Connie's Testimony how it all Started

Connie StaplesIn the early days in 1927 I tasted, really tasted Pentecost, I mean it was flowing, It was working and it affected our whole family straight away, it all started at the Ragged Mission as it was called. My dad had been saved but my mother was fighting him, She didn't want anything to do with religion! "I'm Church of England, that's good enough for me and my kids", I was just going in for Confirmation, we had a good Bible teacher and she held the young people. Then Mr Davies came from Wales, he was a Holy Ghost preacher. The Mission was considered to be the lowest of the low built with the help of my dad, for the ragged, down and outs, Mr Davies who had been saved in the Welsh Revival took the hall for a fortnight preaching the Gospel but never mentioning the Holy Ghost at all.

I was about fourteen and had just started my first job, dad was ill, Mr Davies asked my mother if she would mind them coming to our cottage to pray for dad."You do as you like, I wont be there, but you can come, he's so poorly" she said. He had reached the stage where he was banging his head against the wall, he was in such pain. His condition was like leprosy, it was eating his flesh away: it ate his eye out, his ear and his nose off and was starting to take his lip as well. There were no drugs to give relief, he was in agony and we children had to run out, he never went to bed just slept on a couch. Mr Davies came and my mother had to admit for a few hours after he had been prayed for, the pain would go. Mr Davies said they would keep coming and he brought one or two elders from the mission too, and my dad got better. He was able to go to a few meetings again, so he asked Mam if she would go with him, "I'm not she said, I'm going to the theatre, I'm going to get some life somewhere, it's like I don't know what here, you're a religious lot". She used to fetch the wash tub out on Sundays just to annoy him. She played him up and her language was terrible.

Mr Davies advised my dad, " Now Albert, leave her, we’re going to pray especially for her, she's been a good un in the world, and she'll be a good un for God, if she gets it real, so just leave her, don't say a word, just keep silent". So off she goes to the theatre to see the best film they'd had for months, after about a hour she came out complaining it was a load of rubbish. One night soon after that she found herself in the Mission in a right old mood, she sat in the back seat and was given a hymn book, after a while the man leaned over her shoulder and said "Mrs Marshall, if you read it the right way up you might be able to sing" At this, she rushed out crying, "Oh keep it" nearly throwing the book at him, mum went home in a fury and went to bed not speaking to my dad until the next day.

Another prayer meeting was arranged in our house, so mum decided to clear off out, but she only went as far as the stairs shutting the door. Presently, however, the door opened and she found herself in the room where they were praying. Eventually Mr Davies went over to mum and asked her if she would give her heart to the Lord and surrender, even if it was just for the sake of dad. She doesn't remember saying anything but from that night she changed, she didn't say a word for twenty four hours, but in bed God gave her a vision of heaven, and she saw Him and talked with Him. The best way she could describe it was meeting Him as He came through a beautiful garden, where everything appeared fluorescent. The flowers were so big, not ordinary and then I saw the Lord and I was weeping and I asked Him if I could stay, but He shook His head and said "No not now, your not ready, you go back to that black patch down there, I've got something for you to do, go back and listen to me."

Next evening there was another meeting, and they could see that something had happened to her, she found herself on her knees in front of the fire and she started to speak in tongues. She didn't understand nor did anyone else except Mr Davies. She couldn't stop speaking, but finally we got it out of her, She said "I'm on fire, it isn't that fire pointing to the grate, It's in here, I'm on fire! I'm on fire!," It was the presence of God.

I was only young then, not saved, preparing for confirmation in the C of E, the atmosphere was terrific. Mr Davies said "Now my dear God has done a wonderful thing for you, but you didn't know this we were going back to Wales next week, and I said to my wife there's work to do here. These people know nothing about Pentecost and they won't let me preach it at the mission, if God wants me to stay and start full Gospel Meetings, baptise somebody in the Holy Ghost without me preaching it and I'll take that as a sign". Oh says mum " Don't go back, everybody should have this" so they stayed.

My dad got a little better the pain receded: it was such a relief, he and Mr Davies discussed finding a little place for a meeting hall, my dad thought of a place in the poor area of town, it had previously been a printing shop, but it was in a derelict condition. Dad assured Mr Davies he could make it good. The floor boards were rotten and the walls needed painting, but dad had some pals who he enlisted to help and they got it fitted up real well.

I went to the very first meeting in the new place and Mr Davies preached in the Spirit and it touched me, it was the first meeting with the anointing of the Holy Ghost ministering openly. It really got me but I kept resisting it, I thought, well I'm C of E. and I'm interested in what they are telling me. Mr Davies explained that there would be no manifestation when they put there hands on me it was just C of E. dogma, I was a bit up in arms about that and replied, "Well I'm there at the moment!". I was stubborn.

 One of Mr Davies pals came from Wales, and he was a lovely old man, "By you could feel the presence of the Lord with him". He was a Spiritual father, he asked the whole row of young people to come out so he could pray for them, then he preached a Gospel message about salvation and being filled with the Spirit. Presently I found Mr Davies kneeling at my side and saying, "Now my dear, are you ready to yield to the Lord, because he wants you?. I said, "No", I couldn't say another word , I was dumb, so he prayed but I didn't feel anything then, I thought "Now I've done it". I didn't feel any different than I did in church, so I went home, but the next morning I felt as if I was walking on air. It had had a delayed action, I thought how beautiful the trees and flowers were. I'd never seen them look like that before, everything was beautiful, everything, it dawned on me that this must be it: this was what they had been talking about. Well that was my salvation for a start, but Mr Davies was preaching and exhorting the young people to be baptised in the Holy Spirit, who would keep them and give them gifts, he pointed out that it was by faith you received, so I thought here goes and went forward to receive and started to talk in tongues a little bit. I didn't get right through then, perhaps I wasn't left down long enough, I didn't get any "Joy" then, it took quite a few years to get real joy in my soul. Mind you they were wonderful times, there were little men who were filled with the Spirit coming over from France, they were up and down the platform people were throwing their cigarettes and racing cards in the air, the power of God was there, meetings were springing up everywhere. George Jefferies came then Stephen Jefferies and we came away on cloud nine, we were swimming.

Over 4 or 5 years the work grew and we built a chapel. One night a missionary from India came to visit us and I started to weep in his meeting, others were weeping also because of the presence of God with him as he spoke of the lateness of the hour. "It's five to twelve", he said, the Spirit was impressing on me the need to tell people who didn't know. It was born in me then, I wept and I wept, I thought how I had been in darkness until somebody told me. I got the desire to tell others I'd never had it like that before, although I had witnessed at work, now I wanted to go and shout it from the housetops "Everybody listen!", I shall never forget it. On one occasion when Stephen Jefferies came to Mansfield Co-op hall the meetings were packed and the hall wasn't big enough. Henri had his half day on Wednesday so he was queuing halfway down the market with his pal from Curry's and was able to get a front seat. I came after work with my pal and we went upstairs in the balcony, the meeting was so charged with power we all got lost in it. Henri was so enraptured with it he longed to bring his mum and dad who were Methodists so that his dad could be prayed for as he was off work. When Henri's pal said "Hey up, look up on the balcony at those young folk there's some nice bits of stuff up there", Henri wasn't interested in spite of further cajoling from his pal. When we all got outside, Henri's pal was so insistent he got hold of Henri and said "come on, lets get in with these lasses". My friend wanted to talk with them as well, but I told her she could do as she liked, but I was going home. Anyway, she went across to talk to them and brought them over to introduce them, they asked if they could give us a lift home in Henri's car. I told them it was against my principles to travel with young men I didn't know, but they persuaded me since there were four of us.

We lived at the end in a little terraced house and mum was on cloud nine when we got home, she welcomed them all and we went into the front room where there was a piano. Henri started to play and it was terrific, then mum came in and told everyone to sit down, " I'm going to get you fish and chips, we can have them in here and have a sing". This continued throughout the campaign with them coming down every night.

 Henri managed to get his mum and dad to the Jefferies meetings and his mum got filled with the Spirit straight away going down on the floor, his dad said to him "Is she all right, does she need a drink of water?" but Henri assured him she would be all right and it was the best thing she had ever had!. His poor dad wasn't at all sure about it, "they 'ad to take 'er 'ome drunk," he also went out for prayer for an ulcerated leg which was keeping him off work and God touched him. That did it, they were persuaded and eventually left the Methodists in the village and started the work at Sherwood Avenue, Newark.

Henri and I were married in 1933 and during the second world war I only had one free day a week, I had four airmen to feed every day and five shops to see to, plus market stalls. So I decided to stay home on Sundays and fast, I'd never heard anybody preach about it. The young people still came to our house in the evenings after the shops had shut and Henri would talk to them and they would have a sing. So I asked them if any of them would like to meet at the chapel on Sunday morning in the vestry for prayer. So they came faithfully each week and that was the time when God really started working with us two. After a time I started to go to meetings again, but all we could do was weep, we thought it was strange, and yet felt it was so right, the carpet was drenched with tears. I didn't know in those days that it was travail which God had put on us for something that was going to be born.

Once Henri and I had the biggest argument: he argued from the natural, he'd just had a little touch of speaking in tongues, like I did, but he never got through. We were on the same level in our work, physically and everything, but in the Spirit we couldn't agree. whatever he said, I was the opposite pleading, "You haven't got what you can have, that's what's upsetting me, your in a fools paradise. You think you've received the Holy Ghost, but you haven't received the fullness". "Oh you," he says "you're never satisfied".

We kept on with the prayer meetings, then Henri fell ill with overwork, we were working eighteen hours a day towards Christmas. Henri had ulcers, the doctor said "Rest your burning yourself out," "Oh I can't" protested Henri. but the doctor insisted that he must. While Henri was ill he had time to read the Bible, which he never did before except at chapel, I had a great weight on me and was constantly weeping unable to stop. Even when I was serving a customer I had to turn away and burst out crying Henri told me I must pull myself together or I would have to go into a mental home. I was like that for about a year, wherever I went even in meetings, once I was at the Skegness AoG. convention, John Carter and Smith Wigglesworth were there and we enjoyed it because they fed us, but I wept and wept, even on arriving at the boarding house.

By 1947 Henri got a little better, by leaving work alone, so when one of his assistants straight from Peterborough market asked him if he was going to the prayer meeting that Thursday night he replied that he was going to get drunk. I heard him say this and thought to myself, He means that," It came right from the heart, I decide to go as well, I'm not going to miss this. It was a funny thing but suddenly I stopped crying and stopped feeling heavy and there was such a joy started bubbling up inside me. It couldn't have been a deader meeting: we all prayed round and then the pastor said, " Come on Henri, get on the piano, play a hymn and I will close the meeting. Henri was off, he couldn't stop, he was in it! then he rolled off the piano stool, rolled across the floor and back again, speaking in tongues as clear as a bell, at the top of his voice. The pastor asked if he was having a fit, but I said, "It's the best thing he'll ever have, leave him where he is, the pastor didn't know what to make of him.

Henri was like that for a week, and my brother and those who were running the business couldn't get any sense out of him. "What's he talking about?" they asked, I assured them he would be all right in a bit, but he couldn't speak, couldn't tell them what he wanted for breakfast or anything. I never saw a man so saturated with the Spirit as him, he lived in heaven, after he started to speak again, he would get up in the morning and say, "I'll pray for so and so, one of his customers, summat's the matter", things just happened, that's how it all started. Gladys Black a lady living a little way down the road was helping Henri's sister-in-law with some washing, Henri said I'm going to pray for her, it was the Spirit. Gladys was a Brethren and had been seeking the Spirit for fifteen years, her husband was Pentecostal, Henri didn't have to touch her, she set off speaking just like he did when he came in the room. We thought the pastor would be happy but he wasn't he wanted to quieten Henri down, Henri couldn't sit still and was Praising God at every opportunity. They told him they couldn't have that disturbing the meetings, Henri told them if everyone Praised God there would be more power in the meetings. So Henri was sent up to London before the AoG. tribunal for his testimony, there was a sympathetic man from Lancaster who along with John and Howard Carter who tried to reconcile the situation with our Pastor. One of them went to the Pastor and asked him to give Henri the right hand of fellowship but he refused. Henri said I can't compromise with what God has done, if they had what I've got they wouldn't be able to sit still and be quiet,I am not going to cause any disruption in his meetings again, I shall go to my Customers. I shall go everywhere God is leading me, and something will happen, they said very commendable brother.

Years later just before Henri died the man who handled all the correspondence about this matter, came with his wife to see us, he told us that three on the tribunal knew that Henri was right but that they had to back the pastor because that was policy. It took thirty years but God vindicates you if you are right with him. We stood because God was talking to us and he brought us into a greater awareness of the Spirit, He gave us the scripture, "The joy of the Lord is your strength" and it still is Praise God.


Connie Staples
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