The Wonderful History of the Latter Rain
By the Late Miss Lillian Thistlewaite "Sister In Law of Charles F. Parham"
Re-printed in the Apostolic Faith - April 1951
The first Shower of the Latter Rain - Bethel Bible School.
In the year 1900, Charles F. Parham, and his wife and family and a number of Bible students, gathered in the Bethel Bible School to study the Word of God, using no text book except the Bible.
The building procured for this school was known by the people of Topeka, Kansas, as the "Stone Mansion" of "Stones Folly" because it had been patterned after an English castle, and he, having failed to "count the cost," was unable to finish in the style planned. The beautiful carved staircases and finished woodwork of cedar of Lebanon, spotted pine, cherry wood and bird's eye maple, ended on the third floor with plain wood and common paint.
The outside was finished in red brick and white stone with winding stairs that went up to an observatory on the front of the highest part of the building. There was also a cupola at the back of the building and two domes built on either side. Into one of these a door was cut, making a room large enough for a small stove, a table and a chair. This was known as the "Prayer Tower." Volunteers from among the students took theirbturn of three hours watch; so day and night prayer ascended unto God. Sometimes a student would desire to spend the night in waiting before the Lord and this privilege was allowed.
When the building was dedicated for the school, while in preayer, on the top of the building, captain Tuttle, a godly man, who was with Mr. Parham said he (in a vision) just above the building a "vast lake of fresh water about to overflow, containing enough to satisfy every thirsty soul." This we believe was the promise of the Pentecostal baptism which followed later.
There were about forty persons gathered here including the children. The method of study was to take a subject, learn the references on tha subject, also where each quotation was found, and present to the class in recitation as though they were seekers, praying praying for the anointing of the Holy Spirit to be upon the message in such a way as to bring conviction.
Mr. Parham also taught through lectures. I shall never forget the one he gave on the Songs of Solomon. How we were all lifted into the heavenlies and the room seemed filled with the glory of God's presence!
It was just before the Christmas holidays that we took up the study of the Holy Ghost/ Mr. Parham was going to Kansas City to conduct meetings there and to bring some friends back with him to spend Christmas and be present for the watch night meeting. before leaving, the following is the substance of what he said:
"Students, as I have studied the teachings of the various Bibls Schools and full gospel movements, conviction, conversion, healing and sanctification are taught virtually the same, but on the baptism there is a difference among them. some accept Stephan Merritt's teaching of baptism at sanctification, while others say this is a baptism received through the "laying on of hands" or the gift of the holy Ghost, yet they agree on no definite evidence. Some claim this fulfillment of promise "by faith" without any special witness, while others, because of wonderful blessings or demonstrations, such as shouting or jumping. Though I honor the Holy Ghost in anointing power, both in conversion and in sanctification, yet I believe there is a greater revelation of His power. The gifts are in the Holy Spirit and with the baptism of the Holy Spirit the gifts, as well as the graces, should be manifested. Now. students, while I am gone see if there is not some evidence given of the baptism so there may be no doubt on the subject.
"We see the signs already being fulfilled that mark the soon coming of the Lord and I believe with John Wesley that at Christ's second coming the Church will be found with the same power that the apostles and the early Church possessed."
Thus closed the regular Bible lessons, for a time, but there was individual and collective prayer and study of the bible continuously.
On Mr. Parham's return to the school with his friends, he asked the students whether thay had found any Bible evidence of the baptism of the holy Spirit. The answer was, unaninous, "speaking in other tongues."
Services were held daily and each night. There was a hallowed hush over the entire building. All felt the influence of a mighty presence in our midst. Without any special direction, allmoved in harmony. I remember Mrs. Parham saying, "Such a spirit of unity prevails that even the children are at peace, while the very air is filled with expectancy. Truly He is with us, and has something more wonderful for us than we have known before."
The service on New Year's night was especially spiritual and each heart was filled with the hunger for the will of God to be done in them. One of the students, a lady (Agnes N. Ozman) who had been in several other Bible Schools, asked Mr. Parham to lay handsupon her that she might receive the Holy Spirit. As she prayed, her face lighted up with the glory of God and she began to speak with "other tongues."
She afterward told us she had received a few words while in the Prayer Tower, but now her English was taken from her and with floods of joy and laughter she praised God in other languages.
There was very little sleeping among any of us that night. The next day still being unable to speak English, she wrote on a piece of paper, "Pray that I may interpret."
The following day was Thursday. This day Mr. Parham observed as a day of special prayer and waiting upon the Lord. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., he believes to be the six hours Christ spent on the cross, so these hours were observed in special waiting on the Lord that all that was purchased upon Calvary should be wrought out in our individual lives. The "broken body" or the atonement for healing was especially honored in these meetings.
On this particular day the baptism of the Holy Ghost was sought earnestly, but no one received the gift. Having other duties in the home I had not searched the scriptures to know the bible evidence, nor heard the decision of those who had, but in my mind concluded as the gifts are in the Holy Ghost any of the nine gifts would prove the baptism; and as Paul said "desire earnestly the best gifts." I, feeling "faith" was the most to be desired was looking for this gift in some way to be manifested.
An upper room was set apart for tarrying before the Lord, and here we spent every spare moment in audible or silent preayer, in song or in just waiting upon Him. There was no confusion as only one prayed audibly at a time, and when more than one sang it was the same hymn. It was truly a time of precious waiting. His presence was very real and the heart-searching definite.
Mr. Parham was holding night services in Topeka and before leaving he said, "I don't suppose I shall be able to understand any one of you when I return."
Still I was not looking for "tongues" but some evidence from God, I didn't know of what nature that would convince me I had the baptism. We prayed for ourselves, we prayed for one another. I never felt so little and utterly nothing before. A scrap of paper charred by a fire is the best description I can give of my feelings. Then through the Spirit this message came to my soul, "Praise Him for the baptism for He does come in by faith through the laying on of hands."
Then a great joy came into my soul and I began to say, "I praise Thee," and y tongue began to get thick and great floods of laughter came into my heart. I could no longer think words of praise, for my mind was sealed, but mu mouth was filled with a rush of words I didn't understand. I tried not to laugh for I feared to grieve the spirit. I tried to praise Him in English but could not, so I just let the praise come as it would in the new language given, with floodgates of glorywide open.
He had come to me, even to me to speak not of Himself but to magnify the Christ, - and oh, what a wonderful, wonderful Christ was revealed. Then I realized I was not alone for all around me I heard great rejoicing while others spoke in tongues and magnified God. I think Mrs. Parham's language was the most perfect. Immediately following came the interpretation, a beautiful poem of praise and worship to Christ, proving the words of the Saviour - "When the Comforter is come" - "he shall not speak of himself" - "He shall teach you all things and bring to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you." Then as with a simultaneous move we beganto sing together each one singing in his own new language in perfect harmony.
As we sang, "All hail the Power of Jesus' Name," and other familiar tunes, it would be impossible to describe the hallowed glory of His presence in our midst. The cloven tongues of fire had been seen by some when the evidence had been received. Mr. Parham came into the room while we were standing singing - kneeling he thanked God for the scene he was allowed to witness, then asking God if it was His will that he should stand for the baptism of the Holy Spirit as he had for healing, to givehim the Bible evidence. His prayer was answered, the gift bestowed, and the persecution came also.
Never had such a hallowed joy, such a refined glory or such an abundance of peace, ever come into my life. The Comforter had come and the words of Jesus being brought continually to my remembrance as Scripture after Scripture was unfolded by day and by night filled me with a settled rest and quietness my soul had never known before, I lived in the heavenlies.
As we went into meetings it seemed impossible that any could resist the messages given. Some understanding the language were convinced but others fulfilled the prophecy, "With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that they will not hear me, saith the Lord." I Cor. 14:21.
On one occasion a Hebrew Rabbi was present as one of the students, a young married man, read the lesson from the Bible. After services he asked for the Bible from which the lesson was read. The bible was handed him, and he said, "No not that one, I want to see the Hebrew Bible. That man read in the Hebrew tongue."
At another time while Mr. Parham was preaching he used another language for some time during the sermon. At the close, a man arose and said, "I am healed of my infidelity; I have heard in my own tongue the 23rd Psalm that I learned at my mother's knee."
The Bible School building was sold. We moved to a building in Topeka where we stayed for a short time, then went to Kansas City. While living in Kansas City we heard that the building where Pentecost first fell was burned. This was not a surprise to us, as it had been turned into a road house and the rooms that once had heard only the voice of supplication and praise to God, had been desecrated by worldly revelry. Warning was given that such actions would not go unpunished for the house was dedicated to the Lord from its highest place of observation to the cellar.
In Kansas Citym Missouri, Mr. Parham held a Bible School, also meetings. During this time souls were saved, some received their baptism and others were healed. The persecutions were great and we were learning many lessons. In the third year of the work Gid mightily vindicated the cause and many souls were saved, wonderful healings took place, and the falling of the Pentecostal Baptism was very convincing.
I do not know to what denomination all belonged who received the baptism at Bethel Bible School, but some were Methodists, others Friends, and some Holiness, while many belonged to no denomination. There were only white persons present at the first Pentecostal shower. No colored people were ever in the school. As Mrs. Parham's sister, it has been my privilege to be in their home or in touch with their work continually. To witness Mr. Parham's zeal and untiring energy you would not believe it possible he had been a suffewrer for years until healed by the power of God.
The work of his ministry was conducted entirely on faith lines. He looked to the Lord to open the field of labor and was obedient to that which he felt to be His will, then left the results with God, who hath said, "His Word shall not return unto Him void." His family was dear to him. He enjoyed doing the little things about the home, caringfor the children and giving the loveservice, which maked life worth living.
Soon after they were married he was given some land in the country, and I remember him saying to my sister, "If the Lord would only let me, we would have a little home, and raise chickens." But choosing the "better part," together they continued the life of service for others.
He taught as the discipline of the Movement he represented, and for his own life and practice, the keeping of the commandments of Jesus. He rejoiced in the opportunity to "overcome evil with good." He also practiced the command to "Give to every man that asketh of thee, and to him that would borrow of thee, turn not away," and God rewarded an hundred fold.
Many times he gave the last cent he had, or clothes and food that would be needed the following day; but the Scripture obeyed brought "good measure" returned, even to the running over. A marked characteristic of his work was his ability to reach all classes, the rich and the cultured, the poor and the outcast of society, with the same touch of understanding that makes of one common brotherhood all God's creatures.
Having known the power of healing in his own life, and believing God's promises are the same today for those who could believe, he prayed for the sick who were healed, even as sinners were delivered from the power of sin thru faith in the atonement. When Mrs. Parham first wrote me about the wonderful healings they were having among the people, I could hardly believe it possible. I knew Christ and the disciples healed the people and I aslo believed that Mr. Parham was healed, but I thought these were special cases.
I had a physical disorder that had troubled me for years,I would try the Lord and see if He would heal now as when here in person. God, searching the heart, knoweth all things. How great His patience and tender mercies toward us! He graciously healed me. later I contracted a cold resulting in a cough which instead of getting better grew worse till I was confined to bed. My mother and the others were anxious about me, feeling I should have a doctor. To this I could not consent for I had not only been healed myself but had seen many others healed thru prayer.
I remembered I had come for healing to prove God's promises, now I felt God was proving me. They were prayin g for me at bethel bible School where Mr. and Mrs. Parham were incharge, yet I still remained sick. later, Mr. Parham came into my mother's home and prayed for me. I felt the healing virtue go thru my body and was entirely delivered. I thank God for His great love for His children; that He has purchased not only salvation for the soul but also healing for the body, which is the temple of the holy Ghost. I also thank God for His faithful messenger, who has been an inspiration and blessing to so many and truly given his Life as a living sacrafice in service for others, though his faith was often tried, as by fire.