By Rev. Tommy Tyson (1922-2002)
One day I got a letter. It was an invitation from the pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Worland, Wyoming. Now, you understand “First Church” has an aristocracy all to itself. Catholics don’t know that, because they don’t have “First Church.” They have Cathedrals. But “First Church” is like a Cathedral.
The pastor wanted me to come to Worland in the summertime of that year for a revival. I thought, “Wyoming in the summer, compared to North Carolina in the summer – Lord, this has to be you!” It didn’t take me long to pray about it. I wrote right back and accepted his invitation. Things went along, the time was approaching, and I didn’t have any money to go to Wyoming. You know, when I don’t have the means, I talk to Jesus about it. You remember when Jesus came to the woman at the well? He said to her, “If you knew who it was you were talking to, you would ask of him, and he would give you the drink of the water of life.” And she said, “How are you going to get any water out of that well? You don’t have a bucket.”
Well, when I talk with Jesus about things like this, I come to him at his well and I give him my bucket. So, I came to Jesus about going to Wyoming. I said, “Lord, I understand that church in Worland is pretty wealthy, and I understand the pastor is a Spirit-filled man. All you have to do is nudge him, and he’ll send me a check for the airline fare. Lord, I know that’s what you want to do and I thank you.” I gave my bucket to Him, and I named it and claimed it and framed it! I just knew the check was coming any minute. It didn’t.
Time was running out. Just before I was to go to Wyoming, I was going to meet with a group of preachers up at Brevard College, North Carolina. A group of us met there every summer and shared what we were learning together in our life in the Spirit. I had a ride to Brevard. I talked with Frances about it and I said, “Darling, I don’t know that I’ll be able to come back home from Brevard. specially if I have to wait on the Lord to give me the means to get to Wyoming. I’ll have to wait and see.” I had $16.30. I left Frances with the $16.00. Now we did have credit at the grocery store, you understand, so it wasn’t a matter of her not having the means to take care of things. I took my ride and my thirty cents and I headed for Brevard. Well, that was between me and Wyoming.
I got up to Brevard and met with the preacher boys. One of them was going to Nashville, Tennessee from Brevard and said I could ride with him. That was between Brevard and Wyoming.
I accepted my ride. We got ready to leave and one of the fellows said, “Tommy, I feel sorta funny.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “We’ve never done this at our meeting but I feel like we are supposed to take up an offering for you.” The time has been when I would have gotten proud and said, “Oh, don’t do that.” I had to get in the program of honesty, and I just looked at him and said “You better mind the Lord!” They passed an offering plate and gave me over $70.00.
I got to Nashville, Tennessee. I knew I couldn’t buy a plane ticket, but I thought maybe I could get a train seat. I called the depot and the man made me think of the Maytag repairman. He was so happy to get a phone call for a passenger. I told him what I wanted and he looked in his book. He came back to the phone and said, “Mister, we have a cracker jack train from Nashville to Chicago, then from
Chicago to Cheyenne. At Cheyenne, you have to change stations and trains. That’s the only hang up. In Chicago, you change trains but not stations. But in Cheyenne, you’ve got to go to another station and catch that train to Worland. So I said, “If I get to Cheyenne, I can get to another station. How much will a train ticket cost me?” It was something like $71.00. Anyway, I remember I had three or four dollars left over. I felt like I owned the universe! I went down and got my train ticket. I had always fantasized about eating on a train in the dining car. I didn’t have enough money to go to the dining car, so I got myself some apples. I sat in my coach seat and pretended I was in the dining car.
I got into Cheyenne about Two O’Clock in the morning. That was in July, but it was cold. I got off the train with my bag. As I got off and stepped on the platform, the conductor flashed his lights and that train took off. I watched it go, and then I turned around and the station was locked up. There wasn’t a cab around, there wasn’t an outside phone, nothing. I sat down on my bag and I said, “Lord, I’m supposed to go to another station. I’ve got plenty of time, but still, I don’t know where it is. I don’t know how to get there.” About that time, there in the darkness, I saw a light across the railroad and I called out, “Hey! Hey!” He came over to where I was. It was a railroad man dressed up in railroad overalls and his cap. He held that railroad lantern, and I told him what had happened.
He said, “There is no one at this station. They won’t be here until about Eight O’Clock in the morning. Down the railroad tracks, that other station is only a short distance away. Let me walk in front of you. I’ll take your valise and you can bring your bag and walk behind me.” We walked about fifteen minutes and got over to the other station. He said, “This station is open. There may not be anybody there, but it is open. They keep coffee there around the clock. Go on in and get some coffee. Sit there and unwind and somebody will be along shortly.”
I looked at the depot, and I turned around to thank him. He was gone. There wasn’t anybody there.
The train for Worland arrived, and there were only two cars. I got on the back seat of the second car. I was the last one who got his ticket punched. The conductor punched my ticket and sat down beside me. He held out his hand and said, “I’m Mike Lester.” I said. “Mike, I’m Tommy Tyson.”
“Where are you from, Tommy?” “North Carolina.”
“What are you doing in Wyoming, Tommy?” “I’m going to Worland to preach in the First Methodist Church.”
“Oh, that preacher there in Worland is the best known preacher in the whole state! You are going to have a great time!
I said, “I know I am, Mike.” He said, “When did you get into Cheyenne?
I said, “Last night. And Mike, the most wonderful thing happened!” I told him the story about meeting the railroad worker with the lantern. His face ashened. He said, “Are you baptized with the Holy Ghost? I said, “Yes, I am Mike. But what has that got to do with the story?” He said, “You think that was an angel don’t you?” I said, “Why would you say that, Mike?”
He said, “Because my wife has started running with the Holy Ghost people, and they talk about angels.”
“Mike, do you have a better explanation?” He said, “No, I don’t. I used to work in that yard in Cheyenne. When that train pulls out, there’s nothing and no one around that station, and there is no reason for any railroad person to be over there. I don’t know of a better explanation than that.”
I said, “I don’t either.” I was just so happy. We got to Casper which is right in the middle of the state of Wyoming. Mike said, “Tommy, I live here and I’m going to get off duty now. I’m going on home to see Mary, my wife, and there will be another conductor. Have a great
time in Worland.” I told him goodbye.
After a three-hour layover, I came back to the train and there stood Mike and Mary Lester! He said “Tommy, I went home and told Mary about you. We’re going to ride to Worland with you to be in the meeting. That night at church, ol’ Mike Lester cried his life into the arms of Jesus. He boo-hoo’d his way all the way into Glory. He was saved so beautifully and later on was baptized with the Holy Spirit. For the next five years in a row, I spent a month each year in the state of Wyoming. I preached all over every little antelope path around because Mike Lester opened doors for me.
One day, the governor’s office called me and said, “We begin our Frontier Days (Wyoming’s state fair) with worship services. The governor wants me to invite you to be our preacher this year.” She told me the dates and said, “We will fly you out and back and give you a good honorarium if you will come.” I looked at my calendar and said, “No problem, I’ll be there.” When I got out to Cheyenne that fall for the State Fair, I said to the secretary, “Who was the person responsible for me getting an invitation?” She said, “The state historian, and he’s going to be your host.”
I got ready for the service that evening and I said to him, “How did you know to invite me?” He said, “I live in Casper. We have neighbors named Mike and Mary Lester. That summer after you preached in Worland, one Sunday afternoon Mike said to me, you and your wife come on over and have a cookout with us. We’re going to an early worship service after we cook out and we want you to go with us. Now, I’m Episcopalian. And I’m not only a historian; I’m a linguist and I was studying decadent Indian dialect from the Casper area. I had been studying rather intently that summer. I was tired and welcomed a break in the rhythm, so we accepted the invitation and went out to a little storefront mission. A little Pentecostal storefront deal. Here I was, a highly educated historian and Episcopalian with a Ph.D sitting in the midst of a Pentecostal storefront mission. Right in the middle of that worship service, a man that was apparently as ignorant as anybody you could ever see (that’s the way he appeared) stood up. In the loudest voice, he began to give what they call a message in tongues. I started to get up and leave and then suddenly it dawned on me: He was using a lot of the words I was studying in that decadent Indian dialect. I’ve heard about ‘thought transference’ and I thought I was just transferring as he was speaking that way. Then all of a sudden, a little woman stood and gave almost verbatim interpretation. When she did, I knew I was facing Deity. All my pride came up to the surface. I fell on my face in the floor of that little storefront mission and yielded to Jesus and He baptized me with the Holy Ghost. And Tommy, that’s why you’re here.”
Another story: I was catching a plane out of Raleigh. I had already taken my seat on the aisle. The middle seat was empty and I was so happy to have plenty of room! We were just about ready to close the door when I saw her shadow come through the door. She had bags. Our eyes met as she spotted the seat next to me. I got up and helped her with her bags and got her seated, and we took off. I was reading a little book on the baptism of the Holy Spirit by a Catholic priest. It was a good book. As I was reading and we were flying, she just said, “Mister, how do you like that book?”
I said, “It’s very good.” She said, “I think it’s the best thing that’s been written on the subject.” I said, “You know this book?” “Oh,” she said, “I give it away all the time. Yes, it’s a good book.”
I said, “Who in the world are you?” She told me her name and I said, “Where do you live?”
She said “Casper, Wyoming.” I said, “What are you doing in North Carolina?”
“Oh, my folks live in North Carolina. They moved here after I was grown, but my dad died and I’ve been visiting with my mother. Where are you from?”
“I’m from Chapel Hill.”
“Oh, I wanted to go the Chapel Hill! My husband is a surgeon. He did some of his graduate work at the med school at UNC and we have happy memories of it. But the real reason I wanted to go is that the person responsible for me being baptized with the Holy Spirit lives in Chapel Hill.”
I said, “Who in the world would that be?” She said, “Oh, you wouldn’t know him. He’s not known at all.”
“If he’s not known, how did you get baptized by the Holy Spirit under his ministry?” She said, “We have some friends in Casper named Mike and Mary Lester. They are always getting tapes from him and they share their tapes with me. I listen to them while I iron. One day, I was ironing and listening to these tapes on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That preacher would talk awhile and laugh awhile, talk awhile and laugh awhile. Finally, I just put my iron down and said, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, if you can baptize a NUT like that, you ought to not have any trouble with me.’ And just like that(!), the Holy Spirit baptized me!
I said, “I bet I do know that ol’ boy. His name is…..” And we said it together: “Tommy Tyson.” She squealed! The flight attendant thought I was molesting her. She stood up and cried out in a loud voice, “This is the man God used to get me baptized in the Holy Ghost! Everybody on the plane just applauded. We flew into O’Hare Field having Pentecost.
I could keep telling experiences about Wyoming. But look what happened. The Lord, first of all, moved in sending the letter. Then He let me respond. That’s it: He moves, we respond. He speaks. We listen, hear and respond. It’s that reciprocal action. That’s the way faith works. God moved through the letter and then quickened my heart to say YES. Then when the door didn’t open for me to receive my check for a plane trip, what did the Lord let me do? You see, I didn’t have to go. I could have said, “Well…I don’t have the means to go.” But he wanted me to learn a wonderful secret on Kingdom Living: If you don’t have what it takes for you to do what God has asked you to do, take what you have. Take a step in the direction that you’re supposed to go. You’ll discover that everything you need,
to do what God tells you to do, will be in storehouses strategically placed along the pathway of obedience.
God will supply everything it takes for us to do and what He’s asked us to do if we’ll discover what that is, and give ourselves to walk in glad obedience. What a wonderful way to learn that lesson. And it’s true. Step by step, as we walk in obedience, we become more and more in union with Jesus. For the law is this. You inevitably become like that which you receive and give in love. We don’t become like Jesus just by sitting around holding up our hands, trying to roll our eyes back, saying “My desire’s to be like Jesus. My desire’s to be like Jesus.” You’ll never make it. If you really want to be like Jesus, then start saying YES to him. Start yielding to him in glad obedience. Whatever you receive and give in the Spirit of Jesus will start changing you into his likeness, line upon line, precept upon precept.
God is saying: “ I’m with you right now. Don’t be afraid. It is I. I love you. All I’ve done, I’ve done for you. No good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly. I’m your provider. I’m your guide. I know how to lead you better than you know how to follow. Trust me Look unto me, the Author, the Perfector of your faith. Hallelujah! I’m ready to take you right now, where you are, as you are, and start moving with you into the areas where you need to be.”
Are you ready to surrender and say YES to Jesus?
“All to Jesus, I surrender. All to Him, I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him; in His daily presence live. I surrender all. I surrender all. All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.” (Judson Van DeVenter/Winfield Weeden, 1896)