Tag Archives: Assemblies of God Missions

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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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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Mark and Huldah Buntain: Helping the Poor of India for Over 60 Years

BuntainThis Week in AG History — March 31, 1968

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 29 March 2018 

Mark Buntain (1923-1989), a longtime Assemblies of God missionary, is perhaps best known for founding a prominent hospital and feeding program in Calcutta, India. He and his wife, Huldah, became iconic symbols of the AG’s melding of gospel proclamation with works of compassion.

Buntain was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the son of Pentecostal minister, Daniel N. Buntain. In his youth he worked as a radio broadcaster, and then after marrying Huldah Monroe in 1944, he began pastoring churches in Saskatchewan. He also ministered as a missionary-evangelist in Taiwan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and Japan before going to India in October 1954. What started as a one-year mission assignment there turned into a lifetime of ministry. Mark, Huldah, and their 1-year-old daughter, Bonnie, took a three-month voyage across the Atlantic. After arriving in India, they set up a tent on a vacant lot in Calcutta, and started telling people about the love of Jesus.

One day a man entered the tent, interrupting the preaching, and said, “Preacher, feed our bellies and then tell us about a God in heaven.” This changed everything. It became the catalyst for the Buntains to start a feeding program, now part of Calcutta Mercy Missions, that serves thousands of people, mostly children, every day.

Mark’s ministry was featured in the Pentecostal Evangel 50 years ago. The article began with this statement: “Give ye them to eat.” This is exactly what the Buntains did as they carried out their much-needed ministry in North India. Not only did they provide physical food for the hungry, but they sought to meet the medical needs as well as spiritual needs of the people who crossed their paths. A testimony is given of a man named Thottathil Rajan who was suffering from hunger, was a heavy drinker, and a cripple. When New Zealand Evangelist Graham Truscott preached at one of Mark’s meetings, Rajan came and was saved and healed. Soon after this, he felt called to enter Bible school in order to preach the gospel.

On another occasion, Mark went to his office, and a staff member told him, “There’s a small boy dying on the steps!” He hurried out and found a 9-year-old boy who was almost dead. Buntain brought him inside and gradually nursed him back to health. After giving him a bath, he felt even better. Soon the boy went with the other children to attend school. Surprised to discover a new student, the teacher asked him, “Who are you?” “What are you doing here?” Without hesitancy, he quickly responded, “I belong to the Sahib!” (meaning Mark, who was the head missionary).

For many years the Buntains pastored the Assembly of God in Calcutta, which grew to more than 1,500 people in Sunday School each week and 4,000 in church attendance. Mark became the assistant superintendent of the AG in North India and aired a radio broadcast three times a week to a potential audience of 145 million listeners.

Today, more than 60 years later, the Buntains’ hearts to reach the people groups of India still continues. Calcutta Mercy Ministries operates a hospital that serves people free of charge, over 900 churches have been established in North India, there are around 100 schools to educate thousands of students, and a clinic in the red-light district helps individuals involved in sexual trafficking who are as young as 12 years old. Mark and Huldah are possibly best known for the feeding ministry they established, which continues to serve thousands.

Although Mark passed away in 1989, Huldah still helps to oversee the ministry they founded. Calcutta Mercy Ministries continues to feed, educate, and medically assist the poor of Calcutta, India, and surrounding areas.

Read the article, “I Belong to the Sahib,” on page 15 of the March 31, 1968, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Tell Me About the Council on Evangelism”

• “Betinho: King of the Night,” by Missionary T. R. Hoover

• “Why Jews Need the Gospel,” by Ernest Kalapathy

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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