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This Week in AG History -- Feb. 17, 1923

Lilian B. Yeomans is a well-known, historic Pentecostal figure, but before her ministry ever began, drug addiction nearly took her life.

Lilian B. Yeomans (1861-1942), a Canadian physician, became one of the most prominent healing evangelists in the early Pentecostal movement. Her remarkable ministry resulted from her own deliverance from the downward spiral of drug addiction. After she found spiritual and physical healing in the power of Jesus Christ, she committed herself to introducing others to the “Great Physician.”

The daughter of a Civil War surgeon, Yeomans was born in Ontario to a nominal Anglican family. Following in her father’s footsteps she entered medical school, first in Canada and then in the United States, graduating from the University of Michigan Department of Medicine in 1882. 

Serving as the first female doctor in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Yeomans specialized in women’s and children’s health alongside her general medical practice. She was also active in humanitarian work and had a pressing social calendar.

Believing in the power of medical drugs to assist in health for daily living, she began to prescribe herself medication when she was stressed or having difficulty sleeping. Doses of sulphate of morphine and chloral hydrate provided occasional relief from the excessive strain of anxiety or overwork. However, the relief lasted only briefly and she found her occasional doses becoming a daily habit and then a life-controlling addiction.

In her book, Healing from Heaven, she described how drugs gradually took over her life: “I thought I was toying with the drug but one day I made the startling discovery that the drug, or rather the demon power [in] back of the drug, was playing with me.”

When she realized the hold the drugs had on her, she began to try to stop using them. She tried decreasing the dosage and even disposing of large amounts of the drugs in her possession. She later estimated that she had tried to conquer the habit at least 57 times through varying means, including self-control and willpower, quack medicine, and Christian Science mind-control.

Knowing that her drug addiction could soon kill her and not having confidence that she was ready to die, she turned to the Bible. She thought, I have tried everything that will-power and medical science and suggestion and all the rest can do, and there is absolutely no hope for me unless it lies between the covers of this Book.

In early January 1898, Yeomans moved into a Christian healing home in Chicago, Illinois, led by John Alexander Dowie. Her sister, Charlotte Amy, accompanied her as caretaker. Dowie did not believe in the use of doctors and immediately confiscated all her medicine, leaving her to face drug withdrawal using nothing but the power of prayer.

For almost two weeks, Yeomans felt herself close to death. On Jan. 12, someone encouraged her to try to get up and go to church. Believing the effort would kill her, she declined until she felt the voice of God telling her to get up and go. With the aid of her sister, she got out of bed and made the strenuous walk, feeling no difference in her body. However, on returning back to her room she began to feel better, as if God was waiting on an act of faith on her part to be the catalyst for healing.

After this experience with God through divine healing, Lilian and her sister both felt that they owed their lives to Him in service. They moved north of Winnipeg to do missionary work with the Cree IndiansAs the only doctor in the area, she treated both physical and spiritual needs. This work brought her into daily contact with the drugs she swore she would never use again. The constant pressure of her work and the demands of the people could easily have been too much to handle for the former morphine addict. Yet she found her healing complete, testifying that God enabled her to handle the drug in its proper use without feeling the desire for it herself.

When A.H. Argue brought the Pentecostal message to Manitoba, Canada, in 1907, Yeomans received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and soon became a fixture in the burgeoning Pentecostal movement in Calgary and later in the United States.

Yeomans was also a prolific writer. She wrote six books published by Gospel Publishing House, almost 100 articles published in the Pentecostal Evangel, and numerous tracts. 

In an article in the Feb. 17, 1923, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Yeomans contrasted the limitations of human medical remedies to the power of God, which can heal all diseases. She wrote, “[In] Back of disease lies a cause, and that cause no drug can reach. We know from the Bible that the cause of sickness – a process ending, if unchecked, in death – is sin … and this cause can be reached by one remedy only, the Precious blood of Jesus Christ.”

When Yeomans passed away at the age of 81, she had served as physician, missionary, evangelist, author, Bible school teacher, counselor, and encourager. She touched countless lives, preaching the gospel with a passion and conviction that only comes from knowing through firsthand experience that Jesus Christ is the Great Deliverer. 

Read Yeomans’ article, “Divine Healing,” on page 5 of the Feb. 17, 1923Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Soul Food for Hungry Saints,” by A.G. Ward

• “Deliverance to the Captives,” by Smith Wigglesworth

• “Little Is Much When God Is In It,” by Mrs. Cyril Bird

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

For a deeper look at Dr. Yeomans life see, “Encountering the Great Physician: The Life and Ministry of Dr. Lilian B. Yeomans,” by Desiree Rodgers in the 2015-2016 issue of Assemblies of God Heritage.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Ruthie Edgerly Oberg

Ruthie Edgerly Oberg is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and fourth generation Pentecostal. She served in senior and associate pastoral roles for 25 years. Oberg speaks at national conferences and local churches.