Healing and Revival
"The Foursquare Gospel"
When Aimee was 17, hoping to turn her life around, her father took her to hear a Pentecostal evangelist named Robert Semple. Aimee was struck by the brown-haired blue-eyed Scotch-Irish evangelist. She immediately became a "seeker" in Pentecostal circles and regularly attended their meetings. She felt that God was calling her to "save lost souls", but she did not know how this could be accomplished. In 1908 Semple asked her to marry him and she accepted. They were married on August 12, 1908. God was calling Semple to China, so Aimee felt that this would be the fulfillment of God's request.
They started a small church in Canada, and spent time raising money for their missionary journey. Two years after they were married they had raised enough to venture out. They sailed for Ireland, and visited Robert's parents. Then they stopped in England and stayed with philanthropist Cecil Polhill. He was holding a large Christian meeting and asked Aimee to speak. Surprised, and terrified, she agreed. When she got up to speak there were 15,000 in attendance. Her bible opened to a passage and suddenly Aimee was overcome with the sense of God. She preached an hour long sermon without notes or practice. It was startling to her. She had received a token of what was to come.
The Semples arrived in Hong Kong in June of 1910. Robert hired an interpreter and began to preach to the local inhabitants. Aimee and Robert saw incredible opportunity for spreading the Gospel. A crisis arose when only two months after their arrival both Semples became ill and were hospitalized with malaria and dysentery. Aimee was pregnant, and close to delivery. On August 17, 1910, just five days after their second wedding anniversary, Robert died. Aimee was devastated. All their dreams seemed destroyed. On September 17th, a healthy baby girl was born. Aimee named her Roberta Star after her father and in the belief she was a star of hope that God had given her in her grief.
Aimee returned to the United States to be with her mother, now living in New York, doing work with the Salvation Army. Aimee met Harold Stuart ("Mack") McPherson, a 23-year-old accountant from Providence, Rhode Island. They married in the spring of 1912. Aimee became pregnant immediately and had a son they named Rolf in March of 1913. She went into a deep postpartum depression. During the months of illness God spoke to her over and over to go and evangelize. She struggled against the call. Doctors operated, but her health continued to fail. At one point the nurses attending her had given her up for dead. The voice came one last time: "NOW will you go?" She knew she was facing a life and death decision. Finally she broke down and told God that she would go. She was fully well within two weeks.
In 1915 Aimee attended a Pentecostal camp meeting in Kitchener, Ontario where she was baptized in the Holy Spirit. She immediately went to the small town of Mount Forest, Ontario. She advertised an evangelistic meeting, but no one came. Deciding she must do something to draw a crowd she took a chair to the downtown area and stood immobile for an hour. About 50 people came to watch the spectacle. After an hour she cried out "follow me" and people followed her where she preached her message. That was it her ministry took off and she held meetings over the next several days.
In 1916 Aimee purchased a car. She painted slogans on it and called it her "Full Gospel Car". In 1917 she started a paper, The Bridal Call. She received ordination papers from the Assemblies of God (AOG) in 1918. She also held a Methodist exhorter license and a Baptist preaching license. By 1919, Aimee, her mother and the two children traveled across the country and settled in Los Angeles. Her husband, losing his wife and son to the traveling ministry, became increasingly opposed to her work. He divorced her in 1921, on grounds of abandonment. Feeling the need to reach larger inter-denominational groups McPherson dropped her ordination with the AOG in 1922.
Aimee's ministry was dynamic. She saw thousands saved and healed during her evangelistic meetings. Her presentations were dramatic and designed to draw crowds. She was so popular that she purchased land and built a 5,000 seat church, entirely debt free. This was Angelus Temple in Echo Park. She and her family were constantly on the road speaking to raise money for the project. She had not originally seen Angelus Temple as a church, but a platform for her to speak. In 1923 she also opened a Bible school, the Lighthouse of International Foursquare Evangelism. In 1924 she started radio broadcasts from the Temple, a groundbreaking work for her and other ministries. She was a busy and popular woman.
1926, however was a year of changes and controversy. While swimming, Aimee disappeared. Many assumed she was dead, or swept away. Her mother and son grieved for her. Her mother actually contacted George Jeffreys in England about the possibility of him taking over Angelus Temple. Thousands of her supporters rallied to search for her. It was a media event of incredible proportions. There were reports of kidnapping and potential ransom. Aimee reappeared a month later, saying she had been kidnapped. Rumors were rife, however, as a man working with the ministry also disappeared during that time. His wife had left him on the grounds of his being involved with Aimee. Aimee and her mother, insisted that it was a "mob" kidnapping. A grand jury was called, but since no definite proof was found yo prove the kidnapping all charges were dropped. The event brought her more notoriety, and brought more people to the temple.
During the depression Angelus Temple opened the Angelus Temple's Foursquare Commissary, designed to serve the poor with food and clothing. Member baked bread in mass quantities, sewed quilts, provided school lunches, and opened soup kitchens. Aimee had enough clout to get donations of food, money, and clothing where others could not. This was a critical to the welfare of thousands of poor and starving in the Los Angeles area. Aimee was married again in 1931 to David Hutton. The marriage did not last, however, and she filed for divorce in 1933. Financial problems and legal disputes became a major problem in the next few years, but things settled out in the 1940's. In 1944, Aimee died of an overdose of sedatives. Her death was pronounced accidental.
Aimee's legacy is threefold. Her use of the dramatic arts to reach the lost was unprecedented in her time. She used the latest technology to further the gospel. Finally, she reached out to the poor to provide when others could not. She taught a full-gospel message and regularly saw thousands of healings and miracles in her meetings. Unfortunately, her weaknesses in relationships caused discredit on her ministry, and opened her to ridicule and criticism.
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