On Wednesday January 27th, One Voice had a visit from Robert Ward from Newcastle. Besides being the Vicar of St Luke’s, Robert is also the chairman of “Together in Christ Tyneside”.
It all started when Robert had an operation on his ear which failed. It resulted in him having worse hearing than before, terrible tinnitus and a total loss of sense of taste. On meeting Mark Marks who first started Healing on the Streets in Coleraine, Ireland, he received prayer and was instantly healed. His full sense of taste returned, his hearing returned to pre-operation levels and the tinnitus stopped.
Robert invited Mark to Newcastle to train teams and he has now been 6 times. For fourteen months Robert has been heading up ‘Healing in the Streets’. In this short time they have given away half a million pamphlets, prayed for thousands and seen hundreds healed.
Ordinary people in the centre of Newcastle have a supernatural experience without having to ‘participate in strange cultural events that we would call church’. Robert sees this phenomenon the ‘forerunner of revival’ and believe it is changing the spiritual climate in the city.
The group have trained 300 Christians and about 120 are active on a five weekly rota, with between 20 to 40 being involved every Saturday. All those involved must have a reference from their Pastor or church leader and have to wear an ID badge showing their Christian name only. Healing on the streets is not primarily for evangelism, but engages people with God who maybe never go to church.
Firstly the team get together and pray at 1.30pm and seek words of knowledge for the day. Usually they find that they have advance warning of the types of sickness they will face on the street.
Between 2pm and 4pm each week, a huge windproof banner is set up saying “Healing” and eight chairs are set out in a line. The prayer team wait for people to come along and sit down. Teams of three pray with each person. If the person requiring prayer is female, at least two of the three in the team will also be female.
The prayer teams will introduce themselves ask about the need and ask permission to lay a hand on an arm or shoulder. They then take care to tell them that Jesus really loves them and then pray straightforward ‘pick up your bed and walk’ prayers for a few minutes. They never pray with eyes closed, never shout and always crouch down to the same level as the person on the chair.
Young people often come in groups, with skateboarding injuries or concerns about their parents and grand-parents.
It isn’t a counselling service and they avoid protracted encounters, often asking them on a scale of 1 to 10 how much better they feel after prayer. They hand out a flier explaining what has happened and for all who want it there is a booklet telling how to contact the 35 churches involved.
From the point of view of the city authorities this ministry is in partnership with Street Pastors, which the same group of church leaders oversee.
Every week Robert emails the team with testimonies of what happened the last week to remind them that God is at work. No-one is followed up, no names are taken. The group are careful that they do not ‘miss-advertise’ but say clearly that they believe in healing. Robert is the first to say that many are not healed, but the point is that many are!
Robert said that the key words were :
‘Unity’ – and about 35 church leaders are in total support of the ministry.
‘Sustainability’ – they are always there and never cancel, whatever the weather. They work hard to make sure they have enough people to sustain this level of operation.
Robert was inspiring and local church leaders went away with a lot to think and pray about.