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.
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