Our next documentary, The Gates of Whiteclay, depicts God’s intervention in a small town nestled up against the sprawling Lakota Sioux reservation at Pine Ridge. Notorious for selling over 11,000 cans of fortified malt liquor a day to bootleggers and emotionally-broken Natives, the New York Times dubbed it “the Skid Row of the Plains.”
The Times can have their headline, but my own takeaway from eight visits to the area in recent years is decidedly different. God is at work in this place! I have honestly lost count of the myriad redemptive testimonies that have graced my ears during field research and filming. I just know that hearing about the loving deeds of our Heavenly Father has been a sheer delight — something I will never tire of.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your
wondrous works, I will meditate. (Psalm 145:5 ESV)
Many people know about the poverty, alcoholism, and suicide in places like Pine Ridge and Whiteclay. They may even have heard stories of human trafficking, domestic violence, and dark shamanic rituals. That these things exist as a clear and present danger is beyond dispute.
But is this all we know? Is this where we leave the conversation?
Having read countless articles about Pine Ridge in the course of my research for The Gates of Whiteclay, it was the rare author who made his way past the area’s chronic misery and hopelessness. When it came to reporting even a sliver of good news, few could find it… and most didn’t even bother to look.
It is curious behavior that calls to mind the experience of Elisha’s servant at Dothan (2 Kings 6:8-18). When this young man noted with dismay that ruthless Syrian troops had surrounded his city, Elisha responded by asking God to “open his eyes so he may see” (verse 17). This was not out of a concern for the young man’s natural vision. What he claimed to see was really there. The problem lay with what his servant did not see.
When the blinders were removed from his spiritual eyes, Elisha’s servant discovered the Syrian army was itself besieged by a fiery angelic host. Armed with this new perspective he was able to reach a very different conclusion about his prospects.
It is easy to conclude that Pine Ridge, like Dothan, has no discernable way out of its predicament. This is the view of an overwhelming percentage of the reservation’s inhabitants and neighbors. Sadly, it is also a prevailing attitude among local Christians.
I have witnessed this in scores of pre-transformed communities over the years. Christian stakeholders become hyper-aware of longstanding obstacles, and, in the process, lose sight of a far more consequential reality — namely the promises, power, and presence of the Living God.
Evidence of this unperceived reality is present in both Pine Ridge and Whiteclay — and it is as supernatural as the fiery hosts witnessed by Elisha’s servant.
There will always be a handful of individuals who see the works of God before they are fully manifest to others. This has nothing to do with the luck of the draw, but is rather the consequence of earnest tears and importunate prayer. They assume this posture because they are already convinced of God’s willingness and ability to come in delivering power. They remain in this posture until there is evidence this readiness has transitioned into action — a moment intercessors sometimes call the assurance. At the beginning of their petitioning, all things were possible. Now they have become a certainty.
In recent months, a small band of Pine Ridge Natives has been stepping out in this bold confidence. God is present! And he is telling them exactly what he wants them to do.
Not surprisingly, this divine partnership has focused on notable areas of concern for the Lakota people — a list that includes substance abuse, witchcraft, and youth traumas.
Drugs have been a growing scourge aided by organized gangs and corrupt tribal officials. While desperate parents, concerned social workers, and stretched law enforcement want to get on top of the problem, many feel overwhelmed.
Believing that God was ready to step into the breach, two Native women leaned into him for instructions. The assignment was simple and direct: They were to make a list of the top fifteen known drug dealers on the reservation.
Armed with their list, the women then made their way to each house and trailer that was pumping Meth and other poisons into communities like Oglala, Manderson, Porcupine, and Northridge. Standing in the first driveway, one of the women asked God how he wanted her to pray. His reply was instant: “Command the works of the enemy to be destroyed.”
“Then,” she told me, “I commanded the works of the enemy to be destroyed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.”
For the next forty days, the ladies prayerwalked each location before punctuating their efforts with a late night prayer session. Though few in number, they were opening the very gates of heaven.
Within days, fourteen of the fifteen names on the target list were in jail. The women were jubilant, but they were also confident God intended to complete the task.
A few nights later, the women were out near the last drug runner’s house to retrieve a car — and to pray. The dealer, an ethnic Mexican, was big trouble. Cautiously walking up to his driveway in near-total darkness, the women were startled when floodlights kicked on around them and men dressed in blue jumpsuits and carrying semi-automatic weapons suddenly appeared.
The men asked the ladies to identify themselves and explain their business at the drug house. Given the hour and location, their presence was understandably suspicious.
However, at precisely that moment, additional blue-clad men emerged from the drug house with a heavily-shackled Hispanic man. The ladies recognized him as the notorious narcotics dealer Monito. Suddenly, it clicked. The armed men were not there for the intercessors, but because of them. While the women were quietly praying in the darkness, a drug task force was busy arresting the fifteenth, and last, drug dealer on their target list.
On another occasion, one of these same women was asked by a Christian neighbor to join her in prayer for the drug-ridden community of Northridge. Of specific concern was a dealer who had recently set up shop in a trailer house down the street — an area where lots of young children played.
As before, the women waited upon the Lord for instructions as to how they should proceed. It was not long before they sensed a clear leading to walk down to the trailer house. Then, as they stood silent and yielded in the driveway, the Lord once again commanded them, “Destroy the works of the enemy.”
Responding in confident obedience, they called upon the power of the Holy Spirit to rid the neighborhood of this grave danger. And that was it.
A few days later, one of the women was returning home from classes when she heard her neighbor call out to her.
“Come over here, Norma. I want to show you something.”
As they walked toward a group of kids at play, the woman said, “You know that trailer house we have been asking God to remove? Well, guess what. It burned down today! Just look at it! There’s nothing left but the frame.”
Around this same time, George Dreamer, the adult son of one of the prayer warriors, was driving his mother to an appointment in Denver. As they approached the southern boundary of the reservation, he made a sudden, unannounced detour off Route 87 near Whiteclay. Glancing over at his surprised mom, he said: “I’m gonna show you where the biggest drug dealer lives.”
Driving about a half mile down a dirt road, he pulled up at the perimeter of a sprawling salvage yard. At the center of the property, easily visible from the road, stood a corrugated steel building and two adjacent trailer houses.
“Those buildings right there,” George said, “are the front for the drug dealer. That’s where they weigh the drugs before loading them into kid’s backpacks so they can go sell them at school.”
His mother, Norma Blacksmith, was having none of that. As an Oglala Sioux elder and frontline intercessor, she had witnessed more than her share of death and heartbreak. And she was angry.
“Stop the car!” she barked.
“What are you going to do?” George asked with a measure of concern.
“I’m going to pray!”
Suddenly the air was filled with the same passion that had proved so effective in removing the other drug distributors: “God, destroy the works of the enemy!”
If Norma’s time in Denver was routine, the same could not be said of the days following her return to Pine Ridge. And it all began with a phone call from her son George.
“Mom,” he said with a tone of amazement, “I want to show you something.”
After loading Norma into the cab of his red pickup, the two of them drove back out to the salvage yard. As they pulled up to the spot where just a few days prior Norma had asked God to move in power, the scene looked like a war zone. The buildings that had served as the Meth Lord’s operations center were simply gone – crushed into scraps of tarpaper, wood, and twisted balls of metal.
Something extraordinarily powerful had happened here. It was jaw-dropping.
George said, “Mom, you’re not going to believe this, but right after you prayed, a tornado set down on these buildings and flattened them to smithereens. It didn’t touch any of the surrounding properties. And, Mom,” he said, “tornadoes don’t come in November!”
As breathtaking as it is to see a drug dealer’s property wiped off the map by a tornado driven by divine GPS, Native intercessors report this kind of supernatural display has been on the rise. In addition to targeting ruthless poison pushers, God has also taken aim at those who would harm innocents through witchcraft, religious sexual abuse, and the facilitation of self-mutilating rituals.
In the Fall of 2021, a team of six prayer warriors decided to take a stand against the spiritual darkness plaguing the community. Despite the Lakota’s tenacious adherence to traditional spirituality, violence and youth suicide were getting worse. Medicine men feigned concern, but many were compromised.
In some cases, competition for followers led these self-appointed “holy men” to prey upon the grief-stricken families of suicide victims by claiming a psychic connection with the deceased. Others attempted to lure larger crowds to their Sun Dance events by purveying cannabis and peyote.
There were also financial entanglements with drug dealers, with some even consuming narcotics themselves. The more unscrupulous placed curses — with very real consequences — on individuals they perceived to be challenging their craft or reputation.
God, however, was not intimidated.
As the intercessors made their way out to various ritual sites on the reservation and in the nearby Black Hills, the Lord instructed them how to pray. Touching nothing but the heart of their Heavenly Father, they got down to business.
The last stop for the team was a ritual site situated on a volcanic mountain the Lakota call Mato Paha, or Bear Butte. Long known as a place of power, Native traditionalists journey there both to hear from the spirits (through vision quests and Yuwipi ceremonies) and to covenant with them (in sweat lodges).
Unaware of this, many non-Native visitors report having disturbing experiences on the Butte. One man climbed halfway to the top before turning back because the mountain felt hostile to him. It is certainly no place for the unprepared.
The 2021 prayer team, however, was ready for the ascent. After several days of prayer and fasting, they set off in a spirit of worship.
A forty-minute hike brought them to a clearing where they could see a sweat lodge nestled among pines bedecked with colored prayer cloths and tiny bundles of tobacco. Lifting their hands to the heavens, they called upon the Lord to manifest his authority.
Two days later, a precision lightning strike obliterated that shamanic high place. Within a week, the medicine man who erected the lodge was dead.
Although the prayer team did not request or wish for anyone’s demise — nor was it ever God’s desire (see 1 Timothy 2:4-5 & 2 Peter 3:9) — the Almighty will not sit idly by when so-called holy men deny his sacrifice and exploit his precious children through fabricated stories (see 2 Peter 2:3).
It is hardly surprising then to hear reports that God has left his calling card at various Sun Dance sites across the reservation.
Of all Lakota religious rituals, the Sun Dance is arguably the most important, and is certainly the most public. Those who participate in the four- to eight-day ceremony — typically held in the late spring or summer — do so for a variety of reasons. Most, however, are there to covenant with the powers of the unseen realm.
The entire process begins with the selection and felling of a large cottonwood tree that will serve as the all-important center pole of the Sun Dance. Selected trees are typically 40 to 50 feet tall and about 30 inches at the base – sometimes larger. It takes many men to carry the trunk to the ceremonial site after it has been stripped of its branches.
Upon reaching its destination, the tree is dropped into a deep hole and connected to forked rafters to give it enough stability to withstand the weight and energy of dozens of tethered dancers. As one Native medicine man explains, this is the nexus of power.
It is you who will join us to all the powers of the universe. The power will be placed
on you. The medicine fathers will be there on the center tree, and the Sundancers
will place their hands on you and say their prayers.
After several days of fasting, the male dancers lie on their backs as shamans pierce the skin on their chests and insert small bones attached to a braided leather cord that extends from the center pole. Then, for hours on end, the dancers move in and out from the center pole to the sounds of drums and chanted songs. Many go into a trance where they see visions or take spirit walks.
Many tribes, including the Lakota, burn smudge pots of sage to conjure spirits and help the dancers. Colored flags and tobacco bundles are tied to the tops of willow switches that form the perimeter of the Sun Dance circle. These are offerings to the 405 spirits they believe interact with humans.
Eventually, as twilight approaches, the dancers lean back on their tethers until the bone fasteners are torn out. The bloody, lacerated flesh is then cut off and offered to the sun.
One eminent anthropologist who conducted extensive research among the Plains Indians in the early twentieth century reported being told, “All who take this ceremony die in a few years, because it is equivalent to giving one’s self to the sun. Hence, the sun takes them for its own.”
The proliferation of these Pine Ridge Sun Dances in recent years — my own informants put the number as high as 100 — is cause for concern. While proponents argue the ceremony is simply an occasion to honor the spirits and ask for their protection and provision, the reservation’s deepening addiction, suicides, and impoverishment suggests the return for the dancer’s torn flesh and scars has not been as advertised.
Native prayer warriors felt they had no choice but to take this crisis to the Lord. Weeping and prostrating themselves before him, they waited for instructions. This was a serious challenge, and they didn’t dare to act presumptuously. God would have to go before them in supernatural power.
Finally, upon receiving an assurance their prayers had been heard, they ventured out to declare the word of the Lord at Sun Dance grounds in each of the reservation’s nine districts. Taking their stand, the group felt locked-in with God. “The enemy can’t interrupt anything,” one woman explained, “because God is talking to me. And whatever He’s telling me is not a lie.”
Though many smaller dance sites are limited to a few dozen participants, some, such as the well-known Thunder Valley, can attract five hundred or more. Because the forces behind this latter event are particularly dark, this was where God made his statement.
As the intercessors gathered at the site, they were joined by a humble man from Papua New Guinea who had witnessed God’s supernatural deeds on numerous occasions. An experienced transformation catalyst, he knew how to pray in situations like these.
And what a prayer! Fueled by a sense of God’s deep displeasure with that place, the group asked him to strike the very heart of its deceptive power.
What happened next would send chills up their spines. Shortly after leaving the site, they learned that a powerful windblast had uprooted the sacred center pole and tossed it aside like a matchstick!
For traditionalists, this was deeply significant as it is forbidden for the center pole to touch the ground. Shocked at what had happened, even the medicine men were forced to acknowledge the Creator was unhappy.
“That’s how powerful He is!” Norma Blacksmith told me with the giddiness of a school girl.
But the story was not over. Across the reservation, several other Sun Dance sites began to close for reasons ranging from landowners pulling permission to the deaths of spiritual organizers. Another longstanding site at Red Shirt Table was badly vandalized, including the total destruction of three sweat lodges. To this day, no motives or perpetrators have been identified.
Of course, not all of God’s interventions involve uprooting and pulling down. He is a creator, and as such, is continuously looking to design, build, heal, and deliver. It is the essence of who he is.
Having spent a good deal of time on Pine Ridge in recent years, I have encountered this side of God’s résumé many times. This has included interviewing both eyewitnesses and direct beneficiaries of supernatural healings, resuscitations, deliverances, and other miracles. The evidence is plentiful.
However, I have also found that such things can be difficult to convey — not only because so few people have encountered them, but also because (in this case at least) of the sheer volume of these stories. Job calls them “marvelous things without number” (5:9 ESV), while David, who wants to talk of them, laments “they are more than can be told” (Psalm 40:5 ESV).
So I have decided to conclude my storytelling with a lovely account of God’s intervention on behalf of a young Native girl facing a life-threatening crisis. I offer it not only because it is beautiful in its own right, but because it serves as a fitting representation of the kinds of things Jesus has been doing on Pine Ridge.
It all started innocently enough.
Eleven-year-old Annetta Littlebear and close friend Charlotte Thunder Horse, looking to add a little excitement to a typical lazy day on the Rez, had decided to navigate a bike into the rough and wooded terrain near Wounded Knee. It was quite the picture: Two girls, one bike, no shoes.
Charlotte was doing the pedaling while Annetta, snug at her back, dangled her legs on either side of the rear wheel. The carefree girls screamed and giggled as their bike bounced along the makeshift trail. It was sheer bliss.
Then, in a killjoy moment, an unexpected bump caused Annetta’s right foot to become entangled with the wheel spokes. A second later, her screaming lost its lighthearted tone.
As the bike jolted to a stop it was immediately evident Annetta had a problem. Her foot had been skewered by one of the mangled spokes that had broken off. Blood was everywhere.
Charlotte ran off to get help.
“I was home when one of the kids came running in,” Annetta’s mother told me. “Charlotte was out of breath and trying to explain what had happened.”
Hearing the commotion, Annetta’s dad and brother Michael sprinted out the door. When they arrived on the scene, they found the spoke had not only punctured her foot, but had become attached inside. She was one with the bike.
When Michael finally managed to remove the spoke, Annetta’s father scooped her up in his arms and brought her home. Belnita Littlebear, Annetta’s mom, didn’t like what she saw. “It was really a deep, deep gouge. So I took her to the tribal hospital.”
After bandaging her wound and providing crutches, the hospital released a very tired Annetta back to the custody of her mother. For the next week, Belnita kept vigil over her daughter and changed her dressing. As the days passed, however, Annetta’s recovery seemed to have stalled.
By the weekend, Belnita was tight on money but needed to get out to find some food. Someone, possibly a neighbor, told her a group of Christian women were providing food, clothing, and health care just eight miles up the road in the town of Porcupine. Liking the sound of this, she left Annetta in the care of family members and headed north.
In her interaction with the team, Belnita mentioned Annetta’s accident and worried aloud that she did not seem to be improving. Group leader Lisa Nelson, a big-hearted woman who for fifteen years had been making the 12-hour journey out from her home in Illinois every few weeks, offered a suggestion: “Bring her to the service tonight and we’ll pray.
But prayer was not the only benefit the group had to offer. Robin Rose, a trained oncology nurse at Northwestern University who frequently volunteered on missions to Pine Ridge, agreed to assess Annetta.
“When I saw the wound, it was pretty significant. So I cleaned and dressed it, and told Annetta’s mother where I’d be for the next few days. I was also praying against infection because the wound was wide open.”
At one of the evening services, Belnita led Annetta into the building on crutches. Walking over to Lisa and Robin, she informed them her daughter was struggling.
“I could see that she was pale and lethargic,” Robin told me during a late 2019 interview, but I kept getting pulled away by other duties and wasn’t able to get back to her until the worship started.” By then, however, the fever had spiked.
By then, however, the fever had spiked, and Robin was seriously concerned. Annetta was manifesting all the symptoms of sepsis. If allowed to go unchecked, there was a real risk of major organ failure and even death (septic shock). “So I gathered her in my arms and carried her up to the altar.”
After the ladies prayed and sang over Annetta, she went out. The only question in Robin’s mind was, “Is this Holy Spirit, or is it sepsis?”
She did not have to wonder long.
Keeping an eagle eye on Annetta’s breathing, Robin noticed something was changing. Though the young patient remained unconscious, her color was returning.
“I went to this most beautiful place,” Annetta later recalled. “There was a playground with kids all around. I wanted to stay there, but the people told me it wasn’t my time yet.”
Suddenly coming to, Annetta sat bolt upright. The blissful playground delights gave way to a surrounding chorus of prayer. It wasn’t heaven — and yet, there was a connectedness, a sense of compassionate presence and unfolding miracle.
“My foot was uncovered and there was skin growing over the wound,” Annetta recounted with wonder undiminished by time. “It was healing before my own eyes. I never seen nothing like that in my life!”
Belnita was slack-jawed. “I seen that skin growing back over the deepest part of the cut,” she gushed. “I looked at everybody like, ‘Is this really happening?’”
Robin, with her trained nurse’s eye, found it amazing that the skin grew according to a natural pattern — but in fast forward.
“It began with the subcutaneous tissue, the fatty tissue, appearing like little starbursts — chu, chu, chu! Then, in quick succession, came what we call granulated tissue. It’s a very bloody, pink layer if it is getting good circulation. That’s a sign of healing, and we look for it when we change dressings. Last, we watched as a thin layer of outer skin, the epidermis, formed. It appeared kind of shiny. “I’ve seen healings, Robin added, “but never anything like that!
When the process was completed, Belnita looked at her daughter and asked, “Did that hurt? And she just said, ‘No, mom. It was tickling me!’”
When Belnita got home that night, she had Annetta lift up her foot so her unsaved husband could see it. “Look at this!” she said. “Look what the Lord did!”
Stunned at the sight of his daughter’s foot, whole and without even the hint of a scar, he began to weep. It was one of those moments when the heart wants to speak, but the lips refuse to cooperate.
Eventually, surprised and overwhelmed by true majesty, he blurted out the truest thing he had ever spoken: “He’s real! He’s real!”
Ask Annetta about that day and she will tell you the events quickly became a community discussion topic. Genuine miracles will do that. “It’s the best feeling to have someone love you unconditionally,” she says with an ear-to-ear smile. “And its so amazing what He can do!”
I have taken the time to send you this account of God’s recent activity on Pine Ridge for two reasons. First, that you might be encouraged and edified by the Father’s wonderful works, and secondly, to ask you to help me spread this news to others so they might be similarly blessed and enlightened.
As I have often said, If God is shorn of his fullness, our audiences may be informed but they will never be awestruck (see Psalm 145:3-6). Techniques and shortcuts are a poor substitute for divine wonders.
So while a lengthy report, such as this one, may fall victim to the delete key, I have elected to accept the risk. If you are still reading these words it is likely because your heart has been captured by expressions of divine power that you were previously unaware of. And if this has happened, I am sure it has caused you to love him more.
Imagine the hope these stories can inspire in other towns and reservations beset by similar brokenness. I want to see this!
So, again, I am going to humbly ask you to consider sowing into the completion of The Gates of Whiteclay video. The first installment of this two-part presentation is due for release between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Part two is set to follow in America’s late spring or early summer of 2023.
A supportive foundation has generously offered to match all donations up to $40,000. This is a big deal and could provide everything we need to complete this wonderful story — on schedule!
One thing I have learned over a quarter century of documenting revival is that God loves it when we proclaim his exploits.
With deep gratitude for your love, constancy, and prayers.
George Otis, Jr.
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I edited 20 issues of the Renewal Journal, beginning from 1993. I am grateful for all the contributors to the Renewal Journal. They identified and created cutting edge issues in this momentous decade into the 21st century, now updated in 2nd editions. Renewal Journals, 2nd edition (2012) are now available in print – see Amazon and The Book Depository. They are available in four bound volumes
The Renewal Journal is ecumenical and interdenominational in its scope both for writers and readers. Renewal and revival transcend our divisions and transform our relationships. I am grateful. The 21st century continues to see the spread of powerful, current revival and renewal movements worldwide.
Most of the articles in this issue were presented and discussed at a ‘Contemporary Issues in Ministry’ conference held at the School of Ministries of Christian Heritage College in Brisbane, Australia. Their titles indicate their content. They invite and challenge us to die to the old and rise to the new.
Death is painful, especially where love is deep and strong. The longer we live, the more we have to live with the pain of that loss of loved ones (parents, spouse, relatives, friends) and the loss of loved things (possessions, activities, vocations) until ultimately our own death transforms us and unites us in perfect love.
Meanwhile, if we choose to die to self-centred living, we can live in resurrection life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Gal 2:20).
George Otis Jr presents vivid stories of the transformation of cities and regions in the two videos Transformations 1 and 2. This article about some of those cities is from Chapter 1 of his book Informed Intercession.
For some time now, we have been hearing reports of large-scale conversions in places like China, Argentina and Nepal. In many instances, these conversions have been attended by widespread healings, dreams and deliverances. Confronted with these demonstrations of divine power and concern, thousands of men and women have elected to embrace the truth of the gospel. In a growing number of towns and cities, God’s house is suddenly the place to be.
In some communities throughout the world, this rapid church growth has also led to dramatic sociopolitical transformation. Depressed economies, high crime rates and corrupt political structures are being replaced by institutional integrity, safe streets and financial prosperity. Impressed by the handiwork of the Holy Spirit, secular news agencies have begun to trumpet these stories in front-page articles and on prime-time newscasts.
If these transformed communities are not yet common, they are certainly growing in number. At least a dozen case studies have been documented in recent years, and it is likely that others have gone unreported. Of those on file, most are located in Africa and the Americas. The size of these changed communities ranges from about 15,000 inhabitants to nearly 2 million.
Given the extent of these extraordinary stories I have limited my reporting to select highlights. Despite their brevity, these abridged accounts nevertheless offer glorious “snapshots” of the Holy Spirit at work in our day. Readers interested in more details can find them in books like Commitment to Conquer (Bob Beekett, Chosen Books, 1997), The Twilight Labyrnth (George Otis, Jr., Chosen Books, 1997) and Praying witb Power (C. Peter Wagner, Regal Books, 1997).
Miracle in Mizoram
One of the earliest and largest transformed communities of the twentieth century is found in Mizoram, a mountainous state in northeastern India. The region’s name translates as “The Land of the Highlanders.” It is an apt description as a majority of the local inhabitants, known as Mizos, live in villages surrounded by timbered mountains and scenic gorges.
The flora is not entirely alpine, however, and it is not uncommon to see hills covered with bamboo, wild bananas and orchids. The Mizos are hearty agriculturists who manage to grow ample crops of rice, corn, tapioca, ginger, mustard, sugar cane, sesame and potatoes.
But it is not farming prowess that sets Mizoram’s 750,000 citizens apart. Nor, for that matter, is it their Mongol stock. Rather it is the astonishing size of the national church, estimated to be between 80 and 95 percent of the current population. This achievement is all the more remarkable in view of the fact that Mizoram is sandwiched precariously between Islamic Bangladesh to the west, Buddhist Myanmar to the east and south, and the Hindu states of Assam, Manipur and Tripura to the north.
Before the arrival of Christian missionaries in the late nineteenth century, local tribes believed in a spirit called Pathan. They also liked to remove the heads of their enemies. But in just four generations Mizoram has gone from being a fierce head-hunting society to a model community – and quite possibly the most thoroughly Christian place of comparable size on earth. Certainly in India there is no other city or state that could lay claim to having no homeless people, no beggars, no starvation and 100 percent literacy.
The churches of Mizoram currently send 1,000 missionaries to surrounding regions of India and elsewhere throughout the world. Funds for this mission outreach are generated primarily through the sale of rice and firewood donated by the believers. Every time a Mizo woman cooks rice, she places a handful in a special ‘missionary bowl.’ This rice is then taken to the local church, where it is collected and sold at the market.
Even the non-Christian media of India have recognized Christianity as the source of Mizoram’s dramatic social transformation. In 1994 Mizoram celebrated its one-hundredth year of contact with Christianity, which began with the arrival of two missionaries, William Frederick Savage and J. H. Lorraine. On the occasion of this centennial celebration, The Telegraph of Calcutta (February 4, 1994) declared:
Christianity’s most reaching influence was the spread of education … Christianity gave the religious a written language and left a mark on art, music, poetry, and literature. A missionary was also responsible for the abolition of traditional slavery. It would not be too much to say that Christianity was the harbinger of modernity to a Mizo society.
A less quantifiable but no less palpable testimony to the Christian transformation of Mizorarn is the transparent joy and warmth of the Mizo people. Visitors cannot fail to observe “the laughing eyes mid smiling faces,” in the words of one reporter, on the faces of the children and other residents of Mizoram. And nowhere is this spirit of divine joy more evident than in the churches, where the Mizo’s traditional love of music and dance has been incorporated into worship. The generosity of the people is also seen in their communal efforts to rebuild neighbours’ bamboo huts destroyed by the annual monsoons.
Eighty percent of the population of Mizorarn attends church at least once a week. Congregations are so plentiful in Mizoram that, from one vantage point in the city of Izol, it is possible to count 37 churches. Most fellowships have three services on Sunday and another on Wednesday evening (1).
The state of Mizoram is governed by a 40-member assembly that convenes in the capital of Aizawl. Although there are different political parties, all of them agree on the ethical demands of political office in Mizorwn. Specifically, all candidates must be:
persons with a good reputation
diligent and honest
clean and uncorrupt
morally and sexually unblemished
loyal to the law of the land
fervent workers for the welfare of the people
loyal to their own church
How many of our political leaders could pass this test? For that matter, how many of our religious leaders could pass?
In the mid-1970s, the town of Almolonga was typical of many Mayan highland communities: idolatrous, inebriated and economically depressed. Burdened by fear and poverty, the people sought support in alcohol and a local idol named Maximon. Determined to fight back, a group of local intercessors got busy, crying out to God during evening prayer vigils. As a consequence of their partnership with the Holy Spirit, Almolonga, like Mizoram, has become one of the most thoroughly transformed communities in the world. Fully 90 percent of the town’s citizens now consider themselves to be evangelical Christians. As they have repudiated ancient pacts with Mayan and syncretistic gods, their economy has begun to blossom. Churches are now the dominant feature of Almolonga’s landscape and many public establishments boast of the town’s new allegiance.
Almolonga is located in a volcanic valley about 15 minutes is west of the provincial capital of Quetzaltenango (Xela). The town meanders for several kilometres along the main road to the Pacific coast. Tidy agricultural fields extend up the hillsides behind plaster and cement block buildings painted in vivid turquoise, mustard and burnt red. Most have corrugated tin roofs, although a few, waiting for a second story, sprout bare rebar. The town’s brightly garbed citizens share the narrow streets with burros, piglets and more than a few stray dogs.
Although many Christian visitors comment on Almolonga’s “clean” spiritual atmosphere, this is a relatively recent development. “Just twenty years ago,” reports Guatemala City pastor Harold Caballeros, “the town suffered from poverty, violence and ignorance. In the mornings you would encounter many men just lying on the streets, totally drunk from the night before. And of course this drinking brought along other serious problems like domestic violence and poverty. It was a vicious cycle.”
Donato Santiago, the town’s aging chief of police, told me during an October 1998 interview that he and a dozen deputies patrolled the streets regularly because of escalating violence. “People were always fighting,” he said. “We never had any rest.” The town, despite its small population, had to build four jails to contain the worst offenders. “They were always full,” Santiago remembers. “We often had to bus overflow prisoners to Quetzaltenango.” There was disrespect toward women and neglect of the family. Dr. Mell Winger, who has also visited Almolonga on several occasions, talked to children who said their fathers would go out drinking for weeks at a time. “I talked to one woman,” Winger recalls, “whose husband would explode if he didn’t like the meal. She would often be beaten and kicked out of the home.”
Pastor Mariano Riscajché one of the key leaders of Almolonga’s spiritual turnaround, has similar memories. “I was raised in misery. My father sometimes drank for forty to fifty consecutive days. We never had a big meal, only a little tortilla with a small glass of coffee. My parents spent what little money they had on alcohol.”
In an effort to ease their misery, many townspeople made pacts with local deities like Maximon (a wooden idol rechristened San Simon by Catholic syncretists), and the patron of death, Pascual Bailón. The latter, according to Riscajché, “is a spirit of death whose skeletal image was once housed in a chapel behind the Catholic church. Many people went to him when they wanted to kill someone through witchcraft.” The equally potent Maximon controlled people through money and alcohol. “He’s not just a wooden mask,” Riscajché insists, “but a powerful spiritual strongman.” The deities were supported by well-financed priesthoods known as confradías (2).
During these dark days the gospel did not fare well. Outside evangelists were commonly chased away with sticks or rocks, while small local house churches were similarly stoned. On one occasion six men shoved a gun barrel down the throat of Mariano Riscajché. As they proceeded to pull the trigger, he silently petitioned the Lord for protection. When the hammer fell, there was no action. A second click. Still no discharge.
In August 1974 Riscajché led a small group of believers into a series of prayer vigils that lasted from 7 P.M. to midnight. Although prayer dominated the meetings, these vanguard intercessors also took time to speak declarations of freedom over the town. Riscajché remembers that God filled them with faith. “We started praying, ‘Lord, it’s not possible that we could be so insignificant when your Word says we are heads and not tails.’”
In the months that followed, the power of God delivered many men possessed by demons associated with Maximon and Pascual Bailón. Among the more notable of these was a Maximon cult leader named José Albino Tazej. Stripped of their power and customers, the confradías of Maximon made a decision to remove the sanctuary of Maximon to the city of Zunil.
At this same time, God was healing many desperately diseased people. Some of these hearings led many to commit their lives to Christ (including that of Madano’s sister-in-law Teresa, who was actually raised from the dead after succumbing to complications associated with a botched caesarean section).
This wave of conversions has continued to this day. By late 1998 there were nearly two dozen evangelical churches in this Mayan town of 19,000, and at least three or four of them had more than 1,000 members. Mariano Riscajché’s El Calvario Church seats 1,200 and is nearly always packed. Church leaders include several men who, in earlier years, were notorious for stoning believers.
Nor has the move of God in Almolonga been limited to church growth. Take a walk through the town’s commercial district and you will encounter ubiquitous evidence of transformed lives and social institutions. On one street you can visit a drug-store called ‘The Blessing of the Lord.’ On another you can shop at ‘The Angels’ store. Feeling hungry? Just zip into ‘Paradise Chicken,’ ‘Jireh’ bakery or the ‘Vineyard of the Lord’ beverage kiosk. Need building advice? Check out ‘Little Israel Hardware’ or ‘El Shaddai’ metal fabrication. Feet hurt from shopping? Just take them to the ‘Jordan’ mineral baths for a good soak.
If foreigners find this public display of faith extraordinary, Mariano sees it as perfectly natural. “How can you demonstrate you love God if you don’t show it? Didn’t Paul say, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel’?”
The contents of the stores have also changed. Mell Winger recalls visiting a small tienda where the Christian proprietor pointed to a well-stocked food shelf and said, “This was once full of alcohol.” Town bars have not fared any better. Harold Caballeros explains: “Once people stopped spending their money on alcohol they actually bought out several distressed taverns and turned them into churches. This happened over and over again.” One new bar did open during the revival, but it only lasted a couple of months. The owner was converted and now plays in a Christian band.
As the drinking stopped, so did the violence. For 20 years the town’s crime rate has declined steadily. In 1994, the last of Almolonga’s four jails was closed. The remodelled building is now called the ‘Hall of Honour’ and is used for municipal ceremonies and weddings. Leaning against the door, police chief Donato Santiago offered a knowing grin. “It’s pretty uneventful around here,” he said.
Even the town’s agricultural base has come to life. For years, crop yields around Almolonga were diminished through a combination of and land and poor work habits. But as the people have turned to God they have seen a remarkable transformation of their land. “It is a glorious thing,” exclaims a beaming Caballeros. “Almolonga’s fields have become so fertile they yield three harvests per year.” In fact, some farmers I talked to reported their normal 60-day growing cycle on certain vegetables has been cut to 25. Whereas before they would export four truckloads of produce per month, they are now watching as many as 40 loads a day roll out of the valley.
Nicknamed “America’s Vegetable Garden,’ Almolonga’s produce is of biblical proportions. Walking through the local exhibition hall 1 saw (and filmed) five-pound beets, carrots larger than my arm and cabbages the size of oversized basketballs (3). Noting the dimensions of these vegetables and the town’s astounding 1,000 percent increase in agricultural productivity, university researchers from the United States and other foreign countries have beat a steady path to Almolonga.
“Now,” says Caballeros, “these brothers have the joy of buying big Mercedes trucks -with cash.” And they waste no time in pasting their secret all over the shiny vehicles. Huge metallic stickers and mud flaps read ‘The Gift of God,’ ‘God Is My Stronghold’ and ‘Go Forward in Faith.’
Some farmers are now providing employment to others by renting out land and developing fields in other towns. Along with other Christian leaders they also help new converts get out of debt. It is a gesture that deeply impresses Mell Winger. “I think of Paul’s words to the Thessalonians when he said, “We not only gave you the gospel of God but we gave you our own souls as well.’” (4).
Caballeros agrees: “And that’s what these people do. It is a beautiful spectacle to go and see the effect of the gospel, because you can actually see it – and that is what we want for our communities, for our cities and for our nations.”
Despite their success, believers in Almolonga have no intention of letting up. Many fast three times a week and continue to assault the forces of darkness in prayer and evangelism. On Halloween day in 1998, an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 believers gathered in the market square to pray down barriers against the gospel in neighbouring towns and around the world (5). Many, unable to find seats, hung off balconies and crowded concrete staircases. Led by the mayor and various Christian dignitaries, they prayed hand in hand for God to take authority over their lives, their town and any hindering spirits.
How significant are these developments? In a 1994 headline article describing the dramatic events in Almolonga, Guatemala’s premier newsmagazine Cronica Semanal concluded “the Evangelical Church … constitutes the most significant force for religious change in the highlands of Guatemala since the Spanish conquest (6).
The Umuofai of Nigeria
The Umuofai kindred are spread out in several villages situated near the town of Umuahia in Abia State in southeastern Nigeria (7). A major rail line links the area with Port Harcourt, about 120 kilometers to the south. Like most parts of coastal Africa, it is distinguished by dense tropical flora and killer humidity.
It is possible, even likely, veteran travellers will not have heard of the Umuofai or their homeland. This is not surprising seeing that the kindred’s claim to fame has virtually nothing to do with their size or setting. While their history does claim centuries-old roots, the truly newsworthy events are still tender shoots.
Indeed the interesting chapter of the Umuofai story began as recently as 1996. Two Christian brothers, Emeka and Chinedu Nwankpa, had become increasingly distressed over the spiritual condition of their people. While they did not know everything about the Umuofai kindred, or their immediate Ubakala clan, they knew enough to be concerned. Not only were there few Christians, but there was also an almost organic connection with ancestral traditions of sorcery, divination and spirit appeasement. Some even practiced the demonic art of shape-shifting. Taking the burden before the Lord, the younger brother, Chinedu Nwankpa, was led into a season of spiritual mapping. After conducting a partial 80-day fast, he learned that his primary assignment (which would take the good part of a year) was to spend one day a week with clan elders investigating the roots of prevailing idolatry – including the role of the ancestors and shrines. He would seek to understand how and when the Ubakala clan entered into animistic bondage. According to older brother Emeka, a practicing lawyer and international Bible teacher, this understanding was critical. When I asked why, Emeka responded, “When a people publicly renounce their ties to false gods and philosophies, they make it exceedingly undesirable for the enemy to remain in their community.” (24).
The study was finally completed in late 1996. Taking their findings to prayer, the brothers soon felt prompted to invite kindred leaders and other interested parties to attend a special meeting. “What will be our theme?” they asked. The Master’s response was quick and direct. “I want you to speak to them about idolatry.”
On the day of the meeting, Emeka and Chinedu arrived unsure of what kind of crowd they would face. Would there be five or fifty? Would the people be open or hostile? What they actually encountered stunned them. The meeting place was not only filled with 300 people, but the audience also included several prominent clan leaders and witch doctors. “After I opened in prayer,” Emeka recalls, “this young man preaches for exactly 42 minutes. He brings a clear gospel message. He gives a biblical teaching on idolatry and tells the people exactly what it does to a community. When he has finished, he gives a direct altar call. And do you know what happens? Sixty-one adults respond, including people from lines that, for eight generations, had handled the traditional priesthood.
“Let me give you an idea of what 1 am talking about. There is a local spirit that is supposed to give fertility to the earth. The people of the community believed this particular spirit favoured farmers who planted yams – an old uncle to the potato. A male from each generation was dedicated to this spirit to insure his blessing. When this priest was ready to die, he had to be taken outside so that the heavenly alignment could be undone. He was buried in the night with his head covered with a clay pot. Then, a year after the burial, the skull was exhumed and put in the shrine. These skulls and other sacred objects were never allowed to touch the ground. Of course, sacrifices were also made from time to time. This was the way of life in our community for eight generations.”
When the minister finished the altar call, the Nwankpa brothers were startled to see a man coming forward with the sacred skull in his hands. Here in front of them was the symbol and receptacle of the clan’s ancestral power. “By the time the session ended,” Emeka marvels, “eight other spiritual custodians had also come forward. If I had not been there in the flesh, I would not have believed it.”
As Emeka was called forward to pray for these individuals, the Holy Spirit descended on the gathering and all the clan leaders were soundly converted. The new converts were then instructed to divide up into individual family units – most were living near the village of Mgbarrakuma – and enter a time of repentance within the family. This took another hour and twenty minutes. During this time people were under deep conviction, many rolling on the ground, weeping. “I had to persuade some of them to get up,” Emeka recalls.
After leading this corporate repentance, Emeka heard the Lord say, ‘It is now time to renounce the covenants made by and for this community over the last 300 years.” Following the example of Zechariah 12:10-13:2, the Nwankpas led this second-phase renunciation. “We were just about to get up,” Emeka remembers, “and the Lord spoke to me again. I mean He had it all written out. He said, ‘It is now time to go and deal with the different shrines.’ So 1 asked the people, ‘Now that we have renounced the old ways, what are these shrines doing here?’ And without a moment’s hesitation they replied, ‘We need to get rid of them!’”
Having publicly renounced the covenants their ancestors had made with the powers of darkness, the entire community proceeded to nine village shrines. The three chief priests came out with their walking sticks. It was tradition that they should go first. Nobody else had the authority to take such a drastic action. So the people stood, the young men following the elders and the women remaining behind in the village square. Lowering his glasses, Emeka says, “You cannot appreciate how this affected me personally. Try to understand that 1 am looking at my own chief. I am looking at generations of men that I have known, people who have not spoken to my father for thirty years, people with all kinds of problems. They are now born-again!”
One of these priests, an elder named Odogwu-ogu, stood before the shrine of a particular spirit called Amadi. He was the oldest living representative of the ancestral priesthood. Suddenly he began to talk to the spirits. He said, “Amadi, I want you to listen carefully to what 1 am saying. You were there in the village square this morning. You heard what happened.” He then made an announcement that Emeka will never forget..
Listen, Amadi, the people who own the land have arrived to tell you that they have just made a new covenant with the God of heaven. Therefore all the previous covenants you have made with our ancient fathers are now void. The elders told me to take care of you and I have done that all these years. But today I have left you, and so it is time for you to return to wherever you came from. I have also given my life to Jesus Christ, and from now on, my hands and feet are no longer here (8).
As he does this, he jumps sideways, lifts his hands and shouts, “Hallelujah!”
“With tears in my eyes,” Emeka says, reliving the moment, “I stepped up to anoint this shrine and pray. Every token and fetish was taken out. And then we went through eight more shrines, gathering all the sacred objects and piling them high.
“Gathering again back in the square I said, ‘Those who have fetishes in your homes, bring them out because God is visiting here today. Don’t let Him pass you by.’ At this, one of the priests got up and brought out a pot with seven openings. He said to the people, ‘There is poison enough to kill everybody here in that little pot. There is a horn of an extinct animal, the bile of a tiger and the venom of a viper mixed together.’ He warned the young men, ‘Don’t touch it. Carry it on a pole because it is usually suspended in the shrine.’ This was piled in the square along with all the ancestral skulls.” Soon other heads of households brought various ritual objects-including idols, totems and fetishes-for public burning. Many of these items had been handed down over ten generations.
Emeka then read a passage from Jeremiah 10 that judges the spirits associated with these artifacts. Reminding the powers that the people had rejected them, he said, “You spirits that did not make the heavens and the earth in the day of your visitation, it is time for you to leave this place.” The people then set the piled objects on fire. They ignited with such speed and intensity that the villagers took it as a sign that God had been waiting for this to happen for many years. When the fire subsided, Emeka and his brother prayed for individual needs and prophetically clothed the priests with new spiritual garments. Altogether the people spent nine hours in intense, strategic-level spiritual warfare.
Emeka recalls that when it was over, “You could feel the atmosphere in the community change. Something beyond revival had broken out.” Two young ministers recently filled the traditional Anglican church with about 4,000 youth. And in the middle of the message, demons were reportedly flying out the door! Having renounced old covenants, the Umuofai kindred have made a collective decision that nobody will ever return to animism. “Today,” Emeka says, “everybody goes to church. There is also a formal Bible study going on, and the women have a prayer team that my mother conducts. 0thers gather to pray after completing their communal sweeping.” (9).
In terms of political and economic development, good things have begun to happen but not as dramatically as in Almolonga. Still, there is evidence that God has touched the land here much like He has in the highlands of Guatemala. Shortly after the public repentance, several villagers discovered their plots were permeated with saleable minerals. One of these individuals was Emeka’s own mother, a godly woman whose property has turned up deposits of valuable ceramic clay.
For years this searing valley in southern California was known as a pastor’s graveyard. Riddled with disunity, local churches were either stagnant or in serious decline. In one case, street prostitutes actually transformed a church rooftop into an outdoor bordello. The entire community had, in the words of pastor Bob Beckett, “a kind of a nasty spiritual feeling to it.”
When Beckett arrived on the scene in 1974, Hemet had the personality of a sleepy retirement community, a place where people who had served their tour of duty came to live out a life of ease (10). Having achieved most of their goals, people simply wanted to be left alone. Though a fair number attended church, they had no appetite for anything progressive, much less evangelistic. Spiritually lethargic clergy were content to simply go through the motions.
But things were not all they seemed. Underneath the surface of this laid-back community was a spiritual dark side that was anything but lethargic. “We discovered,” said Beckett, “that illegal and occult activity was thriving in our community.” It was a rude awakening.
The Hemet Valley was fast becoming a cult haven. “We had the Moonies and Mormons. We had the ‘Sheep People,’ a cult that claimed Christ but dealt in drugs. The Church of Scientology set up a state-of-the-art multimedia studio called Golden Era, and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi purchased a property to teach people how to find enlightenment.” The latter, according to Beckett, included a 360-acre juvenile facility where students were given instruction in upper-level transcendental meditation. “We’re not talking about simply feeling good; we’re talking about techniques whereby people can actually leave their bodies.”
These discoveries got Beckett to wondering why the Maharishi would purchase property in this relatively obscure valley and why it would be located in proximity to the Scientologists and the spiritually active Soboba Indian reservation. Sensing something sinister might be lurking beneath the town’s glazed exterior, Beckett took out a map and started marking locations where there was identifiable spiritual activity.” Noticing these marks were clustered in a specific area, he began to ask more probing questions. “I began to wonder,” he said, “if there was perhaps a dimension of darkness I had failed to recognize. 1 didn’t realize it at the time, but I was led into what we now call spiritual mapping.”
The deeper this rookie pastor looked, the less he liked what he was seeing. It seemed the valley, in addition to hosting a nest of cults, was also a notable centre of witchcraft. And unfortunately this was not a new development. Elderly citizens could recollect looking up at the nearby mountains on previous Halloweens and seeing them illumined by dozens of ritual fires. In Hemet and the neighbouring community of Idyllwild, it was not uncommon to find the remains of animal sacrifices long before such matters became part of the public discourse.
Nor were cults the only preexisting problem. Neighborhood youth gangs had plagued the Hemet suburb of San Jacinto for more than a century. When pastor Gordon Houston arrived in 1986 the situation was extremely volatile. His church, San Jacinto Assembly, sits on the very street that has long hosted the town’s notorious First Street Gang. “These were kids whose dads and grandfathers had preceded them in the gang. The lifestyle had been handed down through the generations.”
The danger was so great around the main gang turf that the police refused to go there without substantial backup. “One time I was walking out in front of my church,” Gordon recalls. “Three First Street guys came up behind me, while four others closed in from across the street. They moved me to the centre of the street and asked, “Who are you and what are you doing here?” It was a scary scenario.
“We were one of the first school districts that had to implement a school dress code to avoid gang attire. It was a big problem. There were a lot of weapons on campus and kids were being attacked regularly. The gangs were tied into one of the largest drug production centres in Riverside County.”
It turns out the sleepy Hemet Valley was also the methamphetamine manufacturing capital of the West Coast. One former cooker I spoke to in June 1998 (we’ll call him Sonny) told me the area hosted at least nine major production laboratories. The dry climate, remote location and ‘friendly’ law enforcement combined to make it an ideal setup. “It was quite amazing,” Sonny told me. “I actually had law officers transport dope for me in their police cruisers. That’s the way it used to be here.”
Sonny cooked methamphetamine in Hemet from 1983 to 1991. His minimum quota was 13 pounds every two weeks – an amount capable of supplying more than a quarter of a million people. And there were times when he and his colleagues doubled this production. Most of the deliveries went to Southern California, Arizona or Utah. Often the deadly powder was trucked out of town disguised as 4×8-foot forms of Sheetrock. “It was fascinating to see it done,” Sonny remembered. “Even the paper backing was torn off afterward and sold to people in prison.”
The spiritual turnaround for Hemet did not come easily. Neither the Beckerts nor the Houstons were early Valley enthusiasts. “I just didn’t want to be there,” Bob recalls with emphasis. “For the first several years, my wife and 1 had our emotional bags packed all the time. We couldn’t wait for the day that God would call us out of this valley.”
The Houstons didn’t unpack their bags to begin with. When the San Jacinto position first opened up in 1984, they drove into town in the middle of summer. Gordon remembers it being scorching hot that day. “We had our six-month-old baby in a Pinto Runabout with vinyl seats and no air-conditioning. We drove down the street, took one look at the church and said, “No thank you.” We didn’t even stop to put in a resumé.”
It would be three years before the Houstons were persuaded to return to the Hemet Valley. “Even then,” Gordon says, “we saw it as a chance to gain some experience, build a good resumé, and then look for other opportunities. God, of course, had something else in mind. I remember him saying, “I have a plan, and I’ll share it with you – if you will make a commitment to this place.” And I’ll be honest with you. It was still a tough choice.”
For a while, Bob Beckett’s spiritual mapping had provided certain stimulation. Then, it too reached a dead end. “The flow of information just seemed to dry up,” he remembers. “That was when God asked if we would be willing to spend the rest of our lives in this valley. He couldn’t have asked a worse question. How could I spend the rest of my life in a place 1 didn’t love, didn’t care for and didn’t want to be a part of?”
Yet God persevered and the Becketts eventually surrendered to His will. “As soon as we did this,” Bob reports, “the flow of information opened back up. In retrospect I see that God would not allow us to go on learning about the community’s spiritual roots unless we were committed to act on our understanding. I now realize it was our commitment to the valley that allowed the Lord to trust us with the information (12).
“Once we made this pact, Susan and 1 fell in love with the community. It might sound a little melodramatic, but 1 actually went out and purchased a cemetery plot. I said, “Unless Jesus comes back, this is my land. I’m starting and ending my commitment right here.” Well, God saw that and began to dispense powerful revelation. I still had my research, but it was no longer just information. It was information that was important to me. It was information I had purchased; it belonged to me.”
One new area of understanding concerned a prayer meeting Bob had called 15 years prior. Unable to interpret his spiritual site map or a recurring dream that depicted a bear hide stretched over the valley, he had asked 12 men to join him in prayer at a mountain cabin in nearby Idyllwild. Around two o’clock in the morning the group experienced a dramatic breakthrough – just not the one they were expecting. Rather than yielding fresh insight into the site map or bear hide, the action stimulated a new spiritual hunger within the community.
Now that the Beckets had covenanted to stay in the community, God started to fill in the gaps of their understanding. He began by leading Bob to a book containing an accurate history of the San Jacinto mountains that border Hemet and of the Cahuilla Nation that are descendants of the region’s original inhabitants. “As 1 read through this book I discovered the native peoples believed the ruling spirit of the region was called Tahquitz. He was thought to be exceedingly powerful, occasionally malevolent, associated with the great bear, and headquartered in the mountains. Putting the book down, I sensed the Lord saying, “Find Tahquitz on your map!”
“When 1 did so, I was shocked to find that our prayer meeting 15 years earlier was held in a cabin located at the base of a one-thousand-foot solid rock spire called Tahquitz peak! I also began to understand that the bear hide God had showed me was linked to the spirit of Tahquitz. The fact that it was stretched out over the community was a reminder of the control this centuries – old demonic strongman wielded, a control that was fuelled then, and now, by the choices of local inhabitants. At that point I knew God had been leading us.”
Bob explained that community intercessors began using spiritual mapping to focus on issues and select meaningful targets. Seeing the challenge helped them become spiritually and mentally engaged. With real targets and timelines they could actually watch the answers to their prayers. They learned that enhanced vision escalates fervour.
When I asked him to compare the situation in Hemet today with the way things used to be, he did not take long to answer. “We are not a perfect community,” he said, “but we never will be until the Perfect One comes back. What I can tell you is that the Hemet Valley has changed dramatically.”
The facts speak for themselves. Cult membership, once a serious threat, has now sunk to less than 0.3 percent of the population. The Scientologists have yet to be evicted from their perch at the edge of town, but many other groups are long gone. The transcendental meditation training centre was literally burned out. Shortly after praying for their removal, a brushfire started in the mountains on the west side of the valley. It burned along the top of the ridge and then arced down like a finger to incinerate the Maharishi’s facility. Leaving adjacent properties unsinged, the flames burned back up the mountain and were eventually extinguished.
The drug business, according to Sonny, has dropped by as much as 75 percent. Gone, too, is the official corruption that was once its fellow traveller. “There was a time when you could walk into any police department around here and look at your files or secure an escort for your drug shipment. The people watching your back were wearing badges. Man, has that changed. If you’re breaking the law today, the police are out to get ya. And prayer is the biggest reason. The Christians out here took a multimillion-dollar drug operation and made it run off with its tail between its legs.”
Gangs are another success story. Not long ago a leader of the First Street Gang burst down the centre aisle of Gordon Houston’s church (San Jacinto Assembly) during the morning worship service. “I’m in the middle of my message,” Gordon laughs, “and here comes this guy, all tattooed up, heading right for the platform. I had no idea what he was thinking. When he gets to the front, he looks up and says, “I want to get saved right now!” This incident, and this young man, represented the first fruit of what God would do in the gang community. Over the next several weeks, the entire First Street family came to the Lord. After this, word circulated that our church was off limits. ‘You don’t tag this church with graffiti; you don’t mess with it in any way.’ Instead, gang members began raking our leaves and repainting walls that had been vandalized.” More recently, residents of the violent gang house across from San Jacinto Assembly moved out. Then, as church members watched, they bulldozed the notorious facility.
Nor are gang members the only people getting saved in Hemet Valley. A recent survey revealed that Sunday morning church attendance now stands at about 14 percent – double what it was just a decade ago. During one 18-month stretch, San Jacinto Assembly altar workers saw more than 600 people give their hearts to Christ. Another prayer-oriented church has grown 300 percent in twelve months.
The individual stories are stirring. Sonny, the former drug manufacturer, was apprehended by the Holy Spirit en route to a murder. Driving to meet his intended victim he felt something take control of the steering wheel. He wound up in the parking lot of Bob Beckett’s Dwelling Place Church. It was about 8 o’clock in the morning and a men’s meeting had just gotten underway. “Before I got out of the car,” Sonny says ruefully, “I looked at the silenced pistol laying on the seat. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing.’ So I covered it with a blanket and walked into this prayer meeting. As soon as 1 did that, it was all over. People are praying around me and I hear this man speak out: ‘Somebody was about to murder someone today.’ Man, my eyeballs just about popped out of my head. But that was the beginning of my journey home. It took a long time, but I’ve never experienced more joy in my life.”
As of the late 1990s, Hemet also boasted a professing mayor, police chief, fire chief and city manager. If this were not impressive enough, Beckett reckons that one could add about 30 percent of the local law enforcement officers and an exceptional number of high school teachers, coaches and principals. In fact, for the past several years nearly 85 percent of all school district staff candidates have been Christians.
The result, says Gordon, is that “Our school district, after being the laughing stock of Southern California, now has one of the lowest drop-out rates in the nation. In just four years we went from a 4.7 drop-out rate to 0.07. Only the hand of God can do that.”
And what of the Valley’s infamous church infighting? “Now we are a wall of living stones,” Beekett declares proudly. “Instead of competing, we are swapping pulpits. You have Baptists in Pentecostal pulpits and vice versa. You have Lutherans with Episcopalians. The Christian community has become a fabric instead of loose yarn.”
Houston adds that valley churches are also brought together by quarterly concerts of prayer and citywide prayer revivals where speaking assignments are rotated among area pastors. “Different worship teams lead songs and salvation cards are distributed equally among us. It is a cooperative vision. We are trying to get pastors to understand there is no church big enough, gifted enough, talented enough, anointed enough, financially secure enough, equipped enough, to take a city all by itself. Yes, God will hold me accountable for how I treated my church. But I am also going to be held accountable for how I pastored my city.”
One fellowship is so committed to raising the profile of Jesus Christ in the valley that they have pledged into another church’s building program. To Bob Beckett it all makes sense. “It’s about building people, not building a church. In fact, it is not even a church growth issue, it is a kingdom growth issue. It’s about seeing our communities transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
For years Colombia has been the world’s biggest exporter of cocaine, sending between 700 hundred and 1,000 tons a year to the United States and Europe alone (13). The Cali cartel, which controlled up to 70 percent of this trade, has been called the largest, richest and most well-organized criminal organization in history (14). Employing a combination of bribery and threats, it wielded a malignant power that corrupted individuals and institutions alike (5).
Randy and Marcy MacMillan, copastors of the Communidad Christiana de Fe, have labored in Cali for more than 20 years. At least 10 of these have been spent in the shadow of the city’s infamous drug lords.
Marcy inherited the family home of her late father, a former Colombian diplomat. When illicit drug money began pouring into Cali in the 1980s, the Cocaine lords moved into the MacMillan’s upscale neighbourhood, buying up entire blocks of luxurious haciendas. They modified these properties by installing elaborate underground tunnel systems and huge 30-foot (10-metre) walls to shield them from prying eyes-and stray bullets. Video cameras encased in Plexiglas bubbles scanned the surrounding area continuously. There were also regular patrols with guard dogs.
“These people were paranoid,” Randy recalls. “They were exporting 500 million dollars worth of cocaine a month, and it led to constant worries about sabotage and betrayal. They had a lot to lose.”
For this reason, the cartel haciendas were appointed like small cities. Within their walls it was possible to find everything from airstrips and helicopter landing pads to indoor bowling alleys and miniature soccer stadiums. Many also contained an array of gift boutiques, nightclubs and restaurants.
Whenever the compound gates swung open, it was to disgorge convoys of shiny black Mercedes automobiles. As they snaked their way through the city’s congested streets, all other traffic would pull to the side of the road. Drivers who defied this etiquette did so at their own risk. Many were blocked and summarily shot. As many as 15 people a day were killed in such a manner. “You didn’t want to be at the same stoplight with them,” Randy summarized.
Having once been blocked in his own neighbourhood, Randy remembers the terror. “They drew their weapons and demanded to see our documents. I watched them type the information into a portable computer. Thankfully the only thing we lost was some film. I will always remember the death in their eyes. These are people that kill for a living and like it.”
Rosevelt Muriel, director of the city’s ministerial alliance, also remembers those days. “It was terrible. If you were riding around in a car and there was a confrontation, you were lucky to escape with your life. I personally saw five people killed in Cali.”
Journalists had a particularly difficult time. They were either reporting on human camage – car bombs were going off like popcorn – or they were becoming targets themselves. Television news anchor Adriana Vivas said that many journalists were killed for denouncing what the Mafia was doing in Colombia and Cali. “Important political decisions were being manipulated by drug money. It touched everything, absolutely everything.”
By the early 1990s, Cali had become one of the most thoroughly corrupt cities in the world. Cartel interests controlled virtually every major institution – including banks, businesses, politicians and law enforcement.
Like everything else in Cali, the church was in disarray. Evangelicals were few and did not much care for each other. “In those days,” Rosevelt Muriel recalls sadly, “the pastors’ association consisted of an old box of files that nobody wanted. Every pastor was working on his own; no one wanted to join together.”
When pastor-evangelists Julio and Ruth Ruibal came to Cali in 1978, they were dismayed at the pervasive darkness in the city. “There was no unity between the churches,” Ruth explained. Even Julio was put off by his colleagues and pulled out of the already weak ministerial association.
Ruth relates that during a season of fasting the Lord spoke to Julio saying, “You don’t have the right to be offended. You need to forgive.” So going back to the pastors, one by one, Julio made things right. They could not afford to walk in disunity – not when their city faced such overwhelming challenges.
Randy and Marcy MacMillan were among the first to join the Ruibals in intercession. “We just asked the Lord to show us how to pray,” Marcy remembers. And He did. For the next several months they focused on the meagre appetite within the church for prayer, unity and holiness. Realizing these are the very things that attract the presence of God, they petitioned the Lord to stimulate a renewed spiritual hunger, especially in the city’s ministers.
As their prayers began to take effect, a small group of pastors proposed assembling their congregations for an evening of joint worship and prayer. The idea was to lease the citys civic auditorium, the Colisco El Pueblo, and spend the night in prayer and repentance. They would solicit God’s active participation in their stand against the drug cartels and their unseen spiritual masters.
Roping off most of the seating area, the pastors planned for a few thousand people. And even this, in the minds of many, was overly optimistic. “We heard it all,” said Rosevelt Muriel. “People told us, ‘It can’t be done,’ ‘No one will come,’ ‘Pastors won’t give their support.’ But we decided to move forward and trust God with the results.”
When the event was finally held in May 1995, the nay-sayers and even some of the organizers were dumbfounded. Instead of the expected modest turnout, more than 25,000 people filed into the civic auditorium – nearly half of the city’s evangelical population at the time! At one point, Muriel remembers, “The mayor mounted the platform and proclaimed, ‘Cali belongs to Jesus Christ.’ Well, when we heard those words, we were energized.” Giving themselves to intense prayer, the crowd remained until 6 o’clock the next morning. The city’s famous all-night prayer vigil – the ‘vigilia’ – had been born.
Forty-eight hours after the event, the daily newspaper, El Pais, headlined, “No Homicides!” For the first time in as long as anybody in the city could remember, a 24-hour period had passed without a single person being killed. In a nation cursed with the highest homicide rate in the world, this was a newsworthy development. Corruption also took a major hit when, over the next four months, 900 cartel-linked officers were fired from the metropolitan police force (16).
“When we saw these things happening,” Randy MacMillan exulted, “we had a strong sense that the powers of darkness were headed for a significant defeat.”
In the month of June, this sense of anticipation was heightened when several intercessors reported dreams in which angelic forces apprehended leaders of the Cali drug cartel. Many interpreted this as a prophetic sign that the Holy Spirit was about to respond to the most urgent aspect of the church’s united appeal.17 Intercessors were praying, and heaven was listening. The seemingly invincible drug lords were about to meet their match.
“Within six weeks of this vision,” MacMillan recalls, “the Colombian government declared all-out war against the drug lords.” Sweeping military operations were launched against cartel assets in several parts of the country. The 6,500 elite commandos dispatched to Cali (18) arrived with explicit orders to round up seven individuals suspected as the top leaders of the cartel.
“Cali was buzzing with helicopters,” Randy remembers. “The airport was closed and there were police roadblocks at every entry point into the city. You couldn’t go anywhere without proving who you were” (19).
Suspicions that the drug lords were consulting spirit mediums were confirmed when the federalés dragnet picked up Jorge Eliecer Rodriguez at the fortune-telling parlour of Madame Marlene Ballesteros, the famous ‘Pythoness of Cali” (20). By August, only three months after God’s word to the intercessors, Colombian authorities had captured all seven targeted cartel leaders – Juan Carlos Arminez, Phanor Arizabalata, Julian Murcillo, Henry Loaiza, Jose Santacruz Londono and founders Gilberto and Miguel Roddguez.
Clearly stung by these assaults on his power base, the enemy lashed out against the city’s intercessors. At the top of his hit list was Pastor Julio Ceasar Ruibal, a man whose disciplined fasting and unwavering faith was seriously eroding his manoeuvring room.
On December 13, 1995, Julio rode into the city with his daughter Sarah and a driver. Late for a pastors’ meeting at the Presbyterian Church, he motioned to his driver to pull over. “He told us to drop him off,” Sarah recounts, “and that was the last time I saw him.”
Outside the church, a hit man was waiting in ambush. Drawing a concealed handgun, the assassin pumped two bullets into Julio’s brain at point-blank range.
“I was waiting for him to arrive at the meeting,” Rosevelt remembers. “At two o’clock in the afternoon I received a phone call. The man said, ‘They just killed Julio.’ I said, ‘What? How can they kill a pastor?’ I rushed over, thinking that perhaps he had just been hurt. But when 1 arrived on the scene, he was motionless. Julio, the noisy one, the active one, the man who just never sat still, was just lying there like a baby.”
“The first thing 1 saw was a pool of crimson blood,” Ruth recalls. “And the verse that came to me was Psalm 116:15: ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.’ Sitting down next to Julio’s body, I knew 1 was on holy ground.
“I had to decide how 1 was going to deal with this circumstance. One option was to respond in bitterness, not only toward the man that had done this terrible thing, but also toward God. He had, after all, allowed the early removal of my husband, my daughters’ father and my church’s pastor. Julio would never see his vision for the city fulfilled. My other choice was to yield to the redemptive purposes of the Holy Spirit, to give Him a chance to bring something lasting and wonderful out of the situation. Looking down at Julio I just said, ‘Lord, 1 don’t understand Your plan, but it is well with my soul.’”
Julio Ruibal was killed on the sixth day of a fast aimed at strengthening the unity of Cali’s fledgling church. He knew that even though progress had been made in this area, it had not gone far enough. He knew that unity is a fragile thing. What he could not have guessed is that the fruit of his fast would be made manifest at his own funeral.
In shock, and struggling to understand God’s purposes in this tragedy, 1,500 people gathered at Julio’s funeral. They included many pastors that had not spoken to each other in months. When the memorial concluded these men drew aside and said, “Brothers, let us covenant to walk in unity from this day forward. Let Julio’s blood be the glue that binds us together in the Holy Spirit.”
It worked! Today this covenant of unity has been signed by some 200 pastors and serves as the backbone of the city’s high profile prayer vigils. With Julio’s example in their hearts, they have subordinated their own agendas to a larger, common vision for the city.
Emboldened by their spiritual momentum, Cali’s church leaders now hold all-night prayer rallies every 90 days. Enthusiasm is so high that these glorious events have been moved to the largest venue in the city, the 55,000-seat Pascual Guerrero soccer stadium (21). Happily (or unhappily as the case may be), the demand for seats continues to exceed supply.
In 1996 God led many churches to join in a collective spiritual mapping campaign. To gain God’s perspective on their city, they began to gather intelligence on specific political, social and spiritual strongholds in each of Cali’s 22 administrative zones (a scene reminiscent of the 41 Hebrew clans that once rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem). The results, stitched together like panels on a patchwork quilt, gave the church an unprecedented picture of the powers working in the city. “With this knowledge,” Randy explained, “our unified intercession became focused. As we prayed in specific terms, we began to see a dramatic loosening of the enemy’s stranglehold on our neighbourhoods.
“A few weeks later we used our spiritual mapping intelligence to direct large prayer caravans throughout Cali. Most of the 250 cars established a prayer perimeter around the city, but a few paraded by government offices or the mansions of prominent cartel leaders. My own church focused on the headquarters of the billionaire drug lord, José Santacruz Londono, who had escaped from Bogota’s La Picota prison in January (22). His hacienda was located just four blocks from my home. The next day we heard that he had been killed in a gun fight with national police in Medellin!” (23).
In partnership with the Holy Spirit, Cali’s Christians had taken effective control of the city. What made the partnership work are the same things that always attract the presence of the Lord: sanctified hearts, right relationships and fervent intercession. “God began changing the city,” according to Ruth Ruibal, “because His people finally came together in prayer” (24).
As the kingdom of God descended upon Cali, a new openness to the gospel could be felt at all levels of society – including the educated and wealthy. One man, Gustavo Jaramillo, a wealthy businessman and former mayor, told me, “It is easy to speak to upper-class people about Jesus. They are respectful and interested.” Raul Grajales, another successful Cali businessman, adds that the gospel is now seen as practical rather than religious. As a consequence, he says, “Many high-level people have come to the feet of Jesus.”
During my April 1998 visit to Cali, I had the privilege of meeting several prominent converts, including Mario Jinete, a prominent attorney, media personality and motivational speaker. After searching for truth in Freemasonry and various New Age systems, he has finally come home to Christ. Five minutes into our interview Jinete broke down. His body shaking, this brilliant lawyer who had courageously faced down some of the most dangerous and corrupt figures in Latin America sobbed loudly. “I’ve lost forty years of my life,’ he cried into a handkerchief. “My desire now is to subordinate my ego, to find my way through the Word of God. I want to yield to Christ’s plan for me. I want to serve Him.”
Explosive church growth is one of the visible consequences of the open heavens over Cali. Ask pastors to define their strategy and they respond, “We don’t have time to plan. We’re too busy pulling the nets into the boat.” And the numbers are expanding. In early 1998, 1 visited one fellowship, the Christian Centre of Love and Faith, where attendance has risen to nearly 35,000. What is more, their stratospheric growth rate is being fuelled entirely by new converts. Despite the facility’s cavernous size (it’s a former Costco warehouse), they are still forced to hold seven Sunday services. As I watched the huge sanctuary fill up, I blurted the standard Western question: “What is your secret?” Without hesitating, a church staff member pointed to a 24-hour prayer room immediately behind the platform. “That’s our secret,’ he replied.
Many of Cali’s other churches are also experiencing robust growth, and denominational affiliation and location have little to do with it. The fishing is good for everybody and it’s good all over town. My driver, Carlos Reynoso (not his real name), himself a former drug dealer, put it this way: “There is a hunger for God everywhere. You can see it on the buses, on the streets and in the cafes. Anywhere you go people are ready to talk.” Even casual street evangelists are reporting multiple daily conversions – nearly all the result of arbitrary encounters.
Although danger still lurks in this city of 1.9 million, God is now viewed as a viable protector. When Cali police deactivated a large, 174-kilo car bomb in the populous San Nicolis area in November 1996, many noted that the incident came just 24 hours after 55,000 Christians held their third vigilia. Even El Pais headlined: “Thanks to God, It Didn’t Explode” (25).
Cali’s prayer warriors were gratified, but far from finished. The following month church officials, disturbed by the growing debauchery associated with the city’s Feria, a year-end festival accompanied by 10 days of bull fighting and blowout partying, developed plans to hold public worship and evangelism rallies.
“When we approached the city about this,” Marcy recalls, “God gave us great favour. The city secretary not only granted us rent-free use of the 22,000-scat velodrome (cycling arena), but he also threw in free advertising, security and sound support. We were stunned!” The only thing the authorities required was that the churches pray for the mayor, the city and the citizens.
Once underway, the street witnessing and rallies brought in a bounty of souls. But an even bigger surprise came during the final service which, according to Marcy, emphasized the Holy Spirit “reigning over” and “raining down upon” the city of Cali. As the crowd sang, it began to sprinkle outside, an exceedingly rare occurrence in the month of December. “Within moments,” Marcy recalls, “the city was inundated by torrential tropical rain. It didn’t let up for 24 hours; and for the first time in recent memory, Feria events had to be cancelled!”
On the evening of April 9, 1998, I had the distinct privilege of attending a citywide prayer vigil in Cali’s Pascual Guerrero stadium. It was no small event, even in the eyes of the secular media. For days leading up to the vigilia, local newspapers had been filled with stories linking it to the profound changes that had settled over the community. Evening newscasters looked straight into the camera and urged viewers, whatever their faith, to attend the all-night event.
Arriving at the stadium 90 minutes early, I found it was already a full house. I could feel my hair stand on end as I walked onto the infield to tape a report for CBN News. In the stands, 50,000 exuberant worshipers stood ready to catch the Holy Spirit’s fire. An additional 15,000 ‘latecomers’ were turned away at the coliseum gate. Undaunted, they formed an impromptu praise march that circled the stadium for hours.
Worship teams from various churches were stationed at 15-metre intervals around the running track. Dancers dressed in beautiful white and purple outfits interpreted the music with graceful motions accentuated by banners, tambourines and sleeve streamers. Both they and their city had been delivered of a great burden. In such circumstances one does not celebrate like a Presbyterian, a Baptist or a Pentecostal; one celebrates like a person who has been liberated!
Judging from the energy circulating in the stands, I was sure the celebrants had no intention of selling their emancipation short. They were not here to cheer a championship soccer team or to absorb the wit and wisdom of a big-name Christian speaker. Their sole objective on this particular evening was to offer up heartfelt worship and ask God to continue the marvellous work He had been undertaking in their city for 36 consecutive months.
“What you’re seeing tonight in this stadium is a miracle,” declared visiting Bogota pastor Colin Crawford. “A few years ago it would have been impossible for Evangelicals to gather like this.” Indeed, this city that has long carried a reputation as an exporter of death is now looked upon as a model of community transformation. It has moved into the business of exporting hope.
High up in the stadium press booth somebody grabbed my arm. Nodding in the direction of a casually dressed man at the broadcast counter he whispered, “That man is the most famous sports announcer in Columbia. He does all the big soccer championships.” Securing a quick introduction, I learned that Rafael Araújo Gámez is also a newborn Christian. As he looked out over the fervent crowd, I asked if he had ever seen anything comparable in this stadium. Like Mario, he began to weep. “Never,” he said with a trembling chin. “Not ever.”
At 2:30 in the morning my cameraman and I headed for the stadium tunnel to catch a ride to the airport. It was a tentative departure. At the front gate crowds still trying to get in looked at us like we were crazy. I could almost read their minds. Where are you going? Why are you leaving the presence of God? They were tough questions to answer.
As we prepared to enter our vehicle a roar rose up from the stadium. Listening closely, we could hear the people chanting, in English, “Lift Jesus up, lift Jesus up.” The words seemed to echo across the entire city. I had to pinch myself. Wasn’t it just 36 months ago that people were calling this place a violent, corrupt hell-hole? A city whose ministerial alliance consisted of a box of files that nobody wanted?
In late 1998, Cali’s mayor and city council approached the ministerial alliance, with an offer to manage a citywide campaign to strengthen the family. The offer, which has subsequently been accepted, gives the Christians full operational freedom and no financial obligation. The government has agreed to open the soccer stadium, sports arena and velodrome to any seminar or prayer event that will minister to broken families.
As remarkable as the preceding accounts are, they represent but a fraction of the case studies that could be presented. Several others are worth mentioning in brief.
Topping this list is Kiambu, Kenya, one-time ministry graveyard located 14 kilometres northwest of Nairobi. In the late 1980s, after years of profligate alcohol abuse, untamed violence and grinding poverty, the Spirit of the Lord was summoned to Kiambu by a handful of intercessors operating out of a grocery store basement known as the “Kiambu Prayer Cave.”
According to Kenyan pastor Thomas Muthee, the real breakthrough came when believers won a high profile power encounter with a local witch named Mama Jane. Whereas people used to be afraid to go out at night, they now enjoy one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Rape and murder are virtually unheard of. The economy has also started to grow. And new buildings are sprouting up all over town.
In February, 1999, pastor Muthee celebrated their ninth anniversary in Kiambu. Through research and spiritual warfare, they have seen their church grow to 5,000 members – a remarkable development in a city that had never before seen a congregation of more than 90 people. And other community fellowships are growing as well. “There is no doubt,” Thomas declares, “that prayer broke the power of witchcraft over this city. Everyone in the community now has a high respect for us. They know that God’s power chased Mama Jane from town” (26).
Vitória da Conquiste, Brazil
The city of Vitória da Conquiste (Victory of the Conquest) in Brazil’s Bahia state, has likewise, experienced a powerful move of God since the mid 1990s. As with other transformed communities, the recovery is largely from extreme poverty, violence and corruption.
Vitória da Conquiste was also a place where pastors spent more pulpit time demeaning their ministerial colleagues than preaching the Word. Desperate to see a breakthrough, local intercessors went to prayer. Within a matter of weeks conviction fell upon the church leaders. In late 1996 they gathered to wash one another’s feet in a spirit of repentance. When they approached the community’s senior pastor – a man who had been among the most critical – he refused to allow his colleagues to wash his feet. Saying he was not worthy of such treatment, he instead lay prostrate on the ground and invited the others to place the soles of their shoes on his body while he begged their forgiveness. Today the pastors of Vitória da Conquiste are united in their desire for a full visitation of the Holy Spirit (27).
In addition to lifting long-standing spiritual oppression over the city, this action has also led to substantial church growth. Many congregations have recently gone to multiple services. Furthermore, voters in 1997 elected the son of evangelical parents to serve as mayor. Crime has dropped precipitously, and the economy has rebounded on the strength of record coffee exports and significant investments by the Northeast Bank.
San Nicolás, Argentina
Ed Silvoso of Harvest Evangelism International reports similar developments in San Nicolás, Argentina, an economically depressed community that for years saw churches split and pastors die in tragic circumstances. According to Silvoso, this dark mantle came in with a local shrine to the Queen of Heaven that annually attracts 1.5 million pilgrims.
More recently, pastors have repented for the sin of the church and launched prayer walks throughout the community. They have spoken peace over every home, school, business and police station and concentrated intercession over 10 “dark spots” associated with witchcraft, gangs, prostitution and drug addiction. The pastors have also made appointments with leading political, media and religious (Catholic) officials to repent for neglecting and sometimes cursing them.
As a result of these actions the Catholic bishop is preaching Christ and coming to pastors’ prayer meetings. The mayor has created a space for pastors to pray in city hall. The local newspaper has printed Christian literature. The radio station has begun to refer call-in problems to a pastoral chaplaincy service. The TV station invites pastors onto live talk shows to pray for the people. In short, the whole climate in San Nicolás has changed.
Villages, cities, countries
In other parts of the world God has been at work in villages (Navapur, India; Serawak, Malaysia [Selakau people]; and the North American Arctic) in urban neighbourhoods (Guatemala City; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Resistencia, Argentina; Guayaquil, Ecuador) and even in countries (Uganda). The United States has witnessed God’s special touch in places as far-flung as New York City (Times Square); Modesto, California; and Pensacola, Florida.
Early in my ministry I never thought of investigating transformed communities. I was too preoccupied with other things. In recent days, however, I have become persuaded that something extraordinary is unfolding across the earth. It is, I have come to realize, an expression of the full measure of the kingdom of God. Finding examples of this phenomenon has become my life. And the journey has taken me to the furthest corners of the earth.
1. Most of the churches are either Baptist or Presbyterian. But there are also Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Salvationist and Pentecostal congregations.
2. Although these confradías are no longer welcome in Almolonga, they can still be found in the nearby communities of Zunil and Olintepeque.
3. Almolonga’s fields also grow cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, tomatoes, squash, asparagus, leeks and watercress. Their flower market sells gorgeous asters, chrysanthemums and estaditas.
4. See 1 Thessalonians 2:8, KJV.
5. Crowd estimates were provided by Mariano Riscajché based on 10,000 plus seats, rotating local believers and the capacity of adjacent buildings. The event was also carried on local cable television.
6. Mario Roberto Morales, “La Quiebra de Maximon,” Cronica Semanal, June 24-30, 1994, pp. 17,19,20. (In English the headline reads ‘The Defeat of Maximon.’)
7. In African social hierarchy, kindreds are situated between nuclear families and tribes. They can often be spread out in several towns or villages.
8. This is a local expression that means ‘I have pulled myself our of your clutches.’ 9. George Otis Jr., The Twilight Labyrinth (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 1997), p. 284.
10. Television personality Art Linkletter made the area famous by proposing it as a mobile home centre.
11. This action was taken around 1976.
12. Bob believes that community pastors need to be willing to make an open-ended commitment that only God can close.
13. This is based on estimates developed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Colombia is also a major producer of marijuana and heroin. See ‘Colombia Police Raid Farm, Seize 8 Tons of Pure Cocaine,’ Seattle Times, October 16, 1994, n.p.
14. This statement is attributable to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. See also Pollard, Peter. ‘Colombia,’ Encyclopaedia Britannica Online [database online]. Book of the Year: World Affairs, 1995 [cited March 11, 19971. Available from www.eb.com/.
15. To keep tabs on their operations, cartel founders Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela installed no fewer than 37 phone lines in their palatial home.
16. Documenting the dimensions of Colombia’s national savagery, Bogota’s leading newspaper, El Tiempo, cited 15,000 murders during the first six months of 1993. This gave Colombia, with a population of 32 million people, the dubious distinction of having the highest homicide rate in the World. See Tom Boswell, ‘Between Many Fires,’ Christian Century, Vol. III, No. 18, June 1-8, 1994, p. 560.
17. Two years earlier, as a Christmas ‘gift,’ the Rodriguez brothers had provided the Cali police with 120 motorcycles and vans.
18. Otis, Jr., The Twilight Labyrinth, p. 300.
19. Ibid. This unique group was comprised of Colombian police, army personnel and contra guerrillas. Note: The June 1995 campaign also included systematic neighbourhood searches. To insure maximum surprise, the unannounced raids would typically occur at four A.M. “Altogether,” MacMillan reported, “The cartel owned about 12,000 properties in the city. These included apartment buildings they had constructed with drug profits. The first two floors would often have occupied flats and security guards to make them look normal, while higher-level rooms were filled with rare art, gold and other valuables. Some of the apartment rooms were filled with stacks of 100-dollar bills that had been wrapped in plastic bags and covered with mothballs. Hot off American streets, this money was waiting to be counted, deposited or shipped out of the country.”
The authorities also found underground vaults in the fields behind some of the big haciendas. Lifting up concrete blocks, they discovered stairwells descending into secret rooms that contained up to 9 million dollars in cash. This was so-called ‘throwaway’ money. Serious funds were laundered through banks or pumped into ‘legitimate’ businesses. To facilitate wire transfers, the cartel had purchased a chain of financial institutions in Colombia called the Workers Bank.
20. Dean Latimer, ‘Cali Cartel Crackdown?’ High Times [database online, cited 8 August 1995]. Available at www.hightimes.com.
21. The vigils have been held in the Pascual Guerrero stadium since August 1995. 22. After serving six months of his sentence, Santacruz embarrassed officials by riding out of the main gate of the maximum-security prison in a car that resembled one driven by prosecutors.
23. As the authorities probed the mountain of paperwork confiscated during government raids, they discovered at least two additional “capos” of the Cali cartel. The most notorious of these, Helmer ‘Pacho’ Herrera, turned himself in to police at the end of August 1996. The other, Justo Perafan, was not linked to the Cali operations until November 1996 because of a previous connection with the Valle cartel.
24. To appreciate the extent of these changes on the city, one has only to walk past the vacant haciendas of the drug barons. In addition to serving as monuments of human folly, these ghost towns stand as eloquent testimonies of the power of prayer.
25. “Gracias a Dios No Explotó,” El Pais, Cali, November 6, 1996; “En Cali Desactivan Un ‘Carrobomba,’ El.Pais, Cali, November 6, 1996, n.p.
26. For a more complete version of the Kiambu story, see The Twilight Labyrinth pp. 295-298.
27. The pastors came out of this season with a five-part strategy for turning their community around: (1) set aside a day for fasting and confession of sin; (2) require Christian men to improve the way they treat their wives and families; (3) promote reconciliation between churches; (4) raise up trained intercessors for the city, and (5) conduct spiritual mapping.
This article is from Chapter 1, “Snapshots of Glory” (pp. 15-53) of Informed Intercession (Renew 1999) by George Otis Jr., reproduced with permission of Gospel Light publications, Ventura, California, USA ( www.gospellight.com ). See Peter Wagner’s review comments in the Reviews section of this Renewal Journal.
Dr Geoff Waugh reports on recent and current revival movements in the South Pacific nations of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, as examples of radical and effective discipleship.
Transforming revival continues to spread exponentially. The Sentinel Group (www.glowtorch.org) DVDs report on community transformation around the world, especially in Transformations I and II, and Fiji reports in Let the Seas Resound. This brief update describes recent revivals in the South Pacific islands, representative of revivals multiplying in the twenty-first century.
Vanuatu, South Pacific
Law School students at their Christian Fellowship (CF) in University of the South Pacific developed a powerfully discipling community through their CF, which led to effective evangelism, mission to many nations, and involvement in revival movements. Peer discipling with committed leaders encouraged personal growth and enabled powerful ministry.
The Lord moved in a surprising way at the Christian Fellowship (CF) in the School of Law in Port Vila, Vanuatu on Saturday night, April 6, the weekend after Easter 2002.
The university’s CF held an outreach meeting on the lawn and steps of the grassy university square near the main lecture buildings, school administration and library. God moved strongly there that night.
Unusual lightning hovered around in the sky that night, and as soon as the prayer teams had finished praying with those who rushed forward at the altar call, the tropical rain pelted down on that open field area.
God poured out his Spirit on many lives that night, including Jerry Waqainabete and Simon Kofe. Both of them played rugby in the popular university teams and enjoyed drinking and the night club scene. Both changed dramatically. Many of their friends said it would not last. It did.
A team of eleven from their CF visited Australia for a month in November-December 2002 involved in outreach and revival meetings in many denominations and as well as in visiting home prayer groups. They drove 6,000 kilometres in a 12-seater van, including a trip from Brisbane to Sydney and back to visit Hillsong.
The team prayed for hundreds of people in various churches and home groups – as in the cover photograph of this book. They led worship at the daily 6 am prayer group at Kenmore Baptist Church, with Calvin Ziru on guitar. That followed their own 5 am daily prayer meeting in the house provided miraculously for them.
Miracle House bought with “no money” (and sold later for $80,000 profit!)
Philip and Dhamika George from Sri Lanka bought that rental house with no money and made it freely available. They had recently befriended a back packer stranger who advised them to buy a rental property because Brisbane house prices then began to increase rapidly in value. They had no spare money but their new friend loaned them a deposit of $10,000, interest free, to get a bank loan and buy the house. They sold the house two years later for $80,000 profit, returned the deposit loan, and used the profits for Kingdom purposes especially in mission.
The law students from the CF grew strong in faith. Jerry, one of the students from Fiji, returned home for Christmas vacation after the visit to Australia, and prayed for over 70 sick people in his village, seeing many miraculous healings. His transformed life challenged the village because he had been converted at CF after a wild time as a youth in the village. The following December vacation, 2004, Jerry led revival in his village. He prayed early every morning in the Methodist Church. Eventually some children and then some of the youth joined him early each morning. By 2005 he had 50 young people involved, evangelising, praying for the sick, casting out spirits, and encouraging revival. By 2009 Jerry was a lawyer and pastor of a church in Suva and had planted a new church in his village as well.
Simon, returned to his island of Tuvalu, also transformed at university through CF. He witnessed to his relatives and friends all through the vacation in December-January, bringing many of them to the Lord. He led a team of youth involved in Youth Alive meetings, and prayed with the leaders each morning from 4 a.m. Simon became President of the Christian Fellowship at the Law School from October 2003 for a year.
Pentecost Island, Vanuatu
In May 2003 a team from the CF flew to Pentecost Island in Vanuatu for a weekend of outreach meetings on South Pentecost. The national Vanuatu Churches of Christ Bible College, at Banmatmat, stands near the site of the first Christian martyrdom there.
Tomas Tumtum had been an indentured worker on cane farms in Queensland, Australia. He was converted there and returned around 1901 to his village on South Pentecost with a new young disciple from a neighbouring island. They arrived when the village was tabu (taboo) because a baby had died a few days earlier, so no one was allowed near the village. Ancient tradition dictated that anyone breaking tabu must be killed, so they were going to kill Tomas, but his disciple Lulkon asked Tomas to tell them to kill him instead so that Tomas could evangelise his own people. Just before he was clubbed to death at a sacred mele palm tree, he read John 3:16, then closed his eyes and prayed for them.
Tomas became the pioneer of the church in South Pentecost, establishing Churches of Christ there.
Mathias, a young man who repented deeply with over 15 minutes of tearful sobbing, is now the main worship leader in revival meetings. When he was leading and speaking at a revival meeting at the national Bible College, a huge supernatural fire blazed in the hills directly opposite the Bible College chapel in 2005, but no bush was burned.
Pentecost Bible College
By 2004, the Churches of Christ national Bible College at Banmatmat on Pentecost Island became a centre for revival. Pastor Lewis Wari and his wife Marilyn hosted these gatherings at the Bible College, and later on Lewis spoke at many island churches as the President of the Churches of Christ. Lewis had been a leader in strong revival movements on South Pentecost as a young pastor from 1988.
Every weekend the team from the college led revival meetings in village churches. Many of these went late as the Spirit moved on the people with deep repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness, and prayer for healing and empowering.
Pentecost on Pentecost
Grant Shaw accompanied Geoff Waugh to Pentecost Island in Vanuatu in September-October 2006. Grant grew up with missionary parents, saw many persecutions and miracles, and had his dad recounting amazing, miraculous answers to prayer as a daily routine. They often needed to pray for miracles, and miracles happened. From 14 years old Grant participated in mission teams travelling internationally in Asia. Then he attended a youth camp at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship which has had revival since 1994. He then worked there as an associate youth pastor for 18 months before studying at Bible College in Brisbane. So he is used to revival – all his life! In Vanuatu he was getting clear words of knowledge, and seeing people healed daily in meetings and in the villages. That inspired and challenged everyone.
Raised from the dead
At sharing time in the Upper Room service in Port Vila the capital, Leah Waqa, a nurse, told how she had been on duty that week when parents brought in their young daughter who had been badly hit in a car accident, and showed no signs of life – the monitor registered zero – no pulse. Leah felt unusual boldness, so commanded the girl to live, and prayed for her for an hour – mostly in tongues – and after an hour the monitor started beeping and the girl recovered.
The mission trip continued on South Pentecost once more, based in the village of Panlimsi where Mathias was then the young pastor. The Spirit moved strongly in all the meetings. Repentance. Reconciliations. Confessions. Anointing. Healings every day. The healings included Pastor Rolanson’s young son able to hear clearly after partially deaf from birth. Rolanson leads evangelism teams, and helped lead this mission.
South Pentecost attracts tourists with its land diving – men jumping from high towers with vines attached to their ankles. Grant prayed for a jumper who had hurt his neck, and the neck crackled back into place. An elderly man no longer needed a walking stick to come up the hill to the meetings. Grant prayed for a son of the paramount chief of South Pentecost from Bunlap, a heathen village. He was healed from a painful groin and he invited the team to come to his village to pray for the sick. No white people had been invited there to minister previously.
The team, including the two Australians, trekked for a week into mountain villages. They literally obeyed Luke 10 – most going with no extra shirt, no sandals, and no money. The trek began with a 5 hour walk across the island to Ranwas on the eastern side. Mathias led worship, with strong moves of the Spirit touching everyone. At one point the preacher spat on the dirt floor, making mud to show what Jesus did once. Marilyn Wari, wife of the President of the Churches of Christ in Vanuatu, then jumped up asking for prayer for her eyes. Later she testified that the Lord told her to do that, and then she found she could read her small Bible without glasses.
Glory in a remote village
The team trekked through the ‘custom’ heathen village (where the paramount chief’s sons lived), and prayed for more sick people. Some had pain leave immediately, and people there became more open to the gospel. Then the team trekked for 7 hours to Ponra, a remote village further north on the east coast.
Revival meetings erupted there! The Spirit just took over. Visions. Revelations. Reconciliations. Healings. People drunk in the Spirit. Many resting on the floor getting blessed in various ways. When they heard about healing through ‘mud in the eye’ at Ranwas some came straight out asking for mud packs also!
One of the girls in the team had a vision of the village children there paddling in a pure sea, crystal clear. They were like that – so pure. Not polluted at all by TV, videos, movies, magazines, worldliness. Their lives were so clean and holy. Just pure love for the Lord, especially among the young.
Angels singing filled the air about 3 am. It sounded as though the village church was packed. The harmonies in high descant declared “For You are great and You do wondrous things. You are God alone” and then harmonies, without words until words again for “I will praise You O Lord my God with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name for evermore” with long, long harmonies on “forever more.” Just worship.
The Upper Room church continues to move in the Spirit and has seen strong touches of God in the islands, especially Tanna Island. They planted churches there in ‘custom’ villages, invited by the chiefs because the chiefs have seen their people healed and transformed.
During missions there in 2006, many young boys asked to be ‘ordained’ as evangelists in the power of the Spirit. They returned to their villages and many of those young boys established churches as they spoke, told Bible stories, and sang original songs inspired by the Spirit.
Powerful revival in the Solomon Islands back in 1970 spread throughout the South Pacific. Everywhere pastors and leaders when they sparked more revival, repentance, conversions and many healings and miracles.
The Lord also poured out his Spirit in fresh and surprising ways in New Georgia in the Western District of the Solomon Islands in 2003, and touched many churches in the capital Honiara with strong moves of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit moved powerfully especially on youth and children. This included many conversions, many filled with the Spirit, many having visions and revelations.
An anointed pastor from PNG spoke at an Easter Camp in 2003 attended by many youth leaders from the Western Solomons. Those leaders returned on fire. The weekend following Easter, from the end of April, 2003, youth and children in the huge, scenic Marovo Lagoon area were filled with the Spirit, with many lives transformed. Revival began with the Spirit moving on youth and children in village churches. They had extended worship in revival songs, many visions and revelations and lives being changed with strong love for the Lord. Children and youth began meeting daily from 5 pm for hours of praise, worship and testimonies. A police officer reported reduced crimes and that former rebels attending daily worship and prayer meetings.
Revival continues to spread throughout the region. Revival movements brought moral change and built stronger communities in villages in the Solomon Islands, including these lasting developments:
1. Higher moral standards. People involved in the revival have quit crime and drunkeness, and now promote good behaviour and co-operation.
2. Christians who once kept their Christianity inside churches and meetings now talk more freely about their lifestyle in the community and among friends.
3. Revival groups, especially youth, enjoy working together in unity and community, including a stronger emphasis on helping others in the community.
4. Families are strengthened in the revival. Parents spend more time with their youth and children to encourage and help them, often leading them in Bible readings and family prayers now.
5. Many new gifts and ministries are being used by more people than before, including revelations and healing. Even children receive revelations or words of knowledge about hidden magic artifacts or ginger plants related to spirit power and remove them.
6. Churches are growing. Many church buildings in the Marovo Lagoon have been pulled down to be replaced by much bigger buildings to fit in the crowds. Offerings and community support have increased.
7. Unity. Increasingly Christians unite in reconciliation for revival meetings, prayer and service to the community.
Western Solomon Islands
A team of law students from the University of the South Pacific CF in Port Vila, Vanuatu, visited Honiara and the Western Solomon Islands in mid-2003. Sir Peter and Lady Margaret Kenilorea hosted the team in Honiara. Sir Peter was the first Prime Minister of the independent Solomon Islands, and then the Speaker in the Parliament.
Dr Ronald Ziru, then the administrator of the United Church Hospital in Munda in the western islands hosted the team there, which included his son Calvin. The team had to follow Jesus’ instructions about taking nothing extra on mission because the airline left all their checked luggage behind in Port Vila! They found it at Honiara after their return from the western islands.
At Seghe and in the Marovo Lagoon the revival spread since Easter. Some adults became involved, also repenting and seeking more of the Holy Spirit. Many outpourings and gifts of the Spirit have emerged, including the following:
Transformed lives – Many youths that the police used to check on because of alcohol and drug abuse became sober and on fire for God attending daily worship and prayer meetings. A man who rarely went to church led the youth singing group at Seghe. Adults publicly reconciled after years of old rifts or strife.
Long worship – This included prophetic words or actions and visions. About 200 youth and children led worship at both Sunday services with 1,000 attending in Patutiva village where the revival began. They sang revival songs and choruses accompanied by their youth band.
Visions – Children saw visions of Jesus (smiling at worship, weeping at hard hearts), angels, hell (with relatives sitting close to a lake of fire, so the children warned them). Some saw Jesus with a foot in heaven and a foot on earth, like Mt 28:18 – “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” One boy preached (prophesied) for 1½ hours, Spirit-led.
Revelations – especially ‘words of knowledge’ about hidden things, including magic artefacts and good luck charms. Children show parents where they hid these things! If other adults did that there would be anger and feuds, but they accept it from their children. One boy told police that a man accused of stealing a chain saw (and sacked) was innocent as he claimed, and gave them the name of the culprit, by word of knowledge. The accused man returned to work.
Spiritual Gifts – teaching sessions discussed traditional and revival worship, deliverance, discernment of spirits, gifts of the Spirit, understanding and interpreting visions, tongues, healing, Spirit-led worship and preaching, and leadership in revival. Many young people became leaders moving strongly in many spiritual gifts.
These effects continued to spread throughout the Solomon Islands.
Solomon Islands Mission
In the Solomon Islands the revival team of 15 from Vanuatu and 6 from Brisbane visited villages in the Guadalcanal Mountains, three hours drive and seven hours trekking from Honiara, and held revival meetings in November 2006 especially to encourage revival leaders. They walked up mountain tracks to where revival is spreading, especially among youth. Now those young people have teams going to the villages to sing, testify, and pray for people. Many gifts of the Spirit are new to them. The team prayed for the sick and for anointing and filling with the Spirit. They prayed both in the meetings and in the villages.
Revival in Guadalcanal Mountains
Revival in the Guadalcanal Mountains started at the Bubunuhu Christian Community High School on July 10, 2006, on their first night back from holidays. They took teams of students to the villages to sing, testify, and pray for people, especially youth. Many gifts of the Spirit were new to them – prophecies, revelations (e.g., about where magic stuff is hidden) healings, and tongues.
Gideon, Grant and Geoff participated for five days in the National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC) in the north-west at Choiseul Island – 2 hours flight from Honiara. Around 1500 youth gathered from across the nation, many arriving by outboard motor canoes.
The group coming from Simbo Island in two canoes ran into trouble when their outboard motors failed. Two of their young men swam from noon for nine hours in rough seas to reach land and get help for their stranded friends. The following day they arrived with a repaired outboard motor minus their food which they had to throw overboard in the rough seas.
The Friday night convention meeting saw a huge response as Grant challenged them to be fully committed to God. Most of the youth came out immediately so there were hundreds to pray for.
The anointed worship team led the crowd in “He touched me” for nearly half an hour as prayer continued for them, including many wanting healing.
Here is Grant’s description of that youth crusade night:
We were invited to speak for their huge night rally. Geoff began and God moved on the young people in a special way. Then he handed it over to me at about halfway and I gave some words of knowledge for healing. They came forward and we prayed for them most of them fell under the Spirit’s power and all of them testified that all the pain left their body. After that, I continued to speak for a bit and then gave an altar call for any youth who choose to give their lives fully to Jesus, no turning back!
Most of a thousand youth came forward, some ran to the altar, some crying! There was an amazing outpouring of the Spirit and because there were so many people Geoff and I split up and started laying hands on as many people as we could. People were falling under the power everywhere (some testified later to having visions). There were bodies all over the field (some people landing on top of each other).
Then I did a general healing prayer and asked them to put their hand on the place where they had pain. After we prayed people began to come forward sharing testimonies of how the pain had left their bodies and they were completely healed! The meeting stretched on late into the night with more healing and many more people getting deep touches.
It was one of the most amazing nights. I was deeply touched and feel like I have left a part of my self in Choiseul. God did an amazing thing that night with the young people and I really believe that he is raising some of them up to be mighty leaders in Revival.
A young man healed that night returned to his nearby village and prayed for his sick mother and brother. Both were healed immediately. He told about that the next morning at the convention, adding that he had never done that before.
The delegation from Karika, in the Shortland Islands further west, returned the following Monday. The next night they led a meeting where the Spirit of God moved in revival. Many were filled with the Spirit, had visions, were healed, and discovered many spiritual gifts including discerning spirits and tongues. That revival has continued, and spread.
An unusual pattern of discipleship has emerged in whole villages in the South Pacific during the 12st Century. Applying the principles of 2 Chronicles 7:14, complete village communities have experienced not only revival but ecological and social transformation. Mentors and leaders from among their own people have led them into radical repentance, reconciliation, and communal commitment to Jesus as Lord in all of life.
The following stories of community transformation from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu come from pages 58-70 of A Manual for Healing the Land by Vuniani Nakanyaca and Walo Ani, 3rd edition, 2009, published by Toowoomba City Church, Australia, reproduced by permission. Reports by Harry Tura from Vanuatu are added here.
The twenty-first century has already seen many village communities transformed. Rev Ratu Vunaiani Nakauyaca describes community transformation in Fiji. The most powerful events in this ongoing revival are the direct results of repentance, reconciliation and unity,
One of the first instances of this occurred in 2002, when Chief Mataitoga of Sabeto village (between Nadi and Lautoka) had a dream from the Lord. The village had a lot of social problems as well as enmity and divisions. As a result of the dream, he called his people together to pray and fast to seek God for answers and healing. Over a period of two weeks, many of the clans spent time with the Chief to sort out their differences. They had meetings every night and God brought about reconciliation and unity in the church and village, many relationships being healed.
There had only been one church in the area until the Pentecostal revival of the 1960s which spread across the cities and towns and into the rural areas during that period. Because of the rejection of the Pentecostal experience by some people, many villages had two churches, one Methodist and one Pentecostal. This caused division between friends and family, with many people not communicating and carrying bitterness and resentment for decades.
When Ratu Mataitoga directed his people to come together as one, there was a move of the Holy Spirit with real repentance and forgiveness, and unity in the village was restored. The long term results of this action were only revealed with the passing of time. Productivity of the soil increased and long absent fish varieties returned to the reef. Mangroves that had died and disappeared have begun to grow again. The mangroves are very important for the ecology, providing shelter and breeding grounds for all kinds of fish, crabs, etc. all of which were part of the staple diet of these villages.
Healing the Land
The Healing the Land (HTL) Process, as it is now officially recognized, was really started on the initiative of Pastor Vuniani Nakauyaca. For him it was a personal journey that resulted from an accumulation of various events.
The Pacific Prayer movement had a desire to see that prayer, repentance and reconciliation were carried out where necessary on location – where missionaries had been killed or where tribal conflict had taken place. These were all based on a bottom-up or grassroots approach to bring healing and reconciliation.
Vuniani had visited Argentina and seen the beneficial results of reconciliation with the British over the Faulklands war. He also visited Guatemala to see the Almolonga transformation (see Transformation Series DVD/Video). This was a singularly dramatic community change. Jails and public bars closed, land fertility increased and crop production levels had to be seen to be believed.
What he saw brought a deeper desire in his heart to see this happen in Fiji, to give room for God to bring about community and national transformation in similar ways to what he had seen overseas. He saw the need to appropriately respond to the circumstances and use the spiritual tools available to see the nation transformed.
After returning to Fiji, he called some people together to seek God for solutions. They felt they should begin at Nuku, and this took place 1-10 April, 2003. Nuku is about 65 kilometres north of Suva, on the main island of Viti Levu.
The inhabitants of Nuku had been suffering feuds, infertility, mental illness and social problems for decades. The water of the stream that flowed through the village had been polluted since a day 42 years previously, the water and banks being filled with slime. At that time, children were swimming in the stream when the water suddenly turned white and they all ran for their lives. Fish died and grass died. Vuniani, as a child, was swimming in the river when this happened, so he knew the background story. It was believed that the polluted water caused blindness, infertility, madness and even death.
Vuniani and the team went up to Nuku to activate the Process. The key Scripture they went with was 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land”.
They had two weeks of prayer meetings, the Methodist, Assemblies of God and Seventh Day Adventist churches being represented. They spent time studying Bible references on defilement and Healing the Land. This lead them to repent and confess their sins and the sins of their forefathers, in the same way as Nehemiah did. These included killing and cannibalism, idolatry, witchcraft, bloodshed, immorality
They went to the high places in the area to cleanse them of the sinful acts that had taken place there. The elders confessed sins of their forefathers. Reconciliation first took place within families, then clans and finally within the tribe. The chief of the area led a corporate prayer of repentance with the whole tribe.
On the third day of the Process, some women came running and shouting into the village, announcing that the water in the stream had become pure again. It is still pure today.
Nuku village had been heavily populated, but because of feuds and disputes, people were chased out or just left and went to live in other villages. Deputations were sent out to these to apologise for the past offenses. A matanigasau (traditional apology) was sent to two villages, inviting the people to return if they wished.
The whole community now count themselves as very blessed. The productivity of the land has increased. The stream water is pure and since that time shrimps and fish have returned to the waters. The fertility of the banks and agriculture has radically improved. Some people have even reported that the water has demonstrated healing properties.
Nabitu Village, East of Nausori, Viti Levu
What occurred in this village was very much a follow on from what was happening around the country at the time. There was a split in the tribe and there were a lot of unresolved issues. During a business meeting in the local church, which was situated right in the middle of the village, a fist fight broke out. There was always a heaviness in the village, like a hovering dark cloud. This affected people negatively and there were not a lot of jobs available.
On the advice of chiefs, the people came together on their own initiative for a time of corporate repentance. A lay preacher in the Methodist Church facilitated the Process. There was instantly a change in the atmosphere. The heaviness that had been there had lifted and everyone could feel it. The division in the church was healed.
The lesson learned from there is that satan’s hold over people and places is tenuous to say the least. It only takes one man to lead many into forgiveness and healing. Satan has to leave, along with the oppression and curses.
Vunibau (Serua Island) in the mouth of Navua River
The HTL Process in this place was scheduled over a 14 day period. During the Process the mixture of elements was poured out onto the sand on the beach. Later that day, an elderly lady and her son went fishing on the beach. They cast the net out but when they tried to haul it back in, it seemed to be stuck. They thought that perhaps it had been caught on a stump or rock, but they found that the net was actually so full of fish that they could not pull it in.
They started walking back to the village to tell everyone, and the lady was following her son walking along the beach. Wherever his footprints were in the sand a red liquid appeared. As she walked in his footsteps she was healed of migraine, knee ailments and severe back pain, all of which she had suffered for many years. This healing has been permanent. As soon as they returned to the village she told the whole community what had happened.
All the people rushed down to the beach to see this phenomenon, including the HTL team that was still there at the time. To their amazement, right on the spot where the elements had been poured onto the sand, there was blood coming out of the sand and flowing into the sea. A backslidden Catholic man gave his life to the Lord on the spot. Photos were taken. Vuniani was called from Suva (about an hour away) and he also witnessed the blood coming out of the sand. This actually happened twice.
It was understood to be a confirming sign from the Lord that He was at work in the reconciliation and healing Process. 1 John 5:6-7, “There are three that bear witness on earth, the Spirit, the water and the blood.”
This was similar to the miracle of the healing of the waters in Nuku, which was also recognized as a sign of God’s cleansing and healing that was taking place amongst the people. God is authenticating what He is doing.
At Vunibau many other signs quickly followed. Large fish returned to their fishing grounds. On one occasion, considerable quantities of prawns came ashore so that people could just pick them up. Crabs and lobsters have also returned, and they have been able to sell the large lobsters for up to $25-$30 each.
After this sign of the blood, Pastor Vuniani recalled the scripture in Acts 2:19 where the Lord had spoken through the prophet Joel that “I will grant wonders (signs) in the sky above, and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire and vapour (pillars) of smoke” (NASB). He wondered what would come next after the sign of the blood and felt that the next sign would be fire.
Nataliera, Nailevu North
In Nataliera village there were four churches. There was no communication between their members, affecting even closely related families within the village. Traditional witchcraft was still being practised and there were about eight sorcerers there. In addition, there had been many more deaths than would be normal.
After forgiveness and reconciliation, the members of these four churches would meet every Wednesday for prayer and fasting. On the first Sunday of every month, the four congregations would combine for one large gathering. An Eco Lodge, previously closed, is now prospering after the HTL Process.
For many years the fishing on the reef had become lean. Large fish were very scarce and for many years the catch had only ever comprised “bait fish” – the very small ones. Much of the coral reef was dead and what was left seemed to be dying.
After reconciliation, on two separate occasions fire was seen to fall from the sky onto the reef. After this, large fish returned in abundance. The coral is now regenerating and new growth can be seen in abundance.
When stormy weather strikes and the boats can’t go out, the women pray and large fish swim in close to the shore and become trapped in a small pond so that the women are able to just wade in and catch them. When women from neighbouring villages heard of this, they tried praying for the same provision, but without the same result.
Draubuta, Navosa highlands, north of Sigatoka
Vuniani’s son, Savanaca, was working with two teams in the highlands. While they were there, pillars of smoke descended on the villages. This was seen by many neighbouring villagers who described it as thick bloodstained smoke. This sign was seen at almost exactly the same time as fire was seen to fall on the reef at Nataliera.
In this area there were many marijuana plantations. The Nadroga council had been trying to prevent the plantings. During the HTL Process, a deputation of marijuana growers approached the team and asked what the Government would do for them if they destroyed their crops. They had a list of demands which they presented to the team.
The marijuana crop was large, and estimated to be worth about $11 million. There were 9 growers involved. The team leaders told the farmers that it was their choice, that they should obey God and trust Him for their livelihood, without any promises from anyone to do anything for them. If they could not, then they should not participate in the Healing Process.
By the time the Process had finished, the people had destroyed the crop as part of the reconciliation Process. After the HTL ministry, a total of 13,864 plants were uprooted and burnt by the growers themselves. There were 6,000 seedlings as well.
These are a few of the many miraculous events that have occurred in Fiji since 2001. Every week, more such events are happening as the forgiveness, reconciliation and HTL processes are being experienced.
Papua New Guinea
Rev Walo Ani and his wife Namana describe community transformation through Healing the Land in Papua New Guinea.
It was a very exciting week in August 2006 where we saw the Lord move mightily in the lives of the village elders, chiefs, church leaders and the people. A group of dedicated young people’s prayer ministry team started praying and fasting from 1st of July for the HTL Process. We witnessed repentance, forgiveness and reconciliations between family and clan members, and between individuals.
The Lord went ahead and prepared the hearts of people in every home as we visited. They were ready to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness from each other and reconcile. In some homes, members of families gave their hearts to the Lord. Visitation of homes took two days. On the third morning, after the dedication of the elements of salt, oil and water, the village elders and chiefs publicly repented as they identified with sins of their forebears; and each of them publicly gave their clans to the Lord.
Three dinghies and a big canoe with people all went in different directions up several rivers and along the nearby coast to anoint specific places for cleansing that were defiled through deaths and killings in the past.
That night there was a time of public confession and renouncement of things that were a hindrance in the lives of the people around a huge bonfire. It was a solemn night; the presence of the Lord was so powerful that people were coming forward and burning their witchcraft and charms publicly. No one could hold back, even the deacons and church elders, village elders, women and young people were all coming forward. Young people started confessing their sins and renouncing and burning drugs, cigarettes and things that were hindering their lives from following Christ.
A young man, who had murdered another young man about 11 years ago, came forward and publicly confessed his sin and asked for forgiveness from the family of the murdered man. That was a big thing; there was a pause and we waited and prayed for someone from the other side to respond. Only the Lord could do this. The younger brother of the man who was killed came out finally, and offered forgiveness. We could hear crying among the people; it was a moving moment where God just took control. Mothers, brothers and members of both extended families became reconciled in front of the whole village. We could sense the release upon both families and village. It was an awesome time; the meeting went on into the early hours of the next morning. At the end of all this at about 2am the pastor stood up and said the prayer to invite Jesus into the community.
The village is not the same; you can sense the release and freedom of Christ in the lives of the people. The Holy Spirit is still moving in people’s lives and they are coming to their pastor for prayer. Recently, a young man surrendered two guns to the pastor. News of what God has done and is still doing has spread to neighbouring villages. God birthed a new thing in our area and I believe that many more villages will see the transforming power of God because they are hungry and desperate to see change in their communities.
There is abundance of fruit and garden food and two harvests of fruit on the orange trees have been observed so far.
A hunger for prayer has risen among the young people. Straight after HTL Process young people from one of the clans started a prayer group which is still going on. Two other clans started prayer groups after a lot of struggle to get going over the years. The HTL team was the main support behind “Kids Games” which were held December 2006 in the neighbouring village of Keapara.
The studies were on Joseph and when they came to the section on forgiveness the Lord moved in a powerful way and revival started among the children. They stood and asked for forgiveness from their parents. There was crying and reconciliation between children and parents.
The Lord is arresting the hearts of the young, the old and the children and there is no holding back.
Makirupu is about 2 hours drive east of Port Moresby, with a population of about 600. The United Church was the established church there and CRC and AOG have also planted churches there in recent years which caused a lot of offences between families.
The Lord moved in a mighty way convicting people of land disputes, immorality and fornication, fear of witchcraft and sorcery (fear was at its peak when the HTL Process began), lies, gambling, stealing, marriage problems, witchcraft, sorcery and charms and many other issues. Miracles of healing started from day one; people who were deaf began to hear, their ears were healed.
The presence of the Lord was very heavy in the church. I asked if there was anyone to repent on behalf of the young people and the young girl who had committed fornication and adultery with the last pastor came forward, trembling and crying, confessing, repenting and asking for forgiveness from God and the whole village. The people were amazed at what God was doing. Only He could do that. The girl who had denied outright what she had done 18 months ago was arrested by God’s presence and could not hide any more. A Sunday School representative came forward and repented and asked for forgiveness. A former deacon could not hold back. He came forward and confessed that he had been the messenger boy for the pastor and the girl and he said sorry to the Lord for denying Him.
Because of this incident 18 months ago, all the young people had left the church but when the air was cleared, the next day all the young people came and the church building was full to capacity. The fear of the Lord entered the hearts of the people. That same night the anointing elements were mixed and the mission land was anointed, cleansed and rededicated to God. It was an awesome time. The AOG pastor also asked for forgiveness from the United Church for leaving the church and causing division. He and his wife and all his church members were part of the prayer warrior team right from day one of the Process. A couple of days later the CRC members started joining us and by the end of the Process all three churches were united to see change in the community. The prayer warrior team grew from 7 to 40. Praise God!
The next day news of what had happened had reached everyone in the village and the nearby villages and more people came for the meetings. They were hungry to hear the Word of the Lord. The next few days people were seeing signs and wonders, something they had never experienced before. Revival had started and the fear of God came upon the people. Also on the third day the village chief invited Jesus into the community.
On the last day the whole village gathered at the spot where the village was started some five or six generations ago. Anointing oil was mixed and all the chiefs and village elders were anointed and reinstated. After that, groups of people and prayer team took oil to certain places defiled because of bloodshed in the past on garden land. They anointed these places while deacons took oil to the boundaries of the village and the beach and dedicated the land back to God.
After lunch everyone came back to the village and started a bonfire. Church deacons and leaders were the first ones to come forward with confessions of adultery, immorality and witchcraft. Families with land disputes came out and reconciled with people they had taken to court. Young people came out with charms and magic and burnt them in the fire. A mother came out with her ten-year-old daughter and confessed she had handed down her sorcery and magic to her and said she was sorry, asking for forgiveness from God. Both were prayed for. Husbands and wives reconciled, artifacts of magic and idolatry were burnt. God was doing His cleaning up in the lives of the people.
The next day we had a time of celebration and you could see the release and freedom in people’s lives, singing was coming from their hearts and joy was bubbling over. The Lord had again touched people’s hearts and His presence was so evident that the people did not want to stop celebrating, although it was getting dark and there was no light.
The land and the people are being healed. The day after the Process a couple of men went crabbing and caught bigger and more crabs than usual. A week later a lady went to her garden to find that the bad weed which had been a problem to most gardens had started to wither and die. She went back to the village and told everyone. The fear that had gripped the hearts of the people had also been broken in prayer and now women are going to their gardens on their own – something they could not do before. A few days after the HTL Process, men began to go fishing and to their surprise they were catching more and bigger fish than before.
There has been a case of instant healing of a patient with a stroke after the AOG pastor and his wife shared with her family about Roots and Foundations and how curses come into lives. The whole family confessed, repented and reconciled with each other. The pastor’s wife had some of the oil that was mixed in the village the week before and began anointing the lady while they prayed. To their surprise, she was healed instantly. She began to speak and eat on her own. The pastor said he had never experienced anything like this before. The presence of the Lord was so great they all started worshipping Him and time was not an issue anymore. Praise God for this miracle!
During the Process, the pastors of the AOG, the United Church and an Elder of the CRC church, standing on behalf of the pastor, all repented of all the offences and misunderstandings between them in the past. So now the three churches have decided to have a combined service once a month in the middle of the village.
The young people from all three churches are already having combined prayer meetings and they are in the process of building a big shelter in the middle of the village for the combined church services.
The villagers reported there has not been any stealing since the men were employed. There has also been increase in their garden produce, fruit and nut trees. The people are able to see their own produce come to maturity and sell it, whereas in the past it would have been stolen.
Makirupu and one of the nearby villages are known for getting floods during heavy rains. One month before we got there, it had been raining heavily but the Lord has kept the floods away. This is an answer to the people’s prayers. However, the other village got the floods and we got to see some of the houses still surrounded by floodwaters when we were there. It surely is amazing!
Kalo is the village where about 126 years ago in 1881, four Cook Island missionaries and their families were killed. The killings were led by the chief of one of the clans.
The outcome of the talks is that the leaders of this clan called all their families together, from far and near to come and start the repentance and reconciliation Process. This was supported by the pastor and all the Church and clan leaders of Kalo. It was a moving occasion and the leaders agreed to proceed with the HTL Process and a bigger reconciliation event with the relatives of the Cook Island missionaries present in the near future.
Healing The Land in Vanuatu
Pastors Walo Ani and Harry Tura report on transforming revival in Vanuatu.
Hog Harbour, Espirito Santo
The island was named Espiritu Santo because that is the island where over 400 years ago in May 1606 Ferdinand de Quiros named the lands from there to the South Pole the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit.
In April 2006 the Fraternal, under the leadership of Pastor Raynold Bori, conducted protocol discussions with the Hog Harbour community leaders and explained to them what the Process involves. In May 2006 six pastors from Luganville did the HTL Process and God’s presence came on the people that week.
Here are some of the stories of Healing the Land in a village of 800 people:
Married couples were reconciled.
Schools of big fish came to the shores during the reconciliation.
A three year old conflict, bloodshed and tribal fighting that could not be stopped by the Police, ended and reconciliation was made.
The presence of the Lord came down on the village.
In June of 2006, 12 pastors from the Luganville Fraternal were invited by the Litzlitz village on Malekula Island to do the HTL Process there. These Pastors spent three weeks teaching and doing the Process during which many instances of reconciliation and corporate repentance were witnessed. Village Chiefs and the people committed their community to God.
One year later the President of Vanuatu re-covenanted the Nation to God on the island of Espiritu Santo.
Litzlitz Village, Malekula Island
The presence of the Lord was so real and manifested and many miracles were seen such a people healed, dried brooks turned to running streams of water, fish and other sea creatures came back to the sea shores in great number and even the garden crops came alive again and produced great harvests.
Miracles happened three days after the HTL Process:
The poison fish that usually killed or made people sick became edible and tasty again.
The snails that were destroying gardens all died suddenly and didn’t return.
As a sign of God’s transforming work a coconut tree in the village which naturally bore orange coconuts started bearing bunches of green coconuts side by side with the red ones.
A spring gushed out from a dried river bed and the river started flowing again after the anointing oil was poured on it when people prayed and repented of all the sins of defilement over the area.
A kindergarten was established in the village one week after the HTL Process took place.
Crops are now blessed and growing well in their gardens.
Vilakalak Village, West Ambae Island
A lot of things had been transformed such as people’s lives had been changed as they accepted Christ and were filled with the Holy Spirit for effective ministries of the Gospel of Christ. The Shekinah glory came down to the very spot where we did the process of healing the land during the night of July 1. That great light (Shekinah glory) came down. People described it as a living person with tremendous and powerful light shining over the whole of the village community, confirming the Lord’s presence at that specific village community area. On the following day people started to testify that a lot of fish and shell fish were beginning to occupy the reefs and they felt a different touch of a changed atmosphere in the village community.
The lands and garden crops then started to produce for great harvests and coconut crabs and island crabs came back in great abundance for people’s daily meals these days. The people were very surprised at the look of the big sizes of coconut crabs harvested in that area. I went there a month later to see it. You can’t believe it that the two big claws or arms were like my wrist when I compared them with my left wrist. That proved that the God we serve is so real and He is the owner of all the creatures.
Lovanualikoutu, West Ambae
They saw many miracles of people restored to the Lord and witchcraft destroyed. The Chief said the sinner’s prayer on behalf of the community one night and they all surrendered their lives to the Lord as he invited Jesus into the village.
A team of people swam out to sea with the anointing oil to worship there and dedicate the sea and reef back to God. The day after the team’s departure from the village a pastor who went out spear fishing saw a large migration of fish. He in fact reportedly speared two fish together at one stage. When he reported this to the Chief there was dancing and rejoicing under the cocoa trees where the Chief and some young people had been working.
During the reconciliation when the Chief began to speak, a light shower fell from the sky. There were no clouds but only a sky full of millions of stars. Surely God was in this Process! The prayer team continues to see visions and witness miracles of more reconciliation and repentance. Harvests from sea and land have begun to be more abundant than ever before witnessed.
The reports of transforming revival confirm that God’s purposes for us include far more than personal, family, or church renewal and revival. They also include community transformation, including social and ecological renewal and revival.
These accounts of transforming revival continue to multiply in the twenty-first century, calling us all to deeper repentance, reconciliation, renewal and revival.
(c) 2011, 2nd edition. Reproduction allowed with copyright included in text.
He who sat on the throne says, “Behold I make all things new.”
Jesus Christ is Lord. Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
He reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords – not just in some future time or only in heaven. He reigns now. He makes all things new.
Ultimately, everything will be new. “Then the end will come when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15:24-25).
All dominion, authority and power belong to Jesus our Lord. He makes all things new.
We call that process by many names, including renewal. Our Lord is renewing everything. Right now he is doing that in all the earth, especially with everyone born anew or born again (John 3:3, 7).
Yet, renewal is far more than conversion, vital as that is. Our Lord is making all things new, not just some people. His renewing is cosmic and eternal. He is renewing ecology as well as communities. He heals the land (2 Chronicles 7:14).
This book explores a few facets of his renewal of all things. Each chapter is reproduced from my articles in the Renewal Journal.
Chapter 1, Renewal Ministry, explores how renewal applies to our lives as we love God and love others.
Chapter 2, Revival Worship, notes current developments in renewal worship and ministry.
Chapter 3, New Wineskins, tackles issues about emerging churches and networks.
Chapter 4, Vision for Ministry, dreams big and explores some implications of renewal in ministry and service.
Chapter 5, Community Transformation, touches on the amazing current renewal transformation in communities and ecology.
Chapter 6, Astounding Church Growth, surveys the explosive expansion of the church during the last century.
The companion book to this one,Revival, is compiled from other articles originally published in the Renewal Journal, specifically:
Revival Fire (from Issue 1: Revival)
Spirit Impacts in Revival (from Issue 13: Ministry)
Revivals into 2000 (from Issue 14: Anointing)
Revival in the 21st Century (from Issue 11: Discipleship)
Our Lord is making all things new – your life, your relationships, your destiny. I hope these books both inform and inspire.
Reproduction is allowed and encouraged with the copyright intact with the text. These articles are also available on the internet.
A summary survey of historical and current revival. Chapters are compiled from revival articles in the Renewal Journals.
1 Revivals to 1900
2 20th Century Revivals
3 1990s – Decade of Revivals
4 21st Century Revivals
See also Revivals Index
I will pour out my Spirit
Joel 2:28-29, Acts 2:17-18
Revivals bring thousands into God’s kingdom as his Spirit moves powerfully in the earth. All revivals carry some or most of the characteristics of Pentecost, the prototype and forerunner of revivals. Peter, preaching then, explained what was happening from Joel’s famous prophecy (Acts 2:17-21):
And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass Thatwhoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.
This book provides a summary overview of many revivals since the first Great Awakening in the eighteenth century including some current revivals now transforming communities. I give more details in my book Flashpointsof Revival, and still further details including footnotes in RevivalFires (see Appendix).
This book gives a brief glimpse of revival in summaries. These are compiled from my articles in the Renewal Journal, available on the web at renewaljournal.com, especially the Blogs:
Transforming Revivals transform ecology (the land) as well as individuals, churches, communities, and even nations. They are the literal fulfilment of God’s promise: If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).
The first chapters of this book survey transforming revivals in Australia and the South Pacific islands – selected from my book South Pacific Revivals (2nd edition, 2010).
Then in Chapter 5 this book expands to cover global transforming revivals researched and documented by George Otis Jr and the Sentinel Group. See their website.
As you read these stories, you too can pray for revival, including asking God to touch you in new ways. This is God’s purpose right now, everywhere. God promised to pour out his Spirit on everyone – not just on good people, and not only on church people. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would fill us with power to be his witnesses.
That can happen as you read this book. I pray that it will.
Some photos from the book
George Otis Jr reports on global transformation in one chapter here, and in many books and the Sentinel Group Transformation DVDs – www.glowtorch.org
I’ve been praying for people in meetings for over twenty years, but recently it’s been different. Many now slump to the floor, or shake, or laugh, or sob, or feel heat in their hands or on their head, or have other surprises.
We were worshipping at the Renewal Fellowship recently when I prayed (with my eyes shut) for the Holy Spirit to come upon us. A person in the front row fell over and crashed into me. I quickly opened my eyes, guiding that person to the floor.
Those manifestations are not new. They have been there over the years at various times. Now, however, they happen more often and with greater intensity. I believe this is a time of refreshing and blessing in the mid-nineties.
I remember the early seventies when a wave of renewal swept the earth. Thousands were baptised in the Spirit, spoke in tongues, discovered spiritual gifts, and began to see more answers to prayer for healing or deliverance. That wave gave birth in Brisbane to movements such as Christian Life Centre, Christian Outreach Centre, Bardon Catholic Charismatic meetings, Emmanuel Covenant Community, and some denominational charismatic congregations.
These strong manifestations now in the nineties are more varied and sometimes more surprising than I ve known before. I believe it is part of a worldwide move of God s Spirit, and as always, it is mixed with our human reactions.
A fresh wave
This fresh wave started for us at the Renewal Fellowship during 1994. It seems to be part of our on-going journey.
We have been learning to respond to the Spirit, as best we know. Our ‘order of service had long given way to the immediate leadings of the Spirit. We still followed our usual pattern, however, of worship for over and hour (with great variety such as in prophetic music, free singing, Scriptures read and prophetic words or visions shared), Bible teaching, and ministry with prayer for one another in clusters, with further prayer for those who could remain later.
Sometimes in praying for people some were overwhelmed and rested on the floor, or slumped in their seats. No problem! We had seen that before from time to time. It just seemed to be more frequent from 1994.
The Christian Outreach Centres had experienced a strong move of the Spirit in 1993, beginning in Brisbane and spreading through their churches. We were blessed in Brisbane through a range of ministries including visits from John Wimber, Rodney Howard-Browne, leaders involved in the ‘Toronto Blessing’ now touching thousands of people and churches all over Canada, America, England, and across the world. We read reports of similar happenings in Australia among some churches touched by this blessing.
As in the seventies, the expressions of this blessing varied from group to group, from ministry to ministry. The essence, however, seemed to be similar everywhere – strong impacts from the Spirit, people being overwhelmed, new and deep love for Jesus, personal refreshing and blessing, catching the fire of a fresh zeal for the Lord, ministering more effectively to others.
As we kept praying for people the manifestations increased, especially with people being overwhelmed and resting in the Spirit.
To pray or not to pray
Problem! Do we actively encourage this? Do we avoid it – such as not praying so much? Do we stop praying for individuals? Do we wait till the end of the meeting, even though some people were being touched strongly as we worshipped? Do we copy methods from the Vineyard conferences, such as praying for people all over the place at the end of the meeting? Do we follow the Toronto example and make plenty of carpet space available? Do we ask people to stand and then ask the Holy Spirit to come, or do we just expect he will move upon us anyway?
In our prayer times before every meeting we declared the Lordship of Jesus, asked him to take over, and claimed his authority. The more we prayed, the more it kept happening!
We don t have all the answers yet – and maybe never will! Who can direct the wind? The whirlwind is even more unpredictable.
Where do we draw the line? Whose line? God’s? Ours? Our traditions?
We all draw a line somewhere. Responsible leadership and pastoral care require some guidelines., even though these maybe quite flexible.
What is regarded as ‘decent’ and ‘in order’ varies widely from church to church, group to group, culture to culture, revival to revival. We need to be spiritually sensitive, theologically insightful and culturally appropriate (as Jesus and Paul were) without quenching the Spirit.
The root and the fruit
Where the root of various experiences is Jesus himself in the power of his Spirit, and the fruit is clearly the fruit of his Spirit, we’re glad.
Remember that Jesus’ presence and ministry produced amazing effects in Scripture. Demons were expelled. People were set free and made whole. Lives were changed.
What are the results of these current blessings for us in the Renewal Fellowship?
Worship is richer, fuller and longer than ever. People comment on the blessing of a stronger, closer relationship with God, both in the meetings and beyond them in daily life. Many people tell about blessings in their service to others, in prayer for the sick and in home groups.
People report a deeper awareness of the reality of the Lord, closer fellowship with Jesus, stronger leadings by the Holy Spirit, increased anointing in their various giftings, and greater love for God. For many people it is already flowing over into sacrificial ministry to others with greater assurance, compassion, and willingness to be involved as they obey the promptings of the Spirit.
One person lay on the floor, overwhelmed, and began praying in tongues with a new love for the Lord and release of his gifts. Some report physical healings received while overwhelmed. Someone with Multiple Personality Disorder caused by childhood trauma had a vision of Jesus while resting on the floor; Jesus brought deep healing and integration, resulting in profound improvement. Many people have found a new zeal in serving the Lord and praying with and for others.
We need pastoral wisdom to avoid the extremes of foolish excesses on one hand or resisting and quenching the Spirit on the other. We need discernment between the true and the false, and that s not easy. We need grace to welcome the refreshing of the Lord even though it comes in different ways to different people. As with conversion, or being filled with the Spirit, or discovering spiritual gifts, some people have dramatic encounters with God while others experience deep and quiet peace.
Let everything be grounded in Scripture, illumined by the Spirit who inspired it. It is more radical than any of us really understand. A few biblical happenings would certainly enliven any church!
Jesus offended many people, such as in worship and teaching meetings. He welcomed outcasts, sinners, the poor and despised. He healed lepers. He banished demons. He sent the disciples off to preach, heal the sick and cast out demons. He told them to teach the rest of us to do the same (Matthew 28:20; Mark 16:17-18; Luke 24:49; John 14:12; 20:21-22; Acts 1:8 and so on).
People in the early church saw the power of God at work. They appeared drunk on the day of Pentecost. They clashed with traditions, as Jesus did. They prayed and witnessed amid the turbulence of light overcoming darkness, truth confronting error, and the kingdom of God invading the kingdoms of this world.
Expect the Spirit to move upon us all even more fully. Welcome his blessings, and pray that revival will yet sweep our nation. Perhaps a spark is being lit for revival in our land.
Praying for People
We found the following guidelines helpful in praying for people. They are adapted from material provided in Toronto. We prefer to pray in pairs if possible so that if someone is overwhelmed they can be gently helped to rest in the Spirit.
1. When praying for individuals, watch closely what the Spirit is doing (John 5:19). Never make a person feel that they are unable to receive or are resisting the Holy Spirit just because they are not openly manifesting something. We are called to encourage and love, not speak words that will bring rejection or discouragement.
2. Do not force ministry! Trust the Lord, knowing that he is doing something personal within an individual, so don’t interrupt that special ‘conversation’.
3. When you are praying for someone a strong anointing may rest on you also. Keep praying for the person without distracting them.
4. You may be able to help some people receive more in the following ways:
(a) Help them deal with a tendency to rationalise; or calm their fears of loss of control.
(b) Let them know what to expect; that even when the Holy Spirit is blessing them they will have a clear mind and can usually stop the process at any point if they want to.
(c) The Holy Spirit often moves in ‘waves’ similar to the blowing wind.
(d) Encourage them to be still and know that God is God (Ps. 46:10), and to stay focused on he Lord. He loves them intensely and longs for them to know him intimately.
5. Generally, it is helpful to have people stand to receive ministry. The Holy Spirit often rests upon people as they wait in his presence. Some people may fear falling, especially if they have back problems or are pregnant or elderly. If they are overwhelmed help them to sit down, kneel, or fall carefully.
6. When people fall or rest in the Spirit, encourage them to soak in the presence of the Lord. It seems that everyone wants to get up far too quickly.
7. It can help to pray and bless the person resting in the Spirit. Many feel very vulnerable while in that position and appreciate the loving care given. They also need to guarded from others bumping into them and/or making comments around them.
8. Never push people over. Watch over-enthusiasm and a tendency to want to ‘help God out’ especially when you are sensing a strong anointing within you.
9. If you get ‘words of knowledge’, pray biblical prayers related to those words. Let prophetic encouragement flow from prayer ministry, and always for edification, exhortation or comfort. Remember, no ‘direction, correction, dates or mates’.
10. You will seldom err if you pray biblical prayers such as:
(a) ‘Come Holy Spirit.’
(b) ‘Your kingdom come, Lord, Your will be done.’
(c) For a deeper revelation of the Father’s love in Christ.
(d) For anointing for service.
(e) For release of gifts and callings.
(f) To bring light and expel darkness.
(g) To open their understanding so they will know the magnitude of their salvation.
(h) For peace, ruling and reigning in their hearts.
(i) ‘More Lord’ – How much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.
11. Don’t project what God has been doing with you onto the person you are praying with. Bless what God is doing for them.
12. If your hand or body is shaking pray with your hand slightly away from the person so as not to distract them. If a stronger manifestation begins to happen within you then withdraw from ministry for a while and let the Lord bless you.
13. Laying on of hands may be appropriate, not ‘leaning on of hands’. Give a light touch only, generally on forehead, top of head, shoulder, or hands. No inappropriate touching.
14. Some people pray aloud while they are being ministered to. Encourage them to be quiet and just receive. It is difficult to drink in and pour out at the same time.
15. The person you are praying for needs to be assured that he or she is the most important one for that moment. Avoid the tendency to let your mind and eyes wander to other things or other people or other situations in the room. Don’t become distracted with other issues.
16. Your own personal hygiene is important – clean hands, hair and clothes, deodorant, breath mints may help.
17. Don’t step over anyone, or hold discussions near people resting in the Spirit.
18. Be led by common sense and by the Spirit. It helps to have men pray with men, women with women, married couples with married couples.
19. People who pray for others also need to be prayed for themselves, to receive ministry, to be refreshed and anointed anew.
20. Encourage people being prayed for to:
(a) Come humble and hungry. Forget preconceived ideas and what has happened to others.
(b) Experience ministry before trying to analyse it. The Holy Spirit will speak, teach, comfort and reveal Jesus personally. We need to know the Lord experientially as well as theologically.
(c) Face fears such as fear of deception, of being hurt again, of not receiving, of losing control.
(d) Focus on the Lord, not on falling. Give the Holy Spirit permission to do with you what he wants to do.
Above all, we need to seek the Lord. ‘Your kingdom come.’
The Rev Dr Charles Ringma taught at the Asian Theological Seminary in Manila and Regent College in Vancouver and was the founding Director of Teen Challenge in Australia. He reflects on Christian community in our homes.
If you had seen her in a crowd you would have been none the wiser. She probably would not have arrested your attention although she was attractive. Deena was a prostitute supporting a drug habit. Her small inner-city flat was her place of work.
Deena’s life was spinning out of control with a failed marriage, a small child in tow, poor health, hassles with the police, an expensive drug habit to maintain, and an increasing sense of loneliness and despair. At this point our paths crossed through my involvement in regular street work.
After several conversations it became obvious that Deena did not need a hospital or a psychiatrist. She did not need a treatment centre or a drug rehabilitation program. Rather, she needed a place of safety in which she could start again and rebuild her life. So Deena eventually came to live in our home.
In this we were not alone. One way in which charismatics and pentecostals, particularly during the 1970s, sought to demonstrate their concern for others was by taking them into their communities and homes. This was one way to help broken and wounded people who were not only on the fringes of the church but also on the fringes of society.
There were many reasons for this development.
1. Charismatic renewal was not yet heavily institutionalised. The focus was on people more than programs. Ministry took priority over buildings and projects.
2. The empowerment of the Spirit was celebrated as equipment for service, not as an enhancement for personal wellbeing and selfdevelopment.
3. The new discoveries of renewal brought the church into closer contact with the wider
community. This happened through the use of theatres, general community buildings, and the creation of dropin centres and coffee shops as ways of reaching out to nonchurch people, especially youth.
4. Renewal had not only brought new life to church members but had also brought new people into the church.
5. Inspired by such books as David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade, Christians
touched by renewal believed that something could be done through the power of the Holy Spirit for people with lifecontrolling problems.
For these and other reasons the church seemed to be closer to the person in the street.
There are several reasons why ‘caring charismatics’ became involved in these types of initiatives.
1. One factor was that, unlike the traditional churches, charismatics were not overwhelmed with seeking to maintain massive institutional structures. They were therefore free to explore other ways of expressing their social concern.
2. Another factor was the rediscovery of small groups in homes where people could share their lives, pray for one another, discover and use spiritual gifts, and involve friends in informal activities.
3. A similar factor which helped to direct the particular expressions of their concern was the renewal’s rediscovery of community. Christians in the 1970s believed that being church had something to do with being together and sharing life. As a consequence both institutional and informal Christian communities were established as well as house churches.
What characterised this impulse towards Christian community? It was not introversion and
escapism. The purpose of sharing life together was not simply to celebrate God’s gift of new life in Christ. Nor was it simply to care for one another. Instead, this life together, consisting not only of spiritual fellowship but also of sharing resources, sought to provide a context into which we could bring those needing help and encouragement.
Furthermore Christian community was seen as providing a way to make the good news in Christ more visible. This does not mean that the life of the community takes priority over the Word of God. It simply means that Christians sharing life together could demonstrate something of what it meant to be part of the body of Christ.
An underlying idea was that if others could see Christians sharing life together in common
worship and service then they would gain some idea of what the Christian life was all about.
Some might see this as a high risk strategy. They may believe that it is better for ‘seekers’ to be exposed to the purity of the preached word. However, those practising a community approach of life together believed that ‘seekers’ should see something of the warts and all life style of Christians.
The intake process
So Deena came to live in our home. She was not the first and certainly not the last. Nor was she the most difficult. During a period of fifteen years, my wife Rita and I have invited a range of young people into our home.
The most difficult were not drug addicts or prostitutes but those with major psychiatric
disturbances. But for them all, the invitation to live in our home was not a haphazard process. Early in the piece we had learned some valuable lessons from young people who needed help but in fact took advantage of our generosity.
This caused us to develop a simple but multipronged intake strategy.
First of all, Rita, Jenny (a wonderful Christian fellow traveller who shared our home), the children when they were older, and I would discuss and pray about taking in a certain person.
This person was then invited to share some meals with us over a period of several weeks and was then invited to stay for a weekend. The purpose was to build some relationship. Our concern was to determine whether our situation best served this person’s needs or whether he or she required a more structured environment such as a rehabilitation centre.
Certain guiding principles emerged.
1. Our home was not a crisis centre nor a youth refuge. It was an extended family practising hospitality to people who were invited to stay with us for a period of time.
2. The invitation to join us did not depend on the person being a Christian. In fact, the opposite was the case. Nearly all those who shared our home were not Christians when they joined us. Nor were they made to understand that they had to become Christians during their stay. What was made clear, however, was that we were Christians, that we sought to honour Christ in our life style, and that we practised certain disciplines which included devotional times.
3. We attempted to make it clear that the person was not a client, a patient, nor a family member, but a guest of the family. The focus, therefore, was not rehabilitation nor psychiatric counselling. We offered a safe place in which the person could reevaluate his or her life and begin to rebuild it.
Within this context, counselling was informal. The key strategy was to encourage the person to begin to live a life of responsibility and integrity.
A theology of hospitality
A set of theological ideas undergirded our practice of hospitality to Deena and other troubled young people who came to share our home.
It should be noted, however, that the ministry of hospitality was not a formal ministry for us. It was simply a part of living life. We were all involved in other areas of ministry.
1. One of the broader concepts that guided our action was that God calls his people to
demonstrate to others the quality of love that God has shown to them. Put differently, God wants us to reflect to others something of the kindness and goodness he has shown to us.
While there is an emphasis in Scripture that this care for others should be demonstrated within the community of faith (see Deuteronomy 15:1215; Galatians 6:10), there is a corresponding emphasis that this requires a wider application.
In the Old Testament both those within the community and those who were strangers and aliens were to be treated with similar fairness and justice (Deuteronomy 24:1718). The reason for responding in this way was because God is his great goodness had liberated his people from slavery. They were commanded to treat aliens with similar generosity and goodness.
The New Testament also requires this. Not only is there a persistent emphasis on caring for brothers and sisters in the faith (Romans 12:13; Galatians 6:2), but acts of service must also be extended to those who were outside the Christian community (Luke 6:3435; Galatians 6:10).
2. A supporting theme is the emphasis in Scripture on the ministry of hospitality (Genesis 18:15; 19:12; Judges 19:1520; Job 31:32; Matthew 25:3446; Acts 9:43; 16;15; 1 Timothy 3:2; Hebrews 13:2).
A key inspiration for this type of ministry is a concept central to the work of Mother Teresa in India. It is that when we minister to the poor and needy we are somehow ministering to Christ himself. This idea comes from Matthew 25:3446. It is also supported by other passages of Scripture. The statement that ‘whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’ (Matthew 18:5) conveys a similar idea.
We can also put this a little differently. By inviting a needy person into our lives we are involved in a process of seeing that person grow into wholeness. Where that leads to a Christian commitment we are seeing that person’s awakening to the Christ who was already there calling him or her to the fullness of life he has for them.
In this sense a guest, no matter now broken that person may be, is a very special person. While the temptation is to become fixated on this person’s needs and problems, the challenge of Matthew 18:5 (welcoming Christ) is to focus on what is yet to come into being and to emerge in that person.
So the practice of hospitality for people with lifecontrolling problems involves receiving them in hope and to trust for the emergence of Christ’s life within them. This can be an exciting adventure.
3. A third ideological foundation for this kind of ministry is Isaiah 58:612. Some themes in this significant passage should be noted. The most basic is that God desires us to convert our spiritual disciplines into strategies of social concern. Fasting can be expressed in seeking to set oppressed people free and to practically care for their needs.
A related theme is that genuine ministry is a twoway process. Working with wounded people makes us all the more aware of our own needs and imperfections. We too need further healing. As we serve others God promises that our own ‘healing shall spring up quickly’ (58:8).
Finally, working restoratively with individuals means that not only will their individual lives be renewed but that potentially families and communities will also be transformed (58:12). A healed person can also mean a healed marriage, family, or wider set of social relationships.
A rhythm of restoration
Our ministry of hospitality was supported by these theological ideas. They also helped to guide our practical application in living together.
1. A basic issue in our praxis was that the normal rhythm of our life as an extended family could act as a way to orient our guest towards more normal behaviours and attitudes. Most drug addicts, prostitutes, or people with lifecontrolling problems live highly irregular lives with little routine or structure. We found the experience of a more disciplined life style helped to orient them towards a more realistic approach to life.
2. A related idea is that life involves responsibility. Deena was not with us for a holiday. She was a guest of the family with corresponding benefits and responsibilities. Along with all the others she had her part to play in the functioning of the household. For all of us this meant cleaning, food preparation, shopping, cooking, and gardening.
The idea behind the involvement of all of us was that no one was more important than someone else and all had responsibility. Coupled with the joy of working alongside of each other, this had the effect of reinforcing the idea that we have to act responsibly in life. Life is not merely a number of arbitrary forces. I am not simply the victim of my circumstances. Life is also what I make of it and how I choose to live.
3. A further idea is that hospitality involves creating free space for the guest. Simply put, we are not there to entertain and look after Deena twentyfour hours a day. The home is neither a prison nor a fun parlour. This means that Deena has the responsibility to manage some of her own time. It also means that she has time for reflection and solitude.
Personal space for reflection is particularly critical. Many people with lifecontrolling problems are people who are in flight. They find it difficult to face their pain and disappointments. Yet, however slowly this may occur, these do need to be faced so that like a boil they can be lanced.
The framework then for the rhythm of restoration was realism, responsibility and the creation of a free space.
Journey to wholeness
The outworking of restoration varied according to each person. No one makes the same journey on the way to wholeness. But there are some common factors.
The first issue that usually occurs early in a person’s stay is the temptation to return to the old and the familiar. Because the shape of the new is not yet clear there is a pressure to revert to old habits. This occurs even when a person was thoroughly sick of their previous life style and desperately wanted to change.
Clearly, when this pressure takes place the person must take more time in order to begin the rebuilding process. This critical transition phase requires that the other household members provide much encouragement and quiet intercessory prayer for the person.
A second feature is that the guest begins to question whether the new is really possible. This is the crisis of hope. Questions emerge. Can I really make something better of my life? How can I overcome my past problems? What will my new life look like?
In this phase the guest usually begins to probe the spirituality of members of the household to see if that may possibly provide the bridge to the new life. Questions are asked. What does prayer mean to you? What does it mean to have faith? What is Jesus supposed to do for you?
At this point it is important that time is given for these questions to be explored properly. A guest should not be pressed into an easy decision for Christ. In our experience, people took many months to settle these issues.
Once a person came to faith in Christ and began to grow in his or her discipleship, issues of restitution and reconciliation with others began to emerge. This was usually followed by
questions of future life direction.
Somewhere within the space of the year that a person on average stayed with us there would come various crises of faith. These crises usually led to the realisation that further inner healing and renewal were required.
Facing the world
Our home was not the end of the road. It was the beginning of a further journey for people. This journey would also take them beyond our situation. Our place was only a temporary stopping place. It attempted to provide a place of safety and normality in which people like Deena could begin to rebuild their life.
It made no attempt to provide anything magical. Nor were easy solutions offered. The invitation, instead, was to face life realistically and responsibly. Living with Christians gave these people a close look at what the Christian life was all about for us. It allowed them to observe and to ask questions. It furthermore allowed them to explore what Christian spirituality might mean for them and what answers the Christian faith held for their lives.
We made no attempt to live a special life in front of these people. We were ourselves. We also made time for our own special family needs and for the other priorities in our lives. We made no attempt to make our home a little haven for people. They, like us, had to come to terms with the real world. So as time went on the issues of employment, where to live, vocation, calling and further life direction became issues of discussion, reflection and prayer.
Just as the intake was a careful process, so leaving us was a series of moves that gave Deena increasing responsibility. Beginning moves for her to create a life of her own included more free time, weekends away with family and friends, and eventually employment with the additional choices a steady income provided.
A final reflection
God calls the Christian community to be salt and light in a dark world. The church is to be God’s instrument of transformation. That transformation, however, must be conceived holistically and it must take place at various levels.
While on Sunday the church is the gathered community, during the rest of the week it is the scattered church. As such, Christians find themselves in families, neighbourhoods, and in a great variety of work situations where they are to be God’s instruments for good, reconciliation and reconstruction.
This means that Christians are involved in all of life. They work with the poor and in areas of policy and economics and get their hands dirty in areas of microreform.
What we must keep in focus is that we lack credibility when we pontificate on the big issues but never become practically involved with individuals and their needs. Here the example of Jesus is practical and to the point. His was the task to usher in the kingdom of God and to build the new community of faith. But Jesus also made time to heal and care for those who came to seek him out. Thus, while we seek to practice social justice to bring about a more just society, we can also lower the drawbridge and bring this ministry into our own homes.