Nebraska’s Living Water: 20th-Century Assemblies of God, compiled and written by Elisabeth James Lemp and Glenn W. Gohr. Grand Island, NE: Nebraska District Council of the Assemblies of God, 2010.
This book roughly covers the history of the Pentecostal movement in Nebraska in the 20th century. It chronicles holiness and divine healing influences in Nebraska beginning in the 1890s and up through the founding of the Nebraska District of the Assemblies of God. It also covers the first 80 years of the moving of the Holy Spirit in the Nebraska District (1919-1999).
The title of the book compares Nebraska’s vibrant spiritual heritage with the history of how the Nebraska landscape began to flourish. As pioneers moved into the Nebraska Territory in the 1800s, they found it to be hundreds of miles of dry prairie, which came to be known as the “Great American Desert.” The climate was arid, and raising a crop was difficult. But this all changed one day when it was discovered that Nebraska was situated directly over the Ogallala Aquifer, which is the largest underground fresh water ocean in the world. All that was needed was a way to access this water to bring life to the landscape and its inhabitants. Soon windmills were built across the state, which were able to pump “life-giving water” to a parched and dry land.
Just as Nebraska experienced a physical drought in its earliest history, there was also a “spiritual drought.” But then came the “living water” of the Holy Spirit to touch many of the inhabitants of the state. Men and women began to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit as the Pentecostal message spread from Charles Parham’s Bible school in Topeka, Kansas and the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, as well as other places.
Many may not realize that Agnes Ozman, who was from Nebraska, was the first person to speak in tongues at Charles Parham’s Bible school on January 1, 1901. Other important Pentecostal leaders such as B. H. Irwin, John Alexander Dowie, A. A. Boddy of England, and Maria Woodworth-Etter each had early connections with the state of Nebraska.
Elisabeth James Lemp began this project in 1995, shortly after the funeral of her mother, Marie James, when it was noted that “Marie James was the last of that era of Pentecostal pioneers in Nebraska.” Elisabeth began contacting churches and ministers and families of ministers to try to obtain personal narratives, testimonies, and history of the Nebraska District and its people. Others including Joe Masten, Glenn Gohr, and Faith and Dennis Tyson, each helped with the project, with Glenn tying up all the loose ends to wrap up this 15-year project. The personal narratives and church histories were augmented with printed reports and testimonies found in periodicals such as the Pentecostal Evangel, district publications, early newspaper accounts, and other writings.
The book contains information on early revivals, memories from Nebraska church camps, testimonies from a number of ministers and missionaries across the state, and sketches of nearly 200 Assemblies of God churches and missions in Nebraska. Bibliographic references are included as well as photographs of key people, churches, and events. Anyone with a Nebraska connection will want to obtain a copy of this inspiring book.
Reviewed by Glenn W. Gohr
Hardback, 320 pages, illustrated. Price: $20 for the first book, and $15.00 for each additional book; shipping extra. Order from: Nebraska District Council of the Assemblies of God, P.O. Box 1965, Grand Island, NE 68802. Phone: 308-384-1234. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org