Photo by Philip Pickard.
While the accounts of my experience at Don Ross Ministries may seem extraordinary, they are undoubtedly true. My witnesses to these are a dispersed congregation of believers which included the late Donald B. Sanders (1944-2010) who wrote, “Pastor Don Ross of Don Ross Ministries in Calgary (Charismatic/un-denominational). He taught me much about ‘moving in the unction and power of the Holy Ghost’. I wept openly at his funeral a few years ago. As a matter of interest – Don Ross had been a plumber and an alcoholic before God got hold of him, changed his life and empowered him. But his increasingly powerful ‘lay ministry’ had been rejected at the Pentecostal Church where he had been attending; so he established his own successful ministry – a ministry of Holy Ghost teaching, divine healing and charismatic worship – with no Bible schooling – his training and gifting came directly from the Holy Ghost.” My primary witness is the Spirit of the Living God himself, who has graciously provided me with a second chance in life through this most remarkable ministry.
In November of 1986 my mother mentioned a prayer meeting in Calgary where there were reports of people getting healed. We drove to a tiny church named Faith Chapel where Don Ross Ministries had gathered, with my mother’s friend Dorothy in tow, who struggled with an extremely difficult speech impediment. As we entered the meeting a woman at the front taught attentive listeners who framed the perimeter of the room in chairs. When finished, she invited the congregation to stand and greet one another before the regular service would begin. As the forty stood and shook hands an especially thick and welcoming presence of the Holy Spirit filled the room. While each relished in the undeniable swell of God’s love their countenance glowed and exuberance of embrace increased. Thiselton explains, “Far more important than the shape of the phenomenon of Pentecost is its theological significance. Dunn offers some wise words about whether the experience of Pentecost can ever be repeated. In one important sense, he explains, Pentecost is initiatory, and in this sense ‘Pentecost can never be repeated — the new age is here, and cannot be ushered in again . . . but in another sense,’ he continues, ‘the experience of Pentecost can and must be repeated in the experience of all who would become Christians.’” Enraptured by the Spirit’s presence, I sat with a large grin on my face, when someone began tugging on my sleeve. It was Dorothy, who looked at me with divine peace in her eyes and acknowledged, “Isn’t this wonderful?” without a hint of stammer in her voice.
The musicians gathered at the front of the room and entire congregation joined in song. I stood singing and clapping my hands for several minutes when something seemed to begin obstructing my view. When closing my eyes I could see a vivid image of Christ, as though presented on a thin sheet of mylar, about a foot in front of my face. He appeared in simplistic form; with outstretched arms, black dots for eyes, a black dot on each hand, in a white robe and with a crown of thorns on his head. Mesmerized by this vision, I wondered what might happen if I opened my eyes again, then could still see him clearly before me. When closing my eyes a second time I was especially drawn to the fact that he wasn’t standing on anything, but suspended by fire which radiated outward in every direction. The agreement between the Spirit and Son was most perceptible and fascinating to me (John 16:12-15). I now understand that this was the Holy Spirit’s witness to me, that Christ had come in the flesh and was now risen in glory (1 John 4:1-3). Thiselton explains, “The work of the Holy Spirit is Christ-centered. Paul exclaims, ‘No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit’ (1 Cor. 12:3). He had earlier expressed this theme in Galatians: ‘God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” From this experience I have come to understand why it is imperative to gain a solid understanding of scripture to interpret what the Spirit might be ‘saying’ to the church. Were it not for Peter’s explanation on the Day of Pentecost, those present would not have understood what the Spirit was doing (Acts 2:14-21). With that said, I am also inclined to believe that God would cause ‘the stones to cry out’ if no interpreter could be found.
As the Spirit flooded over me I could feel myself inviting him in to an area of emptiness, like a ‘dry place’ in the center of my chest, which filled in and closed in a flash (Luke 11:24-25). The pastor began walking around the center area and laying his hands on people. When coming to me he placed a hand on each side of my neck and I felt a rush of the Spirit flood through my being, then laid on the floor for several minutes basking under an even heavier weight of God’s presence (Psalms 32:4). At the end of the meeting the pastor, named Don, followed me to the coatroom and held me close, explaining, “God really touched you in there. You keep coming back and see what he will do.” This had been an extraordinary evening for me. I returned to the church for the next fourteen years, which held its meetings four to five times a week. During this time I was still struggling with my inability to speak, but found incredible empathy from members of the congregation who provided the nurture and community I so desperately needed (Psalms 68:5-6). While the congregation represented a diversity of cultural backgrounds, they continued to assemble with one purpose of heart, in following after the tangible presence of the Almighty God (Ephesians 4:3-6). Pinnock explains, “At Pentecost God began to move the world from alienation to its goal and place in divine life. Michael Welker writes, ‘Through the pouring out of the Spirit, God effected a world-encompassing, multilingual, poly-individual testimony to Godself.’ The church is the sacrament of the presence of Jesus Christ in the world.” I returned repeatedly, to receive from the divine Lord who transcended my circumstances and captivated my heart from the very beginning.
While this ministry did not necessarily teach on theology, their adherence to scripture and corporate dependence on the Holy Spirit was outstanding; with the Spirit himself providing in-depth teaching and theological grounding (John 6:45). Meetings included regular bible teaching, an hour of praise and worship, followed by preaching and/or ministry from the Holy Spirit. Regular services would range from times of quiet inspiration to profound revelation, where participants were provided with deep healing, deliverance or inspiration from the Spirit (Galatians 5:1). Whenever the congregation would come in weary and depressed, Don would encourage us to ‘look to the Lord,’ or insist, “you can’t go on feelings Saints.” Then, when lifting our hearts toward God and beginning to worship, in spite of circumstances, the Spirit would meet with us with inspiration and joy — usually expressed through crying, dancing or shouting as he captivated our hearts (James 4:7-8). Thiselton explains, “The Holy Spirit ensures that this expansion cannot be stopped. Ronald Williams subtitles his commentary on Acts, ‘Nothing Can Stop the Gospel.’ The Spirit empowers the Church, and the Word of God denotes the content of the gospel. The Church faces setbacks and difficulties; but through the Spirit these were regularly turned to advantage.” Members of the church were always eager to pray for and encourage one another, and thrilled to observe as others received from the Holy Spirit (John 14:23).
There were a number interesting events that led to my attending this remarkable ministry, and many that have transpired since then. My journey began at the very bottom, where it would have been much easier to pass on life, instead of fighting or just holding on. The trials in this life can be most painful and difficult to endure. But looking back now I can hardly believe how far I have come. As absurd as this may sound, I am deeply appreciative for the immense deficit in which my life began. For if it were not for this I would have never required, or even accepted, such profound intervention from the Holy Spirit and members of this church. Since then my faith has grown extensively through the tension, contrast and paradox of many years of struggle — for which the Spirit of God has helped me through. At many times, when circumstances have seemed absolutely impossible, I have had the privilege of receiving God’s miraculous intervention in some extraordinary ways. God has a way of answering our many concerns with one single stroke of his pen. My hope is to encounter him again and again. The greatest achievement that humankind could ever obtain in this life is a reestablishment of an intimate relationship with the everlasting and everloving God.
When my father passed I didn’t shed a tear, but when Don passed away I cried each day for six months. He was a true friend and spiritual father to me. Don Ross Ministries had no affiliation with the Vineyard Ministries or any others, but was the result of God’s sovereign work through one man who was willing and available. The ministry provided an exceptional display of God’s intervention, where he himself determined when and through whom he chose to move. While traditional churches sermonize from the pulpit, this ministry resembled Christ’s getting down into the dirt with his cherished people. The Spirit of God is not a ‘dead letter’ that is hard of hearing when someone calls upon his name. Instead he is an unstoppable sovereignty, who transcends all that we can ever be according to his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). There have been many times where I have become frustrated or even disappointed that God has not yet used me in the same powerful way as Don, but I understand that he has to start somewhere with each and every one of us. I also believe that God will work in his perfect timing, and if he chooses, will make good use of my character and calling. The most glorious and ineffable presence of the eternal God makes waiting worth it all. In the words of my dear friend Don, “What else is there?”
Acts 2:14-21 (NIV) Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 ‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”