Willis Collins Hoover, History of the Pentecostal Revival in Chile translation and personal memoir by Mario G. Hoover (Santiago: Imprenta Eben-Ezer, 2000). 293 pps. ISBN: 0-9678759-0-0.
The Pentecostal revival in Chile was one of the defining moments for several groups. For the Methodist Episcopal Church, it marked a definitive missiological decision to avoid revivalism and Pentecostalism and to exorcise those elements from its midst; for Chileans, it demonstrated that a Chilean church could survive and prosper; for Pentecostals it was proof that Pentecostalism was more complex than a formula of American revivalist experience. In the midst of the events of 1909-1911 (and until his death in 1936) was the towering figure of Willis Collins Hoover. Hoover had gone to Chile as a missionary with the Holiness “Self-Supporting Mission of William Taylor.” This was a Wesleyan/Holiness mission enterprise that was later incorporated into the Methodist Episcopal Church under the control of the Methodist Episcopal Mission Board. After the revival broke out, Hoover was forced to leave the Methodist Episcopal Church. Then, influenced by the Chileans who had experienced Pentecostal Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and encouraged by his wife, Hoover accepted the call to pastor the fledgling Pentecostal church and to guide it in its new reality.
Despite the worldwide fame of Hoover and the importance of the revival, his book discussing those events, published in Spanish in 1930, was not translated for seventy years! There are probably interesting reasons why that translation was delayed, but now thanks to Hoover’s grandson, Mario G. Hoover, those whose Spanish is not sufficient to read the original can not have access to the narrative. Parts of that text were published as contributions to the periodical El Chile Pentecostal before they were gathered into a book. The book is rich in primary sources. Extensive quotations are provided from the documents that deal with Hoover’s judgement and condemnation by the Bishop, Methodist Episcopal missionaries and Mission Board of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
However, this book is far more than a translation of Hoover’s Avivamiento. Also included are translations of five theological articles written by Hoover and published in Chile. Three of these were editorials in the periodical El Chile Pentecostal. These essays deal with theological themes. The first, “Ecclesia—Church (pps. 130-137), defends the separation of the Pentecostal churches from the other churches. The second, “Christian Love,” (pps. 138-144) argues against ecumenical involvement with those who belittle the Pentecostal revival. The third, “The Poison of the Old Serpent,” (pps. 145-151) argues that the upper classes are not privileged with either regard to goodness or evangelism. He summarized his thesis: “[God] always wants that our faith be not in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (p. 150).” The other two articles are translations of articles published in the periodical Fuego de Pentecostes. The first, entitled “El Chile Pentecostal,” discussed the origin and development of the periodical that served as the primary Pentecostal organ of communication and theological reflection for decades. The second article, “Who Are these Pentecostals,” gives Hoover’s perspective on the Pentecostal movement as well as autobiographical data.
Finally, and most importantly, there is the personal reflection of Mario Hoover on his Grandfather Willis Hoover. Mario’s father was Carlos A. Gómez who married Hoover’s oldest daughter, Helen. When Mario was but a child his father died and he and his siblings were raised as the children of Willis Hoover and adopted his name. Thus Mario Hoover’s first seventeen years were spent in the home of Willis Hoover. The recollections, some telling, others poignant, others ordinary, reveal aspects of Willis Hoover that we could otherwise not know. The resulting picture does not change the standard historiography, but it does nuance the figure of Hoover. Willis Hoover died on Mario’s eighteenth birthday. A useful selection of photographs is included (pp. 276-288).
While the book is of significant usefulness, the true added value of this translation is the memoirs of Mario G. Hoover. These add significantly to our knowledge both of the Pentecostal revival in Chile and of the revivalist. The translated volume will now hopefully find its way to the desks of scholars of Pentecostalism. Despite the fact that it has been available for seven decades, North American or European scholars have rarely cited it. It is hoped that this will now be changed. These same scholars will be frustrated at the lack of full citations for the articles translated. It will also perhaps give impetus to new scholarly work on the beginnings of Pentecostalism in Chile. North American and European scholars who seek to classify all of Pentecostalism as an American export need to learn from this volume that the issue of the origins of Pentecostalism is quite more complicated than has generally been allowed.
Dr. David Bundy
Christian Theological Seminary
Indianapolis, IN 46308