Looking Back @ the Toronto Blessing

With friends I met in 1996
Twenty-five years ago today, a supernatural move of God began at a church near the Toronto airport. When guest speaker Randy Clark prayed over congregation members that night, they started shaking, hollering, and doing other things religious folk would consider disruptive. However, there were changed lives as a result of what became known as “The Toronto Blessing” (or “The Father’s Blessing” as Pastor John Arnott prefers calling it). Soon people from all over the world flocked to Toronto Airport Vineyard to experience a fresh touch from God.

By 1995, both pastors and lay people from my home church in Minnesota were making pilgrimages to Toronto. One woman who visited there invited a group of us to watch videos of services from Toronto Airport Vineyard. Initially, I wasn’t impressed because the preaching didn’t sound “charismatic” enough. The worship music gradually appealed to me because of its unique passionate sound not often heard in churches back then. 

One September morning, I woke up with a strong prompting to look up Bible verses about how much God loves us. When I called a friend for suggestions, she told me about a special church service happening that afternoon. The main speaker happened to be John Arnott. Guess what the title of his message was? “The Love of God.” After I went forward to receive prayer, a couple approached me and said my life would never be the same.

A few weeks later in November 1995, another friend informed me he had just gotten back from Toronto. He was going there again the following week and suggested I come along. Upon learning Toronto Airport Vineyard was having a Healing School that week, I knew this was my time to go. Despite forgiving those who hurt me in the past, I needed more “spiritual surgery.” During the meetings we attended, I felt unusual things happening in my heart. I enjoyed the presence of God at Toronto Airport Vineyard and desired to go back there again. 

In 1996, the Lord directed me to resign from my job and eventually move to Toronto. I left Minnesota with $120 not knowing where to stay. To make a long story short, I found a house near the church where the owner allowed guests to live there for free. Except for one night, I went to every renewal service at (the renamed) Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship during my two-month stay, wanting to receive as much “soaking prayer” as possible. The prayer team members kept telling me to “quit striving” and just receive. Many times while lying on the floor doing “carpet time”, I felt pains shooting out of my heart. God removed more hurts that I had suffered over the years. 

At the last renewal service I attended in November 1996, I was lying on the carpet and felt something “pop” in my sinuses. Prior to that night, one of my nostrils was always plugged up whenever I breathed through my nose. Because I used to think that was normal, I received a healing in my nasal cavity I didn’t know I needed! 

During the next few years, the Lord sent me to numerous Brownsville Revival meetings in Pensacola, Florida. Their worship leader and the pastor’s wife had experienced the Toronto Blessing just before their revival broke out. Still, I preferred going to Toronto and made two quick trips there in 1999. 

Then in October 2005, I returned to TACF for another season of soaking in the Father’s love. I needed inner healing following a short-lived marriage to a verbally abusive spouse. I also spent time taking the gospel to the streets of Toronto and got to pray with 100 people there to receive salvation. Like the church mission statement says: “That we may walk in God’s love and then give it away” (the above photo has a German translation of that phrase). Before the decade was over, I made three more visits to Toronto.

This week the church that now calls itself Catch the Fire is having a Revival 25 Conference commemorating the silver anniversary of the Toronto Blessing. Critics may continue to fuss about manifestations but no one can convince me this is not of God. There are testimonials from many other people whose lives were changed as a result of visiting this church. One of them is my friend John Scotland who offers this advice: “Don’t look at the suit…examine the fruit.”

“Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” - Matthew 7:20

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