John Francis Rowlands was a Pentecostal missionary in Natal, South Africa. Rowlands was born in Bristol, England, of Quaker parents. In 1921 his family immigrated to South Africa, where they became Pentecostals. In 1931 Rowlands formed Bethesda Temple in Durban, “a house of prayer for all nations,” though the work was to be primarily among Indians. The church joined the Full Gospel Church of God and Rowlands was ordained as one of its ministers. The work grew rapidly, and Indian pastors and evangelists were trained and appointed. Some seventy branch churches were formed in Natal, as well as additional churches in India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Nepal, Malaysia, and Mauritius. The impact of this work upon the local community was such that in 1938 some Hindus threatened to burn down the Bethesda churches and kill Rowlands, which led to police protection. His strategy was not to condemn other religions but to foster pride in national culture by showing slides of his visits to India; to oppose all racist laws of the government, particularly the Group Areas Act, which uprooted thousands of Indians; and to organize large campaigns, giving pictorial presentations of the gospel. When Rowlands died there were 30,000 members in various branches of the work.
Norman H. Cliff
G. C. Oosthuizen, Moving to the Waters–50 Years of Pentecostal Revival in Bethesda (1975).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.