Not Just for Church
By Ken Horn
July 28, 2013
Continuing the history of the Pentecostal Evangel begun in our July 14 centennial issue.
Since its beginning, the Pentecostal Evangel has been found in lots of places other than churches. Early on, leadership urged that the magazine be placed in “depots, jails and public places,” as well as in public libraries.
Readers took up that challenge, and today’s readers continue to place the Evangel in all kinds of venues. Distribution to the military has touched countless lives.
One young soldier, burning trash in a war zone, saw an Evangel just as the flames began to consume it. Remembering it from his youth, he rescued it and beat out the flames. This seared messenger was the means of bringing the man back to God.
There is probably no better use of the Evangel than in prisons. Key Bearers, a combined ministry of the Evangel and Light for the Lost, has supplied nearly 11 million magazines to correctional facilities since the program’s inception in 1996. There have been reports of one magazine being read by as many as 100 inmates. Currently some 12,000 copies go into prisons every week.
But placing the Evangel in prisons is older than the Key Bearers program. The March 14, 1931, issue reported:
“From all parts of the country we have received letters from time to time from young men in jail or in penitentiary, saying the Evangel has found its way to them in their imprisonment and has been a great blessing. Cut off as they are from the pleasures of the world, many of these men are open to the gospel. Only yesterday we had a letter from Brother Holloway of Crichton, Ala., saying that a member of his congregation gave some old Evangels to a friend who had a son in prison. The friend sent them on to her son and received a letter from him saying that he had read them and had handed them out to other prisoners, and that 110 had read them, only one refusing.
“About two weeks ago an ex-convict dropped into the Editorial Department. He told us that he had been guilty of almost every crime, but that while serving his last term in jail God saved him. For the past two years he has been a prison evangelist and has seen many young men saved. He finished his story by asking us to send a dozen Evangels each week to the jail from which he had been released, that the boys there might have them.
Is there a jail or a penitentiary in your city?”
Today the Evangel receives letters from prisoners far more often than “from time to time.” During 17 years of the Key Bearers program, the magazine has averaged receiving four salvation letters from inmates every weekday, as well as numerous other inmate correspondence noting spiritual growth and comfort received.
Once, an Assemblies of God prison chaplain visited a special housing unit (where inmates are incarcerated alone). A big, heavily tattooed biker who had rebuffed all previous attempts, agreed to take some religious literature from him, including a Pentecostal Evangel. A short time later he started yelling and kicking the door of his cell. The chaplain rushed back and asked, “What’s wrong?”
The inmate held the magazine up to the window. “Do you see what this says? ‘God is our Father.’ Let me tell you about the father that I know.” He tore off his shirt revealing a badly scarred back. He said, “This is the only father I ever knew.” He crumpled the magazine up and threw it into a corner of his cell.
The chaplain felt helpless. On later visits the inmate would have nothing to do with him. The crumpled magazine lay on the floor of his cell. Then one day, the long hours of boredom finally caused the man to pick up the magazine … and begin to read.
This inmate read about the perfect Father. On the chaplain’s next visit, the prisoner opened up to him. When their discussion ended, the man shoved his big, beefy hands through the hatch to the chaplain and prayed to accept Jesus as his Savior.
“Heavenly Father,” the chaplain began.
The inmate repeated it, but there was also an echo up and down the cellblock. They continued. “I’m a sinner.” Up and down the cellblock the words echoed, “I’m a sinner.” Other men had been listening from their cells and wanted to receive Christ as well. Jesus saved several that day who professed faith to the chaplain when he walked back past their cells.
During the magazine’s history, some of the darkest places in America have been reached and souls saved in those dark places. This is a heritage we intend to continue.
This series continues next week.
KEN HORN is editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.
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