MY CALL – D. D. Freeman
By Frank G. Tunstall
Can God answer the earnest prayers of a native African in South Africa, doing it with the birth of a baby boy 9600 miles away in the rolling red hills of northwestern Georgia in the USA?
This story will give the answer.
Back in the foothills of the Drakensburg/Soutpansberg mountain range of South Africa, when the twentieth century was born, lived thousands of native Africans. They eked out their primitive livelihood as their ancestors had done for centuries, trusting in their tribal customs and witchcraft for help.
Hearing about the good jobs to be had in the gold mines of Johannesburg, an ambitious young native [his name has not been preserved] left his home and made his way south to work in the mines. He traveled nearly three hundred miles before reaching his destination. He came under the godly influence of a missionary while he worked to fulfill his contract with the mine owners.
This miner returned home to his farm about 1898 and began plowing his fields and planting his crops. When he was tired he would kneel under a large tree that grew in the center of the field and pray. He faithfully repeated his petition time after time, asking God to send a missionary to his village.
About the time this man began to pray for a missionary, a strange accident took place in the far-away state of Georgia, in the USA. William Freeman, “Uncle Will” as he was known, worked as a machinist. He and his wife Eva (“Aunt Evie”) made their living in the cotton fields and at cotton gins. William was known as a hard worker, and also found jobs at sawmills and mills that made shingles for wood roofs.
William was working at a shingles mill about ten miles from Franklin Springs, Georgia, when the boiler at the mill blew up. Two people were killed in the tragic explosion – Freeman’s brother, and a Christian visitor to the mill named David Scarborough. Scarborough was so well loved a church was named in his honor. Miraculously, William was spared.
Eighteen months after the explosion, on May 3, 1900, a baby boy was born to Uncle Will and Aunt Evie. They named him Dallas D. Freeman. Was his birth God’s answer to those earnest prayers in Africa? After all, a huge ocean and about 10,000 miles separated baby Dallas and the praying African native.
D. D.Freeman was destined to fulfill the longing of the black man who asked God to send a missionary to his people. The miracle at the mill made it possible for Freeman, a future missionary, to be born.
Freeman’s parents named him Dallas after a black man who worked for his father. His dad also chose “Ned” as his nickname, from the Stephen Foster song, “Old Uncle Ned,” that was very popular at the time. Freeman later said he identified with the black race from childhood, both with his name and in spirit. The lad grew up not far from Franklin Springs.
Freeman chose against his mother’s wishes to stay home and work with his dad until he was eighteen years of age. That year he surrendered his heart to Jesus Christ and was saved. The date was August 8, 1918, during the historic first camp meeting at Franklin Springs. The next day he was sanctified. Three months later while praying down in the woods, he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Freeman had become a new man, and a clear vision for his life began to form. Part of the change was the strong desire that blossomed in him to go to school. He also had a growing sense God had special plans for his life. That’s when he heard of Holmes Bible and Missionary Institute in Greenville, South Carolina. It was known as a faith school, and students could attend free of charge.
Freeman met his lifetime sweetheart, Lula Mae Boyette, in the fall of 1919 while at Holmes. The school rules did not allow boys and girls to talk, and they had to sit on opposite sides of the church. The “no communication” policy did not stop attraction, however. Freeman loved to tell the story about a special prayer meeting one night while at Holmes. A girl’s trio stepped up to sing. One of them had auburn hair and sang alto. Her name was Lula Mae. Freeman remembered her as being a bit pale, but beautiful! The “love bug” bit.
Freeman often said finding Lula Mae was more than he expected at Holmes. When telling the story he would also add fondly, “It’s wonderful what a song can do when sung at just the right time!”
In the spring of 1919 as Freeman was leaving Holmes for the summer, he went by the office to say goodbye to his Bible school president, N. J. Holmes. Freeman recalled that Holmes’ voice was full of compassion as he took the opportunity to ask, “Brother Freeman, have you received a call from the Lord? He has a work for you to do.”
Freeman said he answered, “No sir.”
As the days passed, Freeman began to believe even more strongly the Lord did indeed have plans for him. That inner sense became so strong one day during the summer of 1919 that Freeman walked into the woods where he often prayed. After interceding long and earnest, he told God, “Lord, I’m going where you want me to go; please let me know where.”
“As if in a conversation with God and in as clear words as I have ever heard,” recalled Freeman, “the Lord spoke to my heart saying, ‘Go to Africa. I want you to build a Bible school there.’”
“I never doubted the call,” he said. “My soul was aglow.”
Freeman married Lula Mae, his Bible school sweetheart who had also received an assignment from God to be a missionary in Africa. They sailed together on a steamship to South Africa in 1924. For Christmas their first year on the field, Lula Mae gave her “Ned” a sweet potato. The Freeman family stayed in South Africa for thirteen years before the church missions program at home could give them a furlough.
The Freeman’s had three children: Florine, John, and Mary Anna, each of whom is deceased and living in heaven.
In the providence of God, the praying African man’s exact field in the foothills of the Soutpansberg mountain range was later purchased by the Pentecostal Holiness Church. J. W. Brooks, J. E. Rhodes and D. D. Freeman built a missionary home in sight of the man’s house. They also conducted services under the old tree where he prayed for more than thirty long years.
God moves in mysterious ways to answer the petitions of those who earnestly call on him. D.D. and Lula Mae Freeman were the missionaries who travelled 10,000 miles, and with a providential guidance that could only come from God, did in fact go the native African’s his field. Freeman also built a church there.
The Bible school about which Freeman dreamed was first constructed at Munsieville in the early ’50s, some thirty years after Freeman’s call from God. It was located on the outskirts of Krugersdorp in South Africa. The city government donated the land. Freeman wanted the school to train students as well as host conferences and special meetings. A church was already at the site, built about 1917 by Jacob D. Lehman, who became IPHC’s first missionary in Africa in 1912. The church was made part of the Bible school. That church still stands today. It is the oldest known brick and mortar Pentecostal Holiness facility in Africa. One-hundred years later, it is open for regular church services.
The school was expanded in stages in the following years, and then re-located to White River. The D. D. Freeman Bible College continues to serve students to this day, producing leaders for IPHC ministries in Africa.
D.D. Freeman was an able administrator who gave forty-three years to the Lord’s kingdom. He became the first supervisor of IPHC ministry in Africa in 1953, a position he held until his retirement in 1967. When the Freemans’ went to Africa in 1924, IPHC had 350 members on the continent. When Freeman retired, the number had climbed to some 20,000.
Today IPHC membership is at almost one million, and the legacy of D. D. and Lula Mae Freeman lives on as one of the many great missionaries couples in IPHC history.
It is also part of the D. D. Freeman family heritage that:
- Five living grandchildren are serving the Lord.
- Thirteen great grandchildren are walking in the faith with five of the thirteen in full time ministry.
- Twenty-four great great grandchildren range in age from eighteen years to seven months, and two more are on the way! All of these children as well who are old enough to receive the gospel are actively serving the Lord in His church.
One of Dr. Carey and Martha’s goals to help pass the torch is to take each of the great grandchildren and the great great grandchildren with them on at least one of their medical missions trips. Such a setting provides wonderful opportunities to teach them about their Lord and their family heritage, and at the same time put them to work serving the Lord by helping hurting people with acute needs.