Tag Archives: Jim Duncan

First with the Word

Lee, Will, Kids, Campa Welcoming Committee in Nenquechani, 1961, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Lee, Will, Kids, Campa Welcoming Committee in Nenquechani, 1961, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Nenquechani:   The Kindberg family marches purposefully past a say, welcoming group of Campas, en route to a new house at Nenquechani, built by Will while awaiting his family’s return from a trip to Yarinacocha. The Campas wear the cushma, a course woven sort of Mother-Hubbard of immense practicality in the insect-ridden jungle.

WBtW, Will and Campas, 1963or4, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Will and Campas, 1961, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Cushma:   Cushmas are worn by mean, women and children, with vertical necklines for men, horizontal for women. The natural brown cotton cushma may be thrown over one’s shoulder to allow freedom of movement, pulled up to allow crossing of rivers without getting it wet, and camouflages dirt very well.

WBtW, Lee and Doug with Campas Looking On, 1963or4, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Lee and Doug with Campas Looking On, 1961, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Privacy:   Silently, these youthful Campa mothers watch Lee tend her youngest child. The Kindberg house has no walls. They learned very early in their relations with the Campas that privacy was impossible, that sharing the intimate daily routine of their household established a warm and respectful bond with the primitive Indians. “We put a ‘tucuyo’ (unbleached muslin) around our bedroom for some semblance of privacy, only to discover that the Indians loved to pick up the edge and peek underneath,” said Will.

WBtW, Will and Lee Study in Kerosene Light, 1963or4, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Will and Lee Study in Kerosene Light, 1961, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Shared Calling:   Lee is a registered nurse, shares with Will an equal interest in missionary linguistic work in the foreign field. The couple met at Wheaton College in the U.S.A.; six months after their marriage [they] arrived in Peru to begin their life work.

WBtW, Will Consulting with Jose Flores in Quempiri, 1963or4, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Will Consulting with Jose Flores in Quempiri, 1961, courtesy of Jim Duncan

José Flores:   In the Ene river village of Quempiri, Will consults with Campa Indian José Flores concerning text for the next day’s sermon, which José will deliver. Will, using his home, Nenquechani, as a base, visits other outposts in the Ene river area of the Peruvian Amazon. To reach the most remote places, he travels by canoe, raft, on foot, and occasionally uses the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service aircraft. One such outpost is Quempiri, 35 minutes by plane from Nenquechani, but seven difficult days away poling upstream in a canoe.

WBtW, Jose Flores Teaches, 1963or4, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Jose Flores Teaches, 1961, courtesy of Jim Duncan

The school at Quempiri was built only last year. Teacher Flores was the first Campa with whom Will had direct contact nine years ago when he first began his language work in Peru. Before he came, many of the inhabitants of Quempiri had never seen a white man. Although Will visits Quempiri regularly, José Flores carries the main responsibility of this missionary effort. Nine years ago José could not read, write or understand Spanish, spoke only his own Campa tongue.

WBtW, Will Watches as Jose Flores Teaches, 1963or4, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Will Watches as Jose Flores Teaches, 1961, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Teacher José Flores instructs Campa children at Quempiri under supervision of his old friend and mentor Kindberg. José has provided cultural, educational, spiritual, social and economic leadership in the tiny Quempiri community. He is classified by the Peruvian government as a bilingual teacher, receives a yearly salary of 4,500 soles ($174). So eager are the Campa to learn, that official attendance records at his school show 53 persons attending out of a total village population of 100. Among José’s students: his wife, Felícitas.

José, encouraged by Will, learned to read and write, first his own language, then the national language of his own country. Now bilingual, in Campa and Spanish, and trained to teach by the Peruvian government training school for Indians of the jungle conducted at our Yarinacocha base José is an effective direct link between the Campa tribe and Peruvian national life and government.

WBtW, Will Teaches a Campa Child to Write, 1963or4, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Will Teaches a Campa Child to Write, 1961, courtesy of Jim Duncan

His desire to share his own personal faith in Christ with others, plus his ability to read and teach the Scriptures already available, have made him a spiritual leader among his Campa people too.

José told his students, “I learned to read and write through working with Mr. Kindberg. If this had not happened none of you would be learning. You would not be able to read the Bible and to be Christians.”

Then Will, adding his word of instruction, said: “Jesus is in heaven, and we accept Christ’s resurrection as proof that there is resurrection and He will raise us up.” After Will spoke, the students sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” in the Campa language.

WBtW, Lee Bandages Campa Child, 1963or4, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Lee Bandages Campa Child, 1961, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Nursing:   In the daily routine of life a Nenquechani, Lee Kindberg bandages the punctured foot of a Campa child and introduces a huge forest parrot to young Dougie Kindberg.

WBtW, Lee Shows Eric? a Parrot, 1963or4, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Lee Shows Eric? a Parrot, 1961, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Little Kindbergs:   After dinner at the Kindberg home, the family enjoys “reading time,” first for the girls, who perch on their father’s lap and listen breathlessly to “tonight’s story.” The Kindberg boys await their turn to hear their father read from “Paths and Pathfinders,” a basic reader. Afterwards the family joins hands and prays, Daddy and Mommy get “good-night” kisses. There is no fighting to stay up late, for the children are tired after the day’s occupations.

WBtW, Will Reads Bedtime Stories to Gail, Kathy, Eric, and Bruce, 1963or4, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Will Reads Bedtime Stories to Gail, Kathy, Eric, and Bruce, 1961, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Whole New Testament:   “Before we leave the Campa work, I want to see the whole New Testament and portions of the Old Testament translated for them; to see adequate schooling provided, with basic books, such as reading primers, books on arithmetic, history and health, in their own language and in Spanish. We hope to leave an enduring testimony, practiced and led by the indigenous leaders developed during our years here. We hope to stay here until this is assured, however long it might take.”—Will Kindberg

WBtW, Will Kindberg, 1963or4, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Will Kindberg, 1961, courtesy of Jim Duncan

Mission:   A Wycliffe pioneer from New Jersey brings Christ’s Word to the Campa Indians, one of the 32 Peruvian tribes being served by the Wycliffe translators.

Missionary-linguist Willard R. Kindberg, of Orange, N. J., is opening spiritual frontiers along the Apurimac river of eastern Peru, three hours’ flight time—or one month overland—from Yarinacocha, headquarters of the Peru branch of our Summer Institute of Linguistics. Shooting the rapids of remote Apurimac tributaries, it is Kindberg’s special joy to be on a spiritual frontier—a joy shared by his wife Lee, and five “little Kindbergs.” For all the Kindbergs, the privations and dangers of jungle frontier life is a spiritual adventure, rich in Christian service, and in the privilege of being the first to tell the Indians, in their own language, about Christ.

An athletic, determined man, Will wants to see his Indians progress, pragmatically accepts the fact that, although he may imitate Campa dress and ways, he is accepted by them only as a representative of another way of life. He contends that the Indians will appreciate the Bible more if they pay for it in kind-bows and arrows or sugar cane.

transcription of an article in Cornell Capa, “First with the Word” in Who Brought the Word (n.c.: Wycliffe Bible Translators, n.d.), 46–57. found and contributed by Jim Duncan [Wally’s son], March 2015

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 do you remember of the visitor who took these pictures and recorded these vignettes?
  • Doug was a baby in several of the photos, so they were probably 1961. But the original article says “Dougie” is the child looking at the parrot (and Eric and Virginia confirm it was him), which would mean the article and picture were at least 1962. Can you confirm the date of the article?
  • What else do you remember about Nenquechani? About the “old house” and the “new house”? Why did he have to build a new one?
  • Did they finish the New Testament? Any of the Old Testament as Will desired? How many years were they there?
  • Who else has articles about the Duncan Eight stashed somewhere that you might like to contribute to eightduncans.com? Can you scan them? Would you like to drop them in the mail? I can email you my address if you need it. Let me know in the comments box below.

Wally and Lee Decide to Follow Christ

Wally sneaked in the stage door of the Word of Life conference because he couldn’t get in the regular way. After the collection, the ushers brought the plates forward and put the plates in his hand. This may have taken place at Mechanics Hall in Boston.

Wally came to faith in his later teens.

excerpt from a Skype conversation between Steve and Dawn Harrell (Steve’s daughter), February 3, 2013

We were at Alden Union Church and Rev. William Allan Dean was the minister. That’s where I came to know the Lord in my teen years. I remember the place in the church where we sat. I didn’t go forward because we didn’t do that in those days. My faith grew in a slow progression throughout those years. There were certain times when we emphasized coming to know the Lord. Youth group met on Saturday night and I just grew in the Lord at that time. I graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1945.

Mother [Virginia] never had a real personal relationship until we went to Alden Union Church. She grew up Episcopal. The Bible study Wendell mentioned met on the sun porch; it had windows all around but it was closed in. There were maybe twenty to thirty women there.

Dad [Taylor] went to Alden Union because it was a Baptist church, but he never had a real close walk with God. He was definitely in favor of faithful church-going.

When Jack Wyrtzen was in Boston, we would go down to his campaign. Wally sneaked in back door because he didn’t get there on time. As he came in, they handed him the plates to take up the money. He passed the plates. I think I was looking for him. I got into the wrong area and then in to the men’s room. It was such a confusing place.

excerpt from a phone conversation between Lee and Dawn Harrell (Steve’s daughter), February 6, 2013

325 Riverview Cove, Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, ca. 1944--1945The first time we had any contact with the Duncans, we lived at 222 Stanley Avenue, in Menoa, Pennsylvania. I lived there with my family. We had five children. The Duncans lived not far away at 325 Riverview Cove, Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. We were sitting out on the front steps, and this lady with a baby carriage came by. That was Mrs. [Virginia] Duncan with Lee walking along. It was probably Bob [b. 1933] in the carriage. I can’t really remember how old I was but probably between four and eight years old [Wendell was born in 1928, so this was ca. 1932–1936]. I believe that’s how my mother met the Duncan family.

Next time I remember the Duncans, I was a teenager. My father said, “I’d like to take you to the church where they were having a Christmas program.” Lee Duncan played the part of Mary. It was a liberal Baptist church. We went to Aldan Union Church in Aldan, Pennsylvania and my father was interest in getting the Duncan family to come to Aldan Union. William Allan Dean was the pastor at Aldan Union. It was an independent denomination. The original church building still exists. They came.

My mother was part of the contact with the Duncans. She invited Mrs. [Virginia] Duncan to a women’s Bible study. It was taught by a lady at Aldan Union. She came. In fact if I remember correctly, they met in the Duncan home, a beautiful big home in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.

Lee Duncan, ca. high school, courtesy of Virginia GormanI think I was in high school. We were in youth group together at Aldan Union Church. Lee [b. 1927] was older than I. Wally [b. 1929] was younger. He was not in the youth group Lee and I were in.

excerpt  from a Skype conversation between Wendell Caley (longtime friend of the Duncan family) and Dawn Harrell (Steve’s daughter), January 29, 2013

When I visited him a few weeks ago [Fall 2006], Wally told me that he made a decision to accept Christ as a young teen, as did his sister, Lee. Their mother [Virginia] took notice of the “change” in their lives, explored the reason, and then made a decision to follow Christ herself. Grandpa [Wally] credits her strength of character and commitment to Christ as the reasons that the rest of the family took seriously the invitation to follow Christ. His mother taught the adult Sunday school class at Park Street Church in Boston for many years. So there is much in our heritage for which to be grateful.

written memories of Wally, contributed by Jim Duncan (Wally’s son), on the occasion of Wally’s death, November 7, 2006

Wally describes the one year anniversary of Pearl Harbor as the most wonderful day of his life. On December 7, 1942, Wally (age 13) accepted Jesus as his personal savior. It became the most defining moment of his life. He knew that he was a new creature, a child of God, never to be snatched out of His hands. He had gone to a Jack Wyrtzen [a founder of Word of Life Fellowship and inspiration for Youth for Christ] rally in Boston and at the end there was an altar call for those who wished to announce that they had personally accepted the grace offered at the cross. Wally was too embarrassed to go forward. He waited until the rally was over and the auditorium had cleared out. He went backstage and saw the evangelist packing up his briefcase.

“Mr. Wyrtzen,” he said. “I want to tell you that I have accepted Jesus into my heart as my savior.”

“That is wonderful, young man.” Mr. Wyrzten replied. He sat down and spoke with the young boy who realized he needed a savior. The two prayed together.

Wally was so excited; he told me he ran along the railroad tracks as fast as he could all the way home. He never lost the thrill of reliving that wonderful moment. He never doubted again that he wouldn’t see his Father in heaven one day and meet Jesus face to face. Indeed, when he died on November 7, 2006, he died with the blessed assurance that he was going to meet his savior.

written memories of Wally, contributed by Barbara Duncan (Wally’s wife), December 12, 2012

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.).

  • Do you remember this story? What other details can you add? I’d love to have a fuller telling of this movement in the family history. It seems pivotal.
  • This may come up in the interview with Grandma Virginia, but can anyone tell the story of her decision to know Christ on a deeper level?
  • Lee, do you recall this rally? Did you attend? Can you talk about your own experience of trusting Christ?
  • I have a family calendar that someone put together, which says, “Grandpa Taylor Duncan was in the Navy and was assigned in Philadelphia during WWII. Wally spent his freshman and senior years in Newton, Mass.; his sophomore and junior year of high school here [Drexel Hill].” Can anybody (Lee or Betty) talk further about those moves back and forth and their impact on the family? I guess the family lived in this house between 1944 and 1945. Can anyone confirm or modify this guess?
  • The house-photo I’ve included is a photo of a photo from the family calendar. Who put this calendar together? Are the photos in digital format? Can you send me to that link or email them to me? Thanks.

Wally Goes to War

Merchant Marine Emblem[Virginia]: He was missing this morning. He had gone to school apparently. Instead of that, he made up his mind that he was going to go on adventure, so he got on this ship down at the dock. I didn’t know where he was. When it was time for him to come home from school, he didn’t come. Then I got this telephone message: “I’m down in South America” somewhere. I don’t know where he was, right over the border.

[Barb]: Well he was missing for a few days, before you knew where he was?

[Virginia]: No, the first day I didn’t know where he was. No. You know, he called me up and said, “I’m so far I can’t get to a telephone. Couldn’t get to a telephone before because they wouldn’t let us get off the boat.” When he got back on the boat, he said, “I’ve either got to make up my mind to go along with them and go over to Asia,” I guess it was, “or to come home.” I said, “Well, you better come home here and get home here fast!” because you know his father was all upset about it. Before you could say anything more much, he was home. He said, “You know, if I’d have gone, it would have been at least four months before I would ever have got home.”

[Barb]: He hadn’t even packed his bags?

[Virginia]: Oh, yeah, when they went over to. . . .

[Barb]: No, but, had he packed his bags?

[Virginia]: Oh, I don’t think they bothered packing much.

partial conversation between Virginia and Barbara Duncan (Wally’s wife) in the summer of 1987, courtesy of Barbara Duncan

Wally enlisted in the Navy at age 13 after lying about his age [ca. 1942]. Had his dad not been a Navy captain himself and gotten wind of it, he might have pulled it off. At the time, every self-respecting lad was itching to go fight the Huns and the Japs—even if they really were too young to be soldiers.

written memories of Wally, contributed by Jim Duncan (Wally’s son), on the occasion of Wally’s death, November 7, 2006

When [Wally] was about 13, he had this same determination and wanderlust. His father was in the Navy and was not home. World War II was raging and all patriotic, able-bodied men were joining the military. Serving their country was indeed an honor. It is hard to imagine, but Wally doctored up his birth certificate, making himself older than he was. He was large for his age and could pass for an older teen. He signed up for the Merchant Marines [an auxiliary of the Navy, responsible for transporting goods and services] and took off to see the world without telling anyone. He made it for the one trip to Central America before his father caught up with him and brought him back home. Somehow he never told the story with regret or even any sympathy for his parents. Adventurer he was!

written memories of Wally, contributed by Barbara Duncan (Wally’s wife), December 12, 2012

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.).

  • Do you remember this story? What other details can you add? For example, did he put into port anywhere? What were his rank and duties? What was the name of his ship? How did his father engineer the “capture”? How, if at all, was Wally punished?
  • What did Grandma have to say about Wally’s “escape”?
  • Lee, Betty, Steve, what were you doing in 1942?
  • Describe life at home when your dad was away in the Navy?