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Hal Herman: From Hollywood to Assemblies of God Missionary Evangelist

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Hal Herman (right) prays with attendees at his Hong Kong evangelistic outreach, 1957

This Week in AG History — March 17, 1957

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 16 March 2017

Harold C. “Hal” Herman (1902-1999) was a successful Hollywood photographer and press agent in the 1920s and 1930s. However, harrowing experiences as a U.S. Army photographer during World War II led him to accept Christ, and he ultimately became a noted Assemblies of God missionary evangelist who ministered in 48 nations.

Herman became well-known in Hollywood through his 1928 book, How I Broke into the Movies, a compilation of stories from 60 motion picture stars, including Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper, and Greta Garbo. During World War II, Herman was inducted into the Army and served in New Guinea on a special news and camera team. Later he went to the Philippines as the official photographer for Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s field headquarters staff.

Herman found himself dodging artillery while carrying his camera in war zones. After experiencing kamikaze attacks and other dangers of war, he promised God that he would lead a better life. During World War II, Herman narrowly escaped death five times.

After the war, he returned to Columbia Pictures, where God used a friend to point him to Jesus Christ. Herman repented of his sin, gave his heart to God, and said, “For the first time in my life I felt the love of God touch me. I knew every evil had been broken. I was spiritually alive.” Herman soon began sharing his faith with movie stars, directors, producers, makeup men, and other staff members where he worked. Their questions gave Herman opportunities to witness about his salvation for the next nine months that he remained at Columbia Pictures.

From this turning point in his life, he felt called into full-time evangelism. He first gave his testimony in churches, and then he began holding evangelistic and tent crusades, first in Germany and then in other parts of the globe, eventually traveling five times around the world.

Sixty years ago, the Pentecostal Evangel published a report by Assemblies of God missionary Harland A. Park about Herman’s evangelistic crusade in Hong Kong. During this campaign, Herman preached continuously in various churches and outdoor meetings from October 1956 through January 1957, sometimes holding two and three meetings a day. He presented “a clear-cut message of faith in Jesus Christ as the One who is abundantly able to give victory over sin, sickness, and death to all who will truly believe and follow Him as Lord.” Huge crowds attended the meetings. People came from Hong Kong, Kowloon, and even farther to seek more of God and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

While in Hong Kong, Herman ministered at the chapel of a refugee settlement where more than 400 decisions were made for Christ and many were healed. He also ministered at Ecclesia Bible Institute for three days of special meetings for the students. Twenty students testified of receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Others were stirred to fast and pray, and many were refreshed by the Holy Spirit.

Decision cards were registered for 2,260 persons who professed Christ as Savior in the open-air crusade. Hundreds more prayed for salvation at Assemblies of God, Foursquare, and Pentecostal Mission churches where he preached. Many of these new converts enrolled in a special follow-up Bible correspondence course to learn the truths of God’s Word.

One joyful conversion was a woman who abandoned thoughts of suicide and followed Christ. Herman also prayed for a man deaf in one ear, and the man testified to being healed. Others were prayed for and received healing from cancer, tuberculosis, and other diseases. He also prayed for a number of children to be healed. “May these days count for eternity” was the prayer of Herman and the missionaries who assisted at these meetings.

Herman rubbed shoulders with numerous Christian leaders throughout his ministry. Yonggi Cho, a young minster who would later pastor the world’s largest church, served as his interpreter at meetings he held in Seoul, South Korea, in 1957. Herman also ministered in a 21-day revival campaign in Cairo, which helped him later to produce a documentary on Lillian Trasher called, The Nile Mother. Herman’s ministry intersected with Howard Rusthoi, Francesco Toppi, Reinhard Bonnke, Mark and Huldah Buntain, and Colton Wickramaratne. C. M. Ward wrote about Herman’s conversion and ministry in a 1959 booklet, Goodbye Make-Believe! The Hal Herman Story.

Herman spent his early years promoting Hollywood stars, but a radical conversion led him to spend the rest of his life promoting Jesus Christ. He became a faithful AG missionary evangelist who lived to age 96, and thousands were saved through his nearly 50 years of worldwide ministry.

Read “Hong Kong Crusade,” on pages 14-15 of the March 17, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “God, Make Us Your Burning Ones,” by T. J. Jones

• “Bringing Christ to Alaska,” by David Hogan

Click here to read this issue now.

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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Edith Mae Pennington: The Beauty Queen Who Traded Hollywood for a Pentecostal Pulpit

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This Week in AG History–July 4 and 11, 1931
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in PE News, 02 July 2015

Edith Mae Pennington (1902-1970) traded the glamour and fame of Hollywood for a Pentecostal pulpit. Her testimony, published in 1931 in the Pentecostal Evangel, shared her journey from small town America to Hollywood and back again.

Reared in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Edith had accepted Christ at a young age in her family’s evangelical church. By high school, she had become a ravishing young woman and lost interest in spiritual things. She enjoyed popularity and, she wrote, “the love of the world gripped my heart.” She spent her youth going to dances and engaging in the frivolities of the world. She did not intentionally reject God but nonetheless drifted away from her faith.

After high school, Edith attended college. She intended to become a teacher but soon found herself on another path. She entered a beauty pageant in 1921 and beat out 7,000 other young women to capture the title, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the United States.”

Edith’s life would never be the same. Gifts and money were showered upon her, and she received numerous invitations to speak at luncheons and christen buildings and public works projects. “I was dined and feted, flattered and honored,” she recalled. She wore expensive clothing, had a car and chauffeur, and regularly made guest appearances at theaters.

Even though Edith seemed to have everything, she felt empty on the inside. “It was very exciting, alluring, inviting — yet it did not satisfy,” she wrote. During her travels across America, she decided to try the screen rather than the stage. She settled in Hollywood, hoping for a change.

Edith’s mother was her constant companion, helping to protect her and line up events. But her mother’s most important work, perhaps, was accomplished in the prayer closet. Edith noted, “Mother would be behind the curtain praying for me at my request and her desire — for God to help me and not let me make any mistakes.”

These prayers were soon answered, but not before witnessing the depravity of Hollywood. Edith appeared in several motion pictures, but became increasingly “shocked” at the “wicked world” surrounding her. “I was horrified at the immorality and the things I witnessed,” she wrote, noting that she had “several narrow escapes which frightened me.” She realized that her hopes for fame and fortune had been misplaced. “My air castles shattered at my feet,” she cried.

In her despair, Edith turned to God. She began attending church and heard the gospel preached by the power of the Holy Spirit. She felt conviction for her sins and “awakened to the startling realization that I was a sinner, lost and undone.” She began to read the Bible, which seemed to make everything “brighter” and her “soul lighter.” However, she hesitated to make the decision to become a true follower of Christ.

Edith knew that she would have to leave her lifestyle behind if she recommitted herself to Christ. She understood that there would need to be a parting of ways: “One way led to a career, fame, and fortune, but there was sin, the world, and a lost soul at the end. The other way revealed the Cross, and Jesus the Saviour who had died for me that peace, joy, and forgiveness might be mine.”

Initially, Edith tried to have both God and the world. She went to church and also went to theaters and parties where sin abounded and where God was dishonored. She was miserable and ultimately recognized that she needed “deliverance from the bondage of the world.”

She visited churches that she described as “nominal,” and they were unable to help her find victory from her bondage to sin. She knew she wanted to live for the Lord, but she could not seem to separate herself from the destructive paths of the world. She experienced painful cognitive dissonance. She liked dressing like a Hollywood starlet, but deep inside she knew that she could not serve both God and flesh.

Finally, Edith decided to visit a Pentecostal church. She had heard that Pentecostal churches believed in the power of God. And Edith knew that she needed God’s power. She attended several Sunday evening services at a Pentecostal church in Los Angeles in October 1925. One evening, after a message in tongues seemed to be a direct rebuke from God, she ran to the altar and fully surrendered her life to God. She began to weep uncontrollably and then experienced unexplainable peace and quietness. She recalled, “I was happy, and felt so free, so light, so clean.”

The next night Edith returned to church. This time, she decided not to wear her characteristically gaudy jewelry. She received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and felt God call her to preach the gospel. Edith returned to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where, in 1930, she became the pastor of the Assemblies of God congregation.

Edith Mae Pennington spent the rest of her life in ministry as a pastor and noted evangelist. Throngs of people would come to hear “The Most Beautiful Girl in the United States” share how she left the lights of Hollywood for the light of the cross. Edith’s decision to forsake the world and to follow Christ changed the course of not only her life, but thousands of others.

Read the article by Edith Mae Pennington, “From the Footlights to the Light of the Cross,” published serially in the July 4, 1931, and July 11, 1931, issues of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in the July 4, 1931, issue:

• “The Overflowing Stream,” by P. C. Nelson

• “Is Life Worth Living?” by Myer Pearlman

And many more!

Click these links to read the July 4th and July 11th issues 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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