Imagine attending a church where almost everyone grew up in a dysfunctional family.
Now imagine that half the congregation consists of older single women. This reflects a particular dynamic in France’s history where everyone was married in the Catholic Church, but many were not living out any kind of real faith. If the woman, who is typically more spiritually sensitive, had a born-again experience, she was often rejected by the family and depended on the evangelical church for emotional support after the marriage dissolved. Those who converted at a younger age have lacked godly young men to choose from, and also remained single. Those who were born into an evangelical family are rare indeed.
Next, imagine most of the married couples struggling so much that only one spouse attends regularly, and the pastor never teaches on marriage for fear of putting off all the singles. (And we’ve noticed that any seminars offered occasionally by ministries in the area are lightweight weekends that do not address serious issues.)
Now picture the behavior of the children of these single moms and limping marriages.
Finally, imagine that same church without a paid, trained family or children’s pastor on staff.
Welcome to the average French church, ours included.
Yes, I have bragged about our radical worship and our big faith for our big building, but our body was still full of hurting people in self-protection mode and our vision to impact our city would go nowhere fast unless some healing happened. Well, we turned a corner this month , and I am so honored to be one of the drivers. It’s time to tell the whole story…
12 years ago, when we were being sent out on the mission field by our church, I received a prophecy that I would be involved in counseling. Like Abraham’s wife Sarah, I laughed. I wanted breakthroughs for myself and others, but not enough to go back to school in order to be qualified. I also hadn’t heard a single person say that counseling changed their life, but that it simply facilitated a lifelong process.
During our 2 years running YWAM schools in Scotland, I saw that pastoral care was such a necessary component that students with those giftings took on the role for other struggling students when they saw it lacking in the staff. I started getting hungry.
Then 2 years ago, Janet Richards brought the Sozo inner healing ministry from Bethel Church to our church and trained some of us who were around during the summer and could follow English. (This is a Greek word meaning “saved, healed, and delivered” used in the Gospels to describe Jesus’ impact on people.) It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. The tools were simple to learn and use, and after a gentle 2 hours or less, most people experienced an intimate encounter with the Trinity that started them down a new path of walking in confidence as a beloved child in the arms of their happy heavenly family, whose every need will be met. And for a culture who had no emotional needs met as children, this kind of healing must follow salvation in order for them to be a healthy part of the Body of Christ. (And now you know why the Parisians have such a bad reputation!)
In the last 9 months, as the first Sozo team in France, we’ve led 30 other people down this path, and we have a 3-month waiting list. We’ve offered these sessions without charge to our body,
and I fully expect that we will have ministered to almost everyone at least once, by the end of the year. And as it expands outside the church walls, I anticipate this as a source of additional income for us as people recommend us to friends and family members.
That corner I mentioned, was turned when we held a Sozo testimony night at church recently. I had already testified about my personal victories over rejection and our healed marriage, but that night, I had something even better: I had just returned from visiting my family in Phoenix and had the privilege of doing sessions with my parents and my brother. I tearfully announced that my brother was healed and delivered of the shame and guilt that had plagued him his whole life, and our relationship, that was stolen over 30 years ago has been completely restored!! He celebrated his own resurrection on Easter Sunday this year and I am completely undone every time I think about how God aligned everything that allowed me to be part of it.
This was followed by several more testimonies and by the end of the evening, there was a definite shift: Up until that night, we all had to be very discreet and people were ashamed to admit they needed help and kept the experience to themselves. After the service, people flocked for an appt., and at a gathering the next day people talked freely about their specific struggles with me that they hoped we could address. FREEDOM!! Another person remarked that love was growing in the atmosphere in the church!
We are offering training next month in order to enlarge our team and better equip those who pray for the sick in our healing rooms. We’ve also just started to invade the school by leading groups of kids in “heavenly encounters” (quality time with Jesus through visits to heaven in their imaginations) and doing mini-group Sozo sessions to close doors of fear and hate in their lives. It beats the heck out of a flannelgraph story.
Do you sense an acceleration towards the end of the age with increased instability, natural disasters and shifts in economic and political powers? But at the same time, God is releasing more effective evangelism through media and technology, greater supernatural gifts, and quicker inner healing so that we are ready to be victorious in our assignments that will hasten Christ’s return!
Are you getting ready?
PS: The other goal of my trip home was to have Noah do some college visits, and God set this up as well: Not only did Noah firmly decide on the School of Informatics at IUPUI (Indianapolis) to study an aspect of game design, he also met a soulmate at Rachel’s young adult group who will start his studies there next year in the same program! They both got prayer and prophecy for their futures and want to impact gaming for the Kingdom of God. He also benefited from a Sozo while home and will finish his junior year wearing his first suit to the big school Spring Banquet with his first date.