Category Archives: Biography

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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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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Bernice Lee: A Missionary to Lepers in India

This Week in AG History — November 23, 1929

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

Bernice Lee (1879-1958), was one of the many single women who played a vital role in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in the early days of the Assemblies of God. As a missionary, Bernice Lee served the lepers of India for nearly 30 years.

Born in Benson, Illinois, Lee was privileged to graduate from high school and find employment as a schoolteacher. When she heard the Pentecostal message in 1907, she immediately accepted it. In her Nov. 23, 1929, Pentecostal Evangel article, “The Leper Work at Uska Bazar” she wrote, “Many of us had been praying for years ‘Lord Jesus, make Thyself to me a living, bright reality.’ And that prayer was answered to us at the time of the outpouring of the blessed Spirit of God . . . at that time many were led to go forth into the various fields, and many others were led to sacrifice that the gospel might be spread to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Lee left her school teaching position and became an evangelist after the infilling of the Spirit but she felt a call to broader fields across the ocean. E. N. Bell (later the first general chairman of the Assemblies of God) ordained her in 1910 as a missionary to North India. By 1913, she and another single lady, Edith Baugh, were providing leadership to a leper colony at Uska Bazar, India. In 1915, they founded another leper colony 140 miles away at Chupra.

In 1921, Lee joined the newly formed Assemblies of God as a fully appointed missionary. In her 1929 article she wrote, “I believe no other people have been more faithful in putting ambassadors and funds and prayers on the altar. But can we say that we have done all that God has required? Might it be that we feel sufficient funds have gone forth for the spreading of the gospel? Might it be that we feel that we have prayed sufficiently to convert the whole world? Ah, no, friends, ‘yet there is room.’”

Lee stated her dismay at those who said to her, “It must take a great deal of grace to love those lepers.” She wrote, “That hurts me . . . never think it is hard to love a leper. It is not . . . love is a language that is universally understood; and those dear people very quickly respond to it. Although you may be not able to make them understand with your tongue at first, they will understand the touch!”

Writing from the United States where she returned for a short break from her labor due to health concerns she said, “I had to ask God for grace to come back here. I love that land and people. I love to think that, if Jesus tarries, in a few months hence I shall be able to go back again.”

Lee was able to return for a third term at the Indian leper colony in 1930. After her heart was damaged by rheumatic fever in 1935, she returned home for a furlough before serving a final term in India. In February 1940, she returned to the United States in broken health. She continued to write and intercede for missions until her death in Oakland, California, in 1958.

Bernice Lee ended her 1929 Evangel article with this plea, “I look at the suffering of the world, groping in the darkness of hate and sin, and the words come, ‘Yet there is room.’” In 2018, 89 years later, there is still room for workers in the harvest field.

Read Bernice Lee’s article “The Leper Work at Uska Bazar” on page 5 of the Nov. 23, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Children of God Triumphant,” by Harold H. Moss

• “The City Foursquare,” by Mrs. William Connell

• “Among the Lisu Tribes, China,” by Leonard Bolton

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

chaustinThis Week in AG History —November 16, 1929

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 15 November 2018

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 and his testimony. Austin’s story was published in a tract, which was republished in the Nov. 16, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Austin’s testimony began when he was 8 years old. His life began to unravel when his mother died. 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 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 12 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 publicly admit that he needed God.

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 lying 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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Arvid Ohrnell: Pioneer Assemblies of God Prison Chaplain

Ohrnell

Arvid Ohrnel standing (left) with a man in a prison uniform at a banquet; circa 1955

This Week in AG History —November 9, 1958

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 08 November 2018

Arvid Ohrnell (1891-1963), who served as the first National Prison Chaplain for the Assemblies of God in the U.S., was born in Vadstena, Sweden. He was bullied in his youth, so he began lifting weights and exercising in order to defend himself. His plan worked, and he was able to escape further bullying. After seeing how children and grown-ups can be mistreated, he decided to dedicate himself to helping outcasts and the downtrodden. He committed his life to Christ at age 14.

In 1911, Ohrnell entered school at H. S. Enkoping and studied theology, psychology, mathematics, penology, journalism, and languages. He was baptized in water in 1915, and the next year he was baptized in the Holy Spirit.

In 1916, Ohrnell lived in Gothenburg and began preaching the gospel. The fall of 1917 he moved to Uppsala and opened a butcher shop. One day a man from Långholmen Prison in Stockholm came to the door. He had just been released from prison, and he was looking for a job. Ohrnell gave the man food and provisions to help his family and also helped him to find employment. This was his first contact with prisoners. He came to realize that it was very difficult for ex-prisoners to gain people’s confidence and to be accepted back into society.

Ohrnell attended Bible school at the Filadelfia Church, the flagship Pentecostal congregation in Stockholm, and was ordained there on Dec. 2, 1919. Soon after this, he pioneered churches in Gustafs, Borlange, and Palsboda, Sweden.

Next he felt called to pursue opportunities in journalism. He wrote articles for newspapers in Norway, Denmark, Germany, and Austria. He also was instrumental in the creation of a prison division for the Swedish Pentecostal movement. Because of his work in penology, he completed five books on prison work, two of which were used as texts in European universities. He published a number of pamphlets and booklets, including In the Evening of Time and Cell No. 3: A Prisoner’s Life Stories, as well as several Bible study courses. His works have been published in English, Swedish, Norwegian, and Spanish.

His prison work carried him to Germany and eventually to Prague, Czechoslovakia, where he was advised by a friend that he could have a much greater influence among outcasts and prisoners if he were to minister in a democratic society. So in 1925, Ohrnell immigrated to the United States.

He arrived in Chicago and began holding services for a group of Swedish people. Later he served as chairman of the Independent Assemblies of God (a Pentecostal group formed by Scandinavian-Americans) and was assistant editor of their newspaper. While in Chicago, he met Anna Astrid Larson, a Swedish immigrant herself. She was a 1924 graduate of Rochester Bible School. They were married in 1929. In 1933 he moved to Seattle, Washington, where he pastored the Philadelphia Church and also visited the local prisons.

By 1935, he had gained so much respect in the institutions that he visited, that the governor of Washington appointed Ohrnell as the state prison chaplain. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. As state prison chaplain, he was not content just to preach to inmates. He wanted to educate them while in confinement and help with their rehabilitation upon release. He took a personal interest in every inmate he met. He eventually interviewed thousands of prisoners and accompanied 32 men on their “last walk” to the place of execution. Twenty-seven of these had accepted Christ while in prison.

Ohrnell transferred his ordination to the Assemblies of God in 1937. After 16 years as chaplain for Washington State penal institutions in Walla Walla and Monroe, he accepted a position as the first national prison chaplain for the Assemblies of God in 1951. He saw this as an opportunity to extend his work to hundreds of prisons and thousands of inmates. He developed and expanded prison ministry in the Assemblies of God. He wrote extensive letters to inmates and their families, as well as to prison and government officials. He prayed and counseled with inmates in many states, distributed countless Bible study courses, and became a true friend to prisoners everywhere. Refusing to ever retire, he worked tirelessly on behalf of outcasts and prisoners until his death in 1973.

Sixty years ago, in an article titled, “Touring the Prisons,” National Prison Chaplain Arvid Ohrnell gave a report of visiting 11 state prisons, three county jails, and 40 Assemblies of God churches during a four-month period. Ohrnell left Springfield, Missouri, in May 1958 and did not return until the end of September. He preached, gave out hundreds of Bibles, as well as hundreds of Bible study courses, and Freedom leaflets, and a few Bible dictionaries. Glowing testimonies were reported in each place he ministered. Today, Chaplaincy Ministries are a part of AG U.S. Missions.

Read “Touring the Prisons,” by Arvid Ohrnell on pages 16-18 of the Nov. 9, 1948, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Israel’s 10th Anniversary,” by Louis H. Hauff

• “Turning the Wide-Angle Lens on Latin America,” by C. L. Carden

• “The Importance of Prayer,” by J. Bashford Bishop

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Further information can be found in “Arvid Ohrnell: The Prisoner’s Friend,” on pages 8-13, 30-31 of the Fall 1997 issue of Assemblies of God Heritage magazine.

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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George Jeffreys: The Boy Who Overcame a Speech Impediment to Become a Prominent British Pentecostal Evangelist

George JeffreysThis Week in AG History —October 30, 1920

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 01 November 2018

George Jeffreys (1889-1962) was possibly the most gifted preacher that the British Pentecostal Movement ever produced. He had a bold resonant voice and a magnetic personality. He had a solid background in the Bible and loved to share the gospel message. But this was not always the case.

George was the son of a miner, Thomas Jeffreys, of Nantyffylon, Maesteg, Wales. His family belonged to the Welsh Independent (Congregational) church. In his youth, George suffered from a speech impediment and showed the beginnings of facial paralysis. His life was about to change. Together with his older brother, Stephen, George was converted in the revival at Shiloh Independent Chapel in Nantyfyllon, Wales on Nov. 20, 1904, under the evangelistic ministry of Glassnant Jones. This was during the Welsh Revival.

When the Pentecostal movement was introduced to Wales early in 1908, George and Stephen were both opposed to the new revival. But after Stephen’s son, Edward, was baptized in the Spirit, the two Jeffreys brothers sought this experience for themselves. In 1911 George was baptized in the Spirit and received healing of his speech.

George was mentored by Cecil Polhill, who helped him to receive specialized Bible training under Thomas Myerscough at the Pentecostal Missionary Union Bible School at Preston, England, and then he went into evangelistic work. He held crusades in Northern Ireland during World War I and started the Elim Evangelistic Band, which later became the Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance in Great Britain.

George and Stephen began traveling together and were known as the Jeffreys Brothers. Soon they gained the reputation of being England’s greatest evangelists since Wesley and Whitefield. From the 1920s to the 1940s, the Jeffreys Brothers conducted revival meetings throughout England and Europe, with thousands converted and others receiving healing.

As one of England’s premier evangelists, George Jeffreys’ views on revival are worth reading. The Oct. 30, 1920, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel published a message titled, “How to Get a Revival.” Using the story of King Ahaz and his son, King Hezekiah, as background, Jeffreys described a spiritual revival in Israel. He outlined these points when seeking for revival: 1) recognize the need of a revival, 2) pray and ask God for revival, 3) turn from sin and pray for forgiveness, and 4) let Christ be exalted.

According to Jeffreys, repentance and turning from sin are key factors of revival. Jeffreys referred to the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905: He said that when the “mighty power of God began to sweep through the church” that all sin had to leave, for “God cannot live where sin is.”

How long should revival last? Jeffreys responded to this question: “Thank God, a revival started in my heart 30 years ago, and it has never stopped; it will never end.” He continued by saying, “As long as Jesus is kept in the front, and made the center of fellowship and blessing and unity, the revival will never end.”

Jeffreys also pointed out that the revival under King Hezekiah included a missionary spirit as letters were written to neighboring parts of Israel for people to repent and return to the ways of God. Jeffreys closed his address with this statement: “If you want a revival ask God to give you a vision of this old world, with its sin like a troubled sea …” Then after seeing the lost around us, he said we need to pray and ask God for revival, and then confess Jesus as Lord. These simple acts of faith can lay the foundation for revival in our personal lives, in the church, and in our communities.

Read George Jeffreys’ address, “How to Get a Revival,” on pages 6-8 of the Oct. 30, 1920, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Back to Pentecost”

• “Politics from the Pentecostal Perspective,” by Stanley H. Frodsham

• “Greatest Missionary Opportunity in All North Africa”

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Biography, History