God likes to do things out in “nowhere”. Since he is God, this is his exclusive privilege. And it seems it brings him a sort of ticklish joy to do it. With this in mind, I should have expected Lakeland. If I had ever heard of it, that is. The Lakeland Outpouring is housed (technically) in about three massive pavilions next to the Florida Air Museum. A grassy field with treacherous potholes and sand for earth is our parking lot. A sign on the chain link fence prohibits food or drink beyond the entrance, but once you’re at that point, you can easily see the vendors hocking their hot dogs and sodas twenty feet away. Seems capitalism is inescapable. The hum of voices, music and anticipation leak from under the body of a white plastic skin hung over a steel skeleton. The impromptu church stretches out over about two and a half football fields worth of earth.
Walking into the tent, the atmosphere changes, something mixed with Spirit and expectation. The mixed murmurs of music and voices turn to a dull roar. Now we have to lean into each other’s ears to be heard. Looking up into the belly of the pavilion, the white tent reminds me of two airplane hangers, side by side. It’s the US, so the tent is air-conditioned. Fans exhale loudly into our left ears while we strain and hope to hear the practicing band over the din.
Large portions of the globe are represented here on any given night. Last night Sweden was the loudest. The Swedish youth took turns wearing their nation’s flag. Turning it vertically, they draped it across the shoulders like a cape, allowing the blue and yellow design to form a cross down their backs. They had strangely blonde hair and fierce abandon. I thought to myself that this sort of love of Jesus often comes from being one of few in a Jesus-less society. I wondered how alone they were as Christians in their Socialist country. I pictured them huddled together in some corner of Sweden, meeting in each other’s homes, the only ones who understood each other. The preacher called them onto the stage at one point during the evening. Their desperation and intensity was evident. They cried out under our prayers and fell prostrate under the Spirit, almost each of them parallel to the stage at one moment or another.
In the tent, I am more aware of people with injuries – limps, crutches, wheelchairs – and I find myself thinking they should not be that way. The power of God to heal seems more accessible here. But why? Perhaps because someone else came here before me and believed first. I’m not sure. I can tell that possibilities surround us. Anyone I could approach in this place would need prayer: the people behind me, in front of me, next to me. I am aware of my belief and my unbelief. I want to pray for the ones I see because I know God can heal. But will he? Marlene and I prayed for a woman’s toe and her pain left, most or all the way. Thank you God! I had pain in my back and I could tell it was for someone around me. I finally found the man who had the back pain I was feeling. I prayed for him once and nothing. We talked through some of the blocks, another seat neighbor prayed for him, my sympathetic back pain returned, I prayed for him again, and by the time we left that night, the back pain he had since he was five years old was getting better. Praise God! Josh and I prayed for a woman at Wal-Mart with pain in her both her knees. When we were done, her pain was still there. The steel body of Wal-Mart apparently did not house the same power or pulsing expectation. But why not? God is the same everywhere though, right? It’s so hard to know why some are healed and some aren’t. Is it lack of faith, unforgiveness, God’s will? There is so much I still don’t understand. But I want to be bold. I’ve seen God heal. I’ve experienced his healing for myself. I’m going to tell the stories, remind myself of how great he is, and expect him to move in power again and again.
More to come…