Remembering, Understanding & Honouring Our Past
As far as I can remember, I have always loved history, been fascinated with it and have been a student of it. But it has been only recent that I have begun to understand the massive significance of having a good grasp of our history because it is our understanding of our past that will give us clear bearings for the future. History gives us a compass and by history, I mean the history of the church and revival. We are not going to navigate through what God has for us in the coming years if we don’t understand our past.
And it is true that there has been a systematic attempt to destroy nations by doing just that: gradually revising our history and then changing it altogether. Judeo/Christians values are slowly being eroded or removed, and history textbooks no longer mention Judeo/Christian foundations unless they are derogatory. In the same token, the devil is seeking to systematically cut us off from our roots, and if we do not reattach to them soon, we might soon perish.
The fastest way to kill a tree is to cut it at its roots. The quickest way to kill a nation or a culture is to cut off its history. And the same is true for the church- the fastest way to kill the church is to remove its history because once we forget our history, then we have no more bearings for the future. It is our history that gives us our roots and we must remember that we build on the shoulders of those who have labored in the past. Whilst we are to be careful that we are not fixated on our past, we have to be careful to also not forget it.
The subject of revival history is vital. The church must not only have a good grasp of our history, we must understand that God moves in cycles. And that history is just an indication of how God is going to move. It is interesting that in the New Testament, as we read prayer after prayer, there is an unmistakable pattern we see, and it is this: that Old Testament history is rehearsed over and over again. For instance, on the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and in his message, talked about what God did for Israel and rehearsed past history. He understood that it was their history with God that created a platform from which he could now show what God was now doing. Old Testament scriptures were often recited as examples that God was fulfilling scriptures in their day. Biblical history records God’s dealings with His people and it is important because it shows us how God has moved, and what He is seeking to do in our present day and age. The sad thing is – the church today seems to have no desire to understand or learn from history.
Chronicling Our Journey
In September 2011, a small team of pastors from Cornerstone went on a short assignment to Wales, England and parts of Europe. Our assignment was to re-dig the old ancient revival wells, and pray at the very places that revival broke forth in the early 1900’s. Our principal assignment was to spend a few days at Ffald-Y-Brenin or “Sheepfold of the King” in the Welsh language, a kind of protestant monastery where people went to seek God in the quiet of the woods.
But little did we know that there was a pleasant surprise waiting for us in the seaside town of Swansea. At Swansea, we visited a place called Derwen Fawr, which means Great Oak, and it’s a reference to the great oak tree that once stood in the gardens of the Bible College of Wales that Rees Howells founded and established in 1924.
I would not be exaggerating to say that the course of human history was altered right here on this field. Mr. Howells and the wonderful saints at the Bible College of Wales turned the course of human history. It was this band of intercessors that prayed right through World War II and prevailed in their prayers. They prayed through the 1948 mandate when the UN was voting if Israel was going to be a new nation and again, their prayers prevailed. After Rees Howells’ death in 1950, under the directorship of his son Samuel Howells, they also prayed through the Cuban missile crisis as the US and USSR hurtled towards Armageddon and God turned the crisis around.
I’ve such a great love and respect for this ministry and when you walk in the facility, you can’t help but sense the wonderful presence of God that pervades the entire property. There is so much history and heritage in that site and as we stood there that day, under a little drizzle, we cried and sought God for the future of the site. It is a divine moment in God, one that will change the course of our church.
And so it is that we have reached an agreement to acquire the site of the former Bible College of Wales with Global Horizons Trust (Charity Number 1107553), which was formed out of the merger of the Rees Howells Trust and Lifelink International, led by Alan Scotland, to whom the late Samuel Howells, son of Rees Howells, entrusted the stewardship of the vision he had inherited from his father. Global Horizons, after much prayer and careful consideration, has felt led to carry forward the original ‘every creature’ commission given to Rees Howells by blending that vision into their on-going work among the nations of the world, with a special emphasis on training and equipping leaders in the proclamation of the gospel, which was the vision of both Rees and Samuel Howells.
With the Swansea site no longer required by them, a mutual appreciation has been easily established between us about the different ways in which both trusts are seeking to outwork the rich heritage left to the larger church by the Howells and all those faithful servants of the Lord who have laboured alongside them over the years.
Another important site that we visited in Wales was an old chapel in Blaenannerch, and it was here on the 29th September 1904, that Evan Roberts, the great Welsh Revivalist was baptized in the fire of God. This was where he cried out to God to bend him and this really was the flash point of the Welsh revival. Shortly after this, Roberts would go to Loughor, which would go on to become the epicenter of the Welsh Revival. In the chapel, we prayed with a couple – Dick & Gladys Funnell, a lovely couple who had been sent by God to Wales to pray in the revival. We started by praying over Wales and it ended up a 3-hour prayer meeting.
Dick gave us a clear prophetic word to us and it is taken from the book of Jeremiah 32, which is the record of Jeremiah in the court of the prison. Jerusalem was under siege by the Babylonians and King Nebuchadnezzar had surrounded the city. The city was in dire straits and Jeremiah is in prison, thrown in by King Zedekiah for prophesying doom over the city. As he is sitting in the prison cell, the word of the Lord came to him.
And the Lord says – “Hanamel, your cousin, is going to come and offer to sell you his property in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it”.
We are then told that shortly after this- his cousin came and offered to sell him the property, just as the Lord had said. This is verse 8 – “Please buy my field in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin, for the right of redemption is yours”. Then Jeremiah knew that this was the word of the Lord.
Now this passage of scripture is very vital for us because when I first heard that the Bible College of Wales was offered for sale, I just knew in my spirit that somehow, we had a part to play to redeem the property. But it was only as I stood in the property that I knew that what I was feeling was the word of the Lord. My experience many years ago, as the Spirit of God came upon me, gave us the right of redemption to the property.
What are the consequences if we turn it down? I cannot even imagine thinking what might be the consequences. I cannot go back on this. Once God has put a vision in your heart, you are ruined for rest of your life until you fulfill what God has told you to do.
It is interesting the right of redemption, or the first right of refusal was also given by Lady Ruthen to Mr. Howells. The story was that the Roman Catholic Church was very keen to purchase the property and what could one man do against the might of the Catholic Church? But it is the Lord who fights for us; and the Lord intervened supernaturally in that situation and Mr. Howells got the property. Only those who have put their hands to the plough and cannot look back know what it meant.
The revival that broke forth in the principality of Wales in 1904 is of special importance because of the power and influence that it generated. There were many other great moves of God through the ages but most of these other revivals were localized. But two revivals, the Azusa Street revival and the Welsh revival in particular, had international influence and they are of great interest to me because whether we know it or not, we are prophetically linked to those revivals.
Both revivals went past the shores of the country of origin to impact generations in the nations. I have chosen the Welsh revival as our example because of the deep spiritual connection that the leadership of this church feels towards it. We have this prophetic sense that somehow, what God did in that 1904 revival in Wales and then the 1906 revival in Azusa Street, Los Angeles, is going to have a profound effect on us, 100 years later.
The Most Successful Student
One of the most successful and fruitful students of the BCW is the German Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke. Through his ministry, Christ for All Nations, over 73 million people have made registered decisions to follow Jesus Christ. Bonnke testifies that “Christ for all Nations” is an unfolding vision born from a picture of Africa washed in the blood of Jesus, and dedicates his life to take the Word of the Cross to all Africa in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit.
Reinhard Bonnke attended the Bible College of Wales in Swansea when he was 19 years old. After graduating from the Bible College, he had a free day to spend in London and got on a double-decked bus. As the bus was moving along, all of a sudden, he felt the Holy Spirit say to him – “Get off this bus”.
Bonnke obeyed the prompting and found himself walking along one of the streets of London, uncertain of where he was. Then he came upon a plaque on a gate of a house which read “George Jeffreys”. He thought to himself if this could be the house of the great George Jeffreys, a Welsh minister who founded the Elim Pentacostal Alliance in Britain. George Jeffreys was considered one of England’s greatest evangelists, after John Wesley and George Whitefield, and was also saved and transformed during the Welsh Revival.
Reinhard was unsure and it was then that the Holy Spirit said to him, “You will never know if you don’t ask”. So he knocked and a woman came to the door. Bonnke asked if the house belonged to George Jeffreys, the George Jeffreys who shook England, and she said yes.
“Is he alive?”
“Does he live in this house?”
“Is he now in the house?”
“Can I see him?”
And it was then that he heard a deep voice coming from the inside, “Let him come in”. When he walked in, he saw a frail old man and after some introduction, Mr. Jeffreys laid his hand upon Bonnke and blessed him. Bonnke staggered out of the door because the presence of God was all upon him.
He then left London to return to Germany the next day and his father met him at the railway station. His father said, “Reinhard, did you hear the news?” “What news?” “George Jeffreys just passed away.” “No, that can’t be; I was just with the man.” All of a sudden, he realized that he caught something from the previous generation. One generation was passing and handing over their mantles to the next generation.
Reinhard Bonnke is perhaps the greatest evangelist we have seen in our generation. He has seen more people saved than any other person alive. And he has been found worthy to obtain the mantle of a great evangelist and his act of obedience to the Holy Spirit positioned him to receive grace from God.
A Remarkable Story
When David Ravenhill was with us, he told me a wonderful story about his father which I would like to repeat to you. His father, Leonard Ravenhill, had been up to the estate and he was having a cup of tea with Mrs. Howells. By this time, Rees had gone to be with the Lord. Mrs. Howells was showing Bro. Leonard the estate from the verandah they stood at and she said – “everyone read in the book that my husband had only 2 shillings in his pocket when he signed the documents to buy this beautiful estate. What they didn’t know was that for 9 months, 11 hours each day, he would spend his time on his knees and in prayer-storming heaven for the breakthrough of finances.That’s how the victory came.”
On the second day of the Kingdom Invasion conference held in Singapore in March 2012, Bill Johnson preached an amazing sermon on supernatural courage and to me, it was one of the highlights of the conference. At the end of the message, Bill spoke about Shammah, one of David’s mighty men. We are told that in a conflict with the Philistines, the Philistine army had formed themselves in a troop and the children of Israel were in retreat.
They came to a field of lentils and Shammah, who obviously understood and knew of the historic value of the field, stood his ground right in the middle of that field. His singular act of courage so inspired Israel that they turned from their retreat and came back to the battle front and on that day, God gave a great victory to Israel and Shammah’s name was recorded in eternity as one of the most courageous men in history.
What was special about the field?
For the longest time, I had pondered over the significance of that field and Bill had mentioned that in his studies, he discovered that the field was the very same field that David slayed Goliath. So Shammah was defending a field that had much history to it. In other words, that field represented the past victories of God’s people. It represented victory over the enemy. And to God, it carried important historical significance. That just about undid me.
Bill got all of us to stand and I am weeping at this point and the presence of God comes upon me like a mantle and I heard the Lord say to me – “The Bible College of Wales”. By now, I am a wreck. And right there and then, a pastor comes up to me, puts his arm on my shoulder, and says – “The Lord is talking to you about the Bible College of Wales.” I don’t know if anything can be more prophetic than that. The Bible College of Wales is our Field of Lentils.