A Prophet Among Us

Pastor Wanda Brown

Pastor Wanda Brown

I was surfing the internet in search of a church to visit for my First Time Guest series when I stumbled upon Flames of Fire Church, Pastor Wanda Brown. I first encountered her ministry in the early 1990’s. I never forgot Wanda because she spoke a prophecy to me that God fulfilled. At the conclusion of her message, she asked me and Rod, my husband, to come to the altar. God wanted us to know that changes were coming. We should not be worried or concerned because the changes were from him.

I don’t trust every “word from God” spoken to me, but neither do I take them lightly. On the way, out I purchased a copy of the service so could write down what she said and discuss it with my husband. We concluded God might move us to another church or Rod might be finished with Children’s ministry. Dramatic change came to our church. When our much loved pastor resigned, every ministry leader in the church left except Rod. Some people were shaken by the change. We were not. God already told us to expect change. Rod was not finished working with children, but I was. Our new pastor asked me to teach an adult class, which I agreed to do temporarily until they found a replacement teacher. I taught for seven years and wrote enough material for seven books.

I visited Flames of Fire thinking I would be a complete stranger. Instead, I encountered more than a few friends including the guest speaker, whose son had attended Rod’s children church. That kind of spoiled the first time guest experience. The article was abandoned to write a profile about Pastor Wanda.

Wanda Brown has vivid memories of an emotional experience at her Grandfather’s church. She joined others who flocked to the altar with tears pouring down their faces to cry out for forgiveness. God accepted her plea and baptized her in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. While her grandfather influenced her family in spiritual matters they failed to fully embrace their commitment to God. Her father ran from the call of God on his life.

Several years after Wanda’s salvation her family moved to Covington where she had another life changing experience with God. At twelve years of age he called Wanda to preach the gospel. She kept that experience in her heart. If she had any doubts, God dispelled them when the pastor confirmed what she already knew. One Sunday, he called her before the church and announced, “God has called Wanda and separated her to the ministry.” He then had the elders lay hands on her and pray.

About the time Wanda received her calling, her father hurt his back. After three surgeries that left them in a financial struggle the doctors delivered bad news. He would be paralyzed from the waist down. In desperation her father cried out to God promising to answer the call of God on his life if God would make him whole. God answered his prayer. Her father walked out of the hospital and pursued ministerial credentials. He worked as a pastor for several years before reneging on his promise.

Wanda’s experiences with God were rich but her father’s rebellion made life difficult for her family. Her church compounded the problem by failing to offer assistance in her family’s time of need. She often walked two miles to church alone. No one offered to give her a ride. She heard testimonies about the devil making life miserable as though God were not able to help. A pastor claimed God wanted him to drive an old unreliable car to keep him humble. Wanda concluded she was already living a hard life and did not want to serve a God who either would or could not help her.

At a young age Wanda married Leland, a man who loved pool halls with little interest in spiritual things. But she could not escape the memories of God’s presence. She had two small children when she returned to church without her husband. Fearful God would remind her of the calling to ministry, she chose a church that did not believe in the gifts of the Spirit.

Wanda could not hide from God’s Spirit. One evening, a friend Leland worked with came to their house to share the gospel. As he spoke to her husband about God, the Holy Spirit tugged at her heart. Shortly after that experience, a man distributed copies of The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson in her neighborhood. Reading about Wilkerson’s ministry reminded her of her calling to preach. When Leland’s friend invited them to a revival at his church, they accepted.  During the revival Wanda renewed her commitment to obey God. Leland also accepted Christ and never set foot in a pool hall again.

The revival birthed in Wanda a hunger to pray. Every afternoon she laid her young children down for a nap and went to another room to pray in the Spirit until they awoke.  She eventually made friends with a woman who called herself an intercessor. They held prayer meetings two, sometimes three, times a week. During the day they met at Wanda’s and on Friday nights at the intercessors house.

The prayer meetings had grown until her house could barely hold the attendees. Wanda felt the nudge of God’s Spirit to teach. With her pastor’s approval she started a Wednesday morning Bible study. Many people were saved and filled with God’s Spirit. Her church also benefited when some of the new converts joined her church.

During this season of her life Wanda became aware of a prophetic gift for which there was little teaching in her church. The misunderstood gift resulted in tremendous persecution as Wanda sought to obey God. When she entered full time ministry as an evangelist the prophetic anointing grew stronger. Wanda prayed God would keep her from error and sought him for answers about the misunderstood spiritual gift. She found answers to her questions and confirmation in He Gave Gifts Unto Men by Kenneth Hagin; a scriptural explanation of the apostle, prophet and pastor as God intended them to function in the church.

By the late 1980’s Wanda found herself in a dry place. National scandals in her fellowship had tragic effects on her family. The spiritual battles of full time ministry had taken a toll. She stepped back from ministry and for a season attended church sporadically until God led her to join a church in New Orleans.

The pastor asked her to conduct a Wednesday morning Bible study. God renewed her ministry and placed a new calling on her life – pastor. The calling came with a warning.  If she refused the call her ministry would be complete and he would bring her home. Wanda, now in her 50’s, wasn’t ready to die.

The summer of 2004, she reluctantly started a prayer meeting in the home of a friend with four people. Soon people flocked to the meetings. God had already given her the name of the Church, Flames of Fire, which they planted in January 2005.

Her small congregation rented a room in a hotel on Airline Highway for $700 a month. She was praying before a Sunday morning service when the Lord told her to run a thirty second commercial on Channel 20 telling people about the church. The commercial raised their monthly expenses to $1000. Miraculously she never missed a payment. August 2005, Hurricane Katrina scattered her congregation and FEMA took over the motel leaving them without a meeting place.

The members that returned after the hurricane resumed meeting in a home.  Within two weeks they received an offer to rent a suite in a strip mall. Her new monthly expenses with a smaller congregation rose to $1300.

While praying before a service God told her to produce a 30 minute program and air it on Channel 20 during prime time. This time she argued with God. “I don’t know anything about television.”

“I do,” he replied. “I am leading you. Listen to me and do exactly what I tell you to do.”

Wanda called the station for cost and available time slots. They had an opening on Sunday evening at 5 pm. They also had an opening at 6 am that would have been $200 cheaper. With the 30 minute program in prime time her expenses would be in excess of $2000 monthly. A Fact she pointed out to God, but could not change his mind.

To hold the prime spot the station gave them a deadline to be ready with the first program. Wanda needed a little over $10,000 to acquire the necessary equipment. Within days a member of her church received an extra unexpected bonus at her job. She wrote a check for $10,000 and handed it to Wanda.

Flames of Fire Church and its television ministry have been in operation for eleven years. Flames of Fire Broadcast recently expanded its viewership when Alpha and Omega broadcasting kazq32.1 Albuquerque invited Wanda to join its program schedule. “Not one time have I struggled to pay the rent, the expenses of the television ministry or fund anything in ministry. If God has told you to do something, he pays his bills. You’ve got to take a step of faith, and I took a big step of faith,” said Wanda.

The heartbeat of her ministry is found in a chorus an African missionary taught her early in her ministry.

O to be his hand extended

Reaching out to the oppressed

Let me touch him

Let me touch Jesus

So that others will know and be blessed

“I just to be his hand extended,” said Wanda. “Not trying to build my ministry, but build his ministry. I don’t care if anybody ever really knows who I am. I just want to be his hand extended so lives can be blessed, changed, delivered and set free by that precious wonderful name of Jesus.”

 

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Saved in Cell #7

Donald Eskine shares the message he heard from a former Gideon that transformed his life.

 

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God’s Direction

Pastor Anthony Freeman shares an interesting story of how God directs the lives of his people.

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President to Pastor

Pastor Anthony Freeman shares how God led him from being a Bible School president to plant a church in the Uptown area of New Orleans.

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G-Double-O-D-J-O-B

children_churchChildren’s ministry was the first thing I noticed at Hosanna Church. The ministry glowed like a light from heaven. Some churches support children’s ministry while others hire someone to keep the children out of sight. My husband and I have been in both kinds of churches. Hosanna was unique in the high priority given to children.

We visited Hosanna several times before we decided to stay. The first thing I heard Elinor, Hosanna’s Children’s Pastor, say was G-double O-D-J-O-B! In fact, I heard her say it several times before I realized that she was saying “Good Job” to the children. The children loved it and clearly loved her.

I watched Elinor interact with the children and saw a rare but natural ability. She did not talk down to the children as adults often do but squatted to their eye level and showed a genuine interest in what they said. She asked what they learned in church and reinforced the simple truths with gentleness and kindness. I marveled at the orderly way she conducted the Children’s Service and the diligence of the teenagers who worked with her. I can sum up what I saw in two words. G-double O-D-J-O-B! Good job, Elinor!

When I invited Elinor and her husband to lunch, I expected her to tell me she was born to work with children. I was wrong. Elinor came to American from Puerto Rico when she was two months old. Her family settled in Miami where a neighborhood friend brought her to church. Her parents’ marriage ended in divorce and Elinor ran away from home when she was sixteen. She moved from one friend’s house to another until she had worn out her welcome and had no place to go. Desperate, she called her father who had relocated to South Carolina. She was eighteen when she moved in with her father and rediscovered her Christian roots at a local Assembly of God Church.

Feeling called to ministry Elinor enrolled in the School of Urban Missions. She graduated confident of her abilities and comfortable working with teenagers. Hosanna Church already had a youth pastor, so they hired Elinor for a bookkeeping position. During hurricane Katrina, she evacuated to the Assemblies of God campgrounds and met her future husband, Eddie, while playing a game of UNO.

After they married, Eddie and Elinor prayed for children. God answered but not in the way they expected. Instead of one child, God gave them fifty when Pastor McLean asked Elinor to become the church’s Children’s Pastor. Elinor told her husband, “We need to be more specific when we pray in the future.” Eddie said the conflict for Elinor was intense. The last thing she desired to do was work with children, but Elinor’s love for God and Christian training prevailed. She submitted to her pastor’s request and prayed for a better attitude. Several years later, God honored her faithfulness and granted her desire to work with teenagers when the pastor asked her to be the Youth Pastor.

I’ve pondered Elinor’s story with amusement and a measure of understanding. It is so like God to give you more than you asked for – fifty children when you only wanted one. When my husband and I asked for one son, God gave us two. I’m glad we were a little more specific then Eddie and Elinor. I also understand God sending you down a path you had no desire to walk.

I was happy teaching an adult class at my church. I loved the revelation God granted, constructing the gold nugget into a lesson, and interacting with the students. I could have done it the rest of my life and enjoyed every minute. After a brief five years, God shut the door on teaching and literally dragged me down the road to writing. It never occurred to me to pray for a better attitude as Elinor did.

I’ve wondered why God gives us assignments we don’t desire and came to the conclusion that human desires get in his way. When James described how sin works, he never mentioned the devil. James said the culprit for sin is human desires. Our desires deceive us and lead us astray until we sin resulting in death. I’ve watched more than one pastor destroy his church and wound many when his desires became more important than the people God called him to serve.

If the thing you desire to do for God doesn’t work out don’t be distressed. Follow the path he sets before you and one day you might hear God say, “G-double O-D-J-O-B. Good Job!

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Founding a Bible College

A founding member of the School of Urban Missions shares how God called him and led him to become the president of a Bible college.

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Now That’s Great Faith

roman-centurion-andrea-modestiFaith is the essence of the Christian experience. Unfortunately,  There is so much misinformation about faith one can easily get lost in a maze of misinformation. I know. I’ve been there. I found my way out of the maze when I closed my ears to a myriad of well-intentioned voices and started listening to God’s voice. No, I don’t hear voices speaking in the night or day for that matter. I am referring to the words recorded in the Bible that are attributed to God.

Jesus defined great faith that amazes him when a Centurion sought his help for an ailing slave. Before we talk about Centurion’s “God pleasing” faith, let’s identify the characters in this encounter. Jesus, of course, was the image of God in human flesh who said, “if you have seen me, you have seen the father.” Plebeians usually held the office of Centurion, a commander of one hundred men in the Roman army. Before the plebeian joined the army he may have shared a single room in a four story badly constructed wood apartment house with another family. The sewer system was a pot emptied out the window creating an unsanitary and putrid environment. Slaves serving a patrician family had better living conditions. The ailing slave, a child perhaps teenager who tended to the needs of the Centurion.

Jesus had just preached his most famous sermon and returned to Capernaum with large crowds in tow. On the way home, he amazed the crowds by healing a leper. At this time in his ministry, Jesus was famous with many demands on his time.

The Centurion, who lived in Capernaum, was no stranger to the Jews religion. He had financed the construction of a synagogue and the Jews, without doubt, had taught him is “Gentile place” in their religion. Jewish men began their day blessing “the eternal one, our God” for not making them a woman, gentile or a slave. Therefore, the Centurion did not consider himself worthy to bring a petition to Jesus. He sent the elders of the Jews to plead for the healing of his slave.

The elders considered the Centurion worthy of Jesus consideration because he “built them a synagogue.” According to Jewish beliefs (Acts 10:28), the elders had broken the law and defiled themselves when they had dealings with the Gentile. Insert sarcasm. Apparently, exceptions could be made when “religion” is advanced.

Jesus, the image of God, didn’t have a problem defiling himself in the home of a Gentile to relieve the suffering of a slave. Yep, Jesus got his hands dirty with the very lowest of his societies lowly. But Jesus never made it to the unclean home to pray for the suffering slave. On his way, the Centurion sent friends with a message: “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.  Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (Luke 7:6-8, NKJV).

Jesus was amazed at “such great faith.” Before announcing the slave would be healed, he warned the Jews that this kind of faith would result in many gentiles taking the place of Jews who had no faith in God. Who your human father is will not give you citizenship in God’s kingdom with all of its benefits. Only God pleasing faith will.

I’ve often pondered what was so amazing about the Centurion’s faith. Society had given him a putrid slum to live in. Religious people used him to advance their agenda yet had no place for him as an equal among them. Life had not been kind to the Centurion. The unfairness of life has driven multitudes away from God but it did not drive the Centurion away. He recognized the immense power and authority of God to command everything and he still believed God cared about a slave.

Do you have great faith? Do you count yourself unworthy yet still believe God cares that the slaves to sin we love are suffering? Now that would take “great faith” – God pleasing faith.

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