Billy Graham Center

Papers of James E. Wright - Collection 326

[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 James E. Wright

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

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

List of the Contents of Boxes of Paper Records in This Collection (Container List)

Brief Description

Interviews describing Wright's work with Youth for Christ in India, Mexico, and the U.S. Wright also describes his youth, spiritual growth, education (including at Wheaton College), evangelistic ministry in the U.S. (including with films), counseling and follow-up aspects of mass evangelism, church planting and establishing several Christian schools in the U.S., developing a correspondence course in India, family counseling, evangelistic evangelistic ministry of Billy Graham, financial aspects of ministry, and his work with the Navigators. Wright also describes David Howard, Jim Elliot, and Dawson Trotman. Also included in the collection is a notebook on YFC work in India, ca. 1951-1954, including photographs of its work, copies of its publications, and correspendence and course materials. Period of events described in interview: 1927-1986.

Collection 326 [April 21, 2001]
Wright, James E.; 1927-
Papers; ca. 1950-1953, 1986
1 Folder (1 DC; .1 cubic feet); 3 Audio Tape Reels


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


James Edwin Wright was born in 1927 in Montana. His parents were divorced when he was two, and he was raised by his mother and later by his grandparents, before returning home again to his mother. He was converted around the age of six. He dedicated himself to Christian service at the age of seventeen and expressed his intention to become a medical missionary in India. He graduated from Wheaton Academy (later Wheaton Christian High School) in 1945, while simultaneously taking courses at Wheaton College. In 1946 he entered Wheaton College, but left after just one semester for health reasons. He later attended Multnomah School of the Bible.

Wright was busily engaged in various ministries between 1947 and 1951. During 1947, while studying at Multnomah, he helped start some of the earliest Youth For Christ Bible clubs among students; during this same time Wright was involved in a ministry to gypsies. He was enlisted in late 1947 by a Christian film producer to show his evangelistic film in various meetings several northwestern states. Later in 1948, he served on the staff of a Montana reform school, which enabled him to hold Bible studies among the inmates. He then went on to coordinate meetings on behalf of the newly established World Vision (WV), showing a film about WV's ministry. In 1951, he set up a summer series of crusades in western Michigan for Maranatha Bible Conference, whose speakers included Billy Graham and T.W. Wilson. He coordinated the enlistment and training of counselors, and afterward coordinated the follow-up program. During the same part of the year, he married Louise Warren, a Wheaton graduate.

That same year he joined Youth for Christ International and was appointed the Director of Western India YFC and Director of YFC's Bible Correspondence School with courses in more than ten Indian languages. (He was drafted to serve in the Korean War, but was exempted when his assignment to work with Youth For Christ in India was finalized.) Based in Bombay, Wright's responsibilities in India included setting up crusades along with Indian church leaders.

In 1954, the Wrights returned to the U.S. due to Louise's declining health, and Wright became the director of YFC's Counseling and Follow-up Department; based in Portland, OR, he conducted research on methods and materials to be used in evangelistic counseling and follow-up. (Wright was invited in ca. 1957 to work with YFC in Singapore, but the option did not materialize for lack of support.) In 1957, he returned to Wheaton to work out of YFC's international office. From there, he traveled throughout the U.S. for the next three years and shared his conclusions from his observations in Portland. In 1960, he worked in Mexico City with one of the first YFC Teen Teams, developing a training program in evangelism and follow-up.

In 1961, Wright felt he wanted to be more involved in local church ministry and he concluded his work with Youth For Christ to work in loose association with a number of independent congregations in Colorado Springs. At the same time he worked on a non-staff basis with the Navigators for two years. From 1964 to 1971, he served as director of Colorado Rockies Bible Camp at their facility, Camp Elim, outside of Colorado Springs. As with other endeavors Wright coordinated, the camp developed a program integrating discipleship and evangelism. In 1972, he joined the staff of Family Life Services, and also helped start Colorado Springs Christian School, of which he served as board president for three years. In 1976, feeling burnout from his counseling ministry, he moved to western Colorado where he led a church planting effort near Cedar Edge and was also instrumental in establishing the Thunder Mountain Christian Academy. At the same time he continued with Family Life Services as an extension staff member.

The Wrights had five children (the fifth was adopted) and provided foster care to other children.

Scope and Content

The materials which make up Jim Wright's papers include an oral history interview with him and the contents of a notebook he compiled on YFC work in India. The notebook contents, removed from their binder, include photographs, clippings, sample tracts in several languages, a 1954 program for a Christian camp, and correspondence course materials in English and Urdu.

James E. Wright was interviewed by Paul A. Ericksen on May 8, 1986, at the Archives office. The time period covered by the interviews is 1927-1986. The boldfaced entries are intended to highlight the topics covered in the interview. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. The index is keyed to a cassette copy and not to the reel-to-reel original.

T1 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
01:30 Introduction to interview
01:45 Early life, spiritual growth, education, career
09:45 Conversion, later dedication to the Lord, classes at Wheaton
15:45 Wheaton College: expectations and first impressions, health problems contributed to leaving Wheaton, Dave Howard
20:45 Wheaton: philosophy professor Cornelius Jaarsma, academic life
25:15 Wheaton: changes after the World War II, released from military service, comparison of Multnomah with Wheaton, the pledge
30:00 Wheaton: V. Raymond Edman, pranks, Jim Elliott's lighter side
33:30 Meeting his future wife
36:30 Multnomah: course work, compared to Wheaton academically, benefit of childhood Bible training by his grandmother, faculty
40:00 Involvement with first Youth For Christ rallies and high school Bible clubs, outreach to gypsies, film evangelism in 1948
43:00 End of side 1


T1 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Continuation on film ministry
00:45 Ministry in reform school, Bible studies, impact
04:30 Film excursion for World Vision, using YFC contacts, typical meeting, finances
10:45 Setting up crusades at Maranatha Bible Conference in 1951 (Billy Graham, T. W. Wilson, etc.), offering raised Wrights' funds for India
15:00 End of side 2


T2 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
01:30 Continuation on crusade: counselor training and oversight
03:15 Setting up YFC Bible clubs in Portland, Saturday night rallies, developing age-graded materials
06:30 YFC work in India: Joe Weatherly, status and extent of work, Hubert Mitchell
11:00 Overcoming language difficulties in India with translators and English, reactions to tent meetings, types of people attending
15:00 Hindu and Muslim reactions to the Gospel, ways in which they did or did not adapt evangelism to Indian culture, eample of cultural blunder, impact of previous Indian exposure to Europeans
23:15 Problems faced by Hindu and Muslim Christians after conversion, upward mobility of low caste converts using missionary services
29:45 Conflicting impressions of India
32:45 Setting up crusades, financing and subsidies, Indians and Westerners working together, varying Indian independence from missionaries
37:45 Navigator founder Dawson Trotman in India, correspondence course
41:00 Returning to the U.S. due to Louise's poor health
43:00 End of side 1


T2 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Overlap from side 1
01:00 Continuation on return to the U.S.
02:00 Assignment to develop counseling and follow-up program, cooperating with the Navigators, studying mass evangelism in Portland YFC, findings (about role of evangelists, counseling, inquirers), methodology
12:00 Wife's role in their ministry through their home
14:45 Possible Singapore assignment
16:45 End of side 2


T3 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:45 Interaction of the Gospel and missionaries with the Indian culture and Christian subculture, effectiveness of mass evangelism, cults, modernist-fundamentalist debate in Indian sphere
06:45 Developing teams for work in Mexico City, conducting on-site training seminars for team members
14:15 Desire to settle into one location and work in local church context, movement to Colorado Springs and the Navigators
16:45 Support base and fund raising philosophy
18:30 Local church work, training camp program (building, discipleship, evangelism)
23:00 Need for Christian schools and for counseling/teaching ministry addressing family relationships, starting school
29:30 Wright's counseling burnout, church planting in western Colorado, starting school, continued work with Family Life Services
34:00 Reflections on ministry
38:30 Reflections on financial philosophy, God's provision and supporters
43:15 End of side 1


T3 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Continuation of discussion on finances
00:15 Comparing current enthusiasm for missions with when he started
04:00 End of interview


The materials in this collection were given to the Center by James E. Wright in May 1986.

Acc.#: 86-45, 86-51
November 16, 1993
Paul A. Ericksen
C. Easley

Accession #: 86-45
Type of material: Audio Tapes
The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE.

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 60 minutes, one side only. Oral history interview with James Edwin Wright by Paul Ericksen on May 8, 1986. Topics covered include Wright's youth, spiritual growth, conversion, education at Wheaton and Multnomah School of the Bible, involvement with Youth for Christ in Portland, OR, film and prison ministry, and setting up crusades.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 60 minutes, one side only. Continuation of oral history interview with James Edwin Wright by Paul Ericksen on May 8, 1986. Topics covered include Youth for Christ activities in Portland, OR, and India, response to the Gospel in the Indian context, and developing counseling and follow-up programs in the U.S.

T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 48 minutes, one side only. Oral history interview with James Edwin Wright by Paul Ericksen on May 8, 1986. Topics covered include the Gospel in Indian culture, effectiveness of mass evangelism, India's religious environment, YFC, team ministry and training in Mexico City, fund raising philosophy, and Wright's involvement in Christian camping, Christian schools and counseling in relation to family issues.


Box Folder Item
1 1 YFC India notebook; 1951-1954

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Last Revised: 4/24/01
Expiration: indefinite