Tag Archives: Missionaries

Library Research Awards: My Experience Conducting Research at Burke

In December 2011, Columbia University Libraries announced a new awards program designed to facilitate research access to the Libraries’ special and unique collections; it became known as the Library Research Awards Program. Each year, the Libraries award ten grants of $2,500 each to those researchers who demonstrate a compelling need to consult Columbia Libraries special collections for their work.  All US citizens are welcome to apply and preference will be given to those outside the New York City metropolitan area.  The intent of the grant is to help defer the cost of visiting the Libraries for research needs. The Burke Library is one of the libraries that participate in this grant, which is awarded on a competitive basis through an application process.

LibResearchAward2014

Matthew Unangst, a graduate student at Temple University, was a 2013 recipient of Columbia University Library’s Library Research Award for his project “Making East Africa: Colonialism, Race and Islam.” Matthew consulted a few rare pamphlets from the Missionary Research Library:

Image_WasLehren
Was lehren uns die Erfahrungen, welche audere Völker bei Kolonisationsversuchen in Afrika gemacht haben?

By Alexander Merensky, published Berlin: Verlag von M. E. Matthies, 1890
[MRL Pamphlet Call Number: 1565]

Image_EineAuswahl
Eine Auswahl aus der deutschen Missionslitteratur : mit einer Übersicht über die deutschen Missionsgesellschaften
Published Halle a.S.: Verlag des Studentenbundes für Mission, 1897
[MRL Pamphlet Call Number: 1444]

Image_WeltkriegundWeltmission
Weltkrieg und Weltmission by Johannes Warneck

Published Gutersloh: Drud un Berlag von C. Bertelsmann, 1891
[MRL Pamphlet Call Number: 1670]

The Missionary Research Library (MRL) was created by John R. Mott in 1914 after the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference of 1910. It was created in response to the need for a central resource to provide information for the development and preparation of missionaries, as well as a documentary source for the history of mission work. MRL offered many types of records including pamphlets, which Matthew used; books; and other collections such as archives. Thanks to a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Missionary Research Library Archives are being fulled processed and made available for use.

In the summer of 2013, Matthew spent a few weeks with us at the Burke Library. Not only did Matthew find more than what he was looking for, but he also has a better understanding and grasp of the process of research. Matthew was impressed with Burke’s unique and interesting collections, stating:

There’s just so much to go through. It seems at this point that the missionary publications are going to be an important part of every one of my chapters as the on-the-ground perspective about political and social changes in East Africa as the central administration…figured out how to govern the colony.”

The Burke Library offers so many exciting collections just waiting to be discovered. What will you find on your next research trip?


 

My Experience Conducting Research at Burke
By: Matthew Unangst

I spent three weeks this summer conducting research for my dissertation at Burke Library. My project explores ideas about race and space in the first decade of the German colonization of today’s mainland Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda. Burke Library has the best collection of German missionary publications from the late nineteenth century of any library or archive in the United States, so I applied for a Columbia Library Research Grant to visit the library. I was lucky enough to receive one.

My time at Burke was extremely productive. Most of what I was looking at was German missionary periodicals, published by various mission societies around Germany. Those periodicals ranged from the semi-official Allgemeine Missions-Zeitschrift to periodicals meant for children, such as the Kleine Missions-Bote. It seemed that many of the materials I was reading had not been opened for a long time. Not all of them were in great shape – some of them were 130 years old and not designed for preservation in the first place – so I usually was covered in a cloud of dust by the end of each day. I also took advantage of Burke’s collections of missionary books and pamphlets, some of them in special collections, from the late nineteenth century.

I am using the missionary publications I read at Burke as my main source for local interactions between Germans and Africans in German East Africa. The colonial state was only just beginning to establish control over much of the colony during the period of my study, so missionaries were often the main contact between the state and local populations. Missionaries were often more attuned to local political circumstances and local desires than were central administrators hundreds of miles away. Though they wrote from their own German perspective, missionaries noted instances and circumstances in which people living near the mission reacted particularly strongly to missions’ or the state’s actions.

I want to thank the Burke Library’s staff for its help during my time there. The staff was an enormous help in getting me settled and helping me find the materials I needed. The reading room of the library was unquestionably the most beautiful place that I have done research. I look forward to my next trip there to follow up on the work I did this summer.

From Finding Aids to Floppy Disks

I spent yesterday and today getting acquainted with my first archival box. To learn and get experience with writing a finding aid, I’m working with materials that already have a finding aid, “The Chinese Church of Christ in Korea papers 1908-1975.” Some of what needed to be done was basic copy editing and formatting the document.

Korea cover photoBut the fun part was getting to explore the folders in the box. Part of what I was doing was comparing the box content to the descriptions in the finding aid, to make sure that it was accurate, and as detailed as it needed to be.

Exploring documents that ranged from handwritten letters to missionary history to brochures about Korea, I had to remind myself not to read the documents themselves. Processing an archive isn’t about reading the documents. Handing me pages and pages of typewritten and handwritten documents and telling me not to read them takes willpower! I only skimmed. I told myself I was familiarizing myself with the documents, and checking to see if any details jumped out that would improve the level of historical detail in the finding aid, to help researchers (and those searching on the web) find it, with better keywords. Yeah! That’s what I was doing. Not reading! No reading here!

The documents that I absolutely did not read covered the work Chinese missionaries were doing to establish missions and mission schools in Korea, covering a time and place in history I had known absolutely nothing about. And now I’m curious to learn more. (Maybe a stop by the UTS library on the way home!)

After I submitted my work on the finding aid for edits, my next task was to work my way through a box of floppy disks, get the documents onto the hard drive so they could be processed. Some of the disks I handled had one or two files on them, mostly Word documents, sometimes a PowerPoint or PDF. It is a little bit mind boggling to think about the fact that only a few decades ago, our portable media could hold mere kilobytes or megabytes of data. And now, several gigabytes can fit on an even smaller device.

docs and floppiesToday, I worked with, and handled documents that were typed or handwritten in the early 20th century. And floppy disks with documents saved in the early 2000’s.

I’d call that a very good day!

The Relevance of Reference: A Discovery

People always ask me why I want to become an archivist, and I always respond with some idealized blanket answer that references the preservation of history and provision of access to everyone. My answers are always filled with such good will that I feel as if some heroic composition should be playing as I recite this declaration of my good intentions. Access is one of the top reasons why I am in this field but the other reason, the one that I rarely express, is that I just love handling all the cool old stuff. Looking at the correspondence of the celebrities of a particular institution, handling the old paper and coming across ephemera is like being Indiana Jones on an expedition. Most of the time my search does not result in a victory speech but there are times when what I handle fills me with excitement. This is one of the beauties of archives; we are not only saving what is important to an institution but we are also keeping in mind the potential users of this information and the unique things they might be interested in exploring.

This past week while conducting an inventory of the Missionary Research Library administration records I came across library correspondence with W.E.B Dubois. At first, what caught my attention was the letterhead which read Editorial Rooms of The Crisis. For the past few weeks I have been working on an online exhibition of World War I records and I had used an image from The Crisis magazine. When I saw the name of the magazine, I did not immediately make the connection. The Crisis was an important African American publication in the early part of the twentieth century. W.E.B Dubois was not just the magazine’s editor but one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The influence that DuBois and the NAACP have had on African American rights is monumental. When I saw his signature across the bottom section of the page I was filled with excitement. I needed to know why one of the most important black leaders of his time was writing to the Missionary Research Library.

In the first letter Dubois requested information regarding Edward J. Roye, the fifth president of Liberia. Among the information Dubois sought was the original birthplace of Roye. He stated that that he had already searched several resources and in another letter revealed that he turned to the Missionary Research Library as a result of a recommendation.

The Library responds with enthusiasm over Dubois search and provides a list of resources that he needed. It was nice to see that the Missionary Research Library was performing remote reference way before the era of the virtual librarian. These libraries functioned as authoritative sources of information; sometimes they were the only source of particular information. In Dubois’ case, the lack of assistance from MRL would have resulted in an omission from an important historical record. It was MRL to the rescue!

Working with these records has allowed me to see the sheer volume and range of reference inquiries that the MRL received. The questions range from those about starting missions to bibliography requests concerning a particular country.

Today, the Burke Library also follows in the footsteps of the MRL by providing access to information through its catalog and finding aids. Although the volume of written letters has changed as the result of technology, the Library continues to conduct reference and assist scholars with their searches. The librarian-to-person relationship has changed but the library still takes time to ensure that it presents itself as a people friendly resource. Sometimes the wealth of information becomes overwhelming and information gets drowned out. It is nice to find that my mission as an information professional to shed light on these interesting resources is still relevant.

Note: The Missionary Research Library Administrative Records are currently being processed. Further information on the availability of this collection can be found online at: http://library.columbia.edu/locations/burke/archives/mrl.html.

“These Are Bloody Times in Which We Live…”: The Journal of Mary Lewis Shedd


June 17, 1918

One of the first collections I processed at Burke was MRL2: Mary Lewis [Mrs. W. A.] Shedd Papers, 1918. This journal made an impact on me not just because of the first-hand account it provides, but also because this copy appears to be completely unique.

The collection is comprised of a 42-page typed copy of Mary Lewis Shedd’s journal, which gives in great detail the events from February to October, 1918 in Urmia, Persia (written as Uremia or Urumia by Shedd) and the withdrawal of Assyrian Christians. Along with experiencing this directly, she was privy to other information because of her husband and includes this in her journal. The journal has been published as The Urumia Exodus: More Leaves from the War Journal of a Missionary in Persia. The collection available at the Burke contains more detail and entries than the published version.

Born in Glen Lock, Pennsylvania on January 15, 1873, Mary E. Lewis became the third wife of William Ambrose Shedd [1865-1918], Presbyterian missionary to Persia and later United States consul in Urmia, in July 1917. According to the forward by Laura McComb Muller in The Urumia Exodus,

Out of Persia, the little-known neutral country that lies between Russia and Turkey… Since the war began, its northern province, and especially the city of Urumia, has been either at the mercy of the Turks or in the hands of the Russians… the Christians endured a five months’ siege in the mission compound…

The published Urumia Exodus jumps from an entry dated March 11 to August 28, 1918. A note is included which says,

When the curtain rises again, five months later, upon the people of Urumia, not only is the scene changed, but a different party is in power. Following the treaties between Germany and the Bolsheviki, the Turks had again advanced and were taking their revenge. (The Urumia Exodus, Page 14)

The longer, unpublished Shedd journal in MRL2 includes entries from this time. Mary has heard news of what is now known as “March Days” or “March Events,” which refers to the infighting and massacre of up to 12,000 Azerbaijanis and other Muslims that took place between March 30 and April 2, 1918 in the city of Baku, then part of the Russian Empire:

This led to the discussion of the potential for Christians to be sent away from the area for safety:

Developments can be traced by reading further through Shedd’s journal:


Mary’s last entry is July 28, after which she is silent until September 24, 1918 when she is located in Hamadan, Persia. She begins to recall the last few weeks:

The Shedds were forced to evacuate Urmia on July 31, 1918, along with thousands of other Assyrian Christians, as the Ottoman Army threatened nearby. She writes in great detail about the confusion, including:

They retreated for six days, at which point her husband became ill with cholera and died shortly thereafter:


"Fifty thousand hunted, terror stricken refugees had passed on, the desolate, rocky mountains loomed above us, darkness was all about us and heaven too far away for prayer to reach."

Mrs. Shedd’s group escaped further from the warzone with the aid of the British towards Iraq, and buried her husband along the way, about seven miles east of Sain Kala.

Mary reached Hamadan August 24. On October 2, she wrote that probably seven or eight thousand died, were killed, or were taken prisoner on the journey she had recently completed.

Despite everything, in her last journal entry Mary Lewis Shedd writes:

Mary would later write a biography of her husband, The Measure of a Man: The Life of William Ambrose Shedd, Missionary to Persia, published in 1922. While not much more is known about her life, she continued her work as a missionary. She appears in New York Passenger lists in 1919; 1930; and 1933. Microfilm copies of Mary Lewis Shedd’s passport, and New York Passenger Lists are available at the National Archives and Records Administration.

All images from: MRL 2: Mary Lewis [Mrs. W. A.] Shedd Papers, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Further Sources

Mary Lewis Shedd’s first journal was published as a fifty-one page monograph, The War Journal of a Missionary in Persia [1915], available at the Burke Library, Union Theological Seminary (see MRL Pamphlet 1890 and 2069).

The second journal is The Urumia Exodus: More Leaves from the War Journal of a Missionary in Persia [1918]. This can be found at the William Smith Morton Library, Union Presbyterian Seminary, and in the Special Collections of Northwestern University (http://nucat.library.northwestern.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=1940338). The New York Public Library has it available on microfilm (http://catalog.nypl.org/record=b14791152~S1).

Mary Lewis Shedd’s biography of her husband, The Measure of a Man: The Life of William Ambrose Shedd, Missionary to Persia was published by the George H. Doran Company: New York in 1922. Many libraries have the book, and it can also be found online in its entirety (http://www.archive.org/stream/measureofmanlife00shedrich/measureofmanlife00shedrich_djvu.txt).

“We will never forget this ride of terror”: Translating the Reports of German Missionaries to Cameroon Taken as Prisoners of War


Credit to: MRL1: German Missionaries in Cameroon Reports, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

One of the great benefits of interning at the Burke Library Archives last spring was the opportunity to fuse several of my skills in the various projects I undertook. One of these projects was translating the reports of German-speaking missionaries to Cameroon who were taken prisoner in the fall of 1914 when the English and French armies captured Cameroon’s capital, Douala, and the surrounding areas. These fascinating reports tell of injustices done to the missionaries while simultaneously revealing layers of racism, prejudice, nationalism, and self-righteousness festering just under the surface of their statements. Written just weeks after the missionaries’ return to their homes in Germany and Switzerland in early 1915, the sentiments are raw, the emotions strong, and the wounds still fresh.

The thirteen reports are written as first-person chronological narratives of each missionary’s personal experience as a prisoner of war. All of the missionaries were members of the Basel Mission and most were stationed in Douala. Reading the reports one after the other is like watching a film of the same event made from thirteen different perspectives. From the individual voices, some harsher and some more reserved, an overall impression of the everyday injustices and terrors of war emerges.

In almost every report, missionaries are stripped of their belongings, their homes ransacked and their gardens robbed and trampled. Conditions for sleeping and washing in the various make-shift prisons are disgusting, and the food almost inedible.

All reports are written by men, most of whom also had wives whose experiences are only reported second-hand. Missionary Bührer writes: “Mrs. Gutekunst and my wife were held for hours by native soldiers who broke into and invaded our Akwa house after I left with random and repeated orders and counter orders until the six brute soldiers pilfered the property of Mrs. Gutekunst and finally left.” Exactly what Mrs. Gutekunst and Mrs. Bührer experienced in those hours remains, to a great extent, a mystery.

The reports are also filled with examples of English prejudice against the Germans they took prisoner: Missionary Hecklinger writes “The treatment on this ship on the side of the English, especially the stewards, was thoroughly ignoble. The latter said swear words like bloody swine, bloody dog, German bastard and others.” Swiss citizen Bührer reports that in response to his complaint that he was not allowed to enter his own offices at his Swiss-based mission, an English commanding officer quipped: “What, the Basel Mission neutral? Go on! You Swiss-Germans are three-fourths Germans of the Reich.”

Yet just as the missionaries complain of the discrimination they suffered, their own prejudices emerge, sometimes even against the Cameroon people they had sought to convert. Bührer writes: “Marching like prisoners next to black soldiers with bayonets propped up, we were subjected to the disdainful glances and shouts of delight in our misfortune from the Douala people loitering about.” Missionary Gutbrod is more explicit in his racism: “It is hair-raising how the English treated us in front of the natives, or how they allowed us to be treated by them. The German name has been trampled into the dust by them, and the German mission wasn’t spared. We shouldn’t be surprised then when some of the natives don’t remain true and treat Germans the way that they shouldn’t be treating them! The English are to blame, not the blacks. […] Not only Germans but the respect of the white race has suffered greatly. We’ll have to see what comes of it.”

While these jarring sentiments might lead some to lose sympathy for the missionaries, most of the experiences recounted in the reports do not allow for such clear‑cut finger-pointing. Some instead develop out of a sort of chaos of war with no particular person or group left to blame. One of the most frightening of these episodes occurs in the report from Karl Wittwer, a Swiss missionary stationed in Ndunge (also spelled Ndoungue and Ndoungé) north of Douala. Wittwer recounts how the English troops attempted to transport prisoners on a broken train car:

The next morning, we were brought back to Ndunge, from which we began the journey to the coast together with my wife, child, and the other members and guests of the station. Other prisoners joined us at the nearby railroad station in Mambellion. The women, children, and luggage were loaded onto an open freight car. Since there were no functioning locomotives on hand and the car had no breaks, long ropes were tied to the back of the car, and they had blacks hold these so that the car would not take off too fast going down steep slopes. An imprisoned rail worker who knew the stretch very well and did not completely trust this set up offered to lead the transport. He was refused. It soon became clear that there were not enough men holding the ropes. The car started to run wildly. It could have easily come off the tracks at a sharp curve. Furthermore, both the women sitting on the speeding car and we men rushing after them knew that the bridge some 30 kilometers ahead had been blown up, and if the car were not stopped, it would fly out into the Dibombe River. In their desperation, the women began to jump off one after the other. Although the first to dare to jump—an injured black soldier who had been sitting on the car—fell under the wheels and was killed instantly, the women and children miraculously made it off the car with relatively few injuries. My wife, who together with our 2 ½ year-old was the last to jump down, had it the worst of anyone. She fell on her back and apparently landed on a rock, which left her in pain and almost unable to lie down for weeks. And the back of our child’s head hit her so hard on the mouth that several of her top teeth became loose and some fell out. We will never forget this ride of terror.

Indeed, all of the missionaries’ journeys from working freely in Cameroon through the indignities of imprisonment and finally to their homes in Germany or Switzerland were rides of terror. Despite their often overt bias, these reports offer a view into the difficulties suffered by peaceful civilians during a time of war. Yet even among missionaries—those whom we might guess to be most modest in their needs, pious in their thoughts, and thankful to survive encroaching war—we find indignation, conceit, and hints of seething hatred. As documents of an historical moment and evidence of the cultural attitudes at the beginning of the First World War, this collection is a gem for historians, theologians, and pacifists, and of certain interest to many others.

The German missionaries in Cameroon reports are available to registered readers for consultation by appointment only. Please contact archives staff by phone, fax or email at archives@uts.columbia.edu.

The Value of Ecumenical and Missionary Records


Credit to: WAB: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

I had the pleasure of working on the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Foreign Missions Conference of North America (FMCNA) collections this summer and the following highlights the materials that I found to be most interesting and the ways in which these materials enhance my research. The WCC is an organization dedicated to ecumenical dialogue within the Christian tradition (and beyond), and the FMCNA organization is a missionary relief effort that, through various committees, sought to assist the underserved or populations in crisis.

While working on the WCC records, I found an extensive collection of scholarly papers and had the pleasure of looking at correspondence addressed to “My dear Reinie” (Reinhold Niebuhr) regarding papers presented at the WCC general assemblies. Among these papers were discussions of general theological interest, but also papers on ethics and education. I was pleased to see, firsthand, the level of scholarly discourse and intentionality engaged in by the WCC as it met to discuss ecumenism and a vision for the global, unified Christian church. One discovery that made me so proud was the forward-thinking nature of the materials circulated by the WCC on the inclusion of women and a push to discuss race issues long before such discussions were vogue. I know that these papers are published in volumes and circulating in general collections, but holding the hand-typed conference papers, seeing notes in margins, and reading correspondence regarding edits brings to life the work and efforts of the ecumenists.

My absolute favorite part of the WCC collection is the photographs series; I could look at these photos all day long. It was fun to see snapshots from the decennial assemblies, marking the passage of time through ever-enhancing technology and the preferred fashions of the day. From petticoats to bell bottoms, the photographs series documents the growth of the WCC movement, and takes a special look at Union Theological Seminary’s role. I was actually quite surprised at how involved Union’s professors were in WCC efforts, and pleased to see scholars emerging from their ivory towers to engage in ecumenical discussions via the black and white photos depicting hand shakes, scholars robes, and a general Union seminary presence at these assemblies.

The FMCNA collection is a missionary relief organization and the materials here reflect the efforts of the FMCNA to provide assistance to communities suffering from war, famine, natural disaster, and poverty. Going through the FMCNA materials is like reading a world history book that details events of the past century. From accounts documenting accounts of the Gripsholm cruise ship as it braved war zones to trade Japanese citizens for US prisoners of war, to journals documenting Guerrilla Relief efforts in Japanese-occupied China in 1939, the materials depict the many logistics involved in these relief efforts. What these materials convey is less a story of white colonial domination and more an account of assistance in the midst of crisis, as the FMCNA stepped in to care for the most vulnerable individuals.

One of the most disturbing images I saw while working on this collection was a newsletter in the Committee on East Asia materials that had a picture of toddler orphan children from China living among the corpses of the toddlers who did not survive. Starving babies were crawling over their now deceased playmates, crying, emaciated, and alone. For all the commercials of hungry children compelling television viewers to donate to relief organizations, I have never seen an image like this. The FMCNA stepped into many war-torn situations, similar to the one in China, and provided aid via the Orphan Relief network.

That’s the amazing thing that most people do not realize about the missionary records that we keep here at the Burke Archives and about missionary archives in general: some of history’s greatest atrocities are documented and recorded in the accounts of missionaries. Missionaries are on the front lines (and not just in a spiritual sense), in the literal, day-to-day sense of living through various crises, and exchanging correspondence that documents historical accounts and needs from the margins back to the “dominant culture.”

At the end of the day, this is one of the greatest research benefits of the missionary collections housed at Burke and one of the most useful insights I gleaned in working with the WCC and FMCNA records: the value of perspective, location, and presence in the midst of crisis.

The Messy Truth about Foreign Missions

Foreign missions.  It's a pretty unpopular concept these days.  Missionaries are associated with all the damage wrought by the project of subjugation, exploitation, displacement, and genocide of native peoples and cultures across the world.  The criticisms are well-founded.

Retrospect is a tricky thing though.  History is often tainted by a touch of arrogance and a total lack of appreciation for how complex, messy, and nuanced real people and situations actually are.  We have a tendency to think that people were ignorant "back then."  We "know better now."  This is an idea that we like because it feeds our whole complex about "progress"… it makes us feel like we are better and smarter than those naïve people who preceded us (but wait, that’s an idea of Western imperialism…woops!). 

One of the best cures for the claims of revisionist history is a consultation with the archives.  While working with the Missionary Research Library Archives at Burke Library I processed MRL12: Personnel Policies of Foreign Mission Boards Records, a collection of 500 completed questionnaires that had been distributed in 1950 to former missionaries. 

Information they collected includes:
-personal data (age, gender, field location, years of service, missionary task)
-how they came to the decision to enter missionary service
-what (if any) training they received before entering the field
-whether their provisions, salaries, and living arrangements were sufficient
-whether the support they got from their board was adequate
-what effect the experience had on their Christian faith and their belief in missionary work
-their reasons for leaving

Missionaries of the 19th and 20th centuries: Who were they?
So who were the foreign missionaries from the 19th and 20th century, and how did they understand the work they were doing?  Were they really the offensively ignorant, racist, arrogant, and condescending bunch that we often imagine them to be?  Or were they actually in many cases humble, compassionate, self-aware, and even critical of foreign missions boards and those in power? 

The answer is, of course, both.  I certainly came across some questionnaires that included absurdly myopic statements about "heathens." Some of them actually made me cringe.  But most of the missionaries sounded basically the same as people today: conflicted, confused, frustrated with the shortcomings of their relationships and the limitations of the situations they found themselves in, but still hopeful, generally well-intentioned, and striving in the best way they knew how to achieve positive outcomes. Shocking, I know.

Looking through these survey questionnaires, I was really interested to discover that the most common concerns expressed by missionaries were imperialism, top-down policies, outmoded paradigms, bigotry, and paternalism. While these concerns obviously serve as evidence to substantiate the criticisms of foreign missions, they also reveal how many individuals were fully aware of, and attempting to work around, the problems posed by imperialism.  The voices of these missionaries serve as some of the most arresting indictments of missionary work.  Ironically, it seems that the original postcolonial critics were colonizers themselves. 

In Their Own Words
“Christianity must be de-Westernized,” insisted one respondent. “We must serve people of other lands as Christ served those around him.  We must divest ourselves of Western materialism.”  Another wrote emphatically, “Many missionaries are the worst type of colonial.  We should learn to live Christianity before we shove it down somebody else’s throat.” 

 

One missionary in South Africa from 1919-1947 was convinced that “without Christian schools and churches the African would have been dominated by whites much more than they are.” 

 

“With better understanding and appreciation of other religions,” wrote one man, “I am still convinced that Christianity is the ultimate answer to all the hopes and aspirations of the best in every faith.  My concept of ‘heathen’ and ‘non-Christian’ has changed to that of ‘friend’ and ‘seeker after truth’.”
 

Foreign Missionary Record #1600. Credit to MRL12: Personnel Policies of Foreign Mission Boards Records, box 5, folder 6, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

More favorite quotes:

 “Imperialism has gone out of style and was always contrary to the Gospel.  Our task is to transmit the Gospel unfettered and cluttered with our culture.  The task of the church is not to crossfertilize cultures.  We carry too much baggage with us.  Jesus had nowhere to lay his head.  Professionalism has killed all creativity in missions.” –former missionary in Mexico 1951-1953.  Record #0757

“Foreign missionaries usually have negative attitude toward other religions, typically bigoted and intolerant.  As I learned to appreciate Indian cultures and Indian religions I saw that the whole philosophy of the missionary movement is alien to my understanding of Christ’s teachings.”  –former missionary in India 1923-1941.  Record #1225

“Too many missionaries are paternalistic.  Too many equate Christianity with Americanism.  Too few are really identified as Jesus was with the common people as one of them.  There is too little appreciation for the fact that missionaries can receive as well as give.  I went with the idea I was to help poor heathens.  China had a culture that was old before America was born.  I learned that after I lived there.  From the beginning, I resented along with my students foreign gunboats and other imperialistic demonstrations of foreign powers, including my own country.” –former missionary in China 1921-1938.  Record #1383