"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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
For what I do now, thou knowest not, but thou shalt know hereafter. Therefore, gird up your loins with Truth and be strong, and keep your feet shod with the Gospel of peace, with the shoes of Salvation and Deliverance. And go forth, FOR EVERYTHING THAT CAN BE SHAKEN WILL BE SHAKEN. And that which CANNOT be shaken shall remain. And that which shall be shaken will be removed out of the way... Thus Saith The Lord!
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.
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!
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,
Where gates of pearl swing open wide,
And when I've passed this vale of sorrow,
I'll dwell upon the other side.
Someday, beyond the reach of mortal ken,
Someday, God only knows just where and when,
The wheels of mortal life shall all stand still,
And I shall go to dwell on Zion's hill.
Someday my labors will be ended,
And all my wanderings will be o'er;
And all earth's broken ties be mended,
And I shall sigh and weep no more."
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,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Oh, love of God! How rich and pure,
How measureless and strong;
It shall forevermore endure,
The saints' and angels' song."
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.
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.