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A New Light Dawns!





Charles Fox Parham (1873-1929)

   Charles Fox Parham, the ‘father of the Pentecostal’ Movement, is most well known for perceiving, proclaiming and then imparting the ‘The Baptism with the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues.’

Birth and Childhood

     Charles Parham was born on June 4, 1873 in Muscatine, Iowa, to William and Ann Maria Parham. As an infant he became infected with a virus that permanently stunted his growth.  At thirteen he was converted in a meeting held by a Brother Lippard of the Congregational Church, though he had only ever heard two preachers before. No notable events occurred thereafter but he faithfully served as a Sunday school teacher and church worker. When fifteen years old he held his first public meetings, which were followed by marked results.

    At age sixteen he enrolled at Southwest Kansas College with a view to enter the ministry but he struggled with the course and became discouraged by the secular view of disgust towards the Christian ministry and the poverty that seemed to be the lot of ministers.  Ill with rheumatic fever, his rebellion was cut short when a physician visited him pronounced Parham near death. It was then that he heard a clear call to preach, and promised God that if he was healed he would preach.  He cried out to the Lord for healing and suddenly “every joint in my body loosened and every organ in my body was healed.
     Only his ankles remained weak, and shortly thereafter he had another experience while praying under a tree.  He later wrote: “God instantly sent the virtue of healing like a mighty electric current through my body and my ankles were made whole, like the man at the beautiful gate in the temple.”  Henceforth he would never deny the healing power of the Gospel.
    Parham held his first evangelistic meeting at the age of eighteen, in the Pleasant Valley School House, near Tonganoxie, Kansas. He was a stranger to the country community when he asked permission to hold meetings at their school. As a result of these meetings he met his wife-to- be Sarah Thistlewaite and gained a position as a preacher.

     Charles Parham and his new wife Sarah had many meetings in a variety of places, which were greatly blessed by the Lord. In September 1897 their first son, Claude, was born, but soon after Charles collapsed while preaching and was diagnosed with serious heart disease. At the same time baby Claude became ill and each patient grew progressively weaker.  One day Parham was called to pray for a sick man and while praying the words, ‘Physician, heal thyself,’ came to his mind. He recognised it as the voice of God and began praying for himself, not the man. The power of God touched his body and made him completely well, immediately. He returned home with a fresh commitment to healing prayer, threw away all medicines, gave up all doctors and believed God for Claude’s healing. He was soon completely well and began to grow.
     At a friend’s graveside Parham made a vow that “‘Live or die’ I will preach this gospel of healing.” On moving to Ottawa, Kansas, the Parham’s opened their home and a continual stream of sick and needy people found healing through the Great Physician. Parham was called to speak on healing at Topeka, Kansas and while he was away torrential rain caused devastating floods around their home in Ottawa. When the weather subsided Parham called his family to Topeka. On November 29, 1898 on Thanksgiving Day, a new baby called Esther Marie entered the world. 
Topeka: Bethel Divine Healing Home
     In 1898 Parham opened his divine healing home in Topeka, which he and Sarah named “Bethel.” The purpose was to provide ‘home-like comforts for those who were seeking healing.’
     The ground floor housed a chapel, a public reading room and a printing office. The second floor had fourteen rooms with large windows, which were always filled with fresh flowers, adding to the peace and cheer of the home. The third floor was an attic which doubled as a bedroom when all others were full. Each day the Word of God was taught and prayer was offered individually whenever it was necessary.
      Bethel also offered special studies for ministers and evangelists which prepared and trained them for Gospel work. The Parhams also found Christian homes for orphans, and work for the unemployed.        Parham’s newsletter, The Apostolic Faith, published bi-weekly, had a subscription price initially. But Parham quickly changed this by referring readers to read Isaiah 55:1, then give accordingly. The Lord wonderfully provided. Each edition published wonderful testimonies of healing and many of the sermons that were taught at Bethel.
     As well as conversions and powerful healings the Parhams experienced miraculous provision of finances on a number of occasions.  Another son, named Charles, was born in March 1900. Soon after a parsonage was provided for the growing family.
Ever hungry for truth
    Mr. Parham wrote: “Deciding to know more fully the latest truths restored by later day movements, I left my work in charge of two Holiness preachers and visited various movements, such as Dowie’s work who was then in Chicago, the Eye-Opener work of the same city; Malone’s work in Cleveland; Dr. Simpson’s work in Nyack, New York; Sandford’s ‘Holy Ghost and Us’ work at Shiloah, Maine and many others.
I returned home, fully convinced that while many had obtained real experience in sanctification and the anointing that abideth, there still remained a great outpouring of power for the Christians who were to close this age.”
       It was during this twelve-week trip that Parham heard much about the ‘Latter Rain’ outpouring of the Holy Spirit, reinforcing his conviction that Christ’s premillennial return would occur after an unprecedented world-wide revival. Isolated reports of xenolalic tongues amongst missionaries helped him begin the formulation of his doctrine of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts and end time revival.
The Bible School at Topeka
     Because of the outstanding success at Bethel, many began to encourage Parham to open a Bible School. “I went to my room to fast and pray, to be alone with God that I might know His will for my future work….. By a series of wonderful miracles we were able to secure what was then known as “Stone’s Folly, a great mansion patterned after an English castle, one mile west of Washburn College in Topeka.”


     The Bible school welcomed all ministers and Christians who were willing to forsake all, sell what they had, give it away and enter the school for study and prayer. It was to be a faith venture, each trusting God for their personal provision. There were no charges for board or tuition; the poor were fed, the sick were housed and fed, and each day of each month God provided for their every needs.


First Wave of the Holy Spirit

    In December of 1900 examinations were held on the subjects of repentance, conversion, consecration, sanctification, healing, and the soon coming of the Lord. But there was the problem of the book of Acts. Parham had always felt that missionaries to foreign lands needed to preach in the native language. Having heard so much about this subject during his recent travels Parham set the forty students an assignment to determine the Biblical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and report on their findings in three days, while he was away in Kansas City. He returned on the morning preceding the watch night service 1900-1901.
     Parham was astonished when the students reported their findings that, while there were different things that occurred when the Pentecostal blessing fell, the indisputable proof on each occasion was that they spoke in other tongues.
     About seventy-five people (probably locals) gathered with the forty students for the watch night service and there was an intense power of the Lord present.

      It was here that a student, Agnes Ozman, (later LaBerge) asked that hands might be laid upon her to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. She believed she was called to the mission field and wanted to be equipped accordingly. At first Parham refused, as he himself never had the experience. Nevertheless, she persisted and Parham laid his hands upon her head.     “I had scarcely repeated three dozen sentences when a glory fell upon her, a halo seemed to surround her head and face, and she began speaking in the Chinese language, and was unable to speak English for three days. When she tried to write in English… she wrote in Chinese, copies of which we still have in newspapers printed at that time”

Tongues of Fire  

    After this incredible deluge of the Holy Spirit, the students moved their beds from the upper dormitory on the upper floor and waited on God for two nights and three days, as an entire body.

     On the night of January 3rd 1901, Parham preached at a Free Methodist Church in Topeka, telling them what had happened and that he expected the entire school to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.  On returning to the school with one of the students they heard the most wonderful sounds coming from the prayer room.

   “The room was filled with a sheen of white light above the brightness of the lamps.” There were twelve denominational ministers who had received the Holy Spirit baptism and were speaking in other tongues. Some were gently trembling under the power of the glory that had filled them. Sister Stanley, an elderly lady, came to Parham, and shared that she saw “tongues of fire” sitting above their heads just moments before his arrival. “My heart was melted in gratitude to God for my eyes had seen….. I fell to my knees behind a table unnoticed by those on whom the power of Pentecost had fallen to pour out my heart to God in thanksgiving.”

    Then he asked God for the same blessing, and when he did, Parham distinctly heard God’s calling to declare “this mighty truth to the world. And if I was willing to stand for it, with all the persecutions, hardships, trials, slander, scandal that it would entailed, He would give me the blessing.”

      It was then that Charles Parham himself was filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke in other tongues. “Right then and there came a slight twist in my throat, a glory fell over me and I began to worship God in a Swedish tongue, which later changed to other languages and continued so until the morning”      Within a few days about half the student body had received the Holy Spirit with the evidence of tongues.

   Soon the news of what God was doing had Stone’s Folly besieged by newspaper reporters, language professors, foreigners and government interpreters and they gave the work the most crucial test. They had to agree that Stone’s Folly’s students were speaking in the languages of the world, with the proper accent and intonation.

 The newspapers broadcast the headlines “Pentecost! Pentecost!”

Newsboys shouted, “Read about the Pentecost!”


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