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The Springfield miracle

One night five teen-age boys knelt in an amusement park and claimed the land for the work of the Lord.

Early on January 1, 1915, Paul and Fred Corum, with three other teen-age boys, were going home after a watch night service. They crawled through loose fencing to cut across White City Amusement Park, located on Division Street between Campbell and Boonville avenues in Springfield, Mo. They prayed that this property and others surrounding it would be used to spread the gospel around the world.

Fred Corum, attorney at law, who lived in Lowell, Mass., gave the details to the Evangel in 1978:

"Our little group of Pentecostal believers in Springfield had just finished the watch night service and the new year [1915] was just a few minutes old.

"Our pastor was Bennett F. Lawrence. We had sent Brother Lawrence as our delegate to the meeting in Hot Springs, Ark., the previous April, at which time the General Council of the Assemblies of God came into being.

"Upon his return to Springfield, our church affiliated with the new Assemblies of God Fellowship which had its first headquarters in Findlay, Ohio.

"After the service there was not room for all of us to ride home in the two-seated buggy, so my brother Paul and I and three other teen-age boys started walking home, a distance of about three miles.

"One boy suggested we could save time going from Campbell Avenue to the corner of Boonville and Division, if we cut across White City. This was a large amusement park. It was fenced, but some of the boards were loose, and we crawled through.

"The place was deserted by this time. It was a carnival-type of park with a large roller coaster. It had a bad reputation, as it also had been a burlesque place. Many years later it was turned into a baseball park.

"We knew it was a wicked place, and we felt we were crossing the devil’s territory.

"One of the fellows asked, ‘Do you suppose it could ever belong to God?’

"Then my cousin, Laurel Taliaferro, the oldest of us boys, said, ‘Let’s claim it for the Lord.’

"So we agreed, and there beneath the stars we knelt and started praying.

"One boy said, ‘How much shall we claim?’

"Another said, ‘Let’s claim the whole block.’

"My younger brother Paul said, ‘Let’s claim the other block too – from Boonville to Campbell and from Division to Calhoun.’

"I said, ‘We shouldn’t take the greenhouse at the corner of Boonville and Calhoun. We sold peaches to the people living there, and they are nice people.’

"Laurel said, ‘Why not? God will take care of them. Let’s claim it all.’

"There in the early morning we prayed that all this land should be used for the work of the Lord so that His gospel might go out to the ends of the earth from this place.

"It was a clear, crisp night. The stars were bright. One boy remarked, ‘Just think. When the Lord told Abraham to look up and see if he could count the stars, they were the same stars we can see tonight.’

"Another said, ‘Let’s pray that the gospel will spread over all the earth and reach as many people as there are stars.’ "

Two years before the boys’ prayers claiming the White City grounds, Rachel Sizelove had a vision. (She was the aunt of Paul and Fred Corum and was visiting in Springfield at the time.)

A glow rested on Rachel’s face as she shared her vision. "I’ve just been in the presence of God," she said. "There I saw a sparkling fountain that came up out of the heart of Springfield. Its healing waters flowed out to the north, to the south, to the east and to the west."

As she spoke, a hush fell on everyone present.

"I saw the Lord," she continued. "He was sounding a bugle for His angels to go forth and do battle for Springfield. He said, ‘I will do a work in this city that will astonish the world.’ "

Through Rachel’s testimony a few years earlier, in 1907, members of the Corum family and a few neighbors were filled with the Holy Spirit. At that time she had come from the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles to share Pentecost with her sister’s family in Springfield. The first Pentecostal church in Springfield was formed in the Corum home with Lillie Corum as pastor. (This was the beginning of Springfield’s Central Assembly of God.)

The new church suffered opposition. Two women, Birdie Hoy and Amanda Benedict, joined Lillie Corum in earnest prayer to defeat the evil forces arrayed against them. Benedict spent her nights in the tent praying for victory.

For a year Benedict fasted and prayed for Springfield. She prayed that from this center blessing would go to the ends of the earth. During this time she ate only bread and drank water.

In 1914, members of the church rented a small building and then joined the newly established Assemblies of God with headquarters first in Findlay, Ohio, and later in St. Louis, Mo. J.R. Flower, my father, supervised the Gospel Publishing House.

When the building in St. Louis proved to be inadequate, General Council executives considered moving to various cities. Sensing the Lord’s direction to settle in Springfield, in 1918 they established the Assemblies of God Headquarters on West Pacific Street.

My father brought the printing equipment, most of it old and secondhand, from St. Louis. My mother, Alice Reynolds Flower, wrote the Sunday school lessons to be printed in the Pentecostal Evangel.

Various missionaries already working in foreign lands joined the Assemblies of God when it formed in 1914. Each year more missionaries went out, backed by the General Council.

The living waters in Rachel Sizelove’s vision were beginning to flow out of Springfield to the world.

Piece by piece, the property the boys prayed for came into the hands of the Assemblies of God.

In 1978 Fred Corum visited Springfield and saw the transformation that had taken place on the land he and his friends claimed in a new year’s prayer meeting 64 years earlier.

He said, "When I look on this area now and see the Assemblies of God Headquarters and Central Assembly on this property, I am overwhelmed.

"When I see the presses turning out the printed word and the missionaries being commissioned and the radio programs going to the ends of the earth, I know there is a God who hears our prayers. How insignificant one feels to behold His mighty works that are exceedingly and abundantly above all that five teen-age boys could ask."

Year after year the ministries of the Assemblies of God have reached out to an ever-increasing number of foreign lands. Today, after more than 85 years, the fountain Rachel Sizelove saw is flowing out from Springfield more powerfully than ever. From the very spot where five boys prayed, the gospel is indeed reaching the ends of the earth.

Some historic information gleaned from The Sparkling Fountain, a book produced by the Corum family; also from an article, "An Unforgettable New Year’s Prayer Meeting," December 31, 1978, Pentecostal Evangel, by R.C. Cunningham. Fred Corum passed away on June 5, 1982.

Adele Flower Dalton, daughter of J.R. and Alice Reynolds Flower, served 32 years as a missionary to Latin America and Spain. At the time she wrote this article, first published in the August 14, 1994, Pentecostal Evangel, she was employed in the Division of Foreign Missions. She lives in Springfield, Mo.


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