“Yes, young man. Can you speak German. You look German. What can I do for you?”
These were the first words of evangelist Reinhard Bonnke to our son Jordan. He had been speaking at an evening service at Waterloo Pentecostal Assembly, and he had exited the sanctuary, after a season of prayer and ministry, into the adjacent hall.
Our pre-teen son had gotten separated from us and I had motioned him over to that side of the building to extricate himself from the bustle of the dismissed congregation. He had walked right into the entourage of the evangelist. He had thought my wave had meant, ‘Go see him.’
Jordan knew that I had had strong feelings for this ministry since days in Chatham when we had been able to visit meetings in Detroit featuring this lion-like herald of Jesus to mass crowds throughout Africa.
“My father would like to have prayer with you, sir.”
“Go get him. I wait right here.”
And that is how I got to chat with Reinhard. I could remember television specials with this staccato-voiced preacher hosting crowds in the largest Gospel tent in the world. “When we come to a community we intend to make Jesus an issue. The people see the huge canvas, the bright lights. They hear the praises of the people. They observe the broken bodies mended, the witchcraft trinkets discarded, the stolen items returned, and they come. Salvation becomes an issue.”
But the man who stood before me was not larger than life. He was a fair-haired brother with affirming eyes and a broad smile. He had taken the time for us. A short prayer was lifted for Canada, and in reciprocal fashion for the waiting peoples of Africa. A sincere hug. A firm parting handshake. Then he was gone. As if to put icing on the cake, the Lord allowed my family to see him smiling five minutes later from the back seat of a small car in the parking lot, heading back to Toronto for the next day’s engagements.
That was over ten years ago. The big Gospel tent proved too small. Now large fields host the crowds in Nigeria and other nations. Imagine in a single day over 2.1 million souls so gathered, and an altar call yielding MORE THAN ONE MILLION RECORDED SALVATIONS!
This wasn’t the pleasant man in the church ante-room. This was Jesus Christ on the move and partnering with one who simply proved available, and at the right time.
In his own words, the mission continues to “plunder Hell in order to populate Heaven. Africa shall be saved.”