ANOTHER COFFEE BREAK: THE ESKDALE MIRACLE, Part 1
August 1, 2014
When I first shared this story back in 2005, it was the first time I'd publicly shared many of the details of an event that destroyed some of the religious doctrines that that had boxed me in and restricted my spiritual growth. In the years since then -- and especially within even the last few weeks -- it has been a blessing to be contacted by a couple of individuals who were present and witnessed the events I'm about to share again with you. I'll try to share this whole story in three Coffee Breaks, but I will warn you that this will run long, so bear with me.
I don't know how far I can get into the actual events in Eskdale today, but let me at least lay some foundations so you will understand what events unfolded that sent us into that community.
The story (or stories) I’m about to share are very real. I should, however, build some fences around what I’m about to say just so folks don’t get the wrong idea. You know what I’m saying? If I just charge out there and start telling this story, some folks will get the idea I’m either prejudiced, have some kind of religious bias, or have a bone to pick with folks who don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ in the same dimension I’ve come to know and experience.
So let me begin by saying I’m not out to roast Mormons. We have an entire branch of the Capener family that is Mormon. My great-great grandfather, John Capener, had a brother who came from England with him back in 1836. His name was William Capener. John and William had some disagreements with each other in the 1840’s and parted ways from each other. That was when William joined Brigham Young, following the death of Joseph Smith, and helped to organize the westward movement of the Mormons from Nauvoo, Illinois to their eventual settlement in the Salt Lake Valley. You can’t go anywhere in Utah today without finding the name, Capener, somewhere.
It was one of my Mormon cousins, Dr. Jex Capener, who urged me to move to Salt Lake City back in the late 1960’s after I resigned at Bethel Union Church in Duarte, California and left my late-night radio talk show at the same time. What I knew about Mormons and Mormonism in those days would fit on the head of a pin, but I was about to get an education.
Anyway, the fence I need to build around my forthcoming comments is this: while I have strong disagreement with much of Mormon doctrine, I have no dislike of Mormons, and many of my friends throughout the years have been Mormons. My comments concerning some Mormon doctrines, and the events I’m about to share, are not intended in any way to suggest criticism or dislike or even hatred of Mormons. They need Jesus Christ just like all of us. There are many professing Mormons who have come into a relationship with Him, and there are many professing Mormons who are simply religious and practice their doctrines – just like professing Christians practice their doctrines – without a clue to what the Lord is actually doing.
OK. Did I build my fence properly, or did I just dig myself in deeper? Guess we’ll see, won’t we?
The year was 1971, and it was early January. I was serving as Associate Pastor at Full Gospel Assembly in Salt Lake City. The Senior Pastor was a big Greek fellow by the name of Bill Christopulos. He was actually the guy that got me really interested in learning the Greek language so I could read the original Greek texts of the New Testament.
I’d been feeling pretty empty, spiritually. The visions, the experiences with angels, the experiences of going to Heaven when I was nine and ten years old, seeing Jesus, carrying on conversations with Him, and hearing His promises of things that were going to unfold in my life – all coupled with the fact that very little of it seemed to have come to pass in my life (I was just short of my 29th birthday at the time), stirred a hunger in me that knew no bounds.
Right about that time, I received an invitation to come and speak at the Full Gospel Businessmen’s international convention in Phoenix. Although I accepted the invitation, I thought to myself, Good Lord! What do I have to give to these folks? What is it you want me to share, Father?
To compound the situation, my (then-) wife was pregnant, but in pretty serious condition. The pregnancy was not going well, and at six months into the pregnancy weighed less than she did when she became pregnant. The week before we were scheduled to depart for Phoenix, her doctor told her there was no sign of life in the womb, and that as near as he could tell, the unborn child had died.
The doctor absolutely forbid her to travel, telling her that she could very likely die if she tried to make the trip, and that she would most certainly naturally abort the child. She chose to make the trip in spite of the doctor’s ominous warnings.
I didn’t arrive in Phoenix feeling particularly “spiritual.” There was an incredible sense of the presence of the Lord, however, as we began to gather with others. Our second day at the convention, we were in an afternoon session where another brother in the Lord was doing the sharing. At the conclusion of the session, he invited folks who needed to be healed to come to the front. However, his invitation was specifically for those who were lame.
My wife responded to the invitation, nonetheless, and went forward. As she stood waiting, the evangelist singled her out of the gathered group and called her forward. He was quickened in his spirit by the Lord to take exception to her case and spoke the word of healing to her. She had – as previously noted – actually lost weight, and was in her street clothes. She had no maternity clothing with her, saving for one Hawaiian muu-muu.
She suddenly felt movement in her womb when the word of healing was spoken, and in front of her eyes – and the eyes of those around her – her tummy began to expand, stretching her clothing. She hurried out of the building back to our hotel room where she put on the muu-muu. By nightfall, she looked six months pregnant. The end of that story is that our daughter, Melodie, was born a few months later, whole, perfect, and beautiful. She was a living miracle, and a gift from the Lord, raised back to life in the womb.
That same night, I was the scheduled speaker for a group of about 500 or so youth. The experience of my yet-unborn daughter’s resurrection in the womb was fresh in my spirit, and you had to know that I was charged! Jesse Duplantis shares the experience of a lady in one of his services who suddenly cut loose, whoopin’ and hollerin’, who – when questioned – said to him, “Brother Jesse, I’se overcharged!” It won't take you any great imagination to know that’s exactly how I felt that evening.
After sharing for perhaps 15 or 20 minutes on faith, I suddenly felt quickened in my spirit to say the following. “I believe there is someone here tonight who has a birth defect. You are crippled with one of your arms as a result. If you will step forward, the Lord will restore that arm right now.”
Shocked me to no end! I’d never said anything like that in my life! Taking a leap like that was waaaay out of my comfort zone.
An eighteen-year-old girl stepped out of one of the back rows and came forward in response. As she walked down the aisle, one could easily see that her right arm was small, discolored, the size of a two-year-old’s arm. I turned and looked at the brother who had invited me to speak – his name was Zane Fields – and without a word, we both headed for the platform steps: he went one way, and I went the other. We both came around from opposite directions to the front of the platform just as the young woman reached the front. Almost as if cued, we stretched forth our right hands toward her and spoke, “In Jesus’ Name!”
Before we even drew back our hands, you could hear a stir in the crowd as folks watched her arm grow to its normal size. It took maybe a total of 45 seconds. When it was over, her right arm was as normal as the left one. It was nothing less than stunning! It was the first time in my life I had actually seen with my own eyes a creative miracle of such proportions.
The rest of the night is almost a blur in my memory. I couldn’t even begin to hazard a guess as to the number of similar creative miracles that took place that night. What does stand out is the fact that when I returned to the podium on the platform, the Holy Spirit gave me a vision of a flame of fire burning in Utah and said to me, “I want you to begin fasting as soon as you arrive home, and I want you to fast for three weeks.”
Wheww! The longest fast I’d ever been on up to that time was maybe a week, and it was only a partial fast. My thinking on fasts in those days was mostly equated with Esther’s fast, where she fasted for three days without food or water. The result of that fast was the deliverance of Israel and a change in the course of history for her people.
So, when I got home, as directed, I dived into the three-week fast – no food, no water, no nothing! By the time I reached the eighth day, I was looking for a hole to crawl into and pull the cover after me. If I tell you that I felt absolutely rotten, it would be a gross understatement! On that eighth day, however, I was laying in bed reading my Bible, and reading about Daniel’s fasts. It suddenly dawned on me that most of his fasts were selective, and none of them were without water. Wow! What a revelation -- and what a relief! All of a sudden it was OK for me to continue my fast and drink some water. As soon as I did, my whole physical being responded, and I just felt ALIVE!
I continued the rest of my three-week fast having an occasional drink of water, but still refusing to eat any kind of food. At the beginning of the third week, Brother Bill (as we referred to him) had a visit from a Mormon bishop whom he had known off and on throughout the years. His ward was Eskdale, Utah, a tiny little community (at that time) of about 330 people near the Nevada state line in the west-central part of the state.
“We’re continuing a study on the Holy Spirit this coming weekend, and we thought it would be a great idea to have some Pentecostals come and talk to us about their views on the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals are big on the Holy Spirit, and we just thought it might be interesting if you guys would come.”
Reeeally? A philosophical, intellectual, academic review and discussion of Holy Spirit? Ohh, Brotherrr! I thought to myself, THIS ought to be interesting!
I did not in any way connect my ongoing fast with that invitation. I was fasting, waiting on the Lord, praying in the Spirit and all that, but really had no clue as to what the fast was all about. The vision of the flame of fire didn't really have specific significance yet.
We arrived in Eskdale late Friday afternoon, the 21st and final day of my fast. As we began to prepare for the evening meeting, Brother Bill came to me and said, “I feel like we need to partake of communion together before we go into this thing tonight.”
Yessir! Wonderful! And that was how I broke my fast.
7:00 PM. The ward hall is jammed to capacity. I doubt there were three people in Eskdale not present that night.
The bishop stands up, makes his introductory remarks about their studies on the Holy Spirit, introduces us and says, “I thought it would be a good thing to have a couple of Pentecostals come and talk to us tonight since they are really big on the Holy Spirit.” Then he turns to Brother Bill, nods his head, and sits down in one of the big chairs on the platform.
What I haven’t mentioned before is the fact that Bill Christopulos was one of the most brilliant violinists you’ve ever heard in your life. For many years before he became a pastor, (back in the 1940’s) he was the first chair violinist with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. (You'll appreciate that, as a semi-classical guitarist, I really enjoyed playing with him.) His wife, Welcome (that was her real name!), was an equally gifted, talented and skilled pianist.
After the bishop nodded his head to Brother Bill, he went and picked up his violin. Sister Welcome went to the piano, and – without a word of introduction or acknowledgement otherwise – they began to play as the Holy Spirit anointed them. You could have heard a pin drop in that place. I knew Brother Bill was good, but …. well, this was different! Ditto for his wife.
For twenty or twenty-five minutes they played. Never said a word. There was a holy hush that settled over that audience. Finally, they wrapped it up with a song that was for many years a George Beverly Shea hallmark of Billy Graham crusades, How Great Thou Art!
When they finished, Brother Bill set his violin down in its case and turned to me. “Brother, this service is yours.” You could have pushed me over with a feather. I was dumbfounded. Brother Bill was the Senior Pastor. He was the one with seniority and seasoning, and I just figured he was going to do the speaking. We hadn’t discussed it beforehand. Not at all.
I thumbed open my Bible, and it fell open to Mark, the 16th Chapter. My eyes fell on the words of the seventeenth verse, “These signs shall follow them that believe….” In a flash, I knew what Holy Spirit wanted of me. I stepped up to the platform and walked behind the podium, laying my Bible open on that chapter. I began to read out loud the seventeenth and eighteenth verses.
When I finished reading, I began with words something like this, “We appreciate your invitation for us to come and talk to you about the Holy Spirit. I must tell you, however, that – contrary to Mormon doctrine – the Holy Spirit is not some kind of mist in outer space. The Holy Spirit is a very real and living person, the third member of the Godhead.”
I went on to share some basic fundamentals of Holy Spirit, who He is, how He works in the life of believers, and what His purpose is as one sent as the Paraklete – the Comforter – in the physical absence of the Lord Jesus Christ following His ascension into Heaven. Then I said, “Now I could stand here all night and tell you who Holy Spirit is, what He does, how He operates, His character and makeup, and all of that; and when I finished, you’d walk out that door not knowing any more than you did when you came in tonight. What you need is to see Holy Spirit in your midst. What you need is to see Him operate right here in this building among you tonight.”
From that point on, the words that came tumbling out of my mouth were totally unplanned. If anybody had asked me, I wouldn’t have said them. “Is there someone here tonight who has been in some kind of accident where you were severely injured? Perhaps you have an injury that has been with you since your childhood. If you will stand and come forward, the Lord will heal you tonight.”
I wasn’t even hardly prepared for what happened next!
Immediately, a gentleman in his fifties stood up in the back row. His face was grotesquely misshapen, the result of a fire he had been burned in as a teenager. He wore glasses that had to be a quarter-inch thick or more. He pointed to his face and roared, “Oh yeah? You say this Holy Spirit is real? Let’s see Him do something about this!”
Ever have your knees quake? Ever shake in your boots? Betcha my heart sank right into my shoes in that instant. Faith as a grain of mustard seed? Right! Would you believe a quarter -- or even a tenth -- of a grain of mustard seed?
That's where I have to stop for today. Sorry to leave you with a cliffhanger .... well, OK, maybe not (grin). Just want to get you warmed up for what Holy Spirit did -- and what He is doing AGAIN today!
Again, if you are in need of healing -- especially if you have some terminal disease or prognosis of a very short time to live from the doctors -- please join our prayer conference calls on either Monday or Wednesday of each week at 7:00 PM Eastern. Once again, the number to call is (805) 399-1000. Then enter the access code: 124763#. To get into the queue for prayer, when Randy opens the call up for everyone, hit *6-1 on your keypad. Let us minister to your need for healing!
Blessings on you!
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