An approximate transcription of a few stories I shared at the Japanese Language Worship Service in Battle Creek, MI on Saturday, October 19, 2013.

Introducing Erich & Emi

Good evening. My name is Erich Boileau and this is my wife Emi. I’ve been part of the Japanese Christian community in West Michigan for about a year now, and we’ve really enjoyed our experiences with you.

Here’s a little background about myself:

  • I grew up in Holland, MI and I studied English at Grand Valley State University.
  • I joined the Japanese Christian community last year just after I returned from two and a half years doing the Lord’s work in Morocco.
  • Emi and I are planning to leave sometime next summer for Japan to start our lives as missionaries to the Japanese people.

What I’d like to talk about today is how I started thinking about Holy Spirit as an active person, instead of a vapor or silent ghost watching from above. Hebrews 4:12 says “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit.” The Word of God is living and active.

Freshman Year

The year is 2006 and I’m finishing up my first year at Grand Valley State University. I would say, and people who knew me would say that my identity was almost entirely built on my intellect. From my AP classes in high school, I arrived at college with 38 credits and established myself in a Sophomore standing from my first semester. I was quite proud of this among other accomplishments. In fact, years later, a close friend I’ve known since I was 11 confided that he never thought I would become a true believer. I was “far too caught up in logic and principles,” he said.

I had this idea that if everyone just thought like me, if everyone could just see the world the way I did, the world would be a much better place.

My dream was to become an English teacher. Some of my greatest mentors and role models up to that point had been secondary school English teaches, so I figured that was the best way to change the world — teach the next generation. I was not nearly so conceded as to think “I had it all figured out,” but I was proud enough to think that I was on the right path. I had this idea that if everyone just thought like me, if everyone could just see the world the way I did, the world would be a much better place. It’s ridiculous,  know, but we’re all tempted to think just this way.

The Voice of One Crying in the Desert

This all changed when a friend came back from the mission field. My friend Herbert was on furlough, visiting Holland for his brother’s wedding, and though we had known each other since middle school, we didn’t often talk, and I seized the opportunity to sit him down at a coffee shop and hear about his adventures — few if any of my school friends had gone as far as Africa, and those rarely more than a week or two.

Herb has had a big impact on my life since then, so you should know a more about him. Now, this isn’t Herb’s testimony; it’s mine, so I’ll try to keep it brief. Herb will have to forgive me for what is an absurd oversimplification of his call to missions:

The stories he told me as we discussed his adventures in sub-Saharan Africa shook me to very the core.

When we were still in high school, Herb’s family heard from God that they were supposed to go to Italy, so they did. They packed their bags and left, even though their twin sons only had a year or so left in their studies. As soon as they got settled in Italy, Herb individually heard the call of God to go the darkest places in the world. He did his research, got connected with a Mozambique-focused organization called Iris, and packed his bags (with even less than last time) and moved off to Africa.

The stories he told me as we discussed his adventures in sub-Saharan Africa shook me to the core. I heard stories about whole villages’ blind people returned their sight. Stories about countless deaf ears opened. Stories about whole divisions of Congolese armies dropping their guns and praising God when they heard the message of freedom.

I had heard stories like this before, but this was different. This time, it was it was a trusted friend telling the stories. And what’s more is that this time (and I only realized this months afterwards) the Holy Spirit was convicting me. The Holy Spirit was living and active in my life.

Bait

God had caught me. Some people are first attracted to God through their studies. They think, and they arrive at the conclusion that God must be God — it just makes sense. You would think that would have been me, but it wasn’t. Others are first attracted to God because of a “God moment.” I guess anything could be called that, but I’m talking about light breaking through the clouds epiphany types. Yet others first come to realize the gravity of their sin, and perhaps out of fear or desire for forgiveness seek Jesus.

All of these things we need from God, but the bait that got me was power. There was something about the inexplicable, bend-natures-laws, logic-defying power of God that drew me in. I wanted it. I wanted to be close to it.

This was not that God I heard about growing up in a Christian community. This was not some grand, divine watchmaker watching his work unfold from light-years away. No, this was a God who was living and active.

Transformation

There is a much longer story, but for the sake of brevity in a testimony that is already getting long, I’ll just say the next few months after that coffee-date, I saw a radical transformation in my life. I would meet for bible studies with a few friends five nights a week from 7:00 or 8:00 at night until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. I was baptized, and I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was living and active.

Bethel

I was shocked as we counted the number who had been healed. It was’t two or three; it was nearly a hundred!

I want to tell you a couple of stories. Fast forward a year and half. I’m attending a school called Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, CA. This is a place where students come from all over the globe to learn about the power of God. They learn how to be vessels capable of representing God.

To the great stress of all my relatives, especially my parents who at the time had no exposure to this type of Christianity, I had dropped out of college and moved hundreds of miles from home. I promised to finish school, and I would later return to finish my degree.

Bethel, as you can guess from it’s name, has one focus on seeing God act in the supernatural. Healings particularly are pursued fervently. I remember in one class period, our teacher Bill asked everyone who was suffering any type of illness to stand up — no matter how small the illness. Of our class of around 400 students, probably half of the room stood. Some of them had simple problems like bad eyesight, achy knees or headaches, but some had illnesses which were much more severe. The teacher asked us to lay hands and pray for one another, especially the sick, so we did.

After a few minutes, Bill asked that everyone be seated except for people who received a healing. I was shocked as we counted the number who had been healed. It was’t two or three; it was nearly a hundred! We praised God for what he had done.

Drug Rehab Outreach

One of the requirements for school was participating in one of the school’s weakly outreach programs. I remember when we were selecting our outreaches at the beginning of the school year, the Lord spoke to me specifically about joining the Drug Rehabilitation group. Since I didn’t particularly like addicts or enjoy spending time with smelly middle-aged men, I cleverly fleeced the Lord by making it my second choice on my application.

I was selected for the Drug Rehab outreach.

I wasn’t unhappy about it because I knew God asked me to be there in the first place, but I wasn’t excited about it either. Once a week, we would drive north of town to a damp halfway house whose mission was to help recovering addicts stay out of trouble and away from controlled substances until they could step out on their own. The house was woefully under-lit and reeked of mold, dust, cigarettes and whatever leftover food the men had cooked up for lunch.

The statistics for men in a program like this aren’t very good — depending on the drug or location, relapse rates can be between 40% – 60%.

But God had a plan and a purpose for their lives, and we went to share that with them. Over months, we built up relationships, and towards the end of our program, our outreach leader organized a longer night-service for “healing.” Depending on the week, our outreach team had anywhere from 5 – 12 people, but as the date approached for the healing service, members of team started to drop out until, when the night of the service arrived, only my leader and I remained.

I was nervous because it was my first time leading a service, and even though the room only had maybe 20 – 25 people in it, I felt anxious.

…It occurred to me that this was no cramp, but it was actually something called a “Word of Knowledge” described in 1st Corinthians as one of the spiritual gifts.

My leader gave a very simple message on the Lord’s prayer, focusing on the part where Jesus says, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” You see, in heaven there is no disease, no sickness, no death or despair. In heaven, everyone is whole, and no one suffers. From Jesus’s prayer, we can see that we ought to pray for God’s will and perfect kingdom to be on Earth just the way they are in heaven.

While my leader was speaking, I got a leg cramp in my right calf. It was really bad, and I was trying to not look to uncomfortable as I sat in front of everyone. It was strange because I didn’t have any issues with that leg, and I’ve really never had a cramp like that before. After a few minutes, it occurred to me that this was no cramp, but it was actually something called a “Word of Knowledge” described in 1st Corinthians as one of the spiritual gifts. God was actually telling me that someone in the room had a problem with their right ankle that we needed to pray for.

Ministry Time

I asked him a very simple question, “Do you want to be shorter or taller?”

After the outreach leader finished his message, we moved into prophetic ministry. When I say “prophetic ministry” or “prophesy,” what I mean is simply listening to what God is saying about someone, and telling them what we hear. We told people who they truly were — not their sin or their pasts, but who God had created them to be: kings, queens, sons and daughters of the most-high God. As we did this, the room warmed and you could watch as their faces changed when they learned their true identity and giftings. Faith was growing in the room.

After prophetic ministry, we moved into healing ministry. Before we asked who wanted prayer, I knew that I was supposed to find out if anyone had trouble with their right ankle, so I asked, nervously hoping that at least one person would say yes. To my surprise, 5 people responded immediately. One had trouble sleeping, the pain in her right foot was so bad. Another had just sprained his ankle the day before.

One of the last guys to say something said that he had actually been shot in combat, and when they did surgery they put a metal post in his thigh, which made one leg shorter than the other. Beyond the issues that recovering from surgery bring, walking for years on a short leg had caused misalignment in his hips and spine, which gave him awful back pain all the time.

Just as he was finishing his description, both my leader and I were filled with faith that he would be healed. It must have been funny to watch as my friend and I pushed and shoved each other to be the first to get to this guy and pray. Eventually, my leader relented and let me lead the prayer. Meanwhile, he started to call out to everyone in the room, “come, come quickly if you want to see a miracle!”

I had the man sit down on a chair and extend both of his legs out. We could see that his right leg was about an inch shorter than the other one. It wasn’t much, but it had been enough to cause so much pain.

I asked him a very simple question, “Do you want to be shorter or taller?” That got a good laugh from everyone, and we eventually agreed that he should be taller.

I took his short leg in my hand and I commanded it, “in the name of Jesus Christ, grow.”

The leg grew in my hands about half an inch. Everyone saw it and marveled.

“Thank you Lord for what you’re doing!” We prayed, “Please finish this miracle as a testament of your love. In the name of Jesus Christ, grow.”

The leg grew the rest of the way out, and instantly, all of the pain in the man’s back left him.

The leg grew the rest of the way out, and instantly, all of the pain in the man’s back left him. Faith was so thick in the room, I think anything could have happened. We prayed for the others with foot pain, then began to pray for other illnesses and sicknesses in the room. I can’t remember perfectly, but I think God healed everyone in that room we prayed for that night. When we ran out of things to pray for, we had residents call up sick residents and started to pray for them over the phone.

The Holy Spirit was living and active.

Invitation to More

The reason I shared these stories tonight is that we don’t often discuss the power of God. Sometimes I think we’re afraid of it, that if we know what God is capable of doing, we might actually have to change our lives to see it happen. My challenge from this testimony tonight is that we start to think more about the power of God.

Please, after the service, if you’re interested in hearing more about the Holy Spirit or have questions about my testimony, come talk to me.

Thank you very much.