Healing and Revival
"Healing and Obedience"
William (Bill) Washington Freeman was born to William Eli and Mary Mabel Snowden Freeman in White River Township in Stone County, Missouri on July 9, 1915. His father was a farmer who was 9 years older than his mother when they married in 1913. William was 25 and Mary was 17. The children came almost yearly and Willie was the second of seven children. One child, Edna, born in 1919 only lived two years. The family was exceedingly poor and they struggled to get by. In his autobiography Freeman describes a life of extreme poverty growing up.
Freeman's parents were very devout and brought William up to love Jesus passionately. The family attended church regularly and Freeman said that he would often feel the presence of the Lord and would hear God speak to him. Freeman felt marked to preach the gospel from an early age. When he was only eight years old he had a vision of a fireball coming from heaven and the Lord spoke to him in the midst of the fireball. At one point his mother was dying and the church rallied around her to pray. She was instantly healed and Freeman knew he would be called to pray for healing for the rest of his life. Although Freeman only completed High School, he became a Pentecostal evangelist in the 1930s while also working as a farm laborer to support himself. Since the country was in the midst of the Great Depression the early years were extremely hard and Freeman struggled to continue on. He describes seeking the Lord and Jesus spoke to him in a vision saying "If you are willing to pay the price, I have a great work for thee." He wasn't sure what that meant and thought he was possibly called to become a missionary. The price would turn out to be very high.
Sometime after 1935 Freeman moved to California in an attempt to improve his life. He met and married Almyra Rickman in November 1937. They lived with her family for a time and Freeman continued as a laborer, to support his family while preaching the gospel. In the 1940s the family, which now included daughter Rebecca, moved to the town of Porterville, California. The strain of trying to support the ministry took a heavy toll on both he and his wife. In 1946 Freeman's wife had a nervous breakdown while he was on the road in Salem, Oregon. Within a few months Freeman himself was having heart trouble and believed he was dying. He thought he should resign his pastorate and began to seek the Lord. He spent four days fasting and his heart was healed, but the trials seemed to keep on coming. In January 1947 Freeman developed cancer in his leg, which caused pain, suffering, and fevers. Once again he pulled himself away for prayer. He and his wife would pray for hours, take a break to meet with and pray for others, and then return home to pray for hours once again.
In February 1947 there came a major breakthrough for Freeman. At 11 o'clock one evening Freeman had a vision of Jesus standing on a cloud. Jesus showed him a vast congregation of people as far as he could see. People were coming to him for prayer for every kind of illness. In the vision he stood and prayed for healing until he was exhausted, but still the people kept coming. In the vision as he prayed for people they were healed. Then the scene shifted and he saw large auditoriums filled with people. Next it seemed that there were oceans of people with their hands raised saying "you've got to help us." Freeman was filled with compassion for the broken, dying, and the lost. He thought that part of the vision spoke that he would be called to go over the oceans to reach out to the hurting. The final part of the vision showed a clock ticking towards midnight. At the midnight hour a large eagle with dark eyes grabbed people in its claws to take the away. Freeman interpreted this to mean that we were close to the end of the age and the anti-Christ was poised to swoop down upon the world.
Freeman sought the Lord about the healing vision. Two weeks later he once again had a supernatural visitation. He was awake and a bright light appeared in front of him. In the midst of the light an angel appeared. The angel touched him and told him he was being given the gift of healing and that he was to warn people that Jesus was coming soon. He was told that people were sleeping and slumbering and needed to be awakened to the truth. He was told to be diligent and to make haste. When Freeman shared the angelic visitation with his wife she was astounded and not sure about it. Then the angel also appeared to her and confirmed what he had said to Freeman was true. Freeman was torn about leaving his church. He told the Lord he wanted to know that it was the right time. Jesus appeared to him and said that once Freeman moved then the gift of healing would be released.
Freeman left his church and began holding meetings in the Northwest United States, seeing remarkable healings. He began his meetings when William Branham was also just starting his ministry in the mid-west. It's interesting that Freeman's call to healing and Branham's occurred within a few months of each other. Unlike many of the healing evangelists that were inspired by Branham, William Freeman's call to healing was a direct revelation prior to the outbreak of the general healing movement of the late 1940s.
Freeman held many successful, but not large, meetings through 1947 and into 1948. William Branham's ministry exploded onto the Pentecostal landscape in 1947 and the new Voice of Healing (VOH) organization was created around him. Gordon Lindsay heard about Freeman and asked him to join the VOH organization in 1948. Freeman began to receive national coverage and meetings were held in the mid-West and along the West coast. Then in June 1948 Branham dropped a bombshell on the VOH organization. He declared that he was exhausted and would no longer hold meetings. The VOH leadership was in shock because, although the organization was adding healing evangelists, the primary focus had always been on Branham. After Branham stepped down Lindsay turned to Freeman to take over as a primary minister for the organization. The VOH magazine prominently reported on Freeman meetings and he traveled even more extensively. Other evangelists also began to come to the forefront like Oral Roberts. Branham returned to ministering at the end of 1948, and was extensively covered, but the door had been opened for other ministers (like Freeman) to take a more prominent role within the organization.
The end of the 1940s and early 1950s were heady times for healing evangelists. They received national media attention and support from many Pentecostal churches. In 1948 Freeman also worked with Demos Shakarian on the founding of the Full Gospel Businessman's Fellowship. In 1949 he started his own magazine called "The Healing Messenger." Freeman took a large group, including his wife, to Scandanavia in 1950. Like many of the other evangelists under the VOH umbrella, Freeman created his own organization "The Freeman Evangelistic Association" in July 1951. Although he continued to work with the VOH group, he took more control of his own schedule and finances. In 1952 it was said that he had the largest meeting tent of any healing evangelist. In 1952 Freeman also started a radio program that would eventually be carried around the US and a few places overseas. He held "Freeman Healing Campaigns" throughout the United States and the miracles were regularly reported by the VOH Magazine and his own Healing Messenger Magazine. Gordon Lindsay declared that William Freeman's ministry was on the same level as William Branham and Oral Roberts.
There were dark clouds on the horizon, however. The Assembly of God leadership, initially supportive, began to see the healing evangelists as uncontrollable agents with no structural accountability, who took finances from the local churches. They began an organized public opposition to many of the healing ministries. Freeman came under particular attack for the finances he collected in his meetings. The overhead for paying for huge tent sites, setup, repairs, and support was staggering. Freeman was not making anywhere near the money that was being claimed by his critics. The attention that healing evangelists received also began to wane as some had moral failures, developed unusual mannerisms, and television began to cut into the "entertainment factor" of large scale meetings. On top of that Freeman was receiving pressure from his wife to not travel as frequently.
It has been said that William Branham prophesied that the healing movement would be over in 1957. William Freeman must have seen that coming. He could no longer support the expenses of the ministry. In 1956 he canceled an overseas campaign, ended his magazine, closed down his ministry, and returned to being a pastor in the Chicago area. Many other healing evangelists labored on, but only a few lasted beyond the next few years. Most healing ministries went out of business and evangelists looked for secular work or became pastors to support themselves. As Freeman was called into the healing ministry at the beginning of the movement, he was also called out before the end. Freeman pastored for the next several years. He died in 1976.
William W. Freeman had one of the most powerful ministries in the Healing Revival of the 1940s and 50s. He is, however, one of the least known ministers of the movement. His style was not flashy, and his presentation was based on practical exposition of the Word. Although he did have a radio presence, he ended his ministry before others moved into television media. His rise in the Voice of Healing Organization was rapid, but he cut all ties to it as the Healing Revival waned. He was obedient to the call of God on his life and was willing to step back out of the spotlight when the move of God was over.
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