Testimonies, Prayer Highlight GC23's Closing Service
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Sharing a mixture of heartache, loss, hope, and faith, Friday’s General Council offered the personal testimonies of three families where prayer pulled them through the darkest of days, which led to hundreds experiencing the touch of God upon their lives.
Prior to the testimonies of Greg and Sandie Mundis, Mike and Darla Rakes, and Chrissy Toledo, General Secretary Donna Barret honored the more than 1,100 AG ministers who had passed into eternity since the 2021 General Council. She then led attendees in Communion as the Memorial Scroll continued to play on the video screens.
AG World Missions Executive Director Greg Mundis and his wife, Sandie, were the first to take the stage to present their testimony.
Greg shared how he began feeling ill on March 12, 2020. The illness escalated to the point that he was taken by ambulance to the hospital just a few days later. For Greg, that’s where much of the next five or six weeks are a little more than a blur as he was immediately taken to ICU, put on a ventilator, and placed in an induced coma.
“That was the beginning of our 60-day COVID journey,” Sandie said. “He was diagnosed with double pneumonia and respiratory failure . . . that first day, he was only given a 10% chance to survive.”
Although Sandie ended up in the hospital four days later with COVID, her case did not require an ICU stay. Greg, on the other hand, developed many complications during his two-month stay, including blood clots, acute kidney failure with need for dialysis, cardiac complications from experimental medications, a gastrointestinal infection, a blood infection, sepsis, and post-sedation delirium, among others.
Sandie shared how they made the risky decision to helicopter Greg, while still on a ventilator, to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis for advanced care due to his declining prognosis. She explained that the longer Greg was on a ventilator, the higher chances there was of death or survival with life-altering complications.
“But we are here to declare that it was also in those 60 days that Jesus showed up,” Sandie said. “He, our Hope, was right there from day one — He never left us.”
Giving thanks for their children and their spouse and grandchildren for walking with them through all the ups and downs of Greg’s journey, also expressed appreciation for the prayers of their extended family — from relatives to coworkers to friends and congregations from around the world.
It was on her couch, that had become her bed, office, and altar, that Sandie says she made peace with God.
“Whether He took Greg home or healed him,” Sandie said, “I would proclaim His goodness, His power, His miraculous nature until He took me home.”
Greg shared how a “tsunami” of prayers resulting from a Facebook post his son had made, came on one of his most critical days in the hospital.
“I will be forever grateful to those of you who prayed for me,” Greg said, his voice shaking with emotion. “Thank you so much for interceding.”
The Mundises also wrote a book, Patient #1, about their journey to give tribute to Jesus and thank the prayer warriors who lifted Greg and their family up in prayer, noting that all proceeds go to support AG World Missions.
Holding true to her promise to the Lord, whether He took Greg home or healed — which He did completely — Sandie proclaimed the goodness, the power, and the miraculous nature of the Lord.
“Indeed, He is our hope forever,” Sandie said. “We can trust the Lord as our source of hope.”
“Hope,” Greg said, “releases us from the past, gives us peace in the present, and gives us a promise for a bright future.”
Evangel University president Mike Rakes and his wife, Darla, then approached the pulpit to share their testimony — one no parent ever wants to be able to share.
The couple spoke of their daughter, Whitney, who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 23.
“She was my heart. My baby girl, who became a powerful woman of God, a worship pastor,” Mike began, “but four years of fervent prayer and intercession, standing in faith, and believing with great passion, ended in utter devastation.”
Mike listed some of the many efforts to cure or curb the cancer, how the misinterpreted dreams and prophetic words of her healing were silenced, and how Whitney, despite her sufferings, declared her determination to follow God, wherever that led.
“She was in the garden of suffering for four years,” he said. “She had 10 rounds of chemotherapies and treatments.”
In straightforward honesty, Mike shared of the shattered and crushed dreams and how in the American culture we’ve come to think God will rescue us from every trouble, but it wasn’t true in the Bible and or for today.
“Whitney’s loss to this day just feels so wrong, so unfair to us,” he said, later adding, “It also feels wrong because as the cancer moved into the bone, her physical agony made us all sick; from what we could tell, God did not even ease her physical suffering.”
The struggle was deepened as Whitney was a young woman who had never turned her back on God.
But Mike warned people against blaming God, the devil, or themselves for suffering.
“Even blaming the devil, leaves us in a spiritual dead end,” he said. “For when we only view God as the God of miracles and not also as the God of mystery, we are destined to be disappointed when things don’t go like we think they should.”
After Mike pointed to Isaiah 53:3 (Jesus despised, acquainted with deepest grief), Darla spoke about the losses Whitney’s death led to and how she begged God to not make this “her story.”
“I did not understand yet, how Jesus’ story is in our story,” she said. “Jesus’ story is one of great love and great suffering. If you’re following Jesus, there will be losses of every kind.”
But Darla shared how Jesus’ life was also about courage and power — death could not hold him down. And as Christ spent his life fulfilling what had already been written, believers need to as well.
“You are Christ’s story being lived out on earth at this time and He wants to live His story of glory through you,” she said, later adding, “You are in Christ. Your story has already been written.”
Sharing how suffering loss is in line with Jesus’ story, Darla also pointed out that “His resurrection is your resurrection . . . (and) you are living proof, no matter what happens to you, Christ lives.”
Why did God let Whitney die? Mike admits it’s a question that remains a mystery surrounded by the pain of loss and what feels like injustice, but they still believe God does miracles.
“Here’s a part of the answer,” he said. “We don’t live in a just world, we live in a rough world.”
Mike spoke on the Just World Theory, where good people are rewarded and bad people are punished, but it’s not true; in a broken world, both good and bad things happen to Christ followers and those far from God.
In a memorable statement, Mike declared: “Faith is not what you use to get what you want; it’s what you have to have when you don’t get want you want.”
As the Rakeses came to their closing words, they urged those who have suffered loss to get out “of the tomb” (Jesus isn’t there) and do the “most repeated command in the Bible” — to praise the Lord, as it breaks discouragement, bitterness, and anger and brings a new focus in life.
The morning’s final testimony was from Chrissy Toledo, who planted and co-pasters Chicago Tabernacle with her husband, Al, and recently launched Philadelphia Tabernacle. Some may know her better as the daughter of Jim Cymbala, the pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle.
After acknowledging that possibly the most painful thing for most ministry parents is having a prodigal child, Chrissy Toledo declared that God does answer prayer, and He cares about parents’ hurts, pains, and aching hearts because she was that prodigal child.
However, she explained, growing up, there didn’t seem to be any indication that she would turn her back on God. She grew up falling asleep at night while listening to her mother and grandmother in the living room calling out to God and surrounded by people pressing into God and filled with the Holy Spirit.
“I was terrified of sin — I wanted nothing to do with sin,” she said. “But the devil is a liar.”
As she grew up, the voices in her head started telling her she was nothing, not good enough, not pretty enough, and she became obsessed with measuring up, becoming, as admitted, “ridiculously self-centered.”
As she tuned into the music of her day, songs spoke about women being sensual – and she followed that path, losing her virginity. Her parents, still unaware of their daughter’s secret lifestyle, sent her to Bible school.
“I stayed out all night one night, and I got expelled, kicked out of Bible school,” she says. “That was the day my parents learned I was living a lie.”
In a telling remark, she explained that her parents moved her from place to place, trying to help her get away from bad influences. “But everywhere they moved me, I went with me.”
For a while she moved home. In time, Chrissy and her parents realized she was pregnant. She began to run, often forced to sleep in her car with her baby. Her parents no longer knew where she was or if she was safe. She knew she was being a bad parent, but Satan had a grip on her life.
However, one night, while contemplating suicide in a room of an apartment someone had offered her for the night, a miracle took place.
“This dark, hideous figure came into my room and then this bright, luminous figure came into my room,” she recalled. “It was as real as you’re sitting here before me.”
What Chrissy didn’t know was at that very moment during the weekly prayer meeting in her father’s church, they were praying specifically just for her — people calling out her name to the Lord on her behalf – spiritually warfare was taking place!
When she awoke the next morning after a peaceful sleep, she says that it was as if a switch had flipped. Satan no longer had his grip on her, and her first desire was to pray.
She later learned that the prayers on her behalf were sparked by someone slipping her father a note that said simply, “Tonight is Chrissy’s night.”
In asking for a raise of hands for those who had a child or grandchild away from the Lord, a sea of hands lifted.
Referring to the Book of Job, she read how both the deceived and the deceiver are under God’s power (Job 12:16, NIV).
“Your children are deceived today,” Chrissy said. “You haven’t been terrible parents, you have not let them down, do not walk with condemnation because they are deceived by the enemy and today is the day for them to be set free.”
Asking the audience to stand, she asked those in the audience with a prodigal child or grandchild to pray for them as if today was their day.
General Superintendent Doug Clay then came to the podium and asked for the general presbyters, executive presbyters, and executive leadership team members in the audience, armed with anointing vials, to take their places around the arena.
Clay then asked for anyone suffering physically; was ministering through pain, loss, or injustice; or had a relative away from the Lord to come and be prayed over, urging those seeking prayer to move from a place of acceptance (of things as they are) to a place of anticipation (of what God will do).
As hundreds responded, Clay stated: “We’re going to take time and make space for the kingdom of God and His purposes to come here.”
LOWER PHOTO 1: Mike and Darla Rakes
LOWER PHOTO 2: Chrissy Toledo