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For any Executive Presbyter, district official, or minister in the Assemblies of God who connects with the national executive offices even on a semi-regular basis, there is one non-clergy member whose name — or voice — will likely bring a smile to their face — Jewell Woodward
Woodward, who is 71, has served as General Superintendent George O. Wood’s executive secretary since he was first elected General Secretary in 1993. Prior to that she was the executive secretary to General Secretaries Joseph Flower and Bartlett Peterson — 45 years in total serving on the executive row.
She has a well-established reputation in the national office as well as within her church for her gift of helping (1 Corinthians 12:28). Her time on executive row, which far exceeds the tenure of any other executive or assistant serving in the executive area, is a direct result of that gift. Whether it is a request from Dr. Wood or a caller looking to speak to someone about missions, Woodward is renown for her work ethic and connecting answers to questions.
Yet she didn’t just start out as an executive secretary. Woodward graduated from Central High School in Springfield, Missouri, on a Thursday in early June 1965. The following Tuesday, she reported to the Assemblies of God national office in Springfield, Missouri, to work as a teletypesetter.
Woodward admits that she knew, even as a young person, that she wanted to work at the Assemblies of God national office because she knew it would be working for God. “Frankly, if they had come and ask me to stuff envelopes, I would have taken the job,” she says.
Thankfully, Woodward wasn’t a teletypesetter for long as “out of the blue,” she was asked to work in the Secretariat Office in 1966, where her real giftings began to show through. She would serve in every position up to assistant supervisor over the next several years. She explains that was a blessing as when several people unexpectedly left, she was able to step in and train all the new employees.
In 1972, the secretary to General Secretary Bartlett Peterson became seriously ill. Peterson asked Woodward to temporarily fill the position, while his secretary battled cancer.
“I was glad to do that,” Woodward says, “Sadly, Lorraine [Aronis] passed away. Brother Peterson then asked me to remain as secretary, and I accepted.”
It was a decision that came with a “baptism by fire” for Woodward. She had no formal training in being an executive secretary, and then she had to prepare for and attend the 1973 General Council, which required her to take minutes.
“That was the worst General Council for me,” she admits with a laugh. “I had never taken minutes before, and at this General Council they had all sorts of serious votes and policies to discuss — we even had sessions at night after the evening services because there was so much business to cover.”
In 1975, Joseph Flower became general secretary and he chose to retain Woodward as his secretary. “Brother Flower was calm, steady — never ruffled,” she recalls. “I never minded working hard for him because he would be working hard before you — he set an example for his employees.”
Eighteen years later, in 1993, George Wood was elected general secretary. He, too, chose to keep Woodward on.
“I had worked with Dr. Wood prior to this as he was the Resolutions Committee chairman,” says Woodward, who is as personable as she is productive. “Since the resolutions were prepared by the General Secretary’s office, I had worked with him for three Councils prior to this.”
Woodward has attended 22 consecutive General Councils — 17 of which she wrote the minutes. “I also updated the constitution and bylaws . . . that would be 17 books I wrote, but none of them sold very well,” she says with a laugh.
With her long history at the national office, Woodward even recalls when the first computer came to the national office — a monstrosity that took up an entire room.
For the last 24 years Woodward has been serving as Wood’s executive secretary. She has witnessed his abilities first hand too many times to count. “He is extremely intelligent and a master at writing articles,” she says. “He also has a ‘legal’ mind [he passed the California Bar Exam to become a licensed attorney] and his biblical knowledge is like no other, I would say.”
Woodward views her decades of service as service unto the Lord. However, she adds that there were some great perks. “I’ve met a lot of people I would have never dreamed of meeting,” she says. “I’ve met Billy Graham, Barry Mcguiar, Mother Flower, Aunty Anne [Anne Beiler], and so many great missionaries, like Mark and Huldah Buntain, David Plymire, Charles Greenaway, and Chaplain Cecil Richardson — and then there was Sister [Ellen] Blackwell, a 100-year-old pastor.”
Her list of famous ministers and missionaries – and even the not-so-famous – goes on and on, as she expresses her appreciation to meet and serve them. Woodward also is thankful for the travel she was afforded through the job, traveling all over the country for General Councils — something she could have never have done otherwise.
Sitting back and reflecting, she laughs and says, “You know, I rarely go any place any more that I don’t see someone I know.”
Nationally, Woodward may be well known for her connection to key AG leaders and her personable service, but locally, Woodward is truly loved and appreciated for her upbeat personality and giftings, having helped and served countless numbers of people at the national office and through her church.
“I served as a [Girls Ministries] Prims leader for 25 years at Central Assembly,” she says, then adds with a laugh, “And I’ve catered more meals for special events at the church than I could ever count.”
“Jewell was our go-to caterer for our mother-daughter and father-daughter events,” says Lori Van Veen, Girls Ministries coordinator at Central Assembly. “Her experience made it easy for our team to rely on her to provide great food that our guests always raved about. I’ll never forget the year we had a luau theme. She used cored pineapples to build two palm trees as decoration on the fruit table. It was stunning!”
Woodward also served six years on the church’s deacon board — being one of the first two women to serve on Central’s deacon board. She also says that over the years, she and her husband, Jim, have taken a lot of kids into their home.
Add in her hobby of cake decorating — with many individuals at the national office and Central Assembly connecting with her for their wedding cake — in addition to raising three sons (Jeffery, Jonathan, and Joel), and spoiling 10 grandchildren (and a great-grandchild on the way), it’s easy to see that helping isn’t a “work responsibility” for Woodward; it’s simply who she is.
“I’m now doing second generation wedding cakes,” Woodward says with a smile. “Cakes for the children of the couples that I made cakes for decades ago.”
“Jewell can spin more plates in the air than anyone I know,” says Wood. “She is so conscientious. From her years of working at the General Council she knows where everything is and who everyone is. I could not have had a better co-worker and I am grateful for the years we have served together!”
But even with all her activities, family comes first. “I love my kids more than anything in the whole world,” she says.
In 2015, however, the scale of Woodward’s gift of helping became plainly evident when she was awarded the General Superintendent’s Medal of Honor during the 56th General Council in Orlando, Florida.
“That was an honor . . . it’s usually for lay people who are really special,” Woodward says softly, amazement still echoing in her voice. “That was very special.”
“Without a doubt, Jewell is one of the most extraordinary persons I have ever met,” Wood confirms. “For the past 24 years we have worked together, although she has served for a total of 52 years as an employee of the General Council. In all these years, I have never seen her get upset with anyone even though from time to time our office is on the brunt end of some not-too-pleasant phone calls and emails.”
It would seem though, as she’s now retiring, the gift of helping she’s been so ably known for could take a well-deserved rest.
But that’s not the case. In addition to spending more time with her family and doing some traveling, she’s also going back to work!
“I’m going to work part-time for Project Rescue with [missionary] David Grant,” she explains. “That is going to be a new page — a new adventure in life.”
The new position with Project Rescue is simply another sign of God’s hand upon Woodward’s life . . . what better place could He have placed a woman who He has given the gift of helping than a ministry that is focused on reaching out to women who are in desperate need of help?
Jewell Woodward truly has chosen to make her life a life of service devoted to God.