As a young high school student, I remember going to the library because I liked looking at the books with pictures, such as Look Magazine and Life Magazine. One particular day, a book on the Bible was on the table. I started reading the stories in a simple form, lots of pictures of the prophets working miracles, the story of David killing the giant, and of Samson’s great strength. I wondered in my heart if this God was for real, for I had no knowledge of God or that He even existed at this time in my life.
During this time, my sister had experienced the death of a child – that’s when the questions of “why” came. It all seemed overbearing. The only relief I found was crying out to God, and that brought a sense of hope. Little did I know that these events were changing my life, for God was listening and starting to draw me to Him. From those moments forward, a search for God was in progress, yet I didn’t know the hand guiding me.
In my mind, I thought the proper thing to do was join a church. Didn’t all who searched for God join a church? So, I did join a church. Many of my high school friends were members of the Baptist Church, so I started attending. I was scared, but I thought, “It must be the right thing to do.” They knew God, I hoped.
After being in attendance several Sundays, the pastor met me at the door. He knew something was happening to me. He popped the question: “Do you want to be saved?” The time had come, “yes” was my reply. We went to a room where he read me some scriptures about believing in Jesus and you would have everlasting life. As he read, I was trembling. Then, the pastor told me I had to confess Christ openly before the congregation. This was tough for me and standing before people frightened me. Yet for Jesus, I would do it.
The following Sunday, I went to the altar and my mother went to the altar, too. We were introduced to the church members and shook hands with the congregation. Next, we were told that, at a later date, we would be baptized in water. A sense of relief was in the air, expectations were high.
I remember the night I was baptized. A friend of mine was in the line also. He went first, then me. I was expecting a touch from God, yet it didn’t come. Maybe I didn’t do it right, so, I asked my friend what he felt. He just shook his head. That puzzled me but we did what we thought was right before God.
The following months were spent being involved with church activities – choir practice, plays, attending regularly, communion services, whatever you felt the Lord would be pleased with you to do for the church. During the following days, my hunger for God grew. My friends and I would talk about God. We were sincere about serving the Lord. During revivals, we sang from our hearts and people would get under conviction. Every time someone would go to the altar, I felt like I needed to return. “What is going on inside me?” I would wonder. I had confessed my sins. They told me I was saved. I needed something, but what? I still had questions. God was soon to show me.
A young lady started to attend the Baptist church who had a Pentecostal background. After having some conversations with her, she invited me to a Pentecostal worship service. I had never heard of the holy Ghost with speaking in other tongues. It was a new experience for me. However, God had made an appointment for me.
After arriving at the Pentecostal Church, the worship service started. It was different – praising God out loud, the whole congregation praying at the same time, excitement in the air, the old people were lively, and there was speaking in tongues. All of these things were new to me. On the other hand, it was a real witness of God. I could sense it was right, but there was a battle. I had claimed to be saved and something was telling me, “I didn’t need to go to the altar, I was already born again”, but God helped me overcome that thought, and I went to the altar. After praying a few minutes, seems like a long time, I asked if I could pray in a back room. They kindly showed me an area for souls seeking the holy Ghost baptism. I started calling on God the best I knew. Shortly thereafter, a young man came through the door praising God with several church members with him. They stopped long enough to pray for me. I could hear repeating words of “hold on” or “let go”, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. I guess they sensed to move on.
I had too many questions in my mind, so I asked a lady near by to answer some of my questions. The first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Do you have to have the holy Ghost with speaking in other tongues”? To my surprise, she responded, “No, too many people are going on emotion”. When she had finished, the holiness pastor came in. He peeks through the door with a smile on his face and said, “Look at the smile on your face, you got saved tonight.” I was one confused young man, for I had seen the life giving power on people, felt and heard the holy Ghost witness, yet I had been told I didn’t need what was evident. God saved me from that error because I didn’t stop there! God will use all things to lead you to Him.
After going to the Pentecostal service, I went to my pastor at the Baptist Church. We discussed the scriptures on speaking in tongues and his response didn’t satisfied me, even though he was kind in trying to explain the scriptures. Later, he came to my job. He had found a scripture to show me the light on not speaking in tongues. He said, “Paul was caught up to heaven where he heard words unlawful to utter.” (Remember, I was young in understanding the ways of God; however, the Lord was my help.) I replied, “Paul said, he that speaks in tongues ‘giveth thanks well’, and, ‘forbid not to speak in tongues.’ ” At that moment, a customer came into the store, I turned to wait on him, and afterward, when I turned back to the pastor, he was gone.
Following this event, the road was clearer to follow, and God would brighten the path even more. My mother was in need of physical healing because the doctors found cancer in her colon. There was no time for fruitless hope. Mother needed real help, and help was on the way. My aunts were in contact with me concerning my mother. They were nurses and had inside direction for the best assistance, plus God was very much a part of their lives. Mother knew this because she had been reared in a holiness home and her mother was full of the holy Ghost. Grandmother’s and the saints’ prayers had been answered for us. Still, mother hadn’t let the whole story about God out to me.
I was a senior in high school and graduation was near. My aunts came to the ceremonies, and later that night, we talked about God. That was the best gift anyone could give me. My Aunt Leatha invited me to a tent meeting where people were being prayed over for their healing, and it was a chance to meet with God’s people, so I went. I also went with my grandmother to a local gathering of saints in her community. There was wonderful music, and this is where I learned my first song “Somebody Touched Me” that I sang at a later date. I continued going to the tent meetings, and each time I learned a different lesson. All the people I had met intended to help me, and I thank God for each event, but something was still missing. I would soon discover gold – not physical, but spiritual treasure!
Mother was seeking healing from God and started to tell me more about the Pentecostal way. By this time, my aunts were making regular contact with us. They invited her to a healing service at the Church of God, and I also attended. Mother did receive a touch from God that night, but for me, something was missing. That something was near.
Mother had an appointment with the doctors; little did I know, I did too. While mother was getting medical advice, I was given spiritual direction. My Aunt Martha had given us an invitation to her home and she was married to G. C. Clark, pastor of The Pioneer Tract Society. Brother Clark was sensitive to the leading of the Spirit of God, and somehow, he knew the spiritual condition I was debating. The questions started coming from me about the holy Ghost baptism. That was wonderful to him, he loved the questions! This was the answer I had been waiting to hear! The words were fulfilling my longing! There was peace and healing! For the first time, I was confronted with the truth! So simple was his explanation of the new birth, even I could understand. Brother Clark could sense my hunger, and soon laid his hands on me. A new door had been opened. I didn’t receive the holy Ghost that day, but I could feel the call of God stronger.
Mother and I had a good conversation after our visit and decided we needed to be in the home prayer meetings at Grandmother’s house. As I think back, the first thing that comes to mind is the love you could feel in those early meetings. We needed it and God would send showers of blessings upon us. It took that for me. I was backwards among people; however, I was constantly encouraged by the saints. Their testimonies were soul stirring – singing from the heart, preaching from experience, quoting scriptures, and just every day living. Our attending the worship services continued for several months. We were learning the order of God and He was training us on the yielding of the Spirit of God. I had an example of yielding to the Spirit in my mother who would roll the floor under the power of God. That was what I needed, ‘cause it made me jealous (in a good way) at my mother. I had never seen such events. Here it is, right in front of me! My mother humbling herself to the holy Ghost. It was exciting, but what about me? Would I roll the floor to receive the holy Ghost, or receive it in the back room the way my aunt received the Spirit? How about the way Brother Clark received the holy Ghost, in a Baptist home? God had His time.
Months passed. I tried anything I thought would please God. In the world, you would do something, maybe try harder – all this I did, but to no avail. So, I went to Brother Clark expecting some deep answer. His words were on target. I didn’t realize the full weight of the answer. Brother Clark told me, “When you have done all, just stand.” That was something I wasn’t very good at doing. I liked to keep busy with some work or deed. However, I managed to stand still. The next Sunday meeting, I was calmer. I felt more relaxed. It worked! Because when time for prayer came, the holy Ghost fell so gently and his yoke was easy. I was surprised! The holy Ghost came so gently, and my burden was light. I went home excited.
During that coming week, I found myself praying and hearing the holy Ghost stammer through my lips. Wonderful!! God had washed my sins away and forgiven me. The burden of sin was lifted and the answer had come. The journey of holiness had begun. God had given life to another hungry soul.
Bro. Earl Pittman