From the book “The Secrets of the Argentine Revival”
In January of 1949, I came to what appeared to be the bitter end of my missionary career. With another missionary, Robert T., we went to a town named Lavelle (the valley) that lay in the foothills of the great Andes Mountains. Our purpose was to hold a Gospel crusade in a town where, to our knowledge, the Gospel had never been preached before. We fully believed that in that totally churchless town, we would be privileged to see the mighty wonders and see the power of the Holy Spirit manifested before out eyes and see a great spiritual impact on that town. We fully expected to see manifestations such as had happened in the days of my childhood in the old Baptist Church in Ashland, Oregon.
With great anticipation we prepared a tent with what we considered to be proper evangelical accoutrements. We labored happily in the hot Andean sun. We dutifully filled the air with recorded music and faithfully visited every home in the community, distributing tracts and Gospel portions. We prayed many hours daily and prepared fine messages for the great congregation we expected to come. Night after night we held a find service, but . . . not one single person attended – not even a child came to see if the tent might be a circus. Then came the torrential rains and flooded us out, but we still kept on. Yet in spite of all our efforts, witnessing, testifying and preaching, we still had a zero congregation. The strong man of Argentina ruled contemptuously over every city, large and small.
After two weeks of expense and labors, we were forced to retreat in bitter disappointment and failure. We had absolutely no fruit for our labors. For me, that defeat marked the end of a long trail and the beginning of a new one.
A New Way
Frances Thompson wrote in his majestic poem, The Hound of Heaven, “I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind.” Those words could well describe my relationship with God up to that time. There had always been plenty of plausible excuses for the lack of harvest and the want of results in my ministry. True, in my childhood and teenage years, I had often witnessed mighty manifestations of the power of God under the ministry of such leaders of God as Dr. Charles Price, Aimee McPherson, Smith Wigglesworth and other mighty men of power in the Holy Spirit, as well as the ministry of my own father.
However, the truth was that these manifestations were completely lacking in my own ministry. Excuses, reasonings, rationalizations, all convenient places to lay the blame, provided me imaginary refuge from the searchlight of God’s truth.
Always, the reason for my relative fruitlessness lay somewhere outside of myself. In one place the people were too hard, in another it was not harvest time yet, or it was necessary to sow the seed first, or the people had no faith. From one pastorate to another, from one mission field to another, the excused multiplied. True, a certain work for God had been done so that in the eyes of man and of my contemporaries there was no need to feel ashamed. After all, no other missionary was doing any better, but in my own secret heart was knowledge that there was a better way.
The ever faithful Spirit of God did not let complacency and excuses continue to hide the truth in my own soul, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah? Where was the God of glory, of power, of miracles? Where was the God of convicting power and of saving grace so often seen in my childhood and youth?” It was impossible to deny that Elijah’s God accompanied the men and women of God that had ministered in power only a few years before.
Lavalle was a town which had never heard the Gospel before; it was not a Gospel – hardened, burned-over territory. The people were not hostile, nor the town rebellious; nevertheless, the God of my early life was definitely not in Argentina. Stark reality judged my ministry and efforts, found them wanting and counted them a total defeat. It was necessary to meet the harsh reality of my own failure. Even with every condition favorable, with missionary equipment complete, with competent missionary evangelist companion – still Lavalle was a failed enterprise.
It was clearly evident that in spite of excellent ministerial training and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit received as a child, there still was an obvious and deadly lack of power in my ministry. At long last the long road of excuses came to a dead end, and the flight from the truth finished. God caused me to take inventory of my ministerial career and the result was devastating disillusionment. No longer was self-deception possible. Our very best efforts of daily prayers and evangelistic efforts had absolutely failed.
Bitterly defeated – all defences and excuses destroyed – God brought me to admit the total inadequacy of my abilities to succeed as a missionary. With that confession, and in light of all that was happening, came the decision to quit playing the missionary game. Nothing was left but to leave the ministry, return to my own land, get a job and admit that somehow I had mistaken the call of God and did not belong in that profession.
Yet, God continued to challenge me, “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit . . .” He reminded me that it was not by my efforts, but by His Spirit. But still the answer remained elusive. How was it possible to have His Spirit work for us? After all, we both had already received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and obviously that was not sufficient; there was nothing more known for us to do. Still God kept challenging for me to surrender of both flesh and the works of the flesh. Good as flesh works were, they were unacceptable. God was offering a new way – a way of power – an operation of the Holy Spirit Himself released in the ministry of deliverance, but ignorance and darkness still remained firmly entrenched.
“Then He answered and spake unto me saying, ‘This is the Word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts” Zechariah 4:6
“Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses (horses represent the works of the flesh), and trust in chariots (chariots represent clever inventiveness of men), because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!” Isaiah 31:3
A Way – A Highway
“There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen: the lion’s whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it.” Job 28:7-8
As my desperate thinking continued, a large circle revolved in my thoughts and would ever return to a place in that circle where God would challenge me to lay every missionary activity down and give myself over entirely to prayer. This I did not want to do, so the circle of reasoning, excuses and blame would begin again only to return to the same place, “Try prevailing prayer.”
The terms God laid down for my surrender were to spend a minimum of eight consecutive hours daily with Him in prayer and in His word. He reminded me that a man must work eight hours a day to earn his bread, so then a minister could pray as long. Finally and grudgingly, His terms were accepted with the promise of an entire week of fasting and prayer, but no more; surely that was enough to prove the point of my inadequacy.
Some of my colleagues openly expressed their disapproval, questioning my sanity. They concluded that no one who spent most of his time in prayer, and not in the traditional missionary activities, had a right to receive a missionary’s pay. Yet there must not be taken one step more in deceiving myself and fleeing from God; the challenge had to be accepted.
There was a small, vacant attic room over the garage of the adobe church in Mendoza where I was serving as a pastor at the time. It was there I decided to retire in fasting and prayer to seek the Lord. It was imperative for me to find God’s answers for revival and the moving of His Spirit in Argentina, to have divine intervention such as was written in the book of Acts and to find a manifestation of the Spirit of God according to His promises; or else, I must abandon the whole missionary project in Argentina.
If a week of fasting and prayer would not do it, then I was free from the missionary responsibility, because I had accepted the challenge of fasting and praying for a week. If nothing changed, I would be free to quit the mission field, go home and find a job – which, honestly, at that time seemed to be by far the most desirable thing to do.
In that week many challenging thoughts were pondered. Was this idea of fasting and prayer merely wishful thinking? Was it truly possible for an ordinary man, without any special qualifications or charisma and having no more from God than a call to the ministry, to meet God in such a way that it would bring tangible results and visible fruit? Did God even challenge men: Could man accept such a challenge? Could time accept the challenge of eternity? Were all the mighty saints and prophets of history special sovereign creations of God or were they just ordinary men who accepted the challenge of God?
Then at the end of my circle of rationalizations there would come a gloomy realization, “If not . . . if my concepts are wrong, then am I at the end of the road of no return?” If there were no answers, then there loomed ahead of me an abysmal disorientation – shattered dreams and illusions long held in sacred secret. I still held the belief that if one ever truly wanted to meet God, then the answer could be found by a week of two of fasting and prayer. Surely someday I would do that . . . but the when never came. If the answers were not found, then the glory and reality of a prayer answering God could never be found. Certainly, trying again to find the desired road to Heaven’s Throne of Grace was hopeless.
“Seek Ye My Face”
In the Scriptures, God adjures man to seek His face; however, He never gives any directions as to how it is to be done. Was seeking God the prerogative of a select few; a limited group of mystics who were equipped from birth to climb high on prophet’s mountain? Many unanswered questions led me to one main question that somehow this time I had to settle or abandon the project.
Could a most ordinary man – with but the most ordinary talent and preparation, without any special gifts of mysticism or genius – find the personal, intimate Presence of the God of Jesus and find Him in a satisfying reality? Was reality available for such a cloddy, earthy, practical, unmystical individual? Could such a one have a vital, personal encounter with the Lord of Glory? A careful search of the Scriptures from Abraham to Nehemiah, from Elijah to Peter, encouraged me to believe that it might truly be possible.
Being practical and materialistic by nature and more comfortable in shop or field than at a student’s desk or a prophet’s chamber, I, nevertheless, had to find an answer. The answer had to be both spiritual and practical, dynamically real, as well as scripturally authentic. The spiritual and the material just had to come together; after all, Jesus came out of a carpenter shop.
After seven days of prayer and fasting, there still was no answer. Doubts, questions and fear marked the long passing hours. Where was God? The walls echoed back the barren question. Turmoil wrestled within. Was such a demand on God human impertinence? The days crept slowly by and still no answer, save on the penultimate day, the Spirit of God drew near and questioned me as to what I was doing. My answer, “I am fasting and praying for revival.” Then there came a strange Word from the Spirit, which was, “An empty stomach is not the coin of Heaven . . . but rather the Blood of Jesus.”
The week ended and what a relief! I had accepted the challenge and no fruit resulted from it; therefore, I was now free to leave the mission field and to retire to a more fruitful work. But then . . . ahead loomed an apparently dead-end street. An ever deepening dread of defeat threatened me – a defeat so final and abysmal that terrified me. There came a sudden realization of the devastation this defeat would produce in my life. My faith in God would slowly evaporate; my heart would never again believe that the God of others would ever become my God. The God of Elijah, of Peter and of many of God’s men I had known, would never become my God.
This terrifying realization became a strong motive to continue past seven days, for I could not, dared not stop until obtaining at least some kind of answer. Seven weeks went by, and still I dared not abandon my search, for every day defeat seemed more horrible to contemplate. If this search ended without victory, it would take my very God out of Heaven. Weeping, waiting, meditating, searching the Word, walking, kneeling, standing and again being prostrate on the floor . . . Silence! No posture, no fasting, no tears, no cries could pierce the silent, invisible barrier which so oppressively closed in upon my being. The days slowly passed, lengthening into weeks.
God was in no hurry to uncover the secrets of His mysteries. He, who had so carefully hid the diamonds deeply in the Earth for only the most persistent of seekers, did not hurry to reveal His hiding place to one who aspired to visit His treasury. The seeking and digging was necessary. Two months passed – an eternity seemed to slide into time. Not a breeze stirred in the spiritual world, not even a tiny cloud the size of a man’s hand appeared.
However, though I did not find God during that time, certainly the devil was there. The enemy brought an almost continual barrage against my seeming ridiculous attempt. It was against all reason, rationality, good sense and sanity, the friendly enemy warned. And surely it was doomed to defeat as if an elephant tried to fly. By then I had gone too far and could not turn back.
It occurred to me to set God a date. Surely by now a mistake was made. There was no use going on definitely. Accordingly a date was set, “God, if by the end of the week, Saturday evening at five o’clock, You do not manifest Yourself in some tangible way, then it will be known that I am mistaken. I will go out with tracts and return to the conventional missionary routine.” Surely God, knowing my sincere decision, would be forced to move out from His hiding place – this was my clever, hidden reasoning.
But still no breeze stirred. In infinite wisdom and patience, God held his peace and the end of the week drew near. The five o’clock arrived and still God had done nothing. With unutterable bitterness of soul, with tears of frustration and defeat welling up from depths within, I filled my pockets with tracts and slowly walked down the long hall which led to the street. God had not answered.
At that moment, in God’s precise timing, a local pastor arrived with his unconverted teen age son. During the visit the pastor poured out his troubles at great length. Minutes became hours. It became impossible to do the proposed house to house visitation and tract distribution because of the lateness of the hour. As the two visitors prepared to leave, I asked the boy a searching question. One word led to another until the young boy was on his face sobbing his way through grace to mercy, and asking for forgiveness of his sins.
The two finally left. In the darkness of the hall, with the door scarcely closed, a gentle, quiet voice within said, “You see, son, when I wish, I can bring souls to you. Now return and continue in prayer until I tell you it is time to leave.”
Suddenly a Voice . . .
So back again into that little attic room for more weeks of wrestling, prayer and the Word. Weeks went by until time lost all its meaning. Then one day, a day no different from all the others that had gone on before – without any advance warning whatsoever – suddenly a voice, so overwhelming, so penetrating, so sweet, resounded into the very air of that room. A word as spoken; that word vibrated powerfully into the depths and out again into the heights. Accompanying that word came the dynamic overwhelming Presence of God that seemed to fill the whole world around me.
In a voice that seemed fully audible, He spoke a special message in penetrating power that passed through al barriers into the most interior of my soul. The separating veil was rent; the windows of Heaven were opened. Glory shone all around and I was catapulted into hitherto unknown realms of glory in the Spirit.