Preserving our heritage
Wayne Warner, director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center since 1980, retires this month. He recently spoke with Managing Editor Ken Horn as they walked through the Flower CenterÕs museum at the Assemblies of God Headquarters in Springfield, Mo.
PE: How did you get interested in history?
WARNER: I grew up during World War II and had two brothers serving in the Pacific theater. Following the war I began to read about the various battles, the Great Depression, and then I took a real interest in church history: William Booth, John Wesley, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, Charles Parham, William Seymour and others.
PE: How did you come to this position?
WARNER: While pastoring a small church near Peoria, Ill., I needed a job to support my family. A newspaper company with several weekly papers was looking for an editor for its Minier, Ill., weekly when we moved there in the summer of 1964. They hired me on a trial basis and I stayed four years. That got me into writing and editing and eventually to Gospel Publishing House.
I served as GPH book editor for 12 years (1968-80) and was researching for a biography on evangelist Maria Woodworth-Etter. When I learned of the opening for an administrator at the FPHC (Assemblies of God Archives then) in 1980, I inquired, and they hired me.
PE: Why is it so important to preserve our heritage?
WARNER: Christians have a mandate to preserve their history and share it with each generation. Take a look at the Jordan River scene in Joshua 4. Here God tells Joshua to take 12 stones from the river and build a memorial. When their children would ask in the future what the memorial represented, the adults could tell them what God had done for their ancestors.
Unfortunately, many church members go through a lifetime without learning of their heritage. Our generation and coming generations need to know about the Assemblies of God — which will soon observe its centennial. I like what Winston Churchill said about looking to the past: ÒThe farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.Ó
PE: Why is AG history so compelling?
WARNER: I didnÕt grow up in the AG so I didnÕt learn until I was an adult of pastors such as Robert and Marie Brown of New York CityÕs Glad Tidings Tabernacle, and A.A. Wilson in Kansas City, Mo.; of missionaries Lillian Trasher and J.W. Tucker; of evangelists A.H. Argue and Raymond T. Richey; of leaders E.N. Bell and E.S. Williams; and of teachers and writers Donald Gee and Myer Pearlman. When I began to read of their work for the Kingdom, I loved it and began to write some of my own stories about their exploits for the Pentecostal Evangel and AG Heritage.
Their stories are compelling because we recognize their dedication to the Lord, their sacrifices and their efforts to make a difference in their lifetime. Visitors to the museum are impressed as they see the video of Lillian Trasher and hear her moving mission statement: ÒOh, IÕd rather do this work than anything else in all the world — taking care of the babies of Egypt.Ó
PE: What are some of your favorite historical stories?
WARNER: There are so many inspiring stories that it is hard to select only a few.
1. The Azusa Street Revival beginning in 1906 had so many facets and outreaches to consider. Numerous great stories tell us of people who were touched by the fire there and went to the ends of the earth to touch others. E.S. Williams, our superintendent (1929-49) was just one of these.
2. Having researched and written a biography on Maria Woodworth-Etter, I cannot overlook the many thrilling stories of this woman and her ministry as an evangelist between 1880-1924. She was tough, but very gentle when it came to dealing with needy people from coast to coast who filled her 8,000-seat tent. She was often criticized, threatened and persecuted, but exhibited great courage and faith in God. Most of her ministry spanned a period during which women could not vote in national elections. She was — and still is — a great inspiration to other women in ministry.
3. While stationed in the Army at Fort Lewis, Wash., in 1955, I was attending First AG in Tacoma. I heard that Lillian Trasher, Òthe Nile Mother,Ó would be there on a Sunday night. I had never heard of her but was told I should get there early. I remember having to take a seat in the balcony. When she got up to speak, the audience treated her like a queen and listened with rapt attention.
4. One of the great testimonies of sacrifice is of J.W. and Angeline Tucker and their ministry in the Belgian Congo during the 1964 civil war. J.W. was murdered that year, and his story was told in AngelineÕs book, He Is in Heaven. The story became more personal for me when I taught a class of boys and one of the students was their son, Melvin ÒCricketÓ Tucker. The second great sorrow for the family happened when Cricket died as a result of an accident.
5. Mark and Huldah BuntainÕs dedicated work in India in building the Calcutta hospital is another great story.
6. David WilkersonÕs story of Teen Challenge is another favorite.
PE: Who are some of the people you consider the most interesting?
WARNER: If I limit it to my 37 years at Headquarters, I would include these people:
C.M. Ward, Revivaltime speaker for 25 years. IÕll never forget the day in 1973 he called me on the phone and blurted in his unmistakable manner: ÒYou made my day!Ó He called because I had sent him a copy of a new book I had compiled for Baker Book House, 1000 Stories and Quotations of Famous People.
Bert Webb was an assistant superintendent when I arrived in Springfield. I remember him for his sense of humor, flying his own plane, and the interesting stories he would weave into his sermons. As a young man, he was attending an Oklahoma university when a revival broke out in his hometown of Wellston, Okla., and 300 people were converted, including Webb. About 20 young people went into the ministry.
PE: What can visitors to the FPHC museum expect to see and experience?
WARNER: Most first-time visitors are amazed at the quality of this interactive museum. They donÕt realize that the Lynch Museum Co. also designed the Billy Graham Center Museum at Wheaton College and the New York Stock Exchange visitorsÕ center.
Speaking of C.M. Ward, visitors will walk by the radio broadcast exhibit and see a lifecast figure of Ward at a microphone. They will trip a sensor and then hear Ward close a Revivaltime broadcast. As the choir sings ÒRoom at the Cross,Ó Ward calls listeners to Òthe long, long altar.Ó
The touch screen kiosks are fascinating to visitors, for they can see and hear pioneers of the faith.
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