In the spring of 1913, a 23-year-old Salvation Army lass was rushed to the hospital with appendicitis. Her husband wired her mother that her life hung in the balance.

For months the young woman had felt her spiritual life also was in peril. Though she had been working in the Salvation Army, she'd had a deep gnawing sense that God expected more of her.

In later sermons, she often recounted dramatically what happened in that hospital: her condition deteriorated until a hospital attendant came to move her into a room set apart for the dying. She struggled to breathe as she heard a nurse say, "She's going."

Then she heard another voice: "Now will you go?" She understood it to mean she was to choose between going into eternity or going into ministry. She yielded to ministry. Instantly, she said, the pain was gone, her breathing eased, and she soon regained her strength.

Within a decade, the young woman would become an American phenomenon. Though hardly known today, during the 1920s, her name—Aimee Semple McPherson—appeared on the front page of America's leading newspapers three times a week. Today historians consider her, along with Billy Sunday, the most significant revivalist in the early twentieth century.

Gospel car

Aimee was born in October 1890, to James and Minnie Kennedy, a Methodist and a Salvation Army devotee respectively, in Ontario, Canada. As a teenager, Aimee was introduced to Pentecostalism through the preaching of Robert Semple. Much to the alarm of her parents, she began praying for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Her prayers were eventually answered, and she quit high school to give more time to the local Pentecostal mission. When Robert proposed, she ...

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