After having eight different ‘homes’ in the last ten months, including 2½ complete home moves, my body isn’t quite sure where it’s at, and has felt a little weary, to say the least, especially as I’m now past the ‘halfway’ stage in my 60’s (I’m 66 for those interested!). Age has no fear for me, but I am aware of certain limitations that come with it – I think it was Spike Milligan who said ‘At my age you never go past a toilet!’ – as well as my well-documented mobility limitations. I’m in another temporary home right now, thanks to lovely friends willing to have this nomad in their house, having just activated the 50% Welsh part of my birth heritage and come ‘home’, while I wait to see what God does for a permanent home here. Dad was such an amazing man (you’ll probably say I’m biased but he was), so I’m so happy to be in the land of his birth, even if three hours north of where he came from, Penarth…
The physical effects of all of those moves, and especially the impact on me physically in occult-central house in Montgomery, have been greater than I realised, but last Sunday, with my lovely friend Jonathan, found the energy to go down south to a meeting where my great friend, Ian Andrews, was speaking. Ian – along with God, of course! – is a major reason why my life took a huge turn in 1983, when he (and a few others) prayed for me. Ian’s been perhaps the major healing pioneer in the church in the UK (and many other places) for the best part of 6 decades: it was in 1983, not knowing why I had a driving passion to go, that I managed to get in to an ‘invitation-only’ healing conference where Ian was the speaker. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but Ian blew me away with his humility, not an ‘all guns blazing’ tv-type healing evangelist, but a man of immense authority, faith, and power.
When I got to the conference I wished with everything in me that I hadn’t gone, as most of the other 50 were the charismatic leaders of the time (people like Roger Forster, Terry Virgo, Clive Calver, Graham Kendrick, Rob White, Gerald Coates, and an assembly of the famous!). So 49 – plus me! Being a good shy insecure Englishman, I sat at the back in the corner, behind someone tall. Ian began by asking a few questions – everyone here is a leader/in ministry? Everyone is filled with the Holy Spirit? Everyone speaks in tongue? Yes, Ian…all leaders, ministers, filled with the Spirit, speak in tongues… then ‘Everyone speaks in tongues publicly?’ – a spirit of fear hit the room and hands went up. ‘Er, no…’. Ian then pointed to a little geezer at the back in the corner – moi! – and said ‘speak in tongues for us now!’.
In the next few moments I don’t think I’ve ever hated anyone as much as I hated Ian then! All these famous people he could have chosen… my mouth went dry, tasted like I imagine a cat litter tray tastes first thing in the morning, and my lips stuck together… then much to my amazement a few ridiculous-sounding words fell out of my mouth as I though ‘You idiot, Bennison, you’ve made a fool of yourself in front of all these superstars. To be honest. with hindsight I reckon they were just relieved he hadn’t picked them! As the last word fell out of my litter tray, a guy at the front burst into tears. God had given him the interpretation – which Biblically should always happen with a public tongue – and God had answered an issue in his life he’d been praying for an answer to for a very long time. My ghast was totally flabbered…
What Ian shared over the next 3-4 days totally changed my life, and I knew why I’d had the desperation to get to the conference. After it, Ian prayed for me, and the die was cast. A passion to bless people through the power of the Holy Spirit with absolutely no clue of how, when, or even why, coming from a background of quite (very?) sick people…
It was 3-4 years before it unfolded into reality, following other words from God, about travelling to the four corners of the earth to preach the gospel and see the sick healed. The wife of very dear friends has an almost unbelievable prognosis hanging over her right now, and I contacted Ian, whose friendship has meant so much to me in these 36 years, to ask if he’d pray for her. He’s one end of the country, she’s another – but last Sunday he just HAPPENED to be speaking a few miles away from the family, and so I wanted to be there when the hook-up happened – with just a slight (!) selfish motive in getting him to pray for my knees…. There’s certainly an improvement in mobility, but I’ll never ever give up believing for total wholeness, and nor will I ever give up ‘going and doing’ what God’s called me to do. I’ve had a bit of a lull due to the moves, but am back in harness again very soon, which I can’t wait for.
My mind is telling me I need a break – other than through exhaustion – in 40+ years of being in ministry, I’ve never had a sabbatical (some ministers seem to have a fair few!), but I have thought a short holiday in the sun would do my body the world of good, but holidaying on your own isn’t a great deal of ‘fun’, and it’s not something that’s in my budget 🙁 – I’d need to hire a car, too, as mobility would be an issue without one. My legs don’t, sadly, do trains and buses as they usually entail a lot of walking! I listen to other people involved ministry and they seem to have friends all over the world who offer them holiday homes. Apart from one good friend in Scotland and another in Surrey, I don’t know anyone with places I could beg to stay at!
Some of you might remember the story of a miraculous deliverance from what should only have been a fatal car crash 25 years ago, when an angel pulled me out of a car that had pretty much shrunk in length by 50% – it was Ian who’d seen the angel in a meeting at the church in Sussex 36 hours earlier, and the driver was the wife of great friends who have lived here in Wales for 17 years now. Sunday, Jonathan, the husband, drove us down to Surrey – the first time he’d seen Ian since that weekend in 1994: Ian and Rosemary had been telling their hosts the ‘crash’ story and my deliverance from the wreckage that morning!
I have so much love and respect for Ian – after all his years in the ‘miracle/healing/revival’ ministry, he’s still the same humble, self-effacing man I’ve always known but you sense the power of the anointing from God that he carries. Ian has instigated so many ‘revival’ movements across the globe, most recently in Victoria, Australia, and in South Australia. It was – to us, at least, a blessing that there wasn’t a huge attendance, which meant more time for ministry – he spent good quality time with my friend’s family, and praying for these disobedient knees I have! It was lovely to see how much care and time Ian had for people – not a line of people being told ‘be healed’ and pushed over – personally I find that type of ministry offensive and dishonouring to the person being prayed for, and to God. I’d rather stay for hours, giving each individual time and care. Jesus didn’t, it seems to me, get everyone in a line, push them over and shout ‘be healed!’.
It was a joy to see Ian and Rosemary, and as it was in Gerald and Anona Coates’ church, a pleasure to see them after at least 20 years! There were others who turned up at the meeting who I knew from many years ago, including Derek Brown, who I’d not seen for about 35 years! – he used to lead a big church in Aldershot but has moved into micro-churches now, which is what I’ve come to Wales to be a part of. A wonderful blessing to have a good few hours in the car chatting to Jonathan, too.