This is the day that … Aimee Semple McPherson disappeared, in the year 1926!
On that day Cecil B. DeMille expected to pick up the morning newspaper and read front-page headlines of his latest cinematic masterpiece. Instead of which “the front pages were pre-empted by a lady who was the most vocal enemy of the moving pictures.”
Aimee Semple McPherson was known to thousands of admiring followers as “Sister Aimee”. Her “four-square gospel” was sounded forth dynamically by this flamboyant female evangelist, both from the pulpit of her Angelus Temple (seating more than 5000 people), and over the air-waves of her own radio station – KFSG, Los Angeles. Time Magazine dated 12 October, 1970, spoke of “her 750 satellite churches and radio parish of millions”.
Then came the fateful day, at 1.00 p.m., when Aimee and her secretary went to the beach. The secretary saw Sister Aimee enter the water. But no-one saw her emerge. Hence the headlines!
A Memorial Service was held at the Temple – a crowd of 25,000 thronged the area.
Then, on 25 May, a ransom note! “$500,000 was demanded for the release of Sister Aimee,” said the kidnappers.
Almost a month later, on 23 June, at 1.00 a.m., Aimee walked in from the desert explaining that she had escaped! She was given a triumphant welcome home to Los Angeles, where 50,000 followers waited to catch a glimpse of her.
But rumour and suspicion made much of her disappearance and she was eventually charged with fraud. She endured an eight month grand jury trial and came out of the whole process triumphant.
She declared in her autobiography: “To my dying day I must proclaim my story of the kidnapping and the escape is true. It DID happen. It really did happen just as I told it.” (The Story of My Life, by A.S. McPherson, page 190).
Suspicions and rumour distract from the impact of this amazing young woman who preached to enormous crowds, birthed the Church of the Foursquare Gospel denomination, motivated thousands of young couples to go to the missionfield and saw wonderful conversions and healings in her meetings.
It is said that her mother, sensing God’s call on her own life, asked God to take and use her daughter, Aimee, in her place. There is no doubt that this one individual was given great influence and achieved more in her short life than many others who preached God’s word over a greater span. Aimee died at age 54.
It is interesting to note that great men of the Bible, such as Jack Hayford, are not ashamed to be part of the Foursquare Church and to acknowledge the wonderful contribution and work done by this firebrand woman.