Category Archives: Missions

From FEAST to APTS: 55 Years of Assemblies of God Advanced Theological Education in the Philippines

FEASTThis Week in AG History — January 24, 1965

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 23 January 2019

This week we commemorate the founding of Asia Pacific Theological Seminary (APTS) in the Philippines, which was originally called the Far East Advanced School of Theology (FEAST).

Through the years a number of Bible institutes were established in the Far East, but there was a need for advanced education for pastors and teachers. The Far East Conference of the Assemblies of God met in Hong Kong in 1960 and strongly urged the establishment of an advanced school of theology to serve the entire area of the Far East. Several years of careful planning followed, directed largely by Maynard Ketcham, field secretary for the U.S. Assemblies of God for the Far East.

Far East Advanced School of Theology (FEAST) became a reality in 1964, with Harold Kohl as the founding president and Derick Hillary as the first dean. This school marked an important step in Far East missions for the Assemblies of God.

Groundbreaking was held on Oct. 13, 1964, with messages from missionaries Harold Kohl and Derrick Hillary. Kenneth McComber, field fellowship chairman, and Rudy Esperanza, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God in the Philippines, assisted with the sod turning for the groundbreaking. The first building was constructed on the campus of Bethel Bible Institute in Manila. It served as the administration building and also offered housing for students and classrooms.

The curriculum of the school was originally structured to accommodate Assemblies of God ministers and Christian workers who had completed only a three-year Bible institute program. Bachelor of Arts degrees in Biblical Studies and Religious Education (four-year degrees), and a five-year Bachelor of Theology degree were offered.

In 1978 the program was expanded to include master’s degrees in Biblical Studies and Christian Education. The Master of Divinity degree program was added in 1982.

In 1985, property was purchased in Baguio City, Philippines, to provide a permanent campus for the school. Operations were moved to the new site in October 1986. In the years that followed, a number of buildings were erected on the new campus to house the growing student body and academic programs.

The name was changed from Far East Advanced School of Theology to Asia Pacific Theological Seminary (APTS) in 1989 to better reflect the nature of the school in offering graduate degrees in theology.

In addition to the classes offered on the campus of APTS, courses are taught in extension centers in several Asia Pacific countries. More than 3,000 students have studied in APTS extension classes held on multiple international locations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Fifty-five years ago, missionary Derrick Hillary wrote about the first student body, which was made up of pastors and teachers. “Able to choose from more than 80 universities and colleges,” reported Hillary, “they have elected instead to come to FEAST and share its humble beginnings because they prize their Pentecostal heritage.”

The school’s original motto was “Zeal With Wisdom.” The motto has since been changed to “Zeal With Knowledge.” APTS was founded with the purpose of educating leaders who would be in the forefront of the expansion of the Pentecostal movement throughout the Asia Pacific region. The school promotes scholastic ability as well as the fire and zeal of Pentecost.

Read “Zeal With Wisdom, ” by Derrick Hillary on page 14 and 15 of the Jan. 24, 1965, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Evangelism in the Home,” by J. F. Culpepper

• “We Camped With the Christian Gypsies,” by Evelyn M. Ford

• “Highway Tabernacle Marks Its Seventieth Anniversary,” by W. Howard Roberson

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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Robert and Doris Edwards: Assemblies of God Medical Missionaries, Educators, and Church Planters in India

EdwardsThis Week in AG History — January 8, 1949

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 09 January 2020

Robert Wade Edwards (1895–1961) became an Assemblies of God missionary when he was 51 years old and a newlywed of only one month. He served in southern India for 14 years and left behind a legacy of 14 churches, an industrial school, and hundreds of young people who were trained to carry on his ministry while being able to support themselves through trade.

Born in Salma, North Carolina, Edwards graduated with the highest honors. After spending nine years in the Army Medical Corps, he married and began ministry soon after. When his young wife died, Edwards moved to Cape Hatteras National Seashore to begin a new season of ministry. In 1946, a tidal wave severely damaged Edwards’ church. Devastated at the losses he incurred, Edwards asked God for direction. He distinctly felt God say to him, “Establish My people here in My Word and then go to the people to whom I have called you.” Thirteen years before, Edwards had a vision of himself preaching to dark-skinned people groping about in darkness. He knew that God was changing his course of direction.

For the next several months, Edwards worked on rebuilding in addition to his normal duties as pastor. During this time, he scheduled a missionary speaker for his church. Mrs. Doris Maloney was a widowed missionary to South India in her early thirties, traveling with her young son. When Pastor Edwards shared his burden with the missionary speaker they both felt that God was opening new doors for a new family. Edwards said later, “We put our calls together in marriage on Nov. 29, 1946, and on Dec. 12, we sailed for India.”

They began their ministry in Madras State, now Tamil Nadu, in South India where there were no churches. There were six villages within walking distance and most of them had never had a gospel witness. Edwards also found that his medical experience in the army served well to minister to those who had no doctors or medical care.

In the Jan. 8, 1949, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Edwards described a typical day. “We were up at 5 a.m. to prepare the messages … at 7:30 people began coming to have their wounds dressed … there were 12 patients and two homes to go where the people had wounds which prevented them from walking. Meanwhile, Mrs. Edwards conducted Sunday School in the next village … from 9 to 12 we had a meeting in our home for a few believers … in the afternoon there were callers. From 4 to 7 p.m. there were street meetings in two villages and we paraded the streets shouting Scripture verses and giving out tracts. It was a great thrill to work like this for the Lord though we came back almost too tired to walk.”

Edwards also found his experience in building to be an asset. He continued in the 1949 article, “It will not be long until we shall have to build little churches as there is no place to have a service except under the trees.” Edwards’ practice was to buy materials and build when there was money. When the money was exhausted, they would stop building until the money came in. In this manner, he built 14 churches without debt.

One day an old man came to Edwards and asked him to take his son. The old man felt it was too late for him to become a Christian but he wanted his son to know God. With their travel schedule, Edwards did not feel they could take on a young boy. He encouraged the man to send the boy to Sunday School and they would do all they could to help. After returning from a month-long ministry trip, Edwards was met with tragic news. The boy had hung himself in a tree near the missionaries’ home.

Grieved, the Edwards family asked God to show them how they could help other young boys to have more hope for the future. Edwards believed if these young boys could learn God’s Word and develop a trade they would find more promise and meaning in life. Edwards sought permission to begin an industrial school to train young men in a craft.

Hiring an Indian teacher to assist him, Edwards took on nine boys and began their training by teaching them to build their own school. The boys did the carpentry work and lived in the unfinished building with their poultry and goats during its construction. Within a short time, they had built several building to house training classes in printing, carpentry, blacksmithing, and other areas of learning.

After 14 years without a furlough, the Edwardses returned to the States to report on their ministry. During this furlough, it was discovered that Edwards had cancer. While suffering with the effects of cancer, he dictated much of what God had done in their time in India. His last recorded words concerning the hard work they had done were, “Looking back over my career, I would that I could do it all over again. If I had another life to live, I would give it to India.”

Edwards’ influence carried on in the lives of the young men he trained. They provided stability, leadership, and direction for the continuation of the Assemblies of God in South India.

Read Robert Edwards’ report, “Working in Travancore,” on page 11 of the Jan. 8, 1949, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Elisha, the Double Portion Man” by Evangelist Oral Roberts

* “Following the Cloud” by Harold Horton

* “The Congo Dancer” by E.H. Richardson

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: iFPHC.org

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John Eric Booth-Clibborn: The Assemblies of God Missionary Who Gave His Life for Burkina Faso

ClibbornThis Week in AG History — January 2, 1926

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 2 January 2019

John Eric Booth-Clibborn, a 29-year-old Assemblies of God missionary, laid down his life in the French West African colony of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) on July 8, 1924. He died from dysentery and malaria only two weeks after he, his pregnant wife Lucile, and their young daughter arrived on the mission field.

Eric’s death came as a shock, not only to his family, but also to their friends and supporters around the world. Eric’s family was well known in evangelical and Pentecostal circles. He was the grandson of Salvation Army founder William Booth and the son of Pentecostal author and evangelist Arthur Booth-Clibborn. Articles in the Pentecostal Evangel and other periodicals mourned his passing.

A remarkable testimony of faith emerged from Eric’s tragic death. His widow, Lucile, wrote an account of their lives and short ministry, titled “Obedient unto Death.” Former General Superintendent George O. Wood called Lucile’s story, published in the Jan. 2, 1926, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, “one of the most gripping accounts of faith in the history of this Movement.”

The young widow dealt with her grief by replaying in her mind every moment she had with Eric. Lucile recalled that she and Eric gathered with fellow believers just prior to their departure for Africa. Together, they prayed and sang a tune composed by Eric’s mother, Catherine Booth-Clibborn. The words of that song prefigured Eric’s impending sacrifice:

“At Thy feet I fall
Yield Thee up my all
To suffer, live or die
For my Lord crucified.”

Lucile’s article recounted in great detail their voyage and ministry together in Africa. She also described gut-wrenching moments at Eric’s funeral. Her emotional wounds remain palpable: “Then after a word of prayer, the top was put on the coffin and the nails hammered in. You can imagine the pain that shot through my heart at each pound of the hammer.” Reflecting on her pain, Lucile wrote that she did not regret going to Africa, “even though it tore from me the beloved of my heart.”

Lucile courageously viewed her loss through faith-filled eyes, seeing Eric’s death as an opportunity for God to be glorified. She wrote: “I realize that present missionary success is greatly due to the army of martyrs who have laid down their lives on the field for the perishing souls they loved so much … It has been said that a lonely grave in faraway lands has sometimes made a more lasting impression on the lives and hearts of the natives than a lifetime of effort; that a simple wooden cross over a mound of earth has spoken more eloquently than a multitude of words.”

The Assemblies of God in Burkina Faso remembers John Eric Booth-Clibborn as a hero of the faith who gave his life to follow God’s call. Today, the Assemblies of God is the largest Protestant fellowship in Burkina Faso, with over 4,500 churches and preaching points serving over 1.2 million believers.

Read Lucile Booth-Clibborn’s article, “Obedient unto Death,” on pages 12 -14 and 20 of the Jan. 2, 1926, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:

•   “A Passion for Christ and for Souls,” by George Hadden

•   “How Pentecost Came to Barquisimeto,” by G. F. Bender

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: iFPHC.org

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Pentecost Came to Madagascar in 1910 in a Revival of Signs and Wonders

Madagascar_728

Rev. Rasoamanana, president of the Assemblies of God of Madagascar, and his wife, 1978.

This Week in AG History — November 15, 1930

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 14 November 2019

The Pentecostal movement came to Madagascar, the island nation off the southeast coast of Africa, in 1910 in a great revival with signs and wonders. The revival began when a 60-year-old woman, Ravelonjanahary (known to English-speakers as Ravelo), who was believed to be dead, suddenly sat up during her own funeral. This caused quite a stir in her community, and she became known as “the resurrected one.”

Eighty-nine years ago, the Pentecostal Evangel published an account of Ravelo’s resurrection and the ensuing revival. After being raised from the dead, Ravelo was baptized in the Holy Spirit and felt God tugging at her heart to share her testimony and to preach the gospel. Ravelo initially rejected this call to the ministry. She reasoned, “I cannot speak, I am not clever.” But she heard God’s voice again, saying, “Go! Preach in My Name and heal the sick.”

Ravelo obeyed God’s voice and began ministering in a simple manner. She went from town to town, sharing God’s Word and her testimony. Before praying for a sick person, she would ask, “Have you repented? Have you given up your idols?” Ravelo’s ministry met with remarkable results. All across the countryside, people were healed and began to follow Christ.

At the time, Madagascar was a French Protectorate, and the French governors were hostile to Christianity. They introduced laws restricting the religious freedom of natives of Madagascar, showing particular opposition to Protestants. Ravelo persevered in spite of opposition from the government and society elites.

Local newspapers covered the revival, often defending Ravelo against attacks. One newspaper editorial noted that scoffers questioned whether Ravelo had really been raised from the dead. The editorial reasoned that proof of Ravelo’s resurrection was unnecessary, because the miraculous healings under her ministry were profound, frequent, and undeniable. Another newspaper defended her against charges of sectarianism, stating that she was not trying to build up one particular church.

People who were healed and who became Christians crowded into Lutheran, Reformed, Pentecostal, and other churches. Ravelo’s revival spilled into the broader Protestant church world, and to this day it is common for Madagascar Protestant churches of all stripes to encourage healing, exorcism, and biblical spiritual gifts.

The great revival sparked by Ravelo’s resurrection helped to lay the foundation for the Assemblies of God in Madagascar. In 2018, the Assemblies of God reported over 100,000 adherents in the island nation.

Read the entire article, “How Pentecost Came to Madagascar: A True Story of a Great Revival,” in the Nov. 15, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “War, the Bible, and the Christian,” by Donald Gee

• “Praying William: A Liberian Convert Testifies in His Own Words”

• “Healed of Bright’s Disease and Dropsy,” by Frank B. Anderson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel
archived editions courtesy of 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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Caring for the Orphans of India and Nepal: Anna Tomaseck, Pentecostal Pioneer

Tomaseck AnnaThis Week in AG History — November 8, 1930

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 07 November 2019

Anna Tomaseck (1902-1981), a single woman known as “Mamaji” (precious mother) to the many children whom she raised on the Indian/Nepali border, spent 50 years serving God in India and is credited with opening the doors of Nepal to the Pentecostal movement.

Tomaseck accepted Christ in a Billy Sunday crusade and consecrated her life to serve in whatever way God led. She trained as a registered nurse in Ohio and began to tell others of her desire to be a missionary, sensing a call to India. Her Presbyterian Sunday School teacher and many friends pledged their support and Tomaseck arrived in India in 1926.

Almost immediately, she was introduced to missionaries who had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and she, too, accepted this gift and identified with the Assemblies of God in 1928. Tomaseck spent the first 10 years of her missionary service at the Assemblies of God Girls School in Bettiah, learning the Hindi language and assisting in evangelistic efforts.

In the Nov. 8, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, she wrote, “Our school is growing and we have over one hundred students. We are much in prayer these days that God will again pour out His Spirit upon us, for we are a needy people and He alone can meet our need.”

Through these kinds of prayers, Tomaseck soon discerned there was something else that God had in mind for her. While visiting English missionary Amy Carmichael, she spent several days seeking for the specific assignment for which Christ had called her.

When Tomaseck left Carmichael’s mission, she believed that God had given her a two-fold mission: to raise children that no one else wanted and to reach the people of Nepal. Many discouraged her from this endeavor as Nepal was closed to Christianity. Tomaseck determined if she could not legally enter Nepal, she would get as close as she could.

Looking at a map of the railway system, she set her sights on Rapaydiya, the last Indian village before Nepal. In 1936, she purchased a one-way ticket and rented the house nearest the border – the last house in India – and began learning the Nepali language.

Tomaseck brought along with her three children who had been subsisting on whatever scraps they could find after their parents died. Soon local people understood that the young American lady would take in children, regardless of their health or status. Many more babies were brought to her home, from both India and Nepal. Some were orphans, some were unwanted by their families, and some were abandoned because their parents could not afford to feed them. Some had leprosy. They were all starving and sick.

Tomaseck received some criticism from other missionaries and supporters who felt that her time should be spend evangelizing rather than caring for sick children. She was undeterred. She instituted a teaching program that provided life skills for her children, seeing that each boy learned a trade and that each girl was taught to manage a home. As her children grew and moved out to find their place in life, more children came to take their place. In three decades of service on the Nepali border, Tomaseck raised 420 children in the Nur Children’s Home, teaching each of them about the love of Christ.

Tomaseck soon found that she was able to cross the border without police permission, as she was escorted by border guards who she had raised when they were boys. A string of churches was planted in southern Nepal and much of the leadership of the Pentecostal church traced their roots back to her ministry.

After 33 years in Rapaydiya, Tomaseck returned to Bettiah, where she remained until her retirement in 1976 at age 74. She moved to Maranatha Village in Springfield, Missouri, and passed away five years later.

God saw the need in a remote part of the world and He heard the prayer Tomaseck wrote in the 1930 Pentecostal Evangel, asking for His Spirit to be poured out on their work. He enabled a young single woman to raise up believers, teachers, laborers, and pastors who would go where missionaries could not go. Mamaji’s abandoned babies became men and women of the Spirit who built His church in India and Nepal.

Read Anna Tomaseck’s early report from the field on page 11 of the Nov. 8, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “In the Midst of Chinese Bandits” by W.W. Simpson

• “War, the Bible, and the Christian” by Donald Gee

• “From Witch Doctor to Gospel Preacher,” by A.R. Tomlin

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: iFPHC.org

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Clarence and Orvia Strom: Assemblies of God Church Planters in Alaska

Clarence_Strom_1400This Week in AG History — September 20, 1964

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 19 September 2019

Clarence L. Strom (1911-2001) and his wife, Orvia (1915-2009), were pioneer Assemblies of God church planters. Practically every place they went, they started a church or helped a struggling one to grow. Their big start in the ministry together began in the backwoods of the Kentucky mountains, a place that came to be a testing ground for a number of missionaries in the early days. From there they worked in various small towns in North Dakota, Montana, Alaska, and elsewhere.

The Stroms were, perhaps, best known for their service as missionaries in Alaska, where they spent 18 years. They went to Alaska in 1959 to become the supervisors at the AG Boys Farm in Palmer. They went on to plant and/or pastor churches in Petersburg, Nenana, Yakutat, Gustavus, and Valdez, Alaska.

Fifty-five years ago, Strom authored an article published in the Pentecostal Evangel that documented his travel across Alaska. His article provided a bird’s-eye view of Assemblies of God work in some of Alaska’s key cities. At that time, the AG divided Alaska into four sections: Arctic Coast, Northern, Central, and Southeastern. He toured the Southeastern section, stopping first in Ketchikan.

To get there, Clarence Strom had to board a boat which took him over the Alaska Marine Highway on the inside channel. He then drove to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, to board a ferry. This was followed by a six-hour ride by automobile. This gives an idea of how difficult travel in Alaska could be. In Ketchikan he visited Pastor and Mrs. Alver Loftdahl, who reported a thriving congregation which was experiencing revival in the Ketchikan Assembly.

Next he traveled to Wrangell, an old Indian village which was known for its lumber and fishing industries. He visited with the George Downses who had been able to build a new church, which was also thriving.

In Petersburg, on Mitkof Island, a town made up of several nationalities, including Tlinget Indians, Filipinos, and Japanese, Strom (who was the former pastor) visited the new pastors, the Bernard Tewells, and reported this was a growing assembly.

In Juneau, he visited Roy and Pauline Davidson, who were pastoring the largest church in the Southeastern section. He also visited Lyle and Helen Johnson who had been supervising the AG Children’s Home in Juneau for over 30 years. At that time about 40 children were staying in the children’s home.

Strom next visited the Leonard Olsons who were pastors at Haines. About 11 miles out of Haines he visited the village of Klukwan where Charles and Florence Personeus had established the Pentecostal work in Alaska in 1918. That church later became an outstation of the Haines Assembly.

Another stopping point was Skagway, a gold-mining town. The Gil Meroneys were serving there as pastors and had plans to construct a new building which could better serve their needs.

Next he visited the John Phillipses, who were pastoring the Sitka Assembly with plans for a building program to provide more room for services. In addition to the local population, they were also able to minister to people who came to Sitka for medical assistance and schooling at Mount Edgecomb Hospital and School.

In Yakutat he visited Donald Von Wald, who was pioneering a small church there. The last stop was Angoon, a little Indian village of 400, located on Admiralty Island. Missionary Eva Wright was doing a remarkable work there among the native population.

The trip gave Clarence Strom “a new appreciation of our faithful missionaries in Alaska who work often under great difficulties.” The work of faithful pastors and missionaries in Alaska has not been in vain. Today, Alaska is home to 89 Assemblies of God churches and over 10,000 adherents.

Read more about “An Armchair Tour of Southeastern Alaska Assemblies” on pages 16 and 17 of the Sept. 20, 1964, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Hidden Life,” by Violet Schoonmaker

• “Prayer, an Indispensable Part of Our Education Program,” by Charles W. H. Scott

• “The Church and Its Colleges,” by Philip A. Crouch

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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Morris Plotts was told he was too old to be a missionary. That didn’t stop him…

MorrisPlotts_1400

Morris Plotts, 1980s

This Week in AG History — September 6, 1964

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 5 September 2019

Morris Plotts (1906-1997) was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He received Christ in an evangelical church in 1923 and began his preaching career two years later. In 1932, Plotts received the baptism in the Holy Spirit while attending a meeting in Kennett, Missouri.

In 1933 he planted a church in New Sharon, Iowa, and evangelized neighboring towns. The services in Montezuma, Iowa, included loud singing, shouts, and preaching which lasted from 8 p.m. to as late as 3 a.m. Soon he found himself in jail for 30 days with a charge of disturbing the peace. Undeterred, Plotts continued to preach the gospel from his jail cell. Afterwards he continued evangelizing and pioneering churches. He built a church in Lynnville, Iowa, and later took a pastorate in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

In 1955, at age 49, Morris Plotts felt an urgency to do overseas missions work. The Division of Foreign Missions (now Assemblies of God World Missions) felt he was too old to go as a first-time missionary. After his application was rejected, he decided to raise his own support and go out on his own. He packed up his bags and went to Africa. His answer to critics was that God had called him.

He traveled to Kenya and worked with the Wanga people, who had never heard the gospel. The chief offered land for him to build a church and a school. Plotts built a 500-seat church and began preaching salvation, healing, and Spirit baptism, and also prayed and cast out demons.

That initial missionary effort gave Plotts the assurance that God without a doubt had called him to Africa. Morris and his wife, Neva, were given AG missionary appointments in 1960. His ministry took him into other jungles, facing lions, elephants, and cannibals. He fearlessly faced villagers who had seen few white men or none at all. His burning desire was to reach people for whom Christ died, people who had never heard the gospel.

Later he served as a missionary-evangelist in Tanzania and Guyana and other places. Plotts’ large frame (he was over 6 feet tall and wore a size 16 shoe) earned him the African nickname, “Bwana Tembo,” meaning “Lord Elephant.” As a missionary evangelist, his ministry extended from Africa to as far away as Australia, Indonesia, and Japan.

Plotts’ later vision turned to raising money for missionary projects and taking on the responsibility of constructing churches and schools across Africa. His drive took him away from home for many months, reaching another tribe or raising money in the U.S. for still another missions building. His daughter Marilyn said when he visited churches, “He made missions real. Elephants trumpeted, lions roared, and hippos splashed in rivers.” But most of all, U.S. congregations saw the crying need of unreached people.

While Plotts may have been initially considered too old for missionary service in 1955, it is reported that he traveled 2 million miles, preached 10,500 times in 3,367 places, raised more than $3 million for missions, built 38 churches and three Bible schools, finally retiring in 1989 at the age of 83.

Morris Plotts wrote an article, “The Undelivered Letter: A Story of Blight and Blessing,” published in 1964 in the Pentecostal Evangel. It was written as a parable to emphasize that missionary service is not optional. And of all people, Morris Plotts knew that well, for he let nothing stop him from the calling he had to go forward in missions, even when others said he was too old.

The parable told of a man named “Farmer Bliss” who was destined for bankruptcy, but a wealthy benefactor paid off all of his debts, so that he could become successful. A wonderful transformation took place in the Bliss family as the weight of unpaid debts was gone, and the farm began to prosper. The same story included a second man named “Poorman Knight” who lived a good distance away. The wealthy benefactor wanted Mr. Bliss to deliver a letter and check to Mr. Knight so that he also could be delivered from bankruptcy. With good intentions, Mr. Bliss set the letter aside and failed to deliver the check. After several years went by, and he never found the time to deliver the letter, he heard the startling news that this Mr. Knight had passed away due to starvation. It was too late to contact Mr. Knight. He was gone. Similar to this parable, Jesus came to deliver us from the debt of sin so that we may walk in newness of life through salvation. And we have a message to deliver to other lost souls still waiting to hear the gospel. We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission to preach the gospel to all nations and make disciples before it is too late.

Read more about “The Undelivered Letter” on pages 2 and 3 of the Sept. 6, 1964, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Try the Spirits,” by Joe Newby

• “Light-for-the-Lost in Bombay, India,” by Everett L. James

• “Revivaltime Choir and Prison Division Collaborate in Prison Evangelism,” by Stanley Michael

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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