Tag Archives: Native Americans

Indian Revival Church: Bridging Tribal Divides in Los Angeles for Sixty Years

indian-revival-center

Indian Revival Center, Bell Gardens, California, 1962.

This Week in AG History — December 1, 1957

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 1 December 2016

During the past century, countless Native Americans have been moving from reservations and rural areas to the urban centers of America. One of the top destinations has been Los Angeles, where over 250,000 people of Native American descent now live.

In 1956, Assemblies of God evangelist Arthur Stoneking recognized this demographic shift and pioneered Indian Revival Center (now Indian Revival Church), a congregation for Native Americans in Bell Gardens, which is located in Los Angeles County. Stoneking, a member of the Winnebago tribe, had remarkable success in bringing together people from various tribes. Started as a home bible study, the congregation soon became the largest Native American congregation in Los Angeles.

By 1964, several hundred Native Americans originating from over 30 tribes had joined Indian Revival Center. This diversity could have pulled the congregation apart. However, Stoneking emphasized similarities within various Indian cultures, creating a vibrant community for people who had been removed from their familial or tribal networks. Importantly, he also taught that earthly allegiances should pale in comparison to one’s heavenly citizenship, and that the bonds between Christians should be greater than tribal differences.

One of Indian Revival Center’s most successful ministries was its choir, which traveled across America. Choir members sang and testified in a variety of Native American languages and recorded a popular LP record. Stoneking also started a radio program that featured church members preaching in Native American languages, along with translation of the sermons into English.

Stoneking wrote an article about his fledgling flock in the Dec. 1, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. He noted that salvation “wrought many miracles” in the lives of his church members, including the restoration of broken families and freedom from addictions to alcohol and drugs. One of the miracles, he noted, was “happy fellowship” among members of different tribes who would not ordinarily mix. Sixty years later, Indian Revival Church continues to build bridges across the ethnic divides, providing a welcoming home to people from Native American and numerous other ethnic backgrounds.

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Rev. Irving Terry (left), a convert of Arthur Stoneking, is a member of the Elders Council of the Native American Fellowship of the Assemblies of God. He is pictured here with Rev. Rodger Cree, 2008.

Read Arthur Stoneking’s article, “Indians in Los Angeles,” on pages 12-13 of the Dec. 1, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Holy Quest,” by Leonard Palmer

• “Even So I Send You,” by Paul E. Lowenberg

• “We Are His Workmanship,” by David McKee

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived edition 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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How Summer Camps Helped Ministry among Native Americans to Flourish in the Assemblies of God

pepper

James F. Pepper, Assemblies of God evangelist and member of the Cherokee Nation. Circa 1960s.

This Week in AG History — October 06, 1957

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 06 October 2016

Native Americans were among the founders of the Assemblies of God. Two Cherokee ministers, William H. Boyles and Watt Walker, traveled from Oklahoma to attend the first General Council in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in April 1914.

Early Assemblies of God ministry among Native Americans was largely uncoordinated, consisting of individual evangelists and missionaries who went wherever they felt called to go. By the late 1930s, the newly formed Department of Home Missions began to give direction to these efforts to reach Native Americans with the gospel.

Ministry among Native Americans flourished. By 1945, the Assemblies of God supported 58 missionaries who worked in 37 mission stations, mostly on reservations. One of the most effective forms of large-scale evangelism was the development of “summer Indian camps.” The first camp specifically for Native Americans was held in 1948 on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. By the 1950s, the Assemblies of God regularly sponsored Native American camps across the nation. These camps served both spiritual and social functions, helping to evangelize non-believers and to network believers.

Victor Trimmer, Assemblies of God National Home Missions secretary, wrote about five Native American camps he had visited in an article published in the Oct. 6, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. He described the “spirited singing, fervent prayer, and wholehearted worship” that he witnessed at the camps. Over 700 people attended one of the camps, the Apache Indian Camp at Carrizo, Arizona. Attendees camped in tepees, wick-i-ups, shades, and cowboy tents. While most Anglo camps of the era generally featured a cafeteria, which served as a commons for campers, the Native American campers cooked traditional food for themselves over an open campfire.

At a camp in Norris, South Dakota, Trimmer reported that God transformed many lives at the altar. He wrote, “Many sought God for salvation with tears. The hand of the Lord was stretched forth to heal, and I witnessed the greatest miracles of healing that I have ever seen in my life. Deaf, crippled, and sick were healed as these hungry, believing people looked to God for His help.”

At the end of his summer tour of the Indian camps, Trimmer expressed gratitude for the 100 Assemblies of God missionaries to Native Americans. He remarked, “Their consecration and willingness to deny themselves challenged me.”

The Assemblies of God has continued to flourish among Native Americans. In 2015, the Assemblies of God reported 47,212 Native American adherents in the United States. This represented a 38 percent increase since 2001. The districts with the largest numbers of Native American adherents in 2015 were: Arizona (7,291), Oklahoma (6,832), Northwest (4,348), North Carolina (2,860), New Mexico (2,748), Alaska (2,399), Northern California-Nevada (1,976), Southern California (1,562), South Dakota (1,444), Montana (1,421), Minnesota (1,294), and North Dakota (1,228). It is fitting that Native Americans, who are often called First Peoples, were among the first pioneers in the Assemblies of God. The strong foundation they laid now supports an important and growing segment of the Fellowship.

Read the entire article, “Summer Indian Camps” by Victor Trimmer, on pages 14 and 15 of the Oct. 6, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Christ’s Message to a Fallen Church,” by Frank J. Lindquist

• “The Ministry of Books,” by G. M. Strombeck

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

The photo of James F. Pepper is part of the James F. Pepper Collection, deposited at the Heritage Center by his granddaughter, evangelist Becky Fischer.

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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Charlie Lee: Acclaimed Navajo Artist and Assemblies of God Leader

P10833 Lee
This Week in AG History — April 24, 1960

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 21 April 2016

Charlie Lee (1924-2003), a talented young Navajo artist, won widespread recognition and numerous awards for his paintings and sketches of life on the reservation. Despite his success, Lee felt dissatisfied with his life. In the fall of 1947, an Apache school friend invited him to visit an Assemblies of God church at the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona, where he found new life and accepted Christ on New Year’s Day, 1948.

Feeling called to the ministry, Lee enrolled at Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri. He graduated in 1951 and traveled extensively as an evangelist among Native Americans. In 1953, Lee and his wife, Coralie, returned to his home state of New Mexico and pioneered Mesa View Assembly of God in Shiprock. Lee wanted to share the hope he had found in Christ with other Native Americans.

Lee continued to paint, mostly depictions of Native life, but his primary concern was ministry. Within 10 years, his congregation grew to several hundred people, mostly converts who had previously been addicted to alcohol or other drugs.

Lee became one of the best-known Native American pastors within the Assemblies of God. His congregation in Shiprock, in 1976, became the first Native American church on a federally recognized reservation to make the transition from being a supported mission to a fully indigenous, self-supporting, General Council-affiliated church. While some non-Christians criticized Lee for neglecting his art in favor of ministry, Lee responded that he derived a “greater thrill” from seeing the “Master Artist” painting on the canvas of people’s lives.

Read Lee’s testimony, “Navajo Artist Builds a Church for His People,” which was published on pages 8 and 9 of the April 24, 1960, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Africa As I Saw It,” by C. C. Crace

• “Busy Mother Ministers to the Blind,” by Maxine Strobridge

• “Has God Forgotten?” by Meyer and Alice Tan-Ditter

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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100-Year-Old Hoopa Indian Woman Accepted Christ, Healed, Cured of Addiction; Still Testifying at 109

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This Week in AG History–February 8, 1930
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in PE News, 5 February 2015

Aunt Fanny, a 100-year old Hoopa Indian woman, accepted Christ in about 1920 when a Mexican-American Pentecostal evangelist, A. C. Valdez, visited the Hoopa Indian Reservation in northern California. She was among the earliest Native American Pentecostals, and was almost certainly the oldest.

Aunt Fanny had long been revered in Native American circles. Born in about 1820, she recounted the sacred stories of her ancestors. She herself had lived longer than most everyone else. She remembered, as a girl, seeing the first white men come to her small village. She initially thought they were creatures sent from the Thunder Sky by the Great Spirit. Afterward, she witnessed white soldiers massacre many Native Americans in her village. She survived the massacre and forgave the white men who killed her people.

Sometime later, Aunt Fanny’s husband was hunting with a white man and saved him from being killed by a bear. He shot the bear through its heart with a flint-pointed arrow. The man, grateful for his life, gave a gun to Aunt Fanny’s husband. The gun made him the envy of others in the tribe. Aunt Fanny also learned to chew and smoke “pedro” tobacco from the white men. She became an addict.

When Aunt Fanny accepted Christ at her advanced age, others in the tribe took notice. Before her conversion, she was badly stooped over and was partly paralyzed in her mouth and an arm. After she accepted Christ, she was healed and could stand straight and would regularly walk 8 to 10 miles each day. She received widespread attention in the secular press because of her age. Numerous articles about Aunt Fanny appeared in newspapers across the United States throughout the 1920s. She shared her Christian testimony wherever she went, according to these press reports.

According to a lengthy 1925 article in the Times Standard newspaper published in Eureka, California, Aunt Fanny walked between five and eight miles to attend services at the Hoopa Pentecostal mission. The mission (now known as Hoopa Assembly of God) affiliated with the Assemblies of God in 1927. The article also noted that Aunt Fanny was able to overcome her tobacco addiction shortly after converting to Christ. The article reported: “Aunt Fanny . . . believes devoutly in healing, and attributes the fact that she is now able to stand straighter than in former years to Divine healing.”

J. D. Wells, an early Assemblies of God missionary to Native Americans, shared Aunt Fanny’s story with readers of the February 8, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. At the time, she was 109 years old and continued to present a strong Christian witness. He wrote, “Every one on the reservation welcomes Fanny for a stay at the home, as they feel that God will bless their household while she is present, and this seems to be the truth.”

Read the article, “A Veteran Enters the Lord’s Army,” by J. D. Wells, on pages 10-11 of the February 8, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Need of the Hour,” by Flem Van Meter

• “Divine Healing,” by J. N. Hoover

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangelarchived 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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Assemblies of God Summer Camps for Native Americans in the 1950s


This Week in AG History–October 6, 1957
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 06 Oct 2014 – 4:20 PM CST

Native Americans were among the founders of the Assemblies of God. Two Cherokee ministers, William H. Boyles and Watt Walker, traveled from Oklahoma to attend the first General Council in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in April 1914.

Early Assemblies of God ministry among Native Americans was largely uncoordinated, consisting of individual evangelists and missionaries who went wherever they felt called to go. By the late 1930s, the newly formed Department of Home Missions began to give direction to these efforts to reach Native Americans with the gospel.

Ministry among Native Americans flourished. By 1945, the Assemblies of God supported 58 missionaries who worked in 37 mission stations, mostly on reservations. One of the most effective forms of large-scale evangelism was the development of “summer Indian camps.” The first camp specifically for Native Americans was held in 1948 on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. By the 1950s, the Assemblies of God regularly sponsored Native American camps across the nation. These camps served both spiritual and social functions, helping to evangelize non-believers and to network believers.

Victor Trimmer, Assemblies of God National Home Missions secretary, wrote about five Native American camps he had visited in an article published in the October 6, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. He described the “spirited singing, fervent prayer, and wholehearted worship” that he witnessed at the camps. Over 700 people attended one of the camps, the Apache Indian Camp at Carrizo, Arizona. Attendees camped in tepees, wick-i-ups, shades, and cowboy tents. While most Anglo camps of the era generally featured a cafeteria, which served as a commons for campers, the Native American campers cooked traditional food for themselves over an open campfire.

At a camp in Norris, South Dakota, Trimmer reported that God transformed many lives at the altar. He wrote, “Many sought God for salvation with tears. The hand of the Lord was stretched forth to heal, and I witnessed the greatest miracles of healing that I have ever seen in my life. Deaf, crippled, and sick were healed as these hungry, believing people looked to God for His help.”

At the end of his summer tour of the Indian camps, Trimmer expressed gratitude for the 100 Assemblies of God missionaries to Native Americans. He remarked, “Their consecration and willingness to deny themselves challenged me.”

In 2013, the Assemblies of God reported 46,650 Native American adherents in the United States. The districts with the largest numbers of Native American adherents were: Oklahoma (7,715), Arizona (7,573), Northwest (4,293), New Mexico (2,863), North Carolina (2,465), Alaska (2,015), Northern California-Nevada (1,723), Southern California (1,606), Peninsular Florida (1,589), Montana (1,161), South Dakota (978), and North Dakota (940).

Read the entire article, “Summer Indian Camps” by Victor Trimmer, on pages

14 and 15 of the October 6, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Christ’s Message to a Fallen Church,” by Frank J. Lindquist

* “The Ministry of Books,” by G. M. Strombeck

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangel, click here.

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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Review: And God Was There

And God Was There: A Biography of Charles and Coralie Lee, by Coralie Ann Lee. San Francisco: Blurb, Inc, 2011.

This compelling book gives the life story and ministry of Charles Lee, a noted Navajo artist and Assemblies of God pastor, along with his wife, Coralie. This work is a biography of their lives before and after they met and married, and it tells about their experiences at they labored on the reservation from 1953-1989 and beyond.

Raised in the traditional Navajo culture, as a youth, Charlie Lee searched in nature and other places until he finally was confronted with the reality of Christ and His atoning work on the cross. He attended church during his high school years, but he was not strongly committed.

During the summer after his graduation, an Apache school friend invited Charlie to visit the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. There he was encountered  a more vibrant form of worship at the Pentecostal church. He came into contact with people who joyfully lived their Christian faith. He was impressed by the Pentecostal approach to Christianity, and this led him to commit his life to Christ on New Year’s Day, 1948.

Lee had observed that his people, the Navajos, lived far below the standard of other Americans. They experienced poverty and sickness, as well as low moral standards. He began to feel a strong burden for his people, and he longed for a way to help them. Lee’s dream and vision was to build a church on the reservation where his people, the Navajo, could come and find Christ as their Savior. In his lifetime he was able to accomplish this and much more.

In his search for more of God, he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This gave him an enablement and power from God which would help him to accomplish his goal. He felt a calling into ministry and decided to attend Central Bible Institute (now Central Bible College) in Springfield, Missouri.

After graduating from Bible school in 1951, he traveled extensively in the West and Midwest as well as Canada to evangelize among Native American peoples. In 1953, he returned to New Mexico to launch out into his life’s calling. He was joined by his new bride, Coralie, and together they established Mesa View Assembly of God at Ship Rock, New Mexico.

They first traveled from Cortez, Colorado, which was 70 miles away. Later they used their station wagon for living quarters. Eventually they built a small two-room house. The Navajos, bound by superstition, alcohol, and other problems, were slow to respond. The missionary couple labored 18 months before claiming their first convert. As time went on, under his leadership the church became fully self-supporting and self-governing, and grew to more than 200 members.

In his 36 years of ministering at Ship Rock, he helped develop indigenous church leadership among the Navajos. His congregation became the first AG Native American church on a federally recognized reservation to become a General Council affiliated church. He also served as the first officially appointed national home missionary for the Assemblies of God. Today there are almost 200 Native American churches in the Assemblies of God.

In 1989 he retired as pastor, and turned the church over to his son, Eric Lee, who continues to pastor the church which today is called Four Corners Community Church. After his retirement, Charlie served as a board member at American Indian Bible College and as a chaplain at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington.

Charlie Lee passed away in 2003 at the age of 79, having given over 50 years of service in ministry to Native Americans. Coralie, his widow, continues to live in Shiprock, New Mexico, and attends Four Corners Community Church, which she and her husband founded almost 60 years ago.

This inspiring and captivating biography of Charlie Lee will be of interest to anyone interested in learning more about Native Americans or evangelizing among them.

Reviewed by Glenn Gohr

150 pages, illustrated. $11.99 (paperback); $28.99 (hard cover dust jacket); $29.99 (hard cover image wrap). Plus shipping. Order from: blurb.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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