At a healing revival meeting held in the summer of 1955 in Northwest Washington, when the evangelist offered a mass prayer for people with growths on their bodies, 13-year-old Stephen Short stood up with hundreds of others, hoping to get rid of a cyst on the top of his head.
What followed was an experience that "completely transformed my life," said Short, now 43, who has been a volunteer Pentecostal chaplain at Howard University for 15 years while doubling as a full-time Metrobus operator for five years.
"In three or four days that growth dried up, came off my scalp and my hair grew back," Short said recalling his religious conversion recently before a fellowship meeting with Howard students. "To me, I had experienced a valid, miraculous healing."
At Howard, Short and his wife started the Intercollegiate Pentecostal Conference International, a professional campus ministry that serves the spiritual and social needs of college students. They also founded Seymour House, 100 Bryant St. NW, near the Howard campus, which he says is the first Pentecostal student center on a secular campus in the country.
Seymour House, an old, 16-room building, was named for William J. Seymour who, according to Short, was the founder of black Pentecostalism and of all modern-day Pentecostalism as well. Howard students meet at the center for fellowship, worship, and other activities including an annual conference.
Short had been a teen-age minister even before his "baptism of the Holy Spirit," an experience that is an essential part of the Pentecostal faith, a Protestant fundamentalist sect that stresses direct inspiration by the Holy Spirit.
Short, a native Washingtonian who once studied at Howard, said he first heard of the Pentecostal Fellowship there in 1970 while he was still pastor of The Lord's Church, now defunct but then located at 418 H St. NE.
"I called the university in search of the students," Short said. "My big concern was knowing the stigma" of Pentecostalism. "They [the Pentecostal students] needed an adviser and they were under pressure from the university. If they were indeed a bona fide faith group, why didn't their faith offer them support in the form of an adviser?"
Short and his wife of 23 years, Betty, filled this void on Howard's campus, both having resigned from their government jobs in 1969 to devote themselves full time to their joint ministry, he said.
After 10 years of working for no salary, however, Short said he began driving a Metrobus to help support a son in college and another in high school.
His two very different occupations merge in odd ways: passengers sometimes ask him for help with a problem, and he has prayed with passengers on long layovers between trips.
Short recalled his firsthand experience with what he called the stigma attached to Pentecostalism. When he took up the faith, he said, it separated him from his strongly traditional Baptist family.
At 16, Short became a Pentecostal minister, a change that he described as "culture shock." He had to adjust to a new worship form that was "very loud, very rhythmic, very animated and very, very long." There were also a strict dress code and restrictions on civic activity and sports.
His family and the Baptist faith viewed the Pentecostal faith and its phenomena, such as healing by the "laying on of hands" and "speaking in tongues," as "all fake, all rigged and just a rip-off," Short said.
"They were viewed with the same disdain as your Moonies are today -- or maybe more. These people were stereotyped as poor, ignorant, unsophisticated -- the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder," he said. "And my family thought of itself as upwardly mobile, middle class -- better. That kind of thing still persists, by the way."
The Pentecostal movement has gradually taken a more moderate stance on worldly matters and is more open to people of other denominations, Short said.
An active, forward-looking Pentecostal presence at a university of Howard's caliber helps to dispel the anti-intellectual and antieducation image associated with Pentecostal people, Short said.
Wednesday evenings are set aside for fellowship meetings at Seymour House.
At a recent meeting, 11 women and eight men gathered in the living room to sing, pray, read poetry, and share ideas and food.
Short got the debate off to a lively start with a provocative declaration: "I believe a Christian woman should be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove."
A male voice from the back of the room shouted, "We say, 'Yeah.' "
Betty Short, a data control specialist in Howard's office of the vice president for academic affairs, urged the students to think about the impracticality of this attitude in these hard economic times.
During the two-hour discussion the Shorts and the students tackled several issues including friendship and love between the sexes.
"Christian women tend to dissect themselves," Betty Short said. "They ask the Lord for a car, an education and a house. But when it comes down to our sexual lives we leave the Lord out of that. We say, 'We can take care of that ourselves.' But we should submit it to the Lord to find a companion."
Hope McKinley, an 18-year-old nursing student, said it is good for women to be "picky" when choosing a man. "It's like saying, 'Lord, give me a car,' you don't want a lemon, do you?"