Many are familiar with Maranatha Village Retirement Community in Springfield, Missouri, established in 1973. However, this was not the first time the Assemblies of God responded to the need to provide care for its retired ministers and missionaries.
In the early years of the Pentecostal movement, a strong belief in the imminent return of Christ sent ministers and missionaries into difficult places in the United States and around the world with the Pentecostal gospel message. Many of these ministers lived entirely by faith, with only enough to meet their daily needs. Their lives were spent for God with little thought to laying up materials things for their old age. Even for those who were in a position to prepare for retirement, their conviction that they were living in the last days led many of them to enter their later years with little life savings, investments, or death benefit insurance.
As early as 1933, the General Council recognized the need to provide assistance for aging ministers and widows of ministers who died without insurance or savings. A committee on pensions for retired ministers was formed and reported recommendations back to the 1935 General Council in session, which included the creation of a fellowship fund for retired ministers and a voluntary death benefit program. The retired ministers fund would be supported by donations and earnings from Gospel Publishing House and would be available to “needy ministers or their widows who have engaged in an active and approved ministry in the General Council fellowship for a period of 10 or more years.”
In 1946 it was recommended to the General Presbytery that the Assemblies of God establish a home for aged ministers who “have spent their strength and lives in the gospel ministry and now face their declining years with no place to go or without anyone to care for them.” This home became a reality in 1948 when the Pinellas Park Hotel was purchased. The hotel had 29 rooms, each equipped with two twin beds, and two furnished parlors in the warm and pleasant climate near St. Petersburg, Florida. Former General Secretary-Treasurer J. R. Evans, age 79, and his wife became the first residents.
An article, “Meet This Happy Family,” published in the Nov. 20, 1955, Pentecostal Evangel, introduced readers to some of the residents of the Pinellas Park Home. “They are pioneers of Pentecost, representing the first generation of full gospel ministers. They were mature men and women in the days when the Spirit was outpoured in Topeka, Los Angeles, and all around the world. They represent the evangelists who first brought the message of Acts 2:4 to the cities of America, the pastors who stuck it out through thick and thin to establish Pentecostal churches, the first missionaries our struggling Assemblies sponsored on the field.”
Residents at Pinellas Park were retired from the professional duties of the ministry, but not from ministry itself. They taught Sunday School in local churches, led Bible studies, provided for one another’s needs, and provided much of the maintenance of the home. On any given day, one could find missionaries who had once opened up nations for the Pentecostal message passing out tracts and witnessing in the community of St. Petersburg.
It was not long before a larger facility was needed and construction began on a new facility in Lakeland, Florida, adjacent to the campus of Southeastern Bible College (now Southeastern University). Bethany Retirement Home was dedicated in 1960 and served the needs of retired ministers and laypeople until 1972, when Southeastern needed the property for expansion.
Forty acres was purchased next to Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, for the construction of Maranatha Manor (now Maranatha Village Retirement Community). Residents, who all their lives had been on the move for the gospel, packed up and moved one more time. College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri, provided private air transportation from Lakeland to Springfield, and the new residents of Maranatha Village arrived in May 1973.
The Pentecostal Evangel article, “Meet This Happy Family!” reminded readers that Sunday, Nov. 20, had been designated “Aged Ministers Assistance Sunday,” a time when Assemblies of God churches were asked to remember the aged ministers, missionaries, and their widows with a special offering.
Mothers and fathers of the faith taught many the way of salvation and Spirit-filled living, knowing that in their time of need, God would not fail them. Today that need remains. Aged Ministers Assistance (AMA) continues to provide a monthly stipend for those in need and Maranatha Village is now a 100-acre home for both ministers and laypeople living in Christian community.
Read the article “Meet This Happy Family!” on page 6 of the Nov. 20, 1955, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “This is God’s Will for You” by E.M. Wadsworth
• “Some Day We’ll Understand” by J.J. Krimmer
• “It Brings Miracles” by Zelma Argue
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.