Maria Woodworth -Etter (1844-1924)

Maria Woodworth -Etter
Maria Woodworth -Etter

Maria Woodworth–Etter was a painfully timid woman, uneducated, isolated much of the time, sickly and poor. In your wildest imaginations you couldn’t see her as an instrument of God who would dispense His love and mercies to generations; changing the lives of hundreds of thousands through her call to evangelism and the inspiring books she wrote.
Maria Woodworth-Etter was born in 1844 in Lisbon Ohio. The youngest of four daughters born to Samuel and Matilda Underwood.

Opportunity for Maria to attend church was rare. Maria’s parents weren’t believers and education was limited to memorizing an occasional verse. Being raised with seven siblings, an alcoholic father and a sickly broken hearted mother, her youth was very hard. When she was only eight years old she felt a strong desire to know of God, and when Maria’s older sisters were converted in a Methodist meeting, her heart “was melted in the Savior’s love.” However Maria was denied because children of her age were considered too young to profess salvation.
When her father died of sunstroke a year after he and Matilda took membership in the Disciples church, the family spiraled into deeper poverty. Maria couldn’t attend school since her mother needed her to work. She cried herself to sleep at night while living and working away from home.

At age thirteen Maria was converted. This happened not at going forward at a meeting, but the next day at her water baptism where she asked the Lord to save her fully.
At that point she experienced a light that came over her, and some folks said she fainted.
Soon after conversion Maria’s new joy in salvation consumed her. She went to as many as seven or eight church meetings a week but had no interest in amusement. At this time her longstanding desire for an education was intensified especially since she’d heard the voice of Jesus calling her to go out in the highways and hedges and gather in the lost sheep. Maria never heard of any woman preaching. She rationalized that with an education and a husband they might be accepted for missions work.
Maria married Mr. Woodworth and learned he wasn’t willing to work in the ministry. They settled out in a country place where opportunity for church attendance was nonexistent. Maria’s hopes died.

Considering that women were silenced by culture and the church, not being allowed to speak or teach publicly, not allowed in the pulpit and not allowed to vote, the mountain of circumstances against her presented reason enough for silence; but the struggle continued. She didn’t know how she could go. She was terrified with fear of talking before people. Her husband disallowed it and her oldest daughter was also against it. To further complicate matters, she had small children.

Maria lost five of six children to sickness and she grew more and more sickly, almost dying many times. With all her heart Maria believed in the soon coming of Jesus, the call of the bridegroom. Her thought life was consumed by the relentless call to preach. While caught up in the presence of the Lord and prayer, it was easy to yield and say yes. When that all faded, she was again overwhelmed with the impossibility of it all.

She said “There was all the time a monitor within, telling me that I should be calling sinners to repentance, . . . awake or dreaming, I seemed to have a large congregation before me, all in tears, as I told them the story of the cross.” Then the voice of reason and circumstance jolted her back to reality to validate the insanity of a woman answering such a call. She thought of suicide. This was the battle for her life. Tormented with being uneducated, she said she couldn’t preach what she didn’t know. She told the Lord she needed preparation, a course of study in the bible, and then she would go. What happened next she tells in her own words: “Then there appeared upon the wall a large open bible and the verses stood out in raised letters. I looked and I could understand it all. Then Jesus said “Go and I will be with you.”

The Woodworths made a move and there, local Friends (Quakers) began bringing Maria to their meetings. There she saw a good pattern for participation of men and women. Eventually, barely able to stand for shaking, she could testify a little. Here Maria rededicated her life and was invited to go with a missionary couple to preach. Mr. Woodworth refused to allow it.
When Maria finally stood shakily to preach the first time, it was in the home of her husband’s family. A scripture came to her, and the words tumbled out almost faster than she could speak them. The hearers were all in tears. A notable evangelist was born and hungry souls were waiting-multitudes in the valley of decision.

As Maria began to receive more invitations to preach, many times it was the hard places where thugs were bent on breaking up her services. David Dyke, pastor of Refuge Church in Grapevine says Woodworth-Etter brought thousands of tough people into the Kingdom of God. In 1890 The Church of God in Indiana licensed and ordained her. She held meetings for them and many others who invited her.

As news spread of this preacher woman, her powerful meetings, and unusual manifestations, reporters flocked to her meetings from as far away as New York. Just like today many were biased and hostile. They sensationalized the manifestations, quoted the disgruntled and aroused persecution. Two Doctors brought charges against Maria who was then arrested and charged with hypnotizing people.

In the midst of great persecution came great mountain tops. The evangelist soon outgrew whatever facility was offered and was able to buy a large tent with donations. Meetings lasted longer, often up to three months and went on up to three times daily. Small tents could be rented for anyone wanting to stay on the grounds. Out of towners thronged the meetings. Believers were greatly refreshed and vibrant. Numbers were added to the church.

Maria later began to preach healing and the testimonies were incredulous. She was arrested. Charges were brought against her for practicing medicine without a license while hundreds were healed. She exhorted that salvation and faith had to be in place in order to experience these miracles. Believers saw every kind of disease healed in every meeting. Blind and deaf mutes were set free, sick and crippled healed and those near death were raised up. Immediate miracles as well as ongoing healings were a constant.

One most notable:
The 1915 Topeka meeting saw a dramatic healing of 10-year-old Louis Romer who, at the age of 92, is still around to tell about it. Suffering with what was known as St. Vitus’ dance (chorea), Louis shook so badly he couldn’t feed himself, and his toes bent under his feet, preventing him from wearing shoes. He had little hope outside a miracle, for life expectancy of chorea victims in that day was only 13. Louis, who now lives in Lowell , Oregon , remembers that August camp meeting as if it happened only yesterday… The Topeka Capital was caught up in the healing when they referred to Louis in a headline as “Boy Cured by Miracle.” He was never afflicted with the shaking again.2
She regularly called for testimonies from the newly saved and healed.

Whenever the subject lingered on experiences she would exhort them to speak of Jesus and give Him glory. Though manifestations were abundant, she attributed these to the power of God as in Peter’s trance in Acts 10:10. Unbelievers bent on interrupting the service were struck by the power of God and frozen in place or brought to the ground. She scrutinized the services careful to try the spirits, and deny flesh. She exhorted the crowds to do the same.
In the midst, souls found Christ, suffering multitudes were healed of every kind of sickness and testimonies were circulated far and wide. When this evangelist left town, it was her goal to leave a newly planted church complete with a Sunday school, leaders and pastor in place.

Finally after years of a most difficult marriage, she divorced her husband for adultery. The newspapers had a hey day but many stood up to tell the truth on her behalf. Importantly, a large group of elders and ministers in the Church of God where Maria was ordained came forward and gave honor to Maria and her work saying they’d had to remove his name from membership. Further, they reported:
Mrs. Woodworth was a revivalist of remarkable power …she was licensed to preach by the Indiana Eldership in 1884. She was at once appointed Eldership Evangelist, and reappointed in 1885.

She was so successful in her work that she soon became noted as an evangelist of more than ordinary power, and was invited to hold revival services in churches of other religious bodies, in halls and in one instance in the court-house. The Church of God further attests to this success: An encouraging effect of Mrs. Woodworth’s wonderful revivals was the inspiration to energetic endeavors felt by ministers and churches in the work of evangelism and Church extension. Her work, with all its defects, was of a very serious character, and it suggested the propriety of “days of fasting and solemn prayer for revivals” in many localities. Gratifying results followed. 3
Mr. Woodworth died the year after the divorce, and several years later she married Samuel Etter who was a strong believer and served wholeheartedly with her. In the last period of her life, Maria was carried to her church in a chair. They grew aged and weak, but served the Lord while they had breath.

Maria wrote books that were highly inspirational. Among them was The Life, Work, and Experiences of Maria Beulah Woodworth written in 1894. Included in the Cambridge Seven missionary group, was Stanley Smith who greatly valued Maria’s Acts of the Holy Ghost, “It is a book I value next to the Bible,” He believed that Maria’s ministry was unparalleled in church history. Fred Bosworth, on Etter’s book. It is such a help to faith! There has been no such record written since the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ recording such continuous victories by the Lord in our day over sin and sickness.” 4
The minister who edited for Maria, W.J. Mortlock wrote in her 1922 Marvels and Miracles that her big books had sold 25,000 copies from about 1912–21. Abridged editions and portions of other books were translated and published in French, Italian, Danish, Swedish, Egyptian, Hindustani, and other dialects of India and South America.

One French minister felt that the Pentecostal revival in France was in no small measure due to the ministry of Maria’s books. Maria circulated her sermons in her books.
The Maria Woodworth Tabernacle was built in her later years and the camp meetings continued. Maria Woodworth-Etter was held in respect by those in the new Pentecostal outpouring. The fruit was too large to deny. In 1912, she was invited to hold meetings in Dallas.

This invitation came from a young Fred F. Bosworth, who was pastoring in Dallas. Today a very well-known evangelist himself. This meeting ran from July to December and many of the top leaders in the new Pentecostal movement thronged to Dallas. The Dallas newspapers ignored the thousands who met together day and night for almost 5 months. Pastor Bosworth spread the news by letters into Christian publications who took the story as far away as England.

I’d like to have seen Maria when she discovered that she too was in God’s Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11. Out of weakness she was made strong.
As He promised, Jesus was with her. Over the span of fifty years and the most difficult of trials, through dynamic evangelism she would become a mother to a new Pentecostal movement, a founder of churches, a pastor and a household name. Jesus went with her. Together they spread Heaven’s healing.

Source: International Christian Women’s

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