Robert Kenneth Ware (1917-2005) was born in the United States and raised in Switzerland, but he devoted his ministry to persecuted Jews, displaced war refugees, and ostracized Romani people (also referred to as Gypsies) in France. Along the way he managed to learn at least five languages, establish the French Assemblies of God Bible school and Sunday School ministry, plant several churches, and provide an accurate translation of the New Testament for the French Bible Society.
Just a year after Kenneth Ware was born in Memphis, Tennessee, his father was killed in World War I. His Swiss-born mother was devastated and soon went into a deep depression. She took her young son to Switzerland where she went into seclusion to deal with her grief. Due to these early traumas, Ware developed a deep stammer that made schooling very difficult.
In 1932, English evangelist Smith Wigglesworth ministered in Vevey, Switzerland. Upon meeting young Ware on the street and seeing his predicament, he asked the boy to stick out his tongue. The evangelist touched his tongue and said, “This tongue shall preach the gospel.” From that time, his stammer ceased.
One year later, Ware surrendered his life to Christ at a revival led by Douglas Scott, a British minister who was instrumental in the formation of the French Assemblies of God. He felt a call to ministry and began to evangelize with other young people in the south of France. As a result of these efforts, at least 25 churches were planted.
Ware soon married Suzy Vinitski, a Jewish Christian. When Adolph Hitler invaded France in 1940, the Ware home became a refuge for Jews seeking to escape France into Switzerland. When a friend, under torture, revealed their names as a hiding place for Jews, the Wares attempted to flee into Switzerland. Their train was halted by Nazi agents, who ignored Suzy and their 7-month-old son, but took Kenneth for questioning. Brutally beaten and told he would be executed the next morning, he revealed to one guard that he was a pastor. This seemed upsetting to the guard who then snuck him through a darkened hallway and set him free.
Ware located his wife and son in Lausanne, Switzerland, and in 1948, they returned to France to find a devastated country flooded with refugees. Ware established a mission church for these displaced people. Remembering the care their friends and families had received before the war from the young pastors, many Jews came to his mission and later accepted Jesus as Messiah.
Because most of his money went to funding outreach, the Ware family lived in a part of Paris that was known as “the street of crimes.” Ware received permission to open a church in an abandoned night club. Within 10 years, the community was so transformed by this little church that the police no longer felt the need to patrol the streets.
In 1953, Ware was designated as a representative of the American Assemblies of God to the French Assemblies of God. He soon saw the need for greater discipleship among the French Christians. In the 1960 French General Council meetings, he requested permission to begin a Sunday School program. The response was not enthusiastic, but permission was granted.
Ware began a small printing operation in his home. While he translated Gospel Publishing House curriculum from English to French, Suzy and their two sons ran the duplicator. The operation soon became so successful that the March 22, 1964, Pentecostal Evangel reported that the Assemblies of God in the United States purchased larger printing equipment to enable the Ware family to meet the growing need for Sunday School curriculum in France.
During this time, there was a growing Pentecostal revival in the French Romani community. Once again, Ware’s heart was drawn to a people who were mistreated and thought to be of little human value. For seven years, Ware traveled to Romani camps, lived with them in trailers, established churches, and even built a Bible school and elementary school for the children. In 1972, their churches were so well established that a Romani superintendent was chosen, and Ware was able to turn his attention to other needs.
Throughout his ministry, Ware was a self-starting learner. He became an outstanding scholar of the Greek language and soon became the teacher of advanced Greek at the Continental Bible College in Brussels, Belgium. This experience motivated him to begin a Bible school for the French Assemblies of God in Paris. While at this school, the French Bible Society asked him to prepare a more accurate translation of the New Testament in French, a project that took him three years.
A stroke in 1984 curtailed the ministry of Kenneth and Suzy Ware but he continued to write and encourage the churches until his death in Courbevoie, France, in 2005. His influence continues today in French Sunday Schools, Romani communities, and every place a French-speaking person picks up a New Testament begins to read the Word of God. Smith Wigglesworth proved to be prophetic: the tongue of Kenneth Ware truly did preach the gospel.
Read Kenneth Ware’s article, “Paris Printing Plant” on page 23 of the March 22, 1964, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “How Cold is Too Cold?” by Donald L. Nelson
• “The Gospel for Ghana” by Robert L. Cobb
And many more!
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Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.