Friday, October 26, 2007
We are especially encouraged that our ministry here at New Earth Refuge at our existing guest house has been growing. Groups, individuals and couples are coming here more and more to receive prayer from Gracie, me and others at Tierra Nueva. People are experiencing healing and renewal, as you can read in the testimonial from Laurie below.
"In June I returned from riding a friend's horse. It was a vigorous ride to say the least and the next morning I woke with terrible low back pain. As the days passed instead of getting better the pain grew worse. It spread from my lower back up to my neck and shoulders leaving me unable to drive or do daily household chores.
Despite seeing doctors and physical therapists over the following weeks the pain did not go away. The summer passed as I sat in the chair feeling hopeless. With two children, one autistic, and a marriage that was all but over I could not imagine why God would allow this to happen.
Finally, in August I thought that maybe God was trying to tell me something. I began to pray. Quickly God began to bring to mind all the things I had done to contribute to the poor state of my marriage. I called my husband and apologized for all the things I had done and was so quick to blame him for. Needless to say he was shocked but accepted my apology.
A few short minutes later a friend arrived at the house. I told her of the events of the morning and she mentioned that she knew of someone who would pray for my back pain. I wrote his name down but I wasn’t sure how I felt about “healing prayer”. My skeptical side just does not want to believe it, for several reasons I suppose. I certainly do not want to look like a sucker and what am I supposed to do with my faith if for some reason they pray for me and my back does not feel better.
Later, another friend dropped by and I was shocked to hear her tell me that she also knew of someone I should see who would pray for my back pain, Bob Ekblad, the very name I had just written down. Despite my skepticism and discomfort this seemed more than a coincidence to me.
I tried to schedule a time to see Bob but somehow no time seemed to work so he offered to pray for me over the phone. During this prayer time Bob mentioned that I may have some people in my life I need to forgive and encouraged me to ask God to bring those people to mind. Over the next several days names and events came to mind like waves on the beach and I spent a lot of time dealing with forgiveness. My back pain, however was still there and discouragement was setting in. What I wasn’t thinking about was healing was taking place in my life just not in my back yet.
Finally my husband and I were able to schedule some time with Bob at his home. We arrived and were introduced to a woman by the name of Amy who was also there to pray with us. After brief introductions Bob and Amy placed their hands on me and began to pray. At first I was afraid this would not change anything. Then my back and neck began to feel hot and cold at the same time....like BenGay. Amy mentioned some impressions that she was receiving that were so accurate I was overwhelmed. How could she know that? Bob mentioned to me then that he had a strong impression I had been given a gift of evangelism. The association I had with that word made me very uncomfortable at first until Bob explained to me what evangelism really meant-- sharing naturally the stories of God's work in my own life first. The pain in my neck and shoulders was gone.
Bob turned to my husband and asked whether he had pain in his left shoulder. This really surprised him as my husband had been suffering from pain in his left shoulder for years, as well as his right knee, but had said nothing about this to Bob. Before praying for him Bob expressed to my husband that he felt very strongly that my husband had a prophetic gifting, that he was sensitive to hearing God’s voice. Like me, my husband was resistant to this until Bob explained to him that it was more like your own thoughts then a “booming God voice”. Then Bob began to pray. Again Amy mentioned the impressions she had and again she was so accurate. Bob asked my husband how he felt and the pain was no longer there.
We left that evening knowing that God was not only doing a physical healing in our lives but healing our marriage and our lives as a whole. God did so much more for us than we ever thought. Since that day we have been asking God to teach us more about the gifts He has given and we are excited for the future."
For more testimonials check out my blog at www.bobekblad.com
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Last Thursday and Friday a number of remarkable things happened that have encouraged my heart, and hopefully will encourage yours. I keep seeing God heal people and provide for needs in humble yet very real ways.
On Thursday night I went into the jail to do my four bilingual Bible studies. There were only two Mexican men in the second Bible study-- Francisco and Guadalupe. I knew them pretty well as they’d been incarcerated six months. As soon as we sat down I felt two sharp pains in my left wrist, the one closest to Guadalupe’s right hand as I faced him. Since I had no known problem with my wrist I asked Guadalupe if he had pain in his wrist. “Si,” he said, showing me a red, swollen wrist bone he’d damaged when he fell playing handball in the jail recreation room.
“What’s really bothering me though is the pain in my chest,” he said. “I’m trying to get into the doctor here as it’s really hurting and I’m worried.”
I offered to pray and he agreed. I placed one of my hands on his wrist and the other on his chest. As I prayed I felt a warm cushion of air over my hand—like there was an invisible hand laid on top of my hand. “Do you feel that warmth?” I asked, and he nodded. After praying, Francisco read that day’s reading, the story of the healing of Naaman in 2 Kings 5. While Francisco read the passage Guadalupe kept leaning back in his chair, stretching out his arms. Finally I asked him if he was having a hard time focusing on the reading. “Are you still in pain?” I asked.
“I can’t focus on the reading. I’m too surprised because the pain is completely gone, in my wrist and in my chest,” he said. “Only God could have known about this pain,” he said, and tears streamed down his face. We gave thanks to Jesus and offered him our lives, something these two men have been doing week after week since they came in. I prayed blessing and protection over them. They will both head off to prison on Tuesday to complete the 20 months remaining of their sentences for dealing cocaine.
Later that evening I met one-on-one with Epifania—a 51-year-old Mexican woman. Epifania is a migrant farm worker and beloved member of our faith community. She has just been ordered deported but was transferred up from a Federal Detention Center in Tacoma to Skagit County Jail to face some new charges of possession of cocaine. She praised God that I had come and told many stories of praying for people’s healing while in the immigration detention prison (see our upcoming Tierra Nueva appeal letter at www.tierra-nueva.org). I told her about what had just happened with Guadalupe and his wrist. She told me that she too had a lot of pain in her wrist, and I remembered that indeed I had felt two sharp pains. I’m still not accustomed to watching for and catching the clues the Spirit gives to show me what God is wanting to do. Apparently God wasn’t through healing wrists that evening. We prayed and sure enough her pain went away. I am continually impressed by God’s kindness and goodness. God cares enough about our little, very personal problems—which was brought home powerfully for me personally the next day.
The next morning I drove up to attend the last morning of one of Toronto Airport Christian Felllowship’s five-day International Leaders School of Ministry in Aldergrove, BC. Towards the end of 45 minutes of worship I ended up praying with Murray Dueck, a new friend who leads a prophetic school in Langley called Samuel’s Mantle. He began prophesying “I see you like Mario in the video game, collecting gold coin after gold coin, more and more of them as you go from level to level in the Spirit.” He said he thought this represented both my spiritual inheritance and God’s financial provision. I was encouraged as two days before the bank had notified us that our personal checking account was overdrawn more than $2,000. I had no way to cover this, but just the day before a friend had sent us an unexpected personal gift for $1,000. I sat down feeling encouraged and moments later another friend at the conference, completely unaware of Murray’s words, handed me a folded check written out to me for another $1,000.
God was aware of my financial need and ministered to me through his servants just like he’d brought healing to Guadalupe and Epifania there in the jail. May God richly bless you and pour blessing through you as you seek first the Kingdom of God.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I am delighted to learn today that my new book will be published by Westminister John Knox Press in early February 2008.
This book seeks to articulate the new work that God is doing in our lives and ministry over the past 4 years. God is clearly reconciling divergent streams in the body of Christ so the Kingdom of God can advance on behalf of the least. The social and charismatic prophetic streams are being drawn together into a dynamic unity with contemplative, evangelical and mainline currents. Advocacy, justice, peacemaking and dialogical Bible study belong together with ministries emphasizing God's Presence to heal, deliver and empower. Word and Spirit are flowing together to empower people from the bottom upwards so that God's Kingdom can advance more fully in the darkest places.
This project began on the beaches of Mozambique in June 2006 as I received prayer from Rolland Baker, Supresa Sithole, Jose, Francie and other leaders of Iris Ministries.
As the group prayed over me before my son Luke and I departed, Supresa suddenly began prophesying that I would write a book, that many would read. “Urgent, urgent, urgent, urgent, urgent!” he said with his thick African-Portuguese accent and he circled me repeatedly, thrusting out his right hand towards me with each declaration. That day we flew to South Africa to visit Gerald West and Jonathan Draper. That night in Gerald West’s vacation house on the coast south of Durban I awoke in the middle of the night with chapter and themes rushing through my head. This continued the following night at Jonathan and Marian Draper’s home in Pietermaritzburg. I am looking forward to sharing this with you all soon.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
I immediately remember him and feel embarrassed that he doesn’t say Jesus healed his back. I feel awkward at times about healings that happen, and am especially perplexed that so many people are finding relief from pain in their backs, necks, shoulders, knees, etc. I find myself continually pondering the purpose and value of healing.
I often think of the final verses of Mark’s gospel, where the narrator writes: “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word with the signs that followed” (Mk 16:20).”
For years and years now I have been reading the Bible with people on the margins, many of whom are violent men who have heard lots of preaching from parents, judges and evangelists without seeing the reality of God’s saving, healing presence. Hearing the words without experiencing the power of God can anesthetize us to Good News that should turn our hearts towards God’s heart of love. Paul himself consciously avoided putting confidence in his ability to articulate the gospel. He writes to the Corinthians:
When I came to you, bretheren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Cor 2:1-5).
I remember well that Sunday in April when Philip was healed. I had invited a group of 15 or so men to put out their hands like I often do so we can invite God to put the anointing of the Holy Spirit for healing onto them so they can pray for themselves or others. “You guys are all made in God’s image,” I said and often keep saying.
“Your fingers weren’t made for gun triggers. Guns were made for your hands. Your hands weren’t made to slap around your girlfriend, to cling to a crack pipe or fight your enemies. Your hands were made so you can bless people. God made you to carry the Holy Presence. Maybe you don’t have enough trust to give your hearts, minds and the rest of your bodies to God. But I challenge you to present your hands to God right now as a kind of experiment or small step of faith,” I say.
Nearly all the participants that Sunday had put out their hands and I prayed. I then invited them to put their hands where they had pain and we prayed for God’s healing Presence to flow through their hands into their backs, necks, heads, hearts—wherever it is needed. That Sunday ten or so men claimed to experience immediate relief. Some were laughing, others crying or looking seriously perplexed. Philip had dropped his hands from his shoulder and lower back almost immediately, looking dejected. I asked him how he was feeling from across the circle of guys.
“The same,” he said, his head hung in shame. “Can I pray for you some more? I asked. “I guess, he said, trying to be polite.
I learned that his shoulders had been wrenched when the police had wrestled his arms behind his back and hand-cuffed him. His lower back had been damaged by the cuffs digging in behind his back.
“Do you need to forgive those officers for excessive use of force?” I asked, knowing that forgiveness and healing are intimately connected.
“No,” he said. “They were just doing their job. I’m a big dude.”
I prayed something like this. “Jesus, thank you that your love for Philip is constant. You’re call on his life is still there. Nothing has disqualified him. I ask that you would reverse the damages done by the police so he can fully know your love.” I then walked back to my place across from him in the circle and asked him how he was doing.
“I feel okay I guess, but as soon as I move my hands behind my back I’m sure I’ll feel that shoulder pain,” he said, and began to move his hands behind his back to the hand-cuffed position. He did this a few times, with increasing awe coming over his face until he said: “I’ll grant it to you. I’ll grant it to you. There’s no more pain.” He dropped down onto his plastic chair and began to sob.
So there he was over five months later, reminding me that I’d made him cry. There was no time to talk then as the Sunday group was big and we only had 20 minutes. After we finished looking at that Sunday’s scripture I suddenly got an impression that there was somebody there who needed healing from serious back pain. I immediately doubted this, a voice in my head mocking me that I’m always imagining these things. I went for it though, asking, and a Mexican man raised his hand, just as the door clicked open and the guard announced that the study was over. I quickly went over to the man, placed a hand on his back and commanded the pain to leave in Jesus’ name—accompanying him to the door, praying as we walked.
This past Thursday Philip showed up again to our Bible study. I ask him if he can share the story of healing back in April and he readily agrees. He tells a group of eight or nine guys about how he had grown up in the Catholic Church and had religion forced on him. “I didn’t believe at all until last April when I came to the jail. He told about how Jesus healed his shoulders and lower back. He then told about how he’d had a Mexican cellmate who didn’t believe in God at all and had never been to church, but had really serious back pain. “I told him about how God had healed me and convinced him to come. He received prayer, and before we were even back to our cell the guys back was completely healed,” he said in delight.
He then told how he’d been jumped by some gang guys and beaten up there in the jail pod just after this and they’d transferred him to another pod. He told how he had three big bumps on his head, and how he’d motioned to Chris and I through the glass and we’d indicated back to him with hand signs that we would pray for him.
“I woke up the next morning and the bumps on my head were all gone and I was completely better. Now I can say that I believe for the first time,” he said. “So what convinced you?” I ask. “Why do you now believe?” “This may sound kind of cheesy,” he said. “But it’s all these healings.” That night another Mexican man was there who said that his back was wrenched from the police throwing him to the ground and cuffing him. We pray for him and his pain goes away on the spot. Jesus keeps confirming the words of Scripture and the testimonies of new believers. The message is passed on as God’s power becomes visible here and now as the Kingdom of God comes close.
I appreciate your prayers. That God’s healings Presence would continue to touch people there in the jail, at our weekly English and Spanish services and wherever we go, confirming the words with the signs that follow.