My wife and I had the good fortune to spend a few days in London during the summer of 1984. Due to the intercession of a friend, we were able to stay just across from the famous “Speaker’s Corner” of Hyde Park.
The residence we stayed in reminded me of the old BBC series “Upstairs, Downstairs.” Beginning in the basement, where the servants once cooked, ironed and performed the other duties that made life comfortable for those living upstairs, the residence consisted of one room stacked on top of another, each connected to the one above, or below, by a dumb waiter and a stairway.
It was a center of social life during the interwar years. The gentleman who owned it during the 1980’s was a descendent of the original owners. He had become a Christian and decided to use the residence as a place where visiting missionaries could stay while passing through London. For a small donation, we were able to stay in an area that would otherwise have been prohibitively expensive.
My wife and I were not missionaries, but we were spending a couple of months at L’Abri, a Christian study center in Greatham, a small village in the historic county of Sussex. It was there that we made the connection that led to our being able to enjoy the historical ambience of staying across from Hyde Park.
One afternoon while “having tea” in the kitchen, I met a gentleman I will refer to as “George.” Since George and I were sitting alone at the table, and there being no one else to talk with, we struck up an informal “How are you?” conversation.
Before I had a chance to say more than my name, George began to explain that he had just returned from a mission trip to Africa. He was not exactly a missionary. Actually, he was a preacher of the charismatic variety from the western United States.
In order for you to fully appreciate what I am about to relate of our conversation, it is important that you, dear reader, understand what I mean by “a preacher of the charismatic variety.” So, just in case you are not well acquainted with the concept, a charismatic Christian is one who believes in and practices what are called “the gifts of the Spirit.”
There are seven spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12:1-14). Christians disagree as to whether or not they exist today. For many in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, they not only exist today but are practiced. Many of such persuasion believe that practicing one or more of the gifts, particularly the gift of “speaking in tongues,” is evidence of one’s salvation.
George informed me that he not only had the gifts, but that the Holy Spirit used him in a mighty way in Africa.
“As I was preaching in he power of the Holy Spirit,” he said, “I looked to one side, and I saw people with their hands in the air praising Jesus. I looked behind me, and I saw people slain in the Spirit.”
By “slain in the Spirit,” I assumed he meant people were falling on the ground, their bodies jerking.
“Wow!” I said, “That’s amazing!”
The more he related of his experience, the more excited and animated he became. All I could do was sit there with a blank stare on my face, wondering what he would say next.
George testified to having seen people healed of all sorts of illnesses and even raised from the dead. Whenever he paused for a moment to catch his breath, I would say: “Wow! That’s amazing.”
After relating his experiences in Africa, George began to tell how he got the gift of the Holy Spirit.
“I was driving down a country highway in my pickup truck,” he said, “when the Holy Spirit just grabbed hold of me. Why, I got so excited, I almost wrecked my truck. I just couldn’t stop praising the Lord.”
“Wow!” I said.
Then George leaned over the table and looked me straight in the eye. As some would say, he invaded my space. His face was only about twelve inches from mine. I felt as if he were looking right through me.
“Bro. Waibel,” he said in a low voice, pausing for dramatic effect, “Do you have the baptism of the Holy Spirit?”
I didn’t know what to say. I just sat there starring back at him as if hypnotized. Then I heard myself say the only thing I could think of.
“Wow! That’s amazing!”