I will hear from heaven.
I will forgive their sin.
I will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
On 17th May, seventy people with backgrounds and occupations in agriculture or the support of agriculture gathered in the conference centre at Di and David Harper’s lovely, diversified, Christian farm. The event had been six months in planning and coincided with a visit to England by Alistair and Marie Petrie from Canada. They were over here to teach on healing the land as part of a global ministry founded on many years of prayer and research to prepare for lasting revival, authentic community transformation and the release of the culture of the Kingdom of Jesus. The primary focus of their visit had originally been to work with churches in the cities of Canterbury, Birmingham and Liverpool, for the sake of those cities. However, the World Prayer Centre in Birmingham also wanted to stimulate preparation for a move of God in rural communities in England and had formed a small group to prepare for that from which this conference was the outcome.
Land is mentioned 1717 times in the Bible, Alistair told us - more than any other theme. And it is used to mean more than merely physical lumps of soil. It’s an expression to describe the relationship between God, people and the geographical location where that occurs. God created the land first and then us to steward it! Psalm 85 pictures the restoration of that holistic relationship. 2 Chronicles 7 warns very clearly that if God’s people fall out of relationship with him, the land in which they dwell will become dysfunctional as a provocation for them to turn to him again in repentance and hope.
I wanted to take part in this conference because I have seen many animal and plant diseases become established in our land during my lifetime. As a child, I saw the pictures of the major 1967 Foot and Mouth outbreak on TV. In 2001 I lived and worked through another - as did many colleagues. Thankfully, we were able to overcome those but at great cost. In the early 1970s as a teenager I was just starting to appreciate the stunning beauty of our English landscapes. Dutch Elm Disease took out those magnificent hoary-headed trees (I still have a faint childhood image of them) and confines their struggling suckers to puny, stunted growth and death, to this day. Bovine TB, first confirmed as a genuine zoonosis after 20 years of research around the turn of the 20th Century was brought largely under control by Tuberculin Testing, despite the disruption of two world wars and I was told as a 1981 graduate that I wouldn’t need to be concerned about it. However, it was already re-emerging at that point because the more recent intervention to eliminate residual infection in the badger had been stopped as a result of publicly unacceptable levels of culling. The politico-scientific stand-off which ensued is well-known recent history and many millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money have been spent striving to find an acceptable and effective way forward in the face of deteriorating disease statistics now 100 years after the bacterium was confirmed as a zoonosis. I must be clear and say that much continues to be done and some progress is being made. But farmers, vets and Local Authorities at the sharp end of control and controversy continue to endure much personal stress and hardship. The land mourns.
Such diseases are probably just symptoms of a deeper malaise, however. Our so-called Western World View, formed out of so-called Enlightenment, has a very material view of the world. Stuff happens for a reason; we need to get to the bottom of what’s going on and find a solution to deal with it - often involving brilliant scientific research and innovation. The principle is spot-on but we fail to take the spiritual dimension of creation into account in our investigation and research. So we fail spectacularly in uncovering some of the fundamental reasons for the symptoms we see and in finding the solutions to those reasons.
Alistair advised us that we need something more than disease epidemiologists for the healing of our land. We need spiritual epidemiologists as well! Thus with persistent disease, if we are digging into the reasons for it, go deeper! Keep asking the right questions. What is really going on here? Has the land been defiled in some way that causes a lingering foothold for evil? Was it immorality, idolatry, bloodshed or broken covenant? Those are the four main categories of sin which create such footholds which persist in places, families and positions of responsibility unless they are cleansed through repentance and forgiveness - sometimes on behalf of previous generations or previous office-holders.
Alistair told some truly amazing stories of what happens when such roots of evil are accurately identified and pulled out. A Canadian farmer whose business had been struggling badly through mediocre crop performance started to look into his spiritual history and was able to repent on behalf of significant immorality in his recent family tree. Within a year, he saw his business turn around and now exports top grade cereals to 40 nations. His produce is so sought-after for its quality that he gets invitations to go and teach on his agricultural methods - which include his spiritual cleansing of the land in the name of Jesus, of course! Alistair told a similar story in relation to infertility in a herd of cattle. And another about a small town in the Canadian Arctic which was struggling for survival in the face of negligible local Caribou (one animal per month) and seal stocks. Although Christian in name, the town had assimilated many heathen traditional ancestral practices back into its culture. Researching this, the villagers took a collective decision to repent and turn from all such practices and rededicate themselves and their town to Jesus. They publicly burned artefacts associated with the heathen culture. The following morning, they counted a herd of 15,000 Caribou surrounding their town, seal returned in significant numbers and small plants started growing through the Tundra which hadn’t been seen in a generation. Word spread and a neighbouring town also repented, with similar astonishing results. These are realities, fully testified and documented. We just don’t let our scientific enquiry go far enough!
What should I do? Stories like this provoke me to pray and ask questions about English agriculture, as well as for my own town and community. Colleagues and friends in Wales have been doing this for some time and many came to this conference to encourage us. Ultimately, individual farmers will have to take spiritual responsibility for their patch, their area of influence. But I can help prime the pump with my prayers and actions in my community and sphere of influence, addressing broken relationships and saying sorry to God for the sin of previous generations - and my own sin, of course! Actions like that start to loosen up the spiritual atmosphere as footholds for evil are reduced and removed. That opens heaven and makes revival possible, so that whole communities can turn and be transformed, spiritually and physically.
We get very uptight about the wrongdoing of others. The Lord’s words to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14 still ring loud down the generations: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land”. There’s a job for us there, on behalf of ourselves and, as a kingdom of priests, on behalf of all who dwell in our land.
If you’d like to hear more about the conference, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Alistair Petrie has written a number of books on the subject, providing a solid scriptural foundation for prayerful healing of the land. “Releasing Heaven On Earth” is one that we read in preparation for this conference.