December 27th, 2011
02:09 PM ET
By Stacey Samuel, CNN
Laurel, Maryland (CNN) – At the end of a row of neatly arranged banquet chairs, Sandra Ashford sat reverently, still in awe of what she says is her mother’s miraculous recovery from cervical spinal stenosis.
“If it wasn’t my mother,” Ashford said, “I wouldn’t believe it." She explained how after a “laying of hands,” her 74-year-old mother, Delsie McDougall, no longer experiences the symptoms from what was becoming a debilitating condition.
When she arrived in early December from her native Jamaica in search of treatment options, McDougall said, she couldn’t “walk straight.” When her neurologist prescribed surgery, she sought an alternative, one more in keeping with her faith.
On the recommendation of a friend, mother and daughter experienced their first charismatic healing service in the rented ballroom of a Holiday Inn in Laurel, Maryland.
On a Sunday evening a few weeks before Christmas, the two spent several hours in the temporary location of the Everlasting Life Christian Center.
“To tell you the truth, I was very skeptical,” McDougall said as she stood and swayed to the live music from the gospel singers. She showed no signs of physical discomfort.
They are among a fast-growing number within the diverse Christian landscape to join the charismatic movement.
According to a recent Pew Research Center report on Global Christianity, 305 million Christians worldwide follow the charismatic movement.
“One of the reasons the charismatic movement is expanding … apart from salvation, we experience healing, miracles. The blind see, the lame get up and walk, and the deaf can hear. That attracts a lot of people,” said Samuel Fatoki, who leads the roughly 200-member church with his wife, Marcia, who serves as his co-pastor.
Ashford recounted how on the third application of Fatoki’s hands on her mother, McDougall fell to the ground and began speaking in tongues. Ashford said her mother writhed on the floor, contorting in ways she couldn’t stretch before.
Both said she’s been walking upright since.
The Pew report categorizes charismatic Christians as a subset among non-Pentecostal denominations and includes Christians from each of the major branches: Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. The movement shares similar beliefs to Pentecostal denominations and similar practices like “divine healing, prophecy and speaking in tongues,” according to the report.
Dale Stoffer, professor of historical theology and academic dean at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio, said the charismatic movement has been present in the United States since the 1960s. The religious experience in the movement is more experiential, rather than based in intellectual expression.
“There’s a high degree of emphasis on the Holy Spirit working in supernatural ways,” Stoffer added.
While the movement is growing here in the United States, there’s been an “explosion in Christianity,” Stoffer said, in Africa, Latin America and Asia: regions of the world that have seen increased numbers of charismatic Christians.
A Pew Forum survey from 2006 found that 34% of Brazil's population identified themselves as charismatics.
“These are cultures that have not been impacted by the Western Enlightenment,” explained Stoffer.
A basic tenet in this healing ministry is complete belief, invoking one’s blind faith.
“And the signs shall follow them that believe, they will heal the sick, lay hands, cast out demons in my name,” Marcia Fatoki recited from the Gospel of Mark. She said she also shares her husband’s ability to prophesy.
Both asserted that they are not the purveyors of the miracles. “We’re not the ones healing,” Samuel Fatoki said. They are just the vehicles through which the Holy Spirit is working.
But it’s not a gift that can be called upon on command, like magic, as a skeptic may expect to see in order to be convinced.
“People’s faith level increases with more examples from others,” Marcia Fatoki said.
At a time when individual tribulations seem to have grown with increasingly difficult economic times, it’s no wonder that the ballroom was filled with at least 200 people from as far as New York, New Jersey and Virginia, many with testimonies of being cured of ailments from chronic sinus issues and financial woes, to smoking cessation and the disappearance of tumors.
So, what happens when neither of the Fatokis is able to heal someone? Samuel Fatoki said that that too is out of his hands, and it is the will of God.
But for Sandra Ashford and her mother, what they have seen is enough to inspire a deepening of their faith.
“To witness a family member go through this speaks volumes,” Ashford said, still giddy that more than three weeks later, her mother is still pain-free and walking with ease.
“It is the will of God that everyone be healed,” Samuel Fatoki said.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.