The Archives' first oral history interview was recorded with Andrew Wyzenbeek, taped at his home in Chicago on May 16, 1978. Topics covered included the immigration of his family to America from Holland a little after the turn of the century, a description of a Billy Sunday campaign, and Wyzenbeek's involvement in various evangelistic efforts in Chicago in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, including the early Youth for Christ programs led by Torrey Johnson and Billy Graham.
Since then, the staff has recorded hundreds of hours of interviews with 290 people. Most of these have been done by the full-time staff, although about three dozen were done by Wheaton College faculty or students working with the staff. All of the interviews deal with some aspect of the spread of the Christian Gospel. Well over half are with missionaries, who describe their work on every continent except Antarctica. We have also interviewed evangelists, broadcasters, chaplains, youth workers, and some whose ministry is unique to themselves. Most of these interviews have been with people from the United States and Canada, although each year we interview at least four Billy Graham Center scholarship recipients, including missionaries as well as church leaders from other countries, who have come to study at Wheaton College.
With each person, we talk about not only their ministries and their opinions on the current condition of the Christian church, but their entire life history from earliest childhood to the present, so that the interviews form a kind of collective biography of at least one segment of the church in the last half of the twentieth century. All of the processed oral history collections are available in the Archival Reading Room (see the photograph below) and they may also be borrowed through interlibrary loan.
Below are brief excerpts from some of the interviews done over
the years. We hope they will give you a feel for
the richness of the BGC Archives oral history holdings.
1978. Merrill Dunlop on the early days of radio evangelism: [Paul Rader] was one of the first broadcasters in the city. In 1924, I think it was, he went up on the top of the Wrigley building to make a test on broadcasting--they had some horns there. This resulted in his going on the air on the old Chicago station, WHT. Those call letters stood for William Hill Thompson back in those days, because Thompson had been one of the former mayors of Chicago. WHT was located in the Wrigley building.... They ran the wires out...and they set up a studio in...the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, which was out about six miles, you see. So Lance Latham and I would still go down to the old Wrigley building for our organ recitals, and we would have our ear phones on and know what was going on back at the Tabernacle so, when they announced us, we would be ready to play.... Sometimes we would even do a little feat that we thought was quite wonderful in those days. We'd have Floyd Johnson singing back at the Tabernacle and we'd accompany him at the Wrigley building. CN 50-T1
1979. Paul Stough describing an incident at a church in the Belgian Congo in the late 1940s: The elders met in my office every Thursday afternoon...to consider any of the problems. Now [laughs], I remember one time when a woman came to us. She said, "I got an accusation to make against the children of Bwana Stough." [She] said that one of the Stough boys "threw a piece of mud at me," and I think it hit her head. She was very angry about it. And the elders said, "Bwana, can you call the boys?" So we called the boys and the boys came in there very much subdued, I can tell you. They were, I suppose, ten or twelve [years old]. The old pastor said, "Did you do this?" And the boys said, "Yes." "Well, why did you do it?" " Well, she was calling us names and...so we threw this piece of mud." "Well, that was very bad, cause you shouldn't do that. If somebody calls you names..., you should go and tell your father, and your father will tell us and we will deal with it. But you mustn't throw mud around" [laughs]. I don't think our kids have ever forgotten that. They have been baptized out in the mud hole right along with the Africans, and...they were under the discipline of the elders [laughs]. CN 89-T2
1980. Paul Votaw describing the 1948 bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem: We didn't have any contact with the fighting groups except as they made inroads on the peace of our living. However, I was close to the King David Hotel at the time of the explosion, and I think a half hour or an hour later I would have been right across the street at the YMCA there.... And we were a distance of two or three blocks away, I guess, from the hotel. But those blocks were just an empty field behind the YMCA hotel.... So we felt the concussion of this explosion. It was just about twelve-thirty, lunch time. It slammed the doors, and the little servant girl carrying the food fell to the floor and practically fainted.... Our first move was to go to the roof...and look across. And we could see the dust and the debris going up and down. There were about seventy-five, if I remember correctly, who were killed in that incident.... The British were still [occupying Jerusalem]. The Zionists were active.... This kind of thing was going on all the time. CN 105-T1
1981. Carl Armerding recalling a meeting with Geraldine and Howard Taylor, prominent leaders in the China Inland Mission: I rolled the baby into Mrs. Taylor's arms. I said, "This is our youngest." "And what might...the baby's name be?" I said, "The baby's name is Geraldine, after you." "Oh," she said, "Howard," speaking to her husband, "I feel so flattered...; they named this little child after me." So she rolled her into Howard Taylor's arms, and there in the public patio of the hotel..., he removed his Homburg hat, put it down, knelt down on the pavement of that floor, and began praying for the baby. And you could see the men in the lobby taking off their hats when they saw this man on his knees with a baby in his arms [laughs]. It was a terrific testimony. CN 180-T1
1982. Robert Dean Carlson describing his earliest memories as the son of missionary parents in Tibet: In 1928 then, we went back and arrived there right in the middle of a very, very bloody Muslim rebellion. The area is a mixture of Chinese, Tibetans, Muslims, and tradition says that every thirty years the Muslims rebel.... My folks arrived back at the height of that and at that time moved across the mountains...into strictly Tibetan area, where there was a little bit more peace and security.... They were living in an area called the Tebu Valley. Tebu is a name for a number of Tibetan clans, rather hostile...to anybody. They love a good fight, feuding and warfare and robbing.... And it was there that we lived for a while in the little village of Dragsgumna.... Then, after a couple of years in Dragsgumna, they moved down the valley to the town of Denga because it was a little more centrally located. They were able to rent a house there because the man from whom they rented was having a fight with the rest of the village, and figured the most spiteful thing that he could do to the rest of the village was to rent his house to foreigners [laughs]. I don't know if they knew that when they moved there. But we lived there for a couple of years. CN 205-T1
1983. Herbert Downing describing a visit of ex-President Theodore Roosevelt to the ground breaking for an Africa Inland Mission school in Kenya in 1909: I was only about five years old.... Mr. C. E. Hurlburt (the general director) invited the white settlers of that area to come to the station at Kijabe for the purpose of meeting the ex-President and also for a time together with a luncheon. And that was quite a gala day, seeing the settlers coming in driving ox-carts.... Then before Theodore Roosevelt left the station, they laid the cornerstone for the Rift Valley Academy. There was a picture taken of that crowd that day and my sister and my father and mother and my baby brother were in it [there are photographs of the occasion on file in the Archives], but I was too interested in things that were going on behind the scenes [chuckles] to appear for the picture. CN 251-T1
1985. Filipino Glicerio Manzano, Jr., about missionary work in Nepal: There are some advantages and disadvantages in being an Asian in an Asian country. For one thing, the caste system is so strong and my facial features are actually of a...middle to low caste Nepali. So if you go to a government office or to a bank, they would sometimes regard me as...especially if I go in there and speak Nepali to them, then they would regard me as a low caste Nepali. But as soon as I speak English they would pay attention. So as a matter of personal policy, whenever I go to banks or to government offices, I make it a point to speak English first and then, when they know who I am, then I start building a friendship with them.... As soon as we build rapport with them, I think they find that as Asians themselves they relate easily to us, because sometimes they would confide things to us, things that they feel against other white missionaries. CN 321-T3
1988. Interview with William McElwee Miller about missionary work in Iran: It's, I think, much easier to get into a discussion of religion or spiritual matters with Muslims than it is with the average American. For instance, I was traveling along the road one day...and I saw over in the field a man who was threshing his wheat. ....When I approached, this farmer said to me, "What do you think of God?" That was his first question. ...And I said, "...We Christians call God our father." ...And he said, "No, you can't call God father because anything that you can think of, God is different from that." And...so...this farmer,...who I did not know, started a theological discussion right there. CN 387-T1
1989. Crawford Loritts, Jr., on the growing need for racial interdependence among Christians: And there's a lot of self-initiative as witnessed by Tony Evans and Dolphus Weary and Lem [Tucker] and Elward [Ellis] and others. We've done that. And so I think we're forging a new alliance. And [pauses] that's what's happening in our culture. By the year 2010 this country's going to be majority minority. White Evangelicals, whether they like it or not, they need us. It's not a question of whether, you know, it'd be a nice thing to team up and do something with one another. We are ...inexpendable commodities of one another's existence. ...This world with all the mess that's out there, the only solutions are going to be from joint partnership and...unity. CN 419-T4
1990. Michael Flowers describing his feelings about preaching: I feel when I am preaching the Gospel, God has given me a Word. I am obligated to declare that Word. Whether it is a hard Word, or whatever kind of Word it is, I must be faithful to my faithful God. And my burden, my desire when I am preaching the Word is to have God's approval. I would like to have the approval of my brethren, but that is a secondary matter.... I preach it to myself, and then I transmit to others what God has already done in my own life with the text and I share it with them. I have no fear of consequences. That's the work of the Holy Spirit.... I try to exhort them to come to maturity in Jesus Christ by total abandonment to Him, because one of my favorite expressions is, "God has no plans for us that will not put us in the highest place." So wherever God has designed for us, that is the only place to be. So how can you lose, having pleased Him? There is no way. CN 431-T2
1991. Sang Yan Yung, a BGC scholar, describing his earliest memories of his childhood in Korea: When I was four years old, my father said, "You are four years old. You need regularly to attend the church service." I remember that [laughs]. My home is quite far from my church. It is about one or two miles. There was no cars, no bicycles. Just walking [laughs]. For a four-years-old child, it is quite distant.... Every Sunday...actually, every morning [for prayer services].... Usually four-thirty every morning. CN 448-T1
1993. William Drury describing the street corner evangelism he did in New York City in the 1940s: We did things, you know, if you talked about it in the seminaries today, they'd say, "How crude, how crude!" .... No public address system so we'd go over and we'd look up at a skyscraper and yell, "Whatever you do, don't jump!" Five minutes, you've got thirty, forty, fifty people.... And then we would say, "Don't jump into the abyss of hell. Come to God tonight. Come to Jesus Christ. Let me tell you about what Jesus Christ can do for you." Another thing that we did, we took a fedora hat...and put a Bible underneath it on the street corner and then we'd walk around and just look at it, you know, three or four of us walking around and looking at it.... And you get a few more people and..., "So what are you looking at?" [Chuckles] "That's alive." "What's alive?" Point at the hat. "That.... Really is. That's alive." And you'd see the people gathering and then someone would go to pick it up and we said, "Don't touch it!" Get a couple more people, and then finally somebody would whip up the hat and grab the New Testament or the Bible. And, "The living Word of God; it's alive, you know, and the Lord Jesus Christ lives today," and you'd take off and go [with your street sermon]. CN 492-T3
1994. Geraldine Phillips describing her work as a Bible teacher in the hills of Kentucky in the early 1940s: We carried our water and cooked on wood stoves and split our wood, raised a garden, raised chickens, killed them and canned them for our meat.... The first couple years we walked or went by horseback every place we went. Later on we had a car, a Model A.... [The circuit of the schools she traveled to had] an area of about twenty miles..... The two and five mile ones we walked easily, but the further ones we went by horse or mule back.... And we had Scripture memory work and Bible stories.... If they learned twenty-five verses, they were given a Gospel of John.... If they learned a hundred verses, they were given a Bible. If they learned more verses beyond that, they could get a free week at camp.... I suppose there were fifty [children] in the closest one [school] and fifteen or twenty in some of the further ones, all different ages...all together in one room. CN 502-T1
1995. Nathanael Fawcett describing the end of the first night of a revival which broke out on Wheaton College campus a few weeks earlier: But at that point the people hearing the confessions were so exhausted...that it became more detrimental than beneficial. And I think [several people]...made the decision...to cut it off at six o'clock [a.m.] and reconvene.... It gave people time to maybe catch a few hours of sleep, and also to prepare, because as people were confessing, others would gather around them and pray for them, which was also one of the most moving things to me.... When it's been going on all night, you become exhausted. I mean, I speak for myself. I would put my head down on the pew in front of me to pray and I'd wake up five minutes later.... And not only was it physically exhausting, but you're dealing with deep emotions and...with...every aspect of your being, I mean, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and it's draining. It's as draining for those confessing as for those being confessed to. Acc. 95-50
The winners have been chosen for the essay contest reported in our January issue. Eden Tallon of Springfield, Illinois (pictured above), won first prize for " Elisabeth Elliot, My Evangelist." Second prize was won by Alexandria Yurica, of Los Angeles with her essay "Goforth: Man of Vision, Man of God." Congratulations to Eden and Alexandria! Well done to all those who entered! Here are excerpts from Eden's essay, which was partially based on interviews from the Archives:
Almost every day at 2:15 p.m., we turn on the radio at our house; and I hear a lady with a unique voice who speaks with wisdom. Sometimes her words are too big , and I feel like pulling out a dictionary. One day, I started thinking: "Who is that woman I hear every day on the radio?" I decided to find out!... Elisabeth was raised in a very disciplined household. Her parents loved her greatly and followed God's Word which says that a parent who loves his child disciplines him. The Howard family had devotions each morning after breakfast. They sang hymns, and Father read from the Bible. After the reading, the family knelt and prayed together. Even on Christmas morning, the family would not open presents before the family prayers....
Since Elisabeth's father was an editor, he was determined that his family would speak proper English. Whenever a child had a question about the meaning or pronunciation of a word, he would hand the child a dictionary and make the whole family learn the word....
At Wheaton [College], Elisabeth had three social dates. The first date was with Jim Elliot.... After college, Elisabeth and Jim Elliot left independently for Ecuador as mission workers.... Elisabeth and he decided to marry on October 8, 1953. In 1955, their daughter Valerie was born.
In that same year, a group of five missionary men, including Jim Elliot, made plans for contacting the savage Auca Indians of Ecuador. Everything appeared to be going well with this mission; but on January 8,1956, the five missionaries were brutally murdered by the Aucas. When the wives heard of their husbands' deaths, they sang the hymn that their husbands had sung before going into the Auca territory:
We rest on Thee, our Shield and Defender/ Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise/ When passing through the pearly gates of splendor/ Victors, we rest with Thee through endless days.
After Jim's death, Elisabeth and Valerie remained in Ecuador..., working with Quichua Indians. During the next two years, ...contacts were made with the Aucas; and in 1959, Elisabeth and Valerie moved in with the family that had killed the men. The killers said that they thought the missionaries were going to eat them....
I listen to Elisabeth Elliot almost every day on the radio. She is teaching me things about God's Word that will make me a wise Christian woman and mother when I grow up. Through her radio program she is still evangelizing our entire country, telling about the good news of Jesus Christ.
Volume 5, Number 3
The Archives of the Billy Graham Center is a division of Wheaton College which is charged with gathering, preserving, and making available for use unpublished documents and other source materials which relate to the history of Christian missions and evangelism.
Robert D. Shuster, Director
Paul A. Ericksen, Associate Director and Disaster Officer
Janyce H. Nasgowitz, Reference Archivist and Newsletter Editor
Wayne D. Weber, Archival Coordinator For further information or to subscribe to this newsletter free of charge, please write, call, or e-mail us.