The people were coming to see Jesus, and I had fried the videocassette player!
The hotel room was filled with thick blue smoke and smelled like burning sulfur. Gloria, terrified, dashed from the bathroom and stared at the videocassette player that was still glowing on the desk. There would be no Jesus film tonight.
It was 1999—June, or maybe July—and Pastor Stan’s evangelistic team had come to a village called Mendi, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. It was a dream trip, an opportunity to preach the gospel of Christ to PNG natives who had never heard His stories, never met His disciples, and never even imagined the possibility of His forgiveness. The team, coming from their homes in the northwestern United States, was armed with Bibles, sermons, and medical equipment, along with a videocassette player and projectors that would show the Jesus film in full colour. They had been praying for weeks and were ready.
“This was the first time we had tried to use laptops and video projectors,” remembers Pastor Stan. “Since the village had electricity, we had brought the best tools we could find.”
There were screens inside and outside the large meeting tent, giant screens made of plywood and painted bright white the way good screens should be. And everything was working just as they had hoped. Thousands of people—3,000, 4,000, even 5,000—stood outside in the rain watching these things on the screens and listening to the preachers speaking God’s words.
The Jesus film was like candy to them. The best thing they had ever seen.
“The people inside were sheltered, and the people outside were getting soaked. Yet it didn’t seem to matter,” says Pastor Stan. “They came. Eager. Watching. Listening. Mesmerized by the wild animal videos we would show each evening. The local people had never seen lions, gorillas, or polar bears and were captivated as deer and elk and cougars moved across the screens for five minutes each evening.”
Pastor Stan remembers the experience as one of the most meaningful of his life. “My preaching probably wasn’t that great, but though I knew the people had come to see the videos, I gave them my all, describing Jesus and His love as clearly as I could.”
The days were exhaustingly busy. There were meetings every night, and during the day Pastor Stan and his wife, Gloria, visited homes in the villages. Wherever they went they were accompanied by armed guards who made sure the foreign visitors were protected from the roving bands of “rascals” who were terrorizing the area.
“Each night,” says Pastor Stan, “we played five minutes of the Jesus film. I wasn’t sure how the people would react to seeing Jesus live on the screens. In the film He is speaking English, and even though an interpreter would be translating every word into pidgin, I wasn’t sure if they would understand the message. I shouldn’t have worried. They just stood still, as if glued to their spot. It was like heaven had come to earth. Jesus was right there on the screen, and the people loved Him!”
About halfway through the meetings, Pastor Stan was in the hotel one morning preparing for the evening’s presentations. To make sure the videos had been rewound to the right place, he plugged the videocassette player into the electrical socket and turned it on.
“I forgot,” he says with a grimace, “that the local electric power was 220 volts, and our VCR was designed for 120 volts! Right away the room filled with a bright crackling sound and a huge cloud of blue and black smoke. I pulled the plug out of the socket as quickly as I could, and looked up to see my terrified wife standing in the bathroom door.
“What have you done?” she cried.
All Pastor Stan could think about was the thousands of people who would be at the meetings tonight waiting to see Jesus. “What have I done, Lord? I blew it up!”
“I put the transformer on the VCR, and we prayed. We prayed on our knees. We prayed with our hands on the VCR. We prayed, and then we prayed some more. The people were coming to see Jesus, and I had fried the videocassette player!”
A dentist had come with the mission team, so Pastor Stan had him tinker and pray over the VCR as well. Nothing worked. The machine was dead.
That evening Pastor Stan and Gloria brought the VCR and the transformer to the church for the meetings. Humiliated yet hopeful, he explained the disaster to the team, and they all prayed over the VCR. “Lord, this is Your VCR, Your Jesus film, Your gospel, Your animal videos, and these are all Your people. I am so sorry I did something so foolish today. Please make the impossible happen. Please make the burned-up VCR work tonight.” Do you believe God does electronic miracles?
“We decided to believe,” say Pastor Stan and Gloria. “So we went to the church, sang the opening song, plugged the VCR into the transformer box, and pushed the ON button.”
The totally fried 120-volt VCR turned ON, and, powered by an unknown current, worked through the entire meeting. It showed lions and tigers and polar bears. It showed the Bible verses for Pastor Stan’s sermons. And it showed Jesus, alive, walking along the shores of Lake Galilee, healing the sick, playing with the children, and giving His life for the people of Mendi in Papua New Guinea.
The VCR played through all of that evening’s program. It played all the next evening. And the next, and right on through to the last night of the meetings.
Then it quit.
“We carried it home with us,” says Pastor Stan as he wipes tears from his eyes, “and tried playing a video on it at home. When I pushed the ON button, the VCR whirred, made a clunking sound, and then stopped dead. It never worked again.”
There’s a church in Mendi today. A church where people sing about God’s love. A church where people pray to the God of miracles.