Alfred Garr was born in Kentucky in 1875, grew up with a deep spiritual hunger for God, and lived his adult life in ardent pursuit of God’s calling upon him. This led him to minister in diverse locations across the United States - including a time at the 1906 Asuza Street Revival - and to distant lands like India and China.
During the 1920’s, Alfred often ministered with his 2nd wife Hannah in the Los Angeles area. God had brought Hannah into his life because she carried a mantle of prayer that was crucial to their ground-breaking ministry. It had become increasingly clear to Alfred that his calling was to be a pioneer evangelist to the lost, not simply to be a visiting preacher to existing churches. They started renting a theater in downtown Los Angeles in 1920, insisting that they go where unsaved people gathered. Eventually thousands of folks found Christ there.
Throughout that decade, God taught Alfred and his family to rely upon Him more and more. Even when finances became very tight or opposition was very fierce, Alfred would intensify his times of prayer and fasting for days on end. And, time and again, they would see God break through and supernaturally provide everything needed to carry the Gospel forward. This prevailing prayer and unquenchable hunger for God’s presence enveloped every aspect of their ministry.
Once, when Alfred was near death because of a strange stomach illness that weakened him severely, he humbly persisted in prayer, listening for God’s plans, and then stepped out in faith to lead a revival meeting in Fresno, California. He was miraculously healed as he preached for an entire month, growing inexplicably stronger after every sermon. As the revival continued and stirred hundreds to seek out salvation, Alfred also witnessed a marked surge in divine power for healings and miracles. The secular news press would later highlight him in their headlines, calling him “The man who prays sick people well.”
The Lord would lead Alfred and his family to serve up and down the West Coast, seeing tens of thousands saved, hundreds called into full-time ministry, and over a hundred churches birthed in the wake of the revivals. Starting in 1927, God led them to begin conducting revival meetings on the East Coast, in cities in Viriginia, Miami, Atlanta, and Tampa, Florida. During the 1929 Tampa campaign, the Lord kept repeating one singular word to Alfred: Charlotte.
Alfred assumed this meant he was to visit Charlotte, North Carolina, to lead Gospel meetings for a short season. He and his family made plans and arrived in this small city of less than 100,000 people in April 1930. They had little money. They didn’t have their usual tent. They didn’t know anyone. So, Alfred prayed and fasted and sought the Lord. And God began to answer: A location and a tent were soon provided.
They set up their rented tent in a vacant lot near the center of the city. Alfred put up signs which challenged all onlookers: “Bring the sick, and God will heal them.” The first meeting launched on Mother’s Day, May 11th. Seventeen people, including the Garr family, attended this first gathering. That evening, 75 people convened under the tent. But things moved along slowly that initial week. Then, on Friday evening, a violent storm moved in, lashed out with thunderous lightning, and heavy rains flooded the tent. The situation looked bleak.
That following Sunday, some folks carried in a very sick woman, Mrs. Presley, to the tent, and then onto the stage. She had multiple severe diseases and an infected tumor swelling in her neck. Alfred Garr was often a dramatic preacher, but his style of praying for the sick was very simple, direct, and plain-spoken. He prayed over Mrs. Presley, and almost immediately she jumped up and started joyfully running around. Finding herself miraculously healed, she spent the rest of the day knocking on doors around Charlotte to testify to how God had healed her. With this, it was as if the floodgates were opened fully, and many residents of the city surged to the meetings.
Alfred had seen revival break out in many place before, but something about Charlotte stood out to him. Certainly, the number of healings and miracles was among the highest he had ever witnessed. But it seemed to him that there was a hunger and anticipation present unlike anywhere else, as if people had been waiting all their lives to see this move of God.
By mid-June the crowds from Charlotte were surrounding the tent, far exceeding its capacity. Soon, news of God’s power began drawing even more visitors to travel from South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia. After 3 months of these meetings, the numbers did not dwindle. The hunger for God still burned. As in the past, Alfred started to think that his time as a pioneer evangelist in this city might soon be ending. But God had other plans. The Lord instructed Alfred to uncharacteristically stay through the winter.
During this time, Alfred purchased lumber from the Charlotte Speedway to upgrade the tent to a wooden tabernacle capable of housing thousands of people. As more and more healings took place, it became common to hang from the beams many of the abandoned crutches of those miraculously healed there. As winter concluded in early 1931, God urged Alfred to stay and lead this new church.
While still in the midst of the Great Depression, Alfred sensed God’s leading to find a permanent place for the church’s home. His prayers led him to believe God was going to give them the soon-to-be-sold Charlotte Civic Auditorium. The going price of the whole thing was estimated at an astounding $225,000. When Alfred learned that the owners had decided to demolish the building and repurpose the land, he asked about buying the discarded wood and steel. They sold him all the pieces of the building for just $2500.
Over the next two years, God enabled Alfred to raise all the finances needed and to see countless volunteers from his church serve sacrifically every day to move the pieces from the old Civic Auditorium to the new lot. People would pray and worship even as they assembled the new building. Finally in June of 1933, they finished the building, debt-free, and called it the Garr Auditorium and their church the Carolina Evangelistic Association.
This church stoked the fires of revival in Charlotte for years afterwards. They trained and sent out hundreds of believers to be missionaries, pastors, and teachers for the Body of Christ. Other new churches were birthed out from this church in the United States and internationally. A well-known North Carolina summer camp, Camp Lurecrest, was founded by these believers. The pioneer Alfred Garr continued to serve and lead this Charlotte congregation, infusing into them his heart for evangelism and revival, until the Lord finally called him home on July 23, 1944.
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