The task ahead of us
God the Holy Spirit is moving in his mighty way during these last days
in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:28,
"... I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh".
After my conversion to Christ, Chief Richards kept inviting me to attend his church but I was a little reluctant because I knew the Chief would expect me to attend with him on a regular basis thereafter and I did not want to feel obligated to go to the church in case I did not like it. But I was really curious to see what his church was like and then the perfect opportunity presented itself for me to do so.
The Chief and his family went on a vacation to Tennessee.
When Sunday morning came I took a bus to Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Norfolk, Virginia. Rev. David A. Berquist pastored this church and he preached the Word of God emphatically in the power of the Holy Spirit. He had a booming voice and his face got red when he got excited about what he was preaching. He waived his arms and stomped his feet from time to time during the sermon as the anointing of God came upon him. This is the first time I had ever been to one of these kinds of church services. For some reason I loved it. But I felt a little out of place.
My basic bloodline ancestry was Cymric Celtic, German, and Viking. I figured about one third of the congregation must be Italians or foreigners or from some other foreign descent because when they raised their hands in the air to worship they spoke in foreign languages at the same time. Someone had told me one time that the priests in the Roman Catholic Church spoke Latin to their congregations and that was a foreign language. Why couldn't a bunch of Italians worship in Italian in this church? It did not bother me if there were foreigners there or not. It looked like to me there was plenty of room in that big church for all to worship in! In one that size there was bound to be many ethnic groups and it seemed that they could worship in any way they pleased. Although it was different from any church I had previously attended, I knew I wanted to come to this church again.
When the Chief returned from vacation I told him that I would be attending church services at his church. He was delighted. He introduced some other sailors and me from the Bible study group to Cleo, his wife, and his three children. During the next six months after my conversion to Christ, when we were not at sea, we were invited nearly every weekend to their home for fellowship, food, and discipleship training. We would attend church services also. This family had a lot of love and practiced Christian hospitality. I was very grateful to this precious family for times like that which gave me a chance to learn how to be a Christian, and to get away from the ship.
Activities with the Richard's Family in 1967 included badminton games, skateboarding on the sidewalks, eating watermelon, visiting local historical sites, and one time we picked strawberries on a local "U-pick" farm. These visits also proved to be times of practical learning. Cleo counseled us on the ABC's of practical Christian living. Because Christians were different from the world we were expected to act differently than the world. (The world refers to the evil world system). She taught us the proper modes of Christian conduct, explained Christian convictions, and taught by example Christian hospitality. Church attendance was highly stressed as was being a good Christian witness, not only by living for the Lord but also by working for the Lord.
One Sunday, April 17, 1967, the fellowship Bible study group did not go to the Richard's home but that night we met the Chief and his family at church. The Bible study group had grown and the six sailors who had been saved while on the February cruise, including myself, had started attending the Chief's church. During the service the singing was peppy and most all in the congregation were clapping their hands. Toward the end of the pastor's sermon, however, a lot of people were raising their hands in worship. After the service was over and nearly all the congregation had left, I saw one of the men from our Bible study group, we called Red, walk down the aisle of the nearly deserted church to the altar in front of the church. He kneeled and began praying. Earlier that afternoon the Chief had tutored Red about how to get more spiritual power in his life.
The Chief volunteered to give us all a ride back to the ship, but he
indicated he was in no hurry and did not mind waiting on Red. As I
observed Red at the altar I saw an elderly lady approach him there
and talk to him. Soon another elderly lady joined her. They stood
behind him, placed their hands on top of his head, and began shouting
for Jesus to baptize him in the Holy Ghost (Spirit). Nothing happened,
at first, and then all kinds of excitement seemed to "break out" down at the altar.
Something was happening to Red. Soon, one of the elderly ladies sat
down on the first pew directly behind Red and the other elderly lady
continued to pray with him. I was sitting toward the back of the
church and I decided to go forward to see what was going on. I sat
down next to the lady in the front pew. Red was on his knees with his
hands raised in the air, and he was saying words I could not
understand. The color of his face was the color of his hair, and I saw
perspiration running down his face. I knew
something was going on but I did not know what. I looked at the
elderly lady sitting next to me with a questioning look.
"Do you know what is happening?", she asked me, looking me in the eyes.
"What is happening to him?", I asked her in return.
"Let me show you", she said, as she opened up her Bible, but before she read it to me she said,
"This experience is in the Bible. It is called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit! Have you ever heard of it?".
"No", I confessed, looking her in the eyes and then looking at her Bible. She explained,
"This experience is only for born again Christian believers to give power for witnessing and service. This is what it says in Acts chapter two, verse four,
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
She showed me the scripture as she read it to me. "Let me explain it to you, and then I have to be going", she continued, "The Holy Spirit takes possession of a believer in a spiritual baptism of power as He did to each of the early disciples gathered together in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost God the Holy Spirit speaks through the believer using the believer's tongue to utter praises and give glory to God the Father and God the Son as well as to tell Him our deepest needs. The languages the Spirit speaks in are the tongues of men and of angels as Paul stated in I Corinthians 13:1, however, the believer being baptized seldom understands them. I hate to leave you but I have to go now to catch my ride home".
She left, leaving me sitting alone on the front pew.
It seemed Red was in another world at the altar and the elderly lady was still there praying over him. Later, I learned everyone called her "Mom" Garrells. They were both facing the altar while I was on the front pew so I observed closely everything that was going on. I thought maybe this was really something special because of the red color of Red's face, over-heated body, and special language that were coming out of his mouth. On the other hand I feared that this was some kind of cult and this thing with Red was some kind of ritual associated with it. I had never heard of this before and I was developing a desire to go to the altar and find out for myself if this was real or not. One thing I knew. If it were not real I would never again set foot inside another church like this.
Then Mom turned from praying over Red and saw me eagerly sitting on
the edge of the pew. Motioning me to the altar with her hands, she
"Are you ready, Sugar?".
"I sure am", I replied, as I got down on my knees at the altar next to Red. At that time I felt an evil presence slide across my heart and lodge there. An evil spirit was oppressing me and fighting me to rob me of a blessing from God.
"Raise your hands in the air, keep your mind upon Jesus, and start saying hallelujah over and over again as fast as you can", instructed Mom. As I started doing this the evil spirit oppressing me spoke to my mind,
"Look at you. You are making a fool out of yourself. You look ridiculous. What are these other people going to think about you?"
I ignored these thoughts. I kept my mind on Jesus, kept my hands raised in the air, surrendered my will to God, and kept saying hallelujah over and over again as fast as I could. I was on my knees about one minute before Mom placed here hands on top of my head. She yelled outloud behind me,
"Hallelujah! Baptize him Lord! Glory be to God!", and then she would speak loudly in tongues. Mom was worshipping the Lord and every once in awhile she would repeat what she had said previously. I remained on my knees with Mom praying over me approximately 3 minutes when I felt the evil spirit slide off my heart and exit under my right arm pit. At the same time I felt a "tremendous surge of energy" enter my abdominal cavity under my left rib cage, turn, and burn upward through my chest cavity and heart to my head. As this happened I could feel "impurities" within those regions of my body being burned up. My body instantly turned hot and my uniform was soaked with perspiration in a matter of a few moments. God the Holy Spirit then took control of my tongue and used it to speak with. I could tell there was a language coming from my mouth but I could not comprehend its meaning.
I was shocked. Just imagine! The God of the universe taking up residence in my body as if my body were a temple! I was rejoicing within myself as I said to myself, "It's real! It's real!"
Then I asked myself, "Why don't all the churches teach this?"
I felt this was one of the most unusual way God had ever dealt with me. It took me a few moments to get used to the idea that the Holy Spirit was superseding my mind's control over my tongue to speak with it as He desired. I yielded my will to Him. I trusted Him. He had a right to use my tongue because I had acknowledged Him as Lord of my life and that included my tongue.
I remembered what the Chief had told me, "You belong to Him, you are not your own. You were purchased with the blood of Christ."
God the Holy Spirit spoke in tongues through me for several minutes as long as I stayed yielded, then I "kicked in" my will and stopped my tongue.
My feet that were bowed were getting cramped because I was kneeling,
so I re-positioned my body to a sitting position. Mom said to me,
"Don't stop the Holy Spirit from speaking through you, Sugar. Let Him flow!"
Once again I yielded my will and the Spirit took control of my tongue and spoke rapidly in syllables I did not understand. God really blessed me through this experience. He had baptized me in Himself and previously to any great extent I had not known anything about this. I felt warm and loving inside my inner being. I felt clean, my faith seemed stronger, and I sensed I had spiritual power that was waiting to be unleashed. I was delighted God visited me and that He was pleased with me for yielding to Him. I discovered a new burden to save lost souls and discovered a new love relationship with God and with others.
I could see why Satan had tried to keep me from receiving this experience. I also then realized that this church congregation was not filled with foreigners speaking in their native dialects but that these were American folks praising God out-loud in tongues!
Two of the sailors from the ship's Bible study came and sat on the first pew observing Red and myself receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and being endued with power from on high. Mom coached both of them at the altar where they were both baptized in the Holy Spirit. Chief Richard's oldest daughter also received, so God that night blessed a total of 5 people.
Later on, I talked to several people who informed me that not all
church going people believed in the experience or in speaking in
tongues and actually went so far as to forbid it and teach against it.
They even used selected scriptures to prove their points of
theological view. I asked one person how he perceived this problem in
denominationalism. The person's reply was interesting,
"God the Holy Spirit does not baptize Catholics, Baptists, Nazarenes, Methodists, or Anglicans, He baptizes people."
So, as I had been saved and did not know it on the night of February 12, 1967, so also I received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, not previously knowing much about it, on the night of April 17, 1967.
A week later I was baptized in water by submersion.
Mina "Mom" Garrells was a wonderful person. She was always "bubbling over" in the Holy Spirit. She would get excited from time to time in a conversation about the Lord and burst out in joyful praise to God in English, then joyful praise or song in tongues, and then resume the conversation about the Lord again. She loved to talk about the Lord. She was 80 years old and even though we were not related, I wondered why the Lord had allowed our paths to cross.
I was only under her training for about 4 months but the training I received from her was invaluable. She was an exciting person to listen to and had many experiences to relate. Sometimes the best kind of teaching (discipling) is when an older person takes a younger person "under their wing" and shares with that person. Mom taught me this way.
I was curious as to how she had received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. She told me, "I was sitting in my rocking chair on the front porch of my house out in the country. It was beautiful and sunny and I was talking to Jesus telling Him how much I loved Him. The birds in the surrounding trees began chirping loudly. I sensed that Jesus was near and that He was going to do something wonderful. Then the Holy Spirit came into my inner being in a mighty way shaking me all over. He baptized me in His Spirit and when He did so He took control of my tongue and spoke through me in beautiful heavenly languages. Oh, He is so precious!"
Many Sundays after church I would go with her to jail services
conducted in jails located in towns out of the city limits of Norfolk.
Christians from various places and denominations would gather
together at these jails and then enter as a group, begin singing,
testifying, and preaching to the inmates behind the bars. Most of the
inmates appreciated these services. Mom showed great boldness in her
witnessing and preaching. She told me one time she began praying for
boldness so she could be more effective in her witnessing. She prayed
for four years until God answered her prayer request.
Persistence in prayer always pays off.
She was a very sweet natured lady and had a large measure of love she freely gave away to everyone. God's power within her, her boldness, and her grandmother image made her a welcome visitor every Sunday to a large number of boys behind bars who also called her "Mom". She prayed with many of the inmates when they asked her to lead them to Christ. She also prayed for some of the inmates, placing her hands on their heads through the jail bars, when they indicated to her they wanted to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. I saw them on their knees behind the bars, trembling, hands raised in the air, and speaking in tongues as the Holy Spirit took absolute possession of their entire being.
Just as I was endued with power from on high, so you can be endued with power from on high also. God wants to empower each of His children. But if you are wise and obedient and humble enough to do things God's way and you are seeking Him with all your heart, then God will fill your empty vessel (heart) full to overflowing with spiritual water and love and power. This experience is not necessary for salvation but for service. Remember, seek the Baptizer, Jesus Christ, and not the baptism.
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