Revival churches claim that God is working countless amazing miracles in developing countries – especially Papua New Guinea. But these claims are seldom subjected to outside scrutiny. Dig beneath the surface and a darker picture emerges.
In 2014, the ABC reported on Helen Samilo, an HIV-positive woman who had “fallen prey to the revivalist message.” They said:
Revival church responsible for death: activist
Health workers have told the ABC revivalists visit hospitals and clinics telling HIV patients to throw away their medication.
In a case that shocked many, one of PNG’s first openly HIV-positive women, Helen Samilo, fell prey to the revivalist message.
Even though she was working as an advocate for anti-retroviral treatment, Ms Samilo joined a revivalist church, stopped taking medication, and died in August last year.
“It’s just the revival church that told her not to take her medication. They are responsible for her death,” [Margaret] Anton, a friend of Ms Samilo, said.
To add insult to injury, principal pastor Godfrey Wippon – who enjoys Revival Fellowship celebrity status in PNG and around the world – gave his own tone-deaf perspective:
She has been healed spiritually. She died physically, naturally. But spiritually she’s right with the Lord.
Sounding like a decades-old scratched record, he went on to say:
[Revival Centres PNG] is growing because of healings, miracles, wonders, signs happening in this ministry. The Lord heals.
Well that’s all very well, but the Lord clearly didn’t heal Helen Samilo. He clearly didn’t heal countless other Revival church members who died in the false hope that God would restore them to health.
The reality is, many “healings” in Revival churches are due to medical intervention, natural recovery, or plain good luck. Yes, some happy outcomes were unlikely, but they need to be seen within the wider context of all people in similar situations who pray for a miracle. Some get “the victory.” Many don’t. As for “impossible” miracles – Revival churches should invite some scientific scrutiny before they get carried away telling and retelling these stories.
Another ABC report said:
The head of the Revivalist church in PNG, who also happens to be a former Radio Australia journalist, believes he can cure AIDS and bring people back from the dead. But as correspondent Liam Cochrane discovers, this sort of faith healing is killing Papua New Guineans with HIV.
The reporter witnessed a baptism:
One of the converts was carried out with a friend following behind clutching a bag of urine still attached to a catheter. He looked like he had come straight from hospital and he looked very ill.
According to the Revivalist Centre of PNG, these baptisms are the moment when people accept the power of God: a power that extends to healing the sick.
After the baptism, the ill-looking man did manage to stumble out, sort of on his own two feet, but mostly supported by a friend on each arm. As he stood unsteadily, receiving further blessing, his eyes rolled around and he still looked very ill.
PNG attitude reports on a Revival rally in the capital city Port Moresby:
Pastor Wippon’s healing message – no more than a death cult…
When nature called, the men and children jumped over the sewerage ways surrounding the oval to urinate and defecate. …
One lady said her brother had married a church member from Kimbe. They had been married for close to two years but the lady had stopped going to church and, as a result, her HIV had returned and she was now in the final stages of AIDS.
I was angry upon hearing this. I work in this field and know that HIV does not disappear when you are baptised, whether with fire, water or oil.
The writer tried in vain to educate these Revivalists – hearing in horror about their actions which were likely to result in multiple deaths – and continued:
I said that if her sister-in-law died due or if her brother became infected not to call us wantoks [friends or community] to the funeral. …
Pastor Wippon’s Revival has all the signs and symptoms of a death cult…
Papua New Guineans, it seems, use more emotion and less logic and ethics. As such they are more vulnerable to deception and exploitation.
These growing Revival Centres in Papua New Guinea pose a real danger to the success of the HIV response in our country.
So next time a Revival church tries to tell you about people in developing countries being raised from the dead or healed from incurable diseases, remember – you are only hearing one side of the story. There is no outside scrutiny of these “testimonies”. They haven’t been medically verified. Word-of-mouth is a powerful force for turning the truth into highly biased lies. And even if the story is true, you are being lied to by the omission of countless other heartbreaking experiences. The Lord heals, until he doesn’t.
And whatever you do, if you’re unwell, please for the love of your own life go see a qualified doctor. Their medically proven science-based advice has more life-saving potential than your local Revival church.
Note: This article relates to The Revival Fellowship (known also as Revival Centres of PNG). A similar, related church is called Revival Centres Church and Revival Centres International. These groups separated from each other in 1995. Miraculous healing testimonies from either group should be treated with caution.