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Collection 481 Papers of Laura Barr

Identifier: CN 481

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, diaries, articles, clippings, oral history interviews, photograph albums, photographs, prayer letters, radio broadcasts, and slides, describing Laura Isabelle “Belle” Barr's missionary work among the Lugbara people of northeast Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and the West Nile District of Uganda with Africa Inland Mission (AIM) from 1944-1981.


  • Created: 1930-1993

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Full Name: Laura Isabelle “Belle” Barr

Birth: August 28, 1914, Quincy, Illinois

Death: March 15, 2003, Clermont, Florida


Parents: Russell T. Barr (1875-1960) and Mary Winn Barr (1878-1925)

Siblings: Older brother and sister, Winn (Baptist pastor), Lila (married James Propst of AIM)

Marital Status: Not married

Conversion: At a Rodney “Gipsy” Smith evangelistic meeting, September 25, 1930


1932-1933 - Bible Institute of Pennsylvania (evening school)

1933-1935 - Columbia Bible College, South Carolina (graduated)

1936-1937 - Booth Memorial Hospital, New York City, one-year nursing course for missionary candidates


1937-1938 - Worked as a nurse at the Brooklyn Eye and Ear Hospital

1938 - Applied to and was accepted by Africa Inland Mission

1938-ca. 1940 - Worked at a Salvation Army hospital in Cleveland, Ohio

1940 - Attended the Wycliffe Summer Institute of Linguistics, Sulphur Springs, Arkansas

1941-1943 - Worked at Bendix Aviation Corporation

1943 - Attended the Wycliffe Summer Institute of Linguistics, Muscogee, Oklahoma

February 1944 - Sailed to the Belgian Congo with the supported by the Church of the Open Door, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1944-1949 - 1st term. Girls’ work (a home and school for girls) and learning the Lugbara language in Aru, Belgian Congo

1949-1951 - Furlough

1951-1956 - 2nd term. Continued girls’ work. Participated in the translation of the Old Testament and revision of the New Testament. Lived in the Lugbara area of both Uganda and Congo

1956-1958 - Furlough

1958-1963 - 3rd term. Involved again in girls’ work. Moved to Mvara near Arua, Uganda on December 31, 1960 then to Ringili near Kuluva to continue typing the Lugbara Bible manuscript which was finished in 1963.

1963-1964 - Furlough

1964-1970 - 4th term. In Ringili, Uganda proof reading the whole Lugbara Bible (1½ years) which was completed in 1967 (first shipment of Bibles arrive later that year). Works on a language project (analysis of tone and meaning) until 1970. Also taught in the Diocesan Training Centre in Ringili.

1970-1971 - Furlough

1971-1975 - 5th term. Continues teaching in the Diocesan Training Centre, doing women’s and village work, and her language project. Ringili, Uganda

1975-1976 - Furlough

1976-1980 - 6th term. Same responsibilities as during 5th term. Ringili, Uganda

1981 - Retired to AIM Media retirement center in Clermont, Florida

Other significant information:

As a child of 2 or 3 family moved to Germantown, Pennsylvania

Grandparents: Thomas C. Winn & Lila Willard Winn were Presbyterian missionary to Japan. Laura’s mother was a teacher in Japan

Grew up in a Presbyterian Church

Began attending the Church of the Open Door (was a charter member of church) in 1936


1.15 Cubic Feet (2 Boxes (DC), Audio Tapes, Negatives, Photo Albums, Photographs, Slides)

Language of Materials


Arrangement of Material

[Note: In the Scope & Content section, the notation “folder 2-5" means “Box 2, Folder 5"]

Series: Audio Tapes

Arrangement: Oral history interviews (T1-6) and radio broadcasts (T12-17) grouped together respectively.

Date Range: 1914-1993

Volume: 17 tapes

Geographic coverage: Belgian Congo, Uganda

Type of documents: Oral history interviews, reports, radio interviews and broadcasts

Note: Tapes 1-4 contain oral history interviews with Laura Barr by Paul A. Ericksen recorded on January 20 and 22, 1993 at her home at the AIM Media Retirement Center in Clermont, FL.

Tapes 5 & 6 contain an interview of Laura Barr by her nephew, David Rowland, on November 9, 1981, at the home of David and Martha Rowland in Baltimore. Evelyn Rebecca Dyke [sp?], Laura’s sister-in-law, interrupts periodically with questions and comments. The events described in the interview cover the time period 1930-1980.

Tapes 13-17 were copied from radio broadcasts of the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on World Map Tape Outreach audio cassettes.


Series: Paper Records

Arrangement: Alphabetical, folder titles created by the archivist except for folders 1-12, 2-1, 5 which Barr provided.

Date Range: 1930-1993

Volume: 0.75 cubic feet; 2 Boxes

Geographic coverage: Congo, Uganda, United States

Type of documents: Articles, correspondence, diaries, notebooks, photo albums, photographs, prayer letters, publications,

Correspondents: Laura Barr, Winn Barr, Paul Dean, Joy Grindey, Stanley & Carmel Kline, Canon Seton & Peggy Maclure, Maureen Moore, Henrietta Propst, Lila Barr Propst, Zola Smith Subjects: Political situation after Congo’s independence and after the fall of Idi Amin of Uganda as it affected missionaries. The Mau Mau situation in the Belgian Congo. Lugbara customs and beliefs. AIM work and life in Congo and Uganda.

Notes: The prayer letters in folder 2-3 were arranged by Barr according to the term she was on the field. All except a few written in 1960 have a roman numeral and number at the top indicating Barr’s missionary term and order they were mailed. Some other letters are interspersed between these letters. Several letters describe the situation after Congo gained independence in 1960. The letter of January 2, 1981 describe the massacre at Ringili, West Nile District, Uganda on October 15, 1980. Additional information about this event is in Barr’s diary (folder 1-10) and the clippings file (folder 1-3). Some of Barr’s personal correspondence for the years 1958-1960 in folder 1-6 have been marked in magic marker indicating the sections of the letters in which she writes about the political and military situations, district work and converts, and the Lugbara Bible translation work. In this folder there is a draft of a letter Laura wrote on February 10, 1931 in which she described her conversion at a Gypsy Smith meeting. Additional information about her conversion is on a 1930 note dated, Thursday, Sept. 25th in folder 1-11. Barr’s diary in folder 1-9 gives insight of her work from before she went to the mission field until almost the end of her second term. Some information is about Barr’s work with Lugbara girls, reports on trips to villages, reflections on her love for Africa and the African people (see entry for November 12, 1948). Another diary in folder 1-10 covers the years 1979-1980 and includes the invasion of Uganda by Tanzania, civil war in Uganda, massacre at Ringili, evacuation from mission station, notes for her last message to the Kuluva church.

A loose leaf notebook in folder 2-1 includes statistics on converts and village trips, prayer letter of others, correspondence & articles, reports (personal, financial, field), Lugbara choruses and language notes, and a brief history (in English) of the situation in Aru (1954-1955). Folder 1-12 contains a spiral bound notebook with information on Lugbara customs such as marriage, pregnancy, divorce, death, tooth-pulling, sickness, and devil and spirit possession. Over twenty “testimonies of natives,” (folder 2-5) which Barr wrote, gives their family background and steps in their spiritual journey. A 1948 report of the girls’ work and several pages on native customs are also in the folder.

Articles Laura wrote for AIM’s publication Inland Africa are in folder 1-1. A few of the titles are: “Some Figures that Speak,” “The Bible for the Lugbara,” “A Blood-Marked Hut in Lugbaraland, the story of Neema Edrotia” (see slides S34-S37), and “A Night in the Bush” which includes Barr’s typewritten draft.

A six page document titled, “Outline of my life, thus far!” written by Barr in 1993 is in folder 2-2. Barr’s AIM commissioning certificate in folder 1-4 designating her “a minister of the Gospel for missionary service.” Folder 1-2 contains materials related to the Church of the Open Door including Barr’s certificate as a Charter Member of the church (includes a history of the church and a list of all charter members), correspondence, church missionary prayer letters, and Barr’s notes for presentations at the church mission conferences.

Letters Barr received are in folders 1-7 & 1-8. All but two letters in folder 1-7 were written from 1980-1986 after she retired from missionary work. Some of those who wrote include AIM missionaries Stanley & Carmel Kline and Zola Smith, and Maureen Moore, Canon Seton & Peggy Maclure, Joy Grindey, Paul Dean, and Barr’s brother, Winn Barr. Letters from her sister, Lila Propst, some of Lila’s daughters, and Lila’s sister-in-law, Henrietta Propst in folder 1-8 provide information on the Mau Mau situation Kenya in the 1950s. Her acceptance by AIM is recorded in a letter dated May 10, 1938 (folder 1-7).

Clippings (mostly newspaper) in folder 1-3 cover events in Uganda during the times of unrest and civil war in the 1980s. A miscellaneous file (folder 1-11) contains notes (including details of Barr’s conversion), poems written by Barr, information on the Lugbara people and Lugbara Bible, history of the Aru situation (1954-1955), and a summary of Joy Grindey’s cassette report (audio tape T10). Circular letters of the Congo Protestant Council in folder 1-5 contain reports and statistical information of missionary work. The letters of July 26, August 10 and 19, 1960 provide information on the persecution and evacuation of Christians after the independence of the Belgian Congo. Folder 2-4 contains mostly AIM and Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association publications. An article written by Canon Seton Maclure “Report of the Lugbara Bible Translation Committee” is in the Sept.-Oct. 1962 issue of Inland Africa along with an envelope containing a typewritten draft of the article. One interesting and helpful booklet titled, “GO,” contains maps which show locations of tribes, parishes and church leaders (Anglican), etc. in the West Nile District of Uganda.

Folder 2-6 contains information about the Uganda’s West Nile District (WND) including an article about the opening of mission work by Edith Gardner titled, “Extract from ‘African Travels,’” four reports written in January 1981, and a history of the church written possibly in Lugbara.

Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives by Laura Isabelle Barr in January, February, May, June, and August 1993 and November 1994.

Accession 93-12, 93-23, 93-29, 93-42, 93-72, 93-84, 93-92, 94-88

March 22, 2004

Wayne D. Weber

Collection 481 Papers of Laura Barr
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Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

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