Aimee Semple McPherson

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Ludwig(my grandfather) squirreled away his earning diligently until he had enough to buy a patch of land in Caseville, Michigan.  There, my father got himself a grade school education and an impressive set of sinewy muscles.  He built up his shirt-sleeve knowledge through seven years of backbreaking physical labor on the farm. At eighteen years of age, he set out for Detroit to look for work.
What he found instead was Aimee Semple McPherson. The legendary McPherson was the most visible Pentecostal of the 1920’s.-Irrepressible and complex, she satisfied the public’s need for spirituality, sensationalism, and sex appeal. McPherson was a stylish woman whose passionate sermonizing could mesmerize huge throngs of believers at her tent revivals.  Her multi-day crusades were extravaganzas of praising the Lord, speaking in tongues, and faith healing for anyone who needed it.   Her 1912 Packard—a personal “Gospel Car”— had the words “Jesus is Coming Soon-Get Ready” painted on one side, and “Where Will You Spend Eternity” painted of the other.
After years of working her way up and down the Atlantic coast, she decided to go West.  She set off in 1918, and by come accounts, Aimee and her mother where the first two women to travel across country by car unaccompanied. (This is when she came to Michigan)
People flocked to see her.  My father flocked, too, and the impression she made on him altered the course of his life.  Dad traveled with McPherson for a summer, after leaving the farm in Caseville. He converted from Lutheranism to Pentecostalism.

Graceann’s Comments

Dad often talked about Sister McPherson.  He said he was “one of her boys” and worked hard putting up large tents, and taking them down. He also helped to manage the large crowds that came to hear her.  Dad also brought many of his family members to the Revival Meetings.  His brother Louie, and sister Elizabeth and other family members, where converted to Pentecostals after hearing her dynamic sermons.  Aimee McPherson had a large influence on the whole Kolenda family.  Later she left the Assembly of God Church and founded her own, The Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
Once, while visiting Detroit in 1945, Dad insisted on visiting one of the Headquarters for the Foursquare Church, and he spent some time, remembering stories and showing Mother and me picture on the walls of Sister McPherson.  He talked with pride about the time he spent with her. This led him to enroll in the only Pentecostal Bible school in the country, in Pasadena, California, now known as the Vanguard University of Southern California.

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