Physician, Heal Thyself
An average southern family, Mom and Dad and little Johnny along with his seventeen-year-old big brother Dave, arrived at the old rural church in the hills of Eastern Tennessee. Dave found himself at the unkind mercy of Evolved Photoplasm Virus, or, as it is commonly known, EPV. Dave was the reason the family was here at the church.
It was a hot and humid afternoon in Eastern Tennessee. Although it was early October, the region was facing an unfriendly dose of Indian Summer bringing them high humidity and mid-nineties temperatures. While New England was embraced by the crisp cool autumn, Mom, Dad, and Johnny dragged poor Dave through the thick sweltering heat of Eastern Tennessee hoping for a miracle.
Dave was tied up with ropes at his wrists and ankles, and his mouth was restrained with a few strips of what Dad liked to call “country chrome,” known to the rest of the world as duct tape. In spite of Dave’s bonds, it took all three family members to move Dave toward the building, and that was still with quite a struggle. Dave’s family filed into the small white church building along with many other families in the same situation, looking for the same hope: that God could fix what man had broken. The wooden sign with chipped white paint hanging on the side of the building read “Full Gospel Church of His Stripes By Which We Are Healed.” Those entering knew it simply as the Gospel Church of Stripes.
As the families filtered into the little building, the heat outside quickly seemed like a chilly winter day in Canada compared to the heat and stench of sweat inside, but these faithful believers would not be turned aside by a little warmth. They came to receive healing and deliverance. If they had to pay for it by enduring a little heat and stench, it was nothing more than a simple test of their faith and reserve. They would easily pass such a test.
The families filled the old wooden pews and attempted to maintain control of their afflicted loved ones. At the front of the room stood a tall wooden pulpit with a large cross nailed to its front. Aside from this there was only a small electric organ that looked like it was lifted right out of a Nineteen-Seventies revival meeting.
A small old woman with thin white curly hair sat at the organ. From the pews you could see the bald spot on the top of her head, which could not be covered despite all the teasing in the world. For her to wear a wig would have been vain, plus she was simply waiting on the Lord to heal her from this affliction, among many others.
As the families finished finding their seats, the organ started piping, in those awful seventies electric tones, an extremely two-dimensional version of Victory in Jesus. The folks of the congregation stood and started singing along. Off key sounds of “oh victory in Jesus, my savior forever” mixed with the moans and groans of the EPV victims. It was passionate and beautiful and disgusting and awful all at the same time.
“Good brothers and sisters of the Gospel Church of Stripes, the Lord has said that by His stripes we are healed!”
The room erupted with “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!”
“Preach on Brother Fermann!”
Brother Fermann, the most well known and well respected healer in the hills of East Tennessee had stepped up to the big wooden pulpit. Dust filled the air as Brother Fermann slammed his fists down on the pulpit to annunciate his proclamation. The hope of healing for these sad souls was so strong it could be felt. It was nearly as heavy as the weight in the air from the sweat and humidity.
Brother Fermann wiped the beads of sweat from his balding forehead with a baby blue handkerchief which he had produced from the back pocket of his matching baby blue suit pants. With this he proceeded to drive home his point.
In a loud confident voice that was thick with a southern drawl he continued, “The Lord has said in his Holy Word that with only a mustard seed of faith, just a small seed worth, we can move mountains! Today we have great mountains of evil to move, great mountains of Satan to cast away! Tell me my brothers. Tell me my sisters. Do YOU have just a mustard seed of hope, a mustard seed of faith, in our risen Christ and in his holiest of holy blood which was spilled for our healing and deliverance? Tell me, do you?”
The families all burst out in affirmation.
“We do Brother Fermann!”
“We have faith in our risen savior’s holy blood!”
“Our faith is in the blood of the lamb!”
Brother Fermann, in response to the congregation’s proclaimed faith, went on, “Then my brothers and sisters bring … me …. those oppressed by this unholy demon of Satan!”
Johnny watched Mom and Dad bring Dave, as he fought his bonds trying to attack them, to the front. Johnny couldn’t help thinking that this was no longer Dave, that he – or better yet, it – was a monster wearing Dave’s skin. A few other EPV victims were also escorted, with some effort, to the front of the small church building by their family members.
Brother Fermann resumed once the EPV victims were in the front of the room. “I ask you again brothers and sisters, do you have faith in the stripes of Christ? Do you TRULY believe in the healing power of His holy blood?”
Again the room erupted with “We do Brother Fermann!” The affirmations of faith sounded throughout the little white church. This time they were accompanied by a new sound, what the average person would hear as incoherent babbling, but this was not from the infected as one might expect. This was the sound of God’s faithful praying in tongues, or “in the Spirit,” as they preferred to call it. They were putting together syllables that resembled no language known to man, but, as they believed, were given to them to speak from the Spirit of God. As they offered up their prayers “in the Spirit” a new level of intensity was clearly being added to the meeting. The elderly woman at the organ continued to plunk away at the old keys. A real energy, some, certainly those present, would have called the presence of the Spirit, was entering the room. A sort of hysteria was taking over the families that had gathered in the small building that sweltering October evening.
After yet again wiping his forehead with the now quite damp handkerchief, Brother Fermann, almost as if on cue, proceeded with his message. “If you believe, truly believe deep down in your souls, you must show the Lord God your belief in an act of faith! As when Moses struck the rock in the desert and the clear cool water flowed, we must strike our own rock here tonight to let the floods of living water rush over us and heal our brothers and sisters who have succumbed to this strange and evil affliction!”
At this moment a few of the church’s deacons appeared from a side door carrying heavy rusted old chains in their hands. They walked to the large double doors in the back of the room and ran the chains through the doors’ handles, securing them with heavy padlocks. This same action was taken on the side door, the only other entrance or exit, through which they had just a few moments ago come into the room. The keys to the locks were then handed to Brother Fermann who held them up in the air like a sports trophy. In like fashion the room erupted with applause and cheering as if this were some kind of sports championship.
Johnny had witnessed such events. He remembered the time when the high school football team, for which Dave had played offensive tackle, had won the state championship. He felt great joy and pride for being Dave’s little brother that day. Unlike those times, at this moment in the old church, as Brother Fermann held the keys over his head, Johnny felt nervous and uncomfortable. He quickly tried to wipe those thoughts from his mind, because he knew that he must have faith if he wanted to see his big brother Dave receive healing. He had been taught this lesson every Sunday at the Gospel Church of Stripes for as far back as he could remember. He must overcome this unsettled feeling. Even if all others in the room had complete faith, Johnny knew that his disbelief could be enough to stop God from sending the healing power of his Spirit. Johnny must believe, as he saw the others doing with such passion and intensity.
“We have struck the rock!” Brother Fermann declared, “Now let us feel his presence rush over us and heal our afflicted brothers and sisters!”
At this point in the evening the room was ablaze with heat and noise. It was more than enough to make anyone feel a little confused and delusional. The people praying in tongues had grown in numbers as well as volume. The moans and groans of the EPV victims was increasing as they were agitated by the close proximity of so much living flesh containing the energy they instinctively craved; yet their restraints kept them from being able to access that energy despite all efforts. They seemed unaffected by their limitations and continued to moan and fight against their loved ones who were hoping to save them. The organist, all frail and old, was wailing away on the keys of the electric organ now, producing an off-key soundtrack to the event.
As the congregants’ enthusiasm intensified, the room that felt like an oven when they walked in continued to grow warmer still. All the activity was contributing significantly to the stifling temperature in the room by generating excessive body heat. The air was so thick from the sweat and humidity that it could certainly be seen and almost literally be cut with a knife.
It was in the midst of all this dizzying energy that Brother Fermann was finally ready to baptize these afflicted “brothers and sisters” with the “living waters of Christ’s healing power.” He reached a sweaty palm to Dave’s forehead. Dave didn’t seem to realize Brother Fermann was trying to save him. He squirmed and fought trying to biteBrother Fermann’s hand pulsing with life and energy.
At the top of his lungs Brother Fermann shouted his demands. “Satan! We rebuke you in the holy name of Jesus! Demons be gone in Christ’s name! We, his children, demand in his name that you leave our brother by the power of the holy blood of Christ!”
Brother Fermann interpreted Dave’s moan. He said, “Remove his gag, he wants to speak praise to Christ.”
Johnny was confused because what Brother Fermann heard as praises sounded very similar to the moaning and groaning Dave had been making since his pulse went away three days earlier. Fortunately Johnny’s parents had more faith than him. They knew that Brother Fermann was the one that God had chosen to speak and heal through. They knew it was not their place to question him. Johnny watched Mom and Dad pull the duct tape from Dave’s mouth, and he had a fleeting fear that even they looked a little apprehensive about it.
Brother Fermann leaned in to Dave and asked in a victorious voice, “What is it brother? Testify of God’s healing hand upon you!”
Dave lunged forward and sunk his yellowed teeth into the fatty flesh of Brother Fermann’s neck. He clamped down his jaw and drew back, ripping a huge chunk of skin, fat, and muscle along with a bath of blood from the well respected healer’s neck. Brother Fermann let out a gurgled scream along with what sounded like a cry for someone to “Geh tha gahdamm mahhser the fuchhh away fwo me!”
Blood splashed across the people who had been standing in the front of the congregation waiting for their loved ones to be healed. Brother Fermann fell to the floor and went into violent convulsions before finally falling still. Just a few seconds after he had presumably died, Brother Fermann sat back up.
The congregation in the small church suddenly snapped out of “the Spirit” and panic erupted. They ran for the double doors. The group who had just been singing and praying and yelling “amen” in such hope now pulled and banged on the doors and screamed for help as they were consumed with absolute terror. All their efforts to open the doors or get help were to no avail. The chains would not budge and the keys were in Brother Fermann’s pocket. They were trapped in the Gospel Church of Stripes.
Brother Fermann struggled to his feet. When he finally stood up, with the aid of the old electric organ, he looked straight at the people who had come and put so much faith and trust in him, and his message of God’s healing. Blood was streaming onto the organ from the wound in his neck and that same deep red flowed from his gaping mouth and now completely black eyes. It was soaking into his once white dress shirt and baby blue suit. The dark red of the blood mixed with the already yellow stains from the excessive amounts of sweat that had saturated the neck and underarms of Brother Fermann’s shirt during his impassioned sermon and healing service.
Once Brother Fermann had gained his footing he ran toward the congregation. They froze in terror and hopelessness. The Evolved Photoplasm Virus, that now controlled his body, did with ease and quickness what it did best: consume energy, in this case, the energy of human lives. Brother Fermann tackled the old organist and scraped off the top of her balding scalp with his upper teeth. She immediately died. Her old body was in no shape to survive a scalping, let alone fight the EPV once it hit her bloodstream. After she reanimated the two of them worked like a team, much like they had at the organ and pulpit, but now their goal was not saving souls, but devouring flesh. Their fingernails dug in where their mouths could not yet reach, and, before anyone could overcome their panic-induced immobility, they were all either being eaten alive or had been infected and reanimated by the EPV. Either way, they were all experiencing unimaginable pain and agony. As Johnny, being disemboweled by Dad and Brother Fermann, gasped for his last few breaths, his final thought was, “If only I had shown more faith.”