Edwin Lennard “Len” Minchin was born on February 2, 1904 into one of the first Adventist families in Western Australia.
Len’s father, John, died in 1917 and his mother, Nellie, 18 months later. Len, the youngest of six children, and his older brother, Gerald, were then cared for by his two married sisters and two older brothers. Being the two youngest children in the family, Len and Gerald were particularly close.
Len graduated from ministry at Avondale College in 1924. Together with his lifelong friend Tom Bradley, he began work in South New Zealand as a member of Pastor J W Kent’s evangelistic team. Later he served as music teacher and dean of men at Longburn College in North New Zealand. There he met May Pocock whose mother had been one of Ellen White’s helpers during her stay in Australia. On February 8, 1928, they married in Australia.
Len became youth leader of the South NSW Conference in 1931, thus beginning his long commitment to ministering to young people. In 1936 he began 10 years as the youth director for the South Pacific Division.
His Week of Prayer, held at Avondale in 1939, has remained a landmark event. Revival swept through the college, students and faculty alike. Prayer groups met all over the campus, with one session lasting all night. Tensions between people were made right and testimony meetings lasted for hours. The regular class timetable was even abandoned for a time. Following the New Testament model, inappropriate books and music were burned.
What started at Avondale had spread all across the Adventist community in Australia and New Zealand by the end of the year. Decades later, senior pastors would talk with great fondness of that life-changing revival series, which had since coloured their lives and shaped their ministry. Les Coombe was a senior ministerial student at Avondale that year and the prayer fellowship coordinator for the campus. He later wrote, “That year was not only outstanding in the history of the college but also throughout the Australasian Union Conference. It is perhaps the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church since the beginning of our work in Australia.” Wrote another, “Hundreds of people would remember that year as a veritable 20th century Pentecost.”
Len Minchin’s service as a youth evangelist later took him to the Northern European Division and then to the General Conference, where he served for 16 years prior to his retirement in 1970.
Len was a great revival speaker whose messages brought many thousands to a closer walk with their Lord. While some were critical of his presentations—and the music that was an integral part of his programs—as “too emotional”, the reality is that wherever he went, Len’s ministry changed lives.
Typical of that ministry, in late 1957, Len conducted a month-long series of revival meetings in the small, dusty desert town of Tulare in Central California. During that time
he stayed in the home of a New Zealand born couple, A James Haskins and his wife Millie. Gregarious by nature, Len and the family enjoyed their fellowship together with common interests in things “down-under” in the mornings, but after the midday meal Len would quietly retire to his room for prayer and study until late afternoon. He would emerge and, for an hour or so and very much withdrawn into himself, play the family’s Hammond organ. Then it was time to travel to the evening meeting, a drive taken pretty much in silence. On the journey home Len would be tired but open to some limited, quiet conversation. By the next morning he would revert to his normal, cheerful self. That month powerfully influenced the family he was staying with, as well as the cluster of churches around Tulare.
Very late in life, quite frail and no longer really mobile, friends would visit him in Loma Linda, California, and Len would sit on a kitchen chair with a blanket on his lap, and, with his face glowing, talk lovingly of the Jesus who was the centre and complete focus of his life. Elder Len Minchin went to his rest on February 24, 1987.
Lester Devine is director emeritus of the Ellen G White/Adventist Research Centre at Avondale College of Higher Education.