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This Week in AG History -- March 15, 1947

A Methodist orphanage's director's baptism in the Holy Spirit ultimately led to famed missionaries Mark and Huldah Buntain establishing their ministry in Calcutta, India.

Maynard Ketcham (1905-1993) arrived in Purulia, India, in 1926 as the first Assemblies of God missionary to Bengal. His sweetheart, Gladys, arrived one year later. Together they served the people of North India and the far east until their retirement in 1969. 

In the March 15, 1947, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Ketcham told the story of Padda, one of the girls he and Gladys rescued from a life of “serving the gods” as a Hindu temple prostitute. He appealed to Evangel readers of the need to continue to develop the girl’s orphanage in Purulia to provide homes and education for girls like Padda. He sent a plea: “Who will help us?”

Ketcham, himself, was the answer to a similar plea for help in India 37 years earlier. 

About the same time of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street in California, a Methodist orphanage for girls on Elliot Road in Calcutta, India, experienced a similar outpouring. The respected director, Miss Fanny Simpson, noticed that the girls were gathering on their own in the prayer chapel. During these prayer times, the girls began to praise, to shout, and then to speak in unknown tongues and also reported seeing visions. Soon they were coming to her office and confessing sins of stealing rice and cheating on exams.

Simpson was in awe and wonderment and was not quite sure what to do about these occurrences. But the simple faith and joy of these little girls soon convinced her that even she needed more of Christ in her life. She soon knelt in the chapel, surrounded by orphans who were recently redeemed from Calcutta’s gutters, and received the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

As the girls began to tell others of what was happening in the Methodist orphanage it came to the attention of the bishop, and Simpson was dismissed from her leadership role and sent back to the United States. She was obedient to her superiors but her heart remained with the orphan girls of India.

Simpson became a musical evangelist for the Methodist church and made a practice of inviting those who were interested in learning more about the secret to true spiritual power to stay after the service where she offered prayer for the fullness of the Spirit.

During one of these “extra services,” Inda Ketcham, a widow from Eastport, Long Island, came to her for prayer. Simpson prayed for the widow who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit but her attention was drawn to the wiggly 5-year old boy standing behind his mother. Asking for his name, Simpson laid her hands on the young boy and prophesied, “Maynard Ketcham will be the missionary who one day will take Pentecost to Calcutta and all of Bengal and beyond.”

While young Maynard did not appreciate the significance of this event, his mother did. She filled their home with missionary magazines and story books of the great sagas of missionary adventures. Simpson also kept in touch with the family and kept them in her constant prayers.

After turning down scholarships to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Ketcham graduated from Beulah Heights Bible and Missionary Training School in New Jersey, where he met and courted Gladys Koch. Soon he received a letter from Simpson, who had laid aside her own funds and returned to India. She had purchased property for a missions compound in Purulia, 200 miles west of Calcutta, and wrote to Ketcham, “Remember, Maynard, you are ordained of God to be the pioneer of Pentecost to Eastern India. The doors are open!”

Gladys Koch’s pastor felt she was too young to be a missionary so Ketcham set sail for India alone in 1926. Gladys followed one year later and they married in India in 1928. Using the land that Simpson purchased with money received from her mother’s estate, they opened the Door of Hope orphanage in Purulia, where young girls received a safe home, education, and training to take the gospel into one of the neediest nations on earth.

Fanny Simpson lived to see the fulfillment of the vision God had given her to provide God’s love and care to the orphaned girls of India and the place the young Maynard Ketcham would play in it. Maynard and Gladys became the first Assemblies of God missionaries to the Bengali-speaking area of Eastern India, which includes Calcutta and what was then called East Bengal.

But God was not done with her vision even then. When Ketcham became the Assemblies of God field director for the Far East he saw potential in a young evangelist and invited him to come to do missions work in Calcutta. The young man had invitations elsewhere but agreed to pray about Calcutta. In 1955, at the encouragement from Maynard Ketcham, evangelists Mark and Huldah Buntain moved to Calcutta. In a final twist, Buntain built a Pentecostal church on Elliot Road in Calcutta, across the street from the Methodist orphanage Simpson was forced to leave in 1907.

Read more about Ketcham’s call for help for the Purulia orphanage on page 8 of the March 15, 1947, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Grace Abounding,” by A.G. Ward

• “Wet Wood Among the Saints,” by Nelson Hinman

• “A Challenge to Christian Youth,” by E.S. Williams

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

IMAGE - Back row (left to right): Esther Olson, Virginia Watts, Gladys Ketcham. Sophie Erhardt is in the back row, far right; with some of the girls from the Purulia orphage.

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.