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At this time in the world, I can’t think of a more urgent and meaningful subject for readers than what is addressed in The Sacredness of Human Life, by Christian ethicist David Gushee.  Gushee’s exploration of life’s sacredness delves deeply into the core of Christianity’s treatment of human life as revealed in Scripture and in ancient Christian writings.  Gushee also probes the breadth of sacredness of life through history and the anti-Christian views that have invariably taken root and sprung up in every generation. 

The author writes, “This book offers forays into understanding what it has meant and what it means today to say that human life is sacred, a core belief of the Christian church and the greatest moral contribution of the Christian tradition to world civilization.” This is primarily a work in Christian ethics that the author promotes as a work “for both the general reader and the academic.” I found it to be quite academic and substantive, as the author himself describes it at times to involve “heavy philosophical sledding.” I think the sledding proves fruitful and instructive but certainly is dense as well.

Gushee’s research and writing leads to several conclusions that I think can be succinctly summarized by his statement, “If any human life is sacred, every human life is sacred.”  He argues for the affirmative.  He defines “sacredness of life” as the following: “each and every human being has been set apart for designation as a being of elevated status and dignity.  Each human being must therefore be viewed with reverence and treated with due respect and care, with special attention to preventing any desecration or violation of a human being.“ Through the book, Gushee constructs the support for the sacredness of every life and, in fact, all of creation.

Sacredness of life comes as a divine revelation and stands as an ancient Christian doctrine.  For Christians, it must not become a mere theological doctrine or political stance.  Gushee writes, “A full embrace of the sacredness of human life leads to a full-hearted commitment to foster human flourishing.”  He strives to encourage this commitment for all stages and situations of life.

The value of human life is not found in the attributes of humanity, according to Gushee.  He asserts that, “Humanity’s sacred worth is an ascribed status willed by God and communicated through God’s actions, commands, and declarations.”  This is mainly revealed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ and God’s revelation in Scripture that all people are made in the image of God.  Jesus’ incarnation made sacred every stage of life from conception to death. This demands that God’s people participate in combating and, with God’s help, defeating all that wars against life until Christ comes again.

Gushee guides readers through several areas of major moral failures by Christians during the Crusades, New World exploration and anti-Semitism.  He dissects Enlightenment developments that compromised the Christian foundation of sacredness of life highlighting the Kantian approach.  He then opens readers’ eyes to the destructive philosophy of Nietzsche and practices of the Nazis. 

21st Century challenges to the sacredness of life are examined.  Gushee reminds readers that secularization occurs due to the increasing failure of the Church to be the Church. He writes that

“For fallen human beings viewing other humans as persons of sacred worth and inviolable dignity is not at all ‘natural.’”  Christians must follow Christ’s teachings in obedience and engage in “active, compassionate mercy on behalf of the poor, the weak, the powerless, the sick, the suffering, and any others who cannot fully protect their own interests, which is all of us some of the time and some of us all of the time.”

This is overall a profound and persuasive argument for accepting sacredness of life and taking action to protect and promote it.  I can’t imagine that Gushee has left any “loopholes” in his case.  To argue against the value of life that Gushee prescribes, one must align himself with Nietzsche and the Nazis.  Sadly, this is too often the case in our world community.  In light of this book, at least, it cannot be done subtlely or glossed over any longer.

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Qampicha and Stephans

My family (me, Missy, Madeline and Jack with Qampicha)

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10

This is the Biblical text that the Rev. Qampicha Daniel Wario quoted to begin his presentation to the Men’s Prayer Group of Elizabeth City that meets on Tuesday mornings at 7 a.m.  This was Qampicha’s initial opportunity to share the story of his ministry and to challenge Christians in the ElizabethCity / Camden, NC area.  Qampicha would share his story nine times before he and I said “Goodbye” to each other, and he ventured to the next segment of his journey along the East coast.

I listened during these times as Qampicha shared his testimony, the challenges of his ministry, about his family, about Northern Kenya and about Tumaini School that he began in 2010.  Tumaini means “hope.” In all of his discussions, Qampicha always got around to focusing on the children of Northern Kenya.  Anyone listening can discern that he considers all of the children at the school and in the region to be God’s treasures. Qampicha is in America to help assure that those children and their families can hear the gospel and be swayed away from false religions, especially Islam, and brought to salvation in Jesus Christ.  Because of drought and the loss of livestock, he considers education to be their one hope for a better life.

While we were together at seminary between 2008 and 2010, Qampicha and I shared classes together, and I didn’t think enough about his home and way of life there.  There were times when Qampicha came over to our house to watch European soccer – he’s a Chelsea fan.  We enjoyed the game and talked soccer.  It’s not easy to imagine life in rural villages in Northern Kenya.  We think things like “It can’t be that bad,” or “I’m sure they are fine,” or “Well, that’s where he is from so he must be used to it.” After seeing Qampicha’s slide show a few times and listening to him with others and privately in the car and our home, I began to realize that life in Sololo and the surrounding area of Northern Kenya is harder than I can really imagine.

By spending three days this week with Qampicha and listening to his presentation, the reality of life in Northern Kenya near the Ethiopian border began to sink in.  Qampicha lives in a very rural area with no electricity, no running water, no stores, few buildings, few churches and few or none of everything I take for granted as daily comforts of life.  Qampicha’s life is hard; his ministry has great opposition and obstacles. To evangelize and pastor where he lives, Qampicha has given up any hope of gaining income from the daily work he does.  The people have little and what they have is rarely transferable.  To continue to minister to these little ones, Qampicha must have help from others.  “The laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Tim 5:18)  Qampicha is laboring the fields of God’s harvest to the glory of God.

Qampicha gave a presentation to two 2nd grade classes at Grandy Primary  School in Camden, NC this week.  Ms. Robinson and Ms. Hassell were gracious hosts, as were the children who delighted to listen to Qampicha and watch his photo presentation.  When the picture of Tumaini School’s classroom full of smiling children came on the screen, I became aware of the contrast between the schools.  Our classrooms are full of books and resources, even a laptop, projector and touch screen.  Tumaini’s classroom is bare-boned – cinder-block walls, wooden desks and chairs and few books – fewer than the number of students.  Qampicha shared with the Camden children how far the children at Tumaini walked to school and to get water – miles and miles; they often come to school after having breakfast of a cup of tea.

During each of Qampicha’s presentations, he not only painted the picture of life in Northern Kenya but also ministered to his audiences.  He always imparted a “spiritual gift to strengthen” us. He spoke to the Men’s Prayer Group and witnessed about relying on God and seeing God’s provision and power displayed.  Qampicha prayed with us, even praying the Lord’s Prayer in his native tongue – none of us understood, but we all felt the Spirit move during the prayer.  During the reception and dinner for Qampicha at Church of the Redeemer, Qampicha rejoiced in our fellowship together as Christ’s body – something so true and significant, as we saw the needs his family and churches have.  They are part of our family in faith, and we can help them.

Dr. Robert Reese of Mid-Atlantic ChristianUniversity was gracious to host Qampicha at two of his classes and lunch at the school.  Qampicha spoke to future missionaries and ministers about the hardships and difficulties of the ministry field of Northern Kenya.  He emphasizes the necessity of following Christ into incarnational ministry among the people.  Truly loving the people and entering their lives matters more than anything.  The author of Hebrews writes that “Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb 5.14)  Qampicha demonstrated the necessity of such discernment in leading people to salvation in Christ while affirming the meaningful and compatible cultural traditions.   Qampicha embodies such discernment and love for the people to whom God has called him.  He seems to exude love to everyone with whom he speaks and fellowships.

Each time Qampicha spoke about his mission to the various tribes surrounding his home in Kenya, I was impressed by his level of practical knowledge and wisdom regarding reaching “unreached” people groups.  He is a great teacher possessing a wealth of knowledge and experience at 38 years old.  When you spend time with Qampicha, it becomes clear that he also maintains a pure life of holiness in “field” and among us.  He has given the devil no foothold.  Although he sees how luxurious we live in the West, he blesses us and holds no animosity, jealousy or covetousness.  He shares his story and lets God bring conviction and generosity.  He lets pictures speak a thousand words.  For $25 a month, he lets you change a child’s life and eternity.

Qampicha shared several times about the call of God on his life to return to his rural home and start a Christian school for the children. He knows he could have gone from seminary to the “big city” and had more comforts for himself and his family; however, he also knows he is where God wants him, so he looks to God for help and fruitfulness.  He also looks to us – who have more than we need – for help.  It doesn’t take much sacrifice on our part to make a big difference in his life and ministry.  We can help.  We can make a difference for the kingdom of God by supporting him.  He has been blessed to have his calling confirmed by friends who developed the Kenya Christian Education Partnership to support Tumaini School.  It is a not-for-profit organization based in Ambridge, PA.

Through Qampicha’s leadership and ministry, churches have sprung up under trees and cliffs.  Evangelists are trained and sent out throughout the Marsabit Diocese that is the size of England.  In his slide show of Kenya, Qampicha shows one of their evangelists who has led over 200 people to Christ!  In response to a question from a pastor, Qampicha answered that in the last year he has led 8-10 Muslims to salvation in Jesus Christ.  Many of the 260+ children at Tumaini School are from Muslim families who want their children to have an education.  This is the hope of Africa, a continent that Muslims have targeted to take over for Islam.

During a Bible study on the Book of Revelation that Qampicha attended at our church, Qampicha shared about the trials of his ministry and the encouragement he has in the hope of the “New Jerusalem.”  Christians, like me, in the West share that same hope, but we don’t necessarily share the hardships, persecution and lack that Qampicha experiences; however, we can become a “partner in tribulation” with Qampicha and his family in Northern Kenya through prayer and support, even through our visits to him.

Qampicha spent three days with me and my family.  I miss him. He exudes the fruit of the Spirit; the living water of the Spirit flows from him.  During his stay, he took every occasion he had to bless my children, my wife, our home and me.  He prayed for us many times.  Only a few times did Qampicha mention the needs of his own family – his wife Safia and his sons Waqo and Ebbissan.  They have needs too, and we can help with the gifts that God has given to us to steward and to share with the Body of Christ around the world.

Qampicha and I pictured below with students from Grandy Primary’s 2nd grade classes

qampicha and children

In John’s gospel, he records a time when the crowds were leaving Jesus, because of his hard sayings.  As he watches so many of those he loved turn from him, Jesus looks into the eyes of his friends and asks, “Do you want to go away as well?”  Speaking for the twelve, Peter responds to Jesus with these words that ring for eternity, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,  and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” It is this response by Peter that I think best describes my three days at Christian Healing Ministries in Jacksonville, Florida.

During the three-day Intensive Prayer Ministry retreat, it was as if I was in the very center of God’s presence hearing the words of eternal life whispered to me from Jesus himself.  He spoke to me in my spirit, through Prayer Ministers, in Scripture, and through the teachings of Francis and Judith MacNutt.  His words of eternal life entered into me like air filling me with much needed oxygen.  His sanctifying truth entered me like blood in my veins.  His perfect love entered me like the fulfillment of an impossible dream.  His arms embraced me during these three days like the bathing sunlight.  I was cleansed by his washing water of life that not only washes but heals, too.  I feel like the apostle John trying to describe his vision of the multitudes of heaven worshiping the one who sits upon the throne and the Lamb.  Words are insufficient to capture the majesty of God’s presence and redeeming works.  I believe in him more and know more certainly that he is the Holy One of God who has saved me.

For over 40 years, Francis MacNutt has been expressing God’s love and grace in the healing ministry.  For most of those years, Francis’ wife Judith has been an equally active partner in this ministry.  Since 1987, Christian Healing Ministries has been based in Jacksonville, FL at a quaint, cozy and serene setting where they host healing ministry.  I was blessed to be included in an Intensive Healing Ministry retreat for Anglican priests from the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic in the ACNA.  The retreat is sponsored by generous, anonymous donors.  When asked if I would like to participate, I could not type “YES!!” fast enough.  I had read all of the MacNutt’s books and spent a day with Judith a couple of years ago at a clergy-spouse retreat.  I knew this ministry retreat would be good…”Good” doesn’t even come close to what I experienced.

During the three days we received ministry (and receiving ministry itself is such a gracious blessing for those who usually give ministry), each of us priests had five hours of private prayer ministry given to us by two trained Prayer Ministers.  These Prayer Ministers had prayed for us before we came and devoted their attention and spiritual gifts to us to facilitate our healing and deliverance.   Can you imagine two mature Christians who freely give three days to devote to your healing!  That can only come from the God of heaven who is active in their expressions of grace.  During my time with the Prayer Ministers, they didn’t give me advice or teach or preach.  They kept bringing me to Jesus for Jesus to speak words of truth and life to me.  As my Prayer Ministers, Jean and Jeff (pictured below) helped me open the door of my heart and take down hardened walls around it, Jesus came and brought healing and forgiveness.   Jean and Jeff were gently assertive and challenging while always encouraging.  They prayed for me and led me in prayers.  To begin each session, Jeff anointed my head and hands with oil for God to bless me.  Jean and Jeff became like spiritual parents to me, in the best sense of the word, during these three days.  We genuinely fell in love with each other in Christ.  Receiving such unconditional love brings indescribable healing and joy.

The 14 participants alternated time with the Prayer Ministers with watching teaching dvd’s by the MacNutt’s followed by times of Soaking Prayer.  If you have never experienced Soaking Prayer, imagine entering a small chapel where a company of angels await your entrance.  In the midst of the angels, Jesus stands with his arms open to welcome you.  He invites you to sit and listen to his voice, as the glory and light of the angels infuses the air of the room and bathes you.  Imagine listening to Jesus and resting in the glory of God.  And just in case you hesitate because you think that surely you must be fantasizing this, Prayer Ministers (two of them — Edie and Jacque pictured below) are present to also soak you with prayer and confirm to you the words that Jesus has spoken.  After sharing what Jesus has showed her, Edie will inevitably say “Isn’t that cool?!”  Oh yes, that is so cool!  That describes Soaking Prayer at Christian Healing Ministries.

We experienced three guided healing meditations and blessings.  A male Prayer Minister gave us a “Father’s Blessing” verbally, and we were invited to come forward and receive a father’s embrace from any of the male Prayer Ministers.  Likewise, a female Prayer Minister gave us a verbal “Mother’s Blessing,” and we were invited to receive a mother’s embrace, too.  Prior to introducing the “Father’s Blessing,” the Prayer Minister Coordinator, Lisa, encouraged us that our fathers and mothers were not being replaced, but God was speaking these blessings he desires for us to have and for all children to receive, even though few do receive them due to the brokenness of all parents.  Lisa gave a word of counsel to try no to analyze but to trust and to receive what God is giving.  What we received were blessings and healing brought by the Holy Spirit through his human vessels.

The third meditation and blessing was the “Celebration of Holy Communion for the Healing of Generations.”  The Chaplain for CHM, Fr. Gene Strickland –an Anglican Priest, led this session designed to break any unhealthy patterns, demonic attachments, handed-down curses, ungodly vows, lies, sins, evil beliefs, etc., that have been passed to us from prior generations including our family of origin.  After the teaching, we completed a genogram (family tree) by writing any of the above issues on the diagram.  We then prayed for healing, deliverance, repentance and forgiveness, and Fr. Gene prayed for us.  Then we shared Holy Communion receiving the Presence of Jesus to fill us.  These genograms with all the negative elements were later burned in the fireplace, as we said “Goodbye” to all of those ungodly things hindering our lives in Christ.

The highlight and wonderful surprise for all of us during the retreat was the two hour session with Francis and Judith.  We learned that Francis is about to turn 88 years old.  I am so grateful for his willingness to come and bless us.  He and Judith spent an hour sharing with us and answering questions about the healing ministry (pictured below — I couldn’t help taking a picture).  When Francis and Judith were speaking to us, God was showering us with their gracious gifts for the church.  The light of Christ literally shines from their eyes and smiles.  Following the time of talking with them, all of us entered the soaking prayer chapel, and Francis and Judith layed hands on each of us — one at a time — and prayed for us.  As they prayed for me and layed their hands on my head and shoulders, I could not help being excited and thinking “Oh my goodness, Francis and Judith MacNutt are laying hands on me and praying for me — Just for Me!”  What a blessing.  As they prayed for the other priests in our group, the Prayer Ministers walked through the room and also prayed and layed hands on us.  All I can say is we experienced the Kingdom of Heaven on earth for sure.  I think that all of us who received prayer would say that those praying for us truly saw into our souls and spoke and prayed anointed words inspired by the Holy Spirit.  As we gathered for the group picture below, Judith looked into my eyes and spoke a prophetic word to me and said “I really see this.”  Yes and Amen!

All of the sessions were preceded by a time of excellent worship.  The worship music was led by Tina, a gifted leader who led us into the worship and presence of the Holy God.  She was adept at facilitating worship and praise without inserting herself between us and God.  I am thankful for her devotion and spiritual gifts expressed for us.

The overwhelming element — call it a feeling, thought, vision, etc — that I have following this retreat seems like the fruit of the Spirit all wrapped up together within me, and Jesus looks on smiling — well pleased with what his children have done in his name.

As I looked at the pictures below, it strikes me that each one is before the cross.  This was not planned by me, but I don’t think it is accidental.  Jesus Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended and returning is the center of Christian Healing Ministries.  He is the one who receives all of the glory.  This is another thing I love about Christian Healing Ministries: the humility that begins with Francis and Judith and characterizes the ministy.

Francis and Judith MacNutt pictured with the 14 Anglican priests (I am the one on the very back right)

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My Prayer Ministers Jean and Jeff

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Two of the Soaking Prayer Ministers Edie and Jacque

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Francis and Judith answering our questions

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