Rees Howells was born in a small mining town in Wales in 1879. He was the sixth child out of eleven other children, and left school at twelve to work in a tin mill and coal mine. When he was twenty-two, Rees Howells had a gripping born-again experience and encountered God, and slowly began his journey on a complete surrender in every area of his life.
God sought a deeper consecration from Rees Howells and directed him to put Isaiah 58 into practice with the homeless and jobless, where he had to love the tramps the way he loved his family members. In doing so, he had to give them new suits of clothes, help them find work, and pay for their boarding until they were employed, even though he was financially stretched with having to look after so many tramps! This was when he had to die to his love of self, and realised how only the true love of Christ would provide and could compel him to continue loving the prodigals.
Rees Howells’ ministry flourished as more people began to come to Christ, seeing how many others had been transformed by his prayers and love for God and his fellow villagers. Yet at this time, God began to lead him into the secret life of intercession – to identify with those for whom he was praying for, and to do this in private. Rees Howells had to retire from his public ministry and the work that he had established which once again, was not an easy thing to do.
Soon after Rees Howells married Elizabeth Hannah Jones in 1910, he was called into the ministry to serve with his wife as missionaries in South Africa. This proved to be the biggest test to them as they had to leave their new-born son in Wales to the care of foster parents, and God promised them a hundredfold reward in Africa. As they honoured the Lord, they began to witness more revivals and blessings all throughout the next six years of ministry, which he termed the “happiest years of our lives”. When Rees Howells returned back to England in 1920, more doors opened for him as he continued to share his testimony about the revival.
"You can't hear things in the Spirit while you have any turmoil or fear in you. You can't take a shade of fear into the presence of God."
The birth of The Bible College of Wales
In 1922, Rees Howells spoke at a meeting at the Llandrindod Convention, and gave a call for the full surrender of a life to Christ. Many young people came forward to respond to God and a minister suggested to Rees Howells to pray for more training facilities in Wales. Never did Rees Howells expect what the Lord would do next: He told him that He would build a college through him and would provide the finances needed to do so, only if he was willing. It was not an easy decision for Rees Howells to make as he had to resign and put aside a previous job offer to travel around English-speaking countries to share his testimony, which was what he wanted. Yet the Lord gave him the grace to lay aside his own desires and to accept the new, large financial and spiritual burden.
Money started coming in from various people, and before even knowing where the college was to be built, Rees Howells went to America and visited the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He was impressed with the academy, and there the Lord once again challenged him to believe in God for the establishment of the bible college in Wales.
After two years and multiple instances where God challenged Rees Howells’ faith, the Bible College of Wales finally opened its doors on Whit Monday in 1924, in Glynderwen.
Since then, thousands of students as well as Reinhard Bonnke have been trained at the Bible College of Wales, and they are now serving the Lord in around 52 different countries.
A historical event
A particularly notable event that the Bible College of Wales had impacted was the evacuation of Dunkirk when Hitler came into power in Germany in the years leading up to World War II. Rees Howells was disturbed in his spirit and knew that he had to wage warfare and gain victory so that the Gospel would not be hindered from spreading, and that Britain would not be invaded by the Germans. He rallied up the entire college to pray and seek God to stop the war.
In early 1940, as German forces continued their advance into France, General Viscount Gort, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France, could see that the German invaders were getting the upper hand. On the evening of May 23, Gort ordered his commanders to retreat to the nearby port of Dunkirk. However, the success of the mission seemed highly unlikely as the British Army, joined by some French and Belgian forces would have to fight their way to the small port of Dunkirk, defend the town from German attack and hope that they could hold on long enough for ships from England to come to pull them off the beach. All the time the beach was under attack from German artillery, bombers and fighter planes.
What the soldiers did not know was that the whole College was in prayer every evening from seven o’clock till midnight with only a brief interval for supper. Many days were given up wholly to prayer and fasting for God to avert the crisis and prevent the Nazis from taking control, and the Lord indeed intervened when on May 24, Hitler ordered his tanks to halt their pursuit of the retreating Allied forces.
On May 26, an unbelievable armada from England set sail: motorboats, sloops, fishing boats, yachts, ferries, barges and every other variety of boat imaginable poured out of the Thames River and the various English ports to rescue the beleaguered troops.
At its beginning, the British thought they would be lucky to rescue 50,000. In the end, approximately 340,000 British, French and Belgians were snatched from the shore, a testament of the victory that God gave to the praying saints in the Bible College of Wales and elsewhere.