Back in 1985, before the work of Ellel Ministries had begun, I was sitting on the back row of Sheffield City Hall. John Wimber was speaking about healing. I was so encouraged to hear his teaching, which spoke so powerfully into the vision for healing and restoration that I had already been nurturing for many years.
I knew God had called me into such a ministry, but I confess that I was getting downhearted. The years were passing and no doors had opened. I was already over forty and supposedly by then, on the downhill path towards being put out to grass! I had lots of questions for God, but no answers. Perhaps I was now too old for God to use and I’d missed the boat – whatever God’s boat might have looked like!
I’d read in the Christian press about John Wimber coming from the USA to Sheffield for a conference on healing. I decided to go and spend four days concentrating on whatever the Lord had to say to me through the teaching and ministry. I was in complete agreement with all that John Wimber picked out from the Scriptures about both healing and deliverance. My heart was beating in rhythm with what was in the Word of God, but I knew that something had to happen to kick-start the vision that had burned within me by then for fifteen years.
At times during that amazing conference I felt as though I was the only person there. I was aware of crowds of people in one sense, but at the same time I was oblivious to their presence. God had got my attention. I’m not sure whether I was wrestling with God or God was wrestling with me. I knew there were deep issues being tackled, largely associated with what the cost and the consequences would be of being totally unconditional with God.
It’s so easy to say ‘Yes, Lord’, without too much thought about what those two words really mean. But now the inner wrestling was going deep into the inner recesses of my soul – touching depths that I didn’t even know were there and facing challenges in the spirit that I knew one day I would have to face in the flesh. I felt so inadequate, unsuited and unprepared but at the same time I was straining at the leash desperate to get going. But God was showing me that if He had let the leash go too soon, I would have gone out like a greyhound on a track to try and build God’s Kingdom my way instead of His!
There is a breaking that leads to wholeness and destiny. And deep inside me there was a breaking of my own will taking place as one by one I placed every area of my life into God’s hands, decided to trust Him unconditionally with the consequences and agreed to follow Him wherever the journey would take me.
On the last night of the conference I was extraordinarily aware of the presence of God during the worship. It was irrelevant to me what anyone else was experiencing. I felt as though I was being pinned to that back wall of Sheffield City Hall by the presence, the power and overwhelmingly by the love of God. It was as if a series of three huge waves came rolling in to cover me and across the top of the first wave was written, in huge letters, the word ACCEPTED.
At that moment I didn’t just know God’s forgiveness as a theological proposition, it was pervading my whole being, And realising that there was nothing that God hadn’t forgiven, meant that I could unconditionally believe that He really loved me – every single bit of me. The acceptance I felt at that moment was totally life transforming.
I was just recovering from this wonderful experience when a second wave came in and covered my soul. Across the tops of the wave were spread the letters of the word RESTORED. It seemed as though in all the areas of my life where I had known God’s acceptance and forgiveness, he was now healing and restoring my soul. New strength came into my being as I realised that the restoration of God was equipping me for whatever lay ahead.
I had no idea what would happen next. I was relaxing in the presence of God – the joy of His love was filling my spirit and my soul – when the third wave came rolling in and to my enormous surprise written across the top of the wave was the word COMMISSIONED. Deep down I knew exactly what this word meant. It was as if in a moment of time, years of preparation were coming to a head and that whatever it was that God was calling me to Himself to do, was about to begin.
A commissioning marks the beginning of something new. On the day a new ship for the Royal Navy is commissioned, the years of building and preparation are over, and it enters service. I had no idea what commissioning would mean for me, but as the impact of those thee waves subsided, I knew that a new phase of my life was beginning and that I was entering service.
Shortly after that God opened the doors for the work, that became known as Ellel Ministries, to begin at Ellel Grange. It was as if at that conference God had fired a starting gun over my life. It was a time that I can’t forget, for what God did then is part of who I am today. This is the first time I have ever put an account of what happened to me at that conference in Sheffield into print.
Since then we have been enormously privileged to conduct many similar conferences through Ellel Ministries. The first one, The Battle Belongs to the Lord, was a life-changing event for many hundreds of people. It seems as though when we take time out to really seek God, and listen to His voice in a focussed and concentrated way, that He rejoices to hear the cries of our heart and answer our prayers.
Right now we are in the thick of preparing for the next Ellel Conference at Blackpool, God of the Breakthrough at the end of March. I know that in these very testing and difficult days there are many people looking to God for a personal breakthrough in their lives, their circumstances, their local church and even in the life of their nation. I have a deep sense that this is going to be one of those conferences of which, in years to come, people will say, “God changed my life at Blackpool in 2012.” For me it was Sheffield in 1985.
Yes, I am a little older now, but I’m still young enough in spirit to be looking forward to Blackpool with eager anticipation – like a child, dreaming of something very special that lies ahead, but not fully aware yet of all that’s going to happen! I’m wondering what starting guns God is going to be firing over the lives of those who are present, as they seek His face and come before Him in faith and expectation. I’m ready and waiting!
You can find out more about the conference at www.godofthebreakthrough.org