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Collection 328 Papers of Eric and Lydia Maillefer

Identifier: CN 328

Scope and Contents

Oral history interviews, speech manuscripts and prayer letters relating to the careers and ministries of Eric and Lydia Maillefer as missionaries and Christian workers with the Evangelical Free Church in Zaire, Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (AEAM), and the Africa Evangelical Office (AEO). Lydia worked as a teacher and school administrator; Eric worked first as a teacher, then on loan as a conference coordinator to the Africa Evangelical Office, and later as administrative secretary of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar.


  • Created: 1971-1991

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Lydia Christine (Wire) Maillefer was born in 1927 in Chicago to Danish immigrant parents. Her father was a cabinet maker; her mother was a seamstress. She was raised in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka in an evangelical Christian home. Along with her family, she attended Winnetka Bible Church. She made a public commitment of Christian faith in 1937, and recommitments during her freshman year in highschool and freshman year at Wheaton College. From her early childhood, Lydia had wanted to become a missionary and arranged her education to achieve that. Following her graduation from Wheaton College in 1949 with a degree in Christian Education, she decided to join the Evangelical Free Church mission to be a teacher in the Belgian Congo [now Democratic Republic of Congo].

Having decided to become a teacher within the Congo system, mission requirements and Belgian standards dictated the path her training followed. The government required teachers to hold a non-religious major, which she did by completing an English major from Northwestern University in 1950, along with acquiring a teaching certificate. She was also accepted by the denomination's mission in 1950. The mission required her to get some practical church experience, so she then worked for a year in a congregation in New Philadelphia, Ohio as part of the church's music program, youth program, as pastor's secretary and worker in the community Christian bookstore. Before beginning her work in the Congo, Lydia studied for a year in the Colonial Course of the University of Brussels, which provided an understanding of Belgian history, law, economics, and French.

Once in the Congo, she was first assigned to teach on a station an hour from Libenge, located in the northwestern corner of the Congo along the Ubangi River. Following three months of study in the trade language of the area and Sunday school work, she was moved to become the principal of the mission's elementary boy's school in Tandala; she also taught in the school's newly added sixth grade class. At the end of her first year on the field, the Free Church Mission began cooperation with four other missions in a teacher's training school in Mbandaka (called Coquilhatville at that time), where she was then sent to be the representative teacher for the mission. Returning from her 1956-1957 furlough, Lydia was appointed director of the elementary school in Libenge. The following year, she returned to Tandala to serve as superintendent of a network of twenty small outlying schools and as principal of the station school. Lydia returned to Northwestern University during her 1960-1961 furlough, where she earned an MA in French. She studied at Wheaton College Graduate School between 1981-1982. She died June 10, 2008.

Eric Maillefer was born in 1933 in western French-speaking Switzerland. His parents died when he was 7 and 9, and he was raised from that point on by his brothers and sisters. In 1948, he relocated in German-speaking Switzerland, where he worked as an apprentice in landscape gardening and horticulture. On October 12, 1956, he came to the United States, and was then drafted into the US Army (July 1957-June 1959), with which he was returned to France for his tour of duty; while in the Army his responsibilities included that of being an interpreter. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States on July 5, 1962, following the completion of his service. Influenced by his experiences in France while in the army, he developed a desire to serve as a missionary, and applied to and was rejected by several mission agencies for lack of qualifications. Following his engagement to Lydia, and the mission's refusal to accept her resignation from the mission, he applied to the mission and was accepted, pending his completion of one year of study and orientation, which he did at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1961-1962.

In 1961, Eric and Lydia married. The Maillefers' furlough was extended through 1962, as Eric completed his special student course study at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. When the Maillefers returned to Zaire, they began teaching at the newly opened secondary high school established by the Free Church Mission, where they remained until shortly before the 1964 rebellion. While in the United States, the Free Church Mission was approached by the EFMA/IFMA Africa Committee, which was exploring the possibility of assisting in the organization of an Africa-wide Conference of Evangelical Leaders called "Africa Evangelical Conference". Although it was not intended to be modeled like the U.S. body National Association of Evangelicals, that was the form which it took. In 1965, Eric was temporarily reassigned to work with Ken Downing of the Africa Evangelical Office (established in 1962) in Nairobi on organizing a conference to be held in February 1966, from which it was hoped might emerge the African counterpart. The outcome of the conference was the establishment of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (AEAM). While in Nairobi, Lydia participated in the American Women's Club, an organization started by the American embassy to involve the wives of embassy personnel in charity work in Nairobi.

When the Maillefers returned to Africa in 1965, Eric had done so via Zaire, where Ubangi Christians requested he continue there; he agreed to return following his temporary assignment in Kenya. In 1967, the Maillefers did return to the Ubangi, where they remained until 1968, when Eric was asked to return to Nairobi to coordinate the first general assembly of AEAM. After their furlough during 1969-1970, the Maillefers returned to Nairobi, where they were based, except for intervening furloughs, until 1985. While in Nairobi, Lydia taught at a Mennonite school for expatriate children from 1970 until 1985; for a two-year period, she also taught Bible at a public African girls school.

In 1986, Eric was seconded by the Free Church to the World Evangelical Fellowship to open the Brussels office of the World Evangelical Fellowship.

The Maillefer children, Renee, Roger and Nancy, were educated in a number of institutions: a Baptist kindergarten in Nairobi, a private British school, the Mennonite school at which Lydia taught, and Rift Valley Academy.

The Maillefers spent each of their furloughs in the Furlough Homes in Wheaton. Prior to the Maillefers' marriage, Lydia studied during a furlough at the Wheaton College Graduate School. When they retired from their AIM, they took up residence in the United States.


0.22 Cubic Feet (1 DC Box, 6 Audio Tapes)

Language of Materials


Arrangement of Materials

Series 1: Audio Tapes

Eric Maillefer was interviewed by Paul A. Ericksen on 13 May and 2 June 1986 at the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College. Topics covered in the interviews include: Maillefer’s youth and spiritual growth, missionary training, work with the Evangelical Free Church in Zaire, the country's educational system and national leadership, founding and early life of Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (AEAM), ecumenical movement in Africa, American missionary influence; recollections of colleagues (Byang Kato, Tokunbah Adeyemo, Jacques Blocher, Ken Downing, Samuel Odunaike), theological and social issues, Nairobi, and his future work for the World Evangelical Fellowship in Europe; and other mission-related topics.

Lydia Maillefer was interviewed by Paul A. Ericksen on 13 May and 2 June 1986 at the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College. Topics covered in the interviews include: Maillefer’s youth; spiritual development, education at Wheaton College, missionary work for the Evangelical Free Church in the Belgian Congo/Zaire, the 1960 revolution and 1964 rebellion, administration of the Congo, her marriage, expectations of women missionary, and the education of their children. The time period covered by the interviews is 1932 to 1986.

Series 2: Paper Records (Box List)

The documents in this collection include: manuscripts of addresses given by Eric Maillefer and Samuel Odunaike of AEAM in folder 1-1 on the topic of syncretism and ecumenism. . Prayer letters of Eric and Lydia Maillefer, spanning from 1971 to 1991, are found in folders 1-2 and 1-3. Folder 1-3 also contains an obituary for Jacques Blocher, a WEF Global Report concerning Eric Maillefer’s acceptance of the position of director at WEF’s European office in 1986, and an article clipping from Evangelical Ministries by Kenneth Downing entitled “How AEAM Was Born.”

Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were give to the Billy Graham Center Archives in May and June 1986 and July 1991 from Eric and Lydia Maillefer.

Accession 86-47, 86-48, 86-52, 86-59, 86-60

April 30, 1991

Paul A. Ericksen

C. Easley

December 28, 1992

M.L. Wohlschlegel

March 22, 1993

M.L. Wohlschlegel

Accession 91-64

June 27, 2005

Christian Sawyer

Collection 328 Papers of Eric and Lydia Maillefer
Paul Ericksen
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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