Posted: July 16, 2015 in Adventures with the Lord

“What is done with insane people in America?” asked my foreign host on one of my most recent mission trips to Africa.

The question caught me off guard. I’ve been asked many odd questions during my seventeen mission trips to Third World countries. Looking back, however, this one takes the cake for oddity.

I explained that in America insane people are treated through medical means. Some may be assigned to hospitals, some to wards in an asylum, or if they have committed crimes, incarcerated in prisons with specialized facilities and staffing to handle their mental needs.

“Interesting,” replied my host, “but such is not the case here in our country.”

Whatever point he wanted to make was long in coming. An extended silence followed us as we walked along a dusty street toward an outdoor market. It was a warm morning, not too hot, but by mid-afternoon it would be a toasty East African day.

Our team of medical and missionary volunteers was scheduled to minister in two prisons that day. We had established a tradition of bringing food and humanitarian aid into the prisons, and intended to buy several 200 pound bags of rice and corn meal at the market to take with us. Given the size of these bags we had to make daily trips to the market to have the food gifts necessary for our crusades.

Expect the unexpected is a rule-of-thumb on the foreign mission field. That adage would hold true in what had been to that moment just an ordinary day.

Finally, his silence got the best of me. “If that’s not the case, what do you do with the insane here in Africa?”

He was again slow to fill in the gaps, and left our conversation hanging. It felt like a game of cat-and-mouse. But I suspected it was his method of making a point by using an example to teach me something unique about African culture. I played along, took the baited hook of his questions, and felt the slackness in the line by the silence that followed.

“In our country we leave them be. They gather around markets, sleeping or begging, and normally…” he hesitated before adding, “they don’t cause any problems.”

I’ve learned enough during my many foreign mission trips to sense there was more to his words than just idle conversation. However, there was a little anxiety on his face, until he slowed his pace and looked intently ahead. I followed his lead and focused about 50 yards ahead.

Startled, my thoughts attempted to sort out the curious sight just ahead. “What the heck is that?” I wonder.

My host walked around the object, taking me in a wide arch to the other side of the street. Still 30 yards away I can’t make out the object. Drawing closer, I’m still clueless.

My heart beats rapidly as I realize that an obese African woman—possibly as heavy as 400 hundred pounds—is asleep and totally naked in the middle of the sidewalk. A spontaneous prayer springs from my lips; “Oh, sweet Jesus, have mercy on that soul!”

The image of that naked woman was vividly burned into my mind. As we pass in silence I understand why my host friend asked me about the insane.

After our walk through the market, a maze of small shops and vendors, I am disoriented and think our exit is the opposite side of where we entered. However, I soon see we are back where we came in, and moving in the direction of the sleeping woman. As we approach, the Holy Spirit nudges me to act.

“Go give her a cup of water in the name of Jesus.”

Confused in my spirit, I question what God is leading me to do. I can’t even think how to start. But how can I not obey? In turmoil, I conclude, “There is no way. I can’t do this.”

Suddenly another African lady approaches the sleeping woman with a towel as if to cover some portion of her massive flesh. Within a split second, this demon-tormented soul awakens and with unbelievable speed, she is on her feet screaming at the top of her lungs at the other woman.

“Give her a cup of water in the name of Jesus,” the Holy Spirit prompts me again. I am in conflict, and responded by deciding, “There is no way I can do this.”

I fail to respond to that still small voice. Failure! A reality of our fallen nature that affect us all. It stung me that day. “Jesus, forgive me,” I pray immediately.

That evening I am in serious reflective thought. I read the story in Luke chapter five about the story of the demon-possessed man. The Bible says he ran naked among countryside burial tombs, cutting himself with sharp stones. No one was strong enough to subdue him.

I often think of that demonized African woman and wonder what could have been, had I not failed to respond to that still small voice to offer her a cup of water in the name of Jesus.

As we mature in our walk with God, we experience many victories and as well as failures, both great and small. I believe though, that failures are opportunities to change and are only final if we refuse to learn from them. With more mission trips planned to Africa, and even that same city, I have a feeling the final chapter of this story has yet to be written. I’m committed to being faithful the next time that occasion arises.

After Jesus expelled the evil spirits from the tomb-dwelling, demon-possessed man in the gospel of Luke, the man begged to go with Jesus. But Jesus refused, telling him: “Go back to your family and tell them all I have done for you.”

My friends, it doesn’t get any simpler than that. “Go and tell.” A part of our response to the grace God extends to us is to turn around and extend it to others. What better time could there be to tell family members and friends what Jesus has done for us than now?

How to get involved?


Prison Riot

Posted: May 18, 2015 in Adventures with the Lord


hand out of cell

“The Muslims inmates are threatening to riot.  They want to kill the Americans,” said one of our native hosts.

“Really, why?” I asked, half-joking and very nonchalantly.

“The guards have things under control for now and want us to speed things up. . .”  The host emphasized the seriousness of the situation with his direct and sternly worded comment.  He meant to impress upon me the urgency of getting out of the prison yard, and the sooner the better.

A risk to the safety of the PFC missionary team of seven Americans suddenly became a real concern.  This was my 18th missionary trip to Third World countries since Prisoners for Christ began international prison ministry in 2000.  I had established a “routine”, one based on experience that allowed me to have confidence in my abilities to lead successful trips to our PFC field offices on foreign soil.  That false sense of security was about to yank me behind the proverbial woodshed for an old fashion backyard thumpin’.

I should have known that nothing on these foreign missions crusades is ever “routine.”  I had gone on enough of these adventures with the Lord to lapse into a comfort zone.  The “routine” was predictable; punch the right numbers, the same results always followed.  Any thoughts of “I can do this blindfolded” or “this is a slam dunk” should have been warning enough.  Not so!

The Bible says “Pride goes before a fall” recently came to mind as I thought back to that particular incident.  I believe we should always feel the sense of Awe that comes from moving in the power of the Holy Spirit and walking in true faith.  When “routine” sets in, the sense of Awe is chased out.  Keeping an expectant sense of wonder over how God will intervene in a situation allows God to work in ways far beyond what we could think or imagine.

This 18th missionary journey was going to prove to be the toughest of all, for many reasons, one of which was that the leader of this group (ME) had graduated . . . . to the “Routine!”  The morning started as usual: . . . . Routine.

imagesLLVSIMRIWe got up and met the team for breakfast.  Routine!  We had devotions.  Routine!  We hurried up and prepared for our guests to pick us up.  Routine!  We waited and we waited and we waited.  Routine!  Our hosts are late as always.  Routine!  We cram our American bodies into our vehicle.  Routine!  Being late, we wait to be introduced to the Superintendent.  Routine!  He says “You’re late.”  Routine!  I grovel.  Routine!  Text book! . . . . This day is going to be Routine!  Not even close!

Our service was awesome.  The music was great; the testimonies were great; the preaching was great; the altar call was great.  God showed up!  God’s presence was mighty in our meeting.  Men of all faiths, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists were represented in the meeting, and many made decisions for Jesus that day.  God was honored and it was an “awe” moment on the mission field.  We have grown accustomed to seeing the power of God fall afresh on these prison services.  Is that bad?  It is when it crosses over into the boundaries of “Routine.”

After such crusades in the prisons we share gifts with the inmates, practical things useful to the prisoners like Bibles, soap, medicine and even fun stuff like soccer balls.  We’d learned that soccer balls excited the inmates and often broke down barriers.

About six months prior to our trip, one of our volunteers who was responsible for buying the soccer balls, came to me asking if he could buy the soccer balls on the internet for a great price.  I told him: “At that price, go for it!”

The soccer balls arrived on schedule.  “Routine!”  They were great soccer balls but they had a unique feature to them.  Half the ball was the typical white soccer ball, the other half had the flags of many countries.  That seemed so perfect!

We had given these balls out all over Africa and the inmates received them with great smiles.  My team did not really understand what was going on but they knew something was up!  As I got the team organized to leave the prison yard, I pulled my host aside and asked what the problem was.

th927VWV13“It’s the soccer balls,” he explained.

“What?  The soccer balls—WHY?”

“I brought two soccer balls in.  If they want more, I will get them more.”

“It’s not about quantity.  You see the soccer balls you brought in have flags of many countries.”  (My thought at this time was “Oh, Lord, their country flag was left off the soccer ball, how stupid of me for not checking.”)

“The flag of Saudi Arabia is on the soccer ball.  You have to understand that the flag of Saudi Arabia has a verse from their holy Koran on it.  They believe it is very sacrilegious and disrespectful to have bare feet touch the soccer ball or the flag.”

In a split nano-second I am flooded with thoughts too numerous to recall.  Would our act of kindness be turned into a stumbling block to those who had received our ministry?

As the PFC team and most of our Indian hosts moved toward the exit gate, I noticed one of our Indian leaders surrounded by about 20 angry Muslim inmates and several members of the correctional staff were behind him.

“Mr. President, you can’t go over there.  Mr. President!”

Before I knew it I was standing next to my Indian host looking into the eyes of those who were in front of me. When I arrived the crowd of 20 goes silent!  I mean silent!  Oh sweet Jesus what have I done.  Give me words to speak!

I look at the head man.  Words spring spontaneously from my mouth.

“I meant no disrespect by bringing the soccer balls in.  I will bring in 2 new soccer balls without the flags on them!  God loves you and Jesus Christ loves you.”

Silence!  No one from the crowd speaks.  My interpreter doesn’t speak.  I nudge him to translate for me.  He hesitates but continues with the translation, still silence.  Finally, I notice a twinkle in the eye of the Muslim leader and a half nod.


We turn and walk away.

I praise God for that small miracle. Those simple words, the declaration that Jesus loves them diffused the tension, and their anger lifted.  The reminder of God’s love was stronger than the enemy’s hate, and they were released from their anger.

Routine!  Nothing but!

Hallelujah the “AWE” is back!


From Voodoo to Heaven

By C.C.    Napanoch Prison-New York

Prisoners for Christ receives hundreds of letters from inmates every month testifying to what Jesus has done for them. We can’t keep those testimonies to ourselves. We must share them with the larger church community. This is one such letter from our Mail Box.

I am a Hispanic male raised in Spanish Harlem by strict parents.  My mother was a spiritualist and my father a Rosicrucian.  I am the oldest of three brothers.  We were all very religious, but none of us knew God.

My life took a turn for the worse during college at a time when doing cocaine was the thing.  Using and selling the drug, I was part of the “in” crowd and considered cool.  The same time I became entangled in the spiritualist world and got involved in witchcraft, Santeria (voodoo) and spiritualism.

My senior year, I stopped using cocaine, concentrated on selling, and dropped out one year short of my degree.  Distributing the drug I was living like a king.  I had it all; money, power, jewelry, and women.  But even with all that, something was missing.    (Continued below)


How to get involved?

Eventually, I was jailed.  In prison my heart grew bitter and cold.  I blamed the world for how my life had turned out.  The blow that rocked me came when my fiancée left me.  I truly loved her, and when she left, nothing mattered anymore.

Alone and distressed, these feelings grew worse from day to day.  I decided to take my life.  However, God didn’t allow me to kill myself because He had a divine plan.  While looking for acceptance and friendship, I joined a prison gang known as the “Latin Kings” and eventually I was promoted to First Crown, the top-ranking leader.

Not long after, I got thrown in the Special Housing Unit (a.k.a. the box) as a result of a gang related incident.  While in the box, I had a chance to think like never before.  I asked questions (about) the nature of love.  “What is love really all about?  How does anyone find true love?”

Before my trial, my co-defendant became a Christian.  He was totally a new creation and his “walk” touched my heart.  I wanted the same transformation he had.  On July 20th, on Rikers Island in C-73m, on the A side in 5 cell at 11:25 p.m. I found Jesus Christ myself and the grace of God came into my soul.

At that moment I experienced the greatest love in my life.  His love flooded my soul and profoundly impacted my life as no other event ever had.

God’s love transformed me.  I’m no longer an ice-cold-hearted person.  Now I forgive people who have done the unforgivable to me, even my once deeply hated enemies.  As a result of prayer and fasting, God saved my family.

Today, I want to do more and more for my Lord out of gratitude.  He redeemed me from hell and destruction and freed me from the bondage of sin and death.  God is truly love.  Soli Deo Gloria!

To Whom it may concern:

Dear Sirs,

I am compelled to share with your newspaper Yard Out, an institutional miracle is taking place here at Lorain Correctional Institution. (Grafton, Ohio)

Once hardened men here being reborn as earthen vessels, allowing themselves to be used for Kingdom business. Inmates carrying their Bibles throughout the yard, greeting one another as brothers. All races, colors and backgrounds. God himself releasing their gifts, testimonies and calling, being transformed supernaturally by surrendering their will over to God, all orchestrated by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost preached by two formidable pastors.

I am witnessing standing room only church services. Men’s cheeks that are wet with tears of surrender and thanksgiving by the power of God. To God be the Glory!!

Inmate CH

Grand Slam Day

Posted: September 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

September 7 Saturday- Day 5 “Grand Slam Day”

Had great nights sleep. Rhonda and awoke very refreshed this morning. We love it here at the Passionate Guest House in Nairobi. We used to always stay here but for some reason we started staying at other places and we are very glad to be back. The Passionate Guest House is run by the Jesuits brothers of Nairobi and they all remembered Rhonda and I from years ago. That made us feel good.

Before departing Lois gave devotionals and did an awesome job. We are now about to leave the Passionate Guest House to embark on a three day tour loop of many prisons. We are scheduled for two services today, one at Thika Men’s and one at Thika Women’s prison. These two prisons were one of several first prisons that we attended back about 12 years ago. Rhonda and I have been to these two prisons 4-5 times and we are excited to get back.

Our first stop is Thika Women’s prison. We had 80 women show up for our church service. Beforehand we met Chaplain Nelly who started being as a Chaplain back in the late 70’s. She is a great woman of God and commands the respect of both the men as well as the women. Dee was the emcee for this institution, Rhonda gave her testimony of her upbringing. She related her story to what some of the women inmates must have gone through. Many women were impacted. Lois Pruitt preached the word and many of women were in agreement with the word she gave. Lois also did the Altar call and three women came forward. Praise the Lord. There were probably 8 toddlers in prison with their moms. Women who go to prison who have children under the age of three are required to bring their children with them.

Next stop Thika Mens prison. Having been here 4 or 5 times I know what to expect and try to prompt our team as other teams were overwhelmed when they came to Thika. Before us today, will be 787 men our largest service thus far on this trip. I give the Presidents introduction. Bill Valley is our emcee for this program and he also gives his testimony. Bill is like a duck taking to water. He has become very accomplished preacher here on the mission field. Mike North is next up with his sermon delivery. Mike shares his story and how that relates to the men in front of him. Mike as well has done incredibly well in feeling comfortable and his delivery on the foreign mission field. I am humbled to the core at the team the Lord has put together for the Kenya trip, BOTH men and women.

We are overwhelmed by the response to the Gospel. 200 men came forward to receive Christ. Halleluiah Amen and Amen.

So far we have had 5 services, 1,761 inmates in attendance, with 359 first time salvations. Again to God be the Glory.

We leave the institution with leaving an impact for God. We take the team out for lunch and start on a 3 hour tour, sounds like Gilligan’s Island. We have a three hour drive till we come to our next overnight stay in Meru. I am truly hoping we get to our next stop before dark. We will do 2 prisons in the morning and a pastor’s conference in the afternoon.

Day 3- Drunken Lady Gets Ejected

Posted: September 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

Day 3- Thursday 9/5 Drunken Canadian Woman…… Ejected


We got in late last night into our guest house.  Our plane was late leaving Amsterdam.  There seemed to be a drunken Canadian women and her two sons that caused a rucas on the plane before our plane was to take off.  The flight attendants at KLM had had enough and before the plane took off radioed the cabin and the pilot made a decision to have her escorted off the plane.  When security came I guess she caused a rucas with them as well.  We are told they threw her and her two sons in jail.  It’s obvious she needs Jesus!!  The outcome was that it caused our plane a 45 minute delay which caused our delay into Nairobi.  On the flight down to Nairobi I decided to stretch my legs and go back to the back of the plane which I did.  I looked out the window in the door and much to my surprise we were flying right over the Sahara desert.  Wowwwwwwza, what a view.  For as many times as I have flown to Africa I have never seen the Sahara desert from the plane.  I ran back and grabbed my camera and got some great shots.  What a remote part of the world.


We finally arrived in Nairobi.  About 3 weeks prior the International terminal caught fire and destroyed much of the terminal.  I was wondering how that was going to impact our arrival.  I was pleasantly surprised at how organized and clean it was.  The government did a great job, however there were long delays.  Our brother Joseph had been waiting for almost 2 hours.  He looked tired.  We were tired.  We piled in our van and headed to the Passionate Guest House where we had stayed before.  We finally rolled into bed about 12:15am this morning.


Everyone got up refreshed this morning. Rhonda and I had a permanent smile on our face, we are back in Africa; seems like home, smells like Africa.  Passionate house seems like our home away from home.  Today we hit the road running.  We got up and had our breakfast.  Bill Valley gave group devotions.  We head to Lanagata women’s prison for our first service of our trip.  Rhonda gave her testimony, Dee gave a short sermon, and Lois gave a long sermon.  The girls did an awesome job and were well received by the inmates.


We head back to the Passionate House where we will have lunch and where our conference will be.  Every one of our team delivered their part with great enthusiasm and great professionalism.  I noticed a number of times there were cracking voices and watery eyes from our team as something that they said moved them to tears.  This happened on more than one occasion.  This is a good thing as it shows me that the Spirit is all over our team and they have a tender heart.  It is already 8:30pm and jet lag is just beating my brains in.  I am exhausted just writing these few lines.  I have grown accustomed to trying to last to 9:30pm each night where that allows me to adjust quicker. The first 1 or 2 nights are just knock down brutal.


Getting ready to fall into bed.  Good day.  Glory to God.


February, 2013- From the journal of Greg Von Tobel

 “I Will Seek Revenge”

We landed in New Delhi and had to make another connection to fly to Lucknow where our team had been asked to participate in a Christian Leadership Conference.  It was an exhausting flight as it never gets easier flying from one side of the world to the other.  Once we landed in Lucknow we were expecting someone, who we had never before met, to meet us and take us to the location of the conference out in the country side of India.  As we exited customs, we looked for someone who would be looking for 4 Americans.  Waiting outside, I relished in the fact that I was back in India; one of my favorite countries to visit.


The sights, the smells, and the feeling of home gave me a calmness that settled into my very innermost being.  As my team and I continued looking for someone who might also be looking for us, it became ever so apparent that this might turn out to be one of the first times I ended up outside of a foreign airport with no one there to meet my team.  It was somewhat of an unsettling feeling as I always feel very responsible for the well-being of those who travel with me overseas.  Not having someone meet us caused great angst among the team members.  I decided to make one last walk the length of the airport outside of the terminal hoping to find someone who was holding a sign with my name on it, but to no avail.  The next step, I took out the cell phone and started making some calls.

Upon making connections with Pastor R., I found out our driver had been detained and would not be showing up to take us.  I was then instructed to get a cab for our team and head out to the city of “L” where our hotel reservations were set.  What I didn’t realize was that our cab ride would take over 3 hours just to get to this city.  On any other trip I would have been a tad bit more on point, however I totally trusted my friend Pastor R. that we were on the right track and he was watching out for us.

Once we had arrived at our hotel in the city of “L”, I could tell our team was feeling the strains of travel.  Travel across the world, coupled with another intra-country flight along with a 3-hour road trip, will zap the energy out of even the most seasoned traveler.  We decided to turn in early for the day and recharge.

Prior to going to bed, we were told that other team members from other churches in America would be arriving at the hotel throughout the day and that we should be ready for our taxis to take us to the conference at 10am the following morning.  We all sighed a deep sigh of relief as we knew that would give us a few extra hours of sleep that evening.

P1020226Getting up the next morning with a full night’s sleep underneath our belts gave the team and me a new lease on life.  Smiles replaced tiredness.  Laughter replaced the primal grunts of the previous day.  A sparkle in the eye replaced blank, zombie-like stares.  Our team was back “in the groove.”

We met the other team members from other churches arriving.  We were refreshed in our hearts by the warmth of the sun that beat down on our faces on the veranda of the hotel.  Everything seemed so tranquil as we enjoyed the sunshine, not knowing that tranquility would be pierced within hours by the face of sheer evil from hell’s gates.

As we took our turn in the Indian taxis, I looked around at the impoverished city where the people seemed imprisoned by their lifestyle of idol worship.  We drove for what seemed like an hour to the depths of the countryside of India.  I had seen the countryside by plane and by train, but never by car.  There seems to be a universal principle that no matter where you are in the world, the countryside is a place of rest for the soul.


What seemed to be an hour drive really turned out to only be a ½ hour drive from the hotel.  I was told to expect 3,000 people at this conference.  I have grown not only accustomed to but also a tad bit jaded by inflated predictions of crowd sizes.  If someone tells me to expect to be in front 1,000 inmates, I automatically halve the estimation to 500.  If someone says we will be in front of 2,000 inmates, I mentally reduce that figure down to 1,000.  My rule of thumb is rarely wrong.  I would soon find out this week, my rule of thumb was grossly under exaggerated.

I was told to expect 3,000 conference attendees.  Being the quick math wizard I am I thought to myself, “Ok, 1,500 may show up.”  As we were driving out in the middle of nowhere in the countryside of India I was wondering where out here would accommodate 1,500 Indian attendees.  I chuckled as I had images of an Indian Woodstock music festival.  Little did I realize that when all was said and done, over 4,200 pastors and lay leaders from all over Northern India, some traveling for days, would attend this conference.

As I was in the front seat, I was scouring the horizon for anything that looked like a conference center.  Off in the very far distance on the horizon I saw what seemed to be some small white buildings.  As we continued on with this adventure on the back roads of India, I saw nothing but farm land, beautiful farm land.  Finally, I saw the white buildings that were getting larger.  The car seemed to be going in that direction.

DSC_0084As we pulled into the conference center I observed what seemed to be the small white buildings looming on the horizon.  As we got closer and closer theses small white buildings on the horizon were no longer small white buildings but two, rather large 3-story dormitories.  We had arrived.  Much to my surprise, I found myself in a crowd of several hundred people with men, women and children walking here and walking there in a festive attitude.  Don Szolomayer, a member on our team, mentioned that it reminded him of what it must be like to walk the city streets of Jerusalem in Jesus’s time.

We were quickly ushered into the main building by our hosts.  This was the hub of operations, a place of normalcy and quietness for the speakers that would be presenting at the conference.  We were instructed to make ourselves feel at home, to go out and mill around and be with the people.  Our PFC American team consisted of Don Szolomayer, Mark Richardson, Scott Minter, and me.  Both Mark and Scott asked if they could go out and take a tour of the 18 acres of land and take some pictures.  I said, “Certainly.  Go be with the people.”  Don and I decided that after we got settled in with the leadership of the conference that we would do the same.  The four of us agreed to rendezvous later at a set time.

Within minutes, we had split up.  Don and I were on our own taking in all the sights of the property with so many people that had arrived early.  We decided to head to the roof top from where we heard loud music coming.  As we were climbing the three flights of stairs we took in so many more sights.  It was sensory overload!  We first ventured to the smaller roof top, took some pictures, smiled a lot and prayed for people who came up to ask us for prayer.

Don and I looked at each other and our minds met as if to say, “Yes, this is going to be a time of rich blessing.”  Little did we know we would come face to face with evil in just a few minutes.  I was thrilled in my spirit and excited to see what God was going to do with our team.  We then made our way to the larger of the roof tops where I estimated there were between 500 – 600 people crammed in and sitting down.  As I observed, it seemed as if there were 4 groups of people in each of the four corners of the roof top either worshipping or praying or listening to someone preach the Word of God.  It was extremely noisy.  I also observed that there were many people with torn and worn out Bibles in their laps praising the Lord and worshipping the Lord individually.


Don and I looked at each other and said, “Wow,” and tried to determine “now what.”  I decided that I would find a seat among the people to watch, snap some candid pictures and be in a spirit of prayer for the conference.

I looked to the right and then back up again.  Before I knew it, Don was gone.  The Spirit moved him to seek out some Indian men and sit among them, so he did.  There were about 50 men huddled, sitting on the ground listening to a very young pastor.  He had their attention and they were intently listening to him.  Don decided to be discreet and sit on the outskirts of the men and just listen.  Being obviously white-skinned, he stood out from the crowd.  It wasn’t too long before the young pastor engaged Don in some conversation.  Much to Don’s surprise, the young pastor spoke very good English.

They conversed for some time and then the young pastor motioned to Don to speak to the men.  Don moved from a sitting position to a kneeling position.  Before I knew it, Don was on his feet and vibrantly preaching the Word of God.  This brought a small smile across my face and in a split second I flashed back 15 years ago when the Lord brought Don to the ministry at the Shelton prison.  I remembered his first day as if it was just yesterday.  Don was invited into the prison by his good friend, Dan Johnson.  They called their worship group “The Three D’s” which stood for Dan, Don and Dee, (Dee being Don’s wife.)  These three were as green as blades of grass on their first day in prison.  It was amazing to think that 15 years later Don was on the other side of the world ministering God’s Word in international prison ministry.

In 2002 I sent Don an email inviting him to come to Africa and preach the Gospel in the jails and prisons of Africa.  Within a nanosecond of receiving that email, Don responded, “Absolutely!”  From that point on, God made this man into a mighty warrior for His cause.

As I observed Don preaching on the roof top that day, I started to see an interesting thing happening.  As Don preached, one by one, group by group, corner by corner, the whole roof top began listening intently to this white prison pastor deliver the Word of God.  All 500 pairs of eyes were watching and ears listening intently to the Word of God.

P1020250After Don closed his time of preaching, he sat down.  There were a few moments of awkwardness as the whole roof top was silent and somewhat looking at the young pastor for what next to do.  The young pastor got to his feet and started looking around as if to find someone.  It wasn’t too long until his eyes found me.  He smiled and motioned for me to come forward.

I have been in this situation many times on the mission’s field.  It was now my time to preach the Word and give a word of encouragement to my Indian brothers and sisters.  I figured I had about a 30-second walk from the back of the roof top to where I was to stand.  My mind was mentally flipping through my sermon Rolodex as I was praying, “Which one Lord?”

The Spirit immediately led me to Mark, chapter 5 which tells the story of the demon possessed man.  I have preached on this passage many times and felt quite comfortable in delivering an impromptu sermon on this passage.  Instead of standing where Don had, which was in the center of the rooftop, the Spirit prompted me to move to one of the outer walls so that I would not have anyone behind me.  I would have my back to the wall giving me eye contact with almost everyone on the roof top.  This led me to be smack-dab in the middle of group of ladies.  I had about 12 inches of foot space thus preventing me from walking around.  Why the Spirit led me to this exact location would soon be evident!

I opened my time by giving them some back drop to the story of the demon possessed man who ran through the tombs day and night cutting himself with stones.  After about 10 minutes into the sermon I said, “Even the demons recognize Jesus.”  I continued on with the sermon and witnesses later told me that as soon as I said the phrase, “Even the demons recognize Jesus,” a woman directly to my left began to convulse.  This was a woman who was less than 6 inches away from my left foot.  As she started to move around I could feel the movement of her body against my left leg.  I thought to myself, “This is rather odd but I will keep going.”

I have been in many awkward preaching situations over the last 32 mission’s trips.  I have learned to press on and not to focus on any distractions.  However, this time would prove to be different.  As I continued on, I noticed her movements were becoming more exaggerated.  Everyone on the roof top was no longer looking at me but looking at this young woman.  I stopped my message, knelt down next to her on one knee and started to lay hands on her head to pray for her.  At the moment that I laid my hands on her, she immediately convulsed and shot straight backwards from a sitting position as if she was going to do a back flip, hitting the women behind her.  Had I been any closer she might have knocked out some of my teeth with her head.

P1020290Startled, I jumped to my feet and instructed my young interpreter to ask for some elders to come forward to lay hands on this girl.  I knew immediately what was happening.  Much to my horror, no one came forward.  I then told the young pastor to get some men up to her immediately to anoint her with oil!

At that stronger request, three men came forward including Don.  He was sitting in the crowd and as soon as the words came out of my mouth, Don heard a low, guttural growl coming forth from this woman.  The next thing he knew, he was on his feet moving towards her.  Don and the other men made their way forward, picking their way through the crowd.  As all three of them laid their hands on her she again violently convulsed.  It took the strength of all three men to subdue this young women of maybe 90 pounds.  I was shocked by the strength of this young, petite woman.

One of the men looked at me and held out his hand as if asking me for something.  My new Indian pastor friend motioned to me that he was asking for the anointing oil that I had made mention of moments earlier.  In the heat of the moment I had forgotten what I had said about the anointing oil.  I began fumbling through my day pack, digging deep looking for it, half-panicked that I would not be able to find it.

The men had the young woman on the ground and I bent over to anoint her with oil.  At this point she lunged at my face with her mouth wide open, baring her teeth, as if to rip any of my flesh where she could sink her teeth.  Thankfully, the men had a good hold on her.  As I looked into her eyes all I saw was death and destruction, full-on evil, straight from the pit of hell.  Never before had I seen such evil so close to my face.  Even Hollywood could not have produced anything more frightening.  I get goose bumps even as I reflect back on those moments that were so up close and personal.

I looked into her eyes and only saw the whites of her eyes with a very small black dot as her pupils.  She was growling and hissing and making all sorts of noises at me.  She lunged at me one last time and said something that I did not understand.  Once her forehead was anointed with oil, she went limp and stayed on the ground for the rest of the time.

DSC_0125After she went limp, the three men and I stood up and looked at each other with rather stunned expressions on our faces.  We all breathed a sigh of relief thanking God it was over and that this young woman was released from her spiritual darkness.  I was at peace that the demon had left her.

Within a split second of standing up, another woman not 6 feet away started into convulsions.  I was utterly stunned at this point and was asking myself, “Is this really happening?”  Don heard another guttural growl as he looked to his left.  He remembers moving immediately towards her with the other two pastors.  It was like the rest of the world didn’t exist for Don who was totally focused on praying for and releasing this other woman from the demon.  All three men looked back at me for instructions.  I motioned to them to move closer to this woman and do the same.  Through my interpreter, I asked for the entire crowd to extend their hands to this woman.

As soon as the men laid hands on her she violently rocked back and forth, more so than the first woman.  I noticed that the men had more difficulty in physically restraining this second woman.  Only afterwards did I find out from the men that she was much stronger than the first.  By this time the roof top became very loud as the entire group of 500 was fervently praying out loud in their native tongues.  As I was attempting to lead the group in prayer to expel the demon, I actually could not hear myself pray.  People got to their feet to stand and watch.  Because I was about 10 feet away from her, I could only watch and observe the sheer strength of this second demon possessed woman.  Only after anointing her head again with oil, did she then fall limp and stay limp for the rest of the time.

I now noticed the men who had laid hands on both of the women were profusely sweating.  No sooner did we finish travailing in prayer over the second woman when a third woman to the right of me started to convulse.  At this point I was utterly stymied as to what to do.  Never before in my Christian walk have I been in a place of leadership with one demon possessed person, let alone three!  I was once again asking myself, “Is this is really happening?”  I was wondering if we had unleashed the gates of hell onto this unsuspecting crowd on the roof top by those five words in my sermon, “Even the demons recognize Jesus.”  What would happen if these people started to panic?  How much more could the crowds and I handle?  Would this demon go from person to person?  How many more would be afflicted?

The three men who had laid hands on the first two women were too far away to get to the third woman readily.  What to do now?  I didn’t have to ask even once this time as men voluntarily came forward to lay hands on the third woman.  However impossible it may seem, this third woman was even stronger than the two previous women combined!  At one point I noticed how forceful the men were in subduing this woman.  Because of the level of force being used against her, I actually grew concerned that bones and spines would start popping.  I called my interpreter over to tell him to tell the men not to use such force.

Once the men anointed her with oil, she too went limp much like the previous two women.  In a short 15 minutes I was utterly exhausted, mentally as well as physically.  I was spent.  I was wondering if this demon was done with us or if it was going to torment person after person.  Much to my relief, I felt the Spirit of the Lord say, “It is done.”


I stood up and motioned the crowd to sit down.  That in itself was no small feat as there was much noise and commotion from the crowd.  Once the crowd settled down I was once again able to speak through my young Indian interpreter.  I spoke to the crowd out of a true heart of compassion for them as I knew that in a crowd like this there were many who were sick.  I learned many years ago that in a crowd of this size to never forego two things; an altar call for salvation and an altar call for the healing of the sick.

I said to the crowd as loudly as I could, “We are not done yet today.  We are not done doing battle with the spiritual darkness and the principalities of this dark world.  We are now going to the Lord of lords to pray for the sick.  If there is anyone who is sick, please come forward and we will pray for you.”

With that, about a third of the people on the roof top came forward for prayer for physical ailments.  The crowd was crushing in a way that I had never experienced. There were people in the crowd who were too sick to come forward.  Much like in the New Testament, a friend or family member carried them, limp and lethargic in their arms, a sight that brought tears to my eyes.  The crush of people was extreme.  Never before had I ever experienced a crush of people as I did on that roof top.

Because Don and I were the only two white people on the roof top, we were actually physically being pulled in opposite directions by our arms by people who wanted us to lay hands on loved ones or on themselves.  Once we were done, Don and I attempted to leave the roof top.  Because of the crowds, we could only slide our feet a mere 3 inches at a time.  We shuffled instead of walking.  It seemed to take 20 minutes just to get to the back entrance of the roof top.

As we were making our way to the entrance of the roof top, my young Indian interpreter grabbed my shoulder and turned me around in one motion in order to see him face to face.  He said, “Pastor Greg, do you remember that first demon possessed woman who lunged at you with the open mouth and then said something to you?  Do you know what she said?”

I said, “No, I thought it was gibberish.”

“She was speaking in her tribal dialect and she said, ‘I will seek revenge!’”

“I will seek revenge?????”

Those four simple words made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

“My friend, I guess you will need to be in prayer for me.”

We went back to the guest quarters where Don and I each found a bed and crashed for about an hour and half in a deep, deep sleep, utterly spent.  After awakening, Don shared with me that the Lord had given him a word.  The Lord said, “I am here, do not fear.  Rest and be ready!”

And the conference had not even started!

Image  —  Posted: July 15, 2013 in Uncategorized