Amidst the sea of colorful flyers in Paresky touting everything from a cappella concerts to QSU pizza parties, one red poster sponsored by the Williams Christian Fellowship (WCF) stood out last week. The poster advertized a miracle healer, naturally inciting heated discussion across campus and a flurry of impassioned WSO posts. But while terms like “spiritual healer” and “miracles of God” may raise eyebrows on a liberal college campus like Williams, the WCF believes that the spiritual revival gathering held last Friday and Saturday represented an opportunity for Christians and non-Christians alike to celebrate their spirituality.
The event featured Reverend Paul Ma, a professed healer from the Queens Pentecostal Holiness Church in New York. “We invited him here not just because he claimed to be a faith healer but because its not unusual for other people involved in extracurricular activities to bring in people who’ve inspired them,” said Esther Cho ’13, a member of Ma’s church. During last week’s sermons, students were given the opportunity to come forward to have Ma pray over them, in hopes of curing their troubles.
According to Cho, spiritual healers like Ma treat a broad range of ailments. “It’s about physical and spiritual and emotional healings,” she said. Indeed, Ma’s sermon featured video testimonials of church members stating that they had been cured of conditions ranging from cerebral palsy to clinical depression.
Cho witnessed Ma treat a fellow church member over the summer. “My friend Michael [Hyung-Gu] was suffering from cerebral palsy. His mental state was fine, but he was paralyzed from the waist down,” Cho said. The congregation went on a spiritual retreat, a time for the congregation to bond as a community and be alone with God, in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. During daily prayers, Ma laid his hands on Hyung-Gu’s head, as he often does when praying for congregation members. According to Cho, when Ma touched Hyung-Gu, “He told us that he felt a bigger hand on top of Pastor Ma’s. He said he heard this voice in this head that said, ‘Get up,’” Cho recalled. With the aid of several men in the congregation, Hyung-Gu stood for the first time.
Over the next several days, Hyung-Gu gradually gained use of his legs. “This wasn’t an instant thing, but his legs slowly began to be restored. The guys helping him walk realized that new muscles were springing up,” said Cho, who was initially shocked at the sight of Hyung-Gu standing. “I was like, ‘What just happened?’ But 15 of us saw the same thing, and we have videos of it.”
This incident marked the first time that Ma, a recent immigrant from Korea, healed someone. He claims to have healed five to six individuals since then. “Reverend Ma hasn’t been a pastor his whole life,” Cho explained. In fact, Ma was once the CEO of a successful online corporation in Korea. “He won national awards back home. But he felt that God was calling him to be a pastor,” Cho said. Ma moved to New York and established a small, largely Korean church in Queens.
However, the Pentecostal congregation doesn’t credit Ma alone with curing people. “It’s weird to say ‘his healings’ because it’s all God,” Cho said. Members of the church interpret each healing as God acting through a disciple, rather than a power unique to the healers themselves. “Having the gift doesn’t mean you can go around and heal everyone,” Cho said. “God has to give you that power. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean you can go to the hospital and pray over everyone and make everyone better.”
Cho acknowledged that the concept of spiritual healing might be hard to swallow, even for some Christians. “There are definitely some people who didn’t believe it completely. They didn’t see it personally like I did, but they trust me. Given that not all the WCF members were familiar with spiritual healers like Ma, the decision to bring him to campus was based on mutual trust,” Cho said. “There was trust involved in bringing him here. People were like, if you want to bring your pastor in, I trust you. Because we all share that common love of Jesus.”
“As a Christian from a non-Pentecostal background, I was originally uncertain about what to expect, and I think a lot of Christians in WCF were in a similar position,” WCF member Caleb Kim ’13 said. “I was personally encouraged by the fact that, despite that uncertainty, a significant portion of WCF attended the event, and that sense of unity, or community, is really important for the continued growth of the group.”
According to Cho and Kim, the sermons last Friday and Saturday were not intended to glorify Ma but rather to inspire a spiritual revival on campus. “The purpose of the revival is for Christians to revive their faith and to feel God’s love again. In essence, the revival is about sharing the message of Jesus with Christians and non-believers alike,” Cho said. “I wanted people to see Christians sharing God’s love and say, ‘What’s up with that person? They’re always so happy and joyful and loving.’”
Kim also discussed the revival’s broader implications: “For me, it’s been an excellent starting point for personal discussions about the supernatural and, in particular, the Christian faith,” he said. While there’s no consensus on whether any miraculous healing actually occurred, the event inspired open conversations and reinforced the sense of community within the fellowship.