My advancement document is going well, and I find myself better at explaining my research more than ever. As I think about all the stories I have to tell from this past year, I’m somewhat unsure of where to start. While I’m working to finish school, I’ll try to catch up with my stories. This one is from the beginning of this past October. It’s been almost a year, but maybe the time that’s past will help me be succinct in my telling.
Why did I go to Knoxville? Well, I’d been impatient up until that point, hearing about these headliners of God’s Kingdom. The stories were too good to be true, so if they’re all just lying, then I wanted to see them lie to my face. I needed answers, and the people around me weren’t as eager as I was in acquiring these explanations.
A random email from the University of San Fran students about this documentary, “Furious Love,” lead me to watch one about the “Finger of God.” Finger of God had some remarkable stories, and little did I know, many of the key people interviewed would be at this one conference at a church in Knoxville, TN.
I found out about this conference from looking up the itinerary for a Bob Jones, but not the one that started that university. (Apparently, Bob Jones University was a product of someone else.) If you’ve followed the history of Kansas City’s International House of Prayer, you’d hear the unbelievable stories of this guy. The stories were so remarkable that I didn’t think this guy would still be alive. He was; so more than anything, I wanted to meet him before it was too late. Now when people hear about this Bob Jones fellow, I can say that I’ve met him.
At this conference, there was Bob Jones, the one I really wanted to see, then Heidi Baker, Bill Johnson, and Joshua Mills (from the documentary). Here at one conference, I could get all these “Prophet Points.” The post I wrote about Prophet Points goes over some of the interesting aspects of Baker, Johnson, and Jones (Engle and Bickle too). Still, I mean, going to Knoxville is random and flying to Knoxville was far more expensive than I’d expect. Thanks to couchsurfing.org, I was able to stay with an awesome family nearby.
Sue Clark came to pick me up from the airport. On the way to her home, she tells me about how she and her husband help run the local exchange student program. What a loving family; this is what I wrote on their surf page after my trip:
What an amazing experience. The Clark family is full of love. They’ve coordinated foreign exchange students for years, and I even got to meet a few of them. They have such great stories that they could write a book about their travels and visitors throughout the years. They took hospitality to a whole new level, and I totally felt part of the family. It is a unusually great to find a couple who care so much about people. I slept comfortably in my own room, and experienced what I believe a bit of what heaven is gonna be like 🙂
I brought my hosts a San Jose sweatshirt and a few books and DVDs from the conference. I feel bad for staying out so late while I was there, but I hope that their household is greatly blessed for their amazing hearts and hospitality. I got to eat home cooked meals with students from around the world, greeted with a slice of chocolate pie my first night.
The church, Abiding Glory, was located in a spread out area, off of one of the major roads. It felt like I’d walked into a giant warehouse with many chairs inside. I thought to myself, wow, small venue for such well known speakers. I’d thought it’d be more like when I was at Jesus Culture in Atlanta, aka the largest church I’d ever set foot in.
The worship team consisted seemed similar to IHOP and Jesus Culture, a young group of radically passionate musicians. As worship began, people of all ages rushed to the open area in front of the stage. This has proven to be typical of churches and concerts of my coming experiences. I found a nice spot up close.
First up was Bill Johnson, now, this was my first time hearing this man talk, and of what I can remember, I appreciate his frankness above all else. For once, a pastor who calls out people for being dumb–that’s my kind of pastor. Now, as a researcher for the last few years, I do have problems with people telling stories that they cannot validate. I have no problems with Bill’s stories of people that he knew personally or stories of his own experiences, but once in a while, there are stories that sound too much like urban legends. In those cases, it’d probably be better to not tell such stories. Stories like that of Athet Pyan Shinthaw Paulu, Burmese Monk, raised from the dead, are not well documented, and in my field, it doesn’t matter how well the experiment went, without evidence, it may as well have never happened.
I heard many of Bill’s sermons at this point and have read one of his books. I know people who know Bill, and I get the gist of his church and ministry. At this point, I’m having a hard time remembering what he spoke about in Knoxville, but I have the CD recording of it somewhere. What I can say from personal experience is that Bill, and anyone from Bethel Church, but mostly Bill, has helped more than any other speaker in bringing me out of these spiritual funks. He may not be the most logically rigorous, but I assess him to be real, living out the things he teaches.
Now, consider the Grad Student Jam Session that I’d written about– This was scheduled for the 16th. For whatever reason, I felt compelled to inform all speakers of what was going on. It’s my own way of bringing unity to the body of Christ, I suppose. This conference ran from October 1-3; so, 2 weeks later, I’d be with my PhD peers, taking a step forward in stewarding our influence and being united. Instead of stealing moments from these guys for prayer, I decided to pass them notes. Who knows if they read them, but it helps me to not have to say 100 things in 1 minute, and gives the speaker a chance to read the message when they’re less on the move.
Towards the end of Bill’s talk, he gives a few testimonies of healings, and invites people to seek prayer. Again, this was much like how Joaquin Evans ran his prayer and teaching service when he’d visited this and this time. Joaquin Evans and Bill serve at the same church, so that makes sense.
As amazing as what was allegedly happening, I still have a hard time understanding what it means to see a miracle. I can’t argue with the fact that there were people after people claiming to be healed of this, that, and the other. I was a complete stranger to this town, so maybe these were planted imposters in the audience, but after a year of this, as I see this happen again and again, with people I personally know, I find it more and more likely to believe what is allegedly happening.
Meeting Bill didn’t seem as urgent as meeting Bob Jones. I knew that I’d see Bill again someday, there are just too many connections that I have with his church at this point. Regardless, I shook his hand and handed him my note.
Bob Jones spoke the next day, and he also speaks about healings. Bob speaks like a man who’s lived and very long and unusual life. His age, in a way, gives him license to say things however he likes, but nothing compared to the reverence, respect, and honor that he got from the other speakers. I felt almost unfortunate that I could not understand why people think this man is so wonderful. This is what I’d previously said about Bob:
He was at a conference where Bill Johnson and Heidi Baker would also be at, so I registered to visit Knoxville, Tenesse, and that is an adventure for another post. Here’s what I gathered: at first glance, he’s an adorable and very old man. Did he make any grand predictions of the future? No, he talked abstractly about eagles and lions, but even though I didn’t experience anything grand, I don’t discount his experiences. It’s encouraging to hear the words from a man who may have had great encounters with God.
For whatever reason, I was determined to shake this man’s hand. I mean I’ve met famous people before, I’ve shaken hands with Jazz legends and gotten autographs, but more than those other times, I felt it was significant to shake this man’s hand… and write him and his wife a note:
Most people are probably in the same boat as me, where we don’t really know what to do with this information. The people who really believe seem a bit irrational and those who don’t believe seem equally irrational. That’s the price of being so rational, I suppose (haha, joking). What I’ve mentioned so far is not the most amazing thing about going to Knoxville– there are 2 things that I find to be invaluable outcomes from this trip. (1) Meeting Heidi Baker and (2) making friends with the Terrill brothers. Let’s start with Heidi Baker.
In my Prophet Points post, I describe Heidi as follows:
In the documentary, she was a woman, like Mother Teresa, in Mozambique, trying to help a desolate nation. Seeing her speak in person, I realized, this woman is nuts. Up until that point, Joaquin Evans was still the most unusual, but that was before meeting Heidi Baker. Her stories seemed even more amazing, but perhaps just as amazing as the others. What I mean is, she, the complete package, was remarkably amazing. She came from a privileged Californian background, was preaching by the time she was 16, and builds her live around the specific things God tells her.
I’ve shared her teachings with many many people. After seeing her speak, I found myself having a personal hero. If there was ever anyone I wanted to be like, it’d be Heidi Baker. That’s for another post, but as she spoke about her endeavors with University students at MIT and Harvard, I knew I had to speak with her about my friends at Stanford, Berkeley, UCSF, and UCSC.
It’s strange, because she seemed somewhat normal in the Finger of God documentary. What’s even stranger was, despite being so unusual, there’s something that rings so true from how she was and who she is. In my opinion, everyone should know about this woman, more than any other person in the world. I want to know God like this woman knows God.
So, after her talk, people crowd around her get prayer. She hugs them, and they all start weeping. I, personally, was not feeling very weepy, but if I’d take a hug from anyone, I’d take one from Heidi. When she came up to me, I asked her for 5 minutes, now or later. She said she had time now and sat on the ground to listen to me. I felt bad, b/c so many were waiting to get their hug.
I started to tell her about my friends, the PhD students at Stanford, Berkeley, UCSF, and UCSC. Then I start to weep, because I see so clearly what needs to happen, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. All I can say think of is asking her to come to Stanford to meet my friends… I want them all to meet her. She said she would. You know there’s so much resistance when people don’t quite all see the point. I know that gathering the PhD’s is important, that these connections are important, but once I get them in one place, what am I supposed to do or say? Haha, it’s not about me, but until others begin to catch this vision, it’s just me, for now.
The next night she said we need to pray for college students… Yay! Since that first encounter, I’ve connected with Heidi’s personal assistant, Heidi’s written me a personal email, and I’d seen her once more. She said she wants to come visit, “in God’s perfect timing.” I love how she put it. So in the meantime, I am stewarding the influence and relationships that God has given me, waiting to do what he wants from me next.
So, the way I travel, I often don’t know where I’m going to spend my nights. In America, I always trust that there is some place that will be opened 24/7 where I can pull and all-nighter. Throughout the couple days, I kept encountering this one person, whether to ask for directions, or this guy would be the one to greet me for one reason or another. So, when I was in a pinch, he happened to be who I asked in regards to someplace that’d let me stay up all night to do work.
When traveling alone, I often wonder if I should make an effort to connect. I honestly don’t like formal attempts to network, and I’m at a point in my life where I know enough people. Being content enables me to wait on God, and despite feeling like I should TRY TO connect with these Knoxville young adults, God provided me the opportunities for life-long friends. The older of the Terrill brothers gives me a ride to IHOP, the pancake place :), and the younger, later, takes me to the airport.
While at the 24/7 restaurant, IHOP, I laughed to myself as I was kicking it with a group of strangers, soon to be friends:
I wrote this after the conference in an email:
I wanted to say that when we were riding to the pancake house, I was talking about Heidi Baker and Bill Johnson a lot. How they’re friendship is so profound at these conferences.I realized later that our friendship, whatever that becomes is going to be even more potent.A few days later I got a txt from your brother that said: “Maybe someday you’ll be Heidi Baker and I’ll be Bill Johnson, and we’ll see each other at conferences.” I don’t think I ever told him about the friendship thing.I suppose that makes you Bob Jones…lol.take care, maybe i’ll see you at onething.
The friendship with these brothers seems like the typical divine appointment. A few months later, I do get to see one of them again in Kansas City. I love it when God picks my friends for me…hahaha.
Besides all that I just said, it was also that night at the pancake house, where I’d read 2 chapters out of Heidi Baker’s book that I felt God wanted me to buy 100 copies of it. So, $937 later, I’d ordered a ridiculous number of books off of Amazon. Having some good conversation with an aspiring architect, I decided to leave my copy for him.
On my way to the airport, I give a copy to the driver and new friend as well. Before getting to the airport, we grab a bite at Panera Bread, and I’m shown the Knoxville House of Prayer:
Oh, I forgot to note that in Knoxville, this past October is where I also experienced my first “fire tunnel.” It’s funny because I tend to not touch people, and fire tunnels are the opposite of that…haha. Anyhow, it’d be weird to think or even say that my life is like this every time I travel, but, actually, it is. So, maybe you understand a bit better as to why I owe God a lot of storytelling.