Category Archives: Missions

The Story Behind Speed-the-Light: How Assemblies of God Youth Raised Over $300 Million for Missions

Speed the Light

An airplane (“Old Sikorsky”) purchased with Speed the Light funds, circa 1946. Pictured (L-R) are: E. L Mason; H. B. Garlock; unidentified; Warren Straton; Fred Merian; unidentified; J. Robert Ashcroft.

This Week in AG History —October 11, 1953

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 11 October 2018

“Never mind, it will soon blow over.” These skeptical words greeted the enthusiasm of Christ’s Ambassadors (CA) Director Ralph Harris when he recounted that Assemblies of God young people had given over $100,000 in 1945 to the new missions fund, “Speed the Light.” Not many adults believed that the youth of their churches could sustain their excitement for providing missionary transportation vehicles in far-off countries.

The idea for the fund had come to Harris only a month after taking his new post as national youth director. It was 1944 and young people were beginning to come to grips with the changes in their world following World War II. Vehicles had been hard to come by as many automobile manufacturers stopped producing civilian vehicles in favor of military vehicles.

Harris knew the youth of America could identify with those who were without transportation. Harris also knew that the war had exhibited to young people the power of vehicles being used for destructive purposes. They had watched news reels of airplanes, jeeps, and boats destroy and be destroyed. Was there a way to show the world that the same vehicles that had been used to bring desolation to a nation could also be used to bring the good news of the hope of the gospel? Could the young people of the Assemblies of God lead the way in this effort?

General Superintendent E.S. Williams offered a less-than-positive response to Harris’s idea of using offerings from CA groups to purchase airplanes and motorcycles for missions. Williams later reported that his first thoughts were, “Jesus didn’t use a motorcycle. And Paul didn’t fly a plane.”

However, while Williams was very conservative in his approach to money, he was also a man in touch with God. While Harris was still trying to sell his idea, Williams felt the Holy Spirit reminding him that Jesus and Paul might not have used those vehicles, but they likely would have if they had been available. Within an hour of approaching his boss, Harris had the approval to begin promoting his new idea.

The program needed a name so Harris offered a prize to the young person that submitted the best name. Ernestine Houston of Arizona sent in the moniker “Speed-the-Light” (STL) and was awarded $15 in Gospel Publishing House materials for coining the new name, which is still used 73 years later.

Harris set the astronomical goal of $100,000 for their first year, 1945. CA members were told that if they each gave $1 their goal could be met. It was greeted with skepticism on the part of some leadership, but the Assemblies of God youth came through with $113,375.39. Their first major purchase was a small amphibian plane for the work in Liberia. It was the first non-military plane to ever fly into that country and caused quite a stir. The Liberians were so excited to see the plane that for many years they charged no duty fees on any STL equipment brought into the country.

Appeals soon began to pour in from all over the world. Boats were needed in the Bahamas, a jeep in Costa Rica, mules were requested in Nigeria, and bicycles in Upper Volta. The Assemblies of God discovered that one missionary, properly equipped, could do the work of 10 who lacked resources. Missionaries were going farther, faster, and easier than they ever had before.

Harris knew he had to keep the challenge fresh so he proclaimed the third Sunday of October “Dollar Day” when a special offering would be sent in from each CA group totaling $1 for each young person who attended the church. The Pentecostal Evangel lent its support to the project, running articles highlighting STL on that Sunday.

One young man, Loren, was 17 when STL was born. He later testified that STL built a bridge for him to different parts of the world as he read the updates in the Evangel articles and had the opportunity to contribute to something that was larger than himself. He was learning that he could impact an entire world for the good. He later became a pastor in Nebraska who supported STL in his local church until God called him to spend 12 years in Nicaragua, using his own STL vehicle. He later served as the field director for Latin America and, in 1997, Loren Triplett retired as executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions. It started with giving $1 to Speed the Light’s Dollar Day.

Since that first year in 1945, the youth of the Assemblies of God have given $312,870,885.76 to STL, including $9,421,143.41 in 2017. The third Sunday of October is still STL Day in the Assemblies of God. J. Philip Hogan, referring to the skeptic who told Harris that this excitement in the youth would “soon blow over,” wrote on STL’s 40th anniversary in 1984, “He was right! It has blown all over the world!”

Read stories and view photos from “Dollar Day” in the article, “Keep ‘Em Rolling,” on page 7 of the Oct. 11, 1953, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Family Worship and the Promise of Power,” by Norman V. Williams

• “Pentecostal Principles,” by James D. Menzies

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Noel Perkin: Assemblies of God Missions Leader, 1927-1959

Perkin NoelThis Week in AG History —September 20, 1941

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 20 September 2018

Noel Perkin (1893-1979), known as “Mr. Missions,” served as missionary secretary (now called executive director of AG World Missions) for the Assemblies of God (AG).

Born in London, England, he moved to Canada at the age of 18 and took a job with the Bank of Montreal in Toronto. He worked there seven years and became head of the savings department. He also joined efforts with a group of Christian businessmen and established a Pentecostal church in Toronto.

In 1918, Perkin was ordained by the AG and then did missionary work in Argentina. After three years of missionary work, he moved to the U.S. and settled in Rochester, New York. He became assistant pastor of Elim Tabernacle and attended Elim Bible School where he met his wife. He married Ora Blanchard in 1922 and pastored small churches in New York over the next four years.

In 1926 the Perkin family moved to Springfield, Missouri, where Noel Perkin started working at the national office of the AG. He became the assistant missionary secretary for a year before accepting the position of AG Missionary Secretary. He served 32 years, from 1927-1959.

Missionary Secretary Noel Perkin gave an address at the 1941 General Council on the topic, “Occupy Till I Come.” He spoke on missions from a global perspective, talking about the current world crisis and the role of missionaries. At that time, World War II was well underway, but the United States would not enter the conflict until later that year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Although Perkin mentioned that many countries were closed to gospel work at that time, he was encouraged because “even though there is not any opportunity to do much, if any, missionary work through American missionaries, yet multitudes of the people are still being reached through the courageous service of native evangelists and pastors.”

Perkin gave some glowing testimonies of the gospel message being shared underground and on the war front. He shared one example of a nurse who worked both in a supply base and also in tending to and escorting wounded soldiers from the front lines to a hospital. An American saw her helping soldiers and asked, “Are you not already wounded and partly incapacitated?” “Yes,” she replied quietly, “but there is such a need at the front. You know they expect a lot of us who are Christians.”

Perkin mentioned difficulty in getting workers to the mission fields and difficulty in getting funds to certain fields. But he still promoted missions efforts, even if it involved sacrifice. He closed his remarks by saying, “The crisis is, what shall we do with the challenge that is set before us?” His response was, “Not do less but more, for the night settles down upon us when no man may work.”

Missions has always been paramount to the AG. At the second General Council in November 1914, a resolution was adopted which committed the AG to “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.” This has continued to be a primary goal of the Assemblies of God throughout the decades.

Read Noel Perkin’s address, “Occupy Till I Come,” on pages 4-7 of the Sept. 20, 1941, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Work Whereunto I Have Appointed Them,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “The Diary of a Delegate”

• “Central America Presents a Great Opportunity,” by John L. Franklin

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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AG Missions Publications Then and Now

P3236This Week in AG History —August 30, 1959

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 30 August 2018

The Pentecostal revival that birthed the Assemblies of God in 1914 brought with it a revival of dedication to the mission that each believer must “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” There was an urgency to take the message to the ends of the earth and, along with that, was born a pressing need to communicate the progress of this effort, along with its needs and concerns.

The first official weekly publication of the Assemblies of God, the Christian Evangel (later renamed the Pentecostal Evangel), began publishing updates and needs from the 32 recognized missionaries approved at the first General Council in April 1914. J. Roswell Flower, the first general secretary and, in 1919, the first missions secretary, also served as the editor of the Evangel and sought to use the publication to bring increased cooperation from the churches in support of the missions effort.

In 1944, under the direction of editor Kenneth Short, a separate quarterly publication devoted exclusively to missions was created. The Missionary Challenge (later changed to World Challenge) carried a format that highlighted a variety of updates from the field, emphasized a field in focus, provided a daily prayer devotional plan, and a prayer list for each missionary’s birthday. It also included a “Junior Challenge” with a story written specially to communicate to children the need for world missions.

As more departments of the General Council were created, the publication was used to highlight reports and opportunities provided by the Women’s Missionary Council (WMC), Boys’ and Girls’ Missionary Crusade (BGMC), Light for the Lost (LFTL), and Speed the Light (STL).

In March of 1959, World Challenge announced that the missions publication would merge with the denominational weekly, the Pentecostal Evangel, in order to increase the circulation of missionary articles.

However, the Aug. 30, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel features the relatively new promotions secretary of the Foreign Missions Department, J. Philip Hogan, announcing a new missions publication in an article titled, “Why Another Missionary Magazine?”

The new periodical was called Global Conquest after the new initiative approved by the missions department. Hogan gave three reasons for the decision to return to a separate missions publication: 1. The 1960s promised to be an era of “stepped-up communications” and the voice of missions must assert itself to be heard amongst the competing voices; 2. The commitment of the Assemblies of God was to communicate with each donor what was happening with their investment; and 3. Missions deserved “priority status” so as not to be lost among other reports featured within the larger Evangel publication.

Global Conquest continued as the official missions initiative, along with the free quarterly publication of the same name, until 1967 when it was determined that some governments interpreted this title as a threat to nationalism and the name was changed to Good News Crusades, in support of the mass evangelism efforts of city outreaches, also called Good News Crusades, taking place on the field. The publication was increased from quarterly to bi-monthly.

In 1979, it was realized that “crusades” might also carry a bad connotation in some countries and Good News Crusades was replaced by a monthly magazine, Mountain Movers. This periodical was sent free of charge to every Assemblies of God missions donor for almost 20 years. Joyce Wells Booze served as its initial editor. Under her leadership, there was a concerted effort to provide short articles written by missionaries on a reading level that would appeal to all ages.

Mountain Movers was merged into the Pentecostal Evangel in 1998 when the decision was made to utilize the first Sunday edition of each monthly Evangel solely as a missions magazine. This practice continued until the Pentecostal Evangel ceased publication in 2014.

Even without the weekly Evangel, Assemblies of God leaders felt it was vital to continue a steady stream of communication about the needs and concerns of the worldwide evangelistic mission of the church. Worldview magazine was commissioned in 2015 as a subscription periodical released monthly to continue to fulfill the imperative of the mission enunciated by Hogan in 1959: to ensure that world evangelism is priority status in the Assemblies of God.

Read the announcement of the publication of Global Conquest on page 7 of the Aug. 30, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Pentecost in the Philippines,” by Alfred Cawston

• “Miracles in A Missionary’s Life,” by C. M. Ward

• “Reaching the Children for Christ,” by Leonard and Genevieve Olson

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Christian and Violet Schoonmaker: Pioneer Pentecostal Missionaries to India

SchoonmakerThis Week in AG History — July 27, 1918

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 26 July 2018

Christian H. Schoonmaker (1881-1919) was the founding chairman of the Assemblies of God of India in 1918. While he served as a missionary in northern India for only nine years, Schoonmaker and his family significantly influenced Indian Pentecostal missions.

After finishing school in the late 1890s, Schoonmaker moved from his home in Albany, New York, to New York City to look for work. There he became involved with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. During this time, he had a vision of a great multitude of Hindu men and women. He felt he had found his purpose in life — to reach the Hindu people of India for Christ. He soon enrolled in the Alliance Bible School in Nyack, New York.

During his time at the Bible school (1905-1907), the Pentecostal revival began to sweep across the United States. Many of the students at the Alliance school experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Schoonmaker’s teachers encouraged him to continue seeking God but warned him against people who taught that speaking in tongues was a sign of the Spirit’s baptism. However, he soon noticed that those who showed the most joy and fervent devotion to God were those who had experienced the fullness of the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues. He began to seek all that God had for him, even if it included speaking in tongues.

Meanwhile, beginning in 1905, a Pentecostal revival had also impacted his desired destination, India. When Schoonmaker arrived in India in the fall of 1907, he urged others to partake of the blessing of the Spirit. It was on Christmas Eve, 1907, that Christian Schoonmaker’s life and ministry were changed immeasurably — he also received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.

A young single missionary named Violet Dunham (1879-1965) had been in India since 1902. She was warned by several sources to have nothing to do with the kinds of meetings that were happening in the Pentecostal circles. She saw so many other missionaries becoming involved that she prayed earnestly to be kept from their fanaticism. The Lord comforted her with Proverbs 1:33, “Whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” With this promise, she felt free to attend one of the meetings where Schoonmaker and the other Pentecostals were ministering. On the second day of the meetings, the Spirit began to fall upon the missionaries and the national workers just as in the book of Acts.

Violet became Mrs. Christian Schoonmaker in August of 1909 and soon three children blessed their home. However, their ministry was cut short in 1914 by the outbreak of World War I. They returned to North America where they led a church in Toronto.

During the war years, God blessed them with two more children. They transferred their ordination in 1917 to the newly formed Assemblies of God. They desired to return to India and received missionary appointment with the Assemblies of God. The July 27, 1918, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel included a report from C. H. Schoonmaker reporting that they had landed in India. Due to government restrictions, however, they were not permitted to return to the area where they had previously worked. He earnestly requested “prayer that God will plant us in the right place and use us to reach the unevangelized with the message of salvation.”

They settled in Lonavia, where Violet gave birth to their sixth child. During this time, Schoonmaker felt the need for a unified body of Pentecostal ministers in northern India. There was a need for a closer bond and mutual counsel. In November of 1918, a conference was held and the “Indian Assemblies of God” was formed, electing Christian Schoonmaker as its first chairman.

Just three months later, Schoonmaker returned home from ministry feverish and too tired to eat. The next morning a rash appeared on his chest. Violet knew the signs of smallpox and sent for a nurse. Christian was immediately quarantined from the children. As Violet was nursing their youngest infant, she also was kept from him. He died in their home in India on Feb. 2, 1919, at the age of 37.

Violet’s life was permanently altered in a matter of days. She was now a widow with six children under the age of nine, in a country where widows were often viewed unfavorably. She wrote to the Assemblies of God leadership in the United States, asking if she and her children would be able to continue their missionary appointment. She served in India before she was married and wished to continue that service. She was relieved by the answer — if her calling continued, then her support would also.

Violet Schoonmaker remained in India for another 32 years, retiring in 1951. She continued to speak and write missionary articles until her death at age 86. Christian and Violet’s ministry in India did not stop when either of them died. Five of their six children returned as Assemblies of God missionaries and the sixth, born just before his father died, also served the Indian people as a medical missionary doctor.

Read more about Schoonmaker’s report on landing in India on page 8 of the July 27, 1918, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Pentecost in Central Africa” by James Salter

• “Physical Manifestations of the Spirit,” by Alice E. Luce

• “Questions and Answers,” by E.N. Bell

And many more!

Click 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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Paul Patkotak, a Pioneer Pentecostal Eskimo, Helped Bring Revival to Alaska

Patkotak Paul

This Week in AG History — July 21, 1963

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 19 July 2018

Paul Patkotak (1891-1980) was born during a harsh winter on the North Slope of Alaska. His Eskimo parents left him on the tundra to die rather than face almost certain death from starvation due to lack of food. Paul survived, however, and later became one of the earliest Eskimos to identify with the Pentecostal movement.

Paul’s parents were traditional Eskimos and lived near Wainwright, a village on the Arctic Ocean. He was born in the family’s snow house. At the time, his parents and their five other children were on the verge of starvation. Other families also faced the agonizing choice of whether to allow their children to die from exposure or starvation. Paul’s father insisted that the newborn must be placed in the snowbank, but his mother initially resisted. After several days, though, it seemed obvious that she was postponing the inevitable. They bundled up little Paul, placed him on the cold tundra, and left to go hunting for food.

Shortly after Paul’s parents left, his grandmother ventured outside and rescued the hapless newborn. She tucked her bundled grandson into her own clothing, but she fell in the snow and was unable to get up and return to the house. It seemed that both would die from exposure. However, a hunter discovered their plight and brought them to his hunting camp. That night little Paul had nothing to eat, but he survived in his grandmother’s care.

The following morning, a caribou herd wandered into the camp. The hunters killed enough animals to provide food for the winter months. Paul’s grandmother fed Paul with milk from one of the caribou cows, which she had managed to milk. Later that day, Paul was reunited with his mother, who had never expected to see him again.

Paul was reared according to traditional Eskimo customs, learning to fish, trap, and hunt. He had contact with government workers and missionaries, who gave him a rudimentary education based on Bible stories. Although he did not become a Christian until years later, the stories of Jesus intrigued Paul.

Unlike many of his Eskimo friends, Paul wanted to further his education. He worked hard, trapping and pelting countless white foxes, which he planned to sell to make his dream possible. In 1911, he boarded a steam freighter with his pelts and headed for Seattle.

Paul arrived in Seattle and felt overwhelmed by the large city. He discovered a Free Methodist school called Seattle Seminary (now Seattle Pacific University), which he wanted to attend. He was not qualified to enroll, but professors allowed him to sit at the back of the classroom and audit classes.

Paul’s limited reading skills hampered his ability to understand, and other students severely ridiculed him. He grew desperate. He wanted to learn, but education seemed out of reach.

One day in 1913, while Paul was wandering down a street in Seattle, a man asked him, “Are you hungry for the Lord?” He responded affirmatively, and the man led Paul to a small Pentecostal congregation affiliated with the Apostolic Faith Mission (Portland, Oregon), which had roots in the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909).

The young Eskimo sensed the power of the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal meetings. An African-American woman caught his attention when she testified that God looks at a person’s heart, not at the color of their skin. He realized that he had built up hatred toward white students at the seminary who mocked him. He also realized that he needed to abandon his belief in the power of traditional Eskimo shamans. Paul responded to the altar call, repented of his sins, and peace and joy flooded his heart.

Paul spent the next two years at a government boarding school for Native Americans, where he improved his reading skills. He also remained active in the Apostolic Faith Mission.

Paul sensed a burden for the Eskimo people. In 1913, in a letter published in The Apostolic Faith newspaper, Paul testified of his newfound faith in Christ and stated that he felt called to bring the gospel to his people. He began praying for a mighty revival to come to the Eskimos.

In 1919, Paul, his wife, and children moved to Alaska. They adopted the nomadic lifestyle of a hunter and trapper. This lifestyle made it somewhat difficult to effectively witness to other Eskimos, as they often lived in isolation. Paul was a faithful Christian and shared the gospel when he was able to do so. He was not a credentialed minister, but he went on several extended evangelistic tours across Alaska. The family later moved to Wainwright, so that their children could receive an education.

In the 1950s, the development of the oil industry brought significant changes to the North Slope of Alaska. Outsiders brought money and new opportunities for sin, disrupting traditional society.

In 1954, Paul joined forces with Sherman Duncklee, an Assemblies of God evangelist who was planting a church in nearby Barrow. A significant revival swept Barrow, and then Wainwright. Assemblies of God churches were formed in these towns, and the revival spilled over in to the Presbyterian church and divisions between the churches came down. Paul’s son, Steven, was among the hundreds of converts in the revival. Another convert, Ned Nusunginya, would become the first Eskimo to be ordained by the Assemblies of God.

Paul had prayed since 1913 for revival among the Eskimo people. After 40 years of prayer, a spiritual awakening had finally come to the Eskimos!

The story of Paul Patkotak illustrates several themes in Pentecostal history. The interracial nature of the Azusa Street Revival reverberated through early Pentecostalism, and people from varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds found new life in Christ through Pentecostal churches. Significantly, much of the ministry among early Pentecostals was performed by lay persons, such as Paul. The testimonies of these early converts helped bridge cultural divides and laid the groundwork for the development of revivals and churches.

The July 21, 1963, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel included an account of Paul Patkotak and the Wainwright revival. Read the article, “Arctic Village Turns to God,” by Ida Cecelia Piper, published on pages 24 and 25.

Photograph used with permission of the Apostolic Faith Church (Portland, Oregon).

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Revival We Need,” by Robert C. Cunningham

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

• “The Precious Blood,” by J. Narver Gortner

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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John P. Kolenda: The German-American Assemblies of God Missionary to Brazil

Kolenda_1400bThis Week in AG History — July 11, 1942

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 12 July 2018 

John Peter Kolenda (1898-1984), an Assemblies of God missionary to Brazil and Germany, was a man of vision who was sold out for the gospel. He pastored churches in the U.S., founded churches on the mission field, established Bible schools, started printing plants, and taught extension courses. He never grew tired of doing the Lord’s work.

Kolenda was born in Germany and lived in Brazil from ages 4 to 11 before his family immigrated to the United States. After he was converted at age 18, he began reading Maria Woodworth-Etter’s classic Pentecostal book, Signs and Wonders, which led him to accept divine healing. Not long afterwards, through the ministry of Aimee Semple McPherson, he and other members of his family were filled with the Spirit.

After graduating from Southern California Bible Institute (now Vanguard University), Kolenda was ordained in 1922. He met his future wife, Marguerite Westmark, in Bible school, and they were married later that same year.

Kolenda sold cars in Los Angeles for a short time after graduation, and then after he was married he served as an evangelist for about six months, before pastoring a series of small churches in Michigan. The Kolendas raised two daughters, Dorothy and Grace Ann.

Kolenda had always felt a call to serve on the mission field in Brazil. His wife also shared that calling. He was over 40 years old when the door finally opened for him to go as a missionary to Brazil in 1939, even as World War II was breaking out in Europe. He arrived in Rio de Janeiro and rented an apartment as he became reacquainted with the people of his youth. Soon he felt directed to move to the state of Santa Catarina which had a great need for the gospel.

Kolenda started quite a few churches in Brazil during the 14 years he ministered there. When he left for his first furlough, over 100 churches or preaching points had been established.

He returned to Brazil and continued teaching at Bible conferences and served as the superintendent of the work in the state of Santa Catarina. He established a monthly publication called Messenger of Peace and provided Sunday School literature to his constituents. He also served as a missionary to Germany for 10 years. He later returned to both mission fields to evangelize and teach in their Bible schools. Through his preaching and teaching he touched untold thousands. His work in training young ministers in Brazil and Germany has significantly shaped the Pentecostal work in both those countries.

The Kolenda family made a large impact on the Pentecostal movement. One of John P. Kolenda’s older brothers, Paul Kolenda, was an Assemblies of God pastor in Illinois and Michigan. He became the father of 10 sons, many of whom went into the ministry. One of Paul’s descendants is Daniel Kolenda, who is the president and CEO of Christ For All Nations, which was established by Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke.

During World War II there was a great missions advance in South America, spearheaded by missionaries John and Marguerite Kolenda and others. An article Kolenda wrote in the Pentecostal Evangel in July 1942, called “Missions Advance in Brazil,” gave reports from several missionaries on the field.

In the article, Kolenda told how, in February 1942, he was accompanied by missionaries Virgil and Ramona Smith as they conducted two weeks of evangelistic meetings in the northern part of the state of Santa Catarina and in the state of Parana. They held special services and Bible studies among the Russian colonists who had settled there. The trip was very interesting. Taking the train, which was greatly delayed, Kolenda reported, “When we finally reached the station it was one o’clock in the morning.” The believers who met them there with wagons said they would have to remain in the station until daybreak since the river they must cross had overflowed its banks and was very dangerous. The next morning they had to cross the river in small boats and then go by wagon a few more hours to their destination. They held a camp meeting service with the believers who came. Kolenda reported, “The Lord truly met with us and we believe the results will abide.”

Missionaries Erma Miller and Lillian Flessing gave an account that the Kolendas held five services for them, with nine people getting saved, and several backsliders being restored. “Each evening saw the altar lined with people seeking God,” said Miller and Flessing, “and we feel their visit was the means of starting a Holy Ghost revival in Sao Carlos which we pray shall continue until Jesus comes.”

Read more exciting reports in “Missions Advance in Brazil,” on pages 6 and 7 of the July 11, 1942, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Give Ye Them to Eat,” by John Wright Follette

• “The World Moves On,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “Isaiah’s Consecration and Call,” by J. Bashford Bishop

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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Filed under Biography, History, Missions

How Compassion Ministries and Miracles Fueled Growth in the Assemblies of God in India

IndianMission_728This Week in AG History — June 20, 1925

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 21 June 2018

The Assemblies of God, from its earliest years, has been ministering the gospel in word and deed around the world. The June 20, 1925, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel highlighted the work of an early Assemblies of God mission located in Nawabganj, a city in northern India near the border of Nepal, which operated ministries to help the poverty-stricken and disadvantaged of India.

A boys’ school at the Nawabganj mission rescued street children and nourished their souls, bodies, and minds. The school, equipped with modern living quarters for about 70 boys, provided a safe, healthy environment and ‘intellectual and practical training.” Technical training included weaving, carpentry, and machine work in the school’s industrial department.

The mission also ministered to those affected by the contagious, skin-eating disease of leprosy. While the broader society often rejected lepers, the mission attempted to affirm their dignity as humans and provided them with physical comfort and the hope of eternal life with Christ.

The mission’s work among women was termed “zenana” – an Urdu word referring to women. Women missionaries ministered to women, often widows or those who had experienced extreme poverty or suffering. The mission, according to the article, provided a home for society’s “most unfortunate victims.” Many of these women became Christians, and prayer became an important part of their lives.

In addition to these works of compassion, the mission was home to a vibrant evangelistic ministry. Indian Christians went into the surrounding villages and preached the gospel. Persecution against those preachers, according to the article, was “beyond endurance and almost unbelievable.” However, the preaching of the Word was not in vain. As these indigenous Christians ministered in the face of incredible opposition, the truth of the gospel was confirmed by acts of compassion and by miracles of deliverance and healing. One by one, people repented of their sins and accepted Christ.

The mission at Nawabganj demonstrates how the Assemblies of God, since its inception, has encouraged holistic ministry to spiritual, intellectual, and physical needs. The Nawabganj mission built its institutions to meet the needs of the community’s most impoverished — those who had been rejected by the broader society. These works of compassion, coupled with miracles and prayer, gave credibility to the gospel, which allowed Indian Christians to successfully plant churches across northern India despite stiff opposition.

Read the entire article, “More about the India Mission Stations,” by William M. Faux, on page 10 of the June 20, 1925, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Second Coming of Christ,” by Finis J. Dake

• “Mexican Border Work Prospers,” by H. C. Ball

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

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Missions