J. R. Evans: Early Pastor, Evangelist, and General Secretary

This Week in AG History — August 12, 1951

By Glenn W. Gohr

Originally published on AG News, 12 August 2021

J. R. Evans (1869-1951) served as an early Assemblies of God pastor and is best remembered for serving as general secretary of the Assemblies of God. Born in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, his full name was James Richards Evans. He lost his first wife early in life, and in 1913 he married Elsie Leonard, who previously had served as a missionary to India with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

J. R. and Elsie Evans belonged to the Pentecostal Church [Assemblies of God] of Cleveland, Ohio, which was pastored by D. W. Kerr.

Feeling a call to the ministry, J. R. Evans at age 45, and Elsie at age 39, were both ordained by Kerr on March 28, 1915. Evans served the Assemblies of God as a pastor in Cleveland, Ohio; Osborne, Kansas; Broken Arrow and Pawhuska, Oklahoma; Toronto, Canada; Chicago, Illinois; Portland, Oregon; and Syracuse, New York. He also served as an evangelist in the general field. While living in Oklahoma he served as Oklahoma district superintendent (1917).

Elsie served as an assistant pastor, evangelist, and Bible teacher. She also led singing at the churches they pastored as well as at camp meetings and conventions. She passed away on May 15, 1936, at the age of 59 and was buried in Springfield, Missouri. One of her sisters was Lavada Morrison, an early AG missionary to China. Another sister was Ruth Phillips, the mother of Guy and Everett Phillips, both well-known Assemblies of God ministers.

In 1923 Evans was elected general secretary of the AG and served in that position for 12 years (general secretary from 1923-1927 and general secretary-treasurer from 1927-1935).

Cataracts formed on his eyes in 1933, and within months, he began to go blind. J. R. Evans served as an executive presbyter and general presbyter from 1936-1942.

Evans was granted a retirement allowance when he left office, and he moved back to Cleveland, Ohio, for a few years. He did some evangelistic work in various places in Ohio. In 1938 he served a short time as interim pastor of the Full Gospel Church [Assemblies of God] at Youngstown, Ohio. He then moved to Tampa, Florida, for a few years. He spent the last two years of his life in the Pinellas Park Home in Florida which was established to house retired ministers and missionaries of the Assemblies of God.

J. R. Evans passed away on July 18, 1951, at Pinellas Park, Florida, at the age of 81. He was survived by his third wife, the former H. Mary Engle, whom he married on July 3, 1941.

Read the article, “Former Executive of General Council Promoted to Glory,” on page 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

• “Why a General Council?” by J. Roswell Flower

• “Wait, Examine the Facts!” by Stanley 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

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The Story of Jewish Evangelist Lee Krupnick

This Week in AG History —2 August 1941

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 5 August 2021

Lee Krupnick (1900-1984) was a well-known Jewish Assemblies of God evangelist. He had formerly been an award-winning news photographer for the Tulsa World and a movie cameraman. As a photographer he won many awards and had the reputation of one “who always got his picture.”

His wife, Bonnie, often prayed for his salvation. He became upset whenever she prayed or talked about Jesus, but Bonnie remained faithful to her Christian faith. Her godly lifestyle paved the way for his conversion and eventually led him into full-time ministry.

At one point Lee suffered from an ulcerated stomach. The doctors were unable to heal him, and the pain became unbearable. He consented to let some Christians pray for him on two different occasions. But the pain seemed to only get worse. Finally he allowed his wife and young daughter to pray over him, and instead of rejecting their prayer, he trusted the Great Physician to heal him. Almost immediately he was completely cured of that terrible ulcerated stomach.

Soon after this, Lee Krupnick was converted in 1935 at a revival service conducted by evangelist Watson Argue in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the Full Gospel Tabernacle [Assembly of God] at Fifth and Peoria on Easter Sunday. The service was packed, and the Krupnicks had to take a seat up front. The sermon topic was, “God raised Jesus from the dead.”

As a Jew, Krupnick had a really hard time with this topic. He had developed a hatred for the name of Jesus. Over and over he heard the evangelist say with authority, “God raised Jesus from the dead.” He began thinking to himself, Why, I thought Jesus was still in the grave. If God raised Him from the dead, no wonder my wife’s life has been so changed.

Soon he could not ignore the proddings of the Holy Spirit as he came under conviction. “I jumped from my seat and ran to the altar while the evangelist was preaching,” said Krupnick. “I couldn’t wait until the end of the sermon.” Twenty-five other people ran to the front, and the altar was filled. He cried for four hours and prayed, “Lord, I was sincere in my hatred of Jesus; I thought I was doing you a favor when I cursed Jesus. Can you ever forgive me, Lord?”

After his conversion he began sharing his testimony. He had already been preaching for 10 years when he was ordained by the Oklahoma district in 1945. His wife, Bonnie, was also ordained as an evangelist. For seven years Krupnick traveled part time as an evangelist and still worked as a photographer. After that the Krupnicks traveled full time in evangelistic work until retirement. For 37 years they traveled all across the U.S. conducting over 600 revival campaigns. Many times he shared his conversion testimony.

Lee Krupnick contributed a number of articles to the Pentecostal Evangel. One of these was a testimony of salvation that took place under his ministry. He told the story of a couple who were alcoholics and drank and partied. “People told me it was a waste of time to even talk to them,” reported Krupnick, “especially the husband, that they were too far gone, and that nothing could deliver them from the drink habit.”

But Krupnick remembered that Jesus did not give up on Mary Magdalene, the demoniac in the tombs, or the leper. So he didn’t give up on this couple. He began praying that the Lord would save them.

“One day a young lady applied for a job in my studio,” said Krupnick. It turned out this was the same woman he had been praying for. He told her that if she would let him talk to her a little while about the Lord, then when she sobered up, he would give her a position in the studio. As he told her about the Lord, she wept.

The next day she came to work and confessed that she really didn’t want to drink, but her husband would force her to, as he wanted her to participate in parties he held at their house. Krupnick remembered that his wife was hosting a weekly ladies Bible study that day and invited the woman to go. He said he would pay her the same as if she was working in the studio, so she agreed. He called his wife on the phone, and told her about the woman coming, and then he called a taxi to take her to the Bible study. “That day she got gloriously saved,” said Krupnick.

Not long after this, her husband also got saved, and also the woman’s father and her sister. This truly was not a waste of time for him to witness to the couple. The husband and wife soon began accompanying Lee Krupnick on many of his preaching engagements. They insisted on driving him, and they would testify on the platform about their miraculous transformation since they met the Lord.

Read the article, “A Miracle of Grace,” by Lee Krupnick, on page 3 of the Aug. 2, 1941, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Cleansed, Clothed, and Crowned,” by T. J. Jones

• “Upward or Downward,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “God’s New Thing,” by Horace S. Williams

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

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

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

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David du Plessis and the Early Pentecostal Movement in South Africa

This Week in AG History —July 30, 1938

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 29 July 2021

David Johannes du Plessis (1905-1987), known as “Mr. Pentecost,” was an effective leader in three of the most influential movements in 20th century Christianity – the Pentecostal movement, the charismatic movement, and the ecumenical movement. When Time magazine surveyed a group of Catholic and Protestant editors in 1974 to list 11 “movers and shakers” of the Christian faith, du Plessis was listed alongside Rosemary Ruether, Don Helder Camara, Billy Graham, Hans Küng, Bernard Lonergan, and Jürgen Moltman. His early experience with the Apostolic Faith Mission revival in South Africa shaped his understanding that the work of the Holy Spirit was for all time and for all people, regardless of their faith tradition within Christianity.

The July 30, 1938, issue of The Pentecostal Evangel printed a report given by du Plessis to the students of Central Bible Institute (CBI, later Central Bible College) in Springfield, Missouri, entitled “Pentecost in South Africa.” Tracing the development of the Pentecostal movement in his home country of South Africa, the 33-year-old general secretary of the Apostolic Faith Movement shared with the CBI student body that reports came to South Africa in 1904 of a great revival taking place in Wales and many began crying out to God to “send us an outpouring of Your Holy Spirit” in our nation.

In 1906, an American evangelist, Daniel Bryant, arrived in South Africa bringing with him a message of divine healing. Du Plessis reported that “God healed so many that literally hundreds accepted that truth, and were baptized by him. The cream of the church, the elders and deacons of the Dutch Reformed Church, local preachers of the Methodist church, were glad to receive this wonderful message.”

In 1908, John G. Lake and Thomas Hezmalhalch came from the United States bringing with them the message of the Pentecostal outpouring. Du Plessis reports that “these two men started out in a native church in Johannesburg and out of curiosity white folk went but they stayed and received the baptism … then a tabernacle was offered in Johannesburg in the center of the city. That place became a revival center … a thousand people crowded in and around it every night of the week … demons were cast out. The sick were raised up in the name of Jesus without a hand being laid upon them. Healings occurred just from a command from the platform.”

This revival greatly influenced the churches around them. “From the Dutch Reformed and the Methodist and every Church in South Africa have been drawn their saintliest men, those people who had been crying to God for a revival, and when the Holy Ghost was poured out in Johannesburg they said, ‘This is what we seek.’ Naturally when the churches saw their best elders and their most deeply spiritual men and women moving into this ‘new sect’ they thought it was time to raise their voices against this awful thing.”

Despite persecution, the movement grew until, in 1913, it organized into the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa. Many classes of people, from the humblest farmer to the wife of the prime minister were among those in the growing church. Du Plessis ended his 1938 message with an invitation to “come and see these things for yourselves . . . As general secretary and editor of the paper (of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa) I suppose I have had my hand on the pulse of the work more than anybody else. I have traveled more and have visited all the assemblies and I know almost half the members of the mission, if not more, so I am not telling you stories I have heard, but telling you facts I know.”

David du Plessis returned to South Africa after his trip to America and continued in his work with the Apostolic Faith Mission until 1947 when he was asked to assume leadership of the new Pentecostal World Conference, an organization that sought to bring unity, fellowship, and encouragement to global Pentecostalism. After moving to the United States in 1948, he became friends with John Mackay, the president of Princeton Seminary. This friendship opened doors for du Plessis to share the message of the Pentecostal outpouring with many global ecclesiastical representatives. These church leaders began referring to him as “Mr. Pentecost.”

When the charismatic movement began in the 1960s with many leaders in mainstream denominations experiencing the baptism in the Spirit and demonstrating spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues, du Plessis was already in a place to provide leadership and instruction to ministers in the Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, and Catholic churches. He was invited to participate in the World Council of Churches Assembly meetings and served as a Pentecostal representative at the Second Vatican Council. Although these relationships were controversial within the Pentecostal movement, du Plessis continued to extend a hand of fellowship to any who were willing to open their minds and hearts to the work of the Holy Spirit.

In his early days in South Africa he preached against the “dead, dry” religion of the mainline churches. In his later years, God used him to bring new life of the Spirit into those same mainline churches and to speak for unity among the Pentecostal global movement. When he died in 1987, at the age of 81, he was serving Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, as resident consultant for Ecumenical Affairs and was an ordained minister of the Assemblies of God.

Read David du Plessis article, “Pentecost in South Africa,” on pages 2-4 of the July 30, 1938, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The End of Human Government” by Harry Steil

• “Praise” by Bernice Lee

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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William E. Simpson: Assemblies of God Martyr and Missionary to China

Missionaries W. E. Simpson, Martha Simpson, W. W. Simpson, and Torsten Halldorf; China, circa 1925

This Week in AG History —July 23, 1932

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 22 July 2021

William E. Simpson (1901-1932), a young Assemblies of God missionary, was killed by bandits near the Tibetan border in China. The July 23, 1932, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel devoted several pages to the memory of Simpson, whom it hailed as “a martyr for the gospel.”

Simpson, the son of noted missionaries William W. and Otilia Simpson, spent his youth in both China and the United States. He easily learned the Chinese language and spent the last 13 years of his life living in the dangerous borderlands along Tibet. He shared the gospel with Tibetans and Chinese, with nomads, and with Buddhist priests. Simpson was able to traverse a part of the country normally inaccessible to Westerners.

In Simpson’s last letter to the Pentecostal Evangel, he recounted that Assemblies of God missionary policy stated, “The Pauline example shall be followed as far as possible by seeking out neglected regions where the gospel has not been preached.” He took this as a challenge and stated that he did not know of a “more extensive and neglected region” than the Tibetan borderlands. He lamented the small number of converts, but nevertheless pushed forward in his missionary call.

In life and death, Simpson built bridges across denominational divides. He worked extensively with Christian and Missionary Alliance missionaries and spoke at their conferences. Simpson built this bridge upon a family connection; prior to joining the Assemblies of God, Simpson’s father held credentials with the Alliance. Missionaries from both the Assemblies of God and the Christian and Missionary Alliance participated in Simpson’s funeral. Simpson, in his last letter, encouraged further cooperation between the churches: “God grant that the spirit of harmony that exists among us may grow and develop.”

Missions has always been central to the identity of the Assemblies of God. When missionaries share stories of spiritual victories and new converts, Assemblies of God members rejoice. But when young William E. Simpson died at the hands of bandits in 1932, it reminded believers that obedience to the Great Commission often has a high human cost.

Read the entire article, “A Martyr for the Gospel,” on pages 10, 11, and 14 of the July 23, 1932, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “High Lights in the Life of Peter,” by Dr. Charles S. Price

• “Questions Concerning Spiritual Gifts,” by Donald Gee

• “Power in the Word,” by Mrs. C. Nuzum

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 Shared Testimony: The Roots of the Pentecostal World Fellowship

This Week in AG History —July 16, 1961

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, 15 July 2021

Pentecostalism’s growth in the early 20th century made it a global movement. Just prior to and following World War II, efforts were made to build bridges between the various Pentecostal fellowships around the world for the purpose of cooperation in evangelism, publications, and education. One of the important organizations that emerged to fulfill these aims was the Pentecostal World Conference (PWC).

In 1921 the Assemblies of God passed a resolution on “World-Wide Cooperation” which helped to lay the groundwork for the PWC. Then in 1937, several Pentecostal leaders from various nations were invited to attend the Assemblies of God General Council in Memphis. This was followed by a European Pentecostal Conference held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1939.

After World War II, Gustave Kinderman served as field secretary for the Assemblies of God Foreign Missions Department in Europe, and he opened an office in Basel, Switzerland, in 1946. He began working closely with Leonard Steiner, pastor of the largest Pentecostal congregation in that city. Through their efforts, and with cooperation from many Pentecostal leaders around the globe, the Pentecostal World Conference was organized at a conference for Pentecostal leaders held in Zurich, Switzerland, May 4-9, 1947.

Since that time, the PWC has met every three years in various locations, attended by church leaders and members from around the world. One of main purposes of the PWC is to promote spiritual fellowship among Pentecostals, regardless of denominational affiliation or ethnic background. Another outgrowth of these meetings was the publication of a worldwide Pentecostal magazine founded by Donald Gee. It was called Pentecost (1947-1966) and was succeeded by World Pentecost (1971-1998). It reported on Pentecostal revivals, church growth, and events happening around the globe. For its first 54 years, the PWC was more of an event than a formal organization. In 2001, the group adopted a constitution and changed its name to Pentecostal World Fellowship.

Sixty years ago, in a special declaration given at the Sixth Pentecostal World Conference in Jerusalem, held May 19-21, 1961, the delegates advocated for a “renewing of the Pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit with all believers” and they pledged to “call all believers to continued prayer, faith, and obedience to the Word of God.”

This meeting closed on Pentecost Sunday, May 21, 1961. It was reported that “volumes of praise swell from thousands of voices and God moves upon us in a significant way.” The morning speaker on the closing day was the esteemed Pentecostal veteran, Lewi Pethrus of Stockholm, with Frank Lindquist of Minneapolis serving as interpreter. Afterwards the delegates shared Communion. Thomas F. Zimmerman gave the final message, challenging the delegates to help promote 20th-century Pentecost. The final report of those registered for the 1961 conference was 2,595 delegates from 40 different countries.

Read the article, “Going Up to Jerusalem,” by Don Mallough, on page 12 of the July 16, 1961, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Prophets of the Lord,” by Violet Schoonmaker

• “It’s Miserable to Be a Mule,” by Donald Gee

• “A Day in the Life of a Missionary’s Wife,” by Mrs. O. B. Treece

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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Edith Mae Pennington: The Beauty Queen Who Left Hollywood for a Pentecostal Pulpit

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This Week in AG History —July 4, 1931

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 08 July 2021

Edith Mae Pennington (1902-1970) traded the glamour and fame of Hollywood for a Pentecostal pulpit. Her testimony, published in 1931 in the Pentecostal Evangel, shared her journey from small town America to Hollywood and back again.

Reared in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Edith accepted Christ at a young age in her family’s evangelical church. By high school, she had become a ravishing young woman and lost interest in spiritual things. She enjoyed popularity and, she wrote, “the love of the world gripped my heart.” She spent her time going to dances and engaging in the frivolities of the world. She did not intentionally reject God, but nonetheless drifted away from her faith.

After high school, Edith attended college. She intended to become a teacher but soon found herself on another path. She entered a beauty pageant in 1921 and beat out 7,000 other young women to capture the title, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the United States.”

Edith’s life would never be the same. Gifts and money were showered upon her, and she received numerous invitations to speak at luncheons and christen buildings and public works projects. “I was dined and feted, flattered, and honored,” she recalled. She wore expensive clothing, had a car and chauffeur, and regularly made guest appearances at theaters.

Even though Edith seemed to have everything, she felt empty on the inside. “It was very exciting, alluring, inviting — yet it did not satisfy,” she wrote. During her travels across America, she decided to try the screen rather than the stage. She settled in Hollywood, hoping for a change.

Edith’s mother was her constant companion, helping to protect her and line up events. But her mother’s most important work, perhaps, was accomplished in the prayer closet. Edith noted, “Mother would be behind the curtain praying for me at my request and her desire — for God to help me and not let me make any mistakes.”

These prayers were soon answered, but not before witnessing the depravity of Hollywood. Edith appeared in several motion pictures, but became increasingly “shocked” at the “wicked world” surrounding her. “I was horrified at the immorality and the things I witnessed,” she wrote, noting that she had “several narrow escapes which frightened me.” She realized that her hopes for fame and fortune had been misplaced. “My air castles shattered at my feet,” she cried.

In her despair, Edith turned to God. She began attending church and heard the gospel preached by the power of the Holy Spirit. She felt conviction for her sins and “awakened to the startling realization that I was a sinner, lost and undone.” She began to read the Bible, which seemed to make everything “brighter” and her “soul lighter.” However, she hesitated to make the decision to become a true follower of Christ.

Edith knew that she would have to leave her lifestyle behind if she recommitted herself to Christ. She understood that there would need to be a parting of ways: “One way led to a career, fame, and fortune, but there was sin, the world, and a lost soul at the end. The other way revealed the Cross, and Jesus the Savior who had died for me that peace, joy, and forgiveness might be mine.”

Initially, Edith tried to have both God and the world. She went to church and also went to theaters and parties where sin abounded and where God was dishonored. She was miserable and ultimately recognized that she needed “deliverance from the bondage of the world.”

She visited churches that she described as “nominal,” and they were unable to help her find victory from her bondage to sin. She knew she wanted to live for the Lord, but she could not seem to separate herself from the destructive paths of the world. She experienced painful cognitive dissonance. She liked dressing like a Hollywood starlet, but deep inside she knew that she could not serve both God and flesh.

Finally, Edith decided to visit a Pentecostal church. She had heard that Pentecostal churches believed in the power of God. And Edith knew that she needed God’s power. She attended several Sunday evening services at a Pentecostal church in Los Angeles in October 1925. One evening, after a message in tongues seemed to be a direct rebuke from God, she ran to the altar and fully surrendered her life to God. She began to weep uncontrollably and then experienced unexplainable peace and quietness. She recalled, “I was happy, and felt so free, so light, so clean.”

The next night Edith returned to church. This time, she decided not to wear her characteristically gaudy jewelry. She received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and felt God call her to preach the gospel. Edith returned to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where, in 1930, she became the pastor of the Assemblies of God congregation.

Edith Mae Pennington spent the rest of her life in ministry as a pastor and noted evangelist. Throngs of people would come to hear “The Most Beautiful Girl in the United States” share how she left the lights of Hollywood for the light of the Cross. Edith’s decision to forsake the world and to follow Christ changed the course of not only her life, but thousands of others.

Read the article by Edith Mae Pennington, “From the Footlights to the Light of the Cross,” published serially in the July 4, 1931, and July 11, 1931, issues of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in the July 4, 1931, issue:

• “The Overflowing Stream,” by P. C. Nelson

• “Is Life Worth Living?” by Myer Pearlman

And many more!

Click these links to read the July 4th and July 11th issues 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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Joseph and Ebba Nilsen: Pioneer Assemblies of God Missionaries in the Congo

This Week in AG History —June 30, 1974

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 01 July 2021

Joseph Walter Nilsen (1897-1974), son of Swedish immigrants to America, laid much of the foundation for the growing Assemblies of God work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). He also was the first Assemblies of God missionary in Tanzania and established the first Assemblies of God mission station in northern Malawi. During his 30-year term as a missionary, he and his wife, Ebba, supervised day schools, evangelized villages, built churches, and opened medical clinics, while serving God and the Congolese people faithfully.

The son of Swedish Evangelical Covenant Church pastors, Nilsen served in the United States Navy during World War I and then joined the Standard Oil Company in California. He was successfully climbing the business ladder when he met a shy young lady, Ebba Arvidson, at a church meeting. His friends bet him that he could not make her talk, so he took the bet and made a date with Ebba. He asked her father for her hand in marriage and was given permission upon making the promise that he would never take her more than a day’s journey from her parents.

While on a business trip, Nilsen felt an impression that God was calling him to ministry. He quit his well-paying job and enrolled in the Assemblies of God school in San Francisco, Glad Tidings Bible Institute (later Bethany College). One evening, while in prayer after the church service, Joseph prayed that God would use him to help meet the world’s great need. As he prayed, he had a vision of a map of Africa that gradually became focused on the central region of the Belgian Congo. He saw a missionary going from village to village, building chapels. He was amazed to see that the missionary was himself.

He said nothing to Ebba about this vision. She had married a strong young man in the burgeoning oil industry who had then quit his job to go to Bible school. He also promised he would not remove her from her family. After graduation, Joseph and Ebba accepted a pastorate in Montana and had two children, but the young pastor was restless, consistently hearing in his heart that word, Congo! He prayed in desperation, “Lord, I am willing to go, but you must speak to my wife.”

Not long after, when tucking their 8-year-old daughter, Ruth, into bed after a church service, she said to her parents, “Tonight the Lord asked me if I would be a missionary to the Congo. I told him I would go if my mommy and daddy went with me.” Neither of her parents spoke. Finally, Ebba said softly, “The Lord has been asking me the same thing. I told him he would need to speak to my husband.” In 1929, with 8-year-old Ruth and infant Paul, they embarked on the 10-week journey to the Belgian Congo, conducting services each Sunday on the ship taking them to Africa.

Four days after arriving, Joseph was down with dysentery. The next week, little Paul had a serious fever. Within the first six months, all of the family experienced some form of illness including fever, measles, dysentery, and malaria. Finally, they settled on the edge of the Ituri Forest, where the sun never penetrated the thick jungle. The forest was home to wild animals, witch doctors, juju priests, and shy Pygmies. The family set about learning new languages, making friends, and building a mud home. Soon they had not only a circle of friends, but a small group of Christian believers.

In their first six-year term, the Nilsen family started a school, built churches, and established a mission station. During their second term, they opened a Bible school to train Congolese men and women to lead their own churches. More areas began to open to the gospel and the Nilsens were asked to help. Joseph took Ebba and their now three children across Central Africa and helped to establish the church in Tanzania. While in Tanzania, a chief from Malawi invited Nilsen to begin a church in his area. Later, Morris and Macey Williams came to take charge of the Malawi work and the Nilsens were able to return to the Congo.

The Assemblies of God of the Belgian Congo was formally established in 1956 and Joseph Nilsen was elected to serve as the first superintendent. However, due to the constant exhausting work and the effects of many and varied diseases, both Joseph and Ebba’s health had deteriorated over the years. By August 1959, 63-year-old Joseph knew that their health would not permit them to continue the rigorous work, and they returned to the United States leaving their work in the capable hands of Congolese workers and young missionaries whom they had trained, such as Jay and Angeline Tucker.

In 1960, political unrest caused most of the missionaries to be evacuated. However, due to the groundwork laid by Nilsen in training and commissioning Congolese converts to lead the work, every phase of the Assemblies of God ministries was able to continue under national leadership.

The Pentecostal Evangel announced the passing of pioneer missionary Joseph Nilsen in its June 30, 1974, issue, reporting that “in the face of great spiritual opposition, he established the work…” Despite the political turmoil that followed decolonization of the Congo in the 1960s, including the martyrdom of Nilsen’s young fellow missionary, J. W. Tucker, the Congolese Assemblies of God has continued to be a strong church committed to training and mobilizing workers for the harvest in Pentecostal power, largly due to the foundational work of pioneer missionaries like the Nilsen family.

Read the announcement of Nilsen’s death 28 in the June 30, 1974, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Upper Window” by Emil Balliet

• “The Churches in Eastern Europe” by T.F. Zimmerman

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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Bert Webb: How a Teenager from Wellston, Oklahoma Became an Assemblies of God National Leader

Bert Webb, his wife, Charlotte, and their children, Tommy and Sue, sitting in their living room; circa 1956

This Week in AG History —June 20, 1954

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, 24 June 2021

Bert Webb (1906-1995) held many positions of leadership in the Assemblies of God. He served as a district youth director, evangelist, pastor, district official, an assistant general superintendent for the Assemblies of God for 20 years, and in his retirement years he was campus pastor at Evangel College (now Evangel University) in Springfield, Missouri.

Born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, he moved with his parents to a farm at Weleetka, Oklahoma, when he was 8 years old. Three years later, his family moved to Wellston, a small farming community in the central part of Oklahoma. Before the 1920s, Webb described Wellston as “a most ungodly place.” As a teenager, he said that he did not know any young people who claimed to know Christ, including himself.

But that all changed when Bert was a senior in high school. Dexter Collins, a new convert, came to Wellston in 1922 and conducted what amounted to a year-long revival. Starting small, the meetings soon attracted many individuals and families who were saved, healed, and baptized in the Holy Spirit. After Webb’s mother was healed of asthma, he went to services out of curiosity. Then he too was saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit. When the meetings ended, it was estimated that some 300 were saved in his hometown of only 600. His high school senior class officers were saved and filled with the Spirit. Nineteen of the new converts went into the ministry, including Webb.

Ordained in 1926 in the Oklahoma district, Webb first ministered as an evangelist. He met his future wife, Charlotte Williamson, at a district youth convention where he was preaching in June 1927. They eventually were married at Faith Tabernacle in Oklahoma City in June 1931. The Williamson family were gifted musicians, and Charlotte’s musical abilities were an asset to Bert’s ministry as an evangelist and pastor.

Webb continued evangelizing and also pastored churches in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Arkansas before coming to Springfield, Missouri, in 1939, when he was elected as pastor of Central Assembly of God. In addition to preaching at the church, Webb also spoke three times weekly on Springfield’s KTTS radio station with a program called The Church by the Side of the Road. At the same time, on KWTO radio station, he hosted a weekly radio broadcast called, Assembly Vespers. Charlotte Webb served as director of the orchestra, and Sunday School exceeded all previous attendance records when the Webbs were pastors. One of the high points of the Webbs’ ministry at Central was a meeting they hosted with Dr. Charles S. Price, which was held at the Shrine Mosque in 1940.

Next Webb was elected superintendent of the Southern Missouri district for six years before becoming an assistant general superintendent of the Assemblies of God from 1949 to 1969. In that position he served as the executive director of the Sunday School, Youth, Evangelism, Radio, Personnel, and Publications. He also was chairman of the building committee for the administration building at 1445 N. Boonville Avenue, which was erected in 1960 and dedicated on March 2, 1962.

Webb served on numerous interchurch committees. He was chairman of the Assemblies of God Commission on Chaplains. He served on the National Advisory Board for the U.S. Air Force Chief of Chaplains in Washington, D.C. He was president of the National Sunday School Association, which was comprised of some 40 Protestant denominations. He also served on boards with the National Religious Broadcasters and the National Association of Evangelicals. His ministry took him to more than 62 countries where he led missions conventions, teaching seminars, and revival campaigns.

In retirement, he and Charlotte moved to California, where they became administrators of a 262-bed church-operated convalescent home. In 1974 they started a church in Mission Viejo, California, pastoring there for a year. Webb then traveled in ministers institutes and camp meetings until January 1977, when he returned to Springfield to accept the position of campus pastor of Evangel College (now Evangel University), where he served until 1983.

The Webbs continued to accept ministry invitations from many places. They served interim pastorates in Eugene, Oregon; Houston and Fort Worth, Texas; Biloxi, Mississippi; and Omaha, Nebraska. He passed away in Springfield, Missouri in January 1995 at the age of 88. Assemblies of God General Superintendent Thomas Trask stated, “This Fellowship owes a great debt of gratitude to Bert Webb for his years of leadership…. This man faithfully served the Lord and this church and we shall miss him.”

While serving as executive director of the National Sunday School Department, Webb wrote an article called, “It is Time to Seek the Lord,” found on page 4 of the June 20, 1954, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Head of the House,” by James D. Menzies

• “Hundreds Converted in South Africa,” by Vernon D. Pettenger

• “Graduation at the L.A.B.I,” by Kenny Savage

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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Hermano Pablo: Assemblies of God Missionary and Media Pioneer in Latin America

This Week in AG History —June 16, 1963

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 17 June 2021

Growing up as an Assemblies of God missionary kid in Puerto Rico in the 1920s and 1930s, Paul Finkenbinder (1921-2012) dreamed of reaching not just one country but all of Latin America with the gospel of Christ. He returned to the United States to attend Zion Bible Institute (Providence, Rhode Island) and Central Bible Institute (Springfield, Missouri). In 1943, he and his wife, Linda, packed up and moved to El Salvador where Paul began to work his dream into reality.

As Assemblies of God missionaries, Paul and Linda spent the next 12 years teaching in Bible schools, ministering in churches, and making themselves available for whatever needs arose in ministry. In 1955, God gave Paul a vision for expanding the message he was preaching through the larger avenue of short-wave radio broadcasts. At the time, radio was still a novelty for many living in Latin America.

Beginning with a Webcor recorder mounted on a missionary barrel in his garage, Paul began recording a short radio program called “La Iglesia del Aire” (The Church of the Air). By 1963, this 15-minute broadcast was the only gospel network program heard daily in all Latin America. Hermano Pablo (Brother Paul) began receiving testimonies from across the region of what God was doing through the radio messages. Of the six daily broadcasts, two were devoted to evangelistic sermons, one to issues of morality, and another addressed Bible questions. The remaining two were given to Scripture readings, Christian poetry, and gospel music.

In 1960, the ministry, then known as LARE (Latin American Radio Evangelism), pioneered the use of Christian drama to present parables and Bible stories on television. The response was overwhelming. This led to the production of six Bible drama films that are still in use today throughout Latin America. The realization of Brother Paul’s dream required utilizing every tool available — radio, television, the printed page, crusades, and special events — to present the Gospel of Christ to all of Latin America.

In 1964, Hermano Pablo and his family returned to the United States and established their headquarters in Costa Mesa, California. After four years in a makeshift recording studio in their garage, God provided a building for their studios and offices. Today Hermano Pablo Ministries’ four-minute “Un Mensaje a la Conciencia” (A Message to the Conscience) is broadcast more than 6,000 times per day and is published in over 80 periodicals. The Spanish language radio and television programs, along with the newspaper and magazine columns, are shipped to more than 33 countries of the world.

Hermano Pablo was honored by the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) with the award for the “Hispanic Program of the Year.” Other awards include “Best Film of the Year” given by the National Evangelical Film Foundation (NEFF), and the “Best Spanish Broadcast” Angel Award given by Religion in Media (RIM). In 1993, the NRB awarded Hermano Pablo the “Milestone Award” for 50 years of service in religious broadcasting, and in 2003 he received the prestigious NRB Chairman’s Award.

On Jan. 25, 2012, Paul and Linda celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. Later that evening he complained of a severe headache and was taken to the hospital where he slipped into a coma. Paul Finkenbinder died in the morning hours of Jan. 27, 2012, but the ministry of Hermano Pablo continues to live and thrive across an entire continent.

Hermano Pablo and his ministry were featured in an article, “La Iglesia del Aire,” published on pages 12-13 of the June 16, 1963, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Should A Christian Have A Breakdown,” by Anne Sandberg

• “A Former Gambler Testifies,” by Arthur Condrey

• “Another Minister Led Into Pentecostal Blessing,” by Ansley Orfila

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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Adeline Wichman and Pauline Smith: Assemblies of God Missionaries to Ghana

Adeline Wichman (left) and Pauline Smith (right), missionaries to Ghana, circa 1960s.

This Week in AG History —May 31, 1959

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 03 June 2021

When Adeline Wichman (1914-2004) and Pauline Smith (1916-2003) sat down in the dining room of Central Bible Institute (CBI, later Central Bible College, Springfield, Missouri) to talk about what they would do after graduation, they had no idea the conversation would lead to a 47-year partnership that would span two continents, expose them to dangers from which most others would flee, and impact thousands of believers across the Gold Coast of Africa.

Wichman grew up in Wisconsin and Smith in Delaware, and they met in Missouri at CBI. They had not been close friends during their college years, but as their 1943 graduation loomed upon them, they concluded it would be better to go together into the ministry than try to go it alone. CBI principal W.I. Evans and dean of women Eleanor Bowie both recommended them to a ministry in Washington, D.C., where they could assist in ministering to the young men serving in World War II. Together, the two women went willingly and served faithfully.

In a prayer meeting on New Year’s Eve, both women sensed separately a call to pursue ministry in Africa. International missions work was not something they had previously discussed. However, they talked after the service and discovered that the other had sensed the same call. They applied for missionary appointment with the Assemblies of God and were approved as “workers together.” In April 1946, they arrived in the Gold Coast, now known as Ghana, West Africa.

The weather was hot and humid and the women found insects, lizards, and snakes to be their constant roommates. They set about learning a new language in the evenings after working through the day to establish themselves with the Dagomba people of Yendi.

They discovered that portions of the Bible had already been translated into the language of the Dagomba but were no longer being printed. Smith and Wichman procured a Multigraph printer and painstakingly set out the type, letter by letter, to provide the Scriptures for their new friends.

After their first term, Smith and Wichman moved together to Wale Wale, also in northern Ghana. Believing that their priority was to make biblically literate disciples of Jesus Christ, they set up reading schools so that the villagers could read the Bible in their own language. Through these outreaches, entire villages turned to Christ, destroyed their fetishes, and supported a local pastor rather than a village witch doctor.

In 1959, a new opportunity opened itself up as the government schools presented the idea of conducting a daily “religion class” for students. Wichman and Smith had been in the country for more than a decade and were well respected. Soon requests came from 13 schools in their area for lessons that could be taught to the children. “A Door of Opportunity,” a report of this new ministry, was published in the May 31, 1959, Pentecostal Evangel. The women wrote, “the opportunity also presented a problem. It is one thing to tell a Bible story from time to time, but to prepare daily material is something else … the teachers are not schooled in the Word, and the pupils know very little about the Scriptures and nothing about God.” Smith and Wichman had occasionally received Sunday School papers in English through BGMC (Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge) but they now needed more than 1300 papers and needed them immediately.

With the need so pressing, the women decided to write a basic catechism of Christian doctrine that would take the children through a month of lessons. They began with an understanding of God, including simple questions, “Who is God?,” “Where is God?,” and simple answers, along with a Scripture verse. They also included prayers for the children to learn, such as The Lord’s Prayer, mealtime prayers, and bedtime prayers. They then prepared 25 lessons on Jesus, salvation, the Bible, and other doctrines until they had lessons to cover 250 school days. At the time of publication, 1300 Ghanaian boys and girls, ages 5 to 13 were learning the answers to questions such as, “Who is Jesus?,” “Why did He come?,” “How many gods are there?,” from a biblical perspective.

After three terms in Wale Wale, Smith and Wichman moved to Bawku and continued the same kinds of ministry with the Kusasi people. Over their near 50 years serving together in Ghana, these partners experienced malaria, snake bites, and various other threats while being involved in literacy campaigns, prison ministry, church planting, Bible school teaching, medical work, and even organizing the first Assemblies of God men’s ministry in the nation.

During their last terms in Ghana, they were considered “semi-retired” but still taught in the Bible schools and ministered wherever the doors were opened. They were especially loved by the missionary children as they became fun-loving “aunties” filling in for extended families who were far away in the United States.

Upon retirement in 1993, Ghanaian church leaders thanked Wichman and Smith for their example of faith-filled Christianity – “simple, uncluttered, hardworking, sincere, dedicated, and selfless.” The two women found themselves coming full circle, as they moved to Maranatha Village in Springfield, Missouri, within sight of where they first met more than 50 years earlier. Their commitment that they would be “better together” held steadfast, with the roommates passing away within a year of each other, Smith at age 87, and Wichman at age 90.

Read Adeline Wichman and Pauline Smith’s article, “A Door of Opportunity,” on page 5 of the May 31, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Revival Continues in South Africa” by Vernon Pettenger

• “An Idol Worshipper’s Dream” by John Stetz

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

Leave a comment

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