In 1971 there was a Christian revival in Saskatchewan. I was caught in it, swept up in it like a broken straw in a prairie gust. My uncle, his two sons and I drove the 200 miles to Saskatoon to hear the “Sutera twins,” Ralph and Lou. My uncle had heard there was something going on at the crusade in Saskatoon and in a move to “save” his sons–one, a responsible son who I thought didn’t need saving, and a wild one, the one I hung out with, who probably did.
In Saskatoon the wild one and I slipped out of the auditorium after the first hymn. This was the big city. We wandered the nearby streets and checked out the neon lights and tall buildings. We became curious about the diagonal crosswalks the city had at the time and we crossed back and forth, controlling the traffic on all four sides.
I was hoping that the revival meeting would be wrapping up when we returned, but the place was just getting electric, the twins were on the rheostat turning up the voltage. Or, as either Ralph or Lou said, “The Holy Spirit’s finger was pointing at people.” We made our way back, close to where we’d been. Soon one of the preacher twins, came to the precipice of his soul searing message: “Choose now or it may be too late.” Then came the “call.” Then the full-on piano and the rising tide of “Just as I am…without one plea…” Then the streaming eyes and the tributaries of people in pews moving to the aisles and forming rivers of penitent souls flowing to the front for prayer. My uncle and cousins were swept up in the current with me hanging on to some exposed root. I scrambled up the bank and out of the heavy doors into the street. I waited and paced under a gas light. Shivering some.
In a few minutes my cousin, the wild one, now wilder, came to get me, said I needed to come back inside. He was not so much pleading but pulling me back through the high doors down a carpeted hall into a room torrid and moist by sweat and tears. No resolve left, I was on my knees from the weight of hands on my head and shoulders, upon which came a crescendo of intoned supplication. And with that I was up with an inexplicable smile, invaded by a brightness and a lightness. I was in fact quite high and vertiginous. Full, I supposed, of the Holy Ghost.
On the giddy ride back, we cousins planned the conversion of the rest of the “gang.” Which didn’t quite work out.