Category Archives: Missions

Faith for Miracles: Louie Stokes and the Revival in Argentina

StokesThis Week in AG History — August 13, 1967

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 8 June 2017

Fifty years ago, the Pentecostal Evangel highlighted some key events in the life of Argentina missionary Louie Stokes (1909-1989).

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Stokes graduated from Beulah Heights Bible Institute (which now is Southeastern University). After graduation, he became a teacher at the school for seven years. While teaching at Beulah Heights, he met Lillian Lalor, who later became his wife. Together they traveled in evangelistic work before serving as dean of men at Central Bible Institute (1938-1940). They were appointed missionaries to Cuba (1940-1949), Argentina (1949-1976), and Panama (1976-1978).

In Argentina, the Stokeses taught in a Bible institute and conducted a radio program in Buenos Aires called The Voice of Faith. Louie Stokes also held street meetings and published tracts as well as a publication called ID (Go Ye). A massive evangelistic-healing campaign was held in Buenos Aires in 1954 (featuring Evangelist Tommy Hicks) which resulted in thousands of converts. After this crusade, with much work, the Stokeses converted an old shoe factory into a church and had a fruitful ministry in Argentina for the next 22 years.

The Aug. 13, 1967, Pentecostal Evangel featured some jottings from Louie Stokes’ then 27 years of service in Latin America. One testimony he shared was of a convert named Angel Magliotto who, at age 9, received a miracle. Stokes described, “He had been born clubfooted and suffered much because of his physical condition.” His mother became a believer and brought her son to the altar for prayer. “As a symbol of her simple trust in God, under her arm she carried a package with tennis shoes for the boy,” said Stokes. As he prayed, the answer came as “those twisted feet received a healing touch and later became normal.” Angel later became a native pastor in La Riestra, Argentina.

In the article, Stokes also reported on three ladies from his church in Buenos Aires who felt led to carry the gospel message to the far northern province of Salta, a thousand miles from the capital. They settled in the railroad center of Güemes, a town of 30,000 people, and began preaching on the streets and witnessing from house to house. Stokes reported that “miracles and healings took place, and within a year they invited me to come and baptize 23 converts.” He also put the new church in order and gave Bible studies when he came to visit. Then, just two years later, Stokes baptized 17 more converts. From that ministry center the believers soon opened up three outstations and sent out workers to preach in different places. Regarding these three ladies, Stokes declared, “I marvel when I observe how the Holy Spirit takes and uses such unlikely vessels.”

In his concluding remarks, he emphasized, “As I have visited dozens of churches, two outstanding things have impressed me profoundly. One is that almost all of our churches are full, sometimes with people standing for lack of space.” He continued, “The other is the large percentage of young people in the Assemblies of God churches.” He saw this as a source of promise for the future of the work in Argentina.

Read “Anthology of a Missionary,” on pages 8 and 9 of the Aug. 13, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Christ’s Prayer For Unity,” by Theodore E. Gannon

• “David Recovers His Family,” 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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50 Years Ago: Thousands in Liberia Accept Christ in Good News Crusade with Paul Olson

Olson Paul

Paul Olson preaches at the Monrovia crusade.

This Week in AG History — August 6, 1967

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 8 June 2017

Fifty years ago this week, the Pentecostal Evangel featured a report of a massive evangelistic campaign in Monrovia, Liberia, conducted by missionary evangelist Paul Olson. The article, “Somebody Loves You … Monrovia,” described Olson’s six-week Good News Crusade in the capital of Liberia.

Good News Crusades, launched in 1959, is an organized evangelism effort for the Assemblies of God to sponsor and organize large city-wide crusades in mission areas across the globe, with follow-up and church planting afterwards. Through these efforts, Assemblies of God missionaries and national ministers work together to help fulfill the Great Commission.

For the Monrovia crusade, Paul Olson worked closely with missionary Joseph Judah, evangelist Herris Heidenreich, and C. T. Sampson, the host pastor. Preparation started with printing 100,000 pamphlets announcing the outreach. These tracts, made possible through Light for the Lost and BGMC, were titled, Somebody Loves You. The day before the crusade started, a Speed the Light plane flew over the city and scattered 25,000 tracts over all the main streets of the city. Tracts were also distributed from house to house and in the city markets. Workers hung street banners across the main thoroughfares and put up posters on walls and telephone poles. The outreach was announced on television and radio and in all three of the city newspapers.

The president of Liberia, Dr. William V. S. Tubman, personally gave the missionaries use of the newly remodeled Antoinette Tubman Sports Stadium, which was named after his wife. During the following weeks, thousands of people crowded into the stadium to hear the gospel preaching of evangelist Paul Olson. Hundreds of Africans accepted Christ as Savior, and many were miraculously healed.

One night there was a special healing service and it was reported that over 2,000 children received healing. One outstanding miracle was the healing of an old man who had been a cripple for nine years. After his healing he was able to walk unassisted. This man walked back to the crusade every night for the next five weeks — a living testimony of God’s healing power. A special highlight of the crusade was the Kru choir which sang gospel songs in tribal dialect.

According to the article, “An uncompromising call was given to sinners, ‘Are you ashamed of your sins? Are you truly sorry for them? … Do you really want Christ to change your life?’” During the first three weeks, well over 10,000 came forward and prayed for salvation. Total attendance for all three weeks of the outdoor part of this crusade reached 110,000. On the closing night, 15,000 filled the stadium.

After closing the open-air crusade, the services were moved to a local Assemblies of God church and for three more weeks the revival services continued with several hundred people receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit. At the close of the meeting, over 6,000 new converts received follow-up discipleship training.

Olson also held Good News Crusades in Cape Palmas, Liberia; Georgetown, Guyana; Freetown, Sierra Leone; and other places in Africa. Hal Herman, Morris Plotts, and other missionary evangelists held similar crusades in other parts of the globe during this same time frame, and missionary crusades like this still continue to be held.

Read “Somebody Loves You … Monrovia,” on pages 8 and 9 of the Aug. 6, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Days of Heaven Upon the Earth,” by Aaron A. Wilson

• “Samson’s Strength and Weakness,” by Howard Carter

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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Cross-Cultural Ministry in 1922: Mexican Refugees in Texas Reach Out to African Americans

P23628

By the 1930s, Hispanic Assemblies of God congregations had been organized across America. This photo is of a girls Sunday school class, Templo Cristiano, San Antonio, Texas, in June 1930 or 1931.

This Week in AG History — July 8, 1922

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 5 July 2017

The small town of Edna, Texas, was home to an early Assemblies of God congregation of Mexican refugees, whose members engaged in evangelistic work to African-Americans, even while their own legal status was uncertain.

This fascinating story of cross-cultural ministry came about because of an emerging social crisis. Over one million refugees from the Mexican Revolution came to the United States between 1910 and 1920. Many of the newcomers lived in makeshift camps, rife with disease and crime, located along the borderlands. Overwhelmed by this humanitarian crisis, local residents often did not know how to react. Social and political tensions flared in Texas and elsewhere.

Assemblies of God churches and ministers, seeing the unfolding tragedy, committed themselves to offer physical and spiritual assistance to the newcomers. Many Mexican refugees accepted Christ and formed small Asambleas de Dios congregations across the borderlands.

American Assemblies of God leaders were able to assist refugees who faced significant challenges. In one instance, Isabel Flores, a prominent Pentecostal leader among the Mexican refugees, was arrested in May 1918 and incarcerated in the Jackson County jail in Edna. The reason for the arrest is unknown. An account published in 1966 in La Luz Apostolica simply stated, “It was wartime, and the officer did not speak Spanish and Isabel did not speak English.” Henry C. Ball, an Assemblies of God missionary to the Mexicans, came to the aid of Flores. Ball traveled to Edna, where he spoke with the authorities and secured the prisoner’s release.

This brush with the law demonstrated that it was advantageous for Mexican immigrants to work with Americans. Earlier that year, Flores and Ball together had organized the Latin American Conference (later renamed the Latin American District), which brought existing Mexican Pentecostal congregations into the Assemblies of God.

Ball’s status as a native-born American, however, did not prevent him from encountering problems. The Assemblies of God, like many other premillennial American evangelicals, took a pacifist position during World War I. Ball’s work with Hispanics and his church’s pacifism caused government officials to view him with suspicion. Ball was arrested in Brownsville, Texas, on suspicion of being a German spy, but he was soon released.

As superintendent of the Latin American Conference, Ball traveled extensively and ministered among the Mexican immigrants.

In 1922, Ball returned to Edna, Texas, where he found an unexpected surprise. In a July 8, 1922, article in the Pentecostal Evangel, Ball reported that the Hispanic congregation maintained an active outreach to African-Americans, despite the language barrier.

The congregation met for worship in a private home located about three miles from Edna. Ball noted that about 30 Mexicans gathered for worship in a large room, and that an additional group of African-Americans joined them. The African-Americans, Ball observed, “have learned to sing the Spanish songs with the Mexicans, even though they know very little Spanish.”

Ball stated that the African-Americans “are anxious to hear Pentecost preached in their own language.” He lamented that “a white man could hardly preach to them in this part of the country,” presumably referring to Jim Crow laws that prevented whites and blacks from mixing.

The Mexican refugees could have used their own plight as an excuse to keep to themselves and to concentrate on building up their own community. But this marginalized group instead reached out to others who were likewise excluded from the benefits of mainstream American culture. Instead of dwelling on what they could not do, they found an area of ministry in which they had an advantage over white Americans. The Mexican immigrants were not subject to Jim Crow laws and could freely minister to African-Americans. When the Mexican immigrants sought to share God’s love with others, their seeming cultural disadvantage became an advantage.

Read the article by H. C. Ball, “The Work Prospering on the Mexican Border,” on page 13 of the July 8, 1922, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Whose Faith Follow: Important Lessons Learned from a Pentecostal Revival [Irvingites] of Nearly a Hundred Years Ago,” by A. E. Saxby

* “Very Fine Needlework,” by Grace E. Thompson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Read about the arrests of Isabel Flores and H. C. Ball in “Historia de los Primeros 50 Años de las Asambleas de Dios Latinas,” on pages 2 and 12 of the April 1966 issue of La Luz Apostolica.

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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Pioneer Pentecostal Missionary Alice Wood: The Orphan Who Found a New Home in Argentina

Wood Alice

Argentine Christians bid farewell to veteran missionary Alice Wood, July 12, 1960. (L-r): Pastor Ernest Diaz, Mrs. Diaz (seated), Miss Alice Wood, and Evangelist Ruben Ortiz

This Week in AG History — May 25, 1920

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 25 May 2017

The first Pentecostal missionary to Argentina, Alice Wood (1870-1961), holds another great distinction: she served more than 60 years on the mission field, the last 50 without a furlough. When she finally retired at age 90, she left behind a thriving church pastored by Argentinians whom she raised up for the purpose of impacting a country for Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When the call came in the December 1913 issue of Word and Witness for a gathering of Pentecostal believers in Hot Springs, Arkansas, E.N. Bell published the five reasons for this first General Council of what would become the Assemblies of God. The third reason stated: “We come together for another reason, that we may get a better understanding of the needs of each foreign field, and may know how to place our money … that we may discourage wasting money on those who are running here and there accomplishing nothing, and may concentrate our support on those who mean business for our King.”

Alice Wood received the call but was unable to attend. She was a single, 44-year-old Canadian Pentecostal missionary in Gualeguaychú, Argentina, with no visible means of support. Encouraged by the vision to support missions, Wood sent in an application to be included among the first official missionaries of the fledgling Assemblies of God. She was accepted onto the roster on November 2, 1914.

Wood was an adventurous woman who looked on fearful obstacles as challenges to be overcome. When she was 7 years old, one of the older school girls told her, “Conquer a snake and you will conquer everything you undertake.” The next time she saw a snake, she ran to put her foot on its head while encouraging her sister to pelt it with rocks until it was dead. From childhood, she was a woman who ran toward things from which others ran away.

Orphaned at age 16, Wood lived with a foster family. While she was raised in the Friends (Quaker) church, she also attended Methodist and Holiness conventions and sought the presence of God in her life. At age 25, she enrolled in the Friends’ Training School in Cleveland, Ohio. Upon graduation she began pastoring a church in Beloit, Ohio.

When a young missionary visited her church, she “longed to go where Christ had never been preached.” She resigned her church and became involved with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which sent her to Venezuela in 1898 and to Puerto Rico in 1902. While there, overwork took its toll on her health and she returned to the United States for rest. During this time she heard of a great revival in Wales and began to pray, “Lord, send a revival and begin it in me.” While in Philadelphia she heard of another outbreak of revival at a small mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, only increasing her hunger. Seeking after God, she received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues at a camp meeting in Ohio, along with a re-commissioning from the Lord to return to South America. Upon receiving the news of her Pentecostal experience, the Christian and Missionary Alliance broke ties with her.

In 1910, with no commitment of support, Wood sailed for Argentina as the first Pentecostal missionary to that nation, trusting that God would provide. After a few years working on the field, some health problems returned but, knowing of the power of the Holy Spirit, she turned to God rather than doctors for healing. She later wrote, “Then I learned to take Christ as my life. Jesus healed me of cancer, nervousness, and many other ailments. Let His name be praised.”

When she joined the newly formed Assemblies of God, the 16-year veteran missionary’s experience lent credibility and stability to the organization. However, she never attended a district or general council meeting, nor did she travel to raise support and share her needs. From the time she arrived in Argentina in 1910 until her retirement in 1960 at age 90, she never took a furlough. When asked why she never returned to America to visit and itinerate, she responded that God had called her to Argentina and she understood the call to be for life.

When Wood was 88, a national worker became concerned about her overwork and made known to Field Secretary Melvin Hodges that a clothes washer would ease her load. Wood had been washing all the clothes at the mission on a washboard. Since she had been a missionary before the founding of the district councils, Wood had no home district that watched out for her needs, so her lack was sometimes overlooked. Wood, at age 89, became the proud recipient of a brand new 1958 washer paid for by the newly formed Etta Calhoun Fund of the Women’s Missionary Council. She wrote back expressing her gratitude: “You have greatly lightened the work … I have never seen anything like it. It is ornamental as well as useful.”

When Wood finally returned to the United States in 1960, a year before her death at age 91, her travel companion, Lillian Stokes, wrote, “As I saw her few little ragged belongings I thought, ‘the earthly treasures of a missionary,’ but the word of God says, ‘great is her reward in heaven.’”

This veteran single female missionary laid the foundation work for the revival that continues today in Argentina. In 1912, she wrote, “Ours is largely foundation work … but we believe our Father is preparing to do a mighty work and pour out the ‘latter rain’ upon the Argentine in copious showers before Jesus comes.” The sweeping Argentine revival of the 1980s and 1990s under evangelists Carlos Annacondia and Claudio Freidzon saw their beginning in Alice Wood, the fearless little missionary lady from Canada.

Read one of Alice Wood’s many reports from the field on page 12 of the May 29, 1920, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

“Fire From Heaven and Abundance of Rain,” by Alice Luce

“The Great Revival in Dayton, Ohio,” by Harry Long

“Questions and Answers,” by E.N. Bell

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Note: Quotations in this article come from Alice Wood’s missionary file at the AGWM archives.

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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Five Lessons from the Great Cuban Revival of 1950-1951

Cuba photo

Hands raised in prayer by those seeking salvation, Holguin, Cuba, February 1951

This Week in AG History — May 17, 1959

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 18 May 2017

The Pentecostal church in Cuba exploded in growth during a series of evangelistic and healing services throughout the island nation in 1950 and 1951. Several church leaders in Cuba, including Luis Ortiz, Dennis Valdez, Hugh Jeter, and Ezequiel Alvarez, hosted Pentecostal evangelist T. L. Osborn, and about 50,000 people made professions of faith in Christ. Jeter, an Assemblies of God missionary, wrote about this remarkable revival in the May 17, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Jeter wrote, “One of the greatest moves of God’s Spirit in our generation took place in the island of Cuba in 1950 and 1951. It was a common occurrence in many Cuban cities for crowds of 10,000 to 15,000 people to fill a baseball stadium or city park night after night to hear the gospel and to be prayed for.”

The revival effected immediate and lasting change. Jeter noted, “Thriving congregations suddenly came into existence in places where previously we had had no work at all. The entire stock of the Bible society was quickly sold out. The miraculous was continually in evidence and people were convinced that of a truth God was in our midst.”

What can we learn from the remarkable Cuban revival? Jeter identified five practical lessons:

1.  A revival can be judged by its results over time. While some people initially questioned whether the Cuban revival was genuine, over the years it became obvious that people who were converted had become faithful Christians. Small churches were strengthened, and new churches were planted. The Assemblies of God Bible school in Cuba, which had temporarily closed due to lack of students, was overwhelmed in the years following the revival with students who had a burning passion to share the gospel.

2.   True revival will be grounded in the Bible and will give glory to God and not to man. Jeter wrote, “Our principal evangelist, Brother Osborn, did not claim to have any special gift or revelation that would set him a class apart from the rest of us. He simply let us know what God had promised and inspired us to believe that God would keep His Word.”

3.  Effective “follow-up” is essential in order to integrate converts into churches. The best “follow-up,” according to Jeter, is not merely a systematic visitation of converts, but the continuation of the revival spirit in local churches. The same spiritual vibrancy that brought people to faith in Christ will also inspire people to be faithful in church.

4.  Church leaders must be willing and able to relocate their congregation if current buildings become inadequate. Pastors who showed flexibility regarding location could more easily retain converts simply because they could fit into the church.

5.  Technology can help to reach the unchurched and to communicate with the faithful. In the Cuban revival, radio was an important tool by which news of the revival spread quickly.

“Can this revival be duplicated elsewhere?” Responding to this question, Jeter suggested that “God is no respecter of people, or of nations.” He noted that revival came to Cuba following a long period of time during which believers developed their faith and prepared for a move of God. While recognizing that God is sovereign in bringing revival, he stated, “I know of no reason why it cannot happen anywhere else in the world.”

Read Hugh Jeter’s article, “Lessons from the Cuban Revival,” on pages 6, 7, and 22 of the May 17, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Standing Together,” by Frank J. Lindquist

* “Led by the Holy Ghost,” by W. E. McAlister

* “Do the Deaf Speak in Tongues?” by Twila Brown Edwards

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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50 Years Ago: Students at Filipino Bible College View America as a Foreign Mission Field, Commit to Pray

Filipino BBI

U.S.A. Prayer Band at Bethel Bible Institute, Manila, Philippines, 1966

This Week in AG History — May 14, 1967

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 11 May 2017

Missionary prayer bands (groups of believers who gather regularly to pray for missions) have long been an integral part of Assemblies of God churches and Bible schools. Countless church members in America have dedicated themselves to pray for specific missionaries or countries. However, it may surprise readers that some believers outside the United States have viewed America as a mission field, forming missionary prayer bands for the specific purpose of praying for America.

In an early example of this reverse-missionary work, students from Bethel Bible Institute (BBI), an AG school in Manila, the Philippines, decided to band together in the 1960s to pray for the United States.

BBI was founded in 1941, and the school had organized missionary prayer bands since its earliest days. But the establishment of a group dedicated to praying for the United States was something new. The new group attracted the attention of American Pentecostals and was featured in the May 14, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

In 1967, the group of Filipino students who had dedicated themselves to pray for America consisted of six people. Harold Kohl, the American missionary who served as BBI’s president, asked the students, “What is the main reason for forming the USA prayer band when some of the other fields seem to be more needy?”

While the students’ responses varied, two themes were predominant: a deep appreciation for the positive influence of American Christians on the world, and a deep concern for the future of Christianity in America.

Eliza Navalta responded, “I chose the USA band because I was saved by the help of missionaries from the United States. Also without the leadership of the USA in spreading the gospel, maybe the other Christians would fall from their faith.”

Pacencia de Ocampo added, “I have a burden for the USA because I know they need our prayers at this time. I believe God will answer prayer and somehow bring Christ to unsaved Americans. I also pray that God will pour out His blessings upon the Christians because they are faithful givers to missions.”

Kohl continued his interview, and several students expressed concern that the modern American way of life had a negative effect on Christians.

Elisa Tibung observed, “Americans seem to be so busy in their daily lives that they aren’t concerned about the gospel of Christ. Americans are so busy!”

Pacencia de Ocampo agreed, noting “They are busy for their material needs but not for their spiritual needs.”

Fifty years ago, these Filipino students identified harmful trends that, today, have become much more manifest in American culture. The answer to these problems, they believed, could be found in prayer. According to Pacencia de Ocampo, “there is no distance in prayer.” They prayed that the American church would experience revival, develop a continual sense of God’s presence, and train dedicated gospel workers.

Read the article by Harold Kohl, “Filipinos Pray for the USA,” on pages 22-23 of the May 14, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Revival Center to Open in Harlem,” by Paul R. Buchwalter

• “Receive Ye the Holy Spirit,” by Marie E. Brown

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Archived editions of the Pentecostal Evangel are provided by 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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Don and Sharon Kiser: 25 Years as Assemblies of God Missionaries to Florida’s Migrant Community

Kiser Don

Don Kiser, 1970

This Week in AG History — April 20, 1975

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 20 April 2017

When Don Kiser and his wife, Sharon, graduated from Southeastern University (Lakeland, Florida) in 1972, they felt God’s call to minister among the migrant workers of Eloise, Florida. They moved into the impoverished community and, without money or significant ministry experience, started knocking on doors. They initially ministered in relative obscurity, building relationships with people often considered to be outcasts in society.

Over the next 25 years, the Kisers developed a thriving ministry among the migrants of central and south Florida. A young newspaper reporter, Stephen Strang, heard about the young missionaries and shared their fascinating story in the April 20, 1975, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

In the 1970s and 1980s, many migrants in Florida lived in utter squalor. They lived in camps provided by the owners of the orange groves where they worked. Raw sewage ran in the streets between decaying shanties, liquor stores, and rusted-out mobile homes.

Eloise was considered a “permanent” migrant community, as some lived there all year instead of following the crops. But the social challenges remained — the lifestyles of many of the migrants made it difficult to integrate into the broader society. Most churches did not know how to minister to the migrants. They didn’t want dirty, smelly, barefoot children on their church carpet, and the deeply ingrained problems of the adults seemed an insurmountable obstacle to ministry.

It was in this environment that the Kisers, at the young age of 23, felt called to minister. In many ways, they were unlikely candidates for such an assignment. Don Kiser was raised in a well-to-do liberal Presbyterian home and as a teenager lost all interest in religion.

Everything changed after Don’s mother accepted Christ in a small Assemblies of God church. Don was 16 years old and wanted nothing to do with his mother’s newfound faith. But she told him about some pretty girls who attended the church, convincing him to visit. He ended up accepting Christ on his second visit to the church, and was later baptized in the Holy Spirit and felt God’s call into the ministry.

Don enrolled at Southeastern University, where he met and married Sharon. When they prayed about the nature of their future ministry, they felt God calling them to people who had no hope. Don, in particular, had no interest in serving in a comfortable pastorate; he felt called to make a difference in the lives of those who had the least.

While at Southeastern, the Kisers assisted an independent Pentecostal minister with his small outreach to the migrants in Eloise. The congregation met in an old remodeled cab stand. The Kisers saw a great need, and in that need they saw their future. After graduation, they moved to Eloise. The other minister soon moved on, leaving the ministry to the young couple.

The Kisers became well-known among migrants in the area. The young couple remodeled an old bus into a mobile chapel, which they drove throughout the migrant community in central Florida. They knocked on doors, befriended residents, prayed with people, and invited them to church. Don preached and Sharon played the organ.

The ministry was named Harvest Chapel. The name had dual appeal — referring to the “plentiful harvest” of souls in Luke 10:2, and also to the migrants’ labor.

Initially, Don had to work secular employment to supplement their meager ministry income. Other Assemblies of God congregations in the region began supporting the Kisers, allowing them to minister fulltime to migrants. Several years later they bought a building in Wahneta, located three miles south of Eloise, where they opened a second migrant church.

Stephen Strang, a young reporter, wrote a feature article about the Kisers’ remarkable ministry, which was published in the Nov. 10, 1974, issue of the Orlando Sun-Sentinel. The article brought considerable local attention to the migrant ministry, and donations of food and clothing poured in. The 24-year-old reporter, the son of Assemblies of God pastor and educator A. Edward Strang, later founded Charisma magazine. Stephen Strang re-wrote the Kiser article for publication in the April 20, 1975, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel (it was his first article in the magazine).

Ministry opportunities among the migrants seemed endless. Seeking to extend their outreach into the migrant camps in south Florida, in the early 1980s the Kisers purchased a utility van that they remodeled into a camper and mobile chapel. The front of the vehicle provided a home during their ministry trips, and the back of the vehicle opened up and became a ministry platform.

In addition to weekend services at the two churches, during the week the Kisers typically held three evening services using the portable chapel. Weekdays, they would minister to children who were too young to work.

Don and Sharon Kiser continued ministering to the migrants of central Florida for 25 years. They poured their lives into people who might otherwise be overlooked or rejected. Their ministry was often very difficult and challenging. But they stayed true to God’s original calling to give hope to those who had the least. The Kisers retired in the late 1990s due to Don’s poor health and later moved to Mineral Bluff, Georgia.

The landscape of Assemblies of God history is dotted with the testimonies of consecrated men and women such as Don and Sharon Kiser, who devoted their lives to sharing the gospel in word and deed. Like many other Assemblies of God pioneers, they took a path that included hardship and discomfort. They feared that too much comfort might cause them to forget their calling to those who were hurting the most. The example of the Kisers reminds us that the Christian’s testimony often shines brightest in humble circumstances when ministering to the lowliest.

Read “Migrant Town Minister” by Stephen Strang on pages 14-17 of the April 20, 1975, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “God’s Foot upon the Leash,” by Thelma M. Moe

• “The Joy of the Firstfruits,” by John F. Hall

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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