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!
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.
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