Ring in the New, Accession the Old

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Accession 19-31. A portion of the Elisabeth Elliot Gren papers, which were donated in 2019 by her husband, Lars Gren, with assistance from Kathy and David Reeg.

As the Billy Graham Center Archives greets New Year 2020, we remember with thanks the accessions of 2019. Every profession has its own special terminology, rarely used by those outside it. Architects have muntin. Archivists have accession. We share the word with libraries, museums, and some monarchs. As a verb (in archival usage), to accession or accessioning means logging a new item into our collections. As a noun, it refers to an individual addition, which might be a single photograph or hundreds of boxes of correspondence. Archivists accept diverse material from a wide variety of sources and are much more inclined to collect than divest materials (although in recent years deaccessioning has become more of a priority among institutions). For the BGC Archives, 2019 will always be remembered as the year when the records from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association that had been deposited in the Archives were returned to the BGEA at its request. But it was also a year that brought a variety of significant, unusual, and wonderful additions.

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Accession 19-34. Undated photo of the staff of the American Sunday School Union. An example of the many individual items sent to us unsolicited by kind donors.

Every once in a while, acquisitions in a given year seem to follow a specific theme. In 2018 we received several large collections of private papers by prominent figures in evangelistic ministry, including Merrill Dunlop, Luis Palau, Merv Rosell, and George Beverly Shea. On the other hand, 2019 was the year of the authors. Individuals who had written significant books on evangelism and /or evangelical history contributed their research files, which included boxes and boxes of letters, transcripts, audio recordings, photos, and more that they had gathered. For example, Valarie Elliot Shepard donated the letters her parents had written to each other during their courtship, which formed the basis of her book, Devoted: The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot (2019) The gift also included Jim Elliot’s papers from his days as a Wheaton College student. The Elliots were best known for their involvement in evangelism among the Waorani people of Ecuador. The Waorani had never heard the Christian gospel, and Jim and five other men formed a project to reach them. On January 6, 1956 after an initial friendly contact, all five men were killed by members of the tribe. In October 1958, Elisabeth, along with Rachael Saint, the sister of one of the five, and three-year old Valerie traveled into the jungle to live among the Waorani and begin the work that was to bring many of them to faith in Jesus Christ.

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Accession 19-29. Beginning of a December 1949 letter from Jim Elliot to Elisabeth Howard.

The men’s death and the decision of the two women to live among them received global coverage in both secular and the religious press and made a deep impression on American Evangelicals. In Ecuador, the growth of a Christian community among the Waorani occurred alongside of the tribe’s increasing and often painful integration into the modern world. Dr. Kathryn Long spent decades researching the story, exploring more than just the deaths of the five men or the biographies of Elisabeth Elliot and Rachael Saint. Dr. Long also wrote about the impact the Waorani had on the world, as well as the impact of the world on the Waorani. Her book, God in the Rain Forest: A Tale of Martyrdom and Redemption in the Amazonian Ecuador was also published in 2019. After its release, she donated her manuscript, research files, interview tapes, and more to the BGC Archives, where they complement and greatly augment our other collections related to the so-called “Auca Incident,” Waorani Christianity, and western missions in Ecuador.

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Accession 19-15. Sample of materials Dr. Long gathered in her research. Top is a carbon copy of a letter from Catherine Peeke, 1971.  Beneath it is a photocopy, with Long’s annotations.  Catherine Peeke also lived among the Waorani and was the chief translator for most of the Waraoni New Testament.

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Accession 19-24. Digitizing Larry Eskridge’s interview tapes

On a completely different note, in 2013 Dr. Larry Eskridge published his award-winning book, God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America, probably the most insightful work  published on this Christian tradition, its history, music, and significance. Among his research activities for the book were interviews with dozens of people who had been leaders in the movement or involved in some other way. Dr. Eskridge allowed the BGC Archives to make digital copies of more than a hundred of these valuable resources that tell this story from late 20th century America.

Another author, Dr. Richard Gehman, was a missionary with Africa Inland Mission and professor at Scott Theological College in Kenya for many years. After his retirement, he made multiple visits to the Archives’ Reading Room researching our African mission collections. His book, From Death to Life: The Birth of the Africa Inland Church in Kenya, 1895-1945 and The Spreading Vineyard: The Growth of the Africa Inland Church, Kenya from 1945 Onward were published in 2014 and 2015 respectively and will likely be the standard works of the subject for many years to come. Dr. Gehman had previously given the Archives multiple boxes of his notes, research files, and rare documents on African Christianity. In 2019, he donated more manuscripts and materials, including the handwritten journal from AIM’s Kangundo station in Kenya.

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Accession 19-19. Title page and first entry from the Kangundo station logbook, ca. 1903.

This was also an excellent year for Elisabeth Elliot materials. Besides the Jim and Elisabeth Elliot letters mentioned above, the Bible Broadcasting Network generously sent us digital copies of Gateway to Joy, her radio program that aired from 1988 to 2001. Late in the year we received a donation of many more boxes of letters, lecture notes, manuscripts, photos, scrapbooks, audio recordings, films, and videos that document not only her time as a Bible translator and missionary in Ecuador, but also her ministry after she returned to the United States to become an influential author, lecturer, professor, and broadcaster.

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Accession 19-31. Photos from Elisabeth Elliot’s scrapbook of her Wheaton College years, 1946-1947

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Accession 19-14. Undated portrait of Robert E. Coleman

This past year was also a significant one for oral histories. Recording and preserving interviews with people involved in sharing the gospel has always an important part of the BGC Archives’ collecting strategy. This year we recorded interviews with indigenous Christian workers from Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda and India, in which they described topics as diverse as the AIDs epidemic, African theologian Abeneazer Gezahegn Urga, the church’s response to child marriages in Ethiopia, work among refugees in Greece, Christian social work among the rural poor in India, and college and university ministry in Uganda. We have also recorded many hours of interviews in the past with Robert Coleman, evangelist and professor of evangelism. We recorded another this year, in which he describes his involvement in the Lausanne Movement and his memories of, among others, Billy Graham, Bob Pierce, Paul Cedar, and Franklin Graham, as well as the impact of his book, The Master Plan of Evangelism.

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Accession 19-27. Lantern slides, a Chinese New Testament, and notebooks of training lectures for missionaries from the papers of Robert Glover.

The history of Evangelical, nondenominational, global missions has always been an important priority in our collecting. This year we received two particularly significant additions. One was the files from Africa Inland Mission’s TIMO program to give American seminary and university students long-term (up to two years) experience in cross-cultural service in different parts of Africa. The other was the papers of Robert Glover—longtime leader of China Inland Mission—and digital copies of the Chefoo Schools alumni newsletter. Chefoo is the name given to the schools for missionary children in China and later throughout East and Southeast Asia.

We even collected some interesting Billy Graham materials in 2019. Douglas Yeo gave us a copy of his interview with Cliff Barrows, Graham’s long term choir leader, for Yeo’s book on the history of the trombone. We also received a fine set of snapshots from the 1981 Billy Graham Baltimore Crusade from photographer Joel Fetzer, and the testimony of a woman who had been converted at a Youth for Christ meeting Graham held in Wales in 1946.

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Accession 19-25. Transcript of Myrtle James’s testimony, who was converted a 1946 Youth for Christ meeting in Wales led by Billy Graham.

At the very end of the year we received one more accession that was both an author collection and a missions collection. In 1944, Jane McNally, Wheaton class of ’39, sailed from America around the Cape of Good Hope to arrive in India, where she spent the next four decades as a TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) worker. Almost all of it was spent as the director of the Light of Light correspondence course, which taught Biblical knowledge to new Christians and eventually was available in 22 languages on the subcontinent. McNally also founded Light of Life magazine in 1957 and Good Shepard Academy in 1983. After retirement and return to the United States, she wrote The Abuse of Christian Women in India and Remedy in Twelve Biblical Studies on Equality of Man and Woman in 1997. Jane McNally passed away in 2013, and last month we received boxes of her correspondence, writings, and 1944 thesis, “The Place of Women in the New Testament,” written when she was the first woman student in Dr. Henry Thiessen’s theology department at Wheaton College.

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Accession 19-37. Note to Jane McNally from one of the users of her correspondence course.

There are many more accessions we could brag about of equal importance and interest. But we hope this gives our researchers an idea of the riches we were entrusted with in 2019 and what we hope is a promise of what we will receive in 2020.

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