This Week in AG History -- March 1, 1970
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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.