This Week in AG History -- January 2, 1926
John Eric Booth-Clibborn, a 29-year-old Assemblies of God missionary, laid down his life in the French West African colony of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) on July 8, 1924. He died from dysentery and malaria only two weeks after he, his pregnant wife Lucile, and their young daughter arrived on the mission field.
Eric's death came as a shock, not only to his family, but also to their friends and supporters around the world. Eric's family was well known in evangelical and Pentecostal circles. He was the grandson of Salvation Army founder William Booth and the son of Pentecostal author and evangelist Arthur Booth-Clibborn. Articles in the Pentecostal Evangel and other periodicals mourned his passing.
A remarkable testimony of faith emerged from Eric’s tragic death. His widow, Lucile, wrote an account of their lives and short ministry, titled "Obedient unto Death." General Superintendent George O. Wood calls Lucile's story, published in the January 2, 1926, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, "one of the most gripping accounts of faith in the history of this Movement."
The young widow dealt with her grief by replaying in her mind every moment she had with Eric. Lucile recalled that she and Eric gathered with fellow believers just prior to their departure for Africa. Together, they prayed and sang a tune composed by Eric’s mother, Catherine Booth-Clibborn. The words of that song prefigured Eric's impending sacrifice:
"At Thy feet I fall
Yield Thee up my all
To suffer, live or die
For my Lord crucified."
Lucile’s article recounted in great detail their voyage and ministry together in Africa. She also described gut-wrenching moments at Eric's funeral. Her emotional wounds remain palpable: "Then after a word of prayer, the top was put on the coffin and the nails hammered in. You can imagine the pain that shot through my heart at each pound of the hammer."
Reflecting on her pain, Lucile wrote that she did not regret going to Africa, "even though it tore from me the beloved of my heart."
Lucile courageously viewed her loss through faith-filled eyes, seeing Eric's death as an opportunity for God to be glorified. She wrote: "I realize that present missionary success is greatly due to the army of martyrs who have laid down their lives on the field for the perishing souls they loved so much ... It has been said that a lonely grave in faraway lands has sometimes made a more lasting impression on the lives and hearts of the natives than a lifetime of effort; that a simple wooden cross over a mound of earth has spoken more eloquently than a multitude of words."
The Assemblies of God in Burkina Faso remembers John Eric Booth-Clibborn as a hero of the faith who gave his life to follow God's call. Today, the Assemblies of God is the largest Protestant fellowship in Burkina Faso, with over 4,500 churches and preaching points serving over 1.2 million believers.
Read Lucile Booth-Clibborn's article, "Obedient unto Death," on pages 12 -14 and 20 of the January 2, 1926, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• "A Passion for Christ and for Souls," by George Hadden
• "How Pentecost Came to Barquisimeto," by G. F. Bender
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.