We’ve included a video (to the right) created from a slideshow from the 1980s by Doug Slocumb and David Jenkins called JF Rowlands: Man of Faith. This video includes a photograph-enhanced sermon preached by Rev. Rowlands at Mt. Paran Church of God, similar to his sermon preached at the International Evangelism Congress in Mexico City in 1973. In our archives, we found an essay from our dear friend, J.F., that describes his adventures with Carl Richardson in getting into Mexico City for that conference. This is word for word what he typed up in 1973 after the conference. Enjoy!
“…but thanks be to God which giveth us the victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Pastor J.F. Rowlands
Durban, South Africa
I am not a stranger to the devil’s devices. Many times here in my work in South Africa I have faced the devil. In fact, thousands of my church members are former devil worshipers who have been freed by the power of Jesus Christ. But recently Satan hindered me in a way I have never faced before.
On April 27, 1973, I received this cable from our General Overseer, Dr. Ray H. Hughes:
“You have been selected to speak on a Sunday morning, August 12th, in Mexico City at the International Evangelism Congress.”
I was delighted with the invitation but replied that because of strained diplomatic relations between South Africa and Mexico that obtaining a visa may be difficult. Little did I know then that after incredible efforts it would be impossible.
Almost daily over the next three months I was in contact with the Consulate in Capetown and was told repeatedly that there was little hope of my obtaining a visa. Al the while I strongly believe that God wanted me to participate in the International Evangelism Congress for the Church of God. All remained quiet on the Capetown front. No results were apparent. The General Overseer was advised that the matter was stagnant.
I spoke for more than twenty minutes by phone with Mexico’s Overseer, the Reverend Antonio Bonilla, Jr., and he assured me that every effort would be made to gain my entry into Mexico.
It was late July and the meeting was only a matter of days away and still all my efforts drew a blank. It looked hopeless. Additionally, I had head that three nominal church ministers from South Africa had just tried to attend their convention in Mexico City and had been turned away at the Mexican border and put back on the next plane out of the country.
In early August, I received a letter from Carl Richardson, FORWARD IN FAITH Radio Minister, which stated:
“Brother Hughes has delegated to me the responsibility of all visual presentation to be shown at the Mexico City Evangelism Congress, and I want to make myself available to you for any assistance that I can be in your Sunday morning presentation. I strongly urge you to bring an appropriate number of your color slides since they are of such excellent quality. Also as publicity liaison I respectfully request that you plan to arrive in Mexico City on August 8th if at all possible. Do me the kindness of calling upon me if I can help you in any way whatever.”
I cabled Brother Richardson in Mexico City on August 7th:
“Thank letter, but despite every effort no Mexican Visa granted. Please advise General Overseer possibility on non-arrival. Will cable again tomorrow.”
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, Brother Richardson then tried to reach me by phone every half hour all night long. The Durban, South Africa telephone operator, however, had given him my old phone number which was disconnected. Early the next morning, August 8th, Brother Richardson sent this urgent cable which was addressed properly but was delivered to my old address and wasn’t received by me until late that afternoon:
“High Mexican Government Officials have assured your entry. Your visa will be issued at Mexican Consulate in Rio de Janeiro Brazil en route. Phone me your travel plans at Camino Real Hotel in Mexico City. Will meet you.”
Immediately upon receipt of this cable I packed my suitcase and departed for Johannesburg. Daily my travel agent had made reservations for me through cities such as Toronto, Tel Aviv, Paris, Frankfort, London, Zurich, Lima, etc., still still hoping that my visa would come through. It did not. Without a visa and without encouragement from any of my friends I took off on a new schedule due to an air strike that would take me through Rio at 3:00 a. m. Saturday morning (too late to get a visa at the Mexican Consulate in Rio because of the hour) and if I made all amy connections I should make it to Mexico City by Saturday morning. One mechanical problem after another developed en route. I missed my connecting flights several times. The Evangelism Congress had been half completed by the time I arrived in Luanda, Angola.
Meanwhile in Mexico City, Brother Richardson had been told by government officials that the only hope for my entry to Mexico was to get a visa from the Mexican consulate in Rio and that they close on Friday evening at 5:00 p.m. No exception to this firmly established policy could be made, the officials flatly stated. And even this procedure was a result of urgent approval granted by the Secretary of the Interior.
In Mexico City, Brother Richardson made one final phone call in an urgent attempt to gain some kind of special permission for my entry without a visa or even a Mexican tourist care. At 10:00 p.m. that night, (while I was over the Atlantic Ocean en route to Rio) he got his answer.
Because of engine trouble departing Angola, we missed our connecting flight in Rio. I had only one hope left. Another delayed flight departed Lima, Peru and flew over Mexico to Los Angeles. We were two hours late and my scheduled flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City had been gone for an hour.
I rushed off my plane and was told that there was only one last flight to Mexico City from Los Angeles that day and it would depart in less than 15 minutes. Carrying all my luggage down the corridor, I gasped to the gate attendant that I must get on that last flight out to Mexico City. he picked up his phone and told me that the plane was completely filled and was departing momentarily.
“But there must be a seat on that plane,” I insisted. “This is my last chance to get to Mexico City where I am to preach tomorrow morning.”
He picked up his phone again and said, “I can’t understand the mistake, but there is one available seat left on the plane and I’ll hold the flight for you in you’ll hurry.”
As I seated myself on that final seat that I felt the Lord had reserved especially for me, and headed toward Mexico City, I wondered what was ahead at the border.
My journey of 56 consecutive hours was taking its toll. Food had no taste. I continued praying that somehow I could get in . My church in Durban had told me that they would be fasting and praying until they heard from me.
It was 3:10 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Mexico City when we landed. As I got off the plane I remembered all the warnings given to me by the Mexican consulate in Capetown, by the travel agents, and by friends… “there is no hope of your entering Mexico…you will be responsible for all consequences…you will travel at your own risk…remember the other three ministers who were denied entry at the border…”
But look! God has answered prayer! There in the strictly private immigration area stands Brother Carl Richardson and his interpreter Evangelist Fermin Garcia! As I approach the officials I am cordially whisked through without a hitch! All was well. Jesus never fails.
Completely exhausted after my 56 hour ordeal, I slept soundly after having arrived on the last flight, on which I occupied the last seat, and arrived at the last possible moment for participation in the Congress service the next morning.
Too much happened to be mere circumstance. I an convinced that Satan hindered. But God gave victory!
And what a sweet victory it was.
J. F. Rowlands absolutely rocked the Congress that Sunday morning with a message similar to the one in the video above and using many of the same photographs. He and Carl went on to become very close friends for many years. Carl interviewed J.F. for the T.V. Special “20th Century Day of Pentecost” and also for the Forward in Faith radio broadcast. You can listen to that fascinating radio interview HERE.