Tag Archives: Healing

Dr. Howard Thomas: The Remarkable Deliverance of a Physician from Drug Addiction

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Dr. Howard Thomas, preaching to an Assemblies of God congregation, circa 1970

This Week in AG History — May 3, 1970

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 4 May 2017

Dr. Howard Thomas (1927-2016) had a promising career as a physician, but a drug addiction almost destroyed his marriage and professional life in the early 1960s. After hitting rock bottom and ending up in a private sanatorium for treatment, he turned to Christ and experienced a radical transformation. Against all odds, Thomas was allowed to keep his medical license. He became a dedicated member of the Assemblies of God and frequently shared his testimony of his deliverance from addiction to drugs. The May 3, 1970, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel published his remarkable story.

Thomas was raised in a rural Tennessee community where alcohol was a way of life and where religious influences were minimal. Recreational activities always seemed to include liquor bottles. Thomas partied hard, but he also worked hard. He married, attended college, studied diligently, and graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in 1954.

Thomas and another doctor purchased a clinic in Henderson, Tennessee. Thomas and his wife, Ann, seemed to be living the American dream. They were respected members of their community, and their future was bright.

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Howard and Ann Thomas, circa 1970

However, the Thomases’ lifestyle of partying led them into trouble. They began attending private parties hosted by local professionals. Drug use and sexual sin were commonplace.

Dr. Thomas recounted: “Practically all the people at these parties were church people. The parties got worse and worse. I would have to describe them as vile and vulgar. Yet on Sunday morning you could see these same people in the pews and teaching Sunday school classes and serving the churches.”

The Thomases joined in the hypocrisy. They maintained a veneer of respectability, even while they adopted destructive lifestyles. Their hearts were far from God. Dr. Thomas later said, “Our morals got lower and lower.”

Family and work pressures took their toll, and Thomas began taking pills to help him stay awake. He learned to depend on stimulants and began injecting amphetamine. He soon moved on to harder drugs, including Demerol and morphine. When Ann was feeling ill, he gave her a shot of Demerol. Soon, she was also addicted.

Life was spinning out of control. They tried to escape their problems by leaving Henderson and moving to Arizona, where he accepted a position as a company doctor. Their drug habit, however, was not solved by distance. Dr. Thomas, increasingly, was unable to focus sufficiently to perform surgeries, and Ann became mentally disturbed and could not be home alone.

Ann’s condition deteriorated, and her parents came from Tennessee to help with the children. The family decided to move back to Tennessee, where Thomas opened up another practice. He thought he could “snap out of it” and that everything would be all right.

However, Thomas could not kick his drug habit and things got worse. He developed festering abscesses on his hips and shoulders, and he had difficulty hiding his addictions. Ultimately, his parents had him committed at a neuropsychiatric hospital in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He escaped from the hospital. He went on to hold a series of failed short-term positions as a doctor, until he deteriorated to the point of being unable to function. He slept in his car in the woods or in a gravel pit, and patients never knew where to find him.

Dr. Thomas was recommitted at the Murfreesboro hospital, this time behind locked steel doors. He was devastated. He was confined for seven weeks, where he went through withdrawal. However, he still had cravings for drugs. He knew that he would return to his former lifestyle once he was free. In the meantime, Ann had filed for divorce.

Thomas was released from the hospital and he found another job. One day, in July 1965, a truck driver asked Thomas to attend a men’s religious retreat. Thomas tried to say “no,” but the truck driver was persistent. Thomas went, and the services were unlike anything he had ever seen.

The men were not trying to impress anyone. They were not playing church. They testified how God delivered them from lives of sin, they prayed, and they called on God in prayer. Thomas came to realize that these men had something that he desperately needed – he needed God’s power in his life.

A Spirit-filled Methodist electrician and plumber led Thomas to the Lord at the meeting. Thomas later recalled, “I felt clean. I felt the same way as the other men. I was full of praise. I wanted to testify. My first thought was to go to Ann and tell her about Jesus. I knew she was lost.”

Thomas returned from the retreat and told Ann that he accepted Jesus and was a new man. She was skeptical. Her mother warned her to not go back to him. He had promised for years that he would kick his addictions, but never did.

Thomas began attending a local Methodist church, where the pastor invited him to share his testimony. Word spread throughout the region of Dr. Thomas’ remarkable deliverance from drugs, and he began to receive invitations to speak at schools and churches. He also reconciled with his wife, Ann.

After accepting Christ, Thomas began reading the Bible. He became convinced from the Bible that Christ provided an experience subsequent to salvation – baptism in the Holy Spirit – that provided empowerment for daily living. He had heard some of the men at the retreat talking about the experience. He knew that he needed God’s power in his life.

The Thomases met Ralph Duncan, an Assemblies of God pastor in Rutherford, Tennessee, and invited him to hold special services in Saltillo, the small town where they were living. Ann received the baptism in the Holy Spirit in those meetings, and she became a different person. She said, “Honey, it’s real. It’s real!” Dr. Thomas was likewise baptized in the Holy Spirit a short time later.

Meanwhile, the Board of Medical Examiners had started the process of revoking Thomas’ license to practice medicine. Dr. Thomas made a full written confession of his addictions and misdeeds, and the board had no intention of giving him a second chance, based on his dismal record.

At Dr. Thomas’ hearing, the board grilled the Thomases and their parents for two hours. The board asked Ann, “How can you be so sure that he won’t go back on drugs?” She replied, “You don’t know the power of God.”

Stating it was against its better judgement, the board decided to permit Thomas to continue to practice medicine, on the condition that Ann write the board a letter every month assuring the board that everything is fine.

HowardThomas1Dr. Howard Thomas went to on to be a successful physician and a longtime Assemblies of God member. He frequently shared his testimony, including on television and radio. A widely-distributed booklet, Drugs, Despair, Deliverance: The Story of Dr. Howard Thomas (1971), was written by C. M. Ward, the host of the Assemblies of God’s Revivaltime radio broadcast. In 1975, David Mainse interviewed Thomas for the Assemblies of God’s Turning Point television program. Thomas had so many ministry opportunities that he became credentialed as an Assemblies of God minister from 1975 to 1981.

When Thomas went to be with the Lord in 2016, he and Ann had been married almost 70 years. While the first 20 years of their marriage was marked by addictions and destructive patterns, they spent their last 50 years as devoted Christians active in Assemblies of God churches.

Thomas’ testimony provides insight into the problem of drug addiction. From personal experience, Thomas understood that institutional care is not the answer to the drug problem. He wrote, “A man can be taken off drugs, but as soon as he is returned to society, and the same pressures set in, that man will return to drugs.”

Thomas also understood that psychiatry is limited in its ability to treat addiction. Psychiatrists recognized and analyzed Thomas’ addiction, but they could not cure the addiction. A cure required a change of heart. Addiction, Thomas came to realize, was a spiritual problem. He spent years attempting to treat his own addiction. However, Thomas found deliverance only after he placed his faith in Christ and allowed his heart and desires to be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Read “I Was Hooked on Drugs,” by Howard W. Thomas, on pages 2-3 and 13 of the May 3, 1970, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Marriages Can Be Mended,” by C. M. Ward

• “From Black Magic to Christ,” by Armand Helou

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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Smith Wigglesworth: How a British Plumber Became a Noted Pentecostal Healing Evangelist

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This Week in AG History — April 5, 1947

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 6 April 2017

Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947) was one of the most prominent healing evangelists of the early Pentecostal movement. He was, however, largely unknown outside his town in northern England until he was 48 years old. That was when, in 1907, he was baptized in the Holy Spirit under the ministry of a Pentecostal Anglican vicar, A. A. Boddy.

Born into a very poor family, Wigglesworth started working at age 6 in factories and farms to help support his family. He had little formal education and did not learn to read or write properly until married. While his parents were not committed Christians, Wigglesworth found the gospel message compelling and spent his youth in varied churches. He accepted Christ at a Methodist revival at 8 years old, was confirmed by an Anglican bishop, was immersed in water as a Baptist, and was discipled under the Plymouth Brethren.

Wigglesworth operated a plumbing business in Bradford, England, and helped his wife with a small gospel mission. Early in his ministry, he began encouraging people to have bold faith for both salvation and healing. His stalwart belief in divine healing arose from his own experience of healing from a ruptured appendix. He understood suffering, and he felt a special call to minister to the sick.

Prior to experiencing the baptism in the Holy Spirit, Wigglesworth had gained a reputation for aggressive evangelism, but he spent little time in the pulpit. After he was baptized in the Holy Spirit, he found himself preaching with uncharacteristic fluency and boldness. People who heard him preach experienced deep conviction, and healings and miracles often followed his ministry. He became a well-known speaker across Europe and North America and also helped to establish the Pentecostal movement in New Zealand and Australia.

Wigglesworth held credentials with the Assemblies of God USA from 1924 to 1929, and Gospel Publishing House published two books of his sermons: Ever Increasing Faith (1924) and Faith That Prevails (1938). Stanley Frodsham, the editor of the Pentecostal Evangel, wrote a best-selling biography, Smith Wigglesworth: Apostle of Faith (1948). These books remain in print and have been translated into many other languages.

When Wigglesworth died suddenly of a stroke in 1947, the Pentecostal Evangel published an obituary by Donald Gee and also republished one of the healing evangelist’s classic sermons, “Be Not Afraid, Only Believe.” Gee wrote that Wigglesworth had “a unique ministry, a gift of Christ to His church.” Seventy years after his death, Smith Wigglesworth’s ministry continues to inspire and influence new generations of Pentecostals.

Read “Be Not Afraid, Only Believe” by Smith Wigglesworth and “Awaiting the Resurrection” by Donald Gee on pages 3 and 11-12 of the April 5, 1947, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Walking to Emmaus,” by John Wright Follette

• “Hallelujah! Christ Arose,” by Ernest S. Williams

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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Testimony of a Lifetime: Arthur Phelps and the Remarkable Healing of His Infant Son

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Doug Phelps, circa 1967, when the Pentecostal Evangel article about his healing was published

This Week in AG History — November 5, 1967

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 3 November 2016

Arthur Phelps has served as an Assemblies of God pastor for 49 years. As a young man, however, he fought the call to the ministry. He was bashful and the thought of preaching intimidated him. But after God baptized him in the Holy Spirit and miraculously healed his son, his plans changed.

Arthur shared the remarkable story of his son’s healing in the Pentecostal Evangel in 1967.

At the time, Arthur was planting a church in Leachville, Arkansas. His son, Doug, had been healed of a life-threatening illness six years earlier, when he was just two months old. Doug grew up to become a healthy young boy, and Arthur submitted his testimony to the Pentecostal Evangel.

Arthur shared how he and his wife, Dora Ann, had experienced every parent’s worst nightmare. In February 1961, their infant son, Doug, fell ill and was having difficulty breathing. Arthur recalled, “it looked as if it took all his strength to inhale.” They went to a doctor, who instructed the worried parents to return home with their son and, if his condition did not improve overnight, to bring him to the hospital in the morning.

Arthur and Dora Ann went home and prayed loud and long for their ailing son. His breathing did not improve. Later that evening, they took Doug and drove to the home of Juanita Carmack, a friend who was well-known in the community as a prayer warrior.

Juanita greeted her friends and told them about a vision she had the night before. “I dreamed I was holding a baby and praying for it,” she recounted. “Its arms had turned black up to its elbows, and its legs were black to its knees.” In Juanita’s dream, God instantly healed the baby.

The parents unwrapped little Doug and, to their surprise, his arms and legs had turned black! It seemed just like Juanita’s vision. Arthur and Dora Ann were scared. They began to pray with great emotion and fervency, but Doug’s condition did not improve. Some other Christian neighbors came into the house and also joined in prayer, but Doug remained the same.

Then Juanita took Doug in her arms and prayed for him, supplemented by a chorus of prayer from the others who had gathered. Arthur recalled, “Soon the glorious presence of God filled the room, and God instantly healed Doug. His breathing became perfectly normal.”

Doug never experienced a recurrence of his breathing difficulties. Doug and his older brother, Ricky Lee, went on to become noted musicians. One of their endeavors was a short-lived country music duo named Brother Phelps (1992-1995), named after their father. Ricky Lee later became a Pentecostal minister.

For Arthur, his son’s healing became a moment to which he would return again and again. He promised God, “Everywhere I go I will testify that you healed Doug.”

To this day, Doug remembers hearing his father testify about the healing – at church, at revival meetings, at the dinner table, and in stores. “It obviously wasn’t my time to go,” Doug recalls. “As I grew up, I realized that I needed to do something meaningful with my life, and my father’s testimony really impressed on me the importance of serving God.”

Arthur Phelps was credentialed as an Assemblies of God minister in 1967, shortly before the article was published in the Pentecostal Evangel. At age 87 he continues in active ministry and serves as pastor of New Bethel Assembly of God in Paragould, Arkansas. And for 55 years, he has kept his promise to share the testimony of Doug’s healing wherever he goes.

Read Arthur Phelps’ article, “A Living Testimony,” on page 13 of the Nov. 5, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

dougphelpsAlso featured in this issue:

• “An Interview with Cho Yonggi,” by J. Philip Hogan

• “Three Generations,” by Robert W. Taitinger

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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The Healing of William Upshaw: Former Congressman and Presidential Candidate Discards Crutches After 59 Years

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Congressman William D. Upshaw, April 1920

This Week in AG History — September 23, 1951

By Glenn Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 22 September 2016

U.S. Congressman William D. Upshaw (1866-1952), one of the best-known physically disabled American politicians of his era, was healed in a 1951 Pentecostal revival meeting.

Upshaw was a well-known figure in American politics. The Georgia Democrat served four terms in Congress (1919-1927) and was a leading proponent of the temperance movement. He even ran for U.S. President on the Prohibition Party ticket in 1932. His inability to walk without crutches did not prevent him from a life of public service.

Then, near the end of his life, something amazing happened. Upshaw testified that, at age 84, he was miraculously healed on Feb. 8, 1951, in a revival service conducted by Pentecostal evangelists William Branham and Ern Baxter. He was able to walk unassisted for the first time in 59 years, discarding his crutches. His testimony of healing was published 65 years ago in the Sept. 23, 1951, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Upshaw related the story of the accident that led to his spinal injury and years of disability: “When I was eighteen years old I fell on a crosspiece in a wagon frame, fracturing my spine.” After the accident, he was bedridden for seven years, and then for the next 59 years he was able to walk with the aid of crutches.

He longed to be instantly healed. “Every time I prayed to be immediately healed,” he wrote, “the Lord seemed to say to me, ‘Not yet! I am going to do something through you in this condition that could not be done otherwise — leave it to Me!’”

Throughout the years, Upshaw made this his motto: “Let nothing discourage you — never give up.” And he didn’t.

In an era when people with physical disabilities often had very limited opportunities, he became a noted politician and public speaker. When he ran for U.S. President on the Prohibition Party ticket in 1932, he received 81,869 votes. Interestingly, he lost to Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was also physically disabled. While Roosevelt hid his inability to walk from the public, Upshaw did not.

Moving to California later in life, Upshaw became vice president and a faculty member of Linda Vista Bible College in San Diego. At age 72, he was ordained as a Baptist minister, and he continued to speak and preach across the nation.

In his 1951 testimony, Upshaw wrote that two years earlier he was healed of cancer on his face after Assemblies of God evangelist Wilbur Ogilvie had prayed for him. With his faith inspired, Upshaw continued to pray for faith to walk unassisted.

Upshaw noted that when he walked into the 1951 Pentecostal meeting where he was healed, he was “leaning on my crutches that had been my ‘buddies,’ my inseparable companions, for 59 of my 66 years as a cripple.” During concerted prayer at the end of the service, the evangelist declared: “the Congressman is healed.” Upshaw recalled that, after the service, “I walked out that night leaving my crutches on the platform, a song of deliverance ringing in my heart in happy consonance with the shouts of victory from those who thronged about me.”

After 66 years, William Upshaw was healed!

Read the article, “84-Year Old Cripple Discards Crutches,” on page 12 of the Sept. 23, 1951, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Ministry of Tears,” by Arne Vick

• “Tested but Triumphant,” by J. A. Synan

• “The General Council at a Glance”

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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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50 Years after the Azusa Street Revival, Donald Gee Offered this Warning about Miracles

Gee P0111This Week in AG History — April 28, 1957

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 28 April 2016

Miracles have played an important role in the histories of both the early church and the Pentecostal movement. However, just as the Apostle Paul had to correct excesses in the first century church at Corinth, 20th century Pentecostal leaders were faced in some quarters with an overemphasis on miracles. British Assemblies of God leader Donald Gee (1891-1966) wrote an article, published in the April 28, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, in which he affirmed the miraculous but also called for balance.

“The unvarnished story of the New Testament reads like a refreshing gust of fresh air,” Gee wrote. The New Testament “not only blows away the stuffiness of our unbelief, but also cools the fever of our fanaticism.” Gee taught that miracles should be part of “any truly Pentecostal revival,” but he also warned against extremism.

Miracles naturally attract a crowd. But Gee observed that the existence of miracles did not necessarily signify repentance or a change of heart. He urged readers to pay greater attention to the “less spectacular ministries” that are necessary to disciple believers.

Writing only 50 years after the Azusa Street Revival, Gee wrote that he had witnessed “a constant swing of the pendulum” regarding the emphasis on miracles in the Pentecostal movement. When revival breaks out and miracles occur, it is almost predictable that some people will go to extremes in chasing after miracles. Then, predictably, others will react to the extremists by being more orderly and conservative.

Pentecostals should be neither unbalanced fanatics nor overly cautious regarding miracles, according to Gee. Instead, he identified “a strong central body of believers, constituting the very heart of the Pentecostal churches, who do not want extremes either way.” These balanced believers desire “leadership based on the Word of God,” Gee wrote, rather than based on personality or preference.

Gee’s repeated admonitions to avoid unbiblical extremes earned him the moniker, “The Apostle of Balance.” Gee was nurtured in the fires of the early Pentecostal revivals, and he was one of the Pentecostal movement’s foremost advocates. So when he spoke about the need for balance, Pentecostals of all stripes listened.

Read the entire article by Donald Gee, “After That — Miracles,” on pages 8-9 of the April 28, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “A Great Faith,” by Louis M. Hauff

* “Power in the Word,” by Mrs. C. Nuzum

* “Missions in Northern Alaska,” by B. P. Wilson

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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Pentecost Came to Madagascar in a Revival of Signs and Wonders

Rev. Rasoamanana, president of the Assemblies of God of Madagascar, and his wife, 1978.

Rev. Rasoamanana, president of the Assemblies of God of Madagascar, and his wife, 1978.

This Week in AG History — November 15, 1930

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 12 November 2015

The Pentecostal movement came to Madagascar, the island nation off the southeast coast of Africa, in 1910 in a great revival with signs and wonders. The revival began when a 60-year-old woman, Ravelonjanahary (known to English-speakers as Ravelo), who was believed to be dead, suddenly sat up during her own funeral. This caused quite a stir in her community, and she became known as “the resurrected one.”

Eighty-five years ago, the Pentecostal Evangel published an account of Ravelo’s resurrection and the ensuing revival. After being raised from the dead, Ravelo was baptized in the Holy Spirit and felt God tugging at her heart to share her testimony and to preach the gospel. Ravelo initially rejected this call to the ministry. She reasoned, “I cannot speak, I am not clever.” But she heard God’s voice again, saying, “Go! Preach in My Name and heal the sick.”

Ravelo obeyed God’s voice and began ministering in a simple manner. She went from town to town, sharing God’s Word and her testimony. Before praying for a sick person, she would ask, “Have you repented? Have you given up your idols?” Ravelo’s ministry met with remarkable results. All across the countryside, people were healed and began to follow Christ.

At the time, Madagascar was a French Protectorate, and the French governors were hostile to Christianity. They introduced laws restricting the religious freedom of natives of Madagascar, showing particular opposition to Protestants. Ravelo persevered in spite of opposition from the government and society elites.

Local newspapers covered the revival, often defending Ravelo against attacks. One newspaper editorial noted that scoffers questioned whether Ravelo had really been raised from the dead. The editorial reasoned that proof of Ravelo’s resurrection was unnecessary, because the miraculous healings under her ministry were profound, frequent, and undeniable. Another newspaper defended her against charges of sectarianism, stating that she was not trying to build up one particular church.

People who were healed and who became Christians crowded into Lutheran, Reformed, Pentecostal, and other churches. Ravelo’s revival spilled into the broader Protestant church world, and to this day it is common for Madagascar Protestant churches of all stripes to encourage healing, exorcism, and biblical spiritual gifts.

The great revival sparked by Ravelo’s resurrection helped to lay the foundation for the Assemblies of God in Madagascar. In 2014, the Assemblies of God reported 102,000 adherents in the island nation.

Read the entire article, “How Pentecost Came to Madagascar: A True Story of a Great Revival,” in the November 15, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “War, the Bible, and the Christian,” by Donald Gee

• “Praying William: A Liberian Convert Testifies in His Own Words”

• “Healed of Bright’s Disease and Dropsy,” by Frank B. Anderson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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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The Healing of Joseph Wannenmacher: How a Gifted Violinist became an Assemblies of God Pioneer

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This Week in AG History — October 29, 1949

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 29 October 2015

As a young man, Joseph P. Wannenmacher (1895-1989) was a rising star in the Milwaukee musical scene. But a miraculous healing in a small storefront mission in 1917 forever changed his life, and he went on to become a well-loved Assemblies of God pioneer pastor. He shared his powerful testimony in the October 29, 1949, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Like many other Milwaukee residents, Wannenmacher was an immigrant. He was born in Buzias, Hungary, to a family that was ethnically German and Hungarian. The Wannenmachers moved to Milwaukee in 1903, but his father was unable to adapt to American ways so they returned to Hungary after 10 months. In 1909, they returned to Milwaukee to stay.

From an early age, music helped define Joseph Wannenmacher’s life. In Hungary, he was surrounded by some of the nation’s best musicians and became a noted violinist. In Milwaukee, at age 18 he organized and conducted the Hungarian Royal Gypsy Orchestra (named after a similar group in his homeland), which performed at many of the region’s top entertainment venues.

Wannenmacher seemed to have it all. He could afford fashionable clothing, a gold watch, and diamond-studded jewelry. But underneath his successful veneer, Wannenmacher was haunted by his own human frailties.

Wannenmacher knew that he was dying a slow, painful death. His flesh would swell, develop blisters, and rot. Doctors diagnosed his condition as bone consumption. His sister had already died of the same malady. Anger boiled up in Wannenmacher as he grappled with the unfairness of life. He developed a sharp temper and, try as he might, he could not find peace.

Wannenmacher was raised in a devout Catholic home, so he turned to his faith to help him deal with his physical pain and bitterness. He frequently attended church and offered penance, but these practices did not seem to help.

He then turned to Luther’s German translation of the Bible, which someone had given to him, and began reading it voraciously. In its pages he discovered things he had never heard before. He read about Christ’s second coming, salvation by faith, and Christ’s power to heal. Perhaps most importantly, he learned that God is love. Up until that point, he had conceived of God as “Someone away up there with a long beard and a big club just waiting to beat me up.” But then, at age 18, he began to discover the gospel for himself.

In the midst of this spiritual awakening, Wannenmacher’s health was weakening. He could barely hold his violin bow in his hand, and the pain was almost unbearable. Then one morning in 1917 he heard about a group of German-speaking Pentecostals who prayed for the sick. The next service was scheduled for that afternoon, and Wannenmacher made a beeline for it. He wrote, “It was a dilapidated place, but the sweet presence of God was there.”

The small band of believers had been fasting and praying that God would send someone who was in need of salvation and healing. The service was unlike anything Wannenmacher had ever seen before. He watched the people get on their knees and cry out to God. Their outpouring of genuine faith moved Joseph’s heart.

The pastor, Hugo Ulrich, preached that sinners could be saved simply by trusting in Christ. It seemed too good to be true, Wannenmacher thought. Faith then came into his heart, and he started laughing for joy. The pastor thought Wannenmacher was mocking him, but Wannenmacher didn’t care. At the end of the service, Wannenmacher came forward to the altar and experienced a powerful encounter with God.

Wannenmacher described his time at the altar: “the power of God just struck me and shook for fully half an hour…the more His Spirit operated through my bones, through my muscles, through my being, the hotter I became. The more God’s power surged through me, the more I perspired. The Lord simply operated on that poor, diseased body of mine.”

He described this experience as being in the “operating room” of God. Later in the service, as he knelt at the altar rail in silent prayer, it seemed like heaven came down. He recalled, “As I waited there in God’s presence … [God’s] hands went down my body from head to toe, and every spirit of infirmity had to go. I got up, and I was a new man.”

A few days later, Wannenmacher was baptized in the Holy Spirit. He soon launched into gospel ministry and shared his testimony wherever he went. He played his violin and sang gospel songs during the lunch hour at the Harley Davidson plant, where he sometimes worked. He testified about his healing in hospitals, street corners, and other places. Everywhere he went, he prayed with people, and many accepted Christ and were healed. Wannenmacher’s family jokingly referred to his violin as the “healing violin,” because numerous people experienced healing as he played songs such as “The Heavenly City.”

In 1921 he married Helen Innes and started Full Gospel Church in Milwaukee. He went on to found six additional daughter churches in the area. He also served as the first superintendent of the Hungarian Branch of the Assemblies of God, which was organized in 1944 for Hungarian immigrants to America. After pastoring Full Gospel Church (renamed Calvary Assembly of God in 1944) for 39 years, he retired in 1960.

Throughout his ministry, Wannenmacher emphasized the importance of the Word of God. In his Pentecostal Evangel article, Wannenmacher compared reading the Bible to the mastery of music. “You have to practice and play music over and over again before you have mastered it,” he wrote, “and you have to apply yourself to those wonderful teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, too, in order to make them yours.”

While Joseph Wannenmacher went to be with the Lord in 1989, his legacy lives on in the churches he founded and in the people whose lives he touched. Calvary AG is continuing to reach people in the Milwaukee area and was renamed Honey Creek Church in 2015. Joseph and Helen’s three children, John, Philip, and Lois (Graber), were involved in Assemblies of God ministries. Philip served as pastor of Central Assembly of God (Springfield, Missouri) from 1970 to 1995. Philip’s daughter, Beth Carroll, serves as director of Human Resources at the Assemblies of God National Leadership and Resource Center. On the floor just above Beth’s office, Joseph’s “healing violin” is on display in the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center museum.

Joseph Wannenmacher’s story reminds believers that history never really disappears. People, events, and themes from the past tend to resurface in the present, but it often takes discernment to see them. God radically transformed Joseph Wannenmacher’s heart and healed his body, and the world has never been the same.

Read Joseph P. Wannenmacher’s article, “When God’s Love Came In,” on pages 2-3 and 11-13 of the October 29, 1949, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Life’s Supreme Objective,” by D. M. Carlson

• “Ministering to the Needy,” by J. H. Boyce

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Joseph Wannenmacher's

Joseph Wannenmacher’s “healing violin,” on display at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center museum

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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