Introduction to Letters from India by Gordon and Alma DeLong

Introduction to Letters from India by Gordon and Alma DeLong
Elaine DeLong Murray (Class of ‘68)

Books at the Alumni Office

The KIS Alumni Office has been collecting alumni-authored books over the years that have been donated by alumni. These books are housed in the Highclerc library. Recently we received a book from Elaine DeLong Murray (Class of ‘68) which compiles letters written by her parents Gordon and Alma DeLong.  We are happy to share Elaine's writing about the book.

Introduction to Letters from India by Gordon and Alma DeLong

When one reads about missionary work in developing countries, the descriptions are frequently of the broader picture: the funds that were raised, the churches that were established, the transition (where this was possible) from a North American-supported missionary endeavour to the establishment of a self-sustaining indigenous church. What can be lost in these accounts are what it was like, day-to-day, to live as missionaries in these host countries.

It is fortunate that many of the letters that Gordon and Alma DeLong wrote to family members in Canada, during their three terms as missionaries in India, were preserved and are available in book form. (At one point, Alma DeLong was planning to discard the letters, thinking that they would be of little interest outside of the family.) When Gordon and Alma DeLong arrived in India, shortly after the end of World War II, missionary work in India was continuing to increase. More missionaries were arriving from Canada, new mission stations in India were being established, and the missionary work in these mission stations was showing considerable fruit. By the time Gordon and Alma left in 1968, things had changed in India. The Indian government was not favorably disposed toward missionary work in India, missionaries found that their visas were not being renewed, and the Canadian Baptist Mission was having to plan seriously for a situation in which the Baptist churches in India would have to become self-sufficient.

As one moves from the larger picture of missionary work to the lives of individual missionaries, many questions arise. What was it like to learn the local language (Telugu), raise a family of three children, juggle the needs of mission work alongside the challenges of family life, and deal with the added challenge of sending all three children to a missionary boarding school that was three days’ distance away by train? What was the healthcare situation like in the mission fields? What was the attitude of Indian people toward missionaries? What was it like to try to travel from one village to another with the vehicles that were available in India? What types of associations were available for missionaries to support and advise each other?

The letters written by Gordon and Alma provide an interesting first-hand account of missionary life in South India in the 1950s and 1960s and offer insights into the way in which family life and missionary life were experienced by them. In addition to the letters themselves, transcribed by Elaine DeLong Murray (Class of 1968), there is both an introduction, written by Elaine Murray’s daughter, Sharon Murray, and an epilogue, as well as a bibliography of further related texts written by Linwood DeLong (Class of 1966).  Considerable assistance was also provided by Elaine’s other daughter, Christina Jarvis-Murray (Staff 2002-2004).

Finding a publisher for this book wasn’t so easy, and the DeLong and Murray families are grateful for the assistance that was provided by Paul Heusinkveld (Class of 1968), who has published other books about missionary life in India through Eerdmans Press.

The book is available from Amazon:

Letters from India from 1945 to 1967 by Gordon DeLong