A two-week trip to minister at a Brazilian church gave the Rev. Daniel Nicholson a radical shift of perspective.
"When I got back to Lawrence, it was a little bit different. At our Wednesday night Bible study here, we usually have six people attending, whereas the week before, I had about 6,000," said Nicholson, pastor of Lawrence Christian Center, 1031 N.H.
Nicholson spent March 17 through April 3 preaching and teaching about healing at the Igreja Batista da Lagoinha, a Baptist church in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
The church has a congregation of 40,000 and a three-level, five-year-old indoor sanctuary that can seat 6,000 people.
While there, Nicholson taught on the subject of divine healing to more than 600 students in the church's Bible college, the Charisma Training Center in Belo Horizonte. He also led services in the church's sanctuary, where he preached on healing and the laying on of hands to 2,000 to 6,000 people each time he stepped to the pulpit.
On Sundays, the church has 10 worship services, so that the whole congregation can be accommodated. The congregation's in the midst of building an indoor sanctuary that will be able to seat 40,000 worshippers at once.
"I preached 35 times in two weeks," Nicholson said. "There were some days when I preached five times a day. It was incredible. The pastor there joked with me: 'You're the Energizer Bunny.'"
Nicholson's words were translated into Portuguese -- Brazil's national language -- by a team of six interpreters who took turns translating his teachings.
He was awed by the experience of preaching to so many people, but he wasn't intimidated.
"My personal opinion is that the size of the crowd doesn't matter," he said. "It's the content of the message. You want to reach people one at a time. This was just a greater opportunity to reach more people at once."
Wanting to experience God
The Lawrence pastor received the invitation to minister to Igreja Batista da Lagoinha because of a book he wrote and self-published in 1987, "Remembering His Benefits."
The slim volume is based upon the Bible's Psalm 103, verses 1-3, which is about the forgiveness of sin and the healing of illnesses.
Charistmatic Christians like Nicholson believe the gifts of the spirit that Jesus described in the Great Commission, Mark 16:18 -- including divine healing through the laying on of hands -- are available to Christians today.
Nicholson had 10,000 copies of his book printed in the United States, and one of those copies found its way into the hands of the dean of the Brazilian church's Bible college.
The pastor of Igreja Batista da Lagoinha contacted Nicholson by e-mail in late 2002 and invited him to visit the Bible college to teach about divine healing.
Nicholson already had a personal tie to the school. A friend of his, Mie Kawasaki, who attended a Bible college in Tulsa, Okla., about a year ago, teaches at the school in Belo Horizonte. Nicholson and Kawasaki met through mutual friends when she was in the United States.
"I was really very thrilled by the invitation. It was one of the most wonderful things in my ministry. When they read my book, they liked it so much they invited me to come down," Nicholson said.
Once there, he began to teach students at the Bible college. The school has religious services every afternoon, and the community is welcome to bring in sick people to receive prayers for their health. Four hundred to 500 people showed up for the services while Nicholson was there.
"As I'm teaching on my book, after we had these services and we began to pray for the sick, the church's pastors said, 'We want you to come to the main church and teach and preach,'" he recalled.
That's when Nicholson began to lead healing services for thousands of worshippers.
"After preaching, I'd give an invitation for people to come forward for prayer, and the response was overwhelming. I went down into the crowd and laid hands on the people and began to pray for them," he said.
"These people rushed to the altar; they wanted to be touched. An hour before the services begin, they're lined up waiting to get in. They're wanting to experience the presence of God in their services."
No medicine but faith
Nicholson's presence in Belo Horizonte was felt far beyond the confines of the church sanctuary.
Igreja Batista da Lagoinha owns its own television station -- Channel 23 in Brazil -- that broadcasts to the entire nation. Nicholson appeared on three 30-minute special programs with the son of the church's founding pastor and Kawasaki.
Nicholson was interviewed by the pastor's son, who then invited the viewing audience to receive the Lawrence pastor's prayers for their healing.
"It was an incredible opportunity. I was very excited and privileged to have it," Nicholson said.
He explained the enthusiastic response he received in Brazil, a country where, as in many Third World nations, charismatic Christianity is exploding.
"A lot of these countries believe in doctors and medicine as we do, but sometimes that's not available. So they're forced to believe in God for miracles and healings. They have to pray and trust in God, because they have no alternatives," Nicholson said.
He feels deeply rewarded by his recent trip abroad.
"I have been a Christian since 1975, I've been ordained since 1979 and I've traveled to over 40 states and 27 nations. This experience in Brazil was one of the highlights of my ministry," he said.
"I believe what we (he and the Brazilian church's pastors) accomplished was that we exposed many people to the love of God, and that love is expressed through healing, forgiveness and deliverance."