It wasn't easy getting to Palikara. Leaving our ramshackle hotel on the Chinese border, we drove 90 minutes on progressively less traveled roads, finally turning left into a wide gravel riverbed. Three miles upstream, we precariously steered our minivan up the rocky bank, slopped along another mile of mud roads through a tea plantation, and stumbled into one of the most magical places on Earth.
The people here, stunningly beautiful and somehow possessing an almost supernatural peace, had heard about our teaching through a network of Assembly of God pastors and had prayed for two years that we would somehow find our way to Palikara.
Today was “Day One” of a three-day program centered on the Scriptural Practice of Healing & Deliverance. About 125 believers had crowded standing-room-only into a tiny church been loudly singing worship songs for church with garish green walls and purple curtains. It was well over 100 degrees inside, and, when the electricity stopped three or four times a day, the fans all stilled, and wet air hung thick enough to provoke a gag reflex. Nevertheless, people crowded in. When time came to teach, they scrunched down and sat cross-legged on the concrete floor. We taught the first day for five hours with an hour break for stewed fish, fiery curry, spicy lentil soup, mountains of rice and sliced fresh mangoes for dessert. Other than that and two breaks for hot chai, they engaged, barely moving, focused, inhaling Scriptural teaching.
For me, it was a dream come true. Here were people who had heard from clear across the subcontinent how some old white man had come and taught believers how to walk in the power of God, how to cast out demons and heal the sick. They heard how other churches we had visited were growing, how Bhuddists, Hindus and Muslims were drawn to a Messiah who could heal, and how people who were persecuting Christians were now coming to Christians for healing. These believers wanted the same. It didn’t frighten them or intimidate or provoke a lot of theological arguments. They simply heard and believed and wanted to share in this grace that God might, just might make available to them.
. Day Two in Palikara played out much like Day One, except that we moved into practical demonstrations. After lunch, we called for anyone who had come for healing to come forward. The first two people were a rail thin man who was dying of tuberculosis and a mother with a very ill toddler. The toddler coughed several times a minute, a rasping deep cough that left him sore and listless with exhaustion from the effort. The woman said they had consulted a doctor who told her that the boy would probably die. He had seen too many die before, and he held out little hope for her.
Beginning with the TB patient, we called up four volunteers and walked them through a series of seven steps, providing a plain format for them to follow as beginners. The volunteers moved and acted uncertainly, but, when it came to addressing the disease, they gained confidence and performed well. The patient cooperated and, as they finished, he walked back and forth across the front of the church, squatting, rising, breathing cautiously and probing places with his fingers where he had said before that he felt great pain and inflammation. He was still rail thin but, he said, he was hungry and had no pain at all for the first time in weeks.
The toddler, coughing in his mother’s lap, responded to a new set of volunteers and attended the next day without coughing at all.
Day Three always looks chaotic because the doors are thrown open not only to believers but to anyone in need of healing or deliverance. The students of Days One and Two are broken into groups, positioned around the room, and, one by one, sick people are escorted into these tiny circles. The noise grows louder and louder, but then, in this corner or here in another group, joyful clapping breaks out signifying someone who is now apparently free of their illness or pain. For three hours, this melee in Lankapara continued, and apparent miracles unfolded all around. Tumors disappeared. Backpain evaporated. Joints were set free. Pain disappeared. In the end, 75 or 80 people had testified that they were healed, and the church body glowed in new excitement and weary exultation.
So What Happens Now?
Before we left this area deep in the 10/40 rectangle, an esteemed bishop and seven other church leaders traveled 300 miles to share an afternoon with us before we all flew home.
“Pastor,” the Bishop told me proudly, “I came to share with you the fruit of your teaching in our church five years ago. Last week, I did a brave thing. As pastor, I completely released ten new churches that blossomed in the wake of your first visit to us. We have discipled and trained the pastors, their congregations are flourishing, and they are, as of last week, established as independent churches. Hundreds of people have come to Christ in these villages. They are healing the sick and casting out demons. People are meeting a God who is real.”
This work has blossomed and will continue to bear fruit because of God’s faithfulness in my partners and God’s continuous grace manifested through all those, like you, who believe in the work at hand and support us so generously. We are eternally grateful.