Ernie Tavilla Story

There were ten children in our family. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at a small tent meeting twenty-five years ago.

I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues at sixteen years old. It was a tremendous experience, and for the next couple of years I lived off of it.

Looking back over my life, I realize there were many times that I failed my Lord: but never once did He fail me. I finally learned that just having an experience is not enough. His mercies spring fresh every morning, and we need a daily refreshing if we are to keep our experience with the Holy Spirit glowing and growing. After a few years the thrill and the glory of it began to grow dim, until it finally seemed more like a beautiful memory. He had not left me; I had drifted away from Him.

It was necessary for me to quit school at an early age. Mom was called home to be with the Lord, and we boys had to go to work to help care for the large family. Thus it was that while still young all of the brothers went into the business my father had started quite a few years before. Today there are seven brothers together in the wholesale food and produce business. God has blessed us “in basket and in store” and we thank Him for it.

About seven years ago my brother Joe, who is next older than I, was in California attending a Youth for Christ meeting. Somehow he came into possession of a copy of VOICE magazine. As he thumbed through the pages he learned for the first time about the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship. He noticed that at that particular time there was a convention going on in Phoenix, Arizona.

Joe and I had been attending a church in Massachusetts, not too far from Boston. It was a church that preached the Gospel in its own quiet way. We attended services and prayer meetings, and were very much involved as Sunday school superintendent, deacon, song leader, youth leader, and so on. However, all these things were not really satisfying our hearts. I was still living a very shallow Christian  experience,  not  actively  witnessing, and  not  really  living the  life that  was   pleasing to Jesus Christ. Joe's   spiritual condition was about the same. His wife's church background had given her very little knowledge of   the   deeper   truths   in God's   Word. Like so many other churches, ours was plodding along, quite clannish, concerned only   with the   needs   of just the group   that attended there.

The Holy Spirit began dealing with Joe. He was all set to fly back to Chicago, but suddenly decided to go to the FGBMF Phoenix convention. Some friends who knew about the Fellowship offered to take Joe to Phoenix by car and he could fly on home from there.

There was a Holy Spirit seminar at Phoenix, taught by David DuPlessis. Before it was over, Joe and his wife, Pauline, had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  I had always  thought that  if  anyone  received  the  Baptism it would be because of his knowledge about  it; but God  did  not see eye-to-eye with me on that. He baptized Pauline first, and  she  had  practically no knowledge about the Holy Spirit except that He was one of the Trinity. Later that same evening Joe received. Joe called me, very excited about his wonderful experience. My vocal reaction to this was, "Boy that is great!"  But  to  myself,  I  said,  "I  received the Baptism sixteen years ago and spoke in tongues; what's so wonderful about  this?" Something was definitely wrong with me and I did not realize it.

One day shortly thereafter Joe and I got to talking as we worked together. He said, "Ernie, you simply must go to an FGBMFI convention. There is one in Washington next month."

Now Joe and Pauline were young and had only one child, and it was easier for them to travel around. "It is different with me," I told him, "We have four kids and Jeanne is expecting again. We can't go away. "

However, God knew better than we. He opened the doors and we went. What a time it was! When God begins to move nothing stands in His way. Right there and then He began to mold things together in a way that has been unbelievable.

Still, I had a chip on my shoulder. What was I doing down there anyway? I was filled with the Holy Spirit years ago and spoke in tongues. This thought kept going through my mind. Apparently Satan was trying to thwart my every move toward becoming involved with these people. What was most amazing to  me  was that  few  of  the  people  there  were from  Pentecostal  background;  they were Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists, and  so  on.  Nevertheless, they all were having a great time together in the Lord.

But suddenly something within me said: "Yes, Ernie, you were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, but the difference between you and these people is that they are doing something for Jesus Christ and you are not."

That really struck home, and I cried out, "Lord, forgive me!" The moment I said that, it was a different convention entirely– it became a blessed fellowship in which we could share. Before we left that convention the Holy Spirit had become very real again in my life. We returned to Boston and helped to start a chapter there.

All this came about because one person handed my brother Joe a copy of VOICE magazine. At first, as I sat there in Washington and heard those men give their testimonies, I thought to myself that this  might  be  all  right  in  Texas,  or Georgia, or California and a few other places,  but  not  in  New  England,  so steeped in tradition– religiously, socially, and  many  other ways.  We were wrong! This fact became evident when we finally determined to start a chapter in Boston. In our fondest dreams we could not have pictured the wonderful things that have happened since that decision was made.

I won't try to name all of the dedicated men God used to establish and minister to our chapter, but He has really blessed, having the right men in the right place at the right time.

In the month of November of our first year things really began  to happen. The Spirit-filled Episcopal priest, Dennis Bennett, was our speaker. That was the Monday of President Kennedy's funeral. Some had suggested we cancel the meeting, but we decided to convene anyway and God gave us one of the greatest meetings we had ever had in Boston up to that time. There were approximately 325 in attendance, including a few students who came down from Gordon Divinity School and other places. Several received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, among them a couple from Gordon. That sparked a revival in the school. Within a month to six weeks over a hundred young people also received the  baptism at Barrington.

The opportunities for ministry have been outstanding. Some have been in the different colleges of the area. It has been my privilege to speak on the Charismatic renewal at Gordon, Harvard, Radcliffe, Northeastern, Boston College and others.  I recall one time a couple of years ago when we gave our testimonies at Northeastern University in the Christian Varsity Fellowship. A couple of weeks later a fellow from the school told me that after we had spoken there a few Bible study  and  prayer  groups  had  been formed,  and  seventeen or eighteen students had received the Baptism.

Everything has been exciting, especially the new open doors to the fellowship with the Roman Catholics. God has been moving mightily among the Roman Catholics throughout the country and this move finally reached staid New England– and what a response there was!
God has been so good to us, and we are expecting even greater things in the future.

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