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The Holy Ghost
The year was 1945. Sister Wardlow picked up a newspaper and read,
REVIVAL NOW IN PROGRESS Young Teenage Evangelist Playing, Preaching and Singing the Old-Fashioned Gospel in Davenport Mission.
Sister Wardlow and I made preparations to attend the Revival. We left Molene and drove through Rock Island and crossed on the ferry to Davenport. We reached the Mission just as they were singing Gospel Hymns.
The speaker was announced and a very young girl, Sister Nilah, arose and began preaching. I soon laid aside my traditional ideas of a woman preacher. She spoke on the subject of Water Baptism.
Sister Nilah Preaching the Gospel
I listened attentively as she explained from Holy Scripture that Baptism was by immersion (Acts 8:38; Romans 6:4). Being buried with Christ as the Apostle Paul taught, refutes any idea of sprinkling or pouring water on the head as an act of Baptism. The very Greek word of Baptism means to plunge, to dip, to cover and to immerse.
When I heard Sister Nilah say that no babies were baptized in the Bible, that they were first believers (Mark 16:16) which required thinking, older minds, it shocked me. She challenged the congregation to find just one example of infant baptism or sprinkling or pouring in the Bible.
She climaxed her sermon by saying that most churches baptize their candidates by using the Trinity formula handed down by the so-called hierarchical “Church” who had received it from paganism. The congregation seemed to be shocked at this statement. But she continued by saying that Jesus, in Matthew 28:19, never did mean for ministers to repeat those words, but to obey them. When the disciples found out what the name of the Father, Son and Holv Ghost was, they baptized every New Testament convert in the name of Jesus. Thus she proved Acts 2:38 was not a contradiction but a fulfillment of Matthew 28:19. Hence every New Testament candidate was immersed in water baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus.
When the service closed, I asked Sister Wardlow if she thought it would be permissible for me to go to Sister Nilah or the Pastor and obtain all the scriptures they had on this subject. She thought that was a good idea.
I received a whole page of scripture references and we left the meeting. Everybody retired except me, and I slept in the basement with reference sheet and Bible in hand and began searching to see if what Sister Nilah had preached was in God’s Word. I also prayed to Jesus not to let me err or get into anything false. While I was in prayer, the Lord gave me a vision! And on the white-washed wall of that basement came the scripture:
REPENT AND BE BAPTIZED EVERY ONE OF YOU IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS AND YE SHALL RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST.
The words were in huge, bold, block, black letters.
I ran halfway up the basement stairway and yelled to Sister Wardlow to come down and see what was written on the basement wall. She hurried to the stairway and leaned over the banister peering intently at the side of the wall where I was pointing. However, she turned to me and told me she didn’t see a thing. I read the words to her, but she turned and smiled approvingly at me and told me God had given me this vision that was just for me.
At the very next service I promptly arose during the testimonial service after they had sung a chorus entitled “I’m One of Them,” and testified saying, “Praise God, I’m going to be one of them. I want to be baptized in the lovely name of Jesus!”
The next stirring message preached by Sis. Nilah was on “The Baptism of the Holy Ghost.”
I had been christened in the “Church” when I was eight years old. My godfather and my godmother had been informed that the few grains of salt that had been placed on my tongue were the Holy Ghost and therefore would preserve me throughout my life. Now Nilah preached that the Holy Ghost was a gift from God as well as a birth. She explained that everyone should receive it to be in the Bride of Christ. She told of the 120 disciples including the mother of Jesus who tarried ten days until they were filled with the Spirit and came forth speaking in other tongues — languages.
I again went to Sis. Nilah and asked for all the scriptural references and returned to Mrs. Wardlow’s basement and prayed. I told God that if this was truly of Him and that if the Holy Ghost was for me I wanted it. Otherwise, I asked Him to close the door.
Then God gave me this Scripture. “And call no man your father upon the earth, for one is your Father which is in Heaven “ (Matthew 23:9).
Since that time I have never addressed a priest as “Father.”
We had been taught that the Virgin Mary is the Gateway to Heaven. But Jesus said:
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).
Not by the Virgin Mary or the Priest, but by Jesus Christ, could we get to the Father. Jesus also said:
“I am the door. If any man enter in he shall be saved” (John 10:9).
“Behold I, Jesus, stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
I went back to the Church with full assurance that the Lord Jesus was leading me.
The priest had called and disturbed me until I cried so hard I felt I wouldn’t go to Church. I was so ashamed of my swollen eyes and tear-stained face. But Sister Wardlow told me that this might be the very night that God would do something special for me, and I had better go to Church with her.
Sis. Nilah preached “The Crucifixion of the Cross.” The very word “Cross” was repulsive to me. I could only think of the old wooden cross and how I had suffered in the Convent. I dragged it, was pinned to it, was flagellated on it, was laid prostrate in the form of it while other Nuns had stepped over me and on me, and I even licked the form of it on concrete in the laundry room. I had fainted carrying the cross, only to be brought back to consciousness by cold water dashed in my face. Sometimes I was compelled to lie in the form of the cross for three days.
However, Sis. Nilah told of the love of Christ as He hung between Heaven and earth. The nails could not hold Him there, but His love for mankind did. The congregation wept as she preached One by one they filled the altar and shook her hand. As I stepped up, she clasped my hand and whispered, “Aren’t you going to pray?”
I fell on my knees and began to weep. I promised the Lord my all, that I would go where He wanted me to go and do His bidding. As I surrendered my will to Him, praises came from my lips. In a matter of minutes, God took control of these lips of clay and began speaking through me in the heavenly language that only God can speak. The Holy Ghost filled and saturated me, until I forgot the soiled Mission floor, the beautiful, pastel pink dress I was wearing and the well-set curls. I could hardly walk straight down the aisle to the exit. Surely I was drunk on the power of God, just as the disciples were in the second Chapter of Acts.
Revival Services continued in this Iowa City for five full weeks. Winter, with its cold, weathering hand, gave way to Spring’s budding green. The last Sunday was a full day of service, 10:00A.M. Sunday School and 11:00 A.M. Worship. In the afternoon, Pastor Karl Neilson, congregation, Sis. Nilah and myself drove to the Mississippi River and began to sing. Sis Nilah played the accordian and led the group singing, while another played the guitar:
Shall we gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful River, Gather with the saints at the River, That vows from the Throne of God,
Then Pastor Neilson and Sis. Nilah took me by the hand, leading me into the water. In water, waist deep, Sis. Nilah delivered a message to all who stood on the riverbank. “God is not a Trinity, but is One, ‘One Lord, One Faith, and one baptism.’ And ‘Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the Name of Jesus.’”
She preached on the goodness of God and declared that Jesus died, so must we repent and die to sin. Jesus was buried, so must we be buried by water baptism in His precious Name. And Christ was resurrected, so shall we be resurrected by the Holy Ghost.
She then took me by the hand again and said, “Upon the profession of your faith, and obedience to God’s divine Word, I now baptize you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and to receive the Holy Ghost — buried with Christ.”
The saints continued to sing.
Precious Name, O how sweet, Hope of Earth and joy of Heaven, Precious Name, O how sweet, Hope of Earth and Joy of Heaven.