Related story: Global religious figure is little-known at home.
T.L. Osborn's eyes light up and he becomes animated when he's talking about his favorite subject: helping people.
"That's what keeps me going," said Osborn, the Tulsa-based missionary-evangelist who is a major figure in global Christianity.
For the past 61 years, Osborn has been holding huge outdoor healing services that often draw several hundred thousand people to open fields in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe.
He pioneered that form of reaching masses of people with the message of Christ, a method which has since been duplicated by others.
But Osborn's first missionary effort ended in failure.
In a rare interview, Osborn sat down this week with the Tulsa World to talk about his life and ministry.
He was born near Chickasha, the 12th of 13 children.
"I was raised on a farm; that was all I knew," he said.
When he was about 13 years old, an older brother took him to a small church in Mannford, where he says he committed his life to Christ.
When he was 15, he had an unusual experience near his house that set him on the path to ministry.
"I was going into the woods to get the milk cows, and I was crying," he said.
"I didn't know why I was crying. I knelt down by a great big sandstone boulder and I asked the Lord, 'Why am I crying? I don't know why.' "
"I heard: 'Would you cry if you thought you might someday be a preacher?'
"I laughed. I looked like an idiot out there, laughing and crying. That was the first time I ever considered it."
Later that year, an evangelist asked him to travel with him, to help reach young people.
Faith and frustration
He dropped out of school after the eighth grade, and for the next 2 1/2 years traveled with the evangelist, preaching Friday night youth services.
His travels took him to California, where he met Daisy, the love of his life. They married a year later, when he was 18. She was a violinist and clarinetist.
"She filled my life," he said.
For several years, they ministered together in churches on the West Coast, and pastored.
In their early 20s, they decided to become missionaries to India.
"In India, we had a very difficult time," Osborn said.
"The Hindus and the Muslims were very nice to us. They must have looked at us as a nice young couple.
"Nobody is as open as the Indians are. They want to know about God. They want to philosophize about God. They said, 'Prove to us that the Bible is right.' "
"I couldn't prove that the Bible was right. That was when we made the decision to go home," he said.
Frustrated by their failure, embarrassed and disappointed, they returned to the United States.
"Our dilemma was, we hadn't been able to prove the message of Christ. We felt like we needed miracles," he said.
Back in California, they sought out people who were experiencing miracles in their ministries, but every attempt to meet them was frustrated.
Then Osborn had another experience that changed his life.
He went to hear a woman preacher, Hattie Hammond, preach on the subject, "If you ever see Jesus, you'll never be the same again."
"The next morning, Jesus Christ walked into my bedroom," Osborn said. "He didn't walk on the floor, he walked on a cloud, his eyes seemed to burn with fire, but not like hate fire, but loving fire. It was awesome — I was happy, I was frightened, I was changed. I laid on the floor for eight hours, unable to get up. It was life-changing. I can't explain it."
Then Osborn went to a healing service.
"We saw miracles before our eyes," he said.
"We went home, got out the Bible, read all the promises, and it dawned on us, these disciples are dead, but we're not, so he's talking to us.
"We were spellbound. It seemed like everything was so biblical. A voice was talking to me: 'You can do that. You're one of his disciples.' "
The Osborns decided to set aside everything they had been taught and make a fresh decision to do what the Bible says to do.
They held a healing service and invited the sick.
"The church was full," Osborn said. "God knows idiots when he sees them, but he was good to me. Everything we touched was healed.
"One woman, 14 years before, had been in a terrible automobile crash. The right side of her hip was crushed. It hadn't been set right, and as it healed, it had drawn up and twisted. Her right foot was about 8 inches off the floor. Here she came. Her bones cracked, we heard them. Then her foot went down to reach the floor and everything was normal. She was crying and walking up and down the aisle."
Word of that meeting spread. The Osborns were invited to Jamaica, where they saw similar healings, he said, and then to Cuba, where the newspapers wrote full-page articles about the services.
That was the beginning of a ministry that took them to nearly 100 nations over the next six decades.
Sorrow and joy
In 1995, Daisy Osborn died, forcing T.L. Osborn to go on without his co-minister and companion of 54 years who did all of the advance work for the meetings.
Within a year, Osborn had transitioned to ministry without Daisy.
"I never remarried," he said. "I never wanted anyone else."
His greatest joy, he said, is helping people.
"I just think people are wonderful. We have such creative power in us, if we would just realize it.
"I believe people need to know certain things about God. He's not mean. God is not mad at anyone here. He loves us."
In a rare Tulsa appearance, Osborn will speak next week at the International Gospel Center, a local church associated with Osborn Ministries, International.
The ministry is run by Osborn's daughter, Bishop LaDonna Osborn. It includes mass evangelism meetings, leadership training seminars, Bible courses, book and audio-visual production and distribution, a fellowship of 700 churches and the Women's International Network.
Who: Missionary-Evangelist T.L. Osborn
When: 10:30 a.m. May 17
Where: International Gospel Center, 555 S. Memorial Drive
Bill Sherman 581-8398
firstname.lastname@example.org SUBHEAD: Evangelist returned from India with something to prove DECADES: OF DEDICATION