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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

The Roots of Azusa: Pentecost in Topeka

With the 100th anniversary of the Azusa Street Revival, we should also remember the anniversary of the day when the church once again discovered the baptism in the Holy Spirit -- New Year's Day, 1901.

In October 1900 in Topeka, Kansas, a small band of believers led by Charles Parham started Bethel Bible School. The school "invited all ministers and Christians who were willing to forsake all, sell what they had, give it away, and enter the school for study and prayer, where all of us together might trust God for food, fuel, rent and clothing." No one paid tuition or board and they all wanted to be equipped to go to the ends of the earth to preach the gospel of the Kingdom as a witness to every nation. The only textbook was the Bible. Their concerted purpose was to learn the Bible not just in their heads but to have each thing in the Scriptures wrought out in their hearts.

As they searched the scriptures, they came up with one great problem - what about the second chapter of Acts? In December 1900, Parham sent his students at work to diligently search the scriptures for the Biblical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They all came back with the same answer - when the baptism in the Holy Spirit came to the early disciples, the indisputable proof on each occasion was that they spoke with other tongues.

Armed with this head knowledge, they now sought to have it worked out in their own hearts. Parham called a watch night service on December 31, 1900. He assembled about 75 people including the 40 students. One of the students, Agnes N. Ozman asked that hands might be laid upon her to receive the Holy Spirit since she desired to go to foreign lands as a missionary. According to Parham, after midnight on January 1, 1901, he laid hands upon her and:

"I had scarcely repeated three dozen sentences when a glory fell upon her, a halo seemed to surround her head and face, and she began speaking in the Chinese language, and was unable to speak English for three days. When she tried to write in English to tell us of her experience she wrote the Chinese, copies of which we still have in newspapers printed at that time."

They continued the prayer meeting for two more nights and three days. According to Parham, "We all got past any begging or pleading; we knew the blessing was ours." The rest, as they say, is history.

Within 10 years, that tiny prayer meeting in Topeka spread out far and wide to start the Azusa Street revival under William J. Seymour and the healing ministries of John G. Lake and F. F. Bosworth. That meeting ultimately gave birth as well to the Assemblies of God, the Church of God, the Church of God in Christ, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Thousands of missionaries went out and Pentecostal churches sprung up in Canada, Germany, Sweden, Norway, England, Scotland, France, Holland, Denmark, Mexico, Brazil, El Salvador, Venezuela, Chile, Liberia, Nigeria, the Congo, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, and even China. When Miss Nettie Moomau, a missionary to China, heard about the Azusa Street revival, she left China to go to visit Azusa in October of 1906. She was filled with the Holy Spirit and returned to China to start a great healing ministry. She eventually planted churches in Lo Pau, Shanghai, Michow, Toachow, Canton, Yunnan, Siimao, Kansu, Yunnanfu, and Beijing.

All of this was accomplished in 10 years without any formal organization and in spite of the obvious limitations on communication and travel at the turn of the century. These people seemed to have no hesitation to leave everything behind to spread the message that God wanted to pour out His Spirit on all flesh - all nations - Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, male and female, rich and poor - everyone can come and be filled.

Perhaps at the dawn of a new century, and a new millennium, all Christians could use a new Pentecost, where we get past all begging and pleading and know that the blessing is ours to take to the nations.

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