Chapter 28 – Third Estate and Children’s Home – Rees Howells: Intercessor by Norman Grubb
While Mr. Howells was still paying for the Derwen Fawr estate, and constantly looking to the Lord for the daily needs of the College, God’s word came to go forward and erect new buildings. The first two to be built were a College Chapel to seat 200, and a Conference Hall to hold 400. Then came two men’s hostels and a women’s hostel to house a hundred students, all at a cost of about 6,000 Pounds.
At the time the workmen were engaged, again there was not a penny in hand; but although they were regularly employed for over eighteen months, entailing a weekly wage of between 20 Pounds and 30 Pounds, not once did they go away without receiving their full pay. Even so, on Friday it was a rare thing to have money in hand for Saturday’s wages. Sometimes the deliverance would not even come by the first post on Saturday, calling for prevailing prayer before the second. “The Lord kept me daily and hourly abiding,” said Mr. Howells, “to fulfill the condition for claiming an answer to my prayers.”
During those months he was led for the first time to pray for a gift of 1,000 Pounds. On a Tuesday morning, the Lord told him to stop all the workmen, put the lectures off, and devote every hour to waiting upon God. The work was not to restart until the 1,000 Pounds was sent, and during those days “there was not the sound of a hammer.” Day by day they “prayed up and up, touching the Throne with every prayer,” until on Friday morning the 1,000 Pounds came. “What a shout of victory there was in the camp!”
Each morning, when the milkman made his early call at the College, Mr. Howells was up to greet him. He used to say that, like himself, Mr. Howells had discovered the secret that “you have to be an early bird, if you want to get on in the world!” When he arrived on the morning after the big lift, he put his cans down-in deliberate fashion and, hands Oil hips, asked him, “Is it true what I’ve heard?” “What have you heard?” “That you’ve had a thousand pounds!” “Yes, it’s quite true.” “Well! well! It seems that you and Amy Johnson (the flier) are the only two that can get money these days!”
The building program was nearing an end when the next call came, in 1932. Mr. Howells was reading the life of Dr. Whitefield Guirmess of the China Inland Mission, and how no one had offered a home to his children in this country during their school holidays, although his parents had opened their home to so many people. He said that that cost him more heart agony than any persecutions he endured in China. The Lord used this to bring before Mr. Howells the need of many missionaries who have to leave their children in the homeland. It was one of the deep and agonizing experiences of his life. The pangs of the mothers who left their children in this country, with no home and no parents near, actually came on him. The Holy Spirit put them on him. He was in his room without food or sleep and his groans were heard, till he cried to the Lord, “What do You want me to do?” (He used to say there was a law — when you can carry a burden no longer, the Holy Spirit must take it.) He only came free when the Lord said to him, “I want you to make a home for every child of a missionary who cannot take his children back to the field,” and he consented. A deep experience, yes, and a great outcome. Out of the travail came the vision of the Home and School for missionaries’ children, the fruit of that intercession gained years before, when God told him He had made him “a father to the orphans”. From that day there was continued prayer in the College, pleading the cause of mothers and fathers who have proved by their obedience that they love the Lord more than their own children.
To establish the Home, for several months Mr. Howells negotiated with the Swansea Corporation about buying Sketty Park, the “mansion of Sir Byng Morris, with seventeen acres of land, not far from the College; but in the end the Corporation decided not to sell. The next day, Sketty Isaf came to the market. This also was an estate of seventeen acres, just on the opposite side of the road to Derwen Fawr; the owners were willing to sell the house with five acres only, giving the option of purchase on the other twelve. The tenant was Major Pratt, who, when he heard that Mr. Howells had begun praying about it, said jokingly in his club, “If Rees Howells has begun looking over my wall and praying, I had better get out before something happens to me!” — and he did!
The Lord told Mr. Howells to buy it. The contract was drawn up by the agent and given him to sign, but he didn’t have the deposit, so for three weeks he carried the document about in his pocket. The agent wanted it back, but Mr. Howells kept out of his way! In three weeks the Lord delivered him, and Sketty Isaf was bought for 8,000 Pounds. Only in a falling market, in days of depression, could such a house and grounds have been bought at so low a price, just as Derwen Fawr came into his hands at far below its value in a normal market. Later he bought the other twelve acres, and a further seven of adjoining freehold land.
The failure to buy Sketty Park, and then the Lord’s guidance to the much more convenient estate of Sketty Isaf, illustrates an important lesson of faith, which Mr. Howells explained like this: “You are always getting a death on a point that is not really essential, and then receiving a better thing for it. Thus, before I bought Derwen Fawr, I was trying for months to buy another large place some miles away. We climbed up to the position of faith from which we could buy it, then my offer was refused — and I knew God was behind it. That very week, Derwen Fawr came into the market, and I wouldn’t change Derwen Fawr for two like that other estate. Then I came up to the position to buy Sketty Park. The moment the Corporation turned down my offer, what joy I had, because I recognized that God was in it; and the next day, Sketty Isaf came to the market!” Then he went on to mention, what will be recorded in a later chapter, how last but not least he tried to buy Sketty Hall, the home of Lord Swansea, but was turned down after climbing up in faith. In place of that the Lord told him to buy Penllergaer, and probably that great estate is worth several times as much as Sketty Hall.
This same principle of faith was to be seen in operation on many other occasions in his life. In pursuit of some great aim which the Lord had given him, he would, en route, seek and ask and believe for some particular deliverance or provision, which he would not obtain in the exact form in which he asked for it. To those who were watching from outside, this would often appear a failure or mistake, and there would be plentiful criticism; but the effect on him — and those on the inside with him in the’ battle of faith — was the opposite: it only strengthened him in the pursuit of the main objective of faith until he had obtained it. He would regard a temporary disappointment en route, not as a failure, but as a stepping stone — rather like a climber who scales a peak, mistakenly thinking it is the summit, only to find higher ones beyond, and only to have his determination increased to reach it. The same principle will be seen at work later in the great war-time battles of faith.
The Bible College at this time had about fifty students, Some of the earlier ones had by now been called to the staff; Tommy Howells, Mr. Howells’ friend from Brynamman, Miss Margaret Williams and others taking various posts of responsibility. Among the tutors was the Rev. A. E. Glover, M.A, the author of A Thousand Miles of Miracle. Some of the students were going to the mission fields with different societies: a couple with the China Inland Mission, a number with the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, one student back to Mr. Howells’ old station of Rusitu with the South Africa General Mission; and a number into the home ministry.
The School for missionaries’ children opened in 1933 with eleven boys and girls, including some day pupils from the surrounding district, who were also accepted. With its development, care was taken to preserve the Home as a real home for the children without the intrusion of the school atmosphere. Numbers soon increased of both day scholars and missionaries’ children, and God began to send the staff: Kenneth McDouall, M.A., as headmaster and Miss Doris Ruscoe, B.A., as headmistress, Miss G. Roderick as matron and mother to the children, Miss Elaine Bodley, headmistress of the Preparatory School, and other teachers and assistants, all giving their services freely to the Lord.
In 1935 the School moved down to Glynderwen, and with its rapid development, further extensions became necessary. A dormitory block, three blocks of classrooms, and a gymnasium were added. As usual, there was not a penny in hand when the builders arrived, the Lord not delivering for the first week’s wages until the second post on Saturday, when a check of 20 Pounds came. The following Saturday the Lord moved a lady to leave the preparation of her dinner and come down to the College with 25 Pounds. In ways like these, week by week, all the new buildings of the College and School, worth about 30,000 Pounds were erected on the three estates.
While they were putting up these extra buildings, Mr. Howells received nine separate gifts of 1,000 Pounds. At one time the Lord told him that out of all gifts of 100 Pounds and over, he was to give away 25 per cent. One year he gave 1,000 Pounds to God’s work elsewhere, although actually in need of it himself for this advance work. He always believed the law of the hundredfold, and acted on it. He began the College with 2s., and in fourteen years the Lord sent him 125,000 Pounds.
During these years, besides the blessing that came to many visitors who already knew the Lord, there was a continual succession of people being led to the Saviour, either through the College meetings, or by coming under the influence of the Spirit through the very atmosphere of the place. Indeed, it would take a volume to tell the many stories of how “this and that man was born there.”