Chapter 1: Christopher Gunderson and the face of documented medical miracles
This year tens of thousands of people across America will claim they were miraculously healed. In many cases, somebody will be standing close by to take the credit. As an energized and expectant crowd looks on, the sick will rise out of their wheelchairs and walk across the stage, testify that their pain has disappeared, their sight or hearing is restored, their headaches are stopped, their arthritis, asthma, depression, or insomnia cured in an instant. Faith healers will broadcast their miraculous results as proof that God is working through them and they therefore deserve not only everybody’s prayers and support but also their financial contributions.
The same thing happened last year and it will happen again next year. Since the time of Aimee Semple McPherson in the 1920s, eager crowds have flocked to healing services where confident healers promise them that they can be restored to health. And for just as long, critics have questioned whether people who attend these services and seem to be healed have actually experienced a miraculous cure.
High-profile healings under the TV lights are often for medical problems that eventually resolve themselves anyway: for conditions like arthritis or asthma that are cyclical and naturally improve from time to time; stomach trouble or headaches that often have a psychological component; or chronic pain that can be subjective and alleviated temporarily by placebos.
Even if some of these healings are miraculous, it’s far more likely that the overwhelming majority happened without special supernatural intervention, instead boosted by the power of suggestion and the excitement of the moment. Faith healers can rarely point to cases of healing where the medical evidence is startling, inexplicable, and incontrovertible. They never seem to cure broken bones or gall stones, or do away with documented organic sickness.
Except when they do.
Rarely, a case emerges that can’t be even remotely explained by medical science or any logical, natural means. Something happens that seems completely unexplainable according to physical law, and where a divine or supernatural hand seems impossible to discount. That is a miracle. And that is the story of Christopher Gunderson.
Sixteen Years Without a Meal
Chris Gunderson lived with his parents and brothers Michael and Ryan in Oregon. He was polite and agreeable, an active, healthy, outgoing sixteen-year-old who was good with a skateboard and did well in school.
Yet when he was born, no one could be sure Chris would ever make it to sixteen. His parents, Mike and LeAnne Gunderson, were frantic when they learned that their son was born with chronic pseudo obstruction syndrome. This rare condition paralyzed his stomach and part of his intestines. He couldn’t eat anything and couldn’t even drink water. His digestive system was completely shut down. He spit up everything he swallowed. Soon he stopped growing and then started losing weight.
Mike prayed faithfully for his young son, not knowing whether Christopher would live or die. The family felt that they had to enjoy every possible minute with him because they had no idea how much longer they would all be together.
There was no cure or treatment. Doctors performed several surgeries before coming up with a permanent solution. They bypassed his stomach completely, connecting a feeding tube directly into his intestines, then put a second tube in his stomach to pump out bile and saliva.
“It was a really tough time,” LeAnne says of those early years. “But I’d always hear this little voice when I’d get really upset whispering, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll all work out in the end.’”
Two plastic ports were permanently installed on the left side of Chris’s torso; the upper was connected to his stomach, the lower to his intestine. From that time on, Chris grew up healthy and normal except that he couldn’t eat. Any regular food caused severe stomach aches and vomiting.
Chris pointed out that he could do anything anybody else could do, but just did it differently. When he was with friends and felt like eating something in order to join in, he would take small bites and surreptitiously spit them out, or swallow them and empty his stomach later through the tube. To get nourishment Chris wore a backpack that pumped formula into his feeding tube during the day. An IV pole fed him at night. For sixteen years.
Then on a November night in 2011, everything changed.
Invitation to a Miracle
LeAnne and Mike went to a dinner that night to raise support for Christian outreach in Honduras. The speaker was Bruce Van Natta, who told the audience he used to run a successful truck repair business in Wisconsin. One day in 2006 he was working on a logging truck when it fell on him. The axle nearly cut his body in half. His chest and stomach were laid wide open, severing five arteries. His chances of surviving this accident were next to zero. His chances of a full recovery even slimmer.
According to Bruce, while paramedics struggled to save him, he had an out of body experience. From a vantage point at the top of the garage, he saw angels ministering to his body and paramedics working on his injuries. He felt no pain, just peace until he heard a paramedic calling his name. Then he suddenly found himself back inside his broken body looking up at the paramedic who had called to him.
Doctors had no explanation for how Bruce survived an unsurvivable injury. Bruce recovered after five operations, his body now a roadmap of scars.
Sitting in the audience listening to the story, Chris’s mom, LeAnne, thought she heard God whisper to her that she should approach Bruce after his talk and tell him about her son. Expecting a big crowd to gather around Bruce when he finished, she hesitated and then started to walk away. Yet against her conscious intention, she felt God pulling her steps toward him. When Bruce saw her heading his way, he stood as though he’d been expecting her.
Bruce listened carefully while LeAnne told Christopher’s story. When she finished, he asked if anyone had ever prayed for him. Of course, she said, people had prayed for him many times over the years. Bruce asked if she would bring him to a meeting he was holding the next day and let him pray for her son. Remembering the moment LeAnne says, “It was an invitation to a miracle.”
After so many years of unfulfilled prayer, LeAnne was afraid to be too hopeful that night, afraid of setting herself up for disappointment. “There was a tug of war going on inside my heart,” she later wrote, “a hushed apprehension vs. a quiet excitement… My mind had doubt percolating inside it, but my soul was screaming to trust God and RSVP his invitation with obedience.”
The meeting the next day was with a congregation that met in the cafeteria of a local school. After the service the Gunderson family walked forward and waited their turn for Bruce to pray for them. When they met, LeAnne could see that Bruce and Christopher had “an immediate connection, an instant camaraderie.” Chris explained his situation with nervous excitement, then he and Bruce compared scars and histories.
“Bruce gave a few disclaimers,” LeAnne later explained. “Bruce said he didn’t know why God had chosen to heal him miraculously after the truck accident. He was ‘just an average guy who had been given an extraordinary gift.’” Bruce also made it clear to Christopher he had no special powers to heal anyone. God had all the power. He didn’t know what God’s timetable or methods would be.
Then Bruce asked Christopher if he could pray for his healing that day and Christopher accepted. The family gathered in a circle.
One Moment in Time
“Bruce was still praying when Christopher announced that something was wrong,” LeAnne wrote. “Something was happening! He was grabbing his G-tube [the upper tube that went into his stomach] and saying something was happening to it. Bruce stopped praying and asked Christopher if he needed to sit down. Christopher said that he was okay and wanted to keep going, so Bruce began again. He said that we had to keep going. God wasn’t done yet. At this point, I couldn’t close my eyes. I had to watch…
“Christopher’s body was trembling slightly. His face was completely flushed, and he had a look that I had never seen before.” Chris had a very serious, intense, and all-consuming look on his face, yet his hands hung relaxed at his side, eyes peacefully closed.
The G-tube began to vibrate and pulsate. The vibration “moved down through his abdomen following the pattern of his intestines.” Then the lower J-tube [the intestinal port] began to move. “There was a tactile, pinpoint focus. It was like God had a laser beam aimed directly at Christopher’s abdomen, and He was healing him.”
Christopher felt a pulse in his stomach the whole time Bruce was speaking. Now he felt an electric shock and the vibrating motion that his parents could see.
In a television interview Chris’s dad, Mike, recalled he had his hand on Christopher’s shoulder and it felt like his whole body was shaking. The G-tube was vibrating under his t-shirt. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Mike watched the vibration as it followed the pattern of his son’s intestines, moving down his stomach to the second tube, the J-tube. Then the J-tube started vibrating.
At that moment Chris felt “a big shock go through my shoulder and through my stomach. It felt like a pulsing, pounding feeling in my stomach. That was God jump-starting my stomach back up with a shock.”
LeAnne says, “You just knew what was happening and that he was being healed. When we all got out to the parking lot we were standing there and it was like, ‘What just happened?’ It was one moment in time that just changes everything.”
That night the family went to a restaurant where Christopher ordered a cheeseburger and enjoyed the first real meal of his life. He started eating tentatively, then swallowed bigger and bigger bites. Chris called it one of the best days of his life. He never had any further complications and never used the feeding tubes again.
The tubes have since been removed and now there are two healed holes where the ports were, the only physical reminder of Christopher’s sixteen years without a regular meal and the miracle of that November night. The doctors were baffled by this unexpected and unexplainable turn of events.
Mike and LeAnne are thankful for the long journey that brought Chris a miraculous healing. Through tears Mike explains, “The harder the journey, the better the reward.” LeAnne adds, “God is so good and he is so big and so compassionate and he can heal anything… What is impossible for man is not impossible for God. Everything’s possible for him.”
Instantly and Perfectly Healed
Bruce Van Natta does not project the popular image of a modern day faith healer. No white suits, no TV network, no big hair, no private jet. He seems uninterested in cashing in on whatever healing power he has. Instead, he humbly offers his ministry to whoever needs it, accepting contributions but never soliciting them.
And yet his medically documented healings seem to outnumber those of his better-known contemporaries.
On his website Bruce shares the story of George Chamberlain, who was seriously injured in a dirt bike accident when he was sixteen. He was doing a push-up out of the mud where he had fallen when a rider he’d just passed roared up from behind, landed on his left arm and crushed it, leaving bones sticking out through the skin in three places.
At the hospital, doctors said there was only a twenty percent chance they could save his arm. “Going to sleep not knowing if you are going to keep your arm was the worst feeling ever,” George said. After seven hours of surgery and three pins inserted, the arm was saved. Following six weeks in traction the arm had fifty percent movement.
“After more physical therapy I got it to 65 percent movement but for the last 32 years my left arm was 3 inches shorter than my right arm, was slightly crooked, and only had 65 percent range of motion,” George reports.
He continues the story. “Fast forward to January 29, 2012 and Bruce Van Natta … was preaching at Gateway Faith Fellowship Church in Fulton, Illinois… Bruce led off with telling us he used to race dirt bikes down here in Fulton. Instantly being an old dirt biker I was awake.” Bruce preached from Mark 11:22-26: “And Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who also is in heaven may forgive your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses.’”
After the service a group surrounded Bruce as usual, talking and asking for prayer. George felt he should be the last in line. When his turn came, he asked for prayer for his wife and for a friend. Bruce, noticing his disability, asked if he could pray for George’s arm too. “And he did,” George said, “but nothing seemed to happen right then.”
George went home and sat on the couch. “As I was sitting there,” he recalled, “an overwhelming presence of God came over me. It started at my head and warmth like I never felt before started down my body slowly. When it came down my shoulders I felt my arm begin to move out. I could feel things moving at my elbow joint which had been crushed as well. It felt weird — like God was knitting it back together, but it didn’t hurt, it felt wonderful. God instantly and perfectly healed my arm right then and there.
“My arm is now 3 inches longer and I have 100 percent range of motion. Lisa, my wife, came home and I was so stunned I couldn’t talk… I have since been able to give my testimony at church of what the Lord did for me and when I put on one of my old custom made suits that is made 3 inches shorter on the left arm it really shows what God did… What used to be my ‘bad’ arm is now even stronger than my ‘good’ arm and my wife and I are now able to work out together.”
As with Chris Gunderson’s healing, this event was medically inexplicable, sudden, and permanent — consistent with the examples of Jesus’ healing miracles in the Bible.
Taking God at His Word
Bruce Van Natta claims no personal power as a healer; he’s only an instrument of God’s power. Another member of Bruce’s ministry team, Bruce Carlson, has also had success healing in Jesus’ name.
Brian Hill was thrown by a horse and separated his pelvis front to back. After six weeks of treatment and physical therapy he returned to his feet but then the pain in his hips started to increase. Three months later he could barely walk. X-rays and MRI showed the pelvis had re-separated. His orthopedic surgeon suggested inserting plates and screws but even then there was no guarantee it would relieve the pain. Brian’s friend James suggested that James’s friend Bruce Carlson come to visit and pray for Brian.
When Carlson met them at James’s ranch, Brian explained what had happened and all the pain he was in. Carlson had Brian sit in a straight-backed chair, then took the heels of Brian’s feet in his hands. The right leg was clearly an inch or so shorter than the other because of his misaligned pelvis.
Brian picks up the narrative. “Bruce began to pray, taking God’s word as true and trusting Christ would do as He promised. As he prayed I saw with my own eyes the right heel go out and pass the other one then come back perfectly the same as the left. ‘God is putting your pelvis back in alignment,’ Bruce said. He asked me to stand as he prayed laying his hands on my hips, again believing on Christ and His word for the power in our healing. This time I could actually feel like someone squeezing the SI joints [sacroiliac joint where the spine and the pelvis meet] together. When Bruce had finished praying for me I could tell that something was different.
“Still in pain, I went home. That was Thursday. Friday morning I woke up. Hmmmm — not as much pain and I was able to be on my feet much longer. By Sunday (not kidding) I was throwing horseshoes with my boys pain free, loaded and unloaded three moving trucks, and I’ve been on the go ever since. I thank my Lord Jesus Christ and His faithful servant Bruce Carlson for the miracle of healing.”
Your sister will be healed tonight
In his memoir The Happiest People on Earth, Demos Shakarian shares his spiritual journey through a life that, as he tells it, was filled with miracles. Shakarian, a wealthy businessman and landowner, was a Pentecostal who gave generously to religious organizations and founded the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International. Some of his viewpoints and some recipients of his generosity remain controversial — evangelist and prophesier Charles Price, healer Aimee Simple McPherson, and televangelist Oral Roberts among them — but at least one story comes with medical proof comparable to that of Chris Gunderson and George Chamberlain.
In the fall of 1941 Shakarian’s youngest sister, seventeen-year-old Florence, missed a stop sign on a foggy California morning. She drove through the intersection and hit a road repair truck, spilling its load of hot tar onto the road. The impact threw Florence through the air and into the pool of boiling tar. X-rays showed a crushed left hip and pelvis and loose bone fragments working their way toward vital organs. However, because of her severe burns the doctors were unable to operate.
Six days after the accident, Shakarian’s church congregation held a day-long fast and a twenty-four hour prayer vigil for Florence. That night Charles Price was speaking at a tent revival nearby. Shakarian asked Price to visit Florence at the hospital. Price agreed and reassured Shakarian saying, “Don’t be anxious, son. Your sister will be healed tonight.”
It was nearly midnight when the two arrived at Florence’s bedside. She was sedated and in traction. Price anointed Florence’s forehead with oil and prayed over her. Suddenly Florence started groaning and tossing around, sending traction weights swinging in all directions so that both men had to dodge them as they stood by the bed. Though nurses usually checked on the room every ten minutes, no one interrupted them for the twenty minutes that Florence tossed and rolled. Demos expected to be ordered out of the room any minute, because they were making lots of noise and the doctors had warned that Florence’s still-unset broken bones had to stay absolutely immobile.
After twenty minutes Florence stopped moving as suddenly as she’d started. Looking up, she stirred enough to say, “Demos, Jesus healed me.” By the time the nurse came in, Florence was sleeping soundly.
Early the next morning Florence’s doctor called for Demos to come back to the hospital immediately. As Demos recounted the story years later in his book, “The X-ray room was jammed when I arrived, doctors, nurses, and technicians all crowding to see. Pinned against a lighted screen were eight X-ray plates. The first seven showed a crushed and dislocated left hip and pelvis. The bone was almost pulverized in places, the bone chips more widely dispersed in each succeeding photograph.
“The eighth slide, taken that morning, showed a pelvis that was normal in every respect. The two sides of the picture were identical: the left hip bone as well formed as the right. Only some hair-fine lines indicated that once — surely many years ago — this solid bone had ever been injured.” Florence spent another month in the hospital recovering from her burns, but the broken bones had been completely and miraculously restored.
We can question whether Charles Price had any sort of healing power and whether his anointing oil served any benefit. It’s harder to dismiss as a fake, fluke, misperception, or medical anomaly a room full of doctors who saw with their own eyes X-rays showing healthy and normal bones where there had been life-threatening injuries the day before.
Like Florence Shakarian years before them, Chris Gunderson, George Chamberlain, and Brian Hill had serious, long-term, minutely documented medical conditions and were permanently healed in ways unexplained by any known natural process. Their case histories provide evidence for miracles that is hard to explain away.
Solid documentation of sudden and unexplained healing sets apart the faces of miracles considered in this chapter from the vast numbers of people that high-octane evangelists claim to have healed, but with little proof. And when it comes to high-octane evangelists, Benny Hinn tops the charts.
 All quotations and information about Chris Gunderson taken from LeAnn Gunderson’s blog at http://christophersmiraclestory.blogspot.com; and interview video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0QtFCpFg9I.
 All quotations and information about Bruce Van Natta taken from his ministry website http://sweetbreadministries.com; healing testimonies can be found at http://sweetbreadministries.com/amazing-testimonies/.
 All quotations and information about Bruce Carlson taken from the Bruce Van Natta website http://sweetbreadministries.com/amazing-testimonies/
 Shakarian, Demos, The Happiest People on Earth (Chappaqua: Steward Press, 1975), p. 68.<  Ibid., p. 71.  Ibid.