New Life in the Spirit: How Two Presbyterian Missionaries Became Assemblies of God Pioneers in India

CummingsThis Week in AG History — October 14, 1962

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 12 October 2017

Robert Cummings (1892-1972) and his wife Mildred (1892-1981) originally were sent out by the United Presbyterian Church of North America as missionaries to India. Through a series of events, the couple received the baptism in the Holy Spirit while on the mission field and then became appointed missionaries with the Assemblies of God. They had a distinguished career as missionaries and Bible instructors. Fifty-five years ago, in the Oct. 14, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Robert Cummings wrote an article, “What God Taught Me,” describing how he came to accept the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The son of United Presbyterian missionaries, Cummings was born and raised in Punjab, India, and attended school there. At age 15, he attended a preparatory school in the U.S. and latter attained two bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees. He was ordained in 1918 with the United Presbyterian Church and served a year as a chaplain in the U.S. Army.

Robert Cummings was appointed as a missionary with the United Presbyterian Church in 1920. While on the mission field, Robert and Mildred worked with various missionary agencies before becoming independent missionaries. Robert became principal of the Landour Language School in India where he rubbed shoulders with a number of Assemblies of God missionaries.

After reading the life of Charles Finney, Robert Cummings was struck by Finney’s description of his own spiritual experience, which felt like “waves and waves of liquid love.” Cummings began praying himself to be filled with the Holy Spirit. His wife was also seeking the Pentecostal blessing. During the Easter holidays of 1924, Mildred Cummings was wonderfully baptized in the Holy Spirit. Robert kept seeking and did not receive the Baptism until after he attended a prayer retreat in January 1925.

As he was walking along a canal bank in India and was praising God, he sensed God saying to him: “You really are not praising Me and praying for My glory because you are anxious for My glory, but because you want your Baptism.” Cummings realized this was true. He felt the Lord put a new prayer in his heart, “O God! Be Thou glorified at any cost to me.” Later that day he continued in prayer and praise, “O God! Be thou exalted and glorified in each of Thy children, in me. Let Thy name be vindicated and magnified at any cost to me.” This prayer brought on a time of weeping followed by an indescribable sense of the majesty and greatness of God. His heart then was filled with joy and even laughter as he felt a strong presence of God’s Spirit.

The next day as he continued praying, the Lord began to speak many things to him. Most of all, Cummings wanted to be yielded completely to God, including his tongue. He revealed, “As I yielded it to Him He spoke through me in a language which I did not know or understand.” He felt God’s power flowing through him in a life-changing way.

After being baptized in the Holy Spirit, Robert Cummings joined the Assemblies of God. During World War II, the Cummings family left India, and Robert was appointed director of missions at Central Bible Institute (now Evangel University). Receiving appointment with the Assemblies of God, he went back to India as a missionary in 1946. He served as field secretary for South Asia from 1946-1948. In this capacity, he and his wife traveled extensively throughout India and Ceylon, representing the Assemblies of God and continued in missionary work through 1961. After retiring from missionary work, he again served on the faculty of Central Bible Institute.

Looking back on his years of missionary service and the time he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, Cummings declared, “I can testify that this experience back in India has meant to me new life, a new world, a new Saviour, a new Spirit.”

Read Robert Cummings’ testimony, “What God Taught Me,” on pages 4, 5, and 29 of the Oct. 14, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Day at Azusa Street” by Stanley M. Horton
• “God’s Thoroughbred” by Jack West
• “Revival on Guam”

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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Joseph Smale and the Lost Sermons that Prepared Los Angeles for the Azusa Street Revival

Pentecostal BlessingThis Week in AG History — October 7, 1962

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 5 October 2017

The Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909) in Los Angeles and the African-American pastor of the Azusa Street Mission, William Seymour, have become iconic symbols of the Pentecostal movement. However, historians and participants in the revival point to a lesser-known Baptist pastor and graduate of Spurgeon’s College, Joseph Smale, who helped prepare Los Angeles for the revival.

The immediate catalyst for the Azusa Street Revival came in the summer of 1905 when Smale, pastor of First Baptist Church of Los Angeles, returned from a visit to Wales. He had attended meetings during the great Welsh Revival, during which entire towns experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Smale witnessed countless people repent of sin and turn toward God, and he prayed for God to do a similar work in Los Angeles.

Joseph Smale - FBCLA

Photo courtesy of First Baptist Church of Los Angeles Archives

Smale opened up his church for daily intercessory prayer meetings. Spiritually hungry people came from across Los Angeles and cried out to God for revival – praying specifically for a new “Pentecost.”

The prayer meetings attracted large numbers of people. However, some Baptist leaders opposed the spontaneous character of the prayer. They forced Smale to resign as pastor. He formed a new congregation, The New Testament Church of Los Angeles, which became a hub for people who committed themselves to pray for revival.

In the fall of 1905, Smale preached a series of sermons titled “The Pentecostal Blessing.” He encouraged believers to seek a restoration of the spiritual blessings described in the New Testament. Under Smale’s ministry, countless people developed a great hunger for God and engaged in deep prayer and Bible study.

When William Seymour came to Los Angeles in the spring of 1906 and began encouraging believers to seek biblical spiritual gifts, he found fertile ground for his message. People from varied backgrounds and from numerous churches – including Smale’s church – crowded into the Azusa Street Mission to experience the modern-day Pentecost for which they had been praying.

Historians have long known that Smale’s sermon series, “The Pentecostal Blessing,” played a pivotal role leading up to the Azusa Street Revival. The sermons were a manifesto on the importance of recovering the spiritual life of the early church. They convicted and persuaded many to seek for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit. However, it appeared that Smale’s sermons had been lost to history. No copies apparently survived.

Then the unexpected happened. Several years ago, someone bought a copy of Smale’s sermons at a garage sale in Oklahoma. He was not aware of their significance and showed them to Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center director Darrin Rodgers, who immediately discerned their importance. The sermons were deposited at the Heritage Center, where they are safely preserved for posterity.

Importantly, Gospel Publishing House has just republished The Pentecostal Blessing, which was officially released as part of its “Spirit-Empowered Classics” series on Oct. 3, 2017. The book includes a series foreword by noted Azusa Street Revival historian Cecil M. Robeck Jr. and a biographical sketch of Smale by his biographer, British Baptist educator Tim Welch.

The sermons that prepared Los Angeles for the Azusa Street Revival – long thought to be lost – are now available to 21st century readers.

Click here for more information about the newly-republished edition of The Pentecostal Blessing.

The Oct. 7, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel includes an article by Stanley Horton about the Azusa Street Revival, which begins by describing Smale’s role in the revival.

Read Stanley Horton’s article, “Pentecostal Explosion: Once the Spirit Fell at Azusa Street the Waves of Pentecostal Power Quickly Spread throughout the Religious World,” on pages 8-9 of the Oct. 7, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Ecumenicity: False and True,” by Frank M. Boyd

* “Tribes, Tongues, and Triumphs,” by Marion E. Craig

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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From the Cabaret to Musical Evangelist: Meyer Tan-Ditter, Jewish Assemblies of God Pioneer

tan-ditter-p8834

This Week in AG History — September 30, 1962

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 28 September 2017

Meyer Tan-Ditter (1896-1962) was an unlikely candidate to become an Assemblies of God evangelist and missionary. Born into an Orthodox Jewish home in London, England, Tan-Ditter abandoned his family’s strict religious standards when he reached adulthood. A gifted musician, he spent seven years playing in cabarets. He spent considerable time at race tracks, where he exercised horses. For nearly five years, he traveled the world in the British Naval Service and the American Merchant Marine. Tan-Ditter later described himself as living “the life of a sailor.” He spread his wings and imbibed deeply in the ways of the world.

A friendship with a Christian woman – known to history only as “Sister Wicks” – changed the trajectory of Tan-Ditter’s life. Wicks, knowing that the young man came from an observant Jewish background, began asking him about his childhood faith. At first, he resented her questions. He was not interested in discussing religion. Furthermore, his family had taught him to distrust Christians.

Wicks continued to show esteem for both Tan-Ditter and for Jewish traditions. Over time, he opened up to her. She asked about his thoughts regarding the identity of the Messiah, but she carefully refrained from mentioning the name of Jesus. Her inquiries sparked questions in Tan-Ditter’s mind. He was already very familiar with the Talmud and the Torah, and he began to suspect that it could be possible that the Messiah had already come.

One night while staying at his parents’ home, something jostled Tan-Ditter awake. He was startled to see a glow with a bright lighting shining in his eyes. The longer he stared at the light, the clearer it became. He soon realized that it was the face of Jesus Christ in the light! He jumped out of bed and ran into the kitchen, nervous and shocked.

His mother came into the kitchen and asked what was wrong. He was not sure what to say. His vision seemed to confirm what he already suspected – that Jesus could be the Messiah. He knew that his family would disown him if he confessed this belief. Finally, he told her that he had just seen Jesus in a vision.

Tan-Ditter’s mother began weeping, thinking that her son must be either crazy or apostate. Rumors circulated about his vision. A little while later his father asked, “What is this I hear? I hear you are becoming a Christian.” Tan-Ditter answered, “I am not becoming one, I have been one for three weeks.” His father immediately kicked his son out of the house and asked him to never return. The local Jewish community ostracized him, and people would come up to him on the streets and mockingly ask him to describe what Jesus looked like. Following Jesus would be costly.

Sister Wicks provided a room for the 25-year-old homeless convert and encouraged him to seek God in prayer. For 10 days, Tan-Ditter spent extended times of prayer on his knees. He asked God to show him whether Isaiah chapter 53 does indeed refer to Jesus. His vision of Jesus as Messiah held fast. His father brought him to two rabbis, who cross-examined the young man. But he held his vision of Jesus close to his heart, and the rabbis could not shake his faith.

Tan-Ditter received another vision. This time he saw an angel carrying a large book come into his room. The angel told him to eat the book, which he did. The next morning he awoke with a great hunger to share the message of Jesus Christ with the Jewish people. This vision propelled Tan-Ditter toward a life of ministry to the Jewish people.

To prepare for this calling, Tan-Ditter attended two Assemblies of God schools. He initially enrolled at Beulah Heights Bible Institute in North Bergen, New Jersey (now University of Valley Forge). After one year, he transferred to Bethel Bible Training School in Newark, New Jersey (now Evangel University). He graduated in 1922, was ordained as an Assemblies of God evangelist in 1924, and married Alice Laura French in 1926. Together, they served in pastoral ministry and became well-known musical evangelists and missionaries.

The Tan-Ditters served as missionaries to the Jewish people in the United States until Meyer’s death in 1962. Alice passed away in 1975. The couple did not have children.

Meyer Tan-Ditter’s testimony illustrates several themes in Pentecostal history. Many early Pentecostal converts testified that signs and wonders drew them to faith. Likewise, Tan-Ditter’s vision confirmed, in his mind, that Jesus was the Messiah. Early Pentecostals also often found that serving Jesus was costly. And Tan-Ditter was not the only early Pentecostal whose Jewish background and knowledge of Hebrew scripture proved to be a strong foundation for Pentecostal faith. Myer Pearlman, the noted Assemblies of God systematic theologian from the 1920s through the 1940s, had a similar testimony. The Assemblies of God, mirroring the Book of Acts, proved fertile ground for both Jews and Gentiles.

Read Meyer Tan-Ditter’s obituary on page 23 of the Sept. 30, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Open Doors in the Congo,” by Gail Winters

• “Dedicated to Sacrifice,” by Anthony Sorbo

• “Pioneering among the Deaf and among the Hearing,” by Maxine Strobridge

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Click here to read Meyer Tan-Ditter’s testimony, “How God Got Hold of a Jew,” published on page 8 of the January 22, 1927, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

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

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

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Royal Rangers: Shaping Boys into Godly, Responsible Men Since 1962

Johnnie_Barnes_1400

Johnnie Barnes wearing a Revolutionary War outfit and holding a large Bible, 1976

This Week in AG History — September 23, 1962

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 21 September 2017

“A new age is upon us! It is an age of jet travel, space consciousness, pleasure madness, and moral indifference. Our boys are growing up in this overpowering environment. They will be the victims of it unless our church men do something to guide the energies and thoughts of the boys into right spiritual channels. Action must be taken quickly.”

Johnnie Barnes wrote these words in 1962, introducing readers of the Pentecostal Evangel to the new Royal Rangers discipleship program for boys.

Assemblies of God leaders in the 1950s and 1960s realized that shifting cultural currents posed significant challenges to the development of Christian manhood. They chose Johnnie Barnes (1927-1989), an energetic young preacher from Texas, to craft a new program to respond to this emerging discipleship crisis.

Barnes’ boyhood experience as a Boy Scout helped to prepare him for this new challenge. As a teenager, he was an Eagle Scout recipient, and his heart was set on being a park ranger. But God called him into the ministry, and by his early 20s he became a Methodist circuit-riding preacher. Barnes soon received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which flooded his heart with a sense of God’s grace and power, accompanied by greater personal humility and power in his ministry. Barnes transferred his ministry credentials to the Assemblies of God, where he quickly became noted for his passion for ministry to men and boys.

When developing Royal Rangers, Barnes drew upon aspects of Boy Scouts, the Royal Ambassadors program of the Southern Baptist Convention, and similar programs. What resulted was a unique Pentecostal mentoring program that melded outdoor adventure, Christian service, and biblical training. Royal Rangers became a familiar rite of passage for boys in Assemblies of God churches across America and around the world.

As head of Royal Rangers, Barnes had a broad vision and built bridges across denominational lines. In 1975, Royal Rangers began allowing other denominations to charter groups. The Congregational Holiness Church was the first, followed by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), and others. Today, churches of numerous denominations use the Royal Rangers program.

Since the founding of Royal Rangers in 1962, the spiritual and cultural decline of America has quickened, and the need for godly mentors for boys is greater. The legacy of Royal Rangers is demonstrated in the lives of over 2.5 million boys around the world who have participated in this program designed to mold boys into godly, responsible men.

Read the article by Johnnie Barnes, “A Bird’s-Eye View of our New Boys Program,” on pages 9 and 19 of the Sept. 23, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

To learn more about Royal Rangers and its flexible and adaptable programs, visit the Royal Rangers website.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Rescue the Prayer Meeting,” by Lloyd Christiansen

* “Always be Joyful,” by F. Helen Jarvis

* “The Pentecostal Dimension in Education,” by G. Raymond Carlson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

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

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

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Etta Calhoun: Pioneer Pentecostal and Founder of Assemblies of God Women’s Ministries

Etta Calhoun

Etta Calhoun, 1901

This Week in AG History — September 14, 1969

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 14 September 2017

Etta Gray Fields Calhoun (1870-1940), a wife and mother from Texas, was convinced that women could make a world of difference if they banded together and put their time, money, and prayer into joint efforts rather than separate missions projects. She was the founder of the Assemblies of God Women’s Missionary Council (now Assemblies of God National Women’s Ministries) and is the name behind the Etta Calhoun Fund (now Touch the World Fund) which has supplied indoor equipment for missions institutions since 1957.

Born on September 19, 1870, to devout Methodist parents, Calhoun showed an early interest in community involvement. As a teenager, she began working with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The WCTU educated the public regarding the social evils of alcohol and gave women the opportunity to develop leadership and public speaking skills. At age 20, she became a speaker for the WCTU and learned valuable lessons about organizing women together for a cause.

During this time, she became an ordained minister for the Methodist church and felt a call to missions. However, her mother became seriously ill and Calhoun moved from Ohio to Orchard, Texas, to help care for her mother. She began teaching school and, in 1899, married Marion Fields, a successful businessman with Houston Electrical Company. Moving to Houston, they worked together to use their financial blessings to reach out to the needy around them.

In 1905, an evangelist named Charles Parham brought the Pentecostal message to Orchard. Calhoun visited the meetings and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues and shared her experience with her pastor. Their church soon became a part of the fledgling Pentecostal movement.

Mr. Fields’ health began to deteriorate and his wife cared for him until his death in 1921. Etta Fields then married John Calhoun of Houston. They attended the Full Gospel Mission Assembly of God church where, in 1925, Calhoun organized the women into a prayer band for missions. After several weeks of meeting together for prayer, Calhoun began to encourage them to consider ways in which God might want to use them to meet the needs of the missions field. At her encouragement, their first project was to sew clothes for the 300 children at Lillian Trasher’s orphanage in Assiout, Egypt.

Building upon the organizational skills she learned as a young woman in the WCTU, Calhoun began traveling to other Assemblies of God churches and districts to organize Women’s Missionary Councils. In September 1925, the General Council of the Assemblies of God recognized these organizations as extensions of Assemblies of God ministries. In 1951 the Women’s Missionary Council became an official national department in Springfield, Missouri.

Calhoun continued in ministry, teaching at Southern California Bible School (now Vanguard University) and Southern Bible Institute (now Southwestern Assemblies of God University) until her death in 1940. In 1957, the Women’s Missionary Council formed the Etta Calhoun Fund, using her birthday, September 19, as an important day for offerings to be taken for the purpose of supplying missions school and institutions with indoor equipment.

The Etta Calhoun Fund is now known as the Touch the World Fund and is still observed on the Sunday closest to Calhoun’s birthday. One of its many projects for the September 17, 2017, offering is to provide beds and mattresses, couches, tables, chairs, a refrigerator and a stove to Timothy’s Abode, a missionary training school in Catamayo, Ecuador, under the direction of missionaries Ron and Esther Marcotte.

Read an article about the 1969 Etta Calhoun offering on page 14 of the September 14, 1969, Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “On Course for God” by Norman Correll

• “Christ is Our Priest” by T. J. Jones

• “The Great Revival of 1857″ by Harold A. Fischer

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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American Indian College: Training Native Americans for Pentecostal Ministry for 60 Years

AIC

American Indian College, 1980.

This Week in AG History — September 9, 1973

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 7 September 2017

American Indian College was pioneered 60 years ago in Phoenix, Arizona, by a white female Assemblies of God missionary, Alta Washburn, who recognized the urgent need to train Native American leaders.

At the time, the U.S. census reported about 500,000 Native Americans living in the nation. Many were migrating from rural reservations to urban areas, and various denominations started “Indian missions,” mostly led by white missionaries.

Alta Washburn and her husband began serving the Apache Indians on the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona in 1946. They understood firsthand the importance of developing indigenous leaders. As whites, their ministry on the reservation was limited. But Native American migration to the cities opened new ministry opportunities. They moved to Phoenix in 1948 and started All Tribes Assembly of God, which became an important spiritual and social refuge for Native Americans from various tribal backgrounds who often felt out of place in their new surroundings.

Washburn believed that she was called to empower Native Americans to become pastors and leaders in their own communities and tribes. She had a vision to plant Native American churches throughout Arizona. An important part of this vision was the establishment of a Bible school to train pastors. The school she founded, initially called All Tribes Indian Bible Training School, opened its doors on Sept. 23, 1957. Washburn remained as president of the school until 1965.

The Sept. 9, 1973, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel highlighted the history of the school. The article noted that the school emphasized study of the Word of God and training in practical ministry. One of the most visible student ministries was the Tribalaires, a traveling group of students who sang and ministered in churches across the nation.

Simon Peter, a Choctaw, became the school’s first Native American president in 1978. The school changed its name several times over the years — American Indian Bible Institute (1967), American Indian Bible College (1982), and American Indian College (1994). In 2016, American Indian College became a campus of Southwestern Assemblies of God University, retaining its name and mission, while benefiting from the resources and faculty of the larger school.

Since its origins 60 years ago, American Indian College has grown significantly and now serves nearly 25 tribes as well as other ethnicities. Alta Washburn’s vision for a school to train Native American leaders has made a lasting mark, not only on the deserts of Arizona, but across the nation, wherever its graduates have served as pastors, missionaries, evangelists, and church workers.

Read “Indian Youth Train for Ministry,” on pages 14 and 15 of the Sept. 9, 1973, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “What We can do for our Colleges,” by Albert W. Earle

• “I Like My Problems” by Ralph Cimino

• “Jesus is Always in Vogue,” by J. Robert Ashcroft

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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Teen Challenge: Transforming the Lives of Drug and Alcohol Addicts Since 1958

Teen Challenge

Howard Foltz (left) and Dieter Bahr (right) standing in front of a Teen Challenge center in Europe

This Week in AG History — August 27, 1967

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 31 August 2017

Teen Challenge, among the world’s largest and most successful substance abuse recovery programs, grew out of an Assemblies of God minister’s burning desire to share Christ with troubled youth. The program’s origin with David Wilkerson in 1958 and its subsequent expansion around the world is a remarkable testimony to God’s life-changing power.

After reading a news article in the Feb. 24, 1958, issue of Life magazine which talked about a high-profile murder trial for members of a teen gang in New York, David Wilkerson, a young pastor in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, prayed about this situation. He felt a compelling burden to go to New York City and help those boys.

With the prayers of church members, and accompanied by his youth pastor, Wilkerson headed to New York City. He attempted to speak with the judge during the trial, but was thrown out of the courtroom. An embarrassing photo of him holding up a Bible was featured in the New York Daily News. Although his efforts seemed unfruitful, he learned that a number of gang members had been in the courtroom that day. The gang members figured if the cops didn’t like him, and the cops didn’t like them, they all were in the same boat.

The gang members began watching what Wilkerson did. He took advantage of this newfound popularity to preach the gospel both in street meetings and in crowded gang hideouts and heroin “shooting galleries.” Eventually he enlisted the aid of 65 Assemblies of God churches from New York and held a citywide rally for gang members and teens caught up in the gang culture. On the last night of the rally, members of the Mau Maus, Bishops, and several other gangs were in attendance. At the conclusion of the service, dozens of gang members came forward to accept Christ as Savior, including Nicky Cruz, a teen gang leader from Brooklyn.

From this small beginning, additional street rallies were held in New York City, and shelter was offered to young people in need. Evangelism, street meetings, and outreach to teens remained essential, but this new ministry also encompassed recovery from addiction, counseling, and training in practical life skills. This ministry, which is now known as Teen Challenge, focused not only on Christian conversion, but also on Christian discipleship.

In the early 1960s, Dave Wilkerson teamed up with John and Elizabeth Sherrill of Guideposts magazine to write the story behind Teen Challenge. The Cross and the Switchblade, published in 1963, gave the compelling story of David Wilkerson’s ministry to the gangs of New York City and the start of Teen Challenge. A popular movie of the same name was produced in 1970, which starred Pat Boone and Erik Estrada.

Teen Challenge centers sprang up in Brooklyn, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc. Many of these new Teen Challenge ministries were pioneered by people who had read The Cross and the Switchblade or had visited another Teen Challenge ministry.

Teen Challenge, which is now a part of AG U.S. Missions, has garnered the attention of national leaders such as President Ronald Reagan, President Gerald Ford, and President George W. Bush.  President Reagan said, “Not only does Teen Challenge help our young people deal with their substance abuse, but it also gives our kids something to live for — a relationship with God, a healthy self-esteem, and a direction in their lives.”

Fifty years ago, in the Aug. 27, 1967, issue, the Pentecostal Evangel highlighted the ongoing growth of the Teen Challenge ministry in an article titled, “Teen Challenge on the Move.” This article featured two new Teen Challenge centers located in Denver and Bayamon, Puerto Rico, as well as centers in Detroit, Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston, and Dallas-Fort Worth. A dozen Teen Challenge centers had been established worldwide by 1967.

What began as an outreach by David Wilkerson to the gangs of New York City in 1958 has developed into one of the largest and most successful Christian treatment programs for individuals caught up in drugs, alcohol, and other life-controlling problems. In addition to 30 administrative offices and 227 Teen Challenge centers in the United States, Global Teen Challenge has been set up to assist with the development of new centers outside the U.S. In 2017, Global Teen Challenge is in 122 countries, representing 1,200 programs.

The specific challenges and methods have changed over the years, but Teen Challenge’s focus remains the same. Teen Challenge leaders recognize that preventing addiction and other life-controlling problems is a process, and Christ alone holds the key to prevention and cure.

Read “Teen Challenge on the Move,” on pages 16 and 17 of the Aug. 27, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Joy in Jerusalem”

• “The Lord’s Prayer” by G. Raymond Carlson

• “Good News Crusades in Nigeria”

And many more!

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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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