45 Years Ago: Thurman Faison Challenges White Pentecostals to Preach Against Racism and to Link Arms with Blacks in Ministry

faison2This Week in AG History — January 9, 1972

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 5 January 2017

Riots and civil unrest marked American cities during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  When African American Assemblies of God minister Thurman Faison addressed the 1971 meeting of the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America, he spoke to the social turbulence that was on everyone’s mind.

Faison’s message addressed the question, “How are we going to reach the blacks of our inner cities?” The editors of the Pentecostal Evangel felt the question needed the attention of their readers and reprinted his entire address in the Jan. 9, 1972, issue.

Having pastored in both Harlem and Chicago, Faison was well aware of the concerns facing the African American population of the inner cities. “The urban scene is a constant focus of the news media. What would reporting be without the demonstrations, riots, class struggles, and corruptions of the big cities!” He stressed that the Pentecostal church could not afford to neglect urban evangelism; the major cities of America influence the course of the nation.

While the Pentecostal movement had long been known for their strict stance on “sins of the flesh,” many Pentecostals remained relatively quiet with regard to the sins of pride and prejudice. Faison made the point to his largely white audience that “all unrighteousness is sin — be it prejudice or adultery — and that the righteous Lord loves righteousness.”

At that time, the Assemblies of God had engaged in little intentional outreach to the black community in comparison to its missions efforts with other ethnic populations. In a 1970 interview, General Superintendent Thomas Zimmerman estimated that the Assemblies of God had “at least” 25 black ministers and only a handful of churches in predominately black neighborhoods (Pentecostal Evangel, April 26, 1970).

Faison called Pentecostals to rediscover and maintain their God-given identity and calling to preach the plain gospel of Christ.  He noted, “The world demands what they call ‘contemporary relevance.’” He defined  “contemporary” to mean “to happen along with,” and “relevance” to mean “to have a definite relationship or bearing upon the matters at hand.” He concluded that “the gospel-preaching church meets this standard of contemporary relevance.”

According to Faison, Christians must address pressing social issues: “God’s purposes have always … had a definite bearing upon the matters at hand.”

Faison knew the powerful impact of the Church in an inner-city community.  In 1969, he moved from Harlem to Chicago and worked closely with Illinois District Superintendent E. M. Clark to develop an Assemblies of God outreach to African Americans. The mostly white churches of the Illinois District helped Faison to purchase church property and a parsonage in Chicago’s South Side, along with radio time to promote the new church.  This partnership of blacks and whites proved to be a powerful ministry strategy. Southside Tabernacle, under the leadership of Pastor Titus Lee, continues to be a strong representation of the kingdom of God in Chicago.

In 1971, Faison stated that “the issues of yesterday are not the same today, nor will they be the same tomorrow.” Yet the headlines from 2016 reflected the same themes that he referenced in his time: demonstrations, riots, class struggles, and corruption in the big cities. Forty-five years have passed, but many of the same social ills remain.

Why should Pentecostals boldly proclaim Christ in small towns and inner cities, and to people of every race, class, and persuasion? Faison realized that social problems, ultimately, can only be solved with the gospel. He wrote: “The biggest issues will always be constant — the problem of sin in the human heart, the alienation of men from God, and the expressions of unrighteousness in word, thought, and deed.”

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Assemblies of God leaders meet with General Superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman to discuss ways of reaching African Americans, December 1969. Thurman Faison is seated on the far right.

Read Faison’s entire address, “What Are We Going to Do About Our Cities?” on pages 8-9 of the Jan. 9, 1972, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “He Preached Through His Hands,” by Betty Haney

• “A Call to Sleeping Jonahs,” by Charles W. H. Scott

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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Freddie’s Christmas: The Heart-Wrenching Story of Noted Pentecostal Songwriter F. A. Graves

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F. A. Graves with wife, Vina. Standing in the back are their children (l-r): Irene, Carl, and Arthur, circa 1920s.

This Week in AG History — December 19, 1931

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 22 December 2016

A heart-wrenching true story titled “Freddie’s Christmas” appeared in the Pentecostal Evangel 85 years ago this week. “Freddie” referred to Frederick Arthur Graves (1856-1927), the noted songwriter who became an early leader in the Pentecostal movement.

“Little Freddie” began life as the son of a tailor, in a family of four boys and one girl. The family had weekly devotions and worship, and the children were taught to love and trust God. Freddie’s father worked long hours, going door-to-door to find work measuring and making clothes for men and boys. Eventually the work became too much, and he became sick and died. Freddie’s mother was frail and tried to care for the children by herself, but within three years she developed tuberculosis and also passed away. The children were farmed out to different homes.

Freddie was taken in by Mr. Hollis, a man who was “honest in his dealings with his neighbors but who was godless.” It seemed that he wanted a boy for the sole purpose of helping with chores on the farm. Freddie was given many tasks to do on the farm and worked very hard, but often he was sad. After saying his prayers, he would climb into his bed in the attic and “cry himself to sleep in his loneliness and homesickness.”

Mr. Hollis was very unkind to Freddie, often making the hapless young boy think it was his own fault that he became an orphan. Whenever cookies and other treats were shared among Mr. Hollis’ other children, Freddie was left out because he was “only an orphan.” When Christmas arrived, the children hung their stockings by the fireplace, and they had to beg their parents to let Freddie also have a stocking. Finally, the parents let Freddie put up a stocking next to the other ones.

Bright and early on Christmas morning, the other children gleefully opened their stockings. But Mr. Hollis told Freddie that he could not touch his until all the chores were done, so he bravely trudged through the snow and cold to milk the cows and feed the calves and chickens. After the chores were completed and everyone had finished breakfast, the man finally gave Freddie permission to open his stocking. “Freddie sat down on the floor and began very carefully to take out the shavings in the top of his stocking — on and on he went still taking out shavings clear down to the toe. Not one thing in all that stocking but shavings!”

Freddie’s heart almost stopped beating — and then Mr. Hollis began to roar with laughter, slapping his knee and saying to his wife, “That is the best joke I’ve had in a long time!” And he continued to laugh.

Freddie slowly picked up every shaving and ran to the barn as fast as he could. He climbed up into the hayloft, out of sight, and sobbed for a long time. Finally he talked with God and felt God’s comfort and peace, despite the circumstances. As it began to grow dark, he remembered there were more chores to be done, so he climbed down and faithfully went to work doing his chores. As he worked, the Lord enabled him to forgive the man who had been so mean to him.

Not long after this incident, Mr. Hollis began acting strangely and became increasingly moody and unhappy. (Some whispered it might be because of his cruelty to the poor orphan boy.) Then one day he went out to the barn and hung himself. Freddie, who had known much heartache and grief himself, was able to whisper words of comfort to the widow in her loss. Later, she hugged him and told Freddie what a comfort he had been to her.

The Lord helped Fred Graves to be a blessing, despite all the hardship he had borne. Years later he became a minister of the gospel, overcoming significant difficulties and receiving healing from epilepsy. He obtained ministerial credentials from Christian faith healer John Alexander Dowie in 1899 and transferred his ordination to the Assemblies of God in 1916.

Graves’s testimony inspired him to write numerous songs, including “He Was Nailed to the Cross for Me,” “He’ll Never Forget to Keep Me,” and “Honey in the Rock.” Graves continues to make an impact through his songs, through the lives he touched, and through his influence on his son-in-law, Assemblies of God theologian Myer Pearlman.

Frederick A. Graves’ Christmas testimony reminds us of the hardships faced by early Pentecostals, and also illustrates how God can bring beauty from tragic circumstances.

Read Vina Graves’ article, “Freddie’s Christmas,” on pages 6 and 13 of the Dec. 19, 1931, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Child is Born,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “The Meaning of Christmas,” by C. H. Spurgeon

• “When Sankey Sang the ‘Shepherd Song’ on Christmas Eve”

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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Pentecostalism in Puerto Rico Marks a Century: A Movement Birthed by Refugees Now Includes 25 Percent of Island Residents

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Iglesia Asamblea Pentecostal (Bayamon, Puerto Rico), 1969

This Week in AG History — December 16, 1916

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 15 December 2016

Puerto Rico is home to a vibrant, growing, and indigenous Pentecostal movement, consisting of an estimated 25 percent of the island’s population. Pentecostalism first came to Puerto Rico in 1916 via Hawaii, where a number of Puerto Rican families had migrated in search of employment on sugar plantations. After many Puerto Ricans living in Hawaii surrendered their lives to God during a Pentecostal revival in the early 1910s, several of them — including Salomon Feliciano, Juan Lugo, and Francisco and Panchito Ortiz — felt called to bring the Pentecostal message to their homeland.

The four Puerto Rican missionaries became credentialed with the Assemblies of God and helped spark a spiritual hurricane that reshaped the religious contours of the island. Feliciano and Lugo arrived in Puerto Rico in the fall of 1916, followed shortly afterward by the father-and-son team of Francisco and Panchito Ortiz. Lugo initially ministered in the barrio of Santurce, located in the capital city of San Juan. After a month, he moved his ministry focus to Ponce, a large city in the southern part of Puerto Rico.

The Pentecostal Evangel published numerous letters by the four missionaries. One letter by Feliciano and Lugo, published in the Dec. 16, 1916, issue, recounted both successes and challenges. They reported 43 converts and many others who felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Mainline Protestant ministers viewed the newcomers as a threat and tried to discourage them from starting a new church. Hostile government officials also interfered with the Pentecostals’ missions efforts. But the Pentecostal prayer meetings soon outgrew the home where they were held, and believers overcame public cynicism and hostility and organized the first Pentecostal church in Puerto Rico. Within several years, Pentecostal churches began popping up all over the island.

The Pentecostal movement in Puerto Rico, now 100 years old, was birthed by refugees who left their island homeland and who migrated across the world in search of a better life. In Hawaii, they experienced a spiritual awakening, which changed the trajectory of their lives and propelled them to return to Puerto Rico as missionaries. While they faced opposition to the gospel, the missionaries did not shrink back. Indeed, Feliciano and Lugo concluded their letter by expressing confidence in God’s provisions in the face of trials: “When the world is against us, Jesus is with us.”

Read the article by Salomon Feliciano and Juan Lugo, “Salvation Coming to Many in Porto Rico,” on page 12 of the Dec. 16, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “I Fell in Love with the Nazarene,” by Sarah Haggard Payne

* “The Bible,” by D. W. Kerr

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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Waiting for Christ’s Return: A Warning from 1941 about Biblical Prophecy

prophecy-chart

Assemblies of God evangelist Ivan D. Rayborn and his prophecy chart, circa 1950s.

This Week in AG History — December 13, 1941

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 8 December 2016

On the first Sunday after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Assemblies of God church members opened their weekly magazine, the Pentecostal Evangel, to an article by Iowa evangelist (and later Kansas City pastor), William E. Long, asking them, “Can ye not discern the signs of the times?”

Long laments that when he was younger he possessed more Bible knowledge than he did in later years. When he started in ministry he “knew” the identity of the Antichrist and could easily ascertain the meaning of the 144,000 of Revelation 14 and the Man-child of Revelation 12. He recalled the sermons he had heard proffering various identities of the Beast of Revelation, among whom were Kaiser Bill, Woodrow Wilson, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler.

Long also recollects the fear of a dear old saint greatly disturbed about a sticker on the back of his car displaying a Blue Eagle (the symbol of President Roosevelt’s “National Recovery Administration”). She met him in front of the church in tears and, pointing to his sticker, exclaimed, “Oh, Brother Long, you have taken the Mark of the Beast!”

Looking back as an older, more experienced preacher, Long had good advice for the Evangel readers of 1941 and for Pentecostal believers today. He cautions against two extremes in handling biblical prophecy. The first being that we would be “carried away with every foolish idea that blows our way.” As Pentecostals we are anxious to see the prophecies of the Bible fulfilled and, in our enthusiasm, can fall prey to absurd and short-sighted teachings.

The second extreme is that these “wild, weird ideas” would lead to a reluctance to preach prophetic sermons. Neglecting biblical prophecy is just as alarming as the first extreme, according to Long. He pleads, “We must keep preaching the second coming of the Lord and not quit just because some have read into the Bible prophecies things that were not there.”

After World War I, the “war to end all wars,” Long states that many American preachers have “stood before large audiences and said they wouldn’t insult their audience by believing there would be any more wars.” Saying we have “beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks,” these preachers forgot Jesus said that right up until the time of the end “there shall be wars, and rumors of wars.” Having heard their president declare war on Japan that very week, his words took on a somber tone for Evangel readers.

Long also points to Jesus’ proclamation that the Jews “shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9) and reminds his readers that “in America today there are clubs and beaches and areas with signs which say, “For Gentiles Only.” Even though Long and the rest of the western world did not yet know the fullness of the atrocities of the Jewish Holocaust happening at that very moment, he warns this would be a sign of the nearness of Christ’s return.

He also mentions that Pentecostals should learn from the Jews who watch for the appearance of Messiah and who await the fulfillment of “the return of the Jews to their own land,” a reference to the Zionist movement for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. “The Jews are looking for Him and praying that Messiah will come. But let us ask ourselves this question: are we really anxious for Jesus Christ to return? We in America are not so anxious to have Him come. We have good jobs, we live in luxury, we have comfortable homes, we still enjoy peace.”

Long ends his exhortation to remember the urgency of Christ’s second coming with an application from His first coming. He hearkens back to Luke chapter two and Simeon, a man who lived his entire life longing to see Jesus, yet who only saw the Lord for a few short moments. “Why lament because we did not have the privilege of knowing Jesus as the shepherds did, and Simeon, and John? We are going to be in His presence forever! … My prayer is ‘Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!’ Is that your prayer, too?”

Read Long’s article, “Signs of the Times,” on pages 2 and 3 of the Dec. 13, 1941, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Are You a Fruit-Bearing or a Withered Branch,” by Clara A. Grace

* “A Scientist Meets the God of Science,” by James R. Graham, Jr.

* “News from our School and Orphanage in Syria”

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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Indian Revival Church: Bridging Tribal Divides in Los Angeles for Sixty Years

indian-revival-center

Indian Revival Center, Bell Gardens, California, 1962.

This Week in AG History — December 1, 1957

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 1 December 2016

During the past century, countless Native Americans have been moving from reservations and rural areas to the urban centers of America. One of the top destinations has been Los Angeles, where over 250,000 people of Native American descent now live.

In 1956, Assemblies of God evangelist Arthur Stoneking recognized this demographic shift and pioneered Indian Revival Center (now Indian Revival Church), a congregation for Native Americans in Bell Gardens, which is located in Los Angeles County. Stoneking, a member of the Winnebago tribe, had remarkable success in bringing together people from various tribes. Started as a home bible study, the congregation soon became the largest Native American congregation in Los Angeles.

By 1964, several hundred Native Americans originating from over 30 tribes had joined Indian Revival Center. This diversity could have pulled the congregation apart. However, Stoneking emphasized similarities within various Indian cultures, creating a vibrant community for people who had been removed from their familial or tribal networks. Importantly, he also taught that earthly allegiances should pale in comparison to one’s heavenly citizenship, and that the bonds between Christians should be greater than tribal differences.

One of Indian Revival Center’s most successful ministries was its choir, which traveled across America. Choir members sang and testified in a variety of Native American languages and recorded a popular LP record. Stoneking also started a radio program that featured church members preaching in Native American languages, along with translation of the sermons into English.

Stoneking wrote an article about his fledgling flock in the Dec. 1, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. He noted that salvation “wrought many miracles” in the lives of his church members, including the restoration of broken families and freedom from addictions to alcohol and drugs. One of the miracles, he noted, was “happy fellowship” among members of different tribes who would not ordinarily mix. Sixty years later, Indian Revival Church continues to build bridges across the ethnic divides, providing a welcoming home to people from Native American and numerous other ethnic backgrounds.

irving-terry-rodger-cree

Rev. Irving Terry (left), a convert of Arthur Stoneking, is a member of the Elders Council of the Native American Fellowship of the Assemblies of God. He is pictured here with Rev. Rodger Cree, 2008.

Read Arthur Stoneking’s article, “Indians in Los Angeles,” on pages 12-13 of the Dec. 1, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Holy Quest,” by Leonard Palmer

• “Even So I Send You,” by Paul E. Lowenberg

• “We Are His Workmanship,” by David McKee

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived edition 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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Learning Gratitude on the Frozen Tundra: Paul and Marguerite Bills, Assemblies of God Missionaries to Alaska

billsThis Week in AG History — November 24, 1968

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 23 November 2016

Paul E. Bills (1921-1977) and his wife, Marguerite, learned true gratitude while serving as Assemblies of God missionaries in the harsh conditions of remote Alaska. In a 1968 Pentecostal Evangel article, Paul showed how the challenges of life on the frozen tundra taught them to be thankful.

In faith, Paul and Marguerite drove from New Jersey to North Pole, Alaska, in the fall of 1955, thinking they were under missionary appointment with the Assemblies of God. When they arrived, however, they were surprised to discover that their paperwork had not been received. Eventually things were straightened out, and they were granted appointment.  For the next 20 years Paul and Marguerite devoted their lives to evangelizing Eskimos in spite of difficult and primitive conditions.

Paul Bills made the bold statement: “It took the Alaskan mission field to create within us a thankful heart.” While pastoring a church in North Pole, Paul and Marguerite adopted two infant Alaskan Native girls named Marcis and Roxanne. Later the family added a son Paul.

One of their first mission stations was in the village of Beaver, located on the Yukon River just south of the Arctic Circle. They lived in a little two-room dirt-roof cabin.  One of the first questions Paul asked was “Where do we get our water?” He was told that the Yukon River had lots of water.  However, it was under several feet of ice, plus there was a very steep bank at the edge of the river. Bills declared, “You have no idea how we struggled and slipped and prayed as we filled our water barrel. Never had water seemed so precious.”

From North Pole and Beaver, Paul and Marguerite and their daughters went to Barrow and ministered for several years. There they found the water situation even worse. The source was a lake located five miles out on the tundra. Most of the year the water was in the form of ice. Sometimes they were able to buy ice from those who had dog teams. The price was not unreasonable, at about 10 to 20 cents a gallon, as it wasn’t easy work to chop the ice and then deliver it. But that was not all. Once received, the ice had to be scraped before being put into a tank next to the furnace. This procedure itself took several hours. Every ounce of water was precious, and none of it was wasted. The same water was often used for several needs—washing dishes, taking baths, washing clothes, scrubbing floors, etc.

Have you ever thanked God for a thermostat?  You might if you lived in Alaska.  Paul Bills’ first winter there was a rough one. For a six-week period the temperature never rose above 40 below zero. It stayed mostly 50 to 60 below and got very close to 70 below. In those conditions, hitching up a dog team and going out looking for wood is quite a chore which often could involve frozen toes, fingers, and faces. “Every piece of wood put into the Alaskan stove is like a gift from God,” said Bills.

How often do you thank God for the sun? When living in Alaska, one tends to appreciate the sun very much. Bills remembered coming to the Barrow station, and each day the sun would be lower and lower in the sky. He shared: “On November 18 we watched it sink beneath the horizon and there was a sense of sadness. It was almost like losing a friend, for we knew we would not see it again for over two months. You really don’t miss something until you lose it.” This is especially true with respect to the sun. Bills shared, “January 23rd is always an exciting day in Barrow. Everyone talks about it.” On that day each year, the sun appears again in the sky, and everyone is happy for daylight again.

Have you ever lived in a desert or treeless area for an extended period of time? In 1965, Paul Bills and family moved to Nome, Alaska, among a group of people who in all their lives had never seen a tree except maybe in a picture. In the fall of 1968, at a time when many people in the rest of the U.S. were enjoying the changing colors of the fall trees and looking forward to a Thanksgiving feast, Paul shared: “In our present station in Nome we are in a treeless area and when we are able to get out to the tree area we cannot help but notice the majesty of trees.”

Recounting all the things he was thankful for, he asked, “Are you really grateful for the food you eat? When you offer thanks is it a mere ritual? A Christian duty? Do you consider the variety of items before you? How about those fresh fruits and vegetables?” His response was, “If you live in a remote Alaskan village you would forget that some of these items exist. Then sometimes you would dream about corn on the cob, watermelon, peaches, oranges, and dozens of other foods which are just memories of former days. If perchance a plane brings in a delicacy on a rare occasion, you bow your head in deep gratitude for this special blessing from God.”

Bills concluded his article by remarking, “Yes, we are truly thankful for the privilege of living on the mission field, for it has awakened our soul to the virtue of gratitude; and it is such an enjoyable and edifying experience to be grateful for the everyday blessings of life.” Importantly, he observed that “Genuine thankfulness is a help to holiness.”

In 1976, Paul Bills was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He died the next year and was buried on his 56th birthday. At his request, he was buried in Barrow beside Ned Nusunginya, his close friend and interpreter, who was converted during Paul’s initial revival in Barrow.

Paul and Marguerite Bills devoted their lives to share the gospel in remotest Alaska, and the challenges they encountered taught them about the importance of gratitude. They developed an attitude of thanksgiving, and they encouraged others to likewise view difficulties as valuable, transformative experiences for growing in Christ.

Read Paul E. Bills’ article, “I Learned Gratitude on the Alaska Mission Field,” on pages 2-3 of the Nov. 24, 1968, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Five Grains of Corn,” by Mrs. Max (Hannah) Johnson

• “Maintaining the Balance,” by Alice Reynolds Flower

• “A Change in Government,” by C. M. Ward

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived edition 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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C. H. Austin: From the Saloons to Assemblies of God Railroad Evangelist

chaustin

This Week in AG History — November 16, 1929

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 17 November 2016

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, illustrated by his life story. Austin’s testimony was published in a Gospel Publishing House tract, which was republished in the Nov. 16, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Austin’s mother died when he was eight years old. 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 all the 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 twelve 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 make a public demonstration.

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 laying 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
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