Have you ever had an encounter with Jesus outside a 5 and dime store? A crew from St. Vincent Parish in Springbrook hopes you will.
St. Vincent's has begun two new programs that allow people to encounter the gentle and healing power of Jesus. One program invites people into the church to receive a healing. The other sends people out of the church to meet people on the street and bring Jesus to them.
The monthly Encounter God service helps people to experience the Lord in a very intimate and loving way. Prayer teams are trained to pray with people coming from prayer. This expression of compassion empowers the person needing prayer to open up to the love of Jesus. Held the first Sunday of each month, the evening begins with prayer and worship music, a welcoming and meditation. Organizers Tammy Stanek and Lisa Benzer go over the format of the service, so people know what to expect. Then they allow people to prepare themselves through meditation and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Prayer teams consisting of two or three people will pray over someone for about 10 minutes. The person usually says what they need prayer for, whether it's spiritual or physical. If they feel the need for reconciliation, Father Karl Loeb is available. "The gifts of the Holy Spirit definitely show up," said Stanek. "Sometimes we'll have a word of knowledge about something. We've had a couple spontaneous healings. We were doing a meditation on forgiveness and a person just stood up and came up to us and said, 'I haven't had any feeling in my fingers for months after surgery. As soon as I forgave so and so during this meditation, I had complete healing.' She was just overjoyed. We've had experiences like that."
There are very specific guidelines to the process. The prayer teams have been trained about what they can and cannot do in order to make that person feel safe and in contriol of the situation. for instance, the team will not begin to pray or even touch the person without his or her permission.
"We're very much looking to help people have an encounter with the Gentle Jesus. That's been the stamp we've put on this ministry. The focus is not on the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but rather an encounter with a very gentle Jesus," Stanek said.
The prayer team makes certain to communicate with the person they're with, asking questions while praying. "Many times the person who is being prayed over feels the Holy Spirit, and sense his presence in various forms. the person may feel joy or happiness or peace or tingling or a warm or cold sensation," explained Benzer. It is important that the prayer team leader ask the person questions. "We ask them, 'Do you feel anything?' And they will reply yes or no. If they reply no, sometimes it can indicate a block of some sort. If that's the case we go deeper with them. We talk about some of the things that may cause the block; unforgiveness or anger, whatever it may be. We allow the person to come to the realization on their own, so that they can open up. That way God's love can penetrate their hearts. It's amazing when the block is removed and they actually acknowledge the block. We ask them to repent. Then they are very open to receiving everything God wants for them at that time."
Another program is the St. Paul Street Evangelization. A team went out to Main Street in East Aurora holding up an image of the Divine Mercy and a sign asking, "Do you need a miracle?" They handed out miraculous medals, crosses and prayer cards to passersby. And on that hot day at the end of June, they also gave out bottles of water.
"We were very pleased with the response that we got," said Stanek. Six families asked for prayers. One woman has a grandson who was suffering. Deacon Michael Dulak was there to offer blessings. Some people did cross to the other side of the street, but others wished them well.
The two separate programs work in conjunction with one another. Before hitting the streets, they have an hour of adoration, asking God whom He wants them to pray for that day. Benzer received an image of a woman in a black and white shirt, short hair, using a walker. They did not see her in the streets, but a woman matching that description showed up at the Encounter session seeking a healing, with the same short hair and black and white shirt, but using a cane instead of a walker.
Stanek and Benzer received training for both programs from Father Mathias Thelen, senior leader of Encounter Ministries and Steve Dawson, founder of SPSE in Ann Arbor, Mich., in January.
"It's all about helping people have an encounter with the gentle Jesus and the power of Jesus and experience the power of Jesus' love," explained Stanek. "We were so moved and touched by this that we prayed about it and felt that God was putting it on our hearts to bring a chapter of this to Western New York."