HISTORY and TIMES of THE KINGDOM
Probably the most long overdue page on this website is the one that provides the reader with a chronological history of Frank Sandford and the Kingdom. It wasn't originally part of the mission of this site to provide that, but it occurred to us that the site has come to the point where, at least to the unfamiliar and perhaps even to the initiated, it is difficult to navigate or remember where you read that before or find the page you were reading last night. The Timeline provides statements, details, and dates in chronological order, but does not literally tell the story. Shirley Nelson's book, Fair, Clear and Terrible does that most elegantly, and Rev. Frank Murray's book The Sublimity of Faith lays out the histories with a spiritual perspective, but for those who either do not have access to either book nor the time to read them, this page will attempt to fill in some of the blanks, as well as link you to other pages on the website which will enable you to dig deeper. We wish to thank Ms. Nelson for permission to use her book liberally, some of the synopsis below quoted directly from her text. This is by no means a complete story in every detail, but it should, to the uninitiated, help make it all "flow". This section, like others which have come before on this website, will be delivered in installments.
Reg Parker & Dick Sweet
The Kingdom was started by Frank Weston Sandford. Born on a 300 acre sheep farm in Bowdoinham, Maine in the year 1862, he grew up one of eight brothers and sisters. During Frank's fourteenth year, his father died, and Frank's mother assumed a more dominant role in his upbringing. She was very active in the women's mission group of the Freewill Baptist church on Bowdoinham Ridge.
After high school and at the ripe age of 16 he was hired by the school district on Barter's Island to teach school. The following year he took a teaching position on Ham's Hill, between Brunswick and Bath. That same year Frank went through a conversion experience on February 29, 1880 (leapyear, no less!). He found that what he had been so apprehensive about provided him with new motivation and inspiration for life. He quit smoking, enrolled in Nichols Latin School in Lewiston to prepare for college. He found that his gusto for the practical joke and prank had been displaced by the desire to "do the right thing". Upon foiling an attempt at such horseplay by his fellow students, he was somewhat ostracized and treated as an outsider. In spite of that episode, during the following two years spent at Bates College he became recognized nationally as a baseball figure, and was tempted to make the sport his career. He graduated from Bates in June of 1886, and delivered the commencement address.
Across the summer that followed he pondered his future. Baseball looked enticing, as did the law. He enrolled that fall at the Cobb Divinity School, the theological department of Bates College. He found it extremely dissatisfying however, in that his desire and longing for a religion of the heart was not satisfied by the book work and social emphasis the curriculum contained. As a requirement for the school, each student was responsible to "student preach" at local churches that were without permanent pastors. After only his second practice session, the Freewill Baptists of Topsham hired him on as their full time pastor. He quit school, and was ordained by the local church, where for the next three years he grew the congregation by about a hundred souls.
It was during his tenure at Topsham in 1887 that Hannah Whitehall Smith's book "The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life" crossed his path, and changed his life permanently. Smith emphasized the best, a perfection, a "higher lines" paradigm of Christian living. Her theories and teachings resonated with Frank Sandford like a bell of pure crystal. Here was the discipline, the action, the unquestioning obedience, the "gumption" of Christianity he had not previously been able to get his arms around at Cobb. He later wrote that upon closing the book he vowed, "like a drunkard signs a pledge," never to doubt God but to obey immediately, as soon as His will or leading was clear.
That summer he was privileged to attend the "College of Colleges" in Northfield, Massachusetts, Dwight Moody's retreat for eager young gospel workers called the Student Volunteer Movement. He spent each forenoon in the Bible, and each afternoon on the baseball diamond. In the evening it was the auditorium to sing and pray, and listen to speakers on foreign missions. And it was here that Sandford. in the following summer of 1888 signed the pledge he had passed on the previous year, "...We are willing and desirous, God permitting, to become foreign missionaries." His hesitancy in signing it the first year was largely due, he later confessed, to his unwillingness to serve in some remote corner of the earth, but to make his mark for God where it could be seen. Moody also imbibed Sandford with what we would refer to today as the "Nike" philosophy of winning souls ... "Just do it". "Get full of the Holy Ghost" he would say. If winning others to Christ was not the fruit of the sanctified life, then holiness meant nothing.
In the fall of 1887 he also visited two more conferences. The first was at Old Orchard Beach, in that area of town now known as Ocean Park. The Methodists owned a campground there, and had invited A. B. Simpson of New York to come and speak. Simpson was using the occasion to consolidate his newly forming Christian and Missionary Alliance. Simpson's emphasis on divine healing, though at first running cross grain with Sandford's intuitions, ultimately won him over. Subsequent to his exposure to Simpson, Sandford agreed that if the Bible taught this, than he must except it as truth and preach it as well. It is here at Old Orchard where Sandford also met for the first time his wife, Helen, and her parents. Her father was a cotton broker on Wall Street, and together with his wife helped Simpson on his campaigns. Helen herself was an experienced street missionary, and had been mentioned prominently in Simpson literature. Her career goal was focused on the mission fields of Africa.
It was also here at Old Orchard under Simpson's tutelage that Sandford first began to adopt his philosophy regarding divine healing. Simpson maintained that being healed by faith was no more a miracle than the regeneration of the soul. Though initially skeptical with regard to it, Sandford's opinion eventually came around to adopting the concept of divine healing and making it a hallmark of his fellowship. At the end of the conference he concluded that whether or not he understood the phenomenon or healed anyone himself, he would preach that part of the Bible because it was the Bible.
The winter of 87-88 he spent a good deal of time attending Simpson's meetings in New York, where he was steeped in Simpson's perspective. Later that summer, while overlooking the falls of Niagra where he was attending a prophecy conference, he wrote in his Bible:
The Niagara conference bolstered his interest in the prophecies of the Bible concerning the apocalyptic return of Christ and end of the age. He came to realize the broader picture of end times theology, that God did have a master plan; that our sojourn here on the planet was a result of more than just random atoms colliding. He came away from this session dwelling on the premise not whether Christ would return, but when He would return.
It is during these years and in this swirling cauldron of influences that Sandford started to carve for himself his trademark theology. His millennial insights were a combination of interpretations from both Moody and Simpson. Both Moody's and Sandford's preaching style were drawn heavily from their experiences with the Niagara conferences, where the speaker would choose a topic and then develop his talk by leading a Bible study with the congregation. At the turn of the century with the death of the most influential leaders on the millenarian movement and a split in perspective, the conservative Moody school and more liberal Northfield schools divided on figurative and literal interpretations of scripture. Ultimately, Sandford took from Moody his inspiration for missions, his stated practice of accepting the whole Bible, and Moody's meeting format. Simpson parlayed to Sandford the global view of missions and the seed of a missionary training center. And from the Niagara Conferences, Sandford forged his apocalyptic premillenial perspective, the inerrancy of divine literal truth, and the commission to solve the conundrums of Biblical prophecy. And he also was becoming more aware of a role pure Christianity may play with the final restoration of Israel.
It is during this period of his conference work and missionary visions while he was preaching in Topsham that the combined efforts of himself and T. H. Stacy in Auburn accounted for 1/15 of the worldwide growth of the Free Baptist denomination. In March of 1889, he wrote to his sister Annie,
It was printed on stationary with the letterhead:
The World for Christ in this Generation
He continued on in Topsham for another year, when in 1890 he changed his pastorate to Great Falls, New Hampshire, now known as Somersworth. Located just inside New Hampshire along the Maine border, the village of Great Falls was a prosperous mill town, sharing its wealth and environs with South Berwick, Maine, immediately across the river. He negotiated a better than average salary with the deacons ($1500/year), but hadn't been there long when he had his first recorded bout with depression. He shut himself away in his room in the attempt to cope with the malady, and struggling to rid himself of his depression and fear, dug out of his belongings a banner he had used in Topsham, "SEE JESUS ONLY! ONE HUNDRED SOULS FOR HIM THIS YEAR." That next Sunday he strung the banner in front of the pulpit. His "spell of nerves" subsided, and he once again resumed his headlong schedule with his characteristic intensity.
Late that year, Sandford, along with Thomas Hobbs Stacy of Auburn, were underwritten by the Freewill Baptist denomination to take a year and visit Christian missionary outposts across the world. They went west crossing the States by train to San Francisco, where they boarded a steamer to Yokohama, Japan. In Japan, Frank once more met up with Helen Kinney, whom he had met several summers before at the CMA retreats in Old Orchard Beach. (See photo above) It is not known whether she had caught his eye and fancy earlier, but it is here in Japan that Sandford admitted to falling in love. He and Stacy journeyed on westerly to China and India, and were appalled at both the physical and spiritual condition of the populace. He said later that as he stepped off the boat in India that the full force of the challenge of world-wide evangelization hit him like a freight train. He had pledged himself to a life that could not be seen to fruition. The first of the year they headed for Alexandria, where they found the steamer Tchihatchoff bound for Palestine. The ship ran aground in a terrible storm off the coast of Jaffa. Sulieman Girby, a daring Arab boatman working for the Cook Travel Agency swam multiple times out to the wreck and pulled many to safety, including Sandford. They became fast friends for many years. Stacy and Sandford toured the Holy Land on horseback in borrowed clothes, no less, having lost all theirs in the wreck. Sandford kept a journal of the trip, which was later published as "Around the World". April found them back on American soil, but while still abroad, he had written Helen and expressed his intention to marry her. "I believe our union will mean the marriage of the Lamb and His bride", he wrote. Helen turned him down, and thought his message arrogant. In spite of this, he and she continued to write.
Returning to his flock at Great Falls, he, with the other denominational leaders in the community, began to meet at 9 a.m. once a week for Bible studies. In spite of this, his spiritual restlessness increased, and perhaps partially due to his now engagement to Ms. Kinney, a daughter of a "higher lines" movement, and perhaps partially because of his growing interest and increasing level of activity and participation in Simpson's CMA organization, he began to be feel drawn to yet another call.
In August of 1891 he returned to the Old Orchard campground, bumped into an old Bowdoinham acquaintance, Miss Carrie Kendall, who was being bothered by poor health and religious doubts. Frank offered to pray for her, and she accepted his offer. As a result of his prayer and his "laying on of hands", he later chronicled the event by describing the room being filled with confusion with a clump of demons swirling about suddenly vanishing. Ms. Kendall's reaction was to leap to her feet exclaiming, "Why, all the doubts are gone!" Sandford, shaken by the event, was hardly prepared for the next morning's incident. While on his way to the day's first meeting while walking through the pines he heard a whisper, "...Armageddon". At the same moment, he saw the word itself descending from the sky as if from the treetops above. He believed he had seen a vision, and proceeded on to the service, now certain that God had something special in store for him, something closer, something deeper.
Helen Kinney came back to the U.S. in the spring on 1892, and on July 12, they were married, with none other than the Rev. A. B. Simpson officiating at the Kinney Estate on the Hudson. They honeymooned on Martha's Vineyard, and Five Islands, Me. where they found the opportunity to lead five souls to Christ. Back at home in Great Falls, Frank asked her "What would you think, Helen, if we should never take another pastorate, never pass another collection plate, never accept any pledged support, but go out and preach the gospel without charge as the Master did? It might bring us to rags or living in a cave." Helen, ever the self-effacing missionary replied, "Why I think that would be lovely!"
On December 17, 1892, after much prayerful consideration, Frank felt he heard God whisper to him the one word, "Go". On Sunday, January 1, 1893 from the pulpit at Great Falls, New Hampshire, Frank Sandford announced to his flock he was leaving the pastorate and with his wife would strike out on their own.
The year 1893 began by the Sandford's donating all their earthly belongings to an African mission, leaving New Hampshire and moving in with Mrs. Sandford's parents at their ranch in Honey Grove, Texas. Helen was pregnant, and partly to seek God's will in private for their next course of action, and partly to keep Helen's condition from the public eye, as was common in that era, the remained in Texas through April. In the spring, they returned with her parents to the banks of the Hudson, where Helen gave birth that June to a stillborn child, whom they named Patience.