The Zion Story: Faith In Action

The following article was not written by me. I have re-published it so that it will be preserved and read by others.

Who but God would write a plot as wonderful as that of Zion’s?

From countless stories of supernatural provision, to extreme difficulties triumphed over, lives that gave all they had to see God’s work advance, miraculous demonstrations of power, graduates on every continent and literally the whole world impacted-all by a small school in Rhode Island.

It’s the saga of a 25-year-old gal from South America who simply wanted to honor the God she loved and served and who found herself involved in a vision and work that required every bit of faith and energy she had. Little did she know that her trip to America would turn out so differently than she had planned.

She was about to learn that “Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible!”
Yet to see God’s vision come to reality would require a life of sacrifice.

Through an unfortunate set of circumstances, Christine Eckman, instead of traveling to California, would end up in a place called Faith Home, on the opposite coast she set out for, a place for retired servants of the Lord.

Here she would meet and marry Rev. Reuben Gibson whose anointed Bible teachings in the Parlor developed a hunger in the hearts of the hearers and they clamored for a school to be opened.

The weeks became years, during which time, from one building, the establishment grew to four buildings. A chapel was built on the grounds; then in 1923 a Tabernacle. The cup of suffering in the well-known mural that was painted in the Tabernacle, as well as in the Temple, was inspired by the loss of Sister Gibson’s husband.

In the fall of 1924, Sister Gibson felt to open a school called the “School of the Prophets,” even though her husband had died only months before. Sister Gibson taught classes on several subjects. The first year God worked supernaturally and often classes turned into mighty demonstrations of God’s power and revelation.

Kathleen Fischer was the school’s first applicant. Her daughter, Margaret graduated in the 1930’s. Geraldine Waterman, Zion’s first missionary, went to China to preach the Gospel.

From year to year improvements were made in the different buildings. Many times a former graduate or the Alumni would supply the funds to do so. In 1936 the name of the school was changed from School of the Prophets to Zion Bible College. Years before, God had called the place Zion and given precious promises in connection with that name through His Spirit. In that year the diplomas awarded at graduation time were from Zion Bible College instead of the School of the Prophets.

Sister Gibson put every talent into the ministry and by the late 1930’s enrollment had climbed to over 90.

Such notable personalities as Mary Campbell, who would touch students for 60 years; Leonard Heroo who grew up in the Children’s home and would become president of the Institute and pastor of Zion Gospel Temple; and Buddy Hill, whose radio ministry would promote the gospel from the Zion campus for decades, would graduate in the years that followed.

As the 40’s progressed and students poured into the school, facilities were again insufficient. God had a solution and in an unusual move the Goff property that included four buildings and adjoined Faith Home became Zion’s.

The Tabernacle was now too small and it only made sense to replace it with a beautiful Temple on the corner of Broadway in front of the school. Yet the commitment never to operate according to man’s wisdom but by the prophetic word would stop that plan. Instead on a back vacant lot it would be built and only a short time later would God’s reason be revealed. Just as seen in Sister Gibson’s vision, the state eventually widened Broadway and would have destroyed the Temple in the process if it had been built there.

Before the finishing of the interior, the Glory of the Lord came down and for days the Lord moved mightily upon His people. The revival of January 1952 will live in the minds of many forever. Young and old, ministers and deacons, sinners and saints, sought God and God moved by His Spirit in a mighty revival. There were healings and gifts and calls to salvation and deliverances, as God showered His blessings upon His people. The meals were often overlooked or forgotten, the hour on the clock held little importance – for God came down in the midst and His glory filled His temple. Zion Gospel Temple was dedicated on March 19, 1952.

The three years following the dedication of the Temple were glorious years for Zion and Sister Gibson. Then, suddenly, in the midst of the very busy month of May our beloved Mother Gibson was stricken ill. The seniors were preparing for graduation and she was getting ready to march on to her eternal reward.

The following six years would bring tremendous change asLeonard Heroo became pastor of Zion Gospel Temple and Mary Campbell became principal of the school; and everyone learned what Zion was like without its beloved founder.

To add to the challenge, the state would require the demolition or removal of four of Zion’s historic buildings to make way for a widened Broadway. Finally, one by one, the Crocker, Wilbert Rich and Children’s Home buildings were demolished, until only Faith Home remained. The entire school, and especially those who had known Zion so long and had lived in the Home, gathered on that day to watch with tear-stained faces as the historic landmark was destroyed. Then, old Faith Home was gone; yet fond memories of God’s presence and workings there shall ever be remembered.

The 60’s brought the election of Leonard Heroo as Zion’s second president-definitely a man ahead of his time.

The long awaited Gibson Administration Building was constructed and dedicated on January 3, 1966, Sister Gibson’s birthday.

Only five years later to the day another event would shake Zion. On the morning of January 3, 1971, just before all the students returned from break, a fire destroyed the girls’ dorm. Only 24 hours later and 56 lives would have been in jeopardy.

Dr. Heroo was prevailed upon to close the school but faith refused to listen to man’s wisdom. Friends and alumni came to the school’s aid once again providing for what was lost. In November 1972 a brand new Cleveland Hall would open with room for 54.

The new dorm was named Cleveland Hall, honoring the Temple’s founder, Rev. Alpheus A. Cleveland. He left the Methodist Church and founded a Holiness Mission, first called Faith Church, later Church of the First Born and then Zion Gospel Tabernacle.

The late 70’s and early 80’s saw the Alumni Association, under the diligent leadership of Edward Hill, raise one million dollars to build the beautiful new Learning Center. This facility housed a chapel, classrooms and a much larger library.

Huge transition and change would again rock Zion in the mid-eighties. Dr. Heroo, due to failing health, would retire as the president of the school and pastor of Zion Gospel Temple. Mary Campbell Wilson, not long after she was married, stepped in to lead the school briefly and then in 1985 Dr. N. Benjamin Crandall was elected to lead the school and Temple.

He had barely begun his presidency when the 108 acre Barrington College campus became available. This meant the sale of the dearly beloved East Providence campus situated on six acres.

For many it was very hard to watch as a developer purchased and then demolished the Tabernacle and Gracemore buildings.

Not many people know that Sister Gibson came to the Barrington campus and claimed the property for Zion at least 45 years before God miraculously enabled Zion to acquire it. The plans for the first major building on the campus were being drawn up as Christine Eckman was on the high seas, traveling to a place unknown, not knowing what God was planning to accomplish through her life and ministry.

In 1985, Brother Crandall gathered many of the Zion family around him by the fish pond and had a memorable picture taken. In this picture are some of the pillars of Zion who held up the hands of the leaders and marched on in faith day in and day out and did great exploits for God.

As the new millennium began, Dr. Crandall would release the reins of Zion to its fifth president, George Cope, a man whose grandfather was led to Christ by a Zionian some 60 years before.

Although it’s not possible to tell the story of Zion without describing all the physical changes, it’s more of a story of people who have given their lives in service to God and this great school. People like:

Marie King, Alice Chase, Pat Gallagher, Rosemary and Swan Messerlian, Ruth and Oliver Custer, Billy White, Ray Goodwin, George Hockhousen, Albert Spader, David Johnson, Ruth Andersen, Esther Rollins, Evert Dahlstrom, Jim Pierce, Nat Saginario, Ruth Christopher, Robert Lundstrom, Eleanor Brunnetto, David Wyns, Libby Gomes, Roberta Hockhousen.

The list could go on and on. These and so many more are the heroes of Zion.

And the result of their labors?

In the past five years alone students have come from 27 different states across America.
During that same time, men and women have come from 51 different countries around the world to study here.

Today Zion has over 3,000 alumni, most of whom are actively serving the Lord. Our school can boast of one of the highest percentages of graduates involved in full time ministry of any school in America – all for the glory of God and the increase of his kingdom.

May his will be done forever without end. Zion . . .the Joy of the Whole Earth!

The Foundation of Faith laid by our founder decades ago remains the cornerstone of Zion Bible College. Faith continues to speak life to millions around the world through decades of alumni who have trained in these hallowed halls. The future is as bright as the promises of God. The vision is yet for an appointed time, it will speak and will not lie!

Archived from