Norman Percy Grubb was born August 2, 1895 to Harry Percy Grubb and Margaret Adelaide Crichton-Stuart. He was of “prominent British lineage” but found no satisfaction with his earthly heritage. His boyhood years were spent in the village of Oxton where his father was an Anglican clergyman. Although he was raised in a Christian home and in the Church of England, Norman was presented with a question as a teenager by his father’s friend that he could not answer. “Do you belong to Christ?” seared his soul. Through this event he came to know Jesus Christ as his Saviour.
When World War I began in 1914 Norman soon received his call-up and commission as a second lieutenant in the British army. His goal was to be a good soldier not only for England, but also for Jesus Christ by bringing the gospel to his fellow soldiers on the battlefront.
He spent the next few years defending Britain’s commitment until he was wounded in France and sent home to recover. For his service he received the Military Medal. His return to England to recover from his leg wound would set the course of his life.
While in the hospital he was visited by Gilbert Barclay, a chaplain and son-in-law of C.T. Studd, founder of the Heart of Africa Mission, later to become the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade (WEC). Reverend Barclay left a small booklet on his bed called “The Heart of Africa.” As soon as he began to read it, Norman “heard an inward voice as clear as I ever heard in my life. ‘That is where you are to go.’” He immediately wrote to Mrs. Studd of his call, and planned to go to Africa after his college graduation. Little did he realize that this call would also include a wife, Pauline Evangeline Studd, the youngest daughter of Priscilla and C.T. Studd.
After the war he attended Trinity College in Cambridge. As usual he began sharing his faith at every opportunity—going door to door to speak to individuals and participating in a students’ Bible study and prayer group known as the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union. It was here in 1919 that the Holy Spirit gave him the vision for Inter-Varsity Conference (now Inter-Varsity Fellowship) to have bible study groups like his in every college and university. There was a group of men who were called from the Bible study to the mission field. This group of fifty-five men, called themselves the Cambridge University Missionary Band (CUMB) and wrote to each other twice a year from 1920-1989.
One semester before completing his degree, the Lord impressed upon him that now was the time to fulfill his call to Africa. Thus began a life-long pattern the Lord had for him. Earthly credentials were not to be his. In 1919 Norman and Pauline were married and immediately set sail for the Congo to join C.T. The journey took three months by boat, train, flat-bottomed river steamer, truck and then the final three hundred miles by foot and bicycle.
One of Norman’s often-told stories was of almost losing his fiancée, Pauline. He told her he was afraid of losing out in his “call” because he loved her more than he loved God. She responded that she would not marry him because God would be first in his life, God’s work second and she third. And she wanted to be third in no man’s life. This was great agony for him, until the Holy Spirit revealed to Pauline through Philemon 15 – “For perhaps therefore he departed for a season, that thou should receive him forever” – that she was to marry him. The strength of her “No” became the strength of her “Yes.” He always believed that it was her wisdom and stabilizing force that enabled him to build the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade (W.E.C.) as he did.
Norman remained in the Congo until 1931. Along with bringing Christ to the Africans, his work included translating the Bible into Bangala, their common market language. Norman and Pauline had four children. Their first child, Noel, born in the Congo, died on his first birthday. God later gave them Paul, Priscilla and Daniel.
Not long after arriving in Africa Norman found himself in the second great crisis of his life. He discovered that he could not love the Africans (who called him Ngrubi, shortened to Rubi by fellow missionaries) as he knew God wanted him to. It was then that God revealed to both Norman and Pauline Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” That night in the jungle he made a headstone saying, “Here lies Norman Grubb” and he took by faith what the scriptures said.
However, he remained in a “crisis of faith” for two years until the Holy Spirit made Galatians 2:20 fully alive in him. During this time he met Rees Howells and was invited to visit him at the Swansea Bible College. While there Norman saw and heard God living in and speaking through a man. In observing Rees Howells he finally understood the fulfillment of Galatians 2:20 for himself.
Within a few years God brought him to the third and final crisis of his inner life. So severe was it that he even doubted the existence of the God to whom he had given his life and served with his whole heart. His answer came in reading Andrew Murray’s “Wholly for God” and was expanded through several others who would become his ‘friends’ for life—William Law, Jacob Boehme, Soren Kierkegaard, John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, Walter Lanyon, Teresa of Avila, Henry Suso, Plotinus, Richard Rolle, Lady Julian of Norwich, Walter Hilton, John of Ruysbroeck, Thomas Troward, Evelyn Underhill, William Kingsland, Jesse Penn Lewis and Rufus Jones.
In his autobiography “Once Caught, No Escape” Norman says, “…there has been for me a vital difference between the second experience of discovering Christ living in me, and this third revelation of Christ all in all. The second experience left gaps where I did not yet see Him in everything everywhere, and all a form of Him, whether negatively of Him in wrath, or positively of Him in grace as light; and so there were separations, and callings on Him to be this or do that, in place of affirming that He is in fullness of His action everywhere…to be settled into this union which is unity, I had to go through a ‘dark night of the soul’ which affected no outward things, but the very inward vitals of my ‘I and Thou’ consciousness.”
The Worldwide Evangelization Crusade was unique in missions. Being a ‘faith mission’ they told only God of their needs. They did not raise money or appeal to man for the work, but all trusted God at each turn for His supply. When C.T. died Norman and Pauline took over the mission’s leadership. He remained International Secretary until his retirement in 1965.
The years that Norman led W.E.C. were years of great growth and expansion built on the foundation of their Four Pillars – sacrifice, faith, holiness and fellowship. One of the mission’s outreaches was to the United States. In 1957 it was decided that Norman and Pauline would move their family, which had grown to include their son Paul’s two children, Sandy and Nicky, to America.
In the years prior to the move, on trips to the United States to speak about the mission, he made numerous contacts in churches, Bible colleges, universities, home groups, other missions and Christian fellowships such as Faith At Work, Camps Farthest Out and International Christian Leadership, who host the Presidential Prayer Breakfast. An amazing thing began to happen. When speaking about the work, he also told of life changing truths of the “replaced life” he knew. People began to “catch” what he was saying as the Holy Spirit revealed to them their union with Christ.
In the midst of an active mission life Norman also wrote a number of biographies of men and women of faith and booklets telling of mission life, as well as several books and booklets detailing his theology as the Holy Spirit expanded his understanding of God. His passion was always as Paul’s – that “Christ be formed in you.”
As the work in America expanded, turmoil and tensions began for Norman within the Mission and the Spirit clearly showed that “retirement” was to be the way for him.
As with many great men of the Bible in their latter years, when their life’s work seemed over, God had a new work for Norman. He called it “God’s redirection” in order that he might bring Paul’s “mystery of the gospel, Christ in you, the hope of glory” to many he could not reach through W.E.C. Norman had shared the truths which God had given him in Galatians 2:20 for thirty years, but few in W.E.C. really understood. And even though God gave him years of tremendous fruit with countless ones coming to fully understand their union with Christ, his heart remained broken over his beloved W.E.C. until his death, reminding me many times of Jesus as He cried over Jerusalem, always beseeching God that they would know what he boldly called “Total Truth.”
The last thirty-plus years of Norman’s life were spent traveling eleven months of the year to conferences and home meetings for a week or a night. One of these homes was that of Pauline Catlett of Louisville, Kentucky. For many years she had been teaching the Bible to a group of young married women, as well as hosting missionaries from all over the world who would also share at meetings in her home. Norman Grubb was among those who came once a year.
Linda Bunting attended the Bible studies and recalled the first time she heard Norman. She said she could not have repeated what he said, but that for the first time in her life someone made her feel that there was something good about her. She slowly began to see the truth that it was Christ living her everyday life—washing the dishes, feeding her children, folding the clothes, driving the carpool, etc. In her own personal hardships Norman taught her how to believe God for their resolve—how to live by faith.
In 1974 Linda asked Norman if there were others he visited who understood the truths he had brought to her. Out of this came a weekend house party at Linda and John Bunting’s home of forty “knowers” from across the U.S. That first weekend of fellowship became a yearly gathering and grew from forty in their basement to three hundred in a large tent set up in the backyard. It continues today with an annual gathering the second weekend in September.
One of the attendees the first year was a successful businessman from Illinois, Bill Volkman, who wanted a way to communicate what people were sharing. He began a magazine called “Union Life” which he published for almost twenty-five years. He also established a conference center in Wisconsin for summer retreats. God began to open many new doors through the magazine and the quickening of the Spirit in people’s lives.
In several ways life had become increasingly difficult for Norman. He did not drive and his advancing age made it impossible for him to travel by plane or train. Pauline was very ill and needed additional care at home. God once again provided, as He always had.
In 1979 Norman’s granddaughter, Sandy, heard the call of the Lord to leave her life in the business world and return home in order to help with her ailing grandmother, Pauline, and support her grandfather in whatever way she could, hoping to extend his years of ministry. Pauline was bedridden, and although their daughter, Priscilla, lived with them, she was unable to undertake her care. A W.E.C. missionary from England, Susie Wheeler, came to nurse Pauline. Sandy made it possible for Norman to continue travelling until his 95th year and functioned as his companion, chauffer and personal secretary. Pauline’s “glorification” came September 15, 1981.
In 1986 God once again brought division into Norman’s life. The Union Life fellowship split due to doctrinal differences. Those who remained with Norman gathered in January 1987 to seek the Lord’s direction. Within a short period of time it became apparent there were two strong opinions—those who wanted to start another magazine and build a retreat center and those who felt God calling them to have no organization, but be a living organism. Initially Norman wanted to leave an organization such as he had built in W.E.C., but he came to realize that God’s “new thing” (Isaiah 42:9; 43:18) was truly new and freedom from what had been.
In 1989 doctors discovered that Sandy had lung cancer. As she underwent treatment she continued her duties for Norman until the summer of 1992 when the cancer metastasized to her brain. During this time Norman’s legs had begun to give way and he had fallen several times. Sandy had to make a very hard decision.
Although she had spent the last dozen years supporting Norman in whatever way she could in order that he continue his ministry, she now had to insist that he no longer walk without assistance because she could not afford to have him fall and break a hip. (Although Norman had the physical difficulties of weak lungs, frostbitten feet and a “bad” leg from a WW I injury, he was not what he called a “body fusser.” Many times when asked how he was, he would reply, “Oh, I don’t know; I haven’t noticed.”) He became wheelchair-bound and bedridden, but remained mentally sharp until just prior to his “Homegoing” on December 15, 1993. Sandy’s life was completed fourteen months earlier, October 2, 1992. Losing her was one of the great heartaches of Norman’s life.
After Sandy died Norman’s life became even more isolated and lonely. I continued to visit him for a week every few months. Norman was ever his gracious, kind, loving and always appreciative self. When Sandy was told that she had only a short time to live, she asked me to be the executor of her estate.
Afterwards as I went through the house sorting things, I noticed that many pictures had no identification on them. One by one I brought them to Norman. I labeled them, as he delightedly identified each of the people and recalled the rich history of the photographed event and reveled in the memories of those he had known, worked with and loved. Some photos took him as far back as eighty years. That day remains etched in my mind as one of my most treasured memories.
During those days I enjoyed many special times with Norman. In the mornings as I got up early and took his coffee into him, I sat on the side of his bed and we talked about a vast variety of subjects. It was also a wondrous event to sit with him on a sunny afternoon in the woods next to his home as he marveled at God in His creation. He would describe God’s attributes as he observed these simple things—trees growing tall, straight and sturdy; the faithfulness of the sun to rise each day; the ants busily carrying on their assigned tasks; the breeze to cool; and the unique design and color of each leaf and flower. He opened my mind and expanded my awareness of God in so many new thoughts and realities—God as all and in all.
THE FINAL DAYS
The last time I was with him was about three weeks before his death. He asked Linda Bunting and me to come and be with him while a W.E.C. missionary, Elliot Tepper, from Betel in Spain was to visit him along with about ten of the men from Betel’s fellowship.
When we arrived we found Norman somewhat confused for the very first time. We were concerned that after traveling from Spain his visitors would not be able to have a meaningful time with him. But as they came into his room he was immediately fully alert remembering their visit a year earlier and even speaking to each of the young men individually by name, which was amazing as Norman rarely remembered anyone’s name! They stayed for about an hour. As Norman began to tire, Elliot asked him to pray.
He prayed a beautiful and very personal prayer. As soon as he finished and they left, he again became confused. I was reminded of the many times over the years when I had seen him sharing in homes around the country. In his late eighties through his middle nineties, traveling was very wearing on him. Many evenings, tired or ill with bronchitis, when it was time for him to speak the Spirit within him would rise, and he would talk for an hour or two in a strong clear voice. In these times we all readily saw the “same Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from the dead” dwelling in a mortal body. I received a call from Norman’s family the morning after he peacefully passed away late the night before, December 15, 1993. His nurse, Cheryl, reported that his breathing had become labored and he had whispered, “Abba Father,” just before the Lord came for him. He was buried in Philadelphia next to his beloved wife Pauline. His son Daniel, an Episcopal minister, officiated at his burial.
A close W.E.C. co-worker and friend, John Whittle, told Stewart Dinnen, also of W.E.C., shortly after Norman’s death that he had only recently come to see that God had given Norman a commission after W.E.C. and that was to bring Galatians 2:20 to the whole body of Christ. After reading the volume of letters over the years, I have been awestruck by the realization that his “Total Truth” message was his commission all along—from that day in 1920 that he believed Galatians 2:20. Building W.E.C.—as great as it was—was really secondary to fully building the believer in Christ. Movements will pass away; missionary groups will pass away; organizations will pass away; civilizations will pass away, but the truth of Christ and the full work of His cross—its meaning and reality for mankind—will never pass away!
The vision for this website is to make available to the body of Christ writings of Norman Grubb that have only been available on a limited basis. Some will be transcriptions of his audiotapes. Also, Stewart Dinnen, who compiled Summit Living…a daily devotional of Norman’s writings, has given us permission to share it here.