Pentecostal Pioneers: Oscar Edward Lamb
By Edna Nation
On October 1, 1915, Oscar Edward Lamb was born. “My first son,” smiled Annie to her husband, Ed. “Don’t you think he’s a fine looking boy?”
“He looks like a fine fellow to me,” responded her husband. “Here! Let me take a good look at him. Yes, he’s one fine fellow.” The proud parents were E. D. and Annie Barrentine Lamb of Attala County, Mississippi. O. E. was to be the third of twelve children, the first of eight sons. “The Lambs always have many sons,” said Annie, “but it’ll take one strappling of a boy to beat this one!”
Oscar Edward Lamb had the advantage of early childhood training. He was born into a Christian home; he was taught right from wrong, about repentance and restitution, and many other things. “Even though my mother never actually joined the Church of God, she was loosely affiliated with it,” explained O. E. “They believed in and taught holiness. They also believed in the trinity, which meant they believed in three separate and distinct persons in the Godhead. Mother taught her children about God, and when she went to church, it was to the Church of God. And so she said we were Church of God.”
O. E. didn’t join any church. Once when he attended his mother’s church, somebody tried to get him to go to the mourner’s bench, shake the preacher’s hand, be saved, and become a member of the church. He replied, “Oh, no! You won’t be getting me to do that!” The person talking to him asked, “Why not?” ” ‘Cause shaking the preacher’s hand won’t get you anywhere, fellow! Don’t you know that? I don’t know much about the Bible, but I have read enough to know better than that!” declared the twelve-year-old Oscar Lamb, and so he stubbornly refused to join the church, even though most of his friends were joining.
He asked them, “How long do you think this religion you just got is gonna last?”
“I don’t know. Why?” someone asked.
“Well, I know!” Oscar chuckled. “It won’t last long. The reason’s ’cause you didn’t get any power with it. Just you wait till the first temptation comes along–you’ll be falling right back out there in sin. When you really get religion, it gets in you, and it changes you! And until I get the life-changing kind, I won’t be getting any! And wait until summer is over. You’ll be right back out there in the world with the rest of us, having fun! Just you wait and see!” And so he continued his frolicking and fun, for O. E. Lamb loved having a good time.
When the leaves began turning in the fall and the harvest was over, the younger set began having dances. “Come on!” they called. Without hesitation, the new church members joined the rest of the crowd, and they danced all night long.
“Our favorite pastime was dancing,” declared O. E. “This was the way we handled it. We decided whose house we’d meet at. Then we’d go into the parlor, stack all the parlor furniture against the wall, and use the open floor for dancing. One night we danced so long, the floor caved in.” O. E. chuckled at the memory, then continued, “I don’t remember what happened next. I just remember we were all in trouble over that floor.”
During the summer of 1935, Zachary Spears conducted revival services in Attala County, Mississippi. While there, he stayed in the home of Josh and Delza Ellard, and services were held in the Ellards’ parlor. Zachary Spears, an old-time preacher man, was a One God preacher. He also baptized his candidates by immersion in Jesus’ name. Soon Attala County was humming with the news of this new way of baptizing, for no one in the county had preached such a “strange doctrine” before. So the people came, a few at a time, to the Ellards’ parlor to listen to Zachary Spears. Some liked what they heard, while others didn’t like it at all. Still they came and listened. One of those who came and listened was twenty-year-old Oscar Edward Lamb.
The first time he went to hear the preacher, it was through no desire of his own, but to pay a social debt. One of his former girlfriends pleaded with him to escort her to the service and then back home. “Please,” she begged. “I need your protection. I’ve just gotten word straight that seven boys are planning to waylay me on the road to church tonight, and if you’re with me, I know they won’t bother me.” So Oscar took a girl to church.
“I sat back there, with a girl on both sides, and I couldn’t concentrate on the sermon, ’cause they wouldn’t leave me alone, but I heard enough. I knew I needed to hear some more preaching like that,” declared O. E. “You could tell by the way he preached, the man of God had something that I needed.” O. E. paused for reflection, and as he relived the scene, he continued, “Once, during that first sermon, I got called outside, ’cause the leader of the group of boys wanted to whip me. So I went out, gave the boy a good talk, told him if he was looking for trouble he had found it, and then I went back into the service. After that situation was settled, I was better able to hear the rest of the sermon. Those boys never bothered either me or the girl again.
“That night, I met for the first time Josh Ellard, who was first beginning to feel his call to preach; Josh’s wife, Delza; Bertha Ellard Cook; and Annie Mae Ellard Townsend. They were the brother and two sisters of Katie Ellard. And of course I saw Katie again, the most beautiful girl I ever saw in my whole life.” Lamb paused and reflected, “Of course, I had my eyes on Katie, and her brother, Josh, knew it, so he and I didn’t get along so well. But Delza, she was different. She worked with me, ’cause she knew the power of God could change me. Delza saw what God could do for me.
“The first time I saw Katie, I drove an ice truck by her house. When I tried to sell ice to her, she looked up at me with those beautiful blue eyes and said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have any money.’ I said, ‘That’s okay, honey, I’ll give you ice anytime you want it.’ And so I started stopping and giving her ice, just so I could look at her. She was beautiful!”
O. E. Lamb went to work seriously courting Katie, whom everyone called Donnie. He had a rough time with Bessie Rule Ellard, Donnie’s mother, who was protective of her daughter. “The first time I came to
see Donnie, her mother wouldn’t let me inside the house. I could see a good roaring fire in the fireplace, and it was cold outside, so I appealed to her maternal nature, and she let me in to warm myself, even though her ‘Tss . . showed her feelings and disapproval. I realized I’d have to go slow with Bessie Ellard, so I stayed only a few minutes, thanked her politely, and left. Right away, I realized, I must win the approval of this lady somehow; otherwise, she’ll never give me the hand of her daughter in marriage!” So he set out to make friends with Katie’s mother.
The next time Oscar Lamb attended church, he drove his black 1935 Ford sedan. He had finally gotten permission to take the beautiful Katie Leonie Ellard to church in his sedan. Mallie Morgan, Delza’s sister, was their chaperone.
“The whole way there and back Aunt Mallie talked about the Holy Ghost and how wonderful it was,” he recalled. “The way she described it made me so hungry for God. I didn’t know what to do. I finally said, ‘You’re gonna hafta stop talking about it, or I’m gonna hafta stop this car right here and pray, ’cause I want the Holy Ghost so much!’ She just laughed and kept talking. We finally made it to church.
“That night the preacher preached hellfire and brimstone. He pointed that bony finger straight at me and named every sin I’d been doing. I thought he would never stop preaching so I could pray. The load of sin and guilt was so heavy upon my soul, I thought I could bear it no longer. I whispered, ‘Lord, if You’ll just help that preacher to quit preaching long enough so I can pray’ I’ll be much obliged to You!’ Soon afterwards, the altar appeal was given, and I went to an old-fashioned altar of repentance.
“That first night, I prayed for three hours and I felt somewhat better. Most of the heavy load was lifted; however, there was some restitution I had to handle before all my guilt would leave. That night as I prayed, things came before me. I remembered some chickens I had stolen. The Lord let me know I’d have to confront the owner, confess, and pay for those chickens. The next day, I was out and about, making restitution. Now I’m ready to get the Holy Ghost, I decided. I prayed a long time the next night, but still I didn’t speak in tongues.
“The next evening I said, ‘I’m going early tonight. I want to get started praying early, ’cause I’m getting down to business tonight! I can’t stand it any longer! I must have the Holy Ghost!’ ”
And so Oscar Edward Lamb, who usually dressed fashionably, forgot his pride and pulled on some Big Smith overalls. I want to be comfortable! I don’t want my clothes to hinder me! he decided.
Church started early, with someone singing about the judgment day and about folks needing to repent and pray. Oscar interrupted the singing. “Please, folks!” he pleaded, “Could you stop that singing? I can’t stand it any longer without the Holy Ghost! Could you please pray for me?”
Oscar began praying at three o’clock in the afternoon. His friend, Mr. Carmeans, joined him at the altar. Three hours later, Mr. Carmeans broke through, speaking in tongues as the Spirit of God gave him utterance, but Oscar was still praying. After Mr. Carmeans enjoyed his experience for a while, he began praying with his friend. Fourhours passed. Five hours. I wonder what the problem is? some thought, but they prayed on. Six hours passed. Some turned away, for they were exhausted, and they knew they had to get some sleep before the next day’s labor, but still Oscar earnestly sought God to fill him with His Spirit. “Fill my soul with something that will last me when this old world is on fire,” he prayed. He continued to press forward in his prayers, even though his bones ached and he was hurting all over.
Oscar later testified, “At the end of seven long hours of prayer, a bolt of yellow fire came through the ceiling of the room, hit my head with great force, and I was slain in the Spirit. Of course, when the Spirit hit me, I wilted to the floor. Falling flat on my back, I began speaking in other tongues as the Spirit of God gave the utterance. It was wonderful! It was glorious! I lay there, glorifying God, speaking
in other tongues. I knew now that God had finally poured out on me something that was worthwhile, something that was lasting, something that would keep me when this world was on fire!
“While I was ‘slain,’ I knew everything that was going on around me. I was conscious of people praying and worshiping God. I was not out. I was in another world, yes; caught up, yes; powerless to come back until God got finished with me. But I was very aware of everything. I met reality that night. I met God face to face, and He showed me some things. I wouldn’t take anything for the experience I received from God that night. And thank God for my friends who prayed with me for the full seven hours! Delza Ellard and my friend Carmeans stayed the full watch.
“On the way home from church that night, Mallie Morgan, Delza’s sister, and my friend Carmeans tried to explain baptism in the name of Jesus. It wasn’t making any sense to me. Finally, I stopped them and prayed, ‘Lord, if what they’re saying is true, and there is only one God, please show me, ’cause I can’t understand and accept it unless You show me!’ As soon as those words tumbled from my mouth, a bright light shone into my car, and it almost blinded me, so that I had to slow the ’35 Ford sedan and pull it over to the side, almost stopping, for when the revelation of one God came, baptism in the name of Jesus came also. The blinding yellow light of God’s divine power shone brightly as the glorious revelation came to me. After that experience, I could never once doubt it, but had to declare it!
“After I spoke in tongues for one hour, my cup of joy full and running over, I wanted to tell everybody I saw about this experience. Naturally, one of my first thoughts was of my friends, so the next day, I went to see them and told them of my new-found joy in the Holy Ghost. They laughed in my face!”
One of them said, “Oscar Lamb, I’m surprised at you, of all people! I just hadn’t put you in the category with those summertime Christians, those who get religion every summer, then backslide during the winter.” Then they laughed and declared, “Just you wait till fall comes, you’ll be out there with the best of us, dancing till the floors cave in, ’cause you love dancing too much to give it up!”
“Oh, no!” Oscar exclaimed, “I won’t be back! You see, I haven’t given up dancing; I’ve just changed partners! You won’t see me running with the crowd, dancing all night anymore! I got something real, something wonderful, something that will keep me when this world is on fire!”
Lamb’s friends gave him a look of astonishment, scoffed, turned, and walked away, not believing Oscar Lamb would change his lifestyle. They soon found out that he meant every word he said, for God called him to preach, though it took a while for him to accept the call.
“Thank God, I lived to see the day my mother and father received the truth, as did also most of their sons and daughters–all but one, an older sister, who refused to turn her back on the doctrine of the trinity. She remained a member of the Church of God until she was laid to rest. I did my part in bringing this gospel to my family, to my own children, and to many other people through the raising up of works in many places.”
In 1939, O. E. Lamb quit a job with the U.S. Corps of Engineers so he could “spend more time studying and preparing for the ministry.” In the late ’30s and early ’40s, he wasted no time hitting the evangelistic trail, pitching the bigtop tent and preaching revivals in places like Kennett, Missouri, where his friend Carmeans was from, and then in other towns in Missouri, including Poplar Bluff. He and his family suffered hardships and faced obstacles like rotten tomatoes thrown at the preacher, but they enjoyed victories also. God used O. E. Lamb mightily, giving him power to overcome every temptation, no matter how severe the trial. God came through with miracles of healing, salvation of souls, and lives changed for eternity.
This old-time preacher man started the first church at Pascagoula, Mississippi, at 520 East Lincoln Avenue. The street name has since been changed to Ingalls, commemorating the Ingalls shipbuilding industry in the city. After building and pastoring the First Pentecostal Church of Pascagoula, Mississippi, for seven years the young pastor resigned, installing another pastor to carry on the work.
During his evangelistic tenure, O. E. Lamb conducted cottage prayer meetings or revivals that resulted in the nucleus of churches in such places as Batesville, Locke Station (Marks), Clarksdale, Lambert, Hesterville, and Carmack in Mississippi and Covington in Louisiana.
During the fifty-five years of his ministry, O. E. Lamb witnessed many miracles. Blinded eyes were opened on at least two occasions. Ears became unstopped. He rejoiced to see the crippled leap out of their wheelchairs and walk. He has been touched by the despair of a family as they waited with a love done who was lying in a coma, seeing, yet unseeing, in a vegetable state. He has rejoiced with the when, at God’s bidding, he prayed the prayer of faith and spoke to the comatose individual to healed and awake from asleep. Then he saw the man awake and go home with his family. These a many other mighty wonders and miracles of healing has he seen, all done in the might and wonderful name of Jesus Christ and for His glory.
O. E. and Katie Lamb are the parents of twelve children: Edna, Shirley, Hal, Barbara, Mary, James Edward, Martha, Ruth, Teresa, David Lamar, Saundra, and Rhonda. Five of the girls married preachers and are endeavoring to carry on the work begun by their father and mother.
To God be the glory forever!
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS COMPILED BY MARY H. WALLACE, AND PUBLISHED BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1992, PAGES 145-154. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.