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Chambers, Oswald (1874-1917) | Archival Collections at Wheaton College

Name: Chambers, Oswald (1874-1917)


Historical Note: Oswald Chambers was born July 24, 1874 to Clarence and Hannah Chambers. He was one of 8 surviving children and spent his childhood in Aberdeen, Stoke-on-Trent and Perth.  Clarence Chambers was a Baptist minister who was strict but loving. Hannah Chambers had perhaps the deepest influence on Oswald. She provided the household with stability and love, which made indelible marks upon her children. Oswald received his education from several institutions beginning at the Art School in South Kensington where he received the Art Master’s Certificate. He continued on to Edinburgh University to further his art studies, and it was here that Oswald felt called by God into full service and ministry. He left Edinburgh shortly afterwards to attend Dunoon Training College where he studied with the Reverend Duncan Macgregor, who became a significant influence in his life. The period following his completion at Dunoon was a time of intense soul searching and seeking for Oswald, but it was this time that prepared him for his future work. The years after Dunoon provided the young Chambers with a great deal of adventure as he followed the call of God across oceans and nations. He preached at camp meetings in America, Japan and the United Kingdom. He traveled with men like Juji Nakada and worked closely with the Holiness movement in America and England. He lived a simple existence with virtually no excess. God provided as he needed and he was content. In 1908 on a ship headed for America he met Gertrude “Biddy” Hobbs and they became close friends. Through the following months and years their relationship deepened and they were married May 25, 1910.  Both Oswald and Biddy felt called to a ministry other than traveling evangelism, and the founding of the Bible Training College in 1911 was a fulfillment of that call. The Chambers’ spent 4 years in charge of the college, and ministered to a large number of students. The school had to be closed when Oswald began his ministry with the YMCA in Egypt, but it changed countless lives during its brief existence, and sent many to the mission field. In October of 1915 Oswald left Biddy and their daughter Kathleen in England, and traveled across treacherous seas to work with the YMCA in Zeitoun Egypt. Two months later Biddy and Kathleen joined him, and together they began a ministry that would reach thousands of soldiers and touch many lives. On October 29, 1917 Oswald was taken to the hospital in Gizeh with severe pains in his abdomen. An emergency appendectomy was performed that evening, and Oswald began to recover. A week later he suffered a series of relapses from a blood clot in his lung, and he died on November 15, 1917. Word was spread to England and abroad by cable that read “Oswald in His Presence.” All of the published writings of Oswald Chambers come from the sermons and lessons he gave, which Biddy took down in shorthand and then transcribed. The vast majority was published posthumously, and a great debt is owed to Biddy for her work in collecting and typing the manuscripts.  Oswald Chambers’ most popular book, My Utmost for His Highest has reached millions of people through the decades, and has extended the Chambers’ ministry far beyond what could have ever been imagined.






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