Monroe and Betty Grams: Assemblies of God Missionary Educators in Latin America

This Week in AG History — December 4, 1977

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, 08 December 2022

Monroe David Grams (1927-2021) and Betty Jane Grams (1926-2000) devoted their lives to sharing the gospel in Latin America, where they served as Assemblies of God missionaries and educators.

Born in Rosendale, Wisconsin, Monroe was the youngest of 12 children born of German immigrants. Growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, he developed a strong work ethic. He graduated with a three-year diploma from North Central Bible Institute (now North Central University [NCU]) in Minneapolis in 1948, and there he met Betty Jane Haas. They were married May 1, 1949, when he was pastoring a church at Cataract, Wisconsin. Betty was born in Lead, South Dakota, and had a Hispanic and German background.

Both Monroe and Betty were ordained by the Wisconsin-Northern Michigan District. Feeling called to missions work, they were both appointed as AG missionaries to Bolivia in May 1951, where they attended six months of language school at Cochabamba and then moved to the capital city of La Paz, where they ministered until July 1969. During this time, Monroe Grams was pastor, director, and founder of La Paz Evangelistic Center and national superintendent (1960-65). He also started a night Bible school in La Paz (1960) and Altiplano Bible Institute at General Pando, Bolivia (1955). The school in Bolivia trained pastors for Aymara Indian churches and later relocated to La Paz in 1969. Monroe and Betty Grams each later earned a B.A. degree from NCU in 1963. Monroe also earned an M.A. degree in communication and anthropology from the University of Minnesota.

During the 1960s, the Gramses helped develop PACE (Program of Applied Christian Education), a traveling on-site leadership training program throughout 25 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Monroe became the founder and dean of Latin America Advanced School of Theology (LAAST) in 1968. The Gramses served as missionaries to Argentina from July 1969 to March 1977. Monroe and Betty Grams served with Christian Training Network (formerly PACE) in Latin America from 1977 to December 2003.

Over the course of their missionary career, the Gramses taught and mentored pastors and their spouses in every Spanish-speaking country in Latin America. Betty wrote articles for Women’s Touch, Mountain Movers, the Pentecostal Evangel, and other publications. She also authored a Spanish music teaching manual and wrote Women of Grace, a popular Bible study book. Monroe and Betty coauthored the Spanish family book, Familia, Fe y Felicidad (1984).

After 51 years of marriage, Betty Jane passed away in 2000. The next year, Monroe married Clemencia Hackley, who had a long career as a missionary working with Hispanics and Spanish language literature. They retired to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they lived for close to 20 years when Monroe passed away on July 31, 2021.

The Grams family has had four generations of AG ministers. Monroe’s father, Gottlieb Grams, received his ministerial license when he was in his 60s, and seven of the nine Grams boys were ordained. Two of Monroe’s three sisters were married to AG ministers. Monroe and Betty Jane Grams’ three children followed in the ministry. Son Rocky Grams is an AG missionary in Argentina, and both daughters, Mona Re and Rachel Jo, married AG ministers.

For over 40 years, Monroe and Betty Grams made a significant contribution to the training and development of church leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Forty-five years ago in the Pentecostal Evangel, Betty Jane Grams shared a powerful testimony of an Argentine woman named Pilar whom she had befriended. The woman was diagnosed with cancer and began going through treatments. She was scared and needed a friend, so Betty Jane began to meet with her to pray with her, encourage her, and enlighten her about the gospel of Christ. She shared some books on miracles and shared about the love of God. One part of their conversation centered around a wood carving given to Pilar’s father many years earlier. It depicted a man standing at a door, and she did not know who this was. She always had wondered. Betty Jane shared that Jesus is standing at our heart’s door knocking and wants us to let Him in.

Pila was excited to know the meaning of the wood carving and soon accepted the reality of the gospel. She prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus to come into her heart. She was saved at Christmastime, and soon her countenance glowed as she realized the joy of salvation. Her husband also noticed the difference.

Betty Jane Grams invited Pilar and her husband to attend the Christmas cantata that their church was presenting. Pilar and her husband, Walter, came, and they both had tears of joy as they realized the precious meaning of Christmas. It was Pilar’s first Christmas since she had given her heart to God. Not long after this, Pilar’s cancer worsened, and she passed away. The Gramses had left to come back to the United States, and Walter wrote about her death: “When she left us, she wore a resplendent smile. Her face simply glowed with a beautiful life. Now I must believe in eternal life.”

The Gramses had busy schedules, but they did not let their leadership, educational, and writing responsibilities prevent them from ministering to hurting people.

Monroe and Betty Grams started life in small towns on the northern tier of the United States, but they ended life as prominent Assemblies of God missionaries in Latin America. Ministry became a way of life for the Grams family, and countless family members have devoted their lives to sharing the gospel at home and abroad.

Read “You Have Led Me to the Light” by Betty Jane Grams on page 8 of the Dec. 4, 1977, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Disappointed Angels,” by C.M. Ward

• “What Happened That Night?” by Russell R. Wisehart

• “Through Heaven’s Gate,” by Edith Manchester

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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Light for the Lost: Since 1953, Assemblies of God Laymen Have Raised Almost $350 Million for Missions

This Week in AG History — December 2, 1962

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 01 December 2022

When Assemblies of layman Sam Cochran started Light for the Lost in 1953, he could not have imagined that the ministry would raise, during the next 69 years, almost $350 million for the printing and distribution of gospel literature and other evangelism resources.

Cochran, a successful insurance broker in California, saw a vision during a time of extended prayer in 1952. This vision transformed Cochran’s life and his approach to missions. In his vision, Cochran saw throngs of people from all over the world, reaching upward in an attempt to grab hold of a large Bible in a hand reaching from heaven. He heard one person plead, “Give me the Book! Give me the Book!” Before they could take hold of the Bible, a door seemingly swung open beneath the people, and they all fell into a fiery inferno.

Cochran, shaken by this vision, felt compelled to find a way to provide gospel literature to people around the world. But what could he, as a layman, do? Most Assemblies of God ministries were conceived and led by ministers and missionaries. Cochran could certainly give money, but he wanted to do more. He felt led by the Holy Spirit to form an organization of laymen who would raise money for the purpose of providing gospel literature. In 1953, Cochran and several others who caught the vision formed the Missionary Gospel Society. The Southern California District of the Assemblies of God recognized the new organization. Cochran and his friends began raising money for missions across California.

The organization grew and, in 1959, was incorporated into the national structure of the Assemblies of God. It became known as Light for the Lost and became a program of the Men’s Fellowship Department (now Men’s Ministries). The story behind the founding of Light for the Lost was published 60 years ago in the Dec. 2, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Light for the Lost continues to fulfill a vital need as it provides evangelism resources around the world, in conjunction with the efforts of Assemblies of God missionaries. Rick Allen, current national director of Light for the Lost, works alongside a team of directors from 66 Assemblies of God districts and networks. This grassroots ministry of laymen has played an important role in helping the Assemblies of God to fulfill the Great Commission.

Read the article, “It Began with a Burden: The Story of Light for the Lost,” by Everett James, published on pages 10 and 11 of the Dec. 2, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

A history of Light for the Lost, written by Mel Surface, was published in the Spring 2003 issue of Assemblies of God Heritage.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Holy Spirit and Everyday Life,” by C.M. Ward

• “Winning Men at Work,” by Jim Monson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Photo: Assemblies of God General Superintendent G. Raymond Carlson (left) congratulates Sam Cochran on his retirement as executive vice president of Light for the Lost in 1989.

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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William Menzies: Seven Characteristics of Early Pentecostals

This Week in AG History — November 24, 1974

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 23 November 2022

The year was 1974, and the Assemblies of God was celebrating its 60th anniversary. The first generation of Pentecostal pioneers was aging, but a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit – the charismatic renewal – was sweeping through mainline, evangelical, and Pentecostal churches.

William W. Menzies, a prominent Assemblies of God historian and theologian, seized the opportunity to recount the compelling faith and worldview of early Pentecostals. In an article published in the Thanksgiving 1974 edition of the Pentecostal Evangel, Menzies gave “thanks for our heritage” – sharing the works of God among early-20th-century Pentecostals with newer generations.

Menzies spent years thinking deeply about what it meant to be a Pentecostal. His 1971 book, Anointed to Serve, was birthed out of his doctoral dissertation and became a benchmark history of the Assemblies of God. He melded the insight of an academic with the heart of a pastor. In his 1974 article, Menzies aimed to communicate not just the doctrinal beliefs of early Pentecostals, but also the worldview that inspired countless believers to desire to be fully committed to Christ and His mission.

Early Pentecostals exhibited seven characteristics, according to Menzies, that helped form their identity. First, early Pentecostals were keenly aware of the reality of the power and presence of the living God. They insisted that Christians should have a transformative encounter with God – where “the resurrected Christ” becomes “intensely real and very much alive.” Menzies was concerned that “the sense of the holy” might be cheapened in some quarters “by raucous music and whipped-up enthusiasm.” Early Pentecostal spirituality, according to Menzies, was “bathed in prayer” and a sense of God’s presence.

Second, Menzies identified expectancy as a mark of early Pentecostals. Pentecostals witnessed God’s power in their church services and in their ministry and lives outside of the church building. The Christian life was an adventure – following God meant being part of a great story that was unfolding each day. Church services were often exciting and marked by a degree of spontaneity that was in contrast to some of the formal patterns of older denominations.

The third characteristic of early Pentecostals was fidelity to the authority of Scripture. This section in Menzies’ article was longer than any of the other six sections. While certain early Pentecostals overemphasized experience at the expense of biblical authority, Menzies noted that the Assemblies of God provided a stable, mature voice within the movement. The Assemblies of God Statement of Fundamental Truths, adopted in 1916, opened by stating: “The Bible is our all-sufficient rule for faith and practice.” All theology, emphases, and teachings were judged by and subordinate to the Word of God.

Simplicity, according to Menzies, was the fourth trait of early Pentecostals. They created ecclesiastical structures “only as necessary,” which Menzies described as “a holy pragmatism.” Believers placed greater emphasis on local evangelism than on crafting resolutions addressing social and political problems at the national level.

Menzies identified faith as the fifth characteristic of early Pentecostals. He wrote, “early pioneers of Pentecost lived as if Jesus Christ were real.” They desired to be fully consecrated to Christ and His call, they brought the gospel to cities and nations at great personal cost, and they exhibited a bold faith that was accompanied by manifestations of God’s power.

The sixth characteristic of early Pentecostals was joy. Menzies noted that he ran across a 1924 article by a critic who described his visit to a New York Pentecostal mission. After a scurrilous attack on the mission, the critic wistfully noted “that on the faces of the humble people who worshipped there was a remarkable joy, a kind of countenance he did not detect on the faces of those who worshipped in the more respectable houses of the Lord.” Menzies wrote, “Ours is a day starved by the coldness of scientific rationalism. There is nothing so captivating as joy. And the Holy Spirit has come to lift the believer into a fuller realization that our Lord lives and that He has come to give us abundance of life. In His presence is fullness of joy!”

Testimony was the seventh trait of early Pentecostals. An authentic expression of a transformed life, the testimony showed how God became real to Pentecostals. Testimonies demonstrated God’s power over sin and deliverance from sickness. The Holy Spirit empowered Pentecostals to share their testimonies, and these personal stories of God’s work became an important part of Pentecostal church services and evangelism. Pentecostals would tell and retell their testimonies until they became part of their identity.

These seven characteristics of early Pentecostals were interrelated and existed as part of the early Pentecostal worldview. These different traits flowed from and supported each other. One might even think of these characteristics as part of the ecosystem of early Pentecostalism.

With each year, we become further removed from the generation that birthed the Pentecostal movement. Menzies spent years thinking deeply about the worldview of early Pentecostals, understanding that early Pentecostals could not be understood merely by looking at their doctrinal statements. Reflecting on lessons from the early Pentecostal worldview may inspire future generations to likewise seek to be fully consecrated to Christ and His mission. Menzies gave thanks for his Pentecostal heritage, and perhaps we should, too.

Read William W. Menzies’ article, “Giving Thanks for Our Heritage,” on pages 4 – 6 of the Nov. 24, 1974, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Thankfulness: The Christian Distinctive,” by Thomas F. Zimmerman

• “Thanksgiving — to the Lord,” by Stanley M. Horton

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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Ruth Steelberg-Carter, Wife of Two Assemblies of God National Leaders: Wesley R. Steelberg and Howard Carter

This Week in AG History — November 13, 1977

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, November 17, 2022

Ruth Steelberg-Carter (1902-1984) was the wife of two Assemblies of God national leaders during her lifetime – Wesley Rowland Steelberg (1902-1952) of the Assemblies of God USA and Howard Carter (1891-1971) of the Assemblies of God in Great Britain and Ireland. She had roots in the Azusa Street revival and, in her retirement years, she had a vibrant ministry to prisoners as an ordained Assemblies of God prison chaplain. The Nov. 13, 1977, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel shared the story of her chaplaincy ministry, demonstrating how one woman who had already lived a full life poured herself into meeting the spiritual needs of prisoners in her latter years.

Ruth was a child of the Azusa Street revival (1906-1909), the interracial revival that was a focal point of the emerging Pentecostal movement. She was the daughter of Elmer Kirk Fisher, who was the founder and pastor of the Upper Room Mission, an early Pentecostal church in downtown Los Angeles, located just a few blocks from the Azusa Street Mission. Her first husband, Wesley Steelberg, helped found Christ’s Ambassadors (the Assemblies of God ministry for young people) and was an early speaker for the Revivaltime radio broadcast. He was serving as general superintendent of the AG when he passed away suddenly in 1952 while participating in the third World Pentecostal Conference in London.

Her second husband, Howard Carter, was a founding member of the Assemblies of God in Great Britain and Ireland in 1924. He served as the principal of Hampstead Bible School in London for nearly 30 years. He is remembered for a round-the-world evangelistic tour with evangelist Lester Sumrall in the 1930s. He also served as chairman of the Assemblies of God in Great Britain and Ireland from 1934 to 1945. Ruth Carter had three daughters who were all active in the AG. Her son, Wesley P. Steelberg, pastored AG churches in Redwood City, North Hollywood, and Long Beach, California. She also was an aunt of AG educator Stanley M. Horton.

Ruth’s ministry often seemed overshadowed by the ministry of the men in her life. Raised in a pastor’s home and the wife of two influential ministers, Ruth had a supporting role in their ministries. After her first husband passed away, as a widow, she began ministering as a missionary representative and an evangelist. She was ordained on April 28, 1955. Later that year she married Howard Carter and traveled with him to England, where she served as a co-pastor and evangelist, preaching in many services.

Forty-five years ago, in an issue commemorating Prison Sunday in the AG, the Pentecostal Evangel reported on Ruth’s ministry as a prison chaplain at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. Even though by that time she was a widow for the second time, and was in her seventies, she visited the Medical Center six times a week, spending several hours each time attending to the needs of inmates.

This prison ministry at the Medical Center was started by Paul R. Markstrom, Institutional Chaplaincies representative of the AG. Ruth was one of the first ministers to assist at this facility. She conducted Bible studies and offered friendship, encouragement, and prayer. Ruth worked closely with the Protestant chaplain and was assisted by a number of students from Central Bible College and Evangel College. She went to the hospital wards at the facility on Tuesday afternoons to talk and pray with inmates individually.

For the worship services, Ruth was assisted by other volunteers, including her daughter, Juanita Colbaugh; son-in-law, Lloyd Colbaugh; Lucille Clark; and Burton Pierce and his wife, Mabel. Lucille was an instructor at Evangel College. Juanita was a pianist, and Mabel was an organist for the services. Lucille led the Monday night Bible studies when Ruth was absent. Burton led a Bible study on Sunday mornings. Both Lloyd and Burton took turns leading worship on Sunday evenings. Attendance averaged 75 to 100.

Ruth viewed this as an important mission field, and she dealt with men from all walks of life. She talked with Buddhists, Muslims, and unchurched people, as well as people from different ethnic backgrounds. She said that the work was exciting as she was able to share with many people who had never heard the gospel. “At the close of the Sunday night services, almost always they ask if any wish to confess Christ as their Saviour,” said Ruth, “and there’s hardly a time that we don’t have men giving their lives to the Lord.”

Even though she had traveled and lived in many areas of the world in her lifetime, Ruth said she had not seen a greater mission field anywhere. “I’ve been on many mission fields,” she said, “and I’ve never seen a more fruitful field than this prison ministry right here in the U.S.”

With her friendly smile and genuine concern, Ruth easily won the hearts of many inmates. The men started calling her “Mom.” One of her coworkers said, “There are hundreds who have been led to Christ by the prison witness of Mom Carter. She is mother to a lot of fellows who never knew their parents.”

Ruth Steelberg-Carter’s example shows how Christians can engage in fruitful ministry in their twilight years and, in particular, how widows who have spent most of their ministry in supporting roles can blossom and take on new ministries in their newfound singleness.

Read “The Men Call Her Mom,” by Robert C. Cunningham, on page 8 of the Nov, 13, 1977, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Born Again—What Strange New Doctrine is This?” by Kenneth D. Barney

• “He Put a New Song in My Mouth,” by Birdie L. Etchison

• “Minister With Love,” by T. E. Gannon

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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Assemblies of God Founders Were Diverse, BUT They Believed They Could Do More Together Than Apart

This Week in AG History — November 8, 1924

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 10 November 2022

The founders of the Assemblies of God were not “cookie-cutter” Pentecostals. They were pastors, evangelists, and missionaries who hailed from a variety of religious and social backgrounds. Some came from large northern cities; others from small southern hamlets. Many were entrepreneurs who had launched churches, orphanages, and rescue missions without any denominational backing. They often differed on ministry methods, which were shaped by their personalities and cultural preferences. They were not all cut from the same mold. However, they all believed they were helping to restore the vibrant witness of the New Testament church, and they all believed that they could do more together than they could apart.

This diversity within the early Assemblies of God naturally created tension. However, many founders embraced this tension and sounded a common theme — that they aimed for “unity of the Spirit” until one day they could achieve “unity of the faith.”

The first masthead of the Christian Evangel (the original title of the Pentecostal Evangel), from 1913, stated: “The simplicity of the Gospel, In the bonds of peace, The unity of the Spirit, Till we all come to the unity of the faith.” This call to unity implicitly recognized that readers did not yet have “unity of the faith” — that disagreement existed on some matters. In the meantime, they affirmed that believers should aim for “unity of the Spirit.”

The minutes from the first General Council, held in April 1914, reveal that the convention began with devotions. The devotions set the tone for the next 11 days of meetings. According to the minutes, the devotions brought together “Men of God, full of faith and of the Holy Ghost,” but who “were not yet in perfect unity in faith.” The minutes then reported that participants “retained the unity of the Spirit until the unity of Faith was being much manifested in the meetings.” This language about keeping “unity of the Spirit” while aiming for “unity of the faith” was repeated in the resolution that officially formed the General Council of the Assemblies of God.

The Pentecostal Evangel, in 1924, published a devotional article about “the two unities” — the unity of the Spirit and the unity of the faith. The article, by pioneer Assemblies of God pastor W. Jethro Walthall, illuminated what early Pentecostals meant when they used the phrases “unity of the Spirit” and “unity of the faith.” According to Walthall, “unity of the faith” — which is the believer’s eschatological hope — cannot be fully achieved on earth. Before they achieve perfection in heaven, Christians can maintain “unity of the Spirit” on earth. Walthall wrote that “unity of the Spirit” is achieved by “walking worthy of our calling, and this is done by a meek and lowly walk with God, and maintaining a loving and long-suffering attitude to all saints.”

These insights — showing how early Pentecostals theologically explained the existence of differences amongst themselves — provide hope to those today who struggle to find unity amidst diversity.

Read “The Two Unities” by W. Jethro Walthall on page 5 of the Nov. 8, 1924, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. Also featured in this issue:

• “The Sin of Hopelessness,” by Florence L. Personeus

• “The Old-Time Power,” by Donald Gee

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

Pictured: Assemblies of God leaders in San Antonio, Texas, circa 1926. Front row is unidentified. Identified on the back row (l-r): unidentified, Josue Cruz, unidentified, Henry C. Ball, Josue Sanchez, and Demetrio Bazan. Please contact the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (archives@ag.org) if you know if the names of the unidentified people.

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J. Robert Ashcroft: Assemblies of God Pastor, Evangelist, Educator, College President

This Week in AG History — November 2, 1958

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 03 November 2022

James Robert Ashcroft (1911-1995) served God, family, church, and community with unwavering integrity in every opportunity he was given. Known as a man of prayer, the Scriptures, and the Spirit, he served the Assemblies of God as pastor, evangelist, director of the education department, and as president of four schools before his death at age 83.

Born to Scotch-Irish immigrant parents in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ashcroft spent his childhood traveling the nation with his family as Pentecostal evangelists. Due to this nomadic lifestyle, he attended between 25 and 30 schools and developed an ability to adapt and learn in varied circumstances.

As a teenager, Ashcroft felt his own call from God for ministry and began holding meetings. Ordained by the Potomac District of the Assemblies of God in 1932, he served his first pastorate a year later in Chicago, where he stayed until 1944. There he married Grace Larson in 1935. They later became parents of three sons: J. Robert Jr, John, and Wesley.

During his Chicago pastorate, Ashcroft taught under P.C. Nelson at Great Lakes Bible Institute in Zion, Illinois. This early experience of shaping students preparing for future callings lit a passion within him. After accepting a pastorate in West Hartford, Connecticut, Ashcroft received his own higher education — a bachelor’s degree from Connecticut State Teacher’s College and a master’s degree from New York University.

In 1948, the Ashcroft family moved to Springfield, Missouri, to invest their lives into the students of Central Bible Institute. This led to also serving with the National Christ’s Ambassador’s Department (now National Youth Ministries) and then, in 1953, the directorship of the newly formed Education Department of the Assemblies of God, giving Ashcroft oversight of all the Assemblies of God higher educational institutions.

While serving in this position, the General Council passed a resolution to create a liberal arts college for Pentecostal students. Ashcroft served as chairman of the committee tasked with drafting the first constitution and by-laws of what became Evangel College in Springfield, Missouri.

In 1958, the two national schools located in Springfield, Central Bible Institute (CBI) and Evangel College (EC), were placed under one administration to provide further integration and organization, with CBI providing ministerial and theological training and EC serving as a four-year liberal arts school. Ashcroft was tasked to serve as president of both schools, serving a combined 817 students with 61 faculty members. The inauguration service was reported in the Nov. 2, 1958, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

General Superintendent Ralph Riggs gave the commission to the new president, charging him to remember that “we require of you, sir, that you shall maintain the spiritual life and the moral atmosphere of the schools in a way thoroughly consistent and consonant with the teachings and high moral standard of our church … We ask you likewise to make a contribution to the life of the community in which we are situated, as well as of our nation. Then, sir, and essential to all the rest, we call your attention to the necessity of personal integrity, personal spiritual experience, high example in every regard, that the faculties and students of these schools may follow you in all safety as you follow Christ.”

History confirms that J. Robert Ashcroft was the man for this moment. His response to Rigg’s charge, “Sir, I pledge to God, to the Church, to the colleges, and to you” that he would serve with integrity empowered by the Spirit of God. Testimonies of those who served under his leadership confirm that Ashcroft’s dedication to the principles of Pentecostal higher education, combined with a continuous application of prayer, gave the Springfield schools respect and influence in their community.

The administration of the two schools separated in 1963. Ashcroft continued to serve as president of Evangel College, leading it through the accreditation process, erecting seven buildings, launching a school publication, The Vision, and seeing enrollment triple.

After retiring from the Evangel presidency in 1974, Ashcroft served as a pastor in Brussels, Belgium, and as president of Valley Forge Christian College and Berean College. After retiring from the presidency of Berean College, he began to focus his energies on encouraging the church in the ministry of prayer. He traveled the country conducting prayer seminars and wrote articles and books on the subject, while also starting an inter-faith prayer meeting in Springfield and serving on numerous community boards. In 1991, at age 80, he was appointed chairman of the National Prayer Committee where he actively coordinated a large prayer ministry for the Assemblies of God.

In 1995, Ashcroft’s middle son, John, was elected to represent Missouri in the United States Senate. Although he was struggling with health issues, Ashcroft was determined to travel to Washington, D.C., for his son’s oath of office. As family and friends gathering to pray over the freshman senator, John noticed his father struggling in his chair and remarked, “Dad, you don’t have to struggle to stand.” The elder Ashcroft responded, “Son, I’m not struggling to stand. I’m struggling to kneel.” As he knelt to anoint his son with oil, tears flowing freely, a final prayer was offered that God would equip a new generation to serve in their calling.

J. Robert Ashcroft died the next day, Jan. 5, 1995, on his return home from Washington. At his funeral, General Superintendent Thomas Trask confirmed that Ashcroft fulfilled the vows he made nearly 40 years earlier to General Superintendent Ralph M. Riggs: “J. Robert Ashcroft has distinguished himself within the Assemblies of God as a true Christian statesman, one who exemplified the attributes of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Read the article, “New President Inaugurated at Evangel College,” on page 24 of the Nov. 2, 1958, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Protestant Church in Communist Russia” by Nicholas Nikoloff

• “The Purpose of God in the Pentecostal Movement in This Hour” by J.A. Synan

• “1958 Korean Assemblies of God Convention” by Robert L. Johnston

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: https://ifphc.org/

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Donald Gee’s Warning from 1929: Three Temptations for Pentecostals

This Week in AG History — October 26, 1929

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 27 October 2022

In 1929, noted British theologian and church leader Donald Gee warned Assemblies of God leaders that they faced three temptations that could imperil the young Pentecostal movement. Speaking at the biennial General Council of the Assemblies of God held in Wichita, Kansas, Gee observed that those who are filled with the Holy Spirit “get the personal attention of the devil.” He listed three major ways Satan tempts Pentecostal individuals, churches, and movements, drawn from the temptations of Christ (Matthew 4:1-11).

According to Gee, Satan’s first temptation to Christ and to the Pentecostal believer is to use the power of God for selfish satisfaction. Satan tempted Christ to use His spiritual power to feed His own hunger. Gee declared, “Our Lord did not turn those stones into bread to feed himself; but not long after I find Him feeding five thousand” with miraculous bread supplied by the power of God. “I have not been baptized in the Holy Ghost that I may delight myself in a Pentecostal picnic … I have been called to the hungry multitudes.” The devil still tempts those with access to the power of God to selfishly enjoy that privilege without a thought to the purpose of the power — the feeding of a hungry world. 

The second temptation given to both Christ and the Pentecostal church is to be caught up in fanaticism. The devil tempted Christ to show the power of God through a wild display of throwing himself off the pinnacle of the Temple, forcing God to do a miraculous work to prove himself. Gee reminded his listeners, “The devil quoted Scripture! And the temptation to fanaticism is most deadly when it has a superficial appearance of being scriptural.” 

The cure for such fanaticism, in Gee’s estimation, is knowing the full counsel of the Word of God. He pointed to Jesus’ statement to Satan, “It is written again.” Gee advised, “Do not run off on two or three Scriptures, but be balanced on the whole Word of God. When the devil says, ‘There’s a fine text; you go and do something silly on that,’ you say, ‘It is written again,’” and bring the balance of other Scriptures to bear on the situation.

Gee illustrated this point with a story of a young man who was out of work. He was given the opportunity to drive a truck for a bakery. The young man said, “I must go and pray about it first.” He got his Bible, shut his eyes, opened the Bible, and came to the Scripture, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” He then interpreted this to be a divine revelation that “God does not want me to drive a bakery truck.” Gee said, “That was fanaticism based on one Scripture.” If he had remembered to say, “It is written again. If any man will not work neither shall he eat, all would have been well.”

He counseled the ministers present to combat fanaticism by keeping a balance of following the Spirit while avoiding fleshly excesses. “When you are up against fanaticism in your assembly and have people who do mad, wild things do not quench the Spirit by shutting down entirely” the Spirit’s gifts; instead “give them teaching!”

The third temptation of Christ and of the Pentecostal movement is the temptation to forsake the pure worship of God in exchange for popularity. Gee reminded Pentecostals that the devil said to Jesus, “If you will fall down and worship me … adopt my methods … I will give you the crowds.” Gee lamented, “I have been in Pentecostal churches which made me think of a theater or a sacred concert. We do not want the crowds at any price!” Gee preached to the General Council, “Do not think that I am afraid of the crowds. I want them. If we go on the lines of ‘Not by might, or by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts’ we will get the crowds. The crowds are as hungry as ever for salvation … Feed them the Word!”

Gee ended his sermon by reminding Assemblies of God ministers that they were part of the provision to safeguard from these temptations. Using the ministry gifts described in Ephesians 4:11, Gee taught that apostles and evangelists remind believers that the power of God is not given to selfishly provide “Pentecostal picnics” but to feed a hungry world. Teachers and pastors are given to provide teaching and guidance to keep the church from falling into fanaticism. Prophets provide the clarion call to the Pentecostal movement that the Church must stay true to godly worship and not stray into crowd-pleasing gimmicks that distract from the truth of God’s Word. Gee, in an encouragement to ministers, noted “that the Spirit of the living Christ is with us, battling against the same tempter, but also leading us on to the same victory.”

Read the full article, “The Temptations of Pentecost,” on page 2 of the Oct. 26, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “One Thing Thou Lackest,”by Anna L. Dryer

• “Daily Fellowship with God,” by Andrew Murray

• “In the Whitened Harvest Fields,” reports from nationwide revival meetings

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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Stanley Frodsham: A “Missionary Spirit” and a Desire for Solid Doctrine Characterized the 1916 General Council

This Week in AG History — October 21, 1916

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 10 October 2022

The year was 1916. The Assemblies of God faced deep doctrinal divisions that threatened to tear apart the young Fellowship. A significant minority of Assemblies of God ministers had identified with the emerging Oneness movement, which denied the doctrine of the Trinity. In the face of this turmoil, the fourth General Council of the Assemblies of God, which met in St. Louis in October 1916, voted to adopt its Statement of Fundamental Truths.

Stanley H. Frodsham’s observations of the meeting were published in the Oct. 21, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. Frodsham (1882-1969), a young British Pentecostal pastor and writer, had a unique perspective. He was not just an observer, those in attendance elected him to serve as general secretary of the Assemblies of God.

Frodsham described how early Pentecostals initially thought they were “being led by our Joshua, out from the wilderness, over the Jordan, into the promised land.” This triumphalistic view was soon tempered by divisions within the Movement. Frodsham quoted Scripture to describe the disunity: “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). He lamented, “This new spirit has crept in and brought shipwreck and havoc in many directions.”

Frodsham described at length how General Council participants discussed their doctrinal differences and, ultimately, voted to “set forth a clear statement of the things most surely believed among us.” The Statement of Fundamental Truths has provided a basis of fellowship for the Assemblies of God for 106 years.

But the adoption of the Statement of Fundamental Truths was not the most important accomplishment at the 1916 General Council, according to Frodsham. While the decision to adopt the Statement was important, he believed that the meeting’s missionary spirit was its best and most memorable feature.

Frodsham explained, “The mightiest factor in this great Pentecostal Revival has been the wonderful missionary spirit that has characterized it from the first.” Frodsham stated that the “paramount needs of the hour” were a “large spiritual horizon, a revelation of the need of souls, a passionate desire to see them saved, [and] intense prayer for multitudes to be pressed into the Kingdom.” These two characteristics of the 1916 General Council — a missionary spirit and a desire for solid doctrine — continue to animate and define the Assemblies of God to this day.

Read the article, “Notes from an Eyewitness at the General Council,” by Stanley H. Frodsham, on pages 4 and 5 of the Oct. 21, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Vision of the Lord,” by Arch P. Collins

• “Thirsting after God,” by Andrew Urshan

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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40 Years Ago: The Conference on the Holy Spirit Brought Pentecostals and Charismatics Together

This Week in AG History — October 10, 1982

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, October 13, 2022

Forty years ago, the Assemblies of God hosted the Conference on the Holy Spirit, which brought together Pentecostals and charismatics from across the denominational spectrum. While the speakers and attendees came from different backgrounds, they shared a desire to know more about the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

The conference, held Aug. 16 to 18, 1982, at the Hammons Student Center on the campus of Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University) in Springfield, Missouri, included notable speakers from classical Pentecostal churches and from the charismatic movement in mainline and evangelical denominations. The opening speaker was Dennis J. Bennett, an Episcopal priest who was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1959 and became a leader in the charismatic movement.

Other speakers included Revivaltime speaker Dan Betzer; Frank W. Smith, former general superintendent of the Open Bible Standard Churches and chairman of the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America; Harold A. Carter, a leader among African-American charismatics and pastor of the New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland; Morris G.C. Vaagenes Jr., pastor of North Heights Lutheran Church in Roseville, Minnesota; and John Bueno, Assemblies of God missionary to El Salvador.

An estimated 8,300 people attended the opening rally where Bennett gave a message, “Baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Bennett, one of the earliest leaders in the charismatic renewal in the Episcopal Church, authored several books, including How to Pray for the Release of the Holy Spirit and Nine O’clock in the Morning.

Bennett shared that after receiving Jesus as his Savior many years before, he “went on to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit as on the day of Pentecost, with its normative manifestation of speaking in other languages as the Spirit gives utterance.” Bennett also stressed that he believed the experience is not optional, but a commandment for all Christians. He said, “The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not incidental for the Christian life; it is basic.”

Bennett described how Pentecostals paved the way for the charismatic movement. He commended Pentecostals: “All of us owe much to Christian brothers and sisters of the older Pentecostal fellowships, such as the Assemblies of God, who first put up with persecution and ridicule to testify that Pentecost is for today. They performed a service to all Christendom that is of inexpressible value.”

The Episcopal priest encouraged Pentecostals to keep the faith: “What do I want to say to you? Don’t let your witness be weakened. Don’t let Pentecost be watered down, not even for good-sounding reasons.” He said, “a faith that proclaims the full gospel can still accomplish miracles in this world. There is much to be done. The story of mankind is not over. Our orders are unchanged. Jesus said, ‘Occupy till I come.’ The Greek means, ‘Be doing business till I come!’”

Attendees listened to a special broadcast of Revivaltime, the Assemblies of God weekly radio program, on the Sunday evening just prior to the conference. Revivaltime speaker Dan Betzer’s sermon was titled, “Overflowing With the Holy Spirit of God.” A mass choir and orchestra of more than 200 people ministered on Sunday and during each evening of the conference, including former Revivaltime choir members and selected singers from area churches. Cyril McLellan directed the combined group. Susan Smith, vocal instructor at Evangel College (now Evangel University), ministered at the Monday evening service. Well-known gospel musicians the McDuff Brothers sang during the Tuesday evening rally, and the Blackwood Brothers sang at the closing rally on Wednesday.

Between 8,000 and 8,500 people attended each of the three evening rallies of the conference; the total number of attendees was between 10,000 and 12,000. In addition to the evening rallies, 90 small seminars took place during the daytime hours of the conference. Gospel Publishing House published sermons and lectures from the event in a two-volume Conference on the Holy Spirit Digest.

The Conference on the Holy Spirit provided a valuable opportunity for Pentecostals and charismatics to rub shoulders and learn from one another. While the early 20th century Pentecostal revival birthed the Assemblies of God and other Pentecostal churches, the conference was a reminder that the work of the Holy Spirit is not limited to those in Pentecostal churches.

Read “Baptized in the Holy Spirit” by Dennis J. Bennett on page 3 of the Oct. 10, 1982, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Songs in the Night,” by D.V. Hurst

• “800 Million Muslims,” by David Irwin

• “Inmates Need Love, Encouragement, Prayer,” by Kenneth H. Leep Jr.

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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Thomas F. Zimmerman: Assemblies of God Statesman and Longest-Serving General Superintendent

This Week in AG History — October 4, 1959

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 06 October 2022

Over a 50-year period, Thomas F. Zimmerman (1912-1991) served the Assemblies of God as pastor, district official, department leader, assistant general superintendent, and general superintendent. His leadership greatly increased the influence of the Pentecostal movement in the evangelical world, as well as in the broader American religious landscape.

Born in 1912 to devout Methodist parents, Zimmerman’s family was exposed to Pentecostalism the way many were in the early days of that movement: through a miraculous healing. When Zimmerman was 5 years old, his mother was given no more than six weeks to live after a diagnosis of terminal tuberculosis. The diagnosis led the family to seek prayer at the Apostolic Faith Mission in their hometown of Indianapolis. The pastor and several members of the congregation came to the Zimmerman home and prayed for her healing. The next morning she felt well enough to get out of bed and a few weeks later, the doctor declared her completely well. The family began attending the Sunday afternoon meetings at the Pentecostal church after their morning service at the Methodist church. Eventually, their pastor suggested they leave his congregation, and they affiliated with the independent Pentecostal group.

Zimmerman was heavily influenced by the new pastor of the Apostolic Faith Mission, John Price. Price’s own pastoral training was “on the job” and he believed in doing the same for his congregants. After showing capable ministry as the church youth leader and while still in high school, Zimmerman was asked to become Price’s associate pastor. In this capacity he was exposed to the wide ranging needs of a congregation and given much preaching experience. When Mrs. Price lay dying, she asked young Zimmerman to promise two things: to continue to help her husband and to marry their oldest daughter, Elizabeth. Thomas and Elizabeth were already interested in each other and Pastor Price performed the ceremony for his associate pastor and his daughter in 1933.

Due to Zimmerman’s position at the church being voluntary, he worked full-time at the Bemis Brothers Bag Company. His natural leadership ability was recognized, and he made the enviable salary of $30 a week during the depression. However, after the death of their 9-month-old son in 1935, both Thomas and Elizabeth felt that they should devote their full time to the ministry. He was ordained by the Assemblies of God on May 7, 1936. They took a small congregation in Harrodsburg, Indiana, where the average offering was $2.68 a week. The congregation grew to 250 during their two years there, and Zimmerman’s leadership ability came to the attention of other leaders within the growing denomination.

In 1942, while pastoring in Granite City, Illinois, Assemblies of God leaders invited Zimmerman to attend the organizational meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals in nearby St. Louis with them. Zimmerman had made it a practice of working with non-Pentecostals in every city in which he ministered. His passion was evangelism and he found common interest among other evangelical leaders. Through this involvement, Zimmerman was able to provide leadership to the founding of the National Religious Broadcasters in 1944.

That same year, Central Assembly in Springfield, Missouri, called Zimmerman as its pastor. This placed him among denominational leadership, and in 1945 Zimmerman also became head of the Assemblies of God radio department. He then served as secretary-treasurer of the Southern Missouri district from 1949-1951, followed by a brief pastorate in Cleveland, Ohio, when he was elected as an assistant general superintendent at the 1953 General Council, moving him back to Springfield. He served closely alongside General Superintendent Ralph Riggs and managed much of the day-to-day operations of the national office.

In 1959, the General Council, held in San Antonio, Texas, elected Thomas F. Zimmerman as its ninth general superintendent. The Oct. 4, 1959, Pentecostal Evangel made this announcement to the larger constituency in a one-page article, “The General Council at a Glance.”

Zimmerman served as general superintendent for 26 years, the longest tenure of anyone in that office. He was regarded as a “Pentecostal statesman,” bringing the Pentecostal movement in general, and the Assemblies of God in particular, more visibility and influence in the religious world. His involvement in extra-denominational associations and civic organizations brought him and the Movement recognition in other areas. He was invited to the White House during each administration from Kennedy to Reagan and received civic awards ranging from “Springfieldian of the Year” to the Silver Beaver award from the national Boy Scouts.

During his tenure, the national offices of the Assemblies of God created several new divisions, the assistant general superintendents were reduced from four to one, a full-scale retirement complex for ministers and missionaries was opened, federal land was received for the new liberal arts college, and the Assemblies of God opened a seminary for the further academic education of its ministers. He also recognized the importance of the oral and written accounts of the place of Pentecostalism in American and world history and so was instrumental in establishing the Assemblies of God archives (now the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, the largest repository of Pentecostal archival materials in the world).

When Zimmerman left office in 1985, he left an indelible mark on the Assemblies of God. His willingness to grow and adapt to change and his leadership in the broader evangelical movement helped to prepare the Assemblies of God to be one of the fastest growing denominations during his tenure.

Read more about the report from the 1959 General Council on page 4 of the Oct. 4, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Enlist Now” by Raymond Brock

• “Our Missionary Advance,” by Noel Perkin

• “The Greeks Had A Word For It,” Raymond Cox

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: https://ifphc.org/

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