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Led by The Spirit: The Early Years in the Philippines

From the beginning, a sweet sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence was manifest. On Easter Sunday, God’s healing power was real. Johnson reported:

As the Spirit fell after the preaching of the Word, there was a concerted rush to the altar, and many lay prostrated upon the floor. Then, without any word or suggestion, a line was formed for prayer for healing. It was a unique experience to us. Power! It seemed that we hardly had time to lay hands upon the needy ones before they fell under the touch of the great Healer! Wonderful Jesus!19

At least ten people were also saved during the convention, five of whom were baptized in water in the Easter afternoon service. Fifteen also received the baptism in the Holy Spirit during this time.20 People receiving salvation and the baptism in the Holy Spirit would both become regular features of the early annual conventions.

Part of the meeting involved discussion of the various needs of the Philippine field. In keeping with their understanding of the Holy Spirit’s anointing for ministry, one of the great needs that they saw was for training workers because no Pentecostal Bible school existed in the country at that time.21 Young people wanted to be trained, but there was no place for them to go. Those attending the convention recognized that one of the keys to preserving the harvest of souls that were being saved was the training of workers. The training of workers baptized in the Holy Spirit has been a fundamental part of the Assemblies of God missiology almost from its inception.

While planning for such a school began, the new fellowship was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department, thus gaining the sought-for recognition by the government. Meanwhile, the work continued to grow apace. When the Johnsons arrived in 1939, there were a total of five Assemblies of God churches in the country. By the time of the Japanese invasion, the work had grown to thirty churches, which Johnson felt was phenomenal in light of the gathering war clouds.22 After the war, Johnson reflected that during this time “God was doing a speedy work. … establishing his people so that they would be able to carry on after we were separated from them [by the Japanese].”23 The growth of the work accentuated the need to train workers.

By mid-1941, Johnson was able to report that Bethel Bible Institute (BBI) (now Bethel Bible College) would open for classes on August 1 in Baguio City, about 130 miles north of Manila in the Cordillera Mountains and about five thousand feet above sea level. Because of its cooler climate, Baguio had been built as a resort town early in the American era and had a large expatriate community—a characteristic that remains true of the city to this day. The Johnsons relocated to Baguio to take charge of the school along with Esperanza. Why it took so long to open the school is unclear.24 Why Baguio was selected is not known. It may have been felt that the more temperate climate would be more conducive to study. It would most likely have been a cheaper place to live than Manila. Since three of the six pioneers that had returned home were from the north, this may have been the most logical reason, especially since Baguio sat at a crossroads to many of the roads going north.

The Johnsons found a fourteen-room home to house the school which would provide classrooms, dormitories, and a chapel. Sunday services could also be held there for reaching out to the lost. While it was certainly large enough to meet their immediate needs, it was also unfinished, unpainted, and not on the market for rent.25 The landlord was cooperative. He finished and painted the house to their liking, and they moved in—certain that God was leading them.

At BBI, Pentecostal distinctives were emphasized, with many students receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit, some even after the Japanese invasion.26 Those who were filled had a great burden for the lost and volunteers for sponsored outreaches were never lacking. More help had also begun to arrive. In 1941, Blanche Appleby and Rena Baldwin (later Lindsay), two middle-aged women arrived to help at BBI. Both had served in China for several years, but were unable to return because of the growing Communist threat. Appleby was known as a deeply spiritual woman who had been engaged to a fine minister but she severed the relationship when God called her to the mission field. After the war when her health did not allow her to continue in missions, she capably led a prayer group in her home church in Durant, Florida, and prayed for missionaries faithfully and influenced several in their calling to the field. By her own confession, Baldwin was a rather timid person, but also a gifted musician and poet.27

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Category: Church History, Fall 2019

About the Author: Dave Johnson, M.Div., D.Miss. (Asia Graduate School of Theology, Philippines), is an Assemblies of God missionary to the Philippines. Dave and his wife Debbie have been involved in evangelism, church planting, and Bible school and mission leadership. Dave is the Managing Editor of Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, the director of APTS Press in Baguio City, Philippines and coordinator for the Asian Pentecostal Theological Seminary's Master of Theology Program. Facebook Twitter

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