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Collection 451 Papers of Bernard L. J. Litchman

Identifier: CN 451

Scope and Contents

Collection consists of diaries, negatives, photographs, and slides created by Bernard "Jack" Litchman about his work with Africa Inland Mission in the former Belgian Congo (now Zaire), mostly among the Balendu people, in and around the Linga mission station, as well as involvement in setting up Sunday Schools, churches, itinerant preaching, and other mission activities as well as working as a health officer for the Belgian government.


  • Created: 1917-1971

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical or Historical Information

Bernard Leonard Jack Litchman (originally Lichtman) was born on January 15, 1890. His father was Hirsh "Harry" Lichtman, a Lithuanian Jew who lived just off the Bowery in New York City. When Litchman was five, his mother died in childbirth and his father, unable to care for him and his younger sister Mary, placed them in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. When Litchman's father remarried, the asylum insisted he remove the children. Bernard did not get along with his step-mother and spent more and more time away from home. At fourteen he was arrested at Coney Island and sent to the New York Juvenile Asylum, a Christian organization. There he had to attend church services and Sunday School. When he returned home, the situation was no better and his step-mother drove him from the house. He worked as a telegraph messenger for a while and then at sixteen he put himself under the care of the Children's Aid Society and was sent to work on a ranch in Texas.

Litchman stayed in Texas for about a year and then began a period of drifting from place to place working at a variety of menial jobs. He ended up in Los Angeles, without money and hungry. On March 24, 1912, Bill Mullin, a Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA) street preacher, invited Litchman to follow him with the promise of supper. He went with Mullen to a meeting where Dr. Reuben A. Torrey preached and after the meeting Litchman accepted Christ as his Savior. He then found work as a construction laborer, clearing away old buildings to make way for new BIOLA buildings. He also began speaking at meetings, giving his testimony. At a missionary conference, he heard a man speak about working with people who lived a thousand miles up the Congo River at that time and he felt called to go to Africa as a missionary.

After taking classes at BIOLA, he sailed aboard the City of Calcutta on August 20, 1917, bound for Durban, South Africa, together with twenty-five other missionaries of the Africa Inland Mission. Traveling by steamer, train, truck, and finally on foot, Litchman reached Bogoro, a town in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire) on an escarpment almost three thousand feet above Lake Albert. He stayed in Bogoro for several months, learning languages and helping build a mission house before moving on to his first assignment in the area inhabited by the Balendu, a tribe known for its fierceness, where he worked until his first furlough in 1925.

After his furlough, before he returned to Africa, Litchman went to Belgium, where he studied tropical medicine. Upon completion of the course, the Belgian government gave him the position of Health Officer. When he returned to the Congo, the government required him to provide vaccination against an outbreak of dysentery (In a period of six weeks, he gave thirty-two thousand injections). During the following years, "Bwana Jack," as he was known, led the way in providing better disease control as well as teaching agriculture, establishing schools, and evangelism and leading thousands to Christ. Litchman worked in the Congo until 1961, when he was ordered out because of the unrest and revolution. He and many other missionaries were escorted to the border of Kenya by United Nations Ethiopian solders. From there he returned to the United States and went to live at Media, the AIM retirement home in Clermont, FL. Litchman died at Media on January 16, 1972.


1.00 Cubic Feet (2 Boxes (DC), Negatives, Photographs, Slides)

Language of Materials


Arrangement of Materials

[NOTE: In the Arrangement section, the notation "folder 2-5" means box 2, folder 5.]

The diaries begin on July 11, 1917, and run on and off until 1971. They contain brief daily entries about Litchman's health, the weather, and daily activities, e.g., "Sunday Nov 17 [1918] - Mr. Grings and I had prayer together. We prayed for rain...." "Monday. Nov 18 - It rained this morning. Praise God for answering prayer...." (Folder 1-1). He describes briefly holding various services, Sunday School meetings, prayer meetings, language study, building his house, planting gardens, traveling about the area, meetings with other missionaries, the state of his health, vaccinations (folder 1-4) evacuation from the Congo (folder 2-3), and life at the Media retirement center in Clermont, FL (folder 2-4 and 5).

Some of the gaps in the diaries and reasons for them are listed in the 1959 diary contained in folder 2-2. The first gap runs from October 1925 to January 1932, which covers Litchman's first furlough and his studies in Belgium and also includes about five years of work in Rethy and Linga for which the diaries were lost. Another gap occurs from December 1932 to January 1936, at which time he was again in the United States. Diaries are missing from January 1962 until December 1965 and January 1968 to December 1969.

The collection also contains a radio script, titled "The Barney Litchman Story," produced for the Pacific Garden Mission radio program Unshackled. It was written by Jack Odell and recorded on December 19, 1964, and January 2, 1965 (folder 2-7).

The collection contains about 60 negatives, over 900 photographs, and over 500 slides of African scenes that Litchman had taken to illustrate his talks about the work of Africa Inland Mission. There are two photographic scrapbooks that contain pictures of Litchman and his family and friends from the time he was a boy. Many of the photographic negatives were on nitrate film and were disposed of. The photographs and slides were selected from many more on the basis of identification and topic and the others were eliminated. Additional information about Litchman may be found in Collection 81, Records of Africa Inland Mission.

Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were received by the Center in October 1982 from Africa Inland Mission and in April 1992 from Mr. Donald Dix.

Accession 82-149, 92-40

May 25, 1993

Janyce H. Nasgowitz

E. Diaz

B. Phillips

Revised, August 30, 1994

Janyce H. Nasgowitz

Separated Materials

Accession 82-149

The following item is held in the Archives reference collections:

The Holy Bible. The Scofield Reference Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 1917. Inscribed: "This Bible was presented to Barney Litchman by the Men's Bible Class of the First Presbyterian Church in Seattle Wash. Jan 1st, 1926."

Collection 451 Papers of Bernard L. J. Litchman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US