LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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Chapter 26

 

 

CITY MISSION AND SLUM WORK

 

 

One of the evidences that Jesus sent to John the Baptist that He was the very Christ was that “the poor have the gospel preached to them.” One of the results of the Pentecostal experience is the desire to carry the gospel to the whole world. If they will come to hear us, well. If they will not come, then we will carry the gospel to them. This was the spirit of the early holiness movement, and it carried the gospel to the streets, to the slums, and into mission halls in all of the large towns where holiness was preached.

City missions were the order of the day. Evangelists would hold tent meetings all of the time when the weather would admit; and when the winters set in then they would go to some town, whether wanted or not, rent a hall in some central location, open up an every night mission, and the common people would flock out to these missions in droves, and often hundreds of people would be converted or sanctified in one winter’s work. Girls from the slums would come and get converted and go out to rescue homes and lead a new life.

Such missions were run in Greenville, McKinney, Beaumont, Paris, Terrell, Dallas, Fort Worth, Gainesville, and San Antonio, Texas, in Shreveport, La., and later in Shawnee, and Oklahoma City, Okla. These were run strictly on the faith line, without the promise of support, but as a love offering to God.

Thomas Rogers ran such a mission in Gainesville, Texas, the winter of 1894–95, and in McKinney the next winter; then in Greenville the winter of 1896–97, where a great work was accomplished, both in the salvation of souls and in the training of young workers and preachers in the movement. C. B. Jernigan, who had just received the experience of holiness would work all day, and go to the mission and lead the street meeting; then in the hall would lead the song and testimony services, and labor till a late hour in the altar, and then go home and eat his supper, as he would not have time to eat before the services. It was his training school. Here Mrs. Johnny Jernigan helped much, visiting the slums of her home town, Greenville, and pulling some choice diamonds from the rough, who are shining for God today. These were busy days among holiness people; there seemed to be a spirit of work everywhere, and a great burden for the lost; and as a result many people were saved.

A mission was opened up at Paris, Texas, by Rev. C. M. Keith and Rev. C. B. Jernigan. Keith was an elder in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, for some years. Jernigan had just begun to preach. They went to Paris at the invitation of an old man by the name of Martz, who proved to be a real crank and soon left. When they reached town Martz could not be found. They had heard him speak of Tom Broad, so they inquired for Mr. Broad. When they went to his door and knocked, he appeared, wiping his eyes from weeping for some cause. They were invited in, and when told of their mission in town, the face of Brother Broad fairly shone as he told them how that for some months he had been reading the Pentecostal Herald and God’s Revivalist that some one had sent to him; and that he had just been on his knees asking God to send some one this way to teach him the way of the Lord more perfectly. He had a little hall rented on Clarkesville Street, where he had been gathering the street children Sunday afternoons for a Sunday school. This he gave over to the holiness mission workers gladly. That night they had a street meeting and announced their meetings as best they could. They also had it announced in the afternoon paper; but it reached a very few people, and the crowd was very small that night. When the service had closed and the announcement was made for the services each night and at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the people filed out and went to their homes and left the preachers in the hall alone, without a penny in money, and in a strange town of fifteen thousand people. They had had no supper nor dinner, and now no place to sleep save in the mission hall with a Bible for a pillow and their overcoats for covering. Don’t tell me the Devil did not tempt them to give up the job and leave town! They prayed more than they slept that night. The idea of Rev. C. M. Keith leaving a pastorate with a good board of stewards behind him to step out into a place like this, with no place to sleep, and no bread to eat! They walked about the town, praying that they might meet some one who would give them some money, or find some one that they knew, but they found neither until service time at 3 p. m., when a widow asked them home with her for supper. Sure they went, and they had the best supper that they had ever eaten in all of their lives.

The next morning was spent in prayer to know the will of God concerning their remaining there. Brother Keith arose from his knees and declared his purpose to return home that very day to his wife and children. He said that God did not want his children to suffer that way, and that the Bible said that not to look after your own household was worse than infidelity. C. B. Jernigan had not had a board of stewards behind him, and had looked for hardships, so he told Brother Keith that he was not going home, that God had sent them there in answer to Tom Broad’s prayer to get him sanctified and that he could not leave until it was accomplished. They prayed again and God gave them the assurance that they must stay on. When they arose from their knees Brother Keith was shouting for joy. They went to the post office and got a letter from Rev. H. C. Morrison, who was at that time holding a meeting in Denton, Texas, and some one had given him $10 to give wherever he thought it would do the most good for holiness. So he enclosed that $10 bill in a letter and addressed it to these mission workers. When the letter was opened there was another shout in the post office. That very night Tom Broad was gloriously sanctified and shouted for an hour, and some others got the blessing also. The revival broke out and the mission soon had to be moved to a much larger hall, where it ran all winter and far up into the spring. More than a hundred people were converted or sanctified, and a work planted that lasts today.

 

TOM BROAD

 

Tom Broad was an old bachelor, about sixty years of age, and lived alone. He was worth $60,000 in Paris city property, having come to Paris in an early day and bought quite a lot of property at low cost, and it grew in value as the days went by. He was a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and some friends had sent him the Pentecostal Herald, and through it he had learned of the experience of holiness and was in prayer in his room alone when the city mission workers found him. He lived some twelve years after he was sanctified and God used him to pay most of the bills of the city mission in Paris for many years. He also gave liberally to the institutions that were raised up in the early days of the holiness movement. There are many men of wealth in our great cities like this one and Deacon Morse, of New England, whose hearts are hungry for holiness, if we could only find the consecrated workers to carry to them the glad news of full salvation. It may cost a mighty sacrifice to open the way and convince them that you really are in earnest, but this very spirit of self-sacrifice will prove to them that there is something in the doctrine of holiness.

C. B. Jernigan had it on his heart to open a mission in Sherman, Texas, in the winter of 1901–2. He spoke of the matter one day in a sermon in the early summer before. The matter was dropped for some time, only a spirit of prayer came over him for it. When one day in the following fall George Davis, a farmer living near Howe, came to where he was preaching and after the sermon took him out and said, “Do you remember saying something about a mission in Sherman this winter?” “Yes,” replied the preacher, “I am only waiting for God to open the way.” Then replied George Davis, “I have not slept well since that day, as God has laid it on me to open the way. I want to pay the rent on the building if you are willing to trust God for a living.” The next week they found a building, and George Davis paid the rent all winter while Rev. C. B. Jernigan did mission work, visiting the poor and neglected, praying in their homes; often in the homes of church members who would say, “You are the first preacher that ever offered to pray in my home.”

The meeting grew in interest and power till many were saved, and great crowds attended. One day C. B. Jernigan got a burden on his heart to invite Rev. Seth C. Rees, whom he had recently met in Chicago at the great Shaw convention, to come to Sherman for a ten days’ meeting. He had a letter from him stating that he could come at a certain date. The answer was written for him to come on. When the letter was sealed one night after the services had closed, and was ready for the post office the next day, and the mission worker ready to retire; Satan came into the mission hall and told the preacher to tear that letter up, as there was not a dollar in sight to support such a meeting, and that the only people that he was reaching was the poorest of the town, and that they were not supporting his own family. Now to invite a man like Rees to come a thousand miles and no assurance of pay was robbery.

The preacher went on his knees, and for an hour he wrestled all over that floor, fighting the powers of darkness. At last the light broke in and a voice whispered, “Be true to me and I will pay all of the bills, and supply all of your needs.” He arose from his knees and went to the post office, several blocks away, after midnight, and mailed the letter to keep out of the reach of further temptation.

The next morning he went to work to find a place to hold the Rees meeting. He visited every preacher in town, but was refused the use of any church. The little mission hall was too small for the crowds already, and he must have a larger place. After all of the churches refused, then he turned to the county commissioners for the courthouse; it was refused. Then he asked for the city hall, again to be refused. He then went to see some of the leading lodge men to get a secret society hall, again to be refused. Love or money could not induce any of these to allow a holiness meeting to be held there.

After three weeks’ hard work, and no place to hold the meeting, C. B. Jernigan went to Peniel, where Brother Rees was then in a meeting, and reported what had been done, but the mission worker, with faith in God’s promise that night, still was confident that there would be a great meeting in Sherman, and that God would open the way for a place yet. Rees looked straight into the eyes of C. B. Jernigan and said, “On your faith I’m coming and expect a great meeting, if we have to preach out in the courthouse yard.” Jernigan returned to Sherman inspired by the faith of Rev. Mr. Rees; as he landed at the depot, he was met by Bill Metcalf, a saloon keeper, who had often attended the mission. Metcalf put his arms through his and walked down the street with him. They had gone but a few steps when the saloon keeper asked if he had found a place for the meetings yet. When told that there was nothing in sight, he asked the preacher how he would like to have the large double hall upstairs over his saloon on the west side of the square.

The preacher walked over to the saloon and arm in arm they went into the front door of the saloon, and then up the back stairs into the large hall which was 50 x 100 feet; but cut up into gambling rooms. “This,” said the saloon keeper, “will never be used again, as I am done with this kind of business. Since I have been attending these meetings I have decided to quit. You may have this hall all winter if it will do you any good. The doorway came up through a broad stairway that came up over the Cole hardware store, which was next door to the saloon and the building was owned by the saloon keeper.

The offer was accepted, and now only three days until the Rees meeting was to begin. At the meeting in the mission hall that night the preacher told what he had found, and that he had no money, but needed some volunteers to assist him in tearing away the gambling rooms, and nailing up the back stairway, and seating the hall. That night there were seven carpenters at the mission out of a job, all of whom volunteered their services to help, and said that they would be there at 7 o’clock the next morning. They came, the room was cleared, and lumber bought on a credit to build the needed seats to finish seating the hall; the walls were whitewashed and the lights hung, and all was ready for service that night.

Seth Rees came, the fire fell, the altar was filled, the saloon keeper got saved and went out of business. People came for miles to the meetings. Many preachers came and a place was found for them by renting some rooms. By Saturday the hall would not hold the people, and the opera house was rented for Sunday for $15, where they had an all-day meeting and many were blessed that day. When the offering was taken, there was enough money to pay the board bill of all the preachers and workers; to pay for the lumber in the seats, and the lights and other expenses, and there was nearly $100 left for the evangelist.

Many instances like this could be cited in the early days of this great movement when people had real faith in God, connected with real works.

There was a second mission work in Paris, Texas, in the winter of 1900–1, conducted by C. B. Jernigan, in which God did some wonderful things that are worthy of recording. Many people found God in the old-time way and restitution. A gambler by the name of Joe Neal attended these meetings and was powerfully converted and made restitution to people that he had robbed in the gambling room. Soon he wanted to be sanctified. He went to the altar every service, but could not get through. One night while at the altar he remembered that God had said, “Whosoever shall save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.” So he said, “I’ll have the blessing or die.” At this he held his breath and said, “Now Lord, If you don’t give me the blessing I’ll die right here. I’ll never breathe again till I am sanctified.” The blessing came and he still lives to tell the glad story.

 

FIVE YEARS IN HELL

 

The mission hall was upstairs next to a boarding house run by Mrs. _____, whose husband had participated in the burning of the Negro, Henry Smith, several years before. This man was a drunken wreck, although once a noble man with a good Christian wife. This man would come to the mission and come to the altar, where he has sometimes lain for hours crying to God in his drunken stupor. The floor would sometimes be wet with his tears.

One night the workers missed him; two days passed and he did not return. On the morning of the fourth day he appeared at the mission and asked for the mission worker to go to his room and pray for him. This he did, and as he seated the preacher in a large wicker rocker, he turned and locked the door, putting the key in his pocket, and turned to the preacher, who supposed that he was locked in the room with a raving maniac from the terrible expression that was on his countenance. He saw the frightened look on the preacher’s face, and said, “Don’t be afraid. I would not harm one hair on your head. I am not drunk. This is the first time that you ever saw me a sober man. I brought you in here to tell you the most awful story that you ever heard. It will do me no good. I am a damned man! I have been in hell for five years. But you may save some other man. So God help me to tell you. I was on the police force of this town for thirteen years; all of this time I never drew a sober breath. I had some trouble with a Negro; afterward I had to arrest him often. One day he cursed me. I struck him with my billy[club]; he cursed the more. I hit him again. I pushed him in jail. He said, ‘If you don’t kill me I’ll have revenge.’ He worked his fine out on a rock pile, and then came by my home and decoyed my little three-year-old daughter away, and down in the park he abused her and kicked her until every rib was broken and tore her limbs asunder, and then covered her with leaves and left the city. Search was made for him everywhere. Telegrams were sent to every town for miles. The whole country was in arms when the child was found. Thousands of people were on the hunt for the Negro. At last he was located in Arkansas and arrested and confessed his crime and said, ‘I told him that I would have revenge.’ He was taken back to Paris where a scaffold was erected near the Texas & Pacific depot, ten feet high and an iron rail driven into the ground in the center of the scaffold, and all preparations were made to burn him. The newspapers said that ten thousand people witnessed the burning.”

He said, “I asked that I might go up on the scaffold and torture him awhile before the match was applied.” Then he cried, “O my God! The Spirit of God left me forever when I agreed to torture him. Oh, if he would only come back one more time. But he is gone! gone! forever gone!

“I took red-hot soldering irons and burned holes in his arms, in his legs. I burned his eyes out. I burned his mouth. I burned his ears, and said, ‘I guess you’ll have revenge.’ I tried to make him scream, but could not. The only thing was a deep, unearthly groan. I can hear it yet. I can’t sleep. As I came down off of that scaffold he came behind me snorting fire into my face. I can see him behind every door. Every telephone post. Every corner he jumps at me still snorting fire out of his nose at me. Oh, preacher, I am damned. I am damned. I have been in hell for five years. I drank till it had no effect. I ate morphine till it did no good. I tried cocaine, but it fools me. Look! I can see him now over there in that corner. Pray! Pray! for God’s sake pray, or he’ll get me.” Then he opened the door and ran downstairs into a saloon and the next time I saw him he was reeling drunk. He died a few months later.

 

MONEY CAME IN ANSWER TO PRAYER

 

One other incident of answered prayer happened in this winter’s work, or rather toward spring. C. B. Jernigan was going to leave the mission and go out into evangelistic work, and Rev. A. G. Jeffries was to carry the mission on for awhile longer. It was just before the general holiness convention was to meet in Chicago, Ill., for a closer union of the holiness people. As C. B. Jernigan, A. G. Jeffries, and Allie Irick were talking about the convention, A. O. Jeffries said, “Jernigan, you ought to go; you are interested in organization and I suppose they will plan something of that sort.” All were agreed and all went down on their knees to know the will of God in the matter. C. B. Jernigan had no money to go on and they were asking that he know if it was God’s will. As they prayed, Jeffries shouted and laughed and said, “Yes, you must go.” Then he arose and said that God had drawn on him for $1 to start the traveling fund. Allie Irick said, “And me for 50 cents,” and it was handed to him and he at once started to the depot to see what the fare for the round trip would be. On his way there he prayed for God to let him go to the convention. He found the fare for the round trip to be $35. Rattling the $1.50 as he walked back down South Main Street, he prayed to be allowed to go. A voice asked, If God wanted him to, would he be content to remain in Texas and go on preaching here. He quickly answered, “Yes!” At this moment a hand was laid on his shoulder by a strange man whom he had seen but twice before, and that at the mission two nights. The stranger handed him a $10 bill, saying, “I was down to your mission last night and thought I might do that much for you.” He asked him his name. The reply was, “it is recorded in heaven and you can see it when you get there.” When asked where he lived, he replied, “Heaven is my home, I am just passing through Paris,” and bid him good day and went on. No more could ever be found out about the stranger. He returned to the mission with joy, and soon went to his home in Greenville and made his wife, Mrs. Johnny Jernigan, treasurer of the Chicago fund. She joined in prayer for the rest needed to go on. In a meeting just following this at Howe, Texas, she put God to the test as to her husband’s going; and in answer to prayer God made people put $35 more into her hands to add to this fund, without even letting a soul know that she wanted it.

Truly, God did bless the efforts in mission work in the early days of this great movement, and literally hundreds of souls were blessed in that way who otherwise would never have heard the gospel. Many drunkards were saved in these missions, some of whom are Pentecostal Nazarene preachers today, and some wayward girls were redeemed who, like Mary Magdalene, are publishing the gospel of the risen Lord.