Joseph Conlee: From Methodist Pastor to Drunken Vagrant to Pentecostal Educator

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This Week in AG History — December 19, 1936

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 17 December 2015

Old Joe Conlee (1853-1929) was a dirty, ragged drunk. He spent every penny on liquor and begged on the street corners in Los Angeles for money to feed his addiction. Then, in 1897, a man from Conlee’s past recognized the emaciated beggar with the matted beard and invited him to his home. That encounter changed Conlee’s life.

Joseph Conlee didn’t start out on the streets. He was born into an evangelical Methodist family and was brought up in church and Sunday School on the prairies of Iowa. His parents encouraged him to enter the ministry, and he earned a bachelors degree from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree from a Methodist seminary. He married a lovely Christian woman, Hattie, and accepted a small parish in Iowa. Conlee was a brilliant thinker and orator and soon moved up in the ministerial ranks.

Despite the outward appearance of spiritual maturity and success, Conlee’s heart was far from where it should be. In seminary, his professors taught him that much within the Bible is mere superstition, encouraging him to read modern theologians who denigrated the authority of Scripture. He drifted away from the faith of his youth, even while pastoring a succession of growing Methodist churches in the Midwest and in California. He rejected what he called the “emotionalism” of his Methodist upbringing, instead opting to view things from a more “balanced” approach that would allow him to “see both sides of the question.” Instead of professing faith, he essentially became a neutral observer of faith.

Finally, when Conlee was pastor of the Methodist Church in Pomona, California, he told his wife that he could no longer stand his own hypocrisy. He had already denied that the virgin birth of Christ and the miracles in the Bible could have occurred. One Sunday, in the pulpit, he resigned his pastorate and told his congregation that he no longer believed the Bible.

The gifted writer transitioned easily to secular employment. He became the editor of the Santa Ana Herald and proceeded to establish his own newspapers, the East Los Angeles Exponent and the Covina Argus Independent. He sold these papers for a small fortune and became an editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Examiner.

However, Conlee soon lost his newfound wealth and employment due to his growing dependence upon alcohol. The celebrated pastor, publisher and journalist descended into inebriation, shuffling around in smelly rags. He became president of the Free Thinkers Association of California, an organization that promoted atheism. He gave lectures in which he would hold up his hand and challenge God to strike him dead. When nothing happened, he declared, “You see, friends, there is no God.”

But Conlee’s wife was a woman of prayer. She raised their five children without his love or support, and she prayed daily that her fallen husband would return to God. Then, in 1897 on a street corner in Los Angeles, Conlee encountered the man from his past who recognized him and invited him to his home. That man, a Christian doctor who had previously been a member of Conlee’s church, convinced Conlee that he needed a change in environment. Conlee agreed, and he ventured to Alaska, hoping to strike it rich in the Klondike Gold Rush.

In Alaska, Conlee discovered that life in the cabin “on the forty mile” — which described his location — was very lonely. He shared the small cabin with two other men — a Catholic and a spiritualist medium from San Francisco. Out of boredom, they began reading the small Bible that one of Conlee’s daughters had given to him. The medium became fascinated by the stories in the Bible, saying, “I had no idea there were things like that in the Bible.”

As they read the Bible more, their cursing and drunkenness became less frequent. Finally, after several months of Bible reading, the three men confessed to each other that they desperately wanted God to help them. They got on their knees and prayed loudly for hours, until they felt something happen on the inside of them. They then jumped up and started shouting, “Glory!”

Conlee returned to California in 1898, which was an answer to his wife’s prayers. He identified with the Pentecostal movement and ultimately became Dean of the Bible college operated by the Bible Standard Church (now New Hope Christian College in Eugene, Oregon). Conlee’s testimony was widely distributed in the form of a tract, The Lonely Cabin on the Forty Mile, which was published by Gospel Publishing House.

What does the life of Joseph Conlee teach Christians today? Theological liberalism, which undermines the authority of Scripture, led Conlee to reject Christ, which resulted in the loss of his family, fortune, and career. Theological liberalism naturally leads to spiritual death and the decline of families and culture. The same forces are at work in the world today, attempting to infiltrate evangelical and Pentecostal churches, just as they did in Methodist and other churches over 100 years ago. However, Scripture is God-breathed and continues to offer new life. Just as Conlee repented and regained his life, the Gospel continues to offer hope and new life to those who have faith, repent, and cast their burdens on Christ.

Conlee’s story was published in the December 19, 1936, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. Read the article, “Christmas and Valentine’s Day in a Lonely Cabin,” by Charles S. Price, on pages 2-3 and 5 of the December 19, 1936, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Tidings of Great Joy,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “How Far is Bethlehem,” by John Wright Follette

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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James L. Tyson Deposits Important African-American Oneness Pentecostal Collection at FPHC

James Tyson

Bishop James L. Tyson (left) with Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center Director Darrin Rodgers, showcasing his collection

The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW), organized in 1907 in Los Angeles in the midst of the Azusa Street revival, emerged to become the largest African-American Oneness Pentecostal denomination in the United States. The influence of the PAW stretched far, and its intentional interracial character continued long after the fires of the Azusa Street revival dimmed. Its most prominent presiding bishop, G. T. Haywood, was so esteemed by early Assemblies of God leaders that, when the Oneness movement became a point of contention in 1915, Haywood was asked to represent the Oneness position on the Assemblies of God’s General Council floor.

Despite the significance of the PAW, its history has been neglected by most standard histories of the Pentecostal movement. Over thirty years ago, James Laverne Tyson, the son of PAW Bishop James E. Tyson, felt the call to document and publish the history of his ancestral church. He interviewed the founding fathers and mothers of the PAW and collected rare publications and photographs. He authored eight books and numerous pamphlets, mostly about PAW history. His first book, Before I Sleep (1976), is a biography of Haywood, and his seminal work, The Early Pentecostal Revival (1992), is the benchmark history of the PAW from its inception to 1930.

Tyson recently retired from the pastorate and, in November 2015, he deposited his collection of PAW historical materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, which is the largest Pentecostal archives and research center in the world. Tyson noted, “Decades ago when I started my historical research, one of the first places I went was the Assemblies of God Archives.” The former director, Wayne Warner, provided Tyson with access to information about the earliest years of the Pentecostal movement. The Assemblies of God Archives was renamed the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center in 1999. Tyson continued, “Now, at the end of my career, it is fitting that my life’s work should reside at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center for future generations of scholars who can pick up where I left off.”

Researchers at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center are now able to view the James L. Tyson Collection, which includes approximately 550 periodical issues, 150 books, 540 original photographs, and 4 linear feet of his files and research notes. The bulk of the publications date from the early 1920s through the late 1970s and include numerous histories of significant congregations, souvenir journals from PAW events, funeral programs, and assorted minute books and directories. Importantly, the collection includes the original 1918/1919 and 1919/1920 PAW minute books. The photographs, many of which have never been published, mostly date from the 1910s through the 1960s and include large rolled prints of early conventions. The collection includes many publications from the PAW’s historic headquarters church, Christ Temple (Indianapolis, Indiana), which Tyson’s father pastored. While the collection includes chiefly PAW materials, it also includes rare items from groups that broke away from the PAW, including the Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ World Wide (founded by Smallwood E. Williams) and the Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith (founded by S. N. Hancock). Tyson previously owned additional artifacts and publications, which he had already given to several PAW bishops.

Christian Outlook

This original May 1931 issue of The Christian Outlook, the official periodical of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, is among the approximately 540 periodical issues in the James L. Tyson Collection.

The James L. Tyson Collection fills in a significant gap in the collections of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. In recent years, the FPHC has acquired several major African-American Pentecostal collections, including:

Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr. Collection (Patterson served as Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, 1968-1989)
Mother Lizzie Robinson/Rev. Elijah L. Hill Collection (Robinson was the founder of the Church of God in Christ Women’s Department)
• Robert James McGoings, Jr. Collection (McGoings was a prominent African-American Oneness Pentecostal from Baltimore, Maryland)
• Alexander Stewart Collection (Stewart was raised in the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God and is the historian for the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, which is the second largest African-American Oneness Pentecostal denomination)

__________________
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 archives and research center 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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Revivaltime: How Radio Helped Shape Assemblies of God Identity

Revivaltime

Revivaltime broadcast, circa 1958. Bartlet Peterson announcing for Revivaltime; C.M. Ward (seated at table on left); Cyril McLellan (directing Revivaltime choir); C.T. Beem (standing behind piano)

This Week in AG History — December 11, 1960

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 10 December 2015

Revivaltime, the Assemblies of God weekly broadcast heard on the ABC radio network from 1953 to 1995, was one of the Fellowship’s most successful national ministries. Its hosts, C. M. Ward (1953-1978) and Dan Betzer (1979-1995), became two of the best-known Assemblies of God personalities, known to millions of listeners “coast to coast and around the world,” as the program’s familiar introduction intoned.

Ward established the 30-minute program’s format. Each program began with the song, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” sung by the Revivaltime choir. The song became so ingrained into the program’s identity that some have called it the “unofficial anthem” of the Assemblies of God. The reading of a biblical text and a sermon came next, followed by an invitation to kneel at the “radio altar” while the choir sang Ira Stanphill’s “There’s Room at the Cross for You.”

The program saw almost immediate success. For decades, over 10,000 letters from listeners poured into the Revivaltime offices each month. By 1960, church officials estimated that Revivaltime’s U.S. radio audience was 12 million people — 12 times as large as the Sunday morning attendance at Assemblies of God churches in America. Add to that the numerous Revivaltime broadcasts in other countries, and the magnitude of the program’s influence quickly becomes obvious.

Ward and Betzer engaged audiences with sermons employing simple, direct language and powerful illustrations and human-interest stories. They also modeled the charismatic gifts on the air, sometimes exercising a “word of knowledge” — communicating messages under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to specific unknown listeners. Countless thousands of people wrote in and credited Revivaltime for playing a role in a relative’s salvation, a healing, or other divine interventions.

Revivaltime and other national ministries — such as Christ’s Ambassadors (the ministry to youth and young adults), Royal Rangers (the Scout-like boys ministry), and Missionettes (now National Girls Ministries) — helped to give the Assemblies of God a sense of national identity and branding. While the focus in the Assemblies of God remained on the local church, these national ministries provided generations of Assemblies of God members with a sense that they were a part of a larger community of believers.

The December 11, 1960, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel celebrated the seventh anniversary of Revivaltime, featuring C. M. Ward, D. V. Hurst (national secretary of Radio), and Bartlett Peterson (Revivaltime executive director) prominently on the cover. Together, these three men and hundreds of others labored to develop Revivaltime into a ministry that not only helped to evangelize and disciple believers, but also helped shape the identity of the Assemblies of God.

Read articles about Revivaltime’s seventh anniversary on pages 2 and 12 of the December 11, 1960, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Security of the Believer,” by Myer Pearlman

• “Predestination: What Does the Bible Teach about this Mysterious Subject?” by Ralph M. Riggs

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Listen to classic Revivaltime radio episodes by clicking here.

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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Maria Gerber: The Pentecostal “Angel of Mercy” During the Armenian Genocide in Turkey

Gerber

Maria A. Gerber (front row, third from left) with widows from Zion Orphan’s Home in Turkey

This Week in AG History — December 4, 1915

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 3 December 2015

An estimated 800,000 to 1,500,000 ethnic Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire (present day Turkey) were systematically rounded up and killed by Ottoman authorities between the years 1915 and 1918. The Armenian Genocide, as it came to be known, is the second-most studied case of genocide, following the Jewish Holocaust.

Newspapers around the world reported on the suffering endured by the mostly Christian Armenians. Right in the midst of the conflict was Maria A. Gerber (1858-1917), an early Pentecostal missionary who had established an orphanage in Turkey for Armenian victims.

Gerber was born in Switzerland, where she was raised with 11 siblings by Mennonite parents. As a child, she did not have an interest in spiritual things, because she saw her mother weep when she read her Bible. She thought that Scripture must be the cause of sadness.

Maria was a carefree child and loved to sing and dance. But, at age 12, she was stricken with multiple ailments, including rheumatic fever, heart trouble, tuberculosis, and dropsy. The doctor’s prognosis was not good — Maria only had a short time to live.

Fear gripped Maria’s heart. She had never committed her life to the Lord. She knew that if she died, she would not go to heaven. Maria cried out, “Jesus, I want you to save me from my sins.” Immediately, she felt peace deep inside her soul. She was ready to die.

But God had other plans for the young girl. Maria quickly recovered from her incurable illness, much to everyone’s surprise! Maria’s mother had been so confident that her daughter was on death’s doorstep that she had already given away all of her clothing. Her mother scrounged around and found clothes for Maria.

Maria shared her testimony of salvation and healing at school and in surrounding villages. She found her calling. She read Matthew 28:18 and sensed that verse was meant for her: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Jesus]. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

Maria’s faith deepened as she blossomed into a young woman. She received training as a nurse, but in her heart she wanted to become a missionary. In 1889 a remarkable revival featuring healing and speaking in tongues came to her town in Switzerland. In her 1917 autobiography, Passed Experiences, Present Conditions, Hope for the Future, Gerber recounted the rapturous praise and numerous miracles that occurred in that early Swiss revival.

The young nurse wanted training for missions work and, in 1891, she headed for Chicago, where she attended Moody Bible Institute. By the mid-1890s, she heard about massacres of Armenian Christians that were occurring in the Ottoman Empire. Maria and a friend, Rose Lambert, felt God calling them to minister to the Armenian widows and orphans.

Maria and Rose arrived in Turkey in 1898 and began working with the besieged Armenians. They began caring for orphans and purchased camel loads of cotton for widows to make garments for the orphans and for sale. Donors from America and Europe began supporting these two audacious women who had ventured into very dangerous territory to do the Lord’s work.

Maria, in particular, found support among wealthy German Mennonites who lived in Russia. In 1904, they funded the construction of a series of large buildings to house hundreds of orphans and widows. Zion Orphans’ Home, located near Cesarea, became a hub of relief work and ministry in central Turkey. When persecution of Armenians intensified in 1915, resulting in the extermination of most Christian Armenians from Turkey, Zion Orphans’ Home was ready to help those in distress.

Maria identified with the emerging Pentecostal movement as early as 1910. This should not be surprising, as she had experienced her own Pentecost 21 years earlier. The Assemblies of God supported her missions efforts, and numerous letters by Maria were published in the Pentecostal Evangel. Assemblies of God leader D. W. Kerr, in the foreword to Maria’s 1917 autobiography, wrote that he had known Maria for 26 years and that her story will encourage readers “to greater self denial and a deeper surrender.”

Maria suffered a stroke and passed away on December 6, 1917. Gerber’s obituary, published in the Pentecostal Evangel, stated that she was known as “the angel of mercy to the downtrodden Armenians.”

It would have been easy for Maria Gerber to ignore the persecution of Armenians. The massacres were on the other side of the world. She could have stayed safe in America or in Europe. But Maria followed God’s call and spent almost 20 years ministering to refugees who faced persecution and death. Few people today remember her name. But according to early Assemblies of God leaders, Maria Gerber personified what it meant to be Pentecostal.

Read one of Maria Gerber’s articles, “Great Results Seen in Answer to Prayer,” on page 4 of the December 4, 1915, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Divine Love: The Supreme Test,” by Arch P. Collins

• “What Think Ye of Christ?” by M. M. Pinson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Read Maria A. Gerber’s obituary in the January 5, 1918, edition of the Pentecostal Evangel (p. 13).

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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AG Missionary Katherine Voronaev Escaped USSR 65 Years Ago, Revealed Horrors of Persecution

Ekaterina Veronaev mugshot

Mugshot of Katherine Voronaev during her imprisonment in Soviet slave labor camps, circa 1930s

This Week in AG History — November 27, 1960

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 25 November 2015

Ivan and Katherine Voronaev, pioneer Assemblies of God missionaries to the Soviet Union, were exiled to Siberian prison camps in the 1930s and believed to be dead. But 65 years ago, Katherine was released and made her way to New York City. She shared her story in 1960 with Pentecostal Evangel readers, offering a rare glimpse into the life of persecuted Christians under Soviet rule.

The Voronaevs spent most of their adult lives as fugitives or in prison. Ivan and Katherine fled Russia, the land of their birth, in 1908 after Ivan was court-martialed and threatened with a politicized trial and likely death. His crime? Ivan, a young officer in the Tsar’s army, had recently converted to Christ and felt conviction that he should no longer fight as a professional warrior. He laid down his arms and told his superiors that, from then on, his only weapon “would be the Word of God — the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The Voronaevs ended up in America in 1912 by way of Turkmenistan and Manchuria.

In the U.S., Ivan became a Baptist pastor and evangelist and ministered among Slavic immigrants in San Francisco and Seattle. In 1917, Voronaev moved to New York City to accept the pastorate of a small Russian Baptist congregation. Two years later, Voronaev’s daughter, Vera, was Spirit-baptized and spoke in tongues while attending Glad Tidings Tabernacle, an Assemblies of God church, with a friend. Voronaev began to study Scripture and became convinced that supernatural spiritual gifts did not cease, but continued to be available to Christians. Spiritually hungry, Voronaev prayed for and received a similar experience. In the summer of 1919, Voronaev and about 20 others formed a new Pentecostal congregation — the Russian Christian Apostolic Mission in New York.

Several months later at a home prayer meeting, Voronaev received a prophetic message, “Voronaev, Voronaev, go to Russia!” He ignored the message at first, but after he sensed the same message in his personal devotions, he made preparations to return to his homeland. This would not be an easy task. The Tsar recently had been overthrown, and political, religious, and social turmoil had produced much suffering in Russia. Voronaev joined the Assemblies of God and received official appointment as a missionary. With several Slavic families from his congregation, they made the arduous journey back to Eastern Europe.

Voronaev and his team of missionaries left the United States in 1920 and set up their headquarters in Odessa, Ukraine. They fanned out across the Soviet Union, preached the gospel, and established Pentecostal churches. In 1926, Voronaev organized the General-Ukrainian Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith, which provided fellowship for the growing number of churches. By 1928, the Union consisted of about 400 congregations with approximately 20,000 members.

U.S. Assemblies of God churches provided financial and prayer support, including money for bicycles for Slavic ministers. Voronaev regularly wrote English-language reports of the Slavic revival, which American supporters read in the Pentecostal Evangel.

The Voronaevs and their ministerial cohorts enjoyed about 10 years of freedom to evangelize across the Soviet Union. Then, in January 1930, authorities arrested all of the officers and many other leaders of the Union, including Voronaev.

Katherine Voronaev, in the 1960 Pentecostal Evangel article, recalled in painful detail how “the communists herded the 800 pastors and Christian leaders into freight cars as though they were cattle and shipped them to Siberia.” She continued: “The horrors of that journey were indescribable. They had no food nor water, no sanitation, no provision for rest, and poor ventilation. The survivors were then forced into slave labor.”

The Soviet authorities thought that the churches would die if their leaders were taken away. But new leaders emerged. Katherine Voronaev was among those who began ministering secretly, but three years later police came and arrested her and sent her to a slave labor camp located 2,000 miles away from her husband.

Katherine later made an appeal to be placed in the same slave labor camp as Ivan. The request was granted, and for three years they were able to live together in prison. They spent long days doing hard labor — Ivan in a forest and quarry, and Katherine doing cooking and scrubbing. But they could be together at night when, under the cloak of darkness, they would take long walks through the snow in a forest. They prayed and praised God during those times, and “heaven seemed very near.” Life was hard, but Katherine recounted that they were not unhappy. They had each other.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Assemblies of God made great efforts to secure the release of the Voronaevs. The Soviet government told the Americans that they would free Voronaev upon payment of a large sum of money. U.S. Assemblies of God members raised the money, which they gave to the Soviet government. Voronaev was temporarily freed in 1936, but almost immediately he was rearrested and was never heard from again.

Katherine was released from prison in 1935 and had a measure of freedom. For years she went from camp to camp, trying without success to locate her husband. She was imprisoned a final time in 1949, after she tried to write to her children who lived in America. She was charged with being a counterrevolutionary and a spy.

The Pentecostal Evangel article recounted Katherine’s time in solitary confinement: “Her captors tried to hypnotize and brainwash her, but without success. She would close her eyes and silently pray. Her rat-infested cell had a concrete floor upon which she was forced to sleep without any bedding and she was clad only in a few worn-out garments. She was watched by the soldiers constantly through a peep hole.”

Soldiers waited for Katherine to have an emotional breakdown, but she instead felt the presence of God and kept remembering God’s promise: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Despite a year of brutal torture, the article recounted, “her spirit remained free and she kept a song in her heart.”

The 1953 death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin resulted in greater religious freedom, and Katherine was released from prison. But there was still great fear of reprisal, and she had to be very cautious. A son living in California discovered that Katherine was still alive and, through the intervention of the Eisenhower administration, Katherine was allowed to leave the Soviet Union in 1960 and come to the U.S. Upon her death in 1965, she still didn’t know whether her husband was alive or dead. After the fall of Soviet Union, documents were discovered that Ivan Voronaev had died in a slave labor camp in 1937.

The Voronaevs’ story wasn’t unique. Persecution separated consecrated believers from nominal Christians. Gustav H. Schmidt, Assemblies of God missionary to Slavic lands, wrote in 1934: “Anyone who is zealous for Jesus in Russia is marked for arrest and this makes Christian activity hazardous. Therefore we find no halfhearted Christians in Russia…Such who are not fully consecrated will not be able to stand the strain for any length of time but will step over into the enemy’s camp.”

Communist persecution not only failed to destroy Christianity; it helped to create a strong and vibrant Pentecostal movement in the former Soviet Union. In 2014, there were over 1,135,000 Pentecostals in the former Soviet Union in churches that are in a fraternal relationship with Assemblies of God World Missions.

Beginning in the late 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev began to allow persecuted religious minorities to emigrate, many put down roots in the U.S. An estimated 300,000 Slavic Pentecostals from this recent wave of immigration now live in the United States. While most are in congregations that are either independent or loosely affiliated with one of several Slavic Pentecostal unions, many are deciding to join the Assemblies of God.

In 2002, several Slavic Pentecostal churches in California joined the Assemblies of God and formed the Slavic Fellowship, which provided both a structure for Slavs to organize themselves within the Assemblies of God and also representation on the Fellowship’s General Presbytery. In September 2008, leaders of the Slavic Fellowship, in addition to other Slavic Pentecostals interested in affiliating with the Assemblies of God, came together in Renton, Washington, and organized the National Slavic District.

The legacy of Ivan and Katherine Voronaev lives on in their spiritual descendants who now live in America. With deep faith burnished by decades of persecution, Slavic-American Pentecostals are poised to provide leadership in the broader church. And their leadership could not have come at a better time, as they have already proven their mettle in a culture that is hostile to biblical values.

Read the article by Ruth Demetrus, “Back from Siberia,” in the Nov. 27, 1960, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions are 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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How J. W. Tucker’s Blood Became a Seed of the Assemblies of God in Congo

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This Week in AG History — November 21, 1965

By Glenn Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 19 November 2015

Thanksgiving 1964 was a day of mourning for Angeline Tucker. The previous day, she learned that her husband, J. W. (Jay) Tucker, had been killed by Congolese rebels. The Tuckers had served as Assemblies of God missionaries to Congo since 1939. After a furlough in America, they returned to Congo in August 1964. Less than two weeks later, J. W., Angeline, and their children were captured and placed under house arrest by rebel forces. The drama that unfolded over the next three months captured the attention of Assemblies of God members worldwide.

The tragedy came in the midst of a civil war which broke out in 1960, following the power vacuum that developed after Belgium granted independence to Belgian Congo. One group of rebels, the “Simbas,” eventually took control of the town of Paulis, where the Tucker family ministered. The rebels took Jay into custody and held him, along with other hostages, in a Catholic mission.

Fearing an attack by American and Belgian paratroopers, the insurgents hardened their attitudes toward the prisoners, and several were murdered. After days had passed with no word of her husband, Angeline was able to telephone the mission to inquire about his welfare. “How is my husband?” In guarded words, the Mother Superior hesitated, and then answered in French: “He is in heaven.”Those words became the title of a popular book written in 1965 by his widow. He Is In Heaven shared J. W. Tucker’s story and helped him to become the best-known martyr in Assemblies of God history.

Reflecting back on her husband’s martyrdom, Angeline wrote an article, “Congo: One Year After,” which was published in the November 21, 1965, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. She described, in painful detail, the events that changed her life forever:

“It was Thanksgiving morning, 1964. The sun was shining beautifully in Paulis, Congo, when I awakened. I looked at the clock; it was 6:10. I lay there a moment wondering what the day might bring forth. I had slept well in spite of the tenseness of the situation…. The previous morning when I had called the Catholic mission to inquire about my husband’s welfare, I had been totally unprepared for the reply of the Mother Superior, ‘He is in heaven.'”

Angeline Tucker was devastated. She knew that she, her three children, her coworkers Gail Winters and Lillian Hogan, and all foreigners were in grave danger. Not knowing what was ahead, she prayed for protection, and God answered. Later that day, a combined Belgian and American rescue operation brought the Tuckers and their coworkers to safety in the town of Leopoldville.

One year later, as she was looking back on the Congo situation, Angeline reported that the national army had regained control of Paulis and other towns in the Congo and that “the political situation seems to be fairly stable.” It was safe for missionaries to return.

One might expect that Angeline, overwhelmed from the loss of her husband, would want nothing to do with Congo. But she worked tirelessly to ensure that her loss would be Congo’s gain. She declared, “If Jesus tarries, there should be a wonderful harvest of souls in all of northeast Congo: for we truly believe that the ‘blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.'”

The Tuckers’ efforts, before and after J. W.’s martyrdom, paid off. The Mangbetu tribe had been resistant to the gospel when Jay Tucker ministered in the Congo. However, his death became the catalyst for many of them to accept the gospel. Missionary Derrill Sturgeon later reported that one of Tucker’s converts eventually became the police chief of Nganga, which was the homeland of the Mangbetus.

The police chief told the people about Tucker’s murder and that his body was thrown into “their river.” The Mangbetu culture considered the land and rivers where they lived to be theirs personally. Since Tucker’s blood had flowed through their waters, they believed they must listen to the message that he carried.

As a result of J. W. Tucker’s martyrdom, a great revival swept through the region. Thousands decided to follow Christ, and hundreds experienced divine healing. It was even reported some were raised from the dead. The Assemblies of God reported 4,710 adult members and other believers in 1964 in Congo. Fifty years later, in 2014, this tally had risen to 570,859 adherents. At least part of this incredible growth was due to the sacrifice of J. W. Tucker, who gave his life for the people of the Congo.

Read the entire article, “Congo: One Year After,” on pages 12-13 of the November 21, 1965, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:
• “Songs in the Night,” by Emil A. Balliet
• “A Beachhead in Hong Kong,” by A. Walker Hall
• “Are We Loyal Americans?” by Gail P. Winters
• “Moments of Inspiration for Thanksgiving”

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Photo: Missionary J. W. Tucker standing at the airport gate in Little Rock, Arkansas, preparing to leave on his final trip to Belgian Congo, 1964.

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

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Pentecost Came to Madagascar in a Revival of Signs and Wonders

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

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

This Week in AG History — November 15, 1930

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 12 November 2015

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-five 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 2014, the Assemblies of God reported 102,000 adherents in the island nation.

Read the entire article, “How Pentecost Came to Madagascar: A True Story of a Great Revival,” in the November 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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Filed under History, Missions