Mass Salvation & Healing Campaigns
Spark And The Fireworks
When Brother Lawrie returned from his first world tour on July 25, 1960, he was very much dejected. Wherever he went people talked as if he must have amassed large sums of money because he had returned from America. This is not unusual, as Indian preachers who join any foreign denomination did benefit monetarily. People even tried to borrow from him thousands of rupees which he did not have. On reaching home in India, he had on him just about 10 rupees (about 1.50 dollars), and when he met his wife he had to ask her for another 10 rupees to pay for the cab. Even his wife could not understand him when he said he had no money!
Back in the States he had a vision of Jesus Christ who made his plans for Bro. Lawrie known. “I am sending you back to India not with silver or gold, which is worldly power. I will be your power. I will meet all your needs, and you will be supported only by those who hear my voice. So never tell any one your needs”. Soon after Brother Lawrie’s return to India, a close friend of his whom he had trusted, deserted him, even slandering his name. As promised while in the States, Bro. Lawrie arranged a big campaign for the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association Youth Team at Nagercoil Home Church, Kanyakumari District. It was without any hope of being used by the Lord for His work that Bro. Lawrie went over to Madras (Chennai) to collect his personal luggage from U.S.A. At Chennai he stayed with a friend, who had been blessed in his ministry. He had to spend many days there, as he was told by the Shipping Agents that it would be a month, before his luggage arrived in Madras (Chennai) from the U.S.A.
During his stay in that city, Bro. Lawrie was asked to preach in a Church one evening. This way God opened the Anglican Churches for him. The first meeting was held at San Thome Church, Mylapore, Chennai and God did wonders. He was invited to preach in other Churches also. The crowds swelled to thousands, whichever congregation he addressed, and the Churches could not hold them. In the days that followed, only an open field (playgrounds) was large enough for Bro. Lawrie’s meetings. The city of Chennai was shaken. In a matter of few months, the spirit of revival spread throughout Chennai like a forest fire, and the whole city was aflame.
The miracles which took place at these meetings were spectacular and too numerous to be narrated. More than that, hundreds of thousands of people received the Lord Jesus Christ in their lives. They emptied their hearts to God, and His Spirit filled them. None could explain the four-month long major campaigns, sustained without flagging. And people wondered what that attraction was that would keep thousands rooted to their places even in pouring rain, as it happened on the first day of the Aminjikarai Campaign (19-7-1961) Who could answer what that power was that kept 40,000 people of the most mixed sort on their best behaviour – and singing – when the lights went out on the last day of the Aminjikarai Campaign (30-7-61), and there was complete darkness for 15 minutes?”
Bro Lawrie had not learned Hebrew or Greek but he was able to attract even the sophisticated who had studied theology. The common people heard him gladly, even though he came crashing down sometimes on superstitious religion and idolatry. When in the course of his messages there were gleams of references to God’s dealings with him now and in the past, 20,000 necks would crane forward in enthralled attention. Among those he inspired were his fine team of zealous volunteers and his co-workers and translator, Bro. E. D. Savarirayan, who, though he had never done any translation work before, kept his head most creditably above the rushing current of the speaker’s words. One of the heart-warming parts of these meetings was the ministry of witness by those who were healed or had found salvation, and the very appealing witness given through singing by Mrs. Lawrie and the three children”.
Bro Lawrie was only interested in exposing the multitudes (especially the Non-Christians) to the challenge of the gospel and the impact of Christ, leaving it to the Lord of life to add to His Church such as should be saved (Acts 2: 47). Only the sick and the burdened ones who had found release at these meetings could testify to his healing power; the rest can only reason.” Though people had an excited feeling about Bro. Lawrie, and would seek after him, the evangelist insisted on their seeing no man save Jesus. The finances of the campaigns were God’s department and the needs were met miraculously. Independence of India has not sterilized the Christianity in India. But native Christians have been adding to the heritage left by the good missionaries of old. How long will all this last was the million dollar question in the minds of the people. But the Master of Bro. Lawrie and us, the Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He had never failed in this ministry.
Power Of God Manifest
Due to the revival that shook the city of Chennai, the Lawries had to shift their activities to Chennai. First they rented a house at Otteri. Then they shifted to another house at Choolaimedu. The Nagercoil work was handed over to Bro. Hepziraj Fredrick who was the younger brother of Bro. Lawrie and a full-time minister. In March 1961 the Lawries had a few days’ meetings at Kuppa Medu followed by the meetings at Perambur, Chennai where the people overflowed the capacity of the ground. In April that year, they had a convention at Trichy organized by Mr. Joe Daniel, supported by Dr. A. Mathuram.
In April itself, the grounds of St. Ebbas Girls’ High School was booked for two weeks, and then the Thiagaraja College grounds for a month both at Chennai. This was the type of itinerary they had. The healing ministry was so powerful that the sick had to wait even up to 2:30 in the mornings the next day. So one of the evenings had to be dedicated just for the healing ministry to pray individually for the big crowd. Though Bro. Lawrie was physically strong, he would not have stood the strain without divine strength and determination. When the crowd became too big to manage, individual prayer was not possible. Therefore Bro. Lawrie had to adhere to Mass Prayer for healing in which hundreds of thousands were delivered at a time in one prayer.
Campaigns were held at Vellore, Kanchipuram, Salem and other places in Tamil Nadu with the permission and support of the then Bishop of Madras, Rt. Rev. D. Chellappa. Wherever such meetings were held, the Lawries established Prayer groups with the help of full-time or part-time workers. Regarding the advertisements for the meetings there was nothing worth mentioning. The less said about it the better. There would be some posters displayed here and there at the important places and road junctions for the public to see. Due to the high costs of advertising in the newspapers, only small advertisements were placed in the local language newspaper and just a classified personal column advertisement in the English newspaper.
This was done just once or twice during the course of the meetings. This is in contrast to the expensive whole page advertisements placed almost daily by the modern evangelists exposing their money power. There were also hand notices distributed by individual believers in their neighborhoods. In spite of poor publicity massive crowds attended the meetings. These Campaigns were not held with great human effort or with a lot of preparation and vast collection of funds. But according to the leading of the Holy Spirit, vast expansive grounds were booked and Bamboo platforms with thatched roofs were erected. The grounds were lit by tube-lights fixed to wooden poles and many loudspeakers were placed in all directions so that the multitude could listen to the message.
As the time of meeting drew near, each day vast crowds from all walks of life would begin to pour in like waves in the sea, and in a short time the grounds are jammed to capacity – a unique feature unheard of in history. Another unique feature was that no police help of any sort had been sought for the protection of these great crowds. Even the policemen and officers who were present unawares in mufti had testified to the fact that the crowd was completely docile and that there were no untoward incidents of any sort in the absence of police protection.
As Bro. Lawrie would come to the platform and begin to deliver his messages there would be pin-drop silence and even the small babies remained quiet. As the power of God would descend on the people, it kept the people attentive and responsive as Bro. Lawrie delivered the message. As the power would fall on the people, men and women bound by evil spirits would stir out from their places in the crowd and come running to the platform. As they approached the platform, the Holy Spirit took control of them not allowing the meeting to be disturbed. At the end of the meeting, these demon-possessed people were delivered by God through the mass prayers or through individual prayers offered by Bro. Lawrie.
These are days when people do not believe in demons, but the sight of these people bound by evil spirits, and their control and deliverance in the Name and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, makes even critics or the doubting Thomases or unbelievers dumb-founded. When they witness these and other numerous miracles of healing with their own eyes, they see the power of God in action and realize what Christ had said is true. After deliverance, the people remove the talismans tied to them by magicians. There used to be heaps of Talismans removed from people which were later set fire to. When the people find that many are touched by the Power of God, they come to believe that the same unseen power could touch them also, and begin to yield themselves to God. That was how thousands of men, women and youngsters had been led to the feet of Christ by Bro. Lawrie.
Healing meetings are regarded by many as money-making attempts, but Bro. Lawrie never demanded money from anybody. He never collected offerings in the meetings. Even stalls were not rented out at the campaign grounds and nobody was allowed to sell anything there. No money was demanded by anybody connected with the Ministry. All the expenses were met miraculously by the Lord according as He had promised earlier. Those who stood against this move of God spread the rumour that the ministry of Bro. Lawrie was supported by foreign denominations or by secret funds. But nothing can be farther from the truth. People close to the Ministry know that the money for all expenses in the Ministry comes from God in unexpected ways. Individuals, led by the Holy Spirit to gave voluntarily what they could in support of the Lord’s work. When the support came, it would always be the right amount at the right time.
In the meetings conducted at the Madras S.I.A.A. Grounds massive crowds of hundreds of thousands attended daily. Since there was no offering taken, it seemed that it might not be possible to meet the expenses. There was a celebrity called A.V. Meyyappa Chettiar, a movie maker and owner of a movie studio (AVM Studio). He took care of the expenses for the Ground, Stage and Arches for the meetings voluntarily. Bro. Lawrie held meetings extensively in the province of Andhra Pradesh and he attended a Convention at Rajamundry. In 1962 he came back to Madurai in the South and Calicut and other places in Kerala State in the West. Then came his trip way North to Meerut beyond Delhi. The ministry was growing by leaps and bounds.
Opposition And Divine Protection
However, it was not smooth sailing. Everywhere they went they had resistance generally from the local Churchmen who thought their congregations might be carried away by the revival. Some of them printed hand bills to be distributed among the public, painting gloomy pictures of Bro. Lawrie as the Anti-Christ. Others wrote abusing and threatening letters to Bro. Lawrie not to preach his doctrines. When the move of the Lord is on, immediately the devil too has his agents to resist the move of God.
When the series of great revival meetings were going on at Chennai in 1961 with hundreds of thousands attending each gathering, some Hindu Brahmin leaders were angry and jealous. They went to Mr. K. Kamaraj, the then Chief Minister of the province of Tamil Nadu. complained that one Mr. Lawrie was conducting massive meetings and converting all the Hindus to Christianity. They requested the Government to intervene and stop this conversion. To this Mr. Kamaraj offered to give them a bigger ground belonging to the he Government which would not normally be available to the public so that those Brahmins could conduct bigger meetings and convert all the Christians to Hinduism. To this they replied that there was some power in Mr. Lawrie that when he touched people or prayed for them some miracles happened.
To this Mr. Kamaraj asked them whether Mr. Lawrie was an Indian or a Foreigner. When he was told that Mr. Lawrie was an Indian, Mr. Kamaraj said he could do nothing against Mr. Lawrie because being an Indian he had every right to conduct meetings and preach anywhere in India. The Brahmins were disappointed with this answer from the Chief Minister and went their way.Bro. Lawrie was invited to attend the wedding of the daughter of the then Mayor of Chennai Mrs. Tara Cherian (wife of Ex-Governor). The Chief Minister Mr. Kamaraj was also present for the wedding. When Bro. Lawrie was introduced to Mr. Kamaraj, by the couple it should be noted that Mr. Kamaraj himself conveyed this matter to him personally.
There was a strong opposition to the Gospel in Salem too as in many other places. In 1962 at Salem when the Non-Christians came to the Lord Jesus Christ in thousands after witnessing the powerful ministry, those who opposed it threatened Bro. Lawrie to bear the consequences if he did not quit the scene immediately. Notices were published and distributed against the meetings.
One notice published in Salem, Tamil Nadu said with this threat:
“If Bro. Lawrie the Preacher would not quit the place on reading this notice, the Bible which he worships and propagates will be burnt in public. The people are hereby requested to extend their full co-operation!”
Following this threat with action, hundreds of men converged near the meeting place, threatening to kill Bro. Lawrie and his wife and shouting that they would take his Bible first, tear it up and burn it. Suddenly their leader who came to the platform and took the Bible was struck by the Power of God and knocked down. He was then dragged away by his people and taken to the hospital. Then a ferocious looking man, brandishing two big knives, and accompanied by another man with a knife, forced Brother and Sister Lawrie into a van and drove them off. Sister Lawrie said, “Oh! They are taking us some place to kill us”. After they had driven for a while, the big man said. “Don’t be afraid, Bro. Lawrie, we are your friends, and we know all the plans of those people. They wanted to waylay you on the road to Madras (Chennai). So we are going to take you by a different route”. So they arrived in Madras safely.
In the Salem meetings, many wonders and miracles took place. Talismans were removed from the devil possessed persons after they were delivered. It was a great heap and the heap made a bonfire. Among the church members that arranged this meeting was one Mr. M.G.E. Pushparaj of Salem. Dr. Pushparaj edits a Christian Periodical called “Jamakaran” (Watchman). He is a minister of the Gospel who plays the role of a reformer of the Christian society. He too had taken keen interest in conducting the Salem meetings those days and was a volunteer to help in them.
The opposition to the ministry was manifest in many ways. But every time God’s power was victorious. Even when Bro. Lawrie was working in the Christian Medical College Hospital, Vellore doing Gospel work part-time, he had the experience of God’s protection. He used to go out on the streets of Vellore as early as four in the morning with his family and friends, singing and shouting Bible Verses. This annoyed the Non-Christians in general, and their champion, ‘Tiger’ in particular. This ‘Tiger’ was a bad character and a dangerous man to confront. This man sent a warning to Bro. Lawrie that he must not disturb him by shouting early in the morning or else. This threat did not stop the Gospel workers and they went on as usual. This aroused ‘Mr. Tiger’ and he came out screaming with the intent to kill. He suddenly stopped and ran back into his house. It was through his son that they later learnt that ‘Tiger’ went mad on that day and was to be taken to the Mental Hospital in Kilpauk, Chennai. The son, seeing what had happened to his father when he came against the Lord, accepted the Jesus Christ and was baptized by Bro. Lawrie.
At another village called Pallipathu-Jerusalem near Nazareth, the opposition they encountered was from the Roman Catholics. Bro. Lawrie was preaching in the street that Salvation is through Jesus Christ and not through the mother of Jesus. The Catholics got very angry and surrounded Bro. Lawrie and his group threatening to beat them up. When they were about to turn violent, there suddenly came a great downpour of rain that caused the entire crowd to disperse. The rain was very unusual, since it was during the dry season when it never rains. It was later found that it rained only at the spot where the argument with the Catholic crowd was taking place and nowhere else.
At many places the crowd used to be split, some for and some against like in the ministry of Apostle Paul. At one such village in Tirunelveli, some one threw a stone aiming the head of Bro. Lawrie as he stood in front of the table delivering his message. But instead of hitting his head, it hit some invisible barrier, stopped dead and rolled on to the table harmlessly. The people who stood against Bro. Lawrie marveled at this and repented of their evil deed. There was a great blessing to the village and many were converted.
People Leaving The Denominations
In open public meetings, Bro. Lawrie was preaching the Message of Repentance, Salvation and Healing. He used to have special meetings for the people to receive the Holy Ghost at his residence and also at prayer groups. For the thirsting souls he also conducted Bible Studies and arranged Retreats attended by people in large numbers where he taught deep messages from the Bible. Those who wanted to obey the Lord in water baptism in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ were baptized accordingly (Acts 2: 38). There were Pastors, Presbyters, Deacons and even Bishops of various churches and groups who came to him secretly to receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit and also to be baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This also includes many popular leading evangelists of our days. They gave tacit support to Bro. Lawrie even though they were in their Churches. This was similar to Nicodemus, a master in Israel who came to Jesus Christ secretly and supported Him tacitly (John 3: 1-2, 7: 50-53).
Many who understood the deep truths saw the futility of organized religion and started leaving their denominations in large numbers to follow and worship God according to the Scriptures. Bro. Lawrie always emphasized on Faith Life depending upon God and discipleship. Some believers had even left their earthly possessions to follow God fully in faith.. At the same time, the spate of meetings and campaigns continued all along. The one at Tuticorin in 1963 was remarkable in that over 1900 persons were baptized. This was followed by meetings at Palayamkottai and Mudalur. Mr. & Mrs. Otto Buess of Switzerland visited South India during these days and were with the Lawries and worked with them at Tuticorin and then at many places in Kanyakumari District for sometime.
The heavy burdens and stress of the ministry took their toll on Bro. Lawrie’s health. On February 10, 1964, he had a heart attack. It happened this way. Bro. Lawrie was called at midnight to pray for one Mrs. Alleluia Samuel who was sick. On his return, Bro. Lawrie collapsed at his doorstep, exhausted. He was unconscious for over an hour. Dr. (Miss) S. Oliver who was with the Lawries, attended on him and ordered complete rest in bed for some weeks. But there was a Camp meeting the next day at Nagercoil, a distance of nearly 80 miles. Bro. Lawrie refused any medicine and insisted that they travel the next day to Nagercoil. He was perfectly all right after the prayers. This so baffled Dr. Miss. Oliver that she took a vow not to interfere with God’s ways of working, and thereafter she left her medical practice and joined the ministry.
Saved From The Hands Of An Assassin
From May 6, 1964 for three weeks, Bro. Lawrie went North to such far-flung places as Nagpur, Bhilai and Durg. At one of the meetings he held in the industrial centre at Bhilai, which is considered to be a communist cell, he was assaulted. As a follow-up, the communists wanted to liquidate him, as the preaching of Jesus weakened their hold on the masses. To carry out this nefarious act, they hired a man, to board the train in which Bro. Lawrie was booked, and to assassinate him during the night. In another compartment an American, Dr. Miller, his wife and their small daughter were travelling. An Army Major, Mukundan, bristling with his moustache, was also booked in the same compartment. At night, Dr. Miller’s little daughter wouldn’t sleep, as she was frightened of the Major, that the Major volunteered to go to some other compartment, and walked into the cabin where Bro. Lawrie was sleeping alone. At that moment he saw the hired killer who had just seconds before entered the compartment with a long knife. He was poised and ready to strike at Bro. Lawrie. The Major pounced on him and overpowered him before he could strike. Again Bro. Lawrie’s life was saved.
In August 1964, meetings were conducted at Pudukkottai in Tamil Nadu. At that time, a circus company had put up tents for their circus shows. Bro. Lawrie was worried if people would not come for the meetings since the circus was on. Therefore he prayed to the Lord about it. Suddenly there came a whirlwind which tore the circus tent to pieces and the circus shows stopped. Many people attended the meetings and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ.
In October 1964, Bro. Lawrie had a call to a Convention at Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat. Just before this trip to North, Sister Lawrie undertook a fast for 21 days. During the days of her fasting, a letter from Sister Goebel of Switzerland was received, in which the Missionary had requested the Lawries to take over the Orphanage she was running at Bangalore city. Reluctantly this offer was declined, as the Lawries had planned to concentrate their spiritual work at the Ashram. Later this Sister Goebel had visa problems and had to go back to Germany. She wanted to hand this house over to a responsible person who would be honest. Therefore she decided to give it to Bro. Lawrie to take care of it. Then many pastors who had an eye on this house went and told her that she could hand over this house to anyone other than Bro. Lawrie. But she told them all that she could never trust anyone other than Bro. Lawrie in India and signed the document in his favour. This house was situated in a place very near to the Bangalore East Railway Station. A few years later after the Moon-Landing messages came out, this Sister Goebel could return to India. She asked Bro. Lawrie if he could hand over the house back to her. When Bro. Lawrie wanted to give the house back, all those pastors came to him and said, “Don’t give the house back. It is in your name. You can have it for yourself.” Bro. Lawrie did not oblige them but signed the document to hand over the house to Sis. Goebel.