A couple years ago I was invited to speak for a week at a Christian summer camp for teens. I don’t often have the opportunity to connect with high school students any longer, but these are typically enjoyable experiences. Students, when they catch a glimpse of the Lord can be so invigorating. Their passion–for boon or bane–is unbridled.
Anyway, I looked to spend the five evenings talking through highlights in Jesus’ story–his baptism, his healing work, his death and, of course, his resurrection. The goal, as always, was to give these young people a genuine encounter with Jesus himself.
By the way, this is what every generation of the church needs. Long before we start talking about catchier music (We’re like a more overt Mumford!), hipper communications (Our pastors tweet!) and trendier civic engagement (Some of us are registered Democrats!), we need to set our focus on introducing people to the living Christ. Let Jesus captivate us, and the rest falls where it should, in the style category, window dressing.
So on the second night of my time with the students, I taught through Jesus’ interaction with the bleeding woman and the official’s dying daughter (Mark 5). As I concluded, I remarked that it would be a shame to tell this story and say, “Isn’t it nice that Jesus did this for these two desperate people?” or slightly more faith filled, “Isn’t it nice that Jesus could do this sort of thing?”
To me, Jesus is still alive. We carry the same Spirit that empowered him. So a story of Jesus healing a woman who was likely impoverished, in pain, and certainly a social outcast, should inspire us to faith to do the same for others.
So I invited students who were hurting physically to stand and for others to surround them with simple prayers. I wanted them to simply invite Jesus to do the sorts of things he likes to do for people. As they did so, we simply waited to see what God might do. Many reported relief and substantial healing. That was good news.
One of these students was a young man whose name wasn’t Bobby, though that’s what I’ll call him. Bobby suffered from cerebral palsy, and I noticed when I met him at the beginning of the week that his right foot turned inward at about a 90 degree angle. It was perpendicular to his left foot. He also walked with a severe limp and reported constant pain. I like Bobby. He was a delightful kid.
Bobby told his counselors that night that he had been healed. He looked the same. He still limped a bit, but he claimed that all his pain was gone. He was certain that the Lord had done something significant for him that evening. Bobby was eager to call home and tell his parents. His counselors were skeptical and refused.
I learned the next day that they weren’t the only ones who doubted. Several other staffers had wondered at what I had attempted the previous night. Few, it seemed, had encountered Christians who actually encouraged prayer for healing, let alone expected it. They weren’t sure what to do with me or what to tell their campers.
As a result, I was asked to forego whatever teaching I had prepared for the next evening and explain what I had done. Basically, I was being asked to backtrack in the politest way.
I was demoralized. The rest of the week was flat.
Well, a week ago I ran into Bobby and his family for the first time since this incident. They were so excited to see me. Bobby is a couple years old and a lot taller (I hear that happens with teens). Better than that, he and his parents report that everything is positive with Bobby’s health.
It’s been a journey for them, but Bobby’s feet are now straight, he walks without a limp, a bar has been removed from his torso, and Bobby remains pain-free. Moreover, Bobby’s parents have had their faith encouraged throughout the process. They continue to run into issues where they wonder at whether the Lord was really doing what they thought or hoped. Yet each time God has proved faithful and thoroughly good.
I was encouraged.
The day after his cabin mates had prayed for Bobby, he didn’t look much different. He still limped and his foot still turned drastically inward. Though he said the pain had left him, there was no external evidence that he had changed. But I still remember him asking me, “Why did you have to backtrack on having us pray for each other?” “Well,” I said, “that was a new thing for some people. I had to explain what was going on a bit.” “Oh,” he replied, “I don’t think you had to. God healed me. I’m certain of it.”
Two years later, God continues to heal him. That’s good news.