Messier 104 (The Sombrero Galaxy) NASA
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” —Abraham Lincoln
I fully expect to be called all sorts of names like the Daughter of Stan for this post. I do believe in miracle but I don’t believe that such miracles are the norm. Many miracles in the New Testament occurred to tell a story about the divinity of Jesus. For example, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he demonstrated that He had power over life and death and was therefore the Son of God.
We seem to want to define what is miraculous, overlooking the discoveries that heal cancers or give us smartphones. We see the stunning beauty of the galaxies brought to us by NASA and Hubble, yet we insist we want to be healed immediately from the pain of a broken bone. My daughter just got back from serving on the Mercy Ship as a critical care nurse. 25 years ago, she was thought to be terminally ill with a brain tumor. The miracle of the surgeons and the care of the nurses, along with the encouragement of her teachers helped her to achieve far greater things than I could have hoped for. Yet, we (and I include myself) insist on more.
We have become so insistent on seeing miracles that we see Francis Chan and TRIN jumping on the bandwagon as *healers* while totally overlooking the problem of power and authoritarianism in the church. The First World Christian leaders can often look down on Third World leaders, expecting to be the saviors of their *dark world.* This is what this post is about.
Francis Chan: the latest healer of *dark* Myanmar.
Francis Chan is the well known former leader of the mega Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California. He received his undergraduate and Masters Degree from Masters University whose founder, John MacArthur, might well have a stroke when he hears about what I’m going to tell you in this post. He’s not so big on the charismatic side of things. To be clear, I am not a fan of John MacArthur.
In 2019, he decided to move to Hong Kong to share the Gospel and plant churches amongst the *ultra poor” according to the Christian Post. Along the way, he visited Maynmar and purportedly healed a whole bunch of people, including two deaf children. He returned to the US and gave the following lecture at Moody Bible Institute.
This first video is the entire talk and is 52 minutes long.
This second video is just a few minutes long and focuses on the part of the talk in which he claims to have healed people.
Chan is quite excited because every person *he* touched was healed. And that is what started me to question his focus. Why the lack of details? Why the focus on himself.
- The name of the village
- The name of his translator
- The names of the people who were healed
- How does he know that this village has NEVER heard the Gospel?
- Chan, who knows a thing or two about the use of videos, didn’t share a video of his healing. He did have a smartphone, right?
- Why didn’t he bring back some doctors who could confirm that the deaf can now hear? You do know that it is difficult for a formerly deaf person to suddenly hear. It’s not like they run around and give TED talks immediately, right?
- There is a school for the deaf in North Carolina. Why doesn’t he bring his healing acumen to help out in the US?
In the end, IMO, this seems more to be about Chan and his new healing powers.
A story of Dutch *healers* in Myanmar
I was contacted by a person who knows a great deal about Myanmar. They wish to remain anonymous. The story involves claims by leaders from the Netherlands who *healed* in Myanmar. (Why Myanmar? It sure is a beautiful country. Maybe the optics are good.) Some of the links are in Dutch. I am so thankful to this person for sharing. I love to hear from folks throughout the world. It’s one of the cooler things about blogging!
So here goes. Meet Mattheus van der Steen. Pastors’ kid, sailor and salesman, before he went into ministry at still a young age. He married an American woman Rebekah Krell, who claimed she used to be a ‘Satan’s bride’, went through all sorts of ritual satanic abuse, until she was delivered by Benny Hinn and Angela Greenig. Her story became famous and was published all over the place in the Netherlands. Their stories and connections gave her and her husband a supernatural status, and many were awed. However, question started to rise about the legitimacy of her story. Her claims about her past, involving many murders, child sacrifice and other horror movie details, could never be verified and several circumstances made them very unlikely. (You can read her story here: https://goedgelovig.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/bevrijd-uit-een-satanssekte/ or watch it (in English) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruTDn-DYHyA But this version omits the gruesome details in the story. )
Another circumstance which propelled their fame was the support they received from Brother Andrew of Open Doors, who wrote the foreword to his award-winning book (Dare to Dream). He was also supported by a very highly respected doctor of theology, who had in the past been anti-charismatic, but made a U-turn, by the name of Willem Ouweneel. He became instrumental in both giving Mattheus legitimacy and covering when media got discovered fraud. Internationally, Heidi Baker took them under her wing and is still closely connected with the ministry of Mattheus.
The two of them started an organisation called TRIN (Touch, Reach and Impact the Nations) which took off like wildfire. They would have ‘Fire Nights’ where they would impart all sorts of important charismatic anointings, particularly those linked with Todd Bentley. They would have conferences, support orphanages, make TV and go on crusades. Myanmar was their big one.
The story unfolds as follows. TRIN takes a crusade to Myanmar, which includes stadium meetings and local outreaches. A team from the Netherlands (including Edward Dompeling a paediatrician who was a professor in medical university) which was part of the crusade crew, visited what they called a ‘Buddhist institute’ for blind people. They walk in, pray with several blind children and one elderly person, declare them healed, video and photograph the whole thing, put it on-line and receive many likes, cheers and amens.
Unfortunately for them, one person immediately says he doesn’t believe the story. This person was Marten Visser, at that time working as a missionary in Thailand (and now heading up Global Rize). People get very angry with him and insult him in many ways. He stakes his ministry on the claim. He says that if it is true, he will quite his work in Thailand, because if it is as easy as TRIN makes it out to be, he is wasting his time learning the language and doing painstaking church planting in rural areas.
He promises to investigate and soon discovers via his local contacts that the story is bogus. However, his contacts have to be anonymous and the TRIN fanboys accuse him of lying and destroying the work of God ect. His story you can find here:https://goedgelovig.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/opwekking-in-birma/
In the meantime there is a Christian blog called ‘Goedgelovig’ (literally ‘believing well’ but also translates as ‘gullible’) that asks critical questions about the whole thing. They had been following TRIN intensively, already uncovering multiple scandals (gold dust, which supernaturally appeared in a meeting was tested by a certified institute and appeared to be some sort of party glitter which had traces of copper, but was definitely not gold). Their report sparked the interest of Karel Smouter, a Christian journalist. He crowdfunded a trip to Myanmar and went to the institute for the blind. He went about it very professionally as far as I can see and after his trip took several months to write reports, which were very widely published in the Netherlands, both in Christian and non-Christian media.
The Buddhist institute was in fact a Christian Blind school. The Dutch team had entered without permission or knowledge of the leadership. The boys that had their pictures taken were instantly recognised and called to be shown to the journalist. They were all still blind. The workers of the blind school were very angry and dismayed that this was told about them.
It became clear that foreign evangelists are often used by fraudulent Myanmar pastors for their own purposes. Many Chin (a largely Christian people group) churches have their own orphanage and Bible school, which are used to attract foreign Christian investment. They can fill up stadiums and make sure the preacher hears whatever they want to hear. Sometimes their Bible schools have several names so they can present them as a unique project to a foreign donor.
In this case the team was not tricked by fraudulent pastors, but by their own determination to see what they wanted to see. People had to be healed. Even if they were not.
You can find this story here (in Dutch): https://www.trouw.nl/nieuws/blinden-burma-zijn-helemaal-niet-genezen-door-nederlander~b010f46e/
TRIN faced a lot of backlash, with prof Willem Ouweneel (who posted the ‘miracle’) really digging in and accusing the critical people of being on the side of the devil and all the usual stuff. He suffered damage to his reputation, but is still very active and has a considerable platform in the Netherlands. Mattheus and his wife Rebekah also take the ‘you are fighting against God’ line. They lose many of their sponsors, but enough remain to carry on their work.
How do the people of Myanmar view these *healers?*
I read a poignant post: They Look Down on Us’—On Myanmar and Francis Chan’s Ministry Move to Asia written by Bryanna Randall, a woman who has lived in Myanmar for years. Her analysis is spot on and quite convicting. At least I saw myself in some of this post. The whole post is worth the read.
She discusses a promotion video which was, in part, sponsored by Chan’s Crazy Love organization.
Today, I would never share a video like the one mentioned above. Instead, now when I watch similar promotional ministry videos, I realize that the White savior version of myself was blind to the most important aspects of the video and the way the story was told. Now I have concerns about storytelling, dignity, and the American Christian habit of muting other voices.
Here are some questions I would ask the creators about their ministry video:
- Why are the only motivational speakers in this video Western church leaders? Why didn’t they include the testimony of a Myanmar pastor?
- Why were there so many shots of White Americans grandly laying hands on and praying for Myanmar village people?
- (And did those Myanmar people consent to being part of a promotional photo op? Did they even consent to hands being laid on them?)
- Why did the video only include shots of Myanmar village life, or of slums, when there is much more to Myanmar than abject financial poverty?
- When the makers of this video used a celebrity pastor’s words, “heart of darkness,” while panning through images of Myanmar, did they really mean to imply that Myanmar is a place of utter darkness and evil?
- Did they mean to communicate, by their omission of any Myanmar voices, that Myanmar people won’t have anything to say about all of this?
- Did they mean to imply that there are no Christians in Myanmar? (Christians are about 8.2 percent of the population.)
Do we erase the real story of the people who we are supposed to care about? Is there really no church in Myanmar? Is it all dark? Is this how we make ourselves look good?
Chan went on to explain that it was time to go somewhere where there was not as much competition—i.e., a place like Myanmar. Chan concluded earnestly, saying, “If my calling is to go fish, and there’s no one fishing over there, why wouldn’t I go?”
What happened to the Myanmar church in between Chan’s visit to them in July and his announcement in November? In marketing himself to American Christians as someone doing something in uncharted, unreached territory, The Crazy Loveauthor erased the existence of an entire community of faithful Christ followers in Myanmar. The Myanmar Christians who, according to his talk back in July, had so much to teach the American church, had disappeared, and along with them, Chan’s previous posture of learning. As far as Chan’s American audience is concerned, the Myanmar church doesn’t even exist, or at best, their presence was irrelevant.
As Americans, we’re used to this kind of erasure in storytelling. We’re so accustomed to editing out the inconvenient people and willing to make excuses for other storytellers who do likewise. It’s like genocide, but in story form.
Do we erase that which makes us uncomfortable? Do we truly respect those we serve? Do make less of ourselves and more of those we serve?
It’s the same lack of respect I hear about from Myanmar friends when they discuss their encounters with foreigners: “they look down on us”… “they think very little of us.”
The willingness to overlook Chan’s behavior or make excuses for him serves as an indicator of the level of respect we have for people in Myanmar. Tolerance for erasure like this is a tolerance of oppression being done in the name of Christ. What’s more, Chan’s erasive storytelling behavior is now a model for both Western and Myanmar leaders who admire him. Chan’s erasure fits comfortably with the Myanmar church in a chilling way: erasure is how many Myanmar Christian leaders have responded to the country’s Rohingya Muslims and the genocide they have experienced. If Chan can filter out the people he would like to ignore and get away with it, why shouldn’t the Myanmar church continue to do so with the Rohingya people?
In the end, is it all about power?
As long as we insist on coming in power, on telling the stories on our own terms and neglecting to correct our false stories…as long as we are determined to operate as pioneers, trying to parent other adults, we’re operating as oppressors. As long as we persist in looking down on people, our good news will never be their good news. Instead of it being the gospel of peace in Christ, it will be a gospel of power and domination.
Finally, I do not buy Francis Chan’s version of events in Myanmar. He knows how to do media and suddenly there is not media? Since he claims to be such a terrific healer, I have a proposal. Why doesn’t he come to North Carolina and heal the students at the School of the Deaf. Better yet, why doesn’t he heal those who are affected by the big three diseases in Mayanmar: Malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS?
Now that’s something that would get me to itv up and take notice.