Excerpt (approximately 16 minutes) from the oral history (Collection 40T1) with Andrew Wyzenbeek, who was interviewed by Robert Shuster in 1978, the first oral history conducted by the BGC Archives staff. To find out more about Andrew Wyzenbeek click here. (Because no images of Wyzenbeek or the Ottumwa [Iowa] campaign are available at the Archives, illustrations are taken from other Sunday meetings.) Click to play the Andrew Wyzenbeek excerpt on CN40T1

WYZENBEEK: No. I...I had one contact where I heard the gospel. But I had never heard of Billy Sunday. I never went to church. I had a machinist in the days when we worked together in that factory who was a drinking man like myself. We use to go down to the saloon and have a few beers bef...before we went home. And all of a sudden this fellow stopped drinking. He wouldn't go with me. I said, "Hey. What happened to you?" "Well," he said, "it was costing me a lot of money to stop here in the saloon." He said, "I only got married a year ago, and I need to be at home with my family." He had one baby. And I said, "Well, how come you stopped drinking? I would find that pretty difficult." "Well," he said, "you know, I...I...I became a Christian. I joined a church. And I'm through with that sort of life." "Oh," I said, "I could stop drinking if I wanted to. But I don't want to." "Well," he said, "you try it someday." So I did try. But it was pretty hard. Whenever I decided not to go to the saloon, I'd be there a half an hour earlier. So I found it wasn't so easy to quit when you were addicted. And I had been drinking ever since boyhood. Likewise smoking, smoking cigarettes. I smoked a couple of packs a day.

[intervening discussion; tape advanced]

from PHOTO FILE: Sunday, William A.

WYZENBEEK: So I got a little room somewhere and found a job in Ottumwa [Iowa]. And just about that time (this was in October) Billy Sunday had started his tabernacle, a wooden tabernacle. I remember they used to nail it up so that they could pull the nails again and...and re-use the lumber later on. Well, I didn't intend to go to Billy Sunday. I saw his write-ups in the newspaper. He made the first...the front page, you know, and there were pictures of the crowds.

INTERVIEWER: When he first arrived.

WYZENBEEK: Yes. But it didn't mean a thing to me. I didn't know why a man should be named Sunday. [pauses] Could have been Billy Monday.


WYZENBEEK: [chuckles] But [pauses] it so happened that some of his men came and had shop meetings. They came and sang a solo and gave a testimony in the factories around town.

INTERVIEWER: That was during the lunch hour or was...?

WYZENBEEK: During lunch hour, yes. And that was interesting. To me it sounded like foolishness. But I had some men working under me (because they had made me shop superintendent since I could read drawings and make drawings)...there were some men under me that were known as the Six Dirty Swedes. Well, there were mostly Swedes there in Ottumwa. But these were known as the Six Dirty Swedes. They worked in a little department where they made a mining lamp. And I had made a part of that mining lamp. I designed a hook for it and made the dies to make it. So I was in contact with these six men. And they were foul. They chewed snuff. I'm sure it was made to be sniffed, but they chewed it. And they smelled bad. I kept away from them. But one Monday when I came to work, two of those fellows looked entirely different. They came well dressed. White shirt. They hung up their shirt. They took all their clothes off and put on overalls and dressed up again when they went home. And I said to a friend of mine, "What happened to those Swedes of mine?" I first thought they were going to ask me for the day off to go to a funeral. [laughs]. "No," he said,"haven't you heard? They walked the sawdust trail at a Billy Sunday meeting." Well, that didn't mean anything to me. Sawdust trail. But to make a long story short in about a week or less than two weeks, all six of them got the same thing. And I couldn't imagine what had caused that change. Well, I am trained to look for causes. When I see an effect, there must be a cause. So I talked to one of the Swedes. And I said, "Ole, what happened to you fellows? You're different." He says, "Yeah, Mr. Wyzenbeek. He said, "We...we are different. We are new men. We are born again." I said, "Born again?" "Yes," he said. "We have come to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. And He put a new spirit and a new heart in us. All six of us." "Well," I said, "that's wonderful. You sure are different." "Yes," he says. [coughs] "We are very sorry for all these sinful things that we have done, and...but Christ has given us forgiveness, and [coughs] we are now children of God." "Man," I said to myself, "how fanatical can you be?" But I couldn't sleep well that night. It worried me. I says, "Is there anything to this?" So the next day I talked to them again. He said, "Mr. Wyzenbeek, why don't you go down there yourself? The wooden tabernacle is back of the jail." I said, "A jail is where I want to keep away from." He says, "Go in the tabernacle. You might come out a Christian yourself." from PHOTO FILE: Sunday, William A.Well, I was so curious. I had no idea what they did there. So I went in, sat about halfway on the outside of the seat, so I could get out when I wanted to. And Billy Sunday preached. And I couldn't understand him at all. He spoke rapidly. He used big words. And biblical terms. I couldn't understand him at all. So I was very much puzzled at the end of the service. But Billy was closing the meeting and he said, "Now, before you go...before we leave let's turn around and shake hands with our neighbors and tell them 'God bless you.'" Well, so I turned around and there was an old lady and I shook hands with her. And she said, "Young man, are you a Christian?" I said, "No, ma'am." She said, "Wouldn't you like to be?" I said, "I should say not." Well, none of it was satisfactory. I was feeling bad.

INTERVIEWER: Was there music during the service?


INTERVIEWER: Was there music during the service?

WYZENBEEK: Yes. They was singing invitation hymns. And so I turned around and stared at the ground, you know, and I said to myself, "I treated the old lady bad. I shouldn't have done that." (She was probably forty. I was twenty you know. Twenty-one.) And so I turned around again and I said, "I beg your pardon, lady. But I didn't mean what I said. I wish I was a Christian." She said, "You do!" And she grabbed me by the arm and yanked me off the seat 'cause I was on the outside and shoved. from PHOTO FILE: Sunday, William A. She shoved me all the way forward [laughs]. And somebody grabbed my arm and shoved it up. And I shook hands with Billy Sunday, who was still standing on the platform. Somebody else took me and led me to a seat, a front seat. And I sat down. Well, that's all there was to it. And I looked myself over. I said, "Is this what they do here? Doesn't mean a thing." Then the young man came and sat beside me. And he was what we would call today a counselor. So he said, "May I have your name? I'd like to fill out this card." I said, "Wyzenbeek." He said, "Will you spell it?" I said, "I can't spell it." I didn't know how to spell it...


WYZENBEEK: ...because we spell in Holland [pronounced] "ah, bay, say, day..."

INTERVIEWER: "ah, ef, gay..."

WYZENBEEK: ...and here it's "a, b, c." So I said, "You better let me write it." So he gave me the card and his pencil and I wrote my name and address. And then it said, "Church preference." He said, "What church are you going to join?" I said, "What church? Do you mean I have to join a church?" Well, he said, "You heard what Billy said about joining a church." I said, "No. I didn't. It went clear over my head. I didn't hear a word." "Well," he said, "you ought to join a church. Billy said that you couldn't...no g...more go to heaven without joining the church than you could go to England without crossing the ocean." "Well," I said, "I didn't hear it." "Well," I said, "I don't know one church from another." "Well," he said, "What church do your people go to?" I said, "My people don't go to church. They're atheists." He said, "Have you any friends that go to church?" I said, "My friends go to the saloon. They don't go to the church." And he was quite embarrassed. He didn't know what the next question was to be. So I said, "Well, what church does Billy Sunday belong to?" He says, "He's a Presbyterian." I said, "Fine. How do you spell it?" [laughs] So I wrote "Presbyterian." And two days later a couple of young men from the Presbyterian church came to see me.

INTERVIEWER: They had gotten the card.

WYZENBEEK: They got the card. But I had not done anything because I didn't know what had happened. Nothing as far as I was concerned. And they said, "We'd like to take you to the YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association]. Saturday there is a famous surgeon speaking there. Would you like to go?" I said, "Sure. As long as it didn't cost anything." I still remember that man's talk and that's over seventy years ago (or just about seventy years). I have never forgotten that. But after the boys left, I immediately went out and bought a Bible. I went to [the] book store, and I said, "I...I...I'd like to buy a Bible." And he showed me a beautiful Bible. It was nice and soft and very thin paper. And he was telling me that it was the best he had. I said, "How much does it cost?" He says, "Twenty-two fifty." I said, "Goodness. Are they that expensive? I haven't got that much." "Well," he said, "I showed you one of my best Bibles." So I said, "Well...show me a cheaper one." Here it is. This is the very Bible that he sold me for a dollar and eighty-five cents. [laughs]

INTERVIEWER: So you've had it all these years.

WYZENBEEK: And I took it back to him a couple of hours later. And I said, "Look. This isn't the regular English. I...I can read a newspaper by this time, but I can't read this." "Oh," he said, "that's sixteenth century diction. And that's a King James Version." "Well," I said, "it doesn't mean anything to me." And then he turned around and picked up another smaller book. And he said, "Here is a New Testament." Now, believe or not, I didn't know there was an Old and a New Testament because I'd never seen a Bible in Dutch. And he said, "This is in modern English." I said, "How much?" He said, "A dollar." So for a dollar I got a book that I could read, and I found it fascinating. And I read the rest of the day. And that night I got on my knees at my bedside. I found out that I was a sinner. And I...for the first time in my life I addressed God. And I said, "Father God." Who taught me to say "God Father"...to call God "Father?" And I asked for forgiveness. And peace came in my heart. It overwhelmed me. That was the time I got converted and I found the Lord Jesus Christ my Savior. And I've trusted Him ever since.

To find out more about Andrew Wyzenbeek or Collection 40 at the Archives click here.

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