Tag Archives: Histories

Review: Ministry to the Disabled

Compel Them to Come In: Reaching People with Disabilities through the Local Church, compiled and edited by Tom Leach. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2010.

Fifty-eight million Americans live with some form of disability. Yet many churches have seemingly ignored this large and diverse population. A new book, Compel Them to Come In, provides a guide to ministry to people with physical and mental disabilities. This book – an anthology of essays by Assemblies of God leaders in disability ministries – is the first of its kind to be written by Pentecostals. Its solid, ministry-tested approach means that it will be welcomed by the broader Christian community.

Compel Them to Come In seeks to introduce pastors and people in the pew to some of the issues and strategies regarding ministry to people with physical and mental disabilities. The book offers practical suggestions regarding the adaptation of specific ministries (e.g., evangelism, Sunday school, the worship service) to the needs of the disabled. It also addresses how to minister to people with specific disabilities (e.g., mild intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, blind and visually impaired). The volume also discusses the importance of providing encouragement to caregivers, and points out that the disabled have a valuable role in ministry to the body.

The authors write from experience. Tom Leach, the editor, was born with mild cerebral palsy. His mother, instead of aborting Tom, gave birth and placed him for adoption. At age 25 while a student at Trinity Bible College (Ellendale, North Dakota), he survived a car wreck that left him paralyzed from the chest down as a C-6, 7 quadriplegic. He is now an Assemblies of God evangelist serving with Special Touch Ministry, a para-church organization that serves the needs of people with disabilities and which helped to develop this book.

Additional contributors include: Charlie Chivers, a nationally appointed Assemblies of God missionary to people with disabilities and founder of Special Touch Ministry; Larry Campbell, also a nationally appointed Assemblies of God missionary to people with disabilities; Paul Weingartner, the executive director of the Assemblies of God Center for the Blind; and Sarah Sykes, who works with the Assemblies of God Center for the Blind.

I had the privilege of meeting Tom Leach in his Ellendale home this summer. Within the course of an hour, Tom changed my views about people with disabilities. He shared his testimony and showed me Compel Them to Come In and another book he had authored. This was the first conversation I can recall having with a quadriplegic. When I previously came into contact with people who had lost use of their limbs, I generally looked away, partly because I did not want to stare and partly because I felt embarrassed. Tom burst my stereotypes and demonstrated an incredible passion for life and for Christ. He was articulate and I clung onto his words. And I still cannot grasp how Tom was able to produce two books – even with a computer adapted to his disabilities and with the assistance of his wife, Gayle, and a handful of ministry colleagues.

Tom completed this book after having spent 26 years as a quadriplegic and 18 years in ministry to people with disabilities. Tom wrestled with the problem of suffering, human weakness, and feeling unlovely and unwanted. He wrote, “People with disabilities live in a raw, harsh reality. They are painfully aware that their conditions and circumstances are often ugly and distasteful to others, and that their lifestyle and behaviors are sometimes interpreted as being weird, abnormal, and bizarre.” Tom then reminded readers that Jesus embraced “the ugly, dirt-encrusted feet of his disciples in His holy hands and washed them” (p. xvii). The book’s title was inspired by a parable of Jesus where the master ordered his servant: “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame…Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full” (Luke 14:21, 23). The message in Compel Them to Come In, and in scripture, is unmistakable – Christ gave a mandate to the church to minister to those with disabilities. This is a message that Pentecostals – and the broader church – need to hear.

Reviewed by Darrin Rodgers

Paperback, 237 pages, illustrated. $29.95 retail. Order from: amazon.com

Tom Leach also wrote Firestorm: State of the Union, a novel about extremists on both sides of the abortion issue who threatened to engulf the United States in a firestorm of violence. Tom has significant credibility when speaking on the value of life because of his life story. For more information or to purchase the book, go to: amazon.com

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Review: Mel and Corliss Erickson

Living the Call: Mel and Corliss Erickson, by Karen Koczwara. Beaverton, OR: Good Book Publishing, 2010.

For more than 40 years, Mel and Corliss Erickson have been synonymous with Assemblies of God ministry to Native Americans in North Dakota. Mel, a native of Kulm, North Dakota, and Corliss, from Hallock, Minnesota, met at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis and married in 1967.

The trajectory for their lives was set on one Sunday evening in August 1966, when Mel received a distinct call to minister to Native Americans. He recounted, “I suddenly felt God say to me, ‘I want you to go to minister to the American Indians.’ I was so shocked I nearly bolted out of my seat.” He had little exposure to Native Americans, and he asked God three times whether he had heard correctly. He reasoned that he should go to Africa, India, or South America, instead of remaining so close to home. God confirmed this call, and Mel remained true to it.

The Ericksons spent the first twenty years of their ministry as pastors of Tokio Assembly of God, located on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation near Devils Lake, North Dakota. Mel became the coordinator of the North Dakota District’s outreach to Native Americans. After resigning from the Tokio church in 1987, Erickson oversaw the planting of All Tribes Assembly of God in Bismarck and the construction of new church buildings for Native American congregations in Belcourt and Fort Totten.

Living the Call tells the engaging, faith-inspiring story of the Ericksons and their six children, as they learned to live and minister in their cross-cultural calling. This book will be of interest to those who knew the Ericksons and to those who desire to know more about life and ministry in the rural Great Plains and among Native Americans.

Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers

Paperback, 230 pages, illustrated. $15 plus postage. Order from: Dakota Missionary Evangelism

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Review: Revival in the Dominican Republic

Marcados por la Unción : La Crónica de un Gran Avivamiento desde David García hasta Luis Urbáez, by Samuel Santana. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: Concilio Evangelico Asambleas de Dios de la Republica Dominicana, 2010.

A great revival in the Dominican Republic in the 1950s dramatically impacted the development of the Assemblies of God in that Caribbean nation. Marcados por la Unción tells the story of that revival and two evangelists — David Garcia, under whose ministry the revival began; and Luis Urbaez, a convert of Garcia’s who became a significant evangelist.

Samuel Santana, the Director of Public Relations for the Assemblies of God of the Dominican Republic, researched and authored this important book, which details the events surrounding the 1954 revival and the lives of these two legendary preachers.

The revival started in March 1954 under the ministry of two men who had recently arrived from Puerto Rico — David Garcia and Jaime Cardona. The crowds at the revival meetings in Santo Domingo initially numbered 8,000 people, causing the local newspaper, El Caribe, to cover the story. With the added publicity, attendence swelled to 15,000, with many people accepting Christ and receiving healing.

The revival sparked fierce debate — causing Catholic leaders to deny that real healings and miracles were taking place. Interestingly, a famous Dominican doctor, Heriberto Pieter, defended the Pentecostals and stated that prayer for the sick had been shown to be beneficial. One of the converts in this revival, a young criminal named Luis Urbaez, went on to become a significant evangelist who traveled across Latin America.

Marcados por la Unción provides insight into Pentecostal history in the Dominican Republic, but also illustrates broader themes — such as the relationship of Pentecostals to other churches and the movement’s international character — that are important to the emerging global Pentecostal movement.

Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers.

Paperback, 111 pages, illustrated. $8 plus postage. For ordering information, contact the author by email (ssantana5@hotmail.com).

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Review: Good News in the Amazon

Good News in the Amazon: Heavenly Adventures in a Primitive Green Hell, by David E. Hansen. Rockleigh, NJ: The Author, 2010.

David Hansen, an Assemblies of God missionary, gives a firsthand account of the mission work to unreached remote tribes in Peru in his interesting memoir, Good News in the Amazon. You will discover the challenges and personal sacrifice of missionaries. You will read about the development of a partnership made up of missionaries, evangelists, Bible translators, and the incredible giving of many Christians in Assemblies of God churches. The result is that there are churches in villages where there once was no church and there are Christians whose lives are living miracles of God’s work.

–Adapted from endorsement by John Bueno, Executive Director, Assemblies of God World Missions

Softcover, 88 pages, illustrated. $15.00 postpaid on U.S. orders. Order from:  David Hansen, 11 Haring Farm Rd., Rockleigh, NJ 07647 (email: demhansen@msn.com)

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Review: We’ve Come This Far By Faith

We’ve Come This Far by Faith: Readings on the Early Leaders of the Pentecostal Church of God, by Larry Martin. Pensacola, FL: Christian Life Books, c2009.

This is the best-documented history of the founding and early days of the Pentecostal Church of God. Based on Martin’s earlier book, In The Beginning, this work contains much new information on the church’s founders and is well documented. He covers the backdrop of the founding of this movement, tracing its roots back to Charles F. Parham at Topeka and influences from John Alexander Dowie, William Durham, William Piper, George Brinkman, John Sinclair, and many others. Several of the early leaders also had close ties with the Assemblies of God.

Originally called the Pentecostal Assemblies of the USA, the organizational meeting took place at George Brinkman’s Pentecostal Herald Mission in Chicago on December 29-30, 1919. John Sinclair was elected the first chairman, an executive committee was formed, a constitution was formulated, and Brinkman’s Pentecostal Herald was established as the official paper of the group. The denomination was reorganized as the Pentecostal Church of God in 1922.

Larry Martin has done extensive research on the origins of the movement, particularly on its early leaders. He covers the years when the denomination’s headquarters and printing operation were located in Chicago and then gives some information about when the offices moved to Ottumwa, Iowa in 1927. Beginning in 1934, the group was headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, and those years are scheduled to be treated in a forthcoming sequel.

He then includes chapter biographies of each of the early leaders and chairmen of the Pentecostal Church of God. These notables include: George Brinkman, John Sinclair, Edward Matthews, John B. Huffman, Silas Shepard, Osborn Gilliland, Rik Field, A. D. McClure, and Alfred Worth. His information is augmented with photographs and footnotes. Photographs of some of these early leaders are published for the first time.

One chapter includes a Who’s Who of the founders of the denomination which provides brief biographical information on these additional leaders: R. E. McAlister, James A. Bell, Ida Tribbett, W. C. Thompson, Wilmer Artis, Herbert J. Wilson, Fred O. Price, Watson E. Tubbs, Thomas B. O’Reilley, and Eli DePriest.

Not only is this an important history of the beginnings of the Pentecostal Church of God, Inc., now headquartered in Joplin, Missouri, but it is noteworthy that many of these individuals had a wider influence that impacted the broader Pentecostal movement as a whole.

Reviewed by Glenn W. Gohr

Softcover, 216 pages. $11.99 plus $3.99 shipping. Order from Amazon.com or from azusastreet.org/.

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Review: Chit-Chat

Chit-Chat, by Dorothy Fae (Tubbs) Noah; edited by J. Naaman Hall. Springfield, MO: J. Naaman Hall, 2010.

Chit-Chat, by Mrs. Dorothy Noah, is a behind-the-scenes look at the people and goings on at Oak Cliff Assembly in Dallas during the last eight years that her husband, H. C. Noah, pastored the church (1970-1978). Each week in the church bulletin she would report on bits and pieces of news regarding various people and families in the church. She recorded engagements, weddings, births, deaths, visitors, and many humorous events in the daily lives of the church family. She maintained the idea that a church is not just composed of a pastor, or a few leaders, but the entire body itself. This is not just a running diary of events. It is a heart-felt retelling (told in conversational style) of important happenings among the Oak Cliff family over several years. In addition to the “chit-chat,” the book includes a chapter on how the Noahs met (written by their daughter), a memoir by Sister Noah, a farewell column written just before the Noahs retired as pastors, photographs from the 1970s, and an index of names. For those who were members of this well-known church in the Assemblies of God or have some familiarity with the church or any of its members, it will bring to life many interesting happenings from the past.

This is part two in a trilogy of books that center around Oak Cliff Assembly of God in Dallas, Texas (now The Oaks Fellowship). The first book, produced by J. Naaman Hall in 2009, is called “And the Latter Days.” It is an excellent history of Oak Cliff Assembly, not only covering important events, pastors, and people connected with the church, but it also relates to the broader Pentecostal movement.

The third book in the series will include additional historical photographs, along with further stories and memories of people from Oak Cliff’s rich history, culled from the collected volumes of The Old Fashioned Camp Meeting Newsletter, an email newsletter that has gone out to past members of Oak Cliff Assembly for over five years.

Reviewed by Glenn W. Gohr

The first two books in the trilogy are available from: John Hall, 209 North Summit St., Red Oak, Texas 75154:

“And the Latter Days.” Softcover, illustrated, 424 pages. $24.90 (includes shipping).
Chit-Chat. Softcover, illustrated, 392 pages. $25.00 (includes shipping).

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Review: Healing Hands

Healing Hands: Touching the Suffering through Medical Missions, by Peggy Johnson Knutti. Springfield, MO: Access Group, 2010.

It seems to be a common assumption in some quarters that, about 100 years ago, there occurred in American Protestantism a division between those who truly believe and those who truly care. The former (evangelicals, fundamentalists, and Pentecostals) became the standard-bearers of orthodoxy, while the latter (mainline Protestants) sought to perfect society instead of saving souls, embracing a “Social Gospel” that set out to apply Christian ethics to social ills. If one listened only to contemporary politicized rhetoric (e.g., Glenn Beck’s condemnation of churches that embrace “social justice”), it might seem like concern for the eternal and the temporal are mutually exclusive. However, a careful examination of history demonstrates a more complex story.

In her new book, Healing Hands: Touching the Suffering through Medical Missions, Peggy Johnson Knutti documents efforts within one Pentecostal denomination to share both compassion and the message of Christ. This history of HealthCare Ministries sheds light on why the Assemblies of God has come to view compassion as an essential part of its mission, and how medical missions are being utilizing to achieve this goal.

The first chapter provides an overview of humanitarian work in Assemblies of God missions prior to the 1980s. Some of these stories are worth recounting here. Marie Stephany and Nettie Nichols began orphanages in China in the early 1920s. Anna Tomaseck opened a children’s home near the Nepali border in northern India, which led to the formation of the Pentecostal work in Nepal. Lillian Trasher’s famous orphanage in Assiout, Egypt, gave credibility to the Assemblies of God in that Muslim nation. Florence Steidel, a missionary nurse, arrived in Liberia in 1935 and committed herself to working with lepers — those who had been abandoned by the rest of society. Mark and Huldah Buntain opened the six-story, 120-bed AG Hospital and Research Center in Calcutta, India, in 1977. In 1963, El Salvador missionary John Bueno started Latin America ChildCare, which is now the largest private school system in the world and has served over seven hundred thousand students. Knutti’s account demonstrates that compassion has been a very visible aspect of Assemblies of God missions since the earliest years of the denomination. When the Assemblies of God, at its 2009 General Council, added compassion as its fourth reason for being (in addition to worship, evangelism, and discipleship), this was an affirmation of an existing tradition within the Fellowship of helping the suffering.

The Assemblies of God did not sponsor a systematic attempt to support medical missions until 1983, when the Assemblies of God Foreign Missions Board approved the Medical Missions Program. The name HealthCare Ministries was adopted in 1984. Chapters two through six recount the story of the early years of HealthCare Ministries and its founder, Paul R. Williams. Knutti does not shy away from sharing the struggles of trying to establish a medical missions program in a denomination that often harbored suspicion of  efforts that seemed to resemble the so-called Social Gospel movement in liberal mainline denominations. The balance of the book shares the testimonies of HealthCare Ministries directors and missionaries, including: Joe and Eloise Judah, JoAnnn Butrin, Peggy Johnson Knutti, Terry and Diana Dwelle, Bob and Twyla McGurty, Deborah Highfill, and many others.

Healing Hands is a valuable contribution to the understanding of how the Assemblies of God has come to embrace medical missions as an important way to share the love and message of Christ around the world. Importantly, this volume will challenge the assumptions of two audiences: outsiders unfamiliar with Pentecostal social concern who incorrectly think that Pentecostals don’t care; and Pentecostals who may conflate compassion with a dilution of the church’s charge to share the gospel. Healing Hands is an engaging read and will be warmly welcomed by those who care about Assemblies of God medical missions, those who appreciate missionary stories, and those who wish to better understand the role of compassion in Pentecostal churches.

Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers

Softcover, 184 pages, illustrated. $15.00 postpaid on U.S. orders. Order from HealthCare Ministries by phone: (417) 866-6311.

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