Exchanging Imagination for Memories: The Power of Experience
It has often been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. This is because physical imagery engages the senses, and not merely the imagination. It should therefore come as no surprise there are those who insist that an experience is worth ten thousand pictures!
The scriptures are filled with accounts of men and women for whom a verbal report was not enough — they simply had to see God’s glory and presence for themselves.
Moses asked to see God’s glory, and the Almighty obliged him with an up-close-and-personal encounter that set his face aglow. Job said “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (42:5).
In the New Testament, the men of Samaria had a powerful personal experience with Jesus that persuaded them that the testimony of one of their own women was valid:
And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “we no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves…” (John 4:41-42)
Thousands of others, upon hearing about Jesus, journeyed great distances to see him. Many marveled and praised God when they witnessed His extraordinary command over food, weather, sickness, and even death.
When a group of women reported an encounter with angels and the newly risen Jesus at the tomb, the disciples “…did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:11).
Shortly thereafter, two of Jesus’ followers came face-to-face with the Master in Emmaus and rushed back to Jerusalem to report the astonishing news. Later, the risen Jesus appeared to all of the disciples, save Thomas, while they were communing in a locked room.
When Thomas heard the news, he would not believe it, famously declaring that he would need to see the nail marks in His hands and touch the wound on His side. A week later, Jesus obliged His doubting friend, inviting him to examine His wounds. Suddenly the report became reality, prompting Thomas to exclaim:
“My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
Though personal encounters are not essential to faith, they are often powerful and life changing. They allow us to shed imagination in favor of the deep and profound power of experience. They boost confidence, releasing us to action we had previously been hesitant to undertake.
Historical Revival Exposure Tours
Irish leaders visit America
America’s Second Great Awakening reached its high water mark midway through the 19th century. Evangelist Charles Finney, a principal catalyst in this spiritual renaissance, described the remarkable impact:
“This winter of 1857–58 will be remembered as the time when a great revival prevailed. It swept across the land with such power that at the time it was estimated that not less than 50,000 conversions occurred weekly.”
News of this mighty move traveled across the Atlantic provoking great interest. In 1858, the Presbyterian General Assembly, meeting in Londonderry, dispatched two of their ministers, Dr. William Gibson and Rev. William McClure, to examine the revival firsthand. Upon their return to Ireland, these emissaries bore passionate testimony to what they had witnessed of the remarkable outpouring in America. These reports fanned the flames of revival in Northern Ireland until, in 1859, God’s Spirit broke through in what became known as the Ulster Revival.
South African leaders visit Germany
In the mid 1800s, a revival-hungry Andrew Murray and his elder brother John traveled to Utrecht, Holland for theological studies. While there, news reached them of a powerful move of God going on in Möttlingen, Germany. Intrigued, the brothers made their way to this Black Forest community where they “saw firsthand the ongoing work of God’s power.”
A few years after returning to their native South Africa, the Murray’s participated in a powerful revival that swept the Cape Province. Influenced by God’s work in Möttlingen, but also the revivals then impacting North America, the entire Cape Colony was brought to its knees before God.
Papuan leader visits Fiji Islands
In the early 2000s, leaders from many countries visited the Fiji Islands to witness God’s visitation in this South Pacific nation. Among the first of these visitors was Papuan ministry leader Walo Ani. Deeply impacted by what he saw of the Fijian “Healing the Land” process, Ani returned to Papua New Guinea determined to see God move there as well.
Applying principles gleaned from his time in the Fiji Islands, Reverend Ani saw transforming revival spread to scores of communities in the Central and Oro Provinces on the Bird’s Tail Peninsula, and to locations throughout the country’s mountainous interior.
The Emergence of FIRE Tours
For the past seventeen years, thousands of Christians around the world have had their faith similarly stirred by the Sentinel Group’s acclaimed Transformations video series. Drawn by the power of these remarkable stories, many individuals asked if we would be willing to take them to the actual revival sites so they could experience God’s handiwork firsthand.
Recognizing the historical precedent and power of such journeys, we developed a program we call FIRE Tours — or Firsthand Inquiry into Revival Experience. In recent years, hundreds of expectant travelers have journeyed with us on guided visits to locations such as the Scottish Hebrides, Uganda, Appalachia, the Fiji Islands, Central and Northern Brazil, Guatemala, and other revival locations.
Participants have included mayors, businessmen, students, pastors, policemen, intercessors, and families — united in their hunger for the authentic presence of God. Many have gone on to sow seeds of revival in their own communities.
Unlike revival seminars or workshops, these up-close-and-personal visits to places where God’s power and grace can still be felt are truly transformative. They allow participants to exchange imaginations for memories. Not surprisingly, the descriptive phrase we hear most often at the end of these tours is “life changing.” And that, we think, is what makes them such a wonderful investment.
Why not join us for an unforgettable experience?