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This Week in AG History -- June 21, 1970

Harold Carpenter, killed in a car accident in January, was called by God as a young man more than 70 years ago, and made missions service his life's work from that point on.

Harold Ray Carpenter (1939-2024), along with his faithful wife, Myrna, served as missionaries in Bolivia, French Guiana, and Ecuador, and trained hundreds of young people in the United States and in South America for missions service. Reading seven languages and preaching fluently in four, Carpenter served the Assemblies of God missions program for nearly 60 years.

Living in Paris, Arkansas, the Carpenter family attended the Assembly of God church until they moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas, when the family stopped attending church. Despite having little encouragement from his parents, Carpenter continued to attend church and in 1952 gave his life to Christ. In 1954, he was baptized in the Holy Spirit and felt a call to ministry. Never one to let moss grow under his feet, the 14-year-old began looking for places to preach. Teaming up with his teenage cousin, Tommy Carpenter, they went anywhere that someone would listen to them.

In a Christ’s Ambassador’s youth meeting later that same year, Carpenter heard a message from Psalm 2:8, “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” The young man saw a vision of himself riding a mule around a mountain and viewing a small village in Ecuador. He heard the Lord say to him, “You will serve me here.” From that moment on, he never thought of doing anything else.

He continued to preach all through high school and took every Spanish class and course on Latin American history he could find that was offered in Fort Smith. In 1956, he wrote to the Assemblies of God missions department to let them know he was ready to go: “I will be a senior in high school when school starts again. I feel that God has called me to be a missionary to Ecuador, particularly to the Jivaro Indians. It would please me very much if you could send me some information about mission work in Ecuador.”

Carpenter received a letter back from Secretary for Latin America Melvin Hodges stating that Ecuador was the only Spanish-speaking country of South America where the Assemblies of God did not have missionaries and encouraged him to go to the library to learn more about the Jivaro Indians. He then gave him a “to-do list”: graduate high school, attend Bible school, and get some practical experience in ministry. He also recommended that the young man get married.

During his senior year of high school, Carpenter received credentials with the Arkansas district. However, when he told his father that he was going to Bible school, his father became angry and beat him. That night, Carpenter took a suitcase and hitchhiked to Dallas where he took a summer job to earn money to attend Southwestern Bible Institute (SBI, now Nelson University) in Waxahachie, Texas. There he met Myrna Haldaman and they were married in 1958.

Upon Harold’s graduation with a three-year degree from SBI, the Carpenters began pastoring in Magazine, Arkansas in 1960 to receive practical ministry experience. When he contacted Hodges to let him know that he had done all the things asked of him, Hodges recommended that he return to SBI to complete one more year of schooling for a bachelor’s degree. When this was done in 1962, the young couple traveled to Springfield, Missouri, and went directly to the home of Hodges where Carpenter showed him the letter and said, “Okay, I’m ready to go.”

Hodges felt that the 22-year-old needed a little more experience, so the Carpenters went back to Arkansas where they pastored in Violet Hill and Harriet for two more years. During this time, Carpenter worked as a machinist, molder, and schoolteacher while pastoring.

In June of 1964, the Carpenters finally received full appointment as Assemblies of God missionaries with the Arkansas district and were approved for itineration. During these years, there was only one other Assembly of God missionary from the Arkansas district who was also itinerating. The veteran missionary, Jay W. Tucker, took the young Carpenter under his wing and traveled with him, introducing him to pastor after pastor.

After traveling together for two months, Carpenter drove the Tucker family to the airport for their return to the Belgian Congo. That morning, the newspaper carried an article about uprisings in the Congo. Carpenter asked his mentor if he thought this was a good time to go, concerned that with all the upheaval “you might not come back again.” Tucker looked at the young, enthusiastic missionary-in-training and said, “Harold, I was called to go. Nothing was said about coming back.”

In just three months, Jay W. Tucker was brutally killed by Congolese rebels. His story, shared so painfully by his wife, Angeline, greatly impacted the Arkansas district with a zeal to see their veteran missionary replaced on the field. With this newly added determination, the Carpenters were fully funded just one month later and left in December 1964 for language school in Costa Rica.

Over the decades spent in missions service, Carpenter continued to prepare himself for ever deepening ministry, receiving another bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas, as well as two master’s degrees and a doctorate in missiology, all while planting churches, building Bible schools, and serving in national leadership. Along the way, he also managed to contract typhoid, malaria, tropical sprue, cholera, hepatitis, and tuberculosis. The toll on his body only made him more determined to work while the opportunity was before him.

In 1982, Carpenter began serving as a professor of missions at Central Bible College (CBC) in Springfield, Missouri, seeking to train those who would eventually replace him on the field. Much as he received training and encouragement from Tucker during those months together in 1964, Carpenter traveled with many students giving them practical missions experience. Alongside the class content of missions philosophy, Carpenter shared stories that often left his students in both tears and laughter. He retired from CBC in 2002 and then continued to teach graduate courses for the European Theological Seminary and the Latin American Theological Seminary.

Throughout his ministry, he preached on five continents and in 51 countries. In the fall of 2023, at age 84, he traveled to Mexico for ministry. Upon his return home, he began seeking God for the next assignment when, in January 2024, he was killed in an automobile accident in Springfield, Missouri, having fulfilled the promise he made to Melvin Hodges in 1962, “I purpose to make missions service my life’s work and I’m ready to go.”

Read the report of the missions class of 1970, including Harold and Myrna Carpenter, on page 31 of the June 21, 1970, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue

• “The Teenager Who Made It,” by George Holmes

• “Praying After This Manner,” by Anne Sandberg

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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.