If my people… will humble themselves and pray… and turn from their wicked ways… then will I hear… and will heal their land.  (2 Chron. 7:14)

The world that we live in has been changed from its original Eden-like state by the curse described in Genesis 3.  The natural world that we are familiar with is actually the original “good” creation altered by the compounding effects of the thousands of years that have passed since the “Fall.”  However, at times we are given glimpses of the curse being reversed.  These reversals are the “first fruits” of what Romans 8:21 describes as the liberation that all creation awaits.

An example of this from the Bible is the momentary reversal of the Babel’s confusion of languages during Pentecost.  As you will remember from the book of Acts, when the disciples preached on that day each person in the multi-ethnic crowd could hear them speak as if in their own native language.   While on the surface this might appear to be a case of the disciples each being given the ability to speak in a language they did not previously know, a closer reading suggests that this is not the proper interpretation.  Acts 2:8 states that “each one heard them speaking in his own language“.It was not the speakers that were being changed, it was the hearers.  The “language barrier” that was imposed upon the creation in Genesis 11, at the Tower of Babel as a judgment to restrain our prideful rebellion, was temporarily suspended as a blessing upon the young Church.

Similar suspensions of the curse are still being granted to the Church today.  George Otis, Jr., in hisbook“Informed Intercession”,*1 reports of the changes in the fertility of agricultural land in a Central American town which occurred following a spiritual revival that transformed the entire culture.  One physical manifestation of that spiritual change was the transformation of the bounty which the land yielded.  I will let the author tell the story in his own words:

Almolonga, Guatemala:

In the mid-1970s, the town of Almolonga was typical of many Mayan highland communities: idolatrous, inebriated and economically depressed.  Burdened by fear and poverty, the people sought support in alcohol and a local idol named Maximon.  Determined to fight back, a group of local intercessors got busy, crying out to God during evening prayer vigils.  As a consequence of their partnership with the Holy Spirit, Almolonga … has become one of the most thoroughly transformed communities in the world.  Fully 90 percent of the town’s citizens now consider themselves to be evangelical Christians.  As they have repudiated ancient pacts with Mayan and syncretistic gods, their economy has begun to blossom.  Churches are now the dominant feature of Almolonga’s landscape and many public establishments boast of the town’s new allegiance.

     Almolonga is located in a volcanic valley about 15 minutes west of the provincial capital of Quetzaltenango (Xela).  The town meanders for several kilometers along the main road to the Pacific coast.  Tidy agricultural fields extend up the hillsides behind plaster and cement block buildings painted in vivid turquoise, mustard and burnt red.  Most have corrugated tin roofs …  The town’s brightly garbed citizens share the narrow streets with burros, piglets and more than a few stray dogs.

     Although many Christian visitors comment on Almolonga’s “clean” spiritual atmosphere, this is relatively recent development.  “Just twenty years ago,” reports Guatemala City pastor Harold Caballeros, the town suffered from poverty, violence and ignorance.  In the mornings you would encounter many men just lying on the streets, totally drunk from the night before.  And of course this drinking brought along other serious problems like domestic violence and poverty.  It was a vicious cycle.”

     Donato Santiago, the town’s aging chief of police, told me during an October 1998 interview that he and a dozen deputies patrolled the streets regularly because of escalating violence.  “People were always fighting” he said.  “We never had any rest.”  The town, despite its small population, had to build four jails to contain the worst offenders.  “They were always full,” Santiago remembers.  We often had to bus overflow prisoners to Quetzaltemango.”  There was disrespect toward women and neglect of the family.  Dr. Mell Winger, who has also visited Almolonga on several occasions, talked to children who said their fathers would go out drinking for weeks at a time. …  In an effort to ease their misery, many townspeople made pacts with local deities like Maximon (a wooden idol rechristened San Simon by Catholic syncretists) …  “He’s not just a wooden mask,” Riscajche insists, “but a powerful spiritual strongman.”

     In August 1974 Riscajche led a small group of believers into a series of prayer vigils that lasted from 7 P.M. to midnight.  Although prayer dominated the meetings, these vanguard intercessors also took time to speak declarations of freedom over the town.  …  In the months that followed, the power of God delivered many men [emphasis added] …  At this same time, God was healing many desperately diseased people.  Some of these healings led many to commit their lives to Christ …

     This wave of conversions has continued to this day.  By late 1998 there were nearly two dozen evangelical churches in this Mayan town of 19,000 and at least three or four of them had more than 1,000 members.  Mariano Riscajche’s El Calvario Church seats 1,200 and is nearly always packed.  Church leaders include several men who, in earlier years, were notorious for stoning believers. …

     The contents of the stores have also changed.  Once people stopped spending their money on alcohol they actually bought out several distressed taverns and turned them into churches.  This happened over and over again. …  As the drinking stopped, so did the violence.  For 20 years the town’s crime rate has declined steadily.  In 1994, the last of Almolonga’s four jails was closed. 

     Even the town’s agricultural base has come to life. [emphasis added]  For years crop yields around Almolonga were diminished through a combination of arid land and poor work habits.  But as the people have turned to God they have seen a remarkable transformation of their land.  “It is a glorious thing,” exclaims a beaming Caballeros. “Almolonga’s fields have become so fertile they yield three harvests per year.”  In fact, some farmers I talked to reported their normal 60-day growing cycle on certain vegetables has been cut to 25.  Whereas before they would export four truckloads of produce per month, they are now watching as many as 40 loads a day roll out of the valley.

     Nicknamed “America’s Vegetable Garden,” Almolonga’s produce is of biblical proportions.  Walking through the local exhibition hall I saw (and filmed) five-pound beets, carrots larger than my arm and cabbages the size of oversized basketballs.

     “Now,” says Caballeros, “these brothers have the joy of buying big Mercedes trucks – with cash.”  And they waste no time in pasting their secret all over the shiny vehicles.  Huge metallic stickers and mud flaps read “The Gift of God,” “God is My Stronghold” and “Go Forth in Faith.” …

     It is a beautiful spectacle to go and see the effect of the gospel, because you can actually see it – and that is what we want for our communities, for our cities and for our nations. …

     How significant are these developments?  In a 1994 headline article describing the dramatic events in Almolonga, Guatemala’s premier news magazine Cronica Semanal concluded “the Evangelical Church … constitutes the most significant force for religious change in the highlands of Guatemala since the Spanish conquest.”  *1

If this sounds like a fabrication, you don’t have to take his word for it.  You can see it for yourself if you go there today, or you can watch it on the video “Transformations.”*2  As was mentioned earlier, at Pentecost God had temporarily suspended one of the restrictions he had imposed on mankind, the confusion of languages, in order to physically endorse the message that the Apostles were bringing.  In much the same way, this sudden unprecedented change in the bountifulness of the land can be seen as God physically endorsing what the Church was experiencing.

The environmental implications of this are profound!  For years, doomsday ecologists have been warning that mankind could not feed himself as population continues to increase and the fertility of the land becomes depleted.  To a large extent this fearfulness has been the motivating factor behind western nations promoting abortion as a family planning “necessity” to third world countries.  The logic that they use is mankind is a curse upon the land, not a blessing.  Additional children are a curse upon their countries, not a blessing.

In effect, such a negative response to the physical the depletion of resources that we experience is ignoring what God is doing.  These things are being allowed in order to discipline us and to cause us to end to our rebellion against him.  God withholds a portion of his physical blessings from us to persuade us to turn our hearts back to Him.  However, instead of asking our Heavenly Father why we are being disciplined, we convince ourselves that these things are “natural” occurrences.  We then use our own efforts try to undo the disciplining that we are experiencing.

            What is happening in Guatemala makes it clear that God is able to bless those that turn to Him in repentance and collectively change their ways.  This is a flesh and blood example of God intervening in His creation today to provide physical evidence to reinforce the fact that the  spiritual changes taking place are authentic.  This also supports the Bible’s credibility concerning its “eye witness” accounts documenting God’s historic interventions into the “natural” realm.  In those days, God intervened in His creation, using nature to rebuke and to bless.  He is the same today as He was then.  He is still able to use nature to rebuke and to bless us.

            What are we to make of the sudden increase in the fruitfulness of the agricultural land which has been documented as occurring at the same time as an entire community turned its heart toward God?  That is obvious!  If you want to get serious about environmental protection, it is time that you get serious about your relationship to the God of the Bible!


*1   Informed Intercession by George Otis, Jr., Copyright 1999, Gospel Light / Regal Books, Ventura, CA 93003.

        Used by permission.

*2    The Transformations video is distributed by The Sentinel Group, P.O. Box 6334, Lynnwood, WA, 98036By Maurice Hamel     061901    www.healingtheland.org