It is so difficult to put into words the experience of this past week. I'll try but I won't capture what it truly meant to us in a blog.
We spent the first part of the week chilling out in the super cheap but super awesome hotel we stayed in. It was so relaxing, despite the fact that it was 110f, that's 43 celsius. The main reason we went to Redding for a week was to get to go to Bethel (church) for a weekend to get a real picture of the church and then to attend the 'Kingdom Culture' conference from the Wednesday to the Friday.
Bill Johnson, Kris Vallatton, Danny Silk and Steve Thompson spoke and worship was led by Kim Walker, Chris Quilala, Kristene Mueller and Brian & Jen Johnson. Could you get a better line up? The main focus of the conference was understanding the nature of God which will help us be a people who live with a kingdom mindset 24/7. Bill, Kris and Danny are incredibly gifted communicators and blew me away with their hearts, their love for Jesus and their honesty. Those guys were raw. I've never heard anyone be as raw and real from the pulpit as Kris Vallotton. Telling us the most intimate heartbreaking story about his family to help us get a picture of what it truly is to be a people who love like Jesus.
Danny Silk spoke about who our Father in heaven really is and how our relationship with our earthly Fathers effect how we view our Father in heaven. We think it doesn't but it does. I've heard this before but he explained it in such a fresh way and it was so refreshing to hear someone talk about my Dad in heaven and for me to be able to amen it all the way through. Knowing what our Father God is truly like can help us know his heart for people and to strip ourselves of judgement and to love unrelenting. He is good and the perfect picture of love.
Bill Johnson took the Thursday and it was definitely a heaven on earth moment. In a nutshell God told him very specifically about an illness someone had and he had people pray for them. They got healed and then all these other people around the room started getting healed. Like proper healed. Deaf people being able to hear, blind people seeing, club feet healed, ligaments restored, tumours gone. It was amazing. Overwhelming to see the power of God on display like that.
Myself and Jane were able to get in on the act too!! He called out infertility and both of us heard very clearly from the holy spirit that people near us had this issue so we asked them was it true. They said yes which confirmed for us that 1. We actually do hear the voice of God and 2. He wanted to heal her. We had the most awesome prayer time and we know without a doubt that she was healed. It was outrageous. Have I said before that never again will I entertain someone tell me that God doesn't heal these days?! There is power in the testimony and I'll be using mine!
Friday night's worship was like a symphony of heaven. At one stage the band stopped playing and there was a sound around the room that was no doubt angels singing with us. It was mind blowing. I was just singing my own thing to God and he told me to stop singing and take in the moment. The same happened to Jane. I can't describe what it was like to know that we were literally joining with heaven singing praise to God.
It was so encouraging to be immersed in a culture for a week where it seemed like all the stuff we've been learning and all the experiences we've been having made sense. God is that good, real and alive and wanting to truly impact peoples lives in a tangible supernatural way.
What made the conference even more special was having the awesome pleasure of getting to hang out with two friends Dave and Emily from home who came by for the Thursday and Friday. They were traveling up the west coast and figured Bethel would be a good pit stop. I'm fairly certain they enjoyed it as much as we did and we were hugely blessed to meet like minded people from home and to get to chat and hang out together. The banter was mighty. Also got to meet a guy called Wes who is coming to Ireland to pray. No reason, except that God told him to. We had great fun with him and are looking forward to having the banter when he comes to Ireland in August. We also got to be reunited with some great folks we met in Wanaka Jeanie and Alistair.
There is so much more I could write about but I think you get the jist that it was truly an amazing time. So often we get the impression that churches like Bethel are crazy and weird but in some ways it was the most normal church atmosphere I've ever been in. All they want to do is allow God to move and invite people to experience Him in an atmosphere of absolute awe and worship of who God really is.
The last two days we've spent driving 10 hours each day on our way to Houston. Currently we're staying overnight in El Paso while the biggest electrical storm I've ever seen is going on outside. It's awesome in the true sense of the word.
We're so excited to be able to get to spend time with our friends in Houston. It'll be well worth the 1,500 mile drive.