EDITOR’S NOTE: Aimee Semple McPherson held a series of revival meetings in Canton, Ohio, in October 1921—100 years ago this year. The following article, adapted from The Bridal Call magazine’s November 1921 issue, reports on the fierce opposition Aimee’s ministry faced from skeptics, and tells the story of a young convert who was persecuted by her family for giving her life to Jesus Christ.
Critics of our ministry worked hard to undermine the miracles of God. Even when skeptics were at a loss for words when they personally witnessed people being healed, they still could not accept it.
The scribes and Pharisees said that Christ cast out devils and healed the sick in Bible days by the power of Beelzebub, but in this day, the critics wrote newspaper articles ascribing the miracles to hysteria and hypnotism. Concerned family members taken in by what they read in the press sometimes took drastic measures to discredit the genuine work of God.
Such was the case with two young girls who attended our revival in Canton, Ohio. Determined to live the Christian life, the girls told their mother about their conversion to Christ and were shocked by her response. The mother slapped one daughter in the face with a dishtowel and told her that she would “knock the ‘Praise the Lord’ right out of you!” The reaction was enough to discourage the young girl from saying any more about her newfound faith.
Her sister was undeterred. The mother threw cold water on her face, but still the girl quoted Scripture, spoke of the Lord, and said she wanted to attend the meetings. At 17, the girl had already become something of an artist and was found destroying some of her unseemly art, telling her family she did not want the art now that she had given her heart to Christ.
Upon the doctor’s instructions, the parents forced the girl into a hot bath and unexpectedly dashed her body with pitchers of ice water. She was restricted to her room and forced to endure physical pain in an attempt to draw her away from her confession of faith.
Her father, an ungodly man, joined his wife in the efforts to discourage the girl from pursuing her faith. He said she was under some spell and did all he could to restrict her from any contact with the revival or our ministry. They hid the girl’s hat so she would not feel comfortable attending the public meetings and took away her Bible to keep her from quoting more Scripture.
When nothing else worked, they called for a doctor, who ascribed the miracles of God to hypnotism. He asked where the girl had been and with whom she had been meeting. When he learned the girl had attended our meetings and that she had shaken my hand, His immediate diagnosis was that the girl was hypnotized.
Upon the doctor’s instructions, the parents forced the girl into a hot bath and unexpectedly dashed her body with pitchers of ice water. She was restricted to her room and forced to endure physical pain in an attempt to draw her away from her confession of faith. Her father repeatedly pinched her arm until the girl cried out, “I don’t care what you do to my body, but you can’t kill my soul!”
In desperation, another doctor recommended that the family call us to the house. Finding the girl’s parents agitated, we were pleased to see that the girl was calm and peaceful. We prayed for her and encouraged her to be brave.
We remained in prayer throughout the night, trusting the Lord for breakthrough for the girl, her family and the city that was so divided about the ministry. Though the oppression of the enemy was strong, Jesus was stronger, and the next day we saw the tide turn in the city.
The streets were blocked with people seeking admittance, the altars were overflowing with new converts, the healings of the sick were so miraculous and undeniably of Jesus that men and women wept and shouted together. The finest, sanest people healed the week before came back to testify as to the permanency of their healings.
A renowned psychologist, professor and authority on hypnosis came to our platform and unconditionally ascribed the work of the revival meetings to answered prayer and the living Christ.
Seeing the turn of the tide, the young girl’s father realized he had overstepped his mark and backed out by saying the girl was now coming out of the spell, though still showing some symptoms of talking about the Bible. On the closing night of the campaign, the young lady stole out of her house and came to the auditorium, and testified to the gathered crowd about the whole story. She showed bruises and marks on her arms and forehead, telling the manner in which they had been inflicted. Then, she declared her undying love for Christ and her desire to serve Him for the rest of her life.
Just think if the persecution had tipped the girl away from her faith or if her father had acted on his threats of putting her in an asylum if she did not stop talking about Jesus. As it was, God turned every arrow so that it fell on alien territory. The wrath of man was made to praise Him as the revival continued such as none could hinder sweeping multitudes into the kingdom and making the strongest to quake with conviction, and stirring the country for miles in every direction.