Samuel Howells (1912-2004) was the Director of the Bible College of Wales in Swansea from 1950 to 2004 and Emmanuel School from 1950 to 1994. He was a shy and unassuming man, yet his Christian faith, and the faith of those who worked in the Swansea base on Derwen Fawr Road, encouraged many around the world.
Samuel was born in Brynaman, Wales, in 1912; Welsh was his first language and he lived through the tumultuous events of the twentieth century. He was only six years old when the First World War came to a close; later he left the close-knit religious communities of South Wales to study at Oxford University, gaining an M.A. After graduation in 1936, he joined the staff at the Bible College of Wales, which his father Rees Howells founded in 1924. He remained a resident of Swansea for the next sixty-eight years, until his death in 2004.
Samuel Howells witnessed firsthand how the great events of the twentieth century impacted Swansea and South Wales. He saw the devastating impact of the Great Depression and the austerity of those years affected him throughout his life. He lived through the Swansea blitz of World War II and vividly recalled walking through the city after a heavy bombing raid that flattened parts of the city; he also remembered watching Nazi planes flying overhead as they bombed South Wales. With pastoral duties in Wales in the daytime, he spent the nights on fire-duty on the veranda of the Bible College’s Derwen Fawr House, which was built in 1807 and from which he had views facing Swansea Bay.
In 1939, Samuel and his father Rees Howells developed a friendship with the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, when he visited the Bible College’s Penllergaer Estate for two weeks. They stayed in contact for many years and after returning home from exile, the Emperor sent several young Ethiopian men to train at the College’s Emmanuel School, based at the Glynderwen Estate, in Swansea. One of them later became a governor of a large province of Ethiopia. Samuel was the director of Emmanuel School from 1950, which served the local community in South Wales from 1935 to 1994.
Keen to expand educational facilities overseas, in 1951, Samuel took an extensive tour of the Middle East. His visit led to Samuel’s team founding in 1954 the Home and School for Girls in Ramallah, which was run by former Bible College students and still provide an excellent education in the region.
In the post war years, Samuel witnessed the ‘Iron Curtain’ as it descended in Europe, dividing the Continent and he became increasingly aware of the need to direct practical support and prayer towards people suffering in Communist nations.
Samuel believed religious freedom was a fundamental right for all people and supported agencies which provided Bibles for Christians in Communist nations, who were severely persecuted for their faith. He was always kept up-to-date on Christians suffering in prisons in Soviet nations and in 1962 travelled into nations under Soviet influence to encourage Christian leaders that their plight was not forgotten in the West.
Samuel was in Bulgaria in 1962, when the leader of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev gave a speech stating: “Now it is the atomic age…whoever has atomic energy, whoever has missiles, they have power.” A few months later, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world close to the abyss.
In 1966, Samuel’s dedication to the cause of religious liberty led to him receiving an invitation to join 1,200 carefully selected Christian leaders to discuss the future of Christianity, in a conference with Billy Graham. During the conference, hosted in a divided Berlin, Samuel was able to cross through Check-Point Charlie and to encourage Christians in East Germany that one-day liberty would come.
Samuel was very passionate about supporting missionary endeavour all over the world and sensed China would become a powerhouse of Christian faith. Former students were sent out to work in China and Samuel supported Bible distribution for Chinese Christians. Today there are up to 80 million Christians in the nation.
For over sixty years under Samuel’s leadership, many young people were given theological and missionary training at the Bible College based at the Derwen Fawr Estate in Sketty, Swansea and one former student, Reinhard Bonnke personally preached to 120 million people since leaving the College. Back in 1959, when he was a student, Reinhard was inspired by Samuel’s faith as he recorded in his biography that he prayed, “Lord, I also want to be a man of faith.”
Samuel went to be with the Lord in 2004, and to celebrate his life, the 358 page book Samuel, Son and Successor of Rees Howells by Richard Maton (which includes more than 110 black and white photos), was published and is available here.
Samuel’s life of faith was so outstanding that he has been given the honour of having two books published about his life. Also available is the book Samuel Rees Howells: A Life of Intercession by Richard Maton, which documents Samuel’s prayer life.