Getting around Redding
Redding is a small city as expected – which means no good public transportation. My 15 minutes taxi cab from the airport to my cheap motel (situated at the heart of the red-light district) cost me US$30. I knew I was going to struggle to get around because because most people had cars and I didn’t. I managed to move around (using public buses) fine during the first day which was quite free, but I knew nights were going to be a problem because the meetings would end around 10pm and the last buses were around 7pm or so.
Anyway, on the first night, it seemed like everyone had transport to go back at night. Either they would have their own car (or go in a friend’s car) or if they were visiting for the conference they probably would have rented a car. I didn’t make plans to rent a car and so was kind of stuck. I didn’t want to call a cab – a ten minutes ride back to my place would set me back a good US$15-$20 – and so I made a decision to walk all the way back if nobody offered me a ride. I do lots of long-distance walking (praying along the way) in Singapore so this wasn’t such a big deal. I had my directions ready and all – planned from the morning! It would have taken me at least 1 hour of walking pretty much in the dark (not every street is lighted like in Singapore). Of course I would have preferred someone fetching me back and I did pray that a good soul would see this poor fella walking back from church and offer me a lift :) And so I walked back and soon a lift I got – not just for that night, but for the next few mornings and nights too. Thank you Sharna, Sierra and Melissa!
Worship was awesome. I’m not one who speaks about the strong presence of God or whatever. All I’ll say is that the musicians and worship leaders were great, I loved the songs and the flow, and I enjoyed worship a lot. I’m still not sure if we should be focusing on whether worship was good or not, whether the presence of God was strong or not or whether we enjoyed worship or not, etc., but nevertheless it was great as expected. Kim Walker of Jesus Culture wasn’t there, but Chris Quilala was playing drums most of the time. And I was especially captured by a new song – Deeper Waters – by a Bethel worship leader William Matthews.
Bethel had a great bookstore! I spent quite a bit of time there browsing and talking to other book lovers. I bought about 12 books in the end – only those that I knew I probably couldn’t get so easily in Singapore. Almost all of them had to do directly with healing or the prophetic. One of them was These Signs Shall Follow by Aaron McMahon. This book is interesting because Aaron isn’t a big time author or minister. He was a normal “Sunday Christian” before he spent three years at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) which transformed his life. And so he wrote a book about his experience and how every Christian can move in the miraculous. I like what he wrote in the introduction:
I am not the pastor of a church. I’m not the leader of an internationally-renowned ministry. I’m not the son of a famous minister. And I’m not (yet) a prolific author. It is for these reasons that I feel eminently qualified to write this book. I am you, the reader.
I love reading and learning from people like that. Sometimes you read from great Christian leaders and what they write is just too far above where you are at the moment. So I thought this would be a good book and one I can learn a bit from.
Another book I bought was Can You Hear Me? by Brad Jersak, which looks like a real solid book on hearing God and listening prayer. I also got Doing Healing by Alexander Venter, which is a book I had been wanting to get. It’s a Vineyard book which, according to the bookstore lady, is one Randy Clark thinks is the best on healing. Vineyard’s view on healing has actually been the one that has influenced my thinking in the past 10+ years but I’m starting to differ a bit from it after encountering Andrew Wommack’s and Curry Blake’s teachings.
I got books one to four of the biographical Supernatural: The Life of William Branham by Owen Jorgensen. I had been wanting to get this series as I’ve heard good things about it. William Branham is a highly controversial figure because he’s taught some weird stuff. But even his critics have said this of him:
To this day his gifts of supernatural knowledge of those to whom he ministered remains unparalleled, even among modern healing evangelists (D.R. McConnell).
There can be little doubt that he was endued with power to a degree that has rarely been seen since the days of the apostles (Andrew Strom).
I do plan to read as many of John G. Lake’s and Smith Wigglesworth’s books as I can over the next few years (let’s see if I have time!!). William Branham’s teachings probably aren’t as solid as theirs, but the miraculous power seen in his ministry seems unparalleled so I think there’s something one can learn from his life. Bethel doesn’t carry book five ( or later) of this biographical series because that book touches on Branham’s questionable teachings. Anyway, the four books are on the year two reading list for the BSSM students.
The last book I’ll mention here is the Bethel Church Healing Rooms’ book of over 500 testimonies recorded by the Healing Rooms prayer teams in 2008. The 2009 book is yet to be released but I’m going to read through these testimonies from 2008, be encouraged and pray that God would do the same things (and even greater) through my life.
Pre-service prayer meeting
There were pre-service prayers before the service for about an hour. I went to two of them. I expected it to be some intercessory prayer time but it was totally unlike your typical intercessory prayer meeting. It’s really more like a time of soaking in God’s presence!
The first night I went to the prayer, I saw people moving in circles around the room with background music. Some people were already drunk in the Spirit. I was wondering when the real prayer was gonna start. However, soon I realized that this was the pre-service prayer! Background music was being played and people just walked around in circles worshiping and praying. Gradually, more and more people started to be filled with the Spirit and got drunk in the Spirit. This was your typical pre-service prayer meeting, so they told me! Interesting! Anyway, during this time, people who felt led would prayer for others and even prophesy over others. And I received a pretty accurate and encouraging word from one person.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what intercessory prayer is (I hope to write more about this one day) and this just makes me reflect even more on the area of prayer and intercession in the light of the New Covenant!
This conference wasn’t technically a conference on healing. Bethel has conferences specifically on healing (i.e. learning to minister healing) and I wished this was one of them but it wasn’t. But anyway, there were a few times during the sessions when the speaker called for the sick to stand up and asked those around them to pray for healing. There were also times after the sessions were over when the ministry teams were called to the front and those needing healing went forward to be prayed for. There were healing testimonies. I wouldn’t say a huge number as I expected from a church like Bethel, but definitely more than you’ll see in other churches. There were a number of creative miracles – one person testified to metal inserted into her body no longer being there after prayer. When people stood up for healing, a group would surround them to pray for their healing and I think I was in a group twice and both times there wasn’t any healing. I was interested to learn of how people trained in Bethel prayed for healing and how similar or not it was to the way Curry Blake and Andrew Wommack teaches.
I had to leave for my next conference early in the morning on Saturday (26th June). Bethel Church Healing Rooms take place on Saturday mornings and so I wasn’t able to stay for it. I wish I had been able to do so! I’ll definitely visit them the next time! Anyway, I also heard there was a prophetic booth that people could go to during this time too.
On the last night, Bill spoke on healing. After he spoke, there was a fire tunnel where Bill laid hands on everyone before they walked through a tunnel where ministry leaders prayed for them. A lot of drunkenness in the Spirit. Bill mentioned that the impartation through laying on of hands was one of the main reasons people should be coming to this conference for. Bill and the other leaders lay hands on people to impart all they’ve got and learned. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the issue of impartation – the importance, the excesses, etc.
Drunkenness in the Spirit
I’m referring here to a person just being overcome by the Spirit of God and acting drunk – perhaps just like in Acts 2. I first encountered this phenomena in 1995 when the Toronto Blessing came to Singapore. People acted drunk and did stuff that they wouldn’t normally do, they laughed uncontrollably and they fell under the power of God. Very similar things happened in this conference during the pre-service prayer time and on the last night during the prayer tunnel. I’m not averse to all this because I saw tons of all this in 1995 during many of Rodney Howard-Brown meetings in Singapore.
I haven’t personally experienced all this. I’ve asked many people, myself and God why this is so! I’m not crazy over experiencing such manifestations – because these are just manifestations of the Spirit’s work in a person. The more important thing is the work of the Spirit. It’s about the fruit that results, not the physical manifestation that takes place. However, I am desperate in a sense for all that God has for me – more of the Spirit’s work in my life please! If manifestations occur, then I’d welcome that even if it’ll make me feel stupid! People have told me that God still needs people to “stand” in the presence and not be too affected! So I do think about this issue and do ask God for more of Him while not being condemned or thinking there’s something wrong with me because other people experience something I don’t.
One thing I like about Bethel is that while you have all these manifestations and signs and wonders (e.g. “gold” dust) going on, I feel they don’t make it a big issue. The focus is very much blessing the community and the world through what we’ve experienced and I think that’s the right focus.
Boldness to pray for healing
Throughout the conference, I was able to sit either on the 3rd or 4th row from the front. The lady in charge of the event allowed me to go in early (while everyone was still lining up) as she saw from my name-tag that I was from Singapore (I believe I was the only Singaporean there). They do try to give preferential treatment to people who have come from faraway places! So I had a good view throughout and shook Bill Johnson’s hand on one occasion.
On the last day, I sat with a nice lady named Sonja. She shared how she has prayed for people (outside of church during her everyday life) and they were healed. She’s not a leader or anything – just a very simple lady who’s learned to be bold enough to pray for people. This is what I’m so impressed about – Bethel creating a culture among their members of doing kingdom work wherever they are. By the way, she works at the best Chinese restaurant in Redding – Peter Chu’s skyroom – which is located at the Redding Airport. I treated her to a Chinese dinner one day and I told her she can give me a treat the next time I return – and I do intend to return to Redding again! So if you’re going to Redding to visit Bethel and arrive at the Redding airport, do drop by and have a meal at the Chinese restaurant there and look for Sonja. She’s very friendly and I’m sure would help you in any way.
Anyway, in my life I’m becoming more bold in praying for people’s healing. I can’t say I’ve seen results yet, but I’m not giving up. A month ago in Malaysia I was bold enough to ask a hearing impaired person who was going around selling stuff (he tried to sell to me) if he would allow me to pray for his healing. He didn’t want me to do so. In Redding the night before I left, I asked the motel manager if he’s sick in any way and if I could pray for him. He mentioned that another guy from Bethel prayed for him before (I was encouraged to hear that truly these people are taking active steps to pray for people). I told him I’d still like to pray for him but somehow his boss called and he had to do something urgently so I didn’t push it. And a few days ago, before a new friend I made during the conference (another one, not the Kingdom Culture one) departed, I spoke a quick and simple prayer for healing – or technically, spoke to her body and allergies. I dunno what the result was. But anyway, results or not, I’m still gonna press in, learn more and build up my faith to heal people.