Tag Archives: African Americans

Cross-Cultural Ministry in 1922: Mexican Refugees in Texas Reach Out to African Americans

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By the 1930s, Hispanic Assemblies of God congregations had been organized across America. This photo is of a girls Sunday school class, Templo Cristiano, San Antonio, Texas, in June 1930 or 1931.

This Week in AG History — July 8, 1922

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

The small town of Edna, Texas, was home to an early Assemblies of God congregation of Mexican refugees, whose members engaged in evangelistic work to African-Americans, even while their own legal status was uncertain.

This fascinating story of cross-cultural ministry came about because of an emerging social crisis. Over one million refugees from the Mexican Revolution came to the United States between 1910 and 1920. Many of the newcomers lived in makeshift camps, rife with disease and crime, located along the borderlands. Overwhelmed by this humanitarian crisis, local residents often did not know how to react. Social and political tensions flared in Texas and elsewhere.

Assemblies of God churches and ministers, seeing the unfolding tragedy, committed themselves to offer physical and spiritual assistance to the newcomers. Many Mexican refugees accepted Christ and formed small Asambleas de Dios congregations across the borderlands.

American Assemblies of God leaders were able to assist refugees who faced significant challenges. In one instance, Isabel Flores, a prominent Pentecostal leader among the Mexican refugees, was arrested in May 1918 and incarcerated in the Jackson County jail in Edna. The reason for the arrest is unknown. An account published in 1966 in La Luz Apostolica simply stated, “It was wartime, and the officer did not speak Spanish and Isabel did not speak English.” Henry C. Ball, an Assemblies of God missionary to the Mexicans, came to the aid of Flores. Ball traveled to Edna, where he spoke with the authorities and secured the prisoner’s release.

This brush with the law demonstrated that it was advantageous for Mexican immigrants to work with Americans. Earlier that year, Flores and Ball together had organized the Latin American Conference (later renamed the Latin American District), which brought existing Mexican Pentecostal congregations into the Assemblies of God.

Ball’s status as a native-born American, however, did not prevent him from encountering problems. The Assemblies of God, like many other premillennial American evangelicals, took a pacifist position during World War I. Ball’s work with Hispanics and his church’s pacifism caused government officials to view him with suspicion. Ball was arrested in Brownsville, Texas, on suspicion of being a German spy, but he was soon released.

As superintendent of the Latin American Conference, Ball traveled extensively and ministered among the Mexican immigrants.

In 1922, Ball returned to Edna, Texas, where he found an unexpected surprise. In a July 8, 1922, article in the Pentecostal Evangel, Ball reported that the Hispanic congregation maintained an active outreach to African-Americans, despite the language barrier.

The congregation met for worship in a private home located about three miles from Edna. Ball noted that about 30 Mexicans gathered for worship in a large room, and that an additional group of African-Americans joined them. The African-Americans, Ball observed, “have learned to sing the Spanish songs with the Mexicans, even though they know very little Spanish.”

Ball stated that the African-Americans “are anxious to hear Pentecost preached in their own language.” He lamented that “a white man could hardly preach to them in this part of the country,” presumably referring to Jim Crow laws that prevented whites and blacks from mixing.

The Mexican refugees could have used their own plight as an excuse to keep to themselves and to concentrate on building up their own community. But this marginalized group instead reached out to others who were likewise excluded from the benefits of mainstream American culture. Instead of dwelling on what they could not do, they found an area of ministry in which they had an advantage over white Americans. The Mexican immigrants were not subject to Jim Crow laws and could freely minister to African-Americans. When the Mexican immigrants sought to share God’s love with others, their seeming cultural disadvantage became an advantage.

Read the article by H. C. Ball, “The Work Prospering on the Mexican Border,” on page 13 of the July 8, 1922, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Whose Faith Follow: Important Lessons Learned from a Pentecostal Revival [Irvingites] of Nearly a Hundred Years Ago,” by A. E. Saxby

* “Very Fine Needlework,” by Grace E. Thompson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Read about the arrests of Isabel Flores and H. C. Ball in “Historia de los Primeros 50 Años de las Asambleas de Dios Latinas,” on pages 2 and 12 of the April 1966 issue of La Luz Apostolica.

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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O.W. Eubanks: The Highway Patrolman Who Pioneered a Black Church in Rural Mississippi

 

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This Week in AG History —February 8, 1976

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 9 February 2017

Opal W. Eubanks joined the Mississippi Highway Patrol during the race riots of 1964. A large, broad-shouldered white man, he relished the opportunity to strike fear in the hearts of African-Americans who were in trouble with the law. By his own admission, he was a foul-mouthed sinner who liked “rough stuff.”

A radical conversion to Christ in the early 1970s altered the course of Eubanks’ life, and his hardened heart became tender toward African-Americans in his rural community. He and his wife, Thelma, ultimately pioneered an Assemblies of God congregation consisting mostly of African-Americans, which they pastored for 21 years. He shared his story in the Feb. 8, 1976, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Eubanks’ conversion occurred in the midst of deep personal suffering. His 20-year-old daughter had recently been killed in an automobile accident, and he had been experiencing excruciating back pain. He realized that he was far from God, and his father-in-law, a Pentecostal preacher, encouraged him to seek the Lord and repent of his sins.

Eubanks began attending an Assemblies of God church, where he accepted Christ, was healed of his back pain, and was baptized in the Holy Spirit. He was a new man, and everyone could see the difference.

After being filled with the Holy Spirit, he started witnessing to people. His Bible became his constant companion in his patrol car, and he never grew tired of sharing how the Lord changed his heart and life.

One night, at a roadblock on Interstate 59, he stopped two African-American men who had beer in their car. He had to charge them with illegal possession of liquor, as it was a dry county. He also witnessed to them about the Lord, telling them that “liquor was a tool of the devil.”

One of the men, Joe Pickens, came to see Eubanks several days later. He tearfully confessed that his life was messed up and accepted Christ. Before long, Pickens and his four daughters all had made definite decisions to follow the Lord and had experienced Spirit baptism.

News of the conversions spread through the largely African-American rural community of Bay Springs, Mississippi, where racial segregation still held sway. Patrolman Eubanks had been known for his tough ways, and people took note when he began ministering Christ’s love to African-Americans as brothers in Christ.

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Bay Springs Assembly of God, 1976

In 1974, Eubanks started holding a Bible study, which developed into a thriving congregation. In the first two years, about 45 people accepted Christ under Eubanks’ ministry. The congregation, Bay Springs Assembly of God, was organized in 1975. The Sunday School superintendent was a redeemed bootlegger.

At the time, it was unheard of in that community for a white man to pioneer or pastor a church of African-Americans. Eubanks realized that he was breaking cultural mores. However, he insisted that God’s values must trump cultural values: “If a man is a child of God, then he’s your brother. I don’t care what color he is, you have a duty to witness to him.” Eubanks recounted, “There has been some grumbling and opposition to the church,” but noted that it was “nothing that God couldn’t handle.”

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Sammy Amos and his wife, Debra

Eubanks served as pastor of Bay Springs Assembly of God until 1996. Sammy Amos, an African-American, followed Eubanks and is now in his 20th year as pastor. Amos, in a recent conversation, echoed Eubanks’ vision for the church: “We only care about souls, we don’t judge people according to their color.”

Amos noted that Bay Springs Assembly of God continues to be an interracial lighthouse in the rural community, where most churches are still segregated. The congregation has about 115 adherents, including blacks and whites, and is known for its outreach and deliverance ministries. The largely African-American church started by a white highway patrolman continues to demonstrate to the world that God can indeed change hardened hearts.

Read the entire article by O. W. Eubanks, “Highway Patrolman Pastors New Black Church in Mississippi,” on pages 8-9 of the Feb. 8, 1976, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The New Bedroom Evangelism,” by C. M. Ward

• “Don Argue Named Vice President of A/G Graduate School”

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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