I recently re-read the book Willow in the Wind, the story of Ivan Spencer, founder of Elim Bible Institute. My copy was so worn that it literally broke into pieces as I read it.
The book chronicles his upbringing, his formative spiritual encounters, his faith journey in starting Elim Bible Institute, and first few decades of the school devoted to raising up Spirit-filled workers for Christ. It is especially significant to me, because it is the story of my spiritual heritage. My Grandma and Grandpa Larkin both attended Elim in the 1950s, both of my grandfathers worked at Elim during the 1970s, my parents met each other as “campus kids”, my father taught there while I was growing up, Adriana and I met at, and are both graduates of Elim, and my Larkin grandparents are still missionaries for Elim Fellowship.
Reading the book was a glimpse into the early years of Pentecostalism. It reveals the challenges of bridge-building within the body of Christ during those initial decades; the human mistakes and excesses of well-intentioned, passionate seekers of God that He is patient with and willing to work through in order to reveal His glory; and the struggles of those within the body of Christ who were convinced that God is still in the business of speaking to His Church. Most of all, the book was one which inspired hope and faith as it followed one man’s journey of seeking to obediently follow God. It was a powerful reminder of the faithfulness of God to those who venture forth in faith.
With the advantage of hindsight, and the lessons learned in the decades since the stories in the book took place, it is easy to spot areas of questionable theology, ego, excess, and irony. Nonetheless, overwhelmingly I.Q. Spencer was a man motivated by a deep passion for Jesus and a conviction to be led by the Holy Spirit, and for that he is worthy of honor. We will all make mistakes in our lives, but let us make them in the way of grace and forgiveness, with a passionate desire to see the cause of Jesus advanced and His kingdom established on earth as it is in heaven.