This Week in AG History — March 6, 1948
By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 05 March 2020
Edmund “Teddy” Hodgson (1898-1960) was a British Pentecostal missionary to the Belgian Congo, Africa, from 1920 to 1960. He served his Lord and his church as a preacher, teacher, doctor, dentist, carpenter, hunter, husband, father, and friend. Ultimately, he gave his life as a martyr for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Born in Preston, a city in northern England, Hodgson left formal schooling at age 13 and went to work as a delivery boy for a bakery. One day his employer asked him if he attended Sunday School. He replied that he did, but the man then asked a deeper question, “And do you love the Lord Jesus?” The question bothered him and he found no answer to give. Not long after, he knelt with his employer and committed his life to the service of Christ.
Finding that he was gifted with his hands, he became an apprentice to a cabinetmaker at age 14. At the same time, he became acquainted with students at a Pentecostal Bible school and a pioneer missionary in the Congo. After receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit and admitting his love of adventure, he made a promise to God and to the missionary to consider serving in the Congo.
While still a teenager, Hodgson enlisted in the British Armed Forces and served in front line trench warfare in France in World War I. Though the other soldiers called him “Holy Hodgson,” they respected his natural ability as a crack shot and his fearless leadership. Following orders to move out into no-man’s land, Hodgson was hit by a German shell. He recovered but found his trigger finger useless.
After the war, Hodgson returned to England to rebuild his life. Driven and capable, he soon built a thriving business restoring furniture. There were times when the Congo crossed his mind but, having seen enough suffering on the front lines of war, he believed he could serve God better by making money to give to missions rather than going himself. Then one day the missionary he had met before the war walked into his shop. He asked, “Well, Teddy, what about the Congo?”
Over the next days a battle as fierce as anything he experienced in France took place within his heart. He wrestled with the sacrifice it would mean for him as a young man to leave a promising business and disappear into the darkness of Africa. However, when he finally surrendered to God, it was total. After saying “yes” to God, Teddy Hodgson never looked back.
He sailed to the Congo in 1920 and found that he had to walk the last 150 miles through mosquito-infested swamps. Within a week, he was suffering with malaria. After nine months of pain he was nearly blind and argued with God about bringing him to the Congo and leaving him useless. Finally, in desperation, he cried out, “Lord, either heal me or take me to heaven.” The next day, he was able to get out of bed and he packed his bags to go into the villages to begin his work.
Though his skill in the Kiluba language was limited, Hodgson approached the village chief in Kisanga and asked to speak to the people. After receiving permission, he thought, “Well, here’s my audience, so here goes!” As he began to speak, he felt such an overwhelming love for these people that the words seemed to simply flow from his mouth. When he finished, he thanked them and left.
As he was leaving, two boys who had been helping him build his house in Kisanga followed him with great laughter. They told him how funny it was that when he was speaking to them while working they could hardly understand him but that morning as he spoke they could all understand every word. Hodgson was greatly encouraged at his miraculous provisional help from God. This was the first of many times he found that God blessed and provided all he needed when he made his own resources available.
In the coming years as he traveled from village to village, Hodgson had many hair-raising experiences with witch doctors, angry chiefs, hungry lions, rogue elephants, hippos, and crocodiles. Though his trigger finger was useless, he trained himself to shoot with his middle finger. Over the years, God used his ability with a rifle to win many friends among the villages. Over the years he killed more than 60 marauding lions. He never shot for sport or pleasure, only to protect the people he loved.
Serving in the Belgian Congo for 40 years, Hodgson also buried two wives and was constrained to send his five children back to England for care and education. These experiences pained him deeply and challenged his resolve, but his love for Christ and the people to whom he was called compelled him to continue.
In the March 6, 1948, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Hodgson wrote about a great revival that was taking place in the Congo in response to prayer for renewal among the Christians. The revival featured miraculous exercise of the gifts of the Spirit leading to the conversion, infilling, and baptism of well over a thousand souls.
After the Congo declared its independence in 1960, the atmosphere changed for Hodgson and his fellow Christian workers. The missionaries soon found themselves contained in a small area in Kamina by rebels. Other missionaries from New Zealand, Elton Knauf and his wife, joined them there. Knauf was concerned that he had left in such a hurry that he had been unable to deliver much needed supplies and money to the hospital workers in Lulungu. He was convinced he could travel safely if he went by “the back road.” Hodgson agreed to accompany him.
When they reached Mukuya, they were confronted by a band of surly rebels who were singing one of the songs of the rebellion, “We want no words from the white man’s God!” The missionaries tried to negotiate that they would leave the supplies and return back to Kamina. However, the rebel forces demanded that they march with them. A few Christians in the area heard of the trouble and followed from a distance. After marching for a short time, the Christians saw the rebels stop. They watched in horror as the machetes were raised and Hodgson and Knauf were hacked to pieces before their eyes.
Hodgson wrote in his book, Out of the Darkness, “The Lord Jesus illustrated and commended a Christianity that bent its back, soiled its hands, and blistered its feet in stooping to help fallen man. Just as positively He denounced and condemned a professional religion that passes by on the other side when man’s need is at the greatest. Some are called to be Apostles, but every Christian is called to be an Epistle (a love letter of God, read of men).” Hodgson served God as both Apostle and Epistle.
Read Edmund Hodgson’s article, “A Pentecostal Revival in the Congo,” on page 2 of the March 6, 1948, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “The Test of True Discipleship” by Robert A. Brown
• “A Mighty Revival at CBI” by Kathleen Belknap
• “Jeremiah of Anathoth” by Walter Beuttler
And many more!
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.
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