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Re-telling stories of gems from Special Collections, Buswell Library
Updated: 10 hours 43 min ago

Oswald Chambers “In His Presence”

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 13:58

100 years ago today, teacher and evangelist Oswald Chambers passed away while serving as a chaplain in Egypt during World War I. Chambers was born  on July 24, 1874, to Clarence and Hannah Chambers in Aberdeen, Scotland. Chambers’ best known work, My Utmost for His Highest, has stayed in print since its first publication in Britain in 1927.  It has been translated into over forty languages and ranks in the top ten of religious bestsellers in the United States with millions of copies in print—becoming a Christian classic.

In October 1915 Oswald traveled to Cairo, Egypt to work with soldiers through the YMCA.  Two months after Oswald’s arrival, his wife, Biddy and two-year old daughter, Kathleen joined him and together they began a ministry among the thousands of soldiers stationed there.  While in Egypt Chambers served the soldiers as a counselor, pastor, and teacher.  He was available daily to meet with them and held daily bible studies.

Though there were others from the YMCA assisting in the work, it was demanding and took a toll on Chambers’ health as can be seen by his tired and drawn appearance.  One comfort was that Biddy and Kathleen were in Egypt with him.  On October 29, 1917 Oswald was taken to a Red Cross hospital in Cairo with severe pains in his abdomen.  An emergency appendectomy was performed that evening, and Oswald began to recover.  A week later he suffered a series of relapses from a blood clot in his lung, and he died on November 15, 1917.  Word was spread to England and abroad by cable that read “Oswald in His Presence.”

One friend wrote in his diary that he was shaken by Oswald’s death, not with “hopeless sorrow or resentment, but sheer staggerment.”  100 soldiers were a part of the funeral cortege while Samuel Zwemer, a missionary to Muslims, spoke at his graveside service.  His life was described as the “finest commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.”

Those assembled at the grave sang Psalm 121 from the Scottish Psalter:

I to the hills will lift mine eyes
From whence doth come mine aid.
My safety cometh from the Lord,
Who heav’n and earth hath made.
Thy foot he’ll not let slide, nor will
He slumber that thee keeps.
Behold, he that keeps Israel,
He slumbers not, nor sleeps.
The Lord thee keeps, the Lord thy shade
On thy right hand doth stay:
The moon by night thee shall not smite,
Nor yet the sun by day.
The Lord shall keep thy soul; he shall
Preserve thee from all ill
Henceforth thy going out and in
God keep for ever will.

In many ways, Chambers’ death should have been lost to our memories amidst the staggering losses of World War I.  But this is not the case.  Though an accomplished teacher his writings and name are more known today than when he was alive.  All of the published writings of Oswald Chambers come from the sermons and lessons he gave, which Biddy took down verbatim in pitmanic shorthand (up to 250 words a minute) and then transcribed after she and Kathleen returned to England.  The vast majority were published posthumously.

Special Collections, Buswell Library received the Oswald Chambers Papers from the Oswald Chambers Publications Association in England in 2002.  The archive consists of 50 boxes of materials, books and photographs primarily gathered by David McCasland during his research for writing the biography, Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God.  The collection includes Oswald’s published writings, correspondence, samples of Biddy’s shorthand notes and other materials relating to his education, growth and years of Christian ministry.  Of special interest are the class notes and personal diaries of Eva Spink—a student of Chambers’ at the Bible Training College in London and a co-worker in Egypt.

Ronald Reagan visits Wheaton

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 14:51
Ronald Reagan at Wheaton College, 1980

On October 8, 1980, Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan came to Wheaton College at the invitation of the campus Republicans.  His visit  came after receiving his party’s nomination during the fall campaign season and was covered in the Record student newspaper.  Edman Chapel was filled early in the afternoon by students and area residents eager to see and hear the former California governor.  State and county political figures, including Illinois governor James Thompson, filled the platform and spoke at some length when Reagan failed to appear at the scheduled time.  A busy day of campaigning, which had begun in Youngstown, Ohio, delayed his arrival by one hour.

The governor’s whistle-stop visit was accompanied by numerous religious references within the first few sentences of his speech.  He spoke of deliverance, rebirth and C.S. Lewis–words that were well-chosen and that resonated with the audience.  Candidate Reagan’s address centered not on war or the proliferation of nuclear arms, but on education.

This work of educational excellence and missionary work is truly in the tradition of the biblical injunction: ‘Go ye, therefore and teach all nations.’

Only if the people closest to the problems of education — teachers, parents, school boards, and boards of governors — are allowed to make the basic educational decisions, will the quality of education improve.

He praised Wheaton as a school with a mission.  Reagan promised, if elected, to form a task force to analyze federal educational programs.  He expressed support for tuition tax credits for parents sending children to non-public schools.

What we want is so simple, so elementary.  All we want is to live in freedom and in peace, to see to it that our nation’s legitimate interests are protected and promoted.  We want to worship God in our own way, lead our own lives, take care of our families and live in our own style, in our own community, without hurting anyone or anyone hurting us…We want the kind of personal security human beings can reasonably expect in a system of economic freedom and democratic self-government.

At the conclusion of his address Reagan laughed when presented with a stuffed mascot-sized replica of Perry Mastodon by Brad Bright, president of the campus Republicans.  Obligated to hurry off to his next campaign stop, the visitor had no opportunity to tour the campus or chat informally with students.

Reagan would defeat Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter the following month in the general election. President Carter himself came to campus twelve years later to give the  Pfund Lecture.

Irina Ratushinskaya (1954-2017)

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 10:49
Irina Ratushinskaya in 1987

This past summer on July 5, Irina Ratushinskaya, former Russian poet and novelist who survived four years in a Soviet prison camp, died in Moscow.

Her heroic story captured the attention of the West after being arrested in 1983 for anti-Soviet propaganda.  She composed hundreds of poems while in prison and smuggled them on cigarette paper through her husband.  She was released before the Iceland summit meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and would later meet the U.S. President in Washington, D.C. after securing her freedom.

The papers of Irina Ratushinskaya came to Special Collections, Buswell Library, beginning in the summer of 1992 through contacts of Associate Professor of Communication Emerita, Myrna Grant.  They include works of poetry, correspondence, articles, audio and artwork.  As well, they include a memoir of her time in prison, entitled Grey Is The Color Of Hope.  The largest portion of the collection is devoted to secondary material about Ms. Ratushinskaya while she was imprisoned and as human rights individuals advocated for her release.

One of her poems speaks to the harsh labor conditions and her periodic hunger strikes at the prison camp:

And I will tell of the first beauty I saw in captivity.
A frost-covered window! No spy-holes, nor walls,
Nor cell-bars, nor the long endured pain —
Only a blue radiance on a tiny pane of glass.

In April 1987, Irina spoke at Wheaton College while she and her husband, Igor Gerashchenko, were guests of Northwestern University in nearby Evanston, Illinois.

A kaddish for the Red Grange candy bar

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 14:33

Harold “Red” Grange, one of the greatest American football halfbacks of all time, was responsible for knocking out the teeth of many players on opposing teams. As a celebrity endorser, the Wheaton native was (less directly) responsible for rotting out the teeth of many admiring children with the distribution of the Red Grange Candy Bar, which included a collectible trading card displaying  “The Galloping Ghost” in action. Produced in 1926 by Shotwell Candy Company, the Red Grange candy bar struggled briefly in the competitive sweets market before disappearing forever.

Judging by this cross section, the Red Grange candy bar resembles the Baby Ruth, which has survived since 1921: a caramel or nougat center surrounded by nuts and an outer covering of milk chocolate

Steve Almond in Candy Freak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America (2004), offers this amusing lament to obsolete candy:

…I think about the candy bars of my youth that no longer exist, the Skrunch Bar, the Starbar, Summit, Milk Shake, Powerhouse, and more recent bars which have been wrongly pulled from the shelves — Hershey’s sublime Cookies ‘n Mint leaps to mind — and I say kaddish for all of them…Oh where are you now, you brave stupid bars of yore? Where Oompahs, those delectable doomed pods of chocolate and peanut butter? Where the molar-ripping Bit-O-Choc? And where the Caravelle, a bar so dear to my heart that I remain, two decades after its extinction, in an active state of mourning?

Whether the retirement of the Red Grange candy bar was mourned or not, it has joined the pantheon of discontinued candies: Cherry Humps, Blizzard Bar, Clark Coconut Bar, Bob Cat Candy Bar, Jumbo Nerds, Goodnuff Peanut Bars, Luv Pops, Goofy Groceries, Life Savers Holes, Gatorade Gum, Merri Mints, Orange Heads, Tangy Taffy, Wonka Bar, Mr. Buddy, Bit-O-Licorice, Bonkers Fruit Chews, Mr. Melons and many more.