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T. OMRI JENKINS 1915-2003

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Category Articles
Date September 29, 2003

 

Omri Jenkins was born on June 16 1915 and died onSeptember 2, 2003. He was born in Llandybie, Carmarthenshire, a small villagein southwest Wales. His parents were converted during the 1904 Revival and hewas named after a respected evangelist. His early years were spent in thePentecostal fellowship which they attended. The Apostolic Church was foundedunder the leadership of ‘Pastor Dan’, Daniel P. Williams, an impressive man,holy, deeply earnest, a person of utter integrity, a serious and authoritativepreacher. There were other men of such calibre amongst that generation,including the father of Dr. Gaius Davies. He was the editor of the ApostolicChurch’s magazine and had one of the most brilliant intellects that Omri Jenkinshad known. Omri could set no date for his conversion: probably as a boy betweenthe ages of 15 and 20 he trusted in Christ, but subsequently he drifted awayfrom the Lord. At the age of 24 he was a patient in Swansea General Hospitaland in the days of physical recuperation following an operation he was restoredspiritually to serious discipleship. Omri could say with David: "Herestoreth my soul." In fact there was a time when he thought that thelatter event had been the period of his conversion, but a later understandingof God’s dealing in grace with men made him modify that judgement.

 

The years after the first World War were uneasyyears for evangelicalism in Wales. There were those men who had been changed bythe 1904 revival, for example, John Evans of Llantrisant had lived through it.The stamp of experiential piety was on him, seen in his spirit of prayer andhis reverence before God. He was the leader of a regular ministers’ fellowshipin Cardiff and Omri could remember him once quoting, as they all kneeled inprayer, the collapse of the revolt of Absalom, and crying, "It is time tobring back the King." Those men could be described as inconsistentCalvinists, not favoured with the books and conferences and examples of FreeGrace preaching which we have had, but they faithfully served God and his wordin their generation according to their light and knowledge. They were also’characters’, and sometimes they descended to playing upon thoselarger-than-life aspects of their personalities. When theology is at a low ebbthen it is mere ‘man’ which, in different ways, is going to rise.

 

Omri had left the Apostolic Mission Hall and hadjoined a Welsh language Baptist church and increasingly, he felt a call topreach the gospel. In the early years of the war Omri was working with hisbrothers managing a garage in Ammanford. He was finding it very hard tocommunicate with his own minister, and eventually prayed that the Lord mightbring the man to his house in Llandybie. Each morning he would leave there at8.30 and set off for the Ammanford garage a few miles away. Then one morning,who should come knocking at the door before he had left for work, but theminister himself on a morning stroll. This appearance of the preacher at thedoor at that hour in answer to prayer was a significant enough providence tothe young Omri for him to feel encouraged that the Lord wouldn’t be displeasedif he sought to enter the ministry. ‘I would not recommend that as a way ofdiscerning the Lord’s hand in guidance’, he would add. An application was sentto a theological college at Carmarthen and a place was offered him there.

 

The Presbyterian College in Carmarthen was theoldest theological college in Wales amongst the Free Churches. Its board waslargely Unitarian. There were about ten Baptist students plus otherCongregationalists and Presbyterians. One professor was a Baptist and the otherthree were Presbyterian lecturers. Each day Omri would set off from his home inLlandybie, where he lived with his wife and two daughters, and catch the bus toCarmarthen. He was the only evangelical Christian in the College. All thelecturers were liberal. He remembers the Baptist Professor of Church Historyspeaking of George Whitefield and saying to his class that he could never understandhow all the greatest evangelists in the church had been Calvinists. Omri couldnot understand that remark but it lodged in his mind.

 

At one of the sermon classes at the College afellow student stole his notes and Omri, without their benefit, had to preachon the text, Matthew 2.11, ‘And when they were come into the house, they sawthe young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him’. Histheme was the divine person of our Lord, and the Unitarian Principal, whom hehad never usually heard make any remark about the theology of a sermon, wasconstrained to respond on that occasion with the words, ‘I do not agree withyour theology, Mr. Jenkins’. There had been another preaching class where aBaptist student preached at interminable length. At its conclusion thePrincipal had muttered with a sigh, ‘You can throw half that sermon away, andit doesn’t matter which half.’

 

With the unchallenged tide of modernism sweepinginto Wales in the first half of the 20th century true Christianity was waningrapidly. The social gospel prevailed, and it was killing vital Christianity inthe Principality so that by our own day two or three churches are closing eachweek. In 1946 Omri Jenkins left the Carmarthen College with no regrets. TheCollege is long-since closed, as are most of the denominational seminaries inWales, but its building has had a fascinating history. It was subsequentlybought by the Carmarthen Evangelical Church where it thrives today under theministry of Dafydd Morris. Omri had the joy of going back to preach at theopening services. The gospel is now preached where Unitarianism ruled. Omriproceeded to a Baptist church in Barry, South Wales. It was surprising that hehad retained any evangelical convictions sitting under those influences, but infact he had made steady progress during those years, rejecting the ScofieldBible’s dispensationalism and becoming convinced of the eternal security of thebeliever. He had been kept by two factors, divine and human. On the one hand hehad been regenerated by the Spirit of God, and so was being taught by God. Onthe other, he lost no opportunity of hearing Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones preach onhis regular sorties into Wales. At the garage which he and his brothers managedthere were regular tanker deliveries of petrol. Although petrol was severelyrationed during the war years, and in their aftermath, the brothers themselvesnever went without enough petrol for their own use because in each delivery 20gallons were allowed the proprietor ‘for evaporation’. Omri used his allocationto hear Dr Lloyd-Jones. Those mighty sermons such as ‘The Signs of the Times’,’Thou fool’, ‘And they laughed him to scorn, knowing she was dead’, and ‘Thiskind only cometh by prayer and fasting’, were all a means of strengthening hisgospel convictions.

 

Omri was part of a new generation of leaders whoall had to pass through liberal seminaries and yet were not persuaded by thosehigher critical attitudes to Scripture, and the fashionable neo-orthodox theorythat they were taught. They were also sceptical about the World Council ofChurches, then at its zenith of influence, and they began to preach God’s freegrace from their pulpits. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones was instrumental in teachingthese men and providing a role-model for their ministries. Omri Jenkins stillremembers Lloyd-Jones’ first visit to Llandeilo in the early 1930’s. While Omriwas playing football in the park he spotted two local ministers walking awayfrom an afternoon church meeting with a man of a more diminutive staturewalking between them. Little did he think what an influence that man was tohave over him and the whole of Wales in the next half a century, as Lloyd-Jonesitinerated preaching the great doctrines of the faith with such clarity.

 

During his six years in Barry his gifts as apreacher developed. He became a notable evangelist. He saw, for example, atouch of the blessing of God in meetings with the Rev. I. B. Davies in thePresbyterian Mission in Neath. In an evangelistic week-end at Bangor Universitystudents professed faith who are going on today with Jesus Christ. There weremany such occasions. In Barry Mr. Jenkins began his long friendship with thelate Rev Paul Tucker, and co-operated in evangelism with him in the PrincessStreet Mission. The first time I heard him was at the annual Barry Conventionin 1958. There for many years Paul Tucker and Omri Jenkins would both preach atthe same evening service. A hymn would be sung between the sermons, and theywould take it in turns to preach first over three nights. They were remarkableevenings, hearing two such interesting and very different ministers.

 

To Princess Street Mission came the Rev JamesStewart who told Omri of the needs of the gospel in Europe, and subsequentlyinvited him to become the British Home Director of the European EvangelisticCrusade. This was an international society with branches in Holland,Switzerland and the U.S.A. The American branch was larger than all the others,with 80 missionaries and still growing, while the British branch had only threemissionaries at that time and an annual income of less than £3,000. There wasan office in Victoria Street, London and a small Mission Home in St. Leonards,Sussex, which was in the process of being sold. This meant that no accommodationwas available for the Jenkins’ family. Two early developments confirmed thathis acceptance of this invitation was of God. Two weeks after he commenced withE.E.C. a lady walked into the office to offer free and adequate accommodationfor a family. At that time they were still in Barry and the lady had knownnothing of the need. Then, within three months, a vehicle (a gospel van) wasoffered and accepted for the work in Lapland. Putting this to use required someof the knowledge and experience which he had gained in the Ammanford garage.

 

The Jenkins family moved to the home offered tothem in West Norwood and they were drawn to Westminster Chapel where theybecame members. At this time, which was in the years following 1952, DrLloyd-Jones had ceased holding discussions on Friday nights and had begun thatseries of messages on Christian doctrine. They have now been published in threepaper backs or recently in one fat American volume. It was while listening tothese that Omri Jenkins was brought to understand the whole counsel of God.There was the closest bond between Dr Lloyd-Jones and Omri of trust andaffection. He understood the Doctor and was convinced of his stand on thetheological and ecclesiastical issues of the day.

 

Omri traveled like no other minister in the UK upand down the British Isles speaking of the work of the EMF, going to smallmid-week meetings and encouraging those groups with news of the growth andspread of churches across Europe. He was also a welcome visitor to many continentalchurches, preaching through interpreters, a beloved and inspirational figure.Under his leadership new national workers became supported and the budget ofthe Mission vastly increased; its needs were always met.  The American workers and the British driftedapart a little, some of this was painful, but an independent British workrenamed the European Missionary Fellowship began in 1958.

 

Omri sought to influence the men of the E.M.F.theologically. He had seen the way that Dr Lloyd-Jones had taught him and hadled Westminster Chapel into the doctrines of grace, and he proceeded with thesame gentle and sure approach. He sent books by Smeaton, Pink, Lloyd-Jones andthe Murrays to all the missionaries each Christmas. The teaching was reflectedin the warm preaching heard in the E.M.F. annual conferences, and many Europeanpreachers matured under these truths. "I did what I saw Dr Lloyd-Jonesdo," said Mr.. Jenkins, So that by today the whole executive committee andthe mission staff with few exceptions are assured of that biblical truth whichmust control our thinking, evangelism, worship and the whole of our living. Inhis last editorial in the Vision of Europe Mr. Jenkins could write of his ‘joyof fellowship with an exceptional body of men and women, Committee members,fellow workers, etc. who above all are committed to the infallible Word of God,to reformed Christianity and to the gospel which is the power of God untosalvation to everyone who believes.’ After 33 years leading the EuropeanMissionary Fellowship the Rev Omri Jenkins stepped down from that work on thelast day of August 1985.

 

His last years were spent in writing a history ofthe European Missionary Fellowship, entitled "Five Minutes toMidnight" (Evangelical Press), and for ten years he chaired the editorialboard of the Evangelical Times. He preached continually, attended the BalaMinisters’ Conference and the Aberystwyth Conference until he had no morestrength. His hopes were focused on those churches where the Word of God wasfaithfully ministered, as he said – "not dry Calvinism, God save us fromthat! Where the Bible is preached with real liberty there is fruit. The end isnot yet." At Huw Morgan’s funeral service in Malpas Road EvangelicalChurch in Newport over ten years ago, the Welsh ministers were asked to sitbehind the pulpit in the tiers of seats that rise up to the organ. There musthave been 80 of us sitting there. It was a wonderful sight for Omri to see thepreachers that God has raised up in the Principality in the last forty years.

 

Omri Jenkins once wrote the following,"Consider how Paul reminded the Ephesian elders at Miletus how he hadtaught ‘publicly and from house to house… repentance toward God and faithtoward our Lord Jesus Christ’. He was therefore ‘pure [or free] from the bloodof all men’.

 

"This surely is evangelism in its full andreal sense: a persevering effort to make the truth of Christ known andunderstood through preaching in all its forms, continuing personal contact andprayer, the evangelist thereby becoming ‘all things to all men that he may byall means save some’. If God is pleased to work exceptionally in the salvationof some sinners, using a brief contact, (one radio message, one tract, etc.),that is his sovereign prerogative and we praise him that he often does this.The responsibility of Christians is none the less plain: they are to proclaim,teach and pray wherever God places them as missionaries, pastors and churchmembers, and to exemplify the message they preach and testify in their ownlives. It is this pattern of evangelism and its goal of church-planting whichE.M.F. is committed to pursue, not as yet with the same revival blessing whichJames Stewart knew in prewar eastern Europe, but in a day of small things whichis not entirely without souls being saved or churches being established andbuilt up in widely scattered parts of the barren continent.

 

"An old Welsh revival hymn speaks of the Manat Jacob’s well having traversed through Samaria, and it says, ‘Let himtraverse among us now!’ Let the business of churches, missions and all worthyevangelism be to take Christ to lost sinners, and may grace and power be givento do this aright, for nothing else is going to meet the need of Europe and theworld."

 

Omri Jenkins was a righteous man and enormouslyaffectionate. He loved his family, blessing God for his sons-in-law. What agrief was the death of Yolande, one of his dear daughters, five months ago. Hisown end was peaceful. Nursed by his family, encouraged by daily readings fromSpurgeon and Tozer, he looked with anticipation to heaven.

 

A minister friend once had cause to reprove hiswife when she said to him about Omri, ‘I knew he was a Christian the moment Isaw him’. It was highly dangerous, he pointed out, to make instant judgmentsabout the spiritual state of persons by the look on their faces. True, but onemust add that there was a visage of light and love in this servant of God whichcommanded a response of the deepest affection. It was a benediction to see himacross a room. There was not another man of his generation who had the love ofthe Christians in Wales and further afield as our dear friend and brother OmriJenkins.

 

The funeral service was held on September 9th,2003, at Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church, Kent. The hymns sung were ‘Immortalhonours rest on Jesus’ head,’ ‘Behold the Mountain of the Lord in latter daysshall rise,’ ‘Mighty Christ from time eternal,’ and ‘Glory, glory everlastingbe to him who bore the cross!’ Daniel Webber, the present director of the EuropeanMissionary Fellowship, gave a marvelous tribute to Mr. Jenkins, and I preachedon Psalm 37:37, "Mark the perfect man and behold the upright: for the endof that man is peace."

 

GEOFF THOMAS

 

 

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