Donna Johnson
Holy Ghost Girl

Your Stories

Read about the faith and family experiences of others.


Sunday, July 22 2012


Friends and I became acquainted with Brother Terrell's ministry in 1973 in Charlotte, NC. I was 17 years old. We went to meetings, purchased cassette tapes, and received his magazine The End Time Messenger. In Atlanta Georgia, he called on me during a service and shared what he said was God's will for my life. He shared with me very personal things about my life that only someone who knew me could possibly have known. I knew it was the Spirit of God speaking through him to me.

My mother had a massive stroke in 1990 at the age of 57. The doctor told us that, if she lived, she'd be a vegetable. He said her brain was blown apart.

I prayed for my mother with prayer cloths we received from Brother Terrell. Although she remained paralyzed on one side of her body and could only say the word "no," her mind was totally restored. Doctors said she was a living miracle. When she died in 1993, I placed one of the prayer cloths in her hand. It was buried with her. When I go to the grave to visit my mother. I take a prayer cloth with me and touch it on top of her gravestone. To me, it gives me peace knowing she has a prayer cloth in her hand.

Reading your book was certainly eye-opening for me. I knew Brother Terrell had been married and divorced. I honestly thought he'd lived a celibate life until he married his second wife. A family member knew his second wife very well, and my understanding is this family member spoke with her on the phone regularly. When Brother Terrell divorced her and married the young lady he's with now, this family member felt Brother Terrell treated his second wife so poorly that she cut off all contact with his ministry. I have very mixed emotions about Brother Terrell now. I still believe the Holy Spirit works through his ministry in some mysterious way . All I can figure is that he's an example of God's love, mercy, and grace working through an imperfect vessel. People are human and gradually get caught up in extremely complex situations. I still love and care about Brother Terrell, and I think we should all continue to lift him up in our prayers.




Tues, July 3 2012

Hi, Donna,

I saw your book at my store (Barnes and Noble), and I was immediately intrigued by the title and cover art, with reckoned back to my early memories of being raised in an "end time, holiness/pentacostal" church. As soon as I saw the picture of the revival tent on the cover, and I was immersed in memories of those days in the early 60's: The smell of the sawdust and kerosene heaters, the roar of the industrial ventilation fans in the summer, the excitement of being part of something special.

I, too, can relate personally to experiencing, (as well as witnessing,) things in those services which can be neither explained nor denied . I have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, spoken in tongues, been slain in the spirit, I have personally witnessed miracles and healings which were in no way faked or set-ups. I will always treasure my holiness beginnings on my spiritual path; I believe it allowed a much closer relationship with my Creator.

I moved away from my holiness roots, and began a 30 year spiritual journey which has led me into the Episcopal communion. The odd thing is, when I finally found the church that I feel is my Home Church, I felt as though I were coming home, not leaving home.

Thank you again for sharing your story with us...It really does help to know that we are not alone in this rather out of the ordinary spiritual journey.




Tues, July 3 2012

Wow…..I can't believe it, I was reading People magazine and came across the article about your book and I absolutely couldn't believe that I saw David Terrell's name. My then husband and I joined a church in 1991 in Alaska and 6 months later the church moved to San Antonio to be closer to Brother Terrell's ministry. I lasted 5 years with the church & decided that I couldn't live my life like a slave which is how my husband interpreted the obey your husband theory, I was 23 when I left to come back home to Oregon….Unfortunately my 2 kids were raised by their father who is still very much involved in it. I went to visit my kids in Caldwell, TX. In Dec. 2010 and of course I was invited to the church in Dime Box & he was there and they showered him with gifts of all sorts I was pretty disgusted at the way he sat there in the pulpit like he was a king, they kept going on with it and asking for more & more money, they would end with a prayer then say oh someone has $100 for Sister Annie & they wouldn't let us leave until they got it, I left the service & went to the parking lot to smoke a cig.…..HUH…. Anyways I'm going to buy your book and enjoy it.




Tues, July 3 2012

Thank you Donna for writing this book. Although, I'm no holy ghost girl, I was a holy ghost boy. I lived about 10 years at that church in Bangs, Texas. My mother joined the "sawdust trail" and shipped us to Bangs when I was young. We lived in Pensacola, Florida till I was about 8 or 9, then moved to Brownwood, then Bangs. I try to forget that place, and go on with my life. That place held a lot of bad memories. When we moved to Bangs, we lived behind the church in "Julia Court", which was owned by the church. I didn't know what a "Terrellite" was when we first moved there. Along with a brother and 2 female cousins, we lived through each day in fear and sorrow. The fear of being exposed as a "Terrellite", fear of "eternal damnation" if we ever did anything against God or the church. Sorrow because we couldn't live like kids.

One of my cousins that lived there also has read your book and warned me of the possible bad memories that may return. I'm glad you wrote it, so to get it out in the open. I told my wife some stories, but I don't think she believes all of them. My cousin and I message each other back and forth on some of the memories that has resurfaced, and it helps. I'm going to let my wife read the book, maybe she will understand.

Thanks again,



Tues, July 3 2012

Ms. Johnson,

Just last night, I finished reading "Holy Ghost Girl" and I wanted to thank you for writing this powerful book. Your story was presented in a way that both saddened and captivated me. Having grown up in rural NE Alabama (Fort Payne), I was overwhelmed with memories from my childhood. My church experience was a mixture of Baptist/Holiness/Holy Roller/Non-denominational/Whatever the preacher wanted to call it. My brother and I were bounced from church to church and were taught that our small group of members were the only ones who "weren't gonna burn in Hell fire." In spite of my adherence to the Holy Roller dress code & standards, from an early age I knew I was different. At eight-years-old, I was saved at a tent revival in Dogtown. The look on my mother's face was pure joy and I felt confident that this was it - I could fit in just like them. But still...I would look across the crowd of church goers and feel all alone. I wanted to something. At age 10, the church tried to help me pray through to the Holy Ghost, but I got nothing. I felt like a failure and a freak.

No matter how obedient I wanted to be - I could never shake my restless spirit. At 16, I ran away from home and found myself in one big MESS. Thankfully, I began to find a part of myself. I got married and became the first person in my family to go to college. I am now the "worldly one" in the family - and many people (my brother and his family, in particular) have disowned me. My own nieces aren't allowed to see me, because they fear I'll be a bad influence with my pants, makeup, curled hair, but most importantly - my independent mind. I'll never forget the night I heard my nieces say, "Mama says you're going to Hell because you wear pants" and "Mama says you don't love Jesus because you put up a Christmas tree." As I watch the girls grow up (from a distance) it pains my heart to see that cycle unbroken. But it also reminds me of how fortunate I am to have made it out of that circus. I have a son who questions everything. As difficult as that can be sometimes, I laugh because I know he's got enough of his Mama in him that he'll always stand out - and won't conform to what others think he should be.

Your book was extremely therapeutic for me. In just the first chapter, I read through tears and considered stopping more than once. A flood of memories overwhelmed me. A part of me didn't want to go back to that place that I've put in the back of my mind and heart. But as I read of your own personal transformation in the conclusion, I felt liberated as well. Church was and will always be a huge part of the person I have become. There are memories that I'll cherish forever - the nights I sat under a tent while people danced and shouted all around me. The friendships that blossomed, my "adopted grandmothers and aunts" many to mention. But I've pushed everything to the back of my heart because I have yet to separate the good with the awful. And the awful left me wondering why my puzzle piece never fit. It's difficult for me to verbalize the emotions this book has unearthed. I feel homesick and liberated at the same time. Regardless, this is an emotional process that I've needed to experience for decades. Reading your story has opened that door for me.

I apologize for my ramblings. I suppose this has been written more for myself than anyone. But the purpose of my email remains the same - to say Thank You. A million times over.




Mon, Jun 18 2012

I received Holy Ghost Girl because of a friend's recommendation. When it came in the mail I could not put it down. Your story evoked a swirl of memories, feelings and emotions upon me. I too had followed David Terrell from 1973 - 1978. My husband and I met and married in one of the blessed areas. We both had left all to follow the prophet. The birth of our first child brought serious concerns about raising our daughter in the environment of money calls instead of altar calls. We left the ministry within a year of her birth.

Thank you for your honest yet compassionate story. Many things remain a mystery, but I have chosen to keep what is good in the path God has given me. I see that you have done the same.

Ector Ward
Author of The Two Sons Diptych



Mon, May 21 2012

I want to thank you for writing this book. I have followed Brother Terrell's ministry since the late 1970's. I was licensed as a minister with his group at one time and I too have seen undeniable miracles in his meetings. I have always had "questions" and "concerns" about various aspects of David Terrell's life; ...especially trying to figure out who he was and is married to and why. I am trying to find out why signs, wonders, and miracles occur when the "vessel of God" is either living in sin or has done some very unethical things. I ran across your book in my research and it helped me to understand and clarify some things. It was exciting to read things in the book that I can identify with. I have personally met many of the people you talk about, Ronald Coyne. I have gone to many of Brother Terrell's meetings and was personally prayed for by him. He is really a likeable guy but kind of mysterious at the same time. When I started reading this book I wanted to read all night long. Donna, you really have a gift of writing. It felt like I was right there as you described the surroundings and your many feelings as you experienced these things. My own children have been confused at times with "religion" so they can relate to many of the things you describe and many of the thoughts you had are common in my own life and in the lives of my children. You did a wonderful job and wrote with conviction, humor, and respect. One again, thank you for writing , "Holy Ghost Girl".

Anthony Lewellen



Sat, May 12, 2012

Oh, my gosh! I was so surprised when I tracked down Donna Johnson's book via her blog. Wow. I was the daughter of a mother who preached as an itinerant evangelist- charismatic, although not Pentecostal. We traveled all over Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas during the early sixties. She continued as fill-in pastor after I left home in a somewhat more stable life. The language, the ideology, the culture was the same as Donna describes - and such a singular experience when cast in the light of mainstream American culture. When I left at age 19 and moved to Chicago, I thought "I know I can go to any party and I'll be the only person with this experience". And, it was true, so I didn't really talk about it for a long time. I became a great listener of other people's life stories.

I am currently writing a book with the charismatic church experience as back story, not the central theme, but certainly a thread as it connects with my mother. Although many of the stories are true, I'm presenting it as fiction since characters have been combined and time collapsed.

This book is such a great find and actually validates my experience, as sometimes it seems like a distant dream and alternate reality as I have walked so many paths since that time.

Well written and so true. The inflections, the rhythm, the music is like nothing else I've encountered since. This book captures the feeling of those church services and the charisma of the leaders, flaws and all. It's a conundrum how some of them, including my mother, had such gifts yet were so flawed personally in many ways.

Someone since told me that sometimes the message is greater than the messenger. Then that begs the question, what was the message for my mother? I think for her, in her truest self, it was about healing. There is that strange mix of altruism, compassion and charisma with a fair amount of narcissism that may or may not be unique to these preachers. What probably is unique in light of the broader culture is the combination of that personality type with the belief they receive direct instruction from God.

It's a phenomenon, I still ponder, although I have moved far away from it to a place of my own peace.

A great and familiar story. Also, a validation that that whole experience was not a dream.

Tonya Burton



Sun, Apr 15 2012

Your memoir was one that I couldn't put down, but did not want to finish. A true sign of a great book. I have some personal experience with the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement and find it all very confusing. I still have faith in God, but cannot decide if men like Terrell, who are so obviously messed up, are used by God in spite of their sin and grievous weaknesses, or are they used by the devil, (yes,I still believe there is such a being) just to make Christians look like a bunch of crazies? Did the miracles last? Or were they some kind of psychological phenomenon that wore off over time? Why would God choose to use men who are so sinful, selfish and unwise, when there are authentically loving, kind, wise men that don't seem to be used much by God at all? I had a born again experience over 30 years ago and now feel more unsure about things than ever.

Finding a church that I feel comfortable in has proven to be almost impossible. Should things really have to be this difficult?

And then, to make matters worse, I discovered that Terrell is still at it! Tent meetings and many trips to Africa. This just made me feel very sad for the people who are thinking he is some great man of God.

Thanks Donna for sharing your story, it meant a lot to me, even if it caused more questions than it answered. My faith will continue to be a journey and a quest for discovering truth, finding peace and trying to please God and not men.

Another confused girl



Mon, Apr 9 2012

No offense to the "Holy Ghost Girl" but I have followed Bro Terrell's ministry for years and I know for a fact that he is a Man of God. Ministers are not perfect and we all make mistakes, but that doesn't change who that man or woman of God is in the Spirit. I know that you had a hard time as a child, but i beg you to forgive and go on.

Pastor Joseph West



Sat, Dec 17 2011

Dear Mrs. Johnson,

I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of your memoir Holy Ghost Girl. I wanted to take a moment and tell you I loved the book. I could barely put it down. While I am skeptical of organized religion, I decided I would read the book, and found your story touching, heartbreaking and inspiring. Thanks for writing this story and sharing your experiences with the world, and me!




Wed, 2 Oct 2011

God, please help me write this, I am so afraid of offending you.

I wish that I could share my experience in the church and growing up as an after thought, the truth is I am very much still tangled up. It’s the worst feeling really, because if I begin to untangle myself I am sure I will fall away. I have always felt unchosen around the chosen. Church is a place where I try to fit in and in doing so my inadequacies are so obvious. I don't speak in tongues or hear from God, see visions or dream dreams, but I go to a church that does. I generally only fast when my jeans are too tight and since God can see through to my vanity i generally fail by dinner time. I really do have good intentions.

 The most recent trouble I got myself into was in my desperation to hear what God had for me I stood in my umpteenth prayer line waiting for the magic words to be spoken over me, something that would give me grace or deliverance or purpose, but instead I got the very opposite. Two women pulled me aside in tears telling me they saw a spirit of death on me. One was crying so hard she had trouble explaining how she could see a noose around my neck and my own hand holding up the rope. This was not at all the encouraging news I was anticipating. I joined in with prayer and tears begging them to pray it off me and was told that it was between me and the Lord and I needed to handle it myself.

Upon my return home I sought the comfort of my husband who lovingly responded to me saying. "Everyone needs to clean house once in a while maybe those girls were looking in your basement". Again not the comfort I was looking for. Why couldn't someone hear me and love me and tell me those girls were full of shit. How long will I let that haunt me? Do I even have a choice?
My question for Donna Johnson during a recent book club meeting was, "What did you do with Jesus?" It was really the only question I thought worth asking. Donna really didn't have a straight-forward answer for me. I thought for sure after reading her book she would be the one to ask. No, not really, she just firmed up for me that we are all on our own personal journey and encouraged me to limp beside her.

Betsy Young



Sat, 9 July 2011

Hello Donna,
I received a galley of Holy Ghost Girl along with several other Christian books recently. I haven't read a "Christian" book for over five years but the cover and the title of your book called to me. Finally, I flipped it open, and I didn't put it down until I was done. I haven't been able to think about much else since finishing it.

You brought back all my childhood memories--they hit me in the face with such force I could hardly breathe. And all my questions...all those things I refuse to let myself ask...they came bubbling to the surface. How silly it was of me to think I was the only one with those childhood experiences...the only one with those questions.

I was born in 1971, three years after my father and mother were filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized in someone's indoor swimming pool. My early years were spent doing the Charismatic shuffle...and praying to God that I would not renounce him when the Communists came...when the choice was either 666 or beheading. I had a world map by my bed and I would go to sleep afraid every night...because the parts that were yellow (Communist) were so big...and so close to the USA (Cuba).

At the academy I attended, I joined with the other kids after our mock classroom election, to beat up the little boy who said he voted for Carter instead of Reagan. Everyone knew that Carter would close down Christian schools and take away our freedom. Church friends bought caves and stored up food. We had army rations in the basement "just in case".'ll never believe this one ;) friend and I filled Coke bottles with dirty water and tried to get the neighbor kids to drink it.

I grew up in the church...married in the church...became a youth pastor...and then one day on the way to church I burst in to tears. My husband asked me why and I sobbed, "I just don't want to go." He didn't either. We just stopped. It's been glorious. For the last five years I've been trying to decipher the "truth" from the "ick"...and it's like picking dimes out of a pile of shattered glass. I felt like I had to give it all up to be able to revisit it afresh and see it without the emotional baggage. I'm still not really there. But your book gave me the gumption to go at it again. And it was such a huge comfort to know that I'm not alone.

Thank you so much for not giving a pat answer at the end...although I was waiting breathlessly for that very thing! And if you have one...uh...please share!

Another Holy Ghost Girl





Back to top