Tony was an eight year old boy when it happened. His mother and father told him that he was going to be a big brother. A baby was coming. For this family, it was an unexpected miracle. Tony had had numerous health problems as a young child, and for years doctors told his parents they should not try to have any more children.
Though only 26 years old, Kayla Mueller had long been a humanitarian. According to her father, she discovered as a young person that her life’s purpose was to ease the suffering of others. She grew up in a small mountain community in Northern Arizona, but worked to bring awareness to her town of global issues of injustice. She worked to educate community members about HIV and AIDS, she protested genocide in Darfur, Sudan, and volunteered at the women’s overnight shelter. She traveled to Palestinian territories, Israel, India and France doing humanitarian work.
I read an interesting article on Wired a while back called, “I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me.” I found it kind of morbidly fascinating. Just as an interesting non-scientific experiment the writer, Mat Honan, decided to try hitting the like button for everything that came up in his facebook feed. He wanted to see what would become of the feed. It was a chance to poke at the robots and algorithms behind the facebook magic, and see how they’d respond.
’m gonna start today by telling you two stories that took place in my previous church, the Iowa City Vineyard, where I served as a staff pastor for five years. The first happened when a young woman in our congregation brought her father to church. Her parents, who were both long-time church goers themselves, were visiting from out of town. And they decided to accompany her to our church on Sunday morning. Our pastor’s teaching that morning was about healing. It was part of a series of teachings on practicing the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The young woman's father was moved by the teaching. He felt inspired to seek prayer after the service. He had a painful growth in his face, which surgeons were preparing to operate on. So people in our church laid hands on him and prayed for the Holy Spirit to come and bring healing. As they did, he felt God's presence. There was tingling in his face. He began to cry. He knew that God was removing the mass. And sure enough, when he returned to the doctors for surgery that week, the physicians were mystified to find that the mass they intended to remove had already vanished.