The 20th-century evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson was a woman ahead of her time. She crossed the United States with two young children in an era when women were not permitted to vote. She established an evangelistic ministry and built a large evangelistic center at a time when women were expected to marry, have children and leave religion and other “important” pursuits to men. But God had a plan for her life that did not take into account human ways of doing things.
As an evangelist who preached the gospel not only across the United States but also around the world, Sister Aimee incorporated the cutting edge communications media of her day. People were healed by the thousands when she prayed for them, but she herself took no credit for the healings, instead giving full credit to God.
Upon opening the doors of Angelus Temple in Los Angeles in 1923, Sister Aimee developed an extensive social ministry, feeding more than 1.5 million people during the Great Depression. She summarized her message into four major points, which she called “the Foursquare Gospel”: Jesus is the Savior, Jesus is the Healer, Jesus is the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is the Soon-Coming King. She founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, also known as The Foursquare Church, which continues to spread the Foursquare Gospel throughout the world to this day.
Aimee Semple McPherson was born Aimee Elizabeth Kennedy on October 9, 1890, near Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, and was the only child of James and Minnie Kennedy. Although she was reared in a Christian home, she began to question the Bible during her teen years. When she was 17 years old and still in high school, she attended a revival service conducted by Pentecostal evangelist Robert Semple where she heard the message of repentance and a born-again experience. She resisted the message at first, but the Holy Spirit continued to speak to her heart, convicting her of the sin in her life and of her need for a Savior.
After a three-day struggle with doubt and uncertainty, she prayed and asked the Lord to save her. As soon as she did so the weight of sin was gone and she was filled with amazing joy. When Aimee heard the evangelist speak also of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, she became consumed with the desire to experience that Pentecostal baptism. After a time of prayer and seeking the Lord, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. From that time forward, she had a love and compassion for souls and a longing to serve the Lord that remained with her throughout her lifetime.
The revival meeting that changed her life spiritually also changed her life romantically. Before long, the handsome Robert Semple had won Aimee’s heart, and the two were married in August 1908, just shy of Aimee’s 18th birthday. Their individual desires to serve the Lord seemed to fit together perfectly. After ministering in Chicago and the Ingersoll area, the Semples began preparations to go as missionaries to China. In 1910, shortly before Aimee turned 20, she and her husband of less than two years set sail for China. It seemed to the young couple that they would have a lifetime together, preaching the Word of God and ministering to those for whom the Lord had so burdened their hearts. But that was not to be.
Robert and Aimee both contracted malaria within months of arriving in Hong Kong and Robert died only three months after their arrival, leaving Aimee as a nineteen year old penniless widow awaiting the imminent birth of her first child. When her daughter, Roberta Star Semple, was a month old, Aimee returned to the United States to face life as a single mother.