Lewi Pethrus: Pentecostal Pioneer in Sweden

This Week in AG History — August 3, 1958

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, July 28, 2022

A little over sixty years ago, delegates from the U.S. Assemblies of God as well as representatives from many other Pentecostal organizations were preparing for the Fifth World Conference of Pentecostal Churches scheduled to convene in Toronto, Canada, at the Coliseum Arena of the Canadian National Exhibition, Sept. 14-21, 1958.

An article in the Pentecostal Evangel announced that the opening speaker on Sunday morning would be Lewi Pethrus, the well-known pastor of the Filadelfia Church in Stockholm, Sweden. Even though Pethrus had hosted the fourth Pentecostal World Conference in Stockholm three years earlier, it was important to introduce him to the readers of the Evangel.

Lewi Pethrus (1884-1974) was a former Baptist pastor in Sweden who became the leader of Pentecostalism in Sweden. The article gave an overview of his highly successful ministry. It said at that time he was 74 years old and the pastor of “what is believed to be the largest Protestant church in Europe.” His church was organized in 1910, starting with 29 members. By 1958, according to the article, the church had an “adult voting membership of 7,000 and has a major responsibility in the support of 400 overseas missionaries.” The building could seat more than 4,000.

In addition to his preaching activities, the article said Dr. Pethrus, in 1916, “initiated the publication of Evangelii Harold (Gospel Herald), a religious weekly with a circulation of 60,000.” It was reported that in 1945, in collaboration with Karl Ottoson, a Swedish industrialist, Pethrus “founded Dagen (The Day), a daily secular newspaper which in 1958 had a circulation of 25,000 and was sold on newsstands throughout Sweden.”

He also founded the Filadelfia Church Rescue Mission, the Filadelfia Publishing House, and the Filadelfia Bible School.

In an effort to assist Christians in money matters, in 1952, Pethrus took the lead in establishing a savings and credit bank which could help to finance many church projects. Pethrus also won a moral victory in 1955 when the Swedish government radio system held a monopoly on broadcasting. They reserved the right to censor content of religious broadcasts and also forbid the establishment of any private radio station. Lewi Pethrus took steps to organize an independent radio association to broadcast from Tangier, North Africa. The government tried to block his efforts, but when the matter was discussed in the Swedish Parliament, after much debate, he received approval to use this radio station to send broadcasts into Sweden.

IBRA Radio (now IBRA Media), international Christian broadcasting and media group founded by Lewi Pethrus, currently broadcasts Christian programs to more than 60 countries, including Sweden, in 100 languages.

Lewi Pethrus continued as pastor of the Filadelfia Church until his retirement later that same year in 1958. He remained an active voice in the Pentecostal movement until his death in 1974 at the age of 90.

Read more about Lewi Pethrus in “Swedish Leader to Preach at World Conference,” on page 15 of the Aug. 3, 1958, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Crisis in the Classroom,” by Charles W. H. Scott

• “Pentecostal Outpouring in Rangoon,” by Glen Stafford

• “A Man With a Jug of Water,” by Victor R. Ostrom

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

A pictorial report of the “Fifth World Conference of Pentecostal Churches” can be found in Oct. 26, 1958, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel on pages 8-11:

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Don Wilkerson: Cofounder of Teen Challenge

President Gerald Ford (left) greets Don Wilkerson (right).

This Week in AG History — July 30, 1972

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, July 28, 2022

Don Wilkerson, who cofounded Teen Challenge with his brother David, has been actively involved with the ministry for almost 65 years. The well-known addiction recovery ministry was founded in 1958 by the two brothers, just after David Wilkerson began his monumental evangelism of gangs in New York City, which ended with a citywide crusade where several of the gang members were converted.

Teen Challenged opened the doors of its first facility in Brooklyn, New York, in 1960. Beginning in 1971, Don Wilkerson served as its executive director for 16 years. Don Wilkerson also served as executive director of Teen Challenge International for 26 years.

Among his other duties, Don was instrumental in developing the residential rehabilitation and discipleship program that has been a success in changing lives for many students of the Teen Challenge program. He helped develop the biblical curriculum that eventually became the standard teaching for the Teen Challenge program. The Brooklyn Teen Challenge Center became the inspiration and model for similar programs to be launched across the United States.

The Teen Challenge ministry rose to prominence with the publication of David Wilkerson’s book, The Cross and the Switchblade, in 1963. The book was released as a movie in 1970, and played in some 5,000 theaters across the United States.

In 1987 David and Don Wilkerson founded Times Square Church in Manhattan, New York City. After meeting in temporary quarters, the church leased the Mark Hellinger Theatre building on West 51st Street in 1989 and purchased that building two years later. In its new location the church has grown to a weekly attendance of 5,000.

In 1995, Don Wilkerson founded Global Teen Challenge and served as its executive director for 13 years (1995-2007). He helped to plant new Teen Challenge centers around the world and helped train leaders and workers. Global Teen Challenge now has 1,100 centers in 114 countries.

In June 2008 Don returned to lead the Brooklyn Teen Challenge Center in New York where Teen Challenge began over 60 years ago. His brother, David Wilkerson, passed away in a car accident in 2011. In 2018 the name for Teen Challenge USA was changed to Adult & Teen Challenge. Don is now retired from Brooklyn Teen Challenge and is president emeritus of Adult & Teen Challenge.

Don Wilkerson has authored and coauthored a number of books, including Bring Your Loved Ones to Christ, Called to the Other Side, A Coffee House Manual, Counseling by the Scriptures, The Cross is Still Mightier Than the Switchblade, Dear Graduate: Letters of Practical Advice from Don Wilkerson, Fast Track to Nowhere, The Gutter and the Ghetto, My Story: Confessions of a Hope Pusher, and Within a Yard of Hell.

Fifty years ago Don Wilkerson shared a testimony of a Teen Challenge resident named Joe who went to a scheduled court hearing and was sentenced to prison because of a previous crime he had committed. Joe had been in the Teen Challenge program in Brooklyn for two months, and it was assumed that the judge would allow him to stay in the program. Once the news reached them, all the staff and the young men in the program began to pray for Joe’s release. The court-assigned lawyer was Jewish, but he knew that Joe had accepted Jesus Christ and that it had made a difference in his life. He did not need to go to prison. The judge was unwilling to change his mind, so the lawyer took the case to a higher court. Everyone at the Teen Challenge Center continued to pray.

Four weeks after his sentencing, the state Supreme Court agreed to hear Joe’s case (and in the meantime he had won four cellmates to Christ). At the hearing, one of the Brooklyn staff members was allowed to approach the bench to explain the Teen Challenge program and what had happened to Joe. The judge listened carefully and decided to overrule the decision of the lower court. Joe was released to go back to Teen Challenge. Joe and everyone at the Teen Challenge Center believed God had answered their prayers.

Read “Miraculous Release” on page 24 of the July 30, 1972, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Supernatural Healing,” by Percy S. Brewster

• “The Faith That Brings Healing,” by Harvey McAlister

• “5 Biblical Methods of Healing,” by C.M. Ward

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Photo: President Gerald Ford (left) greets Don Wilkerson (right).

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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William W. Hays: From Crime and Addiction to Assemblies of God Prison Chaplain

This Week in AG History — July 22, 1962

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 21 July 2022

William W. Hays (1927-2010) came from a family known for drunkenness and crime, and he lived up to his family’s poor reputation. Addictions and debauchery almost led William to an early grave, but God delivered him and called him into ministry. The ex-convict and former addict became a noted Assemblies of God prison chaplain and evangelist, devoting his life to helping others escape the living hell that he knew well. He shared his story in the July 22, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

William was raised during the Great Depression in an impoverished community along the Arkansas River near Fort Smith, Arkansas. Moonshine, violence, and prostitutes were a way of life in the community. William started drinking moonshine at age 5. He got into daily fistfights with other children and dropped out of school in the seventh grade. He and his brother, Benny, devoted much of their time to helping their father make whiskey.

William’s mother had died, and his father never took his children to church. The boys had few positive influences, and they lived to satisfy their destructive desires. By age 17, William was an alcoholic. “I lied, cheated, and committed crimes,” he recalled, in order “to get the money for another drink of alcohol.”

At age 17, William fell in love with a lovely young girl, Edith Mae, who had been raised in a Christian home. He was attracted to her “clean way of living.” After a whirlwind courtship, they married a few weeks later, on the condition that he would stop drinking. But he could only fight the urge to drink for a few days, and he again succumbed to what he later described as the “demon forces” of alcohol. 

William had difficulty holding down a job and could not provide for his growing family. “I would leave my wife and children with nothing to eat,” he wrote, “and would awake from an intoxicated stupor to find myself hundreds of miles from home in some cheap joint or on Skid Row with the lowest characters.”

William’s wife, Edith Mae, spent much of the first 14 years of their marriage in tears and in prayer. She had six children in eight years. William was unstable. When he returned home from wandering, he would show tenderness to her and their children. But the next moment he might be wild and rash.

His life got even worse. William became addicted to morphine, and, at age 25, his body began to waste away. One more tragedy made life unbearable. His brother, Benny, who had been living in squalor with a prostitute, was murdered with a shotgun at close range. Seething with anger, he tried to find Benny’s killer, but was unsuccessful.

By age 31, William’s body was giving out. His nerves were shattered, his body was emaciated and addicted to alcohol and heroin, and his spirit was deadened to the world. He ended up in a state mental institution, where doctors gave him a few days to live.

William’s oldest daughter, Phyllis, called a Pentecostal Holiness Church preacher, Walter Brown, who came to his bedside. William, sensing this was his last chance, responded to Brown’s fervent prayers. “I began to cry to God for salvation,” he recounted. “Soon the tremendous load on my heart was lifted. I knew the power of the omnipotent God was working to set me free.”

Almost immediately, William’s condition began to improve. Brown helped to disciple William, teaching him how to follow Christ and to be a faithful husband and father. Brown warned him that he must take certain definite actions, or he would not experience lasting change. “You must study the Bible consistently and earnestly, and regularly attend a church,” he insisted. As William did this, he was able to overcome the temptations to return to his former addictions and lifestyle.

The new Christian felt compelled to share his testimony. He went to his former buddies on Skid Row, and they initially laughed at him. The road back to health was a struggle, but as William made progress, people took notice. When his former associates saw a lasting change in William’s life, they wanted to know more.

William read the Bible voraciously, hungry to know God. He sensed God’s call into the ministry and, in 1962, was ordained by the Assemblies of God. He pastored several churches, started rescue missions in Fort Smith and Oklahoma City, and then became director of the Teen Challenge center in Fort Worth, Texas. William felt a tug to prison chaplaincy, in part because his brother spent two stints in the Arkansas State Penitentiary, which was known as the “hell hole of the penal system.” He helped to lead a successful prison reform movement, which made prisons safer in Arkansas. He also engaged in chaplaincy work in dangerous prisons in Mexico. In his later years, he served as coordinator of prison and jail ministries for the Oklahoma District Council of the Assemblies of God.

William W. Hays was an unlikely candidate to become a minister, much less a prison chaplain. But when God changed his life, his early years behind bars and on the wrong side of the law became an asset for his new calling.

Read William W. Hays’ testimony, “Delivered from Dope and Death,” on pages 8-9 of the July 22, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “All May Prophesy,” by Donald Gee

• “New Church for Navajos in California,” by L. E. Halvorson

• “No Birth Certificate,” by L. Nelson Bell

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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C. M. Ward Interviews Florida Governor Reubin Askew: An Example of Integrity During Political Scandals

This Week in AG History —July 13, 1975

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 14 July 2022

Charles Morse Ward (1909-1996) is known in the Assemblies of God as a great preacher but he was also one of its most prolific writers. His role as the speaker of the radio program, Revivaltime, provided a platform for printing of sermons, tracts, booklets, and interviews. He previously served as editor of The Pentecostal Testimony, the official publication of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, and he also wrote columns for the local newspaper when pastoring in Bakersfield, California.

Ward’s published interviews on a diverse range of characters, including Colonel Sanders, of restaurant fame. He interviewed scientists, professors, hotel magnates, journalists, businessmen, astronauts, and a circus ringmaster for the Revivaltime tract series.

In the July 13, 1975, issue of The Pentecostal Evangel, Lee Shultz, radio announcer for Revivaltime, reported on Ward’s interview with Reubin Askew (1928-2014), who had just been reelected to his second term as governor of Florida. The race took place during the height of the Nixon Watergate scandal and distrust of government officials was high.

Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Askew’s parents divorced when he was just 2, due primarily to his father’s struggles with alcohol. He never saw his father after age 10 and his mother struggled to raise six children alone through the Great Depression, moving to Pensacola, Florida, in 1937. Askew sold magazines, shined shoes, bagged groceries, and sold his mother’s homemade pies to help supplement his mother’s income as a waitress and seamstress. His mother insisted that he attend church and instilled a love for righteousness that would serve him well.

After graduating from high school in 1946, Askew served as an army paratrooper and then as an intelligence officer in the Air Force during the Korean War. After earning a law degree from the University of Florida, he married Donna Harper in 1956 and won election to the Florida House of Representatives in 1958. He then served in the Florida Senate and in 1970 was elected governor on the Democratic ticket.

Askew, along with Jimmy Carter, was one of the first of the “New South” governors and supported school desegregation, intentionally helping black Floridians to re-enter the political system a short time after the passage of the Voting Acts Right of 1965. He appointed the first African-American to a state government position since Reconstruction, the first African-American to hold a cabinet level office in modern Florida history. He also named the first African-American state supreme court justice at a time when this was not politically expedient.

In Ward’s interview with Askew, the governor highlighted the high importance of prayer in his personal life: “I went through a period between my election and inauguration which probably was the most difficult time of my life. There were pressures. I was trying to form an administration. There are strong temptations to lean toward flesh — toward political expediency. I needed help, and I found help at the Throne. Prayer had always been a very important part of my life. I prayed more earnestly about what to do and how to do it. I would not attempt the burdens of this office without a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

When Ward asked about the political climate of 1975, Askew responded that it had become “a heavy, spiritual burden” that credibility be restored to every level of government. He said that the challenge for our nation in this hour “isn’t finding those with innate ability to provide answers. It is, rather, finding those with strong convictions, willing to seek answers.”

Governor Askew worked hard to live up to his standard of transparency in governing and leading by example. By all accounts, his marriage was a happy one and, unlike his father, he remained faithful to his wife throughout their marriage, leading both of his children to Christ at an early age. Throughout his life, Askew refrained from smoking, drinking, swearing, and gambling.

Askew was a member of a Presbyterian church. However, Ward believed that everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, could benefit from Askew’s example of a faithful public servant in the midst of an era of political crisis.

When Askew died in 2014, it was remarked that at a time of government scandals he established a reputation for personal integrity. His nickname around the statehouse was “Reubin the Good.” While that moniker began as cynical and derisive, one of his political opponents admitted that “he has established a kind of morality in office that causes people to have faith in government.”

At his death, Askew was ranked by the Tampa Bay Times as the second-best governor in Florida history. The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University rated him one of the top 10 governors of the 20th century.

But C.M. Ward gave him an even higher honor: “I saw Jesus in this man.”

Read Lee Shultz’s article, “When the Governor Talked, the Park Became a Chapel” on page 20 of the July 13, 1975, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel and the expanded interview on “The Governor Who Prays,” a Revivaltime miniature tract.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Nothing Short of a Miracle” by Samuel M. Buick

• “Marks of the Millennium” by Ian McPherson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel
archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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100 Years Ago: Mexican Refugees in Texas Minister to African Americans

This Week in AG History — July 8, 1922

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 07 July 2022

The small town of Edna, Texas, was home to an early Assemblies of God congregation of Mexican refugees, whose members engaged in evangelistic work to African-Americans, even while their own legal status was uncertain.

This fascinating story of cross-cultural ministry came about because of an emerging social crisis. Over one million refugees from the Mexican Revolution came to the United States between 1910 and 1920. Many of the newcomers lived in makeshift camps, rife with disease and crime, located along the borderlands. Overwhelmed by this humanitarian crisis, local residents often did not know how to react. Social and political tensions flared in Texas and elsewhere.

Assemblies of God churches and ministers, seeing the unfolding tragedy, committed themselves to offer physical and spiritual assistance to the newcomers. Many Mexican refugees accepted Christ and formed small Asambleas de Dios congregations across the borderlands.

American Assemblies of God leaders were able to assist refugees who faced significant challenges. In one instance, Isabel Flores, a prominent Pentecostal leader among the Mexican refugees, was arrested in May 1918 and incarcerated in the Jackson County jail in Edna. The reason for the arrest is unknown. An account published in 1966 in La Luz Apostolica simply stated, “It was wartime, and the officer did not speak Spanish and Isabel did not speak English.” Henry C. Ball, an Assemblies of God missionary to the Mexicans, came to the aid of Flores. Ball traveled to Edna, where he spoke with the authorities and secured the prisoner’s release.

This brush with the law demonstrated that it was advantageous for Mexican immigrants to work with Americans. Earlier that year, Flores and Ball together had organized the Latin American Conference (later renamed the Latin American District), which brought existing Mexican Pentecostal congregations into the Assemblies of God.

Ball’s status as a native-born American, however, did not prevent him from encountering problems. The Assemblies of God, like many other premillennial American evangelicals, took a pacifist position during World War I. Ball’s work with Hispanics and his church’s pacifism caused government officials to view him with suspicion. Ball was arrested in Brownsville, Texas, on suspicion of being a German spy, but he was soon released.

As superintendent of the Latin American Conference, Ball traveled extensively and ministered among the Mexican immigrants.

In 1922, Ball returned to Edna, Texas, where he found an unexpected surprise. In a July 8, 1922, article in the Pentecostal Evangel, Ball reported that the Hispanic congregation maintained an active outreach to African-Americans, despite the language barrier.

The congregation met for worship in a private home located about three miles from Edna. Ball noted that about 30 Mexicans gathered for worship in a large room, and that an additional group of African-Americans joined them. The African-Americans, Ball observed, “have learned to sing the Spanish songs with the Mexicans, even though they know very little Spanish.”

Ball stated that the African-Americans “are anxious to hear Pentecost preached in their own language.” He lamented that “a white man could hardly preach to them in this part of the country,” presumably referring to Jim Crow laws that prevented whites and blacks from mixing.

The Mexican refugees could have used their own plight as an excuse to keep to themselves and to concentrate on building up their own community. But this marginalized group instead reached out to others who were likewise excluded from the benefits of mainstream American culture. Instead of dwelling on what they could not do, they found an area of ministry in which they had an advantage over white Americans. The Mexican immigrants were not subject to Jim Crow laws and could freely minister to African-Americans. When the Mexican immigrants sought to share God’s love with others, their seeming cultural disadvantage became an advantage.

Read the article by H.C. Ball, “The Work Prospering on the Mexican Border,” on page 13 of the July 8, 1922, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Whose Faith Follow: Important Lessons Learned from a Pentecostal Revival [Irvingites] of Nearly a Hundred Years Ago,” by A.E. Saxby

• “Very Fine Needlework,” by Grace E. Thompson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Read about the arrests of Isabel Flores and H. C. Ball in “Historia de los Primeros 50 Años de las Asambleas de Dios Latinas,” on pages 2 and 12 of the April 1966 issue of La Luz Apostolica.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Nazi Rocket Scientist Wernher von Braun Converted to Christ, Interviewed in 1966 by C. M. Ward

C.M. Ward interviews Dr. Wernher von Braun (center) in his office at the Space Center headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama, May 9, 1966. Lee Shultz (right) looks on.

This Week in AG History — June 26, 1966

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 30 June 2022

Wernher von Braun (1912-1977), one of Nazi Germany’s leading rocket scientists, became a pioneer in America’s space program following World War II. But it was von Braun’s conversion to Christ that captured the attention of Assemblies of God radio preacher C.M. Ward. Ward interviewed the scientist in 1966, during which von Braun described the relationship between his newfound faith and his lifework in science.

Von Braun’s interest in rocket science had been sparked by a desire to explore space, but he came to regret that his work was being used to cause tremendous destruction of human life. He had developed the V-1 and V-2 rockets, which allowed Germany to pummel Allied targets up to 500 miles away during World War II. The rockets, manufactured by slave labor, indiscriminately killed thousands of people.

Sensing disloyalty, the Gestapo arrested von Braun in 1944 and charged him with espionage. Von Braun’s work was deemed essential to the success of the war effort, so Nazi leader Albert Speer intervened and ordered the release of the scientist. When American soldiers marched into central Germany in May 1945, they found that von Braun had organized the surrender of 500 of his top scientists, along with plans and test vehicles.

Von Braun and his German scientists were relocated to the United States, where they became indispensable to the development of American military and space programs. Von Braun’s life had changed drastically within the course of a year. But it was in a little church in El Paso, Texas, that von Braun experienced a spiritual transformation that would change him from the inside out.

In Germany, von Braun had been nominally Lutheran but functionally atheist. He had no interest in religion or God. In Texas, while living at Fort Bliss, a neighbor invited him to church. He went, expecting to find the religious equivalent of a country club. Instead, he found a small white frame building with a vibrant congregation of people who loved the Lord. He realized that he had been morally adrift and that he needed to surrender himself to God. He converted to Christ and, over the coming years, became quite outspoken in his evangelical faith and frequently addressed the complementarity of faith and science.

C.M. Ward’s 1966 interview of von Braun took place in Huntsville, Alabama, at the George Marshall Space Flight Center (NASA), where he served as director. Von Braun contrasted the large empty cathedrals of Europe to the large numbers of churches he found in Texas, many meeting in temporary buildings, pastored by “humble preachers driving second-hand buses,” who led “thriving congregations.” The German scientist was impressed and noted: “Here is a growing, aggressive church and not a dignified, half-dead institution. Here is spiritual life.”

Ward published von Braun’s story and his thoughts on faith and science in an article in the June 2, 1966, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, as well as in a 15-page booklet, The Farther We Probe into Space, the Greater My Faith (Gospel Publishing House, 1966), of which almost 500,000 copies were published.

Read the article by Lee Shultz, “Revivaltime Speaker C.M. Ward Interviews Dr. Wernher von Braun,” on page 26-27 of the June 26, 1966, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Circuit-riding Chaplain,” by Richard D. Wood

• “I Discovered God in the Manned Spacecraft Center,” by David L. Johnson

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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A.G. Ward: The Canadian Pentecostal Pioneer Who Was Converted During His Own Sermon

This Week in AG History —June 22, 1946

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 23 June 2022

A.G. (Alfred George) Ward (1881-1960), a Pentecostal pioneer in Canada, was an example of an unconverted minister. According to his own account, he began in ministry as a Methodist circuit-riding preacher — before he became a Christian. He later converted during his own sermon!

Ward shared this humorous anecdote in the June 22, 1946, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. He became a prominent Canadian camp-meeting speaker and evangelist, but was possibly best known as the father of longtime Revivaltime speaker C.M. Ward. 

A.G. Ward took great care to preach about the importance of having a vibrant spiritual life, as he knew from experience how easy it is to possess a form of religion without substance. His sermons frequently focused on the threefold theme of his life: salvation, consecration, and divine healing, all accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit. His messages resonated with listeners across North America.

A.G. Ward’s father, an alcoholic, died when his son was only 2 months old. The strain of struggling alone to raise four children took its toll, and Ward’s mother died when he was 13. Just before his mother’s death, he attended a Methodist revival meeting. Although he felt a desire to become a Christian, the church leader who spoke with him only encouraged him to believe the Scriptures. Ward did not have an understanding of repentance or the availability of power to live a Christian life. 

Nevertheless, young Alfred wanted to be a preacher. After finishing high school, he was appointed as a Methodist circuit-rider on the western frontier of the Canadian Rockies. At the time, young preachers were expected to receive practical experience as ministers before receiving education. During these early meetings, he preached the Bible; but he did not truly know God. His preaching lacked power, conviction, and results.

In the Pentecostal Evangel article, he recalled, “On my second circuit as a Methodist preacher … during a series of special meetings while I was doing the preaching, I was converted. I was the only convert in a week’s meetings, but I have always been thankful and a few others have been saved since, as a result of the preacher getting converted.”

It was not long after this experience that Ward met a group of Methodists in northwestern Canada who taught holiness and believed that Jesus healed people in answer to the prayer of faith. Ward met Christian and Missionary Alliance founder A.B. Simpson, a teacher of divine healing. 

Simpson sent Ward to begin an Alliance work in Winnipeg, where he met and married a Mennonite evangelist, Mary Markle. In 1907, at a holiness prayer meeting in Winnipeg, they both received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. This ended their affiliation with both the Mennonites and the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

A.G. and Mary took a step of faith and, in 1909, organized one of the first Pentecostal camp meetings held in Ontario. The young evangelists had no money to give in the offering at the camp meeting. However, they felt impressed to physically place their infant son, Charles Morse Ward, in the offering basket as their gift to God’s work. They did so, and young C. M. grew up with a calling to the ministry from a young age.

After the meeting, Ward raised funds by selling his tent to another young Canadian evangelist, future Foursquare Gospel Church founder Aimee Semple McPherson, and began holding meetings in schoolhouses, churches, and other places across Canada and later throughout the U.S. 

Ward not only preached consecration, he modeled it in his own life. C.M. Ward, in a Revivaltime booklet titled Intimate Glimpses of My Father’s Life, described his father’s deep spiritual life. The younger Ward wrote, “I would rather have been born in such a home than have the honor of sitting in the White House.”  C.M. credited the example of his father’s message of holy consecration, lived out through the power of the Holy Spirit, as his own model for ministry. 

Read the full sermon “Christ or Self — Which Shall It Be” on page 3 of the June 22, 1946, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel

Also featured in this issue:

• “Signs of the Times,”by Ralph M. Riggs

• “A Harvest of Souls in Jamaica,” by Harvey McAlister

• “How to Have Revival,” by George T.B. Davis

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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From Fascism to Christ: Bruno Frigoli Fought for Mussolini, Found Christ, and Became an Assemblies of God Leader in Bolivia

Bruno Frigoli (right), who ministered to Colonel Banzer’s soldiers in 1958, presenting a Bible to Hugo Banzer, president of Bolivia, in 1972.

This Week in AG History — June 18, 1972

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, June 16, 2022

In his teenage years, Bruno Frigoli was an Italian soldier and fought for Mussolini in World War II. After he was tried and acquitted of war crimes, he decided to start a new life in Bolivia, where he converted to Christ. Bruno became an Assemblies of God minister and missionary, serving in both Bolivia and the United States.

Bruno Robert Frigoli (1926-2020) was born in Ronchi dei Legionari, Northern Italy. His father was a lieutenant colonel in the Italian army, and at the age of 17, Bruno joined the war effort as a soldier under Mussolini. He attended a military college in Italy and trained for specialized anti-guerilla operations. He received several commendations for his work in this kind of warfare. He became a first lieutenant in the Italian army with the special troops of the Alps and took part in several dangerous missions.

In his last mission, before the collapse of the Italian army, he and a fellow officer were chosen to scout out an area, and they were ambushed. The other officer was killed by a barrage of bullets. Frigoli’s ear was grazed, so he decided to lay down on the ground next to the other officer to pretend he also had been killed. Later that night, once the coast was clear, he crawled and staggered back to camp, bringing the body of his comrade with him so that he would have the honor of a military funeral.

When the war ended, Frigoli and other Italian officers were confined to a prison at Sondrio, Italy. Over time, each of them were brought to trial for their war crimes, and 12 out of 13 of them were executed. Only Bruno remained. When it was his turn to come to trial, the Catholic chaplain took the opportunity to speak favorably of Bruno. He said that Bruno was a kind-hearted man. He could not be a brutal killer and was only carrying out orders. Something changed the attitude of the prosecutor, and suddenly he pronounced that Officer Frigoli should be freed. The judge said, “Cleared. Not guilty! You are free to go.”

Even with his freedom, there were still people who wanted Bruno dead because of his previous involvement with the Fascist army. He determined that he must leave Italy. He managed to scrape up enough money to travel to Argentina to begin a new life, and there he became a construction foreman under the Argentine government, overseeing a thousand workers. He married a hometown sweetheart from Italy named Tilly, and they had three children together. Even with successes in his life, he felt unsettled.

Eventually a friend convinced Bruno that riches awaited him in the jungles of northern Bolivia. He left his construction business in Bariloche, Argentina, and went to the Beni area of Bolivia in search of gold. After discouraging results from the search for gold, he established himself in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, working in the lumber industry. He became the manager of a sawmill that his wife’s family had purchased.

One day Bruno was traveling from Santa Cruz toward the jungle. He flung his army shirt over the back of the seat. After several hours he noticed the shirt was gone, and it had all his important documents in it. By this time it was getting dark. What was he going to do? He came across two women, Pearl Estep and Flora Shafer, who were Assemblies of God missionaries. They were traveling toward Santa Cruz. He told them about losing the shirt somewhere along the way. He asked if they would look for it and return it to him when he came back to the city. If they found it, the best place to meet, they said, was the church.

Bruno agreed to meet them at their church on his return trip. He arrived at the church in time for the morning service, and he met the pastor, missionary Everett Hale. The pastor told him the women had not returned, but if he would come to the evening service, he could talk to them. The women came to the evening service, but they had been unable to locate the shirt.

Bruno was not very impressed with the little church and was disappointed that his shirt was not found. But something about the church caused him to return. On Good Friday, April 3, 1953, a guest preacher from the Salvation Army preached. Bruno and his brother-in-law, Leonardo, both were in attendance. The message was about the Prodigal Son, and both of the men felt like they needed God. They both went forward at the altar call and prayed for salvation. One year later, Bruno received the baptism in the Holy Spirit at a church in La Paz, Bolivia.

Soon after this, Bruno began preparing for ministry. He became a Sunday School superintendent and pioneered a new assembly at the edge of the jungle. He was anxious to serve God in any way possible. He asked himself repeatedly, “Am I doing enough?” He wanted to step into full-time ministry.

Then tragedy struck. The Frigolis were in a terrible auto accident, and Tilly was killed. Bruno suffered major injuries and was flown back to Italy to recover. His three children were placed with Tilly’s parents. He eventually returned to Bolivia, and he became a full-time pastor.

Bruno received local ordination in December 1961. He attended Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri, in 1962. During this same time he met his wife, Frances Ruth (Hiddema) Frigoli, who was serving as a missionary nurse in Bolivia. They were married on June 18, 1962.

Bruno received U.S. ordination through the New Jersey District in October 1967 while serving as a missionary. At that time he was pastor of the Evangelistic Center of the Assemblies of God, which was Bolivia’s largest Protestant church and located in the heart of La Paz, the capital city. He also served as the national secretary before becoming general superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Bolivia. He was an international Bible teacher, and he also was in charge of a night Bible school in Bolivia. He served on various boards, including the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.

The Frigolis served together as missionaries in Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina for 30 years. They also worked for LIFE Publishers. Frances passed away in July 2019, and Bruno passed away on May 10, 2020, in Grandville, Michigan.

In an interview with Bruno Frigoli in 1972, he shared about his amazing conversion and his subsequent missionary work in Bolivia and Latin America. He had been trained to fight in anti-guerrilla warfare in the Alps of Italy and ended up becoming a soldier of the Cross in the Andes of South America.

Frigoli’s story was also featured in a Revivaltime booklet produced by C. M. Ward that outlined his testimony of a former Fascist who later served Christ as a missionary in Bolivia.

Read “From the Alps to the Andes” on page 24 of the June 18, 1972, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Day That Changed My Life,” by Glen Bonds

• “Outreach to a College Community”

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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These Assemblies of God Missionaries Fought Sex Trafficking in Japan over 100 Years Ago

This Week in AG History — June 9, 1917

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 09 June 2022

The June 9, 1917, issue of The Weekly Evangel featured a shocking photograph on its front cover — a picture of 10 female prostitutes in Japan, locked behind a window with bars. The caption read, “Sold! Carest thou not that we perish?” This image of sexual slavery was intended to provoke readers to pray for and support the ministry of William and Mary Taylor, early Assemblies of God missionaries who helped to free women involved in prostitution in Japan.

The caption beneath the photograph further described the plight of the women: “Sold to work evil, the conditions of thousands of these poor girls is indeed pitiful. These hopeless slaves are dolled up, painted and powdered, and then exposed to the gaze of every passerby, whose trade they are expected to solicit.”

The Taylors and their ministry colleagues, through the Door of Hope Mission in Kobe, Japan, worked tirelessly to free woman who found themselves caught in a life of sex trafficking. Prostitution had been first legalized in Japan 300 years earlier, in 1617. In an article in The Weekly Evangel, William Taylor described the disastrous consequences of the sex trade. He pled for readers to pray for the women — whom he called “somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister.”

Christians must not be silent about the evil of sex trafficking, Taylor warned. He cited Scripture, “Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9).

William and Mary Taylor, citizens of Great Britain, first arrived as missionaries in Japan in 1905 and were sent by the Japan Evangelistic Band, an evangelical missions organization. William Taylor was the second cousin of Hudson Taylor of the China Inland Mission. They returned to Britain on furlough in 1910 and were baptized in the Holy Spirit. They transferred their credentials to the Pentecostal Missionary Union of Great Britain and returned to Japan in 1913, and then to the American Assemblies of God in 1917. They were among the earliest Pentecostal missionaries to Japan, and they continued their work with victims of Japanese sex trafficking into the 1920s.

The story of the William and Mary Taylor illustrates that veteran evangelical missionaries became some of the first Pentecostal missionaries, and that the Assemblies of God, since its earliest years, has supported ministry to meet the deepest spiritual and social needs of people around the world.

Read the article by William J. Taylor, “So I Opened My Mouth,” on pages 1 and 3 of the June 9, 1917, issue of The Weekly Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Pictures of Pentecost in the Old Testament,” by Alice E. Luce

• “Sweet Smelling Roses on Thorny Bushes, or God’s Encouragement Along the Way,” by Max Freimark

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel and The Weekly Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Aaron A. Wilson: Assemblies of God Pioneer in Puxico and Kansas City, Missouri

This Week in AG History — June 04, 1972

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, June 02, 2022

Aaron Aubrey Wilson (1891-1984), better known as A.A. Wilson, was a pastor, evangelist, district superintendent, and executive presbyter with the Assemblies of God. Wilson had a long and fruitful ministry. Historian William Menzies called him a real “war horse” of the Assemblies of God.

In a testimony in 1939, Wilson said, “Like Amos I am not the son of a prophet, I made my start as a farmer. God called me from between a pair of plow handles when I was plowing with a pair of Missouri mules, blessed my life with the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire, spoke to me and said, ‘Go,’ and I have been going now for 18 years.” He was proud to have grown up on a farm, and he felt his upbringing helped him to reach out to all kinds of people. Wilson said he was not blessed with the privilege of going to Bible school, but he spent a lot of time on his knees with his Bible, and he was privileged to see quite a few people pray through to salvation and to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Wilson was born Oct. 3, 1891, in Farrenburg, Missouri. He married Louise Cruchon on Feb. 8, 1910, in Cairo, Illinois. Wilson’s conversion and baptism in the Spirit came after he was married. He entered the ministry at age 28 and was ordained by the Southern Missouri district on Aug. 25, 1922.

Wilson’s first pastorate was at Puxico, Missouri, from 1923 to 1926, where the church grew to over 200 members. In 1924 he was elected secretary of the Southern Missouri district, and in 1925 he was elected assistant district superintendent. He then served as Southern Missouri district superintendent from 1926 to 1931.

In 1928, Wilson helped start First Assembly of God in Kansas City, Missouri (now Evangel Church), where he was elected the pastor in April 1930. Sunday School was an important part of Wilson’s ministry. Around 100 people attended Sunday School when he first came to the church. By 1937, the Sunday School was averaging close to 800 people with 1,000 attending on Easter Sunday. He was especially proud to have a large men’s Sunday School class. The church went through several building programs while Wilson was pastor. He spent 31 years with that congregation, retiring in May 1961. During his time as pastor, the church mothered 10 other churches in the area. He also served as a general presbyter (1926-1937) and as an executive presbyter (1937-1963).

In retirement, he was a popular speaker at revivals and camp meetings. In 1969, he was asked to pastor a small group of believers in Springfield, Missouri, which later became Park Crest Assembly of God (now Life360 Church). He continued as pastor until 1972. By then he was 81 years old.

Wilson became a spiritual father to many through his years of pastoral ministry and through the revivals he preached in various places. Stewart H. Robinson, who pastored various churches in Southern Missouri, was saved as a teenager under Wilson’s ministry and counted him as a spiritual father. Robinson said, “I always recognized him, not only as a ‘Prince of Preachers,’ but also as a practicer of what he proclaimed and preached.”

Mark Buntain, well-known missionary to Calcutta, India, received his call to the mission field while attending a camp meeting that Wilson preached at Braeside Camp in Ontario, Canada. Some other pastors and missionaries who counted him as their spiritual father included Bob Mackish, missionary to Austria and Russia; Aaron Rothganger, missionary to the Philippines and the Far East; Bob Crabtree, who became Ohio district superintendent; children’s evangelists, Charles and Irene Senechal; Army chaplain Chuck Adams; and missionary David K. Irwin.

A.A. Wilson passed away on Nov. 6, 1984, in Springfield, Missouri, at the age of 93. Wilson and his wife are both buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri.

Wilson published some small booklets and two books, The Gospel Reveille and Things Most Surely Believed Among Us. He also wrote a number of articles for the Pentecostal Evangel.

Fifty years ago, A.A. Wilson wrote an article called “Hands That Speak,” found on page 2 of the June 4, 1972, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Miracles Make the Difference,” by Joe Contreras

• “God Had a Better Idea,” by C.M. Ward

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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