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Born in New Lisbon, Columbiana County, Ohio on July 22 1844, Maria was the fourth daughter of Samuel and Matilda Underwood. With no form of religion practiced in her home, she was without the normal influence many people have experienced in their formative years.
At the age of ten, her father joined the Disciple Church, and when he passed away one year later he did so praying for his family. At the age of thirteen she attended a service at the Disciple Church and when she heard the story of Jesus and how he died on the cross for us, she was deeply moved. She however believed she was only saved the next day when she went to be baptized. She asked the Lord to save her fully and when she was going down into the water a shimmering light came over her and she passed out.
People said she had fainted but she knew she was saved. As it was almost unthinkable for a woman to preach in those days, she fought the call of God for many years, until finally yielding to His will. Maria married Mr. Woodworth and had six children. Five of them died in infancy, leaving Maria heart broken. Lizzie was her only surviving daughter.
All the while the call of God was upon her and she kept on making excuses about why she could not go. God gave her many visions of heaven and hell, showing her how multitudes of people were being lost to eternal darkness and torment because no one was telling them the gospel. She still resisted.
Her husband was also against her preaching, but as a good wife should, she submitted and waited on God to change his heart. Her last two barriers were her lack of knowledge of the bible and the fact she felt she needed to baptised in the Holy Ghost with power in order to do the work God was calling her to.
God took care of both of these hindrances in a miraculous way. He showed her a bible in a vision one day and the words seemed to light up when she read them. She later said that she learnt more in that one vision about the Word of God than she could have in years of studying herself. The second hindrance was removed when she asked in faith as little child for the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
She described it as a cloud that came down from heaven and engulfed her, and that there was a liquid fire all round here, and the power of God which cam upon her and never left her for the rest of her life.
When she went into the fields which were white unto harvest, there were signs and wonders which followed immediately and these became the marks of her ministry. Signs and wonders too numerous too mention followed her preaching of the word. It was reported that at some meetings people up to fifty miles away would fall under the power of God and lie on the floor for hours. When they eventually were able to get up they were gloriously saved and often baptised in the Holy Ghost as well.
The results of her ministry are still spoken about today. She was used by God in such a mighty way that hundreds of thousands of souls were saved and millions of lives changed through her ministry and books. Sister Etter was truly a servant of God.