An Ignited Hunger

This week, we are harkening back to our past. The blogs this week have been written by past directors who are a part of Wesley’s rich history partnering with God.  Even now, we have opportunity to step into more of what God was doing then. We are “re-digging the wells of our fathers” (Genesis 26:18).

Re-digging Wells of The Holy Spirit
 
Have you ever sat in the backseat of your own car?
Car parked, windows down, sun shining, cool breeze blowing, and you, in the backseat of your car.
A little odd, I know.
 
In one of my classes in grad school, the professor challenged us to “write from a place you’ve never written.”
So, I did.
From the backseat of my car.
 
Honestly, I don’t even remember what I wrote about. But, I do remember the experience of writing from the backseat of my car.
 
It was new. And exciting. And...uncomfortable? Weird? At the very least, different.
I mean, I had never been in the backseat of my own car before.
Even though it had always been there. The backseat goes anywhere Harvey* the Honda HRV goes (*Yes, I do name inanimate objects and fully support others doing the same).
 
Something you should know before you get further into this post - I don’t remember the first time I experienced the power of Holy Spirit. True story. I think many associate the power of Holy Spirit with spiritual gifts or the supernatural or God releasing and working through miracles and I just don’t remember the first time I heard about or saw any of those things.
 
Partly because my memory has never been all that great (bless it), and partly because as my relationship with God grew stronger and deeper, I saw and experienced the power of Holy Spirit all. the. time. And everywhere.
 
It’s like Holy Spirit was in the backseat, with me all along. I just needed to stop driving long enough to park the car, roll the windows down, get in the back and just be aware of Him.
 
It’s those “backseat moments” when you realize that He wasn’t just in the backseat. He was the backseat. And the steering wheel and the engine and the brakes and the seatbelt and the wheels. The visors, the gear shift, the glove box, the door handles - okay, I’m just naming car parts now, but you get it.
 
He’s EVERYTHING.
 
I don’t move without the power of God.
I don’t speak without the power of God.
I don’t listen without the power of God.
I don’t breathe without the power of God.
I’m not me without God.
 
And it wasn’t until Wesley that I realized all He was and all He could do. 
 
Being in an environment where we talked about Holy Spirit, learned about spiritual gifts, had leaders that gave us space to try and fail and try again, had room to learn and grow and teach and keep learning - it changed me forever.
 
For me, it began with Joaquin Evans, then Director of the Healing Rooms at Bethel Redding, and his team (that included people about to plant Bethel Atlanta) coming to a Wesley Fall Retreat in 2007 and speaking on spiritual gifts, particularly healing. The seeds planted in many of us on staff at that retreat helped ignite a hunger to see God move in ways that we had yet to experience personally or corporately, but we knew we wanted to.

Soon after that retreat, we started Healing Prayer Nights (thank you, Caren Dilts) and inviting those wanting healing (for themselves or others) to come and have staff pray over them. There’s a fun story of the brother of an intern at that time coming for healing for his eye. When he came in he had a scar on his left eye about the width of a pinky nail and couldn’t see a hand five feet from his face. He left with a scar less than a millimeter in width and 20/20 vision - yes, for real.

I believe those nights began creating a culture of vulnerability and expectation - that as we all came before Him, Holy Spirit would move in us and through us. And yet, we believed there was even more, not just for staff but for all of us that called Wesley home.

So, in the spring and fall of 2008 the Prophetic Evangelism and Healing Prayer ministry areas began with a group of incredible women leading the way - Laura Armour, Katie Simmons, Gina Towson, Leah Vickroy and myself (What. A. Team #tulipsforever). Bob and the associate directors saw something in us, honestly, I’m not sure what (maybe Holy Spirit?) and gave us space to make room for more - words of knowledge, prophecy, encouragement, wisdom, healings - radical and life changing encounters with God. I would never be the same.

Staff and students began praying for words of knowledge before Wesley services. One time in particular, I felt like God was showing me He was going to heal a pinky toe. I told Bob and he announced it from the stage - somewhat reluctantly (Ask him about it. I mean, it was quite an odd thing to say but he trusted me). A girl comes up in a lot of pain during ministry time for prayer for a broken pinky toe. A group of interns prayed (I was not even in this group) for it to be healed. She walked out with no pain, and we walked out with a greater faith in Holy Spirit and each other.

In the Fall of 2008, Wesley staff went out to pray for words of knowledge for people downtown - (I should note that this was on Halloween. Downtown Athens. On Halloween. Ok, you get the picture.) My group and I talked with a girl dressed as a dandelion (one of the words we had heard in our listening time beforehand) outside a store on Clayton Street about how much God loved her. She then broke down in tears in the middle of the road telling us she had always wondered if God actually saw her. She had only wanted to be seen. And she said that night she now knew she always had been.

There’s so much more that would fill a book or two, okay, at least four (I’m still trying to get Bob to finish his - help me with that, would you?). A few highlights:

-       Prophetic Evangelism and Healing Prayer merged to become Healing Prayer (and sparked the beginning of an Inner Healing Prayer Ministry) which then became Marked. As I was transitioning out of Wesley, we merged Marked with the ongoing Prayer Ministry (talk about a backbone and heartbeat of a ministry - praise 👏 Jesus 👏 for 👏 every 👏 Prayer 👏 leader and everyone who ever attended a 7:30 prayer or Lead Prayer gathering)

-       Teams of Wesley staff and students would go to local churches and lead Prophetic Weekends

 - teaching youth and adults about the Voice and Power of God.

(Fun fact: That’s how I ended up with my next job after Wesley)

-       Healing Prayer Nights became Encounter Nights. We grew in our understanding that it was never about the healing/miracle itself (though, those are always amazing to see), but it was about people encountering the Living God that knows them, loves them and desires for them to know and be with Him. Our role was simply to provide the space for that encounter.

-       For several years, an outside ministry (like MorningStar or Bethel Atlanta) would come in January to lead Prophetic and Healing Rooms for Wesley staff and students. I loved the year that they didn’t have to come - because we lead these rooms for each other.

-       We started sharing testimonies at the beginning of staff meetings on Thursdays and it got to the point where there were so many wanting to be told that we had to put a cap on that time. Seriously, they could turn into hours. It was wonderful.

During my time at Wesley, we experienced instantaneous healings, heartbreaking losses (let’s talk about the power of Holy Spirit and grief another time - but know it’s real, hard and good), miraculous breakthroughs, frustrating stalls and seemingly no movement whatsoever.
 
I had the absolute joy and honor of working with and leading women and men that simply wanted to know more of who God is, who He says we are, and reveal Him to others.
 
I left Wesley in May 2013 after 2 years as a student leader, 3 years as an intern and 3 years as an associate director. (But I still pop up on the Israel trip 😉)
 
I left knowing a Love, a Voice and Power unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.
 
And it’s only gotten better.
 
And by better I mean more frustrating, more intimate, more genuine, more powerful, more beautiful, more real, just...more.
 
I’ve worked in full-time ministry and outside of it. Sometimes both at the same time.
I’ve had seasons where I felt more connected to God and then some where I felt not connected at all.

I’m still praying for healing and listening for words of knowledge or encouragement and teaching others - though it looks different than it did before. And that’s okay.

I’m still learning about the power of Holy Spirit.
 
The last time I visited a Wesley service was in 2017. I brought some staff and high schoolers from a church I was on staff at about an hour away from Athens. (They LOVED it. I knew they would.)

Some faces were familiar, many were brand new.

But I saw and felt the same heart and hunger for God as I saw and felt a decade before - it felt like getting back in the backseat for a little bit.
 
So, if you need to (literally or metaphorically), just get in the backseat for a little bit.
 
Know that the Power of Holy Spirit is the same in a smile or a hand on a shoulder as it is in a healing or a word of knowledge. All are miraculous and life giving in their own right.
 
Know that His power is alive and active within you, within others, and expressed in familiar and unknown-to-you languages and cultures, in ways you can and cannot see.
 
It’s just pausing long enough to get in the backseat, be yourself and remember - He is always with you.

PS. And having Journey playing in the background never hurts.

Author | Holly Avera

Student Leader 2005-2007
Intern 2007-2010
Associate Director 2010-2013

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