Here are some reports from 2008 visitors to the Archives on how they used our resources for their projects. In some cases the reports have been edited slightly so that all reports have a common format.
Dr. Miriam Adeney, Seattle Pacific University
I researched the papers of Sarah Belle Sherwood for my chapter on Iranian Christianity in my forthcoming InterVarsity Press book on global Christianity. From those papers I was directed to some of the women's mission magazines of the 1880s-1890s in the general collection of the library. While Sarah Belle's letters were helpful, the magazines were even more useful. It was awesome to glimpse the hopes and hurts and common sense and accomplishments and trust in the Lord of these sisters who stepped out at a time when the globe was so different. So much has changed, yet we have so much in common in our work for the kingdom and worship of the King. Unfortunately, because of word limits, we have had to cut that section from the book. I hope to publish it elsewhere sometime. Incidentally, I came to the Archives because of an announcement about Sarah Belle's letters posted on the door of the College dining hall. I had planned to come several times for other projects, but this poster propelled me.
Dr. Donald L. Bartel, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
My wife Joanne and I were in Wheaton in early October 2008 for her Wheaton Academy 50th class reunion. We took advantage of the visit to use the Billy Graham Center Archives to learn more about the relationship between her family and the China Inland Mission from the time her parents went to China in 1929 to the time her mother left in 1950. The family left in May 1942 because of the Japanese bombing in Kunming. Her father was then recruited by Chiang Kai-shek (through a Presbyterian missionary who worked closely with Chiang) to return to China with others to be liaison officers/chaplains/interpreters. He died in a truck accident in China in September 1945; Joanne’s mother returned with the children in 1947 and left when most missionaries were evacuated in 1950.
I came to the Center with rather narrow questions concerning the family’s departure in ’42 and Joanne’s dad’s return in ’44. We were able to explore substantial portions of the CIM papers at BGCA along with copies of China’s Millions. I left with more information than I expected to find (after only about 8 hours of work) and a much broader set of questions to explore. Much of what I am interested in from the CIM papers is available on microfilm; I am pleased that they are available to me through interlibrary loan.
I’ve never pursued a project like this so I was completely new to the process. The staff were extraordinarily helpful in getting us started and guiding us to the best sources. We thank all the people who made our time at the BGCA so profitable and enjoyable, and I look forward to further interactions as I pursue this project.
Dr. Floyd T. Cunningham, Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary
I was at Wheaton College for another conference and visited the Archives briefly to research Philippine Protestantism. I could not spend very much time, but I was trying to find out if there were enough sources regarding my research topic, post-World War II Philippine Protestantism, to merit another trip
back to BGC. There were some sources, but not as many as I thought. I am writing a book on the topic.
Philip Dow, doctoral candidate at Cambridge University, England
days working in the Archives I left feeling like the time was
very productive. My research is on the influence of American Evangelical
missionaries on US-Ethiopian relations from 1920 to 1991 (although
I also expect to discuss the present period in passing). I came
to the BGC Archives because I understood it to have the most extensive
collection of documents on American Evangelical missionary where.
More specifically, I wanted to look at documents from the EFMA,
IFMA, the Fellowship Foundation, and other organizations in which
faith and politics often overlap.
I would say the overall success of my trip was an 8 out of 10. I did not find anything that was a "home run" but I did find a lot of documents that will help me develop a well-rounded and balanced understanding of my topic. While the Hockman documents [Robert Hockman (1906-1935) was a missionary to Ethiopia and Collection 200 in the Archives contains the papers of himself and his wife Winifred] will only comprise a tiny portion of what I will write about, I found them genuinely gripping. There are a lot of missionary stories that deserve to be turned into screenplays, but the story of Dr. Bob Hockman is one that needs to be retold for our generation. I don't think I will be the person to do that, but I will applaud enthusiastically when someone else does.
It really was a pleasure doing work in the Archives and I hope to return again.
Dottie Hildebrandt, missionary to Kenya with Africa Inland Mission
As a third generation missionary with Africa Inland Mission, in Kenya, I thought I would like to find any 'tidbits' by or about my grandfather (Lee H. Downing) and my father (Kenneth L. Downing). My grandfather died the year before I was born, so I never knew him, but knew that he was a wonderful man of God. Grandfather and Grandmother went to Kenya in 1901 in the third party of missionaries to go with AIM. They had three children there. My dad went in 1933, my mother from Canada in 1935, and they married and had five children in Kenya. I went in 1968 (and Jonathan went later in 1968), and we met and married there, and had two children. Now one of our sons has been with AIM-AIR since 2000, and the second son is heading that way, as well. Hence my interest and quest!
I came to the BGC Archives, because that is where AIM has its USA branch records stored, so it was the natural place to hope to find things about/by my family. The other reason was that we are spending our last home assignment (after 40 years of ministry with AIM) in the Chicago area, so it was relatively convenient to get to the Archives in Wheaton. I expected to find letters written by my grandfather to the US Home Office because he had been a field leader for many years. So I hoped to find little comments with reference to his personal/family life mixed in with the mission business. I hoped there might be "prayer letters" written by him, as well. I also hoped to find things written about him, just to get some more insight into the kind of man he was. I hoped to get clues to the timeline of both Grandfather and Dad's various ministry positions, furloughs, etc.
What I found met my expectations. I did not find files under his name prior to 1929, but there were a number of interesting things from there till his death in 1942. I actually did not find so much on the personal side of my dad, but it may be because it is still early for the records to be handed over to BGC from AIM, since it is only 19 years since his death. But I appreciated reading documents about his period of being loaned by AIM to IFMA-EFMA [Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association-Evangelical Foreign Mission Association] to begin the African Evangelical Office. I enjoyed any and all tidbits, comments in letters, about both Grandfather and Dad's positive character and contribution to the Lord's work in their time. What a heritage!!
Grandfather wrote a pamphlet about finding "God's Plan for my life", which I had seen, read and found very helpful when I was seeking God's guidance for my life. What was a little surprising to me was to find perhaps the original printing of it, and then to find many references throughout his correspondence with the US Office to the pamphlet: reprintings, reorderings, etc. They were in constant demand both on the field and in the home offices. That was fun to see documented!
Anything about the Archives' collections, policies or staff that hindered my work? Absolutely not. The staff went out of their way to be helpful, finding more materials in the collection that might relate to my Grandfather and Dad, i.e., voice recordings. I appreciated the strictness about the way files were handled, and the very helpful attitude in making use of the scanner and other equipment, for those of us less acquainted with the technology. Also the availability of the technology for copying things, was wonderful...especially that I could make PDF files and e-mail them to myself at no cost...all saved time and energy and expense! It was helpful to have the contact with the Archives staff before going there, and to see the list of contents in the AIM collection ahead of time, in order to try to figure out which files would be most useful. By alerting the staff before hand, the files were there ready for me when I arrived, which saved a lot of time. My only regret is that I don't have more time to delve deeper into the collection, because I am sure that there is much more to add to what I did get. But I am pleased with what I found.
I think we will encourage more missionaries to visit the Archives, now that we have experienced it. I plan to share the tidbits that I gleaned with my family (4 siblings, 2 children, and some cousins all related to Grandfather), but since it was just a personal project, it is not likely to go beyond that. It just makes me feel good...and reminded of God's grace and blessing in the heritage He has given me and my children. It was a great experience for me...and I would love to return.
Dr. Matthew Koh, MSI Professional Services
I had the opportunity to come through Chicago and to spend a day at the library. This was soon after the 5.12 massive earthquake in Sichuan Province, China. The organization I serve with had work in Sichuan last 15 years prior to the earthquake and has also been able to support some government efforts in relief and reconstruction in some of the major quake locations. I had initially wanted to research some of CIM's [China Inland Mission, now the Overseas Missionary Fellowship] background and work Sichuan.
God had however surprised me with the joy of reading some of the original documents of CIM. I was much encouraged to read of the perseverance of colleagues, in particular, I came across some original letters written in
Chinese calligraphy script dating back to early 1900s recounting the trials of the church and the mission's response, etc. The library's facility of scanning and sending directly by email helped be to be able to bring some of the inspiration that I received of the Lord also back for my organization. There was a striking similarity of the encounter of human suffering at the time of CIM in China and the current situation. The witness of the Spirit through the lives of those that had gone before us gave us the courage to press on in our ministry.
I highly recommend that anyone with a long term interest to serve China's peoples to spend some time looking through CIM archives at the library.
Mr. Jay Learned, PhD candidate, University of Rochester
I am doing research on anti-communist sentiments among Evangelicals at the
beginning of the Cold War. Specifically, I am conducting dissertation research
on how Billy Graham and his intellectual associates such as Nelson Bell, Harold
Ockenga, Carl Henry, and Harold Lindsell formulated their conceptions of
communism and how they used that information to mobilize Evangelical Christians
and others into an ideological struggle against Soviet Russia and its ideals.
Many of these figures’ archives are located at the BGCA, and my two visits there have proven fruitful. I was hoping to find correspondence among Graham and
the others discussing the Soviet threat or sermons with revealing messages about
the threat, but my research thus far (which so far includes only a few sermons)
points to a rather nebulous conception of communism. I found a particularly
useful file in Lindsell’s archives that includes sources he used for gaining
an understanding of communism.
The study of anti-communism among Evangelicals during the early Cold War seems
to be developing significantly. Recent studies by Angela Lahr and William
Inboden suggest increased interest in the impact of religious ideas in shaping
Cold War policies in the US. I hope to add to this by looking at the role
millennialist ideologies in both the US and Soviet Union.
Dr. Fabian Maganda, Nassa Theological College, Mwanza, Tanzania
My doctoral dissertation topic was "The Untold Story: The Agency of Sukuma Educators in Developing AIM Mission Schools in Northwestern Tanzania, 1909-1970." I came to the Billy Graham Center Archives to search for background material for my study.
I was able to find documents that related to the AIM's educational policies and educational work in Tanganyika/Tanzania in the Africa Inland Mission collection (Collection 81). Specifically, I explored the personal file of Emily Sywulka who pioneered the work of AIM in Tanganyika in 1909 and set a motion of establishing bush schools in Sukumaland; and William Jester who unlike other AIM missionaries placed an emphasis on both religious and secular subject in AIM mission schools. The information I collected from the BGC supplemented the oral sources I got from Sukuma teachers in Tanzania and retired AIM missionaries. I was grateful for the copier machine, which made it possible for me to collect and reproduce relevant documents in a short period.
Mr. Wayne Ratzlaff, doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois-Chicago
I am working on a dissertation on Carl McIntire and the American Council of Christian Churches. I came to the Billy Graham [Center] Archives to examine collections relating to the National Association of Evangelicals, which competed with McIntire and the ACCC for Fundamentalist support throughout the 1940s. My research is an attempt to understand the political mobilization of conservative Christians before the 1970s.
Since the ACCC and NAE were established within months of each other, I hoped to find correspondence between the leaders of both organizations during the development of each organization. Much of the material I examined consisted of correspondence between Evangelicals debating strategies to neutralize McIntire’s provocative message against non-separating Evangelicals.
The staff was very helpful and accommodating, and I was very impressed with the archival tools available to researchers. The online finding aids are extensive and most helpful. The ability to scan documents and send them to my email account via the copier machine is also a convenient option.
Joel Griffith, Slavic Gospel Association
Slavic Gospel Association is celebrating its 75th anniversary in January 2009. As part of this observance, we are planning a series of newsletter publications highlighting our years of ministry, and perhaps other special publications. The Billy Graham Center is the holder and custodian of SGA’s archives dating back to our founding in 1934. These archives contain much of the information we need for these special, commemorative publications.
Five staff members of SGA came to the Archives in August to see what we could find in the SGA files [Collection 237]. We expected to find copies of old newsletters, reports, board minutes, special publications, meeting minutes, photographs, and other archival information that would prove useful in documenting our history.
The collection was a virtual treasure trove of information, and all pertinent to our overall goal. The old newsletters from the early days were especially interesting and informative. They documented ministry programs in place at the time, missionaries of long ago that had served with us, and reports of the fruit of their ministries. The global reach of SGA was amazing even in those early days when finances were more limited. Everyone was very helpful, and the facility was very comfortable in which to work, including the quiet environment.
It is always interesting for comparative purposes to look at ministry conditions then and now. It is also important to see the foundation of your ministry, and to ensure you are on track with your founding principles. It might well also rekindle ideas that bore fruit then, and might again now, given the right opportunity.
Dr. Noam Urbach, Haifa University
I came to the BGC Archives in order to look through the Blackstone Documents [Collection 540, the Papers of William E. Blackstone]. It is part of a research I began a few years ago relating to his foundation's activities in China. Regrettably, I did not have sufficient time for a thorough work, but thanks to the Archive's director's enthusiastic and efficient assistance, I was able to make the best of such a short visit. I hope to have a chance to come again in the future.