Evangelical pastor vows to rid Israel of swine flu

The Jerusalem Post/September 7, 2009

The near-blind discarded their glasses and claimed crystal-clear sight. The crippled cast aside canes and vacated wheelchairs to stumble and leap in joy. One woman shouted she had been cured of "cancer of the womb," and another of tuberculosis.

Dancing, singing, clapping and weeping, the 3000-strong crowd from 36 countries who had come to witness the ministry of evangelical South Korean pastor Dr. Jaerock Lee peered down upon a carefully choreographed service which took place amid life-sized models of the Old City's ancient gates, and under a banner bearing the Israeli flag and the slogan "God is great" in Hebrew.

Dr. Lee, speaking in Hebrew, promised to perform signs and wonders, bring blessings upon Israel, heal its sick, and even eradicate the swine flu virus from the nation.

"You will see that the swine flu will go away from Israel when I pray tonight and tomorrow," said Lee.

But not everyone who came to the faith healing service Sunday night was restored. Several of the crowd's most disabled supplicants departed in the same condition in which they had arrived.

One wheelchair-bound man in the front row wept and writhed while waiting to be made whole. Though ministry staff prayed passionately over the man's immobile legs and tried to bring him to his feet, he departed still unable to stand.

A mother wept, her son laying in her arms with a severe case of Down syndrome. Though ministry officials whispered in her ear, her son remained unhealed.

God would have acted, and could have acted, ministry staff said on Sunday night, but the infirm must first muster the faith requisite to welcome God's power into their lives. If they cannot, they should visit a doctor.

The supporters of Lee together with members of the worldwide Manmin Church descended on Jerusalem on Thursday to attend the worldwide "multicultural festival" at the Jerusalem International Conference Center.

Lee, who cuts a controversial figure even among evangelical Christians, has been accused across the blogosphere and within the South Korean religious establishment of heresy, and of purporting to be sinless and above death.

The largest evangelical Christian association in Jerusalem told The Jerusalem Post earlier in the week it did not endorse Lee's ministry and would not be associated with it. In 1999 the Christian Council of Korea expelled the Manmin church for "heretical claims," and leaders of the Korean Ministry Association have accused Lee of being a cult leader.

But Johnny Kim, the director general of Manmin TV, said the ministry was no more controversial than any other evangelical sect and that much of the controversy surrounding it had been invented by groups jealous of their rapid expansion in South Korea and across the world.

"Dr. Lee obeys God, and God has blessed [him] with these powers," Kim told the Post Wednesday morning. "He is not different than any other man, only in his devotion."

On a typical day, Lee stayed in his room praying until around 5pm, said Kim, adding that Lee often retreated to the mountains of South Korea to "communicate with Hashem," and has fasted for up to 40 days. It was these practices that brought him into such close communion with God that he was able to heal the sick, but he did not consider himself to be a deity, or sinless, said Kim.

The multicultural festival in Jerusalem is part of an annual conference put on by the Manmin Church, but this year is especially important for the ministry because of the location.

"I love Israel because God has chosen Israel and because this land was the place our Lord and Savior Jesus was born," said Lee on Sunday night.

Jerusalem also plays an important part in the theology of the Manmin Church.

"God also foretold that they [the Jews] would return to the land and reestablish a nation according to God's plan," said Lee.

Kim said on Tuesday morning that events such as Israel's declaration of independence in 1948 and the advancement of the digital age pointed to the nearness of the end of days, in which Jerusalem would play a central role.

Kim added that he believed the third Temple could be built in Jerusalem within a decade.

But regardless of Manmin's motives for holding its conference in Jerusalem this year, members of the government made it clear that it were more than welcome.

"No one belongs here more than you," said Tourism Ministry Director-General Noaz Bar Nir at the conference Sunday night. "My goal is for every evangelical from around the world to visit Jerusalem at least once in their lives."

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