Tag Archives: Persecution

United in and with Christ


This Week in AG History–December 15, 1917
By William Molenaar

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 15 Dec 2014 – 8:44 PM CST

Ninety-seven years ago, today, an article was published titled, “United in and with Christ,” by Andrew D. Urshan. It was originally a message given at the Pentecostal Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and released in the December 15, 1917, issue of the Weekly Evangel. Urshan opens his message by singing, “Jesus only, Jesus ever; Jesus all in all we sing; Saviour, Baptizer and Healer, Glorious Lord and coming King.”

Andrew D. Urshan (1884-1967), was an early Assemblies of God missionary to Iran. He founded a Persian Pentecostal mission in Chicago in 1908 and was ordained by William Durham in 1910. Urshan wrote several articles in the Weekly Evangel between 1914 and 1918.

In this 1917 article, Urshan points out that the “Baptism of the Holy Ghost make Jesus real.” He also observes that the power of the Holy Spirit brings God’s children together from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Urshan states, “Since we have received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, there is a spiritual magnetizing power that draws us toward each other. There is a strange holy unity between God’s people.” Urshan goes on to encourage readers to walk in the Spirit, live yielded to Him, and to set our affections upon Him.

Based on Psalm 91, Urshan taught that seven blessings are given to those who truly love God: “(1) I will deliver him; (2) I will set him on high; (3) he shall call upon me and I will answer him; (4) I will be with him in trouble; (5) and honor him; (6) with long life will I satisfy him, (7) and show him my salvation.”

Knowing persecution himself, Urshan pointed out that being in deep loving communion with God will give one the strength and courage to face persecution. According to Urshan, it will also preserve one from falling for the world’s temptations, and prepare one for the coming rapture of the Church.

Read the article, “United in and with Christ,” on pages 4-6 of the December 15, 1917, issue of the Weekly Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Hell and Who are Going There,” by William T. McArthur

* “Evangelizing the World,” by A. W. Orwig

* “Not Knowing,” by M. G. Brainard

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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How Tears of Grief Birthed the Assemblies of God in Lakhimpur, India

1922_10_14_Page_10
This Week in AG History–October 14, 1922
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 13 Oct 2014 – 5:18 PM CST

Herbert H. Cox (1884-1926), an early Assemblies of God missionary in India, experienced the death of a son on the mission field. A few weeks after young Alkwyn’s death, Cox wrote a letter in which he described the grief that he and his wife felt. The letter, published in the October 14, 1922, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, provides insight into the often-difficult lives of early missionaries.

Alkwyn’s death occurred at a stressful time in the Coxes’ ministry. Earlier that year, the family had moved to Lakhimpur, India, where they were trying to start an Assemblies of God mission. Things were not going well. Herbert wrote, “When we first came to this place it seemed if the whole community was against us. We could not go out without being sneered at.”

Life did not seem fair. But Cox explained that he and his wife trusted God through the difficulties. “It pleased the Lord to take from us, a few weeks ago, our youngest son,” Cox wrote. “We did not understand it, but submitted to His will in it all.” The missionaries turned their burden over to the Lord and did not allow their grief to turn into despair.

Alkwyn’s death softened the hearts of the residents of Lakhimpur. Herbert wrote, “But now the people have become so friendly and salute us whereever we are. The walls of prejudice have been broken and now we have an open door for the Gospel.”

The Cox family had sown seeds of the gospel in Lakhimpur, but the gospel did not take root until the missionaries had watered those seeds with their own tears of grief.

Cox seemed to anticipate their suffering. He delivered a sermon, “The Power and Grace that Makes Martyrs,” in 1919 at the Stone Church, a large Assemblies of God congregation in Chicago. In his message, Cox described how his spiritual formation came not from a Bible school, but at the Gurney Iron Foundry in Toronto, Canada, where he had worked for 10 years before entering Nyack Missionary Training Institute.

Cox’s co-workers at the foundry led rough lives. The drugs of alcohol and tobacco went into their mouths and profanity came out. They wanted nothing to do with religion. Cox had to decide whether to take the easy route and keep his faith to himself, or to share Christ and suffer persecution. He chose the latter.

Cox testified, “He wants us to witness right where we are working these days. Of course you get your persecution. I have been knocked to the ground and held down by four men and a knife threateningly branded. I have been smitten across the mouth, but I still have the love of Jesus in my soul.”

Cox was grateful for these formative experiences of suffering. He wrote, “God made me ready in the foundry to witness [of] Jesus.” He shared his faith at the foundry, and some of his colleagues accepted Christ and their rough lives became hewn for the ministry. His first convert became a missionary and was responsible for the building of 27 churches in Nigeria.

What caused young Herbert Cox to embrace the way of suffering? He spent significant time studying the Word of God, and he took to heart the life and teachings of the Apostle Paul. Cox noted that Paul was persecuted, jailed, reviled, hungry and thirsty. Yet this did not deter him from wanting to follow Paul’s example. In his 1919 sermon, Cox admonished listeners to be fully consecrated to Christ and His mission: “Lord, give us some Apostle Pauls today. We are in need of them. I believe God wants us to follow in the steps of this great man of God.”

Herbert Cox followed the example of the Apostle Paul and gave everything for the cause of Jesus Christ. Cox contracted smallpox while ministering in Dhaurahra, India. On February 6, 1926, he joined his son, Alkwyn, in heaven.

Read the article, “Lakhimpur: A Virgin Field of One Million Souls,” by Herbert H. Cox, on page 10 of the October 14, 1922, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Like Precious Faith,” by Smith Wigglesworth

* “Be Filled with the Spirit,” by W. T. Gaston

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Herbert Cox’s sermon, “The Power and Grace that Makes Martyrs” (“Later Rain Evangel,” February 1920, pages 16-20), is accessible by clicking here.

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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Call to Calmness and Steadfastness


This Week in AG History–September 23, 1944
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 22 Sep 2014 – 1:47 PM CST

“Is it possible to maintain calm and serenity in the midst of the world-shaking storms that are raging today?”

Melvin Hodges (1909-1988), an Assemblies of God missionary to Central America, posed this question in the September 23, 1944, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. Hodges proceeded to describe the seemingly intractable conflicts around the world. “Nations are locked in a struggle for their very existence,” he wrote, and countless people are killed “as opposing systems of government struggle [to maintain] their way of life.”

How should the Christian respond to such conflict? Hodges encouraged believers to exhibit “calmness and steadfastness.” Believers will stay “on a true course regardless of the storms that rage,” according to Hodges, if they have faith in the promises of God and submit to God’s will.

Significantly, Hodges admonished readers to reject the racism that had permeated vast segments of the world:

“We must not be moved from the love of God in our hearts toward all men by the spirit of racial hatred being fostered today. Some hold the Jew responsible for all the ills of the world. Others are moved to intense hatred of the enemy nations. Again, some manifest bitterness toward certain racial groups in America. This is not democratic, much less Christian. It is a false diagnosis of the ills of this sick world that places the blame for its troubles on the blood strain of a particular race rather than on the evil nature of all unregenerate mankind. Deprive any racial group of Christian influences, placing them under barbarous teachings and environment, and the resultant generation will be barbarians irrespective of their racial background.”

Christians must not assign blame for social problems to racial or cultural groups, according to Hodges. This wise counsel continues to be true today.

Read “Call to Calmness and Steadfastness” by Melvin Hodges on page 8 of the September 23, 1944, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Why I Came to Egypt Thirty-Four Years Ago,” by Lillian Trasher

* “V Day,” by Lester Sumrall

* “Family Worship,” by Walter Scott

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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German Pentecostal Leader Martin Gensichen and His Theology of Humility

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This Week in AG History–September 8, 1928
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 08 Sep 2014 – 4:31 PM CST

Martin Gensichen (1879-1965) came from a long line of German Lutheran ministers. For three centuries, men in his family served Lutheran pulpits in Germany. After Martin accepted Christ in 1900 and sensed a call to the ministry, it was quite natural that he would serve in his ancestral church.

After graduation from seminary, Martin became pastor of a small Lutheran congregation in Germany. Martin was excited to be able to share what he called “simple faith.” Martin preached about sin, repentance, and being born again.

But things did not go well for the earnest young preacher. Martin’s parishioners became angry and stopped attending services after he preached about sin. He preached to empty benches week after week. He felt humiliated.

Martin was not a typical German Lutheran preacher. He had been influenced by the Holiness movement and had experienced a profound work of the Holy Spirit in his life in 1905. His father and grandfather also each had a personal encounter with God and identified with revival movements in their earlier generations. By 1908, Martin had cast his lot with the Pentecostal church, which he deemed to be the revival movement of his generation.

Martin shared his testimony in an article published in the September 8, 1928, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

In the article, Martin emphasized the importance of humility in the life of faith. He viewed his earlier humiliation in the Lutheran church, when the members left because he preached against sin, as a spiritual blessing.

God “wanted to break my heart,” Martin wrote. “No one can soar into the heights of faith unless they have first had a broken and a contrite heart. Humility is the soil in which faith can grow.”

When Martin joined the Pentecostal church, he realized that it would cost him dearly in his social circles. He recounted that in the early twentieth century Pentecostals were “much despised,” even by many evangelicals in Germany. Instead of resenting the fact that his faith marginalized him from broader society, he embraced his low social position. He wrote, “We must learn to rejoice when we suffer or are despised.”

Humility, Martin believed, is not just necessary for individuals. It is necessary for nations, too. Before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Germany was flexing its military and economic might around the world. German leaders oversaw colonies and envisioned themselves as rivaling the British Empire. Martin was troubled by Germany’s imperial ambitions. Martin’s primary interest was in building God’s kingdom, rather than the German Empire. Furthermore, he believed that revival would not come to Germany unless it had been humbled.

Martin’s theology of humility caused him to reject movements that placed excessive pride in one’s own nation. He wrote, “God set me free from nationalism. I am neither German, nor American, nor English — I belong to heaven.”

Martin also applied this theology of humility to education. He identified himself as a “German theologian,” noting that he had studied for 20 years to master Greek and Hebrew. While affirming the value of education, he also noted that “Our intellect is much too small to comprehend the vastness of His love.”

The young Lutheran pastor who experienced humiliation because he wanted to preach “simple faith” became a prominent Pentecostal leader in Germany. His testimony continues to remind new generations that faith and humility go hand in hand.

Read the article by Martin Gensichen, “Honoring God by Simple Faith,” on pages 1, 8 and 9 of the September 8, 1928, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “God’s Conditional Covenant to Heal His People,” by John Roach Straton

* “Standing for the Pentecostal Testimony,” by Jacob Miller

* “Report of Assemblies in Russia,” by Ivan Voronaev

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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Persecution of Pentecostals in Iran 100 Years Ago


This Week in AG History–August 19, 1916
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 18 Aug 2014 – 8:49 PM CST.

Andrew D. Urshan (1884-1967), the son of a Presbyterian pastor in Persia (now Iran), immigrated to the United States in 1901. He was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1908 in Chicago, where he started a Persian Pentecostal mission. He returned to his homeland in 1914 as an Assemblies of God missionary and, amidst much persecution, helped to establish an enduring Pentecostal church.

Urshan shared his testimony in a series of three articles published in 1916 in the Pentecostal Evangel. Persia was a melting pot of numerous people groups, including Arabs, Jews, and Armenians. But Urshan felt a call to minister to his own people, the Assyrians. The Assyrians, who mostly belonged to various Christian churches, had a long history of suffering as a persecuted religious and ethnic minority.

Interestingly, most of the persecution experienced by Urshan and other Pentecostals came from other Christians. Urshan recounted that Muslim leaders treated him with respect, because the Pentecostals and the Muslims shared similar moral values. When Urshan was placed in jail for preaching the gospel, Muslim leaders stated, “He says people shouldn’t get drunk, and that is why they have imprisoned him.”

Pentecostal revival spread in the Assyrian community. Urshan related the stories of the birth of Pentecostal churches in five towns. In each new church, miracles and changed lives were accompanied by suffering. In the town of Urmia, a mob of Eastern Orthodox Christians attacked a group of Pentecostal girls who were headed to church. The mob shot their rifles at the young converts, hitting three and killing one of the girls. The grief and violence did not deter the Pentecostals from meeting. Ultimately, about fifty people accepted Christ and were baptized in the Holy Spirit in Urmia. Similar stories happened in each town touched by Pentecostal revival.

Urshan pleaded for readers in America to learn from the deep spirituality of Persian believers. He wrote, “I have seen young girls like some of you interceding and agonizing for the salvation of souls in the whole world.” These young Persians, he explained, “walked carefully, with their eyes and hearts filled with God, singing praises unto Jesus, and pleading tearfully with souls, before their persecutors.”

When Urshan returned to America, he was troubled by the lack of consecration he found in churches. Many Christians he met seemed to live “careless” lives and seemed most interested in “fashions of dress” and “the pleasures of this world.” Urshan wrote that he “suffered in the spirit” for American Christians. People who are “in danger of death,” he surmised, may actually be better off spiritually. Americans, he believed, should seek to cultivate spiritual depth by learning from the suffering church.

Read the series of three articles by Andrew D. Urshan, “Pentecost in Persia,” in the following issues of the Pentecostal Evangel:

Click here for the August 19, 1916, issue.

Click here for the August 26, 1916, issue.

Click here for the September 2, 1916, issue.

Also featured in the August 19, 1916, issue:

* “The Unity of the Spirit,” by W. Jethro Walthall

* “Daily Portion from the King’s Bounty,” by Alice Reynolds Flower

And many more!

Click here to read the August 19, 1916, 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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Gustav H. Schmidt Describes the Horror of Soviet Persecution of Pentecostals in the 1930s


This Week in AG History–August 4, 1934
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 04 Aug 2014 – 4:26 PM CST.

Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the newly-formed Soviet Union launched a campaign to eradicate Christianity within its borders. It relentlessly pursued a policy of militant atheism. Clergy were imprisoned or murdered, churches were demolished or converted to other uses, and an intensive propaganda campaign sought to convince people that Christianity was a harmful superstition. It was in this context of persecution that the Pentecostal movement among Slavs formed its identity.

The Pentecostal movement found fertile soil in Russia. Early evangelists, impacted by the Welsh Revival (1904-1905) and the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909), first brought the Pentecostal movement to Russia a decade before the 1917 revolution. Prior to the revolution, the Orthodox church occupied a favored place in society and cooperated with the czarist government to persecute both political insurgents and religious minorities, including Pentecostals.

Following the revolution, communist government officials began persecuting their former persecutors, seeking to stamp out the Orthodox church. The government soon targeted other churches, including Baptists, Mennonites, Seventh Day Adventists and Pentecostals.

While the Soviet Union ostensibly guaranteed its citizens the “freedom of religion,” this freedom only allowed individuals the right to believe and not the right to practice their faith. If Christians practiced their faith, they became lawbreakers and were subject to fines, imprisonment or exile to Siberia.

Laws forbade Christians to hold church services, to provide religious instruction to their children, or to share the gospel. The government further marginalized Christians by excluding them from professional and government positions.

Gustav H. Schmidt, a pioneer Assemblies of God missionary to Poland, wrote a series of three articles, published in the Pentecostal Evangel in 1934, which described the suffering endured by Pentecostals in the Soviet Union.

Slavic Pentecostals developed a deep faith burnished by persecution. Schmidt wrote, “In those prisons and places of exile matured that heroism for Christ which shrinks from no difficulties.” The communists mistakenly believed they could quash the Christian faith by destroying church buildings and imprisoning pastors.

Prisons became the proving grounds for Christian leaders. According to Schmidt, “there were many thousands of true believers who had been trained in the school of suffering and persecution.”

These Pentecostals, Schmidt wrote, became “a valiant army of gospel workers through whose testimony and preaching a mighty revival soon swept over the vast plains of Russia.” By 1930, approximately 500 Pentecostal churches had been organized in Russia and the Ukraine. Each convert to Christ knew that their decision would cost them dearly.

One of the most insidious Soviet plans, according to Schmidt, was the insistence that the government, and not the parents, be in charge of the education of the youth. Government schools, hostile to Christianity, attempted to undermine the faith of the parents.

Schmidt wrote, “A mother who sends her children to school knows that they will be taught to hate God, and Christianity will be presented to them in such a way as to make it appear ridiculous to them and this in an endeavor to cause them to despise the very idea of religion.”

Laws prohibited parents from providing religious teaching to their own children. But many Christian parents obeyed a higher law. Schmidt suggested that “a mother in Russia who loves Jesus Christ will, in spite of such rules, teach her child to pray and to live a life of respect and godliness.”

Teachers would ask young students, who were likely to tell the truth, whether their parents taught them about religion. In this way, many students unwittingly let the government know that their parents were committing treason.

Another attempt to destroy families and the freedom of conscience, according to Schmidt, was the collectivization of agriculture. Eighty percent of Russians lived on farms, so when the government took over all farms, it made farmers into slaves of the state. This was an attempt to “destroy the (peasant’s) home and rob him of his privacy.” Agricultural workers were forced to live in communal buildings, their children were taken away, and it was difficult for people to practice their faith without being noticed.

“In Russia the follower of Christ is constantly beset with trouble and is always in danger,” Schmidt recounted. “He has to be ready to be torn away from his loved ones any time, Bolshevik police will break into a home during the night, after twelve o’clock maybe and bid the husband, father, or son to accompany them, and with a bleeding and broken heart they bid their loved ones a hurried last good-by.”

Prison sentences, consisting of hard labor, frequently lasted 10 or 20 years. Many died within several years due to malnutrition and disease.

Persecution separated consecrated believers from nominal Christians. Schmidt wrote, “Anyone who is zealous for Jesus in Russia is marked for arrest and this makes Christian activity hazardous. Therefore we find no half-hearted Christians in Russia…Such who are not fully consecrated will not be able to stand the strain for any length of time but will step over into the enemy’s camp.”

Despite great dangers confronting Christians, the Slavic church saw no shortage of leaders. Unpaid elders led the congregations, which met in homes. Elders took turns preaching and, when one was arrested, another took his place. Congregational leaders did not receive qualification from a Bible college (there were none), but from their willingness to suffer and die for Christ.

Soviet authorities predicted that every church would be destroyed by May 1, 1937. But Schmidt responded that the true church does not consist of buildings. There are “real Christians in Russia,” he wrote, and they “are dying for their faith…We know that the Bolshevists will never be able to destroy Christianity.”

Communist persecution not only failed to destroy Christianity; it helped to create a very strong and vibrant Pentecostal movement in the former Soviet Union. Today, there are over one million Pentecostals in the former Soviet Union in churches that are in a fraternal relationship with Assemblies of God World Missions.

Beginning in the late 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev began to allow persecuted religious minorities to emigrate, many put down roots in America. An estimated 300,000 Slavic Pentecostals from this recent wave of immigration now live in the United States. While most are in congregations that are either independent or loosely affiliated with one of several Slavic Pentecostal unions, many are deciding to join the Assemblies of God.

In 2002, several Slavic Pentecostal churches in California joined the Assemblies of God and formed the Slavic Fellowship, which provided both a structure for Slavs to organize themselves within the Assemblies of God and also representation on the Fellowship’s General Presbytery. In September 2008, the leaders of the Slavic Fellowship, in addition to other Slavic Pentecostals interested in affiliating with the Assemblies of God, came together in Renton, Washington, and organized the National Slavic District. The district gives greater strength and visibility to Slavic Pentecostals, both within the Assemblies of God and within the broader society.

The Slavs, with deep faith burnished by decades of persecution, are poised to provide leadership to the broader church. And their leadership could not have come at a better time, as they have already proven their mettle in a culture that is hostile to biblical values.

Read the series of three articles by Gustav H. Schmidt, “Bolshevism Battling Against Christianity,” in the following issues of the Pentecostal Evangel:

Click here now for the July 21, 1934, issue.

Click here for the July 28, 1934, issue.

Click here for the August 4, 1934, issue.

Also featured in the August 4, 1934, issue:

* “The Merry Heart,” by Donald Gee

*  “The Secret of an Abiding Pentecost,” by Leonard Gittings

*  “Spoiled Christians,” by E. F. M. Staudt

And many more!

Click here to read the August 4, 1934, 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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Lula Bell Hough, Missionary to China and Japanese P.O.W.


By Darrin Rodgers

This Week in AG History–April 21, 1934
Also published in AG-News, Mon, 21 Apr 2014 – 4:30 PM CST.

Lula Bell Hough (1906-2002) did not take the easy road in life. She never married and instead devoted her life to ministry. Hough was ordained as an Assemblies of God missionary on November 3, 1929, just five days after the Wall Street stock market crash that led to the Great Depression. She spent the next 45 years in China and Hong Kong.

Hough’s greatest challenge on the mission field came during World War II, when she spent seven and one-half months as a Japanese prisoner-of-war. She did not know whether she would survive the ordeal, which began in December 1941. She later recalled that soldiers kept placing their bayonets to her throat, threatening to kill her. Women around her were raped, and thousands died from starvation. Some resorted to eating human flesh to survive. For the first two weeks of her captivity, she lived on nothing but “wormy, mouldy whole wheat.” After that, she was given small food rations. The food was enough to keep her alive, but she lost 38 pounds in about six months.

Living in difficult circumstances for over a decade in China had prepared Hough for the hardship of the prisoner-of-war camp. Hough sent regular letters to her supporters back in the United States. One of these letters, published in the April 21, 1934, issue of the “Pentecostal Evangel,” described a trip to areas in south China where there were no Christians.

Hough humorously described having to share her accommodations with loud farm animals:

“When we reached the inn we were soaking wet and cold. After warming ourselves by an open fire in the center of the room we retired to our room. Cobwebs were hanging everywhere, and one corner was occupied by geese, which entertained us with special music at intervals during the night. Our room was really a hall where people had to pass through, and our bed was only a board. The next night we spent in Sha Hoh, and were thankful to find no geese in our room, but soon discovered there were pigs in the room just below us.”

New Christians often suffered for their faith. Hough described several instances of persecution in heart-wrenching detail. She wrote that one eighteen-year-old woman was beaten by her husband because of her newfound faith. Her mother-in-law scratched the young woman’s face until there were “deep sores and scars.” The villagers joined in the persecution, encouraging the family to sell the young wife into slavery if she didn’t recant her faith in Christ.

Why did Hough and other early missionaries leave their homes in the West and endure difficulties? They were motivated to be faithful to Christ in fulfilling the Great Commission.

Hough explained, “In some of these villages we were the first foreigners the villagers had ever seen, and in many, the first to preach the gospel. God has promised that His Word shall not return unto Him void, so we believe that if we are faithful in proclaiming the gospel, He will be faithful in drawing souls unto Himself.”

Read the entire article by Lula Bell Hough, “Missionary Travels, S. China,” on pages 8-9 of the April 21, 1934, issue of the “Pentecostal Evangel.”

Also featured in this issue:

* “A Revelation of the Love of God,” by Kate Knight

* “Spiritual Awaking Follows Earthquake,” by Hilda Wagenknecht

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now:

A two-part oral history interview with Lula Bell Hough was recorded in 1987 by former Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center director Wayne Warner. To listen to Hough’s amazing testimony, click on the following links:

Tape 1: [audio http://ifphc.org/Uploads/Audio/907_T854-Bell-Hough-Tape-1-of-2.mp3]

Tape 2: [audio http://ifphc.org/Uploads/Audio/908_T855-Bell-Hough-Tape-2-of-2.mp3]

“Pentecostal Evangel” archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (http://ifphc.org). For current editions of the “Evangel,” see http://pe.ag.org.

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: History of Slavic-American Pentecostal Immigration to America

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The Pentecostal Heritage of Slavic-Americans (Пятидесятнические истоки Славян-Американцев), by Anton Goroshko. [English and Russian language versions both in one volume]  Renton, WA: National Slavic District Council, 2009.

What is the future of Christianity? Demographers predict that it will look more Pentecostal and less Western. While Western Europe and North America long viewed themselves as the center of the Christian world, cultural and religious decline among people of Western European origin, combined with the robust growth of Christianity (and in particular Pentecostalism) among non-Westerners, portend a significant shift in the religious landscape.

American observers do not have to travel overseas to witness these changes. Most U.S. cities are now home to large immigrant communities, and these immigrants have added their own languages, churches, and values to America’s cultural mix.

Slavic immigrants from the former Soviet Union are among those who have been growing in visibility and influence in the United States. Since the 1980s when Mikhail Gorbachev began to allow Pentecostals – who long suffered persecution in the Soviet Union – to leave, many put down roots in America. For the most part, these Slavic Pentecostals initially kept to themselves and did not integrate into the broader American society. They grappled with their newfound freedoms and cultural challenges, reasserting their cultural boundary markers as a means to retain their religious and familial values. Many of these immigrants are now well-established in their communities, and their children who were born and raised in America often feel just as home in America as they do in their ancestral communities.

An estimated 300,000 Slavic Pentecostals now live in the U.S., mostly in congregations that are either independent or loosely affiliated with one of several Slavic Pentecostal unions. Increasing numbers of Slavic Pentecostal leaders are recognizing the value of being in fellowship with non-Slavic Pentecostals in America. In 2002, several Slavic Pentecostal churches in California joined the Assemblies of God and formed the Slavic Fellowship, which provided both a structure for Slavs to organize themselves within the Assemblies of God and also representation on the Fellowship’s General Presbytery. In September 2008, the leaders of the Slavic Fellowship, in addition to other Slavic Pentecostals interested in affiliating with the Assemblies of God, came together in Renton, Washington, and organized the National Slavic District. This new district gives greater strength and visibility to Slavic Pentecostals, both within the Assemblies of God and within the broader society.

Slavic Pentecostals have an important story to tell. American evangelicalism is at a crossroads – its close identification with declining American cultural and political themes has led some to question evangelicalism’s identity and future. However, the character of Slavic Pentecostalism has developed along a quite different trajectory. This story has been largely inaccessible to English-speakers. To help remedy this, Anton Goroshko, a Slavic Pentecostal minister and historian who emigrated from the Ukraine to America in 1990, has written a small book, The Pentecostal Heritage of Slavic-Americans, published by the National Slavic District, in conjunction with the Intercultural Ministries Department of Assemblies of God US Missions and the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

The Pentecostal Heritage of Slavic-Americans includes Goroshko’s account in Russian and translated into English, written “at the request of the many Slavic Pentecostals in North America who have expressed a desire to learn about the origins of the faith and ministry of their forefathers” (p. 5). Goroshko begins by placing Pentecostalism within the context of Christian history in the Ukraine. He proceeds to tell the stories of two heroes of the faith – Gustav Herbert Schmidt and Ivan Efimovich Voronaeff.  Both men were born in Slavic lands, immigrated to America about 100 years ago, and returned to Europe as Assemblies of God missionaries. Schmidt helped to organize the Russian and Eastern European Mission and Continue reading

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Review: Mission Possible

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Mission Possible: Paul Williscroft’s Epic Christian Struggle Against Nazi & Communist Oppression, by Gladys L. Williscroft. Enterprise, OR: Biography Press, 2000.

Paul and Gladys Williscroft were newlyweds when they left the U.S. as missionaries to Eastern Europe in January 1938. In less than 2 years they were leaving Europe as World War II plunged the continent into total disorder, change, and unbelievable bloodshed.

As German troops massed on the Polish border, the couple caught the last trains out of two stations and were assigned the last cabin in a ship out of Oslo bound for the U.S. They returned almost as refugees to the United States, yet they lived for the time when they could return to Germany and pursue their mission.

During the 1940s they pastored in the Montana District. They returned to Europe after the war where they ministered for a total of 37 years, producing Sunday school materials, introducing Royal Rangers, and teaching in the German Bible School in Erzhausen. Paul died in 1987, and Gladys in 2002.

Excerpts from the book are included in “Fleeing an Explosive Europe as Adolph Hitler Begins World War II” in the Fall 2003 issue of Assemblies of God Heritage.

Paperback, 414 pages, illustrated. $15.95, plus $2.00 postage. Order from: R. G. Williscroft, P.O. Box 1087, Studio City, CA 91614-0087.

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Review: A Desk for Billie

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A Desk for Billie. Film produced by the National Education Association, 1956. Rereleased on DVD, 2007. Dr. Billie Davis, one of the best-known educators in the Assemblies of God, started life in the hopyards of Oregon. She spent her childhood during the Great Depression of the 1930s traversing across America with her parents, who were migrant farm workers. They were “homeless” before the term became fashionable. They lived and traveled in a battered Model A Ford with a makeshift wooden frame constructed on the back to provide shelter. She describes herself as a child as “a small ragged hobo” who would “[sit] on the ground beside a campfire, hungrily licking the fishy oil from the lid of a sardine can” while studying her school lessons. How was Billie Davis able to rise from her impoverished surroundings? She attributes her success to the discovery, as a young girl, of three ways to better herself: 1) Sunday school; 2) libraries; and 3) public school. Billie Davis came to work for the Gospel Publishing House in Springfield, Missouri in 1942, serving as the first editor of the Sunday School Counselor magazine. After the Saturday Evening Post featured her story, “I was a Hobo Kid” (published December 13, 1952), Reader’s Digest picked it up. Then, in 1956, the National Education Association produced a film about her life, “A Desk for Billie.” This film, a tribute to the value of education, was widely distributed across America and viewed by generations of teachers and schoolchildren. “A Desk for Billie” encourages viewers to appreciate Sunday school, libraries, and public schools. Billie Davis went on to earn her Ed.D. from the University of Miami and served as a professor at Evangel University, as an Assemblies of God missionary, and in numerous leadership roles in education, church, and government. UPDATE: As of January 28, 2021, “A Desk for Billie” is accessible online: youtube.com/adeskforbillie DVD, color, 57 minutes.  

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