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Healing Line

Healing Line

Fire From Heaven

by Francis MacNutt
Summer 1997

Pentecost: What memories It brings back to me!

I remember when I celebrated Mass one Pentecost Sunday in a little town in Wisconsin. Reading that marvelous account in the book of Acts of how the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, I wondered how I could preach about that scene of 2000 years ago — the story of a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire, preachers speaking in foreign languages (and yet everyone could understand), so wildly enthusiastic that they seemed drunk, so persuasive that 3000 were converted in that one day! How do you translate such a scene into some practical action for quiet, reserved Midwestern German Ancestry farmers? I didn't know how to do that, so I talked about what happened thousands of years ago. Yet, I knew there needed to be more than that.

Then, in 1966, I met someone who prayed for healing and told me about what Pentecost meant for her today in an experience she called 'The Baptism with the Holy Spirit." So, apprehensive yet filled with excitement, I attended a Camp Farthest Out (CFO) in Maryville, Tennessee with about 700 other people in August of 196 7. What impressed me most at that camp was that hundreds of ordinary Christians were talking in a very normal way about their experiences with Jesus, as if there were nothing unusual at all about what they were experiencing. They described healings, visions and intimate relationships with Jesus not as extraordinary charisms, but as ordinary, normal aspects of Christian life.

How well I remember the three speakers at that life–changing camp! Tommy Tyson, Agnes Sanford and Derek Prince all became friends and my mentors in the healing ministry. (Elsewhere in this issue of The Healing Line you will read Tommy's profound, yet simple, definition of "The Baptism with the Holy Spirit.")

At that camp I was determined to receive whatever this baptism was, because I could see the actual, practical difference it made in the lives of so many people. In the words of my friend Fr. George DePrizio (who wrote a little book by this title), "My God, I Need Something!"

As I later heard a theologian say to a group of priests: "Regardless of how you figure it out theologically, the question to ask yourself is: Has what happened to the disciples at Pentecost happened to you? Are you on fire to share the Gospel? Have you experienced any of the gifts of the Spirit in your own life, such as inspired preaching, healing, tongues or prophecy? We can't just say, 'I'm already a Christian,' or even, 'I'm ordained.'

"Were the apostles believers? Yes, they had walked with Jesus for three years and had seen him after the Resurrection. Thomas had even put his fingers into Jesus' wounds and exclaimed, 'My Lord and my God!' Had they been ordained? Well, yes, the tradition is that they were ordained at the Last Supper.

"But something was still missing. Jesus told them they had to wait until the Spirit descended upon them. Even though they were believers, even though they knew Jesus, even though they were ordained, they weren't yet ready. They had received the Spirit for them to have faith, and yet the power of the Holy Spirit was still missing."

As a Christian, the Holy Spirit already existed within me through baptism, confirmation and ordination. But it was not until Agnes Sanford, Tommy Tyson, Jo Kimmel (the one who first told me about all of this) and a Pentecostal Baptist minister all prayed for a release of the Holy Spirit's power that I was baptized in it. Agnes Sanford uttered a beautiful prophecy that God would use my life to bring healing back into the Catholic Church.

When they finished praying for me, I burst out laughing (a foreshadowing of the "Toronto Blessing?") and continued laughing until it was time for the next session.

From that point on, my life changed in many exciting ways, and I began praying for countless other people who were seeking more of God and the power of His Holy Spirit. And they, in turn, found that Pentecost happens today much the same as it did 2000 years ago. Those questions I had so many years ago in that little church in Wisconsin have been answered.

And tomorrow (April 19, 1997), I step on the plane to give a conference at Tommy Tyson's retreat center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina — 30 years after it all began for me. The Spirit continues to pour out His fire upon us!

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Summer 1997 Issue