Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Life And Ministry Of Harold Griffiths Part 5

If this is the first post you are reading about Harold Griffiths, or if you want to remind yourself about his life and ministry up to and through World War 2, then please take the time to read these older blogs. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

In 1946 Harold's church in Milton celebrated 15 years since Harold began his ministry there in the Stoke on Trent area. (1)

I wish I had pictures to go along with this, but unlike later celebrations, there are none with this particular article. The Y.P mentioned here simply stands for young people. It seems that rather than just use the Sunday morning service, they added events to the usual ministry. Visiting missionaries, such as Mrs Boyd and special presentations from the young people rounded out the events.

These services were held in February. I don't know whether this means that Harold's ministry began in the beginning of 1931, or whether this was just the month chosen to honour him. If I find this out from any family member then I will edit this blog to reflect the discovery.

The following year, 1947, Harold is presented as part of the NorthWest Midlands District Council for the Assemblies of God.

The scan quality of this image is not the best since it was taken from an old magazine. Harold is sat on the front left. The picture is taken in Crewe. I've included a link to a pdf version in case it allows for better viewing. (2)

A couple of other events happened later in 1947.

Firstly, a note in the Sept edition of the Redemption Tidings magazine has Harold Griffiths playing piano at the Pentecostal Fellowship Camp. " his own inimitable way, Bro. H. Griffiths guided the meetings into blessing and liberty by his skilful use of the piano." 

It's another reference to Harold's musical ability. One that I love to read about because so many in the family are musically inclined. Even in my own immediate family, Dad sings, so does my younger brother, while my older brother also plays the guitar. (3) 

Finally, in the same month (3) there's a report publishing in Redemption Tidings about what's happening with the ministry in Milton.

"The Lord has been gracious in pouring out his blessings within the past few months. A good number of precious souls have found Jesus as their saviour. God also has been gracious in filling quite a few with His Holy Spirit. (4) Others have been faithful unto God by following him through the waters of baptism. Approximately six young men and six young ladies obeyed God by this act. 
On June 29th was the children's anniversary where again everyone present was blessed, both by the Gospel in word which was given by Rhys Griffiths (S.Wales) and in song which was given by the children.
On July 15th a farewell service was held on behalf of our dear Bro. I. Davis (son-in-law to our pastor H. E. Griffiths) who sailed for South Africa."

There are a few things worth noting in this small article. Firstly, Rhys Griffiths is Harold's brother. He was pastor of a church in Blackwood, South Wales. At some point I will post a few blogs about him and the small amounts I have gleaned about the ministry in Blackwood.

Secondly, I am not 100% sure what is meant by June 29th being the children's anniversary, except that we already know 1946 was the anniversary of Harold's ministry in Milton. Perhaps then, this event in 1947 is referencing the beginning of a children's ministry in Milton.

Thirdly, and most importantly to me personally, Brother. I. Davis is actually "Brother I. Davies", my grandfather Idris Davies, who left for South Africa in 1947. You can read elsewhere on my blog about his adventures. 

Next, we'll explore the events of 1950 and the grand opening of a new church building in Milton.

(1) Redemption Tidings magazine VOL 22, April 1946.
(2) Redemption Tidings Magazine VOL 23, July 1947.
(3) Redemption Tidings Magazine VOL 23, Sept 1947.
(4) Pentecostals differ to many other Christian denominations by believing that Christians, though already saved, can receive a separate 'baptism of the Holy Spirit' which enables the believer to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit as described in both the book of Acts and the epistles of the New Testament. It's where Pentecostals get their name from - Pentecost - the moment in Acts when the disciples and followers of Jesus received the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages.  

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Grandfather I Never Knew Part 10

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9 

-- Part 10 was added to on October 21st. It now includes some small corrections and a large part of Norma Davies' recollections, which she has recorded in 'nuggets' and posted to Facebook in the past. -- 

Idris passed away on May 6th, 1984. He had gone into hospital for treatment regarding his Prostrate A nurse made a mistake while he was in the hospital and this ultimately led to his death. (1) Merthyn received a phone call from Tobias - the house cook and servant, a long time friend of Idris - right before he was due to be preaching. He finished his sermon and then began to deal with the emotional aspects of his father dying. 

Glyn, Idris' eldest son, was in South Africa at the time. His wife Norma recalls:

"The year was 1984 and it was early May. We had accepted a post to be missionary educators running a Bible College in Durban South Africa. Glyn’s parents had remained in Rhodesia, living in Bulawayo. Glyn’s mother passed away in May 0f 1982, while we were in the States on furlough. After her death Dad moved to Sinoia where he was the senior Pastor of a congregation, coinciding with the time we were in South Africa. Then the call came saying that Dad had passed away from complications after surgery. Sadly we loaded our car, took the children out of school and set out for the long journey from Durban, South Africa to Harare, Zimbabwe (known to us as Salisbury, Zimbabwe). The deeper we drove in Zimbabwe the more shocked we were at how the country we remembered had changed. Signs of poverty seemed to be the norm; gone were the maize fields, in their place farmland lay desolate and uncared for. Farms that during our day raised large herds of cattle now lay in ruins with no signs of livestock of any kind. We were shaken and saddened by what we saw.

After the funeral service and burial at the Warren Hills Cemetery, we lingered saying our earthly farewell. You see in that sacred place not only was it the final resting place of Glyn's father but also of our infant son, who was laid to rest there in 1974. We did not sorrow though, as those without hope, as we drew comfort in the knowledge that in God’s eternal time we would be reunited in heaven."

Roland Pletts, a friend of the families' and a man baptised in the font that Idris built in his garden, was with Idris just a couple of days before he passed away. Roland recalls.

"He was admitted to St Anne's Catholic Hospital in Salisbury/Harare. This was a private hospital run by the nuns and people and doctors had access to its facilities. It was spacious, clean, and housed in a substantial colonial type building surrounded by beautiful gardens.

The day I called to see him he was resting peacefully near to the time of his departure.

Someone else was there who prayed that the Lord should raise him up because he still had a great work to do.

Knowing all the accomplishments and faithful service he had fulfilled over many years I knew Idris had already accomplished a substantial amount and from what he had conveyed to us I realised that he was not wanting to be raised up but was ready to depart and be with the Lord and to hear those sacred words "Well done good and faithful servant....enter into the joy of your Lord."

He passed away in peace a day or two later, a great Man of God who had faithfully lived for Jesus and impacted innumerable people mine included." (2)

At the time the family thought Idris had been alone in those last few days. It gave everyone great joy when they found out years later that it was not so. Indeed, Roland was led to being a Christian, by Idris himself.

Only Glyn was able to make it back to Africa for the funeral. He found it very strange, for there was only one floral arrangement, flowers that he and Norma had bought as a tribute from Wendy, he and Merthyn.

The funeral service was officiated by A.B, Roberson, the pastor of the A.O.G. church at McClery Ave. Harare.

Glyn also received a letter from one of Idris' cousins., Mostyn Cole. It read:

"You have the consolation of knowing that your father was truly a man of God, whose entire life was devoted to spreading the Word. What pride you must have felt in him and his achievements.  My memories go back to the days when Idris was a dashing devil-may-care teenager, or so it appeared to me. He came to work in my father's iron monger shop at the time that my father was slowly and painfully travelling the road to his own death. Idris, to me, was a tonic (I was about 13 or 14 at the time). He was unfailingly cheerful and conscientious and his exploits climbing the cliffs at Morlais Castle (3) in Merthyr filled me with awe. They still do when I recall them. Idris seemed to have nerves of steel." (4)

There will be future blog posts about Mostyn and his family now that I have discovered them.

Glyn also observed that in Africa the way a funeral is done, you go to the church, then to the grave site, the casket is lowered, you throw dirt on the casket. When Iris died you threw rose petals on the casket. It was just an open grave.

In my first version of this post, I had mentioned that Idris was buried in Warren Hills Cemetery, Harare, next to Iris. (5)
I have since discovered that Iris was buried in Bulawayo, and so Idris was not laid to rest next to his wife.

Besides the obvious loss felt by Idris' death it was difficult for other reasons. Zimbabwe was ruled by the dictator Mugabe by this time and it became very difficult to take anything worth any value out of the country. They managed to smuggle Idris' bible out only due to a close family friend who arranged it.

Later, there was another family heirloom that made it to America by way of South Africa, but many of the family pictures, furniture and the bronze backed paintings had to remain. There was little they could take with them. Norma has again supplied plenty of information and clarity about this.

Following the funeral we met with the government official who was assigned to the Death Estate department, to make arrangements for all the legal paperwork, including the disposal of the contents of Dad’s home.

What a shock awaited us when we sat down with the official, who turned out to be a close friend of ours from our teenage years in Rhodesia. His stunning news was only compounded by the history of our friendship.

He told us that the Zimbabwean government required him to “seal” the house from ANY family members and only he was allowed to enter the house and take inventory of all of its contents.
Once he completed his inventory, then government officials would hold a public auction and sell off the entire contents of the home, keeping the money in the government’s coffers! Not one penny would be given to family members listed in Dad’s Will! 

None of this made any sense to us, as the house was filled with many family keepsakes that would mean nothing to a stranger; such as family pictures etc. Added to that there were legal documents, birth certificates, marriage certificate etc. that Glyn really needed as the surviving eldest son.
Exhaustion and grief had already invaded our emotions and now it seemed the hand of a cruel corrupt government was dealing us the final blow. 

Our friend told us to wipe our tears as he had made “certain arrangements” with a farmer in Sinoia that was an elder in Dad’s church. He instructed us that he would “turn his back for three days” to enable us to go into Dad’s home and retrieve documents and a few items that would fit in the truck of our car. He warned us to be cautious what we took though, to prevent causing suspicion by the Zimbabwe officials at the Beit Bridge border, when we crossed back into South Africa.

We picked up our two children from a friend’s home and headed to Sinoia and the farm of the church elder. When we arrived, Boet, (name changed for the family’s protection), and his wife greeted us with open arms, just as though we were longtime friends. 

Boet suggested we leave the two children on the farm so they would not have to witness the heart-wrenching experience that Glyn and I were about to embark on. He and his wife were the epitome of compassion doing everything they could think of to ease our pain. 

Arriving at Dad’s home, stepping into the silent living room literally sucked the air out of me. I sat on the sofa that had a crocheted afghan lying over the back. I had crocheted it as a gift for my mother-in-law several years earlier. Everywhere we looked were poignant memories of precious happy times we had spent together as a family. By now Glyn and I could not staunch the flow of tears at the great loss we were dealing with. 

Boet comforted us with his presence and then helped us re-focus on the task at hand. Glyn went into Dad’s office and began to collect all the legal documents, like birth and marriage certificates along with family Bibles, including Dad’s personal Bible with sermon notes between the pages. This was a treasure not to be lost!

Boet walked with me from room to room to see if there were any personal items that we could carry in the limited space in our car. I was not aware that in my numbed emotional state, I kept walking back to the dining room and running my hand over a tea wagon that had been handmade in England and given to my In-laws as a wedding present. So it actually was an antique that held many memories.

Another item I kept going back to was a Rhodesian Oak Dining Room dresser that had belonged to my parents and then was given to Glyn’s parents, so it had been in both families’ history.
I kept saying over and over as tears flowed unabated, that I could not believe we were losing these family “treasurers”.

The whole time Boet was a stalwart of compassion and help. Taking care of what to do with the two dogs and the faithful African couple who had been caring for Dad since Mom had passed away. Once we had finished all we could do, was to head back to the farm. Boet suggested that we rest while his wife was preparing supper, which we welcomed as our exhaustion was now more than we could bear.

While we were resting Boet quickly rounded up a group of his farm workers and big farm truck and returned to the house. They loaded the tea wagon and the dining room dresser, along with a large wooden crate filled with tools that Glyn had given his Dad and secretly brought them back to the farm, unbeknown to us. The out-pouring of love that Boet and his wife showered on us was a balm to our shattered emotions. After resting on the farm for one more day, we headed back to South Africa to resume our missionary duties; closing the door on that chapter of our lives and never hearing again what happened to the contents of Dad’s home.

Several months later we received a phone call from Swift Transport Company informing us they had a delivery to make. We had absolutely no idea what it was, so we waited impatiently for the truck to arrive.  Imagine our stunned amazement when we discovered the delivery was the dining room dresser, the heirloom tea wagon and crate of tools! (6)

Hardly able to contain our excitement, we carefully removed the packing from around these tangible family treasures.

Yet we kept asking ourselves, how could this be? We saw on the shipping label the items had come from an unknown person living near Johannesburg. Glyn quickly put in a phone call to try and unravel the mystery. The gentleman that answered explained that he and his wife had been members of the congregation that Dad Davies served and they had just emigrated from Rhodesia to South Africa.

They had to get permission from the Zimbabwean government for every item of furniture they took with them and they were not allowed DUPLICATES.

When Boet knew they were leaving, he asked if they had any of the items that he had taken from Dad’s house. They didn’t; so Boet asked them to transport these items with their furniture and then gave them the money to ship them to us in Durban! So all was not lost; like Ruth of old, God in His mercy had given us some “handfuls on purpose”!"

Norma has done so well remembering the sorrow of the time that there is little left for me to say. I will finish with this picture I have of one of Idris' favourite quotes. It is in his own handwriting and reads,

"A shining face radiant with the love of God is worth more than a ton of logic, rhetoric, and elocution."

I like to believe that as well as the preaching and baptisms, Idris also had one of those radiant faces.


(1) I believe Idris had previously had issues with his bowels and the nurse was unaware of this or had forgotten the fact. The doctor had asked that no one give him an enema, but the nurse did so. He died just a day or so later.

(2) This conversation was over Facebook and I have saved it, along with several other observations that Roland Plett had about my grandfather Idris.

(3) Morlais Castle. A 13th century castle, above the Taff Gorge near Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.

(4) I was unsure who Mostyn Cole was or how he was related to Idris. (Except the obvious statement that he was a cousin.) After speaking to Roy (Idris's nephew.) I discovered that he was the son of Annie Griffiths' younger sister, Mary Jane Cole (nee Griffiths). This Annie Griffiths was Idris' mother, not to be confused with his mother in law, also named Annie Griffiths (nee Simpkins).

(5) I don't have a picture of Idris' grave. With the current unrest that still exists in Zimbabwe, I am unsure if I ever will, but I am definitely trying to push open doors and see what is possible.

(6) I have personally seen these tools and the heirlooms, as Glyn and Norma still have them at their home in the United States.