John Ayyapilla was born on April 16, 1877 in an aristocratic ancient Hindu Family of Travancore known as “Chempakasseril”. According to the Hindu calendar it was on the first day of the month Medam, which was religious holiday, called “Vishu” and therefore considered by the family as an auspicious birth. Chempakasseril family is one of the eight families collectively know as “Ettuveettil Pillamar”who were very prominent in the administration of Travancore State. Like Oliver Cromwell did in England these eight families jointly removed Maharaja of Travancore from his throne and took over the administration of the state on behalf of the people of that State. Thus a republic was started in Travencore but it did not last long. Again the Maharaja Marthandavarma took over the administration but many members of the syndicate of Ettuveettil Pillamar continued to hold high positions in the administration of the State.
As a scion of such a prominent family, Ayyapilla had special privileges. In those days Travancore State had only two English High Schools. One was the Government High School at Trivandrum where young Ayyapilla was sent to Study. Five boys from his home area were to travel by bullock cart for three days to reach schools and it was told those three days prior to the opening of the school, the family members and villagers came together to send off the young scholars to the distant school. Year after year this was the practice until they graduated from High School. One of Ayyapilla’s class mates and fellow traveler was Abraham who later became the Metropolitan bishop of the Mar Thoma Church. These two were good friends and the Christian upbringing of Abraham had a good impression on Ayyapilla’s mind. While they were in the senior class, a humble Christian preacher known as “ Kappiar Upadeshi”( a Deacan ) visited the young scholars in their hostel and started teaching them the Bible.. Being close friends, Ayyapilla joined Abraham and attended the Bible study. The Christian missionaries brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to India and Ayyapilla heard one of the messages from the Bible. This message was “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I shall give you rest.” (Matt 11:28-30).Before long both of them accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and became born-again Christians. After school graduation, without informing the family, Ayyapilla went with some Christians to the river Periyar at Alwaye and took baptism and changed his name to John. After returning home he informed his mother and his older brother that he had become a Christian. The reaction of his family was heart breaking. They informed him that henceforth he would be considered a dead person and he will not inherit any family property. As a token of separation from the family he was led out of the house and gate was shut behind him. They also did the last rites for him as if he was dead, a Hindu ceremony called, “Padi adachu pindam vakkuka”. Without money or any material possessions, the young teenage High School graduate left home trusting God as his Provider. For few days John Ayyapilla stayed with some Christian Friends and continued to Study the Bible. His story reached the ears of Judge P.C. Cherian, a Christian and he sent for Ayyapilla and gave him a clerical job in the judiciary. After some years Judge Cherian arranged a marriage for John Ayyappilla with a relative of Judge Cherian, Sosamma of Painummootil family of Thiruvalla. John was adopted by Painummootil family and thus God provided an inheritance for him. Hence forth he was known as P.V John. He continued membership in Mar Thoma Church and functioned as Sunday School Superintendent..
Being a government servant he was subjected to transfers every three years and served in many parts of Central Tranvncore. During those years he got more interested in evangelistic work and had joined the newly started Brethren movement in Travancore. Sometime during those years he had a deep desire to go and see his mother and share the gospel with her. But when he reached her home, he was not admitted in. Standing outside he expressed his desire to receive some food from his mother’s hand. She gave him some food and asked him to stand outside, eat and go. With sorrowful heart he left home and never saw her again. When missionaries first came to India from western nations representing various denominations, Ayyapilla gave all the logistical support for them to spread the gospel in India. In his early days, he spent much time in prayer and reading of the Word of God. He asked the Lord to fill him with the Holy Spirit exactly what the early Christians were baptized in the day of Pentecost. The Lord granted his petition and baptized him in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit used John Ayyapilla as an instrument to bring mighty revival in 1897. Because of his desire to get more involved in evangelism, he resigned his secular job and got associated with a Christian Group called Church of God and was ordained as a Pastor by two American Missionaries. An Indian Missionary named Rev. A.D Khan of Bengal and Pastor P.V John traveled in many parts of Tranvancore and Calcutta and preached the gospel. Later he got attracted to the Pentecostal teaching and he and several members of his church joined the Assembly of God Church and he continued as a senior Pastor and Bible School teacher. He pioneered the first Pentecostal Bible School name ‘Bethel’ in his home in Mavelikara, Travencore. Few years later, he felt led to turn this school over to the Assemblies of God missionaries. Today, Bethel Bible School is known as ‘Bethel Seminary’ which is located in Punalur, Kerala.
Pastor P.V. John was a good scholar of English and Malayalam Languages. He tutored college students Shakespeare and American Missionaries Malayalam. He had deep knowledge of the Bible and was affectionately called by all “Ayyapilla Sir.” Pastor P. V John was a well known Prayer warrior and was a good example to his Bible School Students. Many Nights he had led them to pray the whole night. When he was scheduled to preach one night, invariably he spent two hours in prayer prior to preaching. The result was, many were won for Christ. With desire to stand independently, and do God’s work, he left his position in the Assembly of God Church and planted an independent church know as Pentecost Church of God. Later, another man name K E Abraham left protestant Marthoma Church (St. Thomas Syrian Church) joined with Pastor P V John and they pioneered ‘the Indian Pentecostal Church’ where he remained until his Home Calling on October 4, 1946.
Mrs. Sosamma John was called by everyone “Ammachi”. Which in Malayalam means “dearly beloved mother”? She was not only mother to her children, but she acted like a mother to the community and earned that name. She was meticulously clean and was very hospitable. Any preacher of gospel who came to visit her never leaves the house without being fed and getting some money from her. Always she asked many visitors who visited her daily, “if you haven’t eaten first go to the kitchen, eat some food and then come to me.” Her past time was reading the Bible and reminding the visitors, “The Lord will come soon, Are you prepared to meet him?” Throughout her long life she had no disease and she slowly faded away. At the age of 96 years, on July 14th, 1982 she was called home to be with the Lord.