“For there is the sound of a heavy rain…”1 Kings 18:41
I grew up in the valleys of Wales. I come from a town of history, and depending on who’s talking, infamy as well – Merthyr Tydfil. There is evidence on display in our museum of arrow heads and pottery dating to 6,000BC. No one knows what the area was called then but during Roman Occupation there was a Garrison of 500 soldiers located in an area called Penydarren during 69-96AD. In the fifth century the town was named after a woman called Tydfil. She was a powerful woman of God who had a gift of healing. She would pray for sick people, and animals alike, and Jesus would heal them. The “Merthyr” part of our town’s name means “Martyr”, Tydfil was killed by Pagan warriors on the banks of the River Taff. There is a Church there built to mark both her Mission base and the site of her martyrdom – St Tydfil’s Parish Church.
I am not an official “Merthyr Boy” because I was born in another county, I am a “Gwenty”, my Parents moved to Merthyr when I was a child. However, Merthyr is where I cut some serious teeth, my boot camp, the place where needed foundations were laid in my life, where I learned to follow the Spirit, and grew in the things of God.
I married in 2003 in St Louis and my then wife joined me in Merthyr Tydfil. We eventually moved to a mountain farming town called Brecon, 18 miles north of Merthyr, to pioneer a work there. I had worked into Brecon for many yeas before I was married and always had a heart for the town. During our time in Brecon we moved out into the country side and God was moving upon us to consider moving to America. We had our two children by 2006 and a move was set for 2007. Back in 2005 I was walking across a meadow on the farm land we lived on (see photo below. you can see the meadow on the right) and I believe the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said:
“The next move that you will see will be a Reformation of Practice”Holy Spirit, 2005
I didn’t fully understand what he meant, and He did not explain further, and so I said “Amen”, and filed that word.
The original plan was for us to move to Memphis to work with an inner-city ministry. I was VERY excited about this because in the summer of 1991, when I was 16, the Lord told me that I would live and work in an African American community. So when this position to work in Memphis came up, we were excited. My wife had done a summer internship at this particular ministry, so she was familiar with what to expect and was excited also. We had visited Memphis twice in the time leading up to our official move date and on the second visit everything changed. For some unknown reason everything that was offered was rescinded. We were very hurt and disappointed. We had invested a lot of money into getting passports for the children, visas for myself, and other costs involved. When we got home to Wales it took a little while to get over the shock and we had a decision to make, do we still go ahead with the move or not?
We sat on the couch, held hands, and I prayed a simple prayer, “Lord, we could use some sort of sign to confirm that we should move to America”. What happened next has never happened before, or since, and it was only a few months ago that God reminded me of this phenomenon and how it has marked my whole time here in America. Approximately above the same meadow that I spoke about earlier that you can see in the photo, about 150-200 feet in the air, out of nowhere, a cloud formed in a rolling motion until is was about 4-6ft high and 7-8ft wide. I said to my wife “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” and she said “Yeah, the cloud!”. That’s all we could muster out of shock. The cloud lasted for 10-20 seconds, maybe less, and then rolled back in on itself and disappeared. It looked like one of those time lapse videos of clouds forming, but this happened in real time. In amazement I said “Well I guess we’re going to America”.
The Kairos Visas
My family had moved in July of 2007 because my wife was going to begin a teaching job, and I wanted to finish out another successful government inspection with the Catholic charity I worked for in Brecon. We passed the inspection with commendations from the Inspectorate. I left my job in September and was ready to leave.
My visa had been in the pipeline for a few months so I could not buy a ticket until my visa came. Months before we had left we had decided to become part of a sister church to our worldwide network of churches in St Louis. We had been released and sent as a family from our home church in Merthyr, so everything was set. All I needed was my visa, but it was not coming. One day I called the embassy to ask when I could expect my visa, the lady said “Mr James it is out with the courier today. You should receive it before 8pm”. This was mid October. Well 8pm came and went, no visa. I called the next day to ask what had happened – “Mr James, I have no idea why but it was recalled to us in the middle of the day”. It eventually arrived two weeks later. I was frustrated and eager to be with my family and this was odd why the visa had been recalled.
I arrived on a Thursday evening in St Louis. Saturday our family attended a social event at the Church we were joining. Sunday we attended service and something was wrong. My spirit was jarred, I said to my wife, who was very prophetic herself, and she agreed. By the Friday of that week this Church that had been in St Louis for almost forty years, and had multiple campuses across the city, SPLIT big time!! It was then that I understood WHY my visa had been delayed six weeks. If I had been there six weeks earlier I would’ve been much more involved in the Church, because I was ready to serve and help out, and that would’ve made it difficult to make a decision of what to do. I would have stayed with the original Church leader because I believe the split was not of God and wrong. But staying with the main leader would’ve been wrong for us also. It was a mess. God withheld my Visa to save us making a decision.
In the Bible kairos means an “opportune time, a Divine season”. So that will always be my Kairos Visa because God moved me here when He wanted me here. I believe the reason it was sent and recalled for no reason was to highlight that very point. Such Grace.
When Heaven Invades Earth
Coming into 2008 a few notable things happened that would set me up for one of the most roller coaster rides of my life. The first thing is that my father asked me “Joe, have you heard of this guy called Bill Johnson from California?” and I replied that I did not. My father continued “Well I’m reading his book called ‘When Heaven Invades Earth’ and it sounds right up your alley”. I ordered the book and around the new year I started to read it. The opening chapter told an amazing story and I had this thought – “I think this is that Reformation of Practice that You told me about in 2005, Holy Spirit?” – and Bill even used the word Reformation many times. That began my relationship with Bethel Church. We listened to every sermon we could and read all of the books we could. This was truly something fresh and it was Revival.
During the opening weeks of January I was praying and the Holy Spirit spoke three things to me:
You are going to see three things happen shortly 1) A politician will be exposed in the news for his corruption 2) There will be lights in the sky, and 3) There will be a non-destructive earthquake in St Louis
I was a little shocked about the earthquake bit and blamed that on bad pizza. I did not know really how to respond so I said ok and waited. I turned on the news the next day to keep an eye out, I don’t watch the news or regular TV, and all over the news was the exposing of, if I remember, the Governor of Illinois. I didn’t break into dance quite yet. Then within a few weeks several comets that astronomers were not expecting appeared in the heavens. I still didn’t dance, but two out of three. Well, when the earthquake didn’t hit I settled on it being pizza. Except, at 4:30am in April I was awoken with my bed shaking to an earthquake that woke St Louis up. The Holy Spirit laughed and said “I told you so!”. What did it mean? Why did he say all of that?
Things were tough at home. I was in a deep spell of depression for different reasons. We were struggling as a couple, a family, financially, and things were not getting better. We were desperate. I don’t care what critics have to say about Todd Bentley and the Lakeland Outpouring, Todd is a dear friend of mine now, but I did not know him in 2008. Again, my father said “Have you heard about what’s happening in Lakeland Florida? A revival is going on. Me and your Mother are watching it every night on GodTV. You should go”. So we did in May of 2008. I drove 17hrs straight from St Louis to Lakeland. The first night, a Thursday, I went to the meeting alone as my wife got the kids down to bed in the motel. I was exhausted. I just sat there in my chair and watched and observed.
I took a stroll to the bathroom and as I exited the main auditorium I was shocked at the sight I saw in the hallways. Bodies were everywhere. Some laughed enjoying the Holy Spirit, but the vast amount of people were on their faces before God. I had to step over bodies to get to the bathroom. They were not here for Todd, they were here because God was here. The atmosphere was electric. Charged. I’ll never forget that. I made my way back to my seat and I can’t remember exactly when He said it, but that sweet voice said “Turn to Psalm 68:8”. Ever since being a teenager He has used this way of teaching me. He would tell me to read a verse, then turn to a certain page in a book, and it would be an explanation on the verse I just read, all supernatural. So when He told me to turn to Psalm 68:8 I did what I’ve done a thousand times over the years, and turned to Psalm 68:8. I had my New Living Translation with me that night:
“The earth trembled, and the heavens poured down rain”Psalm 68:8
The Holy Spirit then said:
“There is coming a move of God to St Louis that will go to the ends of the earth. I will come like the rain”
I was blown away. Up until that point I was not happy about living in St Louis. It did not feel like home. I was depressed because even though it’s an English speaking country, the cultures are so different. I found ALL of the churches I had attended so boring and lifeless and void of ANY power of God. I did not like St Louis. We had considered moving to Redding California to be part of Bethel Church, something fresh and in revival. But that night, when exhausted, the words from the Holy Spirit fired something in me. He continued to show me other events that would happen in the coming years, which I won’t share here, but suddenly I saw St Louis in a different light.
When I got back from Lakeland I researched prophetic words over St Louis. A pastor from Twin Rivers Church in South County has compiled a list of these words (I will talk more about these later), over one hundred years of prophecy about a Revival beginning in St Louis that would go to the ends of the earth, just like He told me in Lakeland. So, what did I do? I went straight to the St Charles Conference Center and booked it for five nights in September. My initial plan was to invite Todd Bentley to come bring Revival to St Louis! (a mentor did talk some wisdom into me and I cancelled the booking, but in light of the flame in my heart, booking that venue seemed appropriate, maybe I should have kept the booking).
The day I went to book the facility I had both of my kids with me. After booking the dates I was walking out holding my three year old son’s hand and pushing my daughter in the stroller. My son, Nathan, broke out of my hand and ran away from me. Now that was a common occurrence, that boy could run. But he stopped by this wall that had no windows, pictures, or art work, just a blank brick wall. When I caught up with him he was pointing at different parts of the wall saying “Look Daddy, angels, angels”. In my frustration at him running away I picked him up and he was looking over my shoulder pointing and still saying “Angels, Daddy, angels”. I regret not stopping and seeking God at that place, my 3yr old son was seeing with his eyes the angelic realm. Oh how we can miss things.
Part 2 coming soon…