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November 2012: The Word on Wheels

The Godmobile, designed and created for evangelist Nels Thompson for evangelist Nels Thompson. Note the pulpit in the back. The vehicle traveled over 200,000 miles in evangelistic ministry .

Nels Thompson was an independent evangelist in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. He had a vision that joined his ministry with Americans' newly discovered love of their automobiles. He would paint evangelistic messages on a land yacht (what would later be termed an RV) and drive it across the country. The story was covered by Popular Science magazine in December 1916.

Thompson continued to use cars this way. One of the most impressive was nicknamed the Godmobile. It was modified by an Hollywood architect, Ken Reese, who had been saved through Reese' preaching and followed him into the ministry. After Thompson's death in 1935, Reese (who married Thompson's daughter) continued the work in the Godmobile, until he and his family finally settled down in Idaho in the early 1960s.

On this page are some photos, apparently all from the early and mid-1930s, of the Godmobile and other cars used by Thompson and Reese. These materials were donated by Richard Arndt of Sonora California who passed away on October 6, 2012.  Richard was the son of John Arndt, who had also been saved at one of Thompson's tent meetings in Portland, Oregon. John worked for the evangelist as a driver, mechanic and handyman. Thompson performed the wedding service for John to his wife Maxene.  Richard was Director of Advising and Testing Services at California State University, Fresno, and active in many charitable activities, including child foster care and prison ministry.  The Archives staff is honored that he entrusted these photos to the Archives so that they would be available to others.

Nels Thompson is the first man on the left
PF: Thompson, Nels
1936 tent meeting in Sacramento, California, probably led by Ken Reese
PF: Thompson, Nels
PF: Thompson, Nels

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Last Revised: 11/01/12
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2012