The first years of the 20th century saw an increased longing among many Christians for a tangible and powerful expression of God in everyday life. Not content with mere rituals or intellectualism, they wanted to experience firsthand more of God Himself. In their minds, a true relationship with God should affect one’s thinking and emotions. It should negate the power of sin so that one can practically be set free. It should be draw us into profound intimacy with our Lord, and it should imbue the normal Christian with supernatural power and giftings in order to fulfill the purposes of God. This longing stirred the Church to pray. To cry out to God. To look forward to a great move of the Spirit. This was the spark God put in many hearts so that the Asuza Street revival might fan into full flame in April of 1906.
As in many revivals, God groomed and fashioned its future leader decades ahead of time. William J. Seymour was born in 1870 to former slaves in Centerville, Louisiana. His spiritual journey included teachings from the Baptists and also from those affiliated with the Revivalist and the Reformation movements of that period. Even as a youth, Seymour often would find himself visited by dreams and visions from God. At the age of 25, he moved to Indianapolis, where he got a job at the railroad station and also waited on tables. It was there he contracted smallpox, eventually causing him to go blind in his left eye. After traveling to Cincinatti in 1900 and then onwards to Houston in 1903, he immersed himself in the Word of God and studying about the Holy Spirit, and eventually he became a pastor. All through this time, God fired up in Seymour’s heart a heightened anticipation of a coming revival and a mighty move of God.
In February of 1906, a church in Los Angeles invited Seymour to speak to their congregation. Mustering whatever money he could find, he caught a train westward to LA. At the first Sunday service, he preached about the Holy Spirit and how God’s power can be manifested among His people. It turned out to be quite controversial to a few of the leaders. By the next Sunday, Seymour had been barred from the church. One Christian family, although they were poor, invited him to lead Bible studies and prayer meetings from their home at 216 North Bonnie Brae Street. As God showed up on the porch of that small home, dozens and even hundreds of people increasingly gathered there, hungry for a fresh touch from the Holy Spirit. Eventually in April, after the porch collapsed because of so many attenders, they had to move to a new larger space, a run-down warehouse in a poor district of Los Angeles: 312 Asuza Street.
The beat-up two-story structure at Asuza Street used to house an Episcopal church at one point, but it had been converted to a warehouse and then abandoned. Seymour used the large barn-like 1st floor to host the the worship meetings, often with 300 and more people in attendance. The meetings were loud and energetic, running day and night. God worked miracles and poured out healing. People spontaneously stood up to give a continuous testimony of what the Lord was doing.The presence of God was palpable, and those present were inundated with conviction of sin and strong emotions. The Spirit of God poured out upon that place, deeply transforming the lives of many and releasing God’s spiritual gifts and power upon the believers. Revival had come to LA at Asuza Street!
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