Sonya McLean asked me to write about Charity Hubbard, one of her speakers at the Women’s Unlimited annual conference. Anyone familiar with the Brownsville Revival knows Charity Hubbard as Charity James. The teenage girl who sang “Mercy Seat” during the revival’s altar calls for five years. Eleven years later, she is married and preaching the gospel as well as singing. After the conference, I met Charity in the dining room of the hotel and recorded her story.
Charity considers herself a “Heinz 57” Christian. After dedicating her life to Christ in a Baptist church, she received the baptism in the Holy Spirit at an Assembly of God church and then her family settled in a Methodist church, which split and became an independent work. She returned to the Assemblies of God when they attended the Brownsville Revival. She currently travels as an evangelist with her husband and attends either a Church of God or Assembly of God church when they are not holding meetings.
Her path to ministry began when she was five-years-old. She sat on a pew in a Baptist church with her four-year-old sister listening to the pastor preach. At the conclusion of the message Charity and her sister walked to the altar in tears to repent.
Charity smiled and said, “Even at five, I knew that I needed Jesus.”
She was nine-years-old when she looked in a mirror and saw Jesus standing behind her with his arms open. He said, “Bless you my child.” Charity spun around to see him, but he wasn’t there. The following year, her grandmother gave her a performance tape of “Beluah Land” and asked Charity to sing the song.
“I could not sing at all,” said Charity. “My singing was so awful; my parents put towels under the door when I practiced the song. But the desire to sing burned in me and I was determined to sing “Beluah Land” for my grandmother. One day, I was practicing the song and stopped the tape in frustration. I pointed my finger to heaven and said, ‘Lord, you said you were going to bless me, so do it.’ His answer was immediate. When I started the tape to continue practicing, my parents thought I was playing the demonstration side of the tape. The Lord had blessed me with the ability to sing.”
Jesus appeared to Charity again when she was thirteen. Her bedroom had a second door that led outside. One night, she was startled awake when the outside door swung open. Angels covered in a beautiful blue mist flooded into her bedroom. They were talking excitedly and laughing. Charity wanted to know what they were excited about. She slipped out of her bed to listen to one of their conversation. One of the angels said, “I hugged Jesus! I hugged Jesus! I’ve always wanted to hug him. It was awesome.”
Charity blurted out, “I want to hug Jesus!” Instantly, the angels disappeared. She looked out the open door and saw Jesus skipping on mountains. “Jesus, I need you,” she cried. Jesus swooped into her bedroom and embraced her.
“Jesus held me for a minute,” said Charity. “It was the most wonderful peace I have ever felt. Then he gently placed his hands on my shoulders, pushed me back and looked into my eyes. His face was a multicolored rainbow, so beautiful I can’t describe it. His eyes were a crystal clear blue like the blue flame of a fire. He said, ‘Don’t you be afraid. I’m always with you.’ His eyes have been burned into my mind, heart and spirit. Anytime I’m facing difficulties I remember his promise and the peace and love that was in his presence.”
Jesus’ assurance of his love faded as her walk with God grew stale. Charity had been singing in revivals since she was ten-years-old and had grown weary of the same routine: a church invited a special speaker, she sang a special song, meetings were held daily Wednesday through Sunday. She never witnessed a true deep change in the people and her heart drifted away from her savior.
The process of restoration began when her mother heard “Mercy Seat” on the radio and believed her daughter was meant to sing it.
“I don’t want to hear it,” snapped Charity.
“This is a great song, you need to hear it,” her mother pleaded. Charity consented to listen to the song but didn’t like it. Her mother encouraged her to listen to the song again.
Charity started the song again and listened to the lyrics:
“In the darkness
Where everything is unknown
I face the power of sin on my own
I did not know of a place I could go
Where I could find a way to
Heal my wounded soul.
He said that I could come into
His presence without fear
Into the holy place where
His mercy hovers near
I’m runnin’ I’m runnin’
I’m runnin’ to the mercy seat
Where Jesus is callin’ he said
His grace would cover me
His blood will flow freely
It will provide the healin’”
© Mark Carouthers
“The lyric’s seemed to melt into me. I had never heard a song like this before. That happened shortly before my fourteenth birthday, which is the day before Father’s Day,” said Charity.
On Father’s Day 1995, Charity stood to sing Mercy Seat for the first time in the independent church her family attended. The power of God filled the church. People Charity had known most of her life came running to the altar. An hour away, Steve Hill stood to preach the now famous sermon that started the Brownsville Revival. The path of a former drug addict turned preacher, and a wounded teenager were destine to intersect. Three weeks later, Charity’s mother, a devout Christian who longed for the presence of God learned about the Brownsville Revival and encouraged Charity to attend. She wasn’t interested in attending another revival but agreed to make the hour long trip to Brownsville with her mother.
Charity and her mother had attended every night of the Brownsville revival for a week when her mother announced, “Charity, you are supposed to sing “Mercy Seat” here. I know it.”
Fearful of singing before the large crowds that the revival attracted Charity said, “No way, that’s not going to happen.”
Undeterred by Charity’s objections her mother spoke to the youth pastor, who brought Charity to the attention of Lindell Cooley, the minister of music at Brownsville.
“I was so nervous my knees were knocking when I sang for Lindell. My life changed that day. On the way home, I looked out the car window at the moon and stars and recommitted my life to Christ. Whatever God wanted me to do, I was ready to yield my life to him.”
Lindell scheduled Charity to sing “Mercy Seat” during the offering the following Friday. She sang the last note and found herself face to face with Steve Hill. “Will you sing that song again during the altar call?” he said. That request resulted in Charity singing “Mercy Seat” every night of the revival for the next five years.
Charity grew thoughtful as she shared her final thoughts. “I didn’t have much to offer God. All I had was a song. He took the little I had and changed the world around me.”
The Brownsville Revival (also known as the Pensacola Outpouring) began within the Pentecostal movement on Father’s Day June 18, 1995 at Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida. Millions of people are reported to have attended the revival with more than 100,000 estimated thousand salvations.