"God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform, He plants His feet upon the sea and rides upon the storm." - Cooper.
From this lovely land of Louisiana, where once stood forest after forest of tall, stately pines - unsurpassed anywhere in the world perhaps - an early pioneer Pentecostal evangelist wrote a little book entitled "The Coming of Jesus and the White Throne Judgment." In this book he tells how the rhythmic pulsation of these swaying evergreens sounded like silvery strains of chanted psalms to the listening ear... and only those who have been privileged to hear this kind of music will fully understand how that to him they seemed to sing, "He's coming soon... He's coming soon."
Now this old soldier, with many others of yesterday, has laid down his armor. May God rest their gallant souls. The trees, too, are mostly all gone; their voices are all but silent. But the message of their song lives on. His coming is nearer than when we first believed, and another wind is blowing through the land...
"There's a wind that blows full of grace and power, As in Creation's most wondrous hour, When God gently breathed on a form of sod And the first man lived by the Breath of God."
The wind is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost it came as a rushing mighty wind. (These men lived again by the breath of God.) Even so, many today are being awakened from the sleep of spiritual death by this Holy Spirit refreshing. A fresh breath of God has blown accross the spiritual landscape of the twentieth century.
The Psalmist David cried out, "What is man that thou art mindful of him?" For a season, because of sin, man was reduced to a stinted state of spiritual poverty, beyond all hope of redemption... until Jesus came. And now He is the Hope of His people and the strength of Israel. In his full restoration, man will be higher than angels and archangels. Even so in this twentieth century, through the Holy Ghost, some have been used in such a special way as to cause the inebriated cities of our flourishing America to become God-conscious for a season. And it is this thought that leads us to center our remarks upon a man greatly beloved and wonderfully used of God, William Branham.
Words can but fail us as we look back to the time of our first meeting with our dear brother. Though we had dreamed of someday seeing something like this, it seemed that we were still napping and were not aware of the rousing Biblical melodrama that was taking place in the state just north of us until some of our brethren attended the Branham meetings in Arkansas and brought back the incredible reports of what they saw. This sounded good, but the half had not been told us; we were destined to encounter some of the most precious experiences of our lives. In the providence of God the Evangelist was sent to bless us with a brief sample of his touching ministry. T he air was laden with fascinating stories about this unusual little Man and his "gift." How could we conceive of them all? One spoke enthusiastically of the "vibrations" on his hand by which he could tell any person whether or not they had a "germ disease" and what it was; another told of the inspiring sermons he was able to preach, and yet he declared he was "not a preacher"; some even claimed to have seen cancers which had passed from diseased bodies a given number of hours after prayer, and still others painted glowing pictures of deaf and dumb children speaking in the microphone, cripples shouting and dancing, endless prayer lines subsiding only after the weary evangelist had slumped in exhaustion and been carried away from the clamoring crowds; vast audiences keeping heads bowed in reverence for hours while no sounds penetrated the atmosphere except the stifled wails of the sufferers, the tender, earnest voice of the praying evangelist, soft strains of "Only Believe" and the frequent outbursts of praise as a healing took place. One lady who followed his meetings for hundreds of miles, in making a tearful attempt to describe the humility, compassion, and meekness of this phenomenal character, declared that when she looked at him she could not see a human at all, but Jesus. Everyone agreed that "you could never be the same after seeing him." Yet for all this we were totally unprepared for what actually happened to us. Did it not all seem too fantastic to be true?... But it was true, and more, as we were so soon to learn.
S urprise and bewilderment were among our mixed emotions that first Sunday evening of Brother Branham's visit to us when we arrived early at our large frame tabernacle and found the building so congested that we could hardly get in. This had never happened before on the first night of any meeting... but this was a Branham meeting! A steady stream of traffic had wound its way through Arkansas hills and Louisiana valleys that day, reverently tracing the path of this 20th century prophet, whose prayers could cause diseases to be accursed, broken homes to be reunited, drunken fathers to repent, prodigal sons to return, feuding churches to stack arms and make peace, and lukewarm Christians to be rekindled by the fire of their first love.
We managed to secure a large high school auditorium, but we were forced to move back to the church after only two nights, due to the ravaging press of the throngs which descended upon the school, even during the school hours. We were privileged to keep only five glorious days and nights of this celestial vigil, but the effect of those memorable days lives on today.
The people were left humbled and tendered, because they knew that Jesus of Nazareth had passed our way in His servant. For that Holy pause we had seemingly turned back the pages of time and joined the admiring host of followers that shuffled along the dusty trails of Galilee in faithful devotion to a lowly Carpenter who claimed to be the Messiah of Israel. In our visionary procession we had passed by the place of the tombs which erupted a naked demoniac, screaming and hissing his objection to the presence of Christ, but sat at His feet a moment later clothed and in his right mind;... We were among the jostling mob around Jesus when He asked the abrupt question, "Who touched me?" and saw a trembling little woman cast herself at His feet and declare before all the people for what cause she had pulled at the border of His robe and how she had been healed immediately; and then we followed on to Jairus' house and saw the raising of his daughter...
We heard the plain words of a deaf and dumb child after his tongue was loosed by the Master's touch, and laughed to see the lame man leap for joy... We clamored for a seaside seat with five thousand other men who had forsaken the anvil and the hammer and closed the doors of their shops to spend the day hours in rapt listening to the wonderful teachings of this Divine Philosopher... We wept with the women as we gazed on His beautiful face and recognized the sorrow and grief there that spoke of a broken heart, and felt that melting, warming sensation that one glance from His kind eyes could bring to the soul. Yes, Bible days were here again. Here was a man who practiced what we preached.
I say this, not to exalt any human, but only to
that our deep appreciation for our brother stemmed from the
fact that his ministry seemed to bring our Lover Lord closer to us,
and to better acquaint us with His living works, His
personality, and His deity than anything had before...
and what better thing could be said of a human?
The hallowed feeling that came over us as we saw the wonderful triumphs of faith made us anxious to help in any small way that we could... (With God's Servant we claimed the promise of deliverance for the little crippled or afflicted child; We joined our prayers with his for the sick, the lonely, the suffering and the dying.) There were times when before we (the preachers) got "prayed-up" that through the faith of this "Man Sent From God" the work was done. Oh, how weak we felt in the Presence of this powerful Ministry!
So from church, friends, loved ones and home we departed to lend our mite of assistance to this spectacular ministry, the first destination being San Antonio, Texas. Hundreds were prayed for and delivered during these great days in the San Pedro Playhouse, saints were revived and sinners converted. We can never forget some of these moving scenes. It is without fluctuation that Brother Branham wins the hearts of the people wherever he goes, and as we were to later learn, these touching farewell scenes would be similarly re-enacted many times before our eyes.
We would not forget the students of International Bible College, who with their leader, Brother Coote, helped the sponsoring pastor, our lovable Brother Stribling, and all became so attached to the Evangelist. It was heart-rending to see them say good-bye. This is one of many sad events which will never be known in heaven... parting and farewell.
Two incidents stand out as we look back on this meeting. An indelible picture in my mind recalls a middle-aged man feeling his way through the prayer line, stone blind for 30 years. As he nears the Evangelist I hear him say, "I feel my eyes getting warm!" When prayed for he was told to look up, and for the first time since a child, he says, "I see a light!" I cannot soon forget the expression upon his face as he stood and gazed for several minutes with a smile of gladness across his face. Praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ!
The next incident was a stirring message given in the Spirit and interpreted, almost identical to two others which were to be given in other Branham meetings in different places, a sure testimony of the authenticity of this anointed ministry. It was uttered with such rousing force that it almost seemed unearthly, and this was the gist of the message...
"A s John the Baptist was sent as a forerunner of the Lord's First Coming, so was He sending forth this Evangelist to move the people and prepare them for His Second Coming."
Months later we heard this same message interpreted amidst a large crowd of people attending the Branham meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by Sister Anna Schrader whom we later learned to appreciate deeply. Truly, these words penetrated our hearts. More than ever we were made to realize that we are living in the "last days". At another time the Spirit of the Lord moved on our Sister Schrader with the following Prophetic 'warning' Message to all of us:
"A nd these are your days; these are your times. And these are My hours to work with men. I will tell you what I shall do with my vinyard. I will remove the hedge thereof, and it shall be trodden down. I will not send my ministers again AFTER THIS TIME to prune and to dig and to burn off the rubbish. For this is that time. AFTER THIS SEASON OF REDEMPTION is past, NEVER AGAIN will I move in the earth in the body of Christ as I am moving now.
How could the spiritual mind witness these things of God and not be moved to humility and repentance. Such was the atmosphere that permeated the Branham meetings.
The next meeting we were in was in Phoenix, Arizona. Here we met for the first time our friend and brother, who was later to become a member of the Evangelist's party, Brother John Sharritt, a lovely brother and prominent businessman. The Phoenix meeting was well attended and many signs and wonders were done in the Name of Jesus. On our return from the coast we stopped again in Phoenix with our Spanish brethren, where a prayer line seemed endless. My how those minds which had been trained to Catholicism responded to our brother's ministry! He prayed for them without rest for about eight hours.
From the Capital City of Arizona, we moved west to Los Angeles and Long Beach. The services began in Monterrey Park in a beautiful church which was crowded from the beginning. From here we moved to Municipal Auditorium in Long Beach. The service had been announced for 7 p.m., but in the late afternoon, in the midst of a service of another group, the sick, crippled, insane (some in straight jackets), began to pour in. The Old-Fashioned Revival Hour speaker (Rev. Charles E. Fuller) sensed this and was glad, it appeared to the writer, that it was someone else's faith that was being challenged and not his. Many were delivered and saved.
A brief stay in Oakland was followed by a gracious meeting in the capital city of the great state of California, Sacramento, and here a new chapter in this story should begin, for while the rest of the party was motored from Oakland to Sacramento, I boarded a plane for Ashland, Oregon, to see our good friend of many years' standing, Gordon Lindsay, and tell him about what God was doing. He was in current revival in his church in Ashland... But what could you guess?... He believed the true report, closed the meeting for the time and drove with his wife, his evangelistic party and myself down through rugged northern California to Sacramento to be in the Branham meeting. It is without hesitation that I say this was the first step in a process that changed the course of Bro. Lindsay's life completely, and consequently, perhaps, the lives of many others, for he initiated abd became the editor of THE VOICE OF HEALING magazine, reaching tens of thousands, where he once only touched the lives of a single congregation. Bro. Lindsay's testimony appears in another chapter of this site.
From wonderful meetings in Fresno we journeyed eastward back to Phoenix and the Indian Reservation. "The Indian Reservation"... the mention of those words brings back memories of dramatic scenes and incidents enacted by these superstitious, tribal natives that would fill a book. I wish all my readers could have stood with me before this clamorous congregation that night and watched the general transformation of a motley sea of brown, leathery faces from an expression of dubious curiosity and bewilderment to that of exhilarated admiration. Bless their hearts. After all, they are the original Americans, but I fear they have been sadly neglected and pushed aside. Brother Branham called the Indian "The True American".
It was a joy to help the missionaries by bringing a man whose revitalizing faith in God could bring about miracles the Indian could See for himself... for he must see to believe... and that is exactly what happened.
The church was packed out and many stood outside so the evangelist preached through an interpreter from the steps of the church to a not-so-sure audience, but soon the prayer line was formed and the power of the Lord was present to heal. Here we and they were privileged to see a real display of faith... miracle after miracle took place right before our eyes. The demonstration of just a few of these miracles was all the Indians needed to convince them.
Presently, we noticed a bit of confusion as numbers of them began to get up and leave abruptly... then saw the explanation of this a little later when they began to file back in, bringing others with them. Seeing had meant believing to the Red Man, and he had left the scene of the marvelous to go and bring in his sick and invalid loved ones who had been left in the huts.
I would mention an elderly woman who was hobbling through the prayer line on home-made crutches of broomsticks. When she came in contact with the Evangelist, she never waited for our brother to pray for her, but just handed him her crutches, straightened up and walked away. Such simple, childlike faith!
January of 1948 found us leaving the Canadian revival and journeying southward to the winter paradise of Miami, Florida. However, our motive was not a winter vacation, as was that of the convulsive mobs who soaked their money in the horse races, beach extravagance and general sinful revelry, but to minister to the needy who populate, yes, even as beautiful an Eden of Nature as this. They came by the droves, forming a truly varied audience, representing almost every state in the union, and some foreign lands, and bringing some of the most pitiable examples of human suffering we had seen. Not all, of course, but many of them went away whole.
Here it was our privilege to meet Avak, the young Christian Armenian, who had been called and anointed in his native country with a similar experience to that of Brother Branham. Heaven smiled on us one night during this campaign when we were privileged to meet Rev. F. F. Bosworth, a veteran of the healing ministry in earlier days, of whom we had heard and read for many years. It was "love at first sight" for Brother Bosworth and Brother Branham, as well as the rest of us, and it was our later pleasure to have him work with us in the evangelistic party.
A panorama of beautiful scenes unfold as I review this memorable period in my mind... not only the beauties of nature which we enjoyed in this picturesque country, but the enchanted hours we spent in traveling up the coast and across the Tamiami Trail, in the company of our lovable Brother Branham, my wife and daughter, Anna Jeanne and her beloved friend, Juanita. A foretaste of Heaven!...
We feasted on the Word as our brother expounded its goodness to us; the sisters wept as he paralleled the mysteries and struggles of earth-life with the glories of heaven, then he wept as they sang their beautiful songs of Jesus and heaven. Here was a man who lived on earth and in heaven too... He had treasures on the other side that often called his thoughts away from his meager terrestrial surroundings to the perfected celestial realms, and it seemed that his words were able to transport those in his company to the heavenlies with him. Heaven was never nearer than when they sang through tears...
"There waits for me a glad tomorrow,
Nor could we feel more passionately the love of God than when, accompanied by the rhythmic beat of the great Atlantic surges, we heard in melody...
"Could we with ink the ocean fill,
How could we know that so very soon our brother would be called from us to pass through the dark shadows of the valley of death, no longer able to bare the load that had exhausted his physical capacities, and that even the memory of these days would comfort him during long months of struggle with strained nerves and mental expression. That late evening, when we gazed out across the broad expanse of salty-white breakers toward the last rays of a glowing setting sun, and the evening breeze carried the sweet harmony of the girls' voices in words like this...
"Looking toward the sunset, Life seems to fade away, Shadows of night behind me, waiting to end the day. Somewhere beyond the lingering blue, Hope finds a way to keep shining through Faith looks beyond the sunset, where dawns eternal day."
Could he feel that the time was near when word would go out to his loved ones and many friends that the sun of his short life was sinking fast? Somehow I think he must have known, for he often spoke of going.
The spring of 1948 brought record of some of the greatest meetings yet, among them the Pensacola, Florida, revival. We love to think of this time. Much preparation had been made. Several groups had united together for the campaign, including all the Full Gospel churches that we know of in that locality, under the guidance of our lovable Brother Welch. A huge tent had been erected in a convenient location; multitudes gathered from surrounding communities and states, as far away as Michigan. Despite a storm in which the tent collapsed, and inclement weather, the great crowds and wonderful spirit prevailed to produce a heavenly five days.
One of the spectacular scenes came on a Sunday afternoon. We had announced that this would be a service especially for the un-saved. When the Evangelist had finished his life story, several hundred people, at least 1500, with melted hearts and tear-wet faces answered the invitation for all who wanted to become Christians. Only the Recording Angel knows the equal of this scene.
Many received healing in this meeting that never came in contact with the Evangelist. Faith soared high, and even long after the weary Evangelist had been carried out, a line of 20 or 25 local ministers, with differences and prejudices forgotten, prayed for the unending line of hundreds seeking healing. Great Day!
But the starin was beginning to show on the Evangelist. For many months, it was apparent that our Brother Branham would be compelled to pause for rest and recuperation, and spared the strain of hearing the problems of every individual. In every prayer line, after hours of praying and seeing visions, he was just as sincere and patient with the last one as he was with the first. But his frail little body was crumbling under the heavey burden.
From Kansas City, we went to Sedalia, Missouri for a few days. In spite of near collapse of the evangelist, God blessed multitudes of sick and suffering.
The scheduled meet in Masonic Auditorium, Elgin, Illinois, lasted several days, bringing a stir to the Fox River Valley as perhaps never before. As the meeting closed, we saw that the strain was too great, and time must be called or the Evangelist would soon become a casualty in the warfare for Jesus. We said good-bye to the party at Elgin and turned toward the warm, hospitable south, not aware that we would see no more of our beloved Evangelist for many months during which time his life and valuable ministry would almost be snuffed out.
But thanks be to God, we are glad to say that our Beloved Brother did return to the field and led us in the greatest revival in the history of our church in Shreveport, with Evangelist William Branham a better, healthier, stronger, more gifted evangelist than ever, with increased faith and anointing to preach the Gospel.