- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2023

A medical missions conference will be held next week at Houston’s Lakewood Church, whose founding can be traced to the healing of its founder’s daughter through prayer and faith.

And the man organizing the Feb. 17-18 “Mobilizing Medical Missions” event, surgeon Paul Osteen, said it’s not incongruous for a church steeped in praying for the sick to want to connect those interested in medicine with opportunities to serve people in need.

“We see God move supernaturally,” Dr. Osteen said in a telephone interview. “But we also know that God uses medicine and doctors and nurses.”

Many know Lakewood, where 16,000 congregants fill each of three English-language services every weekend, as the base for Joel Osteen’s popular television ministry. But the 63-year-old church originated in the healing through the prayer of Lisa Osteen Comes, daughter of the late Rev. John Osteen, who founded the church in 1959.

“Our church was birthed out of a crisis in my sister’s health,” Dr. Osteen recalled. “She was born with a birth defect, [our parents] were told she would never walk, never feed herself, and yet God touched her and healed her and she’s alive and well, is one of our pastors at Lakewood and is a great Bible teacher.”

That healing followed an intense period of Bible study by John Osteen, who died in 1999, and his subsequent firing from the church he’d led when that congregation didn’t embrace the new message of healing. Along with his wife, Dodie, Osteen started Lakewood in an abandoned feed store, and the church continued sharing its message that God can heal in answer to prayer.

Paul Osteen said his mother experienced her own supernatural healing.

“My mom was diagnosed with metastatic cancer of the liver 42 years ago,” Dr. Osteen said. “I saw the scans myself, there were multiple lesions in the liver. Her prognosis was dismal: weeks at best. My parents prayed, God intervened supernaturally and without any treatment, my mom recovered and she’s alive and well.”

He said the church believes God “is the ultimate source of healing. If you have an infection and I give you an antibiotic, God uses me and uses that antibiotic to heal you. So we just look to God as the ultimate healer, but we put the hand of prayer and the hand of medicine together.”

Dr. Osteen said the conference drew “between 1,000 and 1,500” during each of the years when it was held in person. He said he was “not sure” about this year’s session, the first in-person event after the COVID-19 pandemic, “but it’s usually well attended.”

He said the event is designed to “provide a platform” to connect those interested in serving with others who share that desire. Another goal is to inspire participants with reports from missionaries serving overseas.

“We have people who are knee-deep, with their fingernails dirty, coming from places like Afghanistan and Nepal and China and India and Malawi, that have great need,” Dr. Osteen said.

A third aspect of the conference is found in the 75 exhibitors he said would attend.

“Hopefully, they will find their mission as they walk around the exhibit booths, find a place where they could be involved,” he said.

Dr. Osteen, who was part of a surgery practice in Little Rock, Arkansas, before joining the Lakewood pastoral staff, volunteers for 3½ months a year in Zambia, relieving a missionary doctor there while providing health care as well as training local medical staff.

“Once you’ve been over there and seen the need, it’s very compelling,” he said. “Especially if you have gifts and talents and the ability to help, it’s very compelling to want to use those gifts and talents and training to help people.”

Information about the event is online at https://m3missions.com/.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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