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Collection 488 Papers of John E. Phillips

Identifier: CN 488

Scope and Contents

Oral history interviews, letters, newspaper clipping, a booklet and other materials, relating mainly to John E. Phillips' work as a missionary with the Sudan Interior Mission among the Kambatta people of Ethiopia (1932-1937) and among the Dinka people of Sudan (1938-1949). There is also some information on his involvement in other ministries, such as Ambassadors for Christ and the Allentown Rescue Mission.


  • Created: 1926-2003

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Full Name: John Elmer Phillips

Birth: August 12, 1905 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Death: July 7, 2004 in Fellowship House, Whitehall, Pennsylvania, USA


Parents: Harry D. and Eva (Elmer) Phillips

Marital Status: January 1934: Margaret Blanche Miller in Ethiopia; Margaret died September 13, 1978; November 13, 1978: Married Norma E. Lentz. Norma died July 27, 1986; ca. 1993: Married Geraldine Julia Hinote. Geraldine died January 24, 2000

Children: Harry (1934), John (1938?, died after a few months), 1940 Julia Evelyn

Conversion: As a young man at the Keswick conference grounds in New Jersey


1920-1924 - Graduated Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

1925-1928 - Wheaton College, graduated with B.S. in History. Captain of baseball team, photo editor of yearbook and class treasurer in his senior year

1930 - Harvard University, graduated with an MBA


ca. mid-1920s - Worked three summers as a carpenter

ca. 1923-1924 - Assistant shop instructor at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute

1930-1932 - Floor manager, Hutzler Brothers Dept Store, Baltimore, Maryland

1931-1932 - Instructor in Business Administration, University Of Maryland

March 20, 1932 - Sailed for Ethiopia as a missionary

1932-1937 - First term as missionary to Ethiopia with Sudan Interior Mission. Served at Durami station among the Kambatta people

1937 - Returned to the United States when required to do so by the occupying Italian troops

1937-1938 - Visiting instructor in Business and Economics, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois

1938 - Returned to Ethiopia. Served second term at Abayath station among the Dinka people in southern Sudan

1949 - Returned to the United States because of Mrs. Phillips’ health. Taught briefly at the Ben Lippen School, Columbia, South Carolina

1950-1970 - Religion editor for the Call-Chronicle newspapers of Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA. Mrs. Miller was the sister of one of the owners.

1966 - Returned to Ethiopia on assignment for the newspaper

1970-? - Director of Development for Ambassadors Paradise Farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

1978-1979 - John and his new bride Norma had working honeymoon the Daystar Bible College of the Island Missionary Society, Nassau, Bahamas

1989 - Short-term mission trip with Africa Inland Mission to Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan

Other significant information:

1950s-1970s - Was active in the Allentown area in active in Ambassadors for Christ (board member), Youth for Christ, Friends of Israel, the Allentown Rescue Mission, Interdenominational Bible Conference

ca. 1960s-1970s? - Taught part-time at Shelton College

Suffered heart attacks in 1971, 1980; had open heart surgery in 1980


0.22 Cubic Feet

1 box

4 Audio Tapes

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: Chronological

Date Range: 1992

Volume: 4 audio tapes

Geographic Coverage: United States, Ethiopia, Sudan

Type of Documents: Audio recordings of interviews

Notes: John E. Phillips was interviewed by Bob Shuster on May 10 and September 13, 1993, at the BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois and at Mr. Phillips’ home in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The events described in the interview cover the time period 1916-1993. For substantial portions of tapes T2-4, Mrs. Geraldine Phillips is speaking.


Series: Paper Records

Arrangement: Alphabetical by folder titles, which were created by the archivist

Date Range: 1926-1993

Volume: .2 cubic feet

Geographic Coverage: United States, Ethiopia, Sudan

Type of Documents: Correspondence, newspaper articles, a pamphlet

Correspondents: Howard Borlase, Robert Evans, Norm Floss, Malcolm Forsberg, John Phillips, Alf Roke, Spahr, Don Stilwell

Notes: The paper records of this collection consist of a miscellany of documents that Mr. Phillips gave to the Archives at the time of his oral history interviews in 1993. Most in one way or another deal with America missionary activity in Ethiopia and Sudan, but there are a few items about Phillips’ ministry activities in the United States and genealogical records of his family. Folders 1-1 through 1-3 contain correspondence to and from Phillips, as well as copies of a few items not addressed to him that wound up in his files somehow.

Folder 1-1 contains a photocopy of a 1936 letter by Robert Evans (later founder of Greater Europe Mission) to his parents describing in great detail the revival on the campus of Wheaton College in February. There is also a letter from Doris Bruce describing her mission work in Assam, India and a 1933 letter from Clarence about opening a mission station at Durami among the Kambatta people.

Folder 1-2 consists of material from Phillips to friends and supporters. Some are prayer letters, mimeographed correspondence meant to give a general description of his mission activities to a large number of supporters. Others are personal letters. There is one from Ethiopia in 1937 describing the chaos in that country following the Italian invasion. There are several letters (1939-1947) from the Sudan describing the establishment of a mission station at Abayath, observations of life among the Dinka people, the description of the conversion of a handful of people to Christianity, experiences in the United States during furloughs, physical descriptions of the Sudanese countryside. A letter dated January 15, 1985 summarizes his experiences in Sudan. Then there is a gap until the late 1970s and 1980s, when there are some letters describing his activities in the United States and continuing to pass on reports he has gotten on events in Ethiopia and Sudan. A 1989 Christmas letter gives a brief report on his visit to mission stations in Kenya that year.

Folder 1-3 includes a 1962 letter acknowledging the Phillips’ official resignation from SIM. A 1978 letter from SIM worker Howard Borlase includes a detailed report on a development project at Durami that includes building roads and buildings, reforestation and introducing new varieties of vegetable. There are also several more informal letters from the Sphars, the Forsbergs and others about mission work in Ethiopia and Sudan in the 1970s and 80s. (Folder 1-1 also has a poem by Malcolm Forsberg.)

Folder 1-4 contains motes and other genealogical material Phillips gathered on his parents and grandparents. Phillips continued to be active in ministry after his return to the United States.

Folder 1-5 contains a few samples of his activities. There are lists and programs from the Interdenominational Bible Conference, a group that sponsored conferences on Biblical topics in eastern Pennsylvania . There is also a budget, balance sheet and job description for the position of general superintendent of the Rescue Mission and Home Association, another group Phillip was involved in.

Folder 1-6 has an a brief article by Phillips that tells the story of one Sudanese Christian he knew. The folder also has some devotional materials prepared for missionaries by Norman Couser.

Folder 1-7 contains copies of several newspaper clippings of stories from the Allentown newspaper about Phillips’s 1966 return to Ethiopia and Sudan. The stories are essentially the reports that Phillip sent back to the paper describing his visit t sites where he worked and the current condition of the countries and the Christian churches there, along with photos There is also a clipping from 1970 describing Phillips’ retirement as religion editor of the paper.

Folder 1-8 contains a photocopy of a 40-page pamphlet, published ca. 1937, entitled Chaos in Ethiopia. It consists of long excerpts from Phillips’ diary about the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and the subsequent conflict between the Amharic and the Kambatta peoples that caused him and his family to flee, along with fellow missionaries Mrs. and Mrs. Norman Couser and Zillah Walsh. According to Mr. Phillips on oral history interview T3 in this collection, Zillah Walsh really wrote most of this pamphlet.

Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives by John E. Phillips in May and September 1993.

Accession 93-27, 93-62

September 18, 2014

Bob Shuster

Collection 488 Papers of John E. Phillips
Bob Shuster
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US