The next burden which came on Mr. Howells was for the Jews. As we follow him and the College through their months and years of intercession for Israel, it is remarkable now to see the fulfillment of the first stage of their prayer in the actual return of the Jews and the establishment of the State of Israel. How little there seemed any outward sign that this would come to pass, when the burden first came on His servant! It reminds us that no great event in history, even though prophesied beforehand in the Scriptures, comes to pass unless God finds His human channels of faith and obedience. Prophecies must be believed into manifestation, as well as foretold.
The burden first came on Mr. Howells when he read of the proclamation by Italy, on September 3, 1938, that all Jews must clear out of Italy in six months. This, coupled with the anti-Semitism then so fierce in Germany, turned his thoughts towards the return of God’s people to their own land. He said at the meetings:
September 3. “I have a great burden for these people, and I want God to lay their burden on me. The devil, through Hitler and Mussolini, is being used to send them back to their own land; it is the fulfillment of prophecy; it is another sign that this is the closing of the age. I am longing to help God’s people to return to their land.”
September 5. “In Isaiah’s prophecies about the second return of God’s people, he says in Chapters 11 and 12 that God will draw them from the four corners of the earth. That is just what is happening today. The Holy Spirit is longing to help them through someone. I want God to touch me deeper still with the feelings of what these people are suffering.”
September 7. “Daniel was able to prevail with God in a wonderful way for the return of God’s people, after he bad seen that the seventy years of captivity were ended. We must have faith and believe God’s covenant with Abraham that they are to dwell in the land, and not merely have sympathetic feelings for the Jews. God moved Cyrus, the one who had held them in captivity, to supply the money to take them back! He will do this again, if someone will believe Him. I firmly believe the times of the Gentiles are drawing to a close, and the Jews must be back in their own land when the Master returns.”
September 11. “I think of the places of intercession gained for the tramps, in the village, as a Nazarite, for the widows of India, for a consumptive, for the missionaries’ children. Now God is calling us to be responsible for the Jews.”
He then began to describe how God had definitely told him to be responsible for a gift of 100,000 Pounds for the Jews, and to believe for it. Days were spent in believing prayer for this sum.
A few weeks later, however, news came of Hitler “throwing out” several thousand Jewish children on the Polish border, and the burden on Mr. Howells increased. “The moment I read this in the paper,” he told the College, “a great anguish came over me. Nobody knows what this must mean to their parents. The Holy Ghost is just like a father’, and if I were a father of children whose home had been destroyed, wouldn’t I seek a shelter for them straight away? The Holy Ghost suffers like that for all those parents on the Continent. Unless He in you makes the suffering your own, you can’t intercede for them. You will never touch the Throne, unless you send up that real cry; words don’t count at all.”
As usual, when he had a burden like that, he felt sure that God would have him do something, and as he asked what he could do, the answer came, “Make a home for them.” Mr. Howells had already bought three estates by faith, but the Lord was now going to call him to a new and greater venture in finance. He tried to rent the home of Sir Percy Molyneux, a friend of his who had lately passed away. He calculated that he could house fifty children in it, but the owners were not wining” to let him have it. He then tried for a larger one, which would hold 250. Again he was turned down. Then one night God “whispered” to him “Penllergaer”, the name of an estate he had heard of, but never seen; he knew that it was one of the largest in the Swansea area, and that the owner was Sir Charles Llewelyn. On inquiry, he found that it consisted of 270 acres, and that the Roman Catholics had made a former offer of 14,000 Pounds for the mansion and two fields only; so he realized that it would cost him nothing less than 20,000 Pounds.
The records of the meetings for the next week or two speak of constant prayer about it, until on November 26 he came right out with the statement: “I shall buy the new estate, probably next week, and I am willing to risk my all in order to help the Jews.”
When he went to the agent, he found that he had no time to lose, because some others were preparing to make an offer for it. He had to make a decision in twenty-four hours. That day he said at the meeting, “These others are forming a company to buy Penllergaer, and I must look to the Trinity to be my Company.” And on the next “To-day I was told would be the last for buying Penllergaer, so I made an offer greater than that of the syndicate. The agent “told me it would be ours, and he is writing to the owner this evening.”
The matter was settled. With some alterations that would be needed, it was going to cost 20,000 Pounds, and there was nothing in hand. This dwarfed the previous purchases of faith, but God had so led him on through the years that, where we might think the test would be tremendous, and it actually was, yet, as one of the students said, he bought Penllergaer with less fuss than many a man makes in buying a suit of clothes! He was encouraged a few days later by a phone call from a very close friend of the College, who said that if Mr. Howells was staking his all on Penllergaer, he would do the same, and that a freehold house given him by his father was to be sold for that purpose.
It was a marvelous estate, far exceeding any of the other three. There was a large mansion with many outbuildings, seven other dwelling houses, a home farm and market gardens, where the late Sir John Llewelyn used to employ fifteen gardeners. The estate was famous for its collection of trees and shrubs, “and had been used by the Swansea University for student classes in Botany. The river and lake of eighteen acres were popular among fishermen for their trout. The beautiful drive up to the mansion, of a mile and a quarter in length, was through masses of rhododendrons and azaleas.
Here Mr. Howells had the vision of “the persecuted little ones” being driven up through these banks of rhododendrons, ablaze with bloom, and feeling they were more than half-way already to their home of destiny, the land of Palestine, which is yet to flow with milk and honey.
The papers referred to this “City of Refuge in Wales for Jewish Refugee Children”, and the London papers gave it headlines also. Negotiations were opened with the Home Secretary for permission for several hundred Jewish children to be brought over. All this would mean much heavier financial liability and a guarantee of 50 Pounds would have to be paid down for each child.
God then called them to one more costly step, most costly of all’. It concerned the 100,000 Pounds gift for which the College was praying. As Mr. Howells said, “There is a golden rule in the life of faith, that the Christian can never prevail upon God to move others to give larger sums of money towards God’s work than he himself has either given, or proved that he is willing to give, if it were in his power to do so.” On this basis God had been speaking to him for several days, and there was a great sensation in the College when, in a Sunday morning meeting, he told them what God was asking, and that he had made his decision. It was that they would sell all the three present estates, Glynderwen, Derwen Fawr and Sketty Isaf, which had been valued at close on 100,000 Pounds, and give that as the first 100,000 Pounds for the Jews. The College and School would move to Penllergaer, and occupy it together with the Jewish children. Mrs. Howells had also been facing up to the sacrifice of all these estates with their hallowed associations, and the cost of having to build the work afresh in Penllergaer. It seemed unthinkable that God could really mean this, but when she heard Mr. Howells commit himself in public, she knew well that it was final. Can we imagine her feelings as she left that meeting, her eyes blinded with tears? Alone with God she fought her battle. She missed the next meeting and also took no lunch, but by three o’clock God brought her right through, as she saw Abraham walking up the mount with his son Isaac and offering him there as “a whole burnt-offering to God. Without knowing how his wife had come through, Mr. Howells preached on that very passage of Scripture in the afternoon meeting. He asked her to close the meeting in prayer, and there were very few dry eyes in the congregation.
Negotiations then began for the sale of the estates. The army had already requisitioned some fields next to Derwen Fawr for training purposes, and were making inquiries about the College properties. So Mr. Howells began to negotiate with the War Office about this sale. It was only after several months that the Western Command finally decided not to extend any further in this district, and the Lord did not test His servant more on that point.
At this same time there was a series of meetings in the College when the Lord spoke to many about laying their missionary calls on the altar, and allowing the Holy Ghost through them to take the place of fathers and mothers to the Jewish refugee children. It was a real surrender on the part of many, and although that ministry has not yet materialized, it was God’s strange way of wisdom; for it meant that this company of about 120 were set apart by the Holy Ghost during those unexpected war years, for the life of intercession. Once again it was God using one apparent call to prepare His servants for another and higher. By this means He had His army of the Spirit who were going to fight the war through on their knees, to free the world again for every creature to have the Gospel.
While they were preparing to receive the children, war was declared with Germany and their plans had to be changed; although twelve Jewish children did arrive and became part of the College family. It was another testing time for Mr. Howells. “When you try to do something for God, everything comes against you,” he said. “Could anything be more against me than this — that, after I bought Penllergaer for the children, the war came, and I couldn’t take them? But when God speaks to you, you can never doubt it. If what God has told you leads you into great trials, then you go back to God and turn the burden of it on Him. Nothing could have looked more like a mistake than this, for I had a great liability at that time, but I did not question it once. I knew it wasn’t a mistake, although the devil told me it was. Although we could not get the children, yet we obeyed God in buying that property. He told us we were to have thousands of pounds out of it to use for the Kingdom.”
How wonderful God is! First, the possession of that great property gave work to the young men called of God to remain in the College for intercession. They were occupied all those years in felling timber on the estate, and as a consequence were exempted from other service. Then while the war was still in progress, Mr. Howells was led to have plans drawn out for the building of houses on the estate. It was a providential guidance, because some time later the Government introduced a law whereby all land is made subject to charges in the event of development. A clause, however, was inserted in the Bill exempting any land for which plans had been passed before a certain date; very few could take advantage of this, but the Penllergaer estate was one, and when the houses are built, thousands of pounds will be saved for God’s Treasury. The Penllergaer mansion was then offered to Dr. Barnardo’s as a free gift to house war orphans. After long deliberations, however, the Council decided that the conversion, repairs and maintenance of the mansion would prove too expensive. Now the Glamorgan County Council has taken it over as a school for backward children. But the estate around remains in the hands of the College, to bring back in due course the sum of money God promised His servant it would produce for the Kingdom.
Through the years of the war, the Jews were never forgotten, although prayer to God was mainly for affairs of the nations; for, as Mr. Howells said, ‘When the war came, He changed us from the Jews to the Beast (a name he commonly gave to the devil in the Nazi system), and said, ‘Get victory over him’.” But it was after the war again, in October and November 1947, that whole days were given to praying through for the Jews’ return to Palestine. Mr. Howells said, “We pleaded that because of His covenant with Abraham 4,000 years ago, God would take His people back to their Land, and Palestine should again become a Jewish State.”
The challenge that came before the College was: if the Jewish people did not go back after the 1914-18 war, would they go back after this one? They saw the hand of God in the setting up of a” United Nations Committee to consider the question of Palestine. There was thanksgiving when the news was published that Britain was going to evacuate the country. On eleven different days during these two months, prayer was concentrated on the coming United Nations vote. It was touch and go. On the day of voting, November 27, 1947, there was much prayer, but the news came that the partitioning of Palestine had not been carried. The College went back to yet more intense prayer, during which they saw in faith “God’s angels influencing those men in the United Nations Conference in New York to work on behalf of God’s people”, and had full assurance of victory. When, next day, the news came that the United Nations had passed the partitioning of Palestine by 33 votes to 13, and that the State of Israel was a fact, the College acclaimed it with rejoicing as “one of the greatest days for the Holy Ghost in the history of these 2,000 years. During all those centuries there wasn’t a single sign that the country was to be given back to the Jews, who were scattered all over the earth, but now, 4,000 years after His covenant with Abraham, He has gathered all the nations together and made them give much of the land of Palestine back to them.”
One unusual ray of light was also given to Mr. Howells at that time concerning the Arabs. He said: “God put me aside for some days to reveal the position of the Arabs. In Genesis 16:12, God says of Ishmael that ‘he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.’ This is the problem. Does God mean the Arabs to dwell with the Jews? Abraham loved Ishmael and wanted him to have the inheritance; and God, who means what He says, declared: ‘I have blessed him.’ The Arabs only worship the One God. Did God mean them to be blessed as well as the Jews? They will afford shelter to the Jews (Isaiah 21:13-15), and will be the first to come to Jerusalem to pay homage to the King (Isaiah 60:7). Just as we were only burdened for the Jews when we had to make intercession for them, so the Lord wanted us to have a concern for the Arabs also. They also are the sons of Abraham. Can the Holy Ghost bring in something which will break down the barrier between the Jews and Arabs that there may be a home and a blessing for both? Certainly the Arabs are the people of God, if they are to shield the Jews and live in those countries which are to escape out of the hand of the Beast.”