The Life and Times of John G. Lake

John G. Lake, known as the "Apostle to Africa" was born in Canada in 1870, his family soon relocated to the United States, where he grew up. He began his ministry as a Methodist preacher, turning later to insurance work. In 1898 his wife was miraculously healed of tuberculosis under the ministry of Alexander Dowie. Lake joined Dowie's fast growing "Zion Catholic Apostolic Church." Lake testified to an instant experience of entire sanctification in the home of Fred Bosworth, an early leader in the Assemblies of God. In 1907, he received the baptism of the Holy Spirit under the ministry of Charles Parham, who visited Zion while the aging Dowie was losing control of his ministry.

His healing and preaching ministry spanned the years 1898 until his death in 1935. In 1908, God sent him to Africa, where his anointed miracle ministry resulted in what has been described as "the most extensive and powerful missionary movement in all Africa." As Gordon Lindsay wrote, "during that time he spent five history-making years in South Africa, engaged in a ministry which in some respects rivalled that of the Early Church." Upon his return to America, Lake established a ministry in Spokane, Washington which resulted in no less than 100,000 astounding miracles of healing within the space of five or six years. He then established a similar work in Portland, Oregon, which also attracted widespread attention. Like Smith Wigglesworth, John G. Lake had already experienced mighty breakthroughs, powerful anointings and a real calling from God for many years before Azusa Street and the Pentecostal Revival.

John receives the Baptism

From his own diary we learn that John has an earnest yearning for more of God. After eight years in the ministry of healing he wanted to experience "a more intense longing for an intimacy and a consciousness of God, like I felt the disciples of Jesus and the primitive church had possessed." Two years later we read that even after thousands were healed by his ministry, "at the end of ten years, I believe I was the hungriest man for God that ever lived. There was such a hunger for God that as I left my offices in Chicago, and walked down the street, my soul would break out, and I would cry, `Oh God!' I have had people stop and look at me, and wonder. It was the yearning passion of my soul, asking for God in a greater measure than I knew."

Finally John was led to set aside certain hours of the day - as times of meditation, and prayer. Months passed, until one morning as he knelt praying, God spoke and told him to wait until autumn. John submitted to this willingly, even though many would say he had the baptism of the spirit, he wanted also the baptism of fire! He prayed, "God, if you will baptise me in the Holy Spirit, and give me the power of God, nothing shall be permitted to stand before me and a hundred-fold obedience."

Then one night in a meeting at the house of Fred Bosworth a Voice began to speak to John out of an intense light. John says, "the Voice began to remind me of this incident, and that incident of disobedience to my parents, from a child; of my obstinacy, and dozens of instances when God brought me up to the line of absolutely putting my body, soul, and spirit upon the altar forever. I had my body upon the altar for ten years, and I had been a minister of the Gospel. But when the Lord comes, He opens to the soul the depths that have never been touched in your life. Do you know that after I was baptised in the Holy Ghost, things opened up in the depths of my nature that had remained untouched in all my life, and that which was shadowy, distant, and hazy became real. God got up close and let His light shine into me."

Shortly after this experience, a brother called and invited him to visit a lady who was sick. Arriving at the home they found the lady in a wheel chair. All her joints were set with inflammatory rheumatism. She had been in the condition for ten years. John sat in a deep chair on the opposite side of a large room. He recounts, "My soul was crying out to God in a yearning too deep for words, when suddenly it seemed to me, that I had passed under a shower of warm tropical rain, which was not falling upon me, but through me. My spirit, and soul and body under this influence soothed into such a deep still calm, as I had never known. My brain, which had always been so active, became perfectly still. An awe of the presence of God settled over me. I knew it was God. Some moments passed; I do not know how many. The Spirit said, `I have heard your prayers, I have seen your tears. You are now Baptised in the Holy Spirit.' Then currents of power began to rush through my being from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. The shocks of power increased in rapidity, and voltage. As these currents of power would pass through me, they seemed to come upon my head, rush through my body, and through my feet into the floor."

A new ministry begins

Shortly after this experience, a working of the Spirit began in Lake - a work which would spectacularly reveal the nature of Jesus Christ to others. Lake began to operate in the varied range of the gifts of the Spirit. He spoke in new tongues and God flowed through him with a new force. Healings were of a more powerful order. He experienced a new level of discernment of spirit, and a new revelation of God. Lake states that, "My nature became so sensitised, that I could lay hands on any man, or woman, and tell what organ was diseased, and to what extent, and all about it. I tested it. I went into hospitals where physicians could not diagnose a case, touched a patient, and instantly I knew the organ that was diseased, its extent, condition, and location."

Before obeying the call into full-time ministry, Lake felt the need to dispose of his very successful business interests. He sold everything, giving the money to God's work, and embarked on full-time ministry with a heart full of the fire of God. Soon afterward, when he was ministering in a city in Northern Illinois, God spoke to him clearly and distinctly: "Go to Indianapolis. Prepare for winter campaign. Get a large hall. In the Spring you will go to Africa." He began a fast, and prayed fervently for God's will to be done in his life.

On the night of the sixth day of this fast the Spirit said, `How long have you been praying to cast out demons?' Lake replied, `Lord a long time.' And the Spirit said, `From henceforth, thou shalt cast out demons.' An opportunity to test this newly given anointing to cast out demons came the following Sunday, when a violently insane man was brought to Lake, who commanded the demon to come out of him in Jesus' name. The man was instantly delivered, and two days later was released from the institution that he had been confined in.

After his experience, Lake abandoned the insurance business in order to answer a long-standing call to minister in South Africa. In April 1908, he led a large missionary party to Johannesburg where he began to spread the Pentecostal message throughout the nation. Coming with him was his wife and seven children as well as evangelists Thomas Hezmalhalch and J.C. Lehman. Before the end of his first year in South Africa Lake's wife died, some believed through malnutrition. Lake nevertheless succeeded in founding two large and influential Pentecostal churches in Southern Africa. The Black branch eventually developed into the "Zion Christian Church" (ZCC) which by 1993 claimed no less than 6,000,000 members and, despite some doctrinal and cultural variations, was recognised as the largest Christian church in the nation. The white branch took the name "Apostolic Faith Mission" (AFM) in 1910, borrowed from the name of the famous mission on Azusa Street. It was at this church, Smith Wigglesworth prophesied the coming world wide harvest to young David duPlessis.

Lake would often greet people as they came into the crusade meetings. In South Africa, this posed a problem because the power of God was so great upon him that people would fall under it in the doorway when he shook hands with them. There were times when people who came within six feet of him would fall. To ensure people would not be deceived into thinking he was pushing them, Lake got into the habit of raising his hand about two feet from them. David duPlessis described the healing crusades of Dr. John G. Lake in Africa: "Every morning a parade of dump trucks would come to the Crusade grounds to pick up crutches, wheel chairs, stretchers and other medical instruments literally by the ton load.... this went on morning after morning, week after week for six straight weeks uninterrupted."

Satan attacks the work in Africa

Lake and his churches had one hundred and twenty-five men out of on the field at one time. They were a very young institution, not well known in the world. One day, certain men in England and America began rumours about Lake. Finances got so low under the awful attack, as people withdrew their support, that they soon could not even mail $10 a month to the workers. Then it got so bad he could not even send them $2. Lake did not want to take the responsibility of having men and their families on the frontier under such conditions.

Staff at headquarters sold their clothes, jewellery, pieces of furniture, and in one case their house to bring those one hundred and twenty-five workers off the field for a conference. One night in the progress of the conference, Lake was invited by a committee to leave the room for a minute or two. The conference wanted to have a word by themselves. He stepped out to a restaurant for a cup of coffee and returned soon after.

When John came back in, he found the chairs arranged in an oval, with a little table at the end, and on the table was the bread and wine. Old Father Van der Wall, speaking for the company, said, "Brother Lake, during your absence, we have come to a conclusion; we have made our decision. We want you to serve the Lord's supper. We are going back to our fields. We are going back if we have to walk back. We are going back if we have to starve. We are going back if our wives die. We are going back if our children die. We are going back if we die ourselves. We have but one request. If we die, we want you to come and bury us." The next year he buried twelve men, sixteen wives and children. Lake sadly recounted, "There was not one of them, if they had had a few of the things a white man needs to eat, but what they might have lived.
.... That is the kind of consecration that established Pentecost in South Africa. ..."

Life after Africa

After his African missionary tour of 1908-1912, Lake returned to the United States where he founded churches and healing homes in Spokane, Washington and Portland, Oregon before his death in 1935 Between 1913 and 1935 there were over 100,000 documented healings in these places. In retrospect, the work of Lake was the most influential and enduring of all the South African pentecostal missions endeavours. According to Cecil Rhodes, "Lake's message swept Africa. He has done more toward South Africa's future peace than any other man." Perhaps the highest accolade was given by no less a personage than Mahatma Ghandi who said of Lake, "Dr. Lake's teachings will eventually be accepted by the entire world."

And thus was a mighty Revival begun in Africa, with many healings, miracles and deliverances, which was to profoundly impact the African continent for years to come, even long after Lake was gone. The torch had also been passed on to Elias Letwaba and others in Africa, and the work went on there, in great power. Lake continued his ministry in North America until his death in 1935, and like Smith Wigglesworth, he fought an outstanding fight and ran a great race, right to the very end.

John G. Lake - Apostle to Africa, Gordon Lindsay
John G. Lake & the Dump Truck Parade, Ron Smith
Thesis John G Lake, Vinson Synan, Ph.D.
John G. Lake: A Man Without Compromise, Wilford Reidt
By Andrew Strom & Robert Holmes.

Back to: The latest page