Virginia Brandt Berg: Deathbed to Pulpit

Dr. John Brandt’s daughter Virginia, despite her background of faith, became a blatant atheist, thanks to, as she later said, her college years at Texas Christian University. Sickened by the wealth and superficiality of society, she volunteered for social service and was chosen to take Charles Crittendon’s place as National Field Secretary of the American Crittendon Homes for unwed mothers, and as such raised millions of dollars for this work and founded many of the homes.

Always one to follow her heart, Virginia jilted her wealthy fiancé to elope with David’s father Hjalmer, a poor but talented and handsome concert tenor who had emigrated from Sweden to America as a child. Immediately after their marriage, Hjalmer was invited by Dr. John L. to sing for a series of meetings he was holding, and it was during those meetings, under his father-in-law’s persuasive preaching, that he had one of those remarkable, life-changing experiences himself, accepting Christ as his Savior and volunteering for the ministry—much to his new bride’s horror, for Hjalmer was no longer the man she had married!

Nevertheless, when she found that nothing could dissuade him from his totally new direction in life, she decided to try not to discourage him any further, but to actually go along with him the best she could. So she accompanied him to Drake University at Des Moines, Iowa, for his theological training for the ministry of the Christian Church.

It was there, on Christmas Day, on the way home from the hospital after having given birth to David’s older brother Hjalmer, Jr., that his mother had an accident, hitting the curbstone, and her back was broken in two places, leaving her almost totally paralyzed on a deathbed of agony for the next five years.

Despite the fact that her wealthy father, before he lost his riches (invested in Chinese bonds and German marks), spent a fortune on her case, the specialists agreed that her condition was hopeless and she would soon die.

She underwent surgery on her back at Still Medical College, Des Moines, Iowa, under the direction of Dr. Still, the founder of osteopathy, and Dr. Charles Mayo, founder of the world-famed Mayo Clinic, with 19 other consulting surgeons in attendance. She had 8 inches of the dorsal vertebrae of her spinal column removed in an attempt to relieve her paralysis, but instead, she grew even worse.

At last, after many fruitless visits to specialists across the country, Drs. Lutrell and Rigdon persuaded her husband to take her home to his little pastorate in Ukiah, California, and let her die in peace. By this time, at the end of five awful years of suffering, she was only 78 pounds of skin stretched over a skeleton, her hair had all fallen out from strong medicines, she was paralyzed, stomach salivated, left lung gone from tuberculosis from being in bed for so long, heart failing from angina pectoris and mitral stenosis of the valves, unconscious most of the time, fed by the injection of liquids by a glass tube through a hole in her throat (before the days of intravenous injections)—she was much more dead than alive, and still refusing to accept Christ in her life.

But her husband never gave up hope for her, continuing to pray in simple, childlike faith that God could still answer prayer and do miracles—until one day she cried out in the midst of her horrible suffering, “Oh God, if there is a God, please help me!” And God answered her pitiful heartcry and instantly faith came! For the first time in her life she began to comprehend His love and salvation!

But even with this wonderful victory, her husband was not satisfied; he wanted not only her soul saved, but her life as well. Convincing her that the Lord wanted to use her life as a testimony for His glory and raise her up from her deathbed, they began to read and claim together the promises of God’s Word on healing.

Arranging for several Christians and fellow ministers to pray for her, they reminded God of His promises, claiming the following scriptures as their authority for her healing: “For I am the Lord that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26). “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases” (Psalm 103:3). “And Jesus said unto them, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14, 15). They fulfilled this last scripture to the letter, calling the elders to pray the prayer of faith and anointing her with oil.

But nothing happened! In fact, a couple of hours later it seemed as if she would slip over the brink, and hopes began to die. But later that evening as she was resting quietly, almost sleeping, suddenly there came to her a verse of scripture in the most peculiar and unexpected way—peculiar because it was a voice that did not speak to her mind at all, but came from within her heart. It was God’s still, small voice that spoke to her these words: “Whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24).

That one thought, “believe that ye receive,” instantly gripped her. She had wanted some evidence before she believed, but God wanted her to believe before she saw the evidence! Then the thought came to her, according to the passage in Romans, “Abraham gave glory to God, knowing that He was able to perform that which He had promised” (Romans 4:20-21). She decided to do likewise.

Her condition not visibly changed, she began to whisper, “Glory to God! Glory to God!” over and over, thanking God for restoring her life and health and making her completely whole. Then she suddenly noticed both arms lifted; arms that had been helpless were raised, praising the Lord! And she could see; the dimness had vanished from her eyes! She was turning her head from side to side without thinking, laughing and crying at the same time, weeping with joy!

Her nurse, thinking that she was doing a “death walk,” a peculiar influx of strength that sometimes comes to a dying person, tried to calm her down and keep her quiet. The nurse’s distraction caused her to get her eyes off the Lord, and like Peter of old, she began to sink beneath the sea, almost completely overwhelmed by what seemed like the legions of hell broken loose and determined to tear down the testimony of God’s Word, almost engulfing her in doubts and fears. (See Matthew 14:24-31.)

But she fought back. “It is the Word of God, and I will believe it, even though I never see any evidence!” And at that very moment the Lord let her see that for which she had believed: The paralysis suddenly left her body and she sat upright in bed!

Just then the door opened and her husband walked in. He knew at once what had happened and began to thank the Lord. But she interrupted, “Please get me a kimono and slippers; I am going to walk!” And slipping over the side of the bed, she touched her feet to the floor, standing upright, and without any help at all, she began to walk the floor for the first time in five years!—A human impossibility even if there had been nothing wrong with her! She had been instantly raised by the hand of God on that memorable Saturday night in 1918!

The very next morning she walked to her husband’s church and stood in his pulpit and told what a miraculous change God had wrought—a conversion from atheism to faith, and an instantaneous healing from invalidism to supernatural health!

At the close of her testimony, the leading elder of the church walked the aisle and shook his finger in her face and said, “Virginia, I would rather have seen you, the daughter of Dr. John L., dead and in your coffin here today, and heard your funeral, than to have heard you stand here this morning proclaiming the doctrine of divine healing, which is not in the annals of our church!” There are none so blind as those who will not see.

The Christian Church, Hjalmer’s own denomination, offered him a larger and more lucrative pastorate if he would stop preaching and practicing “faith healing,” as they called it. But he refused and resigned, and they launched out together into full-time evangelistic work. From that time, their work spanned over 50 years, and thousands came to a knowledge of Christ through their testimony.

Eventually they joined the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the denomination of A. B. Simpson, whose writings had helped give them the faith for Virginia’s healing. They built two church buildings in Miami, Florida, where she, for 15 years, was the voice of Meditation Moments, the oldest religious broadcast in Florida.

Although doctors had said she could never have another child, the very next year she gave birth, naturally and at home in a little cottage in the poor Melrose section of Oakland, California, on February 18, 1919. The child weighed 11 pounds, and she called him David.