An afternoon thunderstorm rolled through East Macon last week.
The strong wind blew across Fort Hill. The skies grew dark overhead and the thunder cracked like a lion tamer’s whip.
Raindrops splashed in a galvanized steel tub, used as an outdoor baptismal pool at Jackson Temple Holiness Church.
It was a storm from long ago that led Prophetess Mother Annie Bell Jackson to her calling to enter the ministry 60 years ago this spring. On March 14, 1954, a devastating tornado caused extensive property damage and left a trail of six deaths in Lizella, Elberta and Macon.
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Jackson and her husband lived on a farm near Roberta.
They lost their barn and farm animals.
But she found Jesus.
She devoted her life to God and the ministry after that day, and for the next 58 years until she died two years ago at age 93.
Monday is the anniversary of her death on June 2, 2012. About 200 people are expected to gather at her church, Jackson Temple Holiness, at 1 p.m. on Sunday to celebrate her life and honor her legacy.
Elder Willie Mobley, of Fitzgerald, will be a special guest speaker. Ministers Edward Ingram and Tommy Watson, who grew up in Jackson’s church and are now on the staff, will lead the service.
Jackson founded two other churches that bear her name, in Warner Robins and Culloden. For more than 30 years, she had an hour of prayer and devotion on WDDO-AM radio in Macon. She held prayer meetings three times a day in the small, cinder-block church building, just a stone’s throw from her home on Temple Avenue in the shadow of Womack Street behind Burdell-Hunt Elementary School.
Although Jackson had no children of her own, Vivian Moreland and Carla Smith, were among her “spiritual goddaughters.”
“She was more than a pastor,” said Smith. “She was a mother and friend who had compassion for others.”
“She would knock on doors and have prayers with people,” Moreland said.
“She helped feed them, clothe them and clean their homes. She didn’t put herself on a pedestal. She always put Jesus first.”
Jackson considered herself a “prophetess,” which by definition meant she had the ability to foretell events and interpret the will of God.
She was born one of seven children on Dec. 30, 1918, and grew up in Jones County. She married Handy Jackson, and they lived on a farm near Roberta.
Moreland said Jackson believed “God’s mighty power was manifested on her behalf” when the tornadoes and high winds ripped across Middle Georgia. Jackson, her husband and nephews were in the house at the time the storm hit.
She said Jackson once told her: “Any minute I thought we would be gone. I told Jesus, ‘Lord, I can’t hide from you. Just save my soul!’ In the spirit, I could see Jesus’ mighty arms around that house. When the storm blew the house to the right or left, he would prop it up. At that moment, when I gave up, that storm left that house like it had never been there.”
Jackson would later preach of her life-changing experience and conversion to crowds in Roberta and around the courthouse in Fort Valley.
“She was a bold woman who would look you in the eyes and tell you just like it was,” Smith said.
Following the death of her husband, Jackson moved to Macon and “worked faithfully as a soul winner” at the East Second Street Holiness Church, where she was ordained.
She began holding services in her home, and called it the Body of Christ. When her house and others were later torn down to build the Macon Coliseum, she moved to Womack Street in 1963, still holding services in her home. The church was built behind the home five years later.
“She kept the faith and believed that one day Jesus was going to bless her with a church building,” said Moreland. “He led her to a field full of briars and bushes and danced her under his power, confirming that this was the place.”
On each side of the front of the church, these words are stenciled in red paint:
“Your knowledge is going to pass away and your faith is going to vanish, but charity goes beyond the grave.” -- This is the message that Jesus gave to the Prophetess Mother A.B. Jackson in 1954 to give to this dying world.
Those are the cornerstones on the church that Annie Bell Jackson built.
Contact Ed Grisamore at 744-4275.