The leader of California’s Bethel Church, Bill Johnson, has explained why his congregation continues to encourage prayer for the resurrection of a toddler some five days after she passed away.
Olive Alayne Heiligenthal, the daughter of Bethel worship leader Kalley Heiligenthal, stopped breathing on December 14 while at home. Despite the best efforts of medical professionals to revive the two-year-old, she was pronounced dead a short time later.
Speaking in a video posted to Instagram, Pastor Johnson said his church is “honoring the parents” by “praying for the miracle of God” in the form of a resurrection of their child from the dead.
“We have a Biblical precedent,” he said of the specific prayer request. “Jesus raised the dead. Not only that, he introduced himself as ‘the resurrection and the life.'”
The charismatic pastor noted that Christ himself “commanded his followers to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cast out devils, to cleanse lepers,” and that Christians must be compelled to do the same.
Pastor Bill went on to address the question as to whether or not, through praying for a miracle, his church is “interrupting the sovereignty of God.”
“First of all, we don’t ever want to violate the sovereignty of God,” he explained. “But my question is ‘why did Jesus raise the dead?’ The reason Jesus raised the dead is because not everyone dies in God’s timing.”
In a series of clips shared to Instagram, Kalley and her husband, Andrew, could be seen leading the church in chants of “Olive, come out of that grave in Jesus name,” while waving Olive branches around in the air.
Olive has been at the Shasta County Coroner’s Office since passing away on Saturday.
“The child has been in the morgue since [she] died,” Johnson clarified. “She’s not here. We don’t surround the baby and perform some ritual. We’re together, honestly, to worship Jesus..he’s the miracle-worker, we’re not.”
Johnson also responded to those who are concerned that the miracle will not come to pass.
“When it doesn’t work, we don’t blame God,” he stated. “We give him the glory, we give Him the praise. We celebrate His goodness and kindness; nothing about our experience, difficult or not, changes who He is.”
Yesterday, Kalley posted an update to Instagram, declaring that “Day 5 is a really good day for resurrection.”
“I’ve never been more grateful for Jesus,” she added. “He is endlessly worthy of our love, trust, faith and risk.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched “to help cover unknown expenses for the family during this time and any future expenses for Olive.”
So far, over $43,000 has been raised.