One of the most-visited graves at Riverside Memorial Park is that of the Rev. John G. Lake, who died in Spokane in 1935.
“A lot of people don’t know who he was, but for those who do, the grave site is very popular,” said Rob Goff, manager at Riverside. “Particularly in the summer, they come to see and to pay respects.”
Canadian-born John Graham Lake was a businessman who later became known for his missionary work and his faith healing ministry. From a large family, which was often beset with illness (eight of his 16 siblings died of assorted diseases), he became a Methodist minister at age 21 but chose to enter the world of business, starting two newspapers and moving into a career in real estate.
When his wife Jennie came down with a life-threatening illness in 1898, he turned to faith healer John Alexander Dowie and was drawn into Dowie’s movement when Jennie recovered. In 1901 he moved the family to Illinois, as he wrote “for the purpose of studying divine healing so that I can learn it and teach it.” In 1908 he walked away from a handsome income and prestigious positions, such as his seat on the Chicago Board of Trade, and traveled to Africa, where he founded the Apostolic Faith Mission in South Africa. Sadly, Jennie died there that year.
A biographer has written more than 700 churches were started in Africa by the organization that Lake created.
Lake returned to the United States in 1913, where he married Florence Switzer, a woman who had been a stenographer and secretary and who wrote down all his sermons as he delivered them and later transcribed them, creating a wealth of material which lives on today. Together they raised his seven children and the five they had together.
He traveled around the country preaching, and then moved to England, where he founded the International Apostolic Council. In 1914 he moved to Spokane. It is uncertain why he chose this city, but it is said he felt called to do so.
In Spokane he opened Lake’s Divine Healing Rooms and began training divine healing technicians for his organization titled The Divine Healing Institute. One biographer has written that from February 1915 to May 1920 Lake and his technicians reported more than 100,000 healings. The healing rooms in Spokane were closed in 1920.
After that time he moved to Portland, traveled down the California coast and went to Houston, creating churches and healing rooms wherever he went. In 1931 he returned to Spokane, opening a church and a new healing room. He died of complications from a stroke in Spokane in 1935 at 65, and his ministry was carried on by his daughter Gertrude and her husband until their death in the 1980s. The Rev. Curry R. Blake currently is general overseer of John G. Lake Ministries (jglm.org), and there are other healing ministries now in existence which are guided by Lake’s precepts but are not necessarily affiliated with his organization.
During his lifetime, Lake maintained friendships with many prominent people, including railroad baron James J. Hill, DeBeers Diamond Company founder and founder of the African nation of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) Cecil Rhodes, Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi, Erich Weiss (also known as Harry Houdini) and Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
One odd and interesting twist of fate affecting Lake was the fact that his friend W.T. Snead, a British editor, had invited him to accompany him on the maiden voyage of a new ship, an invitation Lake was not able to accept. That ship was the Titanic.