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Entries in Testimonies (23)

Thursday
Jan162014

Storybook Endings and the Porterfields 

Rebekah and Rick Porterfield, visitng New York City. (Click to enlarge)I think it is safe to say that most people prefer stories that end on a happy note. Stories where the good guys win and the bad guys lose—happily-ever-after, storybook endings. Sometimes though, the details leading up to the endings many love are, well, unhappy. The Porterfield's story is one of those that will leave you scratching your head until you realize that no one is beyond God's reach, and that He is the greatest author of storybook endings.

What happens when the story's main characters, Rick (a selfishly driven, politically-minded, corporate ladder-climbing, alcoholic, atheist) and Rebekah (a church-raised, wounded, single mother of two) have their paths cross? The obvious answer is...marriage, of course. Yes, after living together for a while, Rick and Rebekah were united in marriage, and not for the cliché, romantic reasons some yield to, but for more practical reasons like paying less taxes. As unfortunate as this description sounds, it is true, and once Rick and Rebekah were married, things really became ugly.

When Rebekah and Rick first met, she was still a Sergeant in the Air Force. Rick had gotten out of the Air Force where he served as a Staff Sergeant and was working Civil Service.
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Things were so rough for the Porterfields at one point, that Rebekah was convinced that Rick had tried to poison her. As circumstances continued to get worse, she eventually began to suspect that Rick was the "Anti-Christ"—literally. Distraught and looking for a way to separate herself from the reality of her life, Rebekah briefly turned to using drugs.

After years of struggling, the two sought counseling. Rick said, "We chose the most highly recommended counselor where we lived, a PhD psychologist. She told us that in her 15 years of counseling, we were the only hopeless couple she had ever seen. She advised us to get a divorce."

Rebekah also met with the counselor once on her own, and the counselor told her that Rick had the personality type of a serial killer. She went on to tell Rebekah that Rick could turn on her at any moment and could be capable of anything. She instructed Rebekah to take the kids and what she could get in the car and leave. Of course this confirmed Rebekah's suspicions, but for some reason, she didn't leave.

The Porterfields at the office party. Rebekah had just turned back to the Lord, and Rick was still an atheist and a full-blown alcoholic. (Click to enlarge)Although they had agreed to file for a divorce, the Porterfields were trapped by their financial situation; neither could afford a divorce attorney, nor sustain life on their own. With nothing left and nowhere else to run, Rebekah turned back to God.

Rebekah found peace in her new church surroundings and Rick continued in his unfeeling ways. That is until he needed Rebekah for an office party. Rick needed her to be there for the sake of appearance, to avoid coworkers asking prying questions—it just would not have looked good for Rick, if she wasn't there. Rebekah agreed to attend the party with one catch; Rick would have to agree to attend church with her. Both agreed.

Rick's attendance at church changed his life. What he encountered was pure love—something he had never witnessed before. The love he felt was so tangible that he could no longer deny God's existence. Rick said, "Atheism can't stand up to love. Once you know that God is real, your options become very limited. You only have two; The day the Porterfields re-said their wedding vows. They were originally married by a Justice of the Peace. After Rick was born again, he asked Rebekah if she would like to re-say their vows and have a real wedding. "When we first got married, she bought a wedding dress and wanted a nice wedding. All that meant nothing to me, so I basically coerced her into the cheap JOP route. She left her wedding dress in the closet, and we got married during my lunch hour. In this picture though, she is wearing that dress." (Click to enlarge)you can accept Him or you can reject Him. Only a fool rejects God when they know He is real." A few days later, Rick was born again and a miracle happened; he no longer had the desire for alcohol. Rick has been sober since. This was the turning point for the Porterfield's marriage.

Much has changed for the Porterfields over the past 23 years. As they walked out their marriage restoration, the Lord rebuilt their foundation from the ground up. "God's word put our marriage back together. Where the best man had to offer (the top counselor in the area) could not help, God's word had answers that worked. The Word was enough to radically change their lives. How radically? Rick and Rebakah have been involved with marriage ministry since 1994, and the two founded Faith Family Church in 2008.

Rick came across Andrew's teaching in 2008 and he credits Andrew with bringing greater balance and insight to the word, and to grace, that he didn't have before. Although Rick was greatly impacted by Andrew's teaching from the outset, it did take Rebekah some time to give Andrew a chance. Initially, Andrew's style and tone reminded her of her religious upbringing, and she wanted nothing to do with him. However, after agreeing to attend Andrew's 2012 Gospel Truth Seminar in Atlanta, Rebekah was hooked by Andrew's message, The Balance of Grace & Faith.

The Porterfield's children in 2005, Sidney, Spencer, Madison and Vincent.
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(Spoiler alert) Here's the happily-ever-after ending... Over the years the Porterfield's ministry has grown and opportunities to share the almost-too-good-to-be-true-news have increased. Today the Porterfields use their experience and the word to help people from all walks of life. Some couples fly in on private jets, some come in virtually penniless, and the results are the same—marriages are restored because the word works. And, the Porterfields have recently become part of Andrew's Association of Related Ministries International (ARMI).

Rick shared, "There are still challenges, like Andrew says, 'The devil didn't just roll over and play dead,' but we are doing the word and overcoming. Our marriage continues to be strong, and we continue to see the relationships of others saved. We see people being healed of big and small things (from ingrown toenails to heart disease and stage four cancer). I know God has a lot more for us, and we are eager to walk into it and receive it."

The Porterfields love teaching people what God has taught them as far as marriage is concerned, and they have published a book on the subject as well, Marriage By The Book. "We have seen couples go from getting a divorce to being fully committed to each other and serving in the ministry," said Rick.

Monday
Dec162013

Finding Grace and Fellowship

Pastor Steve and Holly McIntosh found freedom in the message of God's unconditional love and grace.
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Steve McIntosh had served as the senior pastor of a denominational church in Indiana for nearly two decades, when he and his wife, Holly, took a leap of faith and launched a new, non-denominational gathering in their home. While their time serving their previous congregation was not without its blessings, they had been described by others in leadership as, "square pegs trying to fit into a round hole." So, in 2005 they broke away from denominational restrictions and began to share the Gospel with less formality and less legalism.

Not long after taking steps away from religious tradition, Steve and Holly were introduced to the Gospel Truth. Holly's mother, Marilyn Byers, mentioned that she had come across Andrew's television program, and in passing, she quipped that she thought, "He had some good things to say." Steve and Holly tuned in to the Gospel Truth and quickly agreed with Marilyn's assessment of Andrew's teaching.

Holly's mom, Marilyn Byers, introduced Steve and Holly to Andrew's TV program, The Gospel Truth. (Click to enlarge)Andrew's series, Spirit, Soul and Body, began to transform Steve and Holly's understanding of the Gospel of Grace, but it still took a little time to shed the mentality of performance-based Christianity. For Holly in particular, the transition was difficult. Her struggle with letting go of self effort led to feelings of condemnation, fear and nagging doubts. Steve said Holly wrestled with many questions asking, Would she really make it to heaven if she somehow missed the mark? Was she doing everything good enough? Had she confessed all her sins? It wasn't until after they listened to Andrew's message, You've Already Got It, that they realized that God's love is unconditional, and not based on an individual's performance, but on Jesus' finished work. Receiving that revelation and truth resulted in a turning point in their lives and ministry. "We now walk in freedom, knowing that we don't have to earn God's love," said Steve.

Now that Steve and Holly have the revelation of what Jesus truly accomplished, they can't help but minister and relate to others in the powerful freedom of God's abundant grace. Pastor Steve leading worship at Discovery Church in Fishers, Indiana. (Click to enlarge)In sharing their own freedom, Steve and Holly have seen the burdens of guilt, shame, and religion lifted off the lives of others to whom God has led them to minister.

Although the revelation of God's goodness and unconditional love is glorious, it was not always welcomed with open arms. The McIntoshes struggled to find community among other ministers in the early going of their newly-found freedom. Steve said, "After we left the denomination, we felt like we were an island unto ourselves, especially after receiving the revelation of God's unconditional love and grace. We tried to associate with other ministers, but felt we did not fit in because of the new covenant teaching we had received."

As a result of one of Andrew's broadcasts, Steve and Holly were able to find the fellowship and community for which they longed. Through the Gospel Truth they were introduced to Andrew and the McIntoshes during an ARMI conference held at the CBC campus in Colorado Springs, (Click to enlarge)Andrew's new organization, the Association of Related Ministries International (ARMI). The mission of this new endeavor is to make available the experience, expertise, and operational knowledge of the staff of Andrew Wommack Ministries, CBC, and a vast pool of experienced professionals from around the world who are totally committed to the success of those who serve the needs of others through the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. "We knew there had to be other like-minded believers. We couldn't wait to attend the first ARMI conference, and we were so blessed to meet others who had this same revelation. We have gained many new friends, and it is such an encouragement to be able to share in the 'good news' message," Steve remarked.

Steve recognizes the tremendous impact Andrew's ministry has made in both the McIntosh’s lives and the lives of those around them. Steve mentioned how the changes in he and Holly impressed their daughter, Kay. Kay, 27, has been involved with the Steve and Holly's ministry her whole life. The changes she witnessed in her parents prompted her to tell Steve, that for the first time in her life, the Christian message makes sense.

"This glorious message has changed my teaching, life and ministry, not only in our lives personally, but in the people I minister to every week. People are receiving the Good News of the gospel instead of condemnation! We are so thankful for Andrew and his ministry to us," said Steve.

Thursday
May232013

Andrew Wommack Ministries of Europe Welcomes David Illingworth

The new Director of Andrew Wommack Ministries of Europe, David Illingworth and his wonderful wife, Lesley.
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Pure gold streams of water poured from a waterfall, emptying into a serene, shimmering gold pool. As David Illingworth gazed upon the beauty of the scene, he sensed the Lord beckoning him to stand in the pool under the golden waterfall. David obeyed and as he did, the gold water was absorbed into every fiber of his being. At that moment, he realized he wasn’t standing under a waterfall made of water but, rather, of God’s pure, unconditional love.

After receiving this life-changing vision in 2009, David knew without a doubt that God was calling him into kingdom service and out of the corporate world he had known his entire life. “At first I didn’t know what God was calling me to do,” says David. “I just felt compelled to learn more about God and His love.”

David speaking at his daughter's wedding. (Click to enlarge)A year prior, David was exposed to Andrew Wommack Ministries Europe (AWME) when a friend was diagnosed with cancer. David was given Andrew’s teaching God Wants You Well, and it completely changed the way he thought about and prayed for healing. Andrew taught God’s Word in a way that David had never heard before, and he wanted to hear more. In the fall of 2009, he enrolled in the Charis Bible College (CBC) correspondence course from his home in England.

After devouring the lessons, David was ready to move to Walsall and begin his second year at CBC. His wife, Lesley, wasn’t thrilled with the idea at first. But God spoke to her heart, and the Illingworths were off to Walsall. Upon graduating in 2011, David and Lesley decided to return for a third year.

“During my second year, God told me He wanted me to get to know Him. But during my third year, He said He needed me to get David (back row) stands with his CBC classmates in Walsall. (Click to enlarge) to know myself,” recalls David. By the end of David’s third year, God’s love had given him an unshakable hope, solidifying his faith and enabling him to minister in God’s grace. “I grew to understand who I am in God’s love, which has released peace into my heart,” explains David.

After their third year at CBC, the Illingworths didn’t know where to go next. “I had no plans and no open doors,” says David. “God just kept telling me to wait.” With his vast business background in sales, management, and organizational consulting, along with his global experiences from traveling to over seventy-five countries, there were numerous paths in the natural he could have pursued. But instead of pushing doors open, he simply waited on God. The payoff came in the form of a phone call.

David and Lesley participating in some CBC Christmas party fun.
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“I received a call one day informing me that I was being considered as the new CEO of AWME,” recalls David. “As I thought about it, I realized the position perfectly fulfilled all that God had shown me and prepared me for over the years.”

In September 2012, David took the helm at AWME, taking over for Will Graham who had stepped down after serving as director since 2005. Under Will’s leadership, teaching materials have been translated into many European, African, and Asian languages, and Walsall became home for AWME and CBC West Midlands. But Will’s heart was primarily that of a pastor, and in May 2012, the opportunity arose for him to return as a full-time pastor to a growing church.David (back row) serving as part of the volunteer staff at Andrew's annual Grace & Faith Conference in the UK. (Click to enlarge)

Now that David is on board, he hopes to concentrate on developing relationships within the surrounding communities as well as nearby churches. “Many of the churches in the area see us as undermining their authority. We’re working on building trust by partnering with them to serve those in our cities,” says David. He’s confident that once those in Walsall and beyond taste of God’s love through these relationships, they will want to be a part of what AWME has to offer.