Thursday, December 6, 2007

Miracles Expected

By John Cleary--Star Gazette

About 25 people show up every night for the revival meetings at Abundant Life Community Outreach, said the church's organizer, Jerry Berbary. But it's just a start. The word's going to get out, he said, once the miracles start happening.

Stephen Smith can feel it coming, too. He's an evangelist from Perth, Australia, who, after preaching at churches and revival meetings around the world for nearly 30 years, has selected Elmira as the place where he's going to settle.

Smith is here in the midst of a six-week visit, but he plans to return permanently just as soon as he can work out a visa. He's picked Chemung County, he said, because he sees great need here.

"Young people here don't seem to be going anywhere," said Smith, 49. "People are struggling in this area. They need what I can offer them."

What he has to offer, he says, is the love of God and the opportunity to witness the power of God. A power displayed in miracles and healings. It's something he said he's witnessed, time and time again, in churches around the world, and he fully expects it to happen here.

I'm a skeptic. And I suspect some people will scoff at Smith's talk of miracles and faith healings. But he's not going to back off it.

"I don't believe in claiming something that is not real," he said.

Berbary said he's seen the miracles for himself, including one this week. He said he was praying with a small congregation near Scranton when a person's injured arm was healed. The physical presence of God in the room was apparent to everyone there, he said. He said it's an amazing feeling.

You might remember Berbary, a painting contractor, for his stint running the Hopkins Street Community Center in the old Hopkins Street Elementary School on Elmira's Southside. He's closed operations at the community center and is trying to sell the building. He gave it up, he said, because the sources of funding he relied on made the money available only if he did not use the center as a base for preaching.

Eventually, he chose his ministry over the money.

Now Abundant Life Community Outreach meets in a former bar attached in the back of the Manos Diner building at 118 College Ave. in Elmira Heights. What was once the Ichabod Lounge and later Bill's Sports Bar is now a church sanctuary and meeting area. You can still see glimpses of the old dance floor here and there. Still, it makes a nice church.

Smith, who said he's worked as an evangelist in the Philippines, South Africa, Singapore, New Zealand and England, has been to the Twin Tiers before. He started coming to New York in 2000, when he was invited to preach at a Johnson City church.

During this visit, he's focusing on leading daily prayer meetings. But after he moves here, he's going to begin reaching out to the community. If Jesus were here today, Smith said, he wouldn't be spending much time inside a church. He'd be in the crack houses and brothels trying to help people.

"I'd just be their friend," Smith said. "A lot of people look at a preacher as some kind of salesman. He's trying to win your soul, and if you're not saved he doesn't want anything more to do with you. It creates a kind of class distinction.

"But I'm no different than you. There's nothing different between me and you if I have Jesus in my heart and you don't, except that I have Jesus in my heart."

No comments:

James Jones--Publisher
This blog is provided as a public service to the Coudersport Gospel Tabernacle Church and it's worshipers. The material published here is selected by the publisher and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the church.