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Federal Way preacher, age 109, stirs Pentecostal excitement in Africa
Federal Way preacher Otis Clark, the world’s oldest traveling evangelist at age 109, has been tapped to lead a revival that could transform Pentecostal Christianity across Africa.
The globetrotting bishop was visited earlier this week by the Rev. Mosy U. Madugba, a Nigerian church leader and founder of Global Harvest Missions. Madugba invited Clark to speak at a revival this January in Lagos, Nigeria, in front of 10,000 church leaders from across Africa.
It is possible that 1 million or more church adherents will gather to see Clark, Madugba said — and Pentecostalism may never be the same in Africa.
“It will kickstart a wave of revival across the continent of Africa,” Madugba said, noting that the heads of Africa’s Pentecostal churches all want to meet Bishop Clark. “I was ready to make any sacrifice to come see him and discuss this with him.”
Clark is seen by many as the modern spiritual leader for Pentecostalism. He is also a living witness of the denomination’s roots, which date back to the early 1900s in Los Angeles with the Azusa Street Revival. This revival, led by African American preacher William J. Seymour, is credited as the main catalyst for the Pentecostal movement.
Clark converted to Christianity at age 25 while in a Los Angeles jail for selling bootleg whiskey during the Prohibition era.
While in Los Angeles, Clark was heavily involved in the Azusa Street Mission and the first Pentecostal church in America. He was later given power of attorney to the Azusa mission, and worked to keep it open after Seymour died.
Clark said he looks forward to the Africa revival this January, which will take place shortly before his 110th birthday.
“I just want to wait and see how it works out,” Clark said of the revival’s potential impact. “I am blessed to see young folks taking over (Pentecostalism).”
Nearly 11 percent of Africa’s population of more than 1 billion identifies as Pentecostal, according to a report by Glopent, a research firm on global Pentecostalism. The Hartford Institute for Religious Research estimates a worldwide Pentecostal following of 500 million.
Healthy and well
Otis Clark was born Feb. 13, 1903, in pre-statehood Oklahoma. He left Oklahoma after enduring the 1921 race riot in Tulsa, considered the worst race riot in U.S. history.
At age 109, Clark is in excellent health. Clark still has all of his teeth except one, which he claimed was accidentally pulled by a dentist. He wears glasses when reading, but does not use hearing aids — and he takes no medications. Clark occasionally drives a car, and does not require a walking aid or cane.
For several years and counting, Clark criss-crosses the nation and world with his daughter, Dr. Gwyneth Williams, and granddaughter, the Rev. Star Williams. Upcoming trips include London in May, Ottawa in August, Dallas in September and Russia in the autumn. They recently finished stints in Texas, New York and New Jersey. Clark and family also preach around the Puget Sound region and ordain local pastors.
It’s no surprise that Clark’s faith plays a key role in his longevity. Those who believe in their Christian faith, and have been baptized, are on the right path, he said.
“If you’re on God’s side, you’re on the right side,” he said. “Your soul gets in on the deal. … If you don’t do right, you can’t see. Then the devil will give you a whooping."
To learn more about Otis Clark, visit www.lifeenrichmentinc.com.