When I was about 12 years old, I had my first experience with Pentecostalism. I didn’t know it then, but it was the beginning of a two-decade journey that had me a Pentecostal deacon by 23 and – shockingly – a Catholic by 37. I’ve often been asked by Evangelical friends how I could possibly become Catholic. And, I’ve been asked by intensely curious Catholics how a trip on Azusa Street could lead to Rome, without constant warnings of “recalculating” and “make U-turn now.” I’m tackling the book that describes that incredible journey. Follow along and share with me your (polite, well-mannered) thoughts and reactions.
My First Pentecost
The roasting heat of an August day was just abating as my mother and I drove down a dusty country lane to the House of Prayer. Entering the little red house, we saw a small congregation seated on folding chairs packed tightly in the cozy living room. Brother Merrill preached from the kitchenette and, at the end of the service, he said God told him that all the children should come forward. I was amazed. Except for the Bible, I’d never heard of God actually speaking to someone. While a bit nervous at the prospect of standing in front of strangers with kids I didn’t know, I went forward.
We were lined up – front-to-back – youngest to oldest. Being by far the oldest, I was last in line. Merrill began to pray. I don’t recall the specifics, but at the end, he cried out “in the name of Jesus!” and placed his hand on the forehead of the littlest child who stood first in the line. Like a line of dominoes, each child tumbled backward – except for me. I was startled and confused as I gaped at the children sprawled on the floor before me. Later, I was told these youngsters were “slain in the Spirit.” They were so overcome with the power of the Holy Spirit that they fell to the floor. I was certain this must have been something God had done – to everyone but me.
As I stood, awkward and embarrassed, in front of the packed living room, I had my first encounter with a fear that God does not know me. Why would every child in that line experience God, except me?