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This Week in AG History -- July 15, 1973

The Maranatha Village in Springfield, Missouri, is home to many pioneers of the AG, with many of its residents still actively involved in ministry.

Fifty years ago, the Assemblies of God established Maranatha Village, a Christian retirement community in Springfield, Missouri. While Maranatha Village was initially founded to care for elderly Assemblies of God ministers, the ministry expanded to also serve non-ministers, and hundreds of people now live on its 100-acre campus.

In the early years of the Pentecostal movement, a strong belief in the imminent return of Christ sent ministers and missionaries into difficult places in the United States and around the world with the Pentecostal gospel message. Many of these ministers lived entirely by faith, with only enough to meet their daily needs. Their lives were spent for God with little thought to laying up materials things for their old age.

In 1946, it was recommended to the General Presbytery that the Assemblies of God (AG) establish a home for ministers who “have spent their strength and lives in the gospel ministry and now face their declining years with no place to go or without anyone to care for them.” This home became a reality in 1948 when the Pinellas Park Hotel and then Bethany Retirement Home was opened in Florida, adjacent to Southeastern Bible College.

When Southeastern Bible College (now Southeastern University) needed more land for expansion, 40 acres was purchased next to Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, for the construction of a new retirement home. Twenty-six of Bethany’s residents began the process of leaving Florida for Missouri. Making the transition with them was administrator Gordon Earls, who provided continuity as the new Springfield administrator.

In May of 1973, College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri, provided private air transportation, and the new Missouri residents were greeted at the Springfield airport by AG national office personnel, Central Bible College students, and many waiting friends. Fifty years ago this week, the Pentecostal Evangel highlighted the opening of the new facilities in its July 15, 1973, issue.

The name chosen for the facility was “Maranatha,” a greeting meaning “The Lord is Coming!” For centuries Christians used this greeting to remind each other that God’s people are people of hope for the future and the new residents of “Maranatha Lodge” (now Maranatha Retirement Village) were encouraged that, with God’s help, their future would be one surrounded with love and care. The first housing unit was a 120-bed facility which reached 100 percent occupancy in October of 1974.

Assemblies of God churches, ministers, and laypeople joined together to make Maranatha a pleasant place to provide for the physical care and spiritual nourishment of the residents. More than 120 churches and individuals provided furnishings through an “adopt a room” fundraiser. The National Women’s Ministries department purchased a van with a wheelchair lift so that residents could take trips in comfort.

Through the coming years, many of the Maranatha residents were alumni of their neighbor, Central Bible College, including Carolyn Unruh, a member of the first graduating class in 1923. This proximity to the college campus provided students with a deep well of ministry experience to draw from as they were exposed to AG pioneers, such as E.S. Williams, Ruth Plymire, Maynard Ketchum, and many others who served as chapel speakers, guest lecturers, and friendly next-door neighbors.

With Springfield being a crossroads of the nation for the AG, a steady stream of ministers, missionaries, and laypeople have made their way to Maranatha to seek counsel, visit old friends, provide fellowship, and attend events such as the 100th birthday party of Frank M. Boyd in 1983, the 97th birthday party of Stanley M. Horton in 2013, and the recent 100th birthday party of Owen Carr in 2023, which was attended by well over 250 guests.

While Maranatha Retirement Village has the word “retirement” in its name, many of its residents continued to work hard in service to the Lord and mankind every day. During the Florida years, they served as Sunday School teachers and personal evangelists in street ministry. Today, Maranatha residents continue in ministry, through such venues as grading papers for prisoners taking courses from Global University, serving as blood bank and election volunteers, working in crisis pregnancy centers, and filling pulpits in the Springfield area.

The retired ministers and missionaries also have a heart for generous giving. “Maranatha Mall,” an on-campus thrift store managed by Roger Perkin (age 89) and operating with a dedicated staff of resident volunteers, has brought in funds to provide an electric cart for the housekeeping staff, a power washer for the maintenance team, Christmas gifts for each employee, and $30,000 to purchase electric beds for residents in need.

Maranatha residents also support local, national, and global mission’s projects through their weekly chapel services with a 2022 missions giving total of $118,890. Chapel giving also covers the cost of summer camp for every employee’s child or grandchild and in 2023, provided scholarships for 10 Native American children to attend Bible camp in Montana.

Fifty years after its opening in 1973, Maranatha Village is a 100-acre home for both ministers and laypeople living in Christian fellowship. Whether in independent living homes, in assisted living apartments, or in the full-nursing care facility, these faithful Christians continue in service to God and the global Christian community.

Read the article “Lakeland, Florida, says Goodbye, Springfield, Missouri, says Hello!” on page 16 of the July 15, 1973, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Jesus Movement” by Owen Carr

• “Making Marriage Work” by Ida Clark

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Photo: Passengers deplane from DC 3 after the flight from Bethany Retirement Home in Lakeland, Florida, to Springfield Municipal Airport where they were welcomed to Maranatha Village; May 13, 1973. Rena Baldwin Lindsay is walking down the airplane stairs being assisted by Murlee Mizell, director of Nursing at Bethany, who accompanied the group to Springfield. Others are unidentified.

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.