Category Archives: Missions

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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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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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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The Story Behind Speed-the-Light: How Assemblies of God Youth Raised Over $300 Million for Missions

Speed the Light

An airplane (“Old Sikorsky”) purchased with Speed the Light funds, circa 1946. Pictured (L-R) are: E. L Mason; H. B. Garlock; unidentified; Warren Straton; Fred Merian; unidentified; J. Robert Ashcroft.

This Week in AG History —October 11, 1953

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 11 October 2018

“Never mind, it will soon blow over.” These skeptical words greeted the enthusiasm of Christ’s Ambassadors (CA) Director Ralph Harris when he recounted that Assemblies of God young people had given over $100,000 in 1945 to the new missions fund, “Speed the Light.” Not many adults believed that the youth of their churches could sustain their excitement for providing missionary transportation vehicles in far-off countries.

The idea for the fund had come to Harris only a month after taking his new post as national youth director. It was 1944 and young people were beginning to come to grips with the changes in their world following World War II. Vehicles had been hard to come by as many automobile manufacturers stopped producing civilian vehicles in favor of military vehicles.

Harris knew the youth of America could identify with those who were without transportation. Harris also knew that the war had exhibited to young people the power of vehicles being used for destructive purposes. They had watched news reels of airplanes, jeeps, and boats destroy and be destroyed. Was there a way to show the world that the same vehicles that had been used to bring desolation to a nation could also be used to bring the good news of the hope of the gospel? Could the young people of the Assemblies of God lead the way in this effort?

General Superintendent E.S. Williams offered a less-than-positive response to Harris’s idea of using offerings from CA groups to purchase airplanes and motorcycles for missions. Williams later reported that his first thoughts were, “Jesus didn’t use a motorcycle. And Paul didn’t fly a plane.”

However, while Williams was very conservative in his approach to money, he was also a man in touch with God. While Harris was still trying to sell his idea, Williams felt the Holy Spirit reminding him that Jesus and Paul might not have used those vehicles, but they likely would have if they had been available. Within an hour of approaching his boss, Harris had the approval to begin promoting his new idea.

The program needed a name so Harris offered a prize to the young person that submitted the best name. Ernestine Houston of Arizona sent in the moniker “Speed-the-Light” (STL) and was awarded $15 in Gospel Publishing House materials for coining the new name, which is still used 73 years later.

Harris set the astronomical goal of $100,000 for their first year, 1945. CA members were told that if they each gave $1 their goal could be met. It was greeted with skepticism on the part of some leadership, but the Assemblies of God youth came through with $113,375.39. Their first major purchase was a small amphibian plane for the work in Liberia. It was the first non-military plane to ever fly into that country and caused quite a stir. The Liberians were so excited to see the plane that for many years they charged no duty fees on any STL equipment brought into the country.

Appeals soon began to pour in from all over the world. Boats were needed in the Bahamas, a jeep in Costa Rica, mules were requested in Nigeria, and bicycles in Upper Volta. The Assemblies of God discovered that one missionary, properly equipped, could do the work of 10 who lacked resources. Missionaries were going farther, faster, and easier than they ever had before.

Harris knew he had to keep the challenge fresh so he proclaimed the third Sunday of October “Dollar Day” when a special offering would be sent in from each CA group totaling $1 for each young person who attended the church. The Pentecostal Evangel lent its support to the project, running articles highlighting STL on that Sunday.

One young man, Loren, was 17 when STL was born. He later testified that STL built a bridge for him to different parts of the world as he read the updates in the Evangel articles and had the opportunity to contribute to something that was larger than himself. He was learning that he could impact an entire world for the good. He later became a pastor in Nebraska who supported STL in his local church until God called him to spend 12 years in Nicaragua, using his own STL vehicle. He later served as the field director for Latin America and, in 1997, Loren Triplett retired as executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions. It started with giving $1 to Speed the Light’s Dollar Day.

Since that first year in 1945, the youth of the Assemblies of God have given $312,870,885.76 to STL, including $9,421,143.41 in 2017. The third Sunday of October is still STL Day in the Assemblies of God. J. Philip Hogan, referring to the skeptic who told Harris that this excitement in the youth would “soon blow over,” wrote on STL’s 40th anniversary in 1984, “He was right! It has blown all over the world!”

Read stories and view photos from “Dollar Day” in the article, “Keep ‘Em Rolling,” on page 7 of the Oct. 11, 1953, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Family Worship and the Promise of Power,” by Norman V. Williams

• “Pentecostal Principles,” by James D. Menzies

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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Filed under History, Missions

Noel Perkin: Assemblies of God Missions Leader, 1927-1959

Perkin NoelThis Week in AG History —September 20, 1941

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 20 September 2018

Noel Perkin (1893-1979), known as “Mr. Missions,” served as missionary secretary (now called executive director of AG World Missions) for the Assemblies of God (AG).

Born in London, England, he moved to Canada at the age of 18 and took a job with the Bank of Montreal in Toronto. He worked there seven years and became head of the savings department. He also joined efforts with a group of Christian businessmen and established a Pentecostal church in Toronto.

In 1918, Perkin was ordained by the AG and then did missionary work in Argentina. After three years of missionary work, he moved to the U.S. and settled in Rochester, New York. He became assistant pastor of Elim Tabernacle and attended Elim Bible School where he met his wife. He married Ora Blanchard in 1922 and pastored small churches in New York over the next four years.

In 1926 the Perkin family moved to Springfield, Missouri, where Noel Perkin started working at the national office of the AG. He became the assistant missionary secretary for a year before accepting the position of AG Missionary Secretary. He served 32 years, from 1927-1959.

Missionary Secretary Noel Perkin gave an address at the 1941 General Council on the topic, “Occupy Till I Come.” He spoke on missions from a global perspective, talking about the current world crisis and the role of missionaries. At that time, World War II was well underway, but the United States would not enter the conflict until later that year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Although Perkin mentioned that many countries were closed to gospel work at that time, he was encouraged because “even though there is not any opportunity to do much, if any, missionary work through American missionaries, yet multitudes of the people are still being reached through the courageous service of native evangelists and pastors.”

Perkin gave some glowing testimonies of the gospel message being shared underground and on the war front. He shared one example of a nurse who worked both in a supply base and also in tending to and escorting wounded soldiers from the front lines to a hospital. An American saw her helping soldiers and asked, “Are you not already wounded and partly incapacitated?” “Yes,” she replied quietly, “but there is such a need at the front. You know they expect a lot of us who are Christians.”

Perkin mentioned difficulty in getting workers to the mission fields and difficulty in getting funds to certain fields. But he still promoted missions efforts, even if it involved sacrifice. He closed his remarks by saying, “The crisis is, what shall we do with the challenge that is set before us?” His response was, “Not do less but more, for the night settles down upon us when no man may work.”

Missions has always been paramount to the AG. At the second General Council in November 1914, a resolution was adopted which committed the AG to “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.” This has continued to be a primary goal of the Assemblies of God throughout the decades.

Read Noel Perkin’s address, “Occupy Till I Come,” on pages 4-7 of the Sept. 20, 1941, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Work Whereunto I Have Appointed Them,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “The Diary of a Delegate”

• “Central America Presents a Great Opportunity,” by John L. Franklin

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, Missions