Thousands Flock to Revival in Search of Miracles

UPDATE: After this story aired on "Nightline," Fresh Fire Ministries released a statement announcing that preacher Todd Bentley would be taking time off "to refresh and to rest" after having spent four months in Lakeland, Fla., leading revival meetings. Their Lakeland broadcasts on GOD TV were put on hold. Bentley returned on July 18 and has resumed broadcasting from Lakeland.

A middle-aged woman suffering from ovarian cancer shakes back and forth, speaking in tongues.

A young child with spina bifida and splints on his legs tears them off and bolts across the stage. He cries as he declares that his legs have strength like never before.

"The boy's been healed," says the preacher as thousands cheer him on.


Meanwhile, Bill Wise sits quietly with one arm raised to the sky, the other tightly clutching his 2-year-old daughter, who was born with her bladder and colon outside of her body.

He prays for a miracle.

Todd Bentley, a tattooed Canadian, stands with a microphone in one hand and the other stretched out to this electrified crowd of nearly 10,000.

"Bam!" He yells. "Bam, bam, bam!"

Several people onstage with him collapse to the ground.

Bentley has led a rapidly growing throng of people from all over the world in a religious revival that has transformed the small city of Lakeland, Fla., into the center of an international phenomenon.

Wise flew from Seattle with his daughter, Caelyn, in hopes that Bentley would be able to help his child where modern medicine has failed.

Like so many here, Wise believes Bentley has a special connection with God.

"He is very close with the Lord," Wise said. "He has actively and passionately pursued God. My daughter needs a miracle."

Tens of thousands of others like Wise are making a pilgrimage to this small city in central Florida in hopes of finding a miracle.

Spreading the Word

Thanks to the Internet and satellite television, word of the revival spread quickly around the world to people like Jim Carter, who came to Lakeland from Anaheim, Calif., with his wife and daughter.

"We've been watching on the Internet since it started, basically," he said. "We just wanted to come down and first-hand experience."

Carter added, "We just want more of God, more of his presence and to see God change our country and bring America back to God."

From the looks of it, Carter's daughter, Tanya, is a typical American teenager. But she is deaf.

"She was onstage last night around 11 o'clock," Carter said. "Todd prayed for her, and she said she actually felt fire and heat in her right ear."

"The crowd just keeps growing," said Bentley. "We're drawing anywhere from five to ten thousand people a night, and up to 70 percent of the crowd is brand new every night," he said. "And they're coming from all over the world, more than 130 nations, from every background."

A Dark Past

With his arms, legs and chest covered in tattoos and his lip pierced with a stud, Bentley is not the image of an evangelist most people have in mind.

Born in British Columbia, Canada, Bentley said he led a rough life before finding God.

He says his mom raised him on welfare, parading a succession of boyfriends through the house. When he saw his dad, even as boy, Bentley said it was to get drunk together and do drugs.

"You know it's a cycle of destructive abuse. Alcoholism, drugs, drinking at 11, I got involved in all kinds of criminal activity and ended up in prison before I was 15," he said.

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