“A Christianity that coldly sits down, and goes on its routine of formal work, and allows its fellowmen to starve, or to be obliged to go through all the hard sufferings and exposure connected with famine, without effort to help them, might as well quit its preaching.”
This bold statement, which argues that Christian preaching must be accompanied by works of compassion, was written in 1919 by Albert Norton, an Assemblies of God missionary to India.
Norton, who was witnessing an unfolding human tragedy, asked that “all missionaries, Mission Boards and Committees and all Christian Workers to do what they can to save their brothers and sisters in India from dying of starvation or from the kindred train of evils following famine.”
Pentecostal Evangel editor Stanley H. Frodsham responded and devoted the entire front page of the February 22, 1919, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel to the desperate situation in India. He asked readers to send famine relief to Gospel Publishing House, which he promised would “be promptly sent to the field.”
Frodsham provided three justifications for this request to save bodies as well as souls. First, he stated that Scripture required it, quoting Proverbs 19:17 and 24:11-12. Second, he noted that the Methodists were being asked to deny themselves luxuries for a few months and to instead provide money for Indian relief. He challenged Pentecostals to do likewise. Third, he noted that the future of the church depended upon rescuing those who are starving now. He again quoted Norton, “There are young men and women in India today, who were saved as famine orphans several years ago, and now they are filled with the Holy Spirit, and being greatly used in the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. How unutterably sad it would have been if they had been allowed to die of starvation.”
This is one of many examples of how early Pentecostals ministered in both word and deed. When the Assemblies of God, at its 2009 General Council, added compassion as the fourth element for its reason for being – joining worship, evangelism and discipleship – this was an affirmation of a long-standing practice.
Read Frodsham’s entire article, “Plague and Famine Raging in India,” on pages 1-2 of the February 22, 1919, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
By Darrin J. Rodgers