Fifty-five years ago, an unusual parade of vehicles drove past the AG national office. This was a special presentation of the Speed the Light (STL) program held in 1967 when the Christ’s Ambassadors Department (now National Youth Ministries) wanted to demonstrate how much equipment was being raised for missionaries in a single year.
The origin of Speed the Light goes back to March 1943, when Ralph W. Harris (1912-2004) had just started as the first national director of the CA Department. Harris had an idea which he called “Speed the Light.” It would be a new avenue for youth to raise money for missions by having students raise funds for buying vehicles for missionaries. In later years, funds also purchased printing accessories and other needed equipment for missionaries. The well-known slogan, “Send the Light” was changed to “Speed the Light” to emphasize the importance of speeding the gospel message to a needy world.
The program kicked off in 1945 and enlisted thousands of youth across the country to raise more than $100,000 in the first year. One of the major purchases was a Sikorsky amphibian plane for use in Liberia. Later youth were instrumental in raising funds for other missionary planes, including Ambassador I and II which were used to transport AG missionaries overseas. Speed the Light efforts continue today. In 2021 AG youth raised $17.2 million, bringing the total since 1945 to more than $361 million.
Verne MacKinney, STL director, was the innovator of the unusual demonstration on March 24, 1967. Arrangements were made with several Springfield, Missouri, car dealerships who loaned a total of 188 vehicles, including cars, a Jeep, buses, trucks, trailers, motorcycles, boats, and bicycles for “Operation Demonstration” which lined up on Boonville Avenue.
This was an impressive lineup six lanes wide which represented Speed the Light purchases the previous year (1966) when giving was over $650,000 for STL. During an era of many boisterous protests, this demonstration gave a picture of how Christian youth were dedicated to raise funds for a worthy cause. These vehicles were not the actual vehicles and equipment sent to missionaries, but it gave an idea of the magnitude of this ongoing project.
Christ’s Ambassadors from local churches as well as students from Central Bible College and Evangel College helped to stage this demonstration. In addition, about 30 representative U.S. and world missionaries were present in costume to add color and significance to the occasion. Speakers included Russell J. Cox, national secretary of Christ’s Ambassadors; J. Philip Hogan, director of Foreign Missions; and Thomas F. Zimmerman, general superintendent of the AG. News media also gave the event national publicity.
After three brief speeches, the cavalcade of people and vehicles moved about a quarter mile down Boonville Avenue, and after three simultaneous blasts of 188 horns to celebrate this accomplishment, the group disbanded.
Read “Operation Demonstration,” on page 24 of the April 30, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “The Spirit of the Age” by Don Mallough
• “Unto What Were You Baptized?” by C. M. Ward
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.