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CHAPTER 1-section 1

The Sanctifying Tongue

"Medi alukan— ala— du aru— shamma shamma. Solama sulama sumala tamaku abada da da kumi sala sala mili amatala shamma shamma balu—

"Ama tala manga diekam oh sila sila aboda take shamma shamma—"

A strange sound engulfed me as I quietly entered the 30-odd-pew church nestled peacefully somewhere in a staid old residential section of Memphis, Tennessee. In search for information on the manifestation of the gift of tongues, which had now begun to seep through the cracks in the thus far impenetrable doctrinal walls protecting the country’s main-line religions, I had been directed to this solemn looking building.

The fortress-like image of the church had for years safeguarded its traditional heritage. Yet, somehow this was now changing.

The December wind howled threateningly about the church’s lone spire, and wet whirly fingers of rain tugged at me as I made my way to the door of the church. Holding the dripping brim of my rain hat with one hand and attempting with the other to keep my trenchcoat closed, I climbed the crumbling concrete steps and leaned my wet weight against the aging door.

Within seconds the squeaks of the rusty hinges mingled with a strange, melodious sound, a hint of which had reached out for me while I had slushed past the church’s dimly lit windows moments before.

"Shamma shamma oh amatala taka aboda shamma shamma— I lake tiki sala aboda— shamma takala takala shimmi—"

A language? It was most certainly a sound I had never before encountered. One moment pleading, the next instant jubilant and triumphant, it was a solitary voice with a shimmering background of subdued cries of ecstasy. It implored, cried with a pulsating chain of sounds that became insistent and captivating in the dark as I continued to shuffle across the foot-worn marble slabs that led to the sanctuary doors.

Hat under my arm, coat still dripping, I squeezed through the narrow crack in the door and joined the congregation, taking an outside seat on one of the back pews.

The entire congregation—young and old alike—listened with raptured attention to the flood of mysterious sounds that poured forth from the mouth of a young man standing on one of the front pews. He had turned around when I entered, and across the uneven sea of heads I watched him from my vantage point of self-imposed impartiality.

He was young—no doubt about that—perhaps 21 or 22 years of age. His supernatural performance, however, more than replaced his obvious immaturity. There he stood, speaking, talking, uttering sounds definitely not from this part of the world. His wet hair framed a pockmarked face lost in rapture. Slender hands raised skyward as if reaching for God, he talked on and on, praying in sounds that seemed to have no resemblance to a known language—but that no one but me seemed to notice.

Internally fused with an unknown power, his hands caressed the air, pleading, pulling, begging for something from on high, and with each passing second, my initial impression that something unearthly had taken possession of his innermost being gained strength.

An aging woman seated up front … suddenly arose

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