Tag Archives: Missions

The Story Behind Speed-the-Light: How Assemblies of God Youth Raised Over $300 Million for Missions

Speed the Light

An airplane (“Old Sikorsky”) purchased with Speed the Light funds, circa 1946. Pictured (L-R) are: E. L Mason; H. B. Garlock; unidentified; Warren Straton; Fred Merian; unidentified; J. Robert Ashcroft.

This Week in AG History —October 11, 1953

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 11 October 2018

“Never mind, it will soon blow over.” These skeptical words greeted the enthusiasm of Christ’s Ambassadors (CA) Director Ralph Harris when he recounted that Assemblies of God young people had given over $100,000 in 1945 to the new missions fund, “Speed the Light.” Not many adults believed that the youth of their churches could sustain their excitement for providing missionary transportation vehicles in far-off countries.

The idea for the fund had come to Harris only a month after taking his new post as national youth director. It was 1944 and young people were beginning to come to grips with the changes in their world following World War II. Vehicles had been hard to come by as many automobile manufacturers stopped producing civilian vehicles in favor of military vehicles.

Harris knew the youth of America could identify with those who were without transportation. Harris also knew that the war had exhibited to young people the power of vehicles being used for destructive purposes. They had watched news reels of airplanes, jeeps, and boats destroy and be destroyed. Was there a way to show the world that the same vehicles that had been used to bring desolation to a nation could also be used to bring the good news of the hope of the gospel? Could the young people of the Assemblies of God lead the way in this effort?

General Superintendent E.S. Williams offered a less-than-positive response to Harris’s idea of using offerings from CA groups to purchase airplanes and motorcycles for missions. Williams later reported that his first thoughts were, “Jesus didn’t use a motorcycle. And Paul didn’t fly a plane.”

However, while Williams was very conservative in his approach to money, he was also a man in touch with God. While Harris was still trying to sell his idea, Williams felt the Holy Spirit reminding him that Jesus and Paul might not have used those vehicles, but they likely would have if they had been available. Within an hour of approaching his boss, Harris had the approval to begin promoting his new idea.

The program needed a name so Harris offered a prize to the young person that submitted the best name. Ernestine Houston of Arizona sent in the moniker “Speed-the-Light” (STL) and was awarded $15 in Gospel Publishing House materials for coining the new name, which is still used 73 years later.

Harris set the astronomical goal of $100,000 for their first year, 1945. CA members were told that if they each gave $1 their goal could be met. It was greeted with skepticism on the part of some leadership, but the Assemblies of God youth came through with $113,375.39. Their first major purchase was a small amphibian plane for the work in Liberia. It was the first non-military plane to ever fly into that country and caused quite a stir. The Liberians were so excited to see the plane that for many years they charged no duty fees on any STL equipment brought into the country.

Appeals soon began to pour in from all over the world. Boats were needed in the Bahamas, a jeep in Costa Rica, mules were requested in Nigeria, and bicycles in Upper Volta. The Assemblies of God discovered that one missionary, properly equipped, could do the work of 10 who lacked resources. Missionaries were going farther, faster, and easier than they ever had before.

Harris knew he had to keep the challenge fresh so he proclaimed the third Sunday of October “Dollar Day” when a special offering would be sent in from each CA group totaling $1 for each young person who attended the church. The Pentecostal Evangel lent its support to the project, running articles highlighting STL on that Sunday.

One young man, Loren, was 17 when STL was born. He later testified that STL built a bridge for him to different parts of the world as he read the updates in the Evangel articles and had the opportunity to contribute to something that was larger than himself. He was learning that he could impact an entire world for the good. He later became a pastor in Nebraska who supported STL in his local church until God called him to spend 12 years in Nicaragua, using his own STL vehicle. He later served as the field director for Latin America and, in 1997, Loren Triplett retired as executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions. It started with giving $1 to Speed the Light’s Dollar Day.

Since that first year in 1945, the youth of the Assemblies of God have given $312,870,885.76 to STL, including $9,421,143.41 in 2017. The third Sunday of October is still STL Day in the Assemblies of God. J. Philip Hogan, referring to the skeptic who told Harris that this excitement in the youth would “soon blow over,” wrote on STL’s 40th anniversary in 1984, “He was right! It has blown all over the world!”

Read stories and view photos from “Dollar Day” in the article, “Keep ‘Em Rolling,” on page 7 of the Oct. 11, 1953, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Family Worship and the Promise of Power,” by Norman V. Williams

• “Pentecostal Principles,” by James D. Menzies

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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Noel Perkin: Assemblies of God Missions Leader, 1927-1959

Perkin NoelThis Week in AG History —September 20, 1941

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 20 September 2018

Noel Perkin (1893-1979), known as “Mr. Missions,” served as missionary secretary (now called executive director of AG World Missions) for the Assemblies of God (AG).

Born in London, England, he moved to Canada at the age of 18 and took a job with the Bank of Montreal in Toronto. He worked there seven years and became head of the savings department. He also joined efforts with a group of Christian businessmen and established a Pentecostal church in Toronto.

In 1918, Perkin was ordained by the AG and then did missionary work in Argentina. After three years of missionary work, he moved to the U.S. and settled in Rochester, New York. He became assistant pastor of Elim Tabernacle and attended Elim Bible School where he met his wife. He married Ora Blanchard in 1922 and pastored small churches in New York over the next four years.

In 1926 the Perkin family moved to Springfield, Missouri, where Noel Perkin started working at the national office of the AG. He became the assistant missionary secretary for a year before accepting the position of AG Missionary Secretary. He served 32 years, from 1927-1959.

Missionary Secretary Noel Perkin gave an address at the 1941 General Council on the topic, “Occupy Till I Come.” He spoke on missions from a global perspective, talking about the current world crisis and the role of missionaries. At that time, World War II was well underway, but the United States would not enter the conflict until later that year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Although Perkin mentioned that many countries were closed to gospel work at that time, he was encouraged because “even though there is not any opportunity to do much, if any, missionary work through American missionaries, yet multitudes of the people are still being reached through the courageous service of native evangelists and pastors.”

Perkin gave some glowing testimonies of the gospel message being shared underground and on the war front. He shared one example of a nurse who worked both in a supply base and also in tending to and escorting wounded soldiers from the front lines to a hospital. An American saw her helping soldiers and asked, “Are you not already wounded and partly incapacitated?” “Yes,” she replied quietly, “but there is such a need at the front. You know they expect a lot of us who are Christians.”

Perkin mentioned difficulty in getting workers to the mission fields and difficulty in getting funds to certain fields. But he still promoted missions efforts, even if it involved sacrifice. He closed his remarks by saying, “The crisis is, what shall we do with the challenge that is set before us?” His response was, “Not do less but more, for the night settles down upon us when no man may work.”

Missions has always been paramount to the AG. At the second General Council in November 1914, a resolution was adopted which committed the AG to “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.” This has continued to be a primary goal of the Assemblies of God throughout the decades.

Read Noel Perkin’s address, “Occupy Till I Come,” on pages 4-7 of the Sept. 20, 1941, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Work Whereunto I Have Appointed Them,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “The Diary of a Delegate”

• “Central America Presents a Great Opportunity,” by John L. Franklin

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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AG Missions Publications Then and Now

P3236This Week in AG History —August 30, 1959

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 30 August 2018

The Pentecostal revival that birthed the Assemblies of God in 1914 brought with it a revival of dedication to the mission that each believer must “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” There was an urgency to take the message to the ends of the earth and, along with that, was born a pressing need to communicate the progress of this effort, along with its needs and concerns.

The first official weekly publication of the Assemblies of God, the Christian Evangel (later renamed the Pentecostal Evangel), began publishing updates and needs from the 32 recognized missionaries approved at the first General Council in April 1914. J. Roswell Flower, the first general secretary and, in 1919, the first missions secretary, also served as the editor of the Evangel and sought to use the publication to bring increased cooperation from the churches in support of the missions effort.

In 1944, under the direction of editor Kenneth Short, a separate quarterly publication devoted exclusively to missions was created. The Missionary Challenge (later changed to World Challenge) carried a format that highlighted a variety of updates from the field, emphasized a field in focus, provided a daily prayer devotional plan, and a prayer list for each missionary’s birthday. It also included a “Junior Challenge” with a story written specially to communicate to children the need for world missions.

As more departments of the General Council were created, the publication was used to highlight reports and opportunities provided by the Women’s Missionary Council (WMC), Boys’ and Girls’ Missionary Crusade (BGMC), Light for the Lost (LFTL), and Speed the Light (STL).

In March of 1959, World Challenge announced that the missions publication would merge with the denominational weekly, the Pentecostal Evangel, in order to increase the circulation of missionary articles.

However, the Aug. 30, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel features the relatively new promotions secretary of the Foreign Missions Department, J. Philip Hogan, announcing a new missions publication in an article titled, “Why Another Missionary Magazine?”

The new periodical was called Global Conquest after the new initiative approved by the missions department. Hogan gave three reasons for the decision to return to a separate missions publication: 1. The 1960s promised to be an era of “stepped-up communications” and the voice of missions must assert itself to be heard amongst the competing voices; 2. The commitment of the Assemblies of God was to communicate with each donor what was happening with their investment; and 3. Missions deserved “priority status” so as not to be lost among other reports featured within the larger Evangel publication.

Global Conquest continued as the official missions initiative, along with the free quarterly publication of the same name, until 1967 when it was determined that some governments interpreted this title as a threat to nationalism and the name was changed to Good News Crusades, in support of the mass evangelism efforts of city outreaches, also called Good News Crusades, taking place on the field. The publication was increased from quarterly to bi-monthly.

In 1979, it was realized that “crusades” might also carry a bad connotation in some countries and Good News Crusades was replaced by a monthly magazine, Mountain Movers. This periodical was sent free of charge to every Assemblies of God missions donor for almost 20 years. Joyce Wells Booze served as its initial editor. Under her leadership, there was a concerted effort to provide short articles written by missionaries on a reading level that would appeal to all ages.

Mountain Movers was merged into the Pentecostal Evangel in 1998 when the decision was made to utilize the first Sunday edition of each monthly Evangel solely as a missions magazine. This practice continued until the Pentecostal Evangel ceased publication in 2014.

Even without the weekly Evangel, Assemblies of God leaders felt it was vital to continue a steady stream of communication about the needs and concerns of the worldwide evangelistic mission of the church. Worldview magazine was commissioned in 2015 as a subscription periodical released monthly to continue to fulfill the imperative of the mission enunciated by Hogan in 1959: to ensure that world evangelism is priority status in the Assemblies of God.

Read the announcement of the publication of Global Conquest on page 7 of the Aug. 30, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Pentecost in the Philippines,” by Alfred Cawston

• “Miracles in A Missionary’s Life,” by C. M. Ward

• “Reaching the Children for Christ,” by Leonard and Genevieve Olson

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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Christian and Violet Schoonmaker: Pioneer Pentecostal Missionaries to India

SchoonmakerThis Week in AG History — July 27, 1918

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 26 July 2018

Christian H. Schoonmaker (1881-1919) was the founding chairman of the Assemblies of God of India in 1918. While he served as a missionary in northern India for only nine years, Schoonmaker and his family significantly influenced Indian Pentecostal missions.

After finishing school in the late 1890s, Schoonmaker moved from his home in Albany, New York, to New York City to look for work. There he became involved with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. During this time, he had a vision of a great multitude of Hindu men and women. He felt he had found his purpose in life — to reach the Hindu people of India for Christ. He soon enrolled in the Alliance Bible School in Nyack, New York.

During his time at the Bible school (1905-1907), the Pentecostal revival began to sweep across the United States. Many of the students at the Alliance school experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Schoonmaker’s teachers encouraged him to continue seeking God but warned him against people who taught that speaking in tongues was a sign of the Spirit’s baptism. However, he soon noticed that those who showed the most joy and fervent devotion to God were those who had experienced the fullness of the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues. He began to seek all that God had for him, even if it included speaking in tongues.

Meanwhile, beginning in 1905, a Pentecostal revival had also impacted his desired destination, India. When Schoonmaker arrived in India in the fall of 1907, he urged others to partake of the blessing of the Spirit. It was on Christmas Eve, 1907, that Christian Schoonmaker’s life and ministry were changed immeasurably — he also received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.

A young single missionary named Violet Dunham (1879-1965) had been in India since 1902. She was warned by several sources to have nothing to do with the kinds of meetings that were happening in the Pentecostal circles. She saw so many other missionaries becoming involved that she prayed earnestly to be kept from their fanaticism. The Lord comforted her with Proverbs 1:33, “Whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” With this promise, she felt free to attend one of the meetings where Schoonmaker and the other Pentecostals were ministering. On the second day of the meetings, the Spirit began to fall upon the missionaries and the national workers just as in the book of Acts.

Violet became Mrs. Christian Schoonmaker in August of 1909 and soon three children blessed their home. However, their ministry was cut short in 1914 by the outbreak of World War I. They returned to North America where they led a church in Toronto.

During the war years, God blessed them with two more children. They transferred their ordination in 1917 to the newly formed Assemblies of God. They desired to return to India and received missionary appointment with the Assemblies of God. The July 27, 1918, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel included a report from C. H. Schoonmaker reporting that they had landed in India. Due to government restrictions, however, they were not permitted to return to the area where they had previously worked. He earnestly requested “prayer that God will plant us in the right place and use us to reach the unevangelized with the message of salvation.”

They settled in Lonavia, where Violet gave birth to their sixth child. During this time, Schoonmaker felt the need for a unified body of Pentecostal ministers in northern India. There was a need for a closer bond and mutual counsel. In November of 1918, a conference was held and the “Indian Assemblies of God” was formed, electing Christian Schoonmaker as its first chairman.

Just three months later, Schoonmaker returned home from ministry feverish and too tired to eat. The next morning a rash appeared on his chest. Violet knew the signs of smallpox and sent for a nurse. Christian was immediately quarantined from the children. As Violet was nursing their youngest infant, she also was kept from him. He died in their home in India on Feb. 2, 1919, at the age of 37.

Violet’s life was permanently altered in a matter of days. She was now a widow with six children under the age of nine, in a country where widows were often viewed unfavorably. She wrote to the Assemblies of God leadership in the United States, asking if she and her children would be able to continue their missionary appointment. She served in India before she was married and wished to continue that service. She was relieved by the answer — if her calling continued, then her support would also.

Violet Schoonmaker remained in India for another 32 years, retiring in 1951. She continued to speak and write missionary articles until her death at age 86. Christian and Violet’s ministry in India did not stop when either of them died. Five of their six children returned as Assemblies of God missionaries and the sixth, born just before his father died, also served the Indian people as a medical missionary doctor.

Read more about Schoonmaker’s report on landing in India on page 8 of the July 27, 1918, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Pentecost in Central Africa” by James Salter

• “Physical Manifestations of the Spirit,” by Alice E. Luce

• “Questions and Answers,” by E.N. Bell

And many more!

Click 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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John P. Kolenda: The German-American Assemblies of God Missionary to Brazil

Kolenda_1400bThis Week in AG History — July 11, 1942

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 12 July 2018 

John Peter Kolenda (1898-1984), an Assemblies of God missionary to Brazil and Germany, was a man of vision who was sold out for the gospel. He pastored churches in the U.S., founded churches on the mission field, established Bible schools, started printing plants, and taught extension courses. He never grew tired of doing the Lord’s work.

Kolenda was born in Germany and lived in Brazil from ages 4 to 11 before his family immigrated to the United States. After he was converted at age 18, he began reading Maria Woodworth-Etter’s classic Pentecostal book, Signs and Wonders, which led him to accept divine healing. Not long afterwards, through the ministry of Aimee Semple McPherson, he and other members of his family were filled with the Spirit.

After graduating from Southern California Bible Institute (now Vanguard University), Kolenda was ordained in 1922. He met his future wife, Marguerite Westmark, in Bible school, and they were married later that same year.

Kolenda sold cars in Los Angeles for a short time after graduation, and then after he was married he served as an evangelist for about six months, before pastoring a series of small churches in Michigan. The Kolendas raised two daughters, Dorothy and Grace Ann.

Kolenda had always felt a call to serve on the mission field in Brazil. His wife also shared that calling. He was over 40 years old when the door finally opened for him to go as a missionary to Brazil in 1939, even as World War II was breaking out in Europe. He arrived in Rio de Janeiro and rented an apartment as he became reacquainted with the people of his youth. Soon he felt directed to move to the state of Santa Catarina which had a great need for the gospel.

Kolenda started quite a few churches in Brazil during the 14 years he ministered there. When he left for his first furlough, over 100 churches or preaching points had been established.

He returned to Brazil and continued teaching at Bible conferences and served as the superintendent of the work in the state of Santa Catarina. He established a monthly publication called Messenger of Peace and provided Sunday School literature to his constituents. He also served as a missionary to Germany for 10 years. He later returned to both mission fields to evangelize and teach in their Bible schools. Through his preaching and teaching he touched untold thousands. His work in training young ministers in Brazil and Germany has significantly shaped the Pentecostal work in both those countries.

The Kolenda family made a large impact on the Pentecostal movement. One of John P. Kolenda’s older brothers, Paul Kolenda, was an Assemblies of God pastor in Illinois and Michigan. He became the father of 10 sons, many of whom went into the ministry. One of Paul’s descendants is Daniel Kolenda, who is the president and CEO of Christ For All Nations, which was established by Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke.

During World War II there was a great missions advance in South America, spearheaded by missionaries John and Marguerite Kolenda and others. An article Kolenda wrote in the Pentecostal Evangel in July 1942, called “Missions Advance in Brazil,” gave reports from several missionaries on the field.

In the article, Kolenda told how, in February 1942, he was accompanied by missionaries Virgil and Ramona Smith as they conducted two weeks of evangelistic meetings in the northern part of the state of Santa Catarina and in the state of Parana. They held special services and Bible studies among the Russian colonists who had settled there. The trip was very interesting. Taking the train, which was greatly delayed, Kolenda reported, “When we finally reached the station it was one o’clock in the morning.” The believers who met them there with wagons said they would have to remain in the station until daybreak since the river they must cross had overflowed its banks and was very dangerous. The next morning they had to cross the river in small boats and then go by wagon a few more hours to their destination. They held a camp meeting service with the believers who came. Kolenda reported, “The Lord truly met with us and we believe the results will abide.”

Missionaries Erma Miller and Lillian Flessing gave an account that the Kolendas held five services for them, with nine people getting saved, and several backsliders being restored. “Each evening saw the altar lined with people seeking God,” said Miller and Flessing, “and we feel their visit was the means of starting a Holy Ghost revival in Sao Carlos which we pray shall continue until Jesus comes.”

Read more exciting reports in “Missions Advance in Brazil,” on pages 6 and 7 of the July 11, 1942, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Give Ye Them to Eat,” by John Wright Follette

• “The World Moves On,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “Isaiah’s Consecration and Call,” by J. Bashford Bishop

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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Ralph Williams, Missionary to El Salvador: Pioneer of the Indigenous Church Principle

Williams RalphThis Week in AG History — April 12, 1930

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 15 March 2018

Ralph Darby Williams (1902-1982), his wife, Jewyl, and baby Owen arrived in El Salvador on Christmas Eve of 1929 as Assemblies of God missionaries in Central America. As the Pentecostal church grew over their tenure of 50 years, Williams helped to develop the basis of the indigenous church principle that has driven the success of Assemblies of God missions endeavors.

In his report, “First Impressions of El Salvador,” published in the April 12, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Williams updated readers on their activities during their first few weeks stationed in El Salvador, a little country of about two million people.

Born in England, Williams was saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit in his native land but traveled to the United States to receive training for mission work at Glad Tidings Bible Institute (later Bethany University) in California. There he met his future wife, Jewyl, who was also training for ministry.

Ralph and Jewyl felt a call to Mexico but that country was closed to U.S. missionaries. For three years, Ralph and Jewyl trained Mexican workers in San Diego to return to their native country and plant churches, hoping that soon American missionaries would follow them.

Meanwhile, the Pentecostal message had come to El Salvador through Canadian Frederick Mebius, who was influenced by Charles Parham’s Apostolic Faith Movement. Many received this message with open hearts, but without solid biblical instruction and pastoral guidance the few believers had fallen into dissension and bad teaching. One believer, Francisco Arbizu, was so concerned about the state of the church that he sold his possessions, used the money to finance a trip to the United States, and met with AG leaders asking them to send missionaries to El Salvador to guide his people into learning the principles of God’s Word.

The Williams family responded to this call and met with Arbizu on Christmas Day, 1929, in Santa Ana. He greeted them with a shout of praise, “Now we have a shepherd!”

Over the next few weeks, Arbizu took the family on a tour of the fledgling churches that had sprung up in private homes. Williams could see that the church had many committed believers but he shared Arbizu’s concern at the lack of biblical knowledge and organization.

The more he traveled the more he became convinced that it would take at least six missionaries to disciple the converts and reach the unevangelized. He knew that no other missionaries had expressed an interest in coming and that the church was not ready to support them even if they were there. Williams prayed about this and asked the Lord to show him the answer to the dilemma.

When the answer came it surprised even him: “the missionaries are already on the field!” The answer to his prayer were the very believers he was teaching. They didn’t need to bring more people from the United States; they needed to raise up the Salvadorian believers to reach their neighbors, pastor their churches, and send their own workers to the unreached villages around them.

Williams then began organizing conferences for church workers and held monthly fellowship meetings so that the workers would have fellowship with other believers from surrounding villages. Persecution was often great for these believers, who were religious minorities in their villages. But when the Pentecostal believers came together for conferences and meetings, they discovered that there were more than 1,000 believers. This knowledge that their numbers were growing gave them boldness to face their persecutors and to believe that they could reach their own nation.

During the Great Depression, it was often hard for the AG churches in the United States to fully support its missionaries. Many days, the Williams family of six, including four growing boys, had nothing to eat but black beans and tortillas. But God always provided and good came out of this situation. The Salvadorian believers began to support the gospel workers through their own tithes and offerings, many times taking the ministers and their families into their homes to keep them from having to pay rent when funds were low.

When missionary Melvin Hodges arrived in El Salvador in 1936 to assist Williams, he was intrigued by the way the Salvadorians provided so much of the leadership for their own churches. When Hodges moved to Nicaragua he began to move the Nicaraguan church from a paternalistic structure, dependent on American financial assistance, to one based on the indigenous church principles modeled in El Salvador. Hodges went on to write the first missiology text by a Pentecostal, The Indigenous Church, which outlined these principles which became the standard missiology of the Assemblies of God.

Williams later became the field superintendent for Central America and, by 1959, the Central American work had grown from 12 small disorganized congregations to over 400 churches, 1,000 outstations, 18,000 believers, and seven Bible institutes. When Williams died in 1982, he left behind a well-equipped body of national believers ready to continue in the self-sustaining work for which he had devoted his life.

Read more about Williams’ first thoughts on arriving in El Salvador on page 10 of the April 12, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Passover and Pentecost,” by Stanley Frodsham

• “The Things That Are Above,” by J. Narver Gortner

• “Need of Native Evangelists,” by F.G. Leader

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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Maynard and Gladys Ketcham: Pioneer Assemblies of God Missionaries to India

KetchamThis Week in AG History — March 15, 1947

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 15 March 2018

Maynard Ketcham (1905-1993) arrived in Purulia, India, in 1926 as the first Assemblies of God missionary to Bengal. His sweetheart, Gladys, arrived one year later. Together they served the people of North India and the far east until their retirement in 1969.

In the March 15, 1947, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Ketcham told the story of Padda, one of the girls he and Gladys rescued from a life of “serving the gods” as a Hindu temple prostitute. He appealed to Evangel readers of the need to continue to develop the girl’s orphanage in Purulia to provide homes and education for girls like Padda. He sent a plea: “Who will help us?”

Ketcham, himself, was the answer to a similar plea for help in India 37 years earlier.

About the same time of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street in California, a Methodist orphanage for girls on Elliot Road in Calcutta, India, experienced a similar outpouring. The respected director, Miss Fanny Simpson, noticed that the girls were gathering on their own in the prayer chapel. During these prayer times, the girls began to praise, to shout, and then to speak in unknown tongues and also reported seeing visions. Soon they were coming to her office and confessing sins of stealing rice and cheating on exams.

Simpson was in awe and wonderment and was not quite sure what to do about these occurrences. But the simple faith and joy of these little girls soon convinced her that even she needed more of Christ in her life. She soon knelt in the chapel, surrounded by orphans who were recently redeemed from Calcutta’s gutters, and received the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

As the girls began to tell others of what was happening in the Methodist orphanage it came to the attention of the bishop, and Simpson was dismissed from her leadership role and sent back to the United States. She was obedient to her superiors but her heart remained with the orphan girls of India.

Simpson became a musical evangelist for the Methodist church and made a practice of inviting those who were interested in learning more about the secret to true spiritual power to stay after the service where she offered prayer for the fullness of the Spirit.

During one of these “extra services,” Inda Ketcham, a widow from Eastport, Long Island, came to her for prayer. Simpson prayed for the widow who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit but her attention was drawn to the wiggly 5-year old boy standing behind his mother. Asking for his name, Simpson laid her hands on the young boy and prophesied, “Maynard Ketcham will be the missionary who one day will take Pentecost to Calcutta and all of Bengal and beyond.”

While young Maynard did not appreciate the significance of this event, his mother did. She filled their home with missionary magazines and story books of the great sagas of missionary adventures. Simpson also kept in touch with the family and kept them in her constant prayers.

After turning down scholarships to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Ketcham graduated from Beulah Heights Bible and Missionary Training School in New Jersey, where he met and courted Gladys Koch. Soon he received a letter from Simpson, who had laid aside her own funds and returned to India. She had purchased property for a missions compound in Purulia, 200 miles west of Calcutta, and wrote to Ketcham, “Remember, Maynard, you are ordained of God to be the pioneer of Pentecost to Eastern India. The doors are open!”

Gladys Koch’s pastor felt she was too young to be a missionary so Ketcham set sail for India alone in 1926. Gladys followed one year later and they married in India in 1928. Using the land that Simpson purchased with money received from her mother’s estate, they opened the Door of Hope orphanage in Purulia, where young girls received a safe home, education, and training to take the gospel into one of the neediest nations on earth.

Fanny Simpson lived to see the fulfillment of the vision God had given her to provide God’s love and care to the orphaned girls of India and the place the young Maynard Ketcham would play in it. Maynard and Gladys became the first Assemblies of God missionaries to the Bengali-speaking area of Eastern India, which includes Calcutta and what was then called East Bengal.

But God was not done with her vision even then. When Ketcham became the Assemblies of God field director for the Far East he saw potential in a young evangelist and invited him to come to do missions work in Calcutta. The young man had invitations elsewhere but agreed to pray about Calcutta. In 1955, at the encouragement from Maynard Ketcham, evangelists Mark and Huldah Buntain moved to Calcutta. In a final twist, Buntain built a Pentecostal church on Elliot Road in Calcutta, across the street from the Methodist orphanage Simpson was forced to leave in 1907.

Read more about Ketcham’s call for help for the Purulia orphanage on page 8 of the March 15, 1947, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Grace Abounding,” by A.G. Ward

• “Wet Wood Among the Saints,” by Nelson Hinman

• “A Challenge to Christian Youth,” by E.S. Williams

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

IMAGE – Back row (left to right): Esther Olson, Virginia Watts, Gladys Ketcham. Sophie Erhardt is in the back row, far right; with some of the girls from the Purulia orphanage.

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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