We don't normally write reminisces of living people, but since Evangelist and Pastor Sammy Allen is more alive than most, I'll write. In 1981 I was a lost member of an Independent Baptist church. I believed that I was called to preach and had forsaken much to learn the Bible. I was just a few short weeks away from getting married, and my wife to be was as lost as I was. My pastor was beginning to suspect that many of his members were victims of the 1-2-3 Jesus-Save-Me movement that had swept through fundamentalism in the 1970s. He began to hammer at us on the doctrine of repentance, and when he heard that Sammy Allen was going to be at the Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington, South Carolina, he encouraged some of us to go hear him.
Like most people confused about salvation and trying ever so hard to live up to the ideals of Jesus Christ, we weren't doing very well. My fiancé and I stood in the parking lot and growled at each other over some foolish little thing. In those days, I had no clue of how to be a man or a husband and was certainly no one that any sane woman would want to follow. In those days, my fiancé who is now my beloved and godly wife could get as mean and grouchy as a constipated woodchuck. In my despair as I stood in the parking lot waiting for the rest of my party to get out of the car, I looked to heaven and mouthed a prayer. "Lord would you please have the man of God preach on wives being in submission?" It was a quick prayer. The others quickly got out of the car and we could hear that the meeting had started.
We got into the church and were seated about the time Brother Allen got into the pulpit. In those days he was in his mid 40s and was far more physically fit than many men far younger. For those of you who remember, he leaped up and down while he recited scripture. I sat transfixed as he leaped so high that I could see his knees above the pulpit. There was nothing showy or flashy to it. He was everything that he had been advertised to be. He was a country boy who had memorized hundreds and hundreds of verses out in the fields of Georgia and they came back to him more naturally while he leapt and ran.
He was quoting verse after verse and warming up to his message when he suddenly stopped leaping and preaching. He stood still for a moment with an odd look on his face. He told all of us in a quiet voice, "the Lord just changed the message". He slowly warmed up again and began preaching on godly women reverencing their husbands. A fear gripped my heart. Who was this God who had heard my prayer in that parking lot and had changed this great evangelist's message? Who was this man who in the midst of preaching one thing, instantly submitted to the God of heaven and switched messages?
I have seen Brother Allen preach many time since then and I owe him much. I will never forget that night. He ran up and down the isles as he preached on what it took to be a godly woman. I remember one dour faced, large woman sitting next to a smaller man. They were older people. She had on classy expensive clothing and was bedecked with a long necklace and earrings. I hadn't paid much attention to them other than to notice that she sat perfectly still, probably not enjoying the message.
As Brother Allen ran the isles preaching his message, he would sometimes go right out the side door only to appear again running in the back door. He would quote verse after verse and turn to us and make each verse hit home. Suddenly he plopped down in the pew next to the woman. "Ma'am" he said, "sometimes I don't quote verses right. Would you please follow along with me and make sure I don't mix up any of the words? "Psalms 119:165", he said. "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. I know", he said as he clutched her shoulder and looked her in the face, "that you love the laws of God. You're not in the least bit offended by what I'm preaching."
He asked her to verify that he had quoted the verse properly. She solemnly nodded that he had. He preached straight to her, "I know that when this man next to you says something, that you reverence him as your husband. I know that you don't fuss and fight him when he says something that you don't like. Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them." Up he got and went on preaching.
I left that night greatly sobered. I knew that God had heard my prayer. I had an awe and fear of God that had up until that time been missing. Within one month of that meeting, I was to be brought to repentance in an empty warehouse on Bluff Road in Columbia, South Carolina. I was born into the Kingdom of God after the Lord in his mercy had exposed me for the phony that I was. That December night when the Lord in that same infinite mercy bent his ear to hear the prayer of a vile sinner, and then touched the heart of one of the few men on God's earth close enough to him to change a message midstream, forever touched me. It was one of those pricks that I found it hard to kick against.
For those of you who have been touched by the ministry and the life of Brother Sammy Allen, how about stopping and have a special prayer for him right now. May God bless him, his wife, his family, his church and all of those who will hear from the God of Israel through his ministry.