Three persons—three distinct currents of mercy—poured into Annette and I and became foundational to how we loved and served. Without them, our offering of mercy would not have been realized. Period. Each of us depends on human sources of God’s mercy to find life in the desert. These ones were Jesus’ agents for us. They helped transform our burning sand into pools.
John Wimber was a pastor, church planter, and founder of the Vineyard Church Movement. God gifted him to release His Kingdom. That meant helping others to discover the rule and reign of God in their lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. He did so in a low-key manner, humbly, as if we all could invite others into God’s rule and reign.
We followed his example. Annette and I began to listen to God and prayerfully did what He asked us to do on behalf of hurting people. But first we needed to receive that Kingdom service.
Annette was hurting. She had a chronic skin problem, one exacerbated by stress. Our pastor Kenn had invited John to do some weekly healing services in Los Angeles; we had heard through the grapevine that John had requested an ‘Annette’ to receive healing at one such service. (Obviously, we weren’t there.)
Annette did not want to go to the special service. Together, we were getting our feet wet in the sweet mercy of the first Vineyard church that Kenn had started. Annette could handle its mild charismatic flow—she resisted getting dunked in some Pentecostal spectacle. I urged her to go, and she relented with many reservations. We drove in silent tension to the meeting.
Santa Monica Blvd. was crowded—no parking for Annette’s ’72 Plymouth Voyager. In frustration, I swerved into a lot going the wrong way; its spikes punctured two tires, and Annette burst into tears. Gratefully, a friend was walking by to go to the service. She led my sobbing beauty into the service.
While I managed to get the car to the gas station (don’t ask me how), John reiterated his word for an ‘Annette’ and her skin condition; she sheepishly went forward, the Holy Spirit fell on her as several prayed, and she was healed.
God’s powerful mercy made her a believer in the Kingdom.
Around this time, I discovered Leanne Payne and her second book, The Broken Image. It changed my life. Leanne took the power of God’s Kingdom—His healing presence—and applied it to the deep divides within the human soul, especially fractures related to gender and sexuality. She thus made healing prayer normative for the sexually broken—she released mercy into the nuances of our disordered affections. Annette and I began an enduring relationship with Leanne that will always be seminal to how we understand the mercy of God.
Yet neither expression of mercy—John’s nor Leanne’s—would have been able to anchor itself in our lives and service had it not been for Kenn Gulliksen and his wife Joannie. They came to Los Angeles to plant a church that welcomed outcasts and the power of mercy to restore them. As both pastored us in the first few years of our lives together, Annette and I were equipped and envisioned to administer mercy to the sexually broken.
Their church become ours, and could not have been a more solid context in which to welcome John’s witness of powerful mercy, and apply that mercy, as Leanne taught us, to wounded lives. Keen asked me to share my story before the church, which had mushroomed to 2,000 people–most new converts with a lot of sexual baggage.
Mercy flowed from my story and the healing prayers that followed. At Kenn’s urging, Annette and I determined to start a group in nearby West Hollywood. Desert Stream was born.
‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’