This Week in AG History — June 25, 1927
By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 27 June 2019
“A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time” (Isaiah 60:22). Alice Luce, an educator and missionary to Spanish speakers along the U.S.-Mexican border, referred to this verse in 1927 when describing the burgeoning Hispanic work in the Assemblies of God.
Luce noted that, only 12 years earlier, Henry C. Ball started a small Pentecostal mission among refugees from the Mexican Civil War who settled in Ricardo, Texas. What began as a small work quickly blossomed into an important and growing part of the Assemblies of God.
Luce tallied the existence of over 100 Spanish speaking congregations that served between 2,000 and 3,000 converts. Two Spanish language Bible schools were begun the prior year, one by Ball in Texas and another by Luce in California. These two schools, now known as Christ Mission College (San Antonio, Texas) and LABI College (La Puente, California), continue to serve an important role by training Spanish speaking ministers.
But the Spanish work in the Assemblies of God made an impact that stretched into the broader Christian tradition. In 1916 Ball published a Spanish language hymnal, Himnos de Gloria, that enjoyed wide distribution among Christians of all denominational stripes in the Western hemisphere. No fewer than 115,000 copies had been sold as of 1927. Ball’s monthly periodical, La Luz Apostolica, had a circulation of 2,000. In 1924, Casa Evangélicas de Publicaciones (Gospel Publishing House), was formed in San Antonio, Texas, and churned out countless pieces of Spanish language literature that circled the globe.
Luce wrote that the Spanish speaking churches could make a “special claim.” She identified three things that, taken together, set apart the missions work among the Hispanics. First, she believed that the Bible commanded Americans to be a witness to Mexicans. She wrote that Jesus commanded Christians to testify “first in Jerusalem (which for us means the town where we live), next in all Judea (which would represent our home country), and then in Samaria, which must represent Mexico, our nearest neighbor. These were all to be evangelized before the disciples should proceed to the uttermost parts of the earth.”
The second special claim of Hispanic ministry, according to Luce, was its “great fruitfulness.” She wrote, “from a purely business point of view this work has a special claim upon us, because its converts are numbered by the thousand, most of them receive the Baptism of the Holy Ghost soon after they believe.” Importantly, she noted that the Hispanic work quickly became indigenous: “new missions are continually springing up, the message of full salvation being carried from place to place by the converts themselves.”
Thirdly, Luce wrote, “This Latin American work appeals to us in a special way because it can be done so easily and with so little expense.” This ministry did not require a passport or fundraising, just “the trouble to get a few Spanish tracts and go from door to door in the Mexican quarter of your own town.”
When Luce quoted Isaiah 60:22, she implied that the growing Spanish speaking constituency in the Assemblies of God would become “a strong nation.” Her prediction came true. In 2017, 23.2% of Assemblies of God adherents (744,297 people) in the United States were Hispanic.
Read the entire article by Alice E. Luce, “The Latin-American Pentecostal Work,” on pages 6 and 7 of the June 25, 1927, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “Living in the Lord’s Banqueting House,” by A. G. Ward
• “Pentecostal Seekers,” by Ernest S. Williams
• “The Next War”
And many more!
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