When the Morning Express pulled into Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, my father and mother were there to greet me. I learned that a Pentecostal camp meeting was on in Kitchener, and my parents urged me to attend. So it happened that, lean in my soul but determined to obey God’s call, I sat on the edge of my seat under the big canvas top. I was the first one down at the mourner’s bench when the minister gave the altar call.
Service over, I beckoned to the preacher: “Is there anything I can do for Jesus?” I asked.
He looked at me rather unseeingly and murmured abstractedly, “Why, I’m sure I don’t know.”
Making my way out of the tent, I saw a woman who appeared to be one of the workers. “Is there anything I can do to help? I queried.
“Nothing that I know of, dear,” she replied unpromisingly.
“Is there anything I can do to help you?” I halted others as I made my way through a long line of sleeping tents that bordered either side of the improvised street.
“Is there anything I can do for Jesus?” I finally quizzed a man who was wearing an apron and sitting in front of the kitchen tent at the end of the street, peeling potatoes. He smiled.
“Why, sure there is!” he answered. “Can you wash dishes?”
“Why, certainly, sir, I can wash dishes.”
“Then here you are,” he said enthusiastically, and, suiting his actions to his words, lifted a flap of the tent and revealed two washtubs filled with dirty cups, saucers, plates and cutlery.
Now, if there is any task I dislike above another, it is washing other people’s dirty chinaware. But I found myself completely happy as I set about my task. I was in the work of the Lord! What matter that mine was the simple task of a kitchen maid?
Dishes done, I continued my round of pestering questions. “Is there anything more I can do?”
“Can you wait tables?” someone asked.
“Then hurry up. We are serving chicken dinner to scores of ministers in the dining tent.”
It was a tedious task, but I was in a good place to ply my eager questions at every opportunity. “Do you know of anything that I can do for Jesus?”
“Can you play a piano?” asked one man. I said yes. “Then take the piano for the evening service.”
“Can you lead a choir?” asked an evangelist the next day. “Our director is ill.”
“Oh, yes, sir!” I assented eagerly.
“Where did you lead your last one?” he smiled.
“Why, I never directed one yet, sir. But you asked if I could! I can do all things for Christ!” My eagerness won the day, and the task was mine.
Joyously I ran between my duties: washing dishes, setting tables, making beds, beating time for the singers, praying at the altars until midnight. It was heaven!
At last the major camp meeting was over. The groups of ministers had gone home, leaving the one local preacher to carry on over the closing weekend. It developed that he lost his voice. And, when I next asked him, “Isn’t there something else I can do?” he whispered, “Can you preach?”
“I’ll try,” I stuttered.
And thus it was that I preached my first sermon as an independent evangelist. I do not remember the text of the message. But I do recall that some 11 souls made their way to the altar to accept the Lord. As I saw them coming down the aisles, such a wave of exultation swept over me that I was weak and dizzy from the sheer joy of it.
Many thrilling things have happened in my life. I have been way up in a balloon, flown in a Zeppelin, been submerged in a submarine, opened the Senate and Congress, and spoken over national radio hookups. But for sheer, breathtaking 1,000 percent thrills, there is still none to me like that known by the soul-winner.
Standing there and looking down through swimming eyes at those first 11 converts, I did not know that they were but the advance guard for hundreds of thousands who would follow in their steps throughout the years of my lifelong ministry. But I do know that to this very day, I am still as thrilled over the sight as upon that first occasion. I still want to laugh and cry, and dance and shout, all at once.
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.