The Kasakhstan Effect

man sleeping

In March 2013, almost one-quarter of the residents of two Kazakhstani villages, Kalachi and Krasnogorsk, started blacking out or falling asleep for no explainable reason. In these small, dusty settlements on the outskirts of the Kazakh Steppe, it was reported that residents would pass into unconsciousness for hours. Some were actually out for up to several days at a time and no one knew why.

They would go unconscious right in the middle of the day while walking on the street, shopping, carrying a child, riding a bike or while working. When they woke up they complained of headaches, memory loss, fatigue, and overall weakness. Every living thing in both villages was being affected, from children to senior citizens and even cats and dogs were overcome by this mysterious force. Children claimed that they had nightmares of winged horses and snakes or worms eating their hands. Rumors flew wild and people were convinced that a curse from the spirit realm had manifested in the villages.

For nearly two years, doctors and researchers were baffled and none of them had a clue as to what was causing the phenomenon. Some attributed the effects to the consumption of tainted vodka, as the town was full of people with Russian ancestry. Others thought it was a strange village wide narcolepsy. One psychologist claimed that they were experiencing mass psychosis and both villages needed serious emotional counseling. Religious leaders even chimed in because they were convinced that the occult was behind what was happening and it had to be a spiritual attack which needed an exorcism of demonic forces.

As a result of the unseen force, the behavior of the villagers changed dramatically. No one wanted to drive a vehicle, few rode horses, wagons or bicycles. Mothers were afraid to carry or bathe their children. No one went swimming, started a fire, worked with chainsaws or any other occupation that was potentially dangerous. Even cooking a family meal on a stove or going outside in cold weather was viewed as nearly impossible. People feared “falling asleep” and the results could be disastrous.

Then, in 2015, after analyzing the blood work and medical results of all the residents, researchers found the cause. They discovered that the random bouts of midday collapse and unexplained “sleep” were all connected to high levels of Carbon Monoxide and specific hydrocarbons that had been found in the blood of those who were unconscious. Apparently gasses were being release in massive amounts from some unknown source and they were periodically flowing down into the two villages. After some digging in local and government records, the source was uncovered. The culprit was a hastily closed Soviet uranium mine which had not been properly seal off.

Gasses were collecting in massive amounts within the mine and then found a way to vent from the unsealed mine into the air. The vented gas was heavier than the surrounding atmosphere and it would sink to the lowest point, which happened to be the two villages. Each “bubble” of deadly gas caused lower oxygen levels in the air and when it rolled into the village, those it flowed over blacked out. The scary part is that had conditions been just right, every living soul could have been silently suffocated by this invisible killer, and no one would have known why.

The above drives home a very important but often overlooked truth. We cannot always take everything that happens at face value. What something appears to look like on the surface could in fact, be very, very different from what the truth actually is. Until something is fully examined, better understood and the facts made known, you only end up with an opinion that is filled with unproven speculation. Without the facts you can’t come to a valid, honest conclusion!

The point is it’s never easy to be the focus of unwarranted aggression, or to tolerate a politician you are convinced is a self-promoting, sociopathic liar. That being said, I want you to consider something else. It is possible that the one you find so repulsive is under an invisible force, like the gas in those villages, and you just don’t see it. Could it be that they are actually being overcome by the unseen noxious memories, inner hurts, personal tragedy or past emotional and physical abuse they have suffered? Don’t misunderstand what I just said. I am NOT excusing inexcusable behavior! What I am saying is that such things lurking in the mind and emotions of a person, can be the source of what is manifesting, but it just looks like something else.

Remember, all those villagers were impacted profoundly for two years, and it changed their behavior, yet they could not see it and did not know it was there. The gas arrived unnoticed, did it’s harmful work and then left with hardly a trace. It is important to note that even after the people recovered, there were side effects and sickness that had to be overcome for life to continue. It might not have been normal life, but it was the life they were left with, and they had to walk it out on a daily basis as best they could.

Those you encounter, whom you find so intolerable, may have been caught in the grip of unseen forces. They could be living out life in fear, as best they can, with an intolerable circumstance that is sucking the life out of them. That odd behavior, that vile lifestyle or that crazy belief they are clinging to could be the aftermath of a silent, deadly force that nearly took them away. Could it be that your contact with them is God’s way of showing His love to them, and you God’s agent to bring them the healing they so desperately need?

If you only look at the surface of people, the obvious “facts” can be very misleading. My challenge to all who read this blog is to go beyond the surface in every life you encounter. Dig into the personal “records”, like those researchers in Kasakhstan, and keep digging until you uncover the truth. Move past the behavior, speech, lifestyle and beliefs that seem so repulsive, and start digging into the heart of the person. Uncover the unseen forces that have shaped them into what they are. You might just find a key to understand them and that key can save them from their broken life and bring them to Christ.

The adventure called “life” is best lived out with others. Some lives you encounter will be pretty messed up and others might be relatively healthy. Regardless of the condition, each life is worthy to be helped along the way. Best of all, in helping others discover the best in their life, you will also uncover the best that is within your own. This is Christianity at it’s core and it is the life Jesus called us to live. My question is, will you rise to the challenge and uncover the truth in those difficult people you encounter, or will you continue to let the unseen forces in the l world rule the lives of those you are supposed to help? Only you can answer that important question! If you answer correctly it will set you free and can literally rescue those who might otherwise be just one more casualty on the road of life. May advice… go out there and uncover the truth and then set free everyone you meet. That is the life worth living and the one I hope we all want to live!

The Power Of A Broken Life

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I received a text two nights ago from a young man I care about. He is a hard worker and actually bought his own house at the ripe old age of 18. He has been struggling with addiction for several years, and when he asked me if I had time to call him because it was “kind of an emergency”, I took it seriously. When I dialed the number he gave me, his father answered the phone, thanked me for calling and then handed it to his son.

The opening words I heard were ones I will never forget. “Pastor Bill, I died on Friday night from an overdose. I was gone for 10 minutes and the EMT brought me back to life. I have checked myself into rehab for a 28 day program and you were the first person I had to talk to. I have to tell you what happened to me when I died. I want to come back to church but I feel so ashamed and don’t want people to judge me.” Those were the most terrifying and wonderful words I have ever hear. They spoke of total brokenness and the fearful, questioning hope he had when reaching out to the one person he still trusted.

His experience with death was one I have heard numerous times. In fact I have two very close friends in the ministry who have both been dead and come back to life. The first, Steve Fedel, died three times on the way to the hospital when he fell ill while ministering in France. Our church was the first place he preached when he returned to the US. His experiences change his life and ours, forever. The other is, Dean Braxton, whom I meet last year. Dean fell critically ill, and while in the hospital and was clinically dead for 1 hour and 45 minutes. To the shock of everyone, he came back to life and began telling what he had experienced during his time in heaven. Another man I know was revived and said he had been floating in the corner of the hospital ceiling. He described in detail what his father, the doctors and the nurses had all been doing during the time he was dead.

Over the past 30 years as a pastor, I have had the privilege and the heartbreak of being at the bedside of many who died and did not come back. The final moments of these is a unique blend of the life they lived and the beliefs, or lack thereof, that they held. Some were terrified and struggling with every last gasping breath, desperately trying to escape what they were being dragged into. The fear and absolute terror on there faces is something I can’t forget. These are the ones who lived life on their own terms and pretty much rejected the knowledge of God. Others, who I knew to be Christians, saw loved ones who welcome them home. Some were surrounded by bright light and indescribable music. Some felt overwhelmed by the absolute peace and love of God that embraced them. One lady I remember in particular, looked up into the air and began to smile. At the moment of death she lifted her hand and grabbed the hand of someone I could not see, and then she was gone.

I say all this to bring home a very important point. The fact is, you are going to die some day, and if you fail to take this seriously, that moment may not be met with the joy and anticipation you hope for. As I listened to this young man, the heart gripping sincerity of his experience hit me. Something in him had changed. While he was dead, he was forced to face a sobering truth: “I don’t know where I am going”. Fortunately for him he was given a second chance, but few get such a profound opportunity. I am pleased to say that he and I and his mother prayed together over the phone. I believe his surrendered life and the invitation he gave Jesus to take him over was real. My hope is that he will use this new lease on life to really become the man God intended him to be.

What about you? Do you know, I mean really know, what awaits you when death comes knocking at your door? You will have to answer that question……. eventually. More importantly, every one of you are going to experience it. The clock is ticking for us all, and that fact is inescapable. For some who are reading this blog right now, time may out in a few hours or days. For others it may be a few weeks or years and some may even have decades ahead of them. But, you don’t really know …… do you?

The solution to this all-important question is simply elegant, and it is filled with the sacrificial love of a God who cares for you more deeply than you can possibly imagine. What is it? …. Surrender your life to the love and forgiveness of Jesus. His death on the cross has the power to wipe away your sins and make you right before God. It’s a magnificent exchange… you give Him your sins and guilt and He gives you His righteousness and the power to live a life that is pleasing to God. It’s a deal unlike any other you will ever find on this earth. Best of all, it is a free gift, and the only one that can carry you through death and into the life that is yet to come.

How you face death is up to you. You can embrace it with joy and excited anticipation, or you can be dragged into it full of fear and the terrifying expectation of an unknown future. My young friend found his answer in Jesus, and discovered the peace He offers is as real as it gets. What about you? All I can say is, while the clock is still ticking be sure to make your decision the right one, because eternity for you depends on it!  Want to know more about this? Feel free to send me a comment an I will get back to you. Have a great day!