“Tonight, you will be anointed and promoted above your fellows.”
Apostle Felix Boamah, energized from two hours of worship, looked squarely into the camera, bobbing side to side as he instructed users to find oil. On Zoom, the gallery view showed 17 participants hurrying to locate bottles of olive oil in kitchen cabinets and atop bedroom dressers.
“Father, as I speak, let your ocean enter into this oil,” Boamah prayed, to a chorus of “amens,” as congregants poured oil onto their fingers and drew lines across their foreheads.
Since churches shut their doors in March in compliance with the city’s coronavirus lockdown, Charismatic Christian leaders like Boamah, 43, have turned to Zoom conferences for their prophetic services.
Every Friday evening, participants can expect to meet an impassioned man of God on a three-hour Zoom call, leading prayer, preaching and prophesying. Usually dressed in a casual sweater, Boamah stands before a mostly bare white wall to deliver his message. “Whatever the spirit of God reveals to us,” says Boamah, “we bring it out.”
Before the pandemic, Boamah was often invited to minister at churches like Total Redemption Ministry and Grace Field in the Bronx. Privately, however, he led a small prayer circle that met weekly at a church on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. From that intimate gathering came the initial members of an online event that now draws 30 to 40 people.
Other pastors are also using Zoom, YouTube, and conference phone calls to prophesy to their congregants. On Friday evenings, Pastor Cephas Kaufi of Honeywell Worship Center in the Bronx hosts an Atmosphere of Prayer and Miracle Service and Prophet Michael Danso of Kingdom Liberty Evangelistic Ministries leads his prayer meetings.
Prophet Kwame Agyekum started his church in Maryland, but most attending on Zoom are from New York City. “I don’t know why, but my spirit just feels like I want to prophesy to everybody tonight,” said Agyekum during a recent service. “Come on and bless the Lord.”
Lee Roy Martin, a professor at Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Tennessee, defines prophecy, in all its complexity, as “inspired speech.” It arises “when the Holy Spirit gives a person some kind of revelation or knowledge,” he explained, and provides “a way of bringing a divinely inspired message to the people.”
Prophets, he said, “are very much interested in showing that God is alive, God is real and God wants to be involved in human life.”
Boamah carries this responsibility seriously. Despite devoting 12 to 15 hours a week praying with his members, he rarely asks for tithes or offering. To make ends meet, he depends on occasional donations while his wife works full time as a nurse. “It’s not because of money that we’re doing this,” he said. “The aim is to help people through prayer.”
He remains unconcerned with those who doubt his gift. “The person will doubt,” Boamah said. “And it will come to pass. That proves, it is the Lord who spoke.”
Eleanor Gyamfi, who lives in Brooklyn and has known Boamah for over two years, is a fierce believer. “In the pandemic, I was pregnant with my son and there was a whole lot of battle,” she said. Boamah had warned her of “a contention” over her life. The devil, she said, “wanted her dead.”
At 35, diagnosed with gestational diabetes, she had a higher risk pregnancy.
When Boamah began to give her prophecies on Zoom about the state of her pregnancy, she confided in him, believing that his gifts could help. “We pray,” she said, “but sometimes we need someone with a higher authority–someone who can see.”
On a private phone call, Boamah foretold that she would have a difficult delivery, but would survive. “He gave me the assurance,” said Gyamfi, a homemaker and mother of two. “He said, ‘I see they removed the baby and you were smiling.’”
Gyamfi gave birth to her son Jude in August and lived to tell the story–but did indeed face complications. Her planned C-section took almost two hours. She lost so much blood that her hemoglobin fell to a dangerous level. “I was supposed to die,” said Gyamfi.
She saw Boamah’s prophecy as a sign of grace. “God reveals to redeem. He will not reveal something and leave you for that thing to happen. For me, I think, God loves me. That’s why he revealed it.”
Boamah, a native of Ghana, discovered his prophetic ability while a college student in the early 90’s. He studied and taught fashion design before becoming a pastor and opening his church, Glorious Church International, in Ghana’s Eastern Region in 2006.
Since then, he said, he has received visions, dreams and audible directions that have provided insight into others’ lives. The gift, said Boamah, “means constant prayer, constant fasting and discipline.”
To strengthen it, he dry fasted – forgoing food and water three days a week – from 1997 to 2006. “I was setting myself apart,” Boamah said, “for God to use me.”
His dedication and the Spirit, Boamah believes, give him the ability to prophesy “everywhere,” with little information from those he ministers to. Participants on the Friday Zoom call use just first names or phone numbers as identifiers. Yet he gives each a message, ranging from spiritual warfare and ill omens to future job opportunities and medical prognoses.
“The bad stuff makes me anxious,” said Patricia Wilson, 31, a participant from the Bronx. It “really stresses me out.”
Recently furloughed from her job as a receptionist, she was also nursing wounds from a tough breakup when her older sister introduced her to the Zoom nights.
“Sometimes I’ll be on there four times a week and sometimes I won’t be on it for a while,” said Wilson. “I want to get closer to God—there’s nothing greater than a relationship with God. But at the same time, it sometimes feels like a chore.”
When she did log on, Wilson said, she was sometimes disappointed by Boamah’s warnings about her previous relationship. The breakup, after three years of off and on dating, “was like being gut punched,” she said. She hoped she and her ex would reconcile, because “he was my heart, my world, my everything.”
But Boamah warned, “If you go back to him, you’re going to be frustrated,” she recalled.
Eventually, Boamah began prophesying about her depression and suicidal thoughts. His cautions made her “uncomfortable,” she said. “I didn’t want to end my life—I just didn’t want to be here.”
Still, Boamah’s messages alarmed Wilson’s older sister Rebecca, who had noticed her loss of appetite and weight loss but wasn’t privy to her mental health problems. Rebecca approached Wilson, who assured her she wouldn’t harm herself.
Wilson had already reentered therapy and started painting. Even so, she said, if her relationship with God was more consistent, “I’d feel better.”
Stories like Wilson’s continue to fuel Boamah. He misses his face to face meetings in Brooklyn, where participants might feel his messages more deeply, he said. But Zoom has “enhanced” his ministry because he can reach more people.
To Gyamfi, Boamah’s gift held the same precision on Zoom as in person. “There is no distance in the spirit,” said Gyamfi.
Martin agreed. “God can still speak to people and give them prophetic words” on Zoom, he said. “You still feel your connection with your heart to the person on the other side.”
(Photo of Apostle Felix Boamah in Brooklyn by Bridget Yassme; Photo of Patricia Wilson with her paintings by Rebecca Wilson)