California evangelist A.L. "Papa" Gill popped up on my radar scope this morning, in a story from Nova Scotia, Canada, where he's currently holding a freak show, er, I mean, a faith healin' church revival.
Posters circulated before his revival meetings sound like something from the carnival. His list of miracles includes restoring sight by making a missing eyeball suddenly appear in a formerly empty eye-socket and causing a hand to grow back on a stump of an arm.
This past Tuesday, reporter Peter Duffy spoke with Papa Gill:
"I’m really skeptical," [Duffy told] the tall, well-dressed American visitor before the meeting begins.Papa never actually says what he was healed from, but he doesn't mention having regrown any missing appendages.
Papa Gill chuckles. "That’s OK," he says. "That’s the way I was for years. I was a skeptic. I stayed away from people who talked about God’s healing powers. I didn’t think He still did it!"
"What happened to change you?"
When he was 33, he says, his health deteriorated to the point that his doctors didn’t expect him to live.
"I gathered my family together and asked God’s healing power. Strength flowed into my body and I was completely and totally healed."
After a warm-up "act" (of course it's an act — this is show business at its finest) by another minister, Papa Gill takes the microphone.
"Hallelujah! God is good!" he cries. "God is the great physician!"
After an hour or so of hallelujahs and arms swaying in the air, the Parade of Pain begins.
Several people step forward and stand near him. One woman with a shoulder problem raises her arm high.You can read more about Papa Gill and (of course) donate to his ministry to receive audio recordings of his sermons and cheesy little books at GillMinistries.com. It looks like Gill's Magic Show will play around northern California for the rest of the summer before he launches a mission trip to Malaysia in October. God knows Malaysians can't wait for him to get there!
Another woman with a painful neck injury moves her head from side to side.
"Raise your hands!" Papa Gill commands the crowd. "Say YES! I’m going to believe, not just with my head but with my heart! I’m going to give Him my whole heart!"
After more prayers and exhortations invoking the Holy Spirit, he commands everyone to speak in tongues.
"A heavenly new language," he calls it.
And they do. Eyes closed, hands raised, the crowd lets out a babble strangely approximating the sound emerging from his own lips. It’s an eerie moment made even more eerie by the enfolding darkness.
Finally, he calls on those still experiencing sickness and pain to step forward.
Several people do. A father cradles his autistic son. A woman presents a deformed finger. A man proffers a hand shorn of fingers by a circular saw. Another man asks to be rescued from Freemasonry.
Papa Gill attends to each, speaking softly and placing his hand on their heads. Some sufferers he leaves standing. Others receive a gentle push, sending them slumping in a joyful trance to the ground.
Image 1: An undated photo of Gill working the crowd in Kenya.
Image 2: Gill knockin' 'em out in Nova Scotia, Canada, July 24, 2006
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