Jose Luis, Aida, and Jose Luis Jr., – one of the most special astonishing miracles I’ve EVER had the privilege of being involved in… 6 years ago today, in Cali, Colombia (Kids hospital Club Noel) when Junior was just a few months old, had the opportunity to pray something I’d never ever prayed for: he was born with NO fontanelles and NO sutures in his skull, which meant of course, that his cranium was solid, with no room or flexibility for his brain to grow. His future was more than bleak, to say the least – brain damaged, severely handicapped physically, more than likely dead very young. Dad had brought his skull x-rays to another brain surgeon – my long-time friend Doctora Dunia Patricia Quiroga, who told him to get the x-rays ‘prayed over by the Englishman in the waiting area’ of the kid’s hospital, and then to bring Junior to the hospital to be scanned by her…three hours later (maximum, I reckon), Dunia called me. Jose Luis Jr had all the necessary fontanelles and sutures in his skull for a perfectly normal life…. God is SO incredibly amazing, powerful, creative, merciful, kind….you name the adjective! Oh yes, and Mum and dad both gave their lives to Jesus …..
It was fantastic to be able to hand over such an amazing building to the lovely church, El Abrigo, and it’s Foundation, in Cali, last Sunday evening. It was also a thrill to be able to stream it live, on the internet, and an edited and enhanced version of the video will be available soon, which I’ll put here, on my YouTube channel (www.youtube.com Paul Bennison), and on Facebook and Instagram. If you weren’t able to see it or missed the abundance of messages I sent out to say it was going to be streamed (!), the ‘speeches’ – Hendrik (Hein) Hoere, Thanney Pyper, Johnny Mawhinney, and me, were filmed on my phone, and the speeches paint a good picture of the whole project.
Before the speeches, and before the meeting, a 360-degree film was taken by Johnny, and that’s here: https://www.facebook.com/jrm.301/posts/10155810370058149
and here is the unedited talking-bit of the evening, after some lovely worship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTVqLuiBpM4
My dear friends Hernan & Aida Gonzalez, and their lovely little son, Hernan Jr, pastor the church ‘Nuevo Nacer’ (New Born/Birth) in the very dangerous barrio, Simon Bolivar, Cali. There are occasions when taxi drivers baulk at taking you there – a bit like to Retiro on Thursday night, and Ana Beiba’s home, Alfonso Aragon Bonilla. The church is right at the top of my favourites list, however, and Hernan & Aida are just incredible.
I met them at what was ‘sold’ to me as a ‘Pastor’s Dinner’ – and I was a guest. It turned out to be a churches ‘health and safety’ meeting, lasting a good 2.5 hours, with copious numbers of stick men and women drawn on walls, on the ground, signs telling you what to do in a ‘terremoto’ (or ‘tremblor, I think) – earthquake…. all in Spanish with a vocabulary I didn’t have! it was SOOOO boring, and my team and I were bored witless. Then came the time for dinner – which was in a downstairs room at the church. There were a good few pastors who knew me, and some, and wives, came and asked for prayer. Among those were Hernan & Aida, who, though I didn’t know them then, saw people getting healed, and joined the line…. After introductions, I prayed with Aida, who had – if I remember – a large painful lump at the top of her spine and on her shoulder. It went. Friendship confirmed! Downstairs for dinner, to find it had all gone. Joy oh joy….
Last night, Hernan walked – in blistering heat – about 7 kms to come to the apartment to take us to church. It IS a dangerous barrio, and not safe for gringoes (us) to be in alone. He arrived on what was probably the hottest day of the trip, we made him coffee and a cold drink, and I offered what little we had in the fridge – a yoghurt. He was thrilled (yes, really) that it was an Alpina brand, ‘my son loves these, they do him a lot of good, probiotic’… so I asked if they were they the yogs he bought for Hernan Jnr. No, they couldn’t afford them…. here, they are 7000 pesos for 5: 1400 each, thats about 30 pence UK…. I gave him the whole pack we had in the fridge, and he nearly cried….so he drank the one I’d given him separately with relish….
BUT – the good that came out of tragedy at the pastor’s dinner (no food!) was the wonderful friendship with these two beautiful people – and their son. Hernan Jr., had a raft of issues then, about 2 years old – including club feet (no chance of walking), speech difficulties, what seemed to me to be autism, and more. I always love to go back there, every visit, and over the months following, Hernan received a load of miraculous stuff from God, and is a super little lad – passionate about Jesus, lapping up every word spoken, prayer prayed and song sung. He’s always happy to see me, it seems, last night no exception. First off, though, is the delight of meeting the greeter/welcome man, Victor. Victor is built like a basketball player, lean and 2 metres 10 cm tall. I fit under his armpit, and can vouch for the effectiveness of his deodorant! His hugs are – to me – legendary, and they could go on forever. He really is a very, very special man, and we’ve become great friends over the years. Then came Sara, a darling of a little girl who excitedly told me that ‘God healed me when you prayed for me in July!!’ – I was in tears…and laughing with joy. She was laughing, hurled herself at me for a hug, and then wouldn’t let go of me for ages…
I can’t explain to you the emotions, feelings, joy, humility, astonishment (even after nearly 40 years), delight… of people coming to you, months, even years, after receiving prayer, and telling of how God healed them through you. I don’t think I’ll EVER get over it. If I do, it’ll be the day when it doesn’t happen anymore…
We had a great meeting in their church: Simon spoke really well again, on the opening verses of 1 Peter: a good response afterwards, and then the chance to pay for a few specific people for healing, including Aida, who had what sounded like shingles and a hernia. She’d been in a lot of pain, yet led the worship with incredible passion, her voice is very powerful, and it was tremendous. God took all her pain away.
As he did with others that I prayed for: and I’m sure he did with Simon’s folk. Hein, my dear friend, translated again, my first-ever translator in Cali 21 years ago. I said last night, to the church, I feel good when he translates as he’s so good at it, but bad because he’s such a good preacher, much better than me, and I always feel that his humility in translating for us is immense….
A number of ‘important’ things fell into place today at the Foundation – the air conditioning arrived, and was 1,200,000 (£400) cheaper than we were we expecting (!) – the kitchen got fitted, when Thanney and Johnny are back I’ll fill in the other things, but we’re hoping that YOU might be pleased as we think we are going to be able to stream Sunday afternoon’s precious ‘handover’ meeting, to El Abrigo leaders, LIVE (our time 5 pm, UK time 10 pm) – as soon as I’ve talked more with my great friend, IT guru (rap artist and evangelist, too!) Edwin Vargas, I’ll be able to post details….
I think there’ll be a lot of people from here at that wonderful meeting – the culmination of a God-given dream to Thanney a year ago, finished in miraculous time, with money stretched by God beyond belief, and our own accounts taking a bit of a hit(!!) – but – IT’S HAPPENED!! – and to get the place open and functioning for the kids and the new church to be, is such an exciting moment here…
If – just if – you can help close off the financial hole, we ended up some £2500 short, which would be amazing to cover. But we’re happy just to know that loads more kids can be cared and catered for, on a daily basis, the house will be a ‘lighthouse’ to the damaged and broken lives around the foundation, a worship centre church will be established, and the Kingdom of Heaven will be planted even more visibly…. if that’s not a good investment, I’m not sure what is!
From: Simon Allaby
9 November 2014 at 21:18 · Cali, Colombia
This guy was walking with a stick until Paul Bennison prayed for him.
From Paul: there’s an even lovelier story behind this photo than just the healing… I’m really sorry I can never remember this lovely brother’s name (Simon I CAN remember!!), but 3 years ago, he came for prayer, two sticks, walking in evident pain, and with a very croaky voice. I asked him his name, and ‘did he mind if I asked how old he is?’. 82. What I can I pray for…?
He had terrible problems with walking, all forms of major motor function, in fact: his response blew me away. ‘I want God to heal my legs and my voice, so that I can begin the new ministry that he’s called me to do’. 82 years old. Needless to say, God healed him….
Inspirational, a lover of Jesus, a true disciple of God, and an absolutely beautiful man.
5 weeks today, theoretically, I can retire.I could never in a million years survive on the pension coming to me (9-10 years in a bank in the ’70’s doesn’t amount to a pot of gold!) – more like a crock of ..er…hummus!! But WHY? Why retire? Yes, sure, I have motor function issues until God heals these (currently) wrecked knees, but they’re renewable supernaturally, and I do know that God WILL renew them…and when you garner stories like this, and others on Facebook and in the blog, WHY would you retire? Moses made it to 120, sight undimmed (suggesting the rest of him was pretty healthy, I think: Abraham ‘kicked off’ his life’s mission at 80, right? Paul probably wasn’t a spring chicken when he got going….I want to do this until I drop, God willing, finances permitting (but God owns them, even if we think we own our finances!)…..
I make no apology for this post, it’s similar to one I wrote a few years ago: For many years, I had the privilege of doing some ministry alongside an awesome man of God many of you will probably ever have heard of. His name? Ken McGreavy. No bells ringing? If you were a Spring Harvest regular in the 80’s you’ll know of his amazing Bible teaching, but outside of that, Ken was very much an ‘under the radar’ man. Why?
A softly spoken, but powerful in God Yorkshireman, was called by God to ministry many years ago (he’s with his heavenly dad now, much, I believe to God’s delight – even if it’s our loss). When he was called, God asked him, ‘Ken, do you want prominence or significance?’
Oftentimes, the two DON’T go together. If you’d known Ken, you’d have known his answer. It was a no-brainer. SIGNIFICANCE. And Ken became a massively significant man in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, mentoring people, discipling people, teaching them keys of the Kingdom, ministering to them at the deepest point of need, with his wonderful, self-effacing style, and amazing smile allied to his soft Leeds accent…. some of the most effective ministries in the UK had Ken ‘on board’ to advise, encourage, help with direction – and so much more. I think it’d be true to say that NGM, in Bristol have, in some measure, achieved the awesome levels of effectiveness that they have, in part because of Ken’s input.
I meet many people who are in ministry in many countries, during the course of a year. And over the last 40 years. So many want prominence, to be on TV, to have a ‘shop’ on their website marketing their ministry. I’m not sure Ken ever DID have a website: and you certainly won’t find shelves full of books in Christian bookshops written by him.
Jesus NEVER called us to prominence, success (in the world’s terms) – but to give a cup of cold water in his name, to visit people in prison, to look after the widow and the fatherless…. I’m frequently under ‘pressure’ to write books, sell cd’s of me preaching (you’d need to be a masochist to listen to this voice!). I can’t. I truly can’t. I have no desire for prominence, no desire for ‘big’ platforms, just little groups like we were with last night, about 15, in a poor district of Cali: and God was there, big time.
What do YOU want? PROMINENCE? or SIGNIFICANCE? Thank you, Ken, for your legacy, and thank you that your significance is now lauded in the best place possible – alongside the Lord your God who delights in you….
A great weekend began the already-‘blogged’ Ulster Fry healthy nutritious breakfast, shared with the Gomez family, was a day of getting odd jobs done, and dear Cathy, going back to England tonight, was making sure that all us young men were organised with our laundry…. what a blessing she’s been! Later on, we had a terrific evening with Wilmar, Marlene, and Sara, going to their local – very good – pizza restaurant, Pizzamania, then back to their house for a few hours chilling out. It was needed, as Thanney and Johnny were physically exhausted, Cathy hadn’t been well, of course, and I was still trying to get my knees to come into line with God’s promises, as well as tying up the ends of all the meetings, what people had shared, bringing it all as a word to whatever church we’d been in, and – of course – praying for people.
Sundays are often the least restful day for people in ministry – even if there appears to be a gap between meetings, that gap is invariably filled up with praying for people (not a complaint – an honour), as ‘evening’ meetings often start at 5 p.m. there’s lunch to be had – sustenance is vital as praying for people for an extended time is totally exhausting! – and by the time you’ve negotiated people and Cali traffic, AND eaten lunch, it’s time to brave the traffic again to get to the church….
…..but Sundays are invariably wonderful, and yesterday was no exception. In the morning, at Wilmar & Marlene’s church, Mision El Abrigo, they have some wonderful musicians: not a huge church numerically, but about 4 different worship bands they can call on, and all of them worshippers – much more important than being good musicians, but when the two go together, it’s tremndous. It was a really meeting, the worship was inspirational, uplifting, and in awe of God. Each of the guys spoke really well again, some of the people even understood Dennis’s sense of humour…. ;).
It genuinely has been a lovely blessing to see how what each of the team have shared, in every situation, has tied in with what the others have been given by God. The was no collusion, it ‘just happened’…. Yesterday morning, the church all got around US – to pray for us, as it was in MAI, in March, where my knees were healed for 3 months following prayer from them, until the stairs decided to give way under me at home! Praying for Thanney’s hand, Johnny’s prolapsed disc and sciatic nerve pain, for Dennis and Cathy more just for blessing and re-filling, as they head home, and for me. It was lovely: so many affirming words. Then we prayed for a number of people of each, and again, rather than a long list of who had what and what went, suffice to say that many were released from pain, a lady with a ‘floating’ meniscus (it shouldn’t float!) in her knee, with a lot of pain, had all her pain go…. Having had 3 months pain-free walking March to June, I’m in great faith that God – having showed me that he wants to do it then – is doing it again.
In the afternoon, we were at a church in a very dangerous barrio – La Sirena – a church I’ve been to a good number of times now, and where – the pastor mentioned it again last night – miracles always happen when I take a team there – and the scene, actually, of two of the most amazing miracles I’ve ever been involved in in the 40 years of ministry…. the church is small, but that has never presented me with any problems – I’m not in this life for big churches, I’m in it for those who will never have foreign visitors to preach, maybe because they’re small, or desperately poor, or in a dangerous place. I sometimes try to imagine, sitting in the living room (that’s where we were last night) of the very tiny house (smaller than last time – they’ve moved, with a view to saving money in order to build their own church), with a massive sound system (!) and people packed in floor to ceiling (almost), some of the real ‘big gun, big name’ speakers of the preaching/healing world being there. I can’t! The house last night is on the side of the mountain, the hill to it probably being a ‘50%’ (1 in 2 in my understanding!), with – wait for it – speed bumps (sleeping policemen) so steep that cars rock on top of them…. I thought of preachers in ‘white suits and wigs’ going to a place where the taxi driver said to me, when I told him where we wanted to go, ‘La Sirena? Siloe – that La Sirena? You know that’s very dangerous’…. and I have to say I didn’t see any preacher who’d appear on tv or charge a fortune even considering it…. The church used to be called ‘Today is the day of your miracle’ – it’s now Centro de Fe and Esperanza (Centre of Faith and Hope).
BUT- 10 years ago, when I first went there, there were 200 in the other house: everyone was healed… including a young man, 22 years old, with – perhaps – 2/3 days to live, with full blown AIDS. I didn’t know how to pray for him, at least not without ‘platitudes’ or pity, so I just hugged him, for about 15 minutes. I swear I heard my mum whisper from 7,000 miles away ‘What ARE you doing? He’s got AIDS! You’ll catch it!’ – I don’t know about you, but I’m not in faith to CATCH what I’m praying for, I’m there to see it healed. And he was.
AND THEN – in this little church…stupendous! – a lady, in a small room off the main one, lying on a DOOR, looking as though she was deeply sleeping, or comatose, and would I pray for her… of course, which I did, nothing visible or tangible happened then, and, when everyone had been prayed for, we left. I think whoever organised that meetig must have forgotten where it was, as it was 6 years before I went back. Alcides, the pastor, when introducing me, asked where I’d been for those years: and then proceeded to tell me that the young man who’d had AIDS was very disappointed that he couldn’t be there that night to say thank you – his boss wouldn’t let him have time off of work. And the lady in the back room was equally sad she couldn’t be there – she was with her sister in Bogota…. I asked if she was the one in the coma? ‘She wasn’t in a coma: she was DEAD….’ he said…. even now, 4 years later, sitting here writing this, I just feel the absolute awe of the Lord washing all over me, tears where they were very much that night 6 years ago….. 21 years before, I’d met two ex-dead ladies in Guanzhou, China, and said to God, ‘Lord, I have to see this happen. I don’t care what it costs me, what I have to do, where I have to go: I want to do what Jesus did, and KNOW the raw power of the Holy Spirit honouring the promise of Jesus to us, his disciples’ as Paul promised in 2 Corinthians 1:20… I’d prayed for 11 dead people in those 21 years, and they’d all stayed dead…but in my spirit, faith was doing the opposite of what should naturally have happened – disappointment, failure, sadness…. my faith grew each time I prayed, and when Alcides announced that night what had happened, I was a wrecked mass of tears of joy and gratitude….
Last night, a lovely young man, about 22 (again!), I think his name is Juan: born deaf and dumb. He could lip read, so through the translator, I told him stories of similar people who’d heard and spoken, not necessarily ‘on the spot’ – though there have been those – and by the time we left, noises coming from his mouth were significant, and I’m praying that today he’ll have woken up hearing and speaking….
And people wonder why I love doing what I do…. wonder why I’m happy to live without charging fees (how much could a church like THIS give to cover the cover the cost of this trip? Nothing! In fact, Thanney, Johnny, and I gave them a gift towards their new building), living without a salary…. it’s funny, but in 5 and a half weeks, I’m 65 years old – PENSION TIME! Yippee! Or not…. my bank pension (from 1971-79) will be about £20 a month: because I’ve been on a low income, I was ‘released’ from paying tax and NI in 1991 (‘Mr Bennison doesn’t have a job, he has a hobby’, so my then accountant heard from the Inland Revenue!!). So I’m not too excited about my state pension to help me too much….
BUT ….would I swap what I’ve done for 40 years – with a long career and a big pension (and doubtless now, a fully paid off mortgage as a retired bank manager) for that career?
NOT. ON. YOUR. LIFE!!!!
For those who know me, or read the blog posts here, or Facebook – or sometimes see me walking looking as though I’ve lost the horse that should be between my thighs (!) and rolling along like a ship on a rough sea, grimacing -you’ll know I have knee problems. Loads of people ask me how it happened, so as I’m seeing a doctor here to help with pain, I thought I’d write an old cripple’s blog! It’s funny, but among other things, one of the principle things my teams do here in Cali, is pray for the sick: Thanney walks into church with his hand bound up, Johnny has a prolapsed disc/sciatic nerve trouble, Dennis has a replacement hip and occasionally some considerable pain in his leg as a result, Cathy has had two days of the ‘runs’ and has an underactive thyroid, and I roll in, sometimes bent over because of the pain, and remain pretty static thse days when I preach…. so five sick people coming to pray for the sick – yet God does wonders, lots healed in the meetings so far, and now we really kick-on with meetings from today onwards, hardly a day without two, even three…
My right knee I injured here, in Cali, Colombia about 18 years ago: traffic in Cali is… er…fascinating, interesting. Traffic lights and zebra crossings are more suggestions than rules, so many drivers – especially taxi drivers and motorbike (here, motos) drivers take little notice of them, though it IS better now than 21 years ago when I first came to Colombia. You didn’t stop at lights then as your chances of getting held up at gunpoint in those couple of minutes were, indeed, quite high. Still happens: if you’re a passenger in a taxi on your mobile phone, and the window is open, the driver, if he’s a good bloke, will tell you to put it away as it’s likely o get stolen by a passing moto driver/passenger. Guns as always are still prevalent.
So, 18 years ago, on my way to meet up with pastor friends Hein and Wilmar at one of their earlier church buildings, I was crossing what is a six-lane road with traffic lights just before their church – the light on red, just to emphasise, for the cars. A taxi was accelerating towards me, probably around 100 kms an hour (60 mph), and clearly not going to stop, and he was evidently unworried about hitting me…. so I started to run, right leg ahead, at which point my knee ‘popped’ – excruciatingly painfully. I hit the side of the kerb with my lips zipped as I wanted to scream with pain, but not in the street! Typical Brit male, I thought I could walk it off.
As it got worse, still thinking it would go away, I realised I was putting more pressure on my left leg, and, in Romania 10 years ago, walking through Bucharest with friends, I turned a corner, my foot turned the same corner, and my knee didn’t… 🙁 – people with me, 20 feet (7 metres) away, heard quite a considerable tearing noise! Zipping up my mouth again (there are probably people who wish I’d do that 24/7!!). Well, the resulting osteoarthritis has been a massive pain, physically and literally, and for many of the 10 years of both knees being ‘wrecked’, steroid injections have sometimes kept me going.
Here in Cali, there is a lovely orthopaedic doctor, Henry Ramirez, who not only gives great injections (steroid injections into the knees are excruciating themselves, normally, and a weird, indescribable sensation!). I have believed, and CONTINUE TO BELIEVE, that God will heal them – and is in the process of doing that, even though I don’t often see or feel the evidence. HOWEVER, at the church of my lovely friends Wilmar & Marlene Gomez (Mision El Abrigo) and Hein & Teija Hoere, in March they prayed more to bless me than for healing – and for the next 3 months, I walked pain-free. People who have known me less than the 10 years of this foul disease were stunned, as they’d never seen me walk ‘properly’! AND… it proved to me that God can, and will, heal my knees: mine isn’t to ask ‘why’ he hasn’t yet, or why I fell down the stairs. Mine is to believe for what I have not yet received….
And then… I slipped down the awful staircase in my house in Bangor in June, and since then, the knees have been… hmmm…. pretty grim, to say the least. This week I’ve seen dear Dr Ramirez, had the ‘big needle’ in both, and they’re a lot easier. The needle directly into the front of the kneecap is interesting!!! I see him again tomorrow. It has cost a small fortune in consulting fees, also antibiotics for a cut on my shin which I got on my last ministry trip in Wales (665,000 pesos for 20 Ciproxin 500 mg! – that’s £165!!), but for anyone who’s remotely interested, I have a CD of the x-rays (a mere 195,000 pesos – £50! – thank you, Lord, for the National Health Service in the United Kingdom! – these 4 days, including consultancy fees with Henry have cost just short of £500) – so if there are medics, or ‘interested’ in bones people, I’ve put the pics of my x-rays below…. fascinating!! Not a sign of any cartilege according to Henry – and even though I don’t know what I’d be looking for to find it, I can’ see it – just good old bone on bone!
So, if you’re even remotely interested, here’s the insides of my knees as attachments below, I hope!
Tonight, Cathy and Dennis headed about an hour north of Cali – so about 90-120 minutes from where we live, for Cathy to do a session for Alex and Diana Betancurt’s church. After her night in the bathroom, and much of the day sleeping, to add to the stress, poor Wilmar’s car had a major problem – the radiator was damaged, so of course, that had to be repaired which meant leaving here about an hour and a half late.
Despite the stresses, Cathy was excellent – if anything better than last night – and there was a lovely response from a lovely church. D & C really liked and related to the Betacurts, which I’m delighted about, as I love it when people I bring here love the people I love. It’s been a while since I saw them – maybe March next year, Alex?
As soon as Cathy stood up to speak, her stomach settled, which sounds like a God thin to me (!) and she changed the format slightly to account for the late start, but they were not back here until gone 10 p.m. – a lot of tears as she talked about the Father Heart of God.
Tomorrow really kicks in a hectic programme of churches, foundation, drug rehabs, visits to other ministries like Ana Beiba (hopefully for Dennis & Cathy) ad dear Ana Bustos… visits to many people for friendship, prayer, ministry, healing, laughter….Ulster Fry breakfast Saturday morning, doctor, dentist, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all….