Chapter Fifteen

"Thank you, Jacob! That was wonderful.

"And now, before we introduce this week's talent contest winner, I wanted to let all of you listeners in the Jena area know that the Grantville Pentecostal Church will be holding our first revival of the season this Wednesday through Friday in the field just south of Jena and west of the new railroad tracks. We'll be welcoming all our listeners and their friends to come on down to hear your favorite music and a new take on the role of the Holy Spirit in your life. What's more, starting at three PM on Wednesday, we'll be holding try-outs for talent from the Jena area to win a chance to be featured here on the Ole Timey Radio Hour!

"That's this week right by the tracks just south of Jena on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! It's a revival for Lutherans, Catholics, and all believers in the Lord. I'm especially looking forward to seeing you there!

"And now, this weeks featured winner of our talent hunt. They're a new band from Badenburg and they'll be performing the song "This Old House." Now, let's give a big hand to a wonderful group that I think you'll be hearing a lot more from, The Bad Bath Boys!"

March 1634, outskirts of Jena, State of Thuringia, United States of Europe

The surrounding valley seemed to form a natural bowl around the bustling university town. In fact, the Saale River Valley widened out with gentle slopes in forming itself out of the low-lying hills surrounding it. It was easy to see the loveliness of the setting that had inspired a twentieth century poet to comment, "Jena before us, in the delightful valley."

You could tell the impact the rail line was having on the city's growth. The caravan had arrived by midmorning and once they were diverted to the rail siding, it only took a couple of extra hours to finish the wheel changeover so they could drive to the campground that Elder von Eichstedt had arranged for them to use.

The first order of business was to set up the main tent, which was done so the three RV's were parked directly behind where the altar was to be positioned inside the main tent. That way all three onboard generators could be used for lighting in the tent and the surrounding area. While part of Slater's roadie crew worked on this project, the rest set up a canvas curtain surrounding the main tent, forming a courtyard in front of it about four times its size. As planned, this area was set up with two entrances and a section of the canvas wall designed to be removed at the end of the services so their congregants could easily vacate the area. This took at least two more hours than planned. By the time the altar and benches had been reassembled and the lighting was finished and working, not to mention the latrines dug and prepared, it was already after seven with the sleeping tents and equipment still to be finished.

"It looks very good, Brother Dobbs. You've done a great job here."

"Thank you, Reverend Fischer. I don't think Pete would see it that way though. We missed our deadline by three hours."

Fischer grinned. Then, with his dead on impersonation of Pete Enriquez's Cuban accent, replied, "Chu can't make men drive nails two at a time!"

Slater laughed. "Yeah, that's true. The big hang up was the wheel swap. Next time we'll load all the jacks on the lead RV. That way by the time the following train gets here, if they don't have jacks at the siding like they are supposed to, we'll have the vehicle finished and moved off so the siding's ready for the next."

"Next time we'll have done a better job of packing everything so it can be put up as soon as it's pulled out of its carrier vehicle as well. But . . . " Fischer shrugged. " . . . that's why we decided to make the first trip to Jena a day early. We don't have to worry about being late for the first service, since all the promotions we've spread out are for Wednesday through Friday. Besides, the more times we do this, the smoother it will go. Be pleased with your handiwork."

Fischer pitched in with the remaining set up until everything was finished and ready for the next evening. Afterwards they all washed up and sat down to eat. Since it was a clear night and unseasonably warm, they decided to eat outside in the courtyard instead of inside the tent. After everyone had gone through the line and found a place to sit, Fischer stood up and gave thanks.

The dinner conversation was filled with anticipation of how their revival would be received in Jena and other cities during the summer. All were nervous but anxious to see what would happen tomorrow. After a while, some of the musicians in the group started an impromptu gospel sing along, which continued until the dishes were done and it was time to turn in for the night.

As Fischer was stepping up into his RV for the evening, he heard someone shout out, "Sleep tight, Preacher! You've got a big day tomorrow."

****

The first clue should have been the attendance at the three o'clock auditions.

Fischer had decided to take an afternoon nap in his RV and to wander over to the auditions a little later to see how it was going. So, being awakened by the furious knocking at his bedroom door startled him. "Preacher? Reverend Fischer? You've got to see this!"

Fischer hopped out of bed, slipped on his slacks and jacket and opened the door to find Slater staring him in the face with a grin from ear to ear. "So, what is it, Slater?"

"Preacher, the tent's full! It's just one and we've already got six bands registered and the tent's full!"

For a moment, Fischer just stood there not comprehending what Slater was saying. Then, with a blink, he realized that the auditions weren't supposed to start till three, the service wasn't supposed to start until seven, and they had no plans to keep a congregation occupied for two additional hours before the service. "Slater, where is Sister Jennifer?"

"She's out there, Preacher. We're all out there, just a glad-handing as best we can." Realizing he was blocking Fischer from leaving his bedroom, Slater stepped back into the galley of the cabin and started up a pot of coffee. "The choir is getting ready to sing some songs in between the audition numbers. That's Sister Jennifer's idea. At least we got the foot washing stations filled with fresh water and ready to go before they all got here.

"Glory be, this is going to be some kind of a revival for sure!"

"That's a fact, Brother Slater." Fischer agreed as he slipped into one of the stools by the galley bar, "This is sure going to be some kind of a revival."

****

The crowd kept coming. By the scheduled seven o'clock start of the service, the crew had removed the wall of the main tent, opening it to the courtyard area as a standing-room-only overflow area and moved around some speakers so that they better covered the unexpected crowd as well. Somehow, they also managed to convince the crowd to leave open a wide corridor from the entrance all the way up to the steps of the altar for the service itself. When the band walked on the side stage dressed in their purple robes, everyone started to quiet down and look to see what was going to happen next at this marvelous new up-time version of a gathering.

From behind them, suddenly they heard the choir sing out, "Get in touch with God (Get in touch with God!), Turn your radio on. (Turn your radio on!)," followed by the sounds of hands clapping in unison. As the crowd turned to see the source of this noise, the Pentecostal choir started to march into the courtyard through the hard won corridor, continuing to sing and clap all the way. As they marched past the congregation wearing their bright blue chintz robes with white collars, they looked like a river flowing down a dry streambed.

The band struck up its musical backup for the choir. By the time the lead singers reached the main tent, the congregation had joined in the singing of this very familiar song and was clapping along as well. When the choir finished filing into their places at the back of the altar, Sister Jennifer walked to the middle of the altar facing the congregation and led them through the end of the verse, then signaled them to silence. There was widely scattered applause at this, and after smiling and turning to various points in the audience, mouthing her thanks, Jennifer motioned the crowd to silence.

"Welcome, brothers and sisters of Jena!" Waiting till the new eruption of applause died down, Jennifer continued, "Welcome to our first Jena Christian Revival. We welcome you Lutherans! We welcome you Catholics! We welcome all of you; no matter what church you normally attend. The Lord brought us all here to share in His good will.

"Now, to help us get started, my choir and I are going to sing a song you might have heard us do on our morning devotional about the unity of the family of God. It's called, 'Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World.'" Jennifer turned to her choir and raised her arms over her head and signaled the sopranos to start it off.

Another song followed that one, then Reverend Fischer was introduced. As he came up from behind the choir, two spotlights made from automobile headlights focused on him and his new up-time styled white suit. Again the congregation burst into applause and this time it was Fischer who raised his arms above his head to quiet them.

When they had returned to some kind of order, Fischer pulled his microphone out of his jacket, brought it close to his mouth and began, "Welcome, brothers and sisters! I am Reverend Dieter Fischer, and I am a sinner!"

Thus began his first revival without the comforting presence of John Chalker. Fischer confidently preceded through the touchstones of the message that Chalker and he had worked out as the best way to spread the Word through this land; a culture that was not used to differences of religious opinions—peaceful differences of religious opinions, that is. He praised the Lutheran faith and let it be known that he had been trained at the University in Wittenberg himself. He praised the Catholic Church for having spread the word of Christ around the world in the first place, and noted that even when they found themselves in error, they were just men doing what they believed was God's will. He praised the Anabaptists and the Calvinists, pointing out the many beliefs that were still shared by all of the differing Christian denominations. Then, he added, "If you want to be a Christian in your heart . . . if you find that you are being spoken to by the Holy Spirit inside you right here tonight . . . if you feel the need to spread the Word to the ends of the world, start in your church this Sunday!"

This was to be the central point of the revival. The intention was to get the converts they found to become more active in the official church of their own town in attendance and in giving. In this way, Chalker had reasoned that the established churches wouldn't be happy with them, but would find their offering plates filled so much more that they wouldn't know what to do about it.

The real continuation of the revival would be weeknight Bible studies held in the homes of the new converts to Pentecostalism. Just like the first century church, the Pentecostals planned on building their churches in the homes of the believers, and out of the prying eyes of the established religions.

Now finished with his opening, Fischer again turned the service back over to Sister Jennifer and her choir for the more emotional, gospel song portion of their service. Several of these songs were choreographed to be sing-along, and the rest of the Grantville church members who weren't in the blue choir robes or purple band outfits, were dressed in scarlet robes handing out flyers with the words and verses on them so the new visitors could follow along.

Again, Fischer took command of the service, "You can only die once if you are born twice."

Striding rapidly to the front edge of the altar, he continued, "In Revelations, Chapter Two, Verse Eleven, it is written, 'He who overcometh shall not be hurt by the second death. You can only die once if you are born twice.'"

Holding up his Bible as he hurried to the other side, he thundered, "Are you saved tonight? Are you safe from the second death? Who is to know when Christ will come? Are you guaranteed a tomorrow?

"The Lord wants you to know that he feels your pain. The Lord is talking to me tonight!" A number of the Grantville church members in scarlet and choir members in blue raised their right hands to the sky and shouted out, "Praise to the Lord!" and "You tell them, Preacher!"

Fischer lowered the Bible to his side, and turned his head quizzically, "What's that, Lord? There's someone here tonight who is hurt and needs to be healed?" Then, in a louder voice, he called out, "Is there someone here tonight who has broken a limb? Maybe you can't quite get the work out of it that you used to?"

Peering out into the crowd, shading his eyes from the spotlights that continued to track his movements on the altar, Fischer saw a movement. It was an older woman. As she made her way to the aisle, a church member ran over to her and helped her walk up to the stairs. Fischer came down to her and helped her up and asked who she was and what was her problem.

Anna was suffering from arthritis, she said and when she had heard that the Great Reverend Fischer was coming to town and had the power to heal the sick, she knew that God was sending him for her. As Fischer smiled and hugged Anna, encouraging her to continue to share her life story, he could practically feel the emotional response of the gathering before him.

"Anna, do you believe? Do you believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost have the power to make a true believer well?"

With tears beginning to stream down her face, Anna cried out, "Yes, Reverend! I believe, I believe!"

"Anna, do you believe that you have to be born twice so as to only die once?"

"Yes, Reverend!" Dropping to her knees before Fischer, she pulled his hand holding the Bible to her cheek and cried out, "Please, help me, I believe, I believe, I believe."

Looking up at Fischer's face, Anna was startled to see a pale white scar almost jump out from the normal skin color of his forehead and for a moment, thought she saw fire gleaming in his eyes.

Handing off his microphone to a church member who appeared at his side, Fischer placed his other hand on the afflicted shoulder and lowered his head. "Then, Anna, the power of the Holy Ghost is already inside you. It has heard your cry and in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, you are healed!"

Fischer pulled his hand off her shoulder, raised it over his head then slapped it back down tightly around Anna's arthritic shoulder.

Screaming, Anna slumped to the ground. As Fischer knelt down to help her up, she screamed again, "I'm healed! My arm, my shoulder, they are no longer locked."

Anna jumped up, and flapped her arms up and down, all the time crying out her thanks to the Lord and Reverend Fischer for having cured her. In the congregation, you could have heard a pin drop. Many just stood there dumbfounded, but as Anna made her way back to her seat, others started to come forward with their own disabilities.

Taking back his microphone, Fischer looked out at the congregation still standing in shock throughout the tent and the courtyard outside. "Are you ready to accept the power that the Lord shows you tonight? Are you ready to pledge your life to your Lord? Are you ready to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in your heart? Then come to this altar tonight. Come and be born again. Come and accept the second birth and be confident in your eternal life!"

Many were healed that first night. Many more came forward to accept the invitation that Fischer offered. Fischer turned none away, but made sure the credit was given to the Holy Spirit and It's power in the individual life, so no one could say that Fischer was a miracle healer himself. Some, who came up with missing legs or severe wounds, were disappointed when Fischer told them that they were not to be cured that night, but that the Lord had a different plan for using that injury to His will.

Finally, at the end of the service, Fischer pointed to the courtyard outside, "Now, tonight's revival is over. But, we'll have Elder Johann Friedrich and his team of church members outside at foot washing stations to help you shake off the dust of your old life. We'll have church members there to hear your needs and to add you to our prayer list. We'll have church members there as long as we need to go to make sure that when you travel home tonight you know that you are safe from the second death.

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff