Pentecostal Pioneers: Charles Clifford Deckard

Pentecostal Pioneers: Charles Clifford Deckard
By Audrey E Deckard

“Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6).

“Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number” (Jeremiah 2:32).

These two texts represent sermons that span forty five years in the ministry of Charles Clifford Deckard, better known as C. C. Deckard.

On June 5, 1931, my mother and I attended a Holy Ghost revival in a small storefront building pastored by Lena Spillman. The presence of the Lord in songs and testimonies filled the place as Sister Spillman introduced “our young fiery evangelist.”

As he approached the podium, I suddenly knew he was for me. I whispered to my mother, “That’s the one I want for my husband.”

Quiet! He’s probably already married,” she said. “I know he is for me and the Lord has kept him till Without further comment from me but after a proper introduction and a short courtship, we were married on June 28, 1931. After a church service we were called to the front, and as the pianist played softly the old hymn “Rock of Ages,” the minister pronounced us man and wife.

Clifford Deckard was born April 30, 1910, in a small community called Handy, south of Bloomington. He was the second of four children (one died in infancy). As a young child he learned what heartaches were. His father passed away when he was six years old. One year later his mother followed her husband in death. Clifford’s next years were spent with whomever would take him. Eventually he was put in an orphanage. At fifteen he ran away and began to learn the ways of the world.

Somehow the Lord kept his hand upon this orphan boy. One incident shows how God watched over Clifford. When he was eight he was offered a part in a school play, provided he would bring fifty cents for the material needed for the costume. He hurried home to tell about his part in the play. When he told his story, the lady of the house replied, “We feed and clothe you out of the goodness of our heart. You don’t need to be in the play. It’s all foolishness!” A heartbroken boy trudged back to school for the afternoon, sobbing his heart out. As he neared the school, suddenly he spied a shiny fifty-cent piece in the gutter. “Now I can be in the play!” he shouted. Was there Someone who did care for him?

Leaving the orphanage, Clifford roamed the country, sleeping and eating where he could, working at odd jobs. Between jobs he often rode the freight trains. As the wheels turned they seemed to chant a refrain, “You’re going to hell, you’re going to hell….” He pondered the message as he rode.

In February 1929, he was in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he engaged in light- and middleweight fighting contests and frequented poolrooms. On his way to the boxing ring one night, he passed a theater with a large sign out front: “THE KING IS COMING!” Thinking it was a movie, he went in. What a surprise awaited him!

As he listened to the Word of God, it lodged in his heart. As he stood longing to go forward, a voice spoke, “If you go, others will follow.” He was the first to be baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost, with sixty-six others following in a few weeks.

Sister Spillman took him into her home, treating him as a son. At last he had a home with those who cared. He lived with the Spillmans until we married. He was the first preacher saved under her ministry; a great number saved since then are serving the Lord throughout the world.

After the campaign, he went to his aunt’s home in Terre Haute. She had given away her possessions, as she was not expected to live but a few weeks. After hearing Clifford’s testimony about God’s healing power, his aunt returned to Christian Tabernacle. After prayer she was healed and lived many years to hear her nephew preach the gospel.

While he was hitchiking along the highway, a voice said to him three times, “Quench not the Spirit. I have called you to preach.” A little further on he saw a Bible in the grass, dirty and soiled. The voice spoke again, “Proclaim my Word. It is trampled under the foot of man.”

Afterward, he put forth great effort to reach the lost. With a bucket of red barn paint and a brush, he printed “OBEY ACTS 2:38” on every corner sidewalk for blocks around the church. When his old buddies saw him coming, they called out, “Here comes the Holy Ghost! Six months from now he’ll be back with us.” But God had planted a desire in his heart that they knew nothing about. His Bible was always with him. When asked why he marked it, he replied, “I’m marking up my Bible to beat the devil.”

We evangelized in southern and western Indiana. Our first daughter, Martha Sunshine, was born January 6, 1933. That year in February my husband was invited to Madison, Indiana, for a revival. The baby and I stayed home, so he asked Victor Jordan to drive with him in our roadster with the rumble seat. God blessed, and souls were saved. People were baptized in the Ohio River after the ice was broken. They rejoiced for two blocks back to the church in wet clothes. No one caught pneumonia either!

Scant food failed to fill empty stomachs in this revival, but one dear saint brought rock candy and jelly for snacks. They ate jelly and bread then rock candy. Offerings were as scarce as meals.

After two weeks Brother Deckard announced, “Monday morning we are going home.”

After the service the pastor asked, “How? Only seventy-five cents in the offering!”

“The Lord will provide,” my husband answered firmly.

The next morning at 8:30 a young couple knocked at the door and asked if they could ride to Indianapolis. “We’ll buy the gas,” they offered. With snow on the ground and winter winds blowing around their heads, they rode that rumble seat some 120 miles. Feeling that God had blessed them, the two young preachers divided the seventy- five cents.

Revival fires flamed. Sacrifices mattered little as long as God led. Brush arbors, schoolhouses, storefronts, living rooms, and the open air provided pulpits. We carried food in the trunk of the car and our clothes on a pole across the back seat. We cooked by the road and often slept in the car.

We had eggs, tomatoes, and oranges thrown at the car and food stolen out of the trunk, but when evening came and hungry souls streamed down the road and over the hills to church, we rejoiced. At one revival we came out after church to find our car stolen! A few weeks later God provided another car. He never fails! At one baptismal service in the river under a bridge, bystanders spat on Brother Deckard and the baptismal candidates. He only said, “Jesus was spat upon and I’m no better than He.”

On November 7, 1934, God blessed us with a son, Paul Eugene. At church on Christmas night we heard that one of our closest sisters in the church had died, leaving a husband and two small girls. Going home, my husband said, “I must feel what Carl feels to sympathize with him. That’s how I prayed tonight.” The next morning he learned how Brother Carl felt. Our darling seven-week-old baby had been called home during the night. Sister Spillman had Sister Nolaz’s funeral in the morning, our son’s that afternoon.

We had built a small house. We were faithful to our home church and preached on weekends. Several churches had asked my husband to pastor, but he did not feel led to do so at that time. We learned to hang paper, which gave him time to take meetings. The company he purchased supplies from said, “You hang paper until you save $100 to $150, then go and preach it up!” In this way we could go when others could not during the Depression.

Our second child, Esther Pauline, was born January 9, 1935, and our third, Elsie Louise, on January 28, 1937.

During World War II my husband worked in a defense plant. Soon he was offered a promising position over a three-state area. Already hampered, he knew this job would limit his church work even more, so he refused the offer. Shortly thereafter his foreman remarked, “Cliff, you are a very valuable man to our company, but you must decide between your job and your church activities.”

Without hesitation Clifford replied, “I don’t have to decide. That decision was made some years ago.” Removing his shop apron and picking up his tool chest, he quietly walked out. Since then we were able to say with David, “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread.”
We pastored three churches in Indiana until 1949 and evangelized as far as Florida. One New Year’s Eve he preached a rally in Buchanan, Michigan. Representatives from the Benton Harbor church approached him about becoming their pastor. We prayed and two weeks later went there for a service. After Sunday school we were invited to a saint’s home for dinner. It was a humble home, with no refrigerator, and only a two-burner coal oil stove; however, the meal was delicious. During the conversation my husband said, “Sister Bryant, I’d love to see you have a good electric refrigerator and stove.” With tears in her eyes she said, “Brother Deckard, I don’t need those, but we do need a pastor.” That settled it. He took over the pastorale of the Benton church.

In November our second son, Charles David, was born.

Here is an article my husband wrote in December 1958, detailing the trials and victories in pursuit of the work.

The Apostolic Tabernacle on the corner of Seeley and McGuigan in Benton Harbor is a lighthouse for the Jesus Name message in this town. It has not always been so, for trials and tests have threatened to tear down the truth we stand for, but by the grace of God and faith in Him who died for us, we are still on the same corner, still teaching and preaching the only gospel.

“During the Christmas season of 1948 I preached for a group of people that had no pastor. On January 28, 1949, I took over the pastorale. They had a small basement church, built too low in the ground. At each rain much water had to be swept out before we could have church.

“We could not find living quarters, so we drove 187 miles from Indianapolis every weekend. On June 10 we rented a house fifteen miles out in the country. We lived there until September, then returned to Indianapolis. Another winter we drove to keep the church together. The following winter we rented the house next to the church.

“On June 12, we saw our last service in the basement, and services were held in our house for the next two months. We completely tore down the building, raised the floor thirty-two inches, enlarged the basement, and started to build. We moved back in the building on August 11.

“The following summer we continued with a building 30 feet by 77 feet with Sunday school rooms, a kitchen, and a dining hall in the basement. The pastor’s office and nursery are on the first floor. We have also installed an organ and upholstered seats.

“The first few months were hard, with eight saints and fifteen to twenty in Sunday school, but now our Sunday school has an average of 115. Our church is now practically debt free. The Lord has been gracious to us.

“We havw three married daughters, all filled with the Holy Ghost as children and serving God. We have only Chucky at home and are still thanking God that we do have him. At the age of five weeks, he was given one chance in a thousand to live, but God healed him. In December of 1954, the doctors gave him up with sleeping sickness and paralysis of the lower limbs. He lost all of his senses but hearing. We brought him home on December 24 in a semi-coma. Scarcely had he been in the house one hour until he tried to climb out of his bed and spoke for the first time in thirteen days. Those few words sparked faith in our hearts, and although he spoke no more for a few days, we believedGod could and would heal him. Chuck has come a long way in these four years and is doing well in his schoolwork. When we took Chucky back to the specialist in February, the doctor called his nurse and said, ‘Would you come here? I want you to see a miracle.’ ”

In 1964 we turned the pastorale of the church over to Brother James O’Haver and went to South Haven, Michigan, where we pioneered another work. Brother Crider is now pastor of that church. Our son, Charles David, had a heart attack and passed away on December 13, 1966. He wasseventeen-years-old, a sophomore in high school. Only a few days before he had told a visiting minister, “I have only one desire, to live for the Lord.”

Upon the death of our son we moved back to Indianapolis and our home church. While helping build a new edifice there, Brother Deckard stepped on a nail. Because of his diabetic condition, the injury did not heal. Consequently he lost his leg in 1971 and the second leg in 1972.

Prior to losing his legs, he was asked to pastor the church in Niles, Michigan. He decided to accept only if the vote was unanimous. It was unanimous! After losing his first leg, he desired to give up the church, but one of the dear saints told him, “If President Roosevelt can run a country from a wheelchair, I’m sure God can give you strength to pastor us.” He preached on artificial legs and climbed ladders to remodel the church, outside and in, with the help of faithful saints. Through all of his hospitalizations, God gave us a wonderful assistant pastor, Brother William Mitchell.

In the spring of 1975, my husband resigned, and we purchased a motor home and evangelized through Indiana and Arkansas, then to Florida. Usually one or two of the grandchildren were with us.

In December of 1975 we went to our daughter’s in Des Moines, Iowa, where he preached his last sermon for Brother Wayne Butcher. There he suffered his third heart attack. After his being hospitalized there for a time, we came home, where in January of 1976 he suffered a stroke and passed on to his reward. At the last Michigan monthly rally before his death, held in Three Oaks, Michigan, Brother Deckard rejoiced and danced before the Lord to the amazement of those present.

He served on the Michigan District Board from 1950 until his illness caused him to resign. From the first campground at Little Fish Lake in 1960 until 1974, he was over the concession stand for all camps. He did not let his affliction hamper him from serving God.

Our three daughters are still serving the Lord that their father taught them to love. Some day on Resurrection morning we shall all be together again.