Sara Kveum didn't seek out Sunday's Fire of God revival in Centennial Hall to be healed of her cerebral palsy.
The 13-year-old came to pray for another family member. But preachers David Hogan and Bill Norton seemed drawn to the blond girl holding herself in a walker. Hogan stood near her, holding a bandana overhead and praying. Norton gently pried Sara's hands from the walker and held them in his own.
"Walk," he commanded. She stepped shakily forward, clutching his hands.
"Run to Jesus," he said as she kept walking. Norton passed Sara on to Tanya Thomas, her caregiver. Sara could walk as long as she held onto Tanya's finger, but fell if she let go.
"We prayed for the spirit of fear to be gone and to believe that God will heal her," Thomas said.
"It felt good," Sara said later of her efforts to walk and run.
It wasn't quite the kind of miracle Hogan says he has seen in other places. He claims his Global Glory Ministries in Mexico has raised more than 300 people from the dead, made the crippled walk and regenerated missing organs.
Hogan's claims have brought him followers and critics. Personal Freedom Outreach, a Christian organization dedicated to exposing what it considers heretical doctrines, has a 15-page document on its Web site attempting to debunk Hogan. Personal Freedom Outreach also has attacked some larger denominations, including the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormon Church.
"David Hogan has the perfect ploy. The miraculous events are always left in his wake; they always happen elsewhere and he has no eyewitnesses to verify it," PFO senior writer G. Richard Fisher concludes in the paper posted on the Web.
Hogan's claims aren't unusual for Mexico, the Philippines and the Third World, said J. Gordon Melton, director of the institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, Calif. In the Philippines, Pentecostals frequently exorcise spirits, but not in the United States.
"They won't do it here. They may show pictures of it, talk about what they do in the Philippines, but they very rarely do it here," Melton said. "They put it in places where it can't easily be checked out."
But Norton said Hogan has been checked out by American ministers.
"He's legit. He's got years of credibility and integrity behind him," said Norton, a traveling minister working with Hogan during the three-day revival, which continues at Centennial Hall at 7 tonight and again at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday. "I expect it to intensify."
The Sunday morning session started with an hour of Christian rock and singing. Ushers set out additional rows of chairs as more than 100 people filled the room. People had come from around Southeast and elsewhere in Alaska, even a few from other states and Canada. They came in all ages and shades of skin, from infants in arms to white-haired elders. Some stood, shaking, swaying, holding their hands aloft, playing tambourines or waving colored banners.
The music stopped when David Hogan stepped up to the podium. He started low-key, clearing his throat, shuffling a few papers, looking out at the audience.
"Hi," he said, with a strong Louisiana accent. "Como esta?" he asked, Spanish for "How are you?"
"Muy bien," the responsive audience answered, meaning "very well."
As he warmed up, Hogan dropped his benevolent demeanor, calling the audience "city-dwelling sissies" and "spoiled brats."
"(God) is not up there waiting for you to make a mistake. You are a mistake," he roared at the audience, "and he wants to fix us."
He told stories of miracles he's witnessed, from finding a $20 bill when he ran out of gas without money in Arkansas, to a woman who regenerated internal organs after he prayed with her. Once when he stopped at a wreck to help, the gospel tunes kept broadcasting from his truck stereo, even though he'd turned it off and taken out the tape, he said.
"You don't get the power of God through compromise," he said. "You get it through discipline and faithfulness."
Frequently Hogan interrupted himself to call out "Jee-SUS," in a sing-song voice, like a mother calling kids in for dinner. Then he picked up the story again.
"We're working on 300 people being raised from the dead now," Hogan said. "Every age, every size, every illness."
This is one of his most disputed claims.
"Hogan with his hype and claims of more than 200 raisings would have us believe that he is greater than all the prophets and apostles, and even Jesus Himself," Fisher wrote for Personal Freedom Outreach. "There are fewer than a dozen pronounced raisings in the Bible. Hogan outdoes them all and his miracles are almost commonplace, if we believe his claims."
Norton defends Hogan.
"There is no argument. The Bible says it was done and can be done, and except in North America it is being done," Norton said.
The reason North America, outside of Mexico, is largely bereft of such miracles is lack of belief, Norton said. Raised with scientific mindsets, most North Americans don't have the belief needed for miracles like bringing the dead to life, he said. Hogan mostly ministers to indigenous peoples around the world, whose traditional belief systems included shamans and other religious healers.
"The Natives in this state will have no trouble with what he's saying," Norton said. "It's the white Europeans who will."
Nobody in the audience Sunday seemed to question Hogan. When he directed those who wanted to be saved or healed to come forward, almost everyone in the hall lined up. One by one, Hogan and his helpers went to them and the people shook or fell, until the perimeter of the ballroom was lined in bodies covered with white sheets, like corpses.
"I'm used to, any country I go to, people getting born again," Hogan said. "I'm used to it being natural and real, and I'm naturally a nut."
Kristan Hutchison can be reached at email@example.com.
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