Billy Graham Center

Papers of Helen Gignilliat Torrey Renich - Collection 124

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent. Some or all of this collection can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. ]

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Helen Gignilliat Torrey Renich

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

Lists of Audio Tapes, Negatives and Photographs in this collection (Location Records)
    Audio Tapes

Transcript 1

Transcript 2

Brief Description
Two interviews with Renich recorded in 1980 and 1982 in which she talks about her grandfather, Reuben Archer Torrey, Sr., and describes experiences growing up in China as a child of missionaries. Also includes experiences at Wheaton College and culture shock. There are photographs of her family life in China and Chinese nationals, ca. 1920-30s.

Collection 124
[April 17, 2003]
Renich, Helen Gignilliat Torrey; 1916-1999
Papers, ca 1920-1982
Audio Tapes, Negatives, Photographs


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.



Helen Ginilliat, better know as Jill, was born to Presbyterian missionaries Reuben Archer Jr. and Janet Mallary Torrey in Tsinan, China. Her childhood was spent in the Far East except for a furlough that lasted from her ninth to her twelfth year, which they spent in North Carolina. She was the oldest of the two girls and two boys in the family. From 1933 to 1936 she attended boarding school in Pyengyang, Korea, with other foreign children. After graduating, she returned to the United States to attend Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. She planned to prepare herself for some form of Christian work, hopefully in missions. She graduated in 1941. It was impossible to return to China because of the war (her parents about this time had been interned by the Japanese), so Jill went to California to work. It was in California that she met Frederich Charles Renich, a missionary with Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, who was also waiting to go to China. They married in 1944 and eventually had four children -- Janey, Rosalie, Jacqueline Torrey, and Frederick Charles, Jr. In 1948 they were at last able to sail to their mission station.

They were only in China a year when they were evacuated because of the civil war. They went to Australia, where Fred spent two years holding evangelistic meetings and Bible-teaching conferences. The family sailed for America by way of Europe in 1951, with Fred following separately to tour India and East Africa. After reuniting in London and spending nine months in England and Ireland, they reached the east coast of the United States in February 1952.

The family moved to Wheaton, where Fred enrolled as a student. He also became pastor of a church in Savanna, IL. In 1957, he joined Missionary Internship, of which he became director in 1964 and served in that post until 1972.

Jill, besides raising a family, also spoke occasionally. She founded Winning Women, a series of annual conferences for women on the Christian life. In 1975, Zondervan published her book To Have and to Hold. Fred began Living Life Ministries in 1973 and he and Jill together would address audiences on how to "build the bridges of practical application between Biblical truth and everyday life situations." Fred continued in the work until his death in 1979. Jill, besides continuing the Winning Women and Living Life speaking engagements, also had a daily radio program. She remarried later in life. Her new married name was Renich-Meyers. She died December 9, 1999.

Scope and Content

Helen Gignilliat Torrey Renich was interviewed by Robert Shuster on May 15, 1980 in Michigan and a second time in May, 1982 at the Billy Graham Center. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. The index is keyed to the cassette copy and not to the reel-to-reel original.

Tape T1 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape)
00:00 Beginning of tape
01:00 Introduction
01:15 Family background, childhood memories of Reuben Archer Torrey
03:30 R. A. Torrey's influence on his family
05:00 Devotion to children and grandchildren
06:15 Personal qualities of R.A. Torrey
09:00 Walter Jacoby
11:15 Jacoby and Moody Bible Institute
14:00 Advance work for Torrey
15:15 Meeting people who attended grandfather's meetings
18:30 Torrey in Australia; steadfastness of converts
19:45 Problems in being R.A. Torrey's granddaughter
22:15 Personalities of R.A. Torrey and R.A. Torrey II
24:15 R. A. Torrey II's education and marriage
27:00 Presbyterian Mission Board
27:45 Growing up in China and Korea
29:30 Tsinan and a parish of two million in China, difficult traveling conditions
29:45 Preaching to street corner crowds in China; anti-foreign feeling
31:15 Founding a church in Lini
32:30 Church service in a tent, work among the women, medical work
34:00 Acupuncture
35:00 The only foreigners in the village
36:00 Famine relief, cotton farming experiments, tsinan
39:45 Famine relief activities
40:30 Meetings; resolution of family quarrels; stereotypes of Chinese women
44:15 Foot binding
45:30 Condition of the church in northeast China; worldwide revivals; revivals in China
48:00 End of side 1

Tape T1 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Overlap from side 1
00:45 Relationships between the missionaries and Chinese church leaders
01:30 Church services in China; communion
04:15 Sunday school; other activities of the church
05:45 Growing up in China
08:00 Conversion
10:00 Visits to Chinese temples, miseries of people without God; transformed lives
13:30 Pearl S. Buck
15:00 Civil wars, fighting near the village, meeting the chief of the army; "foreign devils"
19:45 Contacts with government officials; Chiang Kai-shek mobilizes China in the mid- thirties
22:00 Japanese attacks on China, parents became prisoners of the Japanese in 1941
23:30 End of tape

Tape T2 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape)
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Introduction
00:30 Change from boarding school in China to Presbyterian boarding school in Korea, 1933; reasons
02:30 Korean cultural differences; trips back and forth to China
03:30 Box rebellion (1900) persecutions of Christians; her reactions to incoherent Christian man and other stories of the events at that time
05:30 Contemporary treatment of missionaries by the Japanese; story of prayer to aid absent Christian; later visit confirms torture at that time
07:45 Travel experiences as a school girl
09:15 Japanese smugglers; experience of search for silver dollars on disembarkation from Japanese ship
13:00 Conditions on Japanese and Chinese trains; ink-throwing by Japanese on Korean clothes
16:15 Typical school routines
17:30 Concern for lack of commitment; subsequent surrender and influences of conference; resulting activities
20:30 Ruth Bell (later Graham) and other students; Paul Daufman as a boy; daughter's later encounter with him as an adult
23:00 Memories of character and relationship to Ruth Bell
24:45 Social life at the boarding school; close of school in 1944; persecution of Dr. Reiner
26:45 Academic standing
27:30 Cultural differences between China and U.S.; personality test and puzzlement over questions
29:00 Favorite teachers, Presbyterian school; Dr. Miller, Helen Yates; travels in India and desire to travel
33:00 Graduation, 1936; travel to Wheaton, companions
34:00 Personal experiences and reaction to (missionary kid) status
35:45 Effects of family experiences and exterior difficulties on her personality
38:30 Reaction to American life
41:00 Lack of interest in the United States in China
42:30 Impressions of Wheaton and the College; contrast of Chinese "drug store" and Walgreen's
45:00 Grandmother, Mrs. Reuben Archer Torrey, and her attentions; American food
48:00 End of side 1

Tape T2 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of side 2
00:05 Overlap from side 1
00:30 Types of spiritual attitudes of Wheaton students
02:00 Activities at Wheaton, social and spiritual
03:30 Chapel speakers
05:15 Christian outreach activities at Wheaton
06:45 Revival and strengthening of her faith; Worldwide Evangelism Crusade, book, C.T. Studd, Cricketeer and Pioneer, influence on her anxieties, money worries; illnesses
12:00 Sharing her relief, faith in God's greatness with fellow students
14:30 Encouragement from Edman
15:30 Transition between Buswell and Edman; "heresy-hunting" at Wheaton
16:45 Buswell's character
18:00 Campus reaction to his dismissal
20:30 Reasons for dismissal as seen from her status as a student
24:15 Edman's initial impact and acts
26:30 Subsiding of militant "heresy-hunting"
27:15 Effects in China of McIntire's group and their attacks on evangelical missionaries
29:15 Fidelity to Wheaton's pledge; requirements
30:30 Rebellious attitudes
31:45 Dating activities, campus events
33:45 Washington Banquet as highlight of school year; open house
35:45 Academic standards and her abilities; challenging courses
39:00 Aunt Edith Torrey; experiences in her classes
40:30 Classmates; Billy Graham, Ruth Bell
43:45 Effects of World War II on campus
45:45 Premonition of her parent's safety as they returned to China
47:15 End of tape


The materials in this collection were received by the Center in May, 1980, May, 1981, May, 1982, from Helen Gignilliat Torrey Renich.

Accessions # 80-69, 81-48, 82-74
February 2, 1981
Robert Shuster
E. Pietra

November 24, 1982
Frances L. Brocker
R. Shuster
J. Nasgowitz

Accession # 80-69, 81-48
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The items listed below are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 71 minutes. One side only. Interview with Mrs. Helen Torrey Renich by Robert Shuster. Discussion includes recollections of Renich's grandfather, R.A. Torrey, Walter Jacoby, growing up as child of missionaries in China and Korea. May 16, 1980.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 94 minutes. One side only. Interview with Mrs. Helen Torrey Renich by Robert Shuster. Discussion includes her experiences in Wheaton as a student at Wheaton College, and the adjustments to American culture. May 17, 1982.


Accession # 82-74
Type of Material: Negatives

The following items are located in the NEGATIVE FILE; request by Folder Titles (in bold) at the beginning of each entry below. All the negatives are black and white, unless otherwise noted.

TORREY, R.A. WITH FAMILY. Reuben A. Torrey with his family. Ca. 1920-1930's. 17 b&w.


Accession # 82-74
Type of Material: Photographs

The following items are located in the PHOTO FILE; request by Folder Titles (in bold) at the beginning of each entry below.

TORREY, REUBEN ARCHER, JR. W/FAMILY. Family individual portraits and groups, some in China, ca 1920-1930's. 18 b&w.

CHINA. Group photos of Chinese nationals, ca. 1920-1930's. 4 b&w.

CHINA - DESCRIPTION AND TRAVEL Edith Claire Torrey carried in a litter, China. 1 b&w.

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Last Revised: 4/17/03
Expiration: indefinite