Big-hearted Coast ‘giant’ Gerald Rowlands farewelled
A Sunshine Coast Minister described as a 'giant' and 'general' of the Christian faith has been farewelled with tributes from around the world.
Nambour preacher, teacher, pastor, evangelist, prophet and author, Gerald Rowlands, 86, who shared the stage with some of the greats of Christianity, died at Easter, surrounded by his wife Elizabeth and family.
More than 200 gathered at Flametree Baptist Church on Friday to farewell Pastor Rowlands whose ministry led thousands to the Christian faith, saw churches planted around the world as well and ministry schools established. Closer to home, he was pivotal in the establishment of Nambour Christian College.
During more than 50 years of ministry he travelled to some 70 countries.
Family members shared just some of his remarkable life which started sadly with the loss of his own mother at the age of four.
"The last words he remembered her saying were: "Never forget Jesus'.
He did, initially, struggling as he lived in a series of foster homes, finding an outlet in athletics, soccer and boxing.
"He eventually joined the Royal Air Force and served as a medic. It was during this period of his life that he found who he had been searching for,'' eldest daughter Christine told Friday's memorial.
"Hospitalised in military hospital for several weeks having suffered severe corneal damage to his eyes Dad was in intense pain with his eyes bandaged.
"One night he sensed someone near his bed, and asked: "Who's there?" and a voice responded saying, "I am Jesus, what do you want me to do for you?"
"Dad's response was: "If you could ease this pain and give me one night's sleep, I would be so grateful.
"Jesus said to him: 'I can do more than that - I can heal you,' Christine recalled.
"Instantly he fell asleep, and though his eyes were covered in bandages, the next morning he woke pain free, and he knew he'd been healed. Soon after he was released from the hospital, with perfect vision."
Later Pastor Rowlands was mentored by itinerant preacher, Tom Wilson, who told of how he had seen a vision of a young man in an air force uniform in Manchester, England, who God told him to look after.
"He took Dad under his wing and mentored him as they travelled around, preaching in the UK and Europe."
In 1956, Gerald met Elizabeth Duncan, who had travelled from Australia to the UK with her parents, after she volunteered at a Christian camp where Mr Wilson and Mr Rowlands were the camp preachers.
"During this time, romance blossomed, and Dad began to plan to leave for Australia the next year to marry our Mother.
They married in May 1958 and had their honeymoon at Mooloolaba, before taking up the pastorate at Sutherland Assemblies of God.
Daughters Christine and Kathy were born during this time, before the Rowlands hit the road in a caravan, travelling around Australia with an Itinerant ministry.
Later with his third daughter Virginia due to be born, Mr Rowlands felt it was time to settle and became the pastor of Klemzig Assemblies of God church in Adelaide.
It was a time described as 'exciting days of the Holy Spirit renewal with Pastor Rowlands working with Catholic and Methodist churches.
"There was revival also among drug addicts, prostitutes, witches and underworld criminals, so much so that the media started attending the meetings for a few months.
"It was in Adelaide that Dad had a vivid vision of end time disasters and the coming renewal and revival.
"It was such a dramatic vision that was far beyond what anyone could imagine at the time. Much of it has come to pass in these last years, and some is still to be fulfilled.
"It was a vision that everything that can be shaken of man will be shaken."
In 1970, the family moved to Glad Tidings Tabernacle in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.
"These were very wonderful years for our family where Gerald and Elizabeth pastored with Roy and Dawn Short, and Steve and Marion Penny.
"They were exciting days of revival with youth outreach, a coffee shop ministry at night where people came in off the streets in the Valley and were saved.
"A whole gang of criminals were saved one Sunday night and Dad was later contacted by the Police Commissioner who thanked the Church for bringing down crime in Brisbane.
"In these years Charles Ringma approached Dad with his dream of starting Teen Challenge in Australia. Gerald supported this whole heartedly and became the first Chairman of the Board when Charles founded Teen Challenge.''
In 1975, the Rowlands felt called to move to Africa so the family sailed there on Oriana Cruise Ship in January the next year.
"With typical enthusiasm, Dad set up a daily meeting on the ship, announcing it in the ship's paper for all the Christians on-board,'' daughter Kathy recalled.
"One woman who attended these meetings was taken ill, and her husband asked Dad to pray for her. He went to their cabin and knocked on the door - nobody answered, so he went in and found her lying on the bed. He prayed for her and left - not realising that the ship's doctor had just pronounced her dead and had left to write up the death certificate.
"When her husband returned to his cabin, he found her very much alive,'' Kathy told the memorial.
Not surprisingly, the couple became monthly supporters of the work in Africa.
Just weeks after arriving, they were holding crusade meetings in a soccer stadium. The reception was described as 'frosty'.
"Dad preached his heart out to a totally unresponsive crowd.
"Then the Lord spoke to him and drew his attention to a lady in the crowd and gave him a word of knowledge that she had a crippled son who the Lord wanted to heal.
"Dad called the lady out, and then saw her son was tied to her back, so he prayed for the boy and immediately his little bent legs straightened, and he was able to walk for the first time in his life.
"Many others were healed that night and the next night over a 1000 people attended, and by the end of the week 1000s came to the Lord and 12 Churches were planted.''
Keen to ensure new converts were properly looked after, he started teaching seminars to teach African leaders.
Pastor Rowlands was also involved in the major church conferences in Africa and Singapore, including with Derek Prince.
With others, he was also invited to start a Bible College in Zimbabwe. He wrote the curriculum for a one-year course that focused on evangelism, church planting and church growth.
The 43 students in the first year brought 600 people to Christ in three weeks of practical outreach after their first semester.
In recent times, Pastor Rowlands has become a passionate advocate for 'God's chosen people', the nation of Israel.
His love for the country started in 1979, when was invited to speak at an international conference in Jerusalem.
"This trip would be a turning point in Mum and Dad's lives. "Their hearts were totally captivated by the nation of Israel."
"It was one of the happiest and fulfilling times for Mum and Dad. Dad was passionate about Israel's significant role in God's end time redemptive strategy and began to teach internationally on the prophetic significance of Israel today."
Their Sunshine Coast ministry began in 1985, when they invited to the New Life Assembly in Nambour. They pastored here with Bill and Bev Abbenbroek, Darrell and Lola Kerridge, and Richard and Colleen Whittington.
Pastor Rowlands was involved in helping establish a School committee of management with Bruce Campbell as Principal.
"These people accomplished the phenomenal task of building Nambour Christian College into one of the finest schools in Queensland."
Years later the Rowlands were invited to Singapore where they worked in establishing Bible colleges throughout south east Asia.
"By 1991 some 31 schools had been opened and Dad was working daily on writing a training curriculum."
"In Asia Dad was often stopped on the streets because people thought he was Kenny Rogers. Even the owner of the Kenny Rogers' restaurants in Singapore proudly display a huge photo of Dad on the wall and among the Christians there he is still affectionately referred to as Kenny Rogers."
In 1997, the Rowlands felt it was time to return to Australia.
"Dad still travelled extensively in the nations, teaching and working closely with Edwin Marsden, who is the Founder and President of International Christian Mission Malaysia.
"ICM Malaysia has been using Dad's Church Planting modules since 1995 to train thousands of Christian leaders in the ICM branches in nine nations including Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Nepal and Timor. Dad's manuals, Bible
School in a backpack has been translated into 14 languages."
"These trainees have gone on to plant more than 700 churches, and seen thousands of souls saved across Asia and Africa."
In 2002, where they joined the congregation of son-in-law Joel Baker's Flametree church in Nambour. For years, he also had a weekly program on Israel on Christian radio.
"Gerald taught a lot in the church and became a spiritual father here. They were again embraced and loved by the people here."
In 2007, Pastor Rowlands was awarded the Order of Australia in recognition of various humanitarian projects he set up over his lifetime, as well his work in the developing world, and fostering international ecumenical relations.
Despite his exceptionally full life in the ministry, his family spoke of his incredible devotion to them, and others he became a father figure to over the years.
"In all these years Dad's priority was always our Mum, his three daughters, two son-in-laws, six grandchildren and their spouses, and 13 great grandchildren who form a large part of his legacy,'' daughter Ginny Baker said.
"Dad loves his family deeply and always made time for us. He was always filled with laughter and loved spending time with his family. Encouraging them in the Lord and in their lives was what he loved to do most.
"Perhaps his greatest legacy to his family is the unrestrained love he demonstrated to us daily. Love for God, which he proclaimed loudly and regularly. His most well-used exclamation was "Praise the Lord, Bless the Lord".
"He loved his family and never stopped telling us all how much he loved us. He loved life, loved trying new things, meeting new people and hearing their stories and encouraging them in the Lord.
"Words cannot express how blessed we are to have this giant loving man as our husband and father.
"Dad we celebrate you … a mighty man of God, a passionate lover of the Lord and a father to thousands.''
Originally published as Big-hearted Coast 'giant' Gerald Rowlands farewelled