Victor and Grace Plymire: Pioneer Assemblies of God Missionaries to China and Tibet

plymire

Victor Plymire with first wife, Grace, and infant son, John, in Tibet

This Week in AG History — January 19, 1935

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 17 January 2019

Assemblies of God missionary Victor Plymire (1881-1956) was a man who never backed down from an adventure — if the adventure included being able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Serving in China and Tibet from 1908 through 1949, Plymire did not waver from his passion for sowing seeds of good news wherever he went and whatever the cost.

Plymire was born in 1881 in Loganville, Pennsylvania. His first career was in the new electrical industry. After achieving the highest wage one could be paid for such work, he felt that God wanted him to leave the electrical field for the gospel ministry. Exchanging his well-paying job for pastoral work was an act of faith and obedience that would lead him to adventures he could never have imagined.

After pastoring for three years, Plymire once again responded to the call of God into unfamiliar territory. On Feb. 4, 1908, he left the United States as a Christian and Missionary Alliance missionary to northwest China. During these early years he learned the language and the culture, developed friendships, shared the gospel, bandaged sword wounds, pulled rotten teeth, amputated fingers, lanced boils, and applied himself to whatever else his hand found to do. He worked in extremely difficult living conditions and did not see his first convert for more than a decade.

Plymire married fellow missionary Grace Harkness in 1919 and, on a return visit to the United States, they were exposed to the Pentecostal message and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They affiliated with the Assemblies of God in 1920.

Adding a son, John, they returned to China in 1922. God blessed their ministry and they began plans for a long trek into the deepest part of Tibet for evangelistic work in 1927. However, Grace and John, now 5 years old, became ill with smallpox. Victor nursed both his wife and son and asked God to spare their lives, but God had other plans. In January 1927, both Grace and John died from their illness. Victor made a coffin for his small son and villagers helped to provide one for Grace. A local farmer sold him a small plot on a mountainside and Victor placed both Grace and John into one grave in the frozen ground in Tangar, China.

Despite his grief, Plymire continued to make plans for the 2000-mile trek into Tibet, leaving behind the lonely grave and trusting God that He would honor his family’s commitment and sacrifice.

Taking along 47 yaks and five companions, the group trekked through mountain passes, navigating some of the world’s highest peaks, facing blizzards, avalanches, bandits, attempted poisonings, and hostile chieftains. Upon arriving in India on Feb. 26, 1928, his small expedition had passed out 74,000 Gospels and 40,000 tracts in the Mongolian and Tibetan language. Many of their recipients having heard the gospel for the first time.

Victor traveled from India back to China and met other missionaries in Peking. Among them was Ruth Weidman, whom Victor married in August of that year.

Together Victor and Ruth served in China for 21 more years, sending back many fascinating reports to their Assemblies of God supporters in the States. One such report, “A Great Door and Effectual” was featured in the Jan. 19, 1935, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, detailing their evangelist outreach after having been invited to the wedding of the brother of a tribal chief. Victor shared with readers of his opportunity to share the gospel with a member of each of the 1,200 families in the tribe at this important wedding.

In 1949, Victor and Ruth, along with their children, David and Mary Ann, had to leave China due to the Communist revolution. The churches were closed and many of their converts suffered imprisonment and were forced to worship in secret. Victor and Ruth passed away in 1956 and 1975, respectively, spending the remainder of their lives praying for their beloved churches behind the Bamboo Curtain.

In the 1980s and 1990s change came to China and, eventually, some churches were allowed to reopen. The government returned property to churches who could show legal written proof that the church had previously owned the property.

In Tangar (now Huangyuan) the son of one of Plymire’s associates requested the return of the church property, but he had no legal deed to show to authorities. He contacted Victor’s son, David, and asked him to look through his father’s papers for a deed to any property in Tangar. David was able to find only one deed — not to any church property but to a lonely burial site on a mountainside. For unknown reasons, the deed had been made out to the church rather than to Victor himself. The officials accepted the deed and the property was returned to the church. Sixty-seven years after Victor buried his wife and son, God used their gravesite to restore a church to His people.

Victor’s son, David, wrote a book about his father’s life in 1959, titled, High Adventure in Tibet. In the foreword, Noel Perkin, Assemblies of God World Missions director from 1927-1959, wrote, “Victor Plymire fought a good fight, and he kept the faith. He rests from his labors, and his works follow him.” Even though the Plymires had to leave China, the church they began continues.

Read Victor Plymire’s report on a Tibetan wedding outreach on page 10 of the Jan. 19, 1935, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Manifestation of the Holy Spirit” by Howard Carter

• “Quietness and Confidence,” by Alice Luce

• “North Dakota Revivals,” by Wesley R. Hurst

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Anna Ziese: The Legendary Assemblies of God Missionary to China

zieseThis Week in AG History —January 12, 1935

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 10 January 2019

Anna Ziese (1895-1969), the legendary Assemblies of God missionary, began her life in Germany and lost her life during the height of the Cultural Revolution in China. Between these two events, she showed tremendous courage and creativity as she lived and ministered on three continents.

Anna was born in eastern Germany, where she graduated from public school. She accepted Christ at age 16. Her mother and father died within a year of each other and, by age 17, Anna was an orphan. Anna was forced to grow up quickly. She and two of her sisters immigrated to the United States, hoping for a better life.

In America, Anna worked as a nanny and became engaged to marry a dentist. Her future seemed bright and comfortable. But God had other plans for Anna. She felt called to China as a missionary. Her fiancé did not share her call, so they broke up. Anna attended Elim Bible Training Institute (Rochester, New York) from 1916 to 1918 to prepare for her future overseas.

Anna’s two sisters also received calls into the ministry. One sister married E. C. Steinberg, a Pentecostal missionary to Taiyuan, China. The other sister married Frederick Drake, an Assemblies of God minister. When Anna finally received missionary appointment with the Assemblies of God in 1920, she sailed to China and joined her sister and brother-in-law.

When Anna arrived in China, the nation was in the midst of social turmoil. Imperial dynasties had ruled China for thousands of years, but the final dynasty had been overthrown in 1912. By 1920, two warring factions, the Communists and the Nationalists, were fighting for control of the nation. The ongoing war left the countryside in shambles, and many missionaries seized the opportunity to help those in distress.

Anna worked to alleviate the suffering caused by war and famine. She wrote numerous letters, published in the Pentecostal Evangel, describing the horrors of daily life endured by many Chinese. She sought funds to provide food for the hungry, and she ventured into the war camps to minister to the prisoners. In an article published in the Jan. 12, 1935, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, she reported that 86 prisoners followed Christ in water baptism.

Anna did not try to maintain Western standards of living while ministering to the impoverished. Instead, she adapted to Chinese ways of life. When the Communists shelled and took the city of Taiyuan in 1949, she stayed and did not flee with the other Westerners. Anna was the only American Assemblies of God missionary who stayed in mainland China after the Communists gained control. All others returned to the West or transferred to other nations.

While China closed its doors to Western missionaries, Anna was able to remain because she never became an American citizen. She was born in eastern Germany, so following World War II she received a passport from the new communist government in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

Anna lived in China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, when possibly a million or more people were killed because of supposed ties to the West or to the former Chinese ruling class. The last two decades of her life are shrouded in mystery, as she lived behind what became known as the “Bamboo Curtain.” One surviving report about Anna, from the “block-watcher” where Anna lived, spoke highly of Anna’s noble character and frugality. Anna lived in a one-room adobe structure that was common in China and received a $3 monthly stipend (the average wage of that time) from the Chinese communist government. During her two decades in communist China, Anna continued to share the gospel and train converts and ministers. When Anna died in the summer of 1969, her remains were placed in a local crematorium, as is common in China.

Anna Ziese gave up a life that promised comfort in America to follow God’s call in China. She did so as a single woman in an era that generally required women to be subservient to men. She adapted to the Chinese lifestyle and loved their culture. She consecrated her life completely to minister to the Chinese people and was even accepted by and supported by the communist government. In an era when heightened political tensions made it almost impossible for Western missionaries to minister in China, Anna Ziese’s love for the Chinese people and her humble ways made her calling possible.

Read the report by Anna Ziese, “Eighty-Six Prisoners Baptized,” on page 10 of the Jan. 12, 1935, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Marks of a Christian,” by J. Narver Gortner

• “Strength for the Journey,” by Zelma Argue

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Introducing HECHOS, a New Scholarly Online Pentecostal Journal in Spanish

hechosOn January 1, 2019, Miguel Alvarez (Honduras) and Geir Lie (Norway) launched a new online journal in the Spanish language, HECHOS.

HECHOS aims to publish scholarly articles pertaining to Pentecostalism, particularly from theological, historical, social and missiological angles.

Miguel Alvarez graduated from the Oxford Center for Mission Studies in England and is a professor at Regent University. He is the author of several books, including Integral Mission: A New Paradigm for Latin American Pentecostals (Wipf & Stock, 2016) and Beyond Borders: New Contexts of Mission in Latin America (CPT Press, 2017).

Geir Lie is a graduate of the Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society in Norway. He is one of the foremost historians of Norwegian Pentecostalism and has authored seven books in Norwegian, English, and Spanish. He founded a scholarly journal, Refleks, which published 11 issues from 2002 to 2009. Issues of Refleks are accessible on the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center website. In recent years, Lie has focused his scholarly interests on Spanish and Portuguese speaking Pentecostals.   His most recent volume is Entiendes lo que Lees? Una Introduccion al Nuevo Testamento (Publicaciones Kerigma, 2018).

The inaugural issue of HECHOS is accessible on the Akademia forlag website. The table of contents is below:

“Editorial”, 1.

Miguel Álvarez, “Contextualización en la hermenéutica latina”, 3-16.

Bernardo Campos, “Aspectos fundamentales en la teología pentecostal”, 17-29.

Geir Lie, “T.B. Barratt y el origen de su concepto de ‘lenguas misioneras’”, 31-45.

Daniel Orlando Álvarez, “Integridad de las Escrituras: Transformando las futuras generaciones”, 47-64.

Darío López Rodríguez, “Pentecostalismo y espacio público: Vida en el Espíritu. Política, Ciudanía e Incidencia Pública”, 65-80.

Carmelo E. Álvarez, “Ecumenismo del Espíritu: Voces pentecostales latinoamericanas y caribeñas”, 81-97.

UPDATE (Jan 16, 2019): HECHOS is now also available in hard copy from amazon.com.

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In 1964, Thomas F. Zimmerman Encouraged the Assemblies of God to Focus on Four Themes

zimmerman1This Week in AG History — January 5, 1964

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 3 January 2019

Fifty-five years ago, General Superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman shared an encouraging word to the readers of the Pentecostal Evangel in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Assemblies of God. His article, “Our Fiftieth Year,” told of the significance of the Pentecostal revival which took place at the turn of the 20th century as well as the influence of the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, which greatly impacted the world.

In the article, Zimmerman made reference to the approximately 300 persons who met in Hot Springs, Arkansas, to organize the AG. He said, “The founding fathers of our Movement laid a foundation strong and sure.” He acknowledged that the AG has an illustrious history, but he tempered this by saying, “We must not glory too much in the past lest we forget our situation today and the work that is yet to be done.”

Zimmerman emphasized, “One of the factors in the growth of our Movement during its early years was the sense of urgency to evangelize the world. This same burden is needed for continued growth.” Although programs and procedures are helpful, he said, “The greatest need today is for men and women who will dedicate themselves to labor faithfully.” “Nothing short of a full mobilization under God, and an overflowing power of Holy Ghost power, will suffice,” declared Zimmerman.

Zimmerman listed four areas to focus on in the new year: 1) Pray for a renewed Pentecost in our personal lives; 2) Recognize the urgency of saving the lost; 3) Equip ourselves to win the lost through prayer, reading the Scriptures, and training; and 4) Be diligent to do the work of the Kingdom. These same principles apply today as we reflect on the now 105-year anniversary of the Assemblies of God.

Read “Our Fiftieth Year” on pages 3-4 of the Jan. 5, 1964, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “I Remember,” by Ernest S. Williams.

• “Miracle at Caracas,” by Mrs. Elmer C. Niles.

• “A Call to Prayer.”

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Ernest and Grace Lindholm: Assemblies of God Missionaries to Congo

LindholmThis Week in AG History — December 21, 1940

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 21 November 2018

Assemblies of God missionary Ernest Paul Lindholm (1907-1940) committed his life in service to God with a passion for African people. He died in the jungle just one year after arriving in the Belgian Congo. When asked the question on his missionary application in 1937, “Do you realize that certain privations and sacrifices are involved in a missionary career and do you seek appointment with the full knowledge of such possibilities and a readiness to meet them with persistent courage for Christ’s sake?” The young man, along with his fiancé, Grace Wallace, answered, “Yes.”

When Ernest and Grace set sail for the Congo in October of 1939, he was a proud husband of less than five months. Joining them on their journey were five other newly appointed missionaries: three singles — Angeline Pierce and Jay Tucker (who later married), and Gail Winters; and one couple — Ragnar and Alice Udd. Their plans had been to go to language school in Belgium, but the outbreak of World War II made that impossible, and so they traveled directly to their appointed station, taking a boat up the Nile River and settling in the Belgian Congo village of Nobe.

Ernest, a young minister with the New England district, was described as “a rare example of complete dedication to God.” He was originally appointed to serve in the Gold Coast of Africa with another single missionary, but the other missionary was unable to fulfill his commitment and so Ernest was reappointed to the Congo. By that time, he had married Grace Wallace, who also had committed her life to serve in Africa before their marriage, and she was very early in their first pregnancy when they arrived in the Congo on her birthday, Nov. 26, 1939. Their son, Stephen Paul, was born in May of 1940.

Most of their initial time was spent in establishing initial friendships, becoming familiar with the language, and opening up a construction site. Due to the outbreak of war, support checks were often delayed in arrival, so Ernest negotiated with Congolese construction workers to provide meat in exchange for labor, even though he was not overly interested in African big game hunting.

On the one-year anniversary of their arrival, Ernest awoke early in the morning with the goal in mind of finding a buffalo to pay his workers and surprise his wife with the special treat of meat for her birthday. He left before she awoke, gathered a few Congolese friends, and went to find one of the buffalo that often approached their camp.

Grace began preparing breakfast for his return when two women came running up the road and told them that an animal had killed “Bwana” (the Swahili word for “Master”). Many Congolese rushed out to help the young man they had grown to love in the past year, but found that he had been gored by a wounded African Cape Buffalo, one of the most dangerous animals on the continent. The Dec,. 21, 1940, Pentecostal Evangel published news about his death in an article entitled “Young Missionary Called to His Reward.”

When fellow missionary Gladys Taylor confirmed to Grace that her husband was dead, one of the first things she said was, “Do you think they will send me home?” Grace had felt a call to service in Africa before she was married and was concerned that the Assemblies of God would not allow a young single woman with a 6-month-old son to remain in the jungles of Africa. When Gladys Taylor wrote to Noel Perkin, the director of the missions department, regarding Ernest’s death and the desire of Grace to stay, she stated, “Mrs. Lindholm speaks well in Bagala and has a very sweet spiritual ministry.” She described Grace as having a ministry very “broken” before the Lord and “I am sure it will be more so now after this great sorrow. Such a ministry is greatly needed here.”

Grace and Stephen were allowed to stay in the Congo until she returned home for furlough in 1945. While at home, she studied practical nursing at the Salvation Army Hospital in New York. This proved to be invaluable as a need was presented in 1948 for a leper home in the Congo. Grace later wrote of this opportunity, “I left the sphere of self-reliance and entered the realm of utter dependence on the Lord. We had no money, no equipment, no land . . . to begin our work.” By 1954, Grace was providing for more than 300 lepers under her constant treatment.

Grace stayed in the Congo for 22 years after her husband’s death. She retired to New York and on March 29, 1993, her son Stephen stopped by her house to bring her the newspaper and found her unresponsive. She died that afternoon from a massive heart attack.

Gladys Taylor remarked to Noel Perkin that the ministry of broken people was much needed in the Belgian Congo. Grace Lindholm fit that description. Although her 1939 missionary interviewer remarked, “No one has pointed out any weakness in her,” it was her brokenness that God used to minister to broken people. As she said to many who urged her to return to the States after her husband’s death, “God’s grace is sufficient.”

Read the report on Ernest Lindholm’s death on page 8 of the Dec. 21, 1940, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Salvation, Separation, Satisfaction” by E. S. Williams

• “Some Hindrances to Healing,” by Carrie Judd Montgomery

• “Pentecost in Central America,” by Melvin Hodges

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

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The Assemblies of God and Sunday School: Regional Conferences Trained Leaders and Fueled Revival

SSConference 1980This Week in AG History —December 14, 1980

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 13 December 2018

Sunday School and Bible training have been a mainstay of the Assemblies of God since its founding in 1914. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the AG made a concerted effort to promote Sunday School training. This resulted in the Gospel Publishing House setting up a promotional office in 1935 to stimulate interest in Sunday School and to advertise Assemblies of God Sunday School curriculum. The AG hosted national Sunday School conventions annually during the 1940s and early 1950s in Springfield, Missouri. After 1953, regional conferences replaced the earlier national meetings.

In the fall of 1980, seven regional Sunday School conferences were held at Orchard Park, New York; Atlanta; Des Moines, Iowa; Fort Worth, Texas; Las Vegas; Portland, Oregon; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. These were reported in the Dec. 14, 1980, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

An estimated 8,500 persons attended these conferences, which centered around the contemporary work of the Holy Spirit. Each session lasted for a couple of days and included Bible study, sermons, worship, testimonies, and open discussion.

At each conference, General Superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman delivered a keynote address called, “This Is That,” which focused on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He stressed that we are living in the last days and that the working of the Holy Spirit is in accordance with Scripture and gives power for service. “Exciting things are taking place!” reported Zimmerman. “Thousands are responding to the gospel of Christ, and believers around the world are awakening to the power of the Holy Spirit. We want to continue to be an integral part of the growing floodtide of modern Pentecostal revival.”

“At the same time,” he pointed out, “areas of concern and confusion exist in the Church. The renewal of dynamic Christianity is bringing with it various extremes in both preaching and practice in areas such as faith and confession, healing and health, shepherding and discipleship, spiritual gifts and manifestations, and a broad spectrum of activities and excesses. It is time to prayerfully and positively consider and address these issues.”

Much discussion took place concerning these topics, and one of the outcomes was the announcement of a national convocation on the Holy Spirit, which was held in Springfield, Missouri, in August 1982.

Read “Regional Conferences Focus on the Contemporary Outpouring of the Spirit” on pages 6-7 and Thomas F. Zimmerman’s address, “This Is That,” on pages 8-10 of the Dec. 14, 1980, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “6,000 Miles to Find Christ,” by Christine Hosack

• “The Sheep and the Shepherds!” by Evangelist Steven R. Madsen

• “We Can Hide God’s Word in Our Hearts,” by Robert Cunningham

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Maria Gerber: The Pentecostal “Angel of Mercy” During the Armenian Genocide

Gerber MariaThis Week in AG History —December 4, 1915

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 06 December 2018

An estimated 800,000 to 1,500,000 ethnic Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire (present day Turkey) were systematically rounded up and killed by Ottoman authorities between the years 1915 and 1918. The Armenian Genocide, as it came to be known, is the second-most studied case of genocide, following the Jewish Holocaust.

Newspapers around the world reported on the suffering endured by the mostly Christian Armenians. Right in the midst of the conflict was Maria A. Gerber (1858-1917), an early Pentecostal missionary who had established an orphanage in Turkey for Armenian victims.

Gerber was born in Switzerland, where she was raised with 11 siblings by Mennonite parents. As a child, she did not have an interest in spiritual things, because she saw her mother weep when she read her Bible. She thought that Scripture must be the cause of sadness.

Gerber was a carefree child and loved to sing and dance. But, at age 12, she was stricken with multiple ailments, including rheumatic fever, heart trouble, tuberculosis, and dropsy. The doctor’s prognosis was not good — Gerber only had a short time to live.

Fear gripped Gerber’s heart. She had never committed her life to the Lord. She knew that if she died, she would not go to heaven. Gerber cried out, “Jesus, I want you to save me from my sins.” Immediately, she felt peace deep inside her soul. She was ready to die.

But God had other plans for the young girl. Gerber quickly recovered from her incurable illness, much to everyone’s surprise. Gerber’s mother had been so confident that her daughter was on death’s doorstep that she had already given away all of her clothing. Her mother scrounged around and found clothes for Gerber.

Gerber shared her testimony of salvation and healing at school and in surrounding villages. She found her calling. She read Matthew 28:18 and sensed that verse was meant for her: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Jesus]. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

Gerber’s faith deepened as she blossomed into a young woman. She received training as a nurse, but in her heart she wanted to become a missionary. In 1889 a remarkable revival featuring healing and speaking in tongues came to her town in Switzerland. In her 1917 autobiography, Passed Experiences, Present Conditions, Hope for the Future, Gerber recounted the rapturous praise and numerous miracles that occurred in that early Swiss revival.

The young nurse wanted training for missions work and, in 1891, she headed for Chicago, where she attended Moody Bible Institute. By the mid-1890s, she heard about massacres of Armenian Christians that were occurring in the Ottoman Empire. Gerber and a friend, Rose Lambert, felt God calling them to minister to the Armenian widows and orphans.

Gerber and Lambert arrived in Turkey in 1898 and began working with the besieged Armenians. They began caring for orphans and purchased camel loads of cotton for widows to make garments for the orphans and for sale. Donors from America and Europe began supporting these two audacious women who had ventured into very dangerous territory to do the Lord’s work.

Gerber, in particular, found support among wealthy German Mennonites who lived in Russia. In 1904, they funded the construction of a series of large buildings to house hundreds of orphans and widows. Zion Orphans’ Home, located near Caesarea, became a hub of relief work and ministry in central Turkey. When persecution of Armenians intensified in 1915, resulting in the extermination of most Christian Armenians from Turkey, Zion Orphans’ Home was ready to help those in distress.

Gerber identified with the emerging Pentecostal movement as early as 1910. This should not be surprising, as she had experienced her own Pentecost 21 years earlier. The Assemblies of God supported her missions efforts, and numerous letters by Gerber were published in the Pentecostal Evangel. Assemblies of God leader D. W. Kerr, in the foreword to Gerber’s 1917 autobiography, wrote that he had known Gerber for 26 years and that her story will encourage readers “to greater self-denial and a deeper surrender.”

Gerber suffered a stroke and passed away on Dec. 6, 1917. Gerber’s obituary, published in the Pentecostal Evangel, stated that she was known as “the angel of mercy to the downtrodden Armenians.”

It would have been easy for Gerber to ignore the persecution of Armenians. The massacres were on the other side of the world. She could have stayed safe in America or in Europe. But Gerber followed God’s call and spent almost 20 years ministering to refugees who faced persecution and death. Few people today remember her name. But according to early Assemblies of God leaders, Maria Gerber personified what it meant to be Pentecostal.

Read one of Gerber’s articles, “Great Results Seen in Answer to Prayer,” on page 4 of the Dec. 4, 1915, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Divine Love: The Supreme Test,” by Arch P. Collins

• “What Think Ye of Christ?” by M. M. Pinson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Read Maria A. Gerber’s obituary in the Jan. 5, 1918, edition of the Pentecostal Evangel (p. 13).

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

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