I was born in Kansas and raised in North Dakota. Dad was a Missourian and Mom was a Nebraska girl. They raised a family of seven children, the last two being twins ... Dorris and Morris. Dad was a Dunker preacher ... Dunker being the tag given to the Church of the Brethren because of their practice of "dunking" converts three times forward at the time of water baptism. All the Williams children were "dunked" the Dunker way except Dorris and Morris. Pentecost intervened before we became of dunkable age. I was saved at age eleven. I'm not sure how old Dorris was when she gave her heart to the Lord.
When I say Pentecost "intervened" I'm putting it mildly.
I was too young to experience much trauma, but it must have been life-changing in the extreme for Mom and Dad. Imagine the "stir" in the little town of Egeland, North Dakota ... population 333, when the wife of the pastor of the Church of the Brethren embraced and experienced the teachings of the Pentecostal fanatics! Both of our parents were "Bible Thumpers." If the Word said it, the argument stopped. But the Dunker's interpretation of the Word of God was literal with emphasis upon outward proof of inward holiness. So foot washing, plain dress, head covering, no jewelry, no musical instruments ... were the outward works that were visible evidence of their faith. But it stopped with abstinence, and the Christian walk became more a matter of "not doing" than "doing." Mom was a "doer," and longed for a positive spiritual experience ... something that was missing in the Church of the Brethren.
So, when Mom met several ladies who had "experienced" the baptism in the Holy Spirit... ladies who talked freely of communion with God ... whose prayers were like a dialogue with the Divine ... who believed in the supernatural... it was like cool water for a thirsty soul. Mom went for it... and received it. And Dad? I was too young to remember, but I know the kind of man Dad was. He was absolutely honest and totally committed to understanding the Word of God ... even when what had happened was beyond anything he had been taught. So he stood with Mom in her new experience (even though it was more than twenty years later that he received the baptism in the Holy Ghost). His loyalty to truth and enlightenment cost Dad his credentials and his church.
He was "waited upon" by the church elders who gave him a chance to recant. He "broke the camel's back" when he entertained the Pentecostal evangelist in our home. The following Sunday he found a padlock on the door of the church. All this happened before I was ten years old, but it affected the whole Williams family. From that time on, ours was a Pentecostal home, and all seven children entered the Assemblies of God ministry.
It was a Pentecostal movement in mission!
But what had happened meant a new direction for my life, too. Now life included prayer meetings and Sunday afternoon Bible studies plus evangelistic services in the Pentecostal "free mission" where my parents attended after they were "locked out" of the church Dad had pastored. I got saved when a Brother Loudahl was preaching in the free mission. (He had a brother who was a missionary to Liberia, Africa. I don't think it had anything to do with my going to Africa later, but it may have. I remember another missionary from the Congo who was the first "live" missionary to touch my life. Maybe it was him.) (Buckley).
The cottage prayer meetings were the thing that brought me personally into Pentecost at the age of thirteen. They were "tarrying" meetings with the emphasis on tarrying ... for we went "expecting" and didn't leave until something happened. We often met without a pastor, for Egeland was in transition from being a "free" Pentecostal church to becoming affiliated with the "General Council of the Assemblies of God," and it was a time of great indecision ... leaving the church pastorless for long periods of time. The little congregation was being pulled by independent preachers in one direction, while "council" preachers urged organization and affiliation. Some declared that a "roster" ... i.e., church membership ... was of the devil and any Bible training at a council school an evil tampering with a Spirit led life. My parents were wise. They didn't talk the trouble.
I was oblivious of most of the controversy, and gave myself to school activities during the week, and to worship and my new found enjoyment of the Holy Spirit in my life.
You see, it was at a prayer meeting at Sister Pool's house that I received my Baptism. No preacher was there. The Browns, the Brandts (Robert Brandt, now an executive Presbyter of the Assemblies of God was there ... one of three brothers with their parents), the Halls, the Pools, and the Williamses ... and perhaps several more were "regulars" at those meetings. Robert Brandt had received his Baptism at a earlier prayer meeting. That night it was mine and Derb Brandt's turn. It was glorious. We came expecting, and we received. How I remember the "electricity" of the atmosphere in those gatherings. Hardly a meeting went by without us singing, "It's almost time for the Lord to come ... I hear the people say ... etc." You could feel the "presence." The thing that marked those cottage prayer meetings, more than anything else, was the expectancy. It was singing, testimony, and then to your knees until the glory came down. There were messages in tongues, there were prophecies, there were healings. It was a Pentecostal Movement in Missions! Out of those meetings and others held in the town of Cando, North Dakota, fifteen miles away have come almost 40 ministers and missionaries ... all of whom look back to that Pentecostal outpouring in the early thirties at the height of the Depression!
I think back to those formative years. I remember going to Cando for revival meeting riding on a flat trailer behind Dad's old Studebaker. Going with the wind, the motor heated, so Dad unhitched the trailer and drove into the wind to cool the engine. It was winter and too cold to sit waiting ... so we made a sail out of our blankets and, with a couple of fellows holding the tongue of the trailer and steering it, we "sailed" down the road for a few hundred yards until Dad returned with a cool car!
I remember dancing in the Spirit with my new boots that I had bought with the first money earned during harvest time (at 20 cents an hour). I had sent the tithe to Harold Jones in Africa and had used the balance to buy the boots. My enthusiasm, and the exhilaration of my "Pentecost" triggered the desire to dance, and dance I did ... heavy boots on a wooden floor. I attracted a lot of attention and fortunately, with the counsel of old Brother J.D. Kessler, learned to "do all things to edify." However, it was wonderful while it lasted, even though it was much more a matter of the exuberant spirit of Morris Williams than it was the Holy Spirit.
I remember the tarrying services at Devil's Lake Bible Camp and the terrible time we had with the mosquitoes. They came in swarms, and the only way those who were tarrying for the Baptism could concentrate on praying was for the helpers to swing tree branches over them as they prayed. But people were filled with the Holy Ghost despite the drawbacks!
Then there was Mom with her "burdens." When Mom got a burden to pray, she used to scare me to death! She bellowed ... literally bellowed ... in an agony of prayer. I would watch Mom shaking in the services as she controlled herself... for she disciplined herself to control her spirit until she could find an appropriate place to give vent to the groanings within her. She would seek out an empty cottage on the camp ground, and you could hear her pray. It was an unforgettable experience!
Not everything was "hunky-dory" in those days.
There was considerable wildfire and lack of judgment. The Pentecostal church in our town of 333 split, and for a while the independents held service in an old store building while the "council" people held forth in the church. They got back together after several years under the leadership of a godly lady preacher. Thank God for the ladies! Some ladies, that is! One lady told my dad that he would never receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit as long as he was a proud school teacher. Can you imagine Mom's surprise when Dad announced, without consulting her, that he had resigned his position as principal of Egeland high school so as to receive his Baptism. Talk about earnest! Talk about paying any price! Talk about unwise decisions! The Depression hit just at that time, and Dad was out of work with a family to feed! I remember peddling milk morning and evening at $.06 a quart and picking choke cherries in the Turtle Mountains as Mom and Dad sought to keep body and soul together in the months that followed. Several years later Dad got a job at $45 a month teaching in a country school but, as I have said earlier, it was 20 years before he received his Baptism.
The years have gone by, but my Pentecostal experience has been a mainstay in my life. During my high school years it held me steady. Being fairly athletic, I excelled in football, basketball, and track, and had a leadership role in all of them.
Some honors came my way ... but I can honestly say that there never was a time when I was seriously tempted to accept offers made to go to schools where I could participate in the sports I loved. I don't remember any definite "call" to the ministry. I only knew I was called to the Person of Jesus Christ, and that I wanted to enter the ministry. So I opted to go to North Central Bible Institute in Minneapolis where there was no sports program. There was no struggle. I wanted to go, and I'm glad I did.
My experience has been one of confirmation rather than the traditional "call" to a geographical place. I volunteered to pastor, and the Spirit confirmed it. We volunteered to be missionaries, and when Africa presented a need, the Spirit confirmed it, and we spent 16 happy years in Malawi. When my brethren asked us to go to South Africa, we took their counsel as God's leading and the Spirit confirmed the rightness of it with my spirit. It was the same when we accepted the assignment of field director for 15 years. It has been the same as an instructor in the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. The Spirit has confirmed it. It is wonderful to walk in the will of God!
That's my testimony! That's the Pentecostal Movement in Missions in the life of Morris Williams. Thank God for Pentecost!