The Rising Tide
The World Pentecostal Council, representing the growing worldwide population of Pentecostal people, had undoubtedly set a standard of recognition of all the varied associations who were united on fundamental lines of conduct and doctrine. The Jerusalem World Conference was followed by the one at Helsinki in Finland. The next World Conference was at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1967; the Conferences being arranged in focal centres around the world at three year intervals.
As I had some appointments awaiting me in North America, with these preaching responsibilities ahead, I felt that a sea voyage would give me some relaxation and time to prepare. I obtained a cabin berth on the P. & O. steamer "Oriana" where my first pleasant contact was made in the ship's restaurant as soon as the ship put to sea. The dining table was set for four places. Beside me was a quiet unassuming elderly lady and the two places opposite were occupied by a very bright and happy couple, obviously deeply in love. I broke the ice by introducing myself to my table acquaintances and we were soon chatting in a friendly way. I took a chance with the young handsome couple and said, " I think it is very nice of you to allow us to accompany you on your honeymoon." They seemed embarrassed but only for a moment,
then laughed it off with a confession that they had come straight from their wedding reception to the ship. They asked how I knew, so I told them that I was an old enough hand to see a shining ring and a neglected spot of confetti peeping through her curls, from whence came my diagnosis. They then learned that I was a minister. I only saw them at meal times and it was then that I was able to slyly plant a word about the love of God and His interest in them. We seemed to relate to each other quite well and we became very friendly; so much so that once in a while, in their tender love for each other, the bride would slip her hand under the table seeking for his hand for an affectionate squeeze. Taking advantage of their engrossment of each other, I would let my own hand intercept the hand reaching under the cover of the table to enjoy stealing the secret attachment of pristine love. We all laughed heartily when my underhand work was discovered. It was all part of ship-board fun.
It was revealed that this lovely bride was also an accomplished dancer. She was taking part in the competition held among the passengers on the dance deck, which I had never frequented nor visited, as I was not interested. The night came for the final of the dancing competition and the bride begged that I should come to see the performance; she was hoping to collect the trophy. I was glad to accept her request. She was so charming and petite; shown off to perfection in a beautiful ballroom frock. She won the upstanding approval of the hundreds watching on, and the judges awarded the grand prize to our excited young dancer. To my astonishment holding the coveted prize in her arms, she turned and tripped across the deck to where I was standing to show me her treasure and to thank me for coming. I said to her, "Joan, there is not anyone who would query your superiority to-night by your appearance and skill but what do you think is the greatest, dancing feet for the World or a dancing heart for the Lord Jesus?" She looked up and said, "We would like to start our lives together in the right way if you would be kind enough to help us." It was later that same night they both came to my cabin and on their knees
pledged their lives to Christ in sincere consecration. This was a blessed stepping-stone, as I was on my way to the greatest Conference I was ever to see, yet the Lord had another commission for me to undertake for Him on that ship.
One day, before we had reached New Zealand, I was reclining on my bunk in my cabin when a knock on the door preceded the entrance of a young Roman Catholic priest. He excused his intrusion explaining that he had seen my name on the ship's passenger list, a Rev. P. B. Duncan, and wanted to ascertain who I was. He asked if I was a priest, and I was quick to assure him that I was a priest indeed. Thus encouraged he came right in and I invited him to sit himself down. He enquired, "Father to what Order do you belong?" Knowing that our interview would end abruptly if I divulged my real identity, I countered, (as I remembered Jesus did) by deciding that I would ask the questions. So I took the initiative, "Please tell me what Order you have entered, and why, and when, and how: are you satisfied with your vocation as a priest in that great Order?" I followed with question after question until we had reached a fellow-feeling through our free and friendly conversation. As we talked together there came into my heart a strange but tender love for this strikingly good looking young priest, but murder will out and the inevitable time came when again I was confronted with the question, "Father you have not told me to what Order you are connected". I knew his Christian name by this time and I confessed, "Well, Virgil, I am deeply involved in an ancient Order,, the Order of Melchisedek". "How interesting, it must be an old Order that I am not acquainted with, as our Church is rooted in antiquity. Tell me about it if you will." Knowing that he was a fellow-Australian and a friendly cleric with a human outlook, I faced the issue by telling him that although I was a priest, I was not a Roman Catholic priest but I loved and served the Lord even as I hoped he did. He was taken aback, of course, with the truth I had divulged, but he stood up and shook my hand, saying he had enjoyed our time we had spent together.
The very next day when I was on the deck sitting in a deck-chair and reading my New Testament, along came my young priest, possibly intrigued with matters we had touched upon during his visit to my cabin. He asked, did I mind his company. Of course I was more than willing to entertain him for I still had this heart-warm feeling toward him. He wanted to know what was the basis of the religion of my Church and I answered him without hestitation, "regeneration". "Please explain that to me" he asked.
Opening my Testament I read to him from John's Gospel and the 3rd chapter, "Ye must be born again", and "he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life". He questioned, "have you got everlasting life?" I said, "Yes, indeed I have". Upon that he became rather aggressive, remarking "1 think you are very presumptuous to even suggest that you have eternal life, for only God has eternal life". Turning the tables on him, I replied "Yes what you say is true that only God has eternal life, but He has shared it with all who will receive. Speaking of presumption, Father, it is not I who is presumptuous but yourself. Surely you presume against the Word of God, and I want you to read for yourself what God says". Pointing out to him chapter and verse, he began to read from my Testament the Scriptures I had mentioned, upon which he arose and left me. I thought, "Well, that's that, he has finished with me". But no, it was not to be, for he reappeared a few minutes later clutching a large Jerusalem Bible. Planting it on my knee he asked me to find the Scriptures in his volume that we had discussed. He was surprised to read in his Bible the texts given word for word as literal as in my humble Testament. He was confused at this disclosure and asked how had I experienced this regeneration, and what was its subsequent effect. We talked ourselves into a close friendship and afterward he sought me out. I was alert and full of prayer as it was apparent that God had touched his heart.
In the meantime I had chummed up with a Plymouth Brethren preacher who truly knew and loved the Lord. As long as I kept off the Pentecostal theme we had good fellowship. Together we resolved to promote a service for the few believers we knew were
on board and I told my priest and invited him to join in with us. He hesitated and said he would like to, but could not unless he had the permission of his Bishop. I informed him that I could get the permission from the Lord who was the Bishop of his soul. I provoked him by saying I thought that as an Aussie he would be game enough to act on his own initiative. The Lord was dealing with his soul and he decided to take the risk (perhaps confession with penance would ultimately make things right with his Bishop and his conscience). Anyway, he came with me despite his misgivings, and we sat together; he conspicuous in his priestly robes. I had signalled my colleagues to take a simple lesson from the I st Epistle of John and he gave a simple splendid discourse on how to walk with God after confession. It was the perfect message for my priest, although the preacher was unaware of it, and I enjoyed it immensely. During the service the young priest turned to me suddenly and whispered, "Father, I have it, I have it". I said, "You have what?" With a beaming face he replied, "I have just received the assurance that I have everlasting life". This was glorious and he electrified our group of believers by declaring his new found faith in Christ as Saviour. The Brethren preacher told me rather proudly how he had won him for the Lord. One sows and another reaps but I thought the preacher was taking a lot of the credit, like we preachers sometimes do. I told the Catholic Father to call me Pastor instead of Father, which he did, thinking "Pastor" was a lovely title.
He held a Catholic service each morning in the cinema with his regular congregation being mostly women. He was an extremely good-looking young man. He asked me to attend his morning service which I felt obliged to do under the circumstances. He recited the Rosary then read a prayer or two. He came straight to me after this session and said, "Pastor, I would be grateful if you gave me your impression of my service". I said, (calling him by his Christian name), "Virgil, I considered you were dignified and sincere and conducted everything very well". Not satisfied, he went on, "I want your real reaction and the truth
as you have helped me so far." Hoping I would not offend I added, "Since you insist, I trust I will not hurt you, but I cannot agree when you recite 'Hail Mary mother of God'. She was not the mother of God even as her mother was not the grandmother of God. She was not the mother of the Son of God Who is Christ, though she was the mother of Jesus the Son of Man." To my relief he said emphatically, "From this moment I will renounce Mariolatry. I have doubted it with many other priests whom I know." He was disembarking at Vancouver and we spent the last night together. He was troubled, and asked my counsel as to whether he should leave the Roman Catholic Church, but in this I took no part, advising that for his life he must get the leading of the Lord Himself. We prayed together that the Lord would reveal His will to His servant. As he was packed and ready to go ashore he gave me a great hug and with quiet conviction said, "As I have been saved as a Catholic priest, I will continue as such in my Church to give the truth of the Gospel as it was given to me, among my own fraternity."
At Los Angeles I left the ship after saying a fond farewell to my dear honeymooners. I headed for Houston where I had been booked for meetings. Then I crossed the Continent to Miami, where I was welcomed by my friend Rev. Jack Starbuck. I was to have the privilege of ministering in some of the many churches that flourish in Florida and in the city of Miami.
Brother Starbuck took me to a Women's Rally where Sister Kathryn Kuhlman was to speak. It was a luncheon with about 700 women present, and we two men sat in the wings of the auditorium where we could see everything and yet not be observed ourselves.
The luncheon was over and the waiters were moving among the seated gathering, clearing the tables and cleaning up the remnants of the lunch. Sister Kuhlman had begun to speak while the waiters were still attending to their work. As she spoke we were distracted to see a waiter coming from the kitchen quarters, stop, with his eyes on the preacher and suddenly fall onto the floor.
In the commotion, Sister Kuhlman said, "Now give me your attention, the steward has been touched by the Spirit of God and will soon get up thanking the Lord for his salvation." And that is what happened; a couple of minutes later, I saw him pick himself up, praising the Lord in a loud voice. The Sister cautioned him to be quiet but to learn to love and serve the Lord Who had touched him. Later it happened again as another waiter walked into the meeting and fell just outside the kitchen door, dropping his tray with a clatter. A head-waiter, coming and seeing the prostrate form, thinking that he had fainted, took him by the heels and dragged him out of sight. The preacher remarked to everyone's amusement, that the kitchen staff would get a shock when he got up rejoicing in his salvation.
After about 40 minutes as Sister Kuhlman exhorted the women to live consecrated lives and to do their share in preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus for His Bride; an amazing thing happened. She stopped talking, and the whole assemblage was conscious of the presence of a great power that seemed to make a pathway of glory through the centre of the crowd. People in that area began to stand up, some shouting, some weeping. The preacher said it was Jesus Who had stepped into their midst, and she called upon those who had been touched by Him to stand. I was utterly amazed as at least twenty women stood and testified of being healed of different diseases and sicknesses. The place went wild with delight; expressing their thankfulness in fervent praise. Hidden though we were from the congregation of women, we too were carried away with deep emotion at what we had seen and heard. It was wonderful. It was an exhibition of the Spirit of God in action glorifying Christ.
I spoke at a meeting in one church at the same time as Paul Yonghi Cho of Korea was the preacher at another church in the city. After our respective services we met about midnight with the pastors who were our hosts, to enjoy a time of fellowship at a happy supper to celebrate and praise the Lord for what He was doing everywhere.
We left Miami to fly to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, stopping en route at Venezuela. Arriving early in the morning at Rio, we had a panorama of one of the most fascinating beauty spots in the World. The lovely harbour, surrounded by the towering monoliths known as "The Fingers", was a sight worth seeing. At the Hotel Glorious where the Presidium gathered we were met and introduced by our Chairman, Rev. Thomas Zimmerman. I was there to represent the Australian Fellowship, and I felt that I was among the illustrious gracious men of God's choice. They were the spiritual leaders from different nations where God had given them an influence, anointed above their fellows for the cause of the Lord Jesus, Whom they loved and honoured.
At this juncture, I confess that I am totally inadequate to convey and share with you the stupendous results of God's visitation in South America which we were privileged to witness. It was and always will be the epitome of the manifest exhibition and participation into the glory of God in such majestic transfiguration that I ever hope to see repeated this side of the Glory-land. I would that I had the pen of an inspired ready-writer.
First take a view of the lavish appointments of the Hotel, quite fit for royalty. Each member had his own suite. I was placed near Rev. Levi Petrus of Sweden and near Rev. Paul Yonghi Cho. The spacious Board Room where we held our Committee overlooked the famous Copocabana Beach. A coach conveyed the Brethren from the hotel to the auditorium and after the services brought us back home again, where often we would carry on the many affairs needing attention until late into the night.
Brother Zimmerman took the oversight with God-given authority and his wise and kindly interest in all of us swept away our different racial backgrounds, linking us all in the unity of the Spirit and of the faith. Only on one occasion did a difference ruffle the surface. It was when the Swedish Brethren challenged Senator Wessels of the South African Government who also was a Pentecostal preacher and leader. The Swedes objected to Brother
Wessels having a seat on the World Council yet being a party to the policy of apartheid in Africa. Of course there are no racial problems in Sweden who are without a coloured population, so no need exists to face any such problem. For a time it seemed that a rift was pending to mar the atmosphere and expert handling was required. It behoved Brother Zimmerman to find the solution to the grievous situation that was brewing. He called all to attention reminding us that our Council functioned entirely on spiritual qualities where politics could not be introduced or tolerated. Still the Swedish Brethren pressed the point that Senator Wessel's alliance with apartheid should veto him from membership, as he was a political identity. Our time to adjourn for lunch gave a breathing space to save a serious situation developing. On the Presidium at that time was the only negro member, a precious old saint, Bishop Crouch, who had a larger Pentecostal following in the Church of God in Christ, than any member present. He was a man of few words with a mild gracious demeanour. He interposed by saying, "Brother Zimmerman, you know I am the oldest Spirit-filled Pentecostal leader here as I was filled with the Spirit at the initial outpouring at Azusa Street, and have followed the Lord in revival ever since. I am a black man and I have a very dear friend in Senator Wessels. We have never discussed politics though we have shared the love of God together in true fellowship. He has preached in my large coloured church and he has invited me to South Africa because we are brothers. Now, Brother Zimmerman, I want you to do me a favour. If you take Senator Wessel's name from the Presidium, please, because he is my beloved brother, I would like you to take my name off with his, so we could suffer together."
Bang! What a climax! The Swedish Brethren retreated, withdrawing without further ado in face of the Christ-like proposition of our negro apostle, whom we all loved.
A mild excitement stirred the city of Rio de Janeiro with the arrival of the national leaders of the Pentecostal Movement which made headlines in all the newspapers. Each of us were presented
on the TV programme and our voices were interpreted on the radio networks. Thus we were being constantly interviewed by reporters and besieged with enquiries on current topics affecting our own countries.
In Brazil and all over the South American continent, the spirit of revival has swept away opposition, with countless thousands saved and filled with the Spirit; the greatest majority from the Roman Catholic faith. Their authorities in Rome sent a prelate to Brazil to divert those receiving the Gospel and leaving the tradition of the Church to embrace the blessings of the simple transforming life in Christ. I spoke to this priest personally and he told me that he was like the Apostle Paul, with authority to stem the tide of these born again Catholics, and just like Saul of Tarsus, he was himself mightily convinced. Confessing to Christ, he was saved and filled with the Spirit too.
I was invited to the home of Rev. Olsen, a Swedish American missionary, who was the organiser of this gigantic Conference. On the Saturday morning before Conference was to begin, he took me at 7 a.m. to a spacious vacant allotment covering several acres, quite adjacent to the city. Never before had I seen anything like this space. It was surrounded with a series of many pillars designed to support a folding kind of roof covering.' When we arrived it was to see an army of men engaged to manipulate an apparatus that pulled and lifted the folding roof over the whole of the expanse of the vacant ground. When this part was completed we saw literally dozens and dozens of motor trucks coming along the highway in a long cavalcade laden with everything needed to form a miniature city. A manager was standing on a raised platform operating with a loud hailer to marshal the long queue of vehicles into position.
We left the busy scene with its staggering organisation. We returned later the same day about 4 p.m. to behold an unbelievable sight. Only that morning a great barren expanse of vacant land was in existence, now in one day a city had been created to house, accommodate and feed 3,000 souls; those registered as visitors
from the country district attending the Conference. This great venture would need to be realised, as the sewerage, water and electricity had to be installed where previously none was available. Then again they all had to be fed with three meals a day for six days. For this purpose a cafeteria complete with all cooking facilities functioned in the centre of this incredible complex, having four aisles to facilitate and cater for the 3,000 occupants with everyone attended to within an hour's time. Let us continue our inspection to examine the 30 dormitories with 100 beds in each, tastefully made ready with pillows and bed-clothes, with each dorm bedroom made distinctive with bed quilts of different colour. It was all fitted with flooring where previously it was just bare ground. Astonishing, yes, but more is to follow. Electric lights were everywhere with switches at vantage points to control each section. Along the borders of the great camp were situated rows of sewered blocks separated for the sexes, all well fitted with wash basins and mirrors. The magnitude of the one day operation left me dazed and speechless, with everything so orderly. Overall there pervaded an atmosphere of comradeship and brotherliness that seemed a foretaste of Heaven. It was exciting, it was revival; it was Pentecost relived; it was true Charismatic unity; it was prophecy fulfilled. Hallelujah!
Such synchronised dovetailing of resources and achievement I doubt could be equalled in many countries considered more modern and better equipped than Brazil. To each speaker advertised to take part, there was appointed an interpreter as Portuguese is the national language of Brazil. My interpreter was a young English missionary-teacher who had been in Brazil for a few years. His name was Bernard Snellgrove. We teamed up immediately and I called him St. Bernard. He accepted this name, remarking that although it was a doggie title, the St. Bernard always carried spirit to those who were lost. He was an outstanding interpreter, familiar with both the English and Portuguese idioms. Also his interpretations were delivered with Holy Ghost anointing which fell to my credit as a preacher.
Before the Conference began I was invited to one of the local
Assemblies with 3,000 members. This was the same number as those inhabiting the camp site. With such enthusiasm the Word was magnified and all Heaven was drawn down to take part in the depth of worship. During the service 85 adults were baptised in water. I suggested that so many were being immersed because of the interest engendered by the Conference. However, the Pastor assured me that about that number of converts were baptised every Sunday, with a branch Assembly baptizing nearly as many, and that this average had been maintained for some years. This continual revival has caused the numbers of Pentecostal believers in Brazil to amount to well over the five million mark.
The World Conference was held in the Maracana Stadium, with a seating capacity of 35,000 people. It is the largest indoor auditorium in the world. The Conference was officially opened by the Governor of Brazil supplemented by a display of spectacular pageantry. As the Conference was declared open, Beautiful Brazilian girls chosen from their various provinces, carried the flags of the 47 nations represented. They were led into and around the floor of the great building by heralds who entered with a fanfare of trumpets. They all presented a sight most picturesque, as they paraded around to stand before the platform where the Governor sat surrounded by the members of the Presidium. The Brazilian flag had the honoured place and next in line came the Swedish flag carried by Brother Olsen's daughter, for the Swedish missionaries were the real pioneers who brought the Pentecostal truths to Brazil with their Gospel. The tumult of the vast crowd was thunderous with applause as everyone stood in appreciation of the breathtaking moving palette of mixed colours. The blending of the banners of the nations and the multi-hued costumes of the young Brazilians created a tapestry which beggared imagination.
The great reception over, Rev. Thomas Zimmerman gave a masterly address in reply to the nation's welcome to the World Conference delegates.
1 had sustained a terrific shock on my arrival at Rio. I was being introduced to the Chairman, Brother Zimmerman, and he put his hand upon my shoulder to inform me that I was to be the first speaker at the Conference after the evening of the inaugural gathering. I wasn't only shocked, I was dumb-founded. I knew that I was to be one of the speakers for so I had been notified before I left home, but after the overwhelming wonderment of the opening night with its untold splendour and the immense multitude, to follow Brother Zimmerman with his powerful personality, his poise and his presentation left me completely bereft of any spirit at all.
I knew how God uses the weak things and the things that are not, to bring to light His goodness, and I surely qualified in those areas. What could I do to justify my calling? What reflection would I bring upon the Australian standard and our Fellowship? In my distress I flung myself literally upon the bosom of God Whom I trusted would come to me in my despair. Hallelujah! for He never fails. From the depths came a revelation that lifted me to the heights. Yes, the Lord told me a secret which I consider was the greatest help in all my ministry from that time forward.
After waiting in His presence in fear and desperation, He drew my mind to a scripture in Luke, Chapter 11 and He said, "Ask me in the name of Jesus for the Holy Spirit." But I argued, "Lord I have already received the Holy Spirit years ago." Patiently the Lord revealed that I had certainly received an infilling of the Holy Spirit Who indwelt me according to my capacity, but what I was to ask Him for now was for the Person of the Holy Spirit. I was thrilled in my soul as I understood that the Holy Spirit within was limited, but the Holy Spirit alongside, the Paraclete, was the Lord, the Eternal Spirit, Who was unlimited. He was ever ready and willing to confirm the Word with the sign of His power.
Rev. Percy Brewster was to lead the opening exercises of the first meeting which he did with the ease of experience. It was a public holiday in honour and respect for the death of a former Governor. This gave many workers freedom to swarm into the
Maracana until it was filled with the thousands of eager souls. The choir occupied a prominent place in one of the galleries where the singers and their conductor could be seen by all who were present. The choir was composed of 2,000 voices all arrayed in coloured silken capes made up in the soft and beautiful shades of the Brazilian flag — pale blue, green, gold and white. The pieces they sang were all compiled especially for the enrichment of the World Conference. Sometimes vibrant with the note of victory, at other times producing a pang of pathos that touched the soul, they charged the atmosphere with a longing and a response to worship. There arose a crescendo from the crowd that swelled in volume and immensity which evaded human control, yet it was all under the restraint of the Lord, the Spirit, Who held the reins in His hands as He escorted us all out of the natural into an excursion into the earnest of our inheritance. Brother Brewster let the glory swirl without trying to direct for he realised this was the Lord's doing, and mighty in our eyes. For precious minutes the glory baptised thousands with wave after wave of supernatural power which was as indescribable as it was unforgettable.
Finally, the Spirit fell upon the choir, who, without direction from their conductor, stood to their feet spontaneously, took off their coloured capes and began to wave them as they sang in the Spirit. It was the movement of a huge Brazilian flag waving before the Lord. I do wish that I could describe it all as it lives before me in vivid recollection. A Brazilian pastor smote a Rank-size gong and all became silent.
Now it was time for me to rise with my interpreter. I was conscious of him at my left side and just as conscious of the presence of the Holy Ghost on my right side. So impressive had been my revelation from the Lord I was sure that I could feel Him, positive that He was alongside to help. I cannot boast and I dare not, I can only say that the Holy Spirit was the speaker on that never-to-be-forgotten day. He took my message and clothed Himself within it. He shone a torch upon the face of Jesus, so that He was illuminated for all to see Him. Both I and the anointed interpreter were only the filaments for His incandescence. The response to the Brazilian preacher's appeal brought hundreds to choke the aisles. Only eternity will make known the true result. The Sunday was to be the last service of the Conference and by this time the Maracana, colossal though it was, proved to be unable to contain the revived multitudes. So, the grand finale was held in the Sports Ground, where according to the numbers reported in the newspapers it was reckoned 120,000 were in attendance to hear the Gospel.
Oral Roberts had prophesied that I would see greater things. Without doubt this was the mightiest spiritual adventure of all the wonderful experiences in my life with which I have been blessed of God.