Mr. E.P. Field
Open Air Campaigners began in 1892 when a lawyer in Australia named E. P. Field, began preaching the Gospel in Sydney. He was concerned that the majority of Australians did not attend church. If someone did not take the Gospel to them, how would they ever hear? The group of people who came to help E.P. Field first called themselves the New South Wales Prayer Band. Later, the name Open Air Campaigners was adopted.
A Beach Sunday School
An early "gospel wagon"
Before the second world war, we were using Gospel Wagons so teams could quickly take the Gospel to many people. We used music, drama, puppets, object lessons and more to communicate clearly and powerfully to non-captive audiences.
The hymn writer from America, Homer Rodeheaver, visited in Sydney and reported: "I have been in the thick of evangelistic work for 20 years; Billy Sunday and I thought we had explored every avenue of doing God's work effectively, but I have come to Sydney only to discover we have more to learn. Those efficiently equipped vans eclipse anything in America." It was not until 1956 that Open Air Campaigners came to North America when an invitation came from Dr. Paul Smith of the Peoples Church in Toronto, Canada. The team toured for seven weeks, ministering in key cities in the United States and Canada.
Jim in the open air giving one
of his famous "boomerang" messages
Jim Duffecy led the initial team and had a profound impact upon the entire history of the work in North America. Mr. Duffecy and his dear wife, Joyce, were born in Sydney, Australia. He was converted to Christ at the age of twelve at an Open Air Campaigners meeting at Coogee Beach. Joyce was four years old when the Lord saved her in Sydney. For twelve years, Jim was employed as a photo engraver on the staff of "The Sydney Sun," one of Australia's largest newspapers. Joining the staff of Open Air Campaigners in 1940, Mr. Duffecy spent three and a half years working with the Australian Army.
Jim and Joyce Duffecy were greatly used of the Lord in establishing and expanding the work of Open Air Campaigners worldwide.
After World War II, he became a staff evangelist in Sydney before being appointed as Field Director for OAC. In this position, he opened the first overseas branch of Open Air Campaigners in New Zealand in 1954, then during 1956, led the team mentioned above to Canada and the USA, which spearheaded the commencement of the first North American branch in Chicago. Jim and Joyce moved their family to the States the next year where Jim became North American Director and later opened the New York City branch during the 1964 World's Fair. He was appointed International Director at the first International Conference of Open Air Campaigners in 1966 and in 1978 became the International President.
A present-day OAC evangelist preaching the gospel in downtown Philadelphia
Today, the ministry of OAC extends to over 19 countries around the world. In the USA, OAC has established branches in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Other Open Air Campaigners staff minister in Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wyoming.