Speaking in Tongues: My Testimony (Pt 4)

At this point, I had no more prejudice against the Charismatics. I repented in my heart of the things I held against them. I realized I had been acting in ignorance and pride. I felt a deep thirst for the Holy Spirit. I yearned to know Him more, so I maintained contact with the Charismatic Renewal both in the seminary and at my local church in Kumasi. Yet, I didn’t share my story with anyone. Years later, I told a couple of friends but this is the first time I’m testifying publicly.

Then came what I thought was a setback. On April 1, 2003, I received word from a fellow seminarian (from the Gambia) that the Rector, Rev. Fr. Soadwa, wanted to see me. I thought he was trying to pull a prank on me because it was April Fool’s Day, so I disregarded his message. But when he insisted, I went to see the Rector on April 2.

Fr. Soadwa told me that my Bishop (Most Rev. Peter K. Sarpong) had selected me to go to Rome to continue my seminary education (in Theology). I received the news with mixed feelings. Naturally, I felt honored and grateful to be selected. However, I wasn’t as excited as most people would expect. Some might find this statement shocking because studying in Rome (or abroad in general) is the dream of many a seminarian in Ghana.

I accepted the news and prepared to leave for Rome out of obedience to my Bishop. If I had my own way, I would have preferred to stay in Ghana (I felt the same way when in 2011, my new Bishop, Most Rev. Thomas K. Mensah, told me to leave for the USA for further studies. I’ll share details about this another time).

But here’s why I felt apprehensive about leaving for Rome.

I had just tasted the sweetness and power of the Holy Spirit. Being in the company of the Charismatics made me so happy. I was growing in spontaneous prayer, in understanding, in knowledge of God’s Word (which was rare outside the Charismatic Renewal) and in fellowship with like-minded people. I was still yearning to speak in tongues and I knew the Holy Spirit was stirring up something big in me. I didn’t want to lose it or have anything interfere with my progress. And I feared that if I went to Rome that would be the end of my dream of growing in the Spirit’s anointing.

Although I had never been to Rome, the little I knew convinced me that the environment wasn’t conducive to the kind of spiritual growth I wanted. I recall, for example, what one priest told me before I left for Rome. His exact words to me were, “If you go to Rome with little faith, you will come back with no faith at all.” Moreover, we knew priests who had gone abroad and upon their return, they seemed to have lost their initial spiritual fervor. All of this made me feel concerned. At one point, I even thought it was the devil who orchestrated my going to Rome because he wanted to thwart my spiritual progress.

For my trip to Rome, I gathered as many materials on the Holy Spirit as I could find (Gospel song CDs and books). One of my favorite Holy Spirit songs was “Ngosra no nti” (meaning “Because of the anointing”) by Dorcas Appiah, a Ghanaian Gospel musician. Tears filled my eyes whenever I played the song and I felt energized. Some of the books I read at this time were, Good Morning, Holy Spirit and Welcome, Holy Spirit, both by Benny Hinn. I also read a book on the Holy Spirit by Mike Murdock and some materials about the life and ministry of Kathryn Kuhlman. 

At the seminary in Rome I noticed something unusual happening to me. Our morning routine began with communal Morning Prayer (from the Breviary), followed by about thirty minutes of individual meditation and then the Eucharist. Nearly every morning during meditation time, I felt a tingling sensation on my tongue, on my lips and around my jaws. It didn’t last for the entire meditation time; it was intermittent. It felt as if someone tapped me with a little bit of electricity and then disappeared. I didn’t understand what it was. All I know is, it made me excited and joyful.

At the same time, I felt that something was rising within me; it had reached my chest area and wanted to flow out through my mouth. The closest example I can liken to this experience is the feeling of wanting to throw up, except what I felt wasn’t food or drink.

I lived with this feeling and the tingling sensation for a few months. I knew the Holy Spirit wanted to release something within me. I wanted this to happen so badly I wrote an email to one Rev. Fr. Atta-Nsiah, a priest from Ghana who at that time was also studying in Rome. I knew him to be a very spiritual priest and he was kind to me. So, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind praying over me to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, he was out of town and couldn’t respond.

But God’s plan for me remained intact. The day for me to speak in tongues finally came. This was early 2004.

I left the seminary one sunny afternoon and I was headed in the direction of the Roman Forum (We lived in Trastevere). I don’t recall what I was going to do; it was a casual day. I was alone, walking on one of the bridges over the Tiber river.

Suddenly, my jaws shook for about two seconds and I spoke out loud for another two or three seconds. I felt like whatever had been building up in me for months just rushed out and my tongue was loosed to speak. In the middle of this experience I caught myself and said, “Wait, what did I just say? I just spoke but it wasn’t English or Italian or my mother tongue.” Then, I heard a gentle voice within me saying, “You just spoke in tongues.” I felt so free and my spiritual life from that point accelerated in ways I didn’t imagine. Since that time, speaking in tongues has played a major role in my prayer life and my ministry to people.

In conclusion, I went from speaking against tongues to speaking in tongues. I hope my story encourages you and stirs up your faith in a positive way. In the coming days, I hope to share with you some of the benefits of speaking (praying) in tongues and why it is in your best interest to be open to this gift and to use it every day.

God richly bless you.

Ogoe

Speaking in Tongues: My Testimony (Pt 2)

When the time came, I approached the leadership of the Charismatic Renewal on campus and expressed my desire to join them. I was one of a few seminarians who were joining the group for the first time. We were told that our initiation into the group involved participating in the Life in the Spirit Seminar. For about three weeks we all attended special prayer meetings. The main speaker was a lay person from one of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Accra. He spoke to us at length from the Bible. There was singing, praying and dancing.

Given my years of prejudice against the Charismatics, being part of this process felt awkward. However, I participated with an open mind.

The leaders told us that the Life in the Spirit Seminar would conclude with the “praying over.” This terminology was new to me. According to them, during the praying over, they would pray for the Holy Spirit to come upon us in power and we would receive spiritual gifts, including – but not limited to – the gifts of speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing. In the meantime, I felt excitement and expectation grow in me. I had many questions, though, because this was all new to me.

The most important question I had was about speaking in tongues. When and how were we supposed to speak in tongues? How did it work?

Fortunately, I knew two seminarian friends, Angelo and Eric, who were Charismatics. I asked them to explain to me what they knew about the gift of tongues. They shared their own experience with tongues and the circumstances under which they first spoke in tongues. They were honest with me. They said they couldn’t tell me when or how I would speak in tongues, but they just knew I would.

Angelo explained to me that I needed only two things: desire and expectation. Then, they pointed me to 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts . . .” (NKJV). It was the first time my attention was drawn to this Scripture. If I kept desiring and expecting, he said, I would speak in tongues at a time and place of God’s choosing. I took his advice.

Then came the day of the praying over. This was around early 2002. One of the priests at the seminary, Fr. Arthur, presided. It was a simple ceremony. He had a book to guide him. At the conclusion of the celebration, he invited the initiands to come forward. He and the other leaders of the group stood around us with outstretched arms, invoking the Holy Spirit to come upon us. They didn’t lay hands on us; nor did anyone touch us or instruct us to do anything. I didn’t notice any perceptible change in me. More importantly, I didn’t speak in tongues; not yet.

What I do recall is that I had yielded to the Spirit and was open to receive whatever gifts He wanted to give me. I recall, too, that I never stopped desiring and expecting His gifts  to manifest in my life. Soon I began to notice unusual things happen in my life.

To be continued in my next post . . .

Until then, be led by the Spirit.

Ogoe

Speaking in Tongues: My Testimony (Pt 1)

Speaking (praying) in tongues is one of the most contentious issues among Christians. What follows is my testimony of how I went from hating tongues to speaking in tongues.

I was baptized a Roman Catholic when I was two months and I remained a Catholic until March of 2015. With the exception of one or two people, everyone in my immediate family was a practicing Catholic. My aunt, Agnes, was the staunchest of them all. This was the woman who adopted me and raised me from when I was seven. She was well versed in Catholic doctrine and we knew her to be a relentless defender of Catholic orthodoxy. I followed her footsteps.

With delight I read the several Catholic books, magazines and tracts Agnes brought home. By the age of fifteen, I had a strong foundation in Catholic history, doctrine and apologetics.

While I enjoyed my growth in Catholicism, there was a phenomenon in my beloved parish which disturbed my soul. It was the Charismatic Renewal. I despised them (I don’t think they knew it). Within me, I believed they were from the devil, sent to infiltrate the Catholic faith and corrupt it with Protestant/Pentecostal practices. I observed them carefully and noticed that they didn’t care about the things that were dear to a true Catholic: devotion to Mary,  the Rosary, Confession, the Mass and the Pope, to name a few.

I disliked the Charismatics for their obsession with the Holy Spirit and the Bible. Not once did I find them pray a ‘Catholic prayer’ at their prayer meetings. They always prayed spontaneously. They sang and danced to Protestant/Pentecostal songs. I hated their practice of praying in tongues and delivering people from evil spirits. I believed all of that was of the devil. At best, it wasn’t a Catholic thing to do, and any religious practice that wasn’t Catholic was, in my opinion, not worth imitating. Every chance I got I debated the Charismatics with one goal in mind: to prove them wrong and win them over to the true spirit of Catholicism.

But God was about to open my eyes. I didn’t see it coming; but it did happen. From my childhood years, I wanted to be a Catholic priest. The opportunity came in 2000 when I entered the seminary (St. Paul’s Catholic Seminary, Accra, Ghana). I thought it was a ‘safe place.’ But, lo and behold, the Charismatic Renewal was in the seminary, too! Second year seminarians were required to join at least one of the on-campus societies. Initially, I joined the Pax Romana group. A few months later, I joined the Charismatic Renewal also (sounds unbelievable!).

Here is how it happened.

One day, I visited a friend of mine in the seminary. On his desk, there was a book whose title drew my attention: Deliverance from Evil Spirits by Francis MacNutt, a former Catholic priest. I borrowed the book and read it. In the book, MacNutt often referred to the anointing of the Holy Spirit (baptism of the Holy Spirit) and how it equips people with the power of God. After this, I found another book in the seminary library which talked about how some Catholic saints practiced exorcisms in ancient times. The content of these two books made me curious.

Moreover, I knew that the Charismatic Renewal was present in nearly every parish. If I was going to be a priest, I needed to understand the beliefs and inner workings of the Charismatic Renewal. I knew priests who had bitter confrontations with the Charismatics and who harbored deep disliking for the group. I didn’t want to be in that situation. Therefore, I decided I would join the group on campus. I didn’t know what to expect. Everything “Charismatic” was so foreign to me. However, I expected to get to know them enough to be able (at least) to live with them in peace.

To be continued in my next post. 

Stay joyful,

Ogoe