In case some of you don't know, I am and have always been Pentecostal. Pentecostals are the ones that speak in tongues. I believe in speaking in tongues, and in fact do it on occasion. The fancy term for speaking in tongues is glossolalia. It usually refers to speaking in an unknown, or heavenly language through the power of the Holy Spirit. But did you know that is not the only kind of tongue-talking early (and some current) Pentecostals believed in?
There is another kind, called xenolalia, which means speaking in an earthly language one has never personally learned. Experiences with xenolalia have not been well documented in an academically reputable way, so that causes some people to doubt it really ever happens/happened. But here is an excerpt from a book by Roberts Liardon called God's Generals that will give you an example of what I am talking about. This story reputedly took place in the Tabernacle of Indianapolis built by Maria Woodworth-Etter in 1918 while she pastored there:
"One incredible Tabernacle story involved a Romanian family. Their daughter suffered from tuberculosis and two Pentecostal women had come to their house to pray for her. Discovering that their daughter had been healed after the prayer, the family searched for a Pentecostal church and found the Tabernacle. During their first service, a lady who had been miraculously healed from cancer, stood and delivered a message in tongues for twenty-eight minutes. Some wondered why Sister Etter allowed her to continue so freely in the Spirit for such a length of time [because, believe it or not, even tongue-talking Pentecostal churches believe in order!]. But their questions were answered the next Sunday when it was learned that this woman was speaking Romanian, a language she had never heard nor learned.I have also heard stories of early Pentecostal missionaries who would set out for foreign countries without learning the language, expecting that God would speak the language through them as a supernatural sign to the foreigners of His presence with the missionary.
"This little Romanian family heard a message from God in their own language as they sat listening, completely overwhelmed. The father was the only one who could speak English. It has been said that Maria and the Tabernacle members 'learned to expect such experiences as much as some congregations expect to sing the doxology at the end of their services.'"
As far as I know, I have never witnessed xenolalia, though I have witnessed plenty of glossolalia. The biblical reference for xenolalia is in Acts chapter 2, when people were first reported to have spoken in tongues, and people from "all nations" heard the gospel preached in their own languages by local, unlearned disciples in Jerusalem where they had all gathered for a national feast.
I know some traditions believe spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues have ceased. But have you ever witnessed xenolalia...or have you ever witnessed God move in a supernatural way so that no one could deny it was the power of God? I would love to hear of your experiences.
P.S. No, I'm not a snake-handler...I'm not that kind of Pentecostal. ;)