On the first day of Carnaval, a huge festival celebrated throughout Brazil, we began Session I of The Elijah Challenge Training at the Central Presbyterian Church of Londrina. The name Carnaval is derived from a Latin word which means “flesh,” and from which we get the word “carnal.” Therefore for many Brazilians Carnaval can become a time to indulge in immorality and the lusts of the flesh. Some Brazilian churches, like our host church, have decided therefore to use the five-day holiday as an occasion to strengthen their believers.
Below is the crowd which gathered on the first evening of Carnaval at our host church. Our host pastor, Osni Ferreira, is standing at the lower right corner.
Heart disease healed
The Lord was again gracious to enable us to teach clearly and systematically. Near the end of the session we did a demonstration of healing according to what had just been taught. We called forward a heavy-set woman near the front who had had a heart condition. She had three blocked veins in her heart and was told not to lift any heavy object, let along run. We asked her if she believed that Jesus would heal her, and she nodded. We told her we would later ask her to run and pick up a heavy object, and after a tick of hesitation she agreed. Then two sisters who had no doubt came forward to minister healing to her. We gave them some brief instructions based on how Jesus healed the sick in the gospels, after which they laid hands on the woman and issued authoritative commands regarding her healing in Jesus’ name.
Afterwards I told her to run down he aisle of the auditorium and to return to us at the front. The heavy sister took off with a slow jog, running to the back. She turned around and jogged back to the front. She did not appear out of breath or tired. We asked her how she felt, and she replied that she felt fine. The believers broke out in praise for what the Lord had done. Then I called a ten-year-old girl to the front, and instructed the woman to lift her up off the floor. She picked the girl up and held her in the air for nearly ten seconds. We asked her how she felt. She said she felt fine.
She then testified that she had not even been able to walk a short distance without feeling tired, let along run. But before the crowd she had run and picked up a heavy object, and felt well with no physical distress at all.
After that we called forward people who had any sort of pain to be healed. Elders, deacons, and leaders came forward to minister healing to them. Many were healed and testified; some had been set free from severe and longstanding pain.
Then I reminded them that the primary purpose of the training is to make them more effective for the Great Commission—to be witnesses of Jesus Christ to Londrina, to the state of Parana, to the state of Sao Paulo, to the spiritual dark Northeast of Brazil, and to the ends of the earth. Many raised their hands after being challenged to apply what they had just been taught to witness to the lost.
The lovely city of Londrina
On the following Sunday morning Lucille preached at the morning service of the church, and William at the evening service. The Lord’s grace was wonderfully evident.
Lucille shared very movingly about Abraham & Sarah becoming a blessing to the nations through Abraham’s radical faith and obedience in his leaving his home for a country the Lord would later show him and in his willingness to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Then she shared her testimony of how 35 years ago she and William obeyed the Lord by leaving behind the American Dream for primitive Indonesian Borneo where they shared the gospel to those who had never heard. Now 35 years later in a small way they have become a blessing to the nations, having preached the gospel of Jesus Christ and ministered in nearly 40 countries between the two of them. She then challenged the believers to follow and obey the Lord radically in the footsteps of Abraham and Sarah. The Lord’s grace was upon them.
“When the Lord heals your heart, He will heal the heart of His Church”
At the Sunday evening service William shared that the Lord would heal people of heart disease during the service to demonstrate that He wanted to heal the heart of the Church as well.
“We do not want to become the Laodicean Church of Revelation 3,” William shared with the congregation.
Revelation 3:15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
“But some churches have become this church, and some will become this church,” William continued. “In order not to go in the direction of the Laodicean Church, let us examine our hearts for any sign of greed, idolatry, loving the world and the things of the world.” These things amount to a sick heart in the Church.
Then William called for people with heart disease to come forward to the front to be healed. About two dozen people responded. Trained leaders came forward and laid hands on them. Afterwards William had them running to the back of the sanctuary and then back to the front, and some picking up heavy objects. Included was a medical doctor who had had two heart surgeries, the second of which had had severe complications such that his own doctor had given up hope for him. All reported feeling fine and normal afterwards. Because time was running out, only about six of these with heart disease had an opportunity to run to demonstrate the Lord’s power to heal.
Through the miracles God was showing that He wanted also to heal the heart of His Church to prepare them for the great and terrible Day of the Lord—the Second Coming of the Messiah Jesus Christ. William challenged the entire congregation to repent of any idolatry in their hearts, and they responded by following him in a prayer of repentance.
Man with heart condition lifts pastor into the air
At the Monday evening training session, several people testified with amazement that the Lord had restored their poor eyesight. One burly gentleman in his thirties had come with a heart condition that weakened him so severely that it was difficult for him even to dress himself. As trained disciples ministered to him with power and authority, he physically felt something leave him and his strength was suddenly restored. He climbed up to the stage and joined the others who had lined up to testify. When I heard his testimony, I asked him to run to the back of the auditorium and then back to the stage. He took off at a good pace and the crowd gave praise to the God of heaven who had healed him. As he returned to the front running with little effort I asked him to do one more thing—to pick up a heavy object. I pointed to one of the pastors on the staff seated at the side. This pastor who was of medium build stood up and walked toward the gentleman. The man cradled the pastor in his arms and lifted him up in the air and then set him back down again. And he felt fine.
The misinterpretation of James 5:14-16?
At the Tuesday and final session I taught from James 5:14-16 which many churches apply when ministering to infirm believers. Now the author of the epistle, James, is thought by most scholars to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ. If so, I argued that he must have learned about healing either directly or indirectly from Jesus when He was on earth. We had already discovered that in the gospels Jesus never prayed for the sick as is done traditionally in the Church—and neither did he ever command his disciples to pray for the sick. Rather he would lay hands over the sick and speak over them with authority. In light of this I proposed therefore that James’ instruction to pray over the sick in verse 14 should be interpreted and applied in exactly the same way. After this teaching I led the congregation in a prayer of forgiveness toward those who had hurt them in some way, and reconciliation with them. Then we had the pastors, elders and leaders minister to the sick according to our new understanding of the meaning of praying over. The subsequent miraculous healings were unusual, and many testified of the Lord’s healing power.