They Broke the Mosque

The caption on the email said, “They Broke the Mosque.” When I opened it, I found pictures of the interior and exterior of a small Mosque that was apparently being torn down by a bunch of happy looking people.

Confused; I called for more information. “How did this happen? What’s going on?”, I asked.

The brief explanation they gave was amazing. A whole Muslim village, including the local Imam, got saved. In a matter of a few days, everyone in the town had accepted JESUS. Great joy and zeal for the Lord spread like wildfire. They spontaneously decided to destroy their local Mosque in celebration. And….destroy it they did. It was a simple, masonry building and they leveled it with hand tools. Wow!

That first email came a little over 3 years ago, but this story is still unfolding. It’s taking place right now in a Muslim country and I’ve been to the village where the Mosque was torn down to verify the details. This will be a short Glory Story, but it could change your view of the spread of Christianity, vs. the spread of Islam around the world.

Some years ago, a young Muslim man named Sidikie became a Christian. He later became the pastor of a church in his nation’s Capitol city. Together with several other pastors, he started a Discipleship Training Program (DTP) to raise up Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers, Missionaries and church planters. Young men and women would come to the DTP for 10 months of intensive training, then be sent out to serve the Lord. Many of these students were also former Muslims. Along with Pastor Sidikie and others, I serve on the DTP’s parent ministry board.

Two young men, named Serrey and Morlai came to the DTP for training. Morlai came from a nominal Roman Catholic background, and had an encounter with JESUS in 1996. Pastor Sidikie met him in 2006 and brought him into a deeper relationship with Christ, then recruited him for the DTP later that year. Morlai led Serrey to the Lord. Serrey came from a Muslim background and a region known as an Islamic Stronghold. With Morlai’s encouragement, he attended the DTP in 2009. They both studied hard, and completed the DTP program, becoming close friends.

After graduation, they served apprenticeships as Associate Pastors in several churches. Burning with a passion to return home and preach the Gospel to Muslims, Serrey asked Morlai to team-up with him. After an extended time of prayer, both felt led to become evangelists and church planters in the Muslim Stronghold area. They approached the DTP leadership and asked for permission to return to Serrey’s home village to preach the Gospel.

This was a very serious undertaking, because no church existed in that devout Islamic area. Ministering in an area like this, both young men could find themselves in constant danger and even the possibility of death. The leadership prayerfully considered their request and felt it was from the Lord. They laid hands on them, giving them a ministry charge and imparting the Holy Spirit, then provided transportation back to their home area in late 2011.

The two young men immediately began to share the Gospel and pray for the sick in the homes of their family and friends. The Holy Spirit came down in power as they testified about the mercy and salvation found only in JESUS Christ. Souls were saved, demons were cast out and the sick were healed. (Mark 16:15-18) The crowds quickly outgrew the houses, and they began to meet under trees. Within a short time, THE ENTIRE VILLAGE POPULATION, consisting of those who previously considered themselves Muslims, received JESUS as their Lord and Savior. Two new evangelists, with 10 months of DTP training, led an entire Muslim village to JESUS. Praise God!

The once thriving Mosque was completely vacated, because there was not one remaining Muslim in the town! The local people, including their former Imam, decided the Mosque building was now a useless reminder of their previous bondage. Apparently, the young preachers didn’t initiate the destruction, and I’m not clear on who suggested it, but the entire town came to the Mosque and tore it down. Within a few days of these events, the young preachers notified their superiors at the Discipleship Training Program and they sent me that first e-mail captioned, “They Broke the Mosque.”

In the weeks that followed this mass conversion, they notified me of their plans to build a future church on the foundation of the old Mosque. I suggested that might unnecessarily inflame the remaining Muslims in the surrounding towns and villages when the word got out. There was no reason to deliberately insult them. It could also make them more resistant to the Gospel. So, they located another property and secured it for the future church. I later visited the site and they completed the construction of that first church building in early 2013.

 

In the few years that have passed, similar conversions from Islam to Christianity have taken place in 10 of the surrounding towns and villages, led by these same two young preachers. They went where the Gospel had never penetrated, freeing thousands from their demonic bondage. Thank God for these two heroes of the faith, Pastor Morlai and Pastor Serrey. (These are their actual common first names.)

Since the first church was built in the Mosque town, three more have been built in different adjacent towns. Six more villages, led to Christ by the same two young pastors, now have their own Pastors. Each has groups of converts meeting outdoors, waiting for funding to build their own churches. With God’s help, these will be built soon and the Gospel will continue to spread like wildfire.

Sadly, after leading Pastor Serrey to Christ and co-laboring for 4 years in ministering to Muslims, young Pastor Morlai died in February of this year. The area where he served was remote, dirty and dangerous. He chose to give his life ministering to Muslims, serving the Lord by reaching the lost. Pastor Morlai’s name may never be well known among Christians on earth, but JESUS knew his name and welcomed him when he entered Heaven. Pastor Serrey and his new wife continue to oversee the work,along with an expanding number of new young pastors.

This current example of a whole community, then an entire region coming to Christ, is exciting news. The Holy Spirit used two willing men to change the eternal destiny of thousands. This is a genuine MOVE OF GOD and let’s pray that it continues. But, this is just a small part of what God is doing.

Some of us think of Muslims as our enemies, but our real enemy is the same devil that binds them. U.S. Muslims are not walking around with a bomb in their pocket, yet we often treat them as if they are. Most are living in the United States as frightened outcasts. They are lost sinners, trapped in a demonic religion, in need of a Savior. Please pray for God to save them.

Pray for the Lord to give you a Muslim friend or someone involved in another religion today. We are surrounded by lost people. Love them and earn the right to share your faith. JESUS has called us to share His love and set the captives free. We have the Gospel and the power of Holy Spirit living in us. We’re not interested in “converting” people from one Christian Denomination to another. With God’s help, we are reaching out to the lost. Please join us in reaching this generation for JESUS Christ. If we don’t do this, who will? And if not now, when?

Endnotes: This instance of an entire local Muslim population coming to Christ may be happening more often than most realize. I’ve also read stories about JESUS personally appearing to isolated pockets of Muslims in dreams and visions. That being said, individual conversions are much more common. Most will stay lost unless we reach out to them and share our faith.

Muslim converts often face special challenges. They generally fall under 2 broad categories, Muslim Background Believers and Muslim Believers. “Muslim Background Believers,” are those who choose to leave their Muslim cultural identity and often their Muslim community and family as well. Muslim communities often see MBB family members as lost to them, resulting in increased community resolve not to let others be exposed to the message of Christ. “Muslim Believers,” is a term increasingly used for Muslims coming to Christ, who choose to remain in their birth communities and retain their birth identity. Their transformed lives and ongoing witness to their families has proved to be quite effective in many instances, in some cases leading others to Jesus. (Special Note: Information on “Muslim Background Believers” and “Muslim Believers” quoted directly from information provided by Eugen Krahn, President of Transforming Nations.)

The secular media tells us that Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion. Evangelist Daniel Kolenda, President of Christ for All Nations, tells a different story. “Statisticians on religion, gauge the growth of Islam, by the number of natural births to Muslim parents. Christianity measures growth only by the new birth in Christ, not natural birth. In terms of those receiving the new birth found in Christ, Christianity is gaining converts at a much higher rate than Islam.”

My own limited experience lines up with what Daniel Kolenda shared. Christianity is the world’s fastest growing religion, currently spreading like wildfire. Ministries like Transforming Nations, Christ for All NationsThe Back to Jerusalem Movement and others, are penetrating every “Closed Country” and Muslim stronghold on the planet. Others like Alpha MinistriesLiving BreadLove-N-Care, and Churches for the Nation are planting and building churches and where no church previously existed. Please join with me in praying for and supporting these fine ministries.

Whole Word Fellowship
The Wedding Feast

Pitts Evans

I need to back up and tell you one more story that happened the day Mark died. Before I arrived, his mother and her sister were sitting in the hospital room when he suddenly opened his eyes and pointed his finger at something only he could see. He astounded his mother and his aunt by asking, “Who are all those people and why are they standing around that big table covered with food?”

He went on to describe a panoramic scene of a great banquet that was about to take place in his hospital room, with all the guests waiting for him to join them. In the natural realm, he pointed to a chair with a coat hanging on it as he described the otherworldly images only he could see. At the time, his mother didn’t know he was only hours away from death, so she thought him delirious. They told me that story right after his death, later that same day. Then we realized that he had been viewing a feast in eternity that the Lord had prepared for him.

As they described what Mark had seen, it brought to mind a line from King David’s Twenty-third Psalm, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” Perhaps, Mark remembered those words that had often be read to him and caught a glimpse of the table God had prepared for him in eternity? He had briefly described a great banquet table, covered with lavish food of every type, surrounded by well dressed, happy people waiting for him to join them. Perhaps, even while his “enemies“, (cancer and death) were still in Mark’s “presence” on this earth, the Lord allowed him to see what he was really about to victoriously experience?

There’s a second scripture that later came to mind. The Bible says that a wedding feast will be held for JESUS and those who love Him. “And the angel said, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” (Rev 19:9, New Living Translation) Our earthly lives in Christ will be celebrated at “the wedding feast of the Lamb.” This great banquet is portrayed in Scripture as the consummation of our relationship with JESUS on earth as Christians.

Perhaps, Mark was seeing “the Wedding Feast of the Lamb?” Possibly, this Wedding Feast speaks of a grand celebration banquet with the Lord and our loved ones when we die? Maybe it represents the start of our eternal future as an endless celebration with Christ? The true nature of this Wedding Feast is known only to the Lord, but the primary objective is our victorious union with Jesus, the Lamb of God. Perhaps, God let Mark peer briefly beyond the veil, where no demon of cancer or angel of death could keep him from seeing it. God knows what Mark actually saw, but I’m certain he and all of my loved ones in Christ, will be at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

When my young friend died from cancer, it felt like total defeat. Like Mark, each of us will one day pass from this life to the next. Each of us has been invited to the “wedding feast of the Lamb.” The Bible says, “Blessed are those who are invited.” Jesus will come for his Bride and the wedding party will go with Him to His Father’s House. They will gather there along with the redeemed of all ages. The doors will be shut forever to those who were not born again. Nobody else will be allowed to enter and nothing will disturb the proceedings as the ceremony begins and the Lord Jesus is joined to the Church as His Bride. Mark accepted the Lord’s invitation at a very young age. He lived for the Lord and when he reached the end of his race, he went to celebrate with Jesus. I have the picture of him and Jeff by my desk to remind me that life is short and it’s appointed once for every man to die. As I look at the picture and see Mark’s radiant young face, I remember that my days are numbered and they need to count for something.

Maybe you’ve lived for years with the pain of losing a loved one? JESUS was not the problem. JESUS is the only solution. At his funeral, Mark’s uncle said, “Everybody knew the boy loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. I’m sure that he is with Jesus right now, but how about you?” So now I ask, “How about you?” Friend, that is the most important question you will ever be asked. Mark knew JESUS, and though his 12 years on earth were quickly past, he lives on in the Kingdom of Heaven with Him. He is with your loved ones in Heaven right now. Do you know Jesus like Mark did? If you don’t, please ask JESUS to forgive your sins and save you right now.

The Bible tells us that every person on earth has sinned. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) And it goes on to say that the cost of sin is death, “For the wages of sin is death.” (Rom 6:23a.) God has extended amnesty for the punishment from your sins and offered eternal life through JESUS Christ; “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23b.) Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) This means we must be born again through faith in Jesus, to escape the consequences of our sins and to enter the Kingdom of God.

JESUS loves you and He wants you to be with Him forever. Pray this prayer or ask God to forgive you and save you in your own words.

PRAYER: Lord, I’m sorry for blaming You over the death of my loved ones. Thank You for keeping them safe in my future. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and I believe He died for my sins. Please forgive my sins and give me a new life. I want to be “born again.” Grant me citizenship in Your Kingdom of Heaven and please help me to live for JESUS. I ask You to touch me and change my life, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Whole Word Fellowship
The Angel in Bagel Heaven

Pitts Evans

It was a magical week, where little bald girls with mouths full of chemo sores could dress up in pretty sun hats and fancy white gloves to have tea parties, while pretending to be elegant Southern Ladies. Small, one-armed boys in cowboy outfits could run and have squirt gun fights, without their nervous parents hovering over them. Children with bulging, portable chemo-catheters implanted in their upper chests, could swim in regular lake water, without adults fussing over the potential for germs. Every year we had a local band come for “The Prom” where all of the campers could dress up for the big dance that might be the only one they would ever attend. Our special campers did not pay money to come to camp, because the price of admission was a confirmed diagnosis of cancer.

Camp Fun Times (The name of the camp, and the personal names in this story have been changed. Other than these necessary changes, this is an accurate retelling of what actually transpired.) was a special camp, where kids with cancer could just be kids for one week each summer. For the other fifty-one weeks, the camp was a State owned, university supported, educational facility. This amazing one-week-camp was started by a passionate woman who loved children and wanted to help them and their families get through the darkest hours of their lives. It was completely staffed with volunteers and some of the unpaid workers were the same nurses and Drs. who treated the children in their fight against cancer. Others were college students and professors on summer break, business people, lawyers, religious leaders, social workers and people from all walks of life. We even had two stunningly beautiful fashion models that the children irreverently named Frick and Frack.

The regular lives of the campers were marked by helpless family members fearfully watching over them as they underwent radical treatments for cancer. Most were used to being over-protected from every potential thing that could possibly affect their already weakened bodies. Some were rendered permanently child-sized, when radiation and chemotherapy that was intended to kill cancer cells, also stopped their body’s normal growth. Others were dissected; irreversibly losing limbs, facial features and even their private parts in frantic attempts to defend their lives from the relentless progression of cancer.

They all came to Camp Fun Times so they could pretend to be “normal” for one week. For one week, the focus was not on their illness. They just wanted to be with other kids who knew what it was like to live this way. They wanted to experience a little bit of childhood, before it all ran out.

Each year my eyes were filled with images of laughing children with missing limbs, as they were dropped off by parents showing the effects of endless fear. Excited campers arrived with tiny bodies ravaged from disease and poisonous cancer treatments. Horrible-wonderful images would flood my waking hours as I carefully hid my tears from the campers.

Each year I would look around knowing that some of the children wouldn’t be back the following year, or ever again. I would lie in my bunk at night, begging God to spare the children and eradicate the horrible diseases that were consuming their bodies and the lives of their entire families. When everyone else slept, I would wander the campgrounds in tears, begging God to heal the children. Some were healed, but many died.

The sun was just rising as we sat on the dock in the early morning South Carolina heat. It was the in-between time when you could still hear frogs and crickets, but the birds remained quiet. The bright yellow corks floated clearly on the still Santee lake water. The boys laughed deeply with unfeigned joy as they simultaneously pulled in two tiny fish with their wooden cane poles. Mark and Jeff, twelve year old boys, barefoot and wearing cut-off jeans, joyously fishing on a South Carolina dock in the fading days of their childhood. Like best friends everywhere, they teased each other over whose small fish was the biggest. I was in charge of the fishing dock and I took an iconic picture of them that that morning that now hangs on my office wall. Looking at that picture, you’d never know it was taken the last summer of their lives.

I knew both boys, but I was especially close to Mark, who suffered from various forms of cancer until they ultimately consumed his body. He was one of my regulars each year. He loved to fish and he became my very special friend. An unusually small, shy boy, with radiant black skin, he had a short, thin Afro and huge brown eyes. He’d first been diagnosed with cancer at age six. Over time, it got better, then worse and it finally worked its way into his brain, while simultaneously metastasizing into his bones. Like the other special children at the camp, he came every year to have some “normal” fun while dealing with the ravages of this horrible disease.

Over the years, I also became close to his mom and dad, as I would take Mark on small make-a-wish type adventures throughout the year. They were Christians and we often prayed for his healing, seeing some periods of brief remission, but the cancer never completely left his body. He was sick and in pain for so many years, that the medicine would no longer stop his pain. His parents used to read him the Psalms every night and miraculously, the beautiful words would ease his suffering long enough for him to sleep.

The last week of his life, Mark’s mother called and said, “Pitts, Mark is still in the hospital and they’ve told us he’s not going to live much longer. We are going to take him home this weekend and let him “pass” at the house with the family around him. If you want to see him again, you better come by the hospital before we take him home.

Devastated, I prayed with her on the phone and told her I would come by, but I put it off for most of the week.

After all the years of praying for his healing, it was unthinkable to me that Mark was really going to die. Knowing it would be the last time, I delayed going to see him. I knew he was supposed to leave the hospital on Friday to return to their home town, so Thursday morning I got up and prepared to go. I showered and cried in the shower as I thought about how his long struggle was about to end in death. I ached for the emotional suffering that his young parents and siblings had endured. Resolved, I dressed, but my eyes kept filling with tears as I left the house by myself, planning my drive to the hospital.

My emotions were so unstable that I needed to get myself together before going to the hospital. I pulled into a local bagel place near my house called, Bagel Heaven. It was a hole in the wall shop in a small strip center. The entire place, including the kitchen would have been about the size of a typical dining room and kitchen in an average American house. They had three small tables in the entrance area and one bathroom shared by both sexes.

When I drove up, I sat out front trying to get myself together and I saw a short bald man and a woman enter the shop and approach the serving counter. I got out and fell in behind them in line. As each person entered, the door chimed. When I came in, the woman behind the counter looked up, recognized me as a regular and smiled.

Then she said the strangest thing, “Wow, He looks just like you.”

I looked around and there was nobody behind me or sitting down. In fact, the only people in the place were me, the short bald guy, the woman in line between us and the woman working behind the serving counter. I looked the short bald guy over, while I was waiting my turn in line and decided that he looked nothing like me. The man, then the woman, got their orders and both left.

When I stepped up to the counter to place my order the woman asked, “Where is your brother? He looked just like you.”

I replied, “Who the guy that just left?

No, the man who came in with you. He must be your twin brother.”

Confused, I said, “Nobody was with me when I came in.”

Come on? He looked just like you and he was dressed just like you.

I said, “Honestly, I don’t have a twin and nobody came in with me.

With a sarcastic emphasis, she said, “Sure, maybe he was your angel?

With those words, “maybe he was your angel“, every hair on my body stood up, just like they are doing as I write these words. What a strange thing to say!

Stunned and confused with her words, I realized she was absolutely convinced that a man who looked like my identical twin brother, dressed exactly like I was, had entered the almost empty Bagel Heaven with me at the same instant I did. What?

Confused, but now curious, I tried to question her about what she thought she saw. She apparently thought “my twin brother” and I were playing some sort of practical joke on her. Quickly, the broad smile on her face was replaced with nervous glances at the rest room door, as if to say, “I know this is some kind of trick and he must be hiding in the bathroom.”

Her friendly welcome evaporated completely as I tried to press her for information on what she saw until she shut down, refusing to comment on the matter any further.

Placing her hand on her hip while scowling at me, she said, “What do you want?”

Puzzled at the chain of events, and her odd mention of “my Angel“, I ordered a plain bagel with cream cheese and a coffee and left. Working through my bagel, I considered the whole episode on my way to the hospital. It was VERY odd, but I couldn’t make any sense out of it, so I mentally dropped the subject.

When I walked into Mark’s hospital room, his mother was on one side of his bed and his father was across from the bed in a chair. They weren’t talking or looking at each other. Mark was laying quietly in his bed with his eyes closed. I took his little hand in mine and his mother whispered to him that I had come to visit.

His eyes fluttered open and focused on me and he greeted me, “Hi Pitts.” He closed his eyes and after a little time elapsed, he unexpectedly stopped breathing. I noticed he didn’t seem to be breathing, put my hand in front of his mouth to confirm and told his dad, “I think Mark just slipped away.”

His frantic parents called for help and the staff went into emergency mode, but it was too late. My face was the last thing he saw on this side of eternity and my name was the last name he spoke.

The rest of that day was a blur, but I’m sure we cried over Mark and for each other. If you have never left the empty body of a dead child behind in a hospital, you can’t understand how I felt driving away. It seemed like I was betraying the little person who trusted me and his parents to somehow protect him from death. My words to his parents kept playing over and over in my head, “I think Mark just slipped away.” Even though I knew he was saved and with Jesus, it felt like total loss and total defeat. A week or so later, the funeral was held and presided over by his uncle. The entire huge, extended family attended, along with many other children with cancer and a lot of the medical staff who had treated Mark over the years.

The preacher had a classic opening to his message that I will never forget. “Everyone here knew Mark was sick. He’s gone now and not sick anymore. Everybody knew the boy loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. I’m sure that he is with Jesus right now, but how about you? Do you know Jesus like Mark did?”

He then proceeded to give the strongest, most fire and brimstone filled funeral message I have ever heard. Judging by the volume of the wailing and tears, it had tremendous impact on all in attendance.

Time went by and my life went on. I thought of the boy often, but was comforted in the knowledge of his salvation and the end of his suffering. One day I was reading a story in my Bible found in Acts 12. It talked about Peter being let out of prison by an angel and going to a house where a prayer meeting was being held. When he knocked on the door, he called to those inside.

A servant girl came to the door and recognized his voice. “When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” (Acts 12:14-15, NIV)

I suddenly noticed that they said, “It must be his angel.”

The thought immediately struck me, “Why on earth would they think that “Peter’s angel” could be mistaken for Peter and sound like him?”

Looking in various commentaries on Acts 12, I found that many first century Jews believed that people had guardian angels who not only sounded like them, but looked like them! They were taught that each of us has an angel watching over us, who looks like us. Apparently, the people were more than willing to believe that Peter’s guardian angel had appeared at their door, but unwilling to believe Peter had gotten out of jail and showed up himself!

As I sat and thought on these things, I remembered the day Mark died and my odd episode with the “Angel” in Bagel Heaven. I recalled the woman saying a man who looked just like me, dressed just like me, had come in with me. I remembered her sarcastic words, “Sure, maybe he was your angel” and the power of God once again hit me like electricity. “Maybe she did see an angel who looked like me, but why?”

Trying unsuccessfully to make all of the puzzle parts fit, I prayed asking the Lord what these things meant. God said these words to my heart, “Pitts, he was just a frightened little boy. He loved you and trusted you. The reason I let the lady see the Angel in Bagel Heaven, was to tell you he looked like you. Your face was the last face Mark saw on this side of the grave. When he crossed into eternity, an Angel with a face that looked like yours was the first one he saw when he opened his eyes on the other side.

It’s been over 25 years and I still feel the presence of God whenever I think about this story. Of course, there is no way to prove an angel appeared in Bagel Heaven. I didn’t even see him myself. And I have no way of knowing for sure, if Mark saw the same Angel or any Angel on the other side of eternity, at the time of his passing. This story is full of conjecture, but it’s sacred to me. It struck me as being so kind and so like our loving JESUS to send an angel with a familiar face to welcome a small boy to heaven. After all of these years, I’m still convinced in my own heart that’s what happened.

When Mark died, his parents and I felt total defeat. We had prayed faithfully for his healing for years, but he still died from cancer. It was emotionally devastating and heartbreaking. But, in retrospect, I think much of our pain resulted primarily from our lack of understanding. We thought Mark was no longer part of our lives. We tend to think that our loved ones who die, become only memories in our past. Biblically, that’s a lie. Our loved ones in Christ are waiting for us in our future.

Perhaps, you have had a similar experience of losing a child or someone close to you after asking God to heal them? It hurts deeply. In our humanity, it is painful to be separated from those we love by sickness and death. But we need to consider God’s perspective. Our loved ones who die in Christ (and babies and young children) are safely transferred into our future. They are safe and well. They are waiting for us with JESUS on the other side. They are not lost to us, just inaccessible for a season until we join them. This perspective is both comforting and it’s based on reality.

Whole Word Fellowship
Suddenly the Glory Came

Pitts Evans
December 31, 2002, Freetown, Sierra Leone

We were meeting on New Year’s Eve in a dirty, one room school building. I was sitting on the platform during worship with my friend, Evangelist Tom Ferguson and the room filled up with smoke. This was Sierra Leone, West Africa so my first thought was that the building must be on fire. But, the smoke had no smell!

Tom and I thought it might be an electrical fire, so we walked around the walls examining all of the light fixtures. No electrical fires, no shorts. Next, we looked outside to see if the smoke was coming from some trash burning nearby or perhaps a heavy fog had descended? No exterior fires, no fog. As we came back in, we noticed that the smoke had gotten so thick that you could only see the feet of the people on the platform. Their heads were in a cloud. But….there was no smell to the smoke!

The inexplicable smoke came twice, but my story starts five years earlier. It actually started with an usual phone call from a Pastor friend in 1997. He and his wife were about to leave for Israel and there was a “refugee” from Sierra Leone staying at their house. The man was a “Bishop” who had been forced to flee because of a violent coup led by Muslim extremists in his country. My friend asked me to check on the guy and make sure he had whatever he needed. I’d never even heard of Sierra Leone, but of course I agreed to help.

The day they left for Israel, I stopped by to meet the man. I was tremendously honored to meet a “Bishop” from Africa and a fellow Christian who had actually suffered persecution because of his faith in Jesus Christ. He told me about the horrific, civil war that was raging in his country. The war began on March 23, 1991 when Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF), in partnership with Charles Taylor, Dictator of Liberia and his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), attempted to overthrow the government of Sierra Leone in an effort to gain control of the diamond rich areas of the country. Some of this was portrayed in the popular movie, “Blood Diamonds.”

Not content with just fighting against the lawful government troops, and fueled by a mixture of cheap drugs and alcohol, the rebels set out to terrorize the nation. In the signature atrocity, they would overwhelm a town or a village and line up every survivor. Often stripping the entire population naked, the soldiers would make every person draw a piece of paper that identified what body part would be chopped off with machetes that had been dulled with much use. This sick lottery resulted in tens of thousands of beheadings and mutilations. No one was spared, from the youngest infant to the oldest grandmother. They frequently “played a game” that involved guessing the sex of unborn children, determining the winner by cutting the baby from its still living mother.

The nightmarish war destroyed most of the country, causing almost 1/3 of the population to leave their national borders and killing over 50,000 people. For 11 years, the demonic soldiers randomly burned houses, amputated limbs, gouged out eyes, raped, tortured and murdered on a national scale. Bishop (we used “Bishop” as his first name) fled in early 1997 when the rebel forces overran his home area in Freetown, the Capitol of Sierra Leone, and he made his way to the U.S. as a refugee. This is the situation as he described it to me.

I was ashamed that I’d never heard of his country and knew nothing about the ongoing civil war. Deeply moved by his story, I asked Bishop if we could pray together for his family, his churches and his war torn nation. As we began to pray my eyes filled with tears out of compassion for the horrors this man had endured. Then as we continued to pray, something supernatural happened. The air became permeated with the strong smell of incense. Breaking from our prayer, I asked Bishop if he was burning incense somewhere in the house. He smelled the overwhelming fragrance too, but he assured me that he didn’t even have any incense.

The wonderful fragrance was thick and it clung to both of us for a long time. At first, we thought maybe something was burning in the house, but we found nothing that could explain it. Then I remembered that supernatural incense manifests sometimes in church that we believe is based on the following scripture:

Ps 141:2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. KJV

Quickly realizing that the Lord had flavored our prayers with His supernatural incense, I wrongly assumed that He was endorsing the Bishop. I left him after a few hours, determined to learn more about Sierra Leone and anxious to do whatever I could to help.

It turned out that the “Bishop” had given himself that lofty title, and he actually only had two very small churches. His primary church met in a rented, one room school house in Freetown, the Capitol city, and he had established one small rural church with its own building. We helped Bishop find a car, work and an apartment and we began to send a little money directly to his remaining associate, Pastor Sidikie, who was still in Freetown overseeing the 2 churches. Over the next few months, Mary and I also helped some of his other countrymen to come and find refuge in the United States.

Bishop and I lost touch after a while, but I became close friends with Pastor Sidikie, who was still living in Freetown and pastoring the church that met in the rented school. Most of the people I met from Sierra Leone came from the two small churches that we had adopted. Mary and I loved them all and we developed a love for their war torn Nation without ever having been there. From 1997 until the war ended in 2002, it was impossible for me to fly into Sierra Leone, but I had a tremendous desire to visit them and meet Pastor Sidikie, face to face.

On January 18, 2002, the government declared the Sierra Leone Civil War officially over. At that time, the United Nations placed the world’s largest ever group of Peace Keeping Forces in the country, in an attempt to hold things together. The peace held and I began making plans to fly over for my first visit. I asked my dear friend from South Carolina, Evangelist Tom Ferguson, to join me and he agreed. We set the target dates for our visit during Christmas and New Years of 2002.

As 2002 wound down, and the time for our trip drew nearer, I was often in prayer at our church in Virginia about the mission. One day the Lord spoke clearly to me and said, “I want you to go into the Main Sanctuary and pray for 3 hours.” This was not completely unusual, but I had a sense of anticipation in my spirit as I entered the sanctuary. I looked at my watch so I would know when my three hours was up, and I started to pray about everything I could think of concerning our trip to Sierra Leone.

When my prayer time was drawing to a conclusion, I knelt in the center aisle, looking toward the altar area, while counting down with my watch. At exactly three hours to the minute, I raised my hands and waited for SOMETHING to happen…but nothing did. Initially, I looked around to see if anything was stirring, but nothing was. I held that holy pose (kneeling with my hands raised) briefly while looking around, then I sat back on my feet and relaxed. I started to think, “I know God said to pray for three hours, but nothing seems to have come of it. Well, perhaps the Lord did something I don’t know about?”

Still sitting on the floor, I looked at my watch and noticed it had now been three hours and ten minutes, so I was about to get up and move on with my day. Suddenly, an Angel stepped through the wall behind the altar area where I was still facing. He was about 20′ to 25′ tall and proportioned unlike any angel painting you may have ever seen. Wearing what I would describe as a leather tunic, he was massive, thick chested and covered with incredibly well developed muscle. He was an awesome being, emanating power and strength that is completely indescribable. If he had been only 5 feet tall, he would have easily weighed over 500 pounds.

The angel had a military bearing about him and he stared straight ahead, never once looking at me. Honestly, I didn’t want this particular angel to notice me. While making myself smaller on the floor, I watched him for a few moments and the Spirit of the Lord spoke to me, “I have sent my angel to go before you into Sierra Leone.” Then, with a parade ground, soldier-like move, he stepped directly backward through the wall and was gone. He never spoke to me and I’ve never seen him again.

I was still staring with my mouth open, just as you would expect and I was deeply affected and puzzled by this encounter. Oddly, I looked at my watch and wondered why he didn’t show up during the 3 hours, that the Lord had instructed me to pray? Why did he come ten minutes after I stopped praying? I know that sounds stupid, but that was my first thought. In the midst of this surreal experience, I had another thought, “If this is actually happening and that angel is going to Sierra Leone, something big is going to happen.” And I remembered what the Bible says in, Heb 1:14 Angels are merely spirits sent to serve people who are going to be saved. CEV

Now churning with excitement, I suddenly realized that the Lord had just shown me His angelic servant who He was sending as our co-laborer. Then I knew, we would be victorious, because the Lord was with us and no demonic power in Heaven or on Earth could stand against that mighty angelic warrior. After first discussing this with our church Sexton, who found me still on the sanctuary floor, I called Tom Ferguson and told him what had happened.

A few weeks later, Tom and I flew to Sierra Leone. It was a tremendous blessing to finally meet Pastor Sidikie and the others, with whom I had long corresponded. The fingerprints of war were everywhere, with many burned out buildings in evidence. The roads were still littered with abandoned cars and wrecked military vehicles. Buildings all over the city were in ruins and many of those still standing were pockmarked with bullet holes. There was no electricity and there were no hotels. We stayed in a “Guest House” with a water barrel full of mosquito larva for our shower. Drunken former rebel soldiers partied all night in the streets, right outside of our room.

We had lots of great meetings, but nothing extraordinary happened until New Year’s Eve. Sierra Leone is a predominantly Muslim country, but their brand of Islam is mixed with local superstition. The Muslim’s believe it is good luck to be in a Christian Church at midnight on New Year’s Eve, so most evangelical churches hold outreaches to Muslims on New Year’s Eve. Pastor Sidikie planned a special service and asked for Evangelist Tom Ferguson to preach a short, powerful salvation message just before 12:00 Midnight. We met in the rented, one room, Wilkinson Road School, where Sidikie normally led church services only on Sundays. I’ll never forget; it was Tuesday, December 31, 2002.

The service was long and typical for most of the evening. The room’s maximum capacity was perhaps 500, but I would guess that we started with fewer than 200 people. As midnight approached, people began to crowd in from the three exterior doors until we were packed out. Worship was anointed and nice, but nothing exceptional happened until the smoke began to fill the room.

I first noticed the smoke as a dim haze hanging over the crowd and putting haloes around the lights. My first thought was that this pitiful, broken down school was about to catch on fire. I grabbed Tom Ferguson and we went looking for the source of the smoke. All of the lights were single fixtures with screwed in bulbs and pull-cords, set along the walls. We examined them all and they weren’t shorted out or smoking. Then we looked all around the building outside and there was no smoke anywhere.

As we came back into the building, the music stopped and it was time for Tom to preach, so we returned to the platform. As he spoke, the smoke dissipated, so I lost interest in it. The message was good, but unexceptional. Before Tom could finish giving his alter call, people spontaneously burst out in tears, as the manifested presence of God filled the room. Instantly, that rented school house became like the Throne Room of God on Judgment Day. People were screaming and begging to be saved, diving forward in great heaps at the altar on the concrete floor, with others manifesting demons and writhing backwards trying to get away from the mighty presence. People were spontaneously healed, saved, delivered from demons and touched by the undeniable, inescapable Hand of God. It felt like Heaven to me.

Tom tried to lead the repentant, blubbering hoard in the Sinner’s prayer for salvation in JESUS and the room again began to fill with smoke, but this time it swept in a moment and it came so thickly that we could only see a few feet in front of us. Then, it finally dawned on me that the smoke had no smell and no natural source. The floor was still littered with sobbing bodies, but I went looking for my camera to try and get a picture of the smoke, which I now believed was not from this world. As I located my camera, the newly saved, former Muslims began to celebrate, with a few still trying to get their bearings. 

suddenly-glory-02.jpg

Meetings continued for the next few days and nights until Tom and I flew back to the U. S. When I returned from Africa in January of 2003, I took the photographs to a photography shop for printing, and I asked for their explanation. The individual that owned the shop initially assumed I had photographed some type of party with balloons. When I explained that these were photographs of “smoke,” his mouth hung open for a bit, and then he placed the pictures under a series of higher magnifications, and was ultimately unable to explain them.

The pictures and the digital card were also examined by one of our Military’s top experts on satellite photography. He explained that digital photography uses very similar technology for the creation of imagery as satellite photography. After he completed his examination, he stood before our entire church on a Sunday morning and said, “There is no known law of photography or physics that would explain these images.” He went on to say that this was not a technical malfunction, nor was it lens dust. I mention the dust, because others have come up with photos showing a few similar “balloons” that are explicable as lens dust, or some type of lighting issue.

Ultimately, there is no natural way to explain or convince anyone of what transpired. I was there, and initially I thought it had to be some type of natural phenomenon. These were the first photographs of their kind that I had ever seen or heard of. Later, people tried to say this was a “glory cloud,” or “the great cloud of witnesses.” Some have called them “holy orbs,” but that sounds hyper-spiritual to me. My favorite potential explanation came from a friend, who pointed out the following scripture in his King James Bible,

Acts 2:19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: KJV

In the years that have followed, I’ve seen many similar photographs, including some that were taken in demonic settings. So, I can’t explain the pictures, but I can tell you what happened after they were taken. A transformation began among those in attendance at our meetings. I believe that the Glory of God came down in that dirty, rented school house on December 31, 2002 and the evidence of that has now manifested in the natural realm. Everyone who was in that outreach meeting was forever changed.

Since that time, the two small GEM churches have been in full blown revival. They have grown into a national network of 38 churches and 11 Christian schools. They also spilled over into neighboring Liberia, planting 5 churches and 3 schools there. My friend, Pastor Sidike, has gone from leading a few hundred people, to leading a national movement with 1000s of people. Sierra Leone is a predominantly Muslim country, but somehow they elected a Christian president in 1997 who is now serving his second 5 year term. Pastor Sidikie is close friends with their President and his wife. He sat next to them during the first and second inauguration, and he meets with the President every Monday for prayer.

The GEM church story is still being written. We completed two new church buildings in the first months of 2015, and 8 more are planned for this year. We are also currently building an orphanage for the children of Ebola victims. In the near future, I may tell you the story of the entire town that got saved and collectively abandoned, then destroyed, their local Mosque. And I may share the amazing story of remote Yaira, where a church now stands for what we understand is the first time in human history. You also might be interested in our frequently attacked GEM church that is planted in an area known as the West African epicenter for demonic rituals, shape-shifting and human sacrifice. There are many Glory Stories and MUCH fruit that has come after the smoke.

The “bubbles” have now appeared in photographs taken many places around the world that I have personally been. The common thread seems to be a mighty outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit in the meetings.

These are from India in 2003.

suddenly-glory-03.jpg
suddenly-glory-04.jpg

These are from Ghana in 2004.

suddenly-glory-05.jpg
suddenly-glory-06.jpg

And these are from Sierra Leone later in 2004.

suddenly-glory-07.jpg
suddenly-glory-08.jpg
suddenly-glory-09.jpg
suddenly-glory-10.jpg

They were taken by three different cameras and 3 different photographers. I have lots of others, including some taken with 35mm film, but these were the first ones I ever saw.

We’ve never made a big deal out of the “bubbles”, and I’ve never tried to convince anybody that I smelled supernatural incense or saw an angel before we went to Africa. The smoke and the photographs could ultimately have some natural explanation, but what God has done is undeniable. God has saved multiplied 1000s of former Muslims and Animists in Sierra Leone, through the ministry of those who were in the GEM meeting on New Years Eve in 2002. God has transformed previously unknown Pastor Sidikie, into a National leader with an international ministry. And it all started, Suddenly, When the Glory Came.

Friends, I believe that God came down in Freetown, Sierra Leone on December 31, 2002. And I believe that He preceded His visit by sending “His Angel” before He came. I have been an eye witness to the outpouring that followed and it continues, unabated to this day. I am NOT fascinated with inexplicable bubbles, but the Bible says signs and wonders follow those who believe. (Mark 16:20) We DO NOT run after signs and wonders. We preach the Gospel of JESUS Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. God comes down when the Gospel is preached and He transforms individuals and nations. May the Holy Spirit of the Living God touch and transform you today. May our Risen Lord Jesus come quickly.

Whole Word Fellowship
The Sparkling Light

Mrs. Ellen Srskic
esrskic@verizon.net

This is an experience I had with the Lord on October 28, 1978 at 2:00am. First, I want to give you some background history leading up that incredible moment in time.

I had accepted Christ in mid October 1970, (I had a profound experience at that time too). I was learning how speaking scripture brings life. Before that I did not know where to find answers to life’s questions.

While confessing scripture to accept Jesus into my heart, (Romans 10:8-12), I saw Jesus on the cross and He smiled at me and said, “I did this because I knew you would need Me”. I had never felt such love and compassion.

Over the next few years, I continued to grow in the Lord, remained active in Bible studies and stayed connected in prayer groups.

It was during this time that my mother was diagnosed with cancer and became very ill. My mother was a very strong Catholic, and her patron saint was Jude (for hopeless cases). She had been wounded deeply in life and held on to a lot of “things” hoping to make herself feel better.

I tried talking with her about Jesus, and I wanted to hear her speak Romans 10:8-12, or accept Jesus. Unfortunately, her lung cancer and three brain tumors changed her ability to function along with her personality so I never heard her speak it.

I was with her the day she died (October 25, 1978). Afterward, I grieved her death deeply because I didn’t know if she was with Jesus. I was upset with myself and felt I could have done things differently to insure her salvation. Three days after she passed the pain within my heart was worse than ever.

But Jesus had a plan. Jesus knew what I was going through, and He was about to show me He was bigger than it all (Scripture says He is bigger than our conscience.) I will never forget what happened next. On October 28th, 1978 at 2:00am, I woke up for no apparent reason. I noticed a light near our bedroom window. It was a ball of light that slowly moved across the room toward me.

By now, I was starting to sit upright so I could take a closer look. It was bright and sparkly, about 3 feet high and 2 feet wide. I wasn’t afraid or concerned about it. Something about it seemed comforting.

The sparkling light slowly came towards me. When it reached me, the ball disappeared into my chest and filled my entire being. Once inside, I was completely overwhelmed with Holy Spirit’s presence. I felt like fireworks were going off inside. It was better than anything I could ever describe.

Everything in me was tingling and responding somehow. I remember making noises of awe, etc. and mumbling words I didn’t know.

Holy Spirit said “your mother is with Me, she’s fine!”

In that moment Holy Spirit ministered to me and taught me things I did not know…WOW. The Holy Spirit then moved out in front of me. I was begging Him not to leave me.

I never wanted that sense I was experiencing to stop. The light slowly went back across the room to the window, hesitated and then disappeared.

I have never been the same since. Have there been challenges in life? Yes, but walking through them with Him has been entirely different ever since that precious moment He will filled me with His Spirit.

 

Whole Word Fellowship
An Evil Man

By H. Pitts Evans

I knew he only had one eye and I figured he would be rough, but I was not prepared for what I actually saw. Johnny was in his late forty’s and overweight, with greasy-slicked-back hair, bad teeth and a very nasty attitude. His worse feature was that one piercing eye and the messy uncared for hole where his second eye should have been. The atmosphere that hung around him was like a foul humidity of hatred and anger. We met in the Fall of 1979 in the back of a van. My good friend Herbie had already warned me that he was a dangerous man and a murderer, but I really didn’t understand who he was.

We met that night because I wanted to buy a highly illegal, fully automatic Thompson sub- machine gun for a rich customer and Herbie told me that this was the only man he knew who might have one. I asked him right away if he could get the gun and when he said he could, I asked him for the price. The number he gave me was very reasonable and at that point, I got excited and made a serious error in judgment. I asked him about the potential availability and approximate price of several other hardto- get weapons.

Silence filled the van and as I looked into his one remaining watery eye he quietly said, “I don’t like people who ask too many questions.” A double-barreled derringer somehow appeared in his hand and I discovered it when Johnny poked it under my chin. Cursing me through his dirty broken teeth, he began to tilt my head back with the pistol and threaten my life for asking him suspicious questions. The gun was not put under my chin to impress me and looking into his one remaining eye, I knew without a doubt that this man would kill me if he thought I was an undercover cop.

Herbie was amused by the situation and laughing at both of us he assured Johnny that I was all right and got him to calm down. We negotiated a price for the gun and later I bought it. Having your life threatened is an odd way to start a friendship, but after that first night we became friends. I knew him for the rest of his life. Behind his back we called him Popeye, but nobody in his right mind would have called him that to his face. Years later, me and Herbie were pall bearers at his funeral, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you his story.

In the late 1960s, Johnny became a prison guard at the infamous State Prison known as Central Correctional Institute (CCI) in Columbia, SC. Of course there are many fine people who become corrections officers, but something perverse in his nature drew him into that line of work so he could exert a measure of power and domination over other men. He was known and accepted as a badass guard and with the possible exception of the criminally insane, the inmates did not cross him. He was assigned to the career criminal and violent offenders section.

Aniello Provenzano was an underboss for a New Jersey Mafia family. He was arrested in SC for attempting to bribe a Judge. The contact and payoff details had been worked out between one of Provanzano’s most trusted soldiers and an undercover State Trooper acting as the broker. The money was supposed to bring a “not guilty” verdict for two mob associates who had been arrested for running a major prostitution and gambling business with local branches. Mafia underbosses rarely come to SC and those who do rarely get involved in local activities that could get them arrested. He came because it was on his way to his winter home in Miami and he thought of it as a fairly routine matter. The bribery charge was really not a big problem, but when it was added to his prior arrest record, the trial judge gave Aniello 10 years. As a career criminal he was assigned to Johnny’s section in CCI.

None of the inmates or corrections officers could remember a real Mafia guy ever being incarcerated at CCI. There were many criminals who had claimed connections to the Mob when bragging to their cell mates, but that talk died down with the arrival of Aniello Provenzano. His arrest and trial had been the most talked about item in SC news for many months. The prison had been buzzing with additional details of his much publicized connections and prior record, so there was no doubt that he was the real deal. Johnny wisely decided to proceed with caution and not to make himself an enemy of this man.

Several uneventful months went by and Johnny became acquainted with the new prisoner. He found him to be quiet, respectful and intelligent, so he continued to treat him well. From time to time, Johnny would bring Provenzano to a private room to meet with his attorney. After one of these meetings, the lawyer asked Johnny if he would like to join him on the outside for a nice dinner. Of course this was unusual and somewhat improper, but he sensed this could be something beneficial to him, so he agreed to meet for dinner. After some small talk, the attorney asked Johnny if he would be willing to bring Provenzano outside newspapers from time to time. This was technically an infraction of the prison rules, but it was very low risk and common practice. Johnny was paid lavishly for the “favor” and he was delighted with the extra income.

Provenzano was very appreciative of Johnny acting as his personal newspaper boy and they shared small talk on a regular basis. Johnny enjoyed a certain status in the prison as the mobster’s only apparent friend. All the while the mobster was observing Johnny’s violent nature and frequent cruelty to other inmates. He recognized him as a dangerous man who was utterly without morals or compassion. The outside lawyer gradually added other favors and increased the payoffs. Johnny moved up from newspaper boy to postman, bringing sealed letters to and from Provanzano. This routine worked well for all parties and several years went by with no complications.

One day, as Johnny approached the cell with his regular correspondence, Aniello looked around to make sure nobody was within ear shot. He looked Johnny up and down and quietly asked him if he knew who he actually was and what organization he was connected with. Johnny affirmed that he did with a nod of his head. Provenzano then told him that his “Family” had determined that a certain man in a certain city had become a problem and there was no question of allowing him to continue. The man in question was a criminal and it was determined that he would be killed. The underboss explained in reasonable, unemotional terms that once this type of decision was reached, it was irreversible. He continued by saying that someone was going to make a lot of money for killing the man. He looked Johnny in the eyes and let his meaning sink in, then switched the conversation to other matters.

A few days later, Johnny approached Provenzano and said he had been thinking about their conversation and he would like to earn the fee that was to be paid if it could be done without anyone knowing. The mobster assured him that it was a routine part of their business that involved low risks using methods that they had long ago perfected. No details were discussed and the man’s name was never mentioned, but Johnny was told someone would be in contact soon. He was also told that everything needed would be provided for him, so he was not to make preparations of any type.

Johnny later told me that he had considered the matter carefully and justified his involvement because once the Mafia issued a contract on a person, the man was already dead. He also told himself that the man who was to be killed was not a “good person”. Killing this man was not a moral consideration at all. It was practical and unemotional. The death was not his responsibility, because the Mafia was going to kill the man and there was nothing he could do to change that. To him, it was a simple matter of evaluating the potential risk and the potential reward. The prospects were acceptable and even exciting to Johnny, so he asked for the contract.

Several weeks later a plane ticket came to Johnny’s house in an unmarked envelope with no note. The ticket was for a Saturday flight that same week, so Johnny packed an overnight bag and got on the plane. When he arrived, he was met by a man who did not identify himself and handed a small canvas, gym-size bag. He went into the airport, found a men’s room with a private stall and proceeded to examine the contents of the bag. Inside he found a 38 Special and an envelope with $20,000 in cash. The bag also contained the picture of a middle aged man and an index card with his name, his favorite bar and his home address.

Late that night Johnny isolated the man walking to his car and shot him twice in the head. He left him where he fell and walked off without looking back. He walked several blocks, took a taxi across town and got a hotel room. He burned the picture and index card in his room, then walked to a nearby river and tossed the pistol. The next day he flew home with his $20,000. He had never seen the man before and there was absolutely nothing to connect him with the crime. The matter was never discussed between him and Provenzano, but the results spoke for themselves. That’s how Johnny became a hit man for the Mafia.

He was methodical and efficient. His job as a prison guard provided a livable income and an excellent cover. Most of his assignments were similar to his first. He killed perfect strangers and justified their deaths by telling himself they were criminals and somebody was definitely going to kill them anyway, so he might as well get the money. He was a good shot when he started and he became an expert with small bombs, using them in cars when he needed to.

Normally he did not dispose of bodies, but occasionally he would do it as part of a contract. He would beat the teeth from the corpse with a hammer and cut their fingers off with wire cutters. The teeth were removed and pulverized to hide connections with dental records and the fingers taken and burned to prevent identification from finger prints. If there was time, the bodies were then put in 55 gallon drums of lime and buried, but sometimes that was not possible. When burial was not an option, he would beat in the victim’s chest cavity with a sledge hammer and fold him over, wrapped tightly in fence wire. The body was then weighted and dropped off a boat in deep water. Smashing the chest cavity kept the body from bloating enough to float.

In describing these things to me years later, his truly malevolent nature revealed itself. There was no remorse. There was an unthinkable element of pride associated with his twisted memories and the fact that he was never caught.

The night I met him in Herbie’s van, he was in very bad health with advanced diabetes. He had lost his eye to the disease and gotten too freakish looking to continue anonymously as a Mafia hit man, so the contracts stopped coming. Provenzano had been paroled long before and Johnny had no recourse. Shortly after, he lost his job at the prison too. He became a part time handyman and part time illegal gun dealer. He would also occasionally buy stolen goods and resell them. We had absolutely nothing in common but my love for guns and the fact that I worked at a local lumber yard where he began to do business.

In 1985 Johnny was hospitalized with complications from his diabetes. It was a fairly routine hospital visit and after a few days he was told that he would be released the afternoon of the following day. The night before his release, he went into a deep sleep and had a powerful dream.

In the dream, his hospital bed was surrounded by flames and there were people trying to pull him off the bed into the flames. He recognized people he had killed and knew they were trying to pull him into the fires of hell. He woke up in terror and told his wife to get him a preacher. She quickly called the hospital chaplain and Johnny confessed his wicked history, prayed with him for forgiveness and asked to receive Christ into his heart. Johnny did not get to experience his new faith long, because several hours later he unexpectedly died. He was supposed to go home the next day, but died.

His wife told me the story of the dream and hospital conversion when she asked me and Herbie to be pall bearers at his funeral. Johnny’s body was prepared well for the viewing and I can honestly tell you that he looked like a different person. There was a look of complete peace and even joy on his face. This face that had once been fearsome and hideous in life now looked serene in death. Herbie and I both agreed that he looked MUCH better dead than he ever had when he was alive. The difference was the incredible mercy of God that clearly showed its influence on his face.

This is based on a true story and actual events. Obviously, the names have been changed, but most of the details are factual as they were relayed to me by the man I call Johnny. The episode with me in the van actually happened and it was just as I described it. He was once a prison guard at CCI, he was recruited as a hit man by a mafia guy and he did kill people over many years for the mob. He never gave me the name of the mobster and he never told me any details that could lead to the identity of the people he killed or where bodies might be found.

After knowing Johnny for several years, I returned to my deep Christian roots and stopped allowing him to tell me his wicked stories. We stayed friends and I hired him to do some remodeling on my mother-in-law’s home and got him other handyman jobs. He was a pretty good carpenter and he built a large, wooden bookcase and toy box for our first child after Mary and I married. I tried to share my growing faith with him occasionally, but there was no indication that my words had any effect on him. I actually visited him in the hospital days before he died and I offered to pray with him, but he refused. God graciously gave him one more chance in the form of a terrifying dream and he took it.

His wife told me the story of his dream with the flames of hell surrounding his bed and people trying to pull him into the flames. She also told me the details of his deathbed conversion to Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that he did not know he was on his deathbed and fully expected to go home the next day. Who can fathom the mercy of a God who would present one last chance for salvation to an unconvicted murderer on the last night of his life? God sent a supernatural dream of hell to Johnny hours before he was appointed to join his victims there. This event reveals God’s incredible willingness to forgive sins and His burning desire to see all men saved. Even this Evil Man was a candidate for salvation and so are you.

Some people think they are too bad for Jesus to love them and save them. This story proves that’s not true. Others think they are too good to need salvation. I find that the second group is much harder to reach than the ones like Johnny. Interestingly enough, we all come into this world lost and dying, but we have all been offered eternal life by Jesus Christ. Citizenship in Heaven is unconditionally granted to anyone who applies with a sincere heart. Not only will God freely grant you forgiveness and citizenship in His eternal Kingdom, He will adopt you as his son or daughter. Your new life in Christ is only a prayer away.

Will you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior like Johnny did? Here is how. Admit you are a sinner, separated from God and in need of a Savior. Be willing to repent and turn from your sins. Believe that Jesus Christ died for you, was buried and rose from the dead. Through prayer, invite Jesus Christ to come in and take control of your life.

Here is a suggested prayer you can use or use similar words from your own
heart.

Dear Lord God, I know I have sinned against You and stand separated from You. I need Your forgiveness and I need You. I confess and turn from my sins today. I ask You to come into my life and be my Lord and my Savior. I put my trust and hope in Jesus and accept the free gift of salvation in Him. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.

If you prayed to the Lord God and meant it with all your heart, God says…, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) Rejoice, today, because your name has been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Please tell someone about your new relationship with Jesus and may the Lord bless you today and always.

Whole Word Fellowship