by Adrian Brookes
Gordon Gibbs’ delight in God is obvious. ‘Miracles, outstanding miracles!’ he declares. ‘One man was crippled with arthritis, all the lining was off his stomach, and he’d been 12 times in psychiatric institutions. The doctors had treated him with very severe radio therapy, and said he would never be able to father another child. I prayed for him and had words of knowledge on arthritis, a mental condition and a severe stomach condition
‘The next morning at eight o’clock he rang me up. He said, "I’ve been wanting to ring you from 2 am, pastor. I’m completely healed " And within a month his wife was pregnant and they had twins.’
In the twinkling of an eye he’s in the USA and into the next miracle. ‘ The day before I got to Virginia Beach she had a stroke, suffering a terrible lot of pain, in intensive care They brought her to the meetingbrain damage, stroke, twisted, two sticks, hobbling along. She came out to the front for prayer. The power of God hit her, and she went down on the floor A few minutes later we heard all this cheering and clapping, and there she was with the sticks above her head, walking up and down, completely and totally healed.’
In a quieter moment he puts his 50-year ministry firmly into perspective. ‘You know, you’d like to turn it on every time, but you can’t, because it’s God. Only God can heal. I’ve never healed anybody, and I tell the congregation, if you come looking to me you’ll be sadly disappointed. Come looking to God. All I do is lay hands on the sick in the name of Jesushe’s the healer.’
Wheat Belt Boy
Gordon, 77, was born in Perth and brought up in Dowerin, a wheat belt town some 115 miles north-east of the capital. ‘We went to the Methodist church,’ he says. ‘That’s where I learned to love God, and we were taught Christianity as it is in the Bible.
‘It was a wonderful life for a boy. My dad was a great bushman, and we’d go out shooting kangaroos and ducks and foxes and rabbits. We’d have rabbit Thai, and sometimes we’d have parrot Thai. And God was wonderfully good, wonderfully good ’
He admits, however, that he drifted away from God for a while in his mid-teens’but only through other interests. I tried to stick to my Christian principles, but there was a lot of activity for young people, and I moved from Dowerin to Perth and studied meteorology. I got very busy in that area.’
At 18 he met Connie Poptie, a committed Christian, and she turned his thoughts back to God. ‘I thought,’ he grins, ‘if I’m going to get this girl I’ll have to go to church. So I went to church with her.’
Peace in War
A year later they married. By then Australia was at war, and Gordon’s skills as a meteorologist were needed in the forces. ‘I spent eight years in the air force, though I was seconded to the Australian Seventh Army Division,’ he says. ‘Our job was to go in with the second wave of infantry, set up our instruments and then prepare weather information for the army, navy and air force.’
He spent much of the war in New Guinea and Borneo. ‘I had quite an experience going in at Balikpapan in Borneo ’ he begins, then pauses to paint the background of the tale. ‘When I was 12 my little sister of six died, and she was buried in a cemetery that was all yellow sand. After her funeral I used to have nightmares that I was clawing through yellow sand trying to reach her I developed a terrible fear of dyingI was petrified of dying.
‘So we were going in on the landing ship at Balikpapan. There were shells exploding all over the place. The infantry were landing, and our ship was the only one to strike a sandbank. The nose flew open into 14 feet of water. Of course, we couldn’t get off, and as the sun came up the Japs were throwing everything at us. I knew that not far below the surface was this terrible fear of dying.
‘The fear started to take hold of me, and in my heart I said, God, help me! And a voice, as clearly as your voice speaking to me now, said, "Fear not, I am with you." An incredible peace came over me I looked around and couldn’t believe where I was. The fear had completely left me, and I was completely changed on the inside from that moment. I have never had that fear from that day to this. That was one of my great experiences that established my faith in God.’
Though raised in Western Australia, Gordon is closely identified with Sydney. He tells of the continent-wide odyssey that led him there. ‘God led me a lot in dreams and visions,’ he says. ‘In one dream, God said to me that I was to go on a coastal ship as far as it went, not knowing where I was going.’
It was 1953. Connie was settled in Perth, and did not want to move. ‘I said to God, "If this is really you, you’d better tell Connie " Anyway, she had exactly the same dream. She woke me up at two o’clock in the morning. She told me what it was, and it was exactly the same dream I’d had.’
By that stage they had three children. They boarded the coastal vessel Kanimbla, on which were joined by Gordon’s brother-in-law with his wife and three children. Arriving in Melbourne, each family bought a car. ‘We didn’t know where we were going to settle,’ says Gordon, ‘so we went to Canberra and Sydney and up to Brisbane. All the time we were praying and looking to God.
‘I wouldn’t recommend anybody else to do this, but I used to pray and open the Bible at random, and the first Scripture the finger landed on was the word from God. We were in the Gold Coast, and it was beautiful weather, and I thought, surely God wants us to stay here. Anyway, I opened the Bible, and the Scripture said, "This place has been an abomination unto the Lord since its inception," so I thought I’d better not stay there. We prayed about Melbourne, and I got a Scripture that said a fellow went to this particular city and died, so I thought I’d better not go there, either.
‘Anyway, we ended up in Sydney, and that was one city we were not going to settle in because it was too wicked. But it was quite obvious to us when we got into Sydney I bought a business there, and we manufactured caravans for 20 years.’
Gordon is best known as the pastor of the Penrith Christian Fellowship Centre, which he founded in 1973. Previously, however, he also planted churches in Merrylands, Penrith, Enfield, Blacktown and Liverpool, and initiated another in Windsor. For 42 years he did not draw a salary from any of them, but used the caravan business to support his ministry.
Power of the Spirit
At the time of moving to Sydney, Gordon did not believe in Pentecostal Christianity. ‘My baptism in the Holy Spirit was a remarkable experience,’ he says. ‘I was very dry, I was distressed because I felt my ministry was not going as it ought to be going. I didn’t have the power I needed. I’d had a dream in 1950 saying that in 1964after two weeks of yearsI’d receive the power. By the time I got to May 1964 I was depressed, really down. I felt I’d let God down.
‘I went to see a dear old lady, and I told her how I felt, and she said, "Come on, pastor, let’s pray." And as she prayed the Holy Spirit came on me. I began to speak in tongues. Now, I didn’t believe in it, so I stopped. She looked very strangely at me, and I excused myself. I got out and went and sat in my car. I said, God, what are you doing to me?’
For 12 months he suppressed the manifestations of the Spirit until, in a prayer meeting at the church, the power of God hit him again. ‘They didn’t know anything about speaking in tongues,’ he says. ‘I’d taught all my church people, "Don’t get mixed up with those Pentecostals, those holy rollers." Anyway, the power of God came on me I roared like a bull. It was an incredible experience.’
After a while he found he could control the tongues, and realised he was praying for a lady who had gone to the meeting to pray for her three children, each with severe problems. ‘I didn’t know what I was praying,’ Gordon says, ‘but I knew I was praying for her, and the power of God was absolutely flowing through me. Then, after seven or eight minutes a great joy came into me, and I knew that what I had to pray about was complete.
‘The next day that lady rang me. She said, "Pastor, I’ve never heard such beautiful language. We’ve had three miracles. While we were praying last night our eldest son’s disease left himthough he’s been ill for a long time, he’s completely recovered. Our eldest daughter has quietened down in the psychiatric centre and we’re to take her out tonight. Our youngest daughter has rung her husband, and he’s coming back to the family home tonight.
‘That was my introduction to Pentecost.’
Source of Strength
Gordon stayed at the Penrith Christian Fellowship Centre for 22 years; then God told him in a dream to amalgamate with the Mount Zion Christian Church, pastored by Jack Hanes. The two churches became the Penrith Christian Life Centre, with Jack Hanes taking over as senior pastor.
This move released Gordon to extend his work further afield. He now regularly preaches overseas, as well as throughout Australia. ‘In the last few years,’ he says, ‘I’ve been many times to America, to India, Indonesia, Siberia, Singapore, China three times, Hong Kong, Africa, Europe. I’m travelling all the time.’
He pays tribute to Connie’s support, which he describes as ‘a hundred and one percentabsolutely fantastic,’ though the pace he sets as a septuagenarian would wear down many younger people. Last year in Perth, he says, he was prophesying until 2.15 in the morning, and in Adelaide until 3.30. This in itself is a testimony to his source of strength in ministry.
‘God has just been so good to me,’ he says, ‘so incredibly good. I never really get worn out or anything like that. I sleep well, but I don’t sleep long. God has just been so good. I’m 77 now and looking forward to another 20 years of ministry by the grace of God I don’t feel a day over 35.’
Sadly, however, another 20 years were not to be. Gordon Gibbs went to be with the Lord a few years ago, a few years after this article was published. He is missed by many. I was there at his funeral. Even in his funeral he arranged for giving to an Indian orphanage he was involved in supporting. His funeral itself inspired people in my extended family to serve the Lord. – Michael