Pentecostal Pioneers: Guy R. Homes

Pentecostal Pioneers: Guy R. Homes
From the July, 1976, Voice of Pentecost William Turner, Editor

The July 1976 issue of the Arizona district paper carried an article about Arizona’s Apostolic pioneers. The paper recapped the story of the outbreak of the Pentecostal movement beginning in Topeka, Kansas, about the turn of the century. The revival spread across the nation to Houston, Texas, to Azusa Street in Los Angeles, back to the Midwest, to the east, and around the world. The article included remarks about a number of significant leaders.

One such man was Guy R. Homes, Sr., a young Wisconsin minister who sometime before 1914 had received the Holy Ghost and soon afterward faced opposition from his own family for his stand on the oneness of the Godhead. Like so many others of his time, the fire of revelation was burning too brightly for him to sit still. With his brother and their families, Brother Homes headed west, at first for Texas, where jobs would support a missionary work. But God had other plans. It soon became clear to him that the Lord intended for him to move on, so that in the year 1914, the first known Oneness Pentecostal preacher arrived in Arizona.

Guy R. Homes settled his family in Phoenix, a logical choice as the capital had a central location in the state. A carpenter by trade, Homes secured work and a home for his family. He located on the west side of the city, near the state fairgrounds, then on the edge of town.

Phoenix presented a strange environment to the Homes’. It had hot, dusty summers but no modern inventions of evaporative coolers or air conditioners.

For a home Brother Homes found an old wood frame store with living quarters in the back. It faced Grand Avenue and the irrigation canal, near the intersection of Grand Avenue and McDowell Road, only a brief walk from the streetcar stop at six points. Orange groves and canal systems crisscrossed the urban area. A hallway separated the living area from the adjoining rooms of another family. Their mission chapel met in the storefront.

Prayer preceded every major step in the lives of the Homes’. They took their mission seriously; it represented an outpost for truth. So Brother and Sister Homes entered their new quarters in fervent prayer and rebuked the devil from room to room as they settled in.

For the next ten years or so, Brother Homes remained practically the only voice for truth in Arizona. (Another pioneer in the 1920’s was a Brother Connelly. Unfortunately, little could be learned of his ministry. He apparently arrived some years after Brother Homes.)

Brother Homes and his brother soon parted over the question of the Godhead–Brother Homes standing firmly for the one God message, his brother and others in the family holding to a doctrine of two persons in the Godhead. The “two God” movement, in fact, flourished through the late 1920’s in the Phoenix area.

The mission work on Grand Avenue continued on. In the summertime services were held outside on the lawn. A horse trough served as a baptismal tank. Slowly but steadily the work of God began to grow.

Brother Homes had helpers, particularly in later years, but one of his chief supporters was a daughter, Virginia. She would later become the wife of Brother G. E. Wesson, superintendent of the Arizona District of the United Pentecostal Church for many years.

By the mid thirties other Oneness outposts were established in the Phoenix area. One was known as the Sawdust Mission on East Washington. Later on, others came, such as Alice Sheets and her husband, who before and after their work in Phoenix at a location known as the Sunshine Mission carried the gospel as missionaries to China.

After years of standing alone, the chance for fellowship was precious to the Homes’. When they could, they and those who worked with them gave a helping hand to the other outposts of truth.

By the 1930s Brother Homes had carved out a small church that held on determinedly to the Apostles’ doctrine, and his unswerving loyalty to the truth became a lighthouse for others. In those days no organized fellowship had emerged in Arizona, and not every mission work had such strong leadership. Brother Homes himself had to rely on the gift of discernment at times to know when a false prophet had come to town. On more than one occasion a traveling evangelist would come by with a declaration that he was sent by God to minister to them. Sometimes it was so. Sometimes it was not.

At the Sawdust Mission, the situation had gotten out of hand. Temporarily without a qualified pastor, the little mission had allowed an evangelist to preach for them who soon began to espouse the Trinitarian position on the Godhead. Further, the man had fallen into the error of snake handlers-those who “proved their faith” by handling poisonous snakes during church services.

The snake-handling evangelist soon had the people under his control and was drawing large crowds. He then began to mock those who preached baptism in Jesus’ name and the oneness of the Godhead, declaring that if God were truly with the Oneness people, then someone from their ranks would have the faith to handle a deadly snake. One of the sisters in the church who was not fooled traveled across town one day to the Grand Avenue Mission in search of help. Working with Brother Homes at the time was Brother Peter Shebley, about twenty-one years old, newly married and zealous for the truth. The woman came to him, explained the situation, and asked for help.

Thinking that truth would not stand such reproach, the young man agreed to come. From then until the next service Brother and Sister Shebley fasted and prayed. He did not believe in snake-handling, but he was determined that if it were necessary, he would do even that to dispel the influence and break the teeth of the “grievous wolf” who had come in among the flock of God.

The night of the service, he took a front-row seat. To his relief, the wooden box in which the rattlesnakes were normally kept was not in its usual position in front of the pulpit. He looked around the platform but the box was gone.

When the service was turned to the snake handler, he seemed befuddled. “There’s been a conspiracy,” he declared. “There’s not a snake to be found in that whole desert. Something’s gone wrong.” Suddenly the crowd turned against him, perhaps assuming that he had grown fearful and lacked the faith to produce a snake.

Brother Shelley his opportunity. He rose to his feet and declared the whole show had been an ungodly sham. His words struck home, and for the rest of the service, the young man of God was the undisputed master of the situation. He did not dismiss the crowd but he preached. The message was the mighty God in Christ, repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name, the infilling of the Holy Ghost, holiness, the whole counsel of God. The enemy had been defeated because a young pioneer had dared to defend the gospel.

Such incidents led godly men to the realization that organized fellowship was needed as a bulwark against false doctrine. Out of that conviction later would emerge the United Pentecostal Church International, its ministers bound willingly to a high standard of ministerial ethics and an unswerving commitment to the fundamental doctrines of the church.

Even without the snake handlers, Pentecost in those days was hardly accepted in the upper levels of society. Speaking in tongues was not the fashionable phenomenon that it is today, and opposition,
although not often physical, was everywhere present in the form of false accusations and verbal abuse. On one occasion, young Virginia Homes walked home in tears after a schoolmate accused the Pentecostals of drinking blood in their services. Others held that preachers had some kind of magical powders in their handkerchiefs. All the mopping of the brow while preaching was merely a diversionary tactic for scattering those powders on the people to make them act so strangely. Across town, opposition was continual for one work in east Phoenix during some years of the 1930s. Vandalism, rock throwing, and other interruptions during services were a constant occurrence. And yet, souls were hungry and God was moving.

Brother Homes had a Sunday school. Phillip Diller, uncle of North Phoenix pastor Clyde Diller, served as Sunday school superintendent. The youngsters at about primary age were in the “card class.” Their lesson verse was written on the side of a four-by-five card with a picture depicting the lesson scene on the other side. All the classes were held in one room, quite a challenge for students and teachers.

Through the years, Grand Avenue Mission never grew to be very large, but the work remained, staying open when other efforts in later years did not always enjoy such staying power. In 1935, Brother Homes left the Phoenix area and took his family to Atlanta, Georgia, working in a church established by T. C. Montgomery.

In 1938, the burden for the Arizona work once again called him and the family returned. But within a few years, age and hard work took its toll. In 1946, Brother Homes ended his long and faithful pioneer ministry in Arizona. When Brother Homes left for retirement in California that year, Phoenix’s population had more than doubled to over 70,000 people since his arrival in 1922. Now other men were coming to take up the torch. A new era was beginning.