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The first Pentecostal missionary to Argentina, Alice Wood (1870-1961), holds another great distinction: she served more than 60 years on the mission field, the last 50 without a furlough. When she finally retired at age 90, she left behind a thriving church pastored by Argentinians whom she raised up for the purpose of impacting a country for Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
When the call came in the December 1913 issue of Word and Witness for a gathering of Pentecostal believers in Hot Springs, Arkansas, E.N. Bell published the five reasons for this first General Council of what would become the Assemblies of God. The third reason stated: “We come together for another reason, that we may get a better understanding of the needs of each foreign field, and may know how to place our money … that we may discourage wasting money on those who are running here and there accomplishing nothing, and may concentrate our support on those who mean business for our King.”
Alice Wood received the call but was unable to attend. She was a single, 44-year-old Canadian Pentecostal missionary in Gualeguaychú, Argentina, with no visible means of support. Encouraged by the vision to support missions, Wood sent in an application to be included among the first official missionaries of the fledgling Assemblies of God. She was accepted onto the roster on Nov. 2, 1914.
Wood was an adventurous woman who looked on fearful obstacles as challenges to be overcome. When she was 7 years old, one of the older school girls told her, “Conquer a snake and you will conquer everything you undertake.” The next time she saw a snake, she ran to put her foot on its head while encouraging her sister to pelt it with rocks until it was dead. From childhood, she was a woman who ran toward things from which others ran away.
Orphaned at age 16, Wood lived with a foster family. While she was raised in the Friends (Quaker) church, she also attended Methodist and Holiness conventions and sought the presence of God in her life. At age 25, she enrolled in the Friends’ Training School in Cleveland, Ohio. Upon graduation she began pastoring a church in Beloit, Ohio.
When a young missionary visited her church, she “longed to go where Christ had never been preached.” She resigned her church and became involved with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which sent her to Venezuela in 1898 and to Puerto Rico in 1902. While there, overwork took its toll on her health and she returned to the United States for rest. During this time she heard of a great revival in Wales and began to pray, “Lord, send a revival and begin it in me.” While in Philadelphia she heard of another outbreak of revival at a small mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, only increasing her hunger. Seeking after God, she received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues at a camp meeting in Ohio, along with a re-commissioning from the Lord to return to South America. Upon receiving the news of her Pentecostal experience, the Christian and Missionary Alliance broke ties with her.
In 1910, with no commitment of support, Wood sailed for Argentina as the first Pentecostal missionary to that nation, trusting that God would provide. After a few years working on the field, some health problems returned but, knowing of the power of the Holy Spirit, she turned to God rather than doctors for healing. She later wrote, “Then I learned to take Christ as my life. Jesus healed me of cancer, nervousness, and many other ailments. Let His name be praised.”
When she joined the newly formed Assemblies of God, the 16-year veteran missionary’s experience lent credibility and stability to the organization. However, she never attended a district or general council meeting, nor did she travel to raise support and share her needs. From the time she arrived in Argentina in 1910 until her retirement in 1960 at age 90, she never took a furlough. When asked why she never returned to America to visit and itinerate, she responded that God had called her to Argentina and she understood the call to be for life.
When Wood was 88, a national worker became concerned about her overwork and made known to Field Secretary Melvin Hodges that a clothes washer would ease her load. Wood had been washing all the clothes at the mission on a washboard. Since she had been a missionary before the founding of the district councils, Wood had no home district that watched out for her needs, so her lack was sometimes overlooked. Wood, at age 89, became the proud recipient of a brand new 1958 washer paid for by the newly formed Etta Calhoun Fund of the Women’s Missionary Council. She wrote back expressing her gratitude: “You have greatly lightened the work … I have never seen anything like it. It is ornamental as well as useful.”
When Wood finally returned to the United States in 1960, a year before her death at age 91, her travel companion, Lillian Stokes, wrote, “As I saw her few little ragged belongings I thought, ‘the earthly treasures of a missionary,’ but the word of God says, ‘great is her reward in heaven.’”
This veteran single female missionary laid the foundation work for the revival that continues today in Argentina. In 1912, she wrote, “Ours is largely foundation work … but we believe our Father is preparing to do a mighty work and pour out the ‘latter rain’ upon the Argentine in copious showers before Jesus comes.” The sweeping Argentine revival of the 1980s and 1990s under evangelists Carlos Annacondia and Claudio Freidzon saw their beginning in Alice Wood, the fearless little missionary lady from Canada.
Read one of Alice Wood’s many reports from the field on page 12 of the May 29, 1920, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
“Fire From Heaven and Abundance of Rain,” by Alice Luce
“The Great Revival in Dayton, Ohio,” by Harry Long
“Questions and Answers,” by E.N. Bell
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
Note: Quotations in this article come from Alice Wood’s missionary file at the AGWM archives.IMAGE - Argentine Christians bid farewell to veteran missionary Alice Wood. (L-r): Pastor Ernest Diaz, Mrs. Diaz (seated), Miss Alice Wood, and Evangelist Ruben Ortiz; July 12, 1960