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Cleansing waters

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By Robin Bass

“River, wash over me,

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cleanse me and make me new.

Bathe me, refresh me and fill me anew,

river, wash over me.”

-from the hymn

“River, Wash Over Me”

by Dougie Brown, 1980.

During a weekend when most Americans were celebrating the patriotic themes of independence and freedom, about 200 people exercised their right to freely-worship by enjoying a day of praise music and preaching. The high point of the day was when several of those people entered the cool flowing waters of the Salt River to be baptized.

“It was wonderful,” said Darrell Ingram, “We had 19 baptisms and several people were touched by the Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Ingram said that he and wife, Pat, have felt called to host the religious gathering since he was miraculously healed from cancer early this year. Doctors diagnosed Ingram with fourth-stage lymphoma December 8, 2009, and estimated his life expectancy to be a month. The rapidly-growing cancer cells had spread from his lymph nodes to the liver and spleen. Ingram also had several substantial cancerous spots on his lungs.

“They pretty much said there was nothing they could do for me,” said Ingram. “I was on the couch, just waiting to go.”

Then one day, there was a knock at the door of his East River Rd. home. Jerry Wise, a fellow church member of New Hope Tabernacle, had arrived on a mission.

“Jerry said Jesus put it on his heart to come see me,” said Ingram. “He prayed over me and I felt the Holy Spirit go through me. It came through the top of my head to my feet. I never felt such a sense of peace. I got up off that couch and a week later the doctor said all cancer had gone away.”

 With a heart full of gratefulness, Ingram began looking for purposeful ways to use his second chance at life. First, he constructed a 22-foot cross and erected the wooden structure near his home. Ingram said he received help from several people with the project, including Glasscock Sawmill who planed the cedar tree free of charge. Since installing the cross last May, Ingram said that he has seen curious motorists stop – and some have even knelt to pray.

 But Ingram wanted to do more by providing others the same healing gospel that changed his life. Ingram wanted to have an old-fashioned Brush Arbor meeting.

 “It’s been on my heart to have one. It’s just a good thing for the whole community and for the Lord,” said Ingram.

Saturday’s gathering, organized by brothers Jerry and Rex Wise of Brush Arbor Ministries, has its roots firmly planted in early American history. At a time when many families and adventurous individuals were abandoning the coastal communities and heading out to forge a new life along the frontier, early settlers still had a desire for religious inspiration and communion with fellow believers.

The solution came in the form of a traveling preacher who would hold camp meetings for several days. When settlers received word of his impending arrival, they would use trees and brush to create a temporary shelter to accommodate not only the preacher, but the people who traveled for miles to hear his sermons.

“It’s just an open revival for people of all denominations,” said Jerry Wise, who has been carrying on the tradition of Brush Arbor meetings with his brother for the past six years. Saturday’s event was their first  meeting of the year and only the second time they had organized the gathering in Taylorsville.

“Sometimes people will come to these meetings before they will go to a church,” said Wise.

Gospel tunes echoed along the river valley as local band Branded for Christ began the meeting by performing under the large white tent in Ingram’s front yard. Toes could be seen tapping, while others sang along. By late afternoon, the energy was amplified as one evangelist – and then another – began preaching.

“The Lord said to go out to the highways and byways and gather them into the house of the Lord,” said Evangelist Dreama Milburn. “The devil don’t want this message taught in Taylorsville today.”

Toward the end of her sermon, Milburn invited people to step forward and receive God’s offering of peace, healing and salvation. With their hands raised toward the sky, Milburn would pray aloud over each person – sometimes at the top of her voice or in an unrecognizable language. Worshipers appeared to be overcome by her prayers and would fall backward to the waiting arms of others. Their tears flowed freely.

“It’s unexplainable,” said Louisville resident Wendy Rioux of the experience worshipers called falling out in the spirit. “It’s the most peaceful thing you’ve ever felt. When she touched me, I felt heat in my back and now it’s not hurting.” Rioux explained that she had been suffering from back pain for quite a while before coming to the Brush Arbor meeting.

Larry Curtsinger, of Bloomfield, said he was also healed during the religious service. After several accidents and subsequent surgeries, pain has long been an unwelcome companion. “This is the first time I haven’t had pain since ‘91,” said Curtsinger.

Like others who were physically or spiritually healed, Ingram said his life has been forever changed.

“I know my Lord saved me from cancer,” said Ingram. “Now it’s my turn and I’m going to bring as many people as I can to the Lord.