“The Night Jesus Walked Into the Church” ©
*Reprinted below by the author, as originally published in
Encountering Jesus: Modern Day Stories of His Supernatural Presence and Power
Bethany House Publishers (©2015)
I had seen a vision while in prayer. Women with black hair and brown skin stood on a beach with their backs to me, searching the horizon. They seemed to have emptiness in their hearts. I felt their longing and desperation for God, and I knew that one day I’d go to them and tell them about Jesus’ love.
At the time I was given the vision, I had been praying and listening to a worship song that contained the verse spoken in Isaiah 6:8: “I hear the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’” (NKJV)
In prayer and worship that long-ago day, I had responded in the same way that Isaiah had to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, I said in my own heart, “Here am I! send me.”
Then, nothing seemed to happen – for years. I enrolled in and completed Bible school while my children were in the preschool and elementary years. An opportunity to serve in my local church arose, so I was privileged to take it.
But then suddenly, one day during a staff meeting (in 2010), I heard these words: “The funding for part-time positions has been cut.”
The economic downturn had not left our church untouched. The part-time staff position at my home church where I’d first volunteered and then worked as a staff member for three and a half years was gone! I had worked hard to develop and implement a new women’s ministry in addition to other programs and pastoral duties.
How could losing my job possibly be a part of God’s plan?
I would find out over the next two years.
As a full-time mom and part-time ministry leader, I’d been so busy working while my kids were at school, then fitting in the household chores and kids’ activities that I’d all but forgotten about the vision, which I knew was about short-term missions.
I’d dreamed of mission trips ever since I’d seen that vision. I’d prayed with confidence that one day I’d go, but busyness had crowded this out for a time. Besides that, it’s easier to pray about things than to actually do them.
With more time available, I really began to seek the Lord, asking what door He intended to open next.
Unexpectedly, I received an offer to teach a Bible course I’d written as an adjunct faculty member at a local Bible college. I loved teaching, but toward the end of the semester I sensed that God had something new around the corner.
That’s when the door to missions began to open. It wasn’t to a place that I had expected, or at a time that seemed convenient, but I knew it was God, so I went. Perhaps if I had been employed at the time, I would not have been able to go.
I must confess that I had several fears and obstacles to overcome, but God was faithful to help me obey His call.
I was invited to be a team member to the Dominican Republic with R.A.I.N. Ministries Global Missions. That is where my short-term mission dreams began to come true.
One particular night on the trip stands out as a time when I witnessed Jesus touch people in such a powerful way that I will never, ever forget it. We were in a small church that held a few hundred people at most on the upper floor of a very humble building.
The local pastor was a wonderful man of God who had been part of our leadership training conference and had invited our team to his church. He and many local pastors of all denominations had been fasting and praying together for their city since a R.A.I.N. team had previously visited their region. We didn’t realize that this pastor had invited a local deaf congregation to join our meeting that night. His faith in God’s ability to heal was so strong that he had the front rows reserved for these dear people.
We arrived at the church, and soon the worship started. I was quietly praying for the service when I felt strangely sorrowful.
What’s wrong with me?
I could only silently weep as I listened to the worship and then the sermon in that little Assemblies of God church in Barahona, Dominican Republic. I should have been filled with joy because God had fulfilled my dream of missions, but I just kept crying.
I happened to be a part of the prayer team, and we sat in the chairs on the left side of the altar, where we could see the worship team, the preacher, and the congregation.
Another team member was preaching that night, and his topic was holiness. He begged the church to come back to the holy fear and reverence of God. He called us all to live in holiness each day.
As he preached, I continued to sob. My spirit was so grieved by the prospect of any sin that lingered in the corners of my own heart that I was undone. I wept in repentance, followed by the pure joy of receiving God’s forgiveness. For at least an hour during worship and the preaching I could do nothing but cry. Finally I fell to my knees on the floor in front of my chair and tried to remain inconspicuous behind a sound system speaker.
I felt something in the room that night that I can only describe as perfect love. I was stifling sobs, burying my face in my hands as I continued to pray for the meeting. As the sermon on holiness continued, the overwhelming love I felt increased. The presence was palpable, although nor physically tangible.
Soon I noticed that the entire congregation began to quietly weep. Slowly the tears spread from the back of the church toward the altar. A holy presence seemed to sweep in the back door of the humble little church and continue rolling through the crowd to the front. I felt such a great sense of love in my own heart that I wasn’t sure I could bear it.
This is what heaven must feel like, I thought.
There was such perfect joy and such a pure love in that place that I knew Jesus had entered the room, through His Holy Spirit. I didn’t see Him – although some people had visions that night of a bright white light with a rainbow-hued glow – but I felt Him. I knew beyond all doubt that Jesus was there. Soon the preacher was sobbing and unable to preach.
Then it happened.
The sermon wasn’t over. No altar call was made. But it happened anyway: Blind people spontaneously stood and began to declare that they could see! Shouts of joy rose throughout the church.
The prayer team got up and began to pray for anyone and everyone who wanted prayer.
The joy and love was so real in the church that people’s faces seemed to glow. No national or cultural barriers, language differences, socioeconomic disparity, or anything else separated the people in the room from each other spiritually and emotionally.
Christ’s love was so pure, so perfect, and so real that none of those things mattered. There was a unity of the Spirit like I had never known.
Besides the people who had never seen before receiving their eyesight, several who had been deaf began to hear, and the mute spoke. The unmistakable, perfect presence of Jesus brought sight to eyes and hearing to ears and a cleansing to hearts that night.
I prayed with many people, including the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. He was an older gentleman who, I surmised was a leader in the deaf congregation and was a deaf mute. His only concern seemed to be that others receive prayer first.
When I say that he was beautiful, it is because I saw the reflection of God’s love shining through him. I couldn’t sign and I couldn’t speak Spanish, but I could pray in a language that God understood.
We prayed and prayed, and soon he began to form the only Spanish words that I could shout into his ears, “Gloria a Dios!”
It was truly glorious. The joy on his face as he began to hear and speak was beyond human description. Our whole team prayed late into the night as the glorious presence of Jesus remained in the room. His presence brought the miracles of salvation to the lost, a cleansing to the hearts of those in the church, sight to the blind, hearing to the ears of the deaf, and words to the tongues of the mute.
The scene reminded me of the prophecy found in Isaiah 35:5-6 (NKJV):
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For the waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.
While I was in the midst of Jesus’ glorious presence that night, I remembered the vision I’d seen years earlier – of the women on the beach. As I looked around the room at the beautiful brown-skinned, black-haired women scattered throughout the congregation in this island nation, I knew that God fulfills His promises, no matter how long it takes.
How about you? Is there an unfulfilled vision in your heart? Know that God’s timing is perfect, and He will do what He promised.