“Aimee did it again!” the young newsboy shouted as I stepped off the subway at Hill Street near Fourth, heading to my afternoon job at the Bank of America clearing house in downtown Los Angeles.
I had just seen Aimee Semple McPherson that morning in chapel at L.I.F.E. Bible College (now called Life Pacific College) and couldn’t imagine what the boy was talking about. There were five major newspapers in Los Angeles in the 1940s, and competition to sell their papers was more important than accuracy. Curious by the newsboy’s sales pitch, I stopped and asked, “What did she do?”
“Oh, I don’t know lady, but it sure sells papers!” The controversial woman evangelist who dominated the daily press back then was in truth a loving, dynamic, committed servant of God whose influence and legacy still touches my life today.
My journey as a student at L.I.F.E. and the subsequent ministry I would enjoy for more than 40 years began when I was 6. Some visiting evangelists stayed with my family, and they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew I wanted to be a preacher and said so.
When I make a decision, I stick by it. Never have I veered from the call of God I received and declared when I was a child. At age 12, I accepted the Lord in the Portland, Ore., Foursquare church pastored at that time by Harold and Ione Jeffries.
Harold and Ione had quite a conversion story of their own and shared it with me in later years. While they were dating as teenagers, their pastor warned the young people in church not to listen to a young “Jezebel” who was holding tent meetings in their town. Sister McPherson had come to Wichita, Kan., preaching salvation through Jesus Christ, and some local pastors didn’t much like her presence there.
Ione and Harold didn’t know what a “Jezebel” was and thought it was a good idea to find out. They attended the first night of meetings, and when Sister McPherson gave the altar call for salvation, they were the first ones to the altar to be saved.
After they attended L.I.F.E. and were sent out to pastor in Portland, my aunt and uncle became members and encouraged my family to attend. “When they sing,” my aunt told me, “the people clap their hands!”
During a Sunday night service, Sister Jeffries preached about Adam and Eve, and their sin in the Garden of Eden. She spoke about the personal choice each one of us must make and how we must deal with sin in our lives. That night, at 12 years old, I gave my heart to the Lord, repented of sin and began to follow God. My life of Christian service in fulfillment of God’s call was becoming a reality.
World War II was in full swing the year I traveled to Los Angeles to begin my training for ministry at L.I.F.E. There were more women than men in school because any young men with much life in them were taken off to war. During this time, I became acquainted with the person and ministry of Aimee Semple McPherson.
I was impressed by Sister McPherson’s genuine love and concern for people. She spoke of how she would preach to prostitutes in brothels and pray with them to be saved. She told about ministering in the Deep South where blacks and whites couldn’t gather in the same church, but she would preach in black churches if they would have her. She shared the heartache of losing the love of her life to disease in Hong Kong while she was a missionary, eight months pregnant and penniless.
God preserved her call and ministry through divorce and more heartache. He provided a new life for her and her two children, first as an itinerant minister of the gospel and then as an evangelist with a more permanent home in Los Angeles.
I thought it was interesting that she never called herself a pastor and never claimed to have any specific gifts of healing. But thousands of people were healed when she prayed James 5:14 over their illnesses, and scores of others found salvation in Christ through the sermons she preached.
My life was influenced and shaped by the ministry of Sister McPherson, although I learned fairly early that I wasn’t called to be an evangelist like her. Preaching new sermons every night of the week was a bit much for me, and I decided that I was a teacher not an evangelist.
I have been blessed to minister as a pastor or staff member in more than a dozen congregations, and as faculty of L.I.F.E. and L.I.F.E. Bible College East for a total of 40 years, teaching and mentoring young people for a life of Christian service.
I can trace my salvation in Christ to the influence of Harold and Ione Jeffries, who could trace their salvation in Christ to the controversial tent meetings of Aimee Semple McPherson. That young newsboy on the streets of Los Angeles declared more than the news that day. His words were prophetic in my life: By the grace of God, Aimee had done it again.
Dorothy Jean Furlong, now in her 90s, served The Foursquare Church in pastoral ministry in the Northwest, Southern California and the Northeast before serving as faculty for 30 years at L.I.F.E. Bible College (now called Life Pacific College) in California and for 10 years at L.I.F.E. Bible College East in Christiansburg, Va. She received an honorary doctorate of divinity in 1977 for her lifetime of service teaching Bible college students for ministry success.