Evangelical faith healer Pastor Benny Hinn claims he can cure the sick, make the crippled walk and rid terminally ill patients of cancer.
But Hinn’s supposed spiritual powers were no match for Brisbane’s peak-hour traffic.
The multi-millionaire was 50 minutes late for his Australian “miracle crusade” after his limo became stuck in traffic on a notorious stretch of the Gateway Arterial Freeway.
When Hinn eventually arrived at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre at Boondall, in Brisbane’s north, he wore a white shot silk suit. Standing in front of a 350-piece choir, the televangelist, whose sermons are broadcast in 192 countries, strutted the stage, his brass buttons flashing and Madonna-style microphone headset firmly in place.
The 10,000-strong crowd reacted. Young children, teens, adults and the elderly rose to their feet. They wept, rocked and chanted, cried silent tears, spoke in tongues and smiled as the Californian preacher, who lives in an $8 million waterfront mansion in Orange County, performed a 20-minute rendition of the hymn I Love To Praise Him.
In a roped-off section of the entertainment centre, faithful in wheelchairs, unwell elderly and other infirm waited for a “miracle”.
Kelly Smith, a paraplegic, travelled from Ipswich. The 43-year-old recently suffered two strokes and a blood clot, and her husband Gavin has cataracts on his eyes.
“We’ve tried everything,” Ms Smith said. “Feng shui, wind chimes, crystals and positive thinking. We really wanted to give this a go.”
Nearby sat seven-year-old Bernie Hudson. The bright-eyed Cairns local, who was born with spina bifida and now suffers scoliosis, begged parents Ken and Karen to bring her along. She sat in her small wheelchair and waited, excited about the possibility of being able to walk.
“She gets up every morning at 5.30am to watch Benny’s show This Is Your Day!” Ms Hudson said.
“She watches the pastor healing other people, and thought maybe he could do something for her.”
But business comes before miracles when Pastor Hinn is in the building, it seems.
After an hour of songs, Hinn preached a recurring topic. Gold and silver. Silver and gold. The flamboyant non-denominational preacher, who receives an estimated $A110 million in donations per annum, used scripture to encourage crowd members to give. “Do you know how much gold the children of Israel gave Moses to build a tabernacle?” he asked. “Fifty thousand ounces of gold, 150,000 ounces of silver. In today’s prices that’s over 40 million US dollars in gold alone. I don’t know how much that is in Australian dollars, but that’s a lot of gold . . . and God blessed them.”
Hinn, who owns a $36 million private jet, continued in the same “rich” vein. For 90 minutes he talked dollars. The term “wealth transfer” was uttered 20 times in 10 minutes. “Gold” and “silver” was said 35 times in six minutes alone.
The man believed to be the world’s richest evangelist, who has repeatedly refused to join the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, continued his focus on the almighty dollar.
– The Bible, 1 Timothy 6:3-10 NIV
“If God tells you to give $5000, obey him,” Hinn said.
“If God speaks and says give $10,000, obey him. Do not argue with God.”
Yet, as he talked of God’s love, the pastor couldn’t hide his quick temper. The 56-year-old became angry when a crying child interrupted the sermon.
“People came to hear God’s word, not children crying,” he snapped, singling out a distressed mother. “Do something with that baby.”
Seconds later Hinn’s security guards, former gridiron players in pinstripe suits and dark glasses, distributed donation envelopes to the crowd.
What’s your view on Benny Hinn? Perth student Amy Andrews, 25, gave $1000 and pledged to donate more.
“Pastor Hinn says the more you give, the more wealth and love you receive,” she said.
Then came the healing – a surprisingly hands-off affair administered by Hinn’s Australian volunteers.
People were stripped of canes and Zimmer frames, those in wheelchairs helped to their feet. One man, in his late 50s, cried with what looked more like pain than relief.
For Ms Smith, the Friday night event was a disappointing affair.
“There was too much talk about money, about the more you gave the more God loved you,” she said.
“I feel drained, let down and let’s face it, I still can’t walk.”
Hinn held two more miracle crusades in Brisbane yesterday. He flew to Auckland for the New Zealand leg of his world tour last night.