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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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Morris O. Williams: Assemblies of God Educator and Missionary to Africa

Morris WilliamsThis Week in AG History — November 22, 1964

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

Morris Oliver Williams (1920-1991) is remembered for his faithful years of service as an Assemblies of God missionary in southern Africa. He was a missionary in Nyasaland (now Malawi) from 1946 to 1963 and in South Africa from 1963 to 1970. He also served as field secretary for Africa from 1971 to 1985. After leaving that office, he joined the faculty of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri, as associate professor of missions until his death.

Morris Williams was born in Kansas and raised in North Dakota. His father, Bruce Williams, was a Church of the Brethren minister who identified with the Pentecostal movement in the late 1920s and who later served as a teacher at Lakewood Park Bible School (now Trinity Bible College). Morris Williams was one of seven children, all of whom became active in Assemblies of God ministry. His siblings included Dr. Ward Williams (longtime professor at Southeastern University), Maxine Williams (faculty member at Northwest University), Harriet Schoonmaker-Bryant (missionary to India), Kay Trygg (wife of Rev. Elmer Trygg), Marian Brandt (wife of Rev. Robert L. Brandt), and Dorris Kingsriter (wife of Rev. Harland Kingsriter).

Morris Williams was saved at the age of eleven under the ministry of a missionary from Africa. After completing high school, he attended North Central Bible Institute (now North Central University) in Minneapolis. It was there that he met Alice Mae “Macey” Lundquist, who later became his wife. After their marriage, the Williamses pastored in northern Iowa for two and one-half years before he accepted the position of president of Christ’s Ambassadors (the Assemblies of God young people’s organization) for the West Central District. While serving as C.A. president, the Williamses offered themselves for missionary service, accepted a position in Nyasaland, and set sail in January 1946.

Morris Williams and his wife felt impressed to answer the call given in Mark 16:15: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” This most certainly included the people of Nyasaland.

It did not take long for the Williamses to begin to love these people in Africa like their own family. They soon discovered that people in Nyasaland were hungry for knowledge, education, better pay, a better lifestyle, and political freedom. But many did not see a need for Christ. They looked to the missionaries in a sense of hope to receive the things they longed for, not realizing that there were spiritual needs as well. The Williamses worked tirelessly to befriend Africans and to share the love of Christ. They started a mission station and established a Bible school in Dedza. Morris Williams also helped establish five other Bible schools in southern Africa. Williams was a prolific writer. He authored over 50 articles in the Pentecostal Evangel, as well as seven books, several of which were translated into the Swahili and French languages.

Missionaries can have very busy schedules. This was evident to Morris Williams’ three children. One December they asked him, “Are you going to be home for Christmas this year, Dad?” The plan was to have a nice family gathering on Christmas Eve and then celebrate Christmas Day with African friends. The Williamses put up a nice Christmas tree and hung three stockings on the mantelpiece. Mrs. Williams baked cookies, and there were many packages under the tree which had been mailed from friends in the United States. The children were eagerly waiting for after supper to open their gifts.

Eight o’clock arrived, and the children were clothed in their pajamas and ready to relish every happy moment of the evening. Morris Williams read the Christmas story, and the family started singing a Christmas carol. Then there came a knock on the door. A man named Chimetele was at the door and told them that his car was broken down, and his family was stranded. He wanted to know if the missionary would take him and his wife and children to their town 20 miles away.

After some quick calculating, Morris Williams determined that the road to Mphati was very rugged. The trip would take at least two hours to drive there and back. With compassion in his heart for the man’s family huddled in the darkness along the lonely African road, Morris Williams left his wife and children and unopened presents behind. Although this was a sacrifice, this gave him the opportunity “to let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

It was after 11:00 o’clock when Morris Williams returned home. Although their family Christmas celebration had been interrupted, Mrs. Williams said, “I’m glad you helped Chimetele. We never know when an act of kindness will be used to bring people to Christ—and that, after all, is what we’re here for.” This was a gratifying thought on Christmas Eve. It also is a beautiful Christmas illustration of how Morris Williams and other Assemblies of God missionaries and their families consecrated their lives to glorify God by serving people in lands far away from their own homes.

 Read “Christmas on the Mphati Road” on pages 12 and 13 of the December 20, 1964 issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

  • “An Unforgettable Christmas,” by William Nelson Sachs
  • “God’s Christmas List,” by Ann Ahlf
  • “The Place of Education in the Pentecostal Ministry,” by G. Raymond Carlson

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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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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Women’s Missionary Council (now Assemblies of God Women’s Ministries) was founded by Etta Calhoun in 1925

WMC

Edith Whipple (left) and Mildred Smuland holding a quilt and a doll for missions.

This Week in AG History — March 29, 1959

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

Sixty years ago the National Women’s Ministries of the Assemblies of God was known as the Women’s Missionary Council (WMC). The WMC was founded by Mrs. Etta Calhoun of Houston, Texas, who felt that Spirit-baptized women, properly organized, could accomplish much more for the kingdom of God than by separate individual efforts.

With permission of the district presbyter of the Houston section, Calhoun organized the first Women’s Missionary Council at Morwood Mission in February 1925. The original group of women met for intercessory prayer for missionaries, and this evolved into also finding practical ways to provide support for missions. From that small beginning, other churches in Texas quickly adopted this idea, and Calhoun became the first district WMC president.

WMC groups soon developed in other states. Eighteen districts had organized programs by 1947. At the 1951 General Council, a resolution authorized the establishment of a national office to coordinate the various district activities of the WMC. By 1955 every district in the Fellowship had organized a WMC program. Edith Whipple was chosen as the first national WMC secretary.

In the March 29, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Mildred Smuland, national WMC representative, featured WMC activities in the Oklahoma district in an article called, “Achievements Through Sharing.” She outlined that in Oklahoma the district WMC president would be given part of an afternoon service at each of the sectional councils to promote WMC and its activities. Mrs. R. E. Goggin, the Oklahoma district WMC president shared, “Another feature of our sectional councils last year was the banquets we had for the ladies.” She said the banquets not only provided a nice time of fellowship, but they gave opportunity to share matters which they did not have time to share in the afternoon service at the various councils. “Last year the emphasis at the banquets was the ‘adoption’ of our missionaries and their children,” reported Goggin. One of the main projects of the Oklahoma WMC was to fill large steel drums with groceries and linens and quilts to send to the missionaries. Each section was encouraged to bring enough supplies to fill one drum. The response was so tremendous that Goggin wrote, “We have already given away 14 drums filled with linens and groceries and have almost that many more on hand.”

In the same issue of the Evangel, Edith Whipple, national WMC Secretary, wrote a “Current Comments” column which reported on the new WMC theme for 1959: “For Such a Time Thou Art Come.” Whipple said, “While we emphasize the urgency of the present time — and rightly so — I feel that we should give special consideration to the second phrase of our theme, ‘THOU art come.’” She felt like the Lord was looking for women to carry a burden for intercession on behalf of the missionaries and for the local churches. There was also a need for godly mothers to set an example for their children. She emphasized that “The Women’s Missionary Council is made up of women of good works … YOU may be called to sacrifice something for the work of God.”

The WMC became the forerunner of today’s national Women’s Ministries. And ministry to women has continued to grow across the United States and in other countries. Today National Women’s Ministries exists to challenge and equip women to passionately pursue God and to influence the world.

Read about the WMC on pages 20-21of the March 29, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Pastor’s Look at the Mission Field,” by J. Boyd Wolverton

• “Taking the Good News to the Deaf,” by Kenneth Swenson

• “Still Growing! BGMC,” by Bobbi Crabtree

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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In 1964, Thomas F. Zimmerman Encouraged the Assemblies of God to Focus on Four Themes

zimmerman1This Week in AG History — January 5, 1964

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 3 January 2019

Fifty-five years ago, General Superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman shared an encouraging word to the readers of the Pentecostal Evangel in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Assemblies of God. His article, “Our Fiftieth Year,” told of the significance of the Pentecostal revival which took place at the turn of the 20th century as well as the influence of the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, which greatly impacted the world.

In the article, Zimmerman made reference to the approximately 300 persons who met in Hot Springs, Arkansas, to organize the AG. He said, “The founding fathers of our Movement laid a foundation strong and sure.” He acknowledged that the AG has an illustrious history, but he tempered this by saying, “We must not glory too much in the past lest we forget our situation today and the work that is yet to be done.”

Zimmerman emphasized, “One of the factors in the growth of our Movement during its early years was the sense of urgency to evangelize the world. This same burden is needed for continued growth.” Although programs and procedures are helpful, he said, “The greatest need today is for men and women who will dedicate themselves to labor faithfully.” “Nothing short of a full mobilization under God, and an overflowing power of Holy Ghost power, will suffice,” declared Zimmerman.

Zimmerman listed four areas to focus on in the new year: 1) Pray for a renewed Pentecost in our personal lives; 2) Recognize the urgency of saving the lost; 3) Equip ourselves to win the lost through prayer, reading the Scriptures, and training; and 4) Be diligent to do the work of the Kingdom. These same principles apply today as we reflect on the now 105-year anniversary of the Assemblies of God.

Read “Our Fiftieth Year” on pages 3-4 of the Jan. 5, 1964, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “I Remember,” by Ernest S. Williams.

• “Miracle at Caracas,” by Mrs. Elmer C. Niles.

• “A Call to Prayer.”

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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Alaskan Children’s Homes: The Assemblies of God and Social Concern

Juneau Children's Home

Gus and Evelyn Peterson, directors of the Juneau Children’s Home, with a group of children, August 1967

This Week in AG History —November 26, 1967

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 29 November 2018

During the 1950s and 1960s, a number of children’s homes were operating in Alaska, with many of these directed by Assemblies of God home missionaries or local churches. One of these was the Juneau Children’s Home, which was started by missionaries Lyle and Helen Johnson in their home in 1934. One of the first children they took in was Lillian Lehtosarri, who later married Alvin Capener and became a missionary to Alaska.

In about 1937 or 1938, the Johnsons bought a house on Glacier Avenue in Juneau. This was the start of what became known as Johnson’s Children Home and later was called the Juneau Children’s Home. Undaunted by a destructive fire in 1952, the Johnsons repaired the home. In 1953 they added a dormitory and later added other improvements.

After Helen Johnson passed away in 1967, Gus and Evelyn Peterson took over as administrators of the Juneau Children’s Home. The Nov. 26, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel reported on what Christmas was like at the children’s home. Evelyn Peterson remembered Christmas from the previous year. She wrote, “As I stood looking at the tree with the gifts surrounding it, I couldn’t control the stream of tears; for I realized this would be the first Christmas filled with cheer, happiness, and meaning for many of our children.”

Peterson reported that the parents of one of the children at the home, Susan, were alcoholics. “Christmas to her held little meaning,” she said, “except for dark memories of chaotic scenes and extreme violence, after which her parents would slump into a state of unconsciousness.” Once Christmas arrived, Susan was awestruck and excited by the lovely tree and the many gifts for the children. She was especially overjoyed that one of the gifts, a large baby doll, was for her.

Christmas to the children at the home was a new experience. One by one the children each took a peek at the oven. “What are those big things?” some questioned. Turkey had never been on their dinner menu before. “Carving the turkeys with 35 pairs of eyes watching was quite an undertaking,” Peterson recalled, “but we finally accomplished the task amid the ohs and ahs of all our little helpers.”

Once dinner was ready, “each member of our large family sat quietly in his or her place with bowed head,” Peterson said, “all lifting their hearts together as we prayed.”

Similar scenes could be shared regarding other children’s homes in Alaska and Hillcrest Children’s Home of the AG in Hot Springs, Arkansas (established in 1944). Several other administrators followed the Petersons, and the name was changed to Alaskan Youth Village. In 1977, Alaskan Youth Village was relocated to another part of Juneau and eventually included three homes on 10 acres of land. It closed in 1991, after 57 years of continual operation.

Currently AG U.S. Missionaries Brian and Linda Staub operate Haven House Foster Care in Big Lake Alaska, near Wasilla. The Assemblies of God also operates COMPACT Family Services in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which includes Hillcrest Children’s Home and Highlands Maternity Home.

Read “Christmas in Juneau,” by Evelyn V. Peterson on pages 7-8 of the Nov. 26, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Only Believe!” by C. M. Ward

• “Pardon and Healing,” by Andrew Murray

• “The Lord’s Healing Touch,” by Louis H. Hauff

• “Questions on the Holy Spirit,” 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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C. H. Austin: From the Saloons to Assemblies of God Railroad Evangelist

chaustinThis Week in AG History —November 16, 1929

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 15 November 2018

Clement Henderson Austin (1889-1973) knew railroads almost as well as he knew the gospel. He spent decades working as a train engineer, but he became mired in a lifestyle of drunkenness, gambling, violence, and addictions to alcohol and tobacco.

After a dramatic conversion, Austin became an Assemblies of God evangelist. He spent the rest of his life sharing the gospel and his testimony. Austin’s story was published in a tract, which was republished in the Nov. 16, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Austin’s testimony began when he was 8 years old. His life began to unravel when his mother died. For years he carried this sorrow deep inside his soul, crying himself to sleep at night. He wondered why he could not have a mother, like other boys.

As a young teenager, Austin ventured onto the streets of Fort Worth, Texas, where he quickly adapted to the ways of the world. He started firing train engines at age 16, soon becoming a train engineer. A large young man, he learned how to fend for himself.

Saloons became a second home to young Austin. He started drinking and smoking, then gambling and stealing. He prided himself on his coarse speech, later calling himself “one of the ringleaders in oaths and smutty jokes.”

Austin recalled that he was “young and tender” when he started living on the streets. But as the years progressed, he noted, “my heart became more cold and hard.” He could feel “the enemy’s fangs” as they “sank into my soul and body.”

The coarse engineer married a young woman and they had a son. Austin tried to cover up his drunken and thieving ways by lying to his wife. But he knew that his life was spinning out of control, and he felt incredible guilt over the injustice he was committing against his family. He did not want his son to follow in his footsteps.

Austin had not been to church in 12 years. While Austin had tried to ignore God, he realized he needed to turn his life around, and he knew he could not do it alone. One night, while looking into the stars, he said aloud, “O God, help me to quit gambling.” Starting at that moment, Austin’s faith — birthed out of desperation — took root.

God seemed to chase after Austin. Two weeks before his conversion, Austin was running through a dark tunnel and heard a voice say, “Throw away your tobacco.” He did, and he never tasted it again.

In the meantime, Austin’s wife began attending revival services at a Pentecostal church in San Diego, California. At first, she did not tell Austin, afraid that he might mock her. But she could not keep quiet, and she told him about the miracles she witnessed. Cripples were leaving their crutches, and deaf people could hear again. He agreed to go hear the evangelist.

The revival services were being held in a small hall, which was packed with people. Austin recalled that “people sang as if they meant it,” and he could tell they had something that he was missing. A young sailor sat next to Austin, and when the evangelist called people to the altar, he tried to pull Austin forward for prayer. Austin knew that he needed to go forward, but he did not want to publicly admit that he needed God.

An intense battle ensued between Austin’s ears. He recalled hearing a voice tell him that he was “too big a sinner” to be on his knees in church. This voice, who Austin recognized as the devil, taunted him, telling him that his drinking buddies would laugh at him. But Austin looked past his suffering, had faith in God, and cried out, “O Lord, have mercy on me.”

After an emotional spiritual battle, Austin found himself lying on the floor. He felt spiritual oppression flee, and he felt a sweet peace sweep through his soul. Austin set his heart on Christ and never looked back.

Austin told his family, friends, and coworkers about his conversion. He returned money he had stolen and asked for forgiveness from those he had offended. “There is now no more drinking, no more gambling, no more taking the name of our Lord in vain, no more tobacco,” he wrote. Instead, “old things have passed away and all things have become new.”

Austin studied for the ministry at Berean Bible Institute, an Assemblies of God school in San Diego. He graduated in 1925 and was ordained as an Assemblies of God evangelist in 1926. He continued working as an engineer on the Rock Island, Southern Pacific, and San Diego and Arizona railroads, but he viewed his secular employment as a vehicle for his higher calling — to preach the gospel across the American Southwest. During the next half century, this large, gentle, earnest railroad engineer, armed with his testimony and a Bible, touched countless lives.

Read Clement H. Austin’s testimony, “Saved and Called to Preach,” on pages 12-13 of the Nov. 16, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Ten Reasons Why I Believe in Divine Healing,” by Thomas G. Atteberry

• “The Extra Portion,” by Mrs. Robert (Marie) Brown

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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