John Graham Lake

March 18, 1870 - September 16, 1935

“Do not imprison Christ in you. Let Him live, let Him manifest Himself, let Him find vent through you.”


        If there was ever a man who walked in the revelation of "God in man," it was John G. Lake.  No one could understand the tremendous hold that the revelation of Jesus as a present day healer took on John’s life, and what it meant to him, unless they understood his environment.   John G Lake had a passionate righteous anger against the spirit of sickness and death.  It was a train of tragic events that took a lot of people John loved and cared about in his life.  With a vigorous pursuit of Jesus and understanding of who he was, John waged war on the devil and won.  With some of the most successful healing centers ever to take place in Spokane Washington, and many miracles to take place in South Africa, John G Lake was one of the greatest faith healers of his time.  It is with the celebration of his faith, devotion to the Lord, and his bravery to wage war on the enemy, we declare John as one of Gods great generals. 

   Lake was born in 1870, in a small village named Avonbank a few miles from the small town of St. Mary’s, Ontario. John was 4th in line of a huge family of 16. His father, James Lake, was an immigrant from Scotland who worked as farmer and his mother Betsy was a homemaker and help mate to her husband. The two had 15 children but only 7 survived infancy. Because of all the issues in his family, John grew to hate the sickness, grief, and death that was so much a part of his family life. By the age of 16 John had graduated High School and moved to Sault Ste Marie in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula due to a booming trade economy. Lake was born in 1870, in a small village named Avonbank a few miles from the small town of St. Mary’s, Ontario. John was 4th in line of a huge family of 16. His father, James Lake, was an immigrant from Scotland who worked as farmer and his mother Betsy was a homemaker and help mate to her husband. The two had 15 children but only 7 survived infancy. Because of all the issues in his family, John grew to hate the sickness, grief, and death that was so much a part of his family life. By the age of 16 John had graduated High School and moved to Sault Ste Marie in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula due to a booming trade economy.

     John came to know the Lord at the age of 16 when he was born-again in a Salvation Army meeting.  As his relationship with the lord started to grow, John felt a strong pull to ministry.  Lake witnessed his first healing ever as he saw young lady healed in a Methodist Church.  Dealing with his own ailment of chronic constipation, John longed to see that kind of power in his life.  Between 1888-1890 John attended a Methodist Episcopal Seminary in Newberry, MI where he started to shape his faith as a faith healer.  After being ordained, he was then offered a post in Pestigo, Wisconsin in 1891.  However, Lake declined to accept the appointment, because by this point he had developed a strong belief in divine healing, and he felt that the Methodist church had abandoned the true precepts of John Wesley. Having declined to enter the ministry at this point, Lake moved to the new industrial suburb Harvey, Illinois on Chicago’s South Side, where he founded Harvey’s first newspaper. He then moved from papers to have a successful career in real estate, and later, becoming a millionaire in life insurance dealings. In 1907 Lake had his first expirence in speaking in tongs, and later that same year he converted to Pentecostalism. He grew in stature with his church, and was later named co-leader. After some rough patches in the church, and threatened violence, Lake and his family left Illinois and went to Indianapolis. Once there, John and company raised $2000 to finance a Pentecostal mission to South Africa and thus the beginning of his ministry.

    Ministry and Impact:     On May 15, 1980 John arrived with his mission party in South Africa. Before he could come ashore, it was necessary for him to place $125 with the immigration department. He had no money, but he stood in the line of people who were making their payments, and believed that even at this late hour that “God would supply his every need”, soon a man walked up, tapped him on the shoulder, and called him out of the line. He handed him a traveler’s cheque for $200 and said, "I feel led to give you this to help your work.” Lake was ecstatic and went into a full blown worship session right there in the port. Upon arrival in Johannesburg another miracle occurred: a lady intercepted the Lake family at the train station, enquired about the number of children, and stated: “The Lord has sent me to meet you, and wants to give you a home". Dr. Lake recalled this prayer answer of rent-free accommodation offered by a lady he had never met before: “That same afternoon we were living in a furnished cottage in the suburbs, the property of our beloved benefactor, Mrs. C. L. Goodenough of Johannesburg who remains to this day our beloved friend and fellow worker in the Lord.”

  John led a large missionary party to Johannesburg where he began to spread the Pentecostal message throughout the nation. While in Africa, lake succeeded in founding two large and influential Pentecostal churches in Southern Africa. The Black branch eventually developed into the "Zion Christian Church" (ZCC) which by 1993 claimed no less than 6,000,000 members and, despite some doctrinal and cultural variations, was recognized as the largest Christian church in the nation. The white branch took the name "Apostolic Faith Mission" (AFM) in 1910, borrowed from the name of the famous mission on Azusa Street. It was at this church, Smith Wigglesworth prophesied the coming worldwide harvest to young David duPlessis. 

   Lake would often greet people as they came into the crusade meetings in South Africa; this posed a problem because the power of God was so great upon him that people would fall under it in the doorway when he shook hands with them. There were times when people who came within six feet of him would fall. To ensure people would not be deceived into thinking he was pushing them, Lake got into the habit of raising his hand about two feet from them. David duPlessis described the healing crusades of Dr. John G. Lake in Africa: "Every morning a parade of dump trucks would come to the Crusade grounds to pick up crutches, wheel chairs, stretchers and other medical instruments literally by the ton load.... this went on morning after morning, week after week for six straight weeks uninterrupted." Lake and his churches had one hundred and twenty-five men out of on the field at one time. They were a very young institution, not well known in the world. One day, certain men in England and America began rumours about Lake. Finances got so low under the awful attack, as people withdrew their support, that they soon could not even mail $10 a month to the workers. Then it got so bad he could not even send them $2. Lake did not want to take the responsibility of having men and their families on the frontier under such conditions. Staff at headquarters sold their clothes, jewelry, pieces of furniture, and in one case their house to bring those one hundred and twenty-five workers off the field for a conference. One night in the progress of the conference, Lake was invited by a committee to leave the room for a minute or two. The conference wanted to have a word by themselves. He stepped out to a restaurant for a cup of coffee and returned soon after.

     When John came back in, he found the chairs arranged in an oval, with a little table at the end, and on the table was the bread and wine. Old Father Van der Wall, speaking for the company, said, "Brother Lake, during your absence, we have come to a conclusion; we have made our decision. We want you to serve the Lord's supper. We are going back to our fields. We are going back if we have to walk back. We are going back if we have to starve. We are going back if our wives die. We are going back if our children die. We are going back if we die ourselves. We have but one request. If we die, we want you to come and bury us." The next year he buried twelve men, sixteen wives and children. Lake sadly recounted, "There was not one of them, if they had had a few of the things a white man needs to eat, but what they might have lived.  “That is the kind of consecration that established Pentecost in South Africa." Over a five year period in South Africa Lake saw 1,000,000 converts, planted hundreds of churches, and raised up over 1000 local ministers. The work of Lake was the most influential and enduring of all the South African Pentecostal missions’ endeavors. According to Cecil Rhodes, "Lake's message swept Africa. He has done more toward South Africa's future peace than any other man." Perhaps the highest accolade was given by no less a personage than Mahatma Ghandi who said of Lake, "Dr. Lake's teachings will eventually be accepted by the entire world."

After his African missionary tour of 1908-1912, Lake returned to the United States where began travelling for about another year in the US. By 1914 he made a Godly decision and opened the ‘Healing Rooms’ in Spokane, WA. There were more than 100,000 medically confirmed healings in the space of only 5 years. This was to be the climax of his life’s work; as a result of his ministry during that time, Spokane came to be known as being ‘America’s healthiest city’, similar to Zion City, where John Alexander Dowie ministered a few years earlier. John G. Lake, despite having a mighty healing ministry was not satisfied with this alone, he noted that many ministries had failed because they were built on one thing: tongues, healings, or power etc. John G. Lake sought to teach people the whole depth of God’s Word and righteous living, i.e. to be like Christ in character, thought, and deed. And that all who are called of God may be freed from the shackles with which Satan binds them with. In May 1920, Dr. Lake moved to Portland, Oregon, to establish a similar work to that of his church in Spokane. Within a few years, this ministry in Portland, was making a similar impact as had the church in the Pacific Northwest. Dr. Lake's ministry was unusual, to say the least. He possessed a remarkable ability to create faith in the hearts of his hearers. Gordon Lindsay was no exception; having followed Dr. Lake's ministry with deep respect and admiration. He one day had need of the great man's faith. He was stricken with a critical case of ptomaine poisoning and hung for days between life and death. Lake offered prayer for Gordon, and although deliverance did not immediately come in a visible manner, he stated with confidence that the Lord had indeed answered the prayer. Mrs. Lake brought Reverend Lindsay some of the type-written sermons her husband had recently given. While reading these, faith suddenly sprang into his heart. Gordon arose from what many had thought was his deathbed, instantly healed. 

      While he was in Portland, Dr. Lake had hopes of raising-up a chain of healing missions on the order of his works in Spokane and Portland. However, though he was not yet advanced in age, he lived with an intensity that had taken its toll. A decline from the strength and vitality that had characterized his earlier ministry became apparent. He seemed unable to match his spiritual vision with the physical strength that was required to bring it to pass. In Houston, Texas, he had some initial success in the founding of a church, but was called away to the side of his eldest son who had suffered a serious accident that almost took his life. He never returned to Houston. For a while, he ministered in churches throughout California and returned to the city of Portland for a time. Afterwards, he returned to Spokane, there he pastored until his death.

  On ‘Labor Day’ 1935, Dr. and Mrs. Lake attended a Sunday school picnic. He came home very tired and after a hot supper, lay down to rest. A guest speaker was at the church that evening, so Mrs. Lake prevailed on him to stay at home and she went to church in his place. When she arrived home, she found that he had a stroke in her absence. He lingered for about two weeks, unconscious most of the time, until September 16, 1935, when he passed away from this life to spend eternity with his master and maker that he loved so much. “I can see as my spirit discerns the future and reaches out to touch the heart of mankind and the desire of God, that there is coming from heaven a new manifestation of the Holy Spirit in power, and that new manifestation will be in sweetness, in love, in tenderness, and in the power of the Spirit, beyond anything your heart or mind ever saw. The very lightning of God will flash through men’s souls. The sons of God will meet the sons of darkness and prevail.”

  Family Life:     John G Lake was married twice and had 12 children between his two wives. John was quoted as saying: “Men in these days consider themselves to be happily married once. I have been especially blessed in that I have been happily married twice." In February 1893, Lake married Jennie Stevens, and the two had six children and adopted another. Jennie died 6 months after being in Africa due to a stroke. In 1913 he married Florence Switzer with whom he had five children. They settled in Spokane, Washington, where they founded the Spokane Healing Home and the Apostolic Church, which drew thousands from around the world for ministry and healing.