Category Archives: Biography

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 PE-News, 12 January 2017

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: www.iFPHC.org

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Freddie’s Christmas: The Heart-Wrenching Story of Noted Pentecostal Songwriter F. A. Graves

graves-fa

F. A. Graves with wife, Vina. Standing in the back are their children (l-r): Irene, Carl, and Arthur, circa 1920s.

This Week in AG History — December 19, 1931

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 22 December 2016

A heart-wrenching true story titled “Freddie’s Christmas” appeared in the Pentecostal Evangel 85 years ago this week. “Freddie” referred to Frederick Arthur Graves (1856-1927), the noted songwriter who became an early leader in the Pentecostal movement.

“Little Freddie” began life as the son of a tailor, in a family of four boys and one girl. The family had weekly devotions and worship, and the children were taught to love and trust God. Freddie’s father worked long hours, going door-to-door to find work measuring and making clothes for men and boys. Eventually the work became too much, and he became sick and died. Freddie’s mother was frail and tried to care for the children by herself, but within three years she developed tuberculosis and also passed away. The children were farmed out to different homes.

Freddie was taken in by Mr. Hollis, a man who was “honest in his dealings with his neighbors but who was godless.” It seemed that he wanted a boy for the sole purpose of helping with chores on the farm. Freddie was given many tasks to do on the farm and worked very hard, but often he was sad. After saying his prayers, he would climb into his bed in the attic and “cry himself to sleep in his loneliness and homesickness.”

Mr. Hollis was very unkind to Freddie, often making the hapless young boy think it was his own fault that he became an orphan. Whenever cookies and other treats were shared among Mr. Hollis’ other children, Freddie was left out because he was “only an orphan.” When Christmas arrived, the children hung their stockings by the fireplace, and they had to beg their parents to let Freddie also have a stocking. Finally, the parents let Freddie put up a stocking next to the other ones.

Bright and early on Christmas morning, the other children gleefully opened their stockings. But Mr. Hollis told Freddie that he could not touch his until all the chores were done, so he bravely trudged through the snow and cold to milk the cows and feed the calves and chickens. After the chores were completed and everyone had finished breakfast, the man finally gave Freddie permission to open his stocking. “Freddie sat down on the floor and began very carefully to take out the shavings in the top of his stocking — on and on he went still taking out shavings clear down to the toe. Not one thing in all that stocking but shavings!”

Freddie’s heart almost stopped beating — and then Mr. Hollis began to roar with laughter, slapping his knee and saying to his wife, “That is the best joke I’ve had in a long time!” And he continued to laugh.

Freddie slowly picked up every shaving and ran to the barn as fast as he could. He climbed up into the hayloft, out of sight, and sobbed for a long time. Finally he talked with God and felt God’s comfort and peace, despite the circumstances. As it began to grow dark, he remembered there were more chores to be done, so he climbed down and faithfully went to work doing his chores. As he worked, the Lord enabled him to forgive the man who had been so mean to him.

Not long after this incident, Mr. Hollis began acting strangely and became increasingly moody and unhappy. (Some whispered it might be because of his cruelty to the poor orphan boy.) Then one day he went out to the barn and hung himself. Freddie, who had known much heartache and grief himself, was able to whisper words of comfort to the widow in her loss. Later, she hugged him and told Freddie what a comfort he had been to her.

The Lord helped Fred Graves to be a blessing, despite all the hardship he had borne. Years later he became a minister of the gospel, overcoming significant difficulties and receiving healing from epilepsy. He obtained ministerial credentials from Christian faith healer John Alexander Dowie in 1899 and transferred his ordination to the Assemblies of God in 1916.

Graves’s testimony inspired him to write numerous songs, including “He Was Nailed to the Cross for Me,” “He’ll Never Forget to Keep Me,” and “Honey in the Rock.” Graves continues to make an impact through his songs, through the lives he touched, and through his influence on his son-in-law, Assemblies of God theologian Myer Pearlman.

Frederick A. Graves’ Christmas testimony reminds us of the hardships faced by early Pentecostals, and also illustrates how God can bring beauty from tragic circumstances.

Read Vina Graves’ article, “Freddie’s Christmas,” on pages 6 and 13 of the Dec. 19, 1931, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Child is Born,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “The Meaning of Christmas,” by C. H. Spurgeon

• “When Sankey Sang the ‘Shepherd Song’ on Christmas Eve”

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: www.iFPHC.org

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Learning Gratitude on the Frozen Tundra: Paul and Marguerite Bills, Assemblies of God Missionaries to Alaska

billsThis Week in AG History — November 24, 1968

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 23 November 2016

Paul E. Bills (1921-1977) and his wife, Marguerite, learned true gratitude while serving as Assemblies of God missionaries in the harsh conditions of remote Alaska. In a 1968 Pentecostal Evangel article, Paul showed how the challenges of life on the frozen tundra taught them to be thankful.

In faith, Paul and Marguerite drove from New Jersey to North Pole, Alaska, in the fall of 1955, thinking they were under missionary appointment with the Assemblies of God. When they arrived, however, they were surprised to discover that their paperwork had not been received. Eventually things were straightened out, and they were granted appointment.  For the next 20 years Paul and Marguerite devoted their lives to evangelizing Eskimos in spite of difficult and primitive conditions.

Paul Bills made the bold statement: “It took the Alaskan mission field to create within us a thankful heart.” While pastoring a church in North Pole, Paul and Marguerite adopted two infant Alaskan Native girls named Marcis and Roxanne. Later the family added a son Paul.

One of their first mission stations was in the village of Beaver, located on the Yukon River just south of the Arctic Circle. They lived in a little two-room dirt-roof cabin.  One of the first questions Paul asked was “Where do we get our water?” He was told that the Yukon River had lots of water.  However, it was under several feet of ice, plus there was a very steep bank at the edge of the river. Bills declared, “You have no idea how we struggled and slipped and prayed as we filled our water barrel. Never had water seemed so precious.”

From North Pole and Beaver, Paul and Marguerite and their daughters went to Barrow and ministered for several years. There they found the water situation even worse. The source was a lake located five miles out on the tundra. Most of the year the water was in the form of ice. Sometimes they were able to buy ice from those who had dog teams. The price was not unreasonable, at about 10 to 20 cents a gallon, as it wasn’t easy work to chop the ice and then deliver it. But that was not all. Once received, the ice had to be scraped before being put into a tank next to the furnace. This procedure itself took several hours. Every ounce of water was precious, and none of it was wasted. The same water was often used for several needs—washing dishes, taking baths, washing clothes, scrubbing floors, etc.

Have you ever thanked God for a thermostat?  You might if you lived in Alaska.  Paul Bills’ first winter there was a rough one. For a six-week period the temperature never rose above 40 below zero. It stayed mostly 50 to 60 below and got very close to 70 below. In those conditions, hitching up a dog team and going out looking for wood is quite a chore which often could involve frozen toes, fingers, and faces. “Every piece of wood put into the Alaskan stove is like a gift from God,” said Bills.

How often do you thank God for the sun? When living in Alaska, one tends to appreciate the sun very much. Bills remembered coming to the Barrow station, and each day the sun would be lower and lower in the sky. He shared: “On November 18 we watched it sink beneath the horizon and there was a sense of sadness. It was almost like losing a friend, for we knew we would not see it again for over two months. You really don’t miss something until you lose it.” This is especially true with respect to the sun. Bills shared, “January 23rd is always an exciting day in Barrow. Everyone talks about it.” On that day each year, the sun appears again in the sky, and everyone is happy for daylight again.

Have you ever lived in a desert or treeless area for an extended period of time? In 1965, Paul Bills and family moved to Nome, Alaska, among a group of people who in all their lives had never seen a tree except maybe in a picture. In the fall of 1968, at a time when many people in the rest of the U.S. were enjoying the changing colors of the fall trees and looking forward to a Thanksgiving feast, Paul shared: “In our present station in Nome we are in a treeless area and when we are able to get out to the tree area we cannot help but notice the majesty of trees.”

Recounting all the things he was thankful for, he asked, “Are you really grateful for the food you eat? When you offer thanks is it a mere ritual? A Christian duty? Do you consider the variety of items before you? How about those fresh fruits and vegetables?” His response was, “If you live in a remote Alaskan village you would forget that some of these items exist. Then sometimes you would dream about corn on the cob, watermelon, peaches, oranges, and dozens of other foods which are just memories of former days. If perchance a plane brings in a delicacy on a rare occasion, you bow your head in deep gratitude for this special blessing from God.”

Bills concluded his article by remarking, “Yes, we are truly thankful for the privilege of living on the mission field, for it has awakened our soul to the virtue of gratitude; and it is such an enjoyable and edifying experience to be grateful for the everyday blessings of life.” Importantly, he observed that “Genuine thankfulness is a help to holiness.”

In 1976, Paul Bills was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He died the next year and was buried on his 56th birthday. At his request, he was buried in Barrow beside Ned Nusunginya, his close friend and interpreter, who was converted during Paul’s initial revival in Barrow.

Paul and Marguerite Bills devoted their lives to share the gospel in remotest Alaska, and the challenges they encountered taught them about the importance of gratitude. They developed an attitude of thanksgiving, and they encouraged others to likewise view difficulties as valuable, transformative experiences for growing in Christ.

Read Paul E. Bills’ article, “I Learned Gratitude on the Alaska Mission Field,” on pages 2-3 of the Nov. 24, 1968, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Five Grains of Corn,” by Mrs. Max (Hannah) Johnson

• “Maintaining the Balance,” by Alice Reynolds Flower

• “A Change in Government,” by C. M. Ward

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived edition courtesy of 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: www.iFPHC.org

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C. H. Austin: From the Saloons to Assemblies of God Railroad Evangelist

chaustin

This Week in AG History — November 16, 1929

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 17 November 2016

Clement Henderson Austin (1889-1973) knew railroads almost as well as he knew the gospel. He spent decades working as a train engineer, but he became mired in a lifestyle of drunkenness, gambling, violence, and addictions to alcohol and tobacco.

After a dramatic conversion, Austin became an Assemblies of God evangelist. He spent the rest of his life sharing the gospel, illustrated by his life story. Austin’s testimony was published in a Gospel Publishing House tract, which was republished in the Nov. 16, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Austin’s mother died when he was eight years old. For years he carried this sorrow deep inside his soul, crying himself to sleep at night. He wondered why he could not have a mother, like all the other boys.

As a young teenager, Austin ventured onto the streets of Fort Worth, Texas, where he quickly adapted to the ways of the world. He started firing train engines at age 16, soon becoming a train engineer. A large young man, he learned how to fend for himself.

Saloons became a second home to young Austin. He started drinking and smoking, then gambling and stealing. He prided himself on his coarse speech, later calling himself “one of the ringleaders in oaths and smutty jokes.”

Austin recalled that he was “young and tender” when he started living on the streets. But as the years progressed, he noted, “my heart became more cold and hard.” He could feel “the enemy’s fangs” as they “sank into my soul and body.”

The coarse engineer married a young woman and they had a son. Austin tried to cover up his drunken and thieving ways by lying to his wife. But he knew that his life was spinning out of control, and he felt incredible guilt over the injustice he was committing against his family. He did not want his son to follow in his footsteps.

Austin had not been to church in twelve years. While Austin had tried to ignore God, he realized he needed to turn his life around, and he knew he could not do it alone. One night, while looking into the stars, he said aloud, “O God, help me to quit gambling.” Starting at that moment, Austin’s faith — birthed out of desperation — took root.

God seemed to chase after Austin. Two weeks before his conversion, Austin was running through a dark tunnel and heard a voice say, “Throw away your tobacco.” He did, and he never tasted it again.

In the meantime, Austin’s wife began attending revival services at a Pentecostal church in San Diego, California. At first, she did not tell Austin, afraid that he might mock her. But she could not keep quiet, and she told him about the miracles she witnessed. Cripples were leaving their crutches, and deaf people could hear again. He agreed to go hear the evangelist.

The revival services were being held in a small hall, which was packed with people. Austin recalled that “people sang as if they meant it,” and he could tell they had something that he was missing. A young sailor sat next to Austin, and when the evangelist called people to the altar, he tried to pull Austin forward for prayer. Austin knew that he needed to go forward, but he did not want to make a public demonstration.

An intense battle ensued between Austin’s ears. He recalled hearing a voice tell him that he was “too big a sinner” to be on his knees in church. This voice, who Austin recognized as the devil, taunted him, telling him that his drinking buddies would laugh at him. But Austin looked past his suffering, had faith in God, and cried out, “O Lord, have mercy on me.”

After an emotional spiritual battle, Austin found himself laying on the floor. He felt spiritual oppression flee, and he felt a sweet peace sweep through his soul. Austin set his heart on Christ and never looked back.

Austin told his family, friends, and coworkers about his conversion. He returned money he had stolen and asked for forgiveness from those he had offended. “There is now no more drinking, no more gambling, no more taking the name of our Lord in vain, no more tobacco,” he wrote. Instead, “old things have passed away and all things have become new.”

Austin studied for the ministry at Berean Bible Institute, an Assemblies of God school in San Diego. He graduated in 1925 and was ordained as an Assemblies of God evangelist in 1926. He continued working as an engineer on the Rock Island, Southern Pacific, and San Diego and Arizona railroads, but he viewed his secular employment as a vehicle for his higher calling – to preach the gospel across the American Southwest. During the next half century, this large, gentle, earnest railroad engineer, armed with his testimony and a Bible, touched countless lives.

Read Clement H. Austin’s testimony, “Saved and Called to Preach,” on pages 12-13 of the Nov. 16, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Ten Reasons Why I Believe in Divine Healing,” by Thomas G. Atteberry

• “The Extra Portion,” by Mrs. Robert (Marie) Brown

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: www.iFPHC.org

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