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St. Paul tells us that the grace of ‘faith comes through hearing the Word of Christ’ (Rom. 10). Hence, to ignite the fire of faith in a soul, it is essential that the message of Christ be proclaimed. In the following stories, you will see how the power of sharing the Good News/proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ can in fact change a person's heart and lead them closer to God.
It was the midway mark of the weekend youth retreat, the point at which a youth minister usually knows whether the Word has been well received or rejected by the participants. In this particular case all seemed to be going well. The group was small, consisting of twenty or so high school aged members of a local parish in a very depressed, working class small town. The message of God’s unfathomable love and our state of sinfulness in need of redemption had been warmly embraced by all present and preparations for the sacrament of Reconciliation were underway when suddenly the peaceful atmosphere changed as the doors of the Church burst open and Champ and his gang barged in.
He was all of 5 feet 4 inches in height, a real featherweight, with a ton of gold chains coiled around his neck (no doubt adding to his poundage as well as his supposed importance.) Surrounded by his entourage of thugs – fellow teenagers lost in a world of insecurity, anger and fear - he got his claim to fame as “Champ” from his boxing capabilities, the likes of which seemed to impress everybody present, (not to mention his rep as a drug dealer and gun wielder). The disaster he had in the making was about to begin when it unexpectedly got sidestepped by an invitation to join the retreat, catching him and his boys completely off guard.
Intimidation, the usual tool of victory for Champ and friends, had been completely reversed giving the grace of God the upper hand as the spiritual boxing match for their souls got underway. The words: “God has a plan for your life and wants to give you true joy and happiness beyond anything that drugs, money, sex and revenge can offer” nearly caused an instantaneous knock-out. A swift left hook followed with the truth: “The Father loves you and will forgive you all of your sins if you repent and reform your life,” resulting in gasps for air and dumbfounded staggering at the mere thought of so radical a move. When the point blank challenge came: “Yield your wounded heart to the Lord Jesus Christ so that you can experience His merciful love” the final countdown began.
The tension was high. The stakes were great. Life Eternal was facing off the father of lies once again and it could go either way for the Champ. The narrow road leading to life was set before him. The wide way leading to death, which he knew only too well for one so young, was ferociously calling him back. The Truth he had just heard, however, had hit him right in the gut and he felt punch drunk. Could it be real? Did the Father actually care about him that much that He sent His only Son into the world to save him from the hell he was living?
As his mind reeled about, his heart cried out in anguish for a drink from this font of Living Water. It was then that he heard the final and almost surreal words of the referee: “By the power vested in me I absolve you from all of your sins…” Rising up from his knees, a different champion now, he was aglow with something much more precious and costly than the mounds of gold around his neck. The love of God had been poured into his heart by the power of the Holy Spirit and as such he began to live no longer for himself but for Him in Whom he had believed. Is not My Word like fire, says the Lord, like a hammer shattering rock? (Jer.23:29)
Racing across campus to class her path crisscrossed with a faculty member whom she did not know but had recently seen attending daily Mass. “Hi,” began Maria, the student, “I’ve noticed you in Church these past few days and I was wondering if we could talk?” Sensing a heavy burden upon this young woman’s heart she arranged an appointment with her for that evening.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me” she began, “but I have been treating my boyfriend terribly recently and the other day I clawed his face with my nails leaving him a bloody mess.” Visibly distraught by her own behavior Maria could not grasp the why behind it. As she answered questions put to her by her confidant she was still unable to get to the root of it all. To her knowledge absolutely nothing had changed in her five year relationship with Joe; all was well and marriage was the plan post-graduation.
Having a gut feeling that Maria’s problem was something that was too painful for her to face alone her newfound counselor read a list of potential reasons for sudden behavioral change to her. She was asked to listen and reflect upon them to see if any resonated with her recent life experiences. Immediately, but rather blandly and nonchalantly, Maria stated that she had been pregnant a couple of months back. Considering the fact that this was not one of the items specified on the list that she had just heard it was quite a bold revelation on her part. However when pursued as to the outcome of the pregnancy great confusion came upon her.
Maria’s initial response was that she hadn’t felt well. Then she remarked that her boyfriend didn’t want the baby. Her final words related an ambiguous belief in having had a miscarriage; clarity, at this point, was not something within her range of comfort. It was only with further questioning that the ambiguity was cleared up as the reality that Maria had gone to an abortion clinic, and not a doctor’s office, was brought to the surface.
It was an excruciating truth to face - she had killed her child. Her anger was clearly evident in the violent behavior she was manifesting towards her boyfriend. So profound was her pain that she was unable to acknowledge the fact of what she had done, hence the term miscarriage attempted to soften the psychological blow. But hope and faith were not completely extinguished thus she was able to reach out for help and turn to God in desperate prayer for healing.
It was because Maria had heard that ‘God is love’ while attending Mass one day that she had initially sought out her confidant for assurance. As she came to see the gravity of her sins she also came to understand the depth of this Love Who had died for her and would likewise cleanse her if she yielded herself to Him. The sacrament of Reconciliation then became the open door to new life for Maria, loosing her chains and commencing the deep healing process in her soul. With each Eucharistic Communion and hour spent in prayer and His Word her trust in His mercy increased. Ongoing support and encouragement to live in this unconditional love were also made available through participation in Project Rachel and Rachel’s Vineyard post-abortion ministries.
It was The Truth that had set Maria free and continues to do so for anyone who turns to Him in their heart as she did. This is what she heard Him say to her:
Come now, let us reason together, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be white as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
So, Come to Me you who are weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest. (Mt. 11:28)
It was a four hour Greyhound ride from D.C. to N.Y and the last leg of Majida’s journey home from boot-camp down South. The night before was spent partying with his fellow recruits thus he wasn’t feeling too well. When the woman in the seat next to him politely inquired as to the time, he responded mutely by thrusting his wrist into her face so that the watch could be read without any verbal effort on his part.
About fifteen minutes into the trip and unable to rest, speechless Majida decided to strike-up a conversation with his neighbor by asking if she happened to know where Medina was. Perplexed about the name she asked if it was a town in the New York area or more in the D.C./Maryland vicinity. Without hesitation he explained that it was a bit further away than either as it is one of the holy cities of the prophet Mohammed.
Being a Christian herself and only familiar with the names Mecca and Jerusalem, the best she could do was offer him a look at her Bible which just so happened to contain some maps of the ancient world. Unsuccessful in their search, the conversation continued as the woman now began the questioning with the inquiry, “Are you a Muslim?”
“Yes, I’m a Five-Percenter,” came his matter-of-fact response, to which she instinctively shot back, “Aren’t they a racist, anti-Christian cult?” “Well, not any more” he assured her, to which her second question followed, “What does Five-Percenter mean?”
“It’s like this,” he explained, “five percent of the people in the world have the truth, us; eighty-five percent do not; and the other ten percent think they do, but don’t.” Completely intrigued by this curious world view her next and most obvious question concerned the content of the truth – what exactly was it from the Five-Percenter’s perspective?
After a few moments pondering, Majida, a Five-Percenter since childhood, flabbergasted his companion with the most astonishing of revelations by stating the impossible - he didn’t know! Simultaneously stunned and unable to contain herself at the fact that a self-proclaimed beholder of the truth was now professing ignorance she rapidly opened her Bible to John 14:6 and asked him to read it: “Jesus said to him, I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”
The Truth, she went on to explain to her dear Muslim friend, was not a thing but a Person, Jesus Christ the Son of God. He wasn’t a mere prophet, but rather the fulfillment of all prophecies. Not simply a man, but God incarnate. He came into the world to save each one of us from eternal separation/hell by offering his life upon the cross for us out of love, in atonement for our sins. He then rose from the dead three days later, ascended into heaven and in the end will come again to judge the living and the dead and bring to glory all who loved him in return.
Never having heard any of this before Majida was drinking it all in. Having been raised with an understanding of fasting, praying and almsgiving he very quickly grasped the need for a savior because he recognized the reality in his own life that sin had a definitive hold on him in spite of all his good deeds. Then as the role of Jesus, the Word made flesh was being explained in terms of sacrificial substitution using the biblical imagery of the lamb he prophetically blurted out, “He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
It was an awesome moment beholding a believer in Allah receiving the fullness of revelation on a Greyhound bus en-route to the Big Apple. Wishing she could ask the bus driver to pull off to the side of the interstate so that he could receive baptism, (as happened to an Ethiopian eunuch two thousand years prior while riding in a chariot), didn’t seem practical. So as the bus neared its final destination she simply prayed with this son of Ishmael and gave him a pocket New Testament and encouraged him to pursue the Truth whom he had encountered on his weekend leave.
As the two parted, cognizant that the hand of God had been upon them, it was clear that He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.” (1Tim. 2: 4-5)
John thought that it was just a throw-away comment to an acquaintance over lunch when he had asked him how his evening was the night before. What he didn’t realize was that for Mike, his co-worker, every evening for the past 18 months had been an absolute nightmare.
It all started when precious Alicia was born. Mike and his wife had no idea that their newborn daughter would enter the world and suffer up to thirty seizures a day. It had taken its toll on them both and now that they were expecting another child the pressures were mounting even more. All of this was unknown to John when his lunch-table query was put forth. Mike’s weary and wounded soul was immediately exposed as he responded without his usual politically-correct guardedness by stating that he had had an awful night without sleep because of his daughter’s continual seizures.
“I’m terribly sorry to hear that” John consoled him, “but you know what I would do if she was my daughter? I would pray for her healing.” Absolutely incredulous, Mike responded, “You would? Well, quite frankly, I don’t have that kind of faith.” Unperturbed by this seeming obstacle, as well as the looks of outrage coming from the other people who were lunching with them for having broken the ‘anti-religion’ taboo, John continued: “I realize that if you don’t know Jesus it may seem hard because you do not have that faith, and that’s O.K., but you never know what God will do to lead you into it, so don’t despair.”
Desperation, however, was drawing nigh for Mike as his wife was due to deliver their second child in two months' time and he wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to cope. A couple of days later John gave him a book to read on praying for healing, but after having read it through twice in one week he returned it remarking despondently, “No joy; I don’t have that kind of faith.” Once again John encouraged him not to despair at his lack of faith.
He knew that Mike was a man looking for Jesus, both for himself as well as for his family, even if he wasn’t consciously aware of it yet. As such he began to pray for him and entrust him to God’s care. It was two months later before John encountered Mike again when he was summoned to his office. He listened in awe as he recounted with unshakeable faith the miraculous healing of his daughter one week prior.
As it unfolded, John learned that the day before Mike had been scheduled to take his wife to the hospital he became overwhelmed with anxiety by the reality at hand. Then, suddenly, he remembered the book he had read on healing and decided he needed to go to a nearby church. “All I did,” he said, “was enter the church, stand in the back, and then from the depths of my soul mutter the words, ‘Jesus, help me, particularly with this child who is so ill.’ Instantaneously I sensed Jesus there with me, praying with me, and I was filled with deep peace.
When I returned home that evening my wife informed me that Alicia had completely stopped her seizures at 1:00pm – something that had never occurred before! This was the exact hour that I had been in the church praying! I now realize that everything is possible! ”No longer incredulous, Mike is now proclaiming the marvels of God who did more than he had asked or even imagined! Indeed, he now knows, as never before, that nothing is impossible for God.
But, who would have thought that an innocent, throw-away lunchtime remark could have been the catalyst to such faith? “Truly, truly, I say to you, fear is useless what is needed is trust.” (Mark 5:36)
My husband Mick (Mike) is a healthy 44 year old runner. On Wednesday, January 26, 2011, while driving home from work and with zero risk factors, he suffered a stroke. I started praying immediately. In the ER, we were shocked to find Mick slumped over to the left side; his mouth and face drooping and his speech barely coherent. The entire left side of his body was numb and cold, his eyes darting back and forth, and he was vomiting profusely. Things looked very bad.
The Neurologist advised administering tPA, a risky heavy duty clot busting drug which has the frightening side effect of causing 7% of patients to bleed to death. I started praying harder. Our young daughters prayed along silently while I laid my hands on Mick’s head and began to pray out loud saying, “Jesus you told us that where two or three are gathered in your name, you are there in their midst (Matthew 18:20). We ask you to bless and fully heal Mick and our family. We KNOW and BELIEVE you can do it….” I continued to ask Jesus, the Holy Spirit and our Father to heal Mick and then I began a litany of Catholic Christian Prayers, again returning to a conversation with the Trinity. The doctor stood by and watched as I prayed, but he did NOT administer any medication.
After a few minutes, quite abruptly, Mick stopped vomiting and very CLEARLY started speaking and saying, “Wait a minute! Did you just put something into my RIGHT hand?!” The doctor said, “No”. Mick sat up a little taller, and within a few seconds said: “I felt something warm go into my RIGHT hand and spread up my arm. It felt like a cozy, warm bath….except it was INSIDE my body instead of outside. It started washing down over my torso and into my right leg. It didn’t follow any pathway - it just washed over me. But it felt like there was a partition down the center of my body – like it was divided in half – my left side was numb and cold. And all of a sudden it felt like someone opened a faucet and this incredible warm sensation moved immediately - all at one time - into my left side – even in my legs – it was like the warmth bridged from my right leg over to my entire left leg in one motion. The room stopped spinning and my feeling has come back. The only thing I feel is a little tingling in my left hand.” Remember, Mick had received NO medication at this point!
The Neurologist was quite surprised and re-examined Mick – every symptom was gone. The doctor determined that it must not have been a stroke after all, it must have been a TIA/mini stroke. However, an MRI confirmed that Mick DID indeed have a full stroke - Ischemic Stroke (clot induced) of the Cerebellum. So what happened? Isaiah 41:13 says:
"For I am the LORD, your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, Do not fear, I will help you."
Mick has some tingling in his left hand and his gait is slightly off, but he is expected to FULLY recover. He told me, “It was worth it to have the stroke just so I could experience that warm sensation.” He was released from the hospital on Friday and returned to work after the weekend. All tests have been inconclusive; we don’t know what caused the stroke. He is now on blood thinner and cholesterol medicine (his cholesterol is considered normal, but high for a stroke victim).
As for me, I have never had an experience like this before and am extremely humbled to have been used as God’s instrument. I do not recall feeling anything at all during the healing. It has been a very emotional experience for me and I am truly grateful to God for healing Mick and for the blessing He bestowed on all of us. I believe that God must have great plans for Mick.
We glorify God by sharing this story with you and we ask you to glorify God as well by sharing our story with others. BELIEVE that your prayers ARE heard. Jesus DOES heal. Jesus DOES save. Believe it with all your heart. If you haven’t talked to Him lately, why not start now and thank Him for your many blessings…. and always glorify His name. I kindly ask you to please keep our family in your prayers.
Submitted by Coleen C. in February of 2011