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Interview with Emma Reid Echols

Echols, Emma
Perry, Morgan
Date of Interview: 
Women in missionary work; Missions; Bonclarken; Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church; Aztecs; Mexico City; Billy Graham Crusade; Charlotte, N.C.; Children - Mexico; Huasteca; Huitchuawan; Tampuchan, Tampico; Valles; El Monte; Pan-American Highway; Aztec Christian Church; Church music
Emma Reid Echols reads excerpts from stories she has written about her experiences with Billy Graham and his family. She recounts a visit in Charlotte with Morrow Graham, Billy Graham`s mother, with whom she shares the details of her Christian missionary work in Mexico. Ms. Echols also discusses her experiences in mission work and church building with Aztec Native Americans in the Watseka region in the mid-1970s. She describes the scene at the opening ceremony for a Aztec Christian church, where over 400 local residents crowded in for the occasion. She remembers that the Mexican men, women, and children knew and performed gospel songs in English-a testament to the lasting impact of the Billy Graham Crusade that had occurred in a prior year in Mexico City.
Interview Setting: 
Interviewed at Sharon Towers, Charlotte
Levine Museum of the New South, Billy Graham Series
Collection Description: 
Jean Johnson interviewed a variety of people who knew Billy Graham for an exhibit on his life at the Levine Museum of the New South
Interview Audio: 
MP (Morgan Perry): [It is] Tues--. Wednesday the 3rd of April, 1996, and I'm here with Emma Echols who has a story or two to tell us about Billy Gra--, her experience with Billy Graham.
EE (Emma Echols): I'm going to tell you first of all about my friend, Mrs. Frank Graham, Morrow Graham. "Come in and welcome. I was hoping you would come today," Mrs. Graham greeted me with a smile. After a visit with my mother, Mrs. J. C. Reid, and my sister, Isabel Reid on Providence Road, I often drove by, up the lane, and to the back door of the Graham home on Park Avenue. Front door? I never entered that but always received a warm welcome from her nurse-companion at the back door and then from Morrow Graham in her living room. Friends we were, and we also shared many Christian friends that we knew together, for Mrs. Graham often visited Bonclarken, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Center. And she knew many of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian ministers and missionaries. On this day, she asked about missionaries, the news from the, the Dale's, the White's, the Alexander's, and others. Then we'd talk about children, her children, her grandchildren, and she showed me the many, many pictures that she had on her desk. She asked about my family and the children that I worked with in Mexico. "I read, with much interest, the story about the Aztec Indian in Mexico," she said, "the one that had never heard the name of Jesus. And, then the church you loved must be far away and the mountain must be very difficult to climb. Are, are there many children there?" she asked. "Are you writing another story about the children? You may have many, many children there who speak the Aztec." "Yes," I said, "we do have. They speak Aztec and a little Spanish, but they are learning to read God's Holy word. And they love to sing, especially How Great Thou Art." This was brought to them up the high mountain from the Billy Graham crusade in Mexico City. And then we talked on and on. "I want to write a small check, and I'm sure you will find a needy place to use it," she said. And quickly she went to her desk. I was praying, "Oh Lord, thank you, thank you. Please show me how I may wisely use that five dollars she's going to give me. Or maybe it will be a ten." She gave me paying back, she gave me a hug, a smile, and then I unfolded the check. And with tears in my eyes, I read 500 dollars. The first book, The Forgotten People, I had published myself with the help of Imogene Covone, a veteran missionary in Mexico. That book had cost five hundred and nine dollars and now by faith, I had written another one, Children of Mexico: (Colegio Juarez), and the cost was seven hundred and fifty, and where was I going to get that seven hundred and fifty, I did not know. I was stepping out on faith. But God had answered my prayer, and I held her check in my hand for 500 dollars as payment on the second publication of our book. Together we prayed, thanking God for his love. His love reaching out to tell the whole world, especially the children of Mexico that God loved them. [Signed] Emma Reid Echols
MP: Miss Echols would tell the story on tape, in full, about the children walking up the, about walking up the mountain singing How Great Thou Art as well? And where they got their songs from? [Long Pause] (Wonderful.)
EE: ( )
MP: Yeah.
EE: [Long pause] Now I call this "Music on the Mountain." Thank you, Billy Graham, and thank you all the other musicians who were there. And so, I'll have to take you back in memory. The date is March the 25th, 1973, and amazing things are taking place high up on the mountains of the Huasteca along the Pan-American Highway. Since early dawn, the village of Huitchuawan has been crowded with trucks and buses and cars as people begin the long trail to Tampuchan. Far away, three miles up the rocky slopes along the Kings Highway is their destination, and they eagerly watch for their first glimpse of Tampuchan, the village dedicated the William Roger Echols Memorial Chapel. A small, gentle horse has been provided for me to [Laughter] ride and the Aztec young men helped to hold, one to lead the horse and another to carry my bags. So up, up, up, over the high roads across a stream, and then one of the men pointed. "Look, look, high up on the lip you can see the green steeple of your church." And a bell begins to ring so we must be almost there. Another rocky slope and step by step, my horse carried me to the steps, the entrance to my church built with hand, hard-earned dollars from my teacher's checks. Praise the Lord. We were here. Now I was not alone, for more than 400 people had traveled from Tampico, all over the country, from Valles, from El Monte and many villages to attend a dedication of this, their first Aztec Christian Church, to be built in a vast area of the Huasteca. The Huasteca, 200 miles wide and 700 miles long and here within the sanctuary, every wooden bench was crowded with people-men and boys on the right hand side and girls and their mothers on the left hand side, side. And still more were crowded on the window sills and sitting outside along the stone wall. "What is happening here? What do I see, and what do I hear? Who built this church?" And then Reverend Patrick Covone calls twenty-four young men to the front. He calls them by name and tells what they have done, for they have carried cement blocks on their backs day after day to the top of the mountain for this building. They had carried the pulpit and the chairs, the song books, everything, and now here they were. The, he handed each one of them a Bible, the word of God in the Spanish language, and they could hear and read for themselves. And they heard the minister say, "Today the Lord's house shall be established at the top of the mountain, and all natives shall flow into it." Juan Reyes was the first convert and the leader. He shed tears as he said to us, "Today we praise God for Tampuchan but we must not stop. Other villages, many people have never heard the good news. They do not know, they do not know God's so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. We must carry the gospel so others know everywhere that Jesus is alive." And he did just that with Bible, an accordion, and with the Billy Graham gospel songs. He went down the mountain to help build Ixtacamel, the second church in this area. [Pause] This was a day to long remember. The climax of the exciting day was the music. As these Aztec Indians stood to sing, with resonant and beautiful voices, How Great Thou Art. Juan with his accordion was the leader and they all knew the words, every verse, every word. It was a time of praise and rejoicing. Where did they learn to sing these hymns? How did they learn to sing Amazing Grace and Come to the Church in the Wild Woods and all the others? Thank you Billy Graham, thank you George Beverly Shea, and I thank all of you who helped to bring the music to the Aztecs of Mexico. In the, your crusade in Mexico City, the native workers and the ministers and the bible students from the Huasteca went to see you and to hear, hear the music about the crusade. And so they brought back they, that beautiful music to the mountain of the Huasteca. One day, that day came to a close. I was walking down with a walking cane and a little lantern, but there was still singing. And I heard from the top of the steeple the words that they were singing. It is no secret what God can do. What he's done for others, he can do for you. And then I heard George Beverly Shea sing I'd Rather have Jesus than Silver and Gold. Today, not one chapel at Tampuchan, but thirty-eight chapels are built, and over the mountains, all over the Huasteca, one hears this beautiful song in Spanish. But music is all over the mountains because of you, the ministry of Billy Graham's crusade. So, thank you, Billy Graham, and all the musicians who helped make the music on the mountain.
MP: Oh, that's a wonderful story. Did you, did you--. You said you went often to visit Billy Graham's mother. Did her family's--. I mean, your family's home that you showed me the picture of--.
EE: Are you recording this?
MP: I can stop.
EE: OK. My family was--. My father was a farmer, and he and Mr. Graham were real good friends. Billy Graham was in the Boy Scout Trooper that my husband had. And I could tell a lot more things, but I just wanted to tell two things: how the music came up there and what I remember about her.
MP: That's wonderful.