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Fire on Azusa Street

“Everything about the Azusa Street Mission fascinated me — especially the prayer or ‘tarrying room’ on the second floor.

“Usually one hundred or more black, brown, and white people prayerfully waited there for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. Dozens of canes, braces, crutches and blackened smoking pipes leaned against the barn-like walls.

“Many times waves of glory would come over the tarrying room or meeting room, and people would cry out prayers of thanks or praise as they received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

“Meetings used to go past midnight and into the early hours of the morning. Hours there seemed like minutes. Sometimes after a wave of glory, a lot of people would speak in tongues. Then a holy quietness would come over the place, followed by a chorus of prayer in languages we had never before heard.

“Many were slain in the Spirit, buckling to the floor, unconscious, in a beautiful Holy Spirit cloud, and the Lord gave them visions.

“How I enjoyed shouting and praising God. During the tarrying, we used to break out in songs about Jesus and the Holy Spirit: ‘Fill Me Now,’ ‘Joy Unspeakable,’ and ‘Love Lifted Me.’

“Praise about the cleansing and precious blood of Jesus would just spring from our mouths. In between choruses, heavenly music would fill the hall, and we would break into tears.

“Suddenly the crowd seemed to forget how to sing in English. Out of their mouths would come new languages and lovely harmony that no human beings could have learned.

“On the ground floor, where services seemed never to end, the metal mailboxes, the Azusa Street Mission’s ‘collection plates,’ were always filled with coins and paper money.

“Never did Charles [William, ed.] Seymour or any other preacher behind the shoebox pulpit ask for money. They had faith. All preachers had to do was preach. Anybody who had been blessed by the service gave generously.

“Hardly ever did the Azusa Street Mission advertise in newspapers about its services. People heard about them through word of mouth. In the same way that my mother and I felt a strong pull toward the mission, so did others.

“Many who came said that they knew nothing about Azusa Street and the Holy Spirit meetings until they had visions of the mission and were instructed to go there. Others were moved by an invisible force to attend.

“Some who attended Azusa Street at the start had little understanding of what was happening, and feared the unknown.

“They had not even been taught by their pastors about being born again. Many had read in their Bibles in John 3:3 what Jesus had told Nicodemus: ‘except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ But they had not given it much thought.

“Most had not learned about being baptized in the Holy Ghost and the gift or gifts that come with this experience.

“Old-line churches frowned on the Azusa Street Mission’s Bible teachings, ‘so-called miracles,’ and ‘noisy meetings.’ Their members who came just once to Azusa Street services and were found out, were often asked to leave their congregations.

“Some churches tried hard to get the city of Los Angeles to close down the Azusa Street Mission, but they failed. Individuals, too, worked to break up meetings. Fifty years later, while at a Golden Jubilee meeting of original Azusa Street members at Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, I heard a dramatic story about such an effort from two would-be saboteurs.

“When they were three blocks from the mission, their jaws locked so that they couldn’t talk over their plan of action. They became panicky, because now they were sure that a supernatural power had done this to them.

“Try as they might to turn back, some force kept them walking straight to the mission, where they tiptoed inside to a bench and sat down. Waves of glory swept over the place, and these men who knew nothing about being born again, felt drawn to talk to Jesus.

“In their mute reverence, God began to speak to their hearts, and they longed to cry out, ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.’ But then God opened their mouths, and they began praising and glorifying Him for the wonderful thing He had done!

“They invited Jesus into their hearts, were converted and filled with the Holy Spirit. That night the men who had planned to wreck the meeting left the Mission in joy such as they had never before known.”

A.C. Valdez, Sr.

From A.C. Valdez, Sr., with James F. Scheer, Fire on Azusa Street (Costa Mesa, Calif.: Gift Publications, 1980), 9–11.

 

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