Special Thanks to – Rev Walter Alvarez (Church of God)
The origins of Pentecostalism in Chile
Allan Anderson, Doctor of Theology, Professor of Pentecostal Studies at the Graduate Institute of Theology and Religions, and directs the Postgraduate Programs of the University of Birmingham (England). Previously, the Pentecostal pastor and theological educator in South Africa, he integrates the editorial boards of several publications.
Dr Allan Anderson writes:
“The presence and the Pentecostal power of the Spirit were emphasised in the revival in Wales (England) (1904 – 1905). The meetings were long, spontaneous and, apparently, chaotic and emotional. God’s closeness to services and personal experience was emphasised through singing in the Spirit (using ancient songs from Wales), simultaneous prayers out loud, revealing visions and prophecies. Evan Roberts (1878 – 1951), leader of the revival, taught that personal experience of baptism in the Spirit should precede any revival. Although the emphasis of Pentecostalism centred on the radical and less common manifestations of revival in Wales, the early Pentecostal leaders, Especially from Britain, found inspiration in that revival, seeing their Movement as coming out of it and continuing in it.
“At the Keswick Convention of 1905, the emotional conduct of three hundred delegates from Wales influenced an unofficial all-night meeting that, according to one observer, became out of control. A.T.Pierson described the gathering and the manifestations of speaking in tongues as ‘disturbing anarchy’ and ‘a satanic disturbance’.
Although revival movements similar to the Pentecostal movement existed in India since 1860, the revival of Wales spread to India and other parts of the world through missionaries in Wales.
In 1905, revivals erupted in the Khasi Hills, in north-eastern India, where Presbyterian missionaries were at work.
Another revival began in 1905 at the Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission in Kedgaon, near Pune (A mission for Young Widows and orphans). The revival continued for two years.
This revival brought tears of repentance and confession, prayerful and prolonged prayer meetings, powerful demonstrations of the Spirit, including healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues.
Evangelistic teams of hundreds of young women were empowered by the Spirit with the power to give testimony in the surrounding villages. This revival made the Mukti Mission an important Pentecostal centre of international significance.
This revival preceded the revival of Azusa Street and was a precedent for a diffuse form of Pentecostalism.
“The revival in India had at least four (4) consequences of major importance:
1.First, it is clear that Bartleman, an enlivened leader and companion of William Seymour and writers of ‘The Apostolic Faith’, saw the revival in India as a precedent for the revival of Azusa Street!
2.Second, women played a more prominent role in the revival in India than in the North American revival.
Pandita Ramabai, an Indian woman, a famous social reformer and evangelical Christian, resisted both the patriarchal oppression in India and the Western domination of Christianity.
The Mukti revival, led by women, was a motivational and empowering influence for young women who had been marginalised and discarded by society. This is a prime example of the social activism of Pentecostalism, empowering the oppressed for service and clothing women leaders with dignity.
3.Third, both Pandita Ramabai’s ministry and the revival she led were open to and welcomed by other Christians, in contrast to the rigid exclusiveness of many subsequent Pentecostal movements.
4.The fourth consequence was the encouragement of that revival on Pentecostals in Latin America.
Minnie Abrams, Ramabai’s right-hand woman, contacted Mrs Willis Hoover, a friend and former Bible schoolmate who lived and ministered together with her husband in Valparaiso, Chile.
Mr and Mrs Willis C. Hoover, who were at that time American missionaries pastoring and ministering within the Methodist Episcopal Church, received revival reports of the happenings in Mukti and the Azusa Street revival.
The correspondence between Abrams and the Hoovers was documented in a booklet that Minnie wrote in 1906 entitled ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Fire’. This booklet also contained an exposition on the restoration of speaking in tongues – the first Pentecostal theological writing about baptism in the Spirit.
Being encouraged by what was happening with the move of the Spirit around the world, The Methodist churches of Valparaiso and Santiago anticipated a similar revival, praying for it and seeking the same experience they were reading and studying about in the book of Acts Chapter 2.
As a result of this, the Pentecostal revival in Chile commenced in January 1909 within the Valparaiso Methodist Episcopal Church, with a Sunday school of 200 people growing to 1000 by the end of 1909. This revival spread to other churches around Chile.
While there was a predominantly favourable climate for the revival of Valparaiso, this changed rapidly towards the then end of 1909, a change that culminated in the condemnation and ex-communication of such revival and its leading pastors at the hands of the Episcopal Methodist Church Conference in February 1910.
This paved the way for Willis Hoover to resign as a Methodist Episcopal Minister and become the leader of the new Chilean Methodist Pentecostal Church.
The new Methodist Pentecostal Church had its beginnings keeping Methodism as its doctrinal base; Willis Hoover added great importance to this because he considered that he had not betrayed the principles of John Wesley and further mentioned that he would continue to preach in that same manner. Added to the Methodist doctrine was the fact that all Christians should search for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and the manifestation of this baptism of power (supported by the experiences of Wesley himself when he brought about a revival in England),
This revival, being a specific manifestation within the Methodist Episcopal Church and other Christian circles, did not promote the doctrine of the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (speaking in tongues).
This form of Pentecostalism (Mukti being its first expression) was being developed globally as an alternative to the “initial evidence” doctrine being centred in the United States of America.
From Freeport, Illinois, Willis C. Hoover (July 20, 1858 – May 26, 1936), a physician in the Chicago area, became a missionary with the Methodist Episcopal Church and accepted the call to the country of Chile, arriving there in 1889. As a missionary, Hoover began by teaching English in the city of Iquique.
In February 1902, Hoover was asked to take over a church in Valparaíso, Chile. During this same year, a revival commenced among the Methodist Episcopal churches. About a hundred people were added to the church Hoover was pastoring, and the entire denomination in the region increased in attendance by 44 percent. This growth was sustained and increased through
- Visitation in the homes of church members by teachers of the classes.
- Reports being given to the pastor in regard to the visits conducted by teachers.
- Prayer and evangelism being consistently conducted.
During the same year, the church’s Sunday School lessons were focused on the Book of Acts. During this study, a person asked Hoover the question:
What prevents our being a church like the Early Church?
To that question, Hoover replied:
Nothing prevents it, except something within ourselves.
This study of the Book of Acts added fuel to the passion for the spreading revival that the congregation was already experiencing.
n 1903, with the revival still ongoing, the notable Argentine evangelist, Pablo Bettex, came and conducted services at the Valparaiso church, as well as in other churches throughout South America. Due to the congregation’s observation of that man’s commitment to prayer and focus on evangelism, the revival they were experiencing received a fresh wind and it carried them along throughout that year.
In 1904, Hoover and his family returned to the United States for furlough, and the congregation was left in the hands of an associate.
In 1905, a smallpox epidemic ravaged the city, affecting the members of Hoover’s congregation as well. For two years there was no significant movement taking place in the Valparaiso church.
On August 16, 1906, an 8.6 earthquake devastated the city of Valparaíso, destroying the building the congregation was worshiping in. The positive aftereffect of this earthquake was that the congregation was forced to meet in locations throughout the city, providing many opportunities for exhorters and preachers to develop their speaking gifts.
In February of 1907, a tent was received from the Methodist Mission Society, and the congregation began worshiping in one location again. One year later, the congregation reverted to worshiping in homes and at other sites throughout the cit
In 1907, Minnie Abrams, a missionary working at Pandita Ramabai’s Mukti school in India, sent a letter to Mary Hoover (wife of Willis C. Hoover), her former 1887 classmate at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL, informing her of the revival that was spreading across India in over one hundred locations (Dohnavur, Khasi Hills, Lushai Hills, to name a few).
In addition to the correspondence from the powerful Pentecostal revivals impacting India, Hoover also began corresponding with leaders of revival movements in other nations. The replies he received back led him, his family, and their Chilean ministry partners to begin seeking God for the same in Chile. Hoover said:
Thus we came to the conclusion that there were deeper Christian experiences we had not reached. A new hunger was awakened in us to have everything God had for us.
In February of 1908, construction on the new Valparaíso church building was begun, and though not yet finished, it was used for an all-night prayer meeting on December 31, 1908.
During that service, with about 100 persons present, the typical pattern for prayer was for one to open with prayer, then others to pray in turn. But on this night,
Everybody broke out in a loud prayer as if in a concerted pre-arranged plan. It was as if the prayers of a year had been bottled up and, having arrived at this moment, the bottle broke and spilled out. That noise, “as the sound of many waters,” lasted ten or fifteen minutes, then gradually subsided and we rose from our knees.
This happened again and again in those days… Nothing was done either to stop it or to cause it.
On January 14, 1909, a man in Hoover’s congregation experienced a vision of Jesus, in which the man was commanded to relay the following message to Hoover.
Go to your pastor and tell him to call some of the more spiritual brothers and tell them to pray every day, because I am going to baptize them with tongues of fire.
The following afternoon, at about 5:00, five people met and prayed, and that group of dedicated believers made the commitment to each other that they would meet every day at 5 p.m. in the parsonage until the promised blessing was given.
In addition to the 5 p.m. daily prayer meetings, there were also Saturday night prayer meetings, which lasted till daybreak.
On Saturday, February 20, with about 30 people gathered together in a room in the church, the presence of God became very real. Hoover, in attempting to describe that presence, said that it was “an ineffable sweetness”.
This presence of God was also accompanied with intense weeping, and at times singing, as well as
a laughter so strong and uncontrollable that he [Hoover] had to sit and give free rein to it, unable to suppress it.
The Saturday all-night prayer meetings continued for seven weeks, until Easter, April 11, when there was a transition made to all-day services on Sunday, beginning at 7:30 a.m. It was during these times that the conviction of sin became pronounced upon some who were present—and following the repentance, reconciliation, and restitution, the lives of the believers were dramatically transformed.
By mid-April, 1909, the revival had begun. The group that had been praying in the parsonage in Valparaíso began to experience the literal fulfillment of Joel 2:28:
I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams…
There were continually those who came under intense conviction, and following repentance, made restitution and reconciliation as necessary. Families were reunited. Cold hearts were set on fire, and this work of the Holy Spirit impacted those of every age group.
Some of the manifestations during this period, including the above-mentioned weeping and laughter, included deep and intense intercession, being manifested as mere groans. There were also many who were prostrated, and the children, like in many revivals, related that they were taken in the Spirit to heaven.
A 12-year-old girl, on one of these occasions sang very gently, in beautiful words that no one could understand, using unfamiliar melodies. Her father asked her later why she sang like that. She answered that “the angels were singing like that, and I was singing with them.
The choir was eventually dissolved, as Hoover explained,
We have the greatest director of all—the Lord God Omnipotent, who has sent the Holy Spirit to direct everything. The world looks on and says, “Scandalous! What disorder!” and all that.
By May and June, Hoover wrote that the church’s attendance was growing phenomenally. By July of 1909, the Sunday School at the Valparaíso church reached 363, with 425 in August and 527 in September. Worship service attendance was between 800 and 900 by October.
Evangelism by the Valparaíso church then took on a new power following prayer meetings. As the people went out on the streets, they began to preach with results.
The atmosphere throughout the region of Valparaíso began to change. Christians no longer had a nonchalant attitude toward sin. Hidden sins were brought to the surface and confessed. Hardened pagans were converted.
The revival fires spread through villages and towns throughout Chile—producing in its members “the highest type of morality,” and touching all levels of society.
The church Hoover was pastoring was the largest Methodist church in Chile, and it became the flagship of the Chilean Pentecostal movement. With Hoover being the Superintendent of the Central District of the Methodist Church, he carried tremendous influence in seeing the revival spread.