A team of 50 worship leaders crossed almost every time zone in 24 days to stage public praise

In Egypt, armed police danced in Cairo. In England, a "procession of praise" swept from Trafalgar Square in London right up to Buckingham Palace. In Israel, the Golan Heights became a place of prayer for the protection of the Jewish state.

A young woman did "holy cartwheels" in St. Peter's Church in Rome, and a Chinese Olympic gold medalist received prayer for healing. In New Orleans, a man got up from his wheelchair and walked.

All these things--and more--reportedly occurred during Global Praise 2000, a traveling prayer and worship event that has been called the first international tour of its kind. It was an unusual journey in which 50 "radical worshipers" globe-trotted the world to demonstrate charismatic praise and to share Christ through an exhibition of joy.

Charisma caught up with the tour in an upper room at Oasis Church Center amid the urban sprawl of South London. Well before the start of the worship meeting, drums were pounding, and people were crying out to God.

The tour group looked tired--not a surprising sight considering they had been across almost every world time zone in the last 24 days. They were running on spiritual energy and adrenaline but had already seen some fruits from their labors.

"The Lord was doing incredible stuff," said Georgian Banov, the 52-year-old leader of the group, who appeared still to be caught up in the experience of it all. "There were conversions and healings--and we were just seeing some of the surface of it."

The global trek was the fulfillment of a vision to carry an "intense offering of praise" to strategic sites across the globe and share Christ through simple joy--the "universal language," as Banov calls it.

"It's a dream come true--everything I dreamed two years ago has happened," he said.

Banov said his team was treated well by governmental authorities and police in every location and sometimes even seemed to be receiving protection from them. The group encountered minor resistance in only two locations: Rome, where they were asked to tone down the drums; and Washington, D.C., where they were required to obtain a permit. Even in Israel, in spite of the violence that had recently flared between Jews and Palestinians, Banov said his group experienced no problems when they reached that region.

"We felt like we were lifting a shield of praise," Banov said.

Despite Banov's experience as a worship leader since the 1970s with ministries such as Agape Force and Silverwind, the tour was a shared effort co-led by other team members. Mostly acoustic instruments were used--guitar, fiddle, harmonica, keyboard and an assortment of drums--to simplify performances in public parks or on busy street corners.

In Hyde Park, London, the group met a backslidden Christian who was depressed and wanted to die. "Two of our ladies who'd previously suffered from depression ministered to her," said team member Yuke Foong Man. "She was set free and accepted Christ again."

Yuke shared the gospel with a group of 20 Chinese communists in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. "I don't speak a lot of Mandarin, but when I made myself available, Jesus just took over," she said. "It was very simple."

Banov said he had a stirring experience when he stood in a vacant lot in Rome where martyrs had lost their lives for the gospel. "An anointing came on me to preach" that was "very, very heavy," he said.

In Washington on Oct. 27-29, the 50-member team participated both at evening worship services at two area churches and at a four-hour praise and worship event at the Washington Monument. High winds and dark storm clouds failed to squelch the lively music, worshipful dancing, and the group's brandishing of colorful flags and banners.

Shortly after prayer for the weather, the clouds dissipated, and the sun broke through, bathing the area in an autumn hue. Similar weather-related signs occurred during their tour.

"At three different places, spectacular rainbows were visible, and in Kayseri, Turkey, a full-scale twisting tornado suddenly appeared out of nowhere," Banov said. Team members believe it was a physical sign of a "spiritual tornado" that blew over the countries they were in.

"The Lord sent us [around the world] as a prophetic declaration," Banov said. "We took His praises to the streets, and as we lifted Him up in praise and worship people were drawn just as on the day of Pentecost."

Banov, who is Bulgarian, first conceived the idea for the tour about two years ago during the war in Yugoslavia.

"We did 50 hours of nonstop worship in Bulgaria for the war between Kosovo and Serbia. At that time the Lord challenged me to use this same model as a vehicle to go around the world," he said.

Of the 50 team members who ranged in age from 16 to 70, six were teens. Julie Koehler, 18, of Collinswood, N.J., had just enrolled in Bible college when God called her to go on the tour, she says.

"I'm a different person since going," Koehler said. "I have a new boldness to witness. Before this trip I'd never openly talk about Jesus or dance like this in front of people. Now I don't care if people see me worshiping my King."

Paula Heskett of Amarillo, Texas, had never been out of the United States. Since returning from the tour--and especially the stop in Washington--Heskett says: "God took me all around the world to help me realize my intercession is needed right here. I think Washington, D.C., and America need it maybe more than [anywhere] else."

Banov has no plans to repeat the tour, but he believes there will be other groups circling the globe for the same purpose.

--Clive Price in London and Sandra Chambers in Washington, D.C.

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