Tag Archives: Harold J Ockenga

Polly Prays Hard

Taylor Sr, Marcia, Steve, Virginia, 12.10.1966

Taylor, Marcia, Steve, and Virginia at Steve and Marcia’s Wedding, 12.10.1966

[Marcia]: Steve was a little bit conflicted about whether he should ask me to marry him and then go off to Peru because he had the plan to go down to Peru for a few months. He went and consulted with Dr. Ockenga [pastor, Park Street Church] on the matter and Dr. Ockenga told him to “Give her a ring. Give her a ring!” So he did, actually.

[Steve]: I went out from his office and went down and bought the ring. From then.

[Stephanie?]: Really?

[Marcia]: From the office.

[Kimberly?]: Oh, I was expecting a telephone call. He said “give her a ring.”

[Marcia]: So on Easter Sunday morning, he said, “Let’s go to a sunrise service.” So, OK, I got up and got ready to go to a sunrise service. It turns out we never got to a sunrise service. We did go to a beach.

[Virginia]: Sneaky guy.

[Marcia]: We did go to a beach and he proposed to me and I came home with a ring.

[Kimberly]: Tell about your love-letters over the radio.

[Marcia]: Oh, OK. So previously though—this is probably why Aunt Polly was praying hard—previously we communicated by letters when he was in Peru. Oh, OK, that’s after the engagement. I’m getting confused.

So then he went off to Peru and we would write to each other. When he went out to the tribe with Bob Tripp, then my letters to him would come as far as the base where Lee and your dad were. So then they would have a radio hookup on a regular basis and she would read my letters to him over the radio.

[Kathy]: Where everybody who was on ham radio could hear it.

[Marcia]: Absolutely. Everybody would listen in. “Oh, we used to listen to those. We used to tune in at the appointed time and listen to those love letters.”

[Gail?]: Like a soap opera.

[Marcia]: No, I didn’t know. He may have, he may have written to me and said, you know, just something about that.

[Heidi]: It’s doubtful.

[Stephanie]: Knowing my dad.

[Steve]: Cool it, Sweetheart.

[Marcia]: Anyway, so what did happen to me was—because we had only dated for four months and he was gone longer than that, I started to wonder: do I really know this man I’m going to get married to? That started to be reflected in the letters and he did decide to not stay as long. I think he was going to stay to the end of November and pop home and we were going to get married in December.

[Gail?]: Get married the next month?

[Marcia]: So anyway, he came home sooner and we got reconnected.

That’s probably why Aunt Polly was praying hard, see, because she and Bob had worked hard to get us together. She didn’t want us to break up.

[Dawn]: Well, and I there was that one letter that Dad wrote to Grandma [MacGregor], right? Or didn’t write to Grandma.

[Heidi]: Oh, yes. It showed up empty.

[Dawn]: It was empty. He just folded up a bunch of those air forms and he. . . .

[Marcia]: Oh, and he didn’t write anything.

[Kathy]: He had it all addressed and everything.

[Marcia]: Oh, to Grandma MacGregor?

[Dawn]: What is this about?

[Marcia]: So we did get married, December 10th, 1966, at Newton Presbyterian Church.

Some of the people in the tribe—because he used to keep my picture up, somewhere on the radio or somewhere—so they told him to come back and bring Marcia and “the baby.” I guess they presumed that, you know, there would be a child involved already.

[Steve]: One of the things they gave to me was a long strip of sacha bacha [sic], you know the miles cake [sic], a strap of that, and that was called a “wife-beater.”

[Victoria]: Really?

[Steve]: Yes. And I use it all the time.

[Stephanie?]: And on the girls.

[Victoria]: Oh, come on!

[Marcia]: So you know who the joker is in our family, right? You’ve got that figured out.

[Steve]: It wasn’t a joke.

[Dawn]: Spousal abuse is not a joke.

[Marcia]: That’s right.

[Dawn]: It’s not.

[Steve]: But that wasn’t spousal abuse. It was training.

[Bruce? groaning]: Oh.

story told by Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014 with additions from Kathy Courtright, Gail Montez, Bruce Kindberg, Virginia Gorman (Lee’s children), Steve, and Steve’s daughters Heidi, Kimberly, Stephanie and Dawn; recorded and transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • We have Betty’s courtship and engagement story. Anybody want to relay what you recall of the others?
  • Kindberg kids or Lee: can you confirm the name and spelling (English and Amarakaeri) of the plant about which my dad is joking?
  • Marcia, Steve: Are we still in possession of these letters? Could I have them or copies, please? Remember, all of Peru has already heard them, so what’s a few more family members?
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Park Street and Missions

Taylor Joins PSC, 06.26.1966, courtesy of Gloria Boyer

Taylor Duncan Joins PSC, 06.26.1966, courtesy of Gloria Boyer

So we were up in Boston and one of the first things that we did, that Dad [Taylor] did, was to get us connected to Park Street Church, which was one of the reasons for a lot of us eventually going into missions. But your Mom—Eric, Virginia—Lee, back in Pennsylvania, I can recall her working at a Afro-American kids camp and loving to do that. She was an outreaching young woman at the time.

She had been home and gone back and forth. I don’t know where it was at the time, but she went to West Suburban Hospital, where she graduated in nursing [~1950?]. That was part of Wheaton College connection there.

[T.J.]: That was who?

Virginia Lee Duncan, at that time, Kindberg.

[T.J.]: Your mother?

No, my sister.

[Heidi]: Their mother. [Heidi points out the Kindbergs in the room].

[T.J.]: Their mother.

Their mother. Yeah. Their mother.

So we were up in Boston and Park Street Church became a central part in our lives. Dr. Ockenga, who had come to Park Street Church in the ‘40s, also picked up the vision from Oswald Smith, up in Toronto, of missions. That developed up quite a bit at that church and so that was an early stimulus in my own life to go into missions. Although I had earlier, one of the things that I wanted to do in life, was to be an architect, but also there was the idea of going into medicine, which eventually happened, but only after, of course, university at Gordon College.

story told by Steve to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014; recorded and transcribed by Dawn [Steve’s daughter]; see also A Practical Vision for World Missions, for a fuller edition of this story

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

    • What year did Lee graduate from nursing school?
    • What was the name of the kids’ camp where Lee worked? Can someone relate that story more fully? What years did she work there? How did she get connected to it?
    • Grandpa’s documents show him joining Park Street in 1966. When did Grandma join Park Street Church?

A Practical Vision for World Missions

AngolaDr. Ockenga’s vision for missions was sparked by the People’s Church in Canada and it lit up this church’s vision. His/their method of fund-raising for missions got to be famous and inspiring in always attempting from the pulpit to encourage a growth each year in the budget and the number of missionaries that it supported. I picked up the vision for missions there and also via my sisters [Lee and Betty], who were reinforced by the teaching and worldview of the church.

One of the missionaries, Dr. Robert Foster, a good speaker and lively advocate of medical missions in Africa became one of my ideals for foreign service. He was first a missionary sharing the Gospel and then a very interesting and resourceful physician and surgeon in third world service. He later became sort of a mentor by mail of my progress through medical school.

With pleasure and excitement we accepted the call for foreign missions in Angola after a stint doing medical work in South Dakota among the Sioux Indians. Park Street Church became a willing and supportive backing for our service of 17 years.

Park Street’s purpose was to be intimately involved in the lives and work of its foreign representatives. Through the 100% support policy, the whole congregation got to know us individually and in our own priorities there in Africa. A Barnabas Group, with eight to twelve members, closely followed and upheld us in their prayers and with material and emotional backing.

We were blessed greatly and more profoundly than by any of the other 15 churches that financially supported us during our time out in Africa. Only the Newton Presbyterian Church did as great a financial support though perhaps a lesser emotional and spiritual support. The Park Street vision is to be applauded and emulated by any church.

written by Steve for Colin Duncan (Bob’s son), March 18, 2011

My sister Lee had been involved with a camp specifically set up for African American children. This existed while we were in Philadelphia and I was probably five years old. It impressed me that she was doing it cross-cultural work, and not for the purpose of being cross-cultural but in service to God. Most of the time that I was growing up, Lee was out of a house in university nursing school and preparing for work, probably in the third world. So I had the vision planted in my mind that this was a way to go when I was an adult.

While I was in high school and early college, Betty and Harley when off to France in mission work. Because they too were highly favored in my estimations, they impressed me that I needed to go somewhere “out there” for the purpose of sharing the Gospel.

But perhaps the foremost in my leadings toward mission work was Park Street Church, which my father (Taylor) insisted we attend when we returned to the Boston area after the Second World War and our return from Philadelphia. Figuring in this influence were annual missions conferences,  where missionaries were paraded in front of us and challenged us to be involved in taking the Gospel to somewhere other than our own home. Among those that were a challenge and an encouragement were Dr. Robert Foster and his wife Belva. They had been working in Zambia. Later they started work in Angola, a Portuguese speaking country. I corresponded with them during my college and medical school career. It was Park Street’s minister Dr. Ockenga that started and kept the motion going toward missions as the only alternative for our future.

Both of my sisters Lee and Betty were being supported in their mission work by Park Street Church. It was only natural that after my time in the U. S. Army and in graduate school that I took six months off and went to Peru. I worked in the medical laboratory there because I had already been trained in that work. After asking Marcia to marry me, I left for Peru and its jungles. After the short term work in the laboratory, I returned in the middle of 1966 and we got married (Dec 1966). Even before Marcia and I tried tied the knot, we spoke extensively of serving in the third world. When we returned from medical school in Italy, I entered the internship at the Waltham Hospital, surgical residency at the Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton, Massachusetts, and then five years with the Sioux Indians in Sisseton, South Dakota. We listened to an appeal for help in Angola to start a new hospital. So in 1983, we left for Portugal to get two months of training and the Portuguese language, and then flew to Luanda, Angola and eventually to Lubango in the Huila Province. Serving in a cross-cultural situation was being fulfilled.

added by Steve on November 26, 2012

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Harley Marries . . . Park Street Church

Harley and Betty Smith sign the marriage register at Park Street Church, 06.28.1952, courtesy of Sandy MoyerI was an outsider to Park Street Church until I met the lovely Betty Duncan at a youth meeting of which her brother [Wally] was the director. She played for me to sing and she did such a wonderful job I gave her a lifetime contract. Best arrangement I ever made!

Shortly after meeting her we went to the Missions Conference at Park Street. I was pleased and shocked at the total involvement of the church in this endeavor.

I can remember writing to my mother, “This is the first time I have experienced football game enthusiasm for the things of the Lord!” On the final day when people indicated how much God was leading them to contribute to the missions outreach of the church in the coming year, the usually staid Dr. Ockenga became a cheerleader and was full of fun. As the calculating machines clicked down in front, providing him with the latest totals, he would then share the totals with the congregation to encourage them.

Occasionally he would ask one of the missionaries that had been featured during the ten-day conference to come up and share some aspect of the need on their field.

Toward the end of the service he would tell people that it was time for them to turn in their “repentance pledge,” whereby they would indicate that they repented that they had not given all that the Lord wanted them to give! Many did just that.

I am unaware of recent yearly amounts, but it is often over $1,000,000!

Park Street gave to our support the 35 years we were in France. Often they would inquire as to our support level, or would simply increase some, knowing the situation. They were the most faithful in their support of God’s work through us. We are grateful to God and to Park Street.

written by Harley Smith (Betty’s husband) for Colin Duncan (Bob’s son), March 18, 2011

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