In 1907, Florence Crawford felt led to utilize a horse-drawn express wagon to take the Gospel out on the streets of Portland. For many years, open-air meetings were an important evangelistic feature of the Apostolic Faith organization. Gospel street meetings were regularly held in many cities, with most of these open-air services being conducted just prior to the regular church services.
In Portland, workers would gather to pray in the chapel at the headquarters building before the different teams went to their assigned locations. Often a group would walk to a nearby corner where they would gather around a portable organ and hold a simple Gospel meeting with music, testimonies, and a short message. People who were passing by would stop and listen. Others, in saloons or hotels nearby, would hear the music through the open windows and would walk over to investigate. Following the short service, Gospel literature was given out and an invitation was extended to attend the regular church services.
Sometimes services were scheduled in plazas or park areas. These meetings were especially well attended during the years of the Great Depression of the 1930s, when many were out of work and tended to congregate in such areas. Gospel wagons and cars were utilized to transport the teams of workers to the designated locations.
Over the years, God spoke to many hearts at those humble meetings on the street corners of the city. Men who lived on the skid row heard of a way out of the trouble they were in, and precious souls were salvaged from the environments of sin. Most of them would have scoffed at the idea of going inside a church, but God touched their lives through the Gospel presentation on the streets.
In a workers’ meeting held in 1956, Raymond Crawford reminisced about the impact of the street meetings. “I can remember in the early days on Second and Third Streets and around Burnside Street, in front of Erickson’s Hotel where we stood on those corners and preached the truth of this Gospel. We have seen hardened criminals transformed in heart and soul right on the sidewalks when the Spirit of God dealt with their hearts. It was just going through my mind today about a poor emaciated dope fiend who stood there on the street listening to the street meeting. Finally his legs buckled beneath him and he fell right between the spokes of the wheels of the old Gospel wagon. They drug him out and asked him if he wanted to pray. He said, ‘Yes, I do.’ And right there on those cobblestones, he lifted up his heart to God, and God marvelously transformed his life.”
Many of the organization’s branch churches began as missions, and this was often one of the outreach methods used to evangelize an area.