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This Week in AG History -- September 18, 1960

Genoal Wright contracted polio as a young man, but when God answered his prayer to allow him to live, Wright kept his promise to continue to preach, even though it meant preaching from a wheelchair.

When Genoal Wright (1932-1976) contracted polio in 1954, his future suddenly seemed uncertain. He pastored the small Assembly of God in Traskwood, Arkansas, and he was dating a young lady named Velma. But polio reduced him to dependence on an iron lung, and he lost the use of his legs.

While laying in the hospital, connected to the iron lung, the young minister made a promise to the Lord: "If God would let me survive, I will continue to preach, even if it had to be from a wheel chair." Wright was soon able to breathe on his own, although his legs remained paralyzed. Wright kept his promise, and he continued to pastor with the aid of a wheelchair. Furthermore, the love that Velma and Genoal shared proved stronger than the polio, and they married in 1955.

Wright accepted the pastorate of the Oak Grove Assembly of God in Malvern, Arkansas, where his strong preaching made an impact on the community. His lack of legs barely slowed Wright down. He preached and visited church members across the community.

The Wrights enjoyed their ministry in Malvern, but Genoal felt restless. Ever since he was called into the ministry at age 17, he had wanted to pioneer a church. When two families began attending church from Jones Mill, a rural community 12 miles away, he saw an opportunity to fulfill his dream. He began holding Friday prayer meetings in Jones Mill, and several people there accepted Christ.

Wright began to pray about the possibility of resigning his church to minister full time in Jones Mill. Such a move did not seem to make sense. He would have to start the church from scratch, with minimal financial support and few parishioners. As a paraplegic, he had few options to support his family. Staying at Oak Grove with a nice pastoral salary seemed the wiser move. But the more he prayed, the more the Lord impressed on his heart that he needed to go to Jones Mill. He believed that, if God was calling him, God would also supply the financial need.

In 1959, the Wrights took the plunge, resigned the Oak Grove pastorate, and started the Shorewood Hills Assembly of God in Jones Mill. Seven people attended the first service in June 1959. Within four months, about 15 people had made the congregation their home. The church continued to grow and, in 1966, dedicated a new building. Wright served as pastor until his death in 1976, and Velma continues to be active in the congregation.

Genoal Wright did not allow polio and paraplegia to derail his life and ministry. In an era when Americans with disabilities had relatively few accommodations, Wright demonstrated that God can empower a paraplegic to be an effective minister and church planter.

The September 19, 1960, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel featured Genoal Wright's story. Read the article by Ruth Lyon, "Polio Victim Pioneers Church," on page 18.

Also featured in this issue:

• "God Has No Grandsons," by David J. DuPlessis

• "Educated to Serve," by C. M. Ward

• "He Walked with God," by George Holmes

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Darrin J. Rodgers

Darrin J. Rodgers has served as director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC) since 2005. He earned a master's degree in theological studies from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and a juris doctorate from the University of North Dakota School of Law. He previously served at the David du Plessis Archive and the McAlister Library at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of Northern Harvest , a history of Pentecostalism in North Dakota. His FPHC portfolio includes acquisitions, editing Assemblies of God Heritage magazine, and conducting oral history interviews. His wife, Desiree, is an ordained AG minister.