Miles to go before I sleep
Randall Murphree
AFA Journal editor

Above, Cecil Todd in 2002 at Grand Palace in Branson, Missouri

January-February 2020“I was 16 years old before I ever entered my first church building,” evangelist Cecil Todd told AFA Journal. “We had church in a school house occasionally, but there was no church building and no regular pastor.”

Young Cecil was not comfortable around strangers. “I was so backward,” he said, “I would hide under the house when company came.”

He grew up with 10 siblings in their remote home in the Kiamichi Mountains of southeast Oklahoma. The family home stood about three feet off the ground with no underpinning. It created a great place for dogs and cats and chickens – and kids – to play or take refuge.

“We seldom had company,” he recalled, “because we lived so far back in the hills.”

However, he came to faith in Christ as a young boy, and he was serious about it. So, he often prayed, “Lord, send a preacher to these mountains.” But he wasn’t like Isaiah, saying, “Here am I, Lord. Send me.”

“No!” he exclaimed. “I was more like Jonah! When I knew God was calling me to preach, I said, ‘Do what!?’ I told God I could never do that.” He began running from God – tried to join the Navy but didn’t pass the physical. He planned to move to California but suddenly became critically ill. In fact, the doctor told his parents he was near death.

“I knew what was wrong,” he admitted. “God had called and anointed me to preach His glorious gospel.” So, this sickly, skinny 17-year-old kid wrestled with God – and God won. Once he surrendered to God’s call, his mysterious illness disappeared as quickly as it had come.

A promise to keep
“… I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” Renowned American poet Robert Frost wrote the lines in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” in 1922. Almost a century later, those poignant words could well be Cecil Todd’s anthem.

On November 9, 1949, Todd preached his first sermon at age 18 soon after he had entered Ozark Bible College in Joplin, Missouri. He promised God he would preach the gospel as long as God gave him life. Now, fast forward 70 years and 1 day.

On November 10, 2019, Todd preached the Sunday morning sermon as family, friends, and church family gathered for worship at his home church, Faith and Wisdom Church in Branson, Missouri. The special service was also a celebration of Todd’s faithful decades of ministry. In the afternoon, the celebration continued with family, friends, ministry partners, and music artists sharing memories of the man and his ministry.

Todd has preached thousands of sermons in tent crusades and big arenas, in all 50 states and 22 countries, in churches large and small. He has traveled three million miles and seen three million souls come to faith. His preaching continues to reflect Revival Fires Ministry (RFM), the name of the evangelism ministry he founded in 1965.

A world to impact
In addition to traditional preaching/evangelism, Todd has led creative outreaches and ministries that not only impact culture in the U.S. but also reach into the far corners of
the earth.

There are countless noteworthy milestones in his ministry. One of them has been Revival Fires’ relationship with U.S. military leaders. For example, Lt. Col. Brian K. Waite (Navy Chaplin, Retired) wrote a letter of appreciation for RFM supplying Bibles at a crucial time.

“… Revival Fires Ministry truly became a genuine hero in the War on Terror,” he wrote. Serving in Kuwait, the chaplain continued: “As a result of these Bibles being distributed … I saw over 60 combat-hardened men come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

Through the years, RFM has been a founding partner of 21 new churches, not only in the U.S. Along with World Missions Alliance, RFM established a congregation as Schechen Christian Church in Boa-An District of China.

Todd said preaching in Moscow, Russia’s Red Square for the nation’s May Day celebration on May 1, 1991 is another unforgettable highlight.

“No preacher and no American had ever been invited to speak at this historic annual event,” he said. Reports indicated that more than one million people crowded the city that day. Russia proved fertile ground for further connections.

“A Russian official came to spy on me when I was speaking in a school,”Todd said. “And he got saved!”

Todd became friends with Russian General Slava Borisov, a strong Christian who opened military bases to Todd. Borisov later reported, “Twenty-three combat generals … became believers in Christ because of the massive Bible distribution program by the Revival Fires Ministry on our military bases.”

Affirming the integrity of Borisov, Billy Graham observed, “General Borisov is a very loving and modest man who radiates Christ.” Graham also followed the RFM ministry, calling Todd “a strong witness for our Lord Jesus Christ during one of the most critical periods of
our history.”

India is another nation that now bears the imprint of RFM’s bringing the gospel there. Two Jesus Loves Me Homes care for 50 orphans, providing food, medical care, and spiritual training.

In Valacom, Kerala State, India, RFM built the 300-bed Mercy Hospital, where each patient is given a Bible.

In more recent years, Cuba has been the scene of RFM’s focus, and Todd has distributed 50 thousand Bibles there.

Miles to go
In October 2015, Todd was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. “You have a belly full of cancer,” his doctor said, “… it’s in your lymph nodes, your lungs, your glands, and your head.” Todd recruited prayer warriors all over the world. At his check up three months later, the same doctor told him, “Your cancer is gone!”

Of course, Todd was not surprised, only energized for more ministry.

Even with this nutshell look at Cecil Todd’s Revival Fires Ministry, it reveals quite a legacy for a shy mountain boy from Oklahoma’s remote Kiamichi Mountains.

But ask him about legacy, and he seems to forget crusade tents, sermons, Red Square, a church in China, military friends, hospitals, and children’s homes.

His expression changes. His eyes grow tender. His voice grows softer in marked contrast to the fiery evangelist’s usual volume.

The bottom line? Todd’s two daughters and four sons are all ordained and involved in ministry. Take a step to the next generation, and a total of 18 Todd family members are in
Christian ministry.

“That,” he declared, “may be my greatest legacy!”

AFAJ had one last question for the 88-year-old phenomenon: What are your long-range plans?

His answer: “We plan to continue the spiritual invasion of Cuba, and I’ll continue the big rallies across the country until the Lord comes back – or calls me home.”    

Revival Fires Ministries and AFA
Cecil Todd’s son Tim, director of Truth for Youth (TFY) ministry, is well known to AFA and American Family Radio. Later this year, TFY and AFA will partner in their 20th year of providing Bibles for Christian teens to share with their unsaved and searching friends.

However, the RFM-AFA connection goes even further back. Cecil Todd launched a “clean up television” campaign about the same time Don Wildmon founded AFA for the same purpose. The men became friends and encouraged each other in their quest for cleaner television in the 1970s and 1980s.