Pentecostal Pioneers: Leonard H. Michael

Pentecostal Pioneers: Leonard H. Michael
By Moureen Michael

The old barn with its debris of leftover corn and oats bore no resemblance to a stained-glass sanctuary where one might expect to meet Jesus Christ. But this was no ordinary experience that happened to thirty-nine-year-old L. H. Michael, who had been reared by a mother who believed miracles no longer occur. On July 31, 1930, the Holy Ghost was poured out on Brother Michael as he prayed in his barn. God seemed to demonstrate His power in a special way, for as Brother Michael began to speak in a heavenly language, God miraculously raised him bodily three times with only his heels touching the floor and then each time returned him gently to the floor. Never again did Brother Michael doubt the miraculous power of God.

It all began a year earlier in July 1929, when C. E. Carter came to the small town of Randolph, west of Paoli, Oklahoma. He built a brush arbor and preached for three weeks. L. H. Michael was the only convert in this meeting. Later he was baptized in water in the name of Jesus, a form of baptism unheard of in the local churches. In July a year later C. P. Kilgore came to Paoli and preached, proclaiming the same truth as preached earlier by Brother Carter. At this time Brother Michael received the fullness of the message as he prayed in his barn.

An elderly prayer warrior, Sister Combs, influenced Brother Michael also. He listened many times as she prayed hour after hour while he plowed in his fields nearby. He was a man whose pipe was his god. One of the grocers related that Prince Albert tobacco topped his grocery list. Although small, he got so angry once that he felled a mule with a single blow of his right fist. He was full of courage. His son describes him as “mean enough to fight for his rights yet compassionate enough not to prosecute the youths who stole his Rhode Island red chickens; obstinate enough to not back off an inch from anyone or anything; considerate enough to be afraid of offending others.”

Shortly after he received the Holy Ghost, his new experience received a severe test when one of his sons failed to return home on schedule. Driving a Model T Ford, Brother Michael started searching for the youngster. A few miles from home, he had a flat tire. He had no spare. The “old man” would have spent time cursing fate, but now he merely removed the tire, threw it in the car, and resumed his journey. A few more miles produced a second flat and then a third. He returned home on three rims and one tire, with the lost child!

In March 1930 God called Brother Michael into the ministry. Although not an audible voice, his call was direct and forcible when God asked him as He had Peter, “Do you love Me?” For over forty-one years thereafter, he proved that, yes, he loved the Lord. His wife, Roxie Bell Craddock Michael, received the Holy Ghost in 1931 and worked faithfully with him. Seven children were born to this couple: Levoy, Ernest, Herbert, Wanda, June, Widen, and Ronald.

They learned early to sacrifice. When Brother Michael sent his two youngest sons to gather fruit or vegetables to take to their pastor, he said, “Boys, gather the largest you can find. We’ll use the small ones.” Brother Carter responded, “God bless the little ravens.” As was common in the early thirties, funds were low. Evangelists received little or no compensation. In one such revival at a home missions work the total offering was eleven cents.

Although he was an evangelist, Brother Michael pastored several years. Elmore City, Oklahoma, was an early pastorale. A seven-week revival here reaped forty-six who were baptized in Jesus’ name and
twenty-six who received the Holy Ghost. The family lived in the church while holding services under a combination brush arbor and tent. A son remembers what a treat it was to drink Kool Aid three times a day. He also remembers picking cherries to be sold in order to buy gas for their 1931 Buick.

Brother Michael also pastored in Paoli, Pauls Valley, and Allen, Oklahoma. He evangelized in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas.

The spirit of sacrifice never left Brother Michael, even when he was hospitalized. During this time he gave a sacrificial offering to help build a home missions church. He also became distraught that he was no longer able to go to the church at six o’clock each morning to pray as had been his custom for many years. But during this time, God gave him a reassuring vision.

Brother Michael felt that some of his efforts were successful and others seemingly a failure, but he always trusted that in the final reckoning perhaps more good would be revealed. At his death, six ministers who came to the Lord under his ministry were his pallbearers. The presiding minister was also his convert.

The Michaels died within two weeks of each other. Brother Michael’s homecoming was September 21, 1972, and two weeks later, on October 4, Sister Michael joined him. Their son Eldon remarked, “I wonder if Papa met her at the gate.” The inscription on their tombstone, designed by their children, sums up the devotion of this couple: “Devoted in life, together through the ages.”