Billy Graham Center

Collection 479 - William Adam Stier. T3 Transcript

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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of William Adam Stier (CN 479, T3) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. The tape is the conclusion of the interview on tape T2. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English. Foreign terms or phrases which may be unfamiliar appear in italics. ... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.

.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.

( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.

[ ] Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.

This transcription was made by Katherine Graber and Bob Shuster and was completed in May 2014. CN 479, T03. Interview with William Adam Stier by Paul Ericksen on January 20, 1993.

STIER: I would feel a little sorry for them that they have to fly out. There is never a better conditioning than one got by taking six weeks to get there. The transition from USA for a new person...


STIER: ...that’s flying, as it were, to Amsterdam and the next night flying right down into the the fray, as it were. I really feel sorry for them. I think a trip out by ship just gives such excellent time for adjustment, emotionally, spiritually, every other...every other way. Now, of course, what I’m saying now would have been true of us also. When we arrived on the mission field as young people, I’m sure that some of the older missionaries said, “What do we have?” [laughs]. See? And that is one of the greatest things that has to be done as far as new missionaries are concerned and old missionaries adjusting to one another. And that would be true now today with your new, new missionaries going out, and your old ones who are there, been there twenty, thirty years (maybe some of them forty years) to make that adjustment between the two outlooks, social life, and culture, and everything, it’s so different, you see,...


STIER: ...and there’s such a need for grace with one another and to try to remember that you were exactly that way when you went out to the older missionary of your day [laughs]. And if you remember that, then of course you will be a little easier on the new missionaries.

ERICKSEN: Uh-huh. Did you work with any short-term workers coming out?

STIER: No, they weren’t doing that in our day. No.

ERICKSEN: Not even in the later years?

STIER: Well, right at the...maybe the last couple years, but I don’t even know that we had one on our...our station. We did have a couple fellows visited [sic], and they were great. Some of these young fellows I do remember two that came out, and playing volleyball with those Bible school men. They just enjoyed it. I’m talking about the Africans. They just enjoyed it. This one fellow, he could pick up the ball almost with one hand, and they marveled at a thing like that, you know. So they had the enthusiasm of youth, and just...just great. Just great.


STIER: But there is an adjustment. That is of course a very light thing...


STIER: ...that I’m using as illustration because when you get down to the nitty gritty of actually doing the work day after day after day, a short-term worker, you see, he’s only there for a short time, then he’s gone, and that’s it. But you do run into some difficulties sometimes...

ERICKSEN:  Uh-huh.          

STIER: ...especially [pauses], difficulty I would see is the culture of the African, young men and young women, the distance that they keep between each other, that is, at least in the eye of the public. Then to have missionaries come out, maybe a fellow and a girl. They’re on the same station. Their fellowship with one another would be considered very, very out of place in the eyes of an African, if you follow me?


STIER: And it’’s a cultural difference, you see. And I think, of course, that is even greater today than it was a number of years ago. There’s just so many liberties that are taken these days that weren’t even taken by the missionaries in the olden days. But there were cultural difficulties that could spring up when... unless missionaries were really oriented.


STIER: That’s why you need orientation schools. We never had an orientation school when we went out. We got it right there when...with our fellow missionaries when we arrived, but there’s real need for orientation these days, because you’ve got to remember that you’re in an altogether different culture.

ERICKSEN: What were the strengths and weaknesses of your training back at PSOB [Philadelphia School of Bible]? And training by the mission?

STIER: Yeah. Well, we weren’t...we weren’t actually trained, you know, to go out as a missionary. It wasn’t a missionary course. They just had the regular Bible school course that we took....


STIER: And I will say this: that even though I appreciated all I was taught at PSOB, I learned an awful lot of the Word and so many other things right out there in Africa. ‘Course you have the time to study, and of course, teaching in school too, preparing lessons and everything, I...I...I really feel I got another great education out there in Africa that Bible school would never prepare you for. It can’t, as it were. And you just learn things about the Word and about the Lord and everything that you just can’t get it in Bible school that’s all. So that...I don’t know how else I could answer that question. [Pauses] We were glad to go and, well, we had very good teachers out there among the missionaries. They were very faithful in telling us what to do and what not to do as far as the Africans were concerned.

ERICKSEN: What did they tell you not to do?

STIER: Well, you have to watch it...just to give you an illustration of African culture: you would never talk to an African and point your finger like this. Never. Because that’s just like putting a chip on your shoulder as far as an American is concerned and knocking it off. You’re asking for a fight. Never, never use your finger. You would never...if you’re sitting with a group and you say, “How many are here? One, two, three, four, five,” you’d never do that with your finger.

ERICKSEN:  You’d never point at them?

STIER: Never, never point and count out, you see. And there, so many small things that really have to watch. Never would you ever greet a person with a left hand. Always the right hand. And many times you take your...take a hold of your right hand with your left hand when you’re shaking, even when they would serve Communion.

ERICKSEN: Like holding your wrist?

STIER: Hold the wrist, yeah, and serve the Communion plate. Give, you always gave this way. [With the right hand] And there are other things. I just am caught off guard now, but you just have to watch a lot of the cultural things if you don’t want to offend them.


STIER: Although, I will say that the African Christians were very gracious. They recognized that we didn’t know, and they were ready to overlook the things that we may have done....


STIER: .Right.

ERICKSEN: I’m curious (and this is in some ways backing up a little) but how did your work as field director, what did it do to your perspective of the work and the responsibilities of the mission and the different things that were going on throughout the country?

STIER: Well, as you know, of course, as field director, we were between the field council and the missionaries. And then as field director, I was between the field council and the home council....


STIER: They’re the two positions you’re in. You’re...if the field council has a meeting, and they decide certain things, then the field director would go the missionaries and give the directions that came out of that meeting. And it wasn’t always what you might call a disciplinary visit. It was a visit of just simply seeing if everything’s going all right and hear what they have to say and everything. But that is your relat...relationship. Then also, you are, were always in consultation with the home council. They would write to the field director if they had anything that they wanted to say. And even the field council...I mean the home council I should say, I’m sorry...they weren’t altogether up to this change that was coming over. They had to adjust to it just as much as we as missionaries had to do it. And there were times when I sensed that when I would write to them, because I remember at least once when I got a letter, and they said something about, “We hope you’re not going to do this,” you see. It was a very gracious letter, understand, but it still showed that the whole thought of doing what we were planning to do had not really gotten over [Ericksen laughs]. Yeah, and there was fear, there was fear in it, I’m sure. They thought, I guess, that maybe the whole of the work would have been lost or something like that, which it wasn’t I know. So that’s the position of field director this side, and then that side. Then you just have to carry on.

ERICKSEN: Did the home office ever...I mean could they mandate decisions for you?

STIER: No, no, they did not. We...we were totally, it was totally up to us to make the decisions for the field. Of course, it would have to be in the context of the constitution of the mission.


STIER: If they saw that we were getting out of line with the constitution, they would...


STIER: ...could step in, but they gave us perfect freedom on the things and decisions we made on the operation at home. Yeah. Right.

ERICKSEN: What...over your career, what did you enjoy most about working for Africa Inland Mission?

STIER: Well, of course I think I said before that it was the privilege of....

ERICKSEN: Yeah, okay.

STIER:....teaching. Teaching, that was...that was what I liked.

ERICKSEN: How did, you know, let’s pretend that I had an African, a Tanzanian sitting right next to you, and I...I asked him to evaluate you as a missionary, what do you think he’d say? [Stier laughs] What would he say you were...your strengths and weaknesses were?

STIER: Well, I don’t like to say this, but, you know, the Africans give you names. Sometimes you hear them, and sometimes you don’t [both laugh]. But they gave me a name which I was told I got it, and it was a name in Sukuma because of my teaching in Bible school. They called me “Emprjiwa Mpuza”[?]. Now the translation of that is “He’s a tanner of hides.” Now of course here in the States you might think “Tanner of Hides” is tanning someone’s hide [beating someone], but that isn’t the thought. The thought was–and they told me–it’s tanning the hide so that it becomes a thing of beauty and usefulness, you see, because they get, kill animals, and then they like to put them out and dry them and tan the hide because it becomes a useful article to them, and that was one thing that they told me my name was among other them: “Tanner of Hides,” because, they said, “When we come in to Bible school, and we hear your teaching and then realize what we were teaching when we were out there not having had any Bible training, they said, we were just killing people”. That was actually what one fellow said: “We were just killing people with our teaching.” ‘Course, that’s not literally,...


STIER: ...but...and they appreciated my ability to get over to them the Word. Now this is very interesting but just about three weeks ago I had a letter from one of my students. I had him for three years. He was single when he was in school. After he graduated, he went out to pastor a church, got married. I think he has four or five children now. But he also went to, he went, now he’s attending Nasa Theological College [in Tanzania]. He wanted to further his education. And I had had a previous letter to him, wrote to him and said that, “In my Sunday school class here I am teaching Revelation to the people in the class,” so he wrote back to me just a couple weeks ago, and he said, “So you’re teaching Revelation to the people there in your Sunday school class?” He said, “The name you were given,” (I had never heard this one of course before) the name you were given when you taught Revelation and Daniel out there was jo wah wufinuo nataniedi,[?] and he said, “That name is still going around among the Africans, , no jo,[?] its jogo.[?] And the word jogo[?] means rooster. And he said, “You were given the name ‘The Rooster of Revelation and Daniel’ [laughs]. And they were so thrilled though when we went through those two books with the Africans, you know, so new to them and so profound to them, as it were, the revelations that are given there. And so he said, “You were give that name when you were out there,” he said, “and that name is still going around, jo go wah wufinuo nataniedi.”[?] So they’re the only two things I would know. I do know once one major remark about the way that I ran the Bible school, of course I had been running it for years, and I think I went home one furlough, or was it...I think it was when I moved to Majahida, another man was put in there, and they had difficulty in the school. And they said, they remarked [door closes in background]....yeah, somebody coming in?

ERICKSEN: Go ahead.

STIER: I was just saying that they had a lot of trouble there in the school just apparently with one person, and the missionary did not know how to handle the trouble, and he made the remark that it just, “The school just isn’t being run the way you ran it.” He was implying the fact of the way it was administered, because through the years I learned where you had to be, you know, really strong and declare yourself and not let people get away with things, and then other areas you have to...


STIER: ...know how to handle situations. That there are the only two clues that I would have. They may have had names for me that I’d be ashamed to tell you [both laugh]. Who knows? But...I don’t like to say those things, because I’m not boasting or anything.

ERICKSEN: Sure. No, I understand.

STIER: I just chuckled when heard that about the jo go wah wufinuo nataniedi,[?] the Rooster of the....

ERICKSEN: As you look at yourself, what were your weaknesses as a missionary?

STIER: Well, let’s see. [Pauses] I probably am not as outgoing as I should be as a missionary. I always like to read, like to study, and I just really wasn’t as outgoing perhaps with even my fellow missionaries as I should have been. That...that I would see as a weakness that I would like to be corrected. I like to be outgoing. I like...I like outgoing people, I should put it that way. I think it’s always a pleasure and a joy to find somebody who just is outgoing. I am not that way necessarily in the natural. And it’s just, I presume, my makeup, that’s all....


STIER: I trust it hasn’t hurt too much. Right.

ERICKSEN: I asked Reverend Kline [Stanley Roy Kline] if he could think of, tell me who the characters in the mission were, and know, the...and I wasn’t sure how to define characters, but let me ask you the same question. Who were kind of the characters on the Tanzanian field?

STIER: Characters on the Tanzanian field? [Pauses]

ERICKSEN: Or maybe other fields

STIER: Well, no I don’t....I wouldn’t know how to answer that. I do know Miss [Lucilda] Newton, who was an excellent teacher there at Katungulu, she was...had a very good sense of humor, and I always remember once she said, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to write a book.” She did write books. She wrote a couple books on the Africans. They were sold, and I guess they’re out of print now. And she said, “That book is going to be Off the Pedestal: Missionaries I Have Known.” That was going to be her title. And so we kidded her, and we...and I said to her especially, I said, “Lu, when you write that book, Off the Pedestal: Missionaries I Have Known, remember I’m going to write the last chapter of that book, and it’s going to be about you.” She was a very, very excellent woman, and had a good sense of humor, and very, very talented. As far as characters, I don’t know that we’ve had any that stood out as being.....

ERICKSEN: Did missionaries ever play practical jokes on each other?

STIER: Yeah, yeah. I remember one missionary, I won’t mention names, but I remember one missionary. He liked tease, and we had a missionary, a man. He...he was bald-headed. And he [pauses], he was...he was the headmaster of one of our schools there. But anyhow, this other missionary was kidding him about his bald head. And he said (how did he say that now?), “There are two things that bother a missionary...a person with a bald head, and they are fools and flies.” And he said, “I’m not being bothered with a fly right now,” [laughs] something like that. I thought that was pretty good example. He just was full of it, you know? Yeah, but I just wouldn’t be able to tell you as far as characters are concerned. Everybody has their own characteristics, but there, I don’t remember anything that was really outstanding.

ERICKSEN: Uh-huh. What did you find were the spiritual hardships of being a missionary?

STIER: Well, yeah, you do miss the fellowship of a...of your own home church when you leave. There’s no doubt about it whatsoever. That is...that is one of the greatest things. We had fellowship with the Africans, great fellowship, attend their churches, of course. We preach, and they preach and everything, but when you come right down to it, there’s just something about the fellowship you have with your loved ones in your own home church that you miss. And that’s one thing that I liked about our church. Whenever they would send a tape out to us of one of the services, not only enjoyed the message, but even enjoyed hearing the organ play and the singing, you know. It just...just would take you back to the church, and that’s a great need. There’s a great, great need for missionaries to have that contact with...


STIER: ...their own churches especially when they’re out there in the field, because if you don’t, you can slide down. And you have to be very, very careful. You have to discipline yourself to keep up your devotions, because if you don’t, you’re in trouble.


STIER: My wife and I, we always got up in the dark and lit the lantern, and I had to be at Bible school at 7:30 and had to have breakfast before that. We usually got up about six, quarter to six just to be able to have almost an hour’s devotions before we would get off to school and get down to the work. You have to do it. That’s all there is to it. If...if you miss out on that, then you’re going to miss out on a life of victory during the day.


STIER: Things will get you that shouldn’t get you.

ERICKSEN: Did you ever feel burnt out in your work?

STIER: No, I did not. That’s sort of a, shall I say, sort of a new thing here in the States. And I can appreciate it as far as pastors are concerned. When I see what is expected of pastors these days, not only to preach but to be everything else in the church....


STIER: ....administrators, this, that, and the other thing, you can understand how they get burned out. But no, I wouldn’t say that we experienced that on the field.

ERICKSEN: Anything you’d like to add.

STIER: I think I’ve said too much now [laughs].

ERICKSEN: Well, we....

STIER: Except as I said, I...I enjoyed my missionary career...


STIER: ...and would not have changed it and would be glad to do it again. I’d do a few things differently, but...


STIER: ...just praise the Lord for the opportunity. Yeah.

ERICKSEN: Well, thank you for sharing your story with us, spending the time.

STIER: Thank you.


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Last Revised: 5/15/2014

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© 2016 Wheaton College. All rights reserved. This transcript may be reused with the following publication credit: Used by permission of the Billy Graham Center Archives, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL.2015