This Week in AG History -- September 14, 1969
Etta Gray Fields Calhoun (1870-1940), a wife and mother from Texas, was convinced that women could make a world of difference if they banded together and put their time, money, and prayer into joint efforts rather than separate missions projects. She was the founder of the Assemblies of God Women’s Missionary Council and is the name behind the Etta Calhoun Fund (now Touch the World Fund) which has supplied indoor equipment for missions institutions since 1957.
Born on Sept. 19, 1870, to devout Methodist parents, Calhoun showed an early interest in community involvement. As a teenager, she began working with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The WCTU educated the public regarding the social evils of alcohol and gave women the opportunity to develop leadership and public speaking skills. At age 20, she became a speaker for the WCTU and learned valuable lessons about organizing women together for a cause.
During this time, she became an ordained minister for the Methodist church and felt a call to missions. However, her mother became seriously ill and Calhoun moved from Ohio to Orchard, Texas, to help care for her mother. She began teaching school and, in 1899, married Marion Fields, a successful businessman with Houston Electrical Company. Moving to Houston, they worked together to use their financial blessings to reach out to the needy around them.
In 1905, an evangelist named Charles Parham brought the Pentecostal message to Orchard. Calhoun visited the meetings and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues and shared her experience with her pastor. Their church soon became a part of the fledgling Pentecostal movement.
Mr. Fields’ health began to deteriorate and his wife cared for him until his death in 1921. Etta Fields then married John Calhoun of Houston. They attended the Full Gospel Mission Assembly of God church where, in 1925, Calhoun organized the women into a prayer band for missions. After several weeks of meeting together for prayer, Calhoun began to encourage them to consider ways in which God might want to use them to meet the needs of the missions field. At her encouragement, their first project was to sew clothes for the 300 children at Lillian Trasher’s orphanage in Assiout, Egypt.
Building upon the organizational skills she learned as a young woman in the WCTU, Calhoun began traveling to other Assemblies of God churches and districts to organize Women’s Missionary Councils. In September 1925, the General Council of the Assemblies of God recognized these organizations as extensions of Assemblies of God ministries. In 1951 the Women’s Missionary Council became an official national department in Springfield, Missouri.
Calhoun continued in ministry, teaching at Southern California Bible School (now Vanguard University) and Southern Bible Institute (now Southwestern Assemblies of God University) until her death in 1940. In 1957, the Women’s Missionary Council formed the Etta Calhoun Fund, using her birthday, September 19, as an important day for offerings to be taken for the purpose of supplying missions school and institutions with indoor equipment.
The Etta Calhoun Fund is now known as the Touch the World Fund and is still observed on the Sunday closest to Calhoun’s birthday. One of its many projects for the Sept. 17, 2017, offering is to provide beds and mattresses, couches, tables, chairs, a refrigerator and a stove to Timothy’s Abode, a missionary training school in Catamayo, Ecuador, under the direction of missionaries Ron and Esther Marcotte.
Read an article about the 1969 Etta Calhoun offering on page 14 of the Sept. 14, 1969, Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “On Course for God" by Norman Correll
• “Christ is Our Priest" by T. J. Jones
• “The Great Revival of 1857" by Harold A. Fischer
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.