By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Dutch evangelist Jan Zijlstra, known for his controversial healing services, died of COVID-19 at 82, his foundation confirmed.
The Netherlands-based Wings of Healing foundation said it was “to our great sadness” that Zijlstra had gone to be with “his Lord and Savior.” It recalled that, “together with his wife Herma, he preached the Gospel for 64 years and was a soul winner pur sang.”
He passed away after a brief stay in hospital. It wasn’t clear whether he had been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Zijlstra leaves behind a mixed bag of blessings and controversies.
Wings of Healing noted that during his “evangelism and healing services,” he not “only told visitors about the Lord Jesus but also prayed for the sick.” The foundation stressed that Zijlstra “had a clear calling to declare the testimony of Jesus Christ: The God of miracles is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Hundreds of thousands of people visited Jan Zijlstra’s services over the years.
Besides the Netherlands and neighboring Belgium, Zijlstra had evangelism gatherings in the Netherlands Antilles, Suriname, and Indonesia. For years he wrote down the “many miracles” he said “God performed” during those services in the magazine he published in more than 100,000 copies.
“Zijlstra’s ministry has been in the national news several times. The Netherlands, therefore, loses one of its most famous evangelists,” the group announced.
Zijlstra, who had a Reformed background, entered into the Pentecostal movement in the 1950s. He later became known for his charisma and what he called healing and rescue services. For years he served as a confidant and pastor to late Dutch evangelist Johan Maasbach before starting his own “healing ministry” in 1992 in the town of Leiderdorp, 40 kilometers (25 Miles) southwest of Amsterdam, the capital.
His Lifestream Church attracted visitors from as far as Belgium and eventually moved to a larger $11-million building. Funding for the complex was raised through his DVDs, donations during services, and sales of his magazine. Finally, in November 2006, the new 1,500-seats Lifestream opened its doors near the A4 highway. At night its tower with a spectacular red-lit cross was visible from several miles away.
He rose to fame in the Netherlands, known for its liberal and skeptical attitudes after people claimed to have been healed during his services.
Among them was Janneke Vlot, a then 37-year-old woman who had extremely painful post-traumatic dystrophy. She claimed that after one visit to Zijlstra, she stepped out of her wheelchair. “I got a lot of nasty comments after my healing,” she told the media. “Some even accused me of faking my illness.”
ERASMUS MEDICAL CENTER
The regional Erasmus Medical Center said there was no medical explanation for her healing. Vlot said that she looks back on her recovery with great gratitude. Zijlstra’s death touches her deeply. However, “I want to emphasize that I am not healed by Zijlstra. Jesus used Zijlstra for my healing.”
Eskey Jonkman also claimed to have been healed at a Zijlstra event fifteen years ago. Jonkman said she suffered an autoimmune disease since her childhood, causing inflammation everywhere. As a result, she sat half the time in a wheelchair and further used crutches. “My joints rot away.”
She said believers with a seriously ill baby asked her to come to Leiderdorp. During the service, Zijlstra picked her out of the audience.
“I immediately felt that I was healed. Jan was a remarkable man used by God to do great miracles. ”
However, other Christians were less fortunate, and investigative reporters raised questions about claims of healing. Zijlstra, who was wearing thick glasses, claimed he didn’t like the title faith healer. He stressed it was only through Jesus Christ that people were healed. “And I never say: Don’t visit a doctor,” added Zijlstra, who also authored more than ten books about his walk with Christ.
Yet, 28-year-old Elianne van Turennout from the northern city of Groningen became disappointed. She said that she was very ‘in the Lord’ and ended up at Zijlstra about ten years ago. “I have PDD-NOS (a development disorder), which I suffered from at the time. Zijlstra prayed for me, but I did not get better. My father, who is deaf in one ear, did not heal.”
Van Turennout, who says she has lost her faith, accuses the evangelist of burdening people with a feeling of guilt. “If you don’t heal, he implies that your faith is not big enough. I find that very bad.”
Although Zijlstra preached God’s love, several quarrels characterized his life, Dutch media commented. In 2010, his protégé Arno van der Knaap left and took some of the churchgoers with him.
Zijlstra was subsequently expelled from the Lifestream Church by his self-proclaimed successors Rolph and Hyona Hendriks. They wanted to focus less on healing and more on regular church members.
Zijlstra then went to court in vain. Earlier, he had tried to take over a church of his former protégé evangelist Johan Maasbach after their fallout in the early 1990s. “An attack from within,” Maasbach’s son David later wrote Never Lose Your Faith in his autobiography.
After the last verbal collision, Zijlstra started for himself again under the name Wings of Healing. In recent years, his Gospel and healing services took place in a hall in the Dutch village of Warmond, some 27 kilometers (17 miles) southwest of Amsterdam. He was active there with faith healings until this year.
Despite his complicated personality, many Christians remember Jan Zijlstra as a Christ-loving person who reached many with the Gospel, social media messages suggested.
“One of the Netherlands’ biggest faith heroes is now home,” said fellow evangelist David de Vos. “This man has been a blessing for countless people,” added Margo Bouwman. “I am thankful for his life.”
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