Wind, Rain, and the Touch of Angels
The 1993 Honda Civic DX motored up Interstate 5 through California’s Central Valley, carrying Bryan and Mercedes Marleaux north from their home in Corona del Mar in Orange County. Almost 450 miles later, the little black car transitioned into the city of Oakland. The Honda still had gas in its tank, but Bryan and Mercedes felt like the two of them were running on fumes.
The exhausting, all-day drive wearied their bodies, especially as they entered Bay Area traffic congestion. Yet other issues weighed on their minds. As itinerant evangelists with Grace World Mission, the Marleauxes often deal with challenging financial situations. They preach the gospel and minister in the power of God wherever he tells them to go, in the United States or internationally, trusting him to provide. The invitation for this current trip, for instance, came without discussion of honorarium or other compensation.
Yet that November of 1998, thirty-five-year-old Bryan faced daunting student loan bills from his master’s degree program at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena. With no guaranteed paycheck, he could not see where funds would come from. Once again, God was teaching him and Mercedes to walk by faith, not by sight.
The little storefront church in Oakland, called the Assembly of God, hosted an independent Spanish-speaking congregation not affiliated with the similarly named denomination. Mercedes, a native of Argentina and herself a gifted preacher, would minister side by side with Bryan, translating for him during this three-day campaign.
“Looks like we’re going to be late,” Bryan muttered as the clock ticked past the 7:00 P.M. scheduled start of the opening meeting that Friday night. By the time they found the church, nestled in a run-down neighborhood, it was almost half past seven. As they parked, a sign across the street on a mortuary building caught Bryan’s eye: “Fuller Funerals,” it read.
He stared at the words. OK, Lord, are you trying to send me a message? In the midst of his discouragement Bryan sensed the Holy Spirit wanting to take him—once again—through a death process, teaching him not to rely on his own easily depleted strength and resources. A verse from his message for that evening rose to mind: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”
(2 Cor 12:9).
The two peeled themselves off the car seats and went inside with a box of materials to set up on a table in the back of the room. They heaved sighs of relief that the worship team was still leading, and Mercedes went to let someone know they had arrived.
Pastor Ricardo Puell greeted them warmly. His congregation of about 150 had invited another Pentecostal church in nearby Alameda to attend the weekend campaign, and many had brought guests, so perhaps 250 people nearly filled the room.
Bryan’s message that night centered on God’s all-sufficient grace. When the couple finished preaching, they asked the Lord to release his anointing for ministry. Despite their exhaustion, they moved into the congregation and began to pray for people. And in the midst of their weakness, God showed up with divine grace and power.
Several people throughout the room began to tremble and fall under the manifest presence of God, even before Bryan and Mercedes touched them. Folding chairs were moved to the side. The pair saw many people resting on the floor, with the Holy Spirit evidently ministering to them in deep ways. As they prayed for others, several collapsed hard and fast, as though struck by a bolt of electricity.
Bryan started to feel a gentle breeze blowing from the back of the room. Focused on praying for people, he didn’t really pay attention to it.
When the service finally wrapped up at about half past ten, however, several people approached him with similar accounts. “Did you notice that? I felt a breeze blowing through here. . . .”
Then Bryan realized the room had no windows, no open doors, no fans, and no air conditioning or heating ducts. He thought of the scene in Acts chapter 2, when the sound of wind from heaven filled the house where the apostles were staying on the Day of Pentecost. He and the others praised God for this sign of his presence.
The Marleauxes stayed that weekend in the home of a church family, Javier and Laura Rosas. The evangelists went to bed more convinced than ever that God can and wants to work through his children despite their weaknesses and lack of faith. After arriving in such weariness, they saw a move of the Spirit that far outweighed their expectations.
On Saturday night the manifestations continued. Bryan again preached on aspects of God’s grace, emphasizing that we receive not only salvation but also spiritual gifts by grace alone. When he gave an altar call to trust Jesus as Savior, several people responded, including a guest of the Rosas family. Laura and Javier told Bryan later that they had been sharing the gospel with this friend for a long time, with no result. Encouraged by the demonstrations of God’s power, they had felt prompted to invite him to the campaign meeting that night, where he accepted Christ.
During the ministry time the Spirit of God moved on many people in powerful ways. As the praise band played and Bryan and Mercedes went from person to person, they heard weeping, praying, and worship throughout the room.
Then Bryan felt a few light drops of liquid fall on his head and skin, as though someone had flicked water off wet fingers in his direction. He looked up from his prayers momentarily but again shrugged off the sensation without thinking much about it. Yet after the service several others shared that drops had hit them, too.
Laura Rosas, a slender Latina of no more than forty, felt the sprinkles and more. She told Bryan and Mercedes that after the drops fell on her she looked around, noticed no natural explanation, and continued worshiping. Then she described how a sudden overwhelming presence came over her, and she felt what she perceived as a large angel wing brush against her (1). The sensation of soft feathers seemed to charge her body with power, and she crumpled to the floor. There, she said, she had a strong impression that God was releasing upon her a number of spiritual gifts for ministry, including prophecy.
“Wow!” Bryan responded. “We’ve seen several manifestations of God’s power in our ministry before, but I think this is the first time for raindrops and angel wings. Would you be willing to share that testimony at the meeting tomorrow morning?”
When she did, following the message, the Spirit of God again came upon her and many others. Laura began to weep and fell down. Mercedes knelt and prayed for her, while Bryan followed the leading of the Spirit as he moved on people in the congregation. Although Bryan’s Spanish grammar skills remain rough, he now speaks the language well enough to pray for people in most situations.
Later Bryan was ministering with Mercedes near the front when a young woman of about twenty approached them to receive prayer. After a few moments she started to cry. Her sniffles became shaking sobs as the Holy Spirit evidently touched some deep places in her.
After the service, she told them more. Marysol Aleman lived in San Francisco but came across the Bay to attend the Assembly of God regularly. “While you were ministering to others, I was standing at my chair about halfway back,” she said. “I felt somebody grip my hand and pull me out to the aisle and lead me toward the front. It felt just like someone had a hold of me, but I couldn’t see anybody there, even though I kept looking around. I think it was an angel grabbing my hand to bring me forward to ask for prayer, because normally I wouldn’t do something like that. I don’t like being in front of people.”
The Marleauxes made sure Pastor Puell heard Marysol’s story. At the beginning of the last meeting, late Sunday afternoon, he told the congregation, “You know, we didn’t have a special theme for this campaña, but God has given us one. It has been a campaña of signs and wonders.”
An atmosphere of joy and celebration filled that final gathering. Javier and Laura Rosas’ teenage daughter, Yesenia, had attended all the meetings but had seemed distracted earlier. Now, after hearing her mother’s testimony that morning and seeing everything else God had done, she responded with great openness when her mom and the Marleauxes prayed for her. Her body began to shake, and the Spirit filled her in a fresh way.
During the last meeting, Pastor Bothi from the church in Alameda stood and invited the people to give a special offering to Bryan and Mercedes. “This couple ministers in Mexico, where there’s not a lot of money to go around. So put away your ‘dollar offering’ and dig deep in your wallet so we can really bless them.”
Thank you, Lord, Bryan prayed silently. Neither he nor his wife had said anything about their needs. Still, in such a ragged neighborhood, he didn’t have high expectations for a large gift. Yet when the campaign ended and people began to clean the room and go home, the pastors presented the couple with a brown paper lunch bag full of cash and a few checks. The total represented a significant sum for both givers and recipients.
This miracle boggled their minds as much as any other. Without them making their situation known, God had answered their desperate cry for his provision.
Through sporadic contact with the church after the campaign, the Marleauxes learned that many attendees received new zeal for the Lord and his service. Marysol and others who experienced supernatural encounters were deeply blessed and encouraged by the manifestation of God’s love to them. The Rosas family felt their walks with the Lord quicken with fresh vitality as God renewed their faith that he answers prayer.
Bryan remembers that weekend as an impressive demonstration of how God, in his grace, uses broken vessels to display the surpassing greatness of his own power and glory. The evangelist now understands better Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
(1) Some references to angel wings in Scripture: Isaiah 6:2; Ezekiel 1:6-28.
From Signs and Wonders in America Today: Amazing Accounts of God’s Power
by Jane Rumph
Regal Books, 196 pages
Used by permission