Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Healing Evangelism? by Eleanor Shepherd

This week, Glen and I have been involved in a unique evangelism initiative with our denomination at Old Orchard Beach, Maine.  The majority of the participants are college age and activity centres around a fast-paced Cirque de Soleil type of presentation on the main stage at the Pier.  Multimedia performances by singers, dancers and stage bands are accompanied by activities geared to all the family with face painting, balloons, giveaways and opportunities for conversation.  The cooperation of the local authorities and merchants adds to the festival atmosphere.

Simultaneously in another part of town are traditional summer camp meeting activities of our denomination, where the faithful gather for inspiring preaching, Bible studies and prayer meetings that will build their faith. It seems this week that there is something for everyone in town.

Yesterday morning was one of the unique opportunities for the participants in both of these diverse programs to meet together for worship.  My heart was profoundly moved as we sang one of the hymns that has been a vehicle for growth in my own faith journey.  As I sang, I began to make the connection between healing and evangelism.  The song writer, an international leader of an earlier generation wrote:

When shall I come unto the healing waters?
Lifting my heart, I cry to thee my prayer.
Spirit of peace, my Comforter and healer,
In whom my springs are found, let my soul meet thee there.

From a hill I know,
Healing waters, flow:
O rise, Immanuel's tide,
And my soul overflow!

Wash from my hands the dust of earthly striving;
Take from my mind the stress of secret fear;
Cleanse thou the wounds from all but thee far hidden.
And when the waters flow let my healing appear.

Light, life and love are in that healing fountain,
All I require to cleanse me and restore;
Flow through my soul, redeem its desert places,
And make a garden there for the Lord I adore.

As we sang, my mind went back to a time 23 years ago this summer, when this hymn took on new meaning for me.  I had an opportunity to spend a summer in London, England with colleagues from around the world, sharing our common experiences in ministry and learning from one another.

During one of the breaks during the course, I engaged in a personal spiritual retreat at a private retreat centre in Tunbridge Wells.  At the time one of our close friends was fighting a battle with cancer and I wanted to focus my attention on learning all that I could about healing from the Gospels, so we could try to understand how to pray for him.

Each morning I went out into a quiet corner of the garden with my Bible and began to read through the Gospels, focusing my attention on any parts that spoke of healing.  As I did so, often when I stopped to meditate about what I was reading the words of this hymn would come to my mind.

That November, our friend went to be with the Lord, but we were able to enjoy some lovely times together with him and his wife during his last months. Although we carefully followed the instructions provided in the teaching of the New Testament for healing of the sick, our friend, Dave, was not granted healing on this earth.

It was six years later that the topic of healing again became an issue for me.  This time, it hit closer to home with the paralysis of our son after an accident.  During the subsequent years of adjustment, one of the things I have learned is that physical healing may not be the most significant kind of healing.  While it would change things dramatically for our son, the changes that come with the healing of our souls can be equally life-altering.  

So I have found myself, mingling with folks on the Pier at Old Orchard Beach this week, where my particular responsibility is to be a part of the prayer team.  As I walk through the crowds and engage with people as appropriate, my prayer is for their healing.  I want them to be well and whole physically, but even more, I want them to know the healing of the light, life and love that God desires to give them.


Glynis said...

Yes, sometimes, Eleanor we think of healing as being returned to the 'way we were'. And sometimes our prayers seem unanswered but the real comfort, as you indicate, is when the healing of a soul occurs. Life altering, indeed.

Lovely words.

Peter Black said...

Physical healing, especially from a serious condition, is certainly a wonderful thing, Eleanor. And yet, as you and Glynis agree, spiritual healing is even more so. That sounds like an interesting, valuable and exhilarating summer outreach you and Glen participated in, in Maine. May enduring life transformations become apparent in the months and years ahead. ~~+~~

Ruth Smith Meyer said...

I could identify with you when you said in spite of following all the instructions and teaching about healing, your friend died. When my first husband was diagnosed with colon cancer we studied the Word, did a lot of praying and several times in the journey felt he had received healing. Yet, after seven months, he died. We learned a lot and his passing into eternity was a life changing experience for both of us. I'm still learning.

Don Hostetler said...

Healing ministry takes a variety of forms, including promoting wholeness. I remember walks with you and other colleagues 23 years ago that developed health of spirit, soul, body, and relationships. Blessings!

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