During a recent trip to Sweden, England and France I’ve had some encounters that seem divinely orchestrated—and the Spirit seems to be calling me to continue to make myself even more available. Are you by any chance feeling a similar call these days?
My trip began in Stockholm where I was speaking at Elim Kyrkan’s annual Transformation Conference. Spiritual hunger was evident from the first night, when 95% of the people came forward for prayer!
The next day after a session on hearing the voice of God I co-lead a workshop on prophetic evangelism with Norwegian pastor Sverre Bjørnhaug and his team from Bergen. They and their ministry school students regularly walk the streets, praying for people’s healing and blessing people in different ways. They had lots of inspiring stories.
Sverre had a group of 35 of us divide into groups of three to try a “treasure hunt” in downtown Stockholm. We started by asking God to reveal to each one of us individually “intelligence” regarding the “treasure” (specific people) that God might want us to find that afternoon. We each asked the Holy Spirit for places, clothing, names, needs for healing. Scandinavians, who tend to be very reserved, are especially affected when God reveals personal information that only God could know through people who approach them with humility and genuine care.
A woman from Norway, another from Botswana and I compared notes and between us had a 7-11 store, waterfront, a pub, bus stop, and a park bench, a businessman with a black & white tweed jacket who had a bad ankle, a man with a green jacket with a neck/back problem, and a homeless man on a park bench with a dog. We brought food coupons and flyers inviting people to the church and took off on our adventure.
Near a local 7-11 store the Norwegian woman boldly approached two different businessmen with offers to pray—but they refused, stepping up their pace to get away from us. We continued toward the waterfront, stopping to talk with two immigrant workers from Hungary who sat smoking on some steps on a break, their hair covered in sheet rock dust. We asked if we could pray God’s blessing on them and they awkwardly accepted. “I hear God saying that you are a very caring father,” said the Norwegian woman to one of the men. He shook his head and spit on the ground, looking like he was about to cry—and seemed very moved as we prayed for him and his family and gave him a food coupon and an invitation to the church.
We continued down to the water and across from a bar, right near a bus stop we spotted a grey-haired businessman in a black & white tweed jacket. The woman from Botswana took the lead, asking him if we could speak with him. He brushed us off and moved quickly away, but a man in his late 30s with a green rain jacket stopped to talk with us. We explained what we were doing, how we’d asked God to show us people he wanted to bless, and wondered if he had a problem with his neck or back. He said he did, accepted prayer and immediately felt a difference. He was very curious about us and asked us lots of questions.
The Norwegian woman took a risk and asked him if he was struggling with feelings of rejection and inferiority when he’s with his father. He looked shocked and said: “well, the grey-haired man who just brushed you off is my father, and yes I am struggling in my relationship with him.” I asked if his father had a bad ankle and he said that yes he did. This guy began to cry as we prayed and talked with him about God’s strong love for him, and we prayed for Jesus to heal his father’s ankle. We headed back to the church and heard stories from others who had had experiences of both rejection and breakthrough on the streets.
During my week of teaching at Westminster Theological Centre in the UK we saw God at work healing a number of our students. One woman who was unable to eat and swallow normal food after a stroke was completely healed during communion, as was a man with his arm in a sling.
On the Eurostar train from London to Paris on Friday I sat beside a woman in her early 30s from Argentina who spoke only Spanish. She asked me what I did and then told me that she grew up Catholic but didn’t believe in God and felt no need for religion. “I believe in myself,” she said, repeating a common confession of faith I’ve heard from many secular Europeans and Latin Americans. I asked her if she’d ever read about the life and teaching of Jesus in the Bible, and she said she hadn’t. I encouraged her to try reading the Bible for herself, told her a few stories of healing and encouraged her to open herself to the possibility that God is real and can make a difference in her life. Her mouth was all smiles but her eyes looked like pools of sadness. In response to my asking if she’s struggled with feelings of emptiness and depression she poured out her heart about her long struggle with depression and failed relationships. By the end of our journey I can only hope that she was more in touch with her need for God.
On Saturday in Paris I walked by a heavily-bearded homeless man in rags who lay on his back on the sidewalk, looking completely dejected. I had a picture of my hand on his heart, praying for him for healing, but brushed it off and continued on another block. Thoughts of the Levite and the Pharisee walking past the man beaten by thieves haunted me and I finally turned around and approached him, stooping down to ask if he was in pain. “Yes, and I haven’t been able to sleep,” he said. He timidly accepted my offer to pray for him and God’s presence came strong as I put my hand on his heart. When I finished he told me he was an atheist. “Even so God sees you, knows your suffering and loves you a lot,” I said, and he looked like he wanted to believe it.
I had repeatedly called the airlines prior to my Sunday morning departure to change my dreaded Paris-Houston-Seattle itinerary to a direct Paris-Seattle flight, and then tried to get out of my assigned seat in the center of a center row to a bulkhead or emergency row—all to no avail. Once on the plane I found my seat surprisingly taken, and the steward ushered me to the opposite side of the same row to an aisle seat beside a man who I immediately noticed was reading a Bible.
I struck up a conversation with Groduowski, a Polish jet engine mechanic who barely spoke English. He told me how he grew up Catholic but had no active faith until he had recently begun reading a Bible given to him by missionaries doing street evangelism in Warsaw.
“My heart comes alive when I read the Bible,” he said, showing his favorite verse from Revelation 21:6 “I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.” “God gives this living water for free,” he said, his eyes shimmering.
We shared different Scriptures with each other and I asked him what he knew about the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ sending of disciples to not only announce Good News but to heal the sick, cast out demons, etc. I referred him to Matthew 10:1, 8 and Luke 9:1-2 & 10:1, 9, 17-18 and he looked up each text and read them with wide eyes. He had never received any teaching on being filled with the Spirit for the ministry of Jesus and gladly wanted prayer when I offered to pray for him. He left assuring me that he would talk with his pastor and that I shouldn’t be surprised if I get invited to speak in Warsaw.
I’m now on a flight from Houston to Seattle, excited to get home, but with a new openness and desire to make myself available to God as I go about normal life—and I encourage you to do the same.