The following account is based on reports filed by correspondents Peter Geiger (Akron, Ohio) and Nell Kennedy (Tokyo):

Evangelist Rex Humbard has a vision. He says it came to him in the wee hours upon his return from preaching in the Orient in March. In the vision, he said, God told him he had completed twenty-five years of preaching the Gospel on television and could finish the job of reaching the whole word with the message of salvation “this year.”

An impossible task?

“All you need is another translator and another transmitter and God’s people to help, and all nations will hear God’s message of salvation, because the door is open now,” Humbard quotes God as saying.

This month, which marks the silver anniversary of his ministry on television, the 57-year-old evangelist plans to share his vision with his congregation at the Cathedral of Tomorrow in Akron—and with his TV audience. He intends to ask each listener for a gift of $25 ($1 for each year he’s been on television) to enable him to broadcast the Gospel “over every country in the world before the end of the year.”

Humbard’s services, videotaped from auditoriums and stadiums around North America and in foreign lands, are telecast over 543 TV stations to an estimated audience of 20 million or more. The programs are seen in fourteen foreign countries and protectorates, and they are aired by shortwave radio to many other parts of the world. Contributors send in $1.2 million a month to keep him going.

Despite increasing nationalism worldwide and the uneasiness overseas about American influence on TV, Humbard seems to have won acceptance in many circles abroad.

At the beginning of a rally the evangelist conducted in Ottawa on the night before Palm Sunday, two Canadian maple-leaf flags were lowered into view above the platform, and the Humbard family with the help of teleprompters led the crowd of 3,500 in the singing of the Canadian national anthem. Later in the service the TV minister injected the reminder that all funds donated in Canada stay in Canada to buy TV time there and to run the Humbard offices in Toronto and Montreal. Next day, in a news story headlined “Opus Rex,” the Ottawa Journal pronounced approvingly that the service was “Canadian throughout.”

In Manila, Roman Catholic cardinal Jamie L. Sin reportedly told an international prayer-breakfast gathering, “I am praying for Rex. If the apostle Paul were alive today, he’d be using TV and radio as Rex does.”

Humbard says he’s won the recent blessing of the government of Brazil, which controls that nation’s broadcasting outlets. He has been invited to put his programs on the country’s six main stations and scores of repeaters, and he has already dispatched his TV time-buyer, Judson Ott Jackson, to line up the broadcast schedule.

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The evangelist believes his is a pioneering effort. “There are plenty of religious shows on American TV,” he says. “Too many, in fact. But ours is the only one on in Tokyo. People over there are hungry for the Gospel, and we’re the only ones allowed to broadcast it.” (Evangelist Billy Graham has a weekly telecast throughout Japan three months of the year, but Humbard’s is the only ongoing one.)

He attributes his show’s acceptance partly to its technical and artistic excellence. His standards are maintained by means of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of TV recording equipment, 252 full-time employees doing technical and clerical work, and the use of interpreters whose words are carefully synchronized with Humbard’s lips on the screen.

When the Humbard show airs in Tokyo, for example, only a careful viewer can tell that the evangelist isn’t speaking Japanese. The same is true for French shows broadcast in Quebec, Portuguese in Brazil, and Spanish in Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

TV director Bob Anderson says the tapes of the shows are tailored to the countries in which they are aired. Announcements about where to send prayer requests and donations must be inserted accordingly. Written transcripts of Humbard’s sermons are sent to translators and interpreters who record the foreign-language sound tracks while watching Humbard preach on tape. Each sound track is returned to the studios in Akron to be matched to the master tape of the show and then sent back to the foreign country for airing. In this way, says Anderson, the people in Akron can maintain quality control—and remain in the good graces of the governments involved.

On trips, the Humbards usually take their entire family along: their daughter and two sons, the sons’ spouses, and the five grandchildren. “When those people and little kids, fourteen strong, come out on the platform,” explains Humbard, “it says to the people throughout the world that there’s hope for the family.”

The Humbard task is carried out with the use of a $1 million four-engine Lockheed Electra prop-jet, complete with two bedrooms, leased from a Washington, D.C., dealer, four tractor-trailer rigs stuffed with TV equipment, a portable stage and set, and wardrobes for the Humbard troupe.

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The trailers are sent in advance, whether overland or abroad. “In most cities of the world they don’t have the facilities to do the production we require,” Anderson explains.

At Christmas the Humbards were in Israel where the evangelist rented three Comsat satellites for $800,000 to broadcast a religious program for simultaneous, worldwide reception, said to be a first in religious television programming.

The family spent February in Florida, where the Humbards own a $100,000 condominium. Maude Aimee, the evangelist’s wife who is one of the show’s main singers, spent part of the time in a Ft. Lauderdale hospital’s cardiac-care unit for an unspecified ailment. Humbard blamed their exhausting schedule.

In March the Humbards flew to Tokyo where their rally in a sports arena was described as the largest Christian gathering since the Billy Graham crusade ten years earlier (when 14,000 attended). Of the 11,000 at the Humbard rally, 4,000 responded to the evangelist’s invitation to come forward for prayer. The Tokyo rally will be aired this month in the U.S.

Humbard first landed on TV in Tokyo in 1974 on an English-language cable station servicing hotels. The following year he began airing programs in Japanese. Since late 1975 Humbard’s show has been on Channel 12, a major Tokyo station, on Saturday mornings. Last December he expanded to Osaka. The current ratings indicate his show is watched by more than four million persons, and an average of 1,500 letters arrive weekly at the Humbard office in Tokyo.

Local pastors and others offer plenty of criticism of Humbard and his methods. They object to his description of himself as the people’s TV “pastor.” “This terminology suggests that it is all right to stay home from church, using the program as a substitute,” remarked a Japanese pastor. “He can’t baptize them or conduct their weddings and preach their funerals, and he can’t answer the phone call of a would-be suicide who needs help.”

Others feel he features his family too much, and they wonder why the choir of the Akron church, for example, is not seen and heard more. (Maude Aimee and the children are paid for their TV work.)

But those who criticize his methods often are the first to applaud his message and his devotion to the Bible as the infallible Word of God.

Humbard’s Tokyo office is manned by clergyman John Sakurai, 37, and an eight-member staff. They send out more than 14,000 copies a month of the Humbard magazine The Answer. The budget for the Japanese operation is $28,000 a month. Viewer response to appeals is never consistent. The Japanese are unaccustomed to writing checks, and most banks in Japan have no check-writing system. To send money through the mail requires a special Post Office coupon or a special registered envelope for sending cash. Even so, viewers last December sent in $18,000, the record so far. The Humbard organization has twice contributed to homes for handicapped children in Tokyo, says Sakurai.

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In Toyohashi, 200 miles from Tokyo where the program is out of receiving range, Kiyoko Suzuki bought a videotape player, and through a special arrangement with the Tokyo office she plays the telecast each week at her home. Her daughter-in-law started a shuttle service in her car, picking up twenty to thirty people a week. The Suzuki family put up a large billboard advertising the video services in front of the dress shop they manage. They schedule viewings on Mondays and Fridays, and they frequently squeeze in others on request. The group chartered a bus to attend the Tokyo rally.

Although the singing comes through in English on TV, the Japanese words appear superimposed on the screen. Sakurai’s wife Rieko translates the message with a special concern for lip synchronization. The reading is done by Yasuo Hisamatsu, a professional actor and former chairman of Japan Actor’s Association. Hisamatsu was raised in a Salvation

Army home but turned away from the faith for a time. He now believes God directed him into a theatrical career in order to prepare him for the Humbard translation task. His wife made a decision at the Tokyo rally to become a Christian.

The electronic marvels that make it possible to put Hisamatsu’s words into Humbard’s mouth are beyond the comprehension of some. At the Tokyo rally a pastor’s second-grade son, upon hearing Humbard in person, said: “Hey, what is this? That guy speaks Japanese every week on TV—why is he talking in English today?”

After Tokyo, the Humbards and their team (about fifteen besides the family members, including two tutors for the younger children) traveled to Manila and Hawaii for rallies. Next month they are scheduled to go to Australia.

Because he now preaches less than half the time at the Akron cathedral, the evangelist has appointed associate pastor Ron Hembree to handle the home-church chores. (Hembree has also been one of Humbard’s main writers). Loyal members nevertheless say the spirit is stronger than ever at the cathedral.

The Humbard family has set up a for-profit corporation, known as New Day Press, separate from the church, to handle book and record sales and distributions and to arrange Holy Land tours for Humbard’s followers. Humbard says he’s been recording for Columbia and RCA for thirty-seven years, and that the royalties from his records and books have always come to him personally. But, he adds, he always gives a tenth or more of this income to the cathedral. “Last year we gave $13,000,” he said.

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The evangelist declines to discuss his salary from the cathedral and television ministry, but he told a Toronto reporter: “I’m the most underpaid man that you’ll ever look at. I’m in the television industry and feeding 543 television stations and over 1,000 satellite stations throughout the world. And yet men that are producing an hour’s program in North America are paid more in one hour than I am paid in years.”

Four years ago it didn’t look as though the Humbard organization would survive. State and federal securities officials had halted sales of the cathedral’s unregistered bonds (more than $12 million worth), the church was stuck with a lot of commercial property and a multi-million-dollar college campus it could not pay for, and bankruptcy seemed certain. It was a difficult struggle but Humbard managed to raise the millions needed to repay the holders of the notes and bonds. In the end he apologized to his people for getting involved in commercial ventures and “not following the call of God, which was for me to preach the Gospel.”

Now, says the evangelist, “God has blessed our faithfulness to his calling. He gave me a vision twenty-five years ago that the world could be won by television—back before there was even the technology to do it. This year, with the faithfulness of God’s people behind us, I believe we’re going to do it.”

A Plane Is Down

Interim pastor Paul Jackson and three others were praying at New Hope Baptist Church near Dallas, Georgia, on the stormy afternoon of April 4 when a loud roar overhead and crashing noises sent them scurrying for the basement. They thought it was a tornado. Instead, it was a crippled Southern Airways DC-9 that had clipped a telephone pole some fifty paces from the church and had crashed farther up the road. Jackson and the others ran through the rain to aid the victims.

All through the night and around the clock for the next three days, pastors and members of churches in the Dallas area pitched in to help. They comforted survivors at local hospitals, ministered to the families of victims (most of the plane’s eighty-two passengers were killed, along with four adults and four children on the ground) fed and looked after rescue workers, newspeople, police, and crash investigators.

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Funeral services for seven of those killed on the ground were held at New Hope. Among them were New Hope member Faye Griffin and her six-month-old son. They were in a car with two of Mrs. Griffin’s sisters-in-law and their three children, two of them infants. Their car, outside a service station and grocery store, was crushed by the plane and then consumed by exploding gas tanks of the service station. Nearby, a 71-year-old woman was killed in her front yard.

All the adults were members of Baptist churches in the area.

The End of Life

During his Easter morning sermon, Pastor Frank Gunn of First Baptist Church in Biloxi, Mississippi, commented to his congregation that no one knows how much time he has left, and he asked each one to think what he would do if he had only three minutes to live.

Suddenly there was a scuffle at a side door and a shot rang out. Many worshipers reportedly thought at first that it was dramatization of the pastor’s sermon. But the gun and the intruder were for real (usher Quentin Hengen was uninjured in the scuffle).

The gunman, Ford Dawson, 52, a retired Air Force major from nearby Gulfport, stepped up to the pulpit, leading his nine-year-old son’s dog by a leash. He told the congregation and choir not to be afraid. Witnesses say he talked about having to pay a price for wrongdoing. He shot the dog and then put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger. He died later in a hospital. (The dog was expected to recover.)

The service was being televised live over WLOX-TV, and a technician called police, who arrived about the time that Dawson shot himself. Just before the fatal shot, the telecast went off the air, but no one seems to know how it happened.

Dawson had a history of emotional problems, said police.

Earlier, in a lawyer’s office in Spokane, Washington, minister Donald Wineinger of the Worldwide Church of God shot his wife to death and then turned the gun on himself. Mrs. Wineinger was seeking a divorce, according to a letter circulated by the national church body. The couple had four children.

Last month cult leader Oric Bovar, 59, leaped to his death from his tenth-floor apartment in New York City. He and five of his followers were awaiting trial for failing to report a death. Police discovered them in an apartment last December trying to resurrect a young member who had died of cancer. They had been praying over his body for two months. Bovar emphasized psychic experiences, and his disciples (hundreds in the New York and Los Angeles entertainment communities) had to adhere to a strict code of self-discipline.

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