Kathryn Kuhlman- 1907-1933, The Formative Years
“For who has despised the day of the small beginnings?”
Zechariah 4: 10
“Can I not, O Israel, deal with you as this potter does? Declares the Lord, ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hands, so you are in My hand, o house of Israel.”
Jeremiah 18: 6
The Word also declares that what has been will be again and that there is nothing new under the sun, (Ecclesiastes 1: 4-11). As we look at the lives of God’s Generals, we see that in their early days the Lord would so often expose weaknesses that He called them to bring to the cross. Jesus told His disciples at the Last Supper, “for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me,” (John 14: 30). It is essential that we allow Him to expose all darkness in us and allow Him to then crucify that area so that when the enemy comes, he finds nothing in us.
In their lives and in ours, we see that during the wilderness times, the Lord is exposing areas He wishes to deal with. Those who allow Him to do so save themselves from much pain later in life. If we are to follow Him then we must take up our cross and we must die on it. .
As we look at Kathryn, we will see how key strengths were developed in the formative years but we will see certain weaknesses appear. It is easy to place such people as Kathryn Kuhlman on a pedestal and see them as superhuman. The reality is they were just like us and it was the degree that they learnt to surrender was the degree to which He could effectively use them. We are to follow such examples as they follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11: 1). We are to give ‘double honor” to “those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5: 17). So, we seek to honor such people and not worship. We give them double and not triple honor. We also seek to learn from them in what they did right and what they did wrong. This will enable us to be catapulted into our divine purpose.
So, let us look at the early days of this incredible lady whose humble beginnings could never have declared her worldwide influence and respect of her latter days. She touched the hearts of millions and led a countless number to the Lord directly and indirectly including my family.
A Place of Harmony
Kathryn Kuhlman’s grandfather was one of the founders of a town called Concordia in western Missouri. The name Concordia means “harmony,” and it was named to b a place of restoration and harmony. The town’s log is “Concordia Hearts in Harmony since 1860.”1 Harmony implies the interweaving and bringing together of elements into some beautiful agreement. In Kathryn Kuhlman’s latter days we watched as her meetings saw people of all different races, cultures and Christian creeds come together in Jesus. She saw people from various religions discover salvation in the Lord and she saw lives brought into harmony by the Holy Spirit Who would move mightily through the services, healing and setting people free.
Kathryn Kuhlman’s grand finish started from humble beginnings in the town of Concordia in 1907 on May 9th.2 She was born to Emma (Walkenhorst) and Joseph Kuhlman. Her dad who owned a farm had sold it and moved into Concordia when she was around two. Joe Kuhlman had a dislike for church and ministers. His parents were Baptists. The local Baptists had split into two churches due to a controversy close to the end of the 19th century and remained divided until around 1922.3 Her mother, Emma, was a Methodist but joined the Baptist church in 1922. The children would attend church with her. 4 Before joining the Baptist church, Emma had been active in her Methodist church.
When Kathryn was born, Joe was in his forties. Kathryn was known even at an early age for her independent, self-reliant spirit and determination to do things her way. 5 Her father somehow could not find it in himself to punish Kathryn for her mischievous acts though her mother seemed more than able.6 A retired school teacher would say of the little red headed, Kathryn Kuhlman, “We all predicted she would become an actress.”7
In 1913, a young man by the name of Everett Parrott who was from Knob Noster, felt drawn to “wicked” Concordia. He had been a Methodist minister and started holding revival services in Concordia, uniting Baptists and the Methodists. 8 That Sunday as Kathryn’s older sister, Myrtle was teaching Sunday school she saw Everett, the twenty-three-year-old evangelist preach. She immediately attracted to him and through a series of events she would be invited to play the organ for him at another revival service. 9 Everett had sent a letter to Joe and Emma asking if Myrtle could play the piano for him. He said in the letter it was “not for personal reasons but to advance the kingdom.” So, reluctantly, they allowed her to go and this would be the beginning of what would ultimately change the lives of Myrtle and Kathryn forever. 10 On October 3rd, 1913 Everett and Myrtle were married against their parents’ wishes.11 Everett then went to Moddy Bible Institute in Chicago and graduated in 1914. 12
The Parrotts would then head off to evangelize the northwest. “Through the years and across the miles the Parrotts learned how to take the tough times with the good- all part of the role committed evangelists accepted.”13 the training they endured they would pass on to Kathryn.
Everett Parrot while in Albany Oregon meet and became very interested in the ministry of Charles S. Price. He was a Congregational pastor who had been led into the baptism of the Holy Spirit by Aimee Semple McPherson. Price counselled Everett and would lead him in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
In 1924, after ten years on being itinerant evangelists they returned they would ask young Kathryn Kuhlman to join them.
The Adventure Begins
When Kathryn had been fourteen, she had an encounter with the Lord and became born again. It was a powerful experience for Kathryn that she would never forget. She had a divine appointment with heaven.
It was around eleven, fifty-five A.M. She was at church. Kathryn could not remember who was preaching or what was preached but suddenly the Holy Spirit got a hold of her and she began shaking. The Holy Spirit brought upon her a deep conviction that brought her to tears. Kathryn knew she was changed.
Kathryn had begun a journey. The wild child would be placed on the Potter’s wheel and by His hand transformed. The Lord can take what the enemy means for evil and turn it into good and for His purpose.
In the spring of 1924, Kathryn was a sophomore at Concordia High School. Kathryn remained a wild child that her parents “couldn’t handle.”14 When the Parrotts offered in 1924, to take Kathryn now seventeen to come with them, perhaps to Joe and Emma they hoped it would help their restless child.15 Myrtle perhaps wanted Kathryn to join them as she wanted to settle down and was unhappy with the constant traveling. Whatever the reason, Myrtle asked for Kathryn to join them while visiting her parents in the spring on 1924.
The Northwest Calls
Kathryn could never have imagined that that day when she left home she would never call Concordia home again. Her life would forever change. She would find herself on the spiritual pioneer trail seeking souls in Oregon.
Soon she found herself fitting into a routine of helping set up the tent, distributing invites and getting everything ready for the evening service.
She watched as the Parrotts sometimes received insufficient funds in the offering baskets and had to pray for a bigger offering next time. Together, Everett and Myrtle worked to lead people to the altar and receive Jesus.
While the Parrotts were glad to have Kathryn thy never saw her ministry potential until one night. During one of the revivals in the summer of 1924 at Brownsville, Oregon. After the altar call, six people came forward to receive Jesus which would seem like it was a good night. However, afterwards as they were going to the car, Myrtle heard Kathryn say, “I can’t stand it! I can’t stand it!” Myrtle asked Kathryn what the problem was. Kathryn knew that many more that night should have received Jesus. Myrtle recognized that the Lord was calling Kathryn and she could see the burden of the Lord on her heart. 16 Kathryn would later talk about how at that time she knew the Lord was calling her into ministry. 17
The Parrotts took Kathryn in as the child they never had but wanted. Part of this was she had a speech issue and her mother taught her to annunciate her words to overcome it and that made her come across as dramatic.
Kathryn, would later never really talk about her Seattle days much like her marriage. Kathryn would claim she “had no theological training.”20 She claimed the Holy Spirit was her teacher.
Change of Plans
As the summer came to an end Kathryn had planned to return to Concordia and finish high school. She had such an adventure and had so many stories to tell her friends. However, something was pulling on her heart and when the train came to take her home, Kathryn could not get on it. 18 The Holy Spirit was about to begin a new chapter in her life.
Myrtle learned about a Bible Institute in Seattle that had been part of A.B Simpson who gone to heaven a few years earlier. The institute would accept promising students even if they didn’t have a high school diploma. So, in the fall of 1924, Kathryn would begin at the school. The school was designed to prepare people for the missions field and it was necessary for the students to put behind them the desires of the world and their youthful ways.
Kathryn, who was just seventeen was still struggling between enjoying life and the call. Many saw her as a great student and a person of great faith. They said she was “always dramatic.”19 Regardless, Kathryn did receive powerful training at the Institute.
However, Kathryn would yield to the temptation one too many times when she was caught in a midnight rendezvous. 21 So, in 1926 he was expelled and soon found herself in Los Angeles, California.
In the city of angels Kathryn began working at a department store while living at the Parrotts. This time period was also a closed book. Kathryn clearly continued to feel the burden of the call and so began to audit LIFE Bible classes (Lighthouse of International Foursquare Evangelism) started by Aimee Semple McPherson. Aimee’s son, Rolf, recalls Kathryn being there. She even went to hear Aimee preaching several times, though Kathryn never mentioned it.22 Perhaps in part the reason Kathryn never mentioned it was that during this time Aimee would disappear saying she had been kidnapped. Kathryn perhaps did not want to be associated with the controversy or perhaps she wanted to show she had done it on her own.
Kathryn Begins to Preach
Once again, the Lord would use a series of events to open a door for Kathryn. She had failed the preaching class at the Simpson Bible Institute and had been expelled so how could she even imagine God could or would use her.
In 1928, the Parrots and Kathryn found themselves in Boise, Idaho. In this beautiful but completely remote state, the Lord would begin Kathryn’s ministry. By the time she would leave Idaho, she had preached in every town.
In the summer of 1928, Kathryn met Helen Gulliford. She was a concert piano player and had worked for Uldine Utley and Charles Price. They would work together helping the Parrotts in Boise Idaho. However, martial stress between the Parrotts had elevated to the place that Everett left for Wyoming leaving Myrtle, Kathryn and Helene in Boise. They were out of money and stuck.
Kathryn had wanted to preach for awhile and she had struggled with Everett’s leadership. It was here that Helen and Kathryn decided to team together and form the “God Girls.” 23 Myrtle would leave and rejoin her husband in Wyoming. So, Kathryn was now on her own.
It was here that Kathryn’s boldness and determination would make a difference. Kathryn would alter say…
“Millions of words have been written about success. But if these millions of words could be squeezed out in just three short, meaningful words, I believe the formula for success would read: faith and gumption (courage and initiative; enterprise and boldness.”24
Kathryn also said, “If all you do is sit there claiming faith, and wishing something to happen… you will sit from now to doomsday and nothing will happen.”25
Kathryn believed it took more than faith alone. She would say, “God won’t do a thing to help you bring it to pass until you get up and out of that chair and start doing something about it. Faith without works, faith without gumption, is dead. But with God’s power, and your gumption, the opportunities are unlimited.”26
These words describe this spiritual pioneer who was sold out to the cause. She sleep in chicken homes, turkey houses or haystacks. She was prepared to do whatever it took to preach the Gospel.
The Woman Preacher
Kathryn would stand up against the prejudice against woman preachers. She claimed she was never God’s first choice or even second. She said, regarding her call…
“My call to the ministry was just as definite as my conversion.”27 She knew she was called and no criticism would stand in her way even they claim woman should not be in the pulpit.
Why would God use her? She answered…
“The only reason I can give you is the fact that I knew I had nothing, and I never, forgot from whence I came. When you have nothing, and you admit you have nothing, then it’s so easy to look up and say, “Lord Jesus, if you can take nothing, use it. Take my hands, take my voice, take my mind, take my body, take my love—it’s all I have. If You can use it, I give it to You.” And He has taken my nothing and used it to His glory.”28
The timing of her call from a natural perspective could not have come at a worst time but from a spiritual perspective it was perfect. She learnt that God would provide her needs if she would simply obey and preach. The would find smaller churches that were closed because they simply could not afford a preacher and persuade the board to let them preach. She was learning and even said…
“Dear Jesus, I tried. I didn’t do a perfect job, because I was human and made mistakes. There were failures. I am sorry. But I tried.”29
She was indeed learning and she was sold out.
In January of 1933, Kathryn found herself in the beautiful town of Twin Falls on the Snake River.
- Warner, Wayne E. Kathryn Kuhlman: The Woman Behind the Miracles. Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, MC. 1993. Page 39
- Liardon Roberts. God’s Generals: Why They Succeeded and Why Some Failed. Whitaker House, New Kensington, PA. 1996.
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- Kuhlman, Kathryn. A Glimpse Into Glory. Bridge-Logos. Alachua, FL. Page 61
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