Different Eras but the Same Faith
Addie Mae’s Story:
The daughter of former slaves, I was born in Oakland, Mississippi, on October 17, 1896. My father always talked to us about the Lord, and he would take me to Sunday school every Sunday. My heart hungered for Jesus, and as a young girl, I would often leave my playmates and go into the woods to be alone with God. I would walk through the meadows or sit on a log by the lake and listen to the birds sing. In hearing them and the humming of the bees and other insects, I would think about the God who had made it all and pray.
We attended a little Baptist church while I was growing up, and sometimes revival meetings were held there for several weeks at a time. The year I was sixteen, I was under heavy conviction. At church, I went to the mourners’ bench again and again, but never felt that my prayers were answered. I had done all I knew to do. One day in a cotton field, I knelt once more and prayed, “Lord, have mercy! Have mercy!” All at once it was as though the Lord spoke to me, “You are saved.” I jumped up shouting, “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” I ran home, and the first person I met was my father. How glad I was to tell him I was now a child of God.
After I married, my husband and I, along with several other families, moved to Arkansas. A year or two later, some people came to our community and put up a big tent and held church services. They preached the three experiences of justification, sanctification, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost. What a revival there was!
We met a woman in the meetings who had been receiving Apostolic Faith papers from Portland, Oregon, and she shared them with my mother. Soon, my husband and I were on the mailing list too, and no matter where we moved, we always kept our names on that list. How I longed to go to Portland to be among the people who upheld the standard of the Bible! But we were very poor, and with several young children by this time, it seemed impossible.
After World War I, work became scarce in the South and people began moving north. We sold all of our possessions and moved also. The money only took us as far as Poplar Bluff, Missouri, where we had relatives. No work was available there, so we followed my brothers and sisters to Chicago, Illinois, where they had found factory work. However, by the time we arrived, the quotas for factory workers had been filled. An opening became available in an automobile factory in Pontiac, Michigan, so my husband went and later sent for me and our five children. We did not know anyone there, so I prayed the Lord would lead me in finding a church that preached what I believed. I was still receiving Apostolic Faith papers and drew strength from them during these difficult times, but I longed to go to Portland.
My husband had steady work and our life together improved for a time. We had three more children, and then while I was carrying twins, tragedy struck. The children contracted a communicable disease and went into the hospital. One by one, the five older children died, and then I lost one twin at birth and the other soon after. With only three children remaining, I reached my lowest ebb and clung to the church papers.
We had three more children, and then my greatest shock came in March of 1933 when my husband died suddenly of pneumonia. My heart was broken. There I was at age thirty-six, with six little children and no way of making a living. I had been suffering with asthma for about a year. What was I to do now?
There was a little insurance money, so I bought clothes for the children and some groceries. I decided to use the rest of the money on a trip to Portland to attend the camp meeting that was in session. I had never traveled alone, but my hunger for the Lord was so great, it gave me courage. I told no one of my plans to go any farther than Chicago, where I expected to visit relatives on my return. My children stayed with my parents.
What a trip it was! It took from Monday afternoon until midnight the following Sunday to reach Portland by bus. Coming into the depot so late, I thought I would just sit there until morning and then take a streetcar to the camp meeting. However, about one in the morning, the station agent said the last bus was in and he was closing up. I took a taxi to the campground and found everything locked up for the night. The taxi driver kept calling over the fence until finally someone heard him. They let me in, and I was given a place to sleep.
My dream had been realized! I was at the camp meeting in Portland! There were no services on Monday, but I met many friendly people who showed me around. On Tuesday, I just watched. Was this really what I had expected? It was! I felt I was home at last. I sent postcards to tell my family where I was.
Wednesday morning at the prayer meeting, I went right to the altar and renewed my covenant with God. At the afternoon Bible teaching, I heard Sister Crawford give the Word, and at the close of the service, I prayed and was sanctified. After the evangelistic service that night, I received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and my hunger was satisfied. On Thursday, I was baptized in water with many others. My preparation had been made, and I could just enjoy Friday and Sunday, the last days of the camp meeting.
I returned to Michigan with peace and joy in my heart, but life continued to be difficult. I was in poor health and doing domestic work when tragedy struck again. My nine-year-old son contracted an infection that went to his heart, and he died. I had such heartache. My whole thought from that point forward was to get back to Portland to live there. We were still very poor, but I began setting aside earnings, and after eight years, we had enough for the move.
We moved in 1941, and it was difficult to find a place to live because many people had come to Portland to work in the shipyards during World War II. I looked for a house to buy, but there seemed to be nothing available. I prayed, “Lord, You have houses. You have everything. You can find something for me.” As I was leaving church that night, a friend stopped me and asked, “Have you talked with Sister Jones? Her mother isn’t well and has gone back to Texas. She wants you to have her house.” The Lord had answered my prayer! I never suffered spiritually or ﬁnancially again.
God continued to take care of me through the years. At times when my asthma was very bad, my daughter Lillian would sit up with me to help me. She prayed that if the Lord would heal me, she would serve Him. The Lord has healed me completely, and my daughter is serving the Lord with me.
It has been wonderful to serve the Lord, in good times and bad.
Norma Jean’s Story:
God has been good to me all of my life. I had a wonderful praying mother who was always there. She raised me in the Apostolic Faith Church, and her prayers kept me from going deep into the world. Though I left the church when I was in my mid-teens and was gone for many years, I did not stray very far from the things my mother taught me. I was not a Christian but always wanted to do the right thing and tried to live a pretty good life. I married and had two children who grew up and did quite well. My life was not full of gloom and doom, and I did not pick up a lot of emotional baggage.
God was always there for me, and sometimes I wondered why. He even helped me enter the profession that I had so wanted and prayed for. I was the twelfth of my mother’s thirteen children, and the only one born in a hospital. She named me after the nurse, and from the time I was young, I wanted to be a nurse also. It was against all odds that I was able to go back to school and earn my degree. I went to Emanuel Hospital’s School of Nursing and was among the first African Americans to graduate from that program. I was able to do that work for fifty years and really enjoyed it.
When I was in my sixties, I came back to the Apostolic Faith and began attending church regularly again. I also joined a Bible study group and went every Wednesday without fail. I did this for ten years and was content. My life was going well, and I thought there was no need for anything more. Then in June of 2004, when I was seventy-three, I became dreadfully ill. I had a deflated lung, was anemic, and had no appetite. Also, I was losing weight and becoming weak, but did not care because I had lost my will to live. In that state, I was lying flat on my back in bed one day when a Voice spoke to me and said, “If you should die, where will you spend eternity?” I had been resisting God’s call, but by that time I was ready to submit. I prayed, “I am ready. I want to be a Christian. I want to be saved.” God saved me right there, and I was so happy!
A few weeks later, the annual camp meeting began. I did not know much about sanctification, but on the very first Sunday, I got on my knees and asked God for it. He sanctified me, and it was the most beautiful experience. It brought peace to my heart that is still present today. Later, God also baptized me with His Holy Spirit.
Not only did God save, sanctify, and baptize me, but He restored my health, and He has touched me several more times since then. In March of 2008, I was in Sunday school class when I bent down to get something. As I came back up, there was a terrible pain in my neck. A sister helped me to the lobby, and by the time we got there, my right side was completely paralyzed. I thought, Oh Lord, is this how it is going to be? Then have Your will. You have been so good to me that I can’t complain if it is Your will for me to live paralyzed. The ministers came and prayed for me, and many others prayed too. After three days, sensation began to come back in one finger on my right hand, and I knew God had answered prayer. Within a short time, He had healed me completely, and I was so thankful. That incident taught me a lesson. We don’t know what is going to happen from one moment to the next, so our lives need to be surrendered to God.
I am glad I finally yielded to God’s will and gave my life to Him. After I received salvation and told my friends what God had done for me, many of them said, “I thought you were already a Christian because you never did anything wrong.” They may not have seen the difference, but God had made a change in my heart. He gave me joy and peace that I would not trade for anything in this world. Before I was a Christian, I had a wonderful life, but it has been so much better since the day God saved me.