A remarkable sequence of events including two incredible dreams and an encounter with actual forces of good and evil led to the reclamation of an old Orthodox church from abortionists in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
It is a poignant story at a time when abortion is very much in the news (with the undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of infant body parts) and it had its start eighteen years ago, according to Bill Velker, director of the International Prayer Center there, who at the time was working Pregnancy Resource Center.
The old church -- originally a synagogue, before becoming Orthodox -- was owned by a small group of businessmen who had taken it over and leased it to a clinic that ended up performing 20,000 abortions over a devastating ten-year period of time.
"In 1997 I had a dream that the Pregnancy Resource Center had become owners of this building, though I had never seen it," Velker told us. "In the dream there was a small group of us moving in it for the first time and seeing the empty rooms where abortions had been done. Some of our women were crying and there was such a heaviness and silence. In my dream there was a steep stairway that the women would go up to sacrifice their children to Satan -- to bring them to their death. All of a sudden the atmosphere shifted in my dream and it was light and joyful and I saw women praying and going up and down the stairs -- but this time, instead of giving their children to Satan, offering their hearts to the Lord."
When he told his boss, Kurt Dillinger, about his dream, Kurt confided that he too had a strange, vivid dream (doubly unusual, because he rarely remembered dreams) "and in his dream Kurt was hovering in the sky outside the building and the Lord Jesus was beside him and the doors were opened and people were coming by the building and falling down in repentance and he asked the Lord, 'What is going on here?' and the Lord said, 'This place was intended to be a place of worship and it has become a place of death and it will become ten times as powerful for life as it was for death.' And Kurt saw flames that shoot up from the foundation of the building to the roof and out of the roof and encircle the globe."
They were the flames of the Holy Spirit, and the two men began praying about the situation -- prayer that went on for years -- along with other pro-lifers from their community. At one point a woman who was a sidewalk counselor rented an apartment in a building next to the clinic, separated from it only by a narrow six-foot alleyway the abortionist used for his furtive entries. The group called it the "Upper Room" and prayed Wednesdays through Fridays there as abortions took place just feet away.
Six months after their dreams the building had gone up for sale but the owners weren't interested in donating it and the pro-lifers didn't have the funds to buy it. "To them it was just a business thing," said Bill of the owners.
All the while, Life International, which was born out of the pregnancy resource center, began to do work around the world work while carrying forward the vision "for God to redeem the building and take it back to His purposes." The ardent prayers continued.
Finally, in 2003, the group was able to buy of the building after group of local businessman who heard about their dreams to turn the building into headquarters for the international cause granted them the funds to purchase the old church-synagogue. It was the breakthrough they had dreamt and prayed about.
There was one hitch: the clinic's lease agreement said the clinic could remain for six months after any sale of the building -- and so now the pro-lifers were landlord for an abortion clinic, bound legally to let the abortionist remain!
"Before we took over the building, when we would come through, we would find bats in here -- hanging on the doorways of some of the suites [there were three rooms where abortions were performed]," said Velker. "You could feel the heaviest and darkness. You could feel the oppression."
The rent -- almost $50,000 -- was redistributed to organizations ministering to women who were contemplating abortion.
On April 21, 2004, the clinic was finally forced out "and the day we took possession we had a meeting and opened the doors up and brought in folks -- 140 people came to the building that night and we had a local (Evangelical) pastor who was a worship leader and another elderly Godly man who had worked in a theological seminary and he did a teaching on cleansing and re-dedication and we all recited a prayer they wrote out dedicating it to life and the Lord. And then we released those people to pray through the building, every floor, and they anointed in room where the abortions occurred," says Velker.
As in the dreams, "there were a lot of tears and repentance and cleansing prayer to re-dedicate and to reclaim this place for God's glory."
The following Sunday the organization's board decided to walk through the building. Led by Kurt, they decided to retrace the steps of the abortionist, how he walked in every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday through that back alley because the sidewalk counselors were out front. They prayed for about fifteen minutes in the hallway "where death entered" -- nine members plus Kurt. "Lord, we give you this space..." Prayed Dillinger, "I ask you Lord God, in the name of Jesus, to fill this place [his voice lifted in intensity]. Death, you may no longer enter through this door!”
The moment Kurt said "Amen," according to Velker, "this doorway -- a heavy steel one -- blew open from the inside and slammed against the outside wall, and this gust of cool wind came gushing in the building and Kurt said they just stood there with eyes the size of golf balls. A pastor said, 'Something just left here in a hurry.' It was like death exited and the Holy Spirit blew in."
There was "an exchange of authority and power," and the building was "sealed" in Christ. Where some had initially reported a "pungent smell" in the building ("like strong sulfur"), that was also now gone.
Such is the power when Jesus is invoked personally. One of the rooms where abortions were performed was turned into a memorial room of prayer for the thousands of babies lost. It contains the suction machine, operating table, and other equipment used for termination of the unborn. There are still folks who can't go in there. It's the memories. But the Power of God is felt strongly.
Life International? To date it has directly equipped over 3,000 leaders to multiply the message of life. Hundreds more have received and are sharing Life International educational materials and training resources within their regions. The organization now has influence in 68 countries on six continents.
One fellow who visited, founder of an pro-life campaign called "Forty Days of Prayer," said he encountered a woman who asked him what had happened to a "gargoyle" that she used to see perched on top of the building.
She wondered who had taken it down.
"There were many stories like that -- a friend of mine said he would go to the building and see demons hovering around the building but they were driven further and further away," says Velker. "They were still trying to get in, but they no longer had permission."
Instead, women who had abortions there come back now to pray and heal -- to retrace their steps with the Lord.
No more pungent smell. No more "gargoyle."
And, says Velker: "No more bats.
"The bats are gone."