Oral Roberts Leaves Personal Miracles Behind
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
A public memorial will be held on Monday for Oral Roberts at the University that bears his name in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Reverend Roberts who was one of those pioneering preachers for whom the term televangelist was devised. His programs, which featured attempts at hands-on healing, gave viewers what he called a front-row seat to miracles. We're joined now by the Reverend Carol Hallman, a minister at Christian Church Disciples of Christ in Decatur, Alabama. Reverend Hallman, thanks for being with us.
Reverend CAROL HALLMAN (Christian Church Disciples of Christ): Well, you're welcome.
SIMON: And rather Reverend Hallman's brother, Kenneth Black, who is a Pentecostal minister at Trinity Bible Fellowship in Center Point, Alabama. Reverend Black, thank you very much for being with us.
Reverend KENNETH BLACK (Trinity Bible Fellowship): Thank you for having us.
SIMON: Both of you are ministers who grew up listening to Oral Roberts. What made him stand out from a company of other, as they were called even then, televangelists in your mind?
Rev. HALLMAN: I think for me was the fact of seeing a miracle happen as a young girl about six or seven years old. And I've never forgotten it. I get goosebumps today when I think about it.
SIMON: Reverend Black and Reverend Hallman, we certainly knew about this. Could I get you both to tell us the story? This happened in 1957?
Rev. BLACK: Yes, sir. I was playing and I jumped off of a chicken house out in out in our backyard and I jumped onto a nail.
SIMON: You were a youngster at the time.
Rev. BLACK: Yes, sir, I was nine years old and I jumped off the chicken house onto that nail and it went through my foot. And my dad was one of those guys that believed in home remedies. I don't know if you've ever heard of this remedy before, but he soaked it in kerosene, which was supposed to pull the impurities out of my foot.
And it didn't work and about two days later my foot swelled up. They carried me to Dr. Brand in Pinson. He gave me a tetanus shot and the tetanus shot paralyzed me. I couldn't move from my neck down and they had specialists come in and try to figure out what to do to reverse what had happened to me. And they weren't able to come up with anything.
So my dad carried me to the fairgrounds down in Birmingham to be prayed for by Oral Roberts. We were late getting there and so he waited out behind the tent and when Oral Roberts came out, he stopped him. He laid his hand on my head and said, Be healed in the name of Jesus, is all he said. And immediately I was healed, and they let me down and I ran all over the place, couldn't walk one minute, the next minute I was running around walking. Just a miracle of God and that's why I believe so much in the Lord and his healing power today.
SIMON: Carol Hallman, what do you remember as his younger sister?
Rev. HALLMAN: I remember being there that night and Kenneth was in dad's arms. He was holding him up on his shoulder. And I just recall brother Robert, I don't recall the words as clearly, but I stood in amazement.
SIMON: Let me ask you a question, because no doubt you know a lot of people listening are going to be skeptical.
Rev. HALLMAN: Right.
SIMON: You know, I have talked to a couple of doctors who weren't there, haven't seen the case file. But just reading the circumstances to them, they gently suggest with respect to your religious convictions that Reverend Black, you might have had what amounts to an allergic reaction from that tetanus shot that manifested itself as a kind of paralysis. And it was working its way through your body along a similar timeline to the Reverend Roberts putting his hands on you.
Rev. BLACK: That's amazing that it happened at the very time he touched me on the head, it's amazing to me. I just believe that it was the Lord that did it. And I believe in the healing power of Jesus. He didn't die on the cross just for the salvation of our sins. But he died there for the healing of our body also. That's just my belief, and you can believe what you want to and your listeners can believe what they want to. But I know what I believe and I know in whom my trust and nobody would ever be able to change my mind or persuade me that that didn't happen on that day and that it wasn't the power of the Lord that touched me. Oral Roberts touched me on the head. I felt a power hit me and surge through my body and it completely healed me. I know I was nine years old, but I will never forgive what happened and I know it was a touch of the Lord is what it was.
Rev. HALLMAN: That was a miracle. It truly happened. But that's not the only one that has happened in our lives. We experience miracles every day. It is our faith. It's what we live, it's how we walk. And that's the hardest thing to get across to people. Brother Roberts always said expect a miracle. It wasn't brother Roberts touching my brother that healed him.
Rev. HALLMAN: It was the faith of my parents in feeling that they were hopeless and destitute but if we can just get to Brother Roberts, our son will be healed. So it's the faith within the person.
SIMON: But surely there are faithful people that are as devout and as ardent and as trusting as the people who are healed who aren't healed, aren't there?
Rev. BLACK: Yes, I would say so. I don't know the mind of God. I don't know why some people are healed and some aren't. I don't know that. All I know is that I couldn't walk and now I can.
SIMON: Reverends Hallman and Black, thank you very much for speaking with us.
Rev. HALLMAN: Well, thank you so much.
Rev. BLACK: Thank you, sir.
SIMON: Carol Hallman and Kenneth Black, brother and sister and ministers in Decatur and Center Point, Alabama.
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