Tag Archives: Iran

Andrew Urshan and the Persecution of Early Pentecostals in Iran

This Week in AG History — August 19, 1916

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 20 August 2020

Andrew D. Urshan (1884-1967), the son of a Presbyterian pastor in Persia (now Iran), immigrated to the United States in 1901. He was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1908 in Chicago, where he started a Persian Pentecostal mission. He returned to his homeland in 1914 as an Assemblies of God missionary and, amidst much persecution, helped to establish an enduring Pentecostal church.

Urshan shared his testimony in a series of three articles published in 1916 in the Pentecostal Evangel. Persia was a melting pot of numerous people groups, including Arabs, Jews, and Armenians. But Urshan felt a call to minister to his own people, the Assyrians. The Assyrians, who mostly belonged to various Christian churches, had a long history of suffering as a persecuted religious and ethnic minority.

Interestingly, most of the persecution experienced by Urshan and other Pentecostals came from other Christians. Urshan recounted that Muslim leaders treated him with respect, because the Pentecostals and the Muslims shared similar moral values. When Urshan was placed in jail for preaching the gospel, Muslim leaders stated, “He says people shouldn’t get drunk, and that is why they have imprisoned him.”

Pentecostal revival spread in the Assyrian community. Urshan related the stories of the birth of Pentecostal churches in five towns. In each new church, miracles and changed lives were accompanied by suffering. In the town of Urmia, a mob of Eastern Orthodox Christians attacked a group of Pentecostal girls who were headed to church. The mob shot their rifles at the young converts, hitting three and killing one of the girls. The grief and violence did not deter the Pentecostals from meeting. Ultimately, about 50 people accepted Christ and were baptized in the Holy Spirit in Urmia. Similar stories happened in each town touched by Pentecostal revival.

Urshan pleaded for readers in America to learn from the deep spirituality of Persian believers. He wrote, “I have seen young girls like some of you interceding and agonizing for the salvation of souls in the whole world.” These young Persians, he explained, “walked carefully, with their eyes and hearts filled with God, singing praises unto Jesus, and pleading tearfully with souls, before their persecutors.”

When Urshan returned to America, he was troubled by the lack of consecration he found in some churches. Many Christians he met seemed to live “careless” lives and seemed most interested in “fashions of dress” and “the pleasures of this world.” Urshan wrote that he “suffered in the spirit” for American Christians. People who are “in danger of death,” he surmised, may actually be better off spiritually. Americans, he believed, should seek to cultivate spiritual depth by learning from the suffering church.

Read the series of three articles by Andrew D. Urshan, “Pentecost in Persia,” in the following issues of the Pentecostal Evangel:

Click here for the Aug. 19, 1916, issue.

Click here for the Aug. 26, 1916, issue.

Click here for the Sept. 2, 1916, issue.

Also featured in the Aug. 19, 1916, issue:

• “The Unity of the Spirit,” by W. Jethro Walthall

• “Daily Portion from the King’s Bounty,” by Alice Reynolds Flower

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.

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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Assemblies of God Missionaries Mark and Gladys Bliss: Remembering the Deaths of Their Three Children in Iran

Mark BlissThis Week in AG History — March 1, 1970

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 28 February 2019

This year marks 50 years since the deaths of four young children who were killed in a traffic accident in Iran. Three of these belonged to AG missionaries Mark and Gladys Bliss who arrived in Tehran in 1965. The other was the son of Iranian national, Haik Hovsepian-Mehr.

In 1969, the missionary work of the Blisses was prospering. Assemblies of God churches had been established and were growing. New fellowships were being planted. Mark was helping to establish a Bible school in Tehran. On Oct. 24, 1969, Mark and Gladys attended a pastor’s conference.

The next day they made arrangements to travel with Haik Hovsepian-Mehr and his family to Gorgan, where a new church was being established. They started the six-hour drive on winding, narrow two-lane roads. They hoped to arrive before nightfall.

On the way they traveled through a village of about 10,000 people where Mark and Haik had been arrested a few months earlier for evangelizing. The men decided to stop for a few moments to pray for the salvation of the village. Their time of prayer lasted longer than they expected, and this meant that the last part of their journey would be after dark.

Unknown to the families, that prayer meeting would change their lives forever. Mark got back into the driving seat with his daughters Karen (13) and Debbie (11) in the front seat. Gladys Bliss and 3-year-old Mark Jr. were in the back along with the Hovsepians and their 3-month-old son.

Energized by the prayer time and fully alert, Mark drove on toward the new church building in Gorgan. All of a sudden, he was blinded momentarily when an oncoming vehicle did not dim its lights. Mark’s vehicle came upon a tractor-trailer loaded with grain that was going very slow and had no lights. With no time to react, the impact was devastating. Mark Jr., Karen, and Debbie Bliss, and the Hovsepians’ young son, Joseph, all died in the accident. The four adults were taken to a local hospital. Mark had minor injuries compared to the others who spent a couple months recovering.

When Haik Hovsepian heard the news that his baby son had died, he raised his hands from his hospital bed and said, “Praise the Lord.” When Mark was discharged he found a piano and began to worship and sing, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Despite their terrible loss and grief, Mark and Gladys Bliss never wavered in their faith in God.

But grief was not the only suffering they endured. As the driver of a car involved in a fatal accident, Mark faced charges of manslaughter, a large fine, and possibly a prison sentence. It took three years until the case was heard. An acquittal did not look possible. Mark was tried in front of three Islamic judges, men who likely would not be sympathetic toward an American Christian. Mark needed a translator who was fluent in Farsi. He was able to enlist his friend Sam, who was an Iranian national who had been working with him to establish the Bible school in Tehran.

When the court date arrived, Mark testified, “I do not consider myself guilty. But if you do consider me guilty, please consider in your verdict that I have already suffered the loss of my three children.” He continued testifying, “But my children are not dead. They are alive.” He shared Jesus’s words that He is “the resurrection and the life and he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall live.” Mark left the court a free man. A 10-month prison sentence was reduced to two years’ probation.

Mark and Gladys Bliss continued to minister to the Iranian church until they transferred to another field in 1980. Years later Mark reflected on the remarkable growth of the Church in Iran. He shared, “After the tragedy, we prayed saying, ‘We have planted three seeds for the sake of the harvest in Iran.’ Today, we are seeing that harvest.”

Charles Greenaway reported on the accident and the Bliss’ faith in, “I Have Planted Three Seeds,” on pages 8-9 of the March 1, 1970, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Good Shepherd,” by J. Bashford Bishop

• “Guyana Revisited”

• “Your Questions Answered,” by Ernest S. Williams

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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Persecution of Pentecostals in Iran 100 Years Ago


This Week in AG History–August 19, 1916
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 18 Aug 2014 – 8:49 PM CST.

Andrew D. Urshan (1884-1967), the son of a Presbyterian pastor in Persia (now Iran), immigrated to the United States in 1901. He was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1908 in Chicago, where he started a Persian Pentecostal mission. He returned to his homeland in 1914 as an Assemblies of God missionary and, amidst much persecution, helped to establish an enduring Pentecostal church.

Urshan shared his testimony in a series of three articles published in 1916 in the Pentecostal Evangel. Persia was a melting pot of numerous people groups, including Arabs, Jews, and Armenians. But Urshan felt a call to minister to his own people, the Assyrians. The Assyrians, who mostly belonged to various Christian churches, had a long history of suffering as a persecuted religious and ethnic minority.

Interestingly, most of the persecution experienced by Urshan and other Pentecostals came from other Christians. Urshan recounted that Muslim leaders treated him with respect, because the Pentecostals and the Muslims shared similar moral values. When Urshan was placed in jail for preaching the gospel, Muslim leaders stated, “He says people shouldn’t get drunk, and that is why they have imprisoned him.”

Pentecostal revival spread in the Assyrian community. Urshan related the stories of the birth of Pentecostal churches in five towns. In each new church, miracles and changed lives were accompanied by suffering. In the town of Urmia, a mob of Eastern Orthodox Christians attacked a group of Pentecostal girls who were headed to church. The mob shot their rifles at the young converts, hitting three and killing one of the girls. The grief and violence did not deter the Pentecostals from meeting. Ultimately, about fifty people accepted Christ and were baptized in the Holy Spirit in Urmia. Similar stories happened in each town touched by Pentecostal revival.

Urshan pleaded for readers in America to learn from the deep spirituality of Persian believers. He wrote, “I have seen young girls like some of you interceding and agonizing for the salvation of souls in the whole world.” These young Persians, he explained, “walked carefully, with their eyes and hearts filled with God, singing praises unto Jesus, and pleading tearfully with souls, before their persecutors.”

When Urshan returned to America, he was troubled by the lack of consecration he found in churches. Many Christians he met seemed to live “careless” lives and seemed most interested in “fashions of dress” and “the pleasures of this world.” Urshan wrote that he “suffered in the spirit” for American Christians. People who are “in danger of death,” he surmised, may actually be better off spiritually. Americans, he believed, should seek to cultivate spiritual depth by learning from the suffering church.

Read the series of three articles by Andrew D. Urshan, “Pentecost in Persia,” in the following issues of the Pentecostal Evangel:

Click here for the August 19, 1916, issue.

Click here for the August 26, 1916, issue.

Click here for the September 2, 1916, issue.

Also featured in the August 19, 1916, issue:

* “The Unity of the Spirit,” by W. Jethro Walthall

* “Daily Portion from the King’s Bounty,” by Alice Reynolds Flower

And many more!

Click here to read the August 19, 1916, issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangel, click here.

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

Leave a comment

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