Appendix 2 - These All Died In Faith
Series: Our Fathers Saw His Mighty Works
It’s not unusual for people to have some type of belief system that motivates them throughout their lives, but it is quite unusual for people to have a belief system that gives them joy and eager anticipation as they face their last days on earth. Death is perhaps the biggest test of all on one’s faith. Many people with a so-called faith have died at least stoically, resolutely, or even calmly. But only the one true object of faith, God the Savior, has ever been able to give such deep assurance of His mercy, compassion, and goodness that people face death with eager anticipation of a better life ahead. To die with such peace and joy of heart is enviable.
As I’ve compiled the history of the early years of the LEM, I’ve come across some unique and precious accounts of the last days of some of the LEM’s founders and early leaders. Throughout their lives they had both lived the Christian faith and preached it to others who eagerly received it and experienced the blessed results for themselves. But the great peace and joy with which these leaders died authenticated their message even further as having been from God. He did not fail those who were trusting in Him but indeed took care of them at death just as He had in earthly life. Truly, “These all died in faith” (Hebrews 11:13a NKJV), and they were not disappointed in doing so.
Pastor and Evangelist Jens Halvorson was the oldest of the LEM’s founders and the first of them to die. He died on March 22, 1956, at the age of 78.1 For the last five years of his life, he served as the rector at Bethany Home in Everett, Washington, where he ministered to the elderly residents “in the form of regular visitations, devotions, and chapel services.“ During his last several months, he was sick and realized that he would not recover. Yet, as the superintendent of Bethany Home reported, “Throughout his painful physical suffering he was patient and submissive . . . he had peace with God and with man.” It seems that Halvorson never lost the joy of his salvation nor did he ever lose the heart of an evangelist which God had given him. Just a few days before Halvorson died, a young man came to him seeking spiritual help. Halvorson prayed together with him as long as was necessary until that young man too had found the same Savior and the same peace that Halvorson had joyously found nearly 60 years earlier. This elderly servant of God had no greater delight than in pointing people to Jesus, and in such service God employed him until his final days.
In early 1961, Evangelist Enoch Scotvold developed several sicknesses which caused a number of hospital visits.2 As it became clear that he would not recover from these sicknesses, he was filled with joy and assurance in his Savior, and he wrote to friends,
“My traveling days are over as far as this world is concerned. I have one journey to make and that may take place any moment . . . The owner of the tenement which I have occupied for 80 years has given notice that He will furnish but little or nothing for repairs. I am advised to be ready to move . . . I rejoice in knowing that my Saviour has assured me that reservations have been made for me in the Father’s house, my name registered in the Lamb’s book of life. He takes care of everything . . . As I take a backward look over the years, I marvel at the grace and goodness of God towards me . . . .”
When Scotvold returned home to his bedroom after what proved to be his last hospital visit in April, he told his children, “I have had my last trip to a hospital. I want to stay right here until I go Home. In my travels I have waited in many depots for the train to come. Now this will be my ‘waiting room’ until the Lord comes.” Since Scotvold’s two daughters were registered nurses, they cared for him at home during his last days on earth. His prayer requests included that his homegoing might be soon and that it might be victorious. Perfectly contented, he frequently used the word “wonderful” in daily conversation. As the days wore on and his pain became more intense, he became unable to eat anything and could receive only sips of water. Even after he became too weak to talk, his children noticed that simply their quoting Bible verses, singing hymns, or praying aloud seemed to relax his body. As it had for nearly 50 years of his life, so also now “just the name of Jesus seemed to satisfy.” On May 19, 1961, Enoch Scotvold left this life and went to meet the Savior whom he had so longed to know face to face.
In May of 1959, Evangelist and Missionary John Carlsen lost his wife of nearly 37 years.3 Shortly thereafter, he remarried; but he himself was to live only another four years until the age of 63.4 His new wife later reported that during those last four years of his life, Carlsen suffered many heart attacks. Yet remarkably during each attack, “a radiance would spread over his face and a great peace flood his being,” she said. “While I ministered to him to relieve him, he would be praising the Lord, and when once again he was comfortable, he would offer a prayer of thanksgiving to his wonderful Saviour.” In 1962, Carlsen’s doctor told him to discontinue public speaking engagements because the strain was too much for his heart. At first, Carlsen complied, using the extra time instead for diligent Bible study, intercessory prayer, and writing a series of tracts. By spring of 1963 he had regained enough strength to speak at a week-long Bible Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. He had also been invited to Bolivia for a missions conference and the 25th anniversary celebration of the work he had helped to start there. It was his great desire to attend and, in spite of the doctor’s warnings, he and his wife decided “that if it was in the will of God for him to go, he would be willing to go even at the cost of his life.” Carlsen attended the conference, led Bible studies, preached twice on a Sunday, and returned praising the Lord for how He had grown the work in Bolivia. Later that summer on July 18, 1963,5 during a visit with his children in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Carlsen suffered his last heart attack. “He was saying, ‘Praise the Lord! and ‘Hallelujah’ to the very end”; and as he was praising his Lord, he left this earth and entered the very presence of the Lord Himself.
After his recovery from stomach cancer surgery in 1936, Pastor and Evangelist J.O. Gisslequist did not have a recurrence of cancer for the next 31 years.6 Then in 1966, he underwent prostate surgery. The following year, the stomach cancer returned; and in June of 1967 he was operated on for it. To Gisselquist, these were not times of despair but of precious growth in Christ. In November of 1967, he wrote to his friend Emerson Anderson, “I have gone thru some deep waters . . . this past year. But the Lord was there and because He was with me in trouble I could trust Him. My Christian life has been enriched and I have a peace and a real fellowship with the Lord to a degree never experienced before.”7 Having come safely with Christ through such a deep valley, Gisselquist seemed filled with a buoyant, child-like faith in God’s workings within every realm of Christian ministry. In the same letter to Emerson, he wrote,
“I am happy to hear . . . that you had good fall meetings [of the Eastern LEM Fellowship]. Of course there are problems and probably the Lord places these in our way to test our faith. He must have done that to His disciples when He suggested that they should feed the 5,000 with the five loaves and two small fish, or when they were out in the storm and Jesus asleep in the stern on a pillow. And we can think of numerous other cases both in Old and New Testament where God’s people were faced with seemingly hopeless situations. But it is here where faith takes ahold. ‘Fear not, only believe’ is Jesus’ word also to us today.”
Concerning the church in general Gisselquist wrote further, “Let us pray out God’s men into the work. We need not look to our seminaries in our day but directly to God. He never fails.”
The last evangelistic meetings at which Gisselquist preached were in Eagle Grove, Iowa, in late 1967. As the week of meetings was nearing an end, Gisselquist had an amazing experience which his son later recounted.8
“He was alone in his room when it seemed that the presence of Jesus filled the chamber. Though he saw nothing, he felt the arms of Christ thrown around him and a voice speaking to his heart: ‘I have accepted your ministry. Your work is finished. I will now take care of you and your family.’ Pastor Gisselquist was not one given to visions or dreams, but this experience was so real that he walked in the strength of this assurance until vision was turned into sight.”
In January of 1968, Gisselquist led the fellowship hour at the LEM Midwinter Conference, but in much physical weakness.9 It would be his last time of public ministry. Within less than two months, he was confined to his bed at home where one of his daughters, a registered nurse, cared for him.10 There on March 13, 1968, at the age of 79, his faith was indeed turned into sight as he left this world and entered the eternal.
The youngest of the early LEM leaders, Paul Lindell found his main calling from God not as a pastor or an evangelist but as General Director of the World Mission Prayer League. He served in that capacity for nearly 30 years until a losing battle with cancer necessitated his resignation on October 8, 1973.11 Two months later, a special service of thanksgiving and tribute was held for Lindell and his wife at their home church, Trinity Lutheran Church of Minnehaha Falls. Physical weakness forced Lindell to attend in a wheelchair, and of course he was not scheduled to speak. As the service progressed, however, he felt so moved to testify of God’s goodness in his life that he spoke to the audience from his wheelchair for over half an hour. His message was tape recorded and later transcribed. Just the printed words of his message still ring with the gentle humility and sweet faith so characteristic of Lindell. These things flowed from him because Christ lived within him and flowed from him. Perhaps the portions of Lindell’s message reproduced below are the best means of communicating to the reader the oft-repeated comment that listening to the old-time LEM speakers was “like sitting at the feet of Jesus.”
“Few people are given such a glorious privilege as I have this afternoon. And I have been sitting here sensing the great debt I owe in every direction for all that has been poured into my life. What has taken place during these last 30 years since finishing school and getting into God’s work is not something that somehow came out of me. It is something that God has set before me and poured into me. I’ve been an earthen vessel, fragile, earthy, often sinful - sins that only God and I know about and over which I have wrestled and found His cleansing and forgiveness - a fragile vessel and a mortal vessel. But God has been pouring and pouring and pouring these years His goodness in all kinds of ways into my life and into my way. And I’ve had the very, very blessed sense all these years of being on course . . . all through these years there has been a steady reassuring sense all the way through that the work we’ve done, the course we’ve taken, has been a course God set before us. And I’ve had no doubts about that, no troubles in my soul and mind even in times of the greatest testing. And this is something I’m profoundly grateful for to God.”
“I’d like to say this afternoon . . . a word of thanks to God. I had the great privilege to be born in China, of godly parents and there to begin with to grow up in a Chinese congregation and then to go to a mission school. Men and women labored and struggled in heart for years asking God to pour out upon the church in China a time of spiritual revival. And then it came . . . the quickening fire of God’s Spirit was so evident. And it caught me! And my inner soul was turned inside out. And for the first time in my life I began to see and to be greatly burdened by my sins. And I came under the wrath and judgment of God and despaired, until one Saturday afternoon
. . . as I read [I John 1:9], suddenly it opened to me as though light fell from Heaven into my heart. I shall never, never cease to thank God for that day! How there the promise of forgiveness brought me the grace of forgiveness and the burden of my sins was lifted. And I had peace with God . . . I entered into a whole new relationship with Christ and learned to walk in repentance and faith in His promises and in His free given grace. And that has been my life. I thank God for that. I just want to praise God for that! How does it happen that some come to awakenings and experiences of the grace of God while others do not? I don’t understand that, but oh I shall never, never cease to praise God that the one thing through all these years that has remained steady is a constant hunger and thirst for Jesus to be my life, my daily bread, my water, my all in all. That’s a great gift. I just praise God for it! . . . I just want to sound the first note of praise and thanks to God who has enriched my life and made it one of joy and gladness in His service and freedom in seeking and in finding and in being able to do something in His will.”
“It may be a long time before God finally takes me, but this afternoon I sense I’m having the last time of my life to say a word of thanks to you and a public word of praise to God whom I love and Jesus, my Savior and my Lord, who has come and made Himself all things to me. He alone is worthy of all our love and all our strength and of all that we have. And I would gladly lay it all at His feet and acknowledge Him Lord of all.”
“God bless you all, keep you in the faith and in His way till we gather at Jesus’ feet and praise Him and serve Him forever.”
Thirty years earlier during a trying time in the
formative years of the World Mission Prayer League, Lindell had suddenly become
the subject of many unjustified bitter rumors and the recipient of many unkind
letters.12 Throughout that
time, he had especially strived to know and follow God’s will and to forgive
those who had attacked him. One of the
last things he did before he became permanently bedridden from cancer in 1974
was to take all of those unkind letters he had received years earlier and run
them through the paper shredder. As he
did so, he said, “I want to leave no record of anything that would mar the
names of men whose names are honorable.
We all err - I perhaps most of all.
But God forgives, and so do His children.” Later that year, Lindell moved on from this
world to be with the One whose forgiveness had become so precious to him as it
had flowed towards him and through him.
During the last years of his life, Pastor Evald Conrad suffered greatly from Parkinson’s disease.13 In 1970, there were three different times when it seemed like he might not make it through the night. But he did make it through and in fact lived for another eight years. Although he became quite limited in what he could do and had to retire from active ministry, those around him observed that he was not at all bitter but very contented in the belief that God would work through his suffering as much as He had worked previously through his health. He was confident that the same God in whom he had trusted since youth would safely keep that which His child had committed to him for so many years. In March of 1978, three months before Conrad died, he wrote, “Some thoughts on the eve of my death: My heart is full of hope. We see dimly now. Then we will see Him face to face. My testimony: I have finished my course. God laid down His plan for me even before I was born. Now it is finished. I have kept the faith - the same faith I had in my childhood.” One month later, Conrad wrote a letter to his wife from which the following is excerpted.
“Dearest Eleo. I’m writing this letter of love thinking of an appointment God has made for me. It is the time of my death. Some of the most heart-searching words in the Bible remind us you can’t change the date of your end of life any more than you can decide when to be born. But I look forward to His coming. For as I write these lines I’m happy in thinking that I will soon be home. I have a deep assurance of salvation. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.”
On June 25, 1978, Evald Conrad left this earth and entered his new home.
Looking Unto Jesus
Thus gloriously ended the earthly lives of six of the LEM’s early leaders. They were men who had personally met the Savior and had experienced close daily fellowship with Him as they grew in knowing Him. They were men who had seen times of revival in the church, some of them having witnessed several localized or general outbreaks of it and some of them having been personally and dramatically impacted by it. They had lived through some of the brighter days of Christianity in America when there had been a more widespread receptivity to the Gospel and a greater hunger for God’s Word and for fellowship among Christians. Many of them had lived on into darker days of the church’s fading impact and decreasing Christian fervor. Even the impact of the LEM had faded in comparison to its usefulness in the post World War II years. But what these men had in their hearts and the revival that they had personally experienced did not wane. The work of God within them endured to the end just as it always does in the hearts of those who trust the Savior. They lived and they died with the utmost peace and joy because they were “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2a NKJV) And we may trust that same Savior who proved Himself to those men so many years ago.
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