God has blessed me with a fruitful ministry spanning well over 60 years, both as a local church pastor and an evangelist. As I reflect on what God has done and the way He has blessed, I can only praise His name!
Throughout my early ministry, many local newspapers around the U.S. dubbed me the “Hollywood Boy Evangelist.” Hollywood was just in its infancy as a world leader of entertainment, and wherever I spoke, people were fascinated by the place I called home.
But let me start at the beginning.
My father and mother were natives of New England and accustomed to rural life. In 1912, they boarded a train in Boston bound for Los Angeles. They found a sleepy little country town nearby named Hollywood that was perfect for their lifestyle, raising chickens, horses, pigs, cows—and a family. A few years later, I was born on Oct. 17, 1916.
When I was 7, my father took me to Echo Park on a bright red Pacific Electric train. The year was 1923, and he had heard about Sister Aimee Semple McPherson and the wonderful ways God was blessing the preaching of the Word in her ministry.
When we attended our first service at Angelus Temple, it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. The singing was glorious. The preaching was powerful. And the miracles were genuine.
These many years later, I can still say there is no place in the world like Angelus Temple, and there was no one quite like Sister Aimee Semple McPherson.
How It All Began
When I was 9, I heard Sister McPherson preach a gospel message that moved me to say yes to Christ. I walked that long aisle in Angelus Temple to the tear-stained altar down front, where I was wonderfully saved.
Then, along with thousands of other children during the 1920s, I became part of a growing children’s church at Angelus Temple led by Sister McPherson’s daughter, Roberta Star Semple.
It was commonplace for children to help lead the services at the temple, and Sister would often request children’s choirs and testimonies from among our ranks. I preached my first public sermon when I was 10 years old at Angelus Temple. When I was 11, I directed our children’s choir and even led a children’s drama group that performed plays and musicals before thousands during Saturday and Sunday services.
When I was 12, Sister McPherson and her daughter, Roberta, baptized me in water. I count it a significant blessing in my life to have been one of the more than 40,000 people Sister McPherson baptized in that same baptistery.
I was 14 when I was baptized with the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues. It happened in the band room of Angelus Temple. More than 200 other children had gathered to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
I was a bit afraid of God’s power. I would pull back a bit while others were throwing their hands in the air and crying out for God to fill them. They were seeking God’s fullness. I asked Him to give me His power, but also asked him to go easy on me. I didn’t think I could take too much of His power all at once.
Finally, I gave in and prayed, “God, please fill me any way you want.” And He did! When I was filled with the Holy Spirit, I fell to the ground. There was no human touch in it. No one laid hands on any of us—it was purely a supernatural touch by God.
I spoke in tongues for over two hours that day. I had a vision of the Lord, and I received my call to evangelize, all when I was 14.
God’s Call to Bible College
A few years later, I was barely of legal age but already ministering around the U.S. when I realized God wanted to equip me with training to be more effective for His kingdom. I was 3,000 miles from home, holding revival meetings in the hills of Kentucky. I had no means of returning to the West Coast, but somehow God provided, and I returned to L.I.F.E. Bible College [now called Life Pacific College].
While a student, I witnessed some powerful healings. I knew a man named Raymond Becker, who had a terrible skin disorder that made his face look like raw meat. As I watched during a service at Angelus Temple, Sister McPherson poured cruets of oil over Raymond’s head—a vast difference from simply dabbing a dot of oil on his forehead, like most people do when they pray for the sick.
To the amazement of everyone present, Raymond was miraculously healed. His face was beautifully restored. I saw him just days later, and his skin looked as smooth and healthy as a baby's.
Then there was Mary Elizabeth, known throughout Los Angeles as the queen of drug lords in the city at that time. Local police had no idea what to do with this woman. She had such a reputation in the city that they had given up all hope of ever stopping her from a life of crime.
One night, during one of Sister McPherson’s services, the LAPD brought Mary Elizabeth to Angelus Temple for prayer. These officers must have been at their wit’s end to take such a measure.
When Sister McPherson prayed for Mary Elizabeth, she was instantly delivered. God filled her with the Holy Spirit, and she went through Bible school, graduated and became an evangelist for the gospel. I have heard her preach and share her testimony of God’s faithfulness in her life.
My Life As an Evangelist
When I traveled the U.S. and held evangelistic meetings, they would often continue for days or weeks at a time. We had to be prepared to stay where the Spirit was moving well beyond the initial commitment of one or two services.
During spring 1944, I was preaching for evangelistic meetings in Fresno, Calif. By the end of the meetings, the crowds grew so large that the church had to seek larger facilities for their Easter Sunday service. The Lord drew 2,000 people that day to the Fresno Municipal Auditorium, where I spoke the Word of God and prayed for the sick.
I learned from Sister McPherson that in all things, we give the glory to God. The wonderful miracles wrought during my ministry were truly a testament to the power of the Spirit and Him alone.
As a young man, I was in a tragic car accident and put in a body brace for two years. The doctors concluded I would never walk on my own again. It looked like my evangelistic and healing ministry was over. The Holy Spirit fervor remained in me, but I simply could not stand for hours and preach and pray for the sick. When I tried, I had to be carried off the platform, because my limbs could not sustain me.
For five years, I continued preaching and praying for the sick. Throughout this time, I remained physically incapacitated; but miraculously, those I prayed for became well.
I was in Vancouver, Canada, and some local ministers found out I was in town. I was wearing my body brace and had become convinced that I could not preach again until I was healed. It just did not seem right for me to pray for healing in others when I could not experience my own healing. But, when the ministers asked me to come and hold a service for them and pray for the sick, I felt compelled by God to go.
At the leading of the Holy Spirit, I took off my brace and stepped into the pulpit. God wonderfully moved during that service, and people were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. I prayed for the sick and saw miraculous healings take place.
When the service ended, I made the startling discovery that I too had been completely healed! My testimony grew from that day forward, and I have never stopped praying for the sick or believing for God to do the impossible.
I still look for any opportunity to speak up for the name of Christ and to pray for the fire of the Holy Spirit to fall on people. We need the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and we need more people who believe that God will heal today.
My life is a testament to God’s healing power, and all glory belongs to Him.
By: Walter Wentworth (1916-2010), a Foursquare pastor and evangelist, adapted from a video interview conducted in March 2004 and from archived newspaper accounts