Billy Graham Center

Interviews withs Helen Ruth Belcher Elliott - Collection 116

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Helen Ruth Belcher Elliott

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

Brief Description.
Three interviews conducted with Mrs. Elliott, Wycliffe missionary to the Ixil Indian tribe in Guatemala. Topics include Wheaton College during the 1950s, field experiences, Guatemalan culture and religion, and family activities. Interviews were recorded in April and May 1980. There are restrictions on the use of this collection.

Collection 116
[September 6, 2013]

Elliott, Helen Ruth Belcher; 1927-2012
Interviews; 1980

3 Audio Tapes


None of this material may be published.


Helen Ruth Belcher was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on November 23, 1927. The second of six children, she grew up in a home filled with turmoil and plagued by inadequate finances. After her parents' divorce in 1940, the family moved to Independence, Kansas. While in Independence Helen met her husband Ray Elliott, finished high school in 1943, and began regularly attending the local Christian church. At the age of sixteen she became financially independent and began saving funds toward college.

Freshman and sophomore years were spent at Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma. Right after their marriage in the summer of 1945 the Elliotts served a small church in Oklahoma. During that summer the couple was led to a deeper relationship with the Lord by a new pastor of a neighboring church. They did not return to Phillips University but in January 1947 began studies at Wheaton College. Mrs. Elliott graduated in January 1950 with a B.A. degree in Bible.

After attending the Summer Institute of Linguistics in Norman, Oklahoma, in 1950 the Elliotts felt a strong call to work among the Ixil Indian tribe of Guatemala. Wycliffe Bible Translators accepted their application for translation work. The Elliotts served in Guatemala with Wycliffe throughout and after a furlough in the United States they returned to the Ixil tribe in the summer of 1980.

The couple had eight children: Linda, Marsha, Stephen, Debra, Janice, Sharon, Daniel, and Karen.

Raymond and Helen retired to Go Ye Village in Tahequah, Oklahoma. Raymond died November 12, 2008. Helen passed away Decemebr 12, 2012.

Scope and Content

Mrs. Elliott was interviewed by Cherol Crutchfield on April 28, May 5, and May 8, 1980, at Elliott's home. T1 covers the period from Mrs. Elliott's early life, through her years at Wheaton, to 1950 at the Summer Institute of Linguistics. T2 and T3 concentrate on the Elliotts' work in Guatemala. The index is keyed to a cassette copy and not to the reel-to-reel original.

T1 - side 1
Beginning of tape
Family background
Childhood experiences
Job with telephone company after high school
Church influence in Kansas and meeting her husband, Ray
Description of her husband
Decision for pastoral ministry and schooling
Couple's engagement and marriage
Early pastoral assignments and conversion experience
Decision not to return to Bible college and reaction in the congregation
Starting their family
Association with Bruce Corbin
Decision to go to Wheaton
Housing in Wheaton
Jobs in Wheaton and housing at the Sword of the Lord
Housing in Wheaton
End of side 1

T1 - side 2
[Overlap from side 1]
Housing in Wheaton [Continued]
Job with cab company and death of the child
Funeral for the baby
Call to the mission field
Decision for Mrs. Elliott to continue her college work
Acquaintance with the Crossetts, missionaries to China, and new housing
Scheduling classes for the couple
Greek classes
Family summer school experience
Wheaton professors
College experience analysis
Types of work Mrs. Elliott did during school
Campus spiritual atmosphere
Another housing move
Wycliffe introduction
Interest in China Inland Mission
Decision to stay in Wheaton so Mrs. Elliott could finish school and Mr. Elliott could do more graduate work
Sharing their apartment during housing shortage
Chapel service that introduced Elliotts to Wycliffe
Concern over education of missionary children
1949 spiritual revival in Wheaton and mission emphasis on the campus
Birth of daughter, Marsha
Summer Institute of Linguistics (1950)
Wheaton influence on their family
End of side 2

T1 - side 3
[Overlap from side 2]
Wheaton influence on their family [Continued]
Church activities in Wheaton
Acquaintance with Dr. Tenney's father (relationship with their daughter, Linda)
Arrival in Norman, Oklahoma (S.I.L.) and family life
Friendship with a Guatemala missionary at S.I.L.
End of tape

T2 - side 1
Beginning of tape
Mr. Oughton, Guatemala missionary
Decision on mission board
Wycliffe training camp in Arkansas
Return to Kansas for health recovery and family activities
Second summer of linguistic work in Oklahoma
Began journey to Guatemala
Mexico City for Spanish study
Health problems with improper vaccine
Wycliffe jungle training camp
Bout with malaria
Experiences of jungle camp
Arrival in Guatemala
Arrival in Guatemala City
Missions strategy in Guatemala
Wycliffe's entry into Guatemalan missions
First impressions of the tribal area
Encounter with the local people in the midst of their first night in the Ixil area (arrival on the eve of the annual fiesta)
Getting acquainted with the Spanish and Indians so they could hear the languages
Market experiences
Tense feelings in village due to past incident of violence with Spanish soldiers
Daily walks to get acquainted with the people
Household tasks
Learning the Indian greetings and salutations
Using words of greeting
Mr. Elliott's trip deeper into the Ixil territory to listen to the language and roods
July (1954) next baby due and communist overthrow
Adobe housing
Letter from supporting church inquiring about fruits of their labors
Difficulty in determining the words and phrases to use
Native religion and the effect and influence of the Catholic church
End of side 1

T2 - side 2
[Overlap from side 1]
Native religion and the effect and influence of the Catholic church [Continued]
Incident in firework shop
Arrival of another patient for Mrs. Elliott with a broken leg
Incident of baby suffering from dehydration
Continued ministrations to the boys in the fireworks shop
Methods of communication
Local living conditions
Local economy
Problems encountered in sharing Christ's love
Effective methods in sharing the gospel
Church structure
Main types of ministry through the years and furloughs
Existence of racial tension or discrimination
Conflict between tribes
Opportunities for Indian economic advancement
Official government position on missionary work
Attitude and influence of the Catholic church
Anti-western attitudes
Guatemala's relationship with neighboring countries
Description of medical situation--hospitals and medical staff
Problems with witch doctors
Prevalent diseases
Present medical status of Ixil area
Indian attitude toward the outside medical help
Education in Guatemala
Literacy in the Ixil tribe
End of side 2

T2 - side 3
[Overlap from side 2]
Literacy in the Ixil tribe [Continued]
Mission schools in Guatemala
Description of teaching facilities in Guatemala
Theological schools in Guatemala
End of tape

T3 - side 1
Beginning of tape
Basis of the economy in Guatemala
Extent of industrialization in the country
Agricultural methods that are used
Average size of farms
Impact of foreign investors
Adverse feeling of the nationals toward foreign investors
Rate of urban growth and effect on the country
Mission work after 1976 Guatemalan earthquake
Interreligious matters in the country
Cooperation between various mission boards
Conflict between mission boards
Growth of the Pentecostal church
Relations with the Catholic church
Conflicts between indigenous church and the missionary efforts
Relationship between the Indian and the Spanish church
Nationals view on the missionary
Recommendations of future missionary preparations especially on the indigenous church
Lessons missionary learns after arriving on the field
Return of Elliotts to Guatemala and vision for the work
Problems involved in returning and reestablishing their work--political situation
Expectations for the Indian church
Concluding comments
End of tape


The materials for this collection were received by the Center in April and May 1980.

Accession 80-55, 80-64
September 8, 1980
Mary Ann Buffington
C. Crutchfield
S. Kouns

Accession 80-55
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE.

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, 97 minutes. One side. Interview with Mrs. Helen Elliott by Cherol Crutchfield, April 28, 1980.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, 97 minutes. One side. Interview with Mrs. Helen Elliott by Cherol Crutchfield, May 5, 1980.

T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, 42 minutes. One side. Interview with Mrs. Helen Elliott by Cherol Crutchfield, May 8, 1980.

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Last Revised: 9/05/02
Expiration: indefinite