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Miracles in the womb

How God is answering the prayers of couples desiring children.

By Scott Harrup

A decade ago, Pastor Joseph Fuiten and Cedar Park Assembly of God in Bothell, Wash., began dedicating a Sunday to pray for couples desiring children. Since then more than 100 couples have seen God answer their prayers, and some have experienced undeniable miracles.

Every year the special service has grown and expanded to other churches. Next Sunday more than 20 churches in the area, including Cedar Park Assembly, will hold special services.

Also in this Sanctity of life issue:

Conversation with Randall K. O'Bannon on the value of life

Vantage point by Ken Horn: God cares about little lives

Frontline report: Crisis Pregnancy Outreach saving lives, helping mothers

During the service, Pastor Joseph Fuiten dedicates babies born to parents who were prayed for last year. These parents share testimonies of God’s faithfulness and provision (see sidebar) and bolster the faith of other couples who have come from across America to receive special prayer.

The services and miracles have captured the attention of the news media. "We’ve had calls from Sweden and Norway on the story, and on Sunday morning all of Seattle’s media — ABC, NBC and CBS — have been in the service," Fuiten says.

Whether it is a broadcast of Bothell’s Evening Magazine or a nationally aired segment of Inside Edition, the images are equally compelling. Couples stream to the altars and unashamedly cry out to God for His help.

Cedar Park observes Presentation Sunday on the last Sunday in January, a day that traditionally recognizes when Jesus was presented in Jerusalem’s temple 40 days after His birth.

"It started when I set aside a year to follow the life of Christ and use it for my personal devotions, attaching any event that I could to the calendar," Fuiten says. He integrated his findings into his sermons. "On a Sunday night in January, ‘Epiphany Sunday,’ I preached on Jesus’ water baptism and anointing by the Holy Spirit. I invited people to come forward and be anointed with the Holy Spirit like Jesus was. Quite a few people received the baptism in the Holy Spirit that night."

Three weeks later, Fuiten focused on Christ’s presentation by Joseph and Mary at the temple. "I invited couples to come forward to be prayed for concerning issues of infertility," he says. "Two couples came forward and braved the public attention. A few months later, one of the couples came back and said, ‘By the way, we’re pregnant.’"

Since then the number of couples requesting prayer has grown. In 2000, Cedar Park coordinated a multichurch emphasis across Bothell. About 150 couples came to be prayed for; another 150 couples received prayer at other churches in the area.

"It’s a wonderful opportunity for the church to demonstrate unity and for God to demonstrate the miraculous," says Pastor Norm Willis of Christ Church of Kirkland, a nondenominational congregation. Willis and his wife believe their second child is a direct result of answered prayer, so they have prayed for couples in their church for years. When Willis heard about Cedar Park’s ministry, he enthusiastically became involved. Joining with other churches and with Cedar Park allows for a powerful focus of faith on this need, Willis says. Christ Church will again participate on Presentation Sunday 2001.

Word has spread so dramatically in the past few years that people of many faiths have entered a Christian church for prayer. "We have had Muslims and Buddhists come to be prayed for," Fuiten says.

Cedar Park does not categorize the answers to would-be parents’ prayers. Any child is a gift from God, regardless of how that child came into a home. Many couples have become pregnant naturally, others have had children through medical assistance and a number have successfully adopted after attending the prayer service.

"Some doubters have told me this is all just coincidence," he says. "But I’ve discovered that the more I pray, the more ‘coincidences’ happen."

Rich and Christy Haugo know they experienced a miracle. "‘No egg, no baby,’ were the exact words my doctor used to drive home the point that I did not ovulate and was not going to get pregnant without medical help," says Christy.

Christy and Rich don’t discourage other couples from seeking medical help, but they sensed God wanted to work another kind of miracle. They were prayed for on Presentation Sunday. On June 21, 1996, their first miracle daughter, Richelle Christine, was born. They were prayed for again at 1999’s Presentation Sunday service. They conceived two months later and recently welcomed their second daughter, Bethany, into their family.

Some couples, like Bryce and Denise Wagner, were prayed for at several Presentation Sunday services before they saw results. "Denise reached a point where she didn’t want to go forward anymore," says Bryce. They had been prayed for in 1998, gotten pregnant, then miscarried again.

"My sister and I both had the same physicians, and my sister went into labor the same time that I knew that I was miscarrying," Denise says. "We both went into the hospital at the same time. While she was giving birth to her son, I was having a miscarriage. That was probably the breaking point for me."

Despite Denise’s hesitation, the Wagners again went forward for prayer in 1999. Today, their daughter Amber is the answer to their prayers. The miscarriages and Amber’s birth have drawn them closer to God. "Needing a child brought us to the Lord," Denise says.

Steve and Shelley McKenzie, who experienced 12 miscarriages, see their sons, Justin and Nathan, as answers to prayer. The fact both boys were conceived with medical assistance does not diminish the McKenzies’ sense of divine intervention.

"Mine is a 20-year story," Shelley says. "I would be losing a baby while one of my best friends was having a baby. I finally had two ‘test-tube’ babies; that’s what these are, miracle babies – gifts from the Lord."

Spiritual struggles are a common thread among couples who come forward at Cedar Park, according to Sue Timpe, director of the church’s bereavement ministry, which includes offering ministry support to couples wanting children. Their discouragement in the wake of childless years can overwhelm their faith, she says.

The ministry staff at Cedar Park are personally connected with the pain of childless couples. Fuiten and his wife have four children, but they endured numerous miscarriages early in their marriage. He speaks from experience when he says, "One of the most painful things for a couple is to want to have children but to be unable to." He remembers his own cries to God when he stands before new couples each year and prays, "Lord, I ask You to bless these couples with a child."

"When I miscarried," Timpe says, "I was not allowed to grieve because those around me didn’t acknowledge that child. I grew up in a non-Christian home, and to my family my miscarriage was never a child. So beyond our ministry to couples praying for children, we also want to reach out to those who have lost children. I would like to see an area at churches where people could put a brick or a stepping stone as a remembrance of their child."

Fuiten emphasizes that any church can begin this kind of ministry and that couples wanting children should bring that need to their pastor. "They should ask their pastor to call the church to pray for them just as anyone would who had some other medical need," he says. "This is not something to be ashamed of. There are hundreds of thousands of couples facing this pain. In the past, this has been a silent agony for too many couples. They need to let the body of Christ know of their need, gather around them in faith, and then share in the joy of thanking God for new life."

Scott Harrup is general editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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