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One Difficult Decision Impacts Generations for Christ

"It's my life" is a phrase often used, but the decisions a person makes with his or her life can have a profound impact on history for generations to come.

Her grandfather was a soccer phenom. When John Wood walked down the streets of England, children rushed him, pleading for his autograph. When his team won an international championship, with him scoring the deciding goal, it was the King of England who presented him with his medal. He would immigrate to the United States, where he would coach elite high school programs and, later in life, coach the U.S.A.’s men’s soccer team in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. 

John Wood had few peers in soccer, but his son, Bill, promised to be even better. Young Bill demonstrated incredible leadership and skill on the soccer field, with awards and recognition showered upon him like few other teenage athletes. It wasn’t a matter of if Bill would become a professional soccer player, it was only a matter of when. 

But then life took an unexpected turn for John. His wife, Mattie, accepted Christ as her Savior in July of 1926. A month later, 17-year-old Bill also accepted Christ. Although John would periodically attend services with his family, he would doggedly refuse to give in to the conviction in his heart. 

And then life imploded. Bill, in whom John had invested so much effort, trying to create the ultimate soccer player, felt that God was calling him into the ministry. Inspired by the song, Jesus Paid it All, Bill would turn his back on soccer, giving all of his trophies away to friends and teammates, and attend Moody Bible Institute. Devastated and angry, John blamed his wife for Bill’s conversion and decision, and he walked out on the family. He would never return. 

“And this is where my story starts,” says 85-year-old Alice (Wood) Kirsch, daughter of Bill and Martha Wood. “My father had the world at his feet, including a father who had the connections to make him a professional soccer player, but he chose to follow God’s calling instead. Originally he felt like he was to be a missionary to China, but the door never opened for him to go, so he became an evangelist before pastoring AG churches in West Point and Peoria, Illinois, and later in Racine, Wisconsin.” (Interestingly enough, AG missionaries named Wood — no relation — did go to China in 1932 — the parents of General Superintendent George O. Wood!)

Alice says she believes that God honored her father’s commitment to Him, and her subsequent faith in Christ, by placing a hand of protection and provision upon her life. 

“I think it’s important for future generations to hear what the Lord has done — and how their decisions impact future generations,” says Alice, who has five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. “We all have a story to tell.  According to Joshua 4:6-7, your story is to be passed on as a memorial for those who come behind.”  

Alice has multiple stories that stand as a memorial to God’s protection and intervention. 

As a young child, God brought healing to my body many times,” Alice recalls. “On one such illness I was sick for weeks; the doctor determined there was no hope. But, the elders of the church anointed me with oil and prayed. Two days later I was back in school. That was God's healing.”

God also protected young Alice when she was briefly kidnapped when she was in first grade. “I was walking home when a man grabbed me, took me up to his apartment above a neighbor’s garage, and locked the door,” Alice says. What could have been a nightmare scenario, was ended when the owner of the home unexpectedly returned early from a trip, frightening the man into letting Alice go before he was discovered — he would ultimately go to jail for the crime.

Alice even had her eyesight restored when she was 16. She used to wear very thick glasses. She hated wearing them, but without them, she could not see. “I didn’t realize that I was slowly going blind,” Alice says, “but then the optometrist said with the last pair he gave me, that there was nothing else he could do to stop my blindness.”

She would attend a healing service, and with her faith buoyed, she would get in line to be prayed for. But then she thought, I don't really need to get in line, it is Jesus who heals and I believe. However, she was trapped in the prayer line. When she reached the minister, he told her, "I don't need to pray for you. God has already touched your eyes." The next morning she got up and couldn’t see — until she took her glasses off. Her eyesight had been restored!

Even later in life, Alice, who worked many years as an executive secretary at the Assemblies of God national office in Springfield, Missouri, has experienced God’s protection. While crossing the street with an armload of items, she lost her balance on the edge of a curb and started to fall in front of fast moving car. “I felt a strong hand on my chest, holding me back and helping me regain my balance, but there was no one there,” she says. “That was God’s protection!”

Alice and her husband, Elmer, have spent decades serving God through ministry at Assemblies of God Bible colleges and service at the AG national office, both retiring in the late ’90s. After working part-time as office secretary for World AG Fellowship and Pentecostal World Fellowship for a decade, Alice has, for the past six years, served as a volunteer at the Center for the Blind at the AG national office. She also leads a small group at Central Assembly of God. She and Elmer are both happy to say that both of their sons are serving God as well.

Yet, in reflecting upon her grandfather’s and her father’s lives, the impact of a young man’s decision to go against his father’s will, turning his back on fame and possibly fortune, to follow God’s will, is immeasurable. That one decision has created a rich heritage of service to God, impacting multiple generations of his family. One can only wonder if John had given into the conviction of the Holy Spirit and gave his life to Christ as well, what kind of impact that would have had upon the family and ministry.

However, Alice has nothing but praise for what God has done, despite hardships along the way of life.

“God has provided for us over and over again, guiding our lives by opening doors we never thought possible,” says Alice, expressing gratitude for her mother’s and father’s commitment to Christ. “I’ve written a history book about God’s provision in our lives for our kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. The younger ones may not be ready to read it yet, but one day they will be ready and when they read it, they’ll know that God is far more than the God of the Bible — He’s the God of today and tomorrow!”

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.