times. But before.... And we thought we were going to have a really excellent time out there of ministry. And the first...one of the first weekends we went out, we were invited by an Orthodox....Harry had to laugh. He was...in one month, he was...spoke at an Orthodox Presbyterian, a big [?] Presbyterian, and a Bible Presbyterian. [Shuster chuckles] But anyway...and he was a Baptist. And actually, he spoke at Bob Munger’s church so often, that when Bob Munger left, several people asked him to candidate. He said, “I’m afraid I can’t. I’m a Baptist.”
SHUSTER: [laughs] So they didn’t realize that.
OWEN: Yeah. They hadn’t realized he was a Baptist at all. But anyway, when we...they said they didn’t have any special place for us at that time, so we went to California. And it was a good thing we did. We had that first weekend in San Diego. We went on Friday night and spoke to a young people’s meeting. We had Saturday to sight see. We spoke for a special meeting on Saturday night and preached on Sunday. And I...I spoke to the children or the young people, and he spoke to the...preached the sermon. And we just had a good weekend. And we had some sight seeing in between. We got to see San Diego and Point Loma and all that sort of thing. Then the next weekend...or two weekends later, another Orthodox Presbyterian who heard about this called us to Santa Barbara. And we had another wonderful weekend...both times were just grand. And then...that...Harry had a heart attack. It wasn’t a severe one, but it was severe enough to not to take that sort of thing.
SHUSTER: Yeah, to cut back on his speaking.
OWEN: Cut back on speaking. And then, before long he had, he had a.....[unclear]
END OF TAPE