Sunday Chronicles. # 201 6/21/20. Father’s Day
Harold E. Wells. Oct. 18, 1894–April 2, 1977. With Jon Booze.
Since today is Father’s Day, I decided to share some of my father’s story with you. Much of what I have accomplished in ministry goes back to his teaching and example in my early years.
Dad was the sixth in a family of eight. The children in birth order are: Herbert, Elizabeth (Lizzie), Frederick (Fred), Hattie (died in childhood). Katie (died in childbirth) Harold (my dad), Howard, and Walter (Darb).
Dad’s father, James Evert Wells, died in 1900 when Dad was six years old. The family was traveling in Northern Arkansas, in two covered wagons. They had been to “the bottoms” (Oil Trough Bottom) to harvest crops and were on their way back to their home in Stone County, south of Mountain View, Arkansas. They camped at night in areas provided for travelers by small towns along that route. Apparently, they drank water from a contaminated well, and the whole family became ill with typhoid fever except Fred. Mr. Wells died and local people buried him. Mrs. Wells could only remember being raised up to see him in the casket before he was buried.
Local people took care of the family, providing meals and water, until they were able to continue traveling home. Because of her illness and the strain of caring for the sick children, Mrs. Wells suffered an emotional breakdown that lasted most of the winter. Fred (about 12 years old) prepared food for the sick ones and kept the fires going until Lizzie and Herb got well enough to help. The family had a very hard time that winter.
In later years, my Dad, Fred, and Howard went back along the route the wagons had traveled and tried to find their father’s grave, but it was never located.
My Dad’s life changed in 1912 when he was 17 years old. An evangelist came into Northern Arkansas in the spring and brought the news that God was pouring out His Spirit with signs and wonders. The family had been part of the Methodist church, but at the revival my dad, his widowed mother, and some of his brothers and sisters accepted the message of Pentecost. They saw the sick healed and miracles take place in the changed lives of men who had been involved in gambling or making and selling illegal whiskey. My dad talked about this revival as long as he lived.
The revival lasted three years. Dad said he could go outside anytime in the night and hear people praying across the hills and hollows. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and called to preach. His first sermons were preached as he plowed corn. People heard about his preaching, and some came to hide in bushes at the edge of the field to listen.
He also traveled to other communities in Northern Arkansas to assist in revivals with a well-known evangelist, Rev. A .E. Humbard (father of Rex Humbard who pioneered a TV ministry years later.) Early in 1914, Dad spent six weeks in a short-term Bible school in Malvern, Arkansas, under the leadership of E. N. Bell, one of the men who helped form the Assemblies of God. Both of these men gave him excellent Bible teaching.
He missed being able to attend the meeting in Hot Springs, AR, in 1914 where the Assemblies of God was formed. He was needed at home to help with the farm.
He and my mother married in 1915. Dad was partly responsible for caring for his widowed mother, and he felt he had to farm to feed his family, so he resisted full-time ministry until 1935. However, in the years between 1920 and 1935, he preached revivals in the summer, led home prayer meetings in the winter, and studied his Bible early in the mornings. His formal education was limited because he had dropped out of school at about the fifth grade to help his brothers grow food for the family. But he continued to read and study all his life.
In the late l930s I remember his getting up about 4 a.m., building a fire, and reading his Bible until time to cook breakfast. I was eight years old and in the second grade when Dad began studying to be ordained. After supper, he and I would sit at the dining table, read the prescribed textbooks, and fill out the answers to the study questions. I would look up the Bible references, read them aloud, and we would discuss the meaning. He mailed the completed work to Assemblies of God Headquarters in Springfield, MO. It was a great day when we got a test back with a high grade on it!
God continued to deal with him about full-time ministry, but Dad delayed until God forced a decision. In the fall of 1934 Dad took our family to California, hoping to make enough money to buy a small piece of land where my mother could live and take care of my sister and me, while he traveled and preached.
At age 18 months I came down with pneumonia and doctors in the hospital told Dad I would not live through the night. They directed him to make arrangements with a funeral home to pick up the body within an hour of death. My mother was in another part of the hospital in a serious condition.
But Dad went instead to a small Pentecostal church where our family had been attending. He got there just as the service was closing, and the pastor, seeing his state of despair, called the church to prayer. Dad told God that if I and my mother recovered, he would trust God to provide for us and go into full-time ministry. When he got to the hospital the next morning, the doctor in charge told my dad a change had taken place in the night and I was much improved…”and had a fair show to live.”
As soon as my mother and I were able to travel, our family returned to Oklahoma and Dad became the pastor of a group of Pentecostal believers. From that time on, ministry was first; to help support us, he often took a few days’ work, but always with the understanding that his church came first. My dad was one of the “little” preachers in the early-day Assembles of God. He pastored country or small-town churches. In most places he built a church or a parsonage, Sunday school rooms, or other needed facilities. I was often his working partner, holding boards while he sawed, (no power equipment) and helping get the measurements right.
Here are some of the things he taught me for which I am forever grateful:
- Any Bible doctrine must be supported by two or three Scriptures, taken in context. You cannot take one verse or part of a verse and build a doctrine on it. In early Pentecost, we had preachers who preached more from their personal convictions than Scripture. My dad trained me to tell the difference. If God convicts you of something, you should live by that conviction, but not impose it on others. Listen to what preachers and Bible teachers say, but search the Scriptures and listen to the Holy Spirit before following any new “revelation.” This liberated me from feeling in bondage to every wind of doctrine that came out.
- My dad was a man of his word and he expected me to be. I learned early that if I promised to do something, I had better do it or go to him and explain why I hadn’t. Excuses such as “I forgot” or “I didn’t have time” were not acceptable. If you said you would do it, then you did it, or you better have a good reason why you hadn’t.
- He didn’t tolerate lying. He expected me to tell the truth. If I had done something wrong or that would be a problem with the church people, my best defense was to get to my dad and tell him the truth. Then he stood between me and my accusers. If what I had done was actually wrong, he dealt with me about it, but before others, he was my advocate.
- Dad enjoyed a good laugh. He laughed for years about a lady minister who requested prayer for one of her parishioners. The man was injured while milking his cow. The lady intended to say that the cow hit the man’s eye with its tail and knocked his eye out. But she misspoke and said his eye was knocked out when the cow hit him in the tail! My dad, laughing hard, would slap his knee and say, “My, what a lick!” During the late 1930s we had a radio and sometimes in bad weather, he would tune in to stations in Del Rio, Texas, or Chicago, Illinois. Across the Oklahoma plains, they came in loud and clear. We laughed with Lum and Abner and their Jot ‘Em Down Store; Baby Snooks; and a comedian called Kingfisher.
In memory of Dad, think on these things: (1) Know the Scriptures and apply them correctly to your life. (2) Keep your promises unless you have made a promise you shouldn’t have. If so, go to the person and explain why you aren’t doing what you said you would. (3) In tough situations, tell the truth. If you can’t tell the truth, don’t say anything. (4) Find the humor in life and hold on to what makes you laugh.
I’m still proud to be his daughter! Joyce Wells Booze
Some of the following story is included above.
When God says, NOW!”
Time: 1934-35 Place: Porterville, CA
My parents were living on the Huckaby place near Nuyaka, OK, in 1934. Dad continued to minister locally while he farmed. The Cobb family, friends from Arkansas, had migrated to California to find jobs. They wrote my parents and encouraged them to come, telling them that jobs were plentiful and wages good. Julius Hobbs, one of my dad’s nephews, and his sister Eunice Hobbs Hamm and her husband Otis Hamm added their plea. Julius had a flat-bed truck, and they offered to travel with our family on the trip.
My dad still had the dream of earning enough money to buy a small acreage where my mother, my sister, and I could live, raise a garden, keep chickens, pigs, and a cow, while he went into full-time evangelistic ministry. So in the fall of 1934, my parents loaded a few pieces of furniture on Julius’ truck and sold the rest for money to travel on. They packed the Model A with clothes and bedding, leaving only enough room in the back seat for my sister to sit.
Arriving in Porterville, California, about the middle of October, they were welcomed by the Cobb family who helped them get settled and rent a small cottage. My dad went to work on construction jobs. My sister enrolled in the 9th grade (six weeks late!), and my mother took care of me. They found a Pentecostal church where other “Okies” attended and settled down to save enough money to enable them to go back to Oklahoma and begin ministry.
But those plans never worked out. After a few months of moving brick and pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with wet cement, my dad’s fingers swelled with some type of bone infection. The skin on some fingers broke open and sores developed. My mother made bandages that fit around each finger and tied to the wrist. Many days the pain and soreness kept Dad from working.
The milk, butter, eggs, meat, and vegetables they had on the farm in Oklahoma now had to be bought at the corner grocery. Mama made arrangements with a neighbor, Mrs. Blaylock, to look after me, and she took a job picking oranges. The strap on the bag that held the oranges she picked rubbed a raw place on her shoulder at the base of her neck and what seemed to be a boil developed. It became worse, and the job overseer suggested that she go to the free clinic and have it lanced. She went, and the doctor there diagnosed a carbuncle. He insisted that she go to the hospital immediately.
Mama protested. She told him she had a 18-month-old baby who needed her. I had caught whooping cough from Mrs. Blaylock’s grandchildren. As I was recovering from that, I broke out with measles. Mama didn’t think she could be away from me; furthermore, they had no money for hospital bills. Still the doctor insisted. He made arrangements for her to be admitted as a charity patient, called a cab, and sent her to the hospital!
My dad and Lucille were in shock. School was out for the summer, so Lucille helped Dad take care of me. They also picked fruit as jobs were available. In addition to the reccurring whooping cough and the aftereffects of measles, I cried for Mama. I had never spent a night away from her. When I developed a high fever, Dad and Lucille took me to the clinic. The doctor declared that I had bronchial pneumonia in both bronchi. He told Dad to drive to the hospital as fast as possible, and he sent a nurse along to work my arms to keep me breathing. Lucille says my lips and fingernails were blue.
After I was admitted to the hospital, the doctor there told my dad that he didn’t expect me to live through the night. He said the hospital was allowed to keep a body only one hour after death and that Dad should go make arrangements with a funeral home to be ready to pick up the body.
I was in the children’s ward of the same hospital as Mama. Dad went to tell her what the doctor had said. They agreed that if I died, they didn’t want to have me buried in California. Perhaps they could borrow money from friends to send my body back to Oklahoma. Dad left the hospital and went to the railroad station to find out what shipping would cost. He was so distraught that he stumbled getting into the station, and the stationmaster thought he was drunk. But after my dad told him his little girl wasn’t expected to live and he wanted to know what it would cost to send her body back to Oklahoma, the stationmaster realized his plight.
At that time California cremated bodies of people whose families could not afford a burial. My dad was concerned about this. When the stationmaster understood that Dad had no money to make any kind of arrangements, the man’s heart melted. He told dad that he had lost his 7-year-old daughter to pneumonia the first year his family was in California, and that he had begged on the streets to get money for her burial. “Mr. Wells,” he said, “you won’t have to do that. I’ve done well here, and if your child dies, I’ll pay to ship the body back to your hometown.”
When Dad left the railroad station, he went to the church we had been attending to ask for prayer. He arrived about the time the service was ending. Dad knew that he had been using his family as an excuse not to go into full time ministry. One of his brothers had already asked for Lucille to come and live with them if Mama and I died. Dad would have no excuse left. As the pastor and people prayed for him and his family, Dad made a vow to God that if He allowed Mama and me to live, he would no longer delay going into full-time ministry.
As God heard a rebellious Jonah when he prayed inside the fish, he heard my dad’s repentant heart. When Dad returned to the hospital the next morning, the doctor told him, “A change in your little girl’s condition took place last night about 9 o’clock. This morning, she has a fair show to live!”
Dad went to tell Mama, but when he reached her room, it was filled with doctors and nurses. When Mama entered the hospital the carbuncle had been cut out leaving a hole more than 2 inches deep and 3 inches wide at the top. Nurses had kept that hole packed with gauze and had continued to peel off contaminated skin. They had seen no sign of healing.
But that morning when the nurse removed the gauze, she saw new healthy flesh at the bottom of the hole. She had gone to tell the doctor, and the news had spread. One of the doctors told my mother that they had never treated a carbuncle by this method successfully before!
When the room had cleared of medical personnel, Dad told Mama about my healing and the vow he had made to God. She said, “You’ll get no complaint from me.” She kept her word during all the future tough times they faced.
Mama and I were released from the hospital at the same time. The pastor of the church we had been attending took up an offering to send us back to Oklahoma (it was $35 and some cents!) and as soon as we were able to travel, our family returned to Nuyaka. The following Sunday Dad was elected as pastor of the group of Pentecostal people meeting in the Methodist building, and thus began our pastoral life.
Earlier blogs record events at Nuyaka in 1935-36 (# 1 & 3); Beckett Mountain in 1937-38
Personal Notes: Maranatha Village in Springfield looks its best today – lawns are beautifully green and well-manicured; skies have a few thunderheads that seem to be blocking the view of heaven. Birds are busy singing, tweeting, eating, and caring for their young. I’ve kept my promise to God to keep their feeder well-filled, and He has kept His promise to supply my needs. The lizards haven’t been seen this week; perhaps vacationing in Florida. I’m told there are many of them there. My thanks to those who have sent cards, e-mails or comments of encouragement. I was distressed last week because of my mistakes, and considered closing the Chronicles. But a former co-worker and friend, Beverly Graham, offered her help in editing and with technology. I’m sure you’ll see the results in today’s post. Please let her know you appreciate her work. Peace, jwb