He planned to stay two nights. He wound up staying more than a year.
And, this weekend, evangelist Mario Murillo is back to further the work he started in 1993.
“It’s a continuation,” he said. “That’s what I believe.”
The evangelist’s name became a familiar one in Toledo’s church circles in the early 1990s, when his revival services were packing large-scale venues like the Masonic Auditorium and SeaGate Convention Centre. In October, 1993, just about a month after he accepted an initial invitation to preach at the then-named Cathedral of Praise in Sylvania, The Blade estimated that his services were drawing crowds of between 1,500 and nearly 3,000.
What: 2018 Toledo Miracle Crusade with Mario Murillo
When: 6 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Church on Strayer, 3000 Strayer Rd., Maumee
Mr. Murillo returns to Toledo this weekend, preaching and laying hands at each of the Church on Strayer’s weekend services: 6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 6 p.m. Sunday.
The multicampus Church on Strayer grew out of Cathedral of Praise, its name changing in 2005 following a move to 3000 Strayer Rd., Maumee. Pastor Tony Scott is responsible for inviting Mr. Murillo, both in the ’90s and again this weekend.
He said Mr. Murillo’s return is a “big deal” for Toledo.
“Every time he’s been here,” the pastor said, “he’s had a wide public appeal.”
Mr. Murillo began his ministry in 1968, a young man heeding a call to leave his junior college in Redding, Calif., and engage with the student protesters at the University of California, Berkeley. The tumultuous atmosphere there seemed to him the “prime mission field of the United States,” he recalled recently, describing the late ’60s as a time that “required extraordinary acts of obedience from God’s people.”
The self-styled pastor scrounged up enough money for a small building and began holding a weekly meetings amid the riots and protests. After about a year and a half, he began to see attendance at these services balloon, a shift that came in line with the broader trends of the era.
In time and in location, Mr. Murillo and his church were well positioned to ride the waves of the so-called Jesus Movement, which saw hippies embracing a sense of spirituality.
“This movement among the youth was so widespread,” he said. “It was like a bumper crop, and you had to harvest it while you could.”
His early campus days are also where he found himself laying hands on the sick, performing healings by the power of God that he said managed to break through the “intellectual skepticism” of the collegiate community. Such healings of body and mind would remain an integral aspect of his ministry as he began to look toward country-crossing revivals, beginning in San Jose, Calif., in 1982.
He was already an established preacher and healer by the time that Pastor Scott invited him to Sylvania in 1993. Mr. Murillo recalled that he tried to bow out, citing a last-minute health concern that he feared would be exacerbated by the northern Ohio weather, but that Pastor Scott, after praying on it, insisted that the evangelist go through with the planned trip anyway.
“Then I prayed,” Mr. Murillo said, “and whatever got to him got to me, and I’m on a jet out to Toledo.”
Two days in Sylvania stretched into seven weeks of weekend appearances, and then a year and a half of monthly appearances, with Mr. Murillo jetting between Ohio, California, and other engagements between his local services. As momentum grew, and as additional congregations and denominations expressed interest in engaging with the evangelist, the pair began to secure larger and larger venues for the healing services and revivals.
“We had dozens of area churches that were supporting the meeting; people were driving great distances because there were a number of miracles that were taking place,” Pastor Scott said. “There were physical healings, emotional healings.”
To Mr. Murillo, who has crossed the country through his ministry and who has seen similar reactions in other communities, those experiences in Toledo still stand out.
“It seemed to have a great effect outside the four walls of the church,” he said. “It seemed to be something that people took ownership of. ... It became people bringing people, and the other churches became involved and lost their denominational labels. They just considered himself the family of God.”
Nancy Neumann, 56, of Lambertville, Mich., was among those who crowded into Cathedral of Praise and into the SeaGate Centre to see Mr. Murillo preach and heal that year. She described an excitement inside the venues, with the larger crowds presenting more individual examples of the sorts of needs, pains, and illnesses that Mr. Murillo would address.
“When you’ve been a part of something first-hand,” she said, “it certainly wakes up your belief system.”
Mrs. Neumann, who is a member of Church on Strayer, said she is looking forward to attending a service with Mr. Murillo this weekend.
“I’m already really excited for this weekend and the possibilities,” she said, speaking earlier this week.
As Mr. Murillo recognizes 50 years of ministry in 2018, he said he remains committed to active ministry, logging more than 100,000 flight miles last year alone. He visits numerous cities through his “Living Proof” campaign, for example, including a stop in Toledo in September, in some cases taking literal tents to disadvantaged neighborhoods.
While the Jesus Movement that fed and sustained his early ministry has dropped off, he said he also sees parallels between the broader circumstances that gave rise to his ministry in 1968 and that sustain it in 2018.
“I feel like I’m back in Berkeley, but this time the whole nation is the campus,” he said. “The same revolution, if you will, that was going on then is going on now, and it’s taking a different form. America is so deeply divided and so entrenched in their own particular viewpoints that the nation is in danger.”
The answer, as he sees it, is a spiritual awakening. And there, too, he sees parallels.
“I’m starting to see the same indicators that I’ve seen in past waves of revival, where the unchurched are starting to ask spiritual questions and feeling an inner hunger that is fresh and new,” he said. “For me, that is the hope of America, right there.”
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