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October 2017: One Document Can Tell Many Stories

Poster advertising the inspirational and evangelistic event led by J. Stratton Shufelt, who was the featured musician on Voice of Christian Youth's late-summer cruise, most likely in 1950. "Boat Leaves Foot of Woodward" refers to the waterfront on at the Detroit River that is a short ferry ride from with Windsor, Ontario. The route of the cruise was likely south toward Bois Blanc Island and Lake Erie. Joining Shufelt was the young evangelist and preacher, Jack Van Impe, later known as a television evangelist and preacher.

J. Stratton Shufelt, born in 1910, began singing and directing the music at at evangelistic rallies when he was in his teens. He continued this ministry until his death in 1987. After receiving his Bachelor of Music degree from Wheaton College in 1934, he worked for several years at Chicago's Moody Church with its pastor, H.A. Ironside. He then began his full-time involvement in evangelistic work. Over the next decades, he led music at rallies, conferences, and churches around the world. Among the evangelists he worked with were Billy Graham, Bob Jones, Sr., John R. Rice, Torrey Johnson, Stephen Olford, Hyman Appelman, Jack Shuler, Charles Templeton, and Jack Van Impe.

The poster above is the only document in Shufelt's papers about this local event. While there is a great deal of the story that the poster does not tell, several documents fill in some of the gaps to provide a sense of the context for this event. One of these is the oral history interview with the founder and director of Voice of Christian Youth, Edward Darling. The interview conducted by BGEA historian Lois Ferm sheds a some light on this event and Voice of Christian Youth. The following excerpt from his interview captures some of the vitality of this era when the cruise took place:

LOIS FERM: Ed, your acquaintance with Mr. Graham goes back to Youth for Christ days, even pre-Youth for Christ days, doesn't it? Tell me when you first met Billy.

ED DARLING: Well, it was pre-Youth for Christ days, I guess. That's really correct because Voice of Christian Youth was seven years in existence as a Saturday night youth rally in Detroit prior to the days we formed the Youth for Christ International movement. Jack Wyrtzen out of New York, and Voice of Christian Youth work in Detroit were kind of the two innovators., for lack of a better word, and Billy came to Detroit as a speaker during his college days really. We had the joy of inviting Billy to speak in the giant Olympia stadium in Detroit on March 16, 1946. Also, that was even at a later time. Prior to that Billy came in for a rally before we even had the big rally here in this city.

Among the background papers that accompany Darling's oral history in the Archives is his curriculum vitae that includes the following information:

VOICE OF CHRISTIAN YOUTH, INC., DETROIT, MI. (15 years) Organized and directed this internationally acclaimed free-admission stage production as a Saturday night program for thousands of teenagers. Productions required a year around contracts with Music Hall, Masonic Temple and frequently Olympia Stadium. Summer schedules included both Bob-Lo boats and the island [Bois Blanc Island near Windsor, Ontario, on the Detroit River toward Lake Erie] for sing-a-long cruises and programs.

Darling's interview focuses on Youth for Christ history and his association with Billy Graham, but there are several other references to Voice of Christian Youth, which continued to operate at the time of Darling's interview in April 1976 and had some ongoing association with Youth for Christ. Darling's interview is one of 1,500 in the Records of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Oral History Project—his interview transcript is in Collection 141, Box 3, folder 14.

To learn more about J. Stratton Shufelt life and ministry, consult the online descriptive guide to his papers. Collection 224, Papers of J. Stratton Shufelt in the BGC Archives, contains hundreds of programs from meetings, as well as photos, newspaper clippings, letters and similar material, and posters like the one featured above. These tell the story both of the growing evangelistic outreach that started in the 1940s, but also his own education at Wheaton, the Youth for Christ European tour he was a part of in 1946 with Graham, Johnson, and Templeton, and the 1950 Wheaton revival.

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Last Revised: 10/01/17
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