Healing and Revival


 

"Missions, Healing, and Pentecost"

 

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Montgomery Sisson was born in 1843. Her father, William was a whaling captain. The family also included mother Elizabeth, eldest son Francis, middle twins William and Isabel (Belle) and the youngest sister Charlotte (Lottie). The Captain must have died early because by 1860 the family was living in New London with her mother's father and brother. They don't appear to have been a particularly religious family. Sisson was not converted until she was 21 in New London, Connecticut at a Congregational Church. With a few weeks Sisson came into contact with teaching on issues of Sanctification and had a sanctification experience. Most people in the church didn't agree with the teaching and Sisson struggled with feeling condemned. In 1871 William and Mary Boardman, along with Lucy Drake (later Osborn), held a Holiness Convention. She reaffirmed her experience and God met her mightily in that meeting.

Sisson had a heart to preach the gospel. She records that during one church service she was wishing that she could be a man so that she could be ordained. God spoke to her and told her "I have ordained you." From that point on her view changed and she knew that God's hand was upon her for the gospel. In 1871 Sisson went to India and served as a missionary for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Sisson was asking converts to give up everything they had to follow the Gospel. She came under conviction that God was asking her to give up the financial support that she was receiving from the Board and launch out in faith. God provided for her and she continued the work. She joined her sister Charlotte in her ministry at an Indian orphanage. Charlotte Sisson became ill while working in India. Both the sisters traveled to Bethshan Healing Home in London, England where Charlotte received rest and healing. Elizabeth ended up staying at Bethshan and ministering there for a few years with the Boardmans and the Baxters.

Sisson returned to the United States in 1887 and was living in Chicago. She and Elizabeth V. Baker (of the Duncan sisters) held daily meetings in a small office where they taught the Bible and prayed for the sick. Baker had a similar background to Sisson in healing and in her relationship to the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA). Baker described their friendship "like David and Jonathan". Sisson also had a friendship with Carrie Judd (later Montgomery). She and Judd held meetings together at churches. Sisson was a speaker in the Christian and Missionary Alliance conventions with A. B. Simpson in New York in 1887 and Maryland, Illinois, and Ohio in 1889 with Judd. Sisson became co-editor of the Triumphs of Faith magazine put out by Judd from May 1889-May 1890.

1889 to 1890 were pivotal years for Sisson. She had a dramatic fiery experience with God in a C&MA meeting in Western Springs, Illinois where a woman was delivered of alcoholism. She then traveled with Carrie Judd and attended meetings being held by Maria Woodworth-Etter in Oakland, California where she saw others experiencing what she had in Illinois. These experiences would later be identified as Pentecostal, but in 1889 they were considered highly unusual. She became an avid supporter of Etter. It was during these Oakland meetings that a man named Erickson predicted that an earthquake and tidal wave would destroy San Francisco on April 14, 1890. Sisson, in her fervor, was publicly supportive. When the date given for the prophecy came and went Sisson struggled with her support, dropped her co-editorship with Judd, and returned to New London, Connecticut to live with her family. She felt that although the meetings had started out in great spiritual power the later meetings which focused on the destruction prophecy had gotten the work off track. She, in her own description, fell into "comparative obscurity" for the next several years. Her life of constant travel and speaking appointments came to a halt and she turned inward and came into a new experience of abandonment in God.

Sisson continued missionary work in her local area. She was living at home with her invalid mother, sisters Isabelle and Charlotte, and Charlotte's adopted Indian daughter Hera. She evidently was teaching locally on sanctification, divine healing, and the Holy Spirit because there is a New York Times report in 1897 of a church, in Lyme, Connecticut which started after Sisson spoke there on those subjects in 1895.

Then the Pentecostal outpouring occurred and Sisson developed context for some of her previous experiences. She wrote a few articles for the Triumphs of Faith magazine in 1901 and 1902. Sisson also came into contact with Finis Yoakum and visited his healing and evangelistic ministry in Los Angeles. She evidently stayed in California for a while and ran an Evangelistic and Healing Mission in 1902. She continued to support Woodworth-Etter, because when Etter was arrested in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1904 Sisson was called as a witness in her defense. On April 18th 1906 the great San Francisco earthquake occurred. Many people, including Sisson, believed that this was the fulfillment of the prophecy given in 1890.

By 1908 Sisson had emerged as a major voice in the Pentecostal movement. She began to travel and speak once more, this time in Pentecostal circles. Her sister Charlotte (Lottie) often accompanied her. She traveled to the British Isles where she became so sick she thought she would die. God miraculously raised her up from her deathbed. Her articles began to appear in the Pentecostal periodicals of the day including Confidence, The Latter Rain Evangel, and Word and Work, Pentecostal Evangel, and the Weekly Evangel. In 1911 the Latter Rain Evangel published articles by Sisson every month and they continued to publish articles several times a year until 1920. Her focus was on healing, spiritual death and resurrection, and intimacy with Christ. Collections of her writings were made into books including "Foregleams of Glory", "That Big Black Bear", "Faith Reminisces", "Fasting and Prayer", and "Stop, Look, Listen". Many of her articles were also produced as tracts by the Gospel Publishing House a Pentecostal publishing firm.

In 1915 Sisson joined Reverends F. F. Bosworth and Birdsall in Dallas, Texas for a revival that had been started when Maria Woodworth-Etter visited their church in 1912. Sisson stayed several months experiencing and writing about the ongoing revival. Sisson regularly spoke at meetings and prayed for people. She was 71 years old. Remarkable numbers of people were converted, led to the mission field, and healed. She describes people being healed of paralysis, tuberculosis, blindness, shortened arms, burns and much more. In 1917 she was ordained by the new Assemblies of God denomination at the age of 74.

By the 1920s three of the Sisson sisters were living together in their home in New London, Connecticut. They were all elderly and in frail health. Elizabeth still occasionally spoke, but it was difficult for her to travel and difficult for her sisters to be without her. She continued as a prayer warrior until her death on September 17, 1934 at the age of 91. It was reported for every dollar she received she gave 60 cents towards missions, and her heart cry was to give even more. Sisson was truly a "mother in the faith". She served as a minister of God almost 70 years in missions, healing, and the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit. Over 140 of her articles appeared in Pentecostal publications. Her beloved sister Charlotte Sisson was the only sibling to outlive her, and then only by a few short weeks.

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