Tag Archives: Compassion

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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How Compassion Ministries and Miracles Fueled Growth in the Assemblies of God in India

IndianMission_728This Week in AG History — June 20, 1925

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 21 June 2018

The Assemblies of God, from its earliest years, has been ministering the gospel in word and deed around the world. The June 20, 1925, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel highlighted the work of an early Assemblies of God mission located in Nawabganj, a city in northern India near the border of Nepal, which operated ministries to help the poverty-stricken and disadvantaged of India.

A boys’ school at the Nawabganj mission rescued street children and nourished their souls, bodies, and minds. The school, equipped with modern living quarters for about 70 boys, provided a safe, healthy environment and ‘intellectual and practical training.” Technical training included weaving, carpentry, and machine work in the school’s industrial department.

The mission also ministered to those affected by the contagious, skin-eating disease of leprosy. While the broader society often rejected lepers, the mission attempted to affirm their dignity as humans and provided them with physical comfort and the hope of eternal life with Christ.

The mission’s work among women was termed “zenana” – an Urdu word referring to women. Women missionaries ministered to women, often widows or those who had experienced extreme poverty or suffering. The mission, according to the article, provided a home for society’s “most unfortunate victims.” Many of these women became Christians, and prayer became an important part of their lives.

In addition to these works of compassion, the mission was home to a vibrant evangelistic ministry. Indian Christians went into the surrounding villages and preached the gospel. Persecution against those preachers, according to the article, was “beyond endurance and almost unbelievable.” However, the preaching of the Word was not in vain. As these indigenous Christians ministered in the face of incredible opposition, the truth of the gospel was confirmed by acts of compassion and by miracles of deliverance and healing. One by one, people repented of their sins and accepted Christ.

The mission at Nawabganj demonstrates how the Assemblies of God, since its inception, has encouraged holistic ministry to spiritual, intellectual, and physical needs. The Nawabganj mission built its institutions to meet the needs of the community’s most impoverished — those who had been rejected by the broader society. These works of compassion, coupled with miracles and prayer, gave credibility to the gospel, which allowed Indian Christians to successfully plant churches across northern India despite stiff opposition.

Read the entire article, “More about the India Mission Stations,” by William M. Faux, on page 10 of the June 20, 1925, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Second Coming of Christ,” by Finis J. Dake

• “Mexican Border Work Prospers,” by H. C. Ball

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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Maynard and Gladys Ketcham: Pioneer Assemblies of God Missionaries to India

KetchamThis Week in AG History — March 15, 1947

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 15 March 2018

Maynard Ketcham (1905-1993) arrived in Purulia, India, in 1926 as the first Assemblies of God missionary to Bengal. His sweetheart, Gladys, arrived one year later. Together they served the people of North India and the far east until their retirement in 1969.

In the March 15, 1947, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Ketcham told the story of Padda, one of the girls he and Gladys rescued from a life of “serving the gods” as a Hindu temple prostitute. He appealed to Evangel readers of the need to continue to develop the girl’s orphanage in Purulia to provide homes and education for girls like Padda. He sent a plea: “Who will help us?”

Ketcham, himself, was the answer to a similar plea for help in India 37 years earlier.

About the same time of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street in California, a Methodist orphanage for girls on Elliot Road in Calcutta, India, experienced a similar outpouring. The respected director, Miss Fanny Simpson, noticed that the girls were gathering on their own in the prayer chapel. During these prayer times, the girls began to praise, to shout, and then to speak in unknown tongues and also reported seeing visions. Soon they were coming to her office and confessing sins of stealing rice and cheating on exams.

Simpson was in awe and wonderment and was not quite sure what to do about these occurrences. But the simple faith and joy of these little girls soon convinced her that even she needed more of Christ in her life. She soon knelt in the chapel, surrounded by orphans who were recently redeemed from Calcutta’s gutters, and received the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

As the girls began to tell others of what was happening in the Methodist orphanage it came to the attention of the bishop, and Simpson was dismissed from her leadership role and sent back to the United States. She was obedient to her superiors but her heart remained with the orphan girls of India.

Simpson became a musical evangelist for the Methodist church and made a practice of inviting those who were interested in learning more about the secret to true spiritual power to stay after the service where she offered prayer for the fullness of the Spirit.

During one of these “extra services,” Inda Ketcham, a widow from Eastport, Long Island, came to her for prayer. Simpson prayed for the widow who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit but her attention was drawn to the wiggly 5-year old boy standing behind his mother. Asking for his name, Simpson laid her hands on the young boy and prophesied, “Maynard Ketcham will be the missionary who one day will take Pentecost to Calcutta and all of Bengal and beyond.”

While young Maynard did not appreciate the significance of this event, his mother did. She filled their home with missionary magazines and story books of the great sagas of missionary adventures. Simpson also kept in touch with the family and kept them in her constant prayers.

After turning down scholarships to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Ketcham graduated from Beulah Heights Bible and Missionary Training School in New Jersey, where he met and courted Gladys Koch. Soon he received a letter from Simpson, who had laid aside her own funds and returned to India. She had purchased property for a missions compound in Purulia, 200 miles west of Calcutta, and wrote to Ketcham, “Remember, Maynard, you are ordained of God to be the pioneer of Pentecost to Eastern India. The doors are open!”

Gladys Koch’s pastor felt she was too young to be a missionary so Ketcham set sail for India alone in 1926. Gladys followed one year later and they married in India in 1928. Using the land that Simpson purchased with money received from her mother’s estate, they opened the Door of Hope orphanage in Purulia, where young girls received a safe home, education, and training to take the gospel into one of the neediest nations on earth.

Fanny Simpson lived to see the fulfillment of the vision God had given her to provide God’s love and care to the orphaned girls of India and the place the young Maynard Ketcham would play in it. Maynard and Gladys became the first Assemblies of God missionaries to the Bengali-speaking area of Eastern India, which includes Calcutta and what was then called East Bengal.

But God was not done with her vision even then. When Ketcham became the Assemblies of God field director for the Far East he saw potential in a young evangelist and invited him to come to do missions work in Calcutta. The young man had invitations elsewhere but agreed to pray about Calcutta. In 1955, at the encouragement from Maynard Ketcham, evangelists Mark and Huldah Buntain moved to Calcutta. In a final twist, Buntain built a Pentecostal church on Elliot Road in Calcutta, across the street from the Methodist orphanage Simpson was forced to leave in 1907.

Read more about Ketcham’s call for help for the Purulia orphanage on page 8 of the March 15, 1947, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Grace Abounding,” by A.G. Ward

• “Wet Wood Among the Saints,” by Nelson Hinman

• “A Challenge to Christian Youth,” by E.S. Williams

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

IMAGE – Back row (left to right): Esther Olson, Virginia Watts, Gladys Ketcham. Sophie Erhardt is in the back row, far right; with some of the girls from the Purulia orphanage.

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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Albert Norton, Pioneer Pentecostal Missionary to India: Preaching Must be Accompanied by Good Works

albertnorton

This Week in AG History —February 22, 1919

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 23 February 2017

In the early twentieth century, many mainline Protestant churches were in the process of redefining the Christian faith. New academic theories undermined the authority of Scripture, and a faith in science replaced faith in the God of miracles as described in the Bible. These theological liberals pioneered a “Social Gospel” movement defined by doing good works, even as they left behind the seemingly antiquated notion that “Truth” could be found in Scripture.

In America, evangelicals and Pentecostals often responded to the Social Gospel movement by re-asserting biblical truths. Some tried to reform older denominations from within; others formed new, purer churches. Some backed away from social action, concerned that an emphasis on good works could distract from what they believed was the more important duty to preach the Word.

Outside America, missionaries were often surrounded by great suffering and felt compelled to minister in both word and deed. One such missionary was Albert Norton, an early Assemblies of God missionary to India.

In a 1919 Pentecostal Evangel article, Norton wrote the following bold statement, which argues that Christian preaching must be accompanied by works of compassion:

“A Christianity that coldly sits down, and goes on its routine of formal work, and allows its fellowmen to starve, or to be obliged to go through all the hard sufferings and exposure connected with famine, without effort to help them, might as well quit its preaching.”

Norton, who was witnessing an unfolding human tragedy, asked that “all missionaries, Mission Boards and Committees and all Christian Workers to do what they can to save their brothers and sisters in India from dying of starvation or from the kindred train of evils following famine.”

Pentecostal Evangel editor Stanley H. Frodsham responded and devoted the entire front page of the Feb. 22, 1919, issue to the desperate situation in India. He asked readers to send famine relief to Gospel Publishing House, which he promised would “be promptly sent to the field.”

Frodsham provided three justifications for this request to save bodies as well as souls. First, he stated that Scripture required it, quoting Proverbs 19:17 and 24:11-12. Second, he noted that the Methodist church had asked its members to forego luxuries for a few months and to instead provide money for Indian relief. He challenged Pentecostals to do likewise.

Third, he noted that the future of the church depended upon rescuing those who are starving now. He again quoted Norton, “There are young men and women in India today, who were saved as famine orphans several years ago, and now they are filled with the Holy Spirit, and being greatly used in the extension of Christ’s Kingdom.” Meeting the physical needs to the starving today would yield preachers tomorrow. He continued, “How unutterably sad it would have been if they had been allowed to die of starvation.”

Early Pentecostal missionaries such as Norton had very limited physical resources to share, but they still recognized the need to minister in both word and deed. When the Assemblies of God, at its 2009 General Council, added compassion as the fourth element for its reason for being — joining worship, evangelism, and discipleship — this was an affirmation of a long-standing practice.

Read Frodsham’s entire article, “Plague and Famine Raging in India,” on pages 1-2 of the Feb. 22, 1919, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Run to Help the Dying,” by A. E. L.

* “Hints Regarding Divine Healing,” by Florence Burpee

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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Despite Opposition, Assemblies of God Founders Supported Missionaries AND Famine Relief

TWApril17_1400

Alfred and Myrtle Blakeney, Assemblies of God missionaries to India, and their five children (1920)

This Week in AG History — April 16, 1921

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 14 April 2016

The Assemblies of God, in its first decade, provided significant financial resources to the alleviation of hunger in other nations. A devastating famine hit China in 1920 and 1921, causing the deaths of an estimated half million people. This tragedy inspired Assemblies of God leaders to make an extended appeal for donations for Chinese famine relief. This decision was not without controversy.

J. Roswell Flower, Assemblies of God Missions Treasurer, in the April 16, 1921, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, recounted that church leaders expressed concern that an appeal for famine relief would likely decrease giving to support missionaries already on the field.  This fear was realized, and Flower reported that total missions giving did not increase in the first four months of the year. Donors shifted from supporting missionaries to famine relief. Missionaries were in danger of not receiving sufficient monetary support on which to live.

Despite this challenging financial situation, Flower defended the appeal for famine relief. He explained, “The famine need was so great…that we took the risk with such good results as you have seen.” To make up for the decrease in giving toward missionaries, Flower asked readers to contribute additional offerings.

How did Assemblies of God members respond to the challenge to expand their giving to include support for both missionaries and famine relief?

The 1921 General Council minutes reported that missions giving increased by almost 19 percent. The Foreign Missions Department received a record $107,953.55 during the fiscal year ending August 1921. Of that total, almost 10 percent ($10,383.12) was given to Chinese famine relief.

Read the article, “The Famine in China,” by J. Roswell Flower on page 12 of the April 16, 1921, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

•  “Looking from the Top,” by Christine Peirce

• “Tithes and Offerings,” by Elizabeth Sisson

• “Unity,” by C. W. Doney

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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Barney Moore: Saved in a Methodist Revival with Signs and Wonders in 1901

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Barney and Mary Moore, circa 1919


This Week in AG History — January 17, 1931

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 14 January 2016

When Barney S. Moore (1874-1956) converted to Christ in 1901, it was during a revival with signs and wonders in a Methodist church. His testimony, published in the January 17, 1931, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, recounted that the Methodist missionary at the revival “was preaching nearly everything that is now preached in Pentecost.”

Moore recalled that, as the congregation was in quiet prayer, the “heavens opened and a rushing mighty wind” filled the small Methodist church. About one-third of the congregation fell to the ground, overwhelmed by God’s glory and the power of the Holy Spirit. Moore experienced something unexpected — he began speaking in a language he had not learned. At first the pastor was uncertain how to respond to the revival and the gift of tongues. But they soon realized they had experienced something akin to the spiritual outpouring in the second chapter of Acts. At the end of the revival, Moore counted 85 people who had decided to repent of their sins and follow Christ.

At the encouragement of his pastor, Moore attended Taylor University (Upland, Indiana) and studied for the ministry. At his first pastorate, in Urbana, Illinois, in 1904, the power of God fell again. During the revival, he wrote, a lady in his church spoke in tongues she had not learned, which Moore deemed to be classical Hebrew and Latin.

Moore was ordained in 1906 by the Metropolitan Church Association, a small Holiness denomination. Before long he heard about the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909) in Los Angeles, which had become a focal point of the emerging Pentecostal movement. He immediately recognized the similarity between his own spiritual experiences and what was happening at the Azusa Street Revival. He cast his lot with the Pentecostals.

In 1914, Moore and his wife, Mary, followed God’s call to serve as missionaries in Japan. They established a thriving mission and, in 1918, affiliated with the Assemblies of God. When a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 1923, devastating Yokohama and Tokyo and killing 140,000 people, the Moores turned their efforts toward relief work. Moore wrote a widely-distributed book, The Japanese Disaster: or the World’s Greatest Earthquake (1924), and spent years raising money to help the suffering Japanese people.

The testimony of Barney Moore demonstrates that early Pentecostals did not emerge in a vacuum. They were heirs to earlier revival traditions, including those in Methodist and Holiness churches. Moore was careful to document that his experience of speaking in tongues came before the broader Pentecostal movement came into being. His story also shows that early Pentecostals, when confronted by human suffering, were among those who demonstrated Christ’s love not just in word, but in deed.

Read Barney Moore’s article, “Glorious Miracles in the Twentieth Century,” on pages 2-3 of the January 17, 1931, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:
• “The Gift of Faith,” by Donald Gee
• “Evidences of God’s Grace in Japan,” by Jessie Wengler
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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Maria Gerber: The Pentecostal “Angel of Mercy” During the Armenian Genocide in Turkey

Gerber

Maria A. Gerber (front row, third from left) with widows from Zion Orphan’s Home in Turkey

This Week in AG History — December 4, 1915

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 3 December 2015

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.

Maria 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 — Maria only had a short time to live.

Fear gripped Maria’s heart. She had never committed her life to the Lord. She knew that if she died, she would not go to heaven. Maria 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. Maria quickly recovered from her incurable illness, much to everyone’s surprise! Maria’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 Maria.

Maria 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…”

Maria’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. Maria and a friend, Rose Lambert, felt God calling them to minister to the Armenian widows and orphans.

Maria and Rose 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.

Maria, 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 Cesarea, 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.

Maria 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 Maria were published in the Pentecostal Evangel. Assemblies of God leader D. W. Kerr, in the foreword to Maria’s 1917 autobiography, wrote that he had known Maria for 26 years and that her story will encourage readers “to greater self denial and a deeper surrender.”

Maria suffered a stroke and passed away on December 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 Maria 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 Maria 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 Maria Gerber’s articles, “Great Results Seen in Answer to Prayer,” on page 4 of the December 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 January 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: www.iFPHC.org

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Filed under Ethics, History, Missions