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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

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Sidney Goodwin: The Untimely Death and Legacy of an Assemblies of God Missionary to Ghana

GoodwinThis Week in AG History — February 17, 1963

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 14 February 2019

When Assemblies of God missionary Sidney Goodwin (1936-1963) arrived in Ghana, West Africa, it was a homecoming he had been looking forward to for many years. Raised by missionary parents Homer and Thelma Goodwin, Sidney grew up in Ghana, knew its languages and customs, and loved its people. After studying in the United States, he returned to his family and friends shortly before Christmas of 1962 as a fully appointed missionary, bringing his own wife, Sandra, and their 3-year-old daughter, Gwenda.

Excitement was in the air for Goodwin’s African friends. The presbyter for the Bawku area, where Sidney grew up, requested the entire Goodwin family to come to a village called Tili for a mass “welcome home” service and outdoor Christmas revival. On Christmas Eve, the Goodwin families arrived to find their friends had spared no expense to show their love and appreciation. Sidney and Sandra were presented with six live chickens, dozens of eggs, yams, and other fruits and vegetables. Water had been transported in abundance, a grass shelter had been erected, and an estimated 600 had gathered for the evening service.

Because the service was to be held in the evening, Sidney brought along a portable light plant in the Speed-the-Light (STL) vehicle. When they tested it earlier in the day, it was not functioning properly, but as service time approached it seemed to be doing better, though still not up to par. Just as the service was scheduled to begin, Sidney went to check on the light plant.

Suddenly, there was a flash of light and the church shelter went dark. Homer Goodwin rushed to the STL vehicle to find that the portable generator in the pickup tailgate had exploded. Sidney was trapped in the camper that covered the pickup bed. Homer quickly rolled Sidney onto the ground to extinguish the flames. There were no witnesses so there could only be speculation as to the cause of the explosion.

The African church went immediately to prayer and Sidney was rushed to the hospital, 22 miles away. With burns over 60 percent of his body, the doctors did not offer the family much hope. For eight days, Sidney exhibited exceptional bravery, patience, and concern for those around him while many worked tirelessly to save his life. Ghanaian Christians trekked through the night over unmarked bush trails to donate blood to the boy they had loved since he was a child. One devoted African friend stayed at the door of Sidney’s room, 24 hours a day, sleeping on the cement floor. The Ghana Air Force, British Royal Air Force, and American embassy did all they could to supply much needed plasma from as far away as New York. Many cried out to God for help as three generations of Goodwin missionaries waited in the hospital for a miracle.

Sidney realized the gravity of his situation and told his family that he loved them but needed to say good-bye. When his father insisted that God had more for him to do, Sidney replied, “Daddy, I’m not afraid to die. This is God’s will.”

On Jan. 1, 1963, Sidney quietly slipped away and was buried the next day on the western edge of the Assemblies of God Mission plot in Bawku where he had played as a child. The area presbyter, Abiwini Kusasi, said to those who were gathered there, “Many years ago, when all of us Kusasis were in spiritual darkness, Reverend and Mrs. Goodwin came to bring us the light of the gospel. Our brother Sidney came with them as a baby. Through the years he prepared himself and had returned with his wife and baby to help us further. We do not understand why God has taken him, but we know God does all things well.”

The Feb. 17, 1963, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel carried the story of Sidney’s death. After the publication of the article, additional details were later provided by the family that gave a fuller picture of the incident.

Sandra and Gwenda moved to the central Ashanti area with Sidney’s parents and his younger siblings. For two years they ministered as a family to the Ashanti people until, reluctantly, Sandra and Gwenda returned to the States for a furlough and the opportunity to seek God for the future. After receiving more education and ministerial ordination, Sandra moved to Tanzania, East Africa, where she taught in the Bible training school.

Twelve years after Sidney was buried, Sandra and Gwenda returned to Ghana for the dedication of a memorial library at the North Ghana Bible School in his honor. Sandra was touched to hear story after story from pastors, evangelists, and leaders who told of passing by the young missionary’s grave each day on the path as they walked to school. Many of them, at different times, had paused to kneel there and dedicate their lives to continue the work the young man had begun.

Sandra spent 20 years as a single parent and saw her daughter graduate from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. Sandra later married Myron Clopine and served the Assemblies of God as National Women’s Ministries Director from 1986 to 1994. She also provided leadership to the founding of the National Prayer Center and served as chaplain for Maranatha Village in Springfield. After Myron passed away, Sandra married David Drake, long-time professor at Central Bible College. The Goodwin/Clopine/Drake families have exemplified what God can do with a family willing to consecrate all to His service.

Read the report on Sidney’s homegoing on page 8 of the Feb. 17, 1963, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Dramatic Deliverance” by Louise Nankivell

• “Take My Best,” by G.F. Lewis

• “Building Churches in India,” by Elton Hill

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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