Television, movies, and ministry charlatans have long made a mockery of divine healing — where healings are shown to be nothing more than a temporary emotional response or worse, out-and-out fraud. As a result, skeptics abound.
However, for several Chi Alpha students and leaders who attended the annual West Coast SALT (Student Activist Leadership Training) conference at the Mt. Hermon Conference Center in Felton, California, some of the students being skeptics themselves, the reality of divine healing suddenly became very real and very personal.
Every year, Chi Alpha, the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions (AGUSM) ministry directed toward reaching and discipling university students for Christ, hosts SALT (Student Activist Leadership Training) conferences in multiple regions across the United States in January.
Liane Henze is an AGUSM missionary associate serving with Chi Alpha. She ministers to students at the University of California-Davis and says that at the West Coast SALT, God performed multiple healings — spiritually, emotionally, and physically — among hundreds of student leaders and Chi Alpha staff in attendance at the Jan. 14-17 event.
“There were some amazing testimonies,” Henze says, who connected AG News with two of the multiple individuals miraculously healed during the event. “The glory of the Lord came!”
Victor is not a student, but his wife, Monica, attends UC-Davis and is a member of Chi Alpha there. Through Monica’s connection to Chi Alpha, he has been ministering to students for several months.
Just before the couple decided to move so Monica could attend UC-Davis in 2020, Victor was in a car accident. He suffered a fractured right ankle, right wrist, and right finger. Debilitating injuries for most; disaster for Victor on two fronts.
First, Victor had a history of addiction to pain medication from a previous accident. But with God’s help, he had broken free of the addiction.
“I felt this was the enemy trying to get me back to the addiction God had taken me out of,” Victor says. “So, I did not take any pain medications during the recovery process, which is one of the hardest things I ever had to do.”
The second disaster? By trade, Victor is a barber — most workdays he needs to be on his feet 10 to 12 hours — and the use of his right hand is also vital.
Following the accident, Victor was confined to a wheelchair and then slowly progressed through therapy to some walking.
“My walking ability was off schedule and the pain in my body was unbearable at times,” Victor says. “But I was determined to get up and shower every morning, and many days I just had worship music on and I would lie on the ground because I couldn’t get up . . . and I began to grieve — grieving my old self as I felt that I would never be the same.”
Victor, 38, says he came to realize his struggle wasn’t just physical. He signed up for Celebrate Recovery, which helped him to open up and share his struggles — some of which he didn’t realize he was still carrying from his days of addiction.
“I started attending Davis Christian Fellowship (Chi Alpha) with our 5-year-old daughter in support of Monica,” Victor says, “And one day, the Lord spoke to my heart, ‘Offer these kids free haircuts.’“
At first Victor hesitated — he knew the kind of pain that would result in, but in October — after nearly a year since last cutting hair, he began giving haircuts. Little by little he began regaining some strength and mobility.
“I was in crazy pain a lot of the time, but I didn’t talk about that with them,” he says. “Instead, God gave me the opportunity to share my testimony with those young people.”
Victor became vulnerable before the young people he was serving. As he was obedient, doors began to open to him, and he noticed in himself how his talk, once negative concerning his recovery, started communicating faith — he was going to be all right.
“We decided to attend SALT and even though I was believing for a full recovery, I was still using a cane,” Victor says. “On the second night, Jamil Stell (Chi Alpha director from Stanislaus State University) started talking about healing. I was anxious as I had been prayed over many times. Honestly, I was thinking, here we go again! And then I felt in my heart a question from God: Do you trust Me?”
Young men from Victor’s core group surrounded and prayed for him as Victor pled with God to come through for the benefit of those praying for him.
“Something told me to jump,” he says. “I haven’t been able to jump since the car accident because of the pain.”
Despite his fear, Victor jumped. The pain was an excruciating level-9 pain, but he continued to jump and suddenly the pain began to fade to a level 7 . . . 5 . . . 3 . . . 2.
Victors first thought? Ok, my mind is playing tricks on me!
“But then I felt something like a warm embrace over my whole body,” he says, “and the pain, all the pain I was having was gone! And then we were all excitedly praising God!”
Since that time, the pain has not returned. Victor has been working out, building his strength and agility, and is walking out his faith, doing the things God is placing in his heart to do.
“God humbled me and changed my heart,” Victor says. “I’m more appreciative, more caring, more empathetic, whereas in my addiction years, it was all about me, me, me.”
Since she was a freshman in high school, Chelsea Lewis, 27, has lived a life of unceasing pain. After more than three years of seeing doctor after doctor, doing test after test, and finding no relief or diagnosis, doctors determined she had early onset fibromyalgia.
A Chi Alpha intern at San Diego State University, Chelsea explains that most people who get diagnosed with fibromyalgia don’t start experiencing the symptoms until their late 20s. She says that on good days, her pain level was between 6 and 8.
“Doctors tested me and told me that I have an extremely high pain tolerance,” Chelsea said. “They tested me on a good day, and my pain levels were so high I was told it would have knocked out a grown man . . . I wondered what my levels would have registered if it had been a bad day.”
Chelsea says she tried everything to ease the pain (avoiding opioids as she didn’t want to risk addiction), attempting a variety of pain-relief methods from acupuncture and massages to anti-inflammatories to many diets. Nothing dropped the pain levels significantly; most things she tried only increased the pain.
“I am very strong willed, so I pushed through pain, but I was desperate for relief,” she says. “People had prayed for me; I’ve prayed for myself, but the pain continued.”
Chelsea decided to attend the West Coast SALT in January. She recalls how almost every person she met somehow was from UC-Davis, and how every night people from UC-Davis prayed over her.
“At each service, I had multiple people praying over me, telling me how God loved me, and that something was going to happen, but it didn’t,” Chelsea says. “And then the second to last day, the team I came with decided to leave early and visit a nearby friend, which left me on my own.”
Chelsea says she debated skipping the service and going to her cabin, since her pain was about a level 8 and rising, but something in her spirit told her it was really important for her to be at the last night. So, she stayed.
“I went, but I was in so much pain, I started to pray,” Chelsea says. “And then I received a word from God that someone is coming for spiritual healing. I thought it was for me to pray over someone else, but as I went to go, I realized God was telling me they were coming to me.”
But for the first time during worship, no one came to pray for her. When the speaker came to the platform, it seemed that he decided to change his message. As he got up to the stage, he stated, “Well, we’re actually going to be talking about spiritual healing tonight . . .”
As the speaker began his message about a healing of a blind woman, he suddenly stopped and asked if anyone in the audience had fibromyalgia, paused again and then added “any pain or chronic illness,” to raise their hand.
Chelsea raised her hand and Michela Bell and Liane (Henze), the only two women she had not yet met from UC-Davis, came to pray for her. Then two more women from UC-Davis arrived to also pray. After two prayers, nothing had changed for Chelsea.
“The third time they prayed, I don’t know what went on with Michela and Liane, but their language went from soft and pleading to direct and powerful,” Chelsea says. “And then I felt something changing . . . the pain was slowly washing from me . . . it was like tar dripping down my body, down my legs to my feet and into the ground. The pain had gone from a level 8 to a 2 — I can’t remember a day below level 5 since high school!”
Chelsea burst out in tears of joy, but then she heard Liane call out, “No! The Holy Spirit is not done, we’re going to keep praying!” Chelsea hadn’t told them what she was feeling or that she could still feel the pain in her feet. A group of UC-Davis women then joined in the prayer.
“One of the girls declared, ‘I will pray at her feet,’” Chelsea recalls, “and the rest of the girls followed and covered my body with their hands from bottom to top.
“When all of the UC-Davis girls took their hands off of me, I grabbed a girl and said, ‘Press on my arm’ and she did. I said, ‘Push on my arm harder’ and she did,” Chelsea says. “There was no pain — you have to understand, there were times when even the air blowing on my arm from my car’s air conditioner hurt!”
When Liane asked Chelsea how she felt, Chelsea emphatically declared that she was pain-free.
“Girls began jumping and screaming and I was crying so hard and I was so happy,” Chelsea says. “We grabbed the speaker and some other directors and told them what happened . . . and I needed to share my healing with someone right away.”
Chelsea stepped outside and using a video messaging app on her phone, shared with her friends what took place. And then, energized beyond her imagination, Chelsea wanted to go hiking with her new-found SALT friends! However, since it was nearly midnight, they patiently persuaded her to wait until a better time.
“Honestly, that night I hardly slept,” Chelsea says. “In part because I was so energized and in part because I was worried I would wake up and the pain would be back.”
She eventually fell asleep. When she awakened, she did a quick mental check. To her great disappointment, she could feel pain in her arm again . . . only to realize that she had slept on it awkwardly and once she started moving it, the pain vanished!
“I have no pain and it’s been two months now,” Chelsea says. “Even though I believe in the power of prayer, I’ve been skeptical of healings at times. So, I understand skeptics because sometimes I’m one of them, but this, this is real!”
Since her healing, Chelsea says that people notice a difference in her – she holds herself differently and interacts much more freely. She says she feels freer mentally and emotionally, enjoys activities without concern for pain, can hug people pain-free, and sleeps much sweeter. She’s also noticed a difference in the young women she ministers to through Chi Alpha as they’ve become much more interested in spiritual gifts and have formed even a closer bond with her.
Although Victor’s and Chelsea’s healings are both remarkable responses by God to prayer, Henze says that there were many other healings that took place during the conference. From the physical, as two students with ACL injuries were healed, to the spiritual, as God worked on the hearts and deep hurts of some of the students attending.
But what seems to be a very common thread among those experiencing some form of healing is not only a thankfulness for what God has done in their lives, but a willingness to share what God has done — not always an easy task on a secular campus. However, through giving God the credit, whether in person, a group setting, or on social media, the gospel is being heard by new ears and is resulting in a fresh curiosity about God.
E. Scott Martin, AG U.S. Missions Chi Alpha national director who also spoke at the event, confirms that the Holy Spirit was at work in a powerful way during the conference.
“Every year at our SALT conferences throughout the U. S., we experience a supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit,” Martin says. “We see physical healings, demonic deliverances, and students making confession of faith in Jesus. This is because we teach and preach on Holy Spirit empowerment and His ability to transform a person’s life — body, soul, and spirit. Our West Coast SALT conference, under the spiritual leadership of Jeremy and Debora Anderson, made space for the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of students, and so He did. It was a powerful time together.”