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by WaylandCybersmith



I would like to thank Reverend Richard Povey for allowing me to use information from his book Edward Murray, The Unknown Evangelist, and previously unpublished material from his research notes.

Not much is known about the early life of Edward Murray. It is known that he had an older brother, Albert. What is also known is that they were orphaned when Edward was eight. Albert left school and started work at a local market place. At the end of the day, traders would give him unsold food.

When Albert was sixteen, he and Edward persuaded a Royal Naval recruitment officer to enlist them. After training, they were assigned to different vessels. Edward served on the HMS Howe, which patrolled the Mediterranean Sea. Albert served in the Far East on the HMS Resistance.

The brothers proved to be very different. Whilst Albert quickly rose to the rank of Petty Officer, Edward remained an Ordinary Seaman. Albert’s record was exemplary, and he was commended for his actions on several occasions. Edward spent much of his time in the brig, gaining a reputation as a gambler, drunk, and bully.

It was January 18, 1936, and a telegram was about to change Edward’s life.

HMS Howe was berthed in Gibraltar. Edward had been on shore leave. As usual, he spent the time drinking and playing cards. He accused one of the other players of cheating, and a fight broke out. Battered, bruised, and numb from drink, Edward was all but dragged on board.

When Edward arrived at his berth, he saw Able Seaman Johnson reading a Bible. Johnson was a practicing Baptist, and was the principle target of Edward’s merciless bullying. Despite the fact that Johnson gave him no provocation at all, as Edward would later admit.

Edward grabbed Johnson’s Bible and threw it out of the quarters. He was about to attack Johnson himself when several of his crew mates manhandled Edward and dragged him to the brig.

In the morning, Lieutenant Commander Stanton told Edward that he would be kept in the brig until they arrived at Portsmouth, where he would stand before a Court Martial. Stanton ordered Edward to be taken to the Chaplain’s office. The Chaplain gave Edward a telegram which read;

Regret to report the death of Petty Officer Albert Murray on board HMS Resistance in the South China Sea. The funeral took place at sea on Thursday, January 16, 1936. The officers and ship’s company of HMS Resistance extend their deepest sympathy to Ordinary Seaman Edward Murray.

The shock of it caused Edward to re-examine his life.

During his imprisonment in the brig, Edward asked to see Johnson. In Edward’s words, Johnson, “Led me to the Lord and saved my life.” Johnson spent much of his off-duty time talking to Edward and, by the time they reached Portsmouth, they were good friends.

While HMS Howe was docked at Portsmouth, Edward’s fate was determined. The ruling is reproduced here.

This day a Court Martial was held on board the Howe, on Ordinary Seaman Edward Murray, of the Howe, for being guilty of Gambling, Brawling, disobedience of Orders, and frequent Drunkenness; The Court was cleared, and agreed, that the charges of Gambling, Brawling, disobedience of Orders and Drunkenness, had been proved; and did adjudge him to be imprisoned for a period of four months.

- Capt. J.B. AITCHISON President.”

During this time, he prayed, “Lord, if you are real, and you love me, get me out of the Navy.”

After the four months was up, Edward was presented with release papers. His brother had asked in his will that Edward be discharged, and, surprisingly enough, the Royal Navy honored this request. Ordinary Seaman Edward Murray was now Mr. Edward Murray - out of prison, out of the Navy, out of money, and with nowhere to live.

He lived on the streets of Portsmouth for two weeks. One day, he was walking in an area called Fratton, where he was approached by an elderly lady by the name of Emelia Chasen. She directed him to the Albert Road Baptist Church. The minister, Reverend Francis Pertwee, provided Edward with food, a change of clothing, and a place to stay for a few weeks.

During this time, Edward Murray was baptized. He later said, “When I came out of the water, it was like being wrapped in an invisible towel.” He told Reverend Pertwee that he felt called to go to London. He wanted to serve God in a simple way. Reverend Pertwee provided Edward with money and a letter of introduction. Two days later, Edward presented himself to Reverend Robert Weatherby, the minister at Winsley Street Baptist in London.

Almost every day, for fifteen years, Edward took up a position outside a shop in Oxford Street, and challenged ten people, offering each one of them them a tract with the words “Supposing you were to die right now, where would you spend eternity?”

Edward did not have any position of leadership in his church. As far as anyone new, he was just the little man who sat towards the back of the church, listening intently to the sermons, and singing the hymns with great passion, albeit flat. Others in the church knew about what he did, but they never thought it could be important in any way. Occasionally, someone would join him for a while, but they never lasted.

It was Reverend Richard Povey who discovered Edward’s story. Over a period of three months, he had come across fifteen people who had been challenged in Oxford Street in the same way, by a man of the same description. Intrigued, Povey investigated further.

He sent letters out to Christian organizations in the UK and had eighty replies, all from people who had met the same man. He sent letters to the United States, Canada, and Australia. He received one hundred and ninety replies. Povey’s contacts sent his letters on. He received replies from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Brazil, China, Burma, Kenya, Nigeria and many other countries. Each letter told of an encounter in Oxford Street, London, where the same man challenged them and gave them a tract. Some of these people were theological teachers, or evangelists, or founded Christian movements.

Reverend Povey met Edward in 1955, where he learned much of the story described above. Povey worked out that, over the years, he had challenged about fifty-five thousand people.

Edward Murray died later that same year after a short illness. When Povey heard about this, he organized a memorial service at the Metropolitan Chapel, London. It was packed with people from all over the world who Edward had challenged. In his eulogy, Povey said of Edward, “He was unknown. Just a figure that emerged from the shadows of a shop doorway, giving a simple challenge. But his words went deep. They buried themselves in the hearts of many of you gathered here. They grew and bore fruit. And many of you have sowed seeds into other people’s hearts. You carry Edward Murray’s legacy. You are his spiritual children, and his spiritual grandchildren number in the hundreds of thousands.”


© WaylandCybersmith 2011


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