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THE OVERCOMER TRUST
A small pebble dropped into a lake on a calm day will cause ripples to spread to the far shores of that lake. An acorn dropped into fertile ground can produce the wonder of a mature oak tree. The effects of the pebble and the acorn are enormous in relation to their size.
So it was with the birth of Jessie Jones, later to become Mrs Jessie Penn-Lewis. Only God could see the far-reaching influence which would flow from the life of the baby girl who was born in Neath, South Wales, in the year 1861.
At the age of 21 she was converted and, the following year she heard, through the ministry of Rev. Evan H.Hopkins, the way of victory through the cross of Christ.
For the next decade her experience of the Lord deepened and her witness became more outgoing and fruitful. It was a period of preparation for ministry, not that she had any formal training. Undoubtedly the Lord was her Teacher, for her unique, thorough grasp of the doctrine of redemption could only have come from Him.
In the year 1895 she was asked to speak at a Good Friday meeting arranged by the 'China Inland Mission'. The impact of her message was so great that arrangements were made for the message to be printed and circulated to all 'C.I.M' workers. This first publication, entitled “The Pathway to Life in God”, sold tens of thousands of copies.
Subsequently she received invitations to minister abroad. Despite periods of poor health, her travels took her to countries as far apart as Sweden, Russia, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, U.S.A., Canada, Korea, China and India.
It was during the trip to India that the booklet “The Word of the Cross” was published. The demand for it was astonishing. It was translated into more than 100 languages and the number printed ran into the millions. This prompted correspondence from all parts of the world and a regular prayer letter was sent to the interested people.
In January 1909, this prayer letter was superseded by a monthly magazine entitled “The Overcomer”. A correspondent wrote in 1910 – “The 'why' of defeat and the 'how' of victory is the glorious message that has been entrusted to you for the church”. After the First World War the magazine was issued quarterly and this pattern was continued till 1995 when it was reduced to three issues a year. Many books and booklets were written by Mrs Penn-Lewis which had a tremendous impact on Christians throughout the world.
In 1924 Eccleston Hall, in Central London, was made available to Mrs Penn-Lewis as a prayer centre. The Overcomer Book Room was transferred to those premises, an office established and eventually she moved into a flat in the building.
On 15th August 1927 Mrs Penn-Lewis died and was buried at Reigate in Surrey, but that could not be the end of the story. The ripples would continue to spread. The oak tree would continue to grow.
The following year saw the incorporation of The Overcomer Literature Trust, so that the books of Mrs Penn-Lewis could continue to be printed and the Overcomer magazine could still be published. Under the able editorship of Mary Garrard the work went forward and has come right down to our own day.
Captain Metcalfe was appointed as Deputy Chairman and made responsible for the editing of The Overcomer on 4th November 1943 following the sudden death of Mary Garrard. Having been released from the Army, Captain Metcalfe was appointed Chairman of the Trust on 17th September 1945 and in November of that year he, with Mrs Metcalfe and the family moved to Bournemouth to take over the work in full.
Captain Metcalfe was converted shortly after the First World War. Employment was difficult because of his war wounds and during a period of unemployment he came into contact with Mrs Penn-Lewis. She was a real encouragement to him in his Christian life and witness and he was glad to be occupied doing odd jobs in the Overcomer office at Eccleston Hall. On occasions when she was too frail to fulfil an engagement he was despatched to take her place – a daunting task! But she saw it as good training.
In the 1930's Captain Metcalfe ran a Bible School in Carlshalton and then became pastor of a village church in the Midlands. After the Second World War a ministry developed which took him to all parts of the U.K. And to many parts of the world. With the growth of air travel this was easier than it had been for Mrs Penn-Lewis. Opportunities arose to speak in cathedral cities and mud hut villages, large conventions and small home groups, over the radio and through television. Sometimes accompanied be Mrs Metcalfe, but more often alone, he went several time to U.S.A and Canada, Holland and other European countries, Kenya, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. He also spoke at conferences and meetings in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Iraq, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Philippines. From these travels, his own writings and the editorship of 'The Overcomer' there developed an important and far-reaching role of giving pastoral care and council to many, who themselves, minister and give spiritual leadership. In all this work he was ably assisted by his wife, Margaret, who was Secretary to the Trust.
Captain Metcalfe retired in 1987 and Rev.D.N.Carr took over as Chairman of the Trust and editor of 'The Overcomer' magazine. The Rev. Nick. Carr was well known for his connections with the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (originally The China Inland Mission) and for his world wide ministry, he was a member of the Keswick Council and for many years had been a trustee of The Overcomer Literature Trust. Rev Nick. Carr retired in 1996 and Michael Metcalfe took over the role of Chairman of the Trust and editor of the magazine.
Over the years many men of God have served as directors of 'The Overcomer Trust'. At present M.Metcalfe is Chairman, Rev.M.Dilly is Secretary and Treasurer and Rev.M.Weeden and Rev.G.Hoslett are directors. The directors meet once or twice a year to oversee and direct the work.
The purpose of the Trust. The Trust was established in 1928 with the following objectives:
a) The regular publication of the magazine called “The Overcomer”.
b) The distribution of literature written by Mrs Jessie Penn-Lewis.
c) Publication of other Christian literature by contemporary authors sympathetic with the objectives of the Trust.
d) The support of missionary work.
The distinctive emphasis which always characterised the work of the Trust is the centrality of the work of the cross - in Christian experience, worship, witness and life. To this end, it seeks to redress any tendency amongst Christians to stray from this position, to help those who find themselves caught up in excess practices, to instruct those who feel frustrated by spiritual impotence and to council those taking an unbalanced approach to the Christian life.
A four monthly magazine, “The Overcomer”, is the key publication of the Trust. The magazine was first produced in 1909 and has been issued free of charge since 1919. Financial gifts from those who derive help and benefit from the magazine cover the costs of production, printing and postage. Each edition has its own theme and contains articles of varying length by authors past and present. A particular feature of the format is the absence of advertising. The mailing list contains about 1,300 names and we distribute to many countries in all five continents, and a copy will be sent to any interested friends. Some of the booklets by Mrs Jessie Penn-Lewis, Captain Metcalfe and other authors are still available from the Overcomer office but the publication of the books has been taken over by Christian Literature Crusade.
A review of the work of the Trust since its inception gives much cause for encouragement and praise to God. It is obviously impossible to calculate the blessing that has come to many thousands of Christian people as a result of the Trust's operations. The work of the Trust is non- profit making – it is a registered charity – and is, in many senses, a small missionary enterprise. It has always been the aim of the Trust to produce literature free or at a subsidised cost, and over the years literature, including the magazine, has been made available in this way to Christian leaders both in the U.K. and overseas. The whole work is looked upon as a ministry not a business. We look to the Lord to continue to open up strategic opportunities among Christian leaders and workers around the world for the use of the Trust's literature believing that the centrality of the cross of Christ needs constant emphasis.