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CHAPTER 1-section 2

An aging woman seated up front, who up until that point had managed to exclude herself from the mainstream of excitement developing around her, suddenly arose. Instantly the eyes of all the congregation focused on her.

Resolutely grasping hold of her skirt, she climbed up on the narrow seat of her pew and motioned to the believers.

"Stop-hear? Stop! He is praying!" she cried, completely lost in her words, tears running down her withered red cheeks. "He is thanking God for all His blessings." And raising her arms in the air, she continued, "I know his tongue! It’s ancient Indian!" Her task completed, she quickly slipped down and quietly shriveled up in her pew, mingling once again with the ecstatic believers.

To me it seemed a strange meeting—in fact one of the most unusual I had ever witnessed. In my career as a journalist I had covered a variety of assignments and had been exposed to many diverse languages ranging from Albanian to Zulu, but this was different—very different indeed.

With a critical eye I began to scan the congregation. There weren’t many people, perhaps 35 or 40 of them.

By this time the supernatural power had turned the religious meeting into a climax of praise, as all hands reached high in a pleading gesture.

With his hands pronouncing blessings left and right, a middle-aged man, evidently the minister, separated himself from a small group of praying individuals, and walked to the pulpit.

"Listen, my people," he exclaimed, his face beaming with joy. "This is the Lord you’re listening to. He’s here. This is the Holy Spirit. This is Pentecost all over again! Praise God! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!" Then he hurried down from the rostrum again to rejoin his praying people.

A sudden jarring motion at my shoulder made me turn my head.

My neighbor showed me the reason.

Standing up in his full height of perhaps five feet, two inches, he too had felt the spirit and was joining the experience with his own ecstatic tongue.

"Oh si si kalini— idi ma talu uno— ta kala—" His voice faltered, then picked up speed and clarity. "Ini tola tola muni— taka ka takaka—"

I had occupied a seat at the end of one of the back pews. At last I stood up and walked out, head bowed. None noticed.

"I wonder—" I muttered more to myself than to anyone else. "Is this what happened at Pentecost?"

Sudden bursts of "hallelujah," with clapping of hands and exclamations of pure joy, pierced the flimsy access doors to the church’s sanctuary. It was in answer to one of the exuberant shouts that I turned in the hallway and cast one last peek through the small spy window in the door.

By now the entire congregation was separating into several small prayer groups, and high-spirited prayers were filling the air. In every corner tongues-speakers and their interpreters poured forth their unique messages. The usher in the back row had joined in. "I too want the spirit—I want the spirit—"

… I had often pondered the question of the gift of tongues.

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