The end was coming.
The tall man in the white suit raised the hand that didn’t hold the microphone and stepped to the center of the stage. He closed his eyes, and furious concentration read on his face. He seemed to glow, in the perfect whiteness of that suit. The believers were on their feet, even the ones who had come in wheelchairs.
They waited months for this, hours more in the lines outside, hours more through the service. Now they would be healed.
“Is there a neck brace out there? There is a neck brace. Take that neck brace off! Get up out of that seat of disease. Get up out of that cancer! Rise and give praise to God! Rise and be healed tonight!”
Pastor Benny Hinn ministered to 16,500 believers Thursday night. They filled the Miami Arena. Hundreds more waited outside because the arena was full. In about a month, when this service airs on TV, 30 million more will watch.
A choir several hundred strong stood behind the pastor. Musicians played at his side.
Camera booms swooped in on him and panned out across the crowd.
The believers donate $90 million to $100 million a year to defray the operational costs of spreading the gospel.
Now in the seats they muttered in tongues and wept. Below the sick and the lame of Miami strained forward.
On the arena floor the ushers linked arms to funnel them into two lines leading up to the stage. Tall white ministry men waded into a black and brown crowd. They closed their eyes and frowned and prayed rapidly over encephalitic babies.
They pulled some of the believers up to the stage. “Pastor, this lady has pinched nerves. She’s lost feeling in her left side!”
“Brain tumors! She had to eat through a straw!”
”They tell me there’s nothing they can do for me,” this woman said. Her voice was thick and wet and slow.
The pastor held the microphone close and she told a story about two failed operations, living her life just barely, in absolute pain.
The pastor took the microphone back. “The tumor — that’s what the Lord showed me! And the tumor caused your mouth to close, is that it?”
That was it. The arena shook in applause. Then the pastor stepped away.
He drew his right hand back. He pushed forward. His touch was light as a kiss on the woman’s forehead — did the tips of his fingers even touch her skin? — but she fell back as if pushed. He did this three times, and she said the pain was gone.
The pastor heals no one himself — that is God’s work, he says. But many felt healed this night. The pastor swept his hand at a dozen deacons seated in a row and at a single gesture they flew out of their chairs.
”Magnify, I magnify your name,” the pastor whispered. “Precious name.”
The service ended. A man named Patrick Norris stood by an elevator in one of the tunnels under the arena. He’d gone up on stage with his wife, Blanca. Four years of chemotherapy failed her. The cancer spread from her breast to her lymph nodes, her liver, her bones.
The pastor had waved his hand at her three times.
”Something happened,” Patrick said. “I could see her body relax. I saw the pain leaving her face.”
Patrick is a big man, quiet, a pilot for a commercial airline. He believes in God.
But he’s not sure. ”We’re still going to go to radiation therapy tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Patrick’s wife and the ministry men were waiting for him at the elevator. They rode up together, as the ministry men had some follow-up work to do with his wife.
Jan. 8, 2005