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

MorrisPlotts_1400

Morris Plotts, 1980s

This Week in AG History — September 6, 1964

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also featured in this issue:

• “Try the Spirits,” by Joe Newby

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

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

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Emile Chastagner: The Atheist Who Became an Assemblies of God Missionary

Emile and Minnie Chastagner

Emile Chastagner family circa 1937. (L-r): David, Emile, Minnie, Paul (in Minnie’s lap), and John

This Week in AG History — August 27, 1932

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 29 August 2019

Emile Chastagner (1882-1956) was a convinced atheist at age 21, but he became an Assemblies of God missionary to French West Africa (now Burkina Faso) at age 45. The road between these events was marked by hardship, which brought him to faith in Christ.

Chastagner shared his testimony in the Aug. 27, 1932, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. He was born in New York City, the son of French immigrants. His parents came from a Catholic background but did not take their faith seriously. He followed his parents’ example and stayed away from church. By the age of 21, he became an atheist, unable to reconcile the existence of both suffering and God. He was quick to argue and “tear [the Bible] to pieces, appealing to ‘reason’ and ‘common sense.'” He later admitted that he was merely repeating the claims of others and that he had never himself investigated the claims of the Bible.

After only two and a half years of marriage, Chastagner’s wife was diagnosed with a terminal illness. She became bedridden and experienced intense pain. Both Chastagner and his wife were devastated by this unexpected turn of events. However, the suffering led them to faith in Christ. Books by two Christian authors, Edward P. Roe (a Presbyterian pastor and novelist) and Carrie Judd Montgomery (a Pentecostal healing evangelist), caused Chastagner and his wife to reconsider their atheism.

Chastagner recounted his slow conversion. In Roe’s writings, he found a love for people that he had never encountered before. Roe’s love, he discerned, arose from his faith, which was grounded in the Bible. Chastagner then read Montgomery’s The Prayer of Faith, which was the autobiography of a woman who was healed of an ailment similar to the one that afflicted his wife. He carefully studied the Bible and examined how the teachings of various churches lined up with Scripture. They made the decision to follow Christ and joined a small Pentecostal church. They jumped in with both feet and began helping in Sunday School and visiting the sick. Chastagner’s wife lived for another seven years and, even though she herself was sick, had an active ministry of praying for others who were sick.

Five weeks after his wife’s death, Chastagner received a call to serve as a missionary. This call came while a visiting missionary was speaking at the church. Chastagner recalled that the visiting missionary and the entire congregation confirmed this call, even though he was uncertain how it could come to pass. He decided to accept the call and, in faith, enrolled at Southern California Bible College (now Vanguard University) to study to become a missionary.

Chastagner, already fluent in French, felt a call to the Mossi people in French West Africa. While in college, he met a young lady, Minnie Moore, who also felt a call to be a missionary. They married and set sail for Africa, where they served as Assemblies of God missionaries for 16 years.

Few who knew Chastagner as a youth would have guessed that he would become a faithful Christian, much less a missionary to Africa. But God not only transforms hearts, He also changes the trajectory of lives. Was it worth it? Chastagner testified, “God has met us and supplied every need and given joy to outweigh every trial and test.”

Read the article by Emile Chastagner, “An Atheist Who Became a Missionary,” on pages 1 and 10-11 of the Aug. 27, 1932, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “How to Cure Fanaticism” by Donald Gee

• “How God Helped the Shoemaker,” by Mrs. M. E. Thorkildson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: iFPHC.org

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John and Cuba Hall: Assemblies of God Missionaries and Linguists in Upper Volta

John Cuba Hall_1400

John and Cuba Hall with their four children; circa 1956. (L-r): James, Cuba, Betty Ann, Evelyn, John, and David Hall.

This Week in AG History — August 2, 1936

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 22 August 2019

John F. Hall (1906 – 1984), Assemblies of God missionary, Bible translator, and teacher, was born in New Jersey on April 15, 1906, the same day William Seymour opened his mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. The Pentecostal revival sparked in that mission would introduce Hall to a power that would carry him through more than 50 years of ministry in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Togo.

At the age of 13, Hall responded to his Baptist pastor’s appeal to accept Christ at the close of a Sunday School lesson. The next year, Emil Sywulka of the African Inland Mission came to speak at their church. The young teen responded to a call from God to African missions. After graduating high school, he attended Wheaton College, where he associated with the children of missionaries. From them he learned the side of missionary life which he had not heard from church platforms. He became more aware of the hardships that accompany missions work but was even more determined to face difficulties to fulfill the call on his life.

At Wheaton, Hall majored in French and took extra courses in medicine. He graduated and set sail for Paris to study practical French before proceeding to Africa. In June 1931, he arrived in Minna, Nigeria, as a missionary with the Sudan Interior Mission.

While stationed in Niger Colony, French West Africa, he met Assemblies of God missionaries at Ouagadougou and Tenkodogo, Upper Volta. From this friendship, Hall became convinced that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a scriptural experience. He developed a desire to experience the fullness of the power of God. He also enjoyed the company of one of the Pentecostal missionaries, Miss Cuba Hill. Hill, a graduate of Southern California Bible College (now Vanguard University), had pioneered and pastored two churches in California before receiving appointment in Upper Volta. They married in November 1935 and returned to the United States for furlough.

While traveling to share their vision for Africa, John and Cuba visited Berean Bible Institute, an AG school in San Diego. While ministering there, John prayed with a boy who wanted to receive Christ and experience the baptism in the Spirit. John felt deep in his heart that he was unable to lead the boy into an experience through which he had not yet passed. The next morning, Hall requested prayer from the students that God would fill him with the Spirit.

Hall spent much of the remainder of his time at the school in the prayer room, feeling keenly that he could not go on without the fulness of the power of God. One night they asked him to speak in the service but he was so hungry for the fulness of the Spirit that he asked to tarry in the prayer room rather than be a speaker. Finally, on the last night of their visit, Hall found himself flat on his back in the prayer room, exhausted from prolonged intercession, yet determined to seek God. That evening the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in a way he had never experienced. He later recounted, “There was such a restful feeling from head to foot. How wonderful to be wholly filled with the Lord’s Spirit and have him praise our Lord Jesus Christ in another language … then came a burden for souls and the tears rolled down my cheeks, behind my ears, and dropped on the floor … then came singing in the Spirit … after this I arose with the joy of the Lord flooding my being. Bro Harriss looked so good to me that I picked him up, kissed him with joy, and praised the Lord. We began singing ‘This is Like Heaven to Me’ and IT WAS!”

Eighty-three years ago this week, the Aug. 22, 1936, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel announced the AG missionary appointment of John F. Hall, joining his wife, Cuba, as “an experienced missionary” who “just a few months ago” was “graciously filled” with the Spirit in California.

Together, John and Cuba Hall served God faithfully in Africa for five decades. They spearheaded the translation of the entire Bible into the Mossi language, helping to create the written text of the language itself, reproducing book after book on mimeograph machine. During this work, he personally typed the Bible six times.

God blessed the Halls with five children. Their son, Billie, died of dysentery in Upper Volta at just 6 months of age. They carried on in spirit of their grief, trusting God for the health and well-being of their other children. Cuba later said, “The Africans lose so many children to death that our experience allowed us to identify with them as in no other manner.” The other four children, Evelyn, David, James, and Betty grew up in Africa and served God as adults in world and home missions.

Read more about the Hall’s missionary appointment on page 9 of the Aug. 22, 1936, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Home Atmosphere,” by Alice Reynold Flower

• “God Works,” by Zelma Argue

• “Can We Learn Anything from a Wasp,” by J. Narver Gortner

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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A Pentecostal Pioneer Responds to the Perennial Question: “Should Pentecostals Organize?”

Flower J Roswell

J. Roswell Flower, 1924

This Week in AG History — August 12, 1951

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 15 August 2019

“Why a General Council? Is there any real need for some form of organization in a movement inspired by the Holy Ghost?” J. Roswell Flower posed this question in the Aug. 12, 1951, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Flower, himself an early Pentecostal pioneer and one of the founders of the Assemblies of God, was well-qualified to address this question. He noted that many early Pentecostals rejected “organization of any kind.” Flower recalled one pioneer who, when arguing against the creation of church structures, asserted: “All we need to do is walk in the Spirit.”

Flower noted that, during this early phase of Pentecostal history from 1907 to 1914, “men and women sold out for God, left their occupations, and devoted themselves to the propagation of the Full Gospel message.” However, disagreements over doctrine and a lack of accountability on morals and finances created challenges within the young Movement.

The Assemblies of God was formed in 1914 by ministers who desired accountability on doctrine and ethics and who also recognized the value of cooperation in areas such as publishing, ministerial education, and missions.

According to Flower, whether Pentecostals should organize is an “old question” that has arisen numerous times. However, he believed that history had vindicated the value of organization and pointed to the success of Assemblies of God missions efforts around the world.

Flower wrote: “Through the cooperation of united churches, the message of the latter rain has been spread to the ends of the earth. The missionary cause has been promoted until now there are literally hundreds of thousands of saved and Holy Ghost-baptized believers with some in almost every country on earth. It is too late to accept the adage that organization is of the devil when we have a concrete example of what a simple, cooperative organization can do and has done.”

Read the entire article by J. Roswell Flower, “Why a General Council?” on pages 6, 7, and 14 of the Aug. 12, 1951, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “You Have One Problem – Solve It!” by U. S. Grant

• “Wait, Examine the Facts,” by Stanley M. Horton

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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52 Years Ago: Thousands in Liberia Accept Christ in Good News Crusade with Paul Olson

Paul Olson preaches at the Monrovia crusade.

This Week in AG History — August 6, 1967

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 8 August 2019

Fifty-two 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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50 Years Ago: The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada Celebrated its 50th Anniversary

R. W. Taitinger (left), General Superintendent of the PAOC, welcomes Governor General and Mrs. Roland Michener to the closing rally of the Jubilee Celebration. James Montgomery, Jubilee coordinator, is standing on the right.

This Week in AG History — August 3, 1969

By Glenn W. Gohr

Originally published on AG News, 1 August 2019

Fifty years ago the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) commemorated its 50th anniversary with a “Jubilee Celebration,” which involved several different Jubilee rallies throughout Canada held during the spring of 1969.

The closing events included a rally at the Bethel Pentecostal Church in Ottawa on May 17, which started with a large parade representing 15 mission fields supported by the PAOC.  This was a 30-minute pageant with the theme: “Let the Earth Hear His Voice.” Rev. Carman W. Lynn, Executive Director of Overseas Missions highlighted missions work in the PAOC. Robert W. Taitinger, General Superintendent of the PAOC, gave a challenge at the end of the service.

On Sunday, May 18, all executive officials of the PAOC assisted in services in various PAOC churches in the Ottawa area. Rev. C. H. Stiller, General Secretary Treasurer, and Rev. R. M. Argue, Executive Director of Home Missions, each spoke at special Jubilee services at Bethel Pentecostal Church.

The final Jubilee Rally took place at Glebe Collegiate Auditorium in Ottawa on Monday, May 19, Victoria Day. It was attended by some 600 Pentecostals from the two Ottawa congregations as well as about 50 visitors from the Ottawa Valley and other places in Canada and the U.S. Governor General and Mrs. Roland Michener were honored guests for this service. Governor General Michener, the Queen’s vice-regal representative in Canada, gave the Scripture reading from the second chapter of Acts. Rev. Taitinger concluded the program with a dramatic Jubilee declaration with audience participation.

The declaration stated in part: “Recognizing that the year 1969 marks the Jubilee of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada and that the evident hand of God has rested these 50 years upon The Fellowship, we do acknowledge with grateful thanks the goodness and blessing of the Lord and do reaffirm our committed allegiance to the great God for the church in the world today, and our significant place in His purpose.”

Looking back on PAOC history, in 1909 an early attempt was made to create an organization among Canadian Pentecostals, but that did not materialize. About 10 years later, the PAOC was formed in Eastern Canada, receiving its charter on May 17, 1919 in Ottawa, Canada. About this same time, Pentecostals in Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada joined the U.S. Assemblies of God and became what was called the Western Canadian District. By 1925 this district had dissolved and those ministers and churches had joined the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.

From about 20 congregations in 1919, the PAOC increased to approximately 900 congregations by 1969. Pentecostal work began in Ottawa with a church established by the late R. E. McAlister in 1908 which was one of the congregations that joined the new organization. Toronto and Winnipeg were other early centers of Pentecostalism in Canada. McAlister served as the first general secretary of the PAOC from 1919 to 1932. Because of its close connections with the U.S. Assemblies of God, the PAOC adopted the same statement of fundamental truths which had been approved by the General Council. R. E. McAlister published the Assemblies of God’s statement of fundamental truths in the February 1926 of the Canadian Pentecostal Testimony. The PAOC made changes to their statement of faith in later years.

It is significant that not only was the PAOC chartered in Ottawa, but for its first four years (1919-1922) Ottawa was the national headquarters for the PAOC. Ottawa was also the first location that published the PAOC national magazine, The Pentecostal Testimony (now Testimony magazine). The PAOC International Office is now located in Mississauga, Ontario.

David Wells, current General Superintendent of the PAOC, stated, “In 2019 we move into our centennial year as a Pentecostal Fellowship in Canada. Anniversaries such as a centennial provide an excellent opportunity to reflect on the faithfulness and passion of those who have gone before us and to move into the future with vision, committed to the values that have produced a legacy of fruitfulness.”

Read more about the 50th anniversary of the PAOC on page 14 of the August 3, 1969 issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

  • “Why God Raised Up the Assemblies of God,” by G. Jeffreys Williamson
  • “Good News Crusade in Salisbury, Rhodesia, South Africa”
  • “Three Words of Conversion,” by Oswald J. Smith

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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William Fetler, the Welsh Revival, and Early Russian Pentecostalism

This Week in AG History — July 22, 1916

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 25 July 2019

St. Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire, was in the midst of social turmoil in the 1910s. A decade of civil unrest and strikes, followed by the communist revolution, toppled the ruling czar. Political assassinations and mass uprisings became commonplace. Compounding these problems, the First World War led to high prices and a scarcity of food and other consumer goods. It was into this chaotic situation that William Fetler, a Latvian Baptist pastor, became a Pentecostal pioneer in the Russian capital city.

William Fetler (1883-1957), born in Latvia, was the son of a Baptist pastor. As a young man he worked as an interpreter and bookkeeper in the Latvian capital of Riga. He was quite sharp and had mastered seven languages, four of which he could speak fluently. He felt a call to the ministry and enrolled at Spurgeon’s College, the ministerial training school in London founded by noted Baptist Calvinist Charles H. Spurgeon.

Fetler was profoundly touched by the Welsh Revival (1904-1905) during his time at Spurgeon’s College. The Welsh Revival, which lasted only for about a year, resulted in over 100,000 converts to Christ. The revival, which included enthusiastic worship and miracles, left a lasting imprint on the religious landscape of Wales. Evan Roberts, the primary leader in the Welsh Revival, was asked by the Spurgeon’s College principal if he had a message for the students. Roberts replied, “Tell them to live near to God. That is the best life — near to God.”

William Fetler took that message to heart and was never the same. He felt a great burden to see revival in Russia and Latvia. He would spend the rest of his life working to see Latvians and Russians come to Christ. After graduating with honors in 1907, he moved to St. Petersburg. He found a ready audience with nobility who were already believers, including Princess Lieven, Baron Nicolay, Madam Tchertkoff, and others. His impassioned preaching in multiple languages attracted large audiences. He raised money for the construction of a large “Gospel House” in St. Petersburg.

The Welsh Revival fed into the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909), which was a focal point of the emerging Pentecostal movement. Fetler rejoiced at the news of this latest spiritual outpouring. What had been somewhat localized in the Welsh Revival became a worldwide movement in Pentecostalism. Fetler maintained his Baptist identity and also worked within the Pentecostal movement and became a regular speaker at Pentecostal conferences across Europe.

Events in Russia overtook Fetler’s St. Petersburg ministry. Government officials viewed him with suspicion and kicked him out of Russia in 1912. Fetler recounted persecution in Russia, as well as healings, visions, and miracles he witnessed in an article published in 1916 in the Weekly Evangel. He moved back to his native Latvia, where he led a thriving congregation. Fetler, possibly the best-known Latvian pastor in the West, wrote a book about his life experiences under the pen name Basil Malof. Fetler, along with his wife and their 13 musically-gifted children, became legendary figures in Latvian church history. Sensing that war was imminent, Fetler gathered his family and moved to America in 1939. He founded the Russian Bible Society in 1944 and spent the rest of his life advocating on behalf of Eastern European Christians, raising money for Bibles, missions, and relief.

The testimony of William Fetler is a reminder that Pentecostalism has deep roots in Europe. Fetler melded his training at Spurgeon’s College in London with the Welsh Revival and became a noted advocate of the emerging Pentecostal movement, all while retaining his Baptist identity. He set the stage for the development of evangelical and Pentecostal churches in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in Latvia, and became a prominent voice in the West on behalf of Eastern Europeans.

Fetler experienced many disappointments and much persecution over his decades of ministry. But when one door would shut, it always seemed that God would open another. Fetler lived out his belief that the best life was to live close to God, and as a result he changed the course of history for countless thousands of Christians in Russia and Latvia.

Read Fetler’s article, “Pentecostal Power in Russia,” on pages 4 and 5 of the July 22, 1916, issue of the Weekly Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Tithing,” by E. L. Banta

• “Daily Portion from the King’s Bounty,” by Alice Reynolds Flower

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Weekly 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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