“I send twenty-five cents for The Way,” Agnes Floyd of Michigan wrote to editors A.J. Tomlinson and M.S. Lemons in September 1905. Her letter continued, “It is a very good paper. I like to read such papers and then give them to others, praying that they may be led into the Way of life in the Savior.”
Not until near the end of the fourth General Assembly, on Saturday, January 9, 1909, did the Church of God create the office of general overseer.
“Georgia has a great treat coming!” proclaimed the Georgia Reporter in 1947. By that summer camp meeting was already an established tradition in the Church of God–so much so that the churches in Georgia had just purchased property to build a camp ground near Atlanta.
When the sixth General Assembly met in Cleveland, Tennessee, January 3-8, 1911, the Church of God had grown to fifty-eight churches, 107 ministers, and 1,855 members. Despite this growth, General Overseer A.J. Tomlinson expressed disappointment.
“We can’t begin to describe the great revival that is sweeping the town and country here. Can only say it is wonderful. Crowds are coming from far and near, and the large tent is filled to overflowing and altar so crowed with seekers we can hardly find room to work.” —-Ella Clyde Cotton
“I thank God for letting me live to see the latter rain,” wrote T. L. McLain in the inaugural issue of the Church of God Evangel in March 1910. McLain was referring to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, which he had received a few months earlier in what historian Charles W. Conn called “the great revival.”
“This morning I felt a special burden for souls in Central America, and I am not sure yet, but Father may have called me to that field as I was at prayer out in the woods. As the call seemed to come I said, ‘Yes Father,’ and entered into groanings that could not be uttered…. The country and people are unknown to me, but I’ll go if God sends me.” [A.J. Tomlinson (December 17, 1905)]
When they refused to let us preach we invited the congregation to come out in the big road in front of the tabernacle where we preached with much liberty. We came out singing “While the Years Roll On.” The power fell, the saints began to shout, dance and talk in tongues. –Evangelist Sallie O. Lee
From our earliest international efforts to today’s vibrant office of Black Ministries, men and women of African descent have been integral to Church of God ministries for more than a century. Some examples reveal the long-term importance of our black leaders.
In the crucible of battle, James Gooden made a life-long commitment.
“We must have materials for our youth,” Peter C. Hickson (1902-1984) wrote to Church of God General Overseer S.W. Latimer in October 1932. This passionate request revealed a heart for youth ministry along with a recognition of the importance and power of the printed word that would guide this emerging black leader throughout his inspiring ministry.
“Tuesday, Meeting here tonight…. Ruth Bishop, Joel L. Bishop, Helen Swanson, Rufus Hulbert, Father, Mother, Harold, Helga, Grace and I joined in on the Church of God tonight. Walkers, [Reinholdt] Klaudt and Helen [Swanson] stayed all night,” Clara Peterson (1905-1942) wrote in her diary on May 28, 1929.
“And help us to stay faithful until the end,” visitors to the H.L. Chesser home heard as each mealtime blessing concluded. Those who knew Hallie Louticious Chesser knew that these words were not only the prayer of his lips, but they were also words by which he lived his life. H.L. Chesser (1898-1987) knew what it was to come from a family of humble means.
“Robert, come with me to a mission where the people speak in ‘other tongues,’ as they did in the early church. I tell you it is all so wonderful. Every time I go there, I am blessed.” With that brief but enthusiastic invitation from his father, Robert Cook and his wife, Anna, found themselves in the Upper Room Mission on South Spring Street in Los Angeles, California.
“Oh, wretched man that I was! My life had become miserable, and I decided that my only hope lay in Christ; and to receive Him I would surrender my all.” –John C. Jernigan
“I guess you remember the little girl you prayed for at Brother Linwood Slay’s tent revival here in Alabama City, who had been sick for two years and five months. She was six years old and weighed only fifteen pounds. Well, Brother Walker, I just want to tell you and praise the Lord for He has really and truly healed her. She began to mend from that night on and now she weighs over thirty pounds and can pull up to a chair.” –Sister Mary Morgan