Members of a Saraland church say a buckling of drywall in the sanctuary resembles a crucifixion and works miracles.
“You never know how he is going to come,” said Ella Roberts, pastor of the Triumph Learning and Worship Center for Life. “You can’t explain it. It just is what it is.”
The image appeared after flooding from Hurricane Katrina left the church damaged, Roberts said. Though the image is some 4 feet above the waterline, the spot looks similar to spots along the floor.
Church members have been using the image that they say resembles Jesus hanging on a cross as a prayer tool, placing their hands on it as they talk to God. Roberts said she experienced a miracle last week.
She said she suffered from extremely high blood pressure. During prayer on Wednesday, something happened, she said.
“There was a feeling I had never experienced before in my life,” she said. “I was shaking. The wall felt like it was moving. A chill came over me. I was cured.”
Recent tests have shown acceptable blood pressure, she said.
Some of the other 150 members of the church have similar stories.
Benita Bogan is a prophetess at the church, a designation that notes her spiritual maturity. Bogan said she was looking into getting a pair of glasses so she could see small print clearly. But after praying with the image on the wall, her eyesight is perfect, she said.
Others who have prayed report divine intervention cured ailments from depression to kidney disease.
Claims similar to those from the Saraland sanctuary pop up from time to time, said William Dinges, a professor of religious studies at the Catholic University of America.
“What’s important here is not what one person or another sees,” Dinges said. “The belief exists. The belief has effects.”
Scripturally, he said, the Bible has many instances of spiritual apparitions.
Sightings of Jesus have cropped up everywhere from church walls to burn marks on a piece of toast sold on the Internet auction Web site eBay. Dinges said he believes that prayer is more important than an image.
The image in the wall has been a blessing, said Diane McCowin, the church’s musician.
“A lot of times we tell people what we believe,” she said. “They say God isn’t working miracles now like he used to. I prayed for him to give us something tangible.”
An empty picture frame hangs on the wall around the image. The church now opens six days a week from noon to 2 p.m., allowing people to pray with the image. It stays closed on Saturday.
Another of the church’s ministers, Marlette Holt, said she believes this wall will change minds about spirituality. “It’s like God is trying to show people he’s real,” she said. “I feel he’s trying to open even the simplest minds.”