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Posted: September 10, 2004

Spiritual Caregiving

Healing Rooms as a Prayerful Alternative

Nestled in an ordinary strip of medical and dental offices in Cleveland is a suite that looks completely ordinary -- and that is part of what makes it remarkable.

Here are the Healing Rooms of Greater Cleveland. They are tastefully decorated in beige and muted shades of blue, and soothing Christian music with a New Age feel fills the air. A receptionist sitting behind a sliding glass window welcomes you as you register, but nobody asks you about health insurance. The services are free, though a brass mailbox to the left of the window bears a sign reading, ?We accept donations.? A small television to the right of the window plays videos of peaceful scenes of nature accompanied by soothing ?praise? music. ?O Lord, my God, I cried to you and you healed me,? reads one of the changing scripts that appear on the screen.

A door to the left of the reception area admits visitors to the three rooms where healing prayer is offered by appointment or to walk-ins by a team of two or three volunteer pray-ers. On the wall is a list of testimonies to encourage both pray-ers and pray-ees -- ?Healed of a brain tumor;? ?Back healed -- no need to wear back brace;? ?Cancerous tumor in neck shrinks and is gone;? ?Skin cancer healed;? ?Healed of fibromyalgia.? And the list goes on.

A Growing Movement

From its inception at the beginning of the 20th century, the spirit-filled movement in Christianity has included the practice of divine healing. During the 1920s, the Pentecostal healer and visionary John G. Lake took the practice out of the churches and established healing rooms, first in Spokane, Washington, and then in Portland, Oregon, where the sick could come for prayer. Lake envisioned healing centers around the country, but he died of a stroke in 1935, and his vision became a footnote in Pentecostal history.

Jim White , who founded the Healing Rooms of Greater Cleveland in 2001, says he knew none of this when during a church service he had a vision in which a physician wrote ?healing rooms? on a prescription pad. The words haunted him. The next month he had a vision -- ?so real that it is difficult to distinguish from real life? -- of a man running into the sanctuary holding a torch of pure gold, with its handle engraved ?healing rooms.? The man passed the torch to him and continued to run.

From the Internet, White learned about the International Association of Healing Rooms (IAHR) founded by Cal Pierce. Pierce, a retired real estate developer from Redding, California, had a profound religious experience in 1996 that inspired his move to Spokane, where he reopened the healing rooms in 1999. IAHR has its headquarters in Spokane but is rooted in the larger global Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. It now has more than 150 healing rooms in 39 states, Washington, D.C, and 10 foreign locations.

Shortly after contacting Pierce, Jim White became ill. After extensive testing, he was diagnosed with probable colon cancer. Instead of agreeing to immediate surgery, White and his wife left for a planned visit to the Spokane healing rooms. There White had a series of seemingly divine encounters, including one during prayer for healing. The pain that had plagued him for months suddenly left his body. When he returned to the Cleveland Clinic for exploratory surgery, doctors found no evidence of cancer. Says White, ?Whether I did or I didn't, I just know that I don't!?

Today White and his wife are regional coordinators and state directors for the organization, and White is sought here and abroad as a conference speaker and trainer for the growing Healing Rooms movement.

What's Happening Here?

As a participant-observer who studies Pentecostalism, I have volunteered in the Healing Rooms of Greater Cleveland for more than a year. What I can say so far is that the healing rooms are embedded in a larger Pentecostal and Charismatic world view that emphasizes that the seemingly supernatural is natural in the       ?kingdom of God.? Believers learn to expect and receive revelations through visions and dreams, to see the miraculous, and to be agents of divine healing. Jim White 's testimony has sparked the faith of believers to pray for and experience healing through the power of prayer. And they assert that what they have witnessed in the healing rooms so far is only the beginning.

_____

Margaret M. Poloma, Ph.D., is the author of Main Street Mystics: The Toronto Blessing and Revitalizing Pentecostalism ( Alta Mira Press, 2003).


This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, www.SpiritualityHealth.com. For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see www.SpiritualityHealth.com/subs. Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at www.caregivershome.com. Contact staff directly via email at ASKspirituality@spiritualityhealth.com.

© 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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