LIBERIA'S CONTRIBUTION TO THE GLOBAL SPIRITUAL LANDSCAPE
As I researched material to determine the Pentecostal/Charismatic influence on the spiritual landscape of
Liberia, I was not only surprised but totally exhilarated to find out that a direct connection existed between the famous Azusa Street Revival/Movement and Liberia.
The Azusa street revival was the strategic pivotal point in reintroducing the Baptism of the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ. The experience that the early Church had in the Book of Acts had been lost for nearly 2000 years. However, as a result of the ministry of William Semour (who was influenced by the teachings of Charles Parham) and other close associates, the Holy Spirit and His gifts ( I Corinthians 12) came to the forefront of the Christian experience.
This revival which began in Los Angeles in 1906 did not only usher in the power of God, but it was also characterized by genuine love, racial integration, gender equality, and a passion for missionary work. Azusa "is really the account of God fulfilling a longtime promise that He would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18)" (Robeck, 2006, p. 10). I must clarify here that when I speak of Pentecostalism, I speak not of a denomination but of a Movement. Pentecost, as we know, is a Jewish feast occurring 50 days after Passover. It was during the celebration of this feast that the first outpouring of God's Spirit occurred. The nomenclature is obviously related to the time the event occurred on God's calendar as opposed to a religious denomination. According to Rick Joyner (1998, p. 9), "there may not have been another movement in history that has had a greater impact on the entire church" than Azusa. It was indeed the inception of the atomic age of the Spirit (Joyner, 1998) with its ripple effects still touching different parts of the globe.
While some religious circles are still contemplating the spiritual authenticity of women in the pulpit, African American apostles like Lucy Farrow, Julia Hutchins, and Neely Terry were key figures the Lord used in igniting the fire in 1906. All of these women of faith in one way or the other helped bring William Seymour to that strategic location at 312 Azusa Street, Los Angeles, California.
Lucy Farrow was the pastor of a local congregation in Houston where Charles Parham was holding one of his evangelistic campaigns. Upon recognizing Lucy's fervor and dedication, Parham employed her as one of his ministry workers and later as governess for his children. Farrow already knew Seymour. Having been impacted by Parham's teachings on the infilling of the Holy Spirit as a second experience after salvation, she encouraged Seymour to attend Parham's meetings. Seymour was to later enroll in Parham's Bible school upon Farrow's recommendation. Seymour was to succeed Lucy Farrow at her pastorate after she took up her job with Parham. It is important to remember that Farrow had already experienced the infilling of the Holy Ghost with the initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues under Parham's ministry. However, William Seymour was still seeking the experience at this time. He may have been hindered by his Pentecostal Holiness theology which portrayed the baptism in the Holy Ghost as a deeper work of sanctification.
Another pioneer, Julia Hutchins, was also pastoring a Holiness Church in Los Angeles at this time. She had been overcome by a burden to do missions work in Liberia, West Africa. She was looking for a successor to her pastorate when a member of her congregation, Neely Terry visited Houston and sat under the ministry of Seymour. Terry was so impressed that upon her return to Los Angeles she prevailed upon Hutchins to give Seymour a chance at succeeding her. Hutchins agreed. Seymour left Houston and "arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday, February 22, 1906"(Robeck, 2006). William J. Seymour and Julia Hutchins were to later seperate over doctrinal differences. Seymour continued to lead a small group of African American believers in a private home. The group eventually moved to the Azusa street location where the focus continued to be on Acts 2. Seymour, still without the evidence of speaking in other tongues, sent for Lucy Farrow from Houston to help lay hands on believers so they could receive. This was indeed Farrow's gifting and anointing as would be demonstrated in later years of ministry in America, Europe, and Africa. This point emphasizes the crucial role women like Lucy Farrow played in that great outpouring. There is no reason to doubt that Farrow may have laid hands on Seymour when he finally received the Holy Ghost baptism on "Thursday April 12, 1906".
How is this all connected to Liberia? Here is the connection. Lucy Farrow later became a missionary to Liberia. She was specifically located in the town of Johnsonville, 25 miles outside of Monrovia. During her seven moth ministry in Liberia many were reportedly brought into the faith, sanctified, healed, and 20 received their Pentecost. Farrow also reported back to the Apostolic Faith Mission how she was enabled by the Lord to supernaturally speak the Kru language and ministered two sermons in the same language. Several of the natives she ministered to in turn were endued with supernatural abilities to speak English.
All of this came at a great price. Farrow and "some black Pentecostal missionaries such as G.W and Daisy Batman, whose three children quickly died from tropical fever"(Kalu, 2008, p. 64) traveled to Liberia without any support. They were self-supported missionaries. The Lord was faithful in supplying their needs even in the then harsh environment.
Julia Hutchins also gave this report on her journey to Liberia along with her husband:
It is now ten minutes to four o'clock in the afternoon on the 15th day of September.
I am all ready and down to the Mission with my ticket and everything prepared,
waiting to have hands laid on and the prayers of the saints, and expect to leave at
eight o'clock from the Santa Fe station en route for Africa. We expect to go to Mt.
Coffee, Monrovia, Liberia.
Mrs. J.W. Hutchins
Address: Mt. Coffee, Monrovia, Liberia, Africa
According to Robeck (2006) "several other missionaries connected to Azusa served in Liberia during this time. They include Willis Hutchins, Leila Mc-Kinney,Samuel and Ardella Mead, Robert and Myrtle K. Shideler, and George and Daisy Batman and their three young children— Bessie, aged five, Robert, aged three, and an infant whose name we do not know; thirteen people in all" (p. 270).
Joyner, R. (1998). The Fire That Could Not Die. Charlotte, NC: Morning Star Publications
Kalu, O. (2008). African Pentecostalism: An Introduction. NY, NY: Oxford University Press
Robeck, C.M. (2006). The Azusa Street Mission and Revival: The Birth of the Global Pentecostal Movement. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson