The Stream Flows On
Rev. Oral Roberts was contacted by Len Jones during 1955 when he was in the United States of America, who at that time was arousing the nation with the force of his mission. Oral Roberts was becoming a household name as his fame as a great Pentecostal preacher was becoming known because of his healing ministry and the many who through him were following the Lord. Brother Len Jones, with the need of Australia upon his heart, sought out an appointment with Oral Roberts in order to persuade him to consider a campaign in Sydney. Brother Roberts was interested, and gave Brother Jones encouragement to further the matter. On his return to Sydney, he talked the possibility over with myself and the other brethren composing the Pentecostal Fellowship Committee, and we gave our pledge to whole-heartedly support a city-wide campaign with the Oral Roberts organisation. With this understanding, a plan was set in motion. Rev. Robert Lowry, the Campaign Manager, flew from Tulsa to lay the foundation for the greatest evangelistic assault ever launched against Sydney up to that time. I am fully convinced that Oral Roberts was sent by God to soften and pave the way for the advent of Rev. Billy Graham who followed soon after and reaped a glorious harvest_more people heard and received the simple Gospel with precious results than ever before in the history of Sydney.
Rev. Robert Lowry lived with us in our home for five weeks as we worked together preparing details that entailed the outlay of thousands of American dollars. A location was procured at Moore Park on the city's eastern border with the permission of the civic authorities. The huge tent with all the equipment was shipped from America. It was an exhibition of American know-how and tremendous organising ability on a scale beyond the comprehension of all but Americans.
The preparations were well under way. We had to handle the printing, advertising, finding accommodation for the advance party of Americans who had arrived with the loaded containers. Then we had all the work of preparing ushers and the many etceteras which made the preliminary weeks exacting and demanding. Things were on a scale that boggled our minds. It was a revelation and an education in modern evangelism equalling anything attempted by the enterprise of big business, as assuredly this was.
With everything shaping to schedule, Rev. Hart Armstrong, arrived to meet our Committee. He outlined the plan and made us aware of what was expected of each one of us. It was like a briefing before a battle imparted by a smart efficient Spirit-filled general. He enrolled about 300 ushers and gave them their orders. He began classes for those who were designated counsellors. He was a gracious instructor and to those who attended he imparted a wealth of spiritual and human understanding in order to better equip them to advertise and help seekers to find assurance of salvation and to introduce them into the regenerating Christian life. Such lessons were invaluable to the workers and counsellors. Now it was time for things to take shape, and half a dozen experts were on hand as the trucks rolled up to the site loaded with the great tents, the seating, and the massive amount of equipment that went to make possible the erection of the mammoth canvas tabernacles.
Two tents were raised by mechanical means. Together they covered some acres of parkland. One had seating for 8,000 and the other, which was used for a store and also for counselling, had
room for 2,000 comfortably. When all was in readiness, the dozens of arc-lights were switched on creating a spectacle resembling an amazing carnival that became the talk of Sydney. Every newspaper featured the story. However the Press was antagonistic from the very beginning. Brother Oral Roberts was photographed from every grotesque angle. They were responsible for stirring up an element of demonstrators (whether political or religious it was impossible to say) who set out to cause trouble. As I was responsible, I called on Police Inspector Ferguson of the Darlinghurst Police, who gave me a thorough briefing on what we could and should do in case of interference and as to how we could act and yet keep within the law. To safeguard the people and property, he detailed a cordon of uniformed and plain clothed police every evening to see that order was kept and to regulate the volume of traffic and the crowds that arrived to fill the vast tent on the occasion of every meeting.
We had organised a team, after I had received instruction from the police, with my champion but Christian wrestler as the officer in charge. Whenever the need arose (and it did) and some fanatic or rabble-rouser started to cause trouble, the hefty attendants would move in and quietly but firmly take them by the arm and escort them outside to the waiting police, who whisked them away. I sat on the platform with an electric torch, and from my vantage point would flash the beam when any untoward incident occurred. My fellows would then move in with dignity and purpose.
Everything was done decently and in order and functioned perfectly. The Police Inspector, with a smile of approval, complimented us on our conduct which had. engendered confidence among the thousands attending who saw nothing to distract their attention from the preacher and his dynamic message. The glory of the Lord ensured an atmosphere of revival and anticipation of inspired faith.
Sometimes, however, merely sensationalising events was not good enough for the Press. A wily reporter crept unnoticed to the dais where the preacher was to stand, emptied the glass of water pro-
vided for the use of the preacher and filled it with alcoholic liquor. He was seen as he was sneaking away by an usher who picked up the glass and threw the contents over the frightened reporter. He was easily subdued without anyone seeming to know what had happened. It was evident that he intended to publish that the Evangelist was being stimulated with an intoxicant as he preached the Gospel. The Sydney papers surely love sensation. Notwithstanding such opposition, the campaign went on to give a mighty witness, with hundreds registering their confession of faith in Christ Jesus the Lord.
The Healing ministry followed after each Gospel address. Those who only came to be healed were brought to realise that it was Christ alone who was both Saviour and Healer. As an orator Oral Roberts enthralled the massed audience and as a servant of God he was mightily anointed, as the results abundantly proved.
A number of Pentecostal leaders from Melbourne were very impressed with the visitation that Sydney was enjoying hearing and seeing the ministry of Brother Roberts. Australia had never seen such moves of God before. These Brethren petitioned Oral Roberts to shorten the Sydney revival so that Melbourne could have the blessings. They would budget for a week's campaign. Oral told them that God had only laid Sydney on his heart, and to this date he was sure he was obeying God's will. God's blessings on the meetings was sufficient proof of that.
Nevertheless, under constant pressure, Oral was entreated and succumbed to the temptation, as it was in his heart to help wherever he could. With great expense, the big tents came down three days earlier than originally intended, and a long line of wagons rolled up to transport their loads on a 600 mile road trek to Melbourne.
Later Brother Roberts told me that he had moved against Divine instruction. The well-organised effort which had been invested in the campaign in Sydney where all had been ship-shape, was not in evidence in Melbourne. Indeed it was quite the opposite. The ground situation where the tents were located was the cause of
legal threatening. The lack of co-ordinating organisation brought confusion; the Victorian Police refused to take any action when gangs of hooligans bombarded the tent and intimidated the crowd. Finally after the campaign started, some °ang set fire to the great tent, so Rev. Oral Roberts closed the campaign, folded everything up and left for home.
The newspapers of the world published and spread reports of how Oral Roberts was a failure in Melbourne. They gave lurid details of the attempt to burn his tent, yet nothing was written, advertised or voiced of the glorious success that had been achieved in Sydney. "It is not by might nor by power but by My Spirit saith the Lord." Zechariah 4:6.
Rev. Bob Lowry had since become just as one of our family and Oral Roberts was and has been ever so kind and considerate toward me. I have enjoyed wonderful times in association with him.
Immediately the campaign concluded, my wife and 1 with our daughter Elizabeth went overseas visiting England and America. Brother Roberts heard that we were in the States and invited us to come to Tulsa. He found employment for our daughter in the office of his busy evangelistic empire. He insisted that while we were in Tulsa we would be his guests; accommodated at his expense. He introduced me to various ministers so that I had plenty of ministry around that vicinity. He took us through all the ramifications of his far-reaching enterprises for the Kingdom of God and in every way took us under his wing.
After a couple of weeks in Tulsa, I had an urgent call to Toronto for New Year gatherings. As I had to travel a couple of thousand miles, I thought I would take time and go by train. Joining the train at Tulsa en route to Chicago, I had to change trains at Kansas City.
As I settled down to enjoy the passing scenery, an affable friendly American fellow traveller fell into conversation with me,
interested to hear that I came from Australia. Among other things he was interested to hear that 1 was due in Chicago to catch a connection on into Canada. He was going as far as Kansas City. He declared that it would be a shame if I followed my original booking out of Kansas City on the earlier train to Chicago, when I could take a slightly later train, the famous "El Capitan", a Santa Fe express which travelled non-stop moving at 110 miles per hour. I listened to his suggestion without being unduly interested, but I began to think that when I got home I could boast to my children and grandchildren how I had travelled on the fastest train in the United States. It would be a shame, I thought, to pass up such an opportunity.
We alighted at Kansas City after five hours journey from Tulsa. 1 went into a cafe on the large station to have a meal. Over the public address system I heard that my train was due in about 15 minutes and on an impulse I decided I would spend an extra hour and go on "El Capitan" as had been suggested. With my one suitcase, I sauntered up to the porter on the entrance to the gate that led down to the tracks. I asked him when "El Capitan" was due. He replied "It will be due about midnight, as it is late, but no one is allowed to board. The train is completely booked out because of the Christmas rush." I was quite distressed as I learned that there was no other train for fourteen hours, which would prevent me from keeping my appointment and my engagement. I who had always prided myself on my punctuality—what was I to do?
What a friend we have in Jesus even when by our own foolishness we are not deserving. I stood rooted to the spot in my anxiety, and I opened my heart and my mouth to God in fervent prayer. I heard an altercation going on and opened my eyes to see an American soldier arguing with the porter. He was saying rather heatedly, "I have been away at the war fighting for you and this country and I sure am going on El Capitan." The porter was adamant in ignoring the challenge adding, "not you or anybody else will be joining that train for it is chock-a-block."
The soldier turned and saw me standing there listening. He addressed me, "Buddy what do you think of that, they won't let a veteran get home on that train." Rather dismally 1 remarked, "No the train is booked out and I was sorry too as I wanted to be at Chicago by the morning." Looking at me and catching my accent, he said, "Would you be from Australia and do you know Sydney?" 1 said, "Sydney is my home town though I am not interested where I came from but where I should be going." By this time he was stirred with memories that revealed where his interests lay. "Do you know Kings Cross and Bondi? Those Sydney girls gave me the time of my life, I reckon that they are the best girls in the world." Wearily I visualised this American with money to spend like the Prodigal, wasting it in riotous living with the obliging ladies of Kings Cross.
A thought struck him for he said, "Do you really want to get on the Chicago train? If you do, I will get you on because those Sydney girls were so wonderful and looked after me so well." 1 had forgotten my appeal to the Lord and didn't realise He was answering my prayer in His own mysterious way.
The announcement came over the system that El Capitan would be arriving in a few minutes and my soldier friend who was still babbling about the good things and the gay times enjoyed at Kings Cross, hearing the announcement said "Buddy, get hold of your grip and follow me when 1 move." The train pulled in and a few passengers were coming up the ramp from the track into the station. Giving me a dig, the soldier started off down the ramp toward the stationary train, bidding me to follow. There was a new porter at the gate who saw us as we were on our way; he shouted that no one was to board. He looked bewildered when the soldier shouted back over his shoulder as we kept going, "Sorry but we had left the train by mistake." I said nothing, but continued as the porter offered nothing further. We reached the waiting train and began climbing aboard when the coloured conductor asked where we were going. The incorrigible soldier, who had the strategy of a field marshal, informed the conductor that we wanted to try this
carriage as those farther down were too crowded. The conductor naturally assumed that we were already passengers on the train, so allowed us in just as the train started to glide off on the long run north.
I was glad enough to be in transit despite the doubtful methods my guide had used. Of course 1 had my ticket so 1 was not defrauding anyone and I had not opened my mouth to make a false statement. I left all that to my cheerful soldier, who seemed overjoyed to show reciprocation for the doubtful entertaining by the lovely ladies of the questionable Kings Cross locality. I was quite prepared to stand for the 8 hour journey to Chicago, but my friend with all the know-how, had no intention that I should stand when he could conjure up a seat for me. He led me down the carriage where every seat was occupied with others stretched out on the floor whom we had to step over. We continued along to the toilet which had a small cabin adjoining, for this was a modern flyer with amenities not on ordinary trains. This cabin had two seats for those waiting to take their turn to use the facilities within. With a smiling gesture my friend said "1 have got you onto the train and now 1 have found you a seat. You have to be rested for your work tomorrow so you go off to sleep while 1 keep watch. I'll direct people who might come, to another carriage so that you will not be disturbed." Without consulting my conscience, I offered a prayer of thankfulness to God for overcoming my unfortunate decision and, by His strange means, allowing me to keep my appointment. Without excuse I relate events just as they happened, but I sincerely hope I never have to ride nearly 1,000 miles in a toilet again.
We returned to Australia to find that Rev. Oral Roberts had arranged for a team of Pentecostal ministers from Australia and New Zealand to come as guest to the dedication of the Oral Roberts University in Tulsa Oklahoma. We went together on a regular flight, staying over one night at Los Angeles en route. The next day we began the rest of our flight on an American plane. We were treated royally by the attractive hostess who thought it
strange that we didn't take advantage of the free liquor—we cleared her store of soft drink and coca cola to the last bottle.
During the flight over the State of Texas, the hostess came in weeping copiously, bringing the shocking news that President Kennedy had been shot about the time when we were flying overhead near Dallas, where the shocking crime had been committed. The gaiety of our party was silenced, as we observed the shocked emotion of the crew and all the passengers. We soon found that the whole nation was plunged into stunned dismay.
Our 'plane landed at Tulsa late at night but cars were waiting to take us to our quarters, which were designed for the students due to come from all around the world. I shared a room with my gifted son-in-law, Rev. Gerald Rowlands. It was comfortable to the point of being sumptuous, in modern motel style. Everything supplied was top-class and we surely were honoured to participate in the Fellowship and in the programme that crowded the day with rich charismatic seminars, and lectures conducted by spiritual leaders who were the representatives of Holy Ghost gatherings from many nations.
Brother Roberts himself seemed super-charged with spiritual energy as he led the Seminars. He was assisted by able men of culture, vision, power with the highest of qualifications from various denominations. We visitors were transported with the sense of a witness of what one day would be realised everywhere, as the promised surge of God sweeps aside the limitations of human puniness for the display of God's expansiveness in accordance with the Word of God that "those who know the Lord would be strong and would do exploits." It was good to see the Word of God come alive and for the Spirit to manifest the glory of God. It beggared description. It was a luxury never to be forgotten.
During one session, Brother Roberts said that the Lord had spoken to him to venture in a new way. He motioned to a seat full of us Australians. He told us to come and file along in front of him. He said "1 will shut my eyes so that I cannot see or know to whom I am ministering and I will prophesy in the Spirit as the
Lord gives me utterance." About a dozen or more were in the line. Ahead of me was Norman Armstrong who at that time was managing Oral Roberts' office and work in Australia. Behind me was Gerald Rowlands so that 1 heard what was said regarding these my brethren. Laying hands upon Brother Armstrong he said, "God has given you a ministry that must not be confined to an office. Your calling is to go out among people to win them for Christ." Unwittingly he was dispensing with his own manager, and that is what came to pass. Leaving the Oral Roberts' organisation, Norman Armstrong became a successful independent evangelist with his own centre, with himself in constant demand.
The message that came through for Gerald Rowlands was also fulfilled. "God has allowed you great potential with ability not yet realised as you move to take the Gospel to many people." Rev. Gerald Rowlands is a true Charismatic preacher who, after pastoring some of our larger Assemblies is now in Africa with the Global Life-line working with Rev. David Newington and reaching thousands with the Gospel.
The message imposed upon me, I feel was an answer to my life's prayer. "You have the Spirit of Caleb and will live to see greater things that God will do than what you have seen hitherto." So much for that which already has been realised in our experience.
Another incident drew Oral and I together in mutual appreciation. A party was organised to visit Rev. Tom Osborne's headquarters, situated a few miles away from the University. I was included but excused myself, for I felt that as I was a guest of Oral Roberts, obligated to him because he had financed our wonderful excursion to Tulsa, I should not go off on visits to the headquarters of others. I went rather to spend some time with the Lord in my room. Oral asked why I had not accompanied the others and I explained my reason. He hugged me to himself and said although he would not have minded in the slightest, my ethical consideration was something he would remember.
None can doubt that this great preacher who has shone out in his generation moved with the current that was developing into the present day Charismatic tide.