The multiplier effect of the Gospel
She stood weeping at the far edge of the crowd, beyond my field of vision. 200,000 gathered in Uhuru Park that day. I preached, and we saw thousands come to the Lord. But Teresia Wairimu was not a sinner, and she did not come forward. I never knew she was there.
She had soaked her pillow for countless days before I came to Nairobi in 1988. In recent months, her dream of serving God through serving her family had been shattered. The grief of this loss tore at her soul like a raging windstorm.
From childhood, Teresia had longed to serve the Lord. When she finally came of age she met a charming European missionary. With this man, everything fell into place in her mind. She could see nothing but happy days ahead. Her parents had red flags about it. But in the thrall of love, and in her intense desire to serve the Lord, she became willing to go against her parents’ wishes to marry him.
It was a decision that haunted her a dozen years later when her missionary husband turned against her. No amount of appealing to his Christian faith made any difference. He took cruel advantage of a male-dominated court system to divorce her and leave her and their daughter with no support.
Cruelly discarded, with no place to go
As she stood weeping in Uhuru Park that hot and steamy day, she could sense the great gulf between the two of us. It was more than physical. I preached with a confidence she did not feel. She had been cruelly discarded by the one man she had most wanted to please. She blamed herself for choosing so badly in her desire for a ministry mate. She further blamed herself for not being able to make the marriage work in spite of her husband’s problems. She had not been good enough, not enough like Jesus to change his heart. Round and round her thoughts spun, beating her down, down, down.
She had no place to go. Her family would now reject her. She couldn’t bring herself to even tell them of the divorce. The church was no better. Divorce was a terrible shame among Kenyan Christians; the kiss of death to anyone with a desire for ministry.
The only refuge Teresia found was in God. Though she felt rejected, Teresia somehow knew in the core of her soul that God had not rejected her. She was cast aside by a bad husband, not abandoned by a good God.
As she later described it, she heard my voice preaching the Word of God with positive power and authority. The very sound of this kind of preaching caused hope to leap up in her heart. She had not heard the gospel preached that way.
“God, give me 100 souls and I’ll be a happy woman!”
The Reinhard Bonnke that she saw that day preached the uncompromised gospel. Even in the presence of the president on stage, she had heard Bonnke let the chips fall where they may. He shouted the Good News into his microphone with gusto. The way he spoke and the way he moved on stage told everyone that here was a man who believed his message and would stake his life on it. He acted like he really knew the God he preached about.
If Reinhard Bonnke can be that way, Teresia thought, then I can too. And tears of longing spilled from her eyes.
When I called for the sick to come forward, Teresia watched as I laid hands on them. Blind eyes opened, lame people began to walk. It was like another page being written in the book of Acts.
Teresia saw that I possessed a living “fire” that was beyond the cold religious embers of her own experience. This was the gift she sought with tears that day. She would settle for nothing less. She cried out, God, oh please God, if you can give Bonnke 100,000 souls, give me 100, just 100, Lord, and I’ll be a happy woman!
Once Teresia said this, she knew something else, deep down in her heart. She knew that to receive her answer from God, Reinhard Bonnke would have to lay his hands on her head and pray for her.
Faith to touch the hem of His garment
She had faith like the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak and was healed. It was not Jesus’ idea that the woman touch him. It was the woman’s idea. In fact, Jesus was on His way to heal someone else when she chased Him down and touched the hem of His cloak. When she did, she was healed.
Somehow, she knew that I must lay my hands on her and pray for her, and then she could step into her full blessing from God. This is not a formula for getting anything from God – I’m not special. It was simply Teresia’s faith that gave this idea of my laying hands on her its peculiar power.
Teresia left Uhuru Park that day without a chance for prayer. The crowds were pressing around the platform with many needs, and God was directing me to the ones He was healing. I never knew she was there.
Six years would pass before our paths would cross again. Teresia had spent those years making a new life for herself in Nairobi. She built new relationships with a small group of Christian women. They now looked to her for spiritual guidance. But her ministry lacked the power she had seen in Uhuru Park. She knew she had not arrived at God’s highest calling for her.
During those years, Teresia had begun to track my speaking schedule through our CfaN ministry magazine. She was always on the lookout for a city where I would be preaching to a smaller crowd. A place where she might have a chance of having me lay hands on her in prayer. She believed that the day that happened she would receive the anointing and the fire to preach with authority.
“God spoke to me that He will give it to you…”
Her wish came true in Oslo, Norway, in the spring of 1994. She was excited to learn that I would be speaking there in a local church because she had friends who lived in Oslo. Immediately she called them and arranged to stay. They agreed to bring her to the meeting with them. All her friends in Nairobi prayed with her as she left, believing that she would return with the fire of God’s Spirit that she longed for.
Teresia was the first one through the doors of the church in Oslo when they opened them. Her friends escorted her to the very front row. She waited there as the room continued to fill up. A local woman approached her.
“There is something that you need from God,” the woman said, “and God spoke to me that He will give it to you.”
This was wonderful confirmation. Teresia thanked her and replied, “That is good, but I am still waiting.”
When I came to the platform, I knew immediately that Teresia was there. It is hard to miss an African lady in a Norwegian church. She stood out like an island of color in a sea of gray, dressed in her traditional African robes.
Teresia had come with one thing in mind; when I gave the altar call for the sick, she would run forward for prayer. In her mind, she was sick. She felt sick with frustration and ineffectiveness in her ministry.
Miracles are happening here
When I finally announced that I would pray for the sick, she raced to the front and stood before me, trembling with anticipation. She knew she was within moments of receiving the answer to the prayer she had prayed in Uhuru Park six years before. She would receive the anointing to minister in power and authority, just the way Reinhard Bonnke ministered.
I will never forget what happened next. The fire of God had nothing to do with the touch of my hands, but I did place them on her head. Only for an instant, because she was ripped from beneath my hands by a mighty force that threw her 20 yards through the air and landed her on her back near the front row of seats. Both of her shoes flew from her feet, high into the air.
I did not have a clue about what had happened to Teresia. I simply moved on to pray for others. Much later, she recalls rousing from an unconscious state and hearing my voice saying, “Miracles are happening here, miracles are happening.” That’s all she remembers.
The Oslo meeting closed. I left to return to Germany.
She knew she would never be the same
Teresia could not get up from the floor of that church. As she regained consciousness, her legs were so wobbly her friends had to carry her from the church to the car. They drove her home, then carried her from the car into the house and deposited her on the bed in the guest bedroom. She knew in her heart she would never be the same.
The story might end here. It has ended here for many, who receive a great visitation of God’s Spirit, and then do nothing to walk it out in their life. But God had anointed Teresia for a specific calling. She had not received her blessing to waste it on herself. She had come for the power to minister, and minister she would. Teresia Wairimu was on fire.
Upon arrival back in Nairobi she called her girlfriends to a Friday prayer meeting at her house. They came. 17 of them. She preached with a power she had never known before. She did not ask God to please heal someone if it was in His great divine will to do so. She commanded the sick to be healed in Jesus’ name, and healings began to manifest.
The next Friday there were 55 women at her house. The next Friday, 105, and the next, 200 women showed up. She and her circle of women-friends began to look for a school building in which to meet. They found a city auditorium that held 2,000, but 4,000 women showed up. They had to open all the doors and windows to try to accommodate the overflow. She moved to the Jomo Kenyatta Convention Center, which held 5,000. 12,000 came.
They heard the gospel of Jesus Christ
At this point some pastors in the city began to denounce her and tell their people not to attend her meetings because she was a divorced woman. The people ignored them. Some came out of curiosity, others out of need. When they arrived at a Teresia Wairimu meeting, they heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. They saw cancers healed, AIDS healed, blind eyes opened, the lame walking, and deaf ears unstopped.
Finally, Teresia went to the city council and asked to have the use of Uhuru Park, where Bonnke had preached in 1988. They made a contract with her, giving her use of the park for the first Sunday of every month. Her crowds swelled, and now included men as well as women.
The weeping woman in Uhuru Park in 1988 had desperately prayed, “God, oh please God, if you can give Bonnke 100,000 souls, give me 100, just 100, Lord, and I’ll be a happy woman.” Teresia Wairimu is today a very happy woman. Her name is a household word in Kenya. Hundreds of thousands have come to Jesus in her meetings, and the ministers who once preached against her have apologized, begging her forgiveness.
When I heard of her breakthrough and success, I went to the Lord in prayer. “Why Lord,” I asked, “did you choose a divorced woman for this great ministry? Why did You choose Teresia?”
His answer affected me deeply. I chose Teresia because I wanted to show the world that I could take a broken vessel and make a vessel of honor.
We are qualified by God’s omnipotence
How this humbled me. We are not chosen for our great qualities. We are flawed servants who must depend totally on Him. Unlike Teresia, I have enjoyed the benefits of a strong marriage to my Anni all these years. But this great happiness is not the secret to my success. Teresia suffered the ultimate humiliation of divorce, but God lifted her to a platform of powerful ministry. We are qualified by God’s omnipotence, not by our pitiful strengths or weaknesses.
The next campaign of 1998 was a scheduled return to Nairobi, Kenya. I arrived early in August with Anni to stay for a few days of anonymous rest and relaxation near Uhuru Park. One afternoon, Anni showed me a flyer that had been posted on a bulletin board in the hotel. It announced that Teresia Wairimu would be speaking in Uhuru Park on the following Sunday. How this thrilled my heart.
“She does not know we are here,” I said. “And I will not tell her. She doesn’t expect us for another week.”
Sunday arrived. Anni and I stood at the far edge of the crowd in Uhuru Park, beyond her field of vision. 200,000 gathered that day to hear her speak. Teresia was no longer a divorcee crying pitifully at the edge of the crowd. She was on stage and she was on fire, preaching with power and authority. That day thousands came to the Lord. Healings manifested. She was doubtless thrilled with another day of obeying the Lord and seeing His power to save sinners. But I was not a sinner, and I did not raise my hand, nor come forward. She never knew I was there, smiling from ear to ear like a proud papa.
There is no room for competition in evangelism. The Lord said to pray that laborers would be sent into His harvest. Teresia was an answer to that prayer. We are laborers together. Hallelujah!
Excerpt from the book “Living a Life of Fire”, Chapters 28, 32 & 34