John Graham Lake- Faith Healer Missionary

John Graham Lake- Faith Healer Missionary

John Graham Lake was a Canadian-American head of the Pentecostal movement, which began in the early 1900s. He was known as a faith healer, missionary, and, with Thomas Hezmalhalch, co-founder of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa.

Lake died on March 18, 1870, and Thomas Hezmalhalch died on September 16, 1935. Lake’s missionary work in Africa from 1908 to 1919 was a key factor in the growth of Pentecostalism in South Africa, which became the most successful religious movement in southern Africa in the 20th century.

After he finished his missionary work in Africa, Lake did evangelism for 10 years, mostly along the west coast of the United States. He set up “healing rooms” and healing programs and started churches. The healing work of John Alexander Dowie and the work of Charles Parham had an effect on Lake.

Life Journey

Lake was born in St. Marys, Ontario, Canada. In 1886, he moved with his family to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He had 16 brothers and sisters, but eight of them died young.[5] He finished high school in St. Mary’s just before moving to Michigan. He said he was ordained as a Methodist minister when he was twenty-one.[4] However, it has never been proven that he went to seminary [6]: 53 and census records can’t even prove that he went to school for ten years.[7] Lake may not have been trained in theology in a structured way.

In 1890, Lake moved to Harvey, a neighborhood of Chicago. There, he worked as a roofer and construction worker until 1896, when he moved back to his home town. Lake says he became a hardworking businessman who started two newspapers, the Harvey Citizen in Harvey, Illinois, and the Soo Times in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, before having success in real estate and later making a million dollars in life insurance.

The Harvey Citizen was started by the Harvey township, and the Soo Times was started by George A. Ferris and owned by Ferris & Scott Publishers. Historian Barry Morton found no proof that Lake ever owned the two newspapers.

Morton also says that Lake lied about his business job and that “clear evidence” shows that Lake worked as a small-scale contractor, roofer, and “house-flipper” instead.[1]: 103  Lake’s job is described as “carpenter” on the 1900 Census.

In February 1893, Lake married Jennie Stevens of Newberry, Michigan. Before her death in 1908, the couple had six children together and adopted a seventh. In the 1890s, Lake and many of his family members started going to Dowie’s events, where people were said to be healed and brought back from the brink of death. In 1898, Lake started a small branch of Dowie’s Christian Catholic Church in Sault Ste. Marie. Meetings were held in the attic of his parents’ house. In 1901, he moved his family to the theocratic town of Zion, Illinois, where he worked as a builder.

Around 1905, Lake got a new job after Zion City, which was always going bankrupt, laid off a lot of people. Later, he said that he was friends with many of the most important people of the time, such as railroad magnate James Jerome Hill, Cecil Rhodes, Mahatma Gandhi, Arthur Conan Doyle, and others.

When he started preaching, he said he had given up a yearly pay of $50,000 (about $1.25 million in 2007 US dollars) and a seat on the Chicago Board of Trade. Burpeau, Lake’s biographer, said that Lake’s claims that he knew these rich financiers and industrialists were the only proof that Lake knew them.

Morton says that records from the time show that Lake never left Zion City when he was said to be making a name for himself in Chicago. Instead, he worked as a “ordinary, small-town insurance salesman” in nearby Waukegan. Lake doesn’t show up in modern media until 1907. At that time, he wrote about how he spoke in tongues.

In 1907, Charles Parham held a tent meeting in Zion to try to win over Dowie’s followers. This is when Lake became a Pentecostal. After Parham left, about 300 “Parhamites” stayed in Zion. They were led by Thomas Hezmalhalch, who had just come from the Azusa Street Revival. As 1907 went on, Lake’s standing in this group grew, and he was often mentioned as a co-leader.

After Parham was arrested in the summer of 1907 on charges of sodomy and pedophilia, the Parhamites fell apart. Many people were given harsh exorcisms because people thought that many of them were possessed by demons. At least two people died during these exorcisms.

The Parhamites were forced to leave Illinois as a group because they were being arrested and could have been hurt by the mob. Hezmalhalch and Lake left for Indianapolis. Once they got there, they were able to raise $2,000 to pay for a Pentecostal trip to South Africa.

Missionary Work In Africa

Lake and Thomas Hezmalhalch started the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (AFM) in 1908. From 1908 to 1913, Lake and AFM did missionary work. Lake and Hezmalhalch may have been the first Pentecostal preachers to go to South Africa.

They were the ones who taught people how to speak in tongues. Many of the people who joined their church were once Zionists who believed in faith healing and worked with Dowie’s group. Morton says in  “Lake was a big part of spreading this unique to southern Africa mix of Zionism and Pentecostalism. About half of southern African Christians follow it today (2012).

Lake played a key role in the spread of this “second conversion.” Many of the early Zionists, like Pieter L. Le Roux of Wakkerstroom, joined Lake’s group.

Because the AFM’s white members wanted to keep people from mixing most of its African members left and started many different Zionist Christian groups.

On December 22, 1908, just six months after Lake moved to South Africa, his first wife, Jennie, died. He said that his wife’s death was “Satan’s masterstroke”. He worked in Africa for another four years while his sister Irene helped him raise his seven children.

Not everything about Lake’s work in South Africa was smooth. Morton wrote[1]: 114–15 that Lake was accused of misusing the AFM’s money, especially because the money didn’t go to poor country areas. This was later proven to be false.

The healings that happened through his work were carefully written down. He also wrote, “An analysis of the missionary that was full of blatant lies.” [1]: 98  Marius Nel has a different opinion. He talks about a “seemingly preconceived idea of Lake as a fraud and scam, supported by an unfair use of resources and an unbalanced use of resources.”

Life Journey Afterwards

Lake went back to America on February 1, 1913, and they got married in September of that year. Lake had this to say about this second marriage: “Men today think they have been happily married once. I’ve been especially lucky to have had two happy marriages.” Five children were born to this couple.

After a year of traveling from place to place to speak, Lake moved to Spokane, Washington, in July 1914, and began to work for “The Church of Truth.” He started a group called The Divine Healing Institute and a place he called “Lake’s Divine Healing Rooms.”

Lake ran the “healing rooms” from 1915 to May 1920. He then went to Portland, Oregon, where he did a similar ministry for five more years. He kept starting churches and “healing rooms” as he moved down the coast of California. In 1927, he moved to Houston, Texas, and then in 1931, he moved back to Spokane. When he got back to Spokane, he bought an old church and turned it into his final place of worship and healing.

Lake had a major stroke in 1935 and died on September 16, 1935[3], when he was 65 years old.



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