This Week in AG History -- November 21, 1965
Thanksgiving 1964 was a day of mourning for Angeline Tucker. The previous day, she learned that her husband, J. W. (Jay) Tucker, had been killed by Congolese rebels. The Tuckers had served as Assemblies of God missionaries to Congo since 1939. After a furlough in America, they returned to Congo in August 1964. Less than two weeks later, J. W., Angeline, and their children were captured and placed under house arrest by rebel forces. The drama that unfolded over the next three months captured the attention of Assemblies of God members worldwide.
The tragedy came in the midst of a civil war which broke out in 1960, following the power vacuum that developed after Belgium granted independence to Belgian Congo. One group of rebels, the "Simbas," eventually took control of the town of Paulis, where the Tucker family ministered. The rebels took Jay into custody and held him, along with other hostages, in a Catholic mission.
Fearing an attack by American and Belgian paratroopers, the insurgents hardened their attitudes toward the prisoners, and several were murdered. After days had passed with no word of her husband, Angeline was able to telephone the mission to inquire about his welfare. "How is my husband?" In guarded words, the Mother Superior hesitated, and then answered in French: "He is in heaven."
Those words became the title of a popular book written in 1965 by his widow. He Is In Heaven shared J. W. Tucker's story and helped him to become the best-known martyr in Assemblies of God history.
Reflecting back on her husband's martyrdom, Angeline wrote an article, "Congo: One Year After," which was published in the November 21, 1965, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. She described, in painful detail, the events that changed her life forever:
"It was Thanksgiving morning, 1964. The sun was shining beautifully in Paulis, Congo, when I awakened. I looked at the clock; it was 6:10. I lay there a moment wondering what the day might bring forth. I had slept well in spite of the tenseness of the situation…. The previous morning when I had called the Catholic mission to inquire about my husband's welfare, I had been totally unprepared for the reply of the Mother Superior, 'He is in heaven.'"
Angeline Tucker was devastated. She knew that she, her three children, her coworkers Gail Winters and Lillian Hogan, and all foreigners were in grave danger. Not knowing what was ahead, she prayed for protection, and God answered. Later that day, a combined Belgian and American rescue operation brought the Tuckers and their coworkers to safety in the town of Leopoldville.
One year later, as she was looking back on the Congo situation, Angeline reported that the national army had regained control of Paulis and other towns in the Congo and that "the political situation seems to be fairly stable." It was safe for missionaries to return.
One might expect that Angeline, overwhelmed from the loss of her husband, would want nothing to do with Congo. But she worked tirelessly to ensure that her loss would be Congo's gain. She declared, "If Jesus tarries, there should be a wonderful harvest of souls in all of northeast Congo: for we truly believe that the 'blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.'"
The Tuckers' efforts, before and after J. W.'s martyrdom, paid off. The Mangbetu tribe had been resistant to the gospel when Jay Tucker ministered in the Congo. However, his death became the catalyst for many of them to accept the gospel. Missionary Derrill Sturgeon later reported that one of Tucker's converts eventually became the police chief of Nganga, which was the homeland of the Mangbetus.
The police chief told the people about Tucker's murder and that his body was thrown into "their river." The Mangbetu culture considered the land and rivers where they lived to be theirs personally. Since Tucker's blood had flowed through their waters, they believed they must listen to the message that he carried.
As a result of J. W. Tucker's martyrdom, a great revival swept through the region. Thousands decided to follow Christ, and hundreds experienced divine healing. It was even reported some were raised from the dead. The Assemblies of God reported 4,710 adult members and other believers in 1964 in Congo. Fifty years later, in 2014, this tally had risen to 570,859 adherents. At least part of this incredible growth was due to the sacrifice of J. W. Tucker, who gave his life for the people of the Congo.
Read the entire article, "Congo: One Year After," in the November 21, 1965, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• "Songs in the Night," by Emil A. Balliet
• "A Beachhead in Hong Kong," by A. Walker Hall
• "Are We Loyal Americans?" by Gail P. Winters
• "Moments of Inspiration for Thanksgiving"
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
Pictured: Missionary J. W. Tucker standing at the airport gate in Little Rock, Arkansas, preparing to leave on his final trip to the Belgian Congo, 1964. Photo courtesy of Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.