Pentecostal Pioneers: Warren L. Womble
By Maureen Michael
Visitors to the United Pentecostal Church in Paoli, Oklahoma, scarcely notice the modest frame house located across the street. The fresh paint, the neatly tended flower beds, and the manicured lawn indicate that the residents of the house believe it is important to keep their home in order. Those who know the elderly couple who live there know that attention to detail about natural things is an extension of their diligent, careful, and faithful walk with God.
On a wall in the house hangs a distinctive plaque that looks formal and slightly out of place among the personal treasures and ornaments accumulated over the years. It hangs over a comfortable chair where a silver-haired man sits, and it means a great deal to him. The plaque reads: “A salute to fifty years of service in the ministry–For integrity and character–Devotion to duty–Excellent standards-Exemplary leadership–Proclamation of truth.” The United Pentecostal Church International presented this plaque to Warren L. Womble in his ninety fifth year.
Born Warren Linnie Womble on October 11, 1890, along with his twin brother, John Henry, at Lono, Arkansas, he soon became acquainted with the hardships of life. His grandparents had migrated from Tennessee to homestead in the south-central part of Arkansas in 1885. His parents, John Warren and Malinda Womble, moved to southeast Texas, where his father died an untimely death just a few months before the birth of the twin boys. He is buried in what was known as the Whiterock Cemetery near Crockett, Texas.
After his father’s death, his mother returned to Arkansas, where he was born. Without a father, he would also not know the love of a mother, for the record shows his mother died on October 15, 1890, just four days after his birth, leaving four orphaned children to the mercies of the world. His own recollections of his early childhood and the following years are told in his own words:
“My brother and I, though twins, were not at all identical. He was said to be fair complexioned, and his hair had a red cast, while I was dark skinned with black hair. My oldest sister, our sometime babysitter, said I cried excessively, but my brother was very quiet. We did not have the pleasure of growing up together and sharing our blessings and troubles with each other, for in a short time we were separated. Our paternal grandparents, John Jabus and Sarah Elizabeth (Sasser) Womble, took the oldest girl and my brother. Our maternal grandparents took the youngest girl and me. Then in 1892, at the age of eighteen months, my brother passed away.
“My sister and I lived on the old homestead with our grandmother, an uncle, and two aunts. The surrounding country was very sparsely settled. Three miles south stood our post office, and about the same distance the other way sat the one-room school we attended. Only three dwellings dotted the distance between our house and the school. Often it was dark before we got home.
“Those who cared for us did the best they could. They supplied our needs as they were able. Best of all, my grandmother was a devout Christian and read her Bible. When older people visited, they sat and talked about the Scriptures. I listened wholeheartedly. She instilled what she knew about the Word of God into my very being, and it has never left me. When I sought the Lord in 1922 for a closer walk with Him, I had a vision in which my grandmother appeared very vividly. We attended the Clear Creek Methodist Church.
“After a short time, our uncle left us and went to Friendship, Arkansas. I loved Uncle Jacob Samuel Bailey and was glad when he came to visit us. The two aunts took over the responsibility of farming the old place. But by the help of a good old neighbor, Uncle Mack Phillips, who advised and did some hauling for us, we made it. After a number of years, my uncle bought a place at Friendship and moved us there in April 1901.
“Everything was different here. He took full responsibility and we were just helpers. The land was fertile here on the Ouachita River. A good farmer and a hard worker, my uncle taught me a lot about
farming. I helped him do anything I was big enough to do. He told others he’d as soon have me to help on the farm as any man in Friendship. That made me feel grown up. We forded the river to the farm when it was low enough; if not we crossed on the ferry. Finally the county built a bridge. The school was much better here. We had a four room grade school, two churches, a post office, and stores not far from us. “I attended the Methodist church in this little village. At one time, Mrs. Deal, wife of the school principal, was my Sunday school teacher. She encouraged me to attend church regularly, saying she saw something within me that, if cultivated, would make a useful man of God. But I am sorry to say, I did not altogether take her advice, for I drifted with a rough element for a while, though never to extremes.”
As a young man Brother Womble attended telegraph school and got a job as an apprentice to a telegraph operator on the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Even though he was not a Christian at this time, he soon knew that it was not best for him to spend his life around the rough element that followed the railroad. God guided him another direction. In the following years he farmed and taught school for about fifteen years.
Then God began to bring about events that radically changed his destiny. Near the little town of Friendship, Arkansas, there were two churches of the most common denominations prevalent in that day. As almost everyone in the community did, he attended one of those churches. But God had other plans.
Soon the tranquility of traditional religion in the little community was disturbed. A preacher of a “new gospel” arrived on the scene, C. P. Kilgore. Traveling in a team and wagon, his family almost perished fording a rain-swollen creek on the edge of town. The wagon was swept downstream by the rushing torrent, and for perilous moments it looked as if disaster could not be averted. But the Lord delivered the family from the churning waters, and they journeyed on into town.
The “storm” was not over for the evangelist, however, as his message did not please the denominational churches in the area. Denied the opportunity to preach in these churches, he began preaching the Apostolic message in storefronts, on porches, and finally in an open air tabernacle constructed with whatever material was available.
During this time God began to deal with Brother Womble. He reflected on his own recollections of events leading to his conversion: “Even though I attended another church, I began to feel drawn to the tabernacle. I began to search the Scriptures to disprove the doctrine preached there. My studies only confirmed it. I began attending the services, and before long I was baptized in the name of Jesus and received the Holy Ghost on August 31, 1922. God also permitted me to see a glorious vision. I saw an angel standing with his back to me. Over his shoulder, I saw a large book with clean, white pages. As I watched, the angel took a pen and, in large bold letters, wrote my name plainly in the Book of Life. In the background, I saw my grandmother.
“Soon after this I definitely felt my call to the ministry. Now I understood why I had never really succeeded in any of my former undertakings.”
God did not intend for Brother Womble to enter the ministry alone. On October 17, 1928, he married Lona Kizziar, who helped for many years on the field. A daughter, Maureen, and a son, John, were born during the Depression years.
Brother Womble took the lead in his home church when it had no pastor. He taught the Bible class and conducted cottage services. He was ordained to the ministry at Arkadelphia, Arkansas, in 1936 by C. E.
Carter, S. L. Wise, and C. A. Pyatt.
Brother Womble pastored churches throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma. During the early years there was little income from pastoring the small country churches, so he worked at farm labor. On one occasion he worked for the Work Projects Administration to meet the needs of his family. Despite the meager income the Lord wonderfully provided, and there was always food on the table. Often one member of the church brought a pig, another corn, and along with the garden produce and eggs, the family always managed. Money, however, remained scarce.
Pioneer ministers learned to trust God completely for even bare necessities of life. Every church was a “home mission” church. Many memories of people and places, joys and sorrows, and an era perhaps never to be repeated, still linger today. All-day services on Mother’s Day, with dinner under the shade of giant oak trees, were special times when life did not move at the hectic pace it does today.
One of the special joys for Brother and Sister Womble has always been the cards, letters, and occasional visits from the second and third generation of former saints that they have pastored. Many of them are in the ministry and work of the Lord today.
One significant fact in Brother Womble’s ministry is that he pastored every church at least twice, with the exception of the church he was pastoring when he retired. He left each church with a good report and was welcomed back if the Lord led in that direction. He is pleased that, of all the couples he has married over the years, hedoes not know of a single divorce.
Brother Womble served as presbyter of Oklahoma District Section 5 in 1955. Over the years he has been a prolific writer. A frequent contributor of articles to the Beacon, he has also written a book on the plan of salvation. His ministry through the written word has touched many.
Brother Womble retired from pastoral work in 1957. Since that time he and Sister Womble have resided in Paoli, where they have remained faithful to their home church. He has this to say about those years: “My wife and I, who have shared the blessings and troubles of life together for the past years, are just waiting and serving the best we can, looking for ‘that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13) to convey us to that perfect place, our eternal abode. ‘We are journeying unto the place of which the LORD said, I will give it you: come thou with us’ (Numbers 10:29).”
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS COMPILED BY MARY H. WALLACE, AND PUBLISHED BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1992, PAGES 281-287. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.