Reflections on a Fake Youth Group Miracle

When I was in my mid teens I was part of a small youth group . One night, after a particularly emotional worship session, the youth group leader put his daughter [who was a little younger than me] into a chair in the middle of the sanctuary. He asked us to all gather around, that the Holy Spirit was telling him that if we all prayed and had great faith, that his daughter would be healed.

I remember such a thrill coursing through my body. The Holy Spirit was talking to him!? We were going to see a legitimate miracle?! I was on board. We all gathered around and he instructed us to lay hands on her. He knelt down by her chair, grabbed her firmly by the ankles, and started to rub them while whispering a soulful prayer. As we listened in rapt attention he informed us that his daughter had one leg shorter than the other, about an inch and a half, and that if we prayed hard enough her legs would be healed and would be lengthened.

This was news to me. I didn’t know this about her. I had never noticed it, and never seen her limping or having trouble walking or playing sports or anything like that, but at the time I just figured that she was good at hiding it or used pediatrist-recommended  inserts or something along those lines. I angled in for a better look. He turned her legs towards us  and yes- sure enough, the bottom of the soles were not equal lengths and that there was a definite discrepancy. He gripped the ankles and shoes tightly and began to manipulate them, muttering words of supplication for healing. He said they were growing warm, and my eyes almost jumped out of my skull as I imagined that the would start to glow any second now. I watched in amazement as slowly, agonizingly slowly, her shoes seemed to wiggle and rise downwards, extending slowly as he held them. Was this really happening!? And in front of me?! I remember thinking that I hope there were no skeptics in the room, otherwise this might stop halfway through.

After a long moment of watching her shoes extend and push forward, he announced her healed. He showed us the soles of her feet, and true enough, they were now at the same length. She got up from the chair, put her feet on the ground, said “they’re even” and then did a little hop and dance. The room blew up. Pandemonium ensued. We laughed, whooped and hollered. We shouted thing like “Amen!” “Thank God!” and “God is here!” Some people wept. Everyone went around the room hugging. With faces flush we jabbered excitedly to each other about what had happened and how fortunate we were to have been there. It was a monumental and defining moment in my spiritual life.

Later on that evening, I asked the daughter how she felt to have been touched by the Lord. I expected her to give a glowing affirmation of how blessed she felt. Maybe she heard angels and the hallelujahs of heaven.  Instead she was…upset and agitated. Perhaps resentful? At the time her response confused me, but because she tended to be moody and emotional apart from this whole thing, in my 14 year old mind I chalked it up to more of the same, and even thanked God that he had worked through such an unworthy vessel.

Several years ago I came across a description of such a so called miracle in a blog post, replete with step-by-step instructions, pictures, and videos. Though the following excerpt was not what I read, it served to offer a vivid description of the techniques used.

“Here is the simple basis for why this short-leg growth trick always works as it does; people don’t sit perfectly straight when they sit down. They usually lean slightly toward one  cheek or another and in fact it is hard to sit perfectly straight and balanced even when ordered to do so. Uneven weight distribution causes ones pelvis to tilt slightly, which of course also affects how long your legs APPEAR to be relative to each other. So when the mark/victim/subject holds his/her legs out straight, the pelvis angle will make it appear that one leg is shorter than another. When the healer tugs on the legs it causes the victim to shift his/her weight and sit straighter, changing the angle of the pelvis, so the short leg “grows.”

In the command (no touch) method of this trick, there is some loud declaration of a miracle happening right now! This is screeched so that the victim/subject/mark will lean forward to see if his her leg is actually growing – it is the leaning forward that causes the victim/mark’s weight to shift so the miraculous “growth” can occur.

In the unlikely event that the victim/mark accidentally manages to sit completely flat in the beginning so that both legs are viewed as the same length, the  miracle worker always has a backup plan: The faith healer simply pulls slightly on one shoe as he/she lifts the legs up, pulling one heel out and making one leg appear longer temporarily than the other. The Man/Woman of God then slides the shoe back into place again as he/she prays, making the legs suddenly appear the same length. This takes a little practice at sleight of hand work so that nobody sees what you are doing, but it’s still pretty easy.”

I read fascinated, my mood alternating between surprise, anger, and a profound sense of betrayal. In the years since then, the outrage has waned and the resentment has vanished. I’ve read and watched fraud after fraud exposed, and watched in less-than-rapt attention as tricksters and hucksters fleece the sheep with their bogus claims. One of the most recent occasions would be the so-called Lakeland revivals, where Todd Bentley made a fool of himself every night for months on end, before ultimately being exposed as a drunkard, adulterer, blasphemer, and a two-fold son of hell.

Strangely enough the leg-lengthening revelations did not do anything to lessen my belief in the supernatural, or in God’s sovereign and providential ability to heal. Though I am righteously skeptical of most shenanigans I hear, [especially of someone raising the dead "in Africa" ]  I believe with all my heart that God can and does heal, that his mighty hand can be placed upon a man and he will be made whole. I don’t think its common, or that people have the gift of healing in the same way the apostolic fathers did, but nothing on earth could move me from the position that God is active and alive in the life of his people, and that he  performs miracles and exercises his power, might and love for the sake of his people- that they in turn might glorify him.

A few days ago I contacted the youth pastor from all those years ago, a man to whom I haven’t spoken to in five or six years, and asked him if what had happened that night was legitimate. He neither confirmed nor denied it, instead saying that he personally believes that she was healed, whether it was a miracle or not. I’m not sure how to take that, but I do know it was good to talk to him and to thank him for work he did in the Lord for all those years, fake youth group miracles or not.

2 Responses to “Reflections on a Fake Youth Group Miracle”

  • Shane

    Blessings on you!

  • mike

    Hey Dustin, unfortunately you are correct about this fake healing. I use to travel in a “Prophetic Ministry” years ago. This trick/huckster healing is so common for traveling Evangelistic/Healing/Prophetic ministries. I have seen It done all to many times.

    I’m grateful to hear that is has not hindered you from trusting God, that he still can heal people.

    Jas 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
    Jas 5:15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

    Lets pray that God raise up true Elders, that are carrying there cross and walking in the fruit of the spirit.




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