The Autumn of 1934 was a wonderful time in the College. In the early morning Mr. Howells was spending many hours alone with God, going through the four Gospels, and getting great light from the Holy Spirit on the Life and Person of the Saviour. He seemed to be coming to the morning meetings straight from God’s presence, and Mrs. Howells, who knew the Spirit’s ways with him, was conscious that the Lord was preparing him for something.
On Boxing Day morning, the Spirit began speaking to him even earlier than usual, before he had arisen, and Mrs. Howells, who was also awake, heard him repeating, “Every creature,” “Every creature.” At 3 a.m. he was so conscious that God wanted to say something definite to him, that he dressed and went to his room downstairs. There the Lord asked him if he believed the Saviour meant ]His last command to be obeyed? “I do,” he replied. “Then do you believe that I can give the Gospel to every creature?” “Without stretching a point,” he answered, “I believe You can. You are God.” “I am dwelling in you,” the Lord then said. “Can I be responsible for this through you?”
For years Mr. Howells had been praying for the Gospel to go to the world. Before he went to Africa, the Spirit brought before him God’s promise to His Son in Psalm 2:8, and he did not let a day pass without praying that the Saviour should have “the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession,” and it was in willingness to be, in some measure, the answer to his own prayers, that he accepted the call to Africa. Then while in Africa, he had been struck by Andrew Murray’s comment on the Saviour’s word in Matt. 9:38, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.” Andrew Murray had pointed out, on the strength of this verse, that the number of missionaries on the field depends entirely on the extent to which someone obeys that command and prays out the laborers; and the Lord had called Mr. Howells to do this. That, in turn, had been one of God’s ways of preparing him for the further commission to start a Bible College. Thus for years he had been a man with a world vision. But this new word from God was to lay direct responsibility on him. It was no mere assent to the general command to preach the Gospel to every creature. It meant, if accepted, that he and all who took it with him would be bond-servants for the rest of their days to this one task — to intercede, to go, to serve others who go — to be responsible for seeing that every creature hears the Gospel.
The way this commission was interpreted to Mr. Howells in concrete terms was that in the next thirty years the Holy Ghost would find 10,000 channels from all over the world — men and women whom He would enter, and who would allow Him to take complete possession of them for this task, [ The phenomenal outgoing of consecrated Gospel-preaching missionary volunteers by the hundreds since World War II, especially from U.S.A., is significant in this respect. Some 600 have gone out to one field — Japan. American Bible Schools and Colleges have about 40,000 young men and women students, and some churches give as much as 50,000 Pounds and 70,000 Pounds annually to the direct support of evangelical foreign missionaries; not to mention the hundreds of others who go out from the British Commonwealth, from Scandinavia, and from other countries.] even as years before He had taken possession of His servant. Finance would be needed in abundance, but the One who gave millions to David for the temple could give the same to those who were building a far more precious temple, a building not made With hands, eternal in the heavens: and He gave His servant that word in Deut. 28:12 (R. V. margin): “The Lord shall open unto thee His good treasury… and thou shalt lend unto many nations”; and with the word was the promise of a first gift from the “Treasury”, of 10,000 Pounds, which was to be a confirmation.
Rees Howells came out from his room a man with a vision and a burden which never left him — the “Every Creature Vision”. He brought it before the staff and students and New Year’s Day 1935 was given to prayer and fasting. The presence of God was felt in a very real way, and, while they did not minimize the enormity of the task, a deep and growing conviction took possession of many that God was going to do a new thing — that as really as the Saviour came clown to the world to make an atonement for every creature, so the Holy Ghost had come down to make that atonement known to every creature, and He would complete it in their generation. In a new sense the world began to be their, parish. They began to be open for God to lay any prayer on them which would further the reaching of every creature with the Gospel. They became responsible to intercede for countries and nations, as well as for individual missionaries and societies. The College became “a house of prayer for all nations.”
One form that this prayer Warfare took was intercession on a national and international level concerning anything that affected world evangelization. Every creature must hear; therefore, the doors must be kept open. Their prayers became strategic. They must face and fight the enemy wherever he was opposing freedom to evangelize. God was preparing an instrument — a company to fight world battles on their knees.
The first battle of prayer on this international scale was in 1936 when Germany sent her soldiers into the Rhineland, and broke the Locarno Treaty. “We knew that France would be on fire in a day,” said Mr. Howells, “and it meant nothing less than a European war, and the consequent hindrance to the spread of the Gospel. Only those who were in the College can realize the burden the Holy Spirit put on us. ‘Prevail against Hitler’, He said to me, and it meant three weeks of prayer and fasting.”
The daily diary of the College meetings at that time records: March 21. “Things are very black on the Continent. ‘We pray on until 11 a.m., and come back at 2.30, 6 and 9 p.m. We ask the Lord to deal with Germany.”
March 23, “Very grave on Continent and in London. Meetings at 9 and 11 a.m., and 6 and 9 p.m. We plead with God to deal with Hitler and the German nation, and to bring them to book.”
March 24. “Situation re European crisis very black, all the countries are disagreeing with each other, burden is coming on very heavy, but the Lord is allowing us to plead the Every Creature Vision in His presence. The Lord turns our eyes off the countries to Himself. Meetings at 9 a.m., 6 and 9 p.m.”
It continued like that for another five days. Then on March 29 Mr. Howells came into the meeting and said, “Prayer has failed. We are on slippery ground. Only intercession will avail. God is calling for intercessors-men and women who will lay their lives on the altar to fight the devil, as really as they would have to fight the enemy on the western front.” It was made clear that a soldier at the front has no say in where he goes and what he does; he cannot take holidays or attend to the claims of home and loved ones, as other people can; and the Lord was telling them that if, as really as that, some would become bondslaves to the Holy Spirit for every creature, and would throw their lives into the gap (Ezek. 22:30), He would give the victory and avert war. A large number of the staff and students made the surrender. “We came right through,” said Mr. Howells, “and I knew from that time on Hitler was no more than a rod in the hands of the Holy Spirit.” The diary recorded:
March 29. “The most wonderful day in the College so far. Big day of surrenders, and many take up the challenge of martyrdom.”
March 30. “Fire fell on sacrifice. Holy Ghost descended on evening meeting. Went on knees and someone started the chorus, ‘Welcome, welcome, welcome! Holy Ghost, we welcome Thee.’ Liberty and power so great we continued singing this one chorus for a full hour,”
April 1. “Another day of worshipping and praising the Lord. He has come down on the College, and it is a new place; there is singing from Derwen Fawr to Glynderwen.”
From that Sunday onwards, the crisis of war in Europe changed into a search for peace; when the proposal was made for a twenty-five years Peace Pact. The College also had the assurance that they could prevail on God to keep His hand on Hitler and the Nazi menace. Every time he made a new swoop, such as on Austria, days were set aside for prayer.
The greatest test came in the summer of 1938, when the dispute arose with Hitler over Czechoslovakia, resulting in what became known as the Munich crisis. We now know that the Voice Hitler followed, which coincided with the advice of some of his trusted advisors, was urging him to attack while Britain was still totally unprepared. War seemed inescapable, and the leaders of the nation called for a day of prayer. God made the challenge very real to the College, and for days the conflict was bitter. It was essentially a clash of spiritual forces — a test of strength between the devil in Hitler and the Holy Ghost in His army of intercessors.
At the height of the battle the one prayer that the Holy Ghost gave to the College through His servant was, “Lord, bend Hitler.” A point came when that cry of travail changed into a shout of victory. The devil had to give way. It was just before the commencement of the new session in the College, and the victory was so certain that Mr. Howells turned the opening day into a day of praise. An announcement appeared in the South Wales Evening Post on Saturday, September 17, stating that “The Meetings (of the following Thursday) will take the form of Praise and Thanksgiving because God has again averted a European War.” Hundreds gathered in the Conference Hall in that dark hour to join in praising God. In the days that followed the test ran higher and higher, but faith was steadfast, and on Thursday, September 29, the College and School were given a general holiday, to celebrate the coming victory. The next day, September 30, the Munich Pact was signed. War had been averted.
What did happen to Hitler? The one person who was in a position to know was Sir Neville Henderson, the British Ambassador to Germany at that fateful time. In his book Failure of a Mission, in describing the remarkable reaction in Hitler after signing the Munich Pact, he makes the following significant statements: “Hitler felt irritated with himself. A section of his followers were always egging him on to fight England while the latter was still militarily unprepared. They reproached him for having accepted the Munich settlement, and thus having missed the most favorable opportunity. An uneasy feeling lest they might have been right contributed to Hitler’s ill-humor… His Voice had told him that… there could be no more propitious moment for it [war] than that October; and for once he had been obliged to disregard that Voice and to listen to counsels of prudence… for the first time he had failed to obey his Voice… He had acted on several occasions in direct defiance of the advice of his stoutest followers and of his army, yet the event had always proved him to be right. Until Munich. There, for the first time, he had been compelled to listen to contrary opinion, and his own faith in his Voice and his people’s confidence in his judgment were for the first time shaken… ‘You are the only man,’ he said somewhat bitterly to Mr. Chamberlain, ‘to whom I have ever made a concession.'” [Neville Henderson, Failure of a Mission, pp. 175 — 6, 179, 157; Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd. Quoted by permission of the author’s executors.] The Lord had “bent Hitler”.
It was certainty of this victory, and the knowledge that the Holy Ghost was stronger than the devil in Hitler, that enabled the College to take the assurance a year later, when war did come, that that was not the triumph of Satan, but it was “God’s war on the Beast”.
One thing that also strengthened Mr. Howells and his followers very much in their challenge of faith at that time was the fact that in July 1938, shortly before this crisis, God had given His promised seal on the Every Creature Vision — the gift of 10,000 Pounds.