grow a healthy church


The Norman Factor: A Remarkable Story of Miraculous Intervention

The Norman Factor A Remarkable Story of Miraculous Intervention

My good friend Ian Borkent has published his first book.

Ian pastors a superb church in Arnhem in the Netherlands with his wife, Jedidja. Their focus is how to grow a healthy church.

Jedidja miraculously survived the birth of their daughter and that miracle forms the storyline of Ian’s book.

Enjoy this excerpt from the book.


That is the name of the mountain that spewed millions of litres of volcanic ash over Iceland, and consequently Europe. For a period of 6 days in April 2010, this led to an ash cloud so large that it was easily visible from space. The cloud covered almost the entirety of Europe. Aircraft engines can seriously be damaged by volcanic ash, so many countries had to close their controlled airspace. This resulted in the largest air-traffic shut-down since World War II in Europe.

Ten million passengers were affected. One of them was me.

And that was a problem. Or as I would like to call it, a challenge. We had tickets for 21 April out of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to a C3 Church Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Conferences to pastors are like breath to our lungs. We connect with God and others for an extended period of time. We upload. We download. Especially for my wife, it was a welcome break after a busy year. So we both looked forward to the conference very much.

Jedidja was 6 months pregnant with our first child at the time, and it was about the last week she was allowed to fly. Taking a train or car to Switzerland would be too long for her body to deal with. She could only fly if she was to make it to the conference.

Or could she?

Starting Thursday 15 April all airspace over Europe was closed. Completely closed. The departure tables on my television and computer screen looked boringly similar. “Cancelled” was written from top to bottom. Friends and fellow pastors started to arrange alternative modes of transport to Geneva. Some were taking trains, others rented a van. The cancellations continued into Friday, then Saturday, then Sunday. And our flight was coming up on Wednesday. I got phone calls, “Ian, are you and your wife joining us? We are renting a van.”

What were we to do? It was Monday 19 April by now, and our flight was scheduled to leave in two days. But its status had not shifted from “cancelled.” I definitely did not want to take a train or rent a van, because that would mean Jedidja would be unable to go. And I knew in my spirit God wanted her to go. We needed to be in this conference together.

So I did what I usually do when I don’t know what to do. I went into my room and started praying. As I started praying in another tongue, a word popped up in my spirit. Speak to the mountain. So I did.

Moving mountains in Jesus’ name

They say that Dutch people have a lot of faith since there are no mountains left in Holland, but all joking aside, Jesus did tell us to speak to the mountains in our life, as we read in Mark 11:23 (boldface mine):

For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.

Notice He does not say, “whoever hopes for the mountain to move” or “whoever wishes for the mountain to move” or even “whoever prays that it moves.” He says, “say.” Three times.

“Whoever says.”

“Those things he says.”

“Whatever he says.”

Apparently what we say, is what will happen. This is The Vocal Key.

Jesus Himself used this key all the time. When He was standing in front of Lazarus’ grave He never prayed, “Oh God, will You please heal Lazarus.” He started to speak. Strongly. “Lazarus, come forth!”. What does this mean for us? What can we learn from this? It means that when we are sick we should not just pray but we should speak. Jesus had to continually speak to get the blind healed, the lame walking and demons leaving. He did not pray at those moments. He spoke. He commanded and used His voice to take authority over these things. Likewise, He told his disciples to do so. Notice that this kind of speaking is not a whisper. It needs to carry an authority. It is commanding. Speaking. Declaring. Proclaiming.

It is important that we pray and say the same things. Sometimes I find people praying one thing, yet saying another. I have heard people praying for healing and then walking away murmuring, “It will probably not happen, my dad died when he was young too.” I told them, “You have just cancelled what you were praying.” The Bible says in Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit” (NKJV). In other words, when we speak life we reap life, when we speak death we reap death.

Is what you are saying the same as what you are praying?

I certainly knew what I was praying and hoping for: that Jedidja and I would be able to fly out on Wednesday 21 April to Geneva, Switzerland. However, the facts were that all flights were cancelled. I now needed to attach my words to my prayers and literally start speaking to a mountain.

Although I could not pronounce the name of the Icelandic volcano, I started speaking to the ash cloud that had come from it. I told them to be removed. I did not do this nicely. “Oh ash clouds, if it pleases thee, will you please be removed, please?” I commanded them to move. I told them to go.

As I continued speaking and praying in tongues, worship music in the background, God dropped a very clear image in my mind. I saw us sitting on an aeroplane. And the words God spoke in my spirit were clear as a bell: Don’t worry. You will have the smoothest flight ever. You will be on that plane together. On Wednesday.

Tuesday came. I got a call from a friend who pastors a great church in The Hague. “Ian, we are thinking of renting a van and are leaving tonight, are you and your wife joining us?” I explained to him that we were not. The words that came out of my mouth were these: “We are flying. Tomorrow.” These were the same words that I had continually repeated the night before. Although it sounded incredulous, he immediately believed me. He later said that something in the tone of my voice made him cancel on his rental plans and join us at the airport the next morning. Faith is a certainty. I knew that I knew that I knew that we were going to fly that next day. What I said concurred with what I had prayed.

The TV screens still said something else, however. No flights were coming and going and the airport was a city asleep. It did not concern me. I had spoken a word. And I had received God’s word: you will be on that plane on Wednesday.

Wednesday came. We woke up and flicked on the television screen. All flights were cancelled… up until our flight. EasyJet flight 1354 departing at 08:10 for Geneva was the very first flight out of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol after six days of no flights at all. Hallelujah!

We jumped. We shouted. We praised. We rushed to the airport to find it… completely deserted. Except for a faithful few who had not cancelled on their travel plans, no one was there to fly that day. Never have I been moving through a major international airport so fast as I did that day. In fact, I was so exhilarated that I forgot there was a security check. I did not remove my belt or keys and had to return twice to go through it!

When our flight left, it was exactly on time. The plane was almost empty and it was the smoothest flight I have ever had. God had it all right. It was exactly as He had shown, and as I had spoken.

It is as you say

When Jesus stood before Pilate, he asked Him, “Are you king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “It is as you say” (Luke 23:3 NKJV). Things in life will often be the way we say they will be. Remember Mark 11? “Those things he says, will be done.” Not those things he prays or those things he hopes for. Those things he says. If we go around saying, “I will never be able to finish my studies,” we will likely never finish. If we say, “This sickness is stronger than me, I will probably not get well” then chances are we won’t. In the book of Joel, we find an interesting verse that has helped me in this.

Let the weak say, “I am strong.” (Joel 3:10)

Notice the condition of the one who is saying something. He feels weak. Yet he declares, “I am strong”. What you say will happen. But what you say is often not what you see. You see weakness but you speak strength. You see shortage but you speak abundance. So often in the Bible, we find situations turn out the way people say they will turn out, even though their situation might show the opposite. When standing in front of the promised land, the situation was clear to all. There was the land lying in front of them. It was filled with milk and honey and large grapes. Yet it was also swarming with giants and kings that had to be defeated. Notice though how twelve people who had seen the same land, said a different thing.

This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! (…) We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” (Numbers 13:27-28, 31, NLT, boldface mine)

Ten out of the twelve spies focused on these three words: “but the people”, and then started to describe how big the people and the resistance was. They focused on the giants and said it was too hard for them to get in.

But now look at how Caleb and Joshua respond. They saw the same land and met the same people, yet they said:

Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!” (Numbers 13:30, NLT)


“The land we travelled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!” (Numbers 14:7-9, NLT)

Caleb and Joshua were two out of the twelve spies. A minority. They did not say “but the people” but they focused on these three words: “but the Lord.” They described how awesome it was they had the Lord’s protection. They focused on God’s promise and His presence and said it was certainly possible for them to conquer the land.

Who was right?

The amazing thing is that both groups were right! Those who said they could not enter, did not enter. But the only two who said it was entirely possible, did. Joshua and Caleb came back to the promised land after forty years in which the rest of the spies perished in the desert. They were the only two who were allowed to enter, because of their faith. The others never entered. Both groups were right! Both groups got exactly what they had said.

What are you speaking over your life? Are you saying what God is saying? Jesus says that by our words we will be justified and by our words we will be condemned. I want to be on the right side of that equation.

The facts are standing in the way

The most powerful words to speak are God’s own words. Those that are in the Bible. When we speak Scripture, truth is declared. Demons tremble, illnesses depart, stuff shifts. The speaking of Scripture is the most powerful way we can use our tongue. David declared, “My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendour all day long” (Psalm 71:8). That is because he knew this about God’s words to him, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10). If we open our mouths, God will fill it with His words. When we declare His words, mountains start to move and evil starts to crumble.

Although I have not spoken to literal mountains since Eyjafjallajökull, I have often declared God’s promises over my life, to find that He is a faithful God and true to His word. Together, all these experiences with a faithful God helped me rely on His word in that dark night in May 2015. When we left our house, Jedidja unconscious in the back of the ambulance, I in the front, a lot of facts were racing through my mind. And it was these facts that I had to fight now. With the truth. The two are very different.

Facts are often standing in the way of God’s truth. They can seem so real to us that in our mind we project a path based on them. The facts, in this case, were that Jedidja had lost litres of blood. The hospital was 7 miles away. On top of that, the ambulance brothers had not been able to find a pulse anymore. They could not find an open vein for an intravenous drip, because all vessels had closed up. This is the body’s natural response to conserve as much blood in a situation such as this. And then the midwife who had joined in the ambulance started crying. It was at that point that I lost it. When I see a professional crying, I know something is seriously wrong… What was I to do? How is she going to survive this, my mind blared. You are losing your wife right now. You will be left with three children to raise!

As my mind went crazy my spirit held on to the word God had spoken. I now had to fight the facts with God’s revealed word. And so I started saying it. Out loud. She – will – be – a – happy – mother – of – children. Over and over again I repeated it. First as a whisper, then louder and louder and louder. As we sped through our city with 80 miles an hour I heard myself saying: She will be a happy mother of children. Louder and louder. SHE WILL BE A HAPPY MOTHER OF CHILDREN. The ambulance driver looked at me with a strange look on his face. But I did not care. My wife’s life was on the line here. The more I spoke, the more faith started to rise in my spirit.

Faith is a muscle. It needs to grow. And to grow it takes exercise, repetition and food (God’s word). Faith is not the absence of fear – you can be afraid, and still, have faith. Just keep working that muscle and soon fear will disappear to the background and ultimately vanish altogether. This is what started to happen that night. As I sat in the ambulance there was certainly a lot of fear around. But in my spirit, I knew how to work the muscle of faith. I knew that the facts had to be overridden by the truth.

Truth is stronger than facts

Abraham, the man of faith, had to do the same thing. He knew the facts and they were not pretty. Yet he believed. And ultimately his facts surrendered to God’s truth. We read about this process in the book of Romans, chapter 4 verse 19-21 (boldface mine):

Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead — since he was about a hundred years old — and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised.

Do you see this? Abraham faced some pretty impossible facts. His body was as good as dead since he was nearly a hundred years old. Sarah’s womb was also dead. Still, Abraham believed God’s truth. Are there facts in your life that seem impossible to overturn? Just know that faith does not ignore or wish away those facts. It simply overshadows them with a higher reality. Speaking the truth of God will overshadow the facts of the world, even though they can seem diametrically opposed to each other. Remember Joel? “Let the weak say, I am strong”. The fact there is: weak. The truth spoken: strong. The same was true for Abraham. Abraham did not ignore the fact that he was weak. Yet in faith he declared and believed the truth that he was strong. And it was the truth that won.

Which circumstances in your life seem factually impossible to change? Maybe the facts are that you are poor. Still, you can declare, “I am rich.” The facts can say you are blind. Still, you can declare, “I can see.” When you start to declare what God is saying, the facts will ultimately line up with the truth.

Why is this?

I believe it is because we are made in God’s image. When we speak, things are created just like they are when God speaks. Just like God had to speak this world into being, so we, being made in His image, speak our world into being. When we declare God’s word, we create a world around us.

God’s world is based on His word. And so our world is based on ours.

When we attach our words to God’s revealed truth, whether in the Bible or received in the spirit, we will find that we can break through impossible circumstances. The facts will surrender to the truth, not the other way around!

 She will be a happy mother of children.

In the dark of night, I started to proclaim life over Jedidja instead of death.

And by God’s grace, there were more people proclaiming God’s word over my wife at that very moment.

Application questions

  • Describe a situation in your life that seems impossible right now. Write two words on a piece of paper, making two columns. On one side write the word Facts and then list all the facts of the situation underneath. On the opposite side write the word Truth and then list all the things the word of God is saying about the same situation. Now start speaking truth everytime you think of a fact. At first this will be hard, but make it a goal to do this for seven days. After seven days of doing this daily, what has shifted? Keep speaking truth and the facts will surrender!
  • Speaking the word of God is one of the most powerful things you can do, so how can you grow in your knowledge of the Scriptures? Maybe you can follow a Bible reading plan that takes you through (the most important parts of) the Bible. For a list of different plans, visit What Bible reading plan will you choose? Start one today.
  • In the next week of reading the Bible, every time a Scripture pops up to you write it down, highlight it or bookmark it. After seven days, out of all the verses you highlighted select one that spoke to you the most. Then start speaking that Scripture every day for one month.
John is a wellspring of information, experience and advice in all things church. His responses were often out of the box of what's been said before.
Ps Christie Blaikie
Oasis Church

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