Albert Hibbert experienced a remarkable healing miracle which happened nearly a century ago but whose effect is still being felt today. David Littlewood reports.
As a young man I was in a meeting when an older minister gave a remarkable testimony of how, as a boy, he had literally been plucked from death’s door by a healing miracle. The minister’s name was Albert Hibbert and the miracle happened in 1923 when he was just six years old.
Albert was born on 20 July 1917 into a working class family that consisted mainly of coal miners. His mother, Jane, was universally loved and at the time was the only committed Christian in the family. Large families were the order of the day and Jane was the mother of nine children – seven boys and two girls. Two of them had sadly died in infancy and the rest of them were reared first in the West Yorkshire village of Crofton, and then later in a large rented property in the city of Wakefield. Jane’s husband, Fred, was a salesman and later in life was particularly loved by his grandchildren because of his mischievous sense of humour.
In the Easter of 1923, however, a sense of tragic foreboding had overtaken the family as six-year-old Albert was stricken with meningitis. Even today, with modern medicine, this can be a life-threatening condition, but in 1923 it was considered a death sentence. Albert lay critically ill in a coma with the doctor saying he had little or no chance of survival.
However, the small Pentecostal church that Albert’s mother attended in Crigglestone, Wakefield, was having a special series of meetings over the Easter period, to which visiting ministers were invited to preach. On this occasion, one of the preachers was a Pastor Buckley from Chesterfield. As Pentecostal churches believed in divine healing with the laying on of hands, Jane Hibbert sent a message to Mr Buckley, asking him to come to their home and pray for Albert.
It was apparently a typically wet British Easter weekend, but Pastor Buckley made his way through the rain to the Hibbert household. When he arrived at the house, he told Jane that he would pray for Albert and that he had asked God to give them a sign that the lad was healed.
Now unknown to Buckley, one of Albert’s elder brothers had given the lad a chocolate Easter bunny, which of course the lad knew nothing about, being unconscious. However, no sooner had Pastor Buckley prayed and left the house, than Albert sat up and asked for his chocolate Easter bunny! At which point everyone in the room knelt and thanked God for what they had just witnessed!
In the aftermath of this astounding miracle, the whole of the family asked Jesus Christ into their hearts as Saviour and Lord. And not only Albert’s immediate family, but also the Atkinson family from which his mother had come. The Hibberts and Atkinsons together made a considerable number, and so within the space of a few weeks, the small church in Crigglestone, became a sizeable group of believers.
As for Albert himself, when he reached manhood he started work on the railways, but the call of God was on his life and he eventually became a preacher and full-time minister. He pioneered a new church in Wath-on-Dearne, South Yorkshire, of which he later became the pastor.
Ministers moved around quite a bit in those days, and Albert also held pastorates in Pentecostal churches in Bishop Auckland, Sittingbourne (Kent), Fraserbugh (Scotland), Chesterfield, Peterhead (Scotland) and South Wales. He was also a much sought after preacher at various special meetings and conventions, including churches in the United States of America. He was married to Frances and they had two children, Robert and Sheila.
Albert served God until his death in 1997. His nephew, Arthur Hibbert, told me, “Albert was always ready to help younger men in the ministry and I shall always be indebted to him for the great encouragement and advice that he gave to me when I, too, became a preacher and pastor.”
Arthur also commented on the remarkable effect the miracle had on the families concerned: “The Hibberts and the Atkinsons remain quite numerous, and I have strong connections with many in both families. Both streams of the family have produced a total of nine preachers, a heritage that I have been very blessed to have a part in.”