Harold and Evelyn Harriman


Retired Missionaries to Paraguay
“The Land Needs to Become Your Land”
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer
December 2009

“A new missionary in Bolivia once asked me for some advice on adapting to the culture,” said Evelyn Harriman, retired missionary with World Gospel Mission. “I said, ‘Don’t speak English in front of Bolivians! You’ve got to love and respect them, and it’s not nice to speak a language they don’t understand in front of them. The land needs to become your land.’”

Harold and Evelyn Harriman began their remarkable journey with WGM in 1947, arriving in Bolivia on Thanksgiving Day. They were both raised in families that struggled to get by during the Great Depression, and their make-do backgrounds became beneficial later when they lived in remote jungle villages. They met at Cascade College in Portland, Oregon, and both felt the call to missionary service. Harold graduated two years ahead of Evelyn and served as an assistant pastor in two local churches. A few months after Evelyn graduated, their son David was born, and two months after that, they arrived in Bolivia. Eventually, they would welcome four more children into their family: Hubert, Melody, Dwight, and Jim.

Harold and Evelyn were one of four couples that opened WGM’s work in Bolivia. “I was challenged by the impossibility that faced the work,” said Harold. After spending several months in the capital city of La Paz in language school, Harold and Evelyn began their ministry of building up the church in Bolivia. For the next 37 years, Harold and Evelyn lived in Bolivia in Santa Cruz, Asuncion, and Nueva Esperanza. Everywhere they lived, they focused on planting churches and discipling believers. “The greatest thing that stands out to me in my heart and mind is when someone became a Christian and seeing them grow to love Lord,” said Evelyn.

Harold served as field director and treasurer, and they both taught at Berea Bible Seminary. “Teaching at the Bible school was the most fruitful time in our ministry. Seeing the students go out and start churches was wonderful,” Harold said. Many of the churches in the World Gospel Church, the denomination WGM started in Bolivia, were started by pastors who graduated from the seminary. The seminary is now under Bolivian leadership.

Toward the end of their time in Bolivia, Harold was involved in starting Bolivian Evangelical University with founder Meredythe Scheflen. BEU is one of the largest private universities in South America. Harold was put in charge of developing the Bible program, and the stress of this enormous undertaking took its toll. When he began having heart problems in 1984, he and Evelyn decided to return to the U.S. They moved to Iowa and began serving with the Student Involvement Center at Vennard College (Iowa). “I thought we would just retire there and stay working with the center,” said Evelyn.

But God had other plans. Two years later, WGM wanted to begin ministering in Paraguay and needed an experienced Spanish-speaking missionary couple to open the work. Harold and Evelyn were invited to go, and after much prayer, they accepted. “I was ready for another adventure!” said Evelyn. They served in Paraguay for three years, and when they left, they’d established one church and two preaching points. “It was one miracle after another. God’s always helped us adapt, whether we were in the city or jungle,” said Harold.

After returning again to the U.S., they settled in Upland, Indiana. Harold worked at the WGM Credit Union for several years, and Evelyn became a licensed HAM radio operator, which she used to stay in contact with her family. They are active in their church, Pioneer Faith Evangelical Church, and love staying connected with their children and their families, who are spread across the country and the world.

Harold and Evelyn are very proud of their children. “I am so thankful that our children never resented living in Bolivia. They grew up loving it and had a ball,” said Evelyn. Today, Melody and her family are missionaries in Argentina, Hubert is president of World Gospel Mission, Jim is an evangelist with the Frances Asbury Society, David has an evangelism ministry in Latin America, and Dwight has a unique ministry as the editor of a newspaper in Montana.

“I always encouraged the kids to do what God called them to,” said Evelyn. “One day, Dwight came up to me and said that he didn’t think he would be a missionary because he didn’t feel called. I said, ‘Good! If God calls you to dig holes or lay bricks, you better be ready to do that!’”