It is a privilege to be able to re-produce this testimony of Florence Burnham, which was first written in 1955. I came to know her in 1964 when I started attending the Assembly of God in Willmer Road, Birkenhead, when her husband was then the pastor of the church. She was born in 1908 and the story commences in 1912, two years before the outbreak of the First World War:
"At the age of four, my knowledge of the true home life, which had hardly begun, was suddenly ended. My mother was taken to hospital suffering from tuberculosis, from which she died, and my father, after placing me in a home, left England; I have never seen or heard of him since. Even at this very early age, when my young heart, no doubt, felt the sorrow of being bereft of the security of home and parents, I felt there was a power greater than the human. I had never been taught to pray, and knew nothing of Jesus, but in a strange simple way I felt there was something.
For four and-a-half years I was in this home, and during this time I developed tuberculosis, which was to be my dread companion for many years. At this time a very comfortably situated family decided to adopt me, and I left the home, but this was not to last long, for, when they discovered that I had T.B., and that my mother and two sisters had died of it, I was sent back. This was all in God's will, although I was very distressed at the time, but the people dabbled in Spiritism, and God did not want me to be mixed up in that. Shortly afterwards a Methodist family took me, and there I learnt about prayer, and of Jesus Christ. I was happier, but still unsaved, and as the dread disease was making rapid progress, I had to be sent to the sanatorium where it was found to be in my hand, foot, stomach and both lungs. This place became my home, but how I longed to be as other girls. Many lay around me, and many died, but I lived on, and it was often said by the nurses that this girl who had no one in the world to care for her lived, but others who had good parents and friends were taken.
The lady in the next bed to me was going out, and I asked her would she take me, and she said she would if I were up. The day came, and once more I was out in the world. I obtained some work, and all went well for a time, but only a very short time. Again I was ill, and the person I was staying with refused to have me in the house, and turned me out one night. I went to the doctor and asked him to send me back to the sanatorium, but he told me to go back to the house, and he would send me in the morning. I went back, but the woman refused to have me, just giving me a cup of tea, and so I went out to wander the streets all night. Very exhausted, I knocked at a door, and a lady had mercy on me and took me in. The next day I was taken into the hospital, and it was discovered that I had pneumonia due to the exposure. I lay there desperately ill, having oxygen. Again I was raised when there seemed little hope, and while convalescent at Scarborough heard a message - "God claims you" - and there, found Jesus as my own wonderful Saviour. Everything was changed, and from there I entered a Christian lady's home and shortly after was baptized in the Holy Ghost according to Acts 2: 4. I heard of Divine healing, accepted it, and thanked God for healing me; almost immediately I was struck down again with T.B., the lungs badly affected, and while in this dying condition I desired to be baptized in water, and against all advice was baptized by Henry E. J. Jessup, then pastor of East Kirby, now editor of " Redemption Tidings," who afterwards testified what a step of faith it was to immerse a dying girl in the midst of winter. I was taken worse and rushed to the sanatorium. While there, how I longed for someone who would love and care for me. On January 16th, 1933, I prayed that God might send someone; on this day as I prayed, a young man in Canada had decided to come to England for a holiday. When he arrived in England, he, being a Christian, heard a company of people praying for me, and he asked that he might go along with one of them to see me. That day I prayed to go out, and that the Lord would grant that those who came to see me would ask me to go out. For the Lord had said to me, "Get up and out, or else you will die." Like Gideon of old, I asked for that sign, and that they would come the next day at two o'clock. The next day this young man from Canada and another friend arrived at two o'clock, and my friend said to me, "When are you coming out? My mother says she will look after you." An absolute answer to my prayer. I said I would come out the next day. Announcing to the sister of the hospital that I was going out the next day she was amazed, and said " You know you will be a burden to those people, and it is doubtful if you will get there alive."
I was still having oxygen, but I would not be put off, and told the doctor the next morning. My clothes were given to me, and everyone was instructed not to give me any help; and so, forcing myself out of bed, and struggling most painfully to dress myself, but trusting God, and knowing that He had spoken to me, I took a long time, and how I did it I shall never be able to tell; then I dragged myself from bed to bed till I reached the dining-room where a girl who was dying said to me, "Don't leave me; what shall I do without you?" because I had led her to the Saviour. "You look as if you are dying yourself," she said; then for one brief moment I felt I was, but the door opened and there was my friend, and my body was then flooded with the resurrection life of Christ, and I stood upright feeling my lungs filled with health, and my whole body. The authorities of the hospital took no notice of any of this, and when my friends had come, they put me in a bath-chair, and I was wheeled to the gate feeling like a hypocrite, because I felt so marvellously well. Outside the gate as the bus came up I ran for it out of sheer joy of the glorious feeling of health; and from that day to this I have not had a recurrence of the awful malady. The Lord, too, had answered my prayer for someone to love and care for me, because that young man from Canada is now my husband.
Time and space will not allow to tell of the many joys and happenings of the following years, but one thing I knew that Jesus was, indeed, my Saviour, and that He had shed His Blood on the Cross of Calvary for me, and I learned to love and trust Him. Eight years after our marriage I developed severe heart trouble which kept me in bed for seven years, and during that time was in hospital for six months having oxygen, and my husband never knew the moment I should be taken in the many heart attacks. I was at home and had a nurse and doctor attending. When I felt well enough I had children's services in my bedroom, and led many to Christ who are steadfast believers today. Some said that they thought it was God's will for me to lie in bed, but I felt He had healed me before, and He would do it again. I expected Him to heal me right away when I had been taken ill, but He had a new lesson to teach me.
Being desperate one night I prayed that God would show me if He wanted me to spend the rest of my days as an invalid in bed or if He wanted me to be healed, and the I heard these words, the date being May 3rd, 1949: " I am the Resurrection and the Life; because I live ye shall live also." Then again the words came, "If the Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead be in you, the same Spirit shall quicken your mortal body." And I said, "What am I doing here?" My heart was full, but I settled for sleep, and the next morning when the lady who came to clean the rooms arrived, I said to her little boy, "I am going to get up and take you for a walk." And so I did, it was not a struggle like the last time, but in no time I was dressed after rather a hunt to find clothes to fit me after six years, and in amazement the lady watched me go up and down the stairs. I knew the resurrection life of Christ was flooding my being, and each day I draw off Him, and each day He keeps me in His strength. That was six years ago, and I have not had a single day in bed ever since. I won't say that I have not had my battles, I have, but His promise is true, and the Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead daily quickens my mortal body. This promise is for every sufferer, and if you know Christ as your Saviour He can and will do the same for your broken body. As I walk in Christ this body is free from the law of sin and death. Our bodies are a vehicle for God to dwell in, and through Him we are more than conquerors. Let go and let God, for He has promised us life more abundant. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."
May he Lord bless this to some heart, and may you find that mighty Saviour who will heal your soul and then your body for His glory. Amen."
Many years later in the 1980's I came into contact with a lady who remembered Florence being pushed around Bromborough in a wheelchair during the 1940's, who was by this time herself in a wheelchair. If the story had finished there it would have been impressive enough, but in 1970 when she was about 62 years of age she went out to Africa with her husband as a missionary for 18 years, often living in primitive conditions, and frequently being afflicted with tropical diseases. She only came back to this country because of the ill health of her husband. She was a remarkable woman and was a blessing to a number of people during her final years in the Wirral. She died at the age of 91 years at the Bebington Christian Nursing Home in 1999.