Spring was at hand, the northern states were calling, the southern campaign was brought to a triumphant close, and I piloted the gospel car northward with my family. While my children slept in the backseat, I drove us toward Philadelphia and the scene of our nationwide camp meeting beginning in July 1917.
Arriving in the city of brotherly love, we were welcomed by friends who aided me in the selection of a glorious campsite situated on a hill overlooking the river and sheltered by high, shady trees.
Soon the tent was up and packed with benches, electric lights strung inside and out, a rented piano on the plank platform, and countless little sleeping tents piled on the ground in bags, ready for the erection of a tent city. Handbills were distributed, posters were placed in every advantageous spot, and the meeting was on!
Saints came from New York, Baltimore and Washington. Hundreds upon hundreds of godly men and women stood upon their feet. They prayed as I had never heard people pray before. Each one, forgetting his neighbor, forgetting all else but the God who answers prayer, cried out with all his might for a great revival.
Trouble rose on the second night, however. The site of our campground had been used by the young men of a neighboring college for a football field. These young men resented our presence very much and patrolled the grounds day and night, keeping watch on everything and everybody, declaring that we had invaded their hill, although we had rented it in a regular manner.
While an enormous crowd filled the tent, these young men formed a fringe on the outside. Every time there would be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, they would burst forth in peals of laughter, ridiculing and mocking. Finally their scoffing and jeering became so loud that it drowned out the voices of any who started to sing solos, lead in prayer or speak.
It so happened at this time that a riot took place in the center of the city. Every available policeman had been called, so there were none to keep order. Detectives told me later that there had been a prearranged plot to wipe out every tent on the ground that night, the young men having even gone to the length of concealing cans of kerosene and gasoline behind hammocks of grass so that they might later ignite the canvas.
Speaking being impossible, the song leader simply directed the audience in singing some hymns. “Oh, Lord,” I groaned, leaning back in my chair on the platform. “What shall I do?”
“Begin praising Me out loud,” answered the Spirit down deep in my heart.
“Bless the Lord! Hallelujah! Glory to Jesus!” I began timidly, in a soft voice.
Instantly it was as though strong winds of thanksgiving lifted me above the peril of the moment. My voice became stronger. The congregation caught the Spirit and likewise lifted their voices.
As I praised the Lord, I seemed to see a lot of demons surrounding the tabernacle. But every time I cried, “Praise the Lord!” I noted that the demonic forces took a step backward until finally back, back, back, they disappeared amid the trees.
Then I noticed a great square of white-robed angels that were advancing with outspread wings. On, on, on they came, until they entirely surrounded the outer edges of the canvas cathedral.
I looked about me. The young men who had been our tormentors were still there, but now they stood as quiet as mice, eyes rounded and staring as they looked upon me, wondering-like. Then I arose and preached to one of the most attentive audiences it had ever been my privilege to address.
When the altar call was given, the benches were thronged. The same young men, many of whom gave their hearts to Christ, came again and again, bringing the sick and afflicted for prayer. God marvelously answered.
Adapted from Aimee: The Life Story of Aimee Semple McPherson by Aimee Semple McPherson, copyright 1979. Published by the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.