Elva K. Stump (1885-1985) was a trained nurse and a pioneer Assemblies of God minister. Most of her ministry was in Ohio, but she also spent time in the 1930s ministering in rural West Virginia, where she helped pioneer both white and African-American congregations.
Stump had a very full life. A nurse by profession, she graduated from the Episcopal Hospital in Philadelphia. At age 29, she married a widower (Thomas), who had one child from his previous marriage. Thomas and Elva had four more children. In about 1926, she began serving as Sunday School superintendent of the Maple Avenue Mission (Church of the Brethren) in Canton, Ohio.
Elva Stump’s life changed dramatically in 1928, when she was 43 years old. She developed a spinal infection, which doctors told her would result in paralysis and death. Her suffering was intense, and the doctors gave her up to die.
However, Stump and her fellow Christians held a round-the-clock prayer vigil at her bedside. Stump came to believe that her illness was God’s way to teach her to submit to His will. The Lord reminded her of John 15:2, “Every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” This realization changed her attitude and gave her peace. She changed the way she prayed, “I am not asking You to heal me for my friends, my family, or the mission, but only for Your glory and honor.” After she prayed in this way, she experienced a supernatural touch and was healed. She wrote about her healing in the June 21, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
She recalled, “I raised my head, took my left hand and ran it down my spine — no pain! I threw back the covers with my left hand and foot, and moved every toe on that foot — something I had not done for months. I got out of bed and walked to the bathroom, walking heavily to see if sensation was really in my feet again.” Her nurse, hearing the commotion, thought that Stump was having a convulsion and dying. But the nurse came into her room and found Stump “walking and shouting and praising the Lord.”
Through this experience, Stump learned to submit to God’s will, whether it be easy or difficult. When she felt God calling her to leave Ohio to go minister to the unchurched of rural West Virginia, she heeded the call.
Stump became a credentialed minister with the Assemblies of God in 1932, at age 47. The Jan. 18, 1936, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel reported on Stump’s evangelistic endeavors. She was a 50-year-old female Pentecostal pastor, before it was acceptable in the broader society to be a female pastor, much less a Pentecostal.
Stump arrived in the community of Mud Lick, West Virginia, where she began holding gospel services in a building worthy of the town’s name — “an old forsaken schoolhouse.” The article recounted her humble accommodations: “Here she lived in a cabin set up on stilts, slept on the floor, and sat very still when she read so the wasps would not sting.” It was uncomfortable, but Stump learned to submit to God’s will. The results? The article reported, “The Lord owned this meeting, and men and women and some children found Him.”
Stump next held six weeks of meetings in the community of Sand Fork, where she was given a parsonage and an abandoned church. She left the believers after she secured a “very spiritual pastor” to shepherd the flock. Next, she helped establish a church and a “faith home” at Bealls Mills and an African-American congregation in Butcher Fork. She then went to the coal fields and held tent meetings in Gilmer, Pittsburg-Franklin, and MacKay. The tireless evangelist proceeded to St. Mary’s, where she held meetings at a community church. The January 1936 article noted that Stump planned to return to St. Mary’s and also start a work in Glenville.
Stump and her energetic ministry colleagues planted or rejuvenated these West Virginia churches, from Mudlick to Glenville, in the course of one year. Her colleague, Minnie Allensworth, remarked, “This is the result of one year’s absolute surrender to the Lord.”
Pentecostal pioneers such as Elva Stump often did so much with so little. What could happen in one year if Pentecostals learned to surrender all to the Lord, just as Stump did?
Read the entire article, “New Work in West Virginia,” by Minnie Allensworth, on page 12 of the Jan. 18, 1936, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “Some Things a Pastor Cannot Do” by Ernest S. Williams
• “Our Daily Bread” by Lilian Yeomans
And many more!
Elva Stump’s testimony of her healing, published on page 9 of the June 21, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, is accessible by clicking here.
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
Source: AG News