Category Archives: Missions

Mary Weems Chapman: Called to the Prostitutes and Untouchables of South India

Chapman Mary

Mary Weems Chapman, from her 1921 passport application

This Week in AG History — April 18, 1925

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 18 April 2019

When veteran missionary Mary Weems Chapman (1857-1927) felt God’s call to return to India, her family told her she was too old. But she persevered and became the first Assemblies of God missionary to South India. A veteran Free Methodist missionary before identifying with the Pentecostal movement, Mary was well-known in Holiness circles for her preaching, teaching, and writing. But she was perhaps best known for her advocacy of ministry to girl prostitutes and the “untouchables” — members of India’s lowest social caste.

Mary and her husband, George, were pioneer leaders in the Pentecost Bands, a Free Methodist missions organization known for promoting both holiness and social ministry. They founded the Free Methodist work in Monrovia, Liberia, in 1889. They returned to America in 1893.

Mary was a prolific author. She edited a volume of writings by Holiness advocate Eunice Parsons Cobb, Mother Cobb, or Sixty Years with God (1896). She also served a one-year stint (1898) as founding editor of Missionary Tidings, published by the General Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Free Methodist Church.

George seemingly disappeared from Mary’s writings in the 1890s. Whether he died or something else happened is unknown. But she continued in ministry as a single woman. She moved to India in about 1900, where she worked at a Pentecostal Rescue Home that plucked young girls out of prostitution and provided education and spiritual help.

Single and aging, in about 1909 she returned to America. But she could not shake the sense that God wanted her to help the suffering girls of India. By 1911 she surfaced in Pentecostal periodicals, writing gut-wrenching articles about the great need to rescue girls in India who had been sold into sexual slavery.

Feeling a holy restlessness, Mary decided to return to India. She was approaching 60 years old. Her family tried to dissuade her, telling her she was too old to endure the rigors of missionary work. But her mind was made up. She told her family, “If young people are not able to go, old people must go.”

Mary arrived in India in 1915 and established her first missionary base in Doddaballapur, near Bangalore. She conducted evangelistic meeting in numerous parts of South India. In 1917, she affiliated with the Assemblies of God and became the Fellowship’s first missionary in South India.

Mary’s extensive writing and editing skills proved useful in her missions work. She was concerned by the poor discipleship of new converts and by the vast amount of anti-Christian and anti-Pentecostal literature that was causing confusion. To help remedy these problems, in 1925 she co-founded a magazine called Penthecosthu Kahalam (Pentecostal Trumpet) in the Malayalam language. She also wrote over 50 articles and letters published in the Pentecostal Evangel from 1913 to 1927.

In one of those letters, published in the April 18, 1925, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Mary described the plight of the Dalits, also called the “untouchables” because of their low social position. She described the joy of the Dalits who accepted Christ and were “adopted in the family of heaven.” She noted that her missionary colleagues started a school to educate young converts, because Dalits were not permitted to attend school with people from other classes in Indian society.

After 10 years of ministry under the Assemblies of God banner, Mary Weems Chapman died on Nov. 27, 1927. She was 70 years old.

Samuel Jabarethnan, Chapman’s interpreter for the last eight years of her life, wrote the following tribute: “I found Sister Chapman to be a most devoted and spiritual missionary. She stood not just for the Pentecostal experience, but emphasized the need for a deep spiritual, sanctified life . . . Sister Chapman was never satisfied with shallow, superficial things, either in a worker, a Christian, or an assembly. She demanded reality and set the example in her own life . . . Sister Chapman loved to spend much of her time in prayer. She never allowed the duties or responsibilities of her work to interfere with her prayer life. She labored and groaned in deep intercessory prayer for the souls of men to be saved, and as a result the Lord richly blessed her ministry.”

Read Mary Chapman’s article, “Ministering to the Untouchables,” on page 11 of the April 18, 1925, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Faith in the Invisible,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “Gleanings from the Book of Ruth,” by A. G. Ward

• “Denying Self,” by Alice Rowlands Frodsham

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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John and Ella Franklin: Pioneer Assemblies of God Missionaries to Guatemala

John Franklin

John and Ella Franklin, standing outside their home in Guatemala, circa 1938.

This Week in AG History — April 11, 1942

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 11 April 2019

John L. Franklin (1910-1999) was orphaned shortly after birth by the death of his mother, and he spent the majority of his young life in an orphanage. Yet even as a young boy he felt that God had laid His hand on him for a greater work — that of missionary service.

While attending Southern California Bible School (now Vanguard University) in the early 1930s, this call grew ever stronger. Franklin believed he needed more of God’s power if he were to attempt such an undertaking. He began to seek for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. After a time of prayer and fasting, he traveled to a mountain top overlooking the city of Pasadena. There he committed to give himself fully to God for the cities of the world. The next morning in the college chapel service, Franklin started to praise the Lord in his usual manner when he found himself speaking in a language he did not know. He was consumed with a burden of prayer for nation after nation.

Franklin soon became involved with evangelistic efforts on the Mexican border. From this experience he believed God was sending him to Guatemala in answer to the request from a small group of Pentecostal believers who were looking for help with discipleship and in reaching their neighbors. Assemblies of God missionaries Christopher and Inez Hines went to Guatemala in 1916 and stayed until 1925. No others had been sent in the interim to minister to their converts. Franklin and his new wife, Ella, responded to the call.

Bringing along their possessions — consisting of a mattress, an accordion, a typewriter and a barrel of household items — they arrived in Jutiapa in April 1937. Securing a mule to ride out into the countryside they located the five small congregations scattered among the mountains. These believers had prayed fervently for someone to come and lead them. They knew the Pentecostal message, but few had received the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Franklins stayed with each group, in turn, sleeping in hammocks, bathing in mountain streams, drinking unsafe water, and eating many meals of beans and tortillas. They struggled with illness in growing accustomed to the new way of living but were very happy to see God working in the lives of their new friends.

By early 1938, 300 people gathered together to form the first council of the Assemblies of God in Guatemala. John Franklin was named the first superintendent and Socorro Ramirez as secretary.

In 1941, Franklin opened a church in Guatemala City holding services every day for five months. The attendance was mostly children. On Good Friday of that year, God moved in a special way and seven people were filled with the Holy Spirit. This service sparked a revival, and the meeting room was always full after this. Soon a large evangelistic center was established in Guatemala City.

In a report in the April 11, 1942, Pentecostal Evangel, Franklin wrote of several healings and expressed thanks for the gift of a 1938 Chevrolet “in splendid condition and undoubtedly good for many years of service if Jesus tarries.” Even though the roads were primitive and, in many places, nonexistent, the car enabled them to carry abundant supplies and provisions. Franklin explained, “You cannot imagine how much easier it is than traveling by mule back.” (This was before the advent of the Assemblies of God Speed the Light program which purchases transportation for missionaries.)

Franklin also shared in the article the system of church planting they were using. “Each pastor is made to feel responsible for the villages surrounding the assembly of his charge … he is encouraged to evangelize and seek to bring other assemblies into being. In this effort he is assisted by his congregation which accompanies him on preaching trips to the new fields. Thus every pastor become an evangelist, and every member a pioneer worker.”

Church planting was not easy for the young Pentecostal movement in Guatemala. Franklin describes, “There is hardship entailed — hunger, fatigue, inconvenience of every kind. It means miles and miles of walking … intolerable heat at noonday and the chill of mountain heights because of scanty clothing or lack of sufficient covers at night. It means hours of torture because of insufferable plagues of mosquitoes or fleas. At times every effort to do good is repulsed and the works are reviled or threatened. Some have been stoned, others cruelly mistreated… it seems that a price must be paid for every victory gained — but how can we expect it otherwise? Our Lord paid a tremendous price for our salvation.” Franklin believed that there was no price too high for him or the believers he discipled to pay for the salvation of the people of Guatemala.

In 1977, 40 years after arriving in Guatemala, the Franklins retired from full-time ministry, returning to the United States. They made numerous short-term trips back to Guatemala to rejoice with the people who had become their family. From the five small groups of believers they found in 1937, God had blessed them with 600 established churches, 700 licensed ministers, and 55,000 Assemblies of God believers.

Read more of Franklin’s report, “A Harvest That Rewards the Sacrifice,” on pages 6-7 of the April 11, 1942, Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Plea for Wholehearted Service,” by P. C. Nelson

• “Shut Out – the Fate of the Foolish Virgins,” by James Salter

• “Portions for Whom Nothing is Prepared,” by Margaret Ann Bass

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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Pandita Ramabai: Prominent Female Social Reformer and Pentecostal Pioneer in India

TWApril1_2016_1400This Week in AG History — April 1, 1916

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 4 April 2019

Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922), widely regarded as one of India’s most prominent female social reformers and educators, played a significant role in pioneering the Pentecostal movement in India. Ramabai came from a privileged family, and she used her education and resources to help the underprivileged of her society.

Despite a cultural proscription on educating girls, Ramabai’s father, an educator and social reformer, taught her to read and write Sanskrit. By the age of 12, she memorized 18,000 verses of the Puranas, which were important Hindu religious texts. She became a noted Hindu scholar and was fluent in seven languages.

At a young age, Ramabai devoted her life to helping widows and orphans, who were often despised and mistreated in her society. Ramabai attended college in England, where she joined the Church of England. While traveling in the slums of London, she learned to distinguish between the institutional church and what she termed the “religion of Jesus Christ.” She returned to India and established homes for dispossessed widows and children. She also fought for social reform, including provision for quality healthcare and education.

Despite being marginalized by other social reformers who argued that her agenda was too radical, Ramabai continued to promote her social vision for India, which was consistent with her Christian testimony. She weathered criticism and even became bolder in her efforts, founding additional orphanages and a home for prostitutes. Importantly, Ramabai’s social ministries cared for both the body and the soul. They sheltered, educated, and fed women and children, and they also taught Christian doctrine and nurtured a generation of new Christians.

Ramabai realized that some things only change through prayer, and she used her significant influence to encourage women to pray for spiritual and social change in India. In January 1905, she issued a call to prayer, and 550 women began meeting twice daily for intercessory prayer. That summer, Ramabai sent 30 young women out into the villages to preach the gospel. These young female preachers were successful, and they reported an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on June 29, 1905, which included several being “slain in the Spirit” and experiencing a burning sensation. This Indian revival continued for several years. By 1906, participants also began receiving the gift of speaking in tongues.

According to Ramabai, the girls at the orphanage in Mukti prayed each day for more than 29,000 individuals by name. They prayed, among other things, for them to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and to become true and faithful Christian witnesses.

Pandita Ramabai and the revival at the Mukti mission played an important role in the story of the Pentecostal movement’s origin in India. Alfred G. Garr, the first missionary sent by the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, recounted his interactions with Ramabai in a serialized history of the Pentecostal movement published in the April 1, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Read the article, “The Work Spreads to India,” by A. G. Garr on pages 4 and 5 of the April 1, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Face to Face,” by D. W. Kerr

• “Letter from a Brother Minister,” by W. Jethro Walthall

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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Tragedy and Adventure in the Life of Paul L. Kitch, Assemblies of God Missionary to French West Africa

Kitch1This Week in AG History — March 13, 1943

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 14 March 2019

Paul L. Kitch (1910-2005) was an Assemblies of God missionary to Burkina Faso at a time when it was still known as French West Africa or Mossi land. He left the United States in 1938 with his wife, Bernadine, and young son, Paul, ready to give all he had for the cause of the furtherance of the gospel of Christ. It would cost him his wife, his daughter, and lead him on a 10-day adventure with 35 others in a lifeboat adrift in the Atlantic Ocean.

Kitch graduated from Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri, in 1931. It was there that he met and married his wife, Bernadine. They received ministry credentials with the Illinois District Council and sailed for mission’s appointment in French West Africa on March 30, 1938. After spending a few months in language school in France, they settled in Tenkodogo with the Mossi tribe. In August of 1939, God blessed them with a baby girl, Lita Ann.

As happened with so many early missionaries, typhus claimed the life of Lita Ann at the age of 2. Seven months later, her mother followed in death. At the time of Bernadine’s death, Kitch was so ill himself that it was an entire month before he was told that his wife had died. Paul Jr. was also very ill with typhus.

Both Kitch and his son recovered and moved to Ouagadougou to convalesce for several weeks. In October 1942, it was decided that they should return to America to fully regain their health and seek God for direction. They boarded the S.S. West Kebar, an American cargo vessel with a crew of about 70 and nine other passengers.

One night, after about three weeks on board, the Kitches were having devotions in their cabin when there was a great explosion. The lights went out. Young Paul asked his father if they were having another lifeboat drill. He replied, “Yes, son. We’re having a real lifeboat drill.” Going up on deck, they discovered that the ship had been torpedoed by a submarine. One of the four lifeboats was completely destroyed; another had been blown away from the ship. Kitch saw the third pulling away; another with about 15 already on board was still there.

Within moments 35 people crammed into the 28-foot lifeboat. Kitch asked if there was time to retrieve things from the ship, as all their worldly goods were on that boat. The captain responded that if they were within 50 to 75 yards of the ship when it went down it would suck them under with it. Kitch watched as they rowed away from everything he owned.

A plan began to be made for their survival. The captain believed he had an idea of their whereabouts and set a course for land. Rations were to be handed out twice a day. In the mornings, they received two ounces of water, two small crackers, and one ounce of pemmican. Each evening, they received the same with a small chocolate square substituted for the pemmican. Since they had been reading Robinson Crusoe, Kitch encouraged his son to play the part of the characters in the book; embrace the adventure, and trust God to see them through.

There were only four blankets among 35 people and the heavy rains caused them to be sopping wet and freezing during the nights and scorched in the tropic sun during the day. On the eighth day at sea, they spotted a ship passing by but their tiny lifeboat was not sighted.

On the ninth day, they sighted land and on the 10th day a plane spotted them and alerted the coastal patrol. A sub chaser came out to meet them and took them to the island of Barbados, off the coast of Venezuela. The Barbados newspaper reported of their rescue, “The Sunday arrivals had been in a lifeboat for many days, yet 8-year-old Paul Kitch was in the best of health and spirits, and his first request was for ice cream.”

For one month they stayed on the island and Kitch had the opportunity to speak in various churches and share of the faithfulness of God even amid great loss and danger. Later he learned that many of the believers had been praying that a Pentecostal missionary would come and visit them, and they rejoiced that God answered prayer in bringing him their way.

In the March 13, 1943, Pentecostal Evangel, Kitch relays the story and recollects that “in the 30 days following our rescue I preached 25 times. It was remarkable how much strength and energy the Lord had blessed me with after the 10 days at sea.” Of about 80 persons on the S.S. West Kebar, more than half perished.

Paul Kitch later remarried after returning to the States and pastored Assembly of God churches in Missouri. In 1985, 42 years after leaving the continent, Paul Jr. returned to West Africa with his wife, Delma, where they served in Togo and then South Africa.

Read the full article, “Ten Days in a Lifeboat,” on page 1 of the March 13, 1943, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

“For the Name of the Lord Jesus,” by William Long

“The Sifting of the Church,” by D.M. Panton

“Reaching Interned Japanese in Idaho,” by Marie Juergensen

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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Giving out of their Poverty: Florence Steidel and the Lepers of Liberia

TW_Steidel_1400

This Week in AG History — March 4, 1951

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 07 March 2019

In 1950, an Assemblies of God congregation of lepers in New Hope Town, Liberia, caught the vision of missions and desired to help those who were less fortunate than themselves. On Christmas Eve, they took up an offering of $2.65, which they sent to the Leper Home of Uska Bazaar in North India.

Assemblies of God missionary Florence Steidel (1897-1962) wrote a letter recounting the sacrificial spirit of the congregation. The letter, published in the March 4, 1951, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, explained that the offering was quite generous, given the meager wages earned by the lepers (7 to 10 cents per day).

Steidel had founded New Hope Town in 1947 with $100 and the help of lepers. Tribal chiefs gave her 350 acres of land upon which she could build a town for people with the skin-eating disease who were unwelcome in their own communities. Steidel, a nurse who came to the mission field in 1935, took a class in elementary building construction. She rallied those with leprosy to work alongside her in building roads and houses. From 1947 until 1962, she oversaw the construction of a well-laid-out town, including 70 permanent buildings and six main streets.

While the lepers were diseased, they were not helpless. Steidel established a school to train them to become carpenters, weavers, brick makers, and clinic workers. They also planted 2,500 rubber trees, which helped the town to become economically self-sufficient.

Steidel realized that economic poverty has roots in poor spiritual and social conditions, which she worked to ameliorate. And only four years after establishing New Hope Town, its residents were already giving of their very limited resources to help others.

Steidel is remembered as one of the missionary heroes of the Assemblies of God. She melded compassion with proclamation of the gospel. Her work among the lepers helped to give credibility and strength to the Assemblies of God in Liberia.

Read the article by Florence Steidel, “I Still Have Strong,” on page 9 of the March 4, 1951, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue

• “Pentecost’s Lost Coin,” by Paul Gaston

• “Our Greatest Need,” by Robert J. Wells

• “Words of Life,” by Wesley R. Steelberg

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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Assemblies of God Missionaries Mark and Gladys Bliss: Remembering the Deaths of Their Three Children in Iran

Mark BlissThis Week in AG History — March 1, 1970

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 28 February 2019

This year marks 50 years since the deaths of four young children who were killed in a traffic accident in Iran. Three of these belonged to AG missionaries Mark and Gladys Bliss who arrived in Tehran in 1965. The other was the son of Iranian national, Haik Hovsepian-Mehr.

In 1969, the missionary work of the Blisses was prospering. Assemblies of God churches had been established and were growing. New fellowships were being planted. Mark was helping to establish a Bible school in Tehran. On Oct. 24, 1969, Mark and Gladys attended a pastor’s conference.

The next day they made arrangements to travel with Haik Hovsepian-Mehr and his family to Gorgan, where a new church was being established. They started the six-hour drive on winding, narrow two-lane roads. They hoped to arrive before nightfall.

On the way they traveled through a village of about 10,000 people where Mark and Haik had been arrested a few months earlier for evangelizing. The men decided to stop for a few moments to pray for the salvation of the village. Their time of prayer lasted longer than they expected, and this meant that the last part of their journey would be after dark.

Unknown to the families, that prayer meeting would change their lives forever. Mark got back into the driving seat with his daughters Karen (13) and Debbie (11) in the front seat. Gladys Bliss and 3-year-old Mark Jr. were in the back along with the Hovsepians and their 3-month-old son.

Energized by the prayer time and fully alert, Mark drove on toward the new church building in Gorgan. All of a sudden, he was blinded momentarily when an oncoming vehicle did not dim its lights. Mark’s vehicle came upon a tractor-trailer loaded with grain that was going very slow and had no lights. With no time to react, the impact was devastating. Mark Jr., Karen, and Debbie Bliss, and the Hovsepians’ young son, Joseph, all died in the accident. The four adults were taken to a local hospital. Mark had minor injuries compared to the others who spent a couple months recovering.

When Haik Hovsepian heard the news that his baby son had died, he raised his hands from his hospital bed and said, “Praise the Lord.” When Mark was discharged he found a piano and began to worship and sing, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Despite their terrible loss and grief, Mark and Gladys Bliss never wavered in their faith in God.

But grief was not the only suffering they endured. As the driver of a car involved in a fatal accident, Mark faced charges of manslaughter, a large fine, and possibly a prison sentence. It took three years until the case was heard. An acquittal did not look possible. Mark was tried in front of three Islamic judges, men who likely would not be sympathetic toward an American Christian. Mark needed a translator who was fluent in Farsi. He was able to enlist his friend Sam, who was an Iranian national who had been working with him to establish the Bible school in Tehran.

When the court date arrived, Mark testified, “I do not consider myself guilty. But if you do consider me guilty, please consider in your verdict that I have already suffered the loss of my three children.” He continued testifying, “But my children are not dead. They are alive.” He shared Jesus’s words that He is “the resurrection and the life and he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall live.” Mark left the court a free man. A 10-month prison sentence was reduced to two years’ probation.

Mark and Gladys Bliss continued to minister to the Iranian church until they transferred to another field in 1980. Years later Mark reflected on the remarkable growth of the Church in Iran. He shared, “After the tragedy, we prayed saying, ‘We have planted three seeds for the sake of the harvest in Iran.’ Today, we are seeing that harvest.”

Charles Greenaway reported on the accident and the Bliss’ faith in, “I Have Planted Three Seeds,” on pages 8-9 of the March 1, 1970, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Good Shepherd,” by J. Bashford Bishop

• “Guyana Revisited”

• “Your Questions Answered,” by Ernest S. Williams

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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Albert Norton, Pioneer Pentecostal Missionary to India: Preaching Must be Accompanied by Good Works

Norton AlbertThis Week in AG History — February 22, 1919

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 21 February 2019

One hundred years ago, Assemblies of God missionary Albert Norton witnessed the tragic starvation and suffering of countless people in India. He responded to this humanitarian crisis in a Pentecostal Evangel article, in which he argued that Christian preaching must be accompanied by works of compassion.

Norton’s experience in India gave him a different perspective than many other Christians in America. At the time, there was a growing divide within Christianity between evangelicals and theological liberals. In the early 20th century, many mainline Protestant churches were in the process of redefining the Christian faith. New academic theories undermined the authority of Scripture, and a faith in science replaced faith in the God of miracles as described in the Bible. These theological liberals pioneered a “Social Gospel” movement defined by doing good works, even as they left behind the seemingly antiquated notion that “Truth” could be found in Scripture.

In America, evangelicals and Pentecostals often responded to the Social Gospel movement by reasserting biblical truths. Some tried to reform older denominations from within; others formed new, purer churches. Some backed away from social action, concerned that an emphasis on good works could distract from what they believed was the more important duty to preach the Word.

Outside America, missionaries such as Albert Norton were often surrounded by great suffering and felt compelled to minister in both word and deed.

In a 1919 Pentecostal Evangel article, Norton wrote the following bold statement:

“A Christianity that coldly sits down, and goes on its routine of formal work, and allows its fellowmen to starve, or to be obliged to go through all the hard sufferings and exposure connected with famine, without effort to help them, might as well quit its preaching.”

Norton, who was witnessing an unfolding human tragedy, asked that “all missionaries, Mission Boards and Committees and all Christian Workers to do what they can to save their brothers and sisters in India from dying of starvation or from the kindred train of evils following famine.”

Pentecostal Evangel editor Stanley H. Frodsham responded and devoted the entire front page of the Feb. 22, 1919, issue to the desperate situation in India. He asked readers to send famine relief to Gospel Publishing House, which he promised would “be promptly sent to the field.”

Frodsham provided three justifications for this request to save bodies as well as souls. First, he stated that Scripture required it, quoting Proverbs 19:17 and 24:11-12. Second, he noted that the Methodist church had asked its members to forego luxuries for a few months and to instead provide money for Indian relief. He challenged Pentecostals to do likewise.

Third, he noted that the future of the church depended upon rescuing those who are starving now. He again quoted Norton, “There are young men and women in India today, who were saved as famine orphans several years ago, and now they are filled with the Holy Spirit, and being greatly used in the extension of Christ’s kingdom.” Meeting the physical needs to the starving today would yield preachers tomorrow. He continued, “How unutterably sad it would have been if they had been allowed to die of starvation.”

Early Pentecostal missionaries such as Norton had very limited physical resources to share, but they still recognized the need to minister in both word and deed. When the Assemblies of God, at its 2009 General Council, added compassion as the fourth element for its reason for being — joining worship, evangelism, and discipleship — this was an affirmation of a long-standing practice.

Read Frodsham’s entire article, “Plague and Famine Raging in India,” on pages 1-2 of the Feb. 22, 1919, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Run to Help the Dying,” by A. E. L.

• “Hints Regarding Divine Healing,” by Florence Burpee

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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