to listen to an audio file of this interview (14 minutes)
This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview with Marguerite Elizabeth (Goodner) Owen (CN 534, T9) 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 June 2011.
Collection 534, T9. Interview of Marguerite Owen by Bob Shuster, June 14, 1999.
OWEN: 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 speaking. And then before long, he had... he had...I don’t remember how soon it was, but I’m sure it was... we know he had it eight years, but we don’t know how much before that....
SHUSTER: You mean Parkinson’s?
OWEN: Parkinson’s. But when he...when he was...just two months before he died, they found out he had cancer. He was coughing and coughing. And he went to his regular doctor and his doctor said, “You ought to see....” He was not a Parkinson’s doctor. A regular doctor. He said, “You ought to get an x-ray.” And then, the lungs...I knew something was up, he said, “When did you last have an x-ray?” I said, “We haven’t had an x-ray since we left Chicago. I said, “You don’t x-ray for Parkinson’s.” You know, we knew he had Parkinson’s at that stage. But he went to the...but the soon as he went there, to the hospital, they x-rayed him. And when I came in the next morning after he was x-rayed, and he mouthed the words [whispers] “cancer.” And he just beamed.
SHUSTER: Your husband did?
OWEN: He said...yeah, and he couldn’t write, but he could print and so....I still have that little note: “Like walking through a dark wood that may suddenly open to a bright clearing.” Parkinson’s is a dark wood that goes on and on, you get worse and worse and worse and you don’t do anything. And cancer, you’re translated to heaven.
SHUSTER: A release.
OWEN: Bright clearing. And he went. And when...he said, “I don’t want anything done. I don’t want chemotherapy, I don’t want radiation, I don’t want...I want to go home.” And he said, “You take care of me.” And I could. I ordered a hospital bill...bed from the company. And I took care of him. But he didn’t actually go to bed until the last to say...on the...on a Monday. He said, “[whispers] Bed” So, our assistant minister at the church there, David Kipner [?], came in and helped me get the bed set up and get him in to it. And a week later, Dave came over and took down the bed and took it. He was gone. He had left...he died on a....on a Sunday. And it was a very blissful Sunday, really. He woke up and I took.... He always read his Bible. But it...that...it was heavy that day, an NIV. So I handed him the New Testament it was too small. So I laid it down. And so then I came and read to him. And then after I read the Bible and prayed for a while with him, I started singing hymns to him. And I said to someone, “He never woke up.” So they said, “If I heard you singing, I wouldn’t wake up either!” That’s the kind of friends I have. [both laugh]. Anyway, he...I started singing about ten o’ clock. And I saw he had gone to sleep, and I thought he had just gone to sleep. And so I quit reading and doing my own reading, you know...
OWEN: ...sitting there. And then when it got to be almost twelve, I shook him and he didn’t move. So I called my daughter when she got home from church, and I said, “I think Daddy’s slipping away. I think you’d better come.” And so she did come over and he didn’t recognize her. He didn’t...he didn’t...from then on, he never....the last thing I...we heard was talking to him about...talking to him before I started singing, even. And then his two...my two sisters came and he didn’t know them. He just...he just laid there. And he looked like a corpse because he was very white-skinned anyway, and he had white hair. And he was on a white sheet. And he just looked like he’d been laid out to rest already, you know, just lying there?
OWEN: And a doctor in our church came over to see him, not his doctor but a doctor. And I said, “Is he suffering?” And he said, “Oh no. Look at him. His hands are just as peaceful and his face is peaceful.”And I said, “What’s that awful noise in his....?” A death rattle, and I didn’t know that. And he didn’t say that, he said, “That’s just a mechanical rattle in his...in his throat.” And it got louder and louder. And when our own pastor came after church that evening and prayed with him. he said...he said as he left the door, “Mrs. Owen, would you be offended if I asked the Lord to take him tonight?” I said, “No, I’d be pleased. He’s been asking me for six months to ask the Lord to take him home because he couldn’t do anything.” And I said, “That would be wonderful.” His wife told me later when he came in he said, “See Carol, we must kneel down right now....”
SHUSTER: This is what she said?
OWEN: “We must kneel down right now and ask the Lord to take Mr. Owen.” And he was gone before midnight.
SHUSTER: Mr. Herman?
OWEN: No, he was gone...[emphasizes] Mr. Owen.
OWEN: Mr. Owen before midnight. And he said., “And he was gone before midnight.” I told him. Very wonderful answer to prayer. And....
SHUSTER: How did that experience affect your own faith?
OWEN: Not at all. I thought it was...I was...I saw...I was at the deathbeds of four people in the space of five years. And I was glad that every one of them went. Not because I wouldn’t miss them, not because I didn’t love them. But my mother, because she knew she would suffer if she stayed alive because she had diabetes and she had recessive veins. And she was just suffering so much anyway. Harry because he could not work at all. My father because he had also suffered from cancer. He just had to have heavy pills. And my aunt because she had a brain tumor. And was...was...if she had lived she could never have done what she wanted to again. I was the last one of all four of those. And I...I just said, “Thank you Lord, they’re home.” I mean, the...one thing, all four of them loved the Lord. And all four of them wanted to go home. And none of them were leaving a small child or some work that needed to be done. Harry hadn’t been doing anything for months. My aunt had been two...two months in a...almost in a coma with this brain thing. And my mother had been...she...I said...she wouldn’t let anybody pray for her to get well. Everybody come to see her from the church. And she’d lift her hand and start saying things like [whispers], “To depart and be with Christ is far better” she had a tracheotomy, just could whisper. And she said, “I want to go home.” And I said, “But mother, Daddy will want you.” And he did. And I said...but she said, “I’m too old.” She was only seventy-seven and here I am, eighty-nine. But anyway, she was ready to go. She was well worn.
SHUSTER: Well, we’ve covered a lot in our interview today.
OWEN: I should say we have.
SHUSTER: I’d like to ask one more question if its alright. The missionary enterprise that you’ve seen over the last sixty years, how would you reflect on the changes you’ve seen, the....?
OWEN: I think a lot of them are very good. I think this turning...although actually, Hudson Taylor started out with self-supporting way back at the back. But with after colonial influencing, the...well, paternal attitude crept in. It had gotten back to all...almost all of....
[tape recorder turned off and turned on]
SHUSTER: You were saying there were two different types of aids....
OWEN: Two aids. Mission aid and mission...world mission associates. They will not support missionaries, they will not send out missionaries. They will just support indigenous mission.
SHUSTER: Will just support what?
OWEN: Indigenous...indigenous missions.
SHUSTER: In other words, Indonesians among Indonesians, and Japanese among Japanese.
OWEN: [Interrupting] And...but...now Christian Aid, I just... I pray for them. But I feel that they’re too bothered against missionaries. They say that...they write in their....I just had a letter, a brochure that they said that missionaries take a lot of equipment out. And I said, “Not all do.” Lots of missionaries are going out even today, to tribal people in the Philippines, and...that they have the simplest in life. And I just finished reading two books of our missionaries that are very, very good. The one is the... Beyond the Great Darkness and the other is The Broken Snare. And....
SHUSTER: And these are both by OMF missionaries?
OWEN: Yes, both...by Barbara Reed and Carol Stickley. And then...but I said, “I think on the whole the missionaries who go are doing a....a fabulous job. They really are living with the people more and more.” I mean, all of that paternalism and colonialism has filtered out. I don’t...I didn’t see any of it in the last...last term. I mean, there were a few maybe from some denominational missions. But when I went out, I went to a church...to a mission station that was called the “Millionaire Mission” of China. It was absolutely gorgeous. I think I mentioned it in my other tape.
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. Yes you did.
OWEN: But that’s very rare. And I fail to....
SHUSTER: Very rare nowadays.
OWEN: Oh yeah. Yes. Now its just not...I don’t know of anybody who does that now. But I think to go to these students and say, “We don’t need missionaries,” is wrong too. Because there never would have been these indigenous missionaries to go on if there hadn’t been missionaries who first called them. I mean, they had to...somebody had to start it. And in some places there was...there were.... And in some places there is nobody that’s willing to go on and pioneer cross-culturally. Although that’s one thing that I think is very wonderful. There now is an Indones...there are several Indonesia...Indo...Indo....
SHUSTER: Indonesian? Indigenous.
OWEN: Indigenous missions among the Koreans. There’s one in Indonesia, there’s one...two in the Philippines that I know of, there’s one in Japan, there’s one in Thai...now there’s one in Thailand that are organized by the people of that land to send out missionaries to other countries, and its very wonderful to see. And the...the reports that come in are just thrilling. And of course, what the Lord is doing in China is just something absolutely fabulous. I mean its just unbelievable.
SHUSTER: You mentioned of course that you went back to Yunan in...what was it, ‘88?
OWEN: Uh huh.
SHUSTER: ‘88. What was your impression of the church that you saw during that time?
OWEN: Oh, I went to my church and it was absolutely packed! And the person who was preaching that Sunday was preaching on (who’s not our normal pastor, although he was fine, but he wasn’t there) he was a visiting pastor from Sichuan. And he preached on “What Think Ye of Christ?” And it was absolutely excellent. He said...he said, “This one thinks this, and this is one thinks that, well, what did you give Christ?” [Chinese phrase]. I mean, he would.... He kept going back. “He said He was a Teacher. This one said He was a good man.” And he said, “Well, what do you say?” you know. And it was really very, very good.
SHUSTER: So it was an evangelistic message?
OWEN: Yes, an evangelistic message. And the church was packed! And there were the....
SHUSTER: Packed would be about a hundred people?
OWEN: Oh yes, more than a hundred. That church would seat about a hundred and fifty, I think. And it was...they were standing up. And I was taken up to the upstairs and....Well, I ...one my former students and he got a hymn book for me and I could sing right with them. And when they started singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” in Chinese I was just...I just was thrilled. Absolutely thrilled. I was a little bit....at the first, I went in before my friend came and took me upstairs. There was a country woman teaching them line-by-line some chorus . And she had a raucous voice and it was a.... And I thought, “Oh, this is terrible.” But she was just teaching the early comers. Then pretty soon, my friend came and took me upstairs. And here walked in a robed choir if you please, and walked up to the front and sang in parts! And a...and there was a...there was a bari....I mean, the whole sermon was...the whole service was very lovely. And it was just that...the...I shouldn’t have thought about it that way but....[Shuster laughs]
SHUSTER: Were there many that...you mentioned that you met three people from the class you taught.
SHUSTER: Were there many other Christians from your time at the church then?
OWEN: I think there were a lot there. I didn’t...I didn’t know them as well, some of them. And I don’t...I couldn’t always recognize them.
OWEN: I mean, I’m sure that two or three of them I saw were from the time. They spoke to me warmly and knew me. But I didn’t dare say their names, I’d forgotten you know. After all, it’d been forty-seven years since I’d been there, and that’s a long time ago. And I don’t think I would have known the...even the student if they hadn’t told me who they were.
SHUSTER: But you saw a church of devout believers.
OWEN: Yes, oh yes. There were...they were...of course, they were adult believers before I left.
SHUSTER: No, I said devout.
OWEN: Devout? Yes, yes. Very devout ones. Some of them really were and some people who’d been there longer and stayed in Kunming longer, I was just there the one Sunday. And also who were staying in the homes witnessed how much is going on. And lots of [unclear] people. I mean, all over the....everybody witnesses to the fact that there’s...they...they’ve just quit, in fact the Three-Self movement of the [Chinese phrase]. That’s the official Christian magazine. They report how many members there are, in the thousands. And a.....
SHUSTER: Thousands of churches or....?
OWEN: Thousands of churches and thou...hundred thousands of Christians, if you get them all, millions theysay. But I mean, we don’t exaggerate that much but we are...we don’t know how much. But there are just great crowds.
SHUSTER: Is there anything else you’d like to add or talk about or you know....?
OWEN: No, I just love to talk about China but I’ve talked enough. I think...I think its time for me to go to lunch.
SHUSTER: Oh okay Oh, I’m sorry. Well we’ll....
OWEN: It’s alright. Yeah.
SHUSTER: We’ll stop now. I just wanted to thank you for this interview and all the other interviews.
OWEN: Well thank you and....
SHUSTER: Its been a privilege to listen to you.
OWEN: Well thank you.
END OF TAPE