Like Hume, we put our faith in science, and indulge in the attitude of 'someone, somewhere, understands the phenomenon'. But last week I heard of a miracle on my own doorstep.
Jo Gerzimbke is 26, a graduate in modern languages, and used to be an atheist. Two years ago she was working as a marketing assistant for a hi-tech company in Cambridge, organising exhibitions in Europe, and spent her evenings in aerobics classes. She had just bought her first home with her fiance, Nick. She had every reason to be happy, and thought she was.
Then, on the 12 August 1992, during an aerobics class, she suddenly felt weak and it was only by strength of will that she managed to keep going to the end.
When she reached home she went straight to bed with a sore throat and a high temperature, and during the next few weeks had suspected glandular fever. From time to time she would force herself to go into work, because she didn't want to lose her job; but in January she was sacked.
Despite numerous visits to her GP, and a visit to a consultant in infectious diseases, no one could give her a firm diagnosis or suggest a treatment. So Jo tried alternative remedies: reflexology, shiatsu massage, homeopathic tablets and even a new age spiritualist, who accused her of 'hearing voices and see-
ing pictures'. Worse was to come.
While sitting in her GP's waiting room one day, Jo saw a poster recommending flu inoculations. She didn't want to pick up flu on top of everything else, so she was given a jab that morning. The following day she found herself rooted to her bed, unable to move even a hand.
The paralysis had eased off by the evening, but for the next four months Jo could not even visit the bathroom without help. Occasionally she was well enough to be pushed around in a wheelchair, but at other times she had relapses, slipping into a lethargy that did not even leave her with the energy to open her eyes.
Jo's parents were so worried that when they read about a doctor specialising in chronic fatigue syndrome, otherwise known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME, they immediately booked an appointment with him for their daughter. He confirmed that she was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, and suggested that she might need to be hospitalised.
Jo was told that she was suffering from a malfunction of the nervous system and was given anti-depressants. But they knocked her out, and her strength continued to be whittled away.
Jo relied almost entirely on her fiance's mother, Glenda Gerzimbke, to care for her. Glenda washed her hair and brushed her teeth for her. When Jo read in a magazine that the 'miracle cure' for ME was an ice-cold bath every day, Glenda prepared one for her. 'It was uncomfortable even to hold a hand in there for a minute,' Glenda told me, 'poor Jo lay in it up to her neck. But she was so keen to get better.'
Jo found her mental deterioration even more difficult to bear. Her concentration span was reduced to about five minutes, which meant that she could neither read, watch TV, nor listen to the radio.
Religious belief might have offered Jo some comfort but Glenda felt unable to help her: 'I had lost my faith 25 years ago when my baby died, so I could not even pray for her.
'When my sister told me about the revivalist church and these healing services given by a man called 'Reverend Bill', I shrugged and said, 'Oh no, Jo's not into that sort of thing at all.' But I mentioned this man to Jo in passing and she said, 'I'll try anything'.'
So one Saturday in June 1993, almost a year after she had fallen ill, Nick carried Jo into the car, and they drove off to the Rev Bill Isaacs-Sodeye's house in Impington, Cambridgeshire. He was waiting for them on the doorstep.
'I was so excited,' says Jo. 'But then he said to me, 'What's wrong with you?' and I just burst into tears. He said, 'Jesus can heal you. But there are three things you have to accept. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. All power comes from God. And when there are two or more people gathered in his name, Jesus is among them.'
'I said to him, 'Tell me about Jesus,' and he told me about Jesus's life and how he died for me. It was the first time anyone had told me. I felt happy when he was telling me. I thought, 'Yes, I can accept this.' He said, 'Do you want to ask Jesus into your life?'
' 'Yes,' I said.
' 'Kneel down with me, and ask Jesus to forgive you your sins.' I didn't even know what sins were, and he said, 'All the things you feel that God would not want you to do.' So I thought of swearing, sleeping with people, and lying.
' 'Now,' he said, 'put your hands out. Be very specific. Ask Him to heal you and make your body whole.' I asked Him for new muscles and a new brain. Bill was praying in tongues. Then he said, 'Get up.' I stood up.
' 'Start doing aerobics,' he said (because I'd told him that's what I used to do). But I said, 'I can't do aerobics.' 'Yes you can,' he said.
'Suddenly I was marching round the room. Bill started doing star jumps, and I followed him. Then I saw Nick standing in the door, and I walked into his arms and said, 'Jesus has healed me.' I was hugging everyone. Nick said 'thank you' to Bill, and he said, 'Don't thank me, thank Jesus.'
'But the strange thing is,' said Jo, who now works full-time again and cycles three miles to work each day, 'that even if Jesus hadn't healed me, I would still have faith. I used to be so insecure, I was always anxious, but I feel whole now for the first time in my life.'
Last week I went to see Reverend Bill. He was educated in medicine at Oxford and Cambridge universities, and practised as a consultant in haemotology in Nigeria. He is energetic, intelligent and likeable. He told me that he would probably have continued in his career as a doctor had he not been a witness of a miracle himself, in October 1974.
He had just examined a four- year-old boy who was dying of polio. The boy's parents were waiting outside the consulting room and he was steeling himself to tell them his diagnosis. Then one of the nurses said, 'Let's pray for him,' and they did. The boy was cured. 'That was the first miracle I witnessed,' he told me. 'Here was God's work as clear as day.'
Of course, the event occurred 20 years ago and in a foreign country. I have never witnessed a miracle, and for all I know the polio sufferer never existed. But Glenda, Nick and Jo are now committed Christians, because they saw these events with their own eyes.
Hume said that 'whoever is moved by faith is conscious of a continued miracle within his own person'. He said it to decry Christianity, but ask any Christian and they will tell you that that is exactly what it feels like.
Danny Danziger returns next weekReuse content