Maybe Heaven's going to be like what you dream about! Maybe you dream up your own Heaven: Maybe what you get in Heaven is what you always dreamed of! I remember William Branham, a famous prophet that I met in Arizona and California, telling about how he dreamed about Heaven.
He and his wife were caught in a big flood and he lost her and couldn't find her. He finally found her at the hospital, but she was dying. She died from exposure and shock. (Maria: A flood in the U.S.?) Yes, I think it was the famous big Ohio flood when the water rose 50 feet!
William Branham got very sick and got tuberculosis from exposure and cold and wandering around in the wet and the water and everything and he nearly died too. In fact, I think he wanted to die because he'd lost his wife and child in the flood. Of course it's one of the things that really brought him to the Lord and made him such a great man.
He said that while he was so sick in the hospital and telling the Lord he wanted to die, that he... you know what? He might have had a death experience! He said he dreamed that he was walking across these beautiful flowery fields surrounded by wooded hills, and there was this beautiful little cottage there.
His wife and little child ran out to greet him and took him in their arms and loved him and said, "We're so glad that you got here! It's so lovely here!" She took him into the cottage and said, "We've even saved your favourite old rocking chair!", and there it was sitting in the livingroom. He sat down and rocked in it and thought, "How beautiful, how beautiful!" He said,
"I realised I must be in Heaven because there was my wife and child, but I never dreamed it was going to be this beautiful!--Just like I always wanted! Just like the little cottage we used to live in with my old favourite rocking chair back in Kentucky!--Only it was even more beautiful and better!"
It was all so beautiful! His wife was so beautiful and the baby was so beautiful and the baby was there and everything! It was all so pretty, and friends were visiting and relatives. Then he said he woke up and he was still there in bed in the hospital very sick--but happy!
He said then he was really happy because he knew his wife had gone to be with the Lord and that she was happy and the baby was happy. They were in a nice beautiful cottage in Heaven with his old favourite rocking chair, so he wasn't sad anymore about it. He was very happy then, and he got so happy he lived!
He had faith to live then, because he knew his wife and his baby were taken care of and they were okay, and he got well. It was almost like a miracle! The Lord almost immediately healed him and he got better really quick and was cured of TB!
He soon met another very sweet girl that he married, and I think had three children by her. He said he understood why the Lord took his first wife, because she wasn't very spiritual and she didn't know the Lord very well. She was rather fearful and worried a lot. They were very poor and she complained a lot about what they had to suffer and all, and she wasn't much of an encouragement to his spiritual life.
He said he realised then that it was best that the Lord had taken her, because she wasn't very happy in this world.--And the baby with her, I suppose, so she could take care of the baby. Then he met this woman who was very deeply spiritual, really knew and loved the Lord and was a great encouragement to his spiritual life, a real inspiration, played piano, sang and everything else, because he was beginning to be a preacher.
He began giving his testimony all around in churches, like my mother:--About the horrible experience in the flood when they were swept away, his wife dying and his miraculous healing and experiences.
William Branham was about 10 years older than I, and he was just a young fellow then. I think I must have been a teenager when it happened and he was a married young man and had a child and was working.
He'd known the Lord all his life and had this gift of prophetic visions seeing things happen, sometimes years ahead! He lived as a little boy near the banks of the Ohio River at a time when there was no bridge over the river at Louisville at all. They just had ferries.
He was about 9 years old and he saw this huge bridge over the river and he saw men falling off of it into the river! He went home really scared and told his mother and she thought it was a child's imagination. But about 20 years later they built that bridge, and there was something like a dozen men who fell off the bridge and were killed while they were building it! He had seen that happen!
He had this gift all his life. He'd know things and see things before they happened. Or someone would lose something and he'd know where it was, he'd seen where it was. Or some accident would happen or be about to happen and he'd warn somebody that it was going to happen.
He called it the gift of knowledge, to know things that other people didn't know or beforehand. He'd just see pictures of it happening. That's how he got into healing people, he'd see pictures of whether they were going to be healed or not. He didn't claim to have the gift of healing at all.
People would come to him with some illness or sickness and he'd tell them whether they were going to get well or die or what. A lot of times they didn't even know what they had, the doctors couldn't even tell them, and he'd tell them what was wrong with them. He could just see it. He would pray for them and lots of them got healed.
He began just by telling his life story: How he and his wife were swept away in the flood and his wife and baby died, and he nearly died, and his vision of Heaven and how he began to want to live then because Heaven was so beautiful! First he wanted to die and then he wanted to live then because Heaven was so beautiful! First he wanted to die and then he wanted to live because he wanted to tell other people about the Lord. So he began giving his testimony and became quite popular in the churches going around telling his story. So he sort of became a preacher.
He was very simple. He hadn't had much education at all, and he butchered the king's English! He was just a simple little hillbilly boy really, and he just spoke so simply, like a little child.
They were so poor he had to go to work right away to help his family because his father died and his mother was a widow then, and she had several children. He could remember living in a cold little shack in Kentucky when they ran out of fuel and it was ice cold, there was even ice inside the house! Then his mother couldn't take it anymore and his mother died, and he went to live with his grandmother. He had all kinds of terrible tragedies in his life.
There was always this voice speaking to him that encouraged him, that he knew must be the voice of God. Once, he was out in the woods when there was no wind or anything and this whole tree just shook! The leaves rustled and shook and sort of blew, just this one tree, like Moses and the burning bush! He stood there and looked and thought, "That's funny! There's no wind and the other trees aren't doing that."
The lord apparently just did it to get his attention as a little boy--he was about 7 years old then. Then the Lord spoke out of the tree and told him to be a good boy. He'd been with some other bad boys that were smoking. The Lord said, "Don't smoke! You be a good boy and I'll take care of you. Some day you'll grow up to be a great man that will work for Me!" The voice of the angel called him right out of the shaking tree and it scared him!
He knew it must be the voice of an angel or God or something. He ran home and told his mother. Most of the time they thought it was just his imagination that these things had happened, until he told them things that did happen, and then they began to believe him, that he really had a gift. So he went around giving his testimony and even telling about his calling and his gift.
People began to come to him and want to know things. "I lost my son," or "I haven't seen my brother for years, where is he?" or, "I lost some money that we hid and I can't remember where I put it" and things like that. He'd just see pictures of it. Or, "I'm sick and the doctors don't know what's wrong with me."--He'd just see a picture of a tumor or cancer or something and tell them what was going to happen.
So of course he became very famous as William Branham the modern prophet! I think there's a book on his life. I'm sure that the Pentecostal Evangel Publishing House in Springfield, Mo. USA would probably have it, although they turned against him finally. The Assemblies of God sponsored him for awhile because he was so famous and drew crowds of thousands! We heard about him quite a bit from various religious sources and in Los Angeles when we were there, but we had never gotten to hear him.
In those very discouraging days after I got kicked out of the church that I built in Valley Farms, Arizona, I had gone back to college at the University of Arizona at Tempe. We were living there and we heard that Branham had come to Phoenix. So we went to hear him.
Eve had a terrible time trying to persuade me to go because I was so fed up with churches and church people and religion and Christianity and everything.--Everything except for the Lord! I knew He was real, but I was sure fed up with church people, and I'd seen so many evangelists as religious racketeers!
I said, "Oh, I don't want to go, I've seen them all! They're all a bunch of promoters and show men and whatnot, and I've seen it all!" She said, "Well just come, just this once, and if you don't like it, we won't go anymore. Just come just to see. He's famous!" So we went and took all the kids to this huge big tent that held several thousand people.
They had a lot of music and prayer and praising and shouting hallelujah, a Pentecostal meeting, and that was all interesting. Then one preacher after another would get up and make a speech. All these little preachers from the local churches ride along on the coattails of the big preachers and sit on the platform. I kept waiting for the big evangelist.
There was this one little hicky hillbilly preacher that kept talking, and who used all kinds of bad English. He was talking away giving his testimony and I thought, "That's interesting, but when is this big evangelist coming on anyhow? When is this bigshot coming on, the big boy, the famous fellow?" And I turned to Eve and asked her, "I wonder when William Branham's coming on?" She said, "That is William Branham!" I said,
"That's William Branham, world famous prophet and evangelist?--That little tiny shrimp up there that's talking in that little weak voice and butchers the King's English--that's William Branham the great prophet and evangelist?--No!" She said, "That's he, that's the one! I'm sure that's the one."
I'd missed it when they introduced him because I was getting so bored with all these different preachers getting up and giving their testimony and preaching. The service must have gone on an hour and a half or two hours before he came on. You know how those Pentecostals are, they can go on four, five and six hours in a service!
But then I began to really listen when he was telling his life story about when he was a little boy and it was so cold and he was an orphan living here and there so poor. Then he had these dreams and visions and these experiences, hearing voices and seeing things, and how God dealt with him and spoke to him even when he was small. I guess that's sort of like what I went through too when I used to go out in the woods and walk.
It seemed like I could hear the voice of God so clearly! Not out loud like he did, but it just seemed like the Lord spoke to me in everything:--Every flower, every bush, every tree, every animal, every scene, every sunset, like the Lord was explaining everything to me. Isn't that something? The voice of the Spirit was so clear! That's one reason I liked to go out and get away from everybody and walk through the woods alone.
His testimony was so long he had to continue it from night to night. He was mostly telling about being a little boy this first night and about growing up and getting married and working as a carpenter and almost to the flood. Then he said it was too late and he'd have to continue the next night. So of course everybody came back to hear about the flood.
The next time he told mostly about the flood and his wife dying and how he nearly died. Then it was too late again and I had to come back the next night to hear some more about how the Lord saved him and healed him. The first night was about his childhood, the next night about the flood, then the next night about his salvation, his dream of Heaven and all that. We just loved it!
We listened and it was so encouraging, because he was not any particular church member or anything, he hadn't really had too much church when he was a boy. He was real poor and kind of a real hillbilly, what would have been considered very low white trash when I was a kid, like migrant workers and cotton pickers. (Maria: What a testimony, how the Lord can use somebody like that!--No matter who you are!) Yes!
So we took the kids back every night, and they loved it because he was so simple and so childlike the older kids could even understand it. They were all exciting stories of experiences, not just sermons. They were real experience stories, exciting stories about dreams and visions and miracles and experience with the flood. So we were quite thrilled.
I think the Lord really sent him along at that time to be a great encouragement in my life because it really really encouraged me. It was then, at the end of his meetings, that all the preachers were invited to a special Christian Businessmen's Luncheon at this big hotel.
Somehow or another a friend of ours got me an invitation and a ticket, because it cost a dollar-and-a-half, and that was a lot of money in those days! Of course in a way it was a money-raiser too, but it was something special just for all the preachers after the meeting was over. I went, and it so happened that the Lord sat me down almost right straight across from him at the next table!
He had a good message for the preachers, all kinds of good things about how they ought to live it more and they ought to get their people out witnessing more, they ought to get their people to really live the Gospel more than just sitting in church. I thought, "Boy, that's terrific! Just like what we were preaching!"
I was sitting right in front of him, about 20 feet away.--Right where he couldn't escape seeing this poor young preacher sitting there in front of him. I was about 30 by this time and we had all four children and had just been kicked out of the church at Valley Farms.
He kept looking at me and I just knew that he was conscious I was there. I was just sort of sucking on him, drawing on him, because I was so desperately in need of encouragement. I was almost ready to give up.
I was really discouraged and wondering what to do. Here I was a poor preacher with 4 kids and kicked out of my church and virtually out of my denomination because they wouldn't give me another church. What was I to do? I'd just gone back to college on the GI bill. Spring session was almost over. Summer was coming, and at this school they didn't have much in the way of courses during summer.
We were wondering what to do, where to go. We had this little old Model-A Ford, little V-8 we bought from an old lady for $400, and I had this motion picture projector with a film on Palestine. That was about all I owned beside the big library of books that I finally gave away to the college in Tempe.
I was sitting there sucking on him and drawing on him, just really hungry to get some little word of encouragement from him. A lot of it was very encouraging. It must have been so obvious in the Spirit, the spiritual magnetism must have been so strong, because after all, he was a prophet and he'd had all these experiences about people.
I was drawing on him so strong that he looked me straight in the eye! There were about 300 preachers at this big luncheon, and it was sort of like he was speaking generally to all of them in a way, but he was looking me right in the eye and I knew he was talking to me. This could have applied to a lot of the guys of course, because we were all out in the middle of the desert in Phoenix. He said,
It doesn't matter, young fellow, if you came out here in the middle of the desert to pastor a little church and they don't seem to appreciate you. Just be faithful to the Lord, and God's going to do great things for you."--And I just broke down and wept because I knew that was the word for me!
Then as we went out, he stood by the door like the typical pastor or preacher shaking hands with everybody going out. Of course he had seen in his talk that I was deeply moved and I was sitting there weeping. As I came to him to shake his hand going out the door,
He threw his arms around me and hugged me and kissed me and said, "Don't worry, son, don't worry. Everything's going to be all right." Then he quoted that same little verse from the Philadelphia Prophecy. He said,
"The Lord is going to open unto you a great door that no man can close. He's going to close all these other doors that no man can open. Don't even try to open them. The Lord's going to open unto you a great door, greater than anything you ever dreamed of!--A door that no man can close!" (Rev.3:7-18.) Of course I had no idea what it was. I thought it might be some big church or something, talking about doors.
So I went off weeping then, happy and almost walking on air because I'd had this message of encouragement straight from the Lord, that the Lord was still going to use me! I had felt like maybe my ministry was up, that I was done. After all, my denomination didn't like me anymore because I'd sassed them back and been rebellious to them when they wanted me to leave the church and I wouldn't leave. (Continue reading part II David's experience as a bus driver and school teacher)
My name is James Arendt. I was raised in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the southeast side of Chicago, Illinois, served in the USAF from 1970 to 1974, and became a full-time missionary for Christ living 40 years in Japan, 3.5 years in Russia, and a few months in other countries such as Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China where I also served the King of Kings, Jesus, as an Ambassador for His Kingdom.
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