Aimee Semple McPherson
By: Donna J. Kazenske
Aimee Semple McPherson is a name that is continually mentioned in sermons, magazines, newspapers and websites all over the world. I admire Aimee and all of her efforts to bring forth the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who did not know Him. Aimee and her mother are thought to be the first two women who traveled successfully across the United States in their automobile. Aimee introduced jazz music into the church. Her use of illustrated sermons and dramatization became very popular in her day and has carried on through the ages of time . We could say that she turned the religious world of her day upside down.
Aimee Elizabeth Kennedy was born to James and Minnie on October 9, 1890 in the upstairs room of their Salford farmhouse.
As a 13-year-old she was already in demand as a public speaker. She did much studying on Darwin’s theory of evolution. She made her knowledge public by writing articles in newspapers etc. At the age of 15, Aimee had become quite a debater on behalf of evolutionary theories. It was said that no clergyman in the area could win an argument with her.
In December of 1907, a young evangelist by the name of Robert Semple came to town. Aimee, who considered herself an atheist, decided to attend one of his meetings. She thought it would be rather enjoyable to make fun of the evangelist and the people who were attending the meeting. To her surprise, the events of that evening changed her life. She gave her life to Jesus Christ and began to ask questions about the Holy Spirit. Amy also found herself falling in love with Mr. Semple. On August 12, 1908, Aimee and Robert Semple were married.
Two years after their marriage Robert and Aimee sailed to China. On their way, they stopped at Robert’s parents who lived in Ireland. The took this little slot of time to rest, as Aimee was now pregnant.
Their last stop on their way to China was in London. They stayed with a Christian millionaire named Cecil Polhill. The night before they were to leave for China from London, Cecil asked Aimee to “bring the message” to a crowd gathered at London’s Albert Hall. Aimee reluctantly agreed to preach. This was something she had never done before. She was still a very young 19 year old woman who was absolutely terrified to stand before a crowd of 15,000. She had no clue what to do as she stood behind the platform. She opened her Bible and it fell open to a particular Scripture that was illuminated to her by the Holy Spirit. She preached for almost one hour as the crowd was captivated by the power of the Holy Spirit. Needless to say, her first sermon was a success.
Aimee and Robert finally arrived in China in June of 1910. Robert immediately began to preach to the natives through an interpreter. The opportunities for preaching the Gospel were widespread in this area. One of their greatest problems in China was the sanitary conditions. Two months after the Semple’s arrived, they were both hospitalized with malaria and dysentery. Five days after their second wedding anniversary, Robert died during the night in his hospital bed.
One month after Robert’s death, Aimee gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She named her daughter Roberta Star, in remembrance of her father.
Aimee and her new baby returned to the United States to join Aimee’s mother, now separated from her father and living in New York.
It was in New York that Aimee met a man by the name of Harold Stuart McPherson. He was a 23-year-old accountant from providence, Rhode Island. Many called him “Mack” for short. It wasn’t long before Mack fell in love with Aimee and asked her to marry him. She finally consented, and they were married in the spring of 1912. On March 23, 1913, Aimee gave birth to a second child, a boy they named Rolf.
After the birth of Rolf, Aimee went into postpartum depression which left her devastated. Mack would often come home from work to find her hiding in the corner, sobbing, and attempting in vain to pray.
It was also during this time that Aimee began to hear the voice of God in her prayer times. She kept hearing the Lord say, “Preach the Word!”. “Will you go?” These were the last words that Aimee wanted to hear the Lord speak to her. She kept herself quite busy, attempting to “push down” what God was stirring in her heart.
In spite of all that she was doing to keep herself busy, Amy became deathly ill. She had literally been working herself to death. The voice of the Holy Spirit continued to ask her the same questions with an additional “Go! Do the works of an evangelist.”
Aimee underwent several operations, but her health continued to decline, until at one point the nurses attending her had given her up for dead. The voice came one last time: “NOW will you go?”
This sickness had really taken a toll on Aimee and with what she believed to be her last breath, she said “yes” to the Lord. To her amazement and all those around her, she found herself completely healed and back on her feet within two weeks.
Aimee attended a Pentecostal camp meeting in Kitchener, Ontario during the summer of 1915. She found herself responding to the altar call at the end of one of the meetings. She came forward and was asked to raise her hands and pray aloud. She threw her arms into the air and began to pray for forgiveness. As she did this, the anointing of the Holy Spirit came upon her and she began to speak in tongues. She laughed and cried while her entire body shook under the power of God. As she reached out to touch others, they also began receiving the Holy Spirit. This was truly a day of new beginnings for Aimee Semple McPherson.
Aimee was a woman who did many peculiar things. Once at a Mission in Ontario, she had scheduled a meeting. No one showed up for the meeting, so Aimee took a chair and placed it on a curb next to a barber shop. She got on the chair, closed her eyes and raised her hands toward heaven to pray silently. She didn’t move a muscle for a long period of time. A crowd soon began to gather around her wondering what this crazy woman was doing. After about an hour or so, she jumped off the chair onto the ground and said, “People, come and follow me, quick.” The group of about 50 people followed her right into the mission where she was supposed to preach. By the end of the week, Amy was preaching to nightly crowds of 500.
Since the crowds were beginning to grow in number, Aimee decided to purchase a tent to hold her meetings in. She took this tent all over America preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Aimee also raised enough money to buy a 1912 Packard touring car for her traveling ministry. This car carried quite a message on it. One side of the car was painted with “JESUS IS COMING SOON, GET READY”. The other side of the car said, “WHERE WILL YOU SPEND ETERNITY?” Amy called her car the Gospel Car. She was not one to be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She stood firm on what she believed and wanted others to know of His saving grace.
Aimee finally moved her family to Los Angeles, where she had a strong desire to have a permanent facility to have her meetings. She wanted to raise up a center where people could come and worship the Lord freely. She also wanted to establish a place where those called into the ministry could be trained and prepared. She found the perfect location for what would be the home for the Church of the Foursquare Gospel – Angelus Temple. This facility would seat 5,000. Aimee preached many illustrated sermons in this facility. She used music and drama to bring across the message that she was preaching.
The most controversial event in Aimee’s entire life was her kidnapping. This was reported on May 18, 1926.
On this particular morning of May 18, 1926, Aimee and her secretary went to Ocean Park. During their time here, Aimee wanted to relax and write some sermons. As she was wading in the water, a couple approached her and asked her to come and pray for their baby. Aimee followed them to their car, and as she looked inside, someone pushed her inside and shoved a chloroform-soaked cloth in her face. She awoke in a small house, where she was held captive for several days.
When Aimee did not return from her swim, a search party was called out. Finding no trace of her, they concluded that she had drowned.
Minnie Kennedy received a ransom note from kidnappers on June 19th demanding $500,000 for Aimee’s safe return. Minnie was totally convinced that her daughter was dead and did not take the ransom note seriously.
Aimee was eventually taken to the desert where she somehow managed to escape from those who had abducted her.
About one month after she was abducted, she was found collapsed in front of a home in Mexico. The people who found her, found an American cab driver who took her to the sheriff’s office across the border in Arizona. From there she was taken to a hospital where she was eventually reunited with her mother and children.
One thing led to another as the grand jury became involved in the kidnapping case. The newspapers were covered with negative articles regarding the event. After months of investigation and world-wide publicity, the case was dropped.
Aimee seemed to thrive on the publicity that she received through the newspapers etc. She used the publicity to point people to Jesus.
Aimee’s death was another great controversial event. Some believed that she had committed suicide, but there had been no symptoms of depression in her life. On October 13, 1944 the Coroner’s Office officially ruled her death as “caused by shock contributed to by adrenal hemorrhage and respiratory failure from an accidental overdose of barbital compound.”
Even though Aimee’s life was controversial to many, she was still a woman who was willing to say “yes” to the call of God. She persevered in the midst of many trials, yet she never stopped preaching about Jesus. She had made a decision to serve the Lord with a joyful heart and this is exactly what she did.
Donna Kazenske began ministering in 1986 and has been going full force ever since. She has studied with Berean School of the Bible in Springfield, Missouri, and is now studying with World Impact Bible Institute in Ontario, Canada and the Online Bible College in Australia. She is an anointed psalmist with a gift for writing “new songs.” She serves full-time at Latter Rain Ministries as an Office Manager and Webmaster. She travels worldwide preaching and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She preaches with fire and has a strong prophetic mantle. She has taught in the International Children’s Ministry Institutes in Africa, India, and Russia and directed an ICMI in Lucknow, India in 2000. She is ordained through Latter Rain Ministries, Litchfield, IL.