This Week in AG History -- Jan. 12, 1935
Anna Ziese (1895-1969), the legendary Assemblies of God missionary, began her life in Germany and lost her life during the height of the Cultural Revolution in China. Between these two events, she showed tremendous courage and creativity as she lived and ministered on three continents.
Anna was born in eastern Germany, where she graduated from public school. She accepted Christ at age 16. Her mother and father died within a year of each other and, by age 17, Anna was an orphan. Anna was forced to grow up quickly. She and two of her sisters immigrated to the United States, hoping for a better life.
In America, Anna worked as a nanny and became engaged to marry a dentist. Her future seemed bright and comfortable. But God had other plans for Anna. She felt called to China as a missionary. Her fiancé did not share her call, so they broke up. Anna attended Elim Bible Training Institute (Rochester, New York) from 1916 to 1918 to prepare for her future overseas.
Anna’s two sisters also received calls into the ministry. One sister married E. C. Steinberg, a Pentecostal missionary to Taiyuan, China. The other sister married Frederick Drake, an Assemblies of God minister. When Anna finally received missionary appointment with the Assemblies of God in 1920, she sailed to China and joined her sister and brother-in-law.
When Anna arrived in China, the nation was in the midst of social turmoil. Imperial dynasties had ruled China for thousands of years, but the final dynasty had been overthrown in 1912. By 1920, two warring factions, the Communists and the Nationalists, were fighting for control of the nation. The ongoing war left the countryside in shambles, and many missionaries seized the opportunity to help those in distress.
Anna worked to alleviate the suffering caused by war and famine. She wrote numerous letters, published in the Pentecostal Evangel, describing the horrors of daily life endured by many Chinese. She sought funds to provide food for the hungry, and she ventured into the war camps to minister to the prisoners. In an article published in the Jan. 12, 1935, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, she reported that 86 prisoners followed Christ in water baptism.
Anna did not try to maintain Western standards of living while ministering to the impoverished. Instead, she adapted to Chinese ways of life. When the Communists shelled and took the city of Taiyuan in 1949, she stayed and did not flee with the other Westerners. Anna was the only American Assemblies of God missionary who stayed in mainland China after the Communists gained control. All others returned to the West or transferred to other nations.
While China closed its doors to Western missionaries, Anna was able to remain because she never became an American citizen. She was born in eastern Germany, so following World War II she received a passport from the new communist government in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
Anna lived in China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, when possibly a million or more people were killed because of supposed ties to the West or to the former Chinese ruling class. The last two decades of her life are shrouded in mystery, as she lived behind what became known as the “Bamboo Curtain.” One surviving report about Anna, from the “block-watcher” where Anna lived, spoke highly of Anna’s noble character and frugality. Anna lived in a one-room adobe structure that was common in China and received a $3 monthly stipend (the average wage of that time) from the Chinese communist government. During her two decades in communist China, Anna continued to share the gospel and train converts and ministers. When Anna died in the summer of 1969, her remains were placed in a local crematorium, as is common in China.
Anna Ziese gave up a life that promised comfort in America to follow God’s call in China. She did so as a single woman in an era that generally required women to be subservient to men. She adapted to the Chinese lifestyle and loved their culture. She consecrated her life completely to minister to the Chinese people and was even accepted by and supported by the communist government. In an era when heightened political tensions made it almost impossible for Western missionaries to minister in China, Anna Ziese’s love for the Chinese people and her humble ways made her calling possible.
Read the report by Anna Ziese, "Eighty-Six Prisoners Baptized," on page 10 of the Jan. 12, 1935, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “The Marks of a Christian," by J. Narver Gortner
• "Strength for the Journey," by Zelma Argue
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.