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Saturday

Rocky Mountain awakening

It’s a hazy day in Denver with the Rockies in the distance. At Grace Community Church, associate pastor Wade Heimer sits in an upstairs office to talk about the remarkable revival that has gripped this church, and this city, for the last several years.

Grace’s revival began when founding and senior pastor Del Roberts attended the Signs and Wonders Conference in Springfield, Mo., in 1995. Roberts was by all accounts an expert organizer who preferred to keep emotion out of the church service, and who had built Grace from a church of 19 to a church of 500. But he began to have a fresh spiritual awakening.

"Pastor’s eyes were opened to what the Holy Spirit could do in power, and we began to pursue God and His presence," says Heimer. "In 1997 we went to Brownsville. God really opened our eyes. When we got back the youth group began to catch it. There was an increase in prayer. Guest speakers fueled the fire. We began to be familiar with how the Holy Spirit would move in a church context."

After a January 1998 Awake America rally, pastors formed a pastors alliance which continues to meet every Thursday. Grace started Saturday night prayer meetings, which still draw 100 people.

"There is unified prayer being lifted up all over the city," Heimer says. "There are Tuesday morning prayer meetings, Tuesday nights, Sunday nights. Prayer is being lifted up like never before. We do monthly prayer meetings at different churches. They are well-attended, powerful times."

Alfred Farias, who has been at the church for 15 years, weeps as he tells of the vision he has for the church.

"We want to see revival sweep the whole city where it doesn’t matter what denomination you’re from. You just worship God," he says. "We have a harvest field out there. We don’t have time to [be competitive with other churches]."

The revival has brought in the lost. Rose and Matt Zuschlag were introduced to the church through a Mothers of Preschoolers group. Nominal Christians, neither knew what it meant to have a relationship with the Lord.

"I didn’t know that I was searching for God, but I was," says Rose. "We can look back now and say He directed our steps even when we didn’t know what we were doing."

Their first service at Grace shocked them.

"We weren’t used to something so free," says Matt. "I was very active in drums in college, so the music ministry was unlike any I’d seen."

The music — and the invisible work of the Holy Spirit — kept them coming back. At a church-sponsored marriage retreat, the Zuschlags were amazed at the rich, spiritual atmosphere they found themselves in.

"We didn’t realize you could feel God’s presence or have conversation with Him," Matt says. "I was so amazed at people’s wealth of knowledge of the Bible, jumping to Scriptures to help us understand. They even had their own Bibles that they could write in. I didn’t know you could do that."

They were also amazed by the fact that teen-agers would drive themselves to church instead of coming kicking and screaming. Rose and Matt gave their lives to Christ and have been active in the church’s home groups.

Grace runs 800 on Sunday morning.

"We are not the same church we were five years ago," Heimer says. "But if this city is to break into revival, we have to take the light to the community. We know something big is coming."

[Editor’s note: Two weeks after Joel Kilpatrick visited Grace Community Church, senior pastor Del Roberts passed away from aggressive cancer.]

Tough love in Harvey, Louisiana

In a parking lot in a dilapidated apartment complex, Wade Southerland, pastor of Living Word Worship Center, approaches a woman and two teen-age boys. The boys sit on the curb; the woman, on a kitchen chair. The woman tells Southerland that her son, Corky, who sits on the curb, almost died a few days earlier after being beaten by a gang. Corky’s face bears fresh scrapes and bruises.

"Was that enough?" Southerland asks him. "Next time it might be worse and you will die. If you die there will be no hope."

Corky shrugs his shoulders, but, after Southerland prays that he will find the Lord, promises to attend church on Sunday.

Corky and everyone else who comes across Southerland’s path today immediately become targets of a bold message that Southerland promises will bring peace and hope. The message is Jesus Christ.

"We don’t sugarcoat anything," says Southerland. "We are looking for people’s lives to change. When we stick with someone and their life changes, that makes it worth it."

Each week for the past two years Southerland, his family and students from the New Orleans School of Urban Missions have invited the neighborhood to church. Living Word Worship Center makes its home in a two-bedroom apartment. On Saturday they have children’s church; on Sunday, regular service.

"If we had a building, the sky would be the limit," says Southerland. "The church is growing, but we don’t care about the numbers. We want people who are serious and committed."

At another apartment Southerland asks the man who answers the door if he can come in and talk to him about Jesus. The man agrees, reluctantly. When Southerland asks if the man has any prayer requests, the man says he is worried he might have to go to prison.

"If you press toward God now that would be better than waiting until you are locked up," Southerland tells him.

The man nods. Another man steps into the living room from the kitchen. Southerland invites him to church.

"I’ll be there," says the man.

"You give me your word?" asks Southerland.

"Yeah."

"Let’s shake on it," says Southerland as he extends his hand.

Back at the apartment more than 35 kids sit on the linoleum floor, basking in the air-conditioned room. For the next hour they learn a Bible verse, sing songs, play games and encounter Jesus before they are given a plate of nachos and a fruit drink.

Tomorrow, more than 100 adults will come to Sunday services here. Eventually, Southerland plans to move the church to a bigger location within the neighborhood. But for now, he says, he will make do and trust God to provide a more suitable location.

"There is a mighty powerful work of God going on in that church," one man says. "That’s what keeps me coming back."

Wade Southerland is a nationally appointed home missionary.

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