by Lisa Stringer
Doug is a man who will always direct you to truth. He often says statements that cause me to process what I just heard and how it applies to situations in my life. He is constantly reminding us to filter what we hear and believe through the word of God. One of my favorite sayings is “Perception isn’t always the truth, but it is to the one that perceives it.” Turn on the news, or listen to conversations you may have with a few people. Take into consideration the facts that you know and you will find the statement too often to be true.
With over four decades in ministry, Doug has experienced and witnessed miracles, breakthroughs, survived guns in his face, has been punched and harassed, and so much more. I can sit and listen to stories, sometimes the same ones over time and not get tired —especially when there is another person present who lived the experience with him, or was a witness to it. They often bring more color and life to the story with their perspectives.
To this day, I still get tears in my eyes when he shares some of the testimonies of people who were living on the streets in hopeless situations. They accepted the kindness of a stranger who was doing no more than demonstrating the love of Christ, and eventually found healing. Many experienced a one-eighty; their lives were completely transformed, and relationships that seemed destroyed were restored.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
I know of girls who were involved in prostitution and who today are healthy, educated, working women and mothers who in every sense were made new, and are making a difference in society and the kingdom of God.
It was December 1996 and Doug felt led to host a corporate time of fasting, prayer, and worship in Houston for 40 days. It was known as Houston’s Prayer Mountain. He rented out an amphitheater on the only spot in Houston where there was a small hill where you can sit on the lawn and enjoy concerts. For those that are unfamiliar with the Houston landscape, the city is relatively flat and is barely above sea level. For forty days, people gathered for services that lasted five to six hours. Pastors and believers alike were being touched and there were subsequent moves of God that touched many in the greater Houston area that then reached nations all over the globe.
I have been fortunate to travel with Doug to six continents and over 34 nations, and have met people from all over that have shared how significant that prayer gathering was for them personally, or for someone they knew. I have seen the tears of joy in their eyes, or laughter when they reminisce of that pivotal moment in their lives that was transformational in whom they are today.
It was at that prayer meeting that Doug sowed seed that would reap an unimaginable harvest during our season of contending with cancer, one that only God could have brought forth and made plentiful. There is no way this story could have been written any better than the way The Lord allowed the miracle to take place and be known. It is truly a testimony to the goodness and grace of God, who is Omniscient and Omnipotent.
Let me fast forward to September 2015 when Doug and I were in Dallas for a fundraising banquet for United Cry/DC16. He served on the steering committee and was honored to be one of the speakers who shared that evening. I was blessed as usual to hear Doug and the others minister and encourage us. But this evening and this message was extra special. My warrior was soaring on wings like eagles and God was having His way in Doug’s life and ministry. We were determined that The Lord would get all the glory due His name.
As Doug was closing out his segment with his shiny bald head and noticeably full of energy, he told a little of his journey and the greatest of news–the recent results of the latest PET scan. The audience applauded with joy, but it wasn’t about Doug. It was about God’s faithfulness, and about all of us as intercessors being unshaken in our faith and trust in God.
The late Jack Hayford said, “Faith must have a resting place. When deep sufferings threaten the foundations of faith, we must be firmly rooted in His truths.” Faith had a resting place in Doug’s heart and it was evident. The testimony would encourage those in attendance to not lose hope, remain steadfast in the Word, and be people of prayer that was accompanied with faith that moved mountains.
At the close of the banquet, I was asked if I wanted to meet a young man who had been fasting and praying for Doug. Absolutely was my response and Doug’s as well. We walked to the back of the ballroom where he was mingling with others. It turns out that Doug had met him before, with other young leaders that had requested some time with him on a few occasions over the last couple of years. Often when we are on assignment around the globe, millennials and others that follow Doug will reach out and ask if they can meet him if he has a window of time before departure.
One of Doug’s greatest passions is sowing into the next generations. If they will glean with gratitude from his experience and draw from Doug’s wisdom, he will invest all he has, his time, relationships, and resources which he gives freely to those that hunger for truth and righteousness and will pay it forward. He will be the first to tell you, “Silver and gold I have none, but what I have I will share, including my relational equity.” Besides that, the Bible says that iron sharpens iron, and Doug too gleans from the young visionaries and kingdom warriors, usually walking away motivated, hopeful, and inspired.
We made our way to the other end of the banquet hall and approached a handsome young man with a bushy long beard and golden hair that was nicely brushed back and tied in a bun near his neck. He was well dressed in his suit and he towered over Doug. I was introduced to Derek Sewell, and as he shared his heart, my eyes became glossy with gratitude for the mighty warrior before me and for what God had done through him, without my knowing, to see victory on earth for Doug through the cancer trial.
When Derek heard of Doug’s diagnosis of cancer, he felt led to go on a forty day fast to pray for him. He saw Doug as a spiritual father to this generation. Derek later went on to say that he recently had a dream that Doug was healed. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed and humbled that this young man who had also been led into a spiritual Nazarene consecration to the Lord, would make such a sacrifice to agree for Doug’s healing and calling.
Derek shared with us later that at times he heard voices of doubt. Let’s face it, most of us question God about many things, but in the end, we must learn to always trust Him. Some things we may never understand, but we must know and trust that He has everything under control, and He never gives us more than we can handle, 1 Corinthians 10:13.
Here is what is most amazing about this story. Derek’s wife Melissa, who was his fiancé at the time, decided to encourage, support and partner with him by joining in on the fast for Doug’s healing. This meant a lot to Derek as he had taken notice of how Doug and I did ministry together and appreciated how we partnered as a married couple. He was now engaging in the same with his future bride for a cause dear to his heart.
In one of Melissa’s conversations with her parents, she mentioned who she and Derek were fasting for. To her surprise, her parents knew Doug. Melissa asked her parents how they knew of us since they are missionary pastors in Mexico City and have been serving there faithfully for over thirty years. It turned out that her parents were visiting Houston in 1996 and heard about the forty-day fasting and prayer gathering, and decided to attend.
During the prayer gatherings, Doug never took an offering for their own ministry; some people chose to sow anyway and would leave some of their jewelry at the altar. Doug had determined to sow it forward.
He let those in attendance know that if they were in need of some resources, they could take from what was before them cashing it in to meet the need or doing with it whatever they felt led to do. It was between them and God.
Melissa’s mom had been praying that The Lord, in His perfect timing, would provide precious jewelry or something of value that she could pass down to her daughters. It was an intimate prayer between her and God. As missionary pastors, they gave what they had to the people including their own financial resources to be a blessing to the community. When you are serving the less fortunate, you usually don’t worry about fine jewelry or name brands. Your focus is simply loving the people in truth and being a tangible expression of His love. Her parents loved what they were called to do and lived a lifestyle of giving with sacrifice, pouring out their lives for the ministry in Mexico City.
Doug had no idea of the desires of this mother’s heart, but God did, and how the story plays out amazed Derek. It has since amazed me too. Melissa’s missionary parents had gone to worship God corporately at the Houston Prayer Mountain gatherings, and never imagined they would end up with an heirloom for their beautiful daughter. Decades later, at her wedding, they presented her with it.
It didn’t have a great financial value, but because it was an answer to prayer, therefore it was a precious gift from God Himself.
Doug’s obedience to not sell the jewelry and not use the funds to help meet the needs of the ministry, but rather to pay it forward, led to legacy.
Derek was eighteen years old when he lost his father to esophageal cancer in 2005. He shared how some would tell him that claiming his dad was healed was a cop out, because his dad had passed away, but he knew that ultimately his father was healed in the presence of The Lord.
Derek recounted how he and the other two young men felt after meeting with Doug one afternoon at a coffee shop. “We left from that meeting just blown away. It was like hanging out with your dad. I don’t have a dad, so just to see this guy with such a genuine heart and love for God and love for people spoke volumes. I do business for a living with a large corporation. I meet people all the time, but to see someone that carries that heart, it was so different.”
It was sometime after that meeting that Derek heard about Doug’s cancer diagnosis. He had begun to notice that too many national prayer leaders had died from cancer, even within that year. He said to himself and to God, “I’m sick of it, so tired of it. Lord.” Derek had been serving young adult and youth ministry for years, and what he encountered the most was fatherlessness. Fathers were missing in families.
There is a hopelessness that is battled continuously in the younger generations because we have too many experiencing a lack of a father’s presence, love, affirmation, acceptance and approval.
Derek was deeply impacted by Doug’s heart, and knowing he was a father to Ashley and a spiritual father to many, he said to himself and to God, “We don’t need to lose another one.”
The first time Derek had ever heard Doug speak, he was sitting across the room from him in a steering committee meeting and Doug said, “At this national prayer gathering, we aren’t needing preachers pontificating or politicians giving speeches. America is desperate and we need the presence of God.” That sparked a fire in Derek and a hope that there was an older generation that genuinely cared about the presence of God in his generation. Derek went on to say he was thankful for all of the preachers in the community and nation, but just to hear Doug share that God showing up mattered more than anything, blew him away.
Derek later had a dream where he heard the voice of The Lord. He prefaced by sharing that he doesn’t have prophetic dreams often, but this one really shook him because he heard in this dream that ‘Doug Stringer is a father in this generation and if you fast and pray and intercede for his healing, you’ll be praying and interceding for the fathers in America.’ In the dream he understood what he had to do and took responsibility. He woke up from the dream and again said, “Yes, Lord.”
Derek said he got chills just recalling the dream. He then asked The Lord, “How can I fast and pray? Is this like a 3 day fast, a 21 day fast, Lord what are you wanting? Holy Spirit show me.” He was reminded of how Jesus talked about “they’ll know us by our love for one another.” He determined to give all that he had. So he started a 40 day fast. He wanted Doug to know he was fully loved.
A voice in the back of his head occasionally said it wasn´t worth it. He remembers hearing ‘you prayed for your dad and you lost him to cancer; nothing is going to happen with this.’ He refused to let that deter him and was determined to love a man he barely knew; he was going to love Doug Stringer by fasting and praying for his healing. He chose to only tell his fiancé, so she wouldn’t question his crazy eating habits which included not eating at times.
He told The Lord, “I offer you my loaf of bread and my fish and do with this little seed as you will, regardless if anyone ever knows about this.” Derek attended Mountain Creek Community Church in Dallas. It’s the highest point there, and it is known as Dallas Prayer Mountain. During the fast and on work days he would drive up to The Mountain on his lunch break to pray for Doug’s healing; even returning when he would get off work.
At the end of the fast he had mentioned to Lewis Hogan that he was praying for fathers and interceding for Doug. It was at the United Cry/DC16 fundraising banquet that he had heard for the first time that Doug was in remission. His fast had just ended the day before. Derek began to thank The Lord for His sovereignty and mercy and for the opportunity and privilege to partner with Jesus in prayer for Doug.
Derek shared how I had come up to him and began to thank him for praying. This is part of what he shared with Mike May, “ Lisa started weeping and said, ‘Thank you so much for praying.’ I saw that genuineness; it was my first time ever meeting her and seeing how she genuinely thanked me, which was crazy. All I did was pray. But I know there was a sacrifice to it, seeing her heart and how real and authentic she was. How much she loves her husband. She told us how Doug prays on his knees daily for my generation. For someone to say that, says a lot, but for his own wife to give testimony about him-that’s amazing. You don’t hear things like that. To hear a couple laying down their lives for a generation, that’s nuts. And that’s what we need more of. We need more fathers and mothers to show a generation that somebody does care.”
Derek’s forty day fasting assignment on Prayer Mountain Dallas was part of a legacy that was established in 1996 during a fasting call at Houston’s Prayer Mountain, twenty years prior. Doug sowed a gift of jewelry to some missionaries desiring an heirloom for their daughter, who would eventually become Derek’s bride. He fasted and prayed for the man who sowed the bracelet worn by Melissa, his now beautiful bride on their wedding day. Derek says, “God took my little seed of faith, that I was sowing with only my fiancé’s knowledge, and I was given the privilege of seeing Doug healed.
Every time I think about it I say, God thank you! That’s a father that we haven’t lost! Think about all the sons and all the daughters that are going to come as a result of this man’s life. So perhaps you can see that this tapestry was so much bigger than I could have ever imagined it to be.”
He went on to say, “My wife and I are thankful. I know I don’t have a Dad but God has shown me through this whole process that I am not fatherless. He redeems our lives and our stories. I am so thankful that God has weaved the lives of the Stringers, my family, and extended family together for an amazing story. You can’t make this kind of stuff up. I have been impacted for the rest of my life; I can’t deny it. That would be insane. That would be like someone trying to tell me that gravity isn’t real. God is real and he loves people and he gave His Son who died on the cross for us and rose again. He did it all for us. The Gospel is real and I’ll spend the rest of my life preaching this. I’m just thankful for the journey. I am thankful for Doug, I am thankful for Lisa.”
The person who gave their bracelet may never know of the joy they brought a sacrificial, loving and generous mom as she blessed her daughter with a tender gift on her wedding day. So when God nudges you to give, just do it; and remember obedience is the highest form of worship.
Doug often says that, “Prayer is so much more than handing a list of requests to God. If you want earth shaking results, you will be required to travail until heaven’s plan becomes a reality on earth.” Derek and Melissa, thank you for travailing. To the many who went to their knees on our behalf and travailed with us, thank you. I am sure there are many war room champions who partnered in prayer with us that I will never know about on this side of heaven; just know that we thank you and recognize that you too were a vital part of our victory through Christ Jesus.
For the Sewells and the Stringers, God had already established His purposes over twenty years ago. Never take for granted whatever you go through, good or bad. Allow it to be turned for the good because God has a greater story out of your place of need. No matter what unexpected detours you encounter, God just wants us to keep our vision of where we are going and not what we are going through.
(Excerpt from God Did Not Do This To Me by Lisa Stringer)